Slay by Brittney Morris: Blog Tour

“Separate is not equal… That doesn’t even come close to leveling the field…”

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

“What kind of noob gets lucky enough to draw the Michael Jordan card and the Michael Jackson card in a single duel?”

I was very excited about this book when I first heard about it at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, YA Con. Having it being pitched as “Black Panther” meets “Ready Player One” I was sold. I like to call this the “Urban Ready Player One” It was an interesting and fast paced read and I really enjoyed following Kiera’s story. I liked her as a character and how she developed the virtual world of “Slay” a place where people of colour could have their own space in an online world. Kiera’s virtual avatar is Emerald and for me it felt like Kiera was more comfortable being Emerald in Slay than Kiera in the real world so her challenge with identity was interesting to me. It always made me question how such talented people can develop an amazing virtual world or explode on stage yet off stage or in front of the screen, they are very reserved.

Keeping Slay under wraps was the thrilling part for me – the case of high stakes secrecy and the thrill of keeping your talent a secret was exhilarating through out the story especially when the secret is out after something sinister happened in real life which was connected to the game. The elements of mystery throughout the book: a case of ‘who done it’ and ‘who is the troll’ was good and the development of the online world was interesting.

The dialogue was very “teen” but what I liked about Kiera was how she would speak like a real teen, be vulnerable in decisions but also have a mature outlook on life. Her sister Steph is quite funny, I liked her too. It was interesting to see how Kiera dealt with her identity, sense of duty/responsibility to others as well as her relationships with family and her boyfriend Malcolm, her friends and change that stem from her own creation ‘Slay’.

A good story that draws parallels to real life: what it’s like to stand out in your own school or community, you just want to be yourself rather than the authority of your own race simply because your skin colour is different to others. I can really see this book hitting the mark within the YA readership.

Special thanks to Date a Book YA for sending me a copy of this book for review and to Aus YA Bloggers for having me on board once again as part of this “Slay” Blog Tour!!!
-Annie

Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories Blog Tour

Twelve of Australia’s best writers from the LGBTQ+ community are brought together in this ground-breaking collection of YA short stories.

What does it mean to be queer? What does it mean to be human? In this powerful #LoveOzYA collection, twelve of Australia’s finest writers from the LGBTQ+ community explore the stories of family, friends, lovers and strangers – the connections that form us. This inclusive and intersectional #OwnVoices anthology for teen readers features work from writers of diverse genders, sexualities and identities, including writers who identify as First Nations, people of colour or disabled. With short stories by bestsellers, award winners and newcomers to young adult fiction including Jax Jacki Brown, Claire G Coleman, Michael Earp, Alison Evans, Erin Gough, Benjamin Law, Omar Sakr, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neerven, Marlee Jane Ward, Jen Wilde and Nevo Zisin.

If you never had to search for place to belong or for friends who understood you, then consider yourself lucky.

For those of us whom ever sat, or sit, on the edge of the realms of common or hetero-normative society, looked for people to call our tribe. Someone who could innately relate to us, whose eyes lit up in recognition, should we describe an intrinsic event, or part of our lives.

The passion-project of Michael Earp comes this anthology of short stories from authors as varied in their careers as they are in the spectrum of the LGBTQI+ community.

From alternate futures where gender is the other and innocent chance encounters behind curtains, to awkward conversations with relatives and internal struggles with the Id.
This book brings unique stories told from the point of view of individuals finding themselves, coming to terms with their identities and discovering similar or like-minded individuals.

Through the voices of the characters, one is confronted with different personal realities where the humanity, inner and outer struggles of these colourful individuals is explored.
Regardless of whether you connect personally with the individual characters, or if you’re an ally, or even someone who is seeking to understand queer culture, this book comes through with stories which are both imaginative and educational.

Included in the book are helpful resources for young queer individuals to reference, should they seek advice or even someone to open up to and speak with.

A wonderful book I wish I had encountered in my teens and which I would recommend for any teen exploring and, or coming to terms with their sexuality or identity.

With special thanks to Walker Books Publishers and Aus YA Bloggers for having me on board for this Blog Tour
-Patrick

Shauna’s Great Expectations by Kathleen Loughnan

An important coming of age YA novel with an indigenous lead character that is written by an indigenous author

A fresh and compelling novel about an Aboriginal scholarship student and her surprising final year of school.

Shauna is in her final year at an elite private school and has great expectations. She holds an Indigenous scholarship and is determined to be the first member of her family to go to university, no matter what. The year is off to an excellent start and she and her friends are dreaming big about life after school and planning a trip to Paris. But suddenly she finds she must make a choice that threatens to throw all her plans into disarray. As pressure builds from every corner of her world, Shauna wonders what she’ll have to sacrifice to keep hold of her dreams… Can she fulfil her own promise and still keep her promises to others? Will all her expectations be ripped away?

An insightful and important coming of age story with a strong indigenous female protagonist who sends a powerful message to those of marginalised backgrounds. This brought back memories of “Looking for Alibrandi” whereby Shauna is the indigenous minority who is on a scholarship in an elite school having to deal with racism and discrimination due to her background. Her determination in life was what I found to be her strength. Whilst Shauna is subjected to having to deal with negativity around her and live with a life choice that can influence her next life decisions, it was interesting to see how Shauna went about her choices and how she tries to be true to herself. A compelling indigenous voice, a great book and very eye opening!!!

About the Author:
Kathleen is an Australian lawyer and writer. She was born in rural Victoria and now lives between Australia and Europe with her husband and their four children.

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers + Aus YA Bloggers for having us on board for the Instagram Tour.
-Annie

Sky by Ondine Sherman – Blog Tour

Sky is the first book in the Animal Allies Series.

Friendship can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

After her mother’s death, Sky leaves her city life to move in with her aunt and uncle in a small Australian town. Life in a new place isn’t easy, and Sky finds comfort in the friendship of a stray dog she meets along the way.

But her new friends at school are another story, and as Sky struggles to fit in, she finds herself doing things that go against everything she believes in.

When Sky stumbles on a case of animal cruelty, she is forced to question what’s really important to her and who she wants to be.

This book was quite easy to read and follow. Not normally something I read myself but I found it interesting that the story taps into themes that I don’t usually come across in YA. Themes like family and family secrets are quite normal but for a teen who has embraced the path of being a vegan and is quite passionate about animal rights and against animal cruelty were areas I found unique to the story. I enjoyed Sky as a character and how she deals with transition in her life from loss to staying with family who even though they’re family, it’s not your immediate or inner circle. I feel this is an important book, I can see why the author felt it needed to be written – really touches the heart. The ending has left scope so I am keen to see what happens in book 2.

For more about the author, you can visit Pantera Press or connect with Ondine Sherman via Twitter Instagram and Goodreads.
To add Sky to your TBR:  Sky Goodreads page.

With special thanks too Pantera Press + Aus YA Bloggers for sending out a review copy of this book and for having us on board for the Sky Blog Tour.
-Annie

 

Wind Rider by P.C Cast Blog Tour + exclusive Q&A author P.C Cast

Best selling international author of the House of Night series and other titles, P.C. Cast is back as she brings us Wind Rider, the third installment of an epic fantasy series set in a world where humans, their animal allies, and the earth itself has been drastically changed. A world filled with beauty and danger and cruelty…

This is the third book of the Tales of New World…

Keep an eye out for the first 2 books in the series [pictured] if you haven’t started the series yet, definitely worth the read!!! …Naturally when at the beach, you take your books with you, yes??

Exclusive Q&A with P.C Cast..

G’day!! We just wanted to thank you for engaging with us as part of the blog tour, we are big fans of your books and we really hope you will visit us in Sydney, Australia one day soon!!
I WOULD LOVE TO!

You have written quite a few books! Is there a particular title or series that resonates most with you? Which one would it be and why?
That tends to change as I continue writing more and more series, but right now I’m especially attached to TALES OF A NEW WORLD.  WIND RIDER is the most difficult and best book I’ve written. I love the world – the characters – and the exploration of what embracing hate will do to a society, as well as the redemptive powers of love and what will happen when a group of people commit to living inclusively with truth and love leading the way.  AND THE DOGS AND HORSES AND LYNXES! Love, love, love the animal Companions!

You write a lot about goddesses, Is there a reason for this?
I’m Pagan, so it’s the foundation of my belief system. Also, I write female empowering stories set in matriarchal societies. Those societies rarely worship male deities. Additionally, I find the different faces of the Goddess inspiring and inclusive and, quite frankly, a lot more interesting to create than those that are patriarchal.

Some authors are either inspired by true life events or have dreams that inspire their writing, where do you find your inspiration and how do you apply it to your writing?
I’m usually inspired by research and by travel, but sometimes real life steps in – like for TALES OF A NEW WORLD. In that series my relationship with my personal protection canine, Badger, inspired the idea for the world and the animal Companions. And for the antagonist and villain I looked no further than the debacle going on in our government and country. When hate, racism and division take a lead role in a country there are a lot of villains from which to choose…

As an author that has focused on urban fantasy and paranormal romance books, you would be quite the expert in this area!! What do you think makes a good fantasy romance?
Ironically, good fantasy has to be founded in believability. If I’m going to take you on a journey where vampyres have elemental powers, or goddesses walk the earth, or humans and animals bond on a genetic level I have to first be sure my world building is solid. Do my ecosystems work? It’s also why I prefer to base my magic on the elements.  The character development is especially important in fantasies. If I’m going to create a God of Death or a villainess whose behaviour is sociopathic (Neferet!) then I must first create a fully fleshed out character my readers can understand and even one with whom they can empathize – and taking that a step further, all the great romances – in any genre – begin with believable characters.

As an author you would go through an extensive editing process before publication so we were just curious how different is the final story from your original idea or draft? Do you find the original idea is still quite clear in the final print and edits just help you shape the story or does it change direction to something completely different?
I do outline, but my work is very character driven. What that means for my books is that I begin with an opening scene and I also know the closing scene – how I get there usually changes drastically from my outline/proposal as my characters evolve and grow. I rewrite constantly, so by the time I finish a manuscript, even the first time around, it’s well beyond first draft status.

What was the best piece of advice you were given as an author and what advice would you give to aspiring writers?The best piece of advice I was ever given about being an author was something Teresa Miller, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Poets and Writers Assoc., said to me when I was taking one of her classes. She told me to treat the career of being an author as I would any job – basically to take off my rose-coloured glasses and educate myself about the process of publishing – to understand thoroughly how a manuscript turns into a book. I followed her advice and couldn’t be happier I did!

When you’re not writing – what would you be doing?
You mean other than feeling guilty I’m not writing? Hum…I hang out with my daughter, Kristin, and my absolutely perfect grandbaby a lot. I yoga. I ride my mare, Anjo (yes, the same as the one in WIND RIDER!). I love to try new restaurants with my awesome group of girlfriends (and a few guys, including my brothers). And I really love binging TV series.

Are you a reader? What’s your favourite book of all time? (Or a book that may have inspired you to start writing)
Of course I’m a reader! You guys know this question drives authors crazy, don’t you! So, I see you gave me an out. Whew. When I was thirteen I read DRAGON FLIGHT by Anne McCaffrey and I was gobsmacked (as my grandma would’ve said!) and mesmerized. A woman wrote a fantasy novel! And a girl was the star! The saviour! The coolest character! At that moment I knew I would someday be a published author who wrote fantasy novels starring strong women. Thank you, Anne McCaffrey, for my livelihood!

Special thanks to P.C Cast for engaging with Read3r’z Re-Vu through our blog Q&A, to Aus YA Bloggers and Pan Macmillan Australia for having us on board as part of the Wind Rider Blog Tour!!

Content compiled by Annie, Q&A questions by Annie and NJ