Wonderland An Anthology

Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical, taking us from the nightmarish reaches of the imagination to tales that will shock, surprise and tug on the heart-strings.

So it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass or … But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see?

Wonderland, an anthology

I love a retelling. And Alice has been a story that catches the imagination of so many of us. There’s the fantastic wonderland realm, all the characters and adventures Alice encounters. One of the most fascinating things for me is that everyone finds a different twist, or moment, or character to draw from.

Wonderland is a collection of 19 Alice inspired short stories and poems. Ranging from historical to wild west to Japanese folklore to sci-fi, there is an Alice for everyone in this book. It was an absolute delight to experience each new Wonderland, every one becoming my a new favourite.

So grab your best teacup and be careful what you eat in Wonderland…

Only Ashes Remain

Today is my stop on the Only Ashes Remain blog tour. I have been looking forward to this since I received Not Even Bones for Christmas. And let me tell you it does not disappoint.

But first a recap. Not Even Bones is Rebecca Schaeffer’s debut novel and Book 1 in the Market of Monsters series. A series which sees the world as it is experienced by monsters, villains and the morally grey. The main character Nita dissects the bodies of the unnaturals that her mother hunts and kills to sell on the black market. It’s a life of order that she doesn’t question until the body her mother brings back is very alive. Nita defies her mother and releases their captive, only to have him betray her. Finding herself the caged specimen on the black market, Nita begins to question her morals and lifestyle.

After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market. There’s only one way to keep herself safe. Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.

Only Ashes Remain is a killer sequel. Starting with Nita coming face to face with the root of all her current problems Fabricio.

She took a deep breath. She was in the middle of the INHUP headquarters in Botogá. There was an agent standing right beside her. This was not the time to commit murder.

Nita upon meeting Fabricio

When INHUP transfer Nita to Toronto, she reconnects with Kovit.

Nita had never imagined herself having friends, but if she had, they wouldn’t have been psychopaths who worked as mafia torturers.

Nita on her friendship with Kovit

While Nita makes plans to free herself from the cross hairs of the black market, and to kill Fabricio, Kovit uses his Family connections to find somewhere to stay. Making Nita’s circle of monsters a little bigger and more dangerous.

“Fine.” She frowned. “But do we have any assurance he won’t drag us underwater and eat our rotting corpses?”

Nita to Kovit

The problems that Nita and Kovit face in their time in Canada escalate as both their troubled worlds collide leaving them to face difficult choices. Nita is driven by vengeance and the desire to escape the life she feels her mother forced onto her. Kovit too wishes to escape a life he didn’t choose with the Family and to find his own family, the sister he hasn’t seen since he was 10 years old.

Not Even Bones was Nita’s story, Only Ashes Remain is where Kovit’s past comes to light. Seeing them both grow and learn more about themselves as they find their boundaries and how they fit together had me hooked and hungry for more. The only thing I hated was getting to the end and knowing I’ll be hanging there until book 3!

Rebecca Schaeffer was born and raised in the Canadian prairies. Her itchy feet took her far from home when she turned eighteen, and she hasn’t returned for more than
a few months here or there since. You can find her sitting in a cafe on the other side of the world, writing about villains, antiheroes and morally ambiguous characters. Her debut , Not Even Bones, is about a girl who dissects and sells monsters on the internet. Not Even Bones received a starred review from Booklist, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Speculative Fiction, as well as the Cybilis awards.
The sequel, Only Ashes Remain, comes out September 2019.

Rebecca Schaeffer’s can be found on twitter, instagram, and on the Rebecca Schaeffer website.

Spin The Dawn

A gifted tailor in disguise. Three legendary dresses. The competition of a lifetime.
​On the fringes of the Great Spice Road, Maia Tamarin works as a seamstress in her father’s shop. She dreams of becoming the best tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well.
When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as his son and travels to the Summer Palace in his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to save her family and achieve her dream of becoming the imperial tailor. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job. Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the unwelcome attention of the court enchanter, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise. And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be: from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Synopsis for Spin The Dawn

Spin The Dawn is Book 1 of The Blood of The Stars series by Elizabeth Lim, and I have been looking forward to this book for the longest time. The longest. I preordered it the minute it was available to. When it arrived from Books of Wonder utterly stunning, accompanied by the most beautiful swag, character art and a pin, not to mention personalised and signed, I definitely had a little happy squeak.

But first, before we get into it, let’s talk about a misquote that has been used EVERYWHERE. That’s right. I want to talk about “Project Runway meets Mulan”. The original quote best match that I can find was this

“Part epic adventure, part fairy tale, and part Project Runway, SPIN THE DAWN is a thrilling tale as rich as velvet and as exquisite as fine embroidery.”

Heidi Heilig, author of The Girl from Everywhere

I’m not sure if it’s because the main character is a Chinese female or just a unwise choice in quote condensing, but Spin the Dawn is not part Mulan, nor does part epic adventure, part fairy tale equal Mulan. If Mulan is what you are after allow me to suggest Reflection, which is the Mulan retelling by Elizabeth Lim for Disney.

Back to our previously scheduled review. Maia Tamarin is the youngest of 4 children and the only daughter of a renowned tailor who struggles to hold his life together after the death of his wife. Maia is the one with the most skill as and desire to be a tailor. She has dreamed of becoming a sought after tailor, so she is the one to step up and continue his work, all the while acting as a mere seamstress. When her oldest 2 brothers are called to war, the younger brother follows, leaving Maia to manage the home and work hard to do so. Only the younger son returns.

When the war is won, a union is proposed. The Emperor Khanujin and the daughter of the opposing war lord, Lady Sarnai. Unfortunately the Imperial Tailor has passed on and a new one must be found to create the wardrobe and wedding dress for Lady Sarnai.

The tailor Tamarin is called upon to attend the palace where 12 tailors will sew wonders in order to obtain the position. As neither her father or brother can go, Maia pretends to be the young Master Tamarin and follow her dream.

I enjoyed the world, religion and mythology of A’landi. Maia’s initial dislike for Edan and her confusion at being flirted with by kitchen staff play perfectly with the intensity of the contest and the impossible final task of crafting the 3 dresses of legend and the deadly journey for materials. I look forward to 2020 when I can find out the results of Maia’s impressive actions, and the consequences of her actions.

Spin the Dawn is available through Knopf Books at Penguin and Unravel the Dusk is set for release next year. More information about Elizabeth Lim books and events can be found here, on twitter, Facebook, and instagram.

Into The Crooked Place.

Alexandra Christo’s Into The Crooked Place is the first book of the Into The Crooked Place duology. And it was one if the most lusted after arcs at YALC. If you have read To Kill A Kingdom you will know why. If you haven’t go read it, it’s fabulous.

Magic rules the city if Creije, and Tavia Syn knows just how many trucks she needs up her sleeve to survive. Selling dark magic on the streets for her kingpin, she keeps clear of other crooks, counting the days until her debt is paid and she can flee her criminal life.

But then, one day, with her freedom in sight, Tavia uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the realm she calls home. Desperate to put an end to her kingpin’s plan, Tavia forms an unlikely alliance with three crooks even more deadly than her:

Wesley, the kingpin’s prodigy and most renowned criminal in the realm.

Karam, an underground fighter with a penchant for killing first and forgetting to ask questions.

Saxony, a Crafter in hiding who will stop at nothing to avenge her family.

With the reluctant saviours assembled, they embark on a quest to put an end to the dark magic before it’s too late. But even if they can take down the kingpin and save the realm, the one thing they can’t do is trust each other.

Into The Crooked Place synopsis

I loved it! Fantasy, magic, crime lords and politics. The relationships between the main characters are just perfect.

Wesley and Tavia, both taken in by an underboss to Kingpin of Creije as homelss starving children. They became friends while they trained as buskers, selling magic and tricks. Wesley moves up to the position of underboss but still cares for his best busker Tavia, and will do anything to protect his town and his people.

Tavia just wants to free herself from her life debt and from Creije. To return to Volo and not owe anything to anyone.

Karam the fierce warrior woman of the Rekhu d’Rihsni, protectors of Crafters. She left her home and her family to learn her craft.

Saxony the mysterious beauty, employee of Wesley, friend to Tavia, Karam’s former love. And underground Crafter. Hiding from the kingpin, and those who would use her kind, in plain sight.

All have secrets and all have a reason to fight

I can not wait for book 2. Alexandra Christo creates a world, characters, and a story that draws you in deep and keeps you there. And there’s something for everyone, magic, crime, and murder. How do you resist? And the cover is stunning!

Into The Crooked Place is released October 8th 2019 through Hot Key Books and can be preordered wherever fine books are sold. If you can’t wait that long check out To Kill A Kingdom and revel in it’s magnificence.

Alexandra Christo’s website is here, where you can find links to twitter, instagram, pinterest, and Facebook, along with updates, events, and appearances.

Thank you to Hot Key Books for sending me a review copy. As always all opinions are my own.

Turning Darkness Into Light

Audrey Camherst has a lot to live up to, famous parents and grandparents, particularly her grandmother Lady Trent.

Deciphering the Draconean tablets that Lord Glenleigh has acquired is the perfect place to start. Lord Glenleigh puts on the pressure of a big reveal date right from the beginning. He wants to publish the findings in time for the vote on The Draconean rights and the sanctuary. At first Audrey thinks this is to capitalise on increasing market prices for Draconean artefacts, however the more they translate the more shadow is cast over the discovery. Can Audrey and her team mates, Cora the niece of Lord Glenleigh and Kudshayn a Draconean priest and old friend, solve the riddle of the tablets before it causes a political problem?

Turning Darkness Into Light is the story of Audrey Camherst, granddaughter of the famous dragon naturist Lady Isabella Trent. It takes place at the same time as the Lady Trent memoirs are being written and does reference backstory and events from the series. That said you don’t have to read them to read and enjoy Turning darkness into light, you have to read them because they are incredible. Audrey is as strong and fearless as her beloved and admired grandmama often using the mantra what would grandmama do. As always Marie Brennan’s world building and characters are phenomenal. There are family dynamics, friendship, betrayals and political conflict, all overlapping and enriching the unfolding epic on the tablets. I can not wait to see what Audrey takes on next.

Turning Darkness Into Light is released on August 20th through Titan Books and there is a signing event to celebrate at London’s Forbidden Planet 6-7pm.

Marie Brennan can be found at swan tower and on twitter.

Thank you to Titan Books for sending me a review copy of Turning Darkness Into Light, as always all opinions are my own.

The Hills Have Spies

I love a pun so I was in from the outset. The Hills Have Spies is the first in Mercedes Lackey’s Family Spies series and the 43rd book of the Valdemar nation.

Mags, Herald Spy, and his wife Amily are happily married with three kids. The oldest, Peregrine, dreams of becoming a Herald Spy. When a report comes in from Pelagirs filled with stories of strange disappearances, Perry joins his father on an expedition to discover what is really going on. During their travels, Perry’s Animal Mindspeech allows him to communicate with the local wildlife, but the details he gets from the creatures only deepen the mystery…

The Hills Have Spies synopsis

The Hills Have Spies is the story of Peregrine. Eldest child of Mags and Amily, with his mother’s gift for animal mindspeech he is training to following in his fathers footsteps and become a Herald Spy.

When Mags is sent to an outer village, Haven, to investigate the report from the local Herald of missing people he takes Perry with him. An opportunity to test his skills and show him the ropes.

Perry’s mindspeech bonds him not to a Companion as is usual for Heralds, but to a kyree. When Perry disagrees with the course of action his father thinks best for the investigation, they head out without him.

Together Perry and his kyree Larral find themselves in the middle of the Masters compound. An evil place where the missing people disappear, some more permanently.

As the story reaches its conclusion, the Master is defeated and the land reclaims itself, Mags realises that Perry may not be a Herald after all. But he will be a force to be reckoned with.

I loved it. The very first line is Perry being shut in a room by a captor. It drew me into the action right from the start. Showing his animal mindspeech and his skills, while giving background and character information without leaving the scene. I can’t wait for more. It may have been my first venture into Valdemar but I’m heading back for book 2. And for the previous series, I have to get Mags backstory!