Margrét Helgadóttir – The Stars Seem So Far Away

margrethelgadottir-thestarsseemsofarawayThe last shuttles to the space colonies are long gone. Wars, famine and plagues rage across the dying Earth. Fleeing the deadly sun, humans migrate farther and farther north. Follow the stories of five very different survivors as they cling to what is left of life in a future North.

Margrét Helgadóttir’s The Stars Seem So Far Away is a slim little volume, that packs quite a punch. A collection of interlinked short stories, this book tells the tales of five survivors of the Earth’s collapse. Humanity has slowly but surely exhausted the Earth’s resources and global warming has caused much of the world to become uninhabitable. Humanity has retreated to the North, though I assume that there will also be people who have gone to the opposite pole, but our focus is on the North. This isn’t surprising since Helgadóttir is of Scandinavian descent and in fact isn’t a native English speaker, hailing from Norway and currently residing in Denmark.  Read More …

A.F.E. Smith – Darkhaven

Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithAyla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.

When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

Sometimes I’m just drawn to a book by the cover. My inner fourteen-year old saw the cover for A.F.E. Smith’s Darkhaven and squeed. When the blurb for the book sounded great as well, it wasn’t difficult to choose to review this book. Secondary-world fantasy with a murder mystery? Sign me up. Happily, Darkhaven delivered on its promise in full. Smith’s debut novel reveals a great mystery set in a fabulous world.  Read More …

Author Query – A.F.E. Smith

Cover_image_DARKHAVEN_AFE_SmithNext week sees the publication of A.F.E. Smith’s Darkhaven, her debut fantasy novel out in digital format first  from HarperVoyager. I really enjoyed Myrren and Ayla’s story and the world A.F.E. Smith created. Today I get to share an interview with the author of Darkhaven in which she shares some details about her road to publication, about Mirrorvale, and proves my long-held suspicion that all authors can be bribed with chocolate! Check back tomorrow for a review of the book.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is A.F.E. Smith?

Basics? That seems like a pretty profound question to me! :-)

A.F.E. Smith lives and breathes fantasy fiction. She spends more time in imaginary worlds than in the real one. Sometimes she has interesting chats with her characters.  Read More …

Sabaa Tahir – An Ember in the Ashes

sabaatahir-anemberintheashesWhat if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?

For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.

For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.

When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.

But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.

Sabaa Tahir’s debut An Ember in the Ashes was one of the books that really caught my eye when I first saw it announced last year. Its Imperial Rome-inspired, militaristic secondary world setting sounded intriguing and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like a nice ‘revolution against the despots’-narrative? So I was really stoked to receive an ARC for the book, especially as it was also a very pretty book as well. And yes, that is exactly as shallow as it sounds. And while I truly enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes and I definitely want to know what happens in the next book, I also had some big problems with the narrative.  Read More …

Lydia Syson – Liberty’s Fire

lydiasyson-libertysfireParis, 1871. A new revolution.

Life since the war has been tough, but Zéphyrine finds inspiration in the hope offered by the city’s radical new leadership. And she has fallen in love.

Dashing young violinist opens Zéphyrine’s eyes to another new world. He in turn is swept away by her passionate beliefs.

But not all their friends are convinced. With the enemy at the gate and the barricades rising, can love and friendship both survive?

Lydia Syson’s Liberty’s Fire is set in a turbulent era of French history following after a war that is often overlooked between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War—even if it was perhaps the last major war in the West that was fought without modern, by which I mean motorised, artillery. The French-Prussian war is often just a footnote or just a string of dates to learn in history class and Liberty’s Fire taught me more about how the aftermath of this war rocked the French Republic than six years of history classes in grammar school ever did. I’d never realised that there were more revolutionary periods than just the French Revolution in France for one or that Paris for a time was such a socialist commune as it was in the book.  Read More …

Nancy K. Wallace – Among Wolves

nancykwallace-amongwolvesYoung Devin Roché is about to graduate as an Archivist from the prestigious Llisé’s University, and there is just one more task he wants to complete – to preserve a complete history of Llisé.

The history of Llisé and its fifteen provinces are a peaceful affair, filled with harmony, resolution and a rich oral tradition of storytelling. Nothing untoward ever happens in this peaceful land. Or does it?

Trainee archivist Devin Roché has just taken his finals at the prestigious Académie. As the sixth son of the ruler of Llisé, his future is his own, and so he embarks on an adventure to memorise stories chronicling the history of each province.

As Devin begins his journey with only his best friend Gaspard and their guardian Marcus, he hears rumors of entire communities suddenly disappearing without a trace and of Master Bards being assassinated in the night.

As the three companions get closer to unearthing the truth behind these mysteries, they can’t help but wonder whether it is their pursuit that has led to them.

But if that is the case, what do Llisé and Devin’s father have to hide?

Among Wolves is Nancy K. Wallace’s first book written for adults and it is part of HarperVoyager’s new digital-first line of books. When offered the book for review, what intrigued me most and what captured my attention first, was the description of the protagonist’s profession as an archivist. I have a soft spot for books featuring librarians, booksellers, and archivists, so Devin immediately found himself on my good side. That was what initially drew me to the book, but what really made me love the book – setting the political intrigue and the characters aside for a moment – was the belief in the power of knowledge, history and stories that formed the core of the narrative.  Read More …

Author Query – Nancy K Wallace

nancykwallace-amongwolvesIn a new strategy, HarperVoyager has a number of books, acquired through an open submissions period a while back, that they will be publishing digitally first and in paperback second. Nancy K Wallace’s first novel for adults, Among Wolves, is one of these and was released in digital format HarperVoyager last month with the paperback to be released come November. The blurb for Among Wolves, which features an journeyman archivist, captured my attention and I couldn’t wait to read the book. Upon learning that Nancy K. Wallace is a Youth Services Librarian in her day job, I knew I had to have her over for an Author Query. Nancy graciously agreed and the following is the result. Please check back tomorrow for a review of Among Wolves.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is Nancy K. Wallace?

I was blessed with a magical childhood mostly due to my mother’s ingenious and fanciful way of making every day a celebration. My father died when I was eleven and I think that influenced me a great deal.  I don’t think I have ever felt truly safe since then. My parents were both wonderful people, intensely in love with each other and thrilled to have children. I think we were all spoiled but deeply cherished. After I finished college, I taught kindergarten for five years and then returned to work as a children’s librarian after staying home for ten years with our two daughters. My job has grown over the last 26 years. I do over 250 programs a year and moderate 6 Book Discussion groups for 3rd graders up through college age.  I love what I do. It gives me the chance to pass on some of the magic that was so freely given to me as a child.  Read More …

Ariana Franklin & Samantha Norman – Winter Siege

arianafranklin-wintersiegeIt’s 1141 and freezing cold.

Gwil, a battle-hardened mercenary, is horrified to stumble across a little girl close to death. She has been attacked, just one more victim in a winter of atrocities. Clutching a sliver of parchment, she is terrified – but Gwil knows what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And together, they will hunt down the man who did this to her.

But danger looms wherever they turn. As castle after castle falls victim to siege, the icy Fens ring with rumours of a madman, of murder – and of a small piece of parchment with a terrible secret to tell, the cost of which none of them could have imagined . . .

Before Winter Siege I’d actually only read one book by Ariana Franklin, to wit Mistress of the Art of Death. I loved that book, its setting and its characters and was sad to learn that had passed away only a few weeks before I read the book. When I later discovered that her daughter, Samantha Norman, had finished her last book and that it would still be published, I really wanted to read it, especially since it is set in a time period that holds a special place in my heart. The Anarchy, as the period is known, is the one that first drew me to reading historical crime fiction through the mysteries of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael books. While set in the same period as Franklin’s Adelia Aguilar books, Winter Siege stands apart from that series and familiarity with her other books isn’t necessary to enjoy this one.  Read More …

I.W. Gregorio – None of the Above

iwgregorio-noneoftheaboveWhen Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

None of the Above, I.W. Gregorio’s debut novel, first drew my attention when its cover was revealed on the Book Smugglers. I thought the cover was eye-catching in its simplicity, able to convey all of the important information about its contents in one glance. And once I’d read the accompanying flap text and the interviews with the cover designers and the editor, I was completely sold on this story. And Gregorio didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Once I started the book I was completely hooked, both by the writing and Kristin’s voice. None of the Above is a powerful story about discovering who you are and how those who truly matter will look beyond the surface to truly see you.  Read More …

Author Query – David Hair

davidhair-thepyreLast week Jo Fletcher Books published The Pyre, the first book in David Hair’s new series, The Return of Ravana. But new is a relative concept here, as The Return of Ravana is actually a re-issue, the series having been originally published by Penguin India and Penguin New-Zealand. I’m really excited for this Ramayana-inspired series, so I’m very glad to be able to share this interview with David Hair with you, in which he shares some details about what inspired the series, his love of football (the proper, round ball kind), and whether he revised The Pyre at all from its published version. Check back for a review of The Pyre somewhere in the coming weeks.  Read More …