Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall- The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour

EYibC4aWoAIlHxyMagic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.A fast-paced fantasy with magical creatures for those who enjoy the Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera series) by Jim Butcher, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Also, thank you to The Write Reads for allowing me to join the book tour. This book is available now.Every once in a while a book comes along that reminds me why I love the fantasy genre so much. I’m happy to say, this is one such book. So, brace yourself: I’m about to wax enthusiastic. Let me just roll up my sleeves, crack my knuckles, and…here we go!As many great stories do, this starts with a youth who wants more. Volke is a gravedigger, but he wants to become an arcanist, leave his small island home, and travel the world. He wants to be a hero. An arcanist is someone who has a magical bind with a fantastical creature which allows the arcanist magical powers that correspond to the creature’s magic.When Volke gets his dream, it doesn’t quite go as planned. It turns out that the person he’s looked up to his entire life might just be a murderer. And Volke needs to stop him.I found Volke to be an interesting character. On the one hand, I loved his determination and desire to be a hero. On the other, he could throw a rocking pity party. It made him extremely believable and, surprisingly, still likable. I have to say, though, my favorite character was a certain drunk mentor who stole every scene he was in.One thing I enjoy about the fantasy genre is the opportunity to be creative. There’s no limits to what is allowed when creating a fantasy world, and author Stovall took advantage of that. The world is remarkable. The sheer amount of thought put into the history and customs are astonishing.And the creatures! White harts, phoenixes, harpies, and more! You’d think having such a huge variety of creatures would feel like too much, but it’s quite the opposite. Each has its place and function in the story. I was a huge fan of the scenes involving the white hart in particular because it was such an original way of using that fantastical creature.The book never lagged, and no character was superfluous. I was able to sit back and enjoy the confidence with which Stovall wrote. I love being able to disappear into a fantasy world for a while!So? Who should read this book? Everyone. Enjoy!
Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction, with several best-selling novels under her belt. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators.

If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following:Website: https//sastovallauthor.com
Twitter: https//twitter.com/GameOverStation/
Facebook: https//www.facebook.com/SAStovall/
Email: s.adelle.s@gmail.com

Venators: Promises Forged- The Write Reads Blog Tour

Venators Promises Forged

It has been mere days in the world of Eon, where Rune Jenkins, her twin brother Ryker, and their friend Grey have been trapped, fighting for their lives. After discovering the truth of their ancestry, the three are far from home, and far from anything resembling their mundane lives of the past.

While Ryker is still held captive by the eerily beautiful Zio and her goblins, Grey falls into the clutches of Feena, the Fae queen. She begins to drain his soul bit by bit to feed her dark underground garden, and Grey has no hope of escaping on his own.

It is now up to Rune to save Grey, as his precious time slips away inexorably. But the Council has denied her permission to embark on a rescue mission, until she can harness her Venator gifts and prove herself capable of venturing into the Fae queen’s territory. As Rune discovers that promises in Eon are forged with life-or-death consequences, she realizes that she must act quickly, or else be swallowed and Grey along with her by the dangers of Eon. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author and Dave at the Write Reads for a copy of this book and for including me in the blog tour. This book is available now.

This book is the sequel to Venators: Magic Unleashed. I’ve done my absolute best to keep this review spoiler-free.

This book is full of action, a sweeping fantasy world, and a surprising amount of character development. The author continues to make her world bigger, and more detailed as the series continues on. I’m used to seeing vampires and werewolves or dragons and warriors or fey creatures in a fantasy book: this series has all of them, and more. Author Devri Walls manages to make this enormous world unfold naturally. She has different cultures, mythologies, and histories all fully formed. It’s pretty cool.

The characters were a little confusing at times. Rune was often fun (and I can relate to getting hangry), but her relationship with Grey was just…odd. I couldn’t get a handle on Grey, but he was going through a lot emotionally, so maybe that’s why. The side characters were all interesting, especially Beltran.

I found this book to be enjoyable. If you like fast-moving fantasy with a slight hint of romance (slight enough that this romance-hating reader wasn’t annoyed), then this series is for you.

Have you read this? What did you think?

 

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

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Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why. (taken from Amazon)

Here’s what I thought the book was going to be: an old, misunderstood woman rescues a boy and nurses him back to health. As she does so, she comes to care for him as a son, leading her to try to solve the mystery of what happened the night he went missing. I was WAY off. This is about two teens who have one of those “instant connections.” You know – the kind where they both think they’re destined to be together forever, despite not knowing anything about each other. Oh – and ignoring the fact that there’s a possibility that one of them is a murderer. So, you know. It’s your usual boy-meets-girl – meets weirdness story.

If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know this sort of book is not my thing. It’s on me; I completely misunderstood the plot when I bought this book. I’m going to do my best to proceed as though this is something I’d normally read, and review it accordingly. Please bear with me and wish me luck!

Firstly, let me say that Shea Ernshaw did an excellent job of describing not only the setting, but the feel of the story. It takes place in an isolated, snowed-in area, near a forest that’s known to be haunted. There’s a boys’ camp across the lake, but that’s it. It was very well communicated that if anything were to happen, the few people up there would have to fend for themselves. It’s an interesting way to raise the stakes and one that she put to good use here.

The characters, while not what I expected, were likable. Oliver, in particular, was a fascinating character. He started out with a spotty memory, which turned into secrets as he slowly began to piece things together. I liked that he was an unreliable character. He clearly couldn’t be trusted but the question is: are his secrets harmless?

The story itself was just okay. I knew each twist before it happened, and the ending was a bit of a letdown for me. I’m not a huge fan of the deus ex machina trope (is that a trope?), and it just didn’t work for me. However, I have a feeling that I’ll be in the minority on this opinion. If you like stories where something random happens to suddenly save the day, this one’ll be right up your alley.

Over all, if you’re into supernatural mysteries with more than a hint of romance, this book will be one for you. It’s not my thing, but it’s a skillfully told representative of that type of story.

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

Amazon.com: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy ...
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.

As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. Their paths are being orchestrated by someone…or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.

In her dramatic follow-up to Wicked Saints, the first book in her Something Dark and Holy trilogy, Emily A. Duncan paints a Gothic, icy world where shadows whisper, and no one is who they seem, with a shocking ending that will leave you breathless. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Gothically gorgeous, this follow-up to Wicked Saints (review here) was everything I wanted it to be. I loved the darker vibe, and the progression of characters. It took a little bit longer to really “get going” than the first book did, but the character-building made it worth it. All of the main players have had their world shaken in some form or another, and seeing how they handled it (or didn’t) was fascinating.

I enjoyed reading about Nadya’s crisis of faith (for lack of a better term); it was heartbreaking and interesting, all at once. As in Wicked Saints, Malachiasz was my favorite (I’ve nicknamed him “Mal” because there is zero chance I’ll ever read that name correctly). He’s such a complicated character; I love it!

Emily A. Duncan’s strength lies in her ability to create an atmosphere both dangerous and foreboding. I had no idea what was going to happen next, which was fabulous. My only complaint about this book is that I would have loved to have a summary from Wicked Saints in the beginning, simply because so much happened.

If you like a darker feel to your fantasy, this series is for you.

Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Image result for chain of goldCordelia Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, a warrior trained since childhood to battle demons. When her father is accused of a terrible crime, she and her brother travel to London in hopes of preventing the family’s ruin. Cordelia’s mother wants to marry her off, but Cordelia is determined to be a hero rather than a bride. Soon Cordelia encounters childhood friends James and Lucie Herondale and is drawn into their world of glittering ballrooms, secret assignations, and supernatural salons, where vampires and warlocks mingle with mermaids and magicians. All the while, she must hide her secret love for James, who is sworn to marry someone else.

But Cordelia’s new life is blown apart when a shocking series of demon attacks devastate London. These monsters are nothing like those Shadowhunters have fought before—these demons walk in daylight, strike down the unwary with incurable poison, and seem impossible to kill. London is immediately quarantined. Trapped in the city, Cordelia and her friends discover that their own connection to a dark legacy has gifted them with incredible powers—and forced a brutal choice that will reveal the true cruel price of being a hero. (taken from Amazon)

Here’s the weird thing: the Shadowhunter books have everything I hate in a book. Annoying love triangles (or octagons)? Check. Constant clothing descriptions? Check. Angst coming out of the wazoo? Double check. So, why on earth are these books my guilty pleasure (except for Queen of Air and Darkness. That was an unmitigated disaster)? Two reasons: the universe Cassandra Clare has created, and Magnus Bane. Now that we’ve gotten that figured out, let’s move on to my actual review, shall we?

I was incredibly nervous about this book after reading Queen of Air and Darkness. Thankfully, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Cassandra was back in form for this book, and it worked very very well. There wasn’t anything earth shattering in terms of plot: there’s still angst, misunderstood and unrequited love, and brooding galore, but the sense of fun in previous books was back. There were many more fight scenes, which I loved. I enjoyed seeing the creativity used to describe some of the demons, and the seraph blades were in use again, which was something I’d been missing lately.

The characters were all a blast, although two stood out to me: Lucie, a spunky Shadowhunter who writes truly terrible fiction in her spare time; and Matthew, a ne’er do well with a sardonic sense of humor and hidden depth. The book centers around Cordelia, who has traveled from Idris with her mom and brother, in an attempt to ingratiate herself into London Society, the end goal being to help her dad who has been accused of a grievous crime. Of course, all chaos breaks loose, and the next thing you know, demons are running amok. There’s also a mysterious illness that is striking down Shadowhunters.

Cordelia, Lucie, and Matthew are joined by their friends, jokingly known as the Merry Thieves, as they try to do what the Clave can’t: save their friends. The storyline was a lot of fun because there was a bit of a mystery thrown in. I also enjoyed the Merry Thieves and their camaraderie. It felt very genuine. The James-Cordelia- Grace love triangle annoyed me, as love triangles always do. It wasn’t as bad as it’s been in the last few books, however; there was more to the book than just angst, which was fabulous.

Magnus made a short appearance, which I loved. The book is fast-paced, and once again the world itself is a load of fun. For those of you who haven’t read any of Cassandra Clare’s books, think Buffy with tattoos, and you’re close. I always enjoy seeing the vampires, fae, warlocks, Silent Brothers, and more that show up.

There were some things that I didn’t love, aside from the angst I’ve already talked about. Anna, for example. I wanted to love her, but the author had her constantly winking. It was weird. In every single one of her scenes, she “dropped a wink.” I ended up imagining a constant eye twitch. It made what could have been an awesome character fall a little flat.

I also didn’t love Tatiana, mainly because I wanted a more three dimensional character than what was written. There’s still time for development for her, though, so we’ll see.

All in all, I found Chain of Gold to be a blast to read. I’m looking forward to Cassandra Clare’s next book, something I wasn’t sure would happen again. Yay!

Venators: Magic Unleashed by Devri Walls- Write Reads Blog Tour

The dark unknown beckons.
Rune Jenkins has a long-standing infatuation with anything from the supernatural world, and she’s trying to hide it. If she doesn’t, she angers her reckless twin brother Ryker, and starts feeling like her own sanity is slipping. But the closer she gets to Grey Malteer – an old friend who waves his fascination with fantasy like a flag – the harder it becomes to stifle her own interest. The supernatural suddenly invades their reality when other-worldly creatures come hunting for the three college students. With help from a mysterious savior Rune and Grey escape, but must follow Ryker’s abductors into an alternate dimension, Eon, and discover their true identities. They are Venators, descendants of genetically enhanced protectors and sentries between Eon and Earth. In this world of fae, vampires, werewolves, and wizards, power is abundant and always in flux. Ryker is missing, and Rune and Grey are being set up as pawns in a very dangerous game. The three must find their way through and out of Eon, before it consumes them. (taken from Amazon)

I must say, I was so jazzed to be a part of this book blog tour. I’d heard some great buzz about this book, and was eager to jump in. Venators: Magic Unleashed is a fast-paced book full of action and excitement.

This book follows Grey and Rune, two college students who learn they are in fact venators, enhanced humans with the power to fight all manner of unpleasant creatures- you know, the sort that aren’t supposed to exist. Except they do, which Rune discovers as both she and Grey find themselves in an alternate dimension. They need to somehow rescue Rune’s abducted brother (who, by the way, is a major jerk) and get back to their own world.

One of the interesting things about this book is the sheer variety of fantastical creatures included. There are the more common vampires and werewolves. Then, you get elves, fae, succubi, incubi, wizards, goblins and more. Verida, the sassiest vampire I’ve read in quite a while, was my favorite character. She added spunk and a sense of adventure.

I didn’t really connect all that much with Grey or Rune. Although, there were some things set up that I think will come into play quite well in book two, making them grow and develop into very complex characters.

The book jumps pretty much right into action, with development along the way, as opposed to the dreaded info dump. The action is scattered liberally throughout the story, upping the ante and adding to the excitement.

This was a highly entertaining read. I’m curious to see what happens in book two. Pick this book up and tell me what you think!

Queens of Fennbirn by Kendare Blake

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Together in print for the first time in this paperback bind-up, the dazzling prequels to the Three Dark Crowns series are finally available for fans to have and to (literally) hold. Uncover the sisters’ origins, dive deep into the catastrophic reign of the Oracle Queen, and reveal layers of Fennbirn’s past, hidden until now.

The Young Queens

Get a glimpse of triplet queens Mirabella, Arsinoe, and Katharine during a short period of time when they protected and loved one another. From birth until their claiming ceremonies, this is the story of the three sisters’ lives…before they were at stake.

The Oracle Queen

Everyone knows the legend of Elsabet, the Oracle Queen. The one who went mad. The one who orchestrated a senseless, horrific slaying of three entire houses. But what really happened? Discover the true story behind the queen who could foresee the future…just not her own downfall. (taken from Amazon)

I love Kendare Blake’s writing. The darker tones present throughout her Three Dark Crowns series adds a glorious sense of the gothic. This book of two novellas was no different.

Both of these stories take place in Fennbirn, the world of the Three Dark Crowns. I would suggest reading at least the first few books in the actual series before picking these novellas up, because you’ll get spoilers otherwise. There are also things in this book that won’t make as much sense if you haven’t already read the others.

In The Young Queens, we get a bigger view of the queens’ lives before they were pitted against each other and the events of the Three Dark Crowns series unfolded. While I can see why this novella is so well-liked, I honestly didn’t feel that it added anything to the original story. In fact (and this is a weird opinion), I preferred getting only glimpses of the queens’ time together prior to their fight for the crown. This book was sweet in many ways, but it just didn’t do it for me. From a technical standpoint, the writing was as strong as ever, but this novella just felt…unnecessary.

The Oracle Queen, though! Holy Hannah, that packed a punch! Kendare Blake’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat is once again made apparent. The story of the last oracle queen is full of intrigue, betrayal, and more than a bit of violence. I loved every moment of it. Kendare Blake has never shied away from being mean to her characters, a trait that makes her books unpredictable and compelling. I suggest picking up this book of novellas for this story alone.

This was a good book, even though I didn’t love The Young Queens, and it’s definitely worth adding to your shelf.

If…Then: In Which You Get a Terrifying Glimpse Into How I Come Up With Book Suggestions

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might have noticed that my train of thought often jumps its tracks. Usually (but not always) these random jumps make perfect sense, but only if you’ve had a rather terrifying look into my thought process. Seeing as that can get a bit hairy, I suggest you proceed carefully, as I’m about to give suggestions of books to read next, based on books recently enjoyed. I will try my hardest to explain why, but…yeah.

If you enjoyed: The Starless Sea

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Find my review here

Then read: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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Find my review here

The reason I suggest The Ten Thousand Doors of January is that both Alix E. Harrow and Erin Morgenstern have an incredible way with words. Their prose is so gorgeous, it’s like enjoying a decadent treat. If you enjoy one of these two books, definitely read the other. Of course, other than that, the books are completely different. They make sense together to me, though. In fact, I seem to think that Alix and Erin went on a book tour together? All I know, is they didn’t come to a bookstore near me. Sad, sad, sad.

If you enjoyed: The Wheel of Time series

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Then read: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

Find my review here

The reason behind this recommendation is that they have a similar feel. Both are high fantasy, both have complicated characters, both take you on epic adventures. Both will keep you guessing. If you enjoy one, then you’ll like the other. Actually, this thought process kind of makes sense.

If you enjoy: The Invisible Library

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Then read: Jackaby

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Find my review here

Here’s where my brain goes a little wonky. I have no idea why The Invisible Library series makes me think of the Jackaby series. Jackaby himself channels a Doctor Who-meets- Sherlock type of vibe. At any rate, it’s really good and I think readers who enjoy The Invisible Library need to check this one out. Incidentally, readers who enjoy Jackaby should absolutely read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters! Both Jackaby and The Crocodile on the Sandbank feature intelligent, incorrigibly curious female characters.

If you enjoy: City of Ghosts

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Find my review here

Then read: Anna Dressed in Blood

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The thing with both of these books is that they have a bit of a “fun ghost story” feel to them. Neither of them is actually spooky (although both of them would scare the living daylights out of my middle-grade reader), but they come across as Supernatural light.

If you enjoy: The Name of the Wind

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Then read: Master of Sorrows

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Find my review here

Justin T. Call is a wordsmith, the kind that only comes around once in a while. Just like Patrick Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind, Master of Sorrows drew me in immediately. This book is excellent, and definitely needs to be read by everyone.

There are several others that I’m not including because the way I’ve likened them will make absolutely no sense to anyone sober. Hopefully, the connections for these make pretty decent sense. Enjoy!

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

 

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air Book 3) by [Black, Holly]

He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity… (taken from Amazon)

**Spoilers for books The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King below**


        Here’s the thing: I’ve read several other books by Holly Black. My son and I read the middle-grade Magisterium series that she co-authored with Cassandra Clare. We both loved it. I’m bummed to say that this book just didn’t butter my biscuit. Not to say that Holly Black can’t write: she’s a very talented writer. I just didn’t care for what she did with this book.

That being said, she did make a few choices that showed her writing chops. I think the best way to write this particular review is to list the things I liked, followed by the things I didn’t. Spoiler-free for this book, but it does have spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy. Here we go:

Things I liked:

-I liked the wickedness and capriciousness of Faerie. Faeries in lore tend to range between mischievous and downright nasty, so this sat well with me.
– I enjoyed the riddles and prophecies that needed to be puzzled through. It was fun trying to figure them out before the characters did.
-The nasty critter that showed up was pretty stinking cool (that’s all I’m saying, so as not to spoil anything).

Things that didn’t work for me:

-The mush, gush, and angst. Zoinks! It became very tiresome very quickly.
– Locke is my favorite character ( I know, he’s a jerk. But he’s an interesting jerk), and I wanted to see more of him in the series, not less.
– In many places, the dialogue was so bad it was ridiculous. It tended to descend into absolute obnoxiousness any time Jude and Cardan spoke together. If they were separate, it wasn’t too bad. Again, this goes back to the mush and the gush. It just became too much for me.
– There was a lot of time spent on describing different outfits and hairstyles. I mean, a lot. And since my idea of dressing up means wearing a skirt with ye random nerdy t-shirt, I got bored long before the descriptions stopped.

I’m assuming it’s obvious at this point that this book was not one I loved. However, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on this one.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Secrets of the Great Fire Tree by Justine Laismith- Blog Tour

Today is my spot on the blog tour for Secrets of the Great Fire Tree by Justine Laismith. I’m so excited to talk about this magical little tale, one that is both charming and touching. My thanks go to Olivia at

This book is about a boy named Kai, who is told that his mom will be leaving to work for a family in the city, in order to provide for their family. He will stay in their village with a neighbor, and won’t see his mom for a year. The story follows his choices, and what he’ll do to bring his family together again.

In many ways, this book was very sad. Kai is dealing with many changes, and misses his mother terribly. It’s balanced well, though, and never becomes too much. The caring people in Kai’s village help with that.

Being an American, there were some cultural things that I wouldn’t have understood without the glossary of words, and short explanations that were scattered throughout the book. I found it very interesting, and it’s always cool to learn about the way things are in other places.

The magic is more of the everyday kind than fire-breathing dragons, but it was magical nonetheless. This is a great book for upper elementary aged kids.


 Q and A with author Justine Laismith

– Who are you?

I grew up in Singapore and studied Chemistry in London. After my PhD, I worked in the pharmaceuticals industry. Since then I have also worked in the chemicals and education sectors. I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in industry, I wrote scientific papers. While I did write fiction occasionally, it really only took off around the time I returned to Singapore in 2010. Then I entered a local writing competition. As a winner, my children’s book The Magic Mixer was published. It’s a chapter book about two women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.) At that time, I was already in the midst of writing Secrets of the Great Fire Tree. This was the encouragement I needed to keep going.

– When did you want to become an author?

I first wanted to be a writer when I was seven. However at school I never did well in languages or literature. When it came to choosing subjects, I would have had to make the difficult decision of choosing what I liked, or what I was good at. My teacher saved me from this. She had expected me to take the Art/humanity subjects because ‘girls are better at them, and boys are better at Math and Science.’ Right there and then I chose the science options to prove a point. Over the years, even though I pursued a science career, the enjoyment of turning blank pages to words never left me. I continued to write poems and stories as and when they came to me, but they were for my eyes only. I also channeled this into my work and wrote scientific papers on my research. After some years, I took a career break. With a break from science, the logical part of my brain took a back seat and let the creative side of my brain dominate. I started writing in earnest.

-What inspires your work?

My inspiration comes from all around me. I now pay a lot of attention to my surroundings and how it makes me feel. Then I challenge myself to describe it in words. When I watch a movie or show, I don’t just take a seat and enjoy the ride. I think about what makes me root for the characters, or hate them. I also analyse how and why two personalities who started off with nothing in common come together as the story develops. When I’m out and about, I take pictures of nature and buildings. You can check them out on my instagram account (www.instagram.com/justinelaismith). The collection might seem like random lots of pictures, but they help me crystallize my thoughts on the setting in my stories.

-Can you tell us how Secrets of the Great Fire Tree Came About?

I grew up in Singapore, a country proud of its multicultural identity. This exposed me to a plethora of languages and Chinese dialects. I’m also part- Paranakan, which is a unique blend of two cultures: ethnic Chinese who speak and practice Malay customs. To give my heritage its representation, I subtly incorporated these diversities in a story that’s supposed to be set in China. A native Singaporean might spot these ‘anomalies’. Nonetheless, because I wanted to make this story authentically Chinese, I carried out a lot of research. I enjoyed going right back to my roots. Ultimately, the Chinese diaspora’s experience of their culture will be different from the indigenous Chinese. Part of this research included a trip to China, where I made several notes about their lifestyles. I’ve documented them in a series of blog articles (www.justinelaismith.wordpress.com/great-fire-tree/setting).

What are you most excited to share when it comes to Secrets of the Great Fire Tree?

I am most excited about sharing the rural life in China. As I mentioned earlier, I see myself as a third-culture kid, who never really knew her roots. China holds a quarter of the world’s population and consists of over fifty ethnic minorities. Naturally, I cannot tell everything in one story, but I hope I managed to give a flavor of this fascinating culture.