Circle of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Work hard… Mischief harder…

From the writer of The Crown’s Game and The Crown’s Fate comes an exciting new fantasy series full of magic, intrigue, betrayal and action!!!

Sora can move as silently as a ghost and hurl throwing stars with lethal accuracy. Her gemina, Daemon, can win any physical fight blindfolded and with an arm tied around his back. They are apprentice warriors of the Society of Taigas—marked by the gods to be trained in magic and the fighting arts to protect the kingdom of Kichona.  As their graduation approaches, Sora and Daemon look forward to proving themselves worthy of belonging in the elite group—but in a kingdom free of violence since the Blood Rift Rebellion many years ago, it’s been difficult to make their mark. So when the pair encounter a strange camp of mysterious soldiers while on a standard scouting mission, they decide the only thing to do to help their kingdom is to infiltrate the group. Taking this risk will change Sora’s life forever—and lead her on a mission of deception that may fool everyone she’s ever loved.

This was interesting book, definitely not what I expect or got used to with this amazing author from her previous books. If like me, you’ve read “The Crown’s Game” and “The Crown’s Fate” cast your mind away from that duology if you wish to tap into this new series. This is very different. It’s a whole new world, whole new playing field.. I enjoyed the cultural fusion in this book that reminded me of Asian and European legends and tales. Although the book did take some time to engage me in the beginning due to slow plot development and world building, the twists that popped up throughout the story and the interesting characters held my attention to the end. The friendship between our two main characters was something I adored so much and there were moments throughout the book that touched my heart. I found this book is something you need to read without any distraction. The world building is detailed and the multiple perspectives can confuse you if you’re not 100% focused on the story. I have faith in this series so I am definitely invested and looking forward to the sequel now.

Special thanks to Harper Collins publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

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A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier

A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.

Some people knit socks by the fire at night – Gyssha Blackbone made monsters. But the witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess. When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep. Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet and now, with monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help and no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home. – the very place she is emotionally abused by her stepfather, unsupported by her mother and denied an education so much she is illiterate… Regardless, Elodie is determined to make this work…

A story of witches – ancient curses – folklore – strong women.. everything I like in a fantasy novel!!!

I really enjoyed this story, with the start making me feel incredibly frustrated with some of the characters – particularly Elodie’s stepfather, the emotional reaction I felt early on told me to strap on, I’m in for a wild ride.. and I was.. I loved how the story grew as we followed a confused character because as the story unfolded for us it unfolded for Elodie and we learnt things along the way – the secrets, Elodie’s real purpose in being hired.. Some parts were quite creepy but it sent me into a world I least expected. An easy read you can get through pretty quickly, immersive and intriguing.

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

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor returns with the sequel to the wonderful Strange the Dreamer with this gem!!!

If you haven’t read Strange the Dreamer yet, please do not read this review as it may contain spoilers…

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep. Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of. Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this great sequel to Strange the Dreamer!!!

I love this book so much. It’s absolutely everything I hoped for and much more. Laini Taylor weaves a magical story about love, found family and redemption. It has so many great themes and characters that have dimension. I am also really happy about the wonderful universe.
It’s amazing!!!

-NJ

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

Above the Grave (Graphic Novel) + Exclusive Blog Q&A with the artists/authors Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva

Rick Mastertine is having a bad first day on the job. He’s getting grief from his “customers”, staff and boss. His place of employment? He’s the new chief warden of Mako, the world’s super villain prison, located deep in the Namibian desert and converted from an old diamond mine.

Can Rick uncover the true secret of Mako, while preventing an ingenious jailbreak by the likes of the shape-shifting Mister Twister, luck manipulating Russian Roulette, sentient tree Davine and brilliant crocodile-man hybrid Crocitis?

Image from: Above the Grave

Blog Q&A Exclusive with artists/authors – Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva…

When did you both decide to co-write your comic book “Above the Grave” and how did you come to this decision?

M: I mentioned it to Andrew and at that stage had it as an issued comic mini-series. Andrew liked the idea of the story and expanded out the story and wrote it out in a Screenplay format.

A: This would have started about ten years ago. Mitchell has oodles of story ideas but there was something about this concept that really grabbed me, plus I thought the characters were fun and distinctive. It goes deeper than that though, as Mitchell established some themes that resonated with me. For example, at the time I was a supervisor and on one level Rick, as the warden, is a middle manager so I could identify with his issues working at Mako! The tone was also right up my alley, it’s really a big, brash action-comedy. I stayed true to those aspects while expanding the story with among other things Rick’s redemption arc and I introduced a few more characters to drive the expanded plot.

How do you structure the content, for example, does one write while the other illustrates and do you go through several drafts of writing and illustrations before you get to your finished product?

A: With the story, there was a baton passing from Mitchell to myself. Once I took the baton, I ensured I kept Mitchell’s authorial voice throughout the many subsequent drafts. Only once I thought the story was nailed down did I begin drawing because I knew it would be a lot of effort to redraw pages. However, I ended up redrawing about 40% of the panels anyway because this was the first comic I ever drew and I learned many lessons about comic storytelling as I went along! This, by the way, was only possible because I drew it digitally.

It looks like a lot of work went into “Above the Grave” was this a long journey just to put content together for publication?

M: Oh it was a LONG Journey. From concept to writing and Andrew learning on the job and drawing it at the same time took many years.

A: To be honest, at first I was too scared to want to draw it myself. I had always liked drawing but to bring this story to fruition, I was only too aware it meant I would have to draw many things I had never drawn before and the volume of drawings needed was going to be huge, something in the order of 500 panels. But thanks to Mitchell’s encouragement (and prodding), I took the plunge. It was really intimidating sitting with that first blank page in front of me on the drawing table knowing I had 136 pages to do. In fact, I might have even said to myself I’ll just do the first 20 then we’ll get someone else to do the rest. But you know what they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

After I finished drawing there was still the lettering to do! Not a glamorous part of creating comics, I can tell you.

Now that’s it’s done, we couldn’t be prouder.

What was the inspiration for the characters you use and the storyline in “Above the Grave”?

M: Inspiration came from seeing a prison line up of Villains in a Spiderman cartoon and hearing a radio news broadcast many years ago about the South African Government considering building an underground prison.

A: I’ve always liked reading the news and I know Mitchell is an avid book reader. Mitchell came up with some really bold concepts for characters and I filled in their back stories from things that floated around in my head. The references to Russia and North Korea for example. But they’re from years ago, it’s just that those countries have stayed topical. It’s true afterall that the more things change the more things stay the same. As for the character designs, that was nothing but hard work, lots of google picture searches and constant iteration. Especially Da Vine, I swear I will never draw another plant/human hybrid for the rest of my life!

What else do you have in the pipeline that us comic geeks can keep an eye out for? Is this a series by any chance?
M: While we have ideas for upcoming projects the focus right now is just letting people know about Above The Grave from conventions to getting the book into stores.

A: I’m going to work on some fan art of other popular properties to try to attract attention at cons. It’s hard trying to sell an original story.

Some illustrators really don’t enjoy drawing – especially as scenes can get repetitive, did you really enjoy writing/illustrating this comic book?

A: This is what I would say to people who are thinking of drawing a comic: If you do 100-odd pages you will find out just how much you really like drawing! Seriously, drawing a comic is nothing like drawing a pin-up or even other kinds of picture books. It’s fun but it is certainly repetitive and there are times when it feels like a horrible grind. The only thing that keeps you going is that promise of the finished product and getting your story out there. The other process I adhered to that made it easier for me to reach the finish line is that I made sure to keep up momentum and do all the pages, even if the art was terrible to begin with. Then I went back and improved them A LOT. Working that way, I knew I could have quit at any time and still had at least something in hand. As it turned out, I never quit because I saw constant improvement in myself that drove me to cut no corners and do every page to a high standard. I see no reason to be modest about this lol.

If you stumbled into writer’s block (or illustrator’s block) how did you overcome it?

M: For myself and very luckily never had an issue with writer’s block. Just going forward and focus on the next part of the story without getting too far ahead.

A: Luckily that was not an issue with this project. It was a miracle how it came together. Sometimes your brain’s neurons just work!

For those who are thinking to branch out into publishing comic books, what would your best piece of advice be?

M: It’s a hard journey, break things into small areas that you have to complete. I know for myself that it would of been such a harder journey if it didn’t find such a great collaborative partner. If i don’t cross paths with Andrew. Above the Grave doesn’t happen. PERIOD.

A: I would definitely advise any aspiring creators not to do 136 pages! The most important thing is to FINISH. If you just finish you will be ahead of 99.9% of other people. We all know about the proverbial screenplay sitting in a drawer. So choose a manageable story!

Getting to know you….

When you’re not writing/illustrating, what would you be doing?
M: Plotting ideas, playing guitar, game and watching television.

A: I was illustrating in most of my spare time for the duration of this project so I listened to a lot of podcasts. When I had forced breaks because I needed to recharge my drawing tablet I spent the time reading stories about all kinds of things online. Because the internet is random! You never know what will give you an idea later on down the line.

Who are your role models when it comes to your writing/illustrating journey?
M: Paul Hogan, John Cornell, Matthew Reilly and Kevin Smith.

A: Jim Lee for drawing. His longevity in the comics industry is astounding as well.

What are your favourite comic books? (graphic novels or manga included in this question)
M: Watchmen, Superman: Red Son, Guardian Devil (Daredevil)

A: For me it all began with Asterix and Tintin. (I actually homage the artist of Asterix, Albert Uderzo, with a character named after him in ATG.) Then in high school I loved the X-Men. Y: The Last Man opened my eyes to what’s possible in the medium as it’s not a humour or superhero story. I like Red Son as well.

Besides comic books, what is your favourite genre to read?
M: Music Biographies, True Crime, Horror, Self Help.

A: I don’t read many books these day but I like to read long-form journalism and sites like io9 for nerds. I used to read action adventure novels like James Bond and Jurassic Park. But I read more fact than fiction overall.

Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
M: San Diego during Comic con.

A: Disney World when the Star Wars hotel is completed in 2021!

If you had the power to adapt “Above the Grave” to a TV show, Stage Show or Movie, which would you choose and why?
M: …. Let’s go the movie! Let’s go HUGE! Lol

A: …. $200 million major motion picture! Actually, ATG began as a comic, then it was written as a screenplay for a reason that I forget, then it became a comic again. That’s why it’s 136 pages, it’s very cinematic for a comic.

Special thanks to Mitchell and Andrew for taking the time for our Blog Q&A and for also attending as our special guests for the Read3r’z Re-Vu Comics Day Exclusive… It’s so exciting to meet friends with hidden talents and amazing achievements!!! Hope to see more from you both in the future!!!

-Q&A and content compiled by Annie

City of Lies by Sam Hawke

This was a book that lured me in and slowly seduced me with its intricate world building and immersive story line.

When a person in an honourable position suddenly dies under suspicious circumstances, you have 2 options – have an open investigation or engage in a covert operation to determine whether or not it was sinister.. Oh.. and you have one clue: poison.

A story of treachery and intrigue that is told in 2 perspectives; a reliable poison proofer and an unreliable understudy. Outwardly, Jovan is the lifelong friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible Heir. Quiet. Forgettable. In secret, he’s a master of poisons and chemicals, trained to protect the Chancellor’s family from treachery. Jovan’s sister Kalina is the understudy. When the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army lays siege to the city, Jovan and his sister Kalina must protect the Heir and save their city-state. But treachery lurks in every corner, and the ancient spirits of the land are rising…and angry…

Besides the slowly developing story line and trying to determine “who done it” what I enjoyed the most was the imaginative composition of poisons we learn about in each description that started each chapter…

With a steady pace and development, this is a book that is recommended to those who love fantasy fiction and intricate world building.

-Annie

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken.
But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.
I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.

This is another book I will be adding to my shelf of “2018 book loves” although a book shelved in the Young Adult section, this is a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults and teens alike. I call this a culturally infused, intergalactic adventure that captivated me from page one right to the very end leaving me yearning for the next installment (whenever that is, as this was just released!)

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects as Amani is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death

I fell in love with the world it was set in, the map of all the planets that’s included in this book and I just loved the concept of a village girl being kidnapped to be a stand in body double for a cruel throne. The plot was really fast paced and exhilarating, I found I read this book in just a couple of days. The characters in this book are amazing. Interestingly, the emotional confusion some of the characters felt made me as a reader question how I felt about certain characters too. The cultural references and metaphors used throughout the story was something I was able to relate to and understand which was pretty cool. The twists throughout the book made me gasp, even cringe.

This is a 10/10 debut novel. I definitely recommend this to readers who love fantasy fiction or intergalactic adventure – cultural infusion is an added bonus.

Brilliant.. Unique.. and so many other awesome things I have run out of adjectives for.. please read this!!

Special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie