Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Nothing is more important than loyalty.
But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

I had the pleasure of reading an Advance Review Copy of this book followed by tuning in to a YA virtual panel that featured this lovely author. Upon reading this book then listening to the author’s inspirations for writing this book and her writing process, I was able to put it altogether and have a great appreciation for this story. Personally, I love reading fantasy fiction where the story line is derived from cultural legends and backgrounds and I believe this author executed this brilliantly in this story. This book is inspired by Nigerian legend and I have only started seeing Nigerian legends represented in fantasy recently which is amazing. I hope to see more – their culture and legends are fascinating to me. The world building of Aritsar was stable and steady to ease me into this complex world and story line from the beginning. Even from the first chapter, I felt enchanted and hooked to the end. I enjoyed Tarisai as a character too, there were times I admired her strength and I also really felt for the tribulations she was enduring.  This book had a bit of everything from steady world building, wonderful friendships, addictive plot, magic, adventure, suspense – even a hint of romance. It was a well rounded book and a fantastic debut.

Recommended to fans of stories with complex worlds and derived from cultural legends, particularly readers who have enjoyed YA books by Tomi Adeyemi and Sabaa Tahir and adult books by S.K Chakraborty. With special thanks to The Nerd Daily for organising an ARC for me.
-Annie

Snow by Gina Inverarity Blog Tour

A dark and lyrical Snow White retelling set in a post climate-change world, Snow is a fairy-tale of the future.

 

When the girl brought my bowl she was in and out through the door like she couldn’t move fast enough. And when the lock clicked after her I found something she’d left. A knife. And not one for spreading butter, but a sharp one for slitting throats.

Locked in a cell by her stepmother, Snow grows small but she still grows. Even so, she’s hardly a match for a world gone wild, where the sun has disappeared behind clouds for good. The night the hunter takes her into the forest with orders to cut out her heart, Snow makes him a promise she isn’t sure she can keep. And then she runs. Snow’s life is no fairytale. As she grows up her path will take her into the mountains, over misty passes, desolate gorges and alpine rivers, as well as to the city, where she will make her case for the return of what is hers. And her childish promise will not be forgotten.

Growing up, Snow White was always my favourite fairytale and I have often sought out Snow White retellings so what grabbed me in the first instance was how this story is a retelling set in a post climate change era. We often read Snow White set in historical or medieval times so why it took a moment for me to get my head around the new setting, this was very enjoyable and cleverly executed. The characters we meet and follow in this book are those you come to like, particularly the Little Bear and The Hunter whom Snow spends a lot of time with during this story.  Although this was a work of fiction, the author did well in exploring effects of climate change and cleverly weaving those themes into the story.

Overall I enjoyed this story and would rate this a retelling that was very well done. I enjoyed the plot and the characters. The pacing was just right and I believe I would not just recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings but to readers of fantasy stories that are either inspired or set in the real world as you can address real world issues through a fantasy lens. Suitable for readers from 12 years and up. With special thanks to Aus YA Bloggers and Wakefield Press for having me on board for their Snow Blog Tour.

About the Author:
Gina Inverarity worked for many years as an editor for a range of publishers. Her first children’s book, The Brown Dog, was published in 2017. Gina owns a forest in New Zealand and hopes to live in it one day. For now, she lives in Wellington with her partner and two daughters. Snow is her first young adult novel.

Connect to the author: 
Website: https://www.ginainverarity.com/
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/ginainver/ 

Locate this book for more info:
Wakefield Press: https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1568&cat=0&page=&featured=Y

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49722630-snow

Australian Bloggers: https://ausyabloggers.blogspot.com/2020/05/snow-review-tour.html

-Annie

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao

“Your affinity does not define you… what defines you is how you choose to wield it…”

The first in a new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and a con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder…

“Blood Heir” is Amelie Wen Zhao’s debut and the first instalment in an epic new series that follows the story of Princess Anastacya Mikhailov of Cyrilia who has lived her life in safety, hidden behind palace walls. She is later framed for her father’s brutal murder and must leave behind everything she has ever known to find his killer and prove her innocence.

Alone, on the run, desperate and in danger, there is only one person who could help vindicate the princess. He is Ramson Quicktongue, a cunning, silver-tongued crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld. Though Ramson has sinister plans of his own, he may have met his match in Ana as the princess might just be the most dangerous player of them all.

This particular book was subject to controversy towards the end of 2018 as the author was slammed on Twitter for being offensive. The author was also subject to cyber bulling which led to a decision of retracting this book from publication. I read the blurb and the sample at the time and could not understand the controversy. I was elated, as were my friends, when I heard the book went ahead for publication and we were given the opportunity to be early readers as part of a blogger-buddy read along.

Starting this book on the first day of 2020 was the best start to the new year. “Blood Heir” was a fast paced and interesting read that I could not put down. I would rate this one of the best books we have read in some time. Personally, I felt this book sent me on a wild ride. From beginning to end I was quite impressed with the plot, characterisation and pacing not to mention the mystery surrounding Princess Anastacya’s plight and Ramson’s character. The story is full of twists and turns and is not afraid of being brutal and ripping apart this calm world. Whilst the inspiration of the Russian tale was there, I could see this book standing apart from the original tale.

I enjoyed both Ana and Ramson as characters and found them interesting as they formed an unlikely alliance but were worlds apart in their own minds. I couldn’t determine who to trust more as both blind sided me with their next moves as the story went on. I also really warmed up to the supporting character, May.

Now this book is finally in bookstores, I hope readers get a chance to sink their teeth into this one and enjoy it as much as I did and hopefully be their own judge for this story. Personally I really enjoyed it and I am trying to sit tight for the sequel.

With special thanks to Harper Voyager for sending me an early copy of “Blood Heir” and for supporting our blogger-buddy read along.

-Annie

Kidz Korner School Holidays Special Recommendations

These school holidays, check out these great books highly recommended for children ages 4 and up…

Taking the Lead: How Jacinda Ardern wowed the World by David Hill, illustrated by Phoebe Morris.
Meet Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who hopes the things she’s done will help everyone, especially children, to believe that they can do great things too.

An inspiring illustrated story for children about Jacinda Ardern, and her meteoric rise to become the world’s youngest female leader.

This was a wonderful picture book that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. I have always been fond of Jacinda Ardern, I honestly wish she was our PM here in Australia. I admire her leadership and her humbleness. Learning about her life before politics was quite interesting and I enjoyed the quick read in the form of a picture book. It’s very easy to follow and recommended to school aged children, I believe this picture book should be in school library shelves. With special thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me an Advanced review copy of this book.

Roo knows Blue by Renee Treml
This was such a cute read that could not have come at a better time, with Australia burning and many Australian animals lost, this cute book is a way to teach children how to count, various colours through fun rhymes sung by Australian animals. It’s a lot of fun to read aloud and can be enjoyed by children as young as 3 years old. It makes a great family read. With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me an Advance review copy of this book. 

 

Total Quack Up! Again! Edited by Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, Illustrated by Jules Faber
Following the success of “Total Quack Up” we are back with “Total Quack Up! Again!” Another collection of short stories written by Australian Authors to endorse reading among children with all proceeds of this book going directly to Dymocks Charities. The short stories are a lot of fun to read, a compilation of criminal cats, daring superheroes, footy-obsessed pigs, disastrous birthday parties, crazy robots and beach loving hippos. Such an entertaining light read – highly suitable to children as young as 6 years old, a fun read to keep the kids occupied during the holidays… keep an eye out for the first book too! With special thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending review copies of these books.

-Annie

Golden Unicorn: Rise of the Mythix Book 1 by Anh Do, illustrated by Chris Wahl

Published by: Allen and Unwin

Some heroes are legends. Some legends are real.

The tyrant known as the Soul Collector hunts down anything that is beautiful, unusual or unique.

Kelly Swift is trying hard to be an average teenager, to fit in. But every day her powers are growing: she can run faster than the wind, she can hear people’s thoughts, she is not normal.

When her mother is taken by the Soul Collector, Kelly can’t linger in the shadows any longer. But who is she really? Can she be the one in the prophecy? Is she…the Golden Unicorn?

The Golden Unicorn, the Minotaur and the Griffin –
Only these three united to a common purpose
can fell him who seeks to triumph over all…

I read this in one sitting! This is the first time I have ever read a MG fantasy book written by Anh Do and wow he nails it! Such a great story and written so well that even targeted for a younger audience, this book can be enjoyed by older readers too. I loved the plot, how the characters developed even the illustrations were very impressive. I found this book helped me for my own MG book writing too (thank you Mr Do) highly recommended to readers from ages 9 and up.. very enjoyable and adventurous.
-Annie

The Wailing Woman by Maria Lewis

Although this is the fourth book released in what I like to call “The Maria Lewis Multiverse”, this book is read as a stand alone. A fast paced, exciting read that delves into the subjugation of women and about one brave woman who is finding her voice – note Maria’s dedication: “This book is dedicated to Mariah Carey… Seriously

Following two perspectives: Sadie Burke and Texas Contos, Sadie has been forced to be a good girl her entire life. As a banshee, she’s the bottom of the ladder when it comes to the supernatural hierarchy. Weak. Condemned. Powerless. Silent. That’s what she and her six sisters have been told their entire lives, since their species was first banished from Ireland. Yet when a figure from her childhood unexpectedly arrives on the scene, Sadie finds it harder than ever to toe the line. Texas Contos on the other hand is the son of their greatest oppressor. He’s also someone she’s inexplicably drawn to, and as they grow closer, Sadie begins to question what banshees have been told for centuries about their gifts.

But the truth comes at a cost. With Sadie and Tex forced to run for their lives, their journey leads them to new friends, old enemies, and finally to her true voice – one that could shatter the supernatural world forever.

Once again, I am in love with the “Maria Lewis Multiverse” but I have to say this one is a personal favourite now. I really enjoyed how Maria develops both characters we follow: Sadie and Texas – how she demonstrates their strengths and flaws so well. I really found Banshees as a creatures in this story interesting as they are very different to other supernatural creatures I have read. Maria did so well in tying characters from her other books in this one, blending them into a new story and referencing their backstories too. Learning about the Askari was also quite interesting and seeing two worlds collide in this book was probably the book’s strength.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I really couldn’t put the book down. I found it very easy to get into, great plot and great pace. With special thanks to Hachette Publishers for sending me an Advance Review Copy (and manuscript) of this book.
-Annie

The Dragon Republic by R.F Kuang

“This world is ephemeral, permanence is an illusion…”

R.F Kuang is back with the sequel to my 2018 book love: The Poppy War and it did not disappoint!!!

In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies.

With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do.

But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.

I felt this book was longer than the first, the story was so intense. I waited for this sequel for some time and I am glad I dived in when I did. Whilst it was just as action packed as the first one which leaves you on the edge of your seat, this one was more set at sea – like a voyage post previous battle then engaged in more war prep and new world building.. I believe this book is really gearing us up for the next and final installment of this amazing series which is really going to go out with a bang.

We still see references to our beloved characters from the first book, I still love Rin as a character and thought it was interesting to see her develop when she didn’t have her powers at hand for awhile. Seeing her in a different light and more vulnerable I found was more interesting – to see how she handled such situations. There were plot twists, there were betrayals, there were moments where I gasped. I am still obsessed with this series.

Warning: strong violent and war content, strong coarse language and themes – restricted to an adult reading audience.

Still recommend this series to those who have yet to tap into it. I am yearning for the finale now to see how it all ends – I don’t know if I am prepared….

With special thanks to Harper Voyager for sending me a copy of this book for review.
-Annie