Cover reveal: ‘A Hand of Knaves’ anthology

As I mentioned in my last post, the A Hand of Knaves anthology (in which I have a story) is having its book birthday this month — on 30 September, to be exact. And now I have a sexy, sexy cover to share with you. The cover art is by Canberra local Shauna O’Meara. It has been a delight to work with the team for this anthology, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories.

I don’t have links for this one yet, but when I do I’ll share them on the socials. In the meantime, enjoy this gorgeous piece of art. ❤

Rogues, thieves, pirates and ne’er-do-wells abound in speculative fiction. Sometimes heroic, sometimes villainous, often somewhere in between, rogues are as likely to steal one’s heart as one’s purse, and show little remorse while helping themselves to either.

So why do we love them? Because they’re imperfect, fallible, and even vulnerable under that carefully-maintained, world-weary exterior.

Rogues represent something we rarely see in our daily lives: ordinary people prepared to take on the “powers that be” by way of guile and subterfuge. But are they only in it for the loot, or are they — deep down — romantic at heart?

Nineteen science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales from twenty of Australia’s best established and emerging writers.

Eugen Bacon
Amy Brown
David Coleman
Tom Dullemond
Maureen Flynne
Rebecca Fraser
Edwina Harvey
Isobel Johnstone
Grace Maslin
Chris McGrane
Claire McKenna
Cassandra Page
CH Pearce
Simon Petrie
Louise Pieper
Robert Porteous
Charlotte Sophia
Helen Stubbs
David Versace
Angus Yeates

Buy links

Coming soon

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Cover reveal: ‘Shadows and Spellcraft’ book bundle

I have a very busy couple of months coming up, what with the release of Rheia and A Hand of Knaves, but (because I am a sucker for punishment) I decided that wasn’t quite enough. So I’m releasing Isla’s Inheritance as part of an urban fantasy ebook bundle that comes out on 30 October. The bundle is called Shadows and Spellcraft: The Ultimate Urban Fantasy Binge Collection.

Because urban fantasy. ❤

If you’ve already read Isla’s Inheritance, I love you … and you should consider buying the bundle anyway. For a start, it contains fourteen other urban fantasy novels and novellas by various authors — that’s over 2500 pages of story! Secondly, the pre-orders are available for US$0.99, or around AU$1.43. What a great way to discover new writers! (I know I’ve already ordered my copy, and I’ve already read two of the other books that are in the bundle.)

Also, check out the cover. If the style looks familiar, it’s because it has been designed by KILA Designs, the same designer I use for my books. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Blurb

Dive into FIFTEEN amazing worlds full of action, adventure, magic and mayhem brought to you by some of the freshest voices in urban fantasy.

Want angels? Demons? Fairies? Witches? Supernatural assassins? Vampires? Whatever you’re after, you’re bound to find it in this incredible collection jam-packed with page-turning adventure.

This bundle features 8 full length novels, 4 short novels and 3 novellas written by:

Laura Greenwood
Jenn Windrow
Tiffany Shand
Victoria DeLuis
Monique Singleton
Chris Coleman
Ashlee Nicole Bye
Kim Richardson
Devyn Jayse
Robyn Jenkins
Tanya R Taylor
Sadie Moss
Cassandra Page
K. A. Last
Thea Atkinson

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Preorder links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Australia | Barnes & Noble
Kobo | iBooks

 


Review: ‘Dreadnought’ by Cherie Priest

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and―if the telegram can be believed―be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

This is the second book in the Clockwork Century series (I reviewed the first book here). You don’t need to read the first book before this one, though it wouldn’t hurt and will give you some of the backstory around characters we only see in passing in this one.

The series is an alternative version of the American civil war, but with steampunk tech and zombies. It’s basically made for me, you guys!

I really liked the first book, Boneshaker, but I loved Dreadnought. Part of that is because it’s not a split point-of-view book — I don’t mind those, but they aren’t my favourite. Another part is that we don’t have a sometimes-annoying teenage boy as one of the point-of-view characters. (Sorry, Zeke.) A third part was that the zombie threat is mostly the “creeping dread” kind than the teeming horde kind, which was sinister and chilling and kept me hooked.

Mercy was a delightful leading lady: a young nurse who is by turns ladylike and swears like a trooper (learned in the hospital, no doubt). She isn’t afraid to take charge when direction is needed, and she has a bedside manner that is both disarming and tough when it needs to be.

She knows how to shoot a gun, but almost all of Mercy’s involvement in the story’s action revolves around her nursing others as best she can in a war zone (or a zombie apocalypse). I found that part of the story fascinating and disturbing in turns — we aren’t exactly talking modern medicine here. And the story is so action-packed that Mercy definitely gets a lot of chances to work her trade.

Briar, the main character in Boneshaker, is still my fave due to the single mother solidarity thing, but Mercy runs a close second.

This series hasn’t contained any romance so far (though I’ve already started the third book and there a charming development brewing). But if you’re okay with that and love spec fic, Dreadnought is definitely worth checking out.


Mini-review: ‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J. Maas

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly.
Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

I’m coming to this series pretty late — I bought it a while ago because the cover was just that awesome, but it took a while to filter to the top of my tbr (and I actually ended up listening to it on audiobook, so the paperback never even got opened — oops).

I found the story engrossing enough, though the main character is nowhere near as tough as I thought she’d be, given that whole “best assassin in the land” thing. She talks the talk, but we rarely see her walk the walk. I mean, she has all of the thief skills associated with your typical assassin, and is good with poisons, but she isn’t cut-throat by any stretch of the imagination. I struggle to imagine her actually killing someone for money.

She also likes pretty dresses and parties. I actually like this about her, because I don’t think a character has to be unfeminine to be tough. But I can see that she gets a lot of hate from that, and it definitely distracts her at times when she should be focused on the competition.

I liked how bad the bad guys were, and the way that the fantastical elements were woven through. (There’s also a love triangle, which I didn’t mind — though I never really had a preference between the blokes in question — but others might find trope-y.) I’ll definitely download the sequel when I get my next Audible credit. But if you’re looking for a more-gritty story about an assassin, then I’d recommend Nevernight by Jay Kristoff over Throne of Glass.

 

 


‘Rheia’ — an excerpt (and a revised release date)

In case you missed it, my ancient world fantasy novel, Rheia, comes out later in 2018. I had announced the release date as 29 September, but — as it happens — an anthology in which I have a story is having its launch party that exact same day. That being the case, I’ve decided to push Rheia’s release date back two weeks, to Saturday 13 October. Apologies to anyone that is disappointed about this, but I wasn’t really keen on trying to wrangle two book birthdays at once!

Now, onto the excerpt. 🙂 The world in which the kingdom of Oreareus exists is inspired by Ancient Greece, and a lot of the terms I use throughout the story come from that time in history. Hopefully the meaning of the various terms in the excerpt I’ve included here are clear from the context. However, just in case, I’ve included the relevant definitions from the glossary (I wrote a book with a glossary, you guys — I always wanted to do that!). You can find them at the bottom of this post.


Every year, Rheia’s father brought home four prisoners of war, sacrifices to keep the demon Typhein bound. Rheia never gave them much thought … until her father’s enemy made her one of them. Now she has two weeks to find a way to escape death at the hands of the Beast and either save her people or condemn them to destruction.

The last thing Rheia expected was to fall in love with the Beast oath-bound to kill her.

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Rheia — an excerpt

Rheia waited, fidgeting, until the herbalist finished tying off the bundle of fennel and counting out her change. Then she tucked the herbs into her basket and followed her brother, head down so as not to attract attention: an unwed, unaccompanied woman. She would kill Aias if his running off resulted in any slight against her name. She swallowed and adjusted her veil, making sure her hair was completely covered.

She found Aias standing in the deep shadows beneath the statue. He couldn’t see into the temple from there, wedged as he was between one huge sandalled foot and an outer pillar, adjacent to the shadowed porch, but his head was cocked as he listened, eyes wide as wine cups. “You just wait until I tell Mammidon about this,” she hissed.

“Shh,” Aias whispered, raking her with a contemptuous gaze. “I’m listening.”

“And if the priests see you out here, lurking like a thief, what will they say?” She grabbed his arm and tried to pull him away, but he eeled from her grip and stepped closer to the entrance. If she tried to grab him again, he might stumble backward, out into the bright sunshine where he would be much more obvious. Grinding her jaw with frustration, she glared at him.

He glared back, head tilted upward to meet her gaze. “Rheia, something is going on. They are stirred up like an ants’ nest. Don’t you want to know why?”

“No,” she whispered, shaking her head emphatically. And she didn’t. She wanted to browse the trinkets at Phidias’s stall, see if he knew her name, see whether Galen was lurking out the back somewhere and might come over to see her.

But she couldn’t do so without Aias. “All right,” she said with a sigh, crossing her arms and looking away towards the harbour as though she was merely taking a moment to shade herself from the hot sun. “One minute.”

Resolved not to listen to the voices inside the great building, Rheia studied the mason’s mark hidden at the statue’s heel as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. She had heard of Myron, even though he’d died when her grandmother was a baby; the huge statue had been his last great work. But a babble of raised voices as they passed close by the inside doorway caught her ear: the words thysia and offering louder than the rest, as the speaker emphasised a point. They fell away, and she wondered what had happened to cause such consternation. Had the helot girl tried to escape again? Had she been successful this time? There would be a city-wide manhunt to find her if it were true. A surge of sympathy for the girl made her purse her lips. How awful it would be, to know you would be dead when next the moon was full.

Aias’s fingers digging into Rheia’s arm brought her back to herself. “Rheia,” he whispered, the sound sharp with fear. “Let’s go.”

“Finally,” she muttered, glancing up and down the street for watching eyes before hurrying him away from the temple, her hand at the small of his back so he couldn’t dart off again. But when she tried to stop at the goatherder’s stall to buy a pottery jar of milk, he dragged her on, out of the agora. “Aias, stop! Wait!”

“You heard what they said.” He shook his head, curls bouncing emphatically as he hauled her along the street, almost at a run. “We have to get home. Father will know more.”

Rheia’s heart felt strange in her chest, anxiety making it flutter. “More about what? I was trying not to listen. As you should have been.”

Her little brother stopped, staring up at her with his mouth ajar. Then he pulled her by the hand into a quiet alley, away from the bustling traffic of the main street. “One of the helots is dead,” he whispered, eyes glittering with excitement. “One of the girls. Suicide, they say.”

Rheia’s eyes widened as she stared at her brother. The flutter in her chest expanded to swallow her belly. “But what will happen now? It’s only two weeks until the festival. The offering!”

“That’s what they were arguing about. One of the priests thought the triremes would be sent back out, while the other said it was too late. Father will know; if the ships are to be sent, he will captain the fleet. Come on. Before he leaves!”

Rheia let Aias drag her up the hill towards their villa, her mind whirling with the implications. The Broken Ones were meant to have the thysies for a full ten days before the ritual. Something about cleansing rituals. But that would only give the triremes three days to get to the helot lands and back again. Would it be enough?

And if not, what was the alternative?


A mini-glossary

agora – a combination of a marketplace and a central point where citizens can meet and discuss important issues

helot – slave; used to describe the subdued peoples across the sea

mammidon – a term of endearment meaning mother

thysia (plural thysies) – a sacrifice or offering


Review: ‘Bitter Truth’ by Lauren K. McKellar

Book #2 in the Twisted Hearts duet

You can run, you can hide, but the truth will always find you.

Everly Jenkins knows darkness — but that doesn’t stop her living life to the max. Not until she meets Cameron Lewis, the tragic reminder of her past that she just can’t seem to shake.

Being “just friends” with a man who sends her soul flying and her body up in flames is near impossible — until her secrets come out, leaving her alone.

Will the darkness overcome her once again? Or will Everly fight for the man she loves and help him face the bitter truth?

I’m going to keep this review as spoiler-free as I can, which means being cryptic (and therefore fairly brief).

The first thing you need to know is that you really shouldn’t start with the second book in this series. You’ll be hella confused, and miss all of the good feels in the first book, which I reviewed here. That being said, the first third or so of Bitter Truth covers the same events as in Honest Love, but from Everly’s perspective. I really enjoyed this part of the book, with its glimpses into what Everly’s deal really is.

I enjoy Everly as a character. She’s gone through some pretty dark times and come out the other side with the willingness to fight, not just for herself but for Cameron and what he wants more than anything else as well — custody of his baby girl, Piper. She fights for him when he doesn’t even want to see her, and frankly I’m glad this part of the story was from her perspective rather than his, because I found his slump at the start of Bitter Truth a little frustrating (if understandable).

Lauren K. McKellar does what she describes as “romance with feels”, and one of the things that has made her an auto-buy for me is that her books never feel predictable even while they stay true to the romance genre (which can be rather formulaic). There was one moment in Bitter Truth where I was absolutely certain I knew what was going to happen next. I really struggle with super-cringeworthy moments in fiction (you know, the ones where you want to hide your face so you don’t die of secondary embarrassment), and I thought this was going to be one of them — so much so that I had to put the book down and gather myself in order to keep reading.

I should’ve had more faith, because not only did what I was expecting not happen but the whole story took a turn for the even-more-awesome.

This duology has a smoking hot couple, an adorable toddler, a conniving ex who still manages to be somewhat sympathetic at times, some tragedy, some steamy sex scenes, lots of beach scenes that made me hanker for my next coastal holiday, and a happily ever after. What more could you want?


Book announcement and cover reveal: ‘Rheia’

Once upon a time, in between writing my various urban fantasy projects, I slipped and fell and wrote a fantasy novel. This was back in the days of yore (well, 2016), in between writing Lucid Dreaming and False Awakening, and I didn’t want to release this book in between the two halves of that duology.

It is now that book’s time to shine.

After going through several working titles (the highlight of which was the utilitarian Greek Fantasy, because I can’t be trusted to name things), I finally settled on the perfect name for this book — and now I can share it with you, along with the perfect cover, done by the fabulous Kim from KILA Designs.


Rheia

Release date: 29 September 2018

“Beauty and the Beast meets Ancient Greece, with a steampunk twist”

Every year, Rheia’s father brought home four prisoners of war, sacrifices to keep the demon Typhein bound. Rheia never gave them much thought … until her father’s enemy made her one of them. Now she has two weeks to find a way to escape death at the hands of the Beast and either save her people or condemn them to destruction.

The last thing Rheia expected was to fall in love with the Beast oath-bound to kill her.

Add on Goodreads