The Poppy War by R.F Kuang with exclusive mini Q&A

I had the pleasure of engaging in a read along with 2 of my dear friends, Tien of Tien’s Blurb and Maisie of SleepyWiredStudios it was one of the most engaging and engrossing reads I had read in some time, so much so, I suffered a book hangover after reading this book!!!

The Poppy War
Our protagonist is Rin – a war orphan who dwells in the lower socio-economic part of the Empire with a family who is the head of a notorious Opium Trade and believed they’d finally be able to marry Rin off to further their criminal enterprise. However, when Rin aces the Keju (the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to attend elite academies), it was a shock to everyone as it was unheard of for a war orphan from Rooster Province to blitz the test without cheating and a shock to Rin herself, who realised she was finally free of the life dictated to her.  What an amazing surprise that she got into Sinegard: the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising… but surprises aren’t always good… Given Rin’s stature, her time at Sinegard is not a walk in the park as she is singled out and targeted due to her socio-economic status, colour and gender yet before long, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power: an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Rin continues exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a well known yet seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances. As Rin learns of her new found power and that myths are very much real, the Nikara Empire was at peace until it is learnt that a third Poppy War is close at hand….

My Thoughts
This is definitely another book love for 2018, a book that consumed me so much I experienced a book hangover. I had the privilege of doing a read along with 2 of my girlfriends and we were all so mesmerised with the story line. From start to finish, I was engrossed in the plot and what becomes of the main character we follow, Rin. I loved the character development as we learn about her life as an orphan girl then forced into a family who is involved in an Opium trade and her determination to escape the life dictated to her to a life she wants of her own – the journey she takes, the torment she endured and her self discoveries really kept me turning the page!! In addition to Rin, I also loved all the characters that we follow in this story. Whether good or bad – each character was written extremely well and what I enjoyed was regardless of one’s strengths – there was a vulnerability which made it real..

CONTENT WARNING: Yes I should note, this book does come with a content warning as it covers Warfare and the author does not at all sugarcoat it from battle to Prisoner of War (PoW) treatment to torture. It is quite graphic, however I feel the author did a great job in writing these parts as once again, she kept it real despite the world we are reading. Although parts were not easy to read, I realise they would not have been easy to write, but these parts were written so well nonetheless. I had numerous emotional reactions throughout the book: gasping, laughing, cringing, anger – there’s even a part that was a bit of a tearjerker..

I loved this book so much, I loved the characters.. this is not a book I will forget in a hurry!!!

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

 

Mini Q&A with author R.F Kuang

This question is from Maisie: Rin is the main character we follow in this story however we come to meet some wonderful and very unlikeable characters in “The Poppy War” is there a particular character you enjoyed writing more than the other?
I love writing Jiang the most! He’s hilarious and he gets to do whatever he wants. Ramsa was fun too; I’m excited to expand his role in the sequel. 
This question is from Tien: I’ve been searching everywhere for the name of this series but I cannot see it anywhere – is there a name for this series and how many installments could we expect?
It’s The Poppy Wars Trilogy.  
I was curious to know your inspiration behind Rin’s background (like her back story from being an orphan girl to her transition to Sinegard) and inspiration for the militia academy.
Rin’s character arc is almost entirely based on the biography of Mao Zedong. 
How long did it take for you to write “The Poppy War” how different is the finished product from your original draft/idea?
It took me about three months to write the first draft that I sent out on queries. After I got an agent, we revised for two more months before putting it out on submission. Once I signed with Harper, we put it through three more revision stages–mostly final touch-ups at that point. The finished novel is quite close to what I wrote originally. Most of the revision work was to fix continuity problems and pacing issues. 
Outside of writing now: when you’re not writing/reading, what are your hobbies and interests?
Honestly, between schoolwork and writing, I don’t have time for much else. I read a lot–maybe a book every two or three days. 
R.F Kuang also said: “I am often asked about the historical atrocities and inspirations in Act 3, and it is bit difficult for me to have to discuss family trauma over and over. I’ve written two essays on the subject that I always link to interviewers”
-Annie
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Snow, Fire, Sword by Sophie Masson

An amazing YA urban fantasy that is set on the backdrop of mythological Indonesia!!! A race against time to the very heart of an explosive secret… the truth about Snow, Fire and Sword. Dewi has never ventured beyond her village in the highlands of Jayangan, where she lives a comfortable life with her father, the respected village healer. But one day while working in the rice fields, she stumbles across Adi, an apprentice sword-maker, alone and hiding from the bloodthirsty bandits who kidnapped his beloved master.

When Dewi’s father also goes missing, she seeks the advice of the powerful tiger-people who watch over her village, but even they can see only so far through the cloud of sorcery that hangs over the kingdom. They leave her with a cryptic message: she and Adi must discover the true meaning of Snow, Fire and Sword before they can find her father and the other missing elders and reveal the truth about the danger that threatens Jayangan.

I had such a personal connection to this book as it was the very first time I managed to find a YA urban fantasy that was set on the backdrop of mythological Indonesia!!! It was the first time I was able to share a book with my Mum as we were able to discuss all the West Javanese legends contained throughout this story. I loved this book so much, I really took my time to read it so I was able to saviour it for as long as I could. A lot of the terminology used, I was able to understand first go but I thought it was fantastic that a glossary was included at the end of this book for the non-Indonesian speaking readers. The story moved at a reasonably quick pace, it allowed me to picture a whole new world that was inspired by true Indonesian landscape – I was able to picture the characters and the traditional Indonesian attire they were wearing so clearly. I highly recommend this to those who enjoy urban fantasies with reference to cultural legends – please note I had to get this book via Print on Demand. I’m so grateful to have this book on my shelf as it was such an immersive read, it is definitely a favourite!!!

-Annie

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi Blog Tour

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy…

One fantastic way to start 2018, read an advanced copy of this book and it was morbidly fascinating and simply “unputdownable” A book that leaves you with goosebumps – wide eyed – gasping. For fans of Sabaa Tahir and Sarah J. Maas..

PICK THIS BOOK UP TODAY!!!!

The Maji Clans
  • Iku Clan: Maji of Life and Death, called Reapers
  • Émi Clan: Maji of Mind, Spirit, and Dreams, called Connectors
  • Omi Clan: Maji of Water, called Tiders
  • Iná Clan: Maji of of Fire, called Burners
  • Afêfê Clan: Maji of Air, called Winders
  • Aiye Clan: Maji of Iron and Earth, called Grounders + Welders
  • Ina Clan: Maji of Darkness and Light, called Lighters
  • Iwosan Clan: Maji of Health and Disease, called Healer + Cancer
  • Aríran Clan: Maji of Time, called Seers
  • Eranko Clan: Maji of Animals, called Tamers
Connect with the author: Tomi Adeyemi
tomiadeyemi.com
Follow the Hashtag: #NowWeRise #ChildrenOfBloodAndBone
It would appear with my birth month + birth date, I am part of the Ina Clan with the lighter magical power – the ability to manipulate light and darkness…
Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for having me on board as part of this Blog Tour.
-Annie

Reign the Earth by A.C Gaughen

Release Date: January 2018

A fantastic start to a promising series!!!

This was one book that had me on the edge of my seat as I was gasping, cringing and rapidly turning the page to simply know what happened next. The plot was interesting as it follows the story of a young girl, Shalia, who is a proud yet naive daughter of the desert and after many years of war with another tribe/kingdom, she was used as a pawn via an arranged marriage with the king of the opposing tribe as a means to bring peace to both worlds. Shalia’s betrothed, Calix, the king, is motivated by a strong desire to kill all who identify as Elementae – magical people who have powers that can control the elements: earth, air, wind and fire.

So the question is, when two worlds become one family, what becomes of the proud, naive daughter of the desert when she is crowned queen as a result of this arranged marriage and learns of her new husband’s plans then later discovers her true self once she is thrown into this whole new world?

I found it was interesting to follow Shalia’s perspective during the story and how she grows as a character when taken out of her world of order and thrown into a world of chaos where, for her, it’s sink or swim – follow what is expected of her to retain peace or question everything, be true to herself and risk war. Does she thrive or just manage to survive?

This story is dark and it does take you on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. For some of the themes covered, I would be more likely to recommend this to older YA readers, adults who enjoy fantasy fiction stories or who, like me, LOVE stories set in the desert. This had a great plot, is fast paced and it even confused me when I was trying to decide where my loyalties were during the story. I would love to read the sequel!!

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Annie

Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

Magic was lost then returned to the world and as it comes, it could have saved humanity but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead.

Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

Tenn is a Hunter. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind

This was a beautifully written story. The adventure and magic are mixed and don’t over power each other, at all. I found that I liked going on the adventure with Tenn and the others. I’m really looking forward to (with fingers crossed) book two’s release date. Many thanks to Harlequin Teen Publishers for sending me a Review Copy in exchange for my honest review.
-Meredith

 

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor, Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

The Ultimate Novella to the number one best seller: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (Hachette, Australia)

In this book, Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy — the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. A story told in alternating perspectives, first following Zuzana who really wants to talk to Mik, aka “The Violin Boy”  and does so by leaving a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter’s night before finally leading him to the treasure: Zuzana herself!!

I really enjoyed this book, I felt it was like a prequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone but in fact, it’s a non-cliche story about Zuzana and Mik’s first meeting. I found this to be a cleverly executed short story with dual perspective, elements of creepy puppets, gothic magic and amazingly detailed architecture. A lot of fun to read and very easy for me to lose myself into. The illustrations were absolutely brilliant, they were so creative and really brought the story to life throughout the book. I also LOVED the independent graphic novel scene from Daughter of Smoke of Bone.

A must read for the fans of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series!!!

-Annie

 

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

BOOK 1 of the Hex Hall Series

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

My review
If you love Harry Potter then you’ll love this book and will be up until 3am in the morning not wanting to put it down just like I did! Sophie just like Harry Potter grew up in the human world and well it’s an interesting twist with the boarding school she ends up going to where it’s more like juvie for the supernatural, but the things is that Sophie actually doesn’t know how to do any magic yet. Follow on her journey to making friends, making enemies, getting into trouble, saving her friend, dealing with a boy crush on someone she can’t have and let’s not forget the evil groups that want her and her school mates dead. A fun filled series that I’m eager to keep reading about.

Recomendation
I’m going to say ages 8 and up but I think anyone at an age that can understand the imaginary and loves books about magic will love this book. Also great for Harry Potter fans who love stories about teenage witches and even twilight fans will enjoy the vamipire and other mythical beings elements in this book.

– Crystal