Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris

Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin LyrisThe Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris
Published by Baen on March 1, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 656
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
The debut of a stunning new talent. A poor, young woman rises to the heights of a crumbling empire, where she must speak hard truth to power in order to save a world from chaos.

Everybody Wants Answers. No One Wants the Truth.

The Arunkel empire has stood a thousand years, forged by wealth and conquest, but now rebellion is stirring on the borders and treachery brews in the palace halls. Elsewhere, in a remote mountain village, a young mother sells the prophesies of her sister, Amarta, in order to keep them and her infant child from starving. It's a dangerous game when such revelations draw suspicion and mistrust as often as they earn coin.

Yet Amarta's visions are true. And often not at all what the seeker wishes to hear.

Now in a tapestry of loyalty, intrigue, magic, and gold, Amarta has become the key to a ruler's ambitions. But is she nothing beyond a tool? As Amarta comes into her own as a seer, she realizes she must do more than predict the future. She must create it.

Book Review:

THE SEER is a complete, well developed, dark, realistic, and intriguing fantasy. While I would like another book (I’m greedy!), it was refreshing to get such a story in one volume, rather than having to wait and wait for sequels.

Amarta’s visions provide just enough coin to keep herself, her older sister, and her sister’s son alive. When Innel wakes her in the middle of a night to see his future, Amarta gets an inkling of what she’s capable of, for she helps Innel kill his brother. Innel eventually marries the heir to the realm and becomes one of the most powerful men in Arunkel, all because of Amarta’s vision. And then Amarta’s visions keep her and her family alive, when Innel sends men to hunt her down.

Because of the summary, I expected THE SEER to be all about Amarta, but a big portion of the book focuses on Innel. Once I got into his sections, I didn’t mind that at all, because I really enjoyed the world the author created. Innel is a survivor of the Cohort, where noble children are whittled down to a few survivors, one of whom will marry the king’s daughter. Words, actions, and even appearances matter in Arunkel, and I enjoyed seeing Innel navigate the tricky nobles and the power-hungry king while also keeping his new wife happy. I often complain about the lack of worldbuilding in fantasy novels, but THE SEER had plenty to keep me happy. Yay!

Amarta’s visions were quite interesting. She could use them to save her life, but often only in the moment, as the future is ever changing. When she used her visions for another, I thought the author did a good job of showing how confusing it would be to sort out the tangles and intricacies of an entire kingdom. It reminded me of “if a butterfly flaps its wings…” Her visions, and the way people listened (or didn’t) made me think.

I also want to give a shout out to the author’s version of mages. They were spookily cool. I liked the hints we got of Marisel’s training, as well as seeing her try to do her little bit to help humanity when other mages would only work for the wealthy.

I do feel that the book was a tad long. I could have done with less of Amarta running away from Innel’s hunter. But that was because I wanted to see more of the Amarta we get at the end of THE SEER, which is why I said I’d like another book in this world. The one chapter from Cern’s perspective also made me want to see more from her. For all of the buildup, I feel like the ending came too quickly. But the ending satisfied me, which is another thing I don’t usually say.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE SEER. I finished the book a few days ago, but I’ve found myself thinking about Amarta and Innel and Arunkel, which is rare for me, since I read so many books. THE SEER immersed me in its world and characters and story, and this is a book I’ll enjoy rereading in the future.

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Sonia Orin Lyris:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Tumbling by Caela Carter

waiting on wednesday

tumbling by caela carterTumbling by Caela Carter
Release Date: June 7, 2016

Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life… and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhemina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

I’ve seen TUMBLING on a few blogs now; it’s thanks to Waiting On Wednesday that I heard of it in the first place, and yay for that! I have a thing for gymnastics books, one that doesn’t get indulged often because there aren’t that many. TUMBLING is coming out at the perfect time. It sounds like there’s plenty of great characters… I can’t wait!

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

Book Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie EshbaughIvory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
Series: Ivory and Bone #1
Published by HarperTeen on June 7, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

Book Review:

IVORY AND BONE originally caught my eye because, historical fiction set way, way, way in the past? With mammoths and saber cats and the Ice Age? Gimme. I’m always on the lookout for historical fiction set in different eras than the popular ones.

Author Julie Eshbaugh did a good job of making me feel like I had gone way, way, back in time. She described the camps, clothing, food, kayaks, setting, etc. The prehistoric setting of IVORY AND BONE was probably my favorite part of the book.

The biggest problem I had with IVORY AND BONE is the way it’s written. The author took a risk by having Kol narrate to Mya. On one hand, it makes sense, since there was such a big tradition of storytelling back then. But at the same time, Kol’s telling distanced me from the story and from the characters while slowing the pacing to a crawl.

I was bored for the majority of IVORY AND BONE, because I just didn’t care about anyone or what was happening. Halfway through the book, I was still waiting for something big to happen, something to keep my attention. I only kept reading because the author didn’t stick to traditional gender roles — a leader of one clan is a woman, other women hunt with the men, and so on. Historically improbable I’m sure, but I liked it.

Overall, I liked the idea of IVORY AND BONE, but the risk of Kol narrating the story to Mya (you speak, you disappear, you are rude) just didn’t work for me. The writing style kept me too distanced from everything, and I thought Kol sounded like a whiny girl for a lot of the book, making lover boy eyes at Mya. Maybe some of that is the Pride and Prejudice allusions, but I’m not a fan of that classic, so I can’t say for sure. IVORY AND BONE is the first in a trilogy, but I can’t imagine where the series will go from here.

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Julie Eshbaugh:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen OakesQueen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 3, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinahs furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Book Review:

QUEEN OF HEARTS is … well, a fantastical journey into Wonderland. It’s whimsical, dark, and more than a little crazy. But what else would you expect from the future Queen of Hearts?

Dinah is stubborn, feisty, and prone to fits of anger. She knows she’ll be queen of Wonderland one day, and she can’t wait for that day, to kick her father off the throne. Beheadings? She can watch them without batting an eye. But if someone’s cruel to her brother, Charles the Mad Hatter, she’ll get them back.

Some of Dinah’s attitude can be attributed to her difficult relationship with her father. Dysfunctional doesn’t begin to describe it. The King of Hearts hates his daughter — his heir. So when he introduces an illegitimate daughter to the court, and tells Dinah to accept Vittiore as her new sister, it’s just one more way of showing his dislike for Dinah.

Whatever. When Dinah’s Queen, she’ll put Vittiore and her father in their places. But will she be Queen?

QUEEN OF HEARTS is a delightfully quirky book. At first the amount of detail on Wonderland is almost overwhelming, but you get used to it quickly. And as a reader who loves to dive into new worlds, I really appreciated all the touches, little and big, that the author put into Wonderland. The snow is pink. Tarts are a favored delicacy. The palace is an architectural wonder, surrounded by an iron wall made of hearts. There’s so much creativity in this book. I will say that if you’re having trouble getting into the book, give it about 30 or 40 pages, and then it really gets going. I do wish a bit more had happened in the book though, as it’s mostly an introduction to Wonderland and Dinah.

Dinah grows quite a bit during the book; by the end, she’s not the same spoiled princess she was in the beginning. I think I liked Dinah so much was because her reactions were real to me. When presented with a new sister and told to love her, Dinah’s like, “I hate her. I’m never talking to her,” and she doesn’t. And though she’s a princess, she’s still nervous (but also kind of confident) when interacting with her crush.

Aside from Dinah, there are lots of other interesting characters, including the Mad Hatter, Cheshire, and even the King of Hearts himself. They’re sympathetic and creepy by turn. The ending sped by, and I really want to get my hands on volume two, so I can find out what happens to Dinah and another of my favorite characters, Morte the Hornhoov. I also can’t wait to see Dinah say, “Off with their heads!” and mean it.

I’m not super familiar with ALICE IN WONDERLAND, so I probably missed a couple of connections, but there’s plenty here that even the casual reader will recognize from Lewis Carroll’s classic. I love books that are about villains, and I can’t wait to see what else will happen to Dinah to turn her into the Queen of Hearts. Alice isn’t in this book, but I’d rather have Dinah. The villains are always so much more interesting!

Note: I read the original version of QUEEN OF HEARTS published by SparkPress in 2014. I compared the HarperTeen version to that one, and aside from some editing, I didn’t see any changes. I do like the new cover, so thumbs up, HarperTeen!

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Colleen Oakes:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani ChokshiThe Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . .including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Book Review:

THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN is a beautifully written book. The author has a lush, dreamy, descriptive writing style that goes hand-in-hand with her story. The whole time I was reading, I was swept into the different places Maya visits: Bharata, the Night Bazaar, and Akaran.

The book is a bit Beauty and the Beast, a bit Hades and Persephone, with Indian mythology. Maya grows up under the shadow of a deadly horoscope, which forecasts that she’ll bring death wherever she goes. When her father uses her marriage ceremony as a way to try to stop endless war, Maya doesn’t expect that he’ll tell her to kill herself. At the last second, she’s rescued by Amar, Raja of Akaran. Akaran is an empty land, but the palace is full of wonders and secrets.

While reading the book, I was caught up in it. In Maya’s time in Akaran and then her journey afterwards, her struggle to learn the truth about herself. But after I finished THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN, I was left feeling a bit… empty. I feel like the author focused too much on making every sentence beautiful and descriptive at the cost of describing the various Indian mythological creatures, developing Maya and Amar’s romance, and just telling me more of the story, instead of showing everything.

I needed more from THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. I needed the author to tell me more about the various creatures Maya sees and interacts with. Kamala the pishacha, aka demon horse who wants to eat everyone? Kamala was awesome. One of the best parts of the book, hands down. I understand not every creature can be given that same development, but I would have liked to know a little more about various creatures that were mentioned. What’s a pey? What’s a raksha? And so on. There might be a glossary in the finished copy of the book; I read an early review copy. But still, I wanted more detail in the text. Most readers likely won’t be familiar with Indian mythology, and who wants to be pulled out of a story to Google something? And so on, with other elements.

Overall, THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN showed promise, and it was good while I was reading. But when I finished, I was left wanting more substance and explanation.

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Roshani Chokshi:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias

Book Review: The Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole PlakiasThe Farm on the Roof by Anastasia Cole Plakias
Published by Avery on April 5, 2016
Genres: Business
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
The founders of Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest green rooftop farm, share their inspirational story of changing the world through entrepreneurship.

In their effort to build the world’s first and largest commercial green rooftop farm, the founders of Brooklyn Grange learned a lot about building and sustaining a business while never losing sight of their mission—to serve their community by providing delicious organic food and changing the way people think about what they eat. But their story is about more than just farming. It serves as an inspirational and instructional guide for anyone looking to start a business that is successful while making a positive impact.

In The Farm on the Roof, the team behind Brooklyn Grange tell the complete story of how their “farmily” made their dream a reality. Along the way, they share valuable lessons about finding the right partners, seeking funding, expanding, and identifying potential sources of revenue without compromising your core values—lessons any socially conscious entrepreneur can apply toward his or her own venture. Filled with colorful anecdotes about the ups and downs of farming in the middle of New York City, this story is not just about rooftop farming; it’s about utilizing whatever resources you have to turn your backyard idea into a sky-high success.

Book Review:

THE FARM ON THE ROOF caught my eye because I’m considering growing vegetable crops. However, I live on a farm in the country, and I couldn’t imagine running a farm on a roof in New York City. But I thought the idea of a rooftop farm was genius, because there are so many advantages to using such an underutilized space.

THE FARM ON THE ROOF is the story of Brooklyn Grange, a business that focuses on the triple-bottom-line: people, planet, and profit. The farm started as a way to prove that yes, urban farming can be fiscally and agriculturally sustainable. They started operations in 2010 and are still going strong five years later, having learned a multitude of lessons and how to, in their terms, “monster it.”

I thought the book was quite interesting. Much of it deals with setting up and launching the business, finding opportunities for growth, and developing alternate revenue streams. Although the subject is, of course, the rooftop farms, it’s easy to apply those lessons to other businesses. Entrepreneurs with super crazy ideas might find some tips too, because who would have thought of fundraising for an urban farm?

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. It’s very readable, entertaining and informative. You know how business books can be dry or boring? That wasn’t the case here. Anastasia Cole Plakias is one of the founding partners of Brooklyn Grange, and it was easy to see her passion and pride in every page. I liked that she wasn’t afraid to admit to her own faults in the business world, and how she relied on her partners to help out there, just as she helped them.

Reading THE FARM ON THE ROOF left me feeling hopeful. It was so great to see a business that wants to help its community prosper. It was also great to see a “crazy” idea really take off, to show that yes, you can follow your dreams, succeed, and leave the world a better place all at once.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow

Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke ModerowFast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 2, 2016
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
A captivating memoir of one woman’s attempt to finish the Iditarod, led by her team of spunky huskies with whom she shares a fascinating and inextricable bond.

At age forty-seven, a mother of two, Debbie Moderow was not your average musher in the Iditarod, but that’s where she found herself when, less than 200 miles from the finish line, her dogs decided they didn’t want to run anymore. After all her preparation, after all the careful management of her team, and after their running so well for over a week, the huskies balked. But the sting of not completing the race after coming so far was nothing compared to the disappointment Moderow felt in having lost touch with her dogs.

Fast into the Night
is the gripping story of Moderow’s journeys along the Iditarod trail with her team of spunky huskies: Taiga and Su, Piney and Creek, Nacho and Zeppy, Juliet and the headstrong leader, Kanga. The first failed attempt crushed Moderow’s confidence, but after reconnecting with her dogs she returned and ventured again to Nome, pushing through injuries, hallucinations, epic storms, flipped sleds, and clashing personalities, both human and canine. And she prevailed. Part adventure, part love story, part inquiry into the mystery of the connection between humans and dogs, Fast into the Night is an exquisitely written memoir of a woman, her dogs, and what can happen when someone puts herself in that place between daring and doubt—and soldiers on.

Book Review:

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is a memoir about running the Iditarod, failing, and trying again. Debbie Moderow isn’t your typical Iditarod competitor. She was forty-seven for her first attempt, following in the footsteps of her son. The entire family mushed, but the kids were more competitive than the parents. Debbie’s son ran the Iditarod when he was 18, and when he finished, he told her she had to do it, too.

A retired Iditarod dog named Salt played an important role in Debbie’s life. He helped her recover from two devastating miscarriages by reigniting her love of the outdoors and adventure. And then the whole family got into sled dogs and mushing, spending their vacations mushing to a cabin and watching the kids compete in junior races.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is primarily a remembrance of Debbie’s 2003 Iditarod attempt and her 2005 finish. Running the race is never something I’d do myself. I’m a total wimp in 20F weather, I can’t imagine racing with the temperature in negative degrees, facing blizzards and wind storms and more. But Debbie brought the course of the race to life for me, through sparse yet descriptive writing. I felt like I was there, and I knew all the difficulties she went through. She also delved into the personalities of each dog, which really showed her connection to the team.

I liked that Debbie showed herself in all lights, good and bad. She didn’t edit her thoughts to make herself look better. Her honesty made me feel like I could trust everything she wrote.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT wasn’t my typical read, but I’m happy I came across the book and read it.

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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: As I Descended by Robin Talley

waiting on wednesday

as i descended by robin talleyAs I Descended by Robin Talley
Release Date: September 6, 2016

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, but if anyone could write a Macbeth-inspired book and make me like it, it’s Robin Talley. And it’s F/F! Her other books have been 5 stars for me (LIES WE TELL OURSELVES and WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND), so I’m sure that I’ll love this one, too.

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Robin Talley:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

Book Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally ChristieThe Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2
Published by Atria on April 5, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
And you thought sisters were a thing to fear. In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie's clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

I write this before her blood is even cold. She is dead, suddenly, from a high fever. The King is inconsolable, but the way is now clear.

The way is now clear.

The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV's most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.

Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young Jeanne's destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King's arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals - including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters - she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe. History books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King's heart.

Told in Christie's witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.

In May, I will be on the blog tour for this book. Remember to stop back for a guest post from author Sally Christie!

Book Review:

Last year, I rather enjoyed THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES, Sally Christie’s first foray into the women of Louis XV. So I was eager to see what she had in store for Madame de Pompadour. I read THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES twice, so it’s safe to say I enjoyed it as well!

Between my reads of the book, I actually went back and reread THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES. It was quite interesting to see the evolution of the king in two books. His initial hesitation at straying from the queen in book one to visiting whorehouses set up by Pompadour in book two.

Because a lot of my reading of that period in French history has centered on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, I didn’t realize how much Louis XV contributed to the downfall of the monarchy. But after reading THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES, and seeing how men around the king tried to manipulate the women in his life, to have power over the king through those women, I saw how his behavior and decisions left his grandson a perfect storm.

In the Note from the Author, Sally Christie says that the Marquise de Pompadour was one of the most powerful women of the 18th century. I think the author showed that power quite well, displaying the influence Pompadour had over government decisions, but also the charitable and artistic contributions she made.

Some of the book is written in Pompadour’s point-of-view, but there are also sections from three of her enemies/want-to-be-mistresses. By using those other POVs, the author showed how Pompadour did something incredible: she remained Louis XV’s official mistress without being able to bed him. Pompadour’s evolution was just as interesting as the king’s, as she went from bourgeois to marquise. There’s this scene where her landscaper wants her to move an entire village of people to improve the view, and she does it, because that’s what nobility does.

THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES is very readable. I like the author’s style. Her writing drew me in, and I felt like I was there, watching events unfold. It was like reading a historical soap opera, but one that had substance along with the fun fluff.

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– leeanna

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on April 12, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

Book Review:

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is a hard book to categorize. It’s labeled Young Adult, but I feel it’s slanted more to an older audience. I love historical fiction and always have, but my teenage self wouldn’t have gotten far past the religious aspects of the book. I guess I should have expected a focus on religion, as Dolssa’s a runaway heretic, but somehow my mind just didn’t make the connection.

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is set mainly in 1241, in Provensa, just after the Crusades. A dangerous time to be alive if you went against the Church in any tiny way. Dolssa is a young woman accused of speaking heresy by preaching in her own home because non clerics don’t speak of God, especially not women. But Dolssa sees nothing wrong with spreading the word of her beloved — Jesus — and so she refuses to repent. When she’s sentenced to burn at the stake, she escapes, only to be hunted down by a very determined friar. Dolssa is rescued by Botille, one of a trio of sisters who run a tavern in Bajas. But sheltering Dolssa leads to danger for Botille and her family.

Some of the religious tension of the time is evident in the narrative, and the author provides a lengthy explanation at the end of the book. But I wish that material at the end had been at the beginning of the book, or better explained in the story itself. I might have enjoyed THE PASSION OF DOLSSA more had I known what I know now about the religious history of Provensa. There’s also a glossary of the Old Provencal words.

Here’s the thing. I’m not really sure of the intended audience for THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. As I said above, my younger self would have put this book down as soon as it got too deep into religion, heresy, and churchmen using their faith to kill innocents. It’s just not something I’m interested in. I’m know there are teens who want to read about religion, but the book doesn’t really feel like a YA book. It’s more… literary YA, if that makes any sense. It’s somewhat open-ended (especially the ending), and it’s a book you’re supposed to think about and draw your own conclusions.

I’m sure this book will be up for awards, and I did like some things, such as the strong female friendships, strong family relationships, and the strong characters of the sisters. But overall, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience. I didn’t get invested in the story or the characters or their dilemmas. This wasn’t a book I wanted to keep reading. I’m starting to think Julie Berry just isn’t an author for me, as I wasn’t a huge fan of her other YA, ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME.

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– leeanna