Saturday, 19 May 2018

Wildest Dreams Unboxing - Female Voices

The May Wildest Dreams theme was Female Voices.

Here's what was inside . . .


 Along with a summary of the contents of the box, there was a pack of ginger biscuits.

 This month's tea was chamomile and lemongrass flavoured.
It was chosen by Holly Bourne and came with some Holly Bourne swag and five teabags.

How awesome is this Bone Season-inspired soap?!
I love the colours and the soap is dusky sloe and almond scented.
The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon is one of my favourite series. 
This soap is so nice that I'm not sure I'll be able to bring myself to use it!

This is the first time I've guessed the book correctly, but I was very happy because I really want to read I Stop Somewhere. I nearly bought it a few weeks ago so it's a good job I didn't!
The themes and events that happen sound quite brutal so I don't think this book is one for the faint-hearted.
Along with the book there was a bookmark, a signed bookplate and a letter from the author.

Are you a Wildest Dreams subscriber?
What's your favourite item in the box?

Friday, 18 May 2018

Review - The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Title: The Astonishing Colour of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Pages: 480
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Release Date: 22nd March 2018

Blurb from Goodreads: 

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died - leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief and the burden of fulfilling her mother's last wish, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

With lyrical prose and magical elements, Emily X.R. Pan's stunning debut novel alternates between past and present, romance and despair, as one girl attempts to find herself through family history, art, friendship, and love.

 My Review:

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Hachette Children's Group and NetGalley*

Teenager Leigh Chen Sanders's life is turned upside down when her mother commits suicide.
After Leigh finds a note from her mother in the trash with the words 'I want you to remember', a large red bird appears. A bird that Leigh is sure is her mother.
Then Leigh makes her way to Taiwan to meet her mother's parents.
With her relationship with her best friend, Axel, on the rocks, and grief-stricken, Leigh is determined to do as her mother wanted and remember.
Why did Leigh's mother have nothing to do with her parents?
What will Leigh discover while in Taiwan?

The Astonishing Colour of After is the kind of book you want to savour while reading. The writing was beautiful, the story heartfelt and tear-jerking. I loved the magical realism aspects and finding out more about Leigh's family as well as her relationship with Axel.
Leigh was a relatable protagonist and I really felt for her. Leigh being mixed race was interesting and thought-provoking at times - an American called her 'exotic' and she was called a 'foreigner' in Taiwan. I can imagine that it would be hard to feel like you belong somewhere in a situation like that.
The plot was interesting and I liked that we got to see memories other than Leigh's own.
The writing style was easy to follow and immediately drew me in.
I am definitely looking forward to seeing what the author writes next.

Overall this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Book Blitz + Giveaway - The Rainmaker (Saga of the Chosen #2) by Petra Landon

The Rainmaker (Saga of the Chosen #2) by Petra Landon
Publication date: March 30th 2018
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

As they race to untangle the past and thwart a power-hungry Wizard, Tasia must face her toughest decision yet. Can she take a leap of faith and risk her deadliest secret?

Tasia Armstrong is no longer a nondescript, friendless and naïve Wizard flying under the radar on the fringes of Chosen society. With her fate now publicly entwined with that of a powerful Shifter Pack, she must navigate the minefield of Pack politics while keeping her secrets and cover safe from the Chosen who hunt her. With a Pack to defend her, a powerful Alpha to protect her interests and friends to watch her back, her life is a far cry from before. But living with the Shifters holds new challenges for a Chosen more used to the shadows.

The stakes have never been higher as old fault lines, long-buried secrets, Wizard dysfunction, and Lady Bethesda’s ruthless machinations draw the Chosen ever closer to a civil war. While Tasia grapples to avoid the pitfalls and confront her demons, it is an unlikely nemesis who forces her to face her moment of truth. Tasia finds herself at the crossroads – at stake are her carefully constructed house of cards and her tangled relationship with the man who holds her enemies at bay. Will Tasia risk opening Pandora’s Box or will she disappear into the shadows again?

Author’s Note : The Rainmaker continues the story from The Prophecy. The books are not standalone and are intended to be read in order.

On sale for 99¢ for a limited time only!


“I …” Tasia paused, choosing her words with care this time. “My work with your Pack …” “Fuck the Pack.” His voice was very even. “This has nothing to do with the Pack. I’m talking
about us — you and me.”
“No.” She shook her head, wishing the noise in her head would abate and allow her to think
more clearly. “There’s no us.”
An eyebrow arched up in the near darkness. “So, that kiss in the cave …”
Tasia interrupted him. “I didn’t kiss you.”
He shot her a look.
“You kissed me” she insisted, responding to that look. “Both times.”
“No” he said unequivocally. “We’ve both been willing partners in this dance. I lead, but you’ve
been with me every step of the way.”
They stared at each other, the air between them charged with an awareness that they stood on
the edge of a precipice. She couldn’t discern his expression but she wondered what he read in hers, with his night eyes.
“Any time you’d like a demonstration, let me know” he remarked sardonically.
Tasia flushed. They’d been leading up to this moment, she realized. This was the dance he talked about. She should have put a stop to it before. Now, she’d have to defuse it carefully or the resulting conflagration would destroy her.
“I’ve been around the block a few times, witchling. You and I — we make our own fire, no tinder required. That’s not it. Something else has you stepping back. What is it?”
Tasia thought furiously, through the fog in her head. “You don’t get involved with Pack” she reminded him.
“I’m willing to make an exception for you” he said clearly.
Tasia blinked, once. He wasn’t going to make this easy for her.
“I did tell you once that I’d ignore my principles for the right person.” It was his turn to remind
Tasia, who remembered the occasion well, said nothing.
“Am I to continue with the Pack?” she asked.
She hesitated. “What happens if things … uh … don’t work out between us?”
He laughed, a sound singularly devoid of amusement.
“You’ve walked away from the Pack before. I didn’t let that stop me from going after you,
when I thought you were in danger. What does that tell you, witchling?”
Tasia couldn’t refute him. There was nothing to say. He would not let his personal feelings get
in the way of his responsibilities to his Pack or to her, no matter how bad things got between them. Then, something seemed to strike him. “Is it because I’m a Shifter?”
Tasia wondered wildly if he would accept that. Perhaps his pride would not let him pursue her if he believed that she wanted no part of a relationship with a Shifter. It would make her sound like a bigot. But she’d take that.
“Will you let this be if … if I have reservations about Shifters?” she asked hopefully.
“Hell no.” His response was immediate and forceful. “I’ll do my damnedest to change your mind.”
He frowned, something about her answer registering finally. “Is that what this is about — being with a Shifter?”
Again, he was forthright with his query, and Tasia realized she could not bring herself to lie to him. Like him, she too was willing to make an exception. For him.
“No” she admitted softly.
There was a short silence while Tasia tried to get her jumbled thoughts into order. The wild cacophony in her head was now so loud that it drowned out everything but his voice, even the gentle lap of water against the wall and the whoosh of the wind behind her.
“Let me simplify this for you” he said, the gold eyes holding her gaze. “Tell me what you want, and we go from there.”
“What I want?” Tasia repeated mechanically.
I can’t have what I want.
“Don’t tell me you don’t know what you want.” His eyes narrowed in the darkness.
Tasia shook her head, her eyes darting away as if to seek an escape. She’d have to walk away, she thought despairingly. She saw no other way out.
His initial fury having abated, Raoul was starting to use his connection to her, much as he had before, when he’d been so attuned to her unspoken words. He had realized it almost immediately, taking it in stride. He wondered if she had picked up on it yet.
“You told me once that you don’t run away” he reminded her, picking up hints of her roiling emotions.
Tasia said nothing.
“If you run from me because you don’t want to deal with whatever is between us, witchling, I will come after you.” His voice hardened as a spike of anger flared in him. “I won’t stand by again while you run recklessly into the fire.”
Tasia looked away from him. There seemed no way out of this impasse. He would not back away, not without an explanation from her. She could not give him one, not without endangering all sorts of secrets, and she was very much afraid that, unless she convinced him to walk away first, she’d eventually succumb to him.
Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire!
Raoul stared at her, puzzled by her inexplicable desire to deny that which sizzled like a living entity between them. He tried to piece together what he could sense from her.
Suddenly, it hit him. “You’re afraid!” he muttered incredulously.
This was the primary emotion he sensed from her, overriding everything else. He had sensed many emotions from her before but terror, the kind he sensed now, had thus far been reserved exclusively for the Clan.
She said nothing, neither confirming nor refuting his statement. Jolted, he took a step back. “Of what?”
Tasia stared at him mutely, her hesitation palpable.
“Of me?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

Author Bio

An avid reader all her life, only recently has Petra allowed her own imagination to run riot. She loves to travel, loves the outdoors and reads everything she can get her hands on, time permitting. Her taste in books is very eclectic – she tends to like stories with vivid and quirky characters that have elements of fantasy, adventure, romance and mystery interspersed together. A good book for her is one that makes the reader think long after it has been finished and set aside. And, one that draws the reader back to it, again and again.

To share the tales that have lived in her imagination for so long is a labor of love and a lifelong dream come true for her.


Blitz-wide giveaway

Open to US/CAN


Monday, 14 May 2018

Blog Tour + Guest Post + Giveaway - Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko

Find the tour schedule here.


Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Month9Books

Selena Flood is a fighter of preternatural talent. But not even her quick fists and nimble feet could save her parents from the forces of New Canaan, the most ruthless and powerful of the despotic kingdoms populating America-that-was.

Forced to flee the tyrannical state with her younger brother Simon in tow, Selena is now the last chance for peace in a continent on the verge of complete destruction.

In her pocket is a data stick, the contents of which cost her parents their lives. Selena must now ensure it reaches the Republic of California—a lone beacon of liberty shining across a vast and barren wasteland—before it’s too late.

Between New Canaan and California stretch the Middle Wastes: thousands of desolate miles home to murderers, thieves, and a virulent strain of grass called yellow locust that has made growing food all but impossible. So when Selena and Simon stagger into Fallowfield, an oasis of prosperity amidst the poisoned plains, everything seems too good to be true—including the warm welcome they receive from the town’s leader, a peculiar man known only as The Mayor.

As Selena delves deeper into the sinister secrets of this seemingly harmless refuge, she soon learns there is a much darker side to Fallowfield and the man who runs it. Before long, she must call upon the skills she honed in the fighting pits of New Canaan to ensure not only her own survival, but that of her brother, in whom the Mayor has taken far too keen an interest.

And she’d better act fast, for an all-out war inches ever closer, and New Canaan is never as far away as it seems.

Purchase Links:

 Kobo | TBD | iBooks 

The world of …  (World Building)

World building can be done in two ways: from the top down, and the bottom up.

Top-down world building happens outside of the story, often before you’ve even written a single word. Rather than work on the narrative, you instead consider the world in which the story will take place. How is it like the world we live in? How does it differ? Perhaps it’s the same as ours, but at a different moment of time. If it’s in the past, how does its history diverge from ours? If it’s in the future, what has changed? Or maybe it’s set on a different planet, or a world that is like ours but with its own geography, biology, and cultures (think Tolkien’s Middle Earth). In top-down world building, all of these ideas are considered and fleshed out without relation to any particular character. Much of what you plan might involve events that happened long before your actual story begins. The idea is to create a cohesive universe in which your story can be set.

Bottom-up world building, on the other hand, occurs when you’re writing the novel. You’ve got your characters, a goal, and obstacles in the way. As you write, you might start drawing on details of the setting or behavior that don’t directly correspond to the world as we know it. Perhaps a winged serpent flutters through the trees, or a ring of robed men drink spoonfuls of a pungent brew bubbling over a cauldron, chant strange syllables and disappear. If so, you can ask yourself “what was that thing? What were those guys doing? Why?” organically, through your prose, you can explore these events in more detail. Or if it feels like to big a digression, you might reflect on what happened without writing it, and use those details later to enrich the world of your story.

These options aren’t an either-or proposition. I use both of them in pretty much every story I write. I like to have a framework in mind before I start actually writing: key characters, an ending, and an outline of major events. But within that framework, I allow myself opportunities to draw on unexpected details and bring them into the larger world of the story.

Below, I’ve shared examples of both techniques.

The text in the top-down section was never intended to appear in the book. Rather, it is a note to myself outlining the history of the Last War, a cataclysmic event that created the world where Yellow Locust is set. Its purpose was to give me a sense of where this story is taking place, so events that occur or decisions characters make are rooted in a deeper context.

The Last War refers not to a war in the traditional sense, but to a prolonged and catastrophic period of worsening geopolitical relations, resource scarcity, disease, and mass famine culminating in the dissolution of most world powers and the death of globalism. The "war" occurred over a period of roughly twenty years (approx dates 2080-2100), and was preceded by a near-century during which populations grew and resources shrank. Peak oil led to a scramble for new energy technologies, an effort hindered by spotty infrastructure and crumbling economies. The United States, Russia, China, Brazil, and India all began increasingly belligerent wars of occupation in order to secure their hold on energy resources- first petroleum, but soon the more valuable uranium, which was also quickly running out.

Growing tensions sowed new terrorist cells around the world, many of which were motivated by ecological concerns spurred in large part by the growing corporatization of food manufacturing. The United States were also getting worried, though more by the growing populations of their rivals. Working with one such food corporation, the United States developed Yellow Locust, a bio-engineered plant that could be tailored to individual climates and existed solely to outcompete useful crops and leave once productive soil barren. The government delivered modified versions of the locust to local terrorist organizations in enemy countries, and the world soon plunged into mass famine. Ironically, the Yellow Locust was nowhere more virulent than in the United States itself, where terrorist groups funded by the country's starving enemies employed the very same tactics.

The final years of the conflict saw the only true battles, as crumbling nations took potshots at one another and unleashed the remains of their nuclear arsenals, much of which had been disarmed in times of peace. In order to eliminate perceived technological advantages, the combatants began launching scatterbombs into orbit, fragmentary devices designed to destroy satellites and crippled communication. The bombing left the earth shrouded in a thin layer of debris, killing the global information network and cutting off all communication with the fledgling lunar colony established twenty years earlier.

The conflicts sputtered to a halt around 2100, leaving a fractured world of desolate wastelands and isolated city-states, some of which gradually coalesced through commerce or conquest into new countries.

The bottom-up section is an excerpt from Yellow Locust. It takes place shortly after Selena and Simon stumble onto Fallowfield, a prosperous city amidst an ocean of barren wasteland. This is a good example of bottom-up world building, as it describes the life of the city’s migrant workers in a way I hadn’t planned. Their hardscrabble existence only occurred to me as I was writing the scene and wondering how people in this situation would live:

Fallowfield was bustling but compact and the sun had only just risen when Selena reached the town’s southern gate. Gilded wagons trundled past her, driven by coachmen and guarded by hawkish men with rifles. Plump merchants in clothes too fine for fieldwork rode inside them, their interiors gaudy with velvet and bulging with veins of precious metals. Selena stepped aside to let them pass; judging by the speed of the horses and the indifferent glance of the drivers, she suspected they’d simply run her down if she didn’t.

A band of yellow-grey wasteland snared Fallowfield in place like a vast poison collar. If Selena was going to break out of it, she’d need help. The Mayor had given her a spark of hope with his talk of caravans, but a ride would mean little if she lacked the means to buy her and Simon passage. She needed Standard, and she could think of one way to make some.

Outside of its walls, Fallowfield changed. Its air of bucolic prosperity vanished, swept away by a derelict wind of dust and trash and rust-eaten machines abandoned on the roadside.

The picturesque rowhouses and orderly boardwalks gave way to rundown cottages and shacks with roofs of corrugated tin, the cheesemongers and bakeries to corn husks and smashed liquor bottles and cast iron cauldrons bubbling with soupy gruel. Half-naked children played in muddy pits while their parents toiled in the fields, their bare feet sleeved with pale calluses as thick as the soles of Selena’s shoes.

From a distance, the land had seemed prosperous, but up close the crops looked ragged and nervous, their grip on the soil tenuous. Whole fields had fallen to the yellow locust, their neat rows choked by fronds of brittle grass. The cabins in those fields were particularly woebegone, their windows shattered, their roofs caved inward. They lay among the dead crops like skulls in a forgotten battlefield, their violent deaths eroded from memory.

At a bend in the road stood a tent city, ripped tarpaulins and toppled signs and shaggy strips of unearthed plastic tangled together into a sprawling and shifting metropolis. Muddy lanes, alleys, and cul-de-sacs wandered through the flimsy structures in odd and looping patterns that led nowhere. The place seemed less like something built than something grown, a vast fungus sprouting from the soggy earth. So this is where the migrants live, for now at least. I wouldn’t want to be out here come winter.

Past the tent city rolled fields rife with migrants hoeing weeds, picking fruit, and harvesting rows of grain. Selena approached a woman kneeling bent-backed over a raspberry bush.

“Who’s in charge here?”

The woman looked up, revealing wizened cheeks of tanned leather. Her hands continued plucking berries, her fingers deft as insects evolved to that purpose. She motioned with her head, not wanting to stall her labor for even the instant it would take to point.

About the Author

Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.


 Tour-wide giveaway

Open INT