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Tuesday 19 March 2013

Review ~ Rae of Hope by WJ May

Rae of Hope

Series - The Chronicles of Kerrigan #1
Published - September 5, 2011


How hard do you have to shake the family tree to find the truth about the past? 

Fifteen year-old Rae Kerrigan never really knew her family's history. Her mother and father died when she was young and it is only when she accepts a scholarship to the prestigious Guilder Boarding School in England that a mysterious family secret is revealed. 

Will the sins of the father be the sins of the daughter? 

As Rae struggles with new friends, a new school and a star-struck forbidden love, she must also face the ultimate challenge: receive a tattoo on her sixteenth birthday with specific powers that may bind her to an unspeakable darkness. It's up to Rae to undo the dark evil in her family's past and have a ray of hope for her future.

Excerpt Chapter 1

“You can’t undo the past. The sins of the father are the sins of the son, or in this case, daughter.” 

Uncle Argyle’s ominous words had echoed in Rae’s head long after he dropped her off at the airport. “A proverb of truth” he had called it. Who spoke like that nowadays? Some good-bye. Tightening her ponytail and futilely trying to tuck her forever-escaping dark curls behind her ears, she looked at her watch, then out the bus window at the tree lined countryside. It seemed strange to see the sun. All she remembered was rain when she had lived in Britain nine years ago. 

Trying to get comfortable, Rae tucked her foot up on the seat, and rested her head against her knee as she looked out at the scenery flashing by. A sign outside the window showed the miles before the bus reached Guilder. It’d be another twenty-five minutes. She popped her ear buds in, blew the bangs away from her forehead and stared out the window across the rolling farm fields, trying to let the music from her iPod distract her. 

It didn’t work. Just when she felt the tension begin to ease from her shoulders and she started to get into the song, something caught her eye. Black smoke billowed just near the top of a lush green hill. Rae stared, her heart fluttering as an old memory began to take hold. She knew what that smoke meant. She’d seen it before, long ago. 

Someone’s house was burning. 

Crap, crap crap, no I don’t want to go there. Her heart started racing and her stomach turned over, making her feel nauseous. 

Dropping her knee, she gripped the seat in front of her, burying her face in her hands taking deep breathes, like the therapists taught her to do. She’d gone through years of therapy to treat what had been called “panic attacks”. It didn’t matter what other people called it. To her, it was simply hell; like being sucked back in time against her will, to a place she never wanted to revisit. So she breathed the way she’d been taught, slow breathe in, all the way, then slow breath out, all the time chanting it’s not real, it’s not real in her head. 

It helped calm her racing heart and made her feel more in control, but it didn’t erase the memory. Nothing on Earth could do that. Being back in England for the first time and seeing the strange smoke, Rae felt six years old all over again. 

She’d been in the living room coloring with new markers before bed when her mother told her to take them to the tree house her dad had built for her and play there until she called her in. That call never came. The blaze bounced horrific shadows around the inside of the tree house. The stinky black smoke slithered in and scared her little six year old self in ways the monsters under her bed never had. 

Rae shuddered and lurched upright, forcefully bringing herself back to the present. Could this school be any further into the sticks? 

Glancing around the now vacant bus, she wondered if the driver had purposely left her until last. She’d watched the last few people get off at a school about fifteen minutes ago, Roe-something or other. They all looked the same, all pretty girls with blonde hair, not one of them thin, pale, and tall like her. They hadn’t been friendly. Big surprise there… She was used to it. She tended to fly under the radar at best. So she handled them the way she always handled the ones who instantly didn’t like her for no reason she could come up with. Rae avoided making eye contact and tried to appear immersed in the Guilder Boarding School brochure. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to make friends. She’d just never really had any. Most kids her age either didn’t like her or didn’t notice her. 

It bugged her that Uncle Argyle had pushed so hard for her to go when Guilder sent the letter. He’d been the one to move them all from Scotland to New York when she’d come to live with them, taking her away from the horrible tragedy of her parents’ death, and now, he suddenly leapt at the chance for her to go back? It didn’t make any sense. It sort of sucked to leave her current high school. She lacked close friends, but she also lacked enemies, which was a plus in her book. The girls there seemed just as stuck up as the ones who’d gotten off the bus earlier, but they’d simply ignored her. Rae always told herself it didn’t matter anyway. Cliques were so pass√© in her opinion. 

Another weird thing that she couldn’t seem to find an answer to was why Guilder would choose her? How did they even know she existed? Her uncle boasted how big a deal it was for her to be selected, but he’d never once explained how they’d even come to know about her in the first place. She had the grades, the brain part always came easy for her, but she didn’t have any extra-curricular activities at all, nothing to make her stand out. So, how had this amazing school she’d never heard of before decide to take her on? It didn’t make any sense. She tried a few times before she left to corner her uncle and get him to explain part or all of it, but he’d always seemed to be busy. 

While this wasn’t exactly abnormal behavior for him, it still left her with a sense of foreboding, something that had clung to her ever since she got the letter. She couldn’t figure out why, but she had a strong sense that something big was coming. Whether it was good or bad, she didn’t know. 

A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention, pulling her mind out of the endless circle of questions in her head. She turned to look out the window, and was stunned to see the largest bird she’d ever seen in her life. Maybe an eagle? The thing flew parallel with the bus, right beside her. 

Pressing her face against the cool glass, her gaze focused intently on the curious sight. She jerked back when its large wings flapped, brushed the window, and then veered away. She watched its graceful flight as it soared and then swooped to settle onto the limb of a large tree just ahead. As the bus passed by, the bird seemed to lock eyes with Rae and she was mesmerized. Rae had always wondered what it would feel like to be a bird, to fly so free, go anywhere the wind took her. She continued to watch the bird until she couldn’t see it anymore, then slumped back into her seat as the bus sped onward down the long road. 

Guilder Boarding School. She gnawed at the cuticle on her thumbnail a little too hard and ripped the skin, drawing a wince from her. She couldn’t help it, she always did this when she was nervous. She’d be the only American girl. Well, not really American. She held a British passport but had moved to New York after her parents died in the fire, leaving her orphaned. So…not really American, not really British; a little of both, but belonging to neither. 

The bus cruised by an aged stone sign. Guilder Boarding School, Founded 1520. One of Britain’s Finest Educational Institutions. Rae read the sign and wondered how a school could be that old and not be featured in stories or online. She found nothing when she tried researching it. They drove under an old, leaded window arch that connected two round, red-brick towers. The stream of people coming and going from the doors at the bottom made her think it must be some kind of office. She craned her neck to get a better view. The buildings were old but were well kept and held an almost magical aura of their original Tudor era. She half expected to see men in tights and codpieces strutting down the road, leading their horses, with corseted ladies perched delicately atop them. The mental picture amused her and she absent-mindedly smiled. Her eyes were drawn to the ornate, brick chimneys along the buildings’ roofs. She glimpsed the other buildings beyond. This place looks huge…hope I don’t get lost. 

The driver pulled to a halt in front of a building with an embossed plaque that said “Aumbry House”. The ancient building had ivy growing all over it. It looked like it was probably older than Henry VIII, leaving Rae with horrifying visions of chamber pots dancing in her head. It better have indoor plumbing… 

The bus door slid open with a hiss. Rae gathered her two small suitcases and her book bag, clambered down the aisle and finally, blessedly, off the bus. “Welcome to Guilder, Ms. Kerrigan.” Rae awkwardly spun around to face the voice, finding that a tall, thin woman stood on the concrete steps of the building, her eyes darting left and right, pausing on Rae for barely more than a few seconds. 

Rae stared, wondering where the lady had come from. She wasn’t there a moment ago. Rae looked at the woman’s long, wool skirt. This might be England, but today is sweltering. How is she not melting in this heat? 

“I am Madame Elpis, your house mistress.” The lady darted down the large concrete steps, pausing on the last step and, in one fluid motion, tucked her clip board under an armpit and extended her hand. 

The woman’s features reminded Rae of a bird – her jet-black hair, dark eyes, and especially the jutting nose. Rae nodded and dropped a suitcase so she could return the handshake, her fingers crushed by the woman’s claw-like grip. Ow, ow, ow! So you’re freakishly strong, got it. 

“Come along. No time for dilly-dallying.” She turned and marched up the steps, not checking to see if Rae followed or needed any help with her bags. 

Huffing out a breath, Rae grabbed her things and clambered to follow, hearing the bus driver chuckle as he closed the door behind her. I’m spending the next two years here? What joy. What freakin’ bliss. 

Hammering and drilling noises from above greeted Rae as she came through the entrance. The clamor echoed throughout the building. 

“Fifteen and sixteen-year-olds are on the second floor,” Madame Elpis shouted above the noise. “Your room is the last door on the left.” She checked the chart she’d been holding under her arm. “Molly Skye is your roommate. I assume you can find the way.” The last part was more statement than question. 

“Thank you,” Rae replied uncertainly, not knowing what else to say. 

Madame Elpis pointed to a door on her left. “The study hall’s through there. The glass doors lead to the game room. The door to your right is to my living quarters. You are not permitted there.” She led Rae to the winding staircase made of black and white marble. “Juniors are on the second floor, seniors on the third and fourth.” She glanced at an old pocket watch hanging on a chain around her neck and, if possible, straightened even more. “Dinner is at five o’clock, sharp.” She turned, her skirt swirling as she darted into her room, and with a kick of her boot, slammed the door. 

Rae exhaled the breath she hadn’t realize she’d been holding. The banging of hammers and screeching whine of electric saws reverberated through the hallway. She was so nervous, the hammering could have been coming from her heart and she wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. 

Rae took her time up the marble stairs and, once on the landing, headed left to the end of the hall. Biting the inside of her cheek, she gave a light knock at the slightly open door and peered in. Empty. Rae cautiously pushed the door open and surveyed her new room. 

Thick, lush brown carpet covered the floor. Two beds, with matching duvets and tan suede pillows, rested against the opposing walls. One of which already sat full of half-empty suitcases. Modern closets with ample space matched perfectly with the antique desks built into the wall by each oriel window. Rae inhaled deeply, taking in a mingled sense of fresh paint and the unique scent of antiques. 

Finally! It’d been one helluva long day of traveling. Much of the tension ebbed from her shoulders and she cracked a smile for the first time in hours. 

Rae dropped her suitcases on the uncluttered side of the room. Her roommate, Molly, must have stepped out halfway through unpacking. Her closet doors were spread open, with hangers already full of clothes and more shoes than Rae had owned in her entire life. She’d never been big on dressing up, but she still knew designer labels when she saw them and she saw an awful lot of them in that closet. 

Hopefully, her roommate didn’t end up being superficial. Rae stood there wondering how she’d deal with it if she had to room with Guilder’s Next Super Model. Visions of her roommate stomping up and down the room in heels practicing her “walk” distracted her. She didn’t hear the footsteps walking down the hall to the door. 

“What are you doing in me room?” Rae jumped and dropped her purse. A fashionably dressed girl stood in the doorway. She had dark, mahogany red hair, the kind women paid insane amounts of money to try to copy. Oh great…well, here we go. 

“Molly?” Rae swallowed. “I’m your new roommate.” 

Molly stared Rae up and down. “You’re Rae Kerrigan? I pictured someone totally different. You’re not scary at all!” She laughed as if at some private joke. Scary? Me? What is she talking about? 

“Name’s Molly Skye. I’m from Cardiff, in Wales.” She shoved one of her suitcases onto the floor and dropped into the small, open space on the bed. 

Rae watched, confused. Why would anyone think of her as scary? Because she lived in New York? She had a terrible premonition of being the odd one out, and school hadn’t even started yet. 

“You’re not sixteen, eh? No ta’too?” Molly pointedly dropped her gaze down to Rae’s waist, as if she expected Rae to show her something. 

Tattoo? Rae squinted, trying to listen closer to Molly’s accent. The way she spoke, some of the words were hard to make out. Why would she ask if I have a tattoo? 

“My birthday’s in three days. It’s going to be so awesome!” Molly leaned back on her elbows. “When’s yers?” 

“My birthday? Uh…not ‘til November.” Straight into the personal info. Okay, I think I know what my roommate is going to be like. 

“November? You do have a long wait.” Molly grimaced and shook her head. “Poor you. You’ll be the last one inked for sure.” She jumped off the bed. Rae noted the strange comment, but Molly’s motor-mouth went speeding on, so she filed it away for examination at a later time.

“What’d you think of our room? Pretty cool, eh? Aside from the construction on the floors above us.” She shot the ceiling an annoyed look. “I just talked to one of the workers. He said they finish at four. They start again at like eight in the morning! Can you believe that? Who gets up at that time, anyway?” 

Wow. Molly can talk without pausing for breath. Rae nodded and tried to keep up. She watched Molly roll from the balls of her feet to her heels, back and forth continually. It was a typically nervous gesture that Rae attributed to meeting new people. Everybody has their issues, but it’s still surprising, considering how fast she’s talking. 

“Can you believe we got invited to Guilder? We’re two of sixteen females within a landmass of rich, supposedly unattainable, handsome boys.” When Rae didn’t respond, Molly squinted at her. “You do know why you’re here, right?” 

Rae shrugged. Jet lag seemed to be eating her brain cells. “To be honest, I don’t really know what you mean. I haven’t been in England since I was six and I know nothing about Guilder.” Despite numerous Google searches at home and having my nose buried in the brochure for an hour on the ride here. 

“You’re not slow or something, are you?” Rae shook her head slowly wondering if her talkative new roomie had just insulted her. Molly stared, scratching her head. “You really don’t know, do you?” She looked up and to the left, obviously recalling something important. She straightened, as if quoting some bit of brochure from memory. “Guilder’s a highly sought after educational institution, but it is primarily a school for the gifted. People who get to go to Guilder know why. The rest of the world has no idea!” 

Rae curled her fingers tight, her nails digging into her palms. She felt stupid and also irritated at herself for feeling stupid. It wasn’t something she wanted to deal with, especially after such a long day of travel. “What makes us…gifted?” 

Molly’s eyes grew huge. She paced the room. “Oh, my... Me da’s never going to believe this. You seriously don’t know ANYTHING?!” 

Rae felt her blood pressure rising. She knew she was tired, confused, and nervous. None of that it was helping her temper, but she was determined not to lose it on what amounted to a total stranger. She pressed her lips tight to stop any snappish comment that might escape. Can’t the ditz just answer a simple question with a straight answer? 

Molly swung around in front of Rae, dramatically squared her shoulders, and put on a serious face. “When we turn sixteen, we receive our ink blot.” 


“A ta’too.” She leaned forward and whispered, “It gives us special powers.” 

Pause…say what? “P-Powers?” Rae tried not to laugh. Had her uncle sent her to an institution for the insane? “You’re kidding, right?” Uncle Argyle had told her the experience would change her life, but hadn’t said how. Rae figured he meant she’d do some growing up – like a maturity thing. And, of course, there was that silly proverb. But perhaps he’d mistakenly sent her off to a giant rubber room. 

Molly waved a hand. “I’m serious. The gift is passed down from generation to generation.” She blew out an exaggerated breath. “Any guy around here who’s sixteen has a ta’too on the inside of his forearm.” She dragged Rae toward the window and pointed to the building across from them. “That’s the boys’ dorm. Let’s go outside and walk around. I’ll get one of them to show you what I mean.” 

Her eyes dropped down to Rae’s clothes, her lips pursed tight together. “Do you fancy a quick change before we go?” 

Rae laughed, despite her roommate’s serious expression. Molly definitely was crazy, but she had a point. She’d dressed comfortably for travel, and even though she wasn’t big on fashion, even she drew the line at meeting her new classmates looking like a worked-over hag. She could use some freshening-up. “Yeah, give me a moment.” 

“I’m off downstairs to try and find some cute boys. Meet me outside when you’re ready.” Molly left, still chattering nonstop with no one in the hall to listen. 

Rae opened the closest suitcase and grabbed the first pair of jeans and top within reach. She hesitated and dug a little deeper into her suitcase. The jeans were fine, they were new, but a white t-shirt seemed too plain. She found a pink Converse tank top with ONE STAR written in sparkles. She pulled out her hair tie, wishing her unruly black curls were straight like Molly’s perfect hair. She never bothered with makeup because she had crazy-long eyelashes that mascara seemed to only want to clomp up against, and almost everything else just made her look kinda like a sloppy hooker. Keep it simple, that’s what her aunt had always told her. She settled for lip gloss, and deodorant, and then grabbed a pair of sandals before tossing her purse under her pillow. Now, time to find out what Molly’s been babbling on about, or at least, maybe meet some cute guys. She might be invisible most of the time, but eye candy was eye-candy, no matter which side of the Atlantic it was seen on. 

Once outside, she shaded her eyes against the bright sunlight with her hand and searched for her new roommate. 

Molly stood further down the sidewalk, talking to a very hot guy with chestnut brown hair, dark eyes and a dimple on his right cheek. It disappeared when he stopped smiling and began talking again, making Rae a little sad. She wanted to see that dimple again. Rae bounded down the steps, and then slowed down, trying not to appear too excited. She flinched and covered her head when a loud crashing noise sounded from above, and a large piece of debris flew down from the fourth floor and landed in the blue bin beside her. Face burning, she pretended it hadn’t bothered her and continued walking. Molly and the boy turned to stare in her direction. 

Rae heard someone holler from above, but couldn’t make out what the guy said. Embarrassed by her reaction a moment before, she ignored the shout and kept walking. Molly’s eyes grew big, her hands flew to her cheeks and her mouth dropped open. She screamed. Rae stared as Molly frantically pointed above her head. Rae tipped her head up. She froze in horror when she saw a huge, severed piece of wood paneling balanced like a seesaw on the window ledge several floors above. 

The wood scraped against the windowsill, and teetered as if undecided which way it should fall. Oh crap! A gust of hot, dry wind blew by, knocking the severed beam into final decent. It spun as it fell and all sound was just gone. 

Fight or flight. Rae dropped her gaze, her eyes darted about. The guy beside Molly moved toward her frozen frame. Everything moved in slow motion except for the guy running like a freight train. He was greased lightning, moving faster than anything Rae had ever seen. It didn’t seem possible for a person to move so fast. And why am I focused on him when I’m about to be squashed like a bug?

Dark Nebula

Series - Chronicles of Kerrigan #2
Published - December 15, 2012


Nothing is as it seems anymore. 

Leery from the horrifying incident at the end of her first year at Guilder Boarding School, Rae Kerrigan is determined to learn more about her new tattoo. Her expectations are high, an easy senior year and a happy reunion with Devon, the boy she’s not supposed to date. All hopes of happiness turn into shattered dreams the moment she steps back on campus. 

Lies and secrets are everywhere, and a betrayal cuts Rae deeply. Among her conflicts and enemies, it appears as if her father is reaching out from beyond the grave to ruin her life. With no one to trust, Rae doesn’t know where or who to turn to for help. 

Has her destiny been written? Or will she become the one thing she hates the most—her father’s prodigy.

Paperback Princess Review 

The sins of the Father, is the sins of the Sons...or in this case, the daughter

Rae Kerrigan was made an orphan at the age of six when both her parents died in a house fire. Adopted by her Uncle and Aunty who moved her half way across the world from England to New York City. Now at 15, Rae is on her way back to England after her Uncle persuaded her to take up an offer from Guilder, a prestigious boarding school, one that she did not apply for.

Rae of Hope is the first in the Chronicles of Kerrigan series by Wanita May. It's a fast-paced and easy read and it reminded me somewhat of the Harry Potter series for several reasons; she gets an acceptance into a school she did not apply for, a boarding school in England and when she arrives she finds out that everyone is "special" with powers. However, that's where the similarity ends. The Author swoops in and creates a unique Paranormal story that was quite an unexpected enjoyable read.

Guilder is a prestigious school that belongs to special children, initially for males only, the school made an exception to allow girls in the year that Rae Kerrigan was due to turn 16. At 16 all students in Guilder get a tattoo "tatu". This power is hereditary and all the students have at least one parent that also holds the power and have the tatu. Rae is different because BOTH her parents had powers, a tatu couple is frowned upon by their society.

Rae believes she's going to be the unobtrusive student that no one notices, as she was in her previous school. However, when she arrives at Guilder, she soon realises very quickly that this wouldn't be the case. It seems that in their hidden society she's somewhat of a celebrity because of her parents. Not knowing much about her parents Rae soon unravels the disturbing story behind her Parents death and the history of her Parents that she was not told about.

Rae of Hope is a fantastic debut novel by Wanita May. I enjoyed the unique concept that at 16, children of those that have tatu powers also receive powers. I did however, wish that May provided more information as to how the children get the tatu and the powers. Generally more background info than it's hereditary magical powers.

One part that I felt May really excelled at is the depiction of Guilder. She really makes you feel like your there and I really enjoyed the old-school (literally) and I really wanted to go to Guilder! I also enjoyed the characters, WJ May did a fantastic job depicting the characters. However, there was a twist in the story and I honestly did not see that coming. I'm really looking forward to reading Dark Nebula. Please do follow the remaining stops of this tour so you can check out the other reviews! This is a series tour so you'll find reviews of Dark Nebula too.

About The Author

WJ May 

Wanita May grew up in the fruit belt of Ontario - St.Catharines. Crazy-happy childhood, she always has had a vivid imagination and loads of energy. 

The youngest of six -- four older brothers, and a sister -- taught her at a young age to be competitive in all aspects of life. 

At sixteen, she began competing in athletics (track and field) and before she turned seventeen, she was representing Canada in high jump. She continued to compete, breaking Canada's JR High Jump record (1.92m - 6' 3 1/2" for those metric-ly challenged). She attented University of Toronto, and Kansas State University - winning CIAU's and becoming All-American 6x - NCAA Indoors Runner Up + more. 

But you're not interested in her athletic career - unless of course you're curious to know she stands 1.70m (5'7") and has jumped 20cm over her head on more than one occassion. She's represented Canada at the World Championships, World Jrs., won Francophone Games, and loved every minute of every competition. From the grueling workouts, the crazy weights she lifted on her back, the days she thought her lungs were going to spit out of her mouth for lack of oxygen, the travelling around the world and the opportunity to read - her favourite past time. 

Wanita and her husband now run an online business, dealing in antiques and collectables - particularly jewelry and porcelain. 

After her father passed away in 2009, from a six-year battle with cancer (which she still believes he won the fight against), she began to write again. A passion she'd loved for years, but realized life was too short to keep putting it off. 

She is currently represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Wanita is a writer of Young Adult, Fantasy Fiction and where ever else her little muses take her.


WJMay said...

thanks for the fantastic review! SO happy you enjoyed the book and love the ideas for adding into the third and fourth book!
(as in more info on the tatu process!)
WJ May

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer said...

Wonderful review, and I have always been attracted to book with a boarding school setting. I like the similarities to Potter and think I would enjoy this!


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