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

The Witch who Courted Death by Maria Lewis

“It’s a blessing to be able to live how you really are in this life and one that not everyone gets..”

For some, death is a way of life . . . Considering her status as the world’s most powerful medium, Corvossier ‘Casper’ von Klitzing and her twin brother Barastin had a pretty normal life. Her unrivalled ability to speak with and control the dead had made her a living, made her notorious … and made her a target.

After a horrific incident in her home city of Berlin, Casper’s life is forever changed. The sole survivor, she is consumed with vengeance towards an enemy she doesn’t understand. The only other person ever to escape the legendary Oct was a witch – so Casper is soon on her trail.

But this witch does not want to be found.

Diving headfirst into the supernaturally secretive world of spells, charms and covens, it’s not long before Casper is crossing much more than just the line between the living and the dead . . .

The book took me on an adventure I did not quite expect and I had a lot of fun talking to Maria Lewis when running her panel at Oz Comic Con about her writing process, research and the mechanics of putting this book together. I thought the setting in Berlin (one of Maria’s fav. cities) was an interesting place, particularly Boscastle – a place that I have never heard of before, now put on the map. I enjoyed the sibling dynamic between “Creeper and Casper” and “Opal and Sprinkle” characters you come to know in this book . I was most impressed with the characterisation, how we get to know the characters as we read the book rather than through an info dump in the beginning. I felt the characters growing as I was reading. I also liked the witty and humorous dialogue between the characters that made me chuckle along the way. Maria did such a great job in constructing a story full of diverse characters not just from the human world but all manner of creatures and drawing a parallel between the worlds.

It was very entertaining and insightful with travel and historical reference throughout the book. Recommended to readers who enjoy diverse urban fantasy reads.

Annie

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

“Absolute power can corrupt even the purest of hearts. Such is the folly of men…”

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

With an army of demons and the unlikeliest of allies,  secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself….

“The tiniest pebble, when dropped into a pond, will leave ripples that will grow and spread in ways we cannot comprehend” 

I really enjoyed the read along I experienced with 2 dear friends. This book got me hooked from the first page, so much happened virtually straight away. I loved how the story line explored the Japanese culture and legend and I would recommend this to readers who loved Kylie Chan’s “Dark Heavens” series. It was captivating, action packed and really intriguing.

The only flaw was the confusing switching of perspectives throughout the book. Normally it’s quite clear whose voice we are reading but this one took me a moment or 2 in the next chapter before I realised who we were following. But other than that, it was a great book! A great story with strong Asian cultural representation, so much action particularly from the first chapter that really caught my attention and maintained the pace throughout the book. I particularly loved the ending and I will be investing in the next book.

With special thanks to Book Depository for sending me this book as a thank you for when I engaged in their mini Blogstars project. It’s really worth the read!
-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

What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra + Blog Post feature from the author!!!

An epic combination of mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that captivates you from page one and hooks you to the final page!!!

Our protagonist is Hayden, a young girl who has tried to put her past behind her. She’s living in Brooklyn with her best friend, Del and preparing for her future however on her 18th birthday she inherits her childhood home, The Manor, based in Colorado on the condition that she uncovers its dark secrets. Hayden’s inheritance has opened Pandora’s box as her past has suddenly caught up with her, especially when she goes back to her roots…

I first heard about this book when Publishing House Allen and Unwin hosted their YA Fan Fest and to my delight, I won a copy after participating in one of their activities on stage!! For this, I am forever grateful as this was one creepily, exciting book!!! Where to start? Yes I really enjoyed this book.. What I enjoyed most was the element of mystery that teased me throughout the story – from the beginning I knew and understood that Hayden, was given a task to unlock a dark secret – but what was that secret!? Was it real or a fantasy?? What really happened to Hayden’s mother?? The closer we got to the truth, the creepier the story got – parts of the story even gave me goosebumps (no spoilers – The Manor) I also loved Hayden’s father – a disgraced physicist – who was a mystery himself with his theories we get to read in several of his journal extracts that surfaced throughout the book. Each entry started piecing more jigsaw puzzle pieces together. Even with that underlying mystery, I found the plot to be fast paced and very cleverly written. The author did a great job with starting chapters with text book explanations on various topics like physics for example and it lead us to the next part of the story. The friendship between Hayden and her bestie, Del, would appear to be the most unlikely yet they fit together like a glove and their constant banter made me laugh a lot so I guess it’s true, opposites do attract!!

This is a great debut novel and I recommend this to readers who enjoy a creepy YA fantasy fiction story.. It’s epic!!! Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book.

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Special feature – blog post by author Katya de Becerra

Setting the Scene: Writing Places into Books and Books into Place

I first read The Catcher in the Rye when I was about thirteen. Though I didn’t get to see New York with my own eyes until many years later, Salinger’s version of the city as seen through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, enthralled me well into my adulthood. Even when I got to visit New York at last, my firsthand impressions of it were tinged by my long-ago memories of first exploring the city on The Catcher’s pages.

As I’ve read more, it became obvious to me that regardless of whether a story is set in a real or fictional place, its setting is as important as the novel’s plot or characters’ development. Sometimes, the aftertaste of a written place stays with you longer than the story itself.

Looking back at how those early literary experiences from my childhood shaped me as a writer today, I can testify that The Catcher’s version of NYC has definitely burrowed itself so deep into my psyche that when I first started drafting what was to become my debut novel, What The Woods Keep, the setting my mind first conjured was, unsurprisingly, New York. Though, as my work progressed and the book’s protagonist, Hayden, revealed herself to me slowly and layer by layer, I understood one of the first key things about this strange story of missing mothers and crackpot scientist fathers I was writing: Hayden was not a native New Yorker. She was a transplant. And while she was well-adjusted to city life, originally she was from elsewhere. More so, she was hiding something, and her New York life was her armour, protecting her from the ghosts of her strange childhood.

But where did she come from? It was the process of answering this question that became crucial to Hayden’s development as the book’s lead character and narrator. The more I fleshed out her place of birth, a fictional town of Promise located in the middle of Colorado woods, the more I fleshed out Hayden herself. For it is in Promise that Hayden’s core was formed once upon a time, long before she came to New York. In its essence, What The Woods Keep is a story of one strange girl’s quest to unearth the truth about her mother’s decade-old disappearance. When Hayden returns to Promise, her faded memories of some disturbing happenings she’s witnessed in the local woods as a child, her dark dreams, and all these things she believes her mind surely made up begin to clash with the atmospheric reality of Promise, eventually spilling into her wakeful world. That moment when the town finally aligns with Hayden’s viewpoint and highjacks her perception was among most thrilling for me to write.

Books settings can profoundly affect us, shape our vision of places we’ve never visited, direct our reading choices and influence our travel aspirations. Just like The Catcher in the Rye was the key catalyst for my long-lasting obsession with New York, I hope that Promise from What The Woods Keep takes hold of my readers’ imagination. I hope that my readers feel the whisper of the woods on their skin and shiver. I hope that Promise, with all its moodiness, its rain and wind, and its unsettling secrets inspires readers to immerse themselves in books and explore places, real or imaginary.

Author Katya de Becerra

Special thanks to Allen & Unwin for giving me an advanced review copy of this book and for having author Katya, share her blog piece with us.

Blog post review by 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