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Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018


Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018


Hello readers. Hope you have had a good week. I started to get over my uber bad cold so also able to read something challenging on my commute into work.I did however, only read one book but boy, it was a good one! So what did I read?


Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
I finally decided to buy City of Miracles which is the final book of Robert J. Bennett's The Divine Cities trilogy. This book has been out for some time and I highly recommend you read the Qwill's review. I absolutely loved this series but had to wait for the price to drop a bit on the Kindle version before I bought it.

Rather than recount the plot for you I am going to focus on a couple of themes I picked out. I felt the most prominent theme was the theme of loss. The loss of a mother's love, the loss of friendship and the loss of identity. Loss was on every page and every chapter. Sigrud acutely felt the loss of his daughter and his beloved friend and as the story progressed we discovered what else he lost through the choices he made. Grief was the other prominent theme and Bennett explores, through his characters, individual responses to grief.  In fact loss and grief were the prevalent themes throughout all three novels with the deaths of Vohannes in City of Stairs, Signe in City of Blades and then Shara's death in the final book. In my view, Bennett is a master of handling the very sensitive and personal topic of grief. Bennett's standalone novel The Troupe is another testament of his ability to deal with this topic. The counter balance to grief was the theme of love - parental love, romantic love, friendship. This theme was a bit more subtle in how it played out but it was definitely there.

Bennett is one of my favourite authors even though I haven't yet read everything he has written. For me his books are like a good quality, expensive chocolates. I don't want to eat them all the time or they won't be such a treat. The Divine Cities has superb character development, excellent world building and tight plot arc. This final book is very poignant and you should probably have some tissues handy. This series is a must read but be sure to start with book 1 - City of Stairs.


That is it for me this week. I won't be with you next week as I am away to Spain for a city break. I am super excited that it is going to be 28°C. After two weeks of non stop rain and grey skies I am really looking forward to my vitamin D not coming from a bottle. Until next time Happy Reading.





City of Miracles
The Divine Cities 3
Broadway Books, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And—perhaps most daunting of all—finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.



Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
UK Cover - Published by Jo Fletcher Books





Previously

City of Stairs
The Divine Cities 1
Broadway Books, September 9, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young SF writers.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.


See Qwill's review here.



Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
UK Cover - Published by Jo Fletcher Books




City of Blades
The Divine Cities 2
Broadway Books, January 26, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.


See Qwill's review here.



Melanie's Week in Review - April 15, 2018
UK Cover - Published by Jo Fletcher Books

Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017


Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
I'm back!! Sorry I haven't been around recently. I have been busy reading this book which would be really hard to review. There isn't much of a plot but some really delicious recipes. I highly recommend it if you are making a cake for either a wedding or other type of celebration. After lots of reading and lots of practicing (I am certain I gained about 10lbs from eating my practice runs)

In between reading this book and making the actual wedding cake I managed to read a couple of good books. The first one I would like to tell you I didn't actually read....I listened to it instead. If you remember from previous posts I am not the biggest fans of audio books as I get easily disappointed when the narrator doesn't sound what I have imagined the character to sound like. I have however, found a fantastic narrator and the perfect fit for an equally fantastic book. So what did I listen to?


Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
None other than Star Trek's very own Wil Wheaton narrates Ernest Cline's sci fi thriller Ready Player One. Set in 2044 the world has gone to pot. The lack of fossil fuels has crippled the world, unemployment is sky high and poverty is the norm. The teenager and star of this story Wade Watts escapes the desperation that is his life in the OASIS, a virtual world where you can live out any fantasy your imagination can dream up. James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, left the world the biggest puzzle when he died. He left his entire fortune and virtual keys to the OASIS to the individual who solves a set of riddles to find the hidden crystal easter egg within this massive video game. Wade, like millions of other gamers, spend years trying to find even the first clue while studying every aspect of Halliday's life. Wade's life is about to change when he solves the first quest of Halliday's epic game. It's tough at the top and it's not long before Wade realises that trying to win this game may mean he loses everything, including his life. Game on!

Ready Player One is an epic in every sense of the word with over fifteen hours of audio as Wheaton gives life to Wade. I loved Wade and thought that Wheaton did a fantastic job of making this character believable and a joy to spend time with. I was on the edge of my seat through most of the story and that was down to Cline's expertise at creating tension and a compelling adventure. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this audio book so much (Wheaton aside) was that it was told in the first person. Even if you aren't a big gamer there is something for everyone in Cline's story but if you happen to be one then this is a must read.


Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
Book 2 was another excellent read - the final instalment of Carrie Patel's Recoletta series. The Song of the Dead starts immediately after the end of book 2, The Buried Life. There are new rulers in Recoletta who are no different than those who came before. Arnault is on the run with Jane in an attempt to destroy the Library...the very thing that brought about the Catastrophe. With Malone in pursuit Arnault and Jane make a daring and dangerous race across the ocean to try to save the world and to find the answers for what happened to theirs.

Patel does it again. This is another great story that takes us from the buried city of Recoletta, to the farming communes, onto a flotilla of ships across the ocean and the Continent where Arnault's big secret is revealed. I found the resolution of the plot arc very satisfying and Patel did a great job of tying up all the individual plot threads into one satisfying conclusion. It is hard to say much more without risking giving too much away. Suffice to say you will need to find out for yourself.


That is it for me but I hope to be back again next week with some equally good books to tell you about. Until then Happy Reading!





Ready Player One
Read by Wil Wheaton
Random House Audio, August 16, 2011
Audio CD and Audiobook Download

Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?
– Bloomberg, Best Books of 2016



Ready Player One
Broadway Books, June 5, 2012
Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Hardcover and eBook, August 16, 2011
Mass Market Paperback, February 6, 2018

Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.





The Song of the Dead
Recoletta 3
Angry Robot, May 2, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 14, 2017
Finally, the lost histories of the Catastrophe will be revealed and with them the ultimate fate of the buried city of Recoletta in the dramatic conclusion to Carrie Patel’s trilogy.

With Ruthers dead and the Library Accord signed by Recoletta, its neighbours, and its farming communes, Inspector Malone and her partner Laundress Jane Lin are in limbo as the city leaders around them vie for power.

A desperate attempt to save Arnault from execution leads to Malone’s arrest and Jane’s escape. They must pursue each other across the sea to discover a civilization that has held together over the centuries. There they will finally learn the truths about the Catastrophe that drove their own civilization underground.

File Under: Fantasy [ Day of Execution | Sky High | We are the Dead | Nature of the Catastrophe ]

Dark Matter by Black Crouch - Excerpt, Interview, Review


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in Trade Paperback on May 2nd by Broadway Books. Today we are sharing an excerpt from Dark Matter and re-posting our interview with Blake and review from July 2016.







An Excerpt from Dark Matter

TWO
I’m aware of someone gripping my ankles.
     As hands slide under my shoulders, a woman says, “How’d he get out of the box?”
     A man responds: “No idea. Look, he’s coming to.”
     I open my eyes, but all I see is blurred movement and light.
     The man barks, “Let’s get him the hell out of here.”
     I try to speak, but the words fall out of my mouth, garbled and formless.
     The woman says, “Dr. Dessen? Can you hear me? We’re going to lift you onto a gurney now.”
     I look toward my feet, and the man’s face racks into focus. He’s staring at me through the face shield of an aluminized hazmat suit with a self-contained breathing apparatus.
     Glancing at the woman behind my head, he says, “One, two, three.”
     They hoist me onto a gurney and lock padded restraints around
my ankles and wrists.
     “Only for your protection, Dr. Dessen.”
     I watch the ceiling scroll past, forty or fifty feet above.
     Where the hell am I? A hangar?
     I catch a glint of memory—a needle puncturing my neck. I was injected with something. This is some crazy hallucination.
     A radio squawks, “Extraction team, report. Over.”
     The woman says with excitement bleeding through her voice, "We have Dessen. We're en route. Over."
     I hear the squeak of wheels rolling.
     "Copy that. Initial condition assessment? Over."
     She reaches down with a gloved hand and wakes some kind of monitoring device that's been Velcroed to my left arm.
     "Pulse rate: one-fifteen. BP: one-forty over ninety-two. Temp: ninety-eight-point-nine. Oh-two sat: ninety-five percent. Gamma: point-eight seven. ETA thirty seconds. Out."
     A buzzing sound startles me.
     We move through a pair of vaultlike doors that are slowly opening.
     Jesus Christ.
     Stay calm. This isn't real.
     The wheels squeak faster, more urgently.
     We're in a corridor lined with plastic, my eyes squinting against the onslaught of light from fluorescent bulbs shining overhead.
     The doors behind us slam shut with an ominous clang, like the gates to a keep.
     They wheel me into an operating room toward an imposing figure
in a positive pressure suit, standing under an array of surgical lights.
     He smiles down at me through his face shield and says, as if he knows me, "Welcome back, Jason. Congratulations. You did it."
     Back?
     I can only see his eyes, but they don't remind me of anyone I've ever met.
     ''Are you experiencing any pain?" he asks.
     I shake my head.
     "Do you know how you got the cuts and bruises on your face?''
     Shake.
     "Do you know who you are?"
     I nod.
     "Do you know where you are?"
     Shake.
     "Do you recognize me?"
     Shake.
     'Tm Leighton Vance, chief executive and medical officer. We're
colleagues and friends." He holds up a pair of surgical shears. "I need to get you out of these clothes."
     He removes the monitoring device and goes to work on my jeans and boxer shorts, tossing them into a metal tray. As he cuts off my shirt, I gaze up at the lights burning down on me, trying not to panic.
     But I'm naked and strapped to a gurney.
     No, I remind myself, I'm hallucinating that I'm naked and strapped to a gurney. Because none of this is real.
     Leighton lifts the tray holding my shoes and clothes and hands it to someone behind my head, outside my line of sight. "Test every­ thing."
     Footsteps rush out of the room.
     I note the sharp bite of isopropyl alcohol a second before Leighton cleans a swatch of skin on the underside of my arm.
     He ties a tourniquet above my elbow.
     "Tust drawing some blood," he says, taking a large-gauge hypoder­-
mic needle from the instrument tray.
     He's good. I don't even feel the sting.
     When he's finished, Leighton rolls the gurney toward the far side of the OR to a glass door with a touchscreen mounted on the wall beside it.
     "Wish I could tell you this is the fun part," he says. "If you're too
disoriented to remember what's about to happen, that's probably for the best."
     I try to ask what's happening, but words still elude me. Leigh­ ton's fingers dance across the touchscreen. The glass door opens, and he pushes me into a chamber that's just large enough to hold the gurney.
     "Ninety seconds," he says. "You'll be fine. It never killed any of the test subjects."
Excerpted from DARK MATTER. Copyright © 2017 by Blake Crouch. Published by Broadway Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.









TQWelcome to The Qwillery. You've written over a dozen novels. Has your writing process changed (or not) over the years? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Blake:  Thanks for having me! My writing process has definitely evolved and is continuing to evolve from book to book. The hardest thing for me is finding the right idea. It involves lots of hemming and hawing and self-doubting and journaling and outlining before I finally commit to something and get underway with the writing itself.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Blake:  I would describe myself as a plotter who, along the way, is very open to becoming a pantser when inspiration strikes. In other words, I go into a book having a pretty good notion of what the first half of the book is going to be and a vaguer idea of the latter half. But along the way, I want to be surprised. By characters. By sudden reversals I never planned. So I go into the process with a game plan that I hope inspiration and magic will dramatically alter.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Blake:  Lately, it’s a combination of two things. 1. My own life: the challenges and struggles I face seem to work their way into the psychology of my main characters (and sometimes villains). 2. A strong interest in emerging technologies and how they are changing our world, our species.



TQDescribe Dark Matter in 140 characters or less.

Blake:  If Christopher Nolan directed It’s a Wonderful Life.



TQTell us something about Dark Matter that is not found in the book description.

Blake:  At it’s heart, it’s a love story.



TQWhat inspired you to write Dark Matter? What appeals to you about writing Thrillers?

Blake:  I wrote it because I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and what that field of science suggests about the universe we live in. I love writing thrillers because I love reading thrillers. I write the kinds of books I would want to read.



TQDo Dark Matter and the Wayward Pine Trilogy (Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town) share anything thematically?

Blake:  Yes. They share man questioning his reality, and at times, his identity. They also share the idea that as we progress as a species and reach higher levels of scientific achievement, that threatens to not only change the world around us, but also what it means to be human.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Dark Matter?

Blake:  I read books, articles, abstracts for the last decade, just trying to wrap my brain around quantum mechanics. I still don’t fully understand it. To truly grasp the insanity of how sub-atomic particles behave requires advanced mathematics degrees, and I took as few of those courses as possible in college. When I finished Dark Matter I sent the book to a physicist named Clifford Johnson who teaches at USC. He was kind of enough to read the science-heavy passages and make sure I hadn’t gotten too far off track in my representation of certain theories.



TQ:   In Dark Matter who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Blake:  Jason was far and away the easiest because I feel like he and I are pulled in similar direction in terms of career vs. family. And being in my mid-thirties, I find myself looking more and more back toward the path not taken. Amanda was the hardest character for me, not to write, but to do justice to. She’s a fairly minor character in the book, but she is with Jason during his hardest moments. I didn’t want to short shrift her character, while at the same time, I didn’t want her journey to overshadow my main character’s.



TQWhich question about Dark Matter do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Blake:

Q: Was this the hardest book you ever wrote?

A: By a factor of about 10.



TQ:   Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Dark Matter.

Blake:  I really like this one, from early on in the book. We’re deep in the main character (Jason’s) head here and beginning to understand where he is in life:
“There’s an energy to these autumn nights that touches something primal inside of me. Something from long ago. From my childhood in western Iowa. I think of high school football games and the stadium lights blazing down on the players. I smell ripening apples, and the sour reek of beer from keg parties in the cornfields. I feel the wind in my face as I ride in the bed of an old pickup truck down a country road at night, dust swirling red in the taillights and the entire span of my life yawning out ahead of me.

It’s the beautiful thing about youth.

There’s a weightlessness that permeates everything because no damning choices have been made, no paths committed to, and the road forking out ahead is pure, unlimited potential.

I love my life, but I haven’t felt that lightness of being in ages. Autumn nights like this are as close as I get.”


TQWhat's next?

Blake:  That’s a great question. Remember what I said about how hard it is for me to fall in love with a new idea? I’m speed-dating a bunch of them right now.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Blake:  Thank YOU! Awesome questions.





Dark Matter
Broadway Books, May 2, 2017
Trade Paperback,368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 26, 2016

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” 

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.



Qwill's Thoughts

Jason Dessen's life is about to change dramatically. He's kidnapped. His life is wrenched away from him. And all he wants is not the fame and glory of the new world he wakes up in, he just wants his wife and son and the life they've made. Jason is not a typical hero. He starts out a happy man who understands what he has potentially given up to have the life he has with the woman he loves deeply and their son he loves as much. This love is palpable and deeply felt. He will do what he has to do to get home if he can while coming to a deeper understanding of what makes the world around him his world. I didn't always like Jason's attitude and some of things he did, but I understood and respected his decisions.

Dark Matter is tightly plotted and beautifully written. There are moments of deep introspection and of pulse-pounding action. There is science that stretches the boundaries of what we know and what is possible. Crouch raises questions about identity, the multiverse and who we are and wraps these questions in an extremely entertaining, often tense, moving SF thriller.

Dark Matter is, for me, essentially a story about a man's love for his wife and family and his journey to be with them. And it's about quantum mechanics and human entanglement. It's about perseverance in the face of nearly insurmountable odds and finding your way home. It's also mind-blowingly twisty and wonderful. Dark Matter will make you think, question and wonder.





About Blake

Photo by Jesse Giddings
Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015's #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @blakecrouch1

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett


City of Miracles
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Series:  The Divine Cities 3
Publisher:  Broadway Books, May 2, 2017
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
List Price:  US$16.00 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780553419733 (print); 9780553419740 (eBook)

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
Revenge. It’s something Sigrud je Harkvaldsson is very, very good at. Maybe the only thing.

So when he learns that his oldest friend and ally, former Prime Minister Shara Komayd, has been assassinated, he knows exactly what to do—and that no mortal force can stop him from meting out the suffering Shara’s killers deserve.

Yet as Sigrud pursues his quarry with his customary terrifying efficiency, he begins to fear that this battle is an unwinnable one. Because discovering the truth behind Shara’s death will require him to take up arms in a secret, decades-long war, face down an angry young god, and unravel the last mysteries of Bulikov, the city of miracles itself. And—perhaps most daunting of all—finally face the truth about his own cursed existence.



Qwill's Thoughts

City of Miracles is the 3rd novel in the Divine Cities Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett and focuses on Sigrud je Harkvaldsson (one of my favorite characters from the series). Like in the previous 2 novels in the series, City of Stairs and City of Blades, there is a mystery to be solved and Sigrud is the man to do it.

After the events in City of Blades, Sigrud is a wanted man and has been hiding away from civilization for 13 years. He has been waiting for Shara Komayd to reach out to him to tell him that his name has been cleared and he may return. The news of Shara’s death, his closest friend, working partner and mentor, shakes him badly and brings him out of hiding.

Sigrud travels to Ahanashtan to avenge Shara’s death. This is no simple assassination. Why it was done and who is behind it drives the entire story. Shara, ever the planner and spy, has left clues for Sigrud at various places. Sigrud using spycraft he hasn’t used for years finds touches of the Divine around the hotel where Shara was killed. If the Divine is somehow involved Sigrud realizes that this is not just about Shara’s death but there is more likely a larger threat to the world. He knows that he must find Shara’s daughter, Tatyana, and protect her.

Bennett excels at delving into the emotional landscape of his characters. Sigrud feels deeply that he lets down those he cares about and more than anything City of Miracles is Sigrud’s emotional journey. The depth of his despair about how he has conducted his life, his feelings of self-loathing for his failure to protect those he loves and the things he has done are gut-wrenchingly palpable. Sigurd’s psyche is an uncomfortable place to be at times, but Sigrud is a decent man and a fierce protector despite what he thinks about himself. There are revelations about Sigrud that are remarkable.

As in the prior novels there is plenty of action and the fantastical and Divine. We learn more and more about this world and, if a certain Divine entity is to be believed, what historically has gone before the events of the Divine Cities Trilogy and what is likely to occur in the future. There are some wonderfully philosophical moments in City of Miracles. There are again issues regarding the tension between the Continent and Saypur but only insofar as how it drives various character's actions.

Bennett deftly weaves together threads from the prior novels to show us a world that is changing and, more important, how his characters have changed over the course of the Trilogy. Bennett finishes the series by creating something new in his world. Sigrud’s journey is breathtakingly emotional, surprising, and ultimately satisfying.

The Divine Cities Trilogy is fabulous and City of Miracles is nothing short of brilliant.


Note:  I strongly recommend you read City of Stairs and City of Blades before reading City of Miracles.





Previously

City of Stairs
The Divine Cities 1
Broadway Books, September 9, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young SF writers.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.


See my review here.



City of Blades
The Divine Cities 2
Broadway Books, January 26, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages

Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett
A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.


See my Review here.

A Conversation with Screenwriter, Novelist, Time Traveler, and Uber-Geek Ernest Cline


The Qwillery is delighted to share A Conversation with Ernest Cline and an excerpt from Armada!



A Conversation with Screenwriter, Novelist, Time Traveler, and Uber-Geek Ernest Cline



A Conversation with Screenwriter, Novelist, Time Traveler,
and Uber-Geek Ernest Cline
Author of ARMADA: A Novel


Q) Let’s get right to the elephant in the room. The news is now out that your debut novel, Ready Player One, will be made into a film by Warner Brothers and legendary director Steven Spielberg (set to debut in theaters March of 2018)! What did you do when you got the news?

A) I pinched myself a few hundred times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming—then I re-watched all of his movies—including the Indiana Jones films, which helped inspire certain elements of RPO’s story, along with E.T. and Close Encounters, two Spielberg films that played a large role in inspiring Armada. His work has influenced me throughout my life and writing career, so it’s a dream come true to have the opportunity to collaborate with him on the film adaptation of a story that his work helped inspire.



Q) What do you think of the casting announcements that have been made already?

A) I think they’re fantastic! I’ve been a fan of Ben Mendelsohn’s acting since the ’80s, and his portrayal of John Daggett in The Dark Knight Rises is all the proof I need that he’s perfect for the role of Sorrento. Olivia Cooke is amazing on Bates Motel and in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. She’s going to make a great Art3mis! And after seeing Tye Sheridan in films like Mud and Joe, I think he’s one of the most talented young actors working today, and that he’ll do an incredible job playing Wade Watts.



Q) For decades, science-fiction writers have been predicting some of the most incredible futuristic concepts that have become reality, such as debit cards, video conferencing, ear buds, and even accurate details about men landing on the moon. In Ready Player One, the merging of virtual reality technology and social media that you write about is now a reality with the Oculus Rift virtual reality company being bought by Facebook . Are there any similar futuristic technologies in Armada that you think will become reality in the next few years?

A) Yes, but the future is happening so fast now it’s getting more and more difficult to stay ahead of it. Armada’s plotline involves two concepts—quantum data teleportation and 3-D drone printing—that were still science fiction when I started the book, and then became a proven reality before I finished it. I need to write faster.



Q) In the novel, Zack’s Armada pilot call sign is IronBeagle, an homage to the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron album. Did you have fun creating the other various call signs in the novel: RedJive, MaxJenius, Viper, Rostam, Whoadie, AtomicMom, Kushmaster5000?

A) Pilot call signs are always fun to create—like an avatar’s name in Ready Player One; it’s a nickname a person creates for themselves, so it invariably says something about their self-image and their character—like each of the call signs you listed above.



Q) Talk to us about Xavier’s Raid the Arcade mix playlist in the book. How did you choose the songs, which became an essential part of Zack’s Armada gaming ritual? Do you have any rituals of your own when it comes to playing videogames?

A) Many of those are songs from the mix tapes I used to make to listen to on my Walkman at the local arcade. Some of the songs are from movies that played a role inspiring Armada’s story, like the song “Iron Eagle” by King Kobra, from the film of the same name.



Q) In Armada, Zack and his father, Xavier Lightman, your novel’s two main heroes, are both big science-fiction fans. The book is filled with references to sci-fi films, such as The Last Starfighter, E.T., Aliens, the Star Wars franchise. Dare to share your all-time favorite sci-fi flick?

A) My all-time favorite sci-film would have to be Star Wars, aka Episode IV—A New Hope. The movie and its sequels created the entire mythology of my youth, and altered the course of my life and career.



Q) In Armada, Zack soon finds out that the EDA (Earth Defense Alliance), a top-secret global military coalition, is not just a fictional agency featured in the videogames he’s been playing. If the EDA were real (and we’re not saying they aren’t) and invited you to join their ranks, would you? Would Moon Base Alpha be your first station of choice, or would you prefer something closer to home?

A) Of course I would join up! If the EDA existed, I would have to pitch in and use my gamer skills to help save the world. But I would prefer to stay here in Austin and telecommute, so I could fight off the invasion from the comfort of my couch, without changing out of my pajamas.



Q) There is a romantic plotline woven throughout the novel, albeit one that is a bit nontraditional (boy meets girl as Earth is under attack from alien invaders, girl is a kick-ass gamer who helps save boy’s butt during attack, you get the gist). Did you feel it was essential to add this element, or did the relationship between Zack and Lex come about naturally as you were writing the novel?

A) It came about naturally as I was writing. I love stories with strong female characters, who kick just as much ass (if not more) than their male counterparts, so the stories I write usually tend to have a few of them. I also believe that every good adventure story also includes a little romance. And some rock and roll, too.



Q) If you could meet anyone from pop culture—actor, singer, game creator—dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A) Carl Sagan. Because he changed my life by opening my eyes to the nature of the world and the cosmos, and I’d love to be able to thank him in person.



Q) The first arcade game you ever played was Space Invaders. Is there a game that you’ve been playing recently that’s become a new obsession?

A) Finishing this book has been my only obsession for the past few years. But during my research, I did play a lot of space combat and flight simulation games, both old and new. The problem with playing videogames as “research” for a novel is that you never want to stop playing to go off and actually write it.



Q) Many people look back at the ’50s and ’60s as a watershed moment for science-fiction writing, but do you see the ’70s and ’80s as an even richer epoch for inspiration with the confluence of all the new videogames introduced and some of the best science-fiction TV and movies ever made (to my mind!)?

A) The ’70s and ’80s are a rich era for sci-fi inspiration (at least, for me) because that was the dawn of the computer, videogame, and Internet age—the one we still live in now. It was also a golden age for movies and television shows, which may be why every property from that time is being reimagined or rebooted right now.



Q) Armada is dedicated to your brother, Major Eric T. Cline. What is your relationship like and why did you choose to dedicate the book to him?

A) My brother and I are very close, and have been our whole lives. He’s always been a huge inspiration to me. He joined the Marine Corps as a lowly private, and over the past two decades he has worked his way up through the ranks to become a major while he traveled all over the world helping people and risking his life for his country and his comrades. Seeing all the sacrifices he and his family have had to make during his various deployments was part of the inspiration for Armada’s story and characters.



Q) There is a rumor you now own not one but two DeLoreans. How on Earth did that come about?

A) I bought a second DeLorean to give away as the grand prize in the Ready Player One Easter Egg Hunt. A few years later, the contest winner decided to sell the car to pay off some unexpected medical bills, so I decided to buy it back from him. Then I gave it to my brother, Eric, so now I’m back down to just one time machine, which is plenty.



Q) Is it true that George R. R. Martin once borrowed your DeLorean to help promote the opening of his new bar (complete with a Back to the Future screening)? There has to be one heck of a story here. Please explain!

A) George and I had met at a convention, where he had sat in my car. So when his theater decided to screen BTTF, he thought of me and asked to borrow my DeLorean. I said yes, of course!



Q) For your Ready Player One book tour you drove your time-traveling DeLorean across the country. Did you take it out again for Armada?

A) No, I think one Time Machine Book Tour is probably enough to last a lifetime. I discovered that it’s not really safe to drive a tricked-out DeLorean on the interstate highway system, because the people around you are often swerving/driving recklessly while they attempt to snap a photo of your car to post on Facebook. There are safer ways to travel.



Q) It’s been a few years since you were last out on a book tour. Were you surprised by the fan response at your events this time around? Did it feel very different from your initial experience with Ready Player One?

A) Yes, the huge turnout for each of my Armada signings really floored me. It’s incredibly flattering and humbling to see hundreds of people cram into a bookstore just to hear me speak, and then to see all of those same fans wait patiently in line—sometimes for an hour or more—to get their books signed. Taking the time to do that is one of the biggest compliments you can pay any artist. I’m incredibly grateful to have my work reach such a wide audience, and to have so many people respond to it with such enthusiasm.



Q) Are there any particular moments or fan interactions that stand out to you from the tour?

A) This was the first tour where I had fans show up at my signings sporting Ready Player One–themed tattoos. It really blew me away. When someone pulls up their sleeve and they have three keys or three gates tattooed on their arm, I’m always awed by that level of enthusiasm. And moved that something I created could mean that much to them.



Q) We have to ask: As a serious Star Wars nerd, what were your feelings about The Force Awakens? How about the choice to pass the baton to Rian Johnson for Episode VIII?

A) I enjoyed the hell out of that movie. I’d been waiting to see Han, Chewie, Luke, and Leia together again on the big screen since 1983, and living up to 30 years of geek anticipation is no small feat. I thought J. J. Abrams knocked it out of the park. And Rian Johnson is one of the smartest and most gifted writer-directors of my generation—the generation that grew up with Star Wars. He’s such an exciting choice. Kathleen Kennedy really knows what she’s doing.



Q) What’s your dream Star Wars spinoff movie? Any character or storyline you’re itching to see explored?

A) Yes! How about a whole movie covering the origin story of Saun Dann, the character portrayed by Art Carney in the Star Wars Holiday Special? He was a secret agent of the Rebel Alliance masquerading as a trader on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk after the Battle of Yavin. You know that dude must’ve seen action during the Clone Wars, too. I’d also pay good money to see a stand-alone Star Wars flick about Willrow Hood."





Armada
Broadway Books, April 12, 2016
Trade Paperback, 384 pages
Hardcover and eBook, July 14, 2016

A Conversation with Screenwriter, Novelist, Time Traveler, and Uber-Geek Ernest Cline
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.  

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.



Excerpt

I didn’t remember unzipping my backpack, or taking out the tire iron, but I must have, because now I had the cold steel rod clenched in my hand, and I was raising it to strike.

All three of my opponents stood frozen for a moment, their eyes wide. The Lennys threw up their hands and started backing away. Knotcher’s eyes flicked over to them, and I saw him registering that his simian pals had bowed out of the fight. He started moving backward too.

I looked at the curb a few feet behind him, had a nasty thought, and followed through on it by lunging at Knotcher with the tire iron. He lurched backward and—just as I’d hoped—caught a heel on the concrete rise and landed flat on his back.

And then I was standing over him, looking down at the tire iron clutched in my hands.

Off to my left, someone screamed. My head snapped around and I saw that an audience had gathered— a handful of students on their way in to first period. Among them one girl, too young and deer-in-the-headlights to be anything but a freshman, slapped a hand over her mouth and flinched backward as I looked her way. As if she was terrified that I—Zack the school psycho—would choose her as my next target.

I glanced back at the Lennys, who were now standing among the students who had gathered to watch the fight. All of the onlookers seemed to be wearing the same expression of horrified anticipation, as if they believed they might be seconds away from witnessing their first homicide.

A wave of cold shame washed over me as the intensity of my rage faded away. I looked down at the tire iron clutched in my hands and let it clatter to the pavement. I heard a chorus of nervous laughter behind me, along with more than one relieved sigh.

I stepped away from Knotcher. He slowly got to his feet. We stared at each other for a moment, and he looked as if he was about to say something when his gaze shot upward, focused on something in the sky behind me.

When I turned around, I saw a strange-looking aircraft approaching from the east, moving at an incredible speed. The closer it got, the more familiar it looked. My brain still refused to accept what my eyes were seeing—until a few seconds later, when the craft braked to a dead stop and hovered directly over us, close enough for me to make out the Earth Defense Alliance crest stenciled on the side of its armored hull.

“No way,” I heard someone whisper. A second later, I realized it was me.

It was an ATS-31 Aerospace Troop Shuttle, one of the ships used by the Earth Defense Alliance in both Armada and Terra Firma. And it was about to land in front of my high school.

I definitely wasn’t hallucinating this time: Dozens of other people were staring up at the shuttle in amazement, too. And I could hear the rumble of the shuttle’s fusion engines and feel the heat from their exhaust buffeting my face. It was really up there.

As the shuttle began to descend, everyone in my vicinity scattered like roaches, heading for the safety of the school.

I just stood there like a statue, unable to look away. The ship was identical to the troop shuttles I’d piloted while playing Armada, right down to the EDA crest and identification bar code stamped on the underside of its hull.

The Earth Defense Alliance can’t be real, Zack, I assured myself. And neither can that shuttle you think you’re looking at right now. You are hallucinating again, only it’s much worse this time. This time, you’re having a full-on psychotic break.


Reprinted from Armada Copyright © 2015 by Dark All Day, Inc. Published by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC.





About the Author

A Conversation with Screenwriter, Novelist, Time Traveler, and Uber-Geek Ernest Cline
Photo © Dan Winters
ERNEST CLINE is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His two novels, Armada and Ready Player One, were both New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and Ready Player One is currently being adapted into a film by Warner Brothers and director Steven Spielberg. Ernest lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic videogames. You can find him online at www.ernestcline.com, on Twitter @erniecline, and on Facebook.









Review: City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett and Video Interview


City of Blades
Author: Robert Jackson Bennett
Series:  The Divine Cities 2
Publisher:  Broadway Books, January 26, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 496 pages
List Price:  $15.00 (print); $9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780553419719 (print); 9780553419726 (eBook)

A triumphant return to the world of City of Stairs.

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world–or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn’t sure she’s still got what it takes to be the hero.


Qwill's Thoughts

City of Blades is the second novel in The Divine Cities series by Robert Jackson Bennett following City of Stairs, which was my favorite novel of 2014.

General Turyin Mulaghesh is forced out of retirement and sent to Voortyashtan. If you've read City of Stairs (and you really really should) you've already met Mulaghesh. Mulaghesh is tasked with finding out what happened to a Saypuri operative who is missing though Mulaghesh's cover story has more to do with pensions than missing persons. Once there Mulaghesh finds that everything is much worse than expected. She encounters her old commander, General Lalith Biswal who is in command of Voortyashtan, and Signe Harkvaldsson, a Dreyling who is overseeing the clearing of the harbor so it can be used again and is the daughter of Sigrud (who played a pivotal role in City of Stairs). A strange substance with potential useful properties has been discovered - thinadeskite - and Mulaghesh wonders about it and whether it is divine.

Mulaghesh is fabulous and difficult. In City of Blades Bennett shares much more of her story and what she has been through that makes her who she is now. She is complex. I really love that Mulaghesh is an older woman who has literal and figurative battle scars, has the skills needed to figure out is going on and will get the job done no matter the cost to herself.

I did not have quite the same degree of wonder as first time I was introduced to the divine, the Blink, and more, but City of Blades does not disappoint in the slightest. The wealth of worldbuilding continues and the mythology of the divine Voortya is fabulous and frightening. The mystery that Mulaghesh has to solve takes many unexpected twists and turns. There is so much going on for Mulaghesh to sort through, but Bennett brings all the pieces together beautifully.

As in book 1 issues are raised about cultural and religious suppression and more, but City of Blades deals with a different divine entity - a war and death goddess and the afterlife that she had promised her followers. This is utterly fascinating.

Bennett's has created characters who are unique yet deeply relatable. There is so much emotion in City of Blades, along with action, outstanding and thoughtful worldbuilding and a great story. City of Blades is superb.





I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert at New York Comic Con 2015:






Previously

City of Stairs
The Divine Cities 1
Broadway Books, September 9, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

An atmospheric and intrigue-filled novel of dead gods, buried histories, and a mysterious, protean city--from one of America's most acclaimed young SF writers.

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions—until its divine protectors were killed. Now Bulikov has become just another colonial outpost of the world's new geopolitical power, but the surreal landscape of the city itself—first shaped, now shattered, by the thousands of miracles its guardians once worked upon it—stands as a constant, haunting reminder of its former supremacy.

Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov's oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country's most accomplished spies, dispatched to catch a murderer. But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem—and that Bulikov's cruel reign may not yet be over.


Review here.

Interview with Rebecca Alexander


Please welcome Rebecca Alexander to The Qwillery. The Secrets of Blood and Bone was published on September 1st by Broadway Books and is the 2nd novel in the trilogy which started with The Secrets of Life and Death.



Interview with Rebecca Alexander




TQWelcome back to The Qwillery. Your new novel, The Secrets of Blood and Bone, was published on September 1st. Has your writing process changed (or not) from when you wrote The Secrets of Life and Death (2014) to now?

Rebecca:  I think I’m more confident with the fantasy now, not asking whether it’s too far-fetched. Real life, it turns out, is even more unlikely. How fantasy writing works for me is to weave it with as much truth as possible. What I’m writing about is psychopathy, a personality disorder that affects about one percent of us. Yes, I might be writing about fierce, dangerous people who might have preyed on humans in a wolfish way, both in the past and the present, but some people who climb to the top of the financial and power heaps, for example, can be like that.



TQIn a prior interview I asked you "what is the most challenging thing for you about writing?" You responded (in part) "Stopping and starting are tricky." Has that changed as you write more and more?

Rebecca:  Stopping and starting are still hard! I find I write in short bursts now, leaving time in between to think about plot. I walk by the sea and around the local river, talking and thinking about how I expect my character to react to a situation. In The Secrets of Blood and Bone, Jackdaw Hammond has taken teenaged Sadie away from southern Devon, where she might be recognised, and all the way up to the Lake District. There she tries to renovate a wrecked cottage, and having bought a similar house that was being reclaimed by a fierce, thorny garden, I spent time walking through bramble patches and wilderness trying to capture the pulsing life and greenness. Edward Kelley was in Venice, so I spent time reading and researching the history of Venice and finding new bits of plot. I accept now that there are writing days when the words flow and build up quickly, and reflection/research days when ideas are born.



TQWhat do you wish that you knew about book publishing when The Secrets of Life and Death came out that you know now?

Rebecca:  I’m still learning about publishing. Every writer wants people to buy their book and to like it. I feel under an obligation to my publishers because I’m grateful that they bought the books, so now I want to support them as much as I can. But, realistically, life as a writer and psychologist hasn’t taught me much about publishing other than to write the best book I can and trust the experts to do the publishing bit. My agent, Jane Willis of United Agents, is my guide and translator on occasion. It’s a friendly industry made up of many people who love books, that’s what has stayed with me.



TQTell us something about The Secrets of Blood and Bone that is not found in the book description.

Rebecca:  I found a new character in Count Franco Marinello, who finds Edward Kelley robbed and dishevelled on the doorstep of his palazzo in sixteenth century Venice. I think I fell in love a little with Marinello’s swashbuckling personality and even Kelley was drawn to him. But they are in danger from Elizabeth Báthory, free of the constraints of her castle. Kelley’s quest was to solve a puzzle about the Dannick family, a landed dynasty in the dark north of England where the Vikings once settled and Scottish marauding gangs frequently attacked. The present day Dannicks employed the woman who burned to death in Bee Cottage, the house Jack and Sadie are trying to restore…



TQWhich character in the The Secrets of Blood and Bone has surprised you the most? Who has been the hardest character to write and why?

Rebecca:  The character that has surprised me is a really hard question, they have all grown and changed. Felix has toughened up, as well as challenged his feelings for Jack. She has started to stretch her wings, in both relationship terms and magical skills. But Sadie, who is so frail and young, emerges as a power in herself. Her personality, her affinity with nature, her sheer cussedness have rounded her from a sick child into a determined young woman who will not be overcome easily.

Jack has been the hardest character to write. She is reclusive and she isn’t very self-aware. I found a way to understand her when I met a raven. Jack and I share a love of Corvids (members of the crow family) and I have raised and rescued a number of birds over the years. Handling a raven was really magical, so I had Jackdaw parallel some of my experiences, dealing with a rescued bird and trying to rehabilitate it. I think the bird calls to a wild, free part of Jack that she needs to express.



TQWhat appeals to you about writing Historical Fantasy and Urban Fantasy and combining the two in your novels?

Rebecca:  I love writing historical fantasy because it was a time when anything was possible, when magic, witchcraft and the devil were real to people. Dr John Dee and his contemporaries were doing research into the paranormal, studying the nature of the universe from a position of ‘anything could be true’ that we don’t have now. By contrast, urban fantasy can tackle contemporary issues like teenage behaviour, drug addiction, sexuality and exploitation in a fresh way. Sadie was a teenager that was going off the rails, Jack’s life has been curtailed by, essentially, a life threatening illness. Fantasy puts unique pressures on those situations. But I find the most helpful thing is that the science of sorcery in the sixteenth century gives justification for magic in our stark, scientific era. Behind that logic, human beings are filled with magical explanations for things like death, because we are brought up on a diet of fairy stories, myths, superstitions and spiritual beliefs, half understood and barely remembered. I think our taste for fantasy taps into that.



TQWhich question about The Secrets of Blood and Bone do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Rebecca:  I suppose: why did you write a garden as a character?

The answer is that I have had a few terrifying experiences with nature gone wild. Some years ago, I had to move house after my first husband died, leaving me with two small children and little money. The only house I could afford was embedded within a back yard that was solid trees, brambles and stinging nettles. The windows were plastered with leaves, so the house felt like it was underwater, and the old windows and door frames were being invaded by brambles. When we finally tamed it, we realised ivies and thorns had even forced their way into the brickwork. My daughter, then seven, solemnly announced that the garden was watching us through the cracked glass. Sadie makes the same observation. But their garden is connected to the much bigger wildernesses of the forests and hillsides of the Lake District, and drinks from the deep glacial lakes there. Like Jack’s house, ours was alive with lizards, frogs, birds and animals, which rustled and squeaked and occasionally emerged against the glass.



TQPlease give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Secrets of Blood and Bone.

Rebecca:

The pressure on my neck began to sting, to burn. ‘How might the blood of a sorcerer taste?’ (Kelley)

[Maisie] looked back at Jack, her voice shaking. ‘I have never seen anything more shocking in my life. My friend, killed and burning like a pile of rubbish. Killed.’ (Jack)

The bushes beside them gave way to an arc of wolves, placed so close to Jack she could bury her fingers in the coats of the lead animals. (Jack)

Maybe a dozen brambles as thick as Felix’s thumb had pierced the body, growing like spears through the abdomen, and threading between the ribs. (Felix)



TQWhat's next?

Rebecca:  I have finished book 3 (The Secrets of Time and Fate, out 2016 in the UK), taking the characters on, and completing the trilogy with the focus on exorcism. That was a great journey, and has led to new revelations. I am constantly wrong-footed when writing, with characters doing things I hadn’t expected, and Edward Kelley surprised me the most. I’m presently working on a contemporary psychological story with a ghostly edge, about twins separated by madness. That was also set in a book I have lived in (I’m starting to see a theme!) and since we are renovating an old fisherman’s cottage on the coast I’m wondering whether Jack and Felix might visit there too one day. I’m not quite ready to let them go.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Secrets of Blood and Bone
Secrets / Jackdaw Hammond 2
Broadway Books, September 1, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 Pages

Interview with Rebecca Alexander
In the stunning follow up to The Secrets of Life and Death, Rebecca Alexander has created a gripping supernatural thriller that bridges time, legend and the power of blood.

Following her showdown with Elizabeth Bathory, Jackdaw Hammond is running from her past, hiding from her future, and hoping to contain her newfound thirst for blood. Buying an overgrown home in the middle of nowhere seems like the perfect place to escape…at least until she finds herself in the sights of a murderous family with a terrible secret and a penchant for dark magic. Meanwhile, her old ally Felix Guichard has gone to New Orleans to conduct his own investigation into the nature of blood magic, but is soon sucked into the intrigues of the city’s occult underworld. But Jack will need Felix more than she knows, for the battle for her soul is set to begin.

Her only salvation may lie with the secrets of 16th century master occultist Edward Kelley, and a dangerous mission he undertook in Venice to confront the Inquisition, the darkest deeds of his own past, and the fearsome power of Elizabeth Bathory.




Previously

The Secrets of Life and Death
Secrets / Jackdaw Hammond 1
Broadway Books, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages

Interview with Rebecca Alexander
In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret--She's Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won't rest until they've taken the magic that keeps her alive....

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess' malady, is the magic that might be able to save her...

As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee's assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.





About Rebecca

Interview with Rebecca Alexander
Courtesy of the Author
Rebecca Alexander is the author of The Secrets of Life and Death. She has worked in psychology and education, and has an MA in creative writing. She lives with her husband on the coast of England.












Website  ~  Twitter @RebAlexander1



Interview with Rebecca Alexander, author of The Secrets of Life and Death - October 13, 2014


Please welcome Rebecca Alexander to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Secrets of Life and Death was published on October 7th by Broadway Books.



Interview with Rebecca Alexander, author of The Secrets of Life and Death - October 13, 2014




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Rebecca:  I can’t remember not writing but after my children came along I stopped writing fiction. I came back to it about seven years ago as the kids grew up, and found a whole new enthusiasm for fiction, both reading and writing.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Rebecca:  I’m a pantser! I so wish I was a plotter, it makes so much sense to plan a book out. I often feel like my characters are taking me out for an adventure. They surprise me all the time. I was recently writing about an archaeologist excavating a well and one of my characters fell in and died. I was so upset I cried. Edward Kelley basically told me his story, I wrote it down. I sometimes worry that I have an Elizabethan man talking inside my head…



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Rebecca:  Stopping and starting are tricky. I find it hard to stop when I’m on a roll, but if the story doesn’t come easily it’s hard to get back to it. I often get stuck right in the middle of a book and after a few frustrated days, I skip on to write the ending. That seems to help.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Rebecca:  I grew up with authors like Bram Stoker and Barbara Michaels, Dennis Wheatley and Edgar Allen Poe. I loved books with plenty of suspense, and a supernatural edge, even a bit of horror. The one book that drew me back into fantasy was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I wish I’d written that. I love contemporary fantasy too, especially Kelley Armstrong, but I also like female crime writers like Tess Gerritsen and Lisa Gardner, who write fantastic suspense.



TQ:  Describe The Secrets of Life and Death in 140 characters or less.

Rebecca:  Edward Kelley, sorcerer in Transylvania. Jackdaw Hammond, modern revenant – a soul held from heaven by sorcery. When their worlds collide...



TQ:  Tell us something about The Secrets of Life and Death that is not in the book description.

Rebecca:  Jack lives in a fifteenth century cottage, very like one I once stayed in. The cottage’s secret past provides a creepy place to imprison a dying child for magical reasons. The house I stayed in had a ‘priest hole’, a hideaway concealed space for Catholic priests to be hidden in during Tudor Protestant revivals. This one had been used for séances, and had a spooky atmosphere and was covered with scrawled messages. The cottage is in the Devon countryside and the centre of a centuries old rookery. I think the castle in Transylvania and the cottage in England help set the mood for the book.



TQ:  What inspired you to write The Secrets of Life and Death? The novel is a genre blender. How would you describe the novel's genres/sub-genres?

Rebecca:  I started out writing a psychological thriller. I worked as a psychologist and wanted to explore the strange beliefs of deluded, untreated people with psychosis. My character would kidnap a child in the complete belief she was saving her life with sixteenth century sorcery. As the book developed, I started to believe it too, making it fantasy. But rather than explain all the fascinating research into John Dee and Edward Kelley I had done, I found it very easy to write their adventures alongside the contemporary, so a historical strand crept in. Then Jack found herself being drawn to Felix, and an unexpected emotional entanglement crept in. That’s what I mean by not plotted, I never meant to draw in so many genre elements.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for The Secrets of Life and Death?

Rebecca:  I read everything of Dee’s and Kelley’s I could find, and dozens of books about Dee. He was a fascinating man who was born in the reign of Henry VIII and died in the reign of James I eighty-two years later, having seen some of the most turbulent years in English history. I also spoke to some modern occultists, fascinating people who still research (and use?) some of the magical ideas Dee talked about. Finding out that Dee and Kelley had met Istvan Báthory, king of Poland and Transylvania, and uncle of Elizabeth Báthory. She was a sadistic serial murderer and discovering the connection was a gift to a writer. Elizabeth would have been about 25, and not yet started on her murderous path, and still a sympathetic character.



TQ:  In The Secrets of Life and Death who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Rebecca:  Jackdaw Hammond was the hardest. She is secretive, and had a very limited experience of the ‘real world’ and men. Finding herself in a friendship that might be a relationship makes her awkward, which was hard to find at first. Edward Kelley was the easiest, despite all the research. He was a trickster, who even manipulated the genius Dee. He was charming and glib but had come up from very humble beginnings, with only his charm and wits to keep him safe. I found him good company and have enjoyed following him through the sequels.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Secrets of Life and Death.

Rebecca:

The dark little room was like a prison cell. Stone walls glistened with damp and a lantern glowed from a rusty hook. Tales of kidnap, rape and murder crept into her mind.



TQ:  What's next?

Rebecca:  The sequel comes out in the UK in October, and the final book in the trilogy is in its editing underwear at the moment. I’m also writing a separate series about a younger Edward Kelley and a modern day independent, female archaeologist, who uncovers some of Kelley’s past while solving the riddle of a body in a well (A Baby’s Bones).



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Secrets of Life and Death
Broadway Books, October 7, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 384 pages
(US Debut)

Interview with Rebecca Alexander, author of The Secrets of Life and Death - October 13, 2014
In modern day England, Professor Felix Guichard is called in to identify occult symbols found on the corpse of a young girl. His investigation brings him in contact with a mysterious woman, Jackdaw Hammond, who guards a monumental secret--She's Dead. Or she would be, were it not for magic which has artificially extended her life. But someone else knows her secret. Someone very old and very powerful, who won't rest until they've taken the magic that keeps her alive....

In Krakow in 1585, Dr John Dee, the Elizabethan Alchemist and Occultist, and his assistant Edward Kelley have been summoned by the King of Poland to save the life of his niece, the infamous Countess Elisabeth Bathory. But they soon realize that the only thing worse than the Countess' malady, is the magic that might be able to save her...

As Jackdaw and Felix race to uncover the truth about the person hunting her, it becomes clear that the answers they seek can only be found in the ancient diary of John Dee's assistant, Edward Kelley. Together they must solve a mystery centuries in the making, or die trying.





About Rebecca

Interview with Rebecca Alexander, author of The Secrets of Life and Death - October 13, 2014
Rebecca Alexander is an urban fantasy, historical and crime writer, and recovering psychologist. She has brought up seven children, the youngest five in a haunted house in Devon surrounded by rooks and jackdaws. The birds and the children find their way into her novels. Her first book, The Secrets of Life and Death, will be published October 2014 by Broadway Books. It weaves the historical adventures of Edward Kelley, associate of the necromancer and sorcerer John Dee, with the fight to save a teenager’s life in the present day.






Website  ~  Twitter @RebAlexander1



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