Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

“The imagination of mortals shaped the gods, carving their faces and their myriad forms, just as the water molds the stones in its path, wearing them down through the centuries…”

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true. In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld

“There is a bit of the devil in every man, if he may act the part of the saint…”

Having read about this on a blog as an anticipated upcoming release, I wasted no time in getting myself a copy then dropping everything to read it. I am very happy I did this. I found this to be such an intriguing book, a page turner, a story that I was able to immerse myself in about a culture and legend that is often forgotten in the world. Drawing on Mayan mythology and Mexican folk-lore, this was very interesting. Casiopea is our main character and at a time of 1927, she is often noted as outspoken and disobedient when really she is just head strong and knows when to set boundaries. As she unleashes something so unexpected from her Grandfather’s chest, her life changes as she is suddenly affiliated with a god. Her cousin Martin, at first I hated him – but I came to understand his behaviour as the story progressed and found that his character and attitude toward his female cousin was indicative of that time.

Although this was a very intriguing story, I found at times parts of it did drag on, particularly the first 20 pages but if you stick with it, you will find it really is worth your time reading it. I highly recommend this book to those whom, like me, enjoy fantasy fiction with a cultural and mythology infusion. Mayan mythology and Mexican folk-lore is something I have never read before and I was thoroughly impressed.

-Annie

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Monuments by Will Kostakis

“Crafting something, seeing that creation flourish, that is what satiates us, not the size of our followings.” 

All 16-year-old Connor is trying to do is avoid his ex-best friend when he stumbles upon a trapdoor to a secret chamber under his school. But when Sally Rodgers breaks into the same secret chamber looking for an ancient being, things take an unexpected turn . . . and Connor’s life will never be the same again.

Along with the mysterious Sally and, later on, his new friend Locky, Connor discovers the Monuments – gods who have been buried for generations – who created the world and hid themselves away from humanity to keep everyone safe. But now they’re exposed and vulnerable, and Connor isn’t sure who, himself included, can be trusted with the knowledge and the power these gods have.

“Life is not some static thing that is made and left alone, it constantly remakes itself. Life requires attention, nurturing..”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having read all of Will’s work to date, I can see how much he has grown as a writer and he’s done so well with this book. From setting the scene and developing the story that started in a school and embarked into a whole new world. Will did really well in bringing out important teen issues that include friendships and fall outs, change, sexuality and coming to terms with your own identity.

The story is full of fast paced, exhilarating adventure that is set in Sydney and intertwined with mythology and suspense. I love mythology so having this as a strong element in the story was awesome. I felt the way the gods are portrayed in this story was clever and different. Will also did very well capturing most of Sydney in this book, particularly western Sydney as it’s an area most often overlooked in literature (GO BLACKTOWN!)

I enjoyed following this story from the protagonist, Con’s perspective but I have to say my favourite character is Locky. I loved his chilled nature and his intellect. I was able to relate to him as he really reminded me of me when I was in high school (wanting to study international relations and politics to work for the Australian public service)

Fast paced and easy to be engrossed in. I highly recommend to YA readers ages 14 years and up who enjoy fast paced adventure with contemporary friendships and romance and strong presence of mythology.

“A life spent running is not one lived…”

Special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me an advanced review copy of this book.
Due for release: August/September 2019
-Annie

“The Rift” and exclusive video con with international author Rachael Craw

When The Rift opens… Death follows…

With special thanks to Walker Books Publishers, I had the honour of having a video conference via Whatsapp with international best-selling author from New Zealand, Rachael Craw!!!! It was such a fun conversation, one we were most excited for as we got to know each other and had a lovely chat about her upcoming book in our trackies and in the comfort of our own home.

Best known for her Spark Trilogy: “Spark”, “Stray” and “Shield”, Rachael is back with a new book “The Rift” that is due to hit Sydney bookstores in November 2018!!! This is one story that’s got me very intrigued and a story that is very different from her previous works. Rachael tells me that this was a story that was burning inside for so long and she was inspired to write this just after an awards ceremony when “Stray” received a literary award (kudos!). In her mind, Rachael had many stories flowing however the stories that stuck and formed part of her inspiration to write “The Rift” were stories from Greek Mythology: Greek goddesses Artemus and Eileithiya and an ancient curse that lives on in modern times in a location where there is a gap between time and space and the people in this location must live and deal with the confines of a small island. A place where the coastline boxes you in and technology is really not compatible there. This place is now known as “Blackwater Island” in “The Rift”.

The Rift
Generations of Rangers have guarded the Old Herd against the horrors of The Rift and Cal West, an apprentice Ranger, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. Meg Archer has returned to her childhood home, only to find Black Water Island is facing threat not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal cannot ignore their attraction but can they face their darkest fears and save the island from disaster?

A story of an ancient curse, centuries old secret and yes… potentially a forbidden love!!

Rachael had not intended to write another series when she started writing “The Rift” so it should be a stand alone, however, Rachael says never say never because when you read “The Rift” there could be potential for more… I guess we will have to find out!! On the cover of “The Rift” you will see a raven and yes I asked, and yes the raven is key to the story!! Interestingly, when asked about why she chose this particular theme for writing this book, Rachael said the story chose her. Although Rachael had always intended to have a female protagonist, Rachael initially intended to write this story about 2 characters running away – but she could not justify what they were running from and so changed the shape of the story to what’s in “The Rift” now. Written in third person, this is a shared character story between a boy and a girl which is unusual for Rachael as she normally struggles with reading shared character perspectives.

It was so much fun to get to know Rachael, she is so lovely and very easy to talk to and I am really hoping she will visit Sydney, Australia – hopefully in time for her book launch! In addition to talking about “The Rift” I had some burning questions answered. Yes! Rachael lives in New Zealand but no, she has not experienced the exhilaration of bungee jumping… yet… Rachael’s ultimate holiday destination would be Istanbul, Turkey or Prague or somewhere medieval but if she is in the mood for simple relaxation, a tropical getaway would be in order. Her favourite food is Mexican and when Rachael isn’t reading or writing, she loves to binge on Netflix. Most recently she loved watching ‘The Path’ and ‘Vikings’ and I am most excited to say I have convinced Rachael to now start bingeing on my favourite TV show: Grimm!!! Jumanji, Black Panther and Infinity War are listed as her favourite movies of 2018.

Special thanks again to Walker Books Publishers for giving me the opportunity to have this video call with Rachael Craw and of course special thanks to Rachael for her time on a Sunday afternoon, it really was an exciting and fun experience…

Now… to read “The Rift”!!! So watch this space for my review!!!

For further info on Rachael Craw: https://rachaelcraw.com/

-Annie

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

Enchantment by Brittany Riley + Exclusive Q&A

I had the pleasure of meeting Brittany at the Allen and Unwin YA Fan Fest in 2016. When Brittany told me she published her first book, I was most excited to read it… And did not disappoint!!! Having read this book, I can highly recommend it to fans of mythology, folklore, fae and YA urban fantasy. Brittany gave me a copy of her book and once I read it, I managed to do a quick Q&A with her to share with you all..

Enchantment
The protagonist is Elise Dawson and she has led a pretty sheltered life being home-schooled and protected by her parents from the suspicious eyes of the world. Like thousands of others, the Dawsons are the descendants of the UndeAdlic Acolitus, or Immortal Lightbearers–a subspecies of faerie with only one enemy: the Banshees – an evil version of the Lightbearers however, Elise has no idea who she is, what her power or destiny is as she feels suffocated under the overbearing protection of her parents. Little does she know she is the descendant of the first water elemental, Lennox Henderson, and that she has the ability to control all water sources on Earth. This is a story of a young woman who discovers her true identity and must choose between her destiny as an elemental or someone who should be her enemy.

Again, I recommend this for fans of YA fantasy/urban fantasy fiction who like reading about elementals and fae. The book is very well written and I was gripped from the prologue right to the end – it’s very easy to read and the suspense keeps you hanging, wanting to know what will happen next. The family dynamic and friendship was illustrated very well and I also like how the author illustrated the initial meeting between unlikely allies: Elise and Christian- their initial meeting and continued interaction, I found, set itself apart from other YA characters interaction, it wasn’t so cliché. The characters and the storyline progressed quite well and the structure was very easy to understand and follow. A great debut novel!!!

Special thanks to author, Brittany Riley, for giving me a copy of her debut novel in exchange for my honest review…

Pictured: Brittany Riley

Exclusive Q&A with author Brittany Riley

Your debut novel, “Enchantment” was published in 2016. What was your inspiration to write your first novel?
I actually come up with the idea when I was in high school. I’m not sure of the exact ‘lightbulb’ moment, but I remember sitting in class and getting excited over the opportunity to see this idea through. Mind you, it was a very different version back then, in almost every respect. It was only over the following years that I fully developed the storyline, characters, cliff-hangers and aspirations for worldwide publication.

Is there any particular reason you chose fantasy fiction as the genre for your debut novel?
I’ve always been obsessed with fairy tales and magic. Even as a child, my favourite creatures were fairies. I guess the most amazing thing about writing and even Y.A is that I can explore these concepts while adding my own dark, personal twist.

How did you come up with the characters and their interaction? I liked Elise’s interaction with Christian throughout the story – I guess forbidden fruit is always interesting…
I wanted to be different in how my characters came together and interacted. I didn’t want my book to be your average fairy tale, because too often, even in real life, love stories are messy and beautiful and catastrophic all at once. I’ve always loved the idea of forbidden fruit; it’s far sweeter. I think Christian and Elise’s love story is very different from all the rest.

I found “Enchantment” touches on real life themes such as family relations – when Elise is struggling to understand her parent’s decisions which they believe are in her best interests but with limited to no context of these decisions, Elise felt so suffocated and tempted to rebel, were these sorts of themes inspired by real life stories you may have heard or even experienced yourself?
I personally have never felt Elise’s level of suffocation, but I think the concept of constriction, in whatever context, can relate to many people on many levels. I empathise with both Elise and her parents in a way, because I know if it was my child I would want to protect them, but if I was put in Elise’s positon, I’d be frustrated beyond comprehension too. It’s a fine balancing act between what’s “right and wrong” and how these definitions differ in the eyes of those around you.

It looks like a lot of research went into your novel – I liked how there is a lot of information presented in the book so the reader can read exactly what Elise was reading when she was researching her history – without revealing ‘trade secrets’ how did you go about your research?
I’ve always loved European history, so it was actually fun to write! I had to find a medium between factual and fantastical to suit the story. Obviously Elise was in need of information about her own identity and the audience needed context because it was the first book, so I thought this particular presentation of information was the best option.

I won’t give anything away other than – at the end of the book, I felt it was a bit of a cliff hanger… will we see a sequel? When?
I’m working on the sequel as we speak, however, I still have a day job and need to dedicate time to that as well. In terms of release date and publication, I am currently querying agents so I can get the book/TV deal I’ve always dreamed of! I’m hoping doors of opportunity open soon so everyone can immerse themselves in my books on a far larger scale!

There are five books in the series. I know exactly how each goes and how the whole story ends, and believe me when I say there is a whole lot of love, heartbreak, scandal and breathtaking moments to come in the series!

When you’re not writing, what could we find you doing?
I love coffee, so you’ll generally find me at cafes watching the world go by. I’m very close to my family as well, so I love spending time with my mum at the gym or shopping. I love watching TV series too, especially Shadowhunters, Reign, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries; anything Y.A based, really. I find it inspiring as I want a TV adaption for my own series one day. Apart from all these activities, I love scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and finding inspiring stories, writing quotes and opportunities for discovery.

Do you enjoy reading yourself? What genre/s do you enjoy?
I do love reading, and I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m a Y.A writer myself or my age, but I rarely read anything that isn’t Y.A. I love Becca Fitzpatrick and Fleur Ferris, and any author that can transport me to another exciting, heart-pounding universe.

How can readers contact you or get hold of a copy of “Enchantment?”
My website contains all the relevant information! It’s: http://www.brittanyrileyauthor.com. I also have a Facebook page (Brittany Riley – YA Author), Twitter page (@brileyauthor) and a few other social media links. My website has specific links to all the online stores where my book is available! I love seeing comments from readers and am aiming to continue building my online presence.

-Review and Interview by Annie