Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Series: Of Fire and Stars #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on November 22, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Book Review:

Every so often I read a book I love so much that it’s hard for me to review because I love it so much. OF FIRE AND STARS is one of those books.

I’ve been looking forward to OF FIRE AND STARS since February 2016, if not longer. I try not to develop too many expectations for a book, but: princesses! magic! horses! fantasy! princess loving princess!

Princess Dennaleia is sent to Mynaria as a bride for its prince, to cement the treaty between her country and his. She’s been preparing for this her entire life, but lessons haven’t included how to hide her Affinity for fire, which could get her killed because Mynaria doesn’t like magic. Princess Amaranthine, or Mare as she prefers to be known, is the prince’s thorny sister, who bucks against authority and expectations at every possible chance. She’d rather be training horses than at a royal dinner.

When Dennaleia needs to learn how to ride — horses are woven through Mynaria’s culture, even in court ceremonies — Mare’s assigned to teach her. Which results in an enemies-to-friends-and-then-more relationship. Denna’s in awe of Mare and wants Mare to like her. Mare’s not so impressed by Denna, but over time, she can’t help but change her mind.

OF FIRE AND STARS reminded me a bit of a Tamora Pierce book, or at least the nostalgia I have for those books. I liked the prickly banter between Denna and Mare, the slow melting of Mare’s dislike as she learned more about Denna, and that ending. Oh man, that ending. Let’s just say I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Also, I know I’ll be rereading OF OF FIRE AND STARS when I need a pick-me up or when I’m in a reading slump.

Okay, I give up. I’m meandering all over the place in this review, because all I really want to say is: I ♥♥♥ OF FIRE AND STARS. This is the princess loving princess, with magic and horses, fantasy book I’ve always wanted. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking “Is this real? Am I really reading this book I’ve wanted forever?” And yes, yes I was.

Socialize with the author:

Audrey Coulthurst:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

Book Review: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van DraanenThe Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Award-winning author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us a brilliantly fresh and funny story about a boy learning to become the brave hero of his own life. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s and The Fourteenth Goldfish.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain. . . .

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody. . . .

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.

Book Review:

I’m always intrigued by books about kids who write stories. I started writing when I was a kid, so I usually feel a bit of kinship with the characters. I want to know why they write, what sort of stories they create.

In THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, Lincoln’s notebooks of stories are the only sentimental thing he took with him when he and his mom escaped her abusive boyfriend. In their new home, Lincoln continues to write as a way to escape having to spend his afternoons at the nursing home where his mom works, as well as being in a new school.

I loved Lincoln’s voice. I often felt like he was sitting next to me, telling me every new adventure. I really felt for Lincoln and his mom; they have such a great bond. How many times do characters have neglectful or absent parents? So often it’s a trope. It was great to see how close Lincoln and his mom are, and also to see Lincoln realize just how hard his mom works to give him a better life. I’d say that’s a thing kids don’t often recognize — I know I didn’t — so hopefully seeing Lincoln get it will help other kids see it too.

I also liked Lincoln’s observations about the nursing home, Brookside. Sure, he’s not always respectful of the residents — he calls them “crazies” or “oldies” — but I didn’t mind that. I was around Lincoln’s age (11) when I first went to a nursing home to visit a relative, and let me tell you, it’s hard. I still remember it, and I went at 30 and feeling the same way. So, I hope Lincoln’s observations and moments of “ohhh, these are people too” help kids see it isn’t that scary.

I very much enjoyed THE SECRET LIFE OF LINCOLN JONES, and was sad to see the book end. Don’t worry — the book ends in a good spot and in a good way. But I was a little sad to say goodbye to Lincoln!

Book Trailer:

About the author:

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ, and became a Warner Brothers feature film with Rob Reiner directing. Her novel The Running Dream was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.

Van Draanen is also the author of two short chapter-book series. The Gecko & Sticky books, are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers, and the Shredderman books—featuring a boy who deals with a bully—received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit” and became a Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie.

Van Draanen was a classroom teacher for fifteen years. She and her husband reside in California and have two sons.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: Belle Chasse by Suzanne JohnsonBelle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #5
Published by Tor on November 8, 2016
Genres: Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
With the wizard-elven treaty on the verge of collapse, the preternatural world stands on the brink of war. Unless former wizard sentinel DJ Jaco manages to keep the elven leader, Quince Randolph, focused on peace and not personal matters.

With no one on the throne, Faerie is in chaos, with rival princes battling for power. The still-undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, is building his own army of misfits, and DJ—stripped of her job and hiding in the Beyond to avoid the death sentence handed down by the wizard Council of Elders—can’t get anywhere near her beloved New Orleans or her significant something-or-other, Alex.

It's time to choose sides. Friends will become enemies, enemies will become allies, and not everyone will survive. DJ and her friends will learn a hard lesson: sometimes, even the ultimate sacrifice isn’t enough.

belle chasse by suzanne johnson blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for BELLE CHASSE by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review. This is a series I’ve enjoyed over the years, so I was excited to see BELLE CHASSE release!

Book Review:

“There was a bounty on my head, it was four days before Christmas, and I was having turtle gumbo with a merman, an undead pirate king, two loups-garou, and my best friend–a human pregnant with the half-elven child who had unknowingly helped set this whole debacle in motion. Plus a newbie vampire upstairs who didn’t like the smell of food anymore.”

And so kicks off BELLE CHASSE, the fifth book in Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series. BELLE CHASSE picks up immediately after the game-changing events of PIRATE’S ALLEY; the author gives a good refresher if it’s been a while since you read that book.

I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since DJ had to run for her life, and it delivers everything about this series that I like. There’s humor, deadly moments, preternatural politics, Rene, Jean Lafitte, wizards being stupid, New Orleans flavor, and even a jaunt into Faery. As a fan of Jean Lafitte (I got a question right on Jeopardy about him, thanks to this series!) and Rene, I was very happy to see both of them get plenty of page and plot time. Plus, I snickered every time I thought about Rene buying DJ pink items on his shopping trips.

Thanks to all the political maneuverings, I felt like BELLE CHASSE was longer than it actually is. I mean that in a good way — the preternatural is on the verge of war, and there’s a lot of factions to consider and plenty of people out for themselves. This series has some a long way from the first book; it’s one of those series that gets better with every installment. I had no idea the series would end up here back when I read ROYAL STREET in 2012. Sentinel DJ has come such a long way, it’s seriously incredible.

When I reviewed PIRATE’S ALLEY, I said that book was setting the scene for some serious preternatural action. Some of that action is in BELLE CHASSE, but this installment also increases the buildup, really raising the stakes for everyone involved, be it wizard, elf, or outlaw. DJ really has to think through her own loyalties and assumptions about the different factions, realizing what she can change and what she can’t. I admired her dedication to Eugenie, the determination to do what’s best for her friend while not compromising her moral values.

I was happy to return to DJ’s New Orleans, and after reading BELLE CHASSE, I’m eager for even more of this fantastic series!

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author suzanne johnsonSuzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series but perhaps is best known for her romantic suspense and paranormal romance books written as Susannah Sandlin, including the Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series, the Wilds of the Bayou suspense series, and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Her awards include two Holt Medallions in 2013 and 2015, a 2015 Booksellers Best Award in romantic suspense, and nominations in 2014 and 2015 for the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Award. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Suzanne loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, all things Cajun, and redneck reality TV.
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Book Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael LivingstonThe Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston
Series: The Shards of Heaven #1
Published by Tor on November 24, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
The beginning of an epic historical fantasy that rocks the foundations of the ancient world

Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar’s ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar’s legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.

Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods—or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.

Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.

The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.

Book Review:

I’m a big fan of alternate history, so I was excited to start THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN after reading its summary. Octavian and Juba and magic artifacts? Unfortunately, the book didn’t work for me, and I struggled to finish it.

THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN never reeled me in. There was no hook for me, maybe because it anytime important information was related, such as information about the Trident, it took place off the page. Only near the end of the book do we learn what a “shard of heaven is,” after being repeatedly teased. I really dislike when authors hide information from the reader over and over. There’s also a bit too much religious talk for me. Maybe I should have expected from the title, but I was still surprised to see it and read so much of it.

Most of the characters read as 2D instead of being fully fleshed out. Cleopatra is extremely beautiful and dramatic. Caesarion can do no wrong. Selene is feisty and adventurous. And so on. The only characters that read as real to me were two soldiers, Vorenus and Pullo. As for everyone else, I felt like they were plodding along, serving the story rather than being characters. However, I’m a character-driven reader.

THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN ended up being a forgettable book for me. One that I only pushed myself to finish because I was reviewing; if I’d read it for pleasure, I would have set it down after the first few chapters because of the slow pacing and dull storytelling.

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Michael Livingston:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Book Review: Glitter by Aprilynne PikeGlitter by Aprilynne Pike
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on October 25, 2016
Genres: Romance, Science Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.

Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.

But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

Book Review:

I have to stop falling for books with eye-catching covers and intriguing premises. I thought GLITTER sounded kinda cool, different from a lot of what’s out there. Drug dealing in a futuristic but era-appropriate Versailles setting? Unfortunately, GLITTER didn’t hold my attention and I had to force myself to finish.

Only to be disappointed by the massive cliffhanger. Honestly, I’m really miffed. Based on that ending, I assume GLITTER is the first in a series, but at this time, I don’t know if there’s a second book or not.

So, very annoying cliffhanger aside, what else about GLITTER turned me off? Danica’s supposed to be a drug dealer, selling Glitter to make enough money for her escape. But she doesn’t start selling until after page 100. The beginning of the book was super slow and confusing for me, more about fancy dresses and Sonoman-Versailles customs. I still don’t entirely understand the whole Sonoman-Versailles thing. I also don’t know why the King needed Danica’s votes so badly — why did the board want to oust him from his kingdom?

I also didn’t get the whole Saber/Danica relationship. It would’ve worked much better for me if they’d gone from “I dislike you” to friends rather than falling in love. Because the moment when their relationship changed from frosty to hot was, well, it didn’t ring true to me. If I was a guy, and I saw a girl threatened and hurt by her fiance, I wouldn’t think kissing her would be the best move. But that’s just me, and I’m usually critical of romances.

Danica annoyed me for a lot of GLITTER. I get that she’s supposed to be an anti-heroine, more concerned with her own survival than anyone else. That’s fine with me. But I didn’t feel like I got to know her, and because of her first-person POV, I didn’t get to know anyone else, either.

I rated GLITTER two stars because there were a few twists I didn’t anticipate, and I appreciated that bad stuff happened to Danica. But would I check out a sequel? Probably not.

Socialize with the author:

Aprilynne Pike:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffGemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 659
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The saga that began with Illuminae continues on board the space station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum may be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival. The fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Book Review:

I don’t usually write short reviews, but I’m sitting here in the dark ready to cry because of GEMINA.

And I don’t cry, but GEMINA has me so full of emotion I could burst for two reasons:

1) This book is █████ fantastic. I said ILLUMINAE was out of this world, but GEMINA is out of the solar system. I really just want to faceroll my keyboard, because I don’t have the words for the depth of the reading experience in GEMINA. It’s just so, so, SO GOOD. (I very rarely flail over books, so it’s rare for me to be so emotional.)

2) I have to wait until 2017 for the next volume in The Illuminae Files. With how much I love this series, that’s cruel and unusual punishment.

I really planned to write more about GEMINA, but I ended up sticking with this short mess because, hey, it really illustrates my feelings about the book.

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Amie Kaufman:
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Jay Kristoff:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Song of War: A Novel of Troy

Book Review: A Song of War: A Novel of TroyA Song of War by Christian Cameron, Kate Quinn, Russell Whitfield, SJA Turney, Stephanie Thornton, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on October 18, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 483
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

A grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

a song of war: a novel of troy

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A SONG OF WAR by Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Stephanie Thornton, SJA Turney, and Russell Whitfield. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The blog tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

When I heard about A SONG OF WAR, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. This is my third “novel-in-parts” by the wonderful H Team, and once again, they knocked it out of the park. And considering I’ve never been much interested in the Trojan War, that’s a real feat.

Short stories usually aren’t my thing, but a book like this is the exception. There are seven authors in A SONG OF WAR, each writing about important characters and events. Each of those authors has what I’d consider a speciality in historical fiction, which allows them to really dive into their chosen characters. Such as Stephanie Thornton, who does well with history’s forgotten women — she wrote about Cassandra, the mad seer who was fated to foresee the fall of Troy but have no one believe her prophecies. Or Russell Whitfield, who is great with men and warfare — he made Agamemnon a sympathetic character.

The book spans the entire Trojan War, skipping the boring middle siege to focus on the important beginning and end. After reading A SONG OF WAR, I understood the Trojan War better than I ever had before, thanks to the wide variety of viewpoints. Sure, there are different authors and they have their own styles, but I never felt knocked out of the narrative because the book is quite seamless. I could tell the authors worked together and had done plenty of research. I also found the Notes at the end fascinating, because I enjoy learning the authors’ motivations and why they made the choices they did.

I highly recommend A SONG OF WAR if you have any interest in the fall of Troy, and even if you don’t, it’s a great read for historical fiction fans.

Giveaway:

A Song of War

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

CHRISTIAN CAMERON was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa,Christian Cameron and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history.

After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age four. And a half.


LIBBIE HAWKER was born in Rexburg, Idaho and divided her childhood between Eastern Idaho’s rural environs and the greater Seattle area. She presently lives in Seattle, but has also been a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah; Bellingham, Washington; and Tacoma, Washington. She loves to write about character and place, and is inspired by the bleak natural beauty of the Rocky Mountain region and by the fascinating history of the Puget Sound.

After three years of trying to break into the publishing industry with her various books under two different pen names, Libbie finally turned her back on the mainstream publishing industry and embraced independent publishing. She now writes her self-published fiction full-time, and enjoys the fact that the writing career she always dreamed of having is fully under her own control.


KATE QUINN is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.


VICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two award-winning biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. She is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. The LA Times calls Cleopatra’s Moon, “magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” The Wall Street Journal called it “absorbing.”


STEPHANIE THORNTON is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

Her novels, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt, The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan, and The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great, tell the stories of history’s forgotten women.


SJA TURNEY lives with his wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire.

Marius’ Mules was his first full length novel. Being a fan of Roman history, SJA decided to combine his love of writing and love of the classical world. Marius’ Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum – an attempt to create a new fantasy story still with a heavy flavour of Rome.

These have been followed by numerous sequels, with three books in the fantasy ‘Tales of the Empire’ series and five in the bestselling ‘Marius’ Mules’ one. 2013 has seen the first book in a 15th century trilogy – ‘The Thief’s Tale’ – and will also witness several side projects seeing the light of day.


RUSSELL WHITFIELD was born in Shepherds Bush in 1971. An only child, he was raised in Hounslow, West London, but has since escaped to Ham in Surrey.

Gladiatrix was Russ’s first novel, published in 2008 by Myrmidon Books. The sequel, Roma Victrix, continues the adventures Lysandra, the Spartan gladiatrix, and a third book, Imperatrix, sees Lysandra stepping out of the arena and onto the field of battle.

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks

Book Review: The Darkling Child by Terry BrooksThe Darkling Child by Terry Brooks
Series: The Defenders of Shannara #2
Published by Del Rey on June 9, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 300
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
After taking up his enchanted sword against the dark sorcerer Arcannen, Paxon Leah has become the sworn protector of the Druid order. Now a critical hour is at hand, as a beloved High Druid nears the end of her reign and prepares to pass from the mortal world to the one beyond. There is little time for Paxon to mourn his friend and benefactor before duty summons him. For in a distant corner of the Four Lands, the magic of the wishsong has been detected. Paxon must accompany a Druid emissary to find its source—and ensure the formidable power is not wielded by the wrong hands.

But danger is already afoot in the village of Portlow. Gentle traveling minstrel Reyn Frosch possesses the uncanny gift, and curse, of the wishsong. And now his coveted abilities have captured the malevolent interest of none other than Arcannen—whose quest for power is exceeded only by his thirst for vengeance. The lone survivor of a brutal assault on a notorious pirate city, the sorcerer is determined to retaliate against the Federation’s elite military guard—and use the devastating power of the wishsong as his ultimate weapon.

Book Review:

Even though I’m a huge fantasy fan, I’ve never read any Shannara books. I have read most of Brooks’ Magic Kingdom of Landover series and liked them, but I never knew where to start with Shannara because there are so many. THE DARKLING CHILD, the second in the Defenders of Shannara trilogy, is supposed to be a standalone, and a good entry point for new readers.

After reading THE DARKLING CHILD, I have no interest in reading any other books in the Shannara series. I struggled to get through this book, and wondered more than once how Brooks is so popular. Maybe his work has decreased in quality over the years, because THE DARKLING CHILD? Substandard fantasy. I really felt like the author was trying to hit a certain page count and that was it.

I don’t even know where to start, other than to say I can’t remember much of the book, and I finished it a day ago. I was tempted to put THE DARKLING CHILD down after the first few chapters, but I know fantasy can have a slow pace to start, so I gave it a chance. But I wish I didn’t, because this book was a slog to get through.

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re new to Shannara, because other than explaining the origin of wishsong, there’s no real worldbuilding. I don’t know what the Federation is, what the druids do, etc. There are also references to the first book in this trilogy, THE HIGH DRUID’S BLADE, but those weren’t as bad as the shoddy writing, YA-style romances, predictable story, and lack of women other than as plot devices.

After my dismal experience with THE DARKLING CHILD, I won’t be returning to Shannara.

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Terry Brooks:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts

Book Review: Zac and Mia by A.J. BettsZac and Mia by AJ Betts
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 2, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 289
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
"When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics."

So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.

Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize.

Book Review:

Where to start with ZAC AND MIA? Yeah, it’s a book about teenagers with cancer. Is it comparable to THE FAULT IN OUR STARS? I have no idea, because I haven’t read John Green’s book. So I won’t be making any comparisons to that or any other teen cancer book.

THE GOOD:

ZAC AND MIA is set in Australia, and I loved that! There’s not yet a ton of diversity in where YA fiction is set, so it was really great to see a book set somewhere other than America.

Zac and Mia both have different ways of coping (or not coping) with cancer. Zac uses statistics and says the time he spends in the hospital is really a small portion of his life, so he’s not going to get upset. Mia is angry and keeps it a secret, then runs away from home after her mother commits a horrible betrayal. Both are valid (as are others), and while I didn’t always understand Mia’s actions, I appreciated that she wasn’t a saint about it. Not everyone is.

THE BAD:

–Here’s where I have trouble. There’s nothing bad about ZAC AND MIA, but it wasn’t a book that blew me away. It was just okay. I enjoyed the book while reading it, but it’s not one that will stick with me.

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A.J. Betts:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

Book Review: The Call by Peadar O’GuilinThe Call by Peadar O'Guilin
Published by Scholastic on August 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
You have three minutes to save your life...

THREE MINUTES

You wake up alone in a horrible land. A horn sounds. The Call has begun.

TWO MINUTES

The Sidhe are close. They're the most beautiful and terrible people you've ever seen. And they've seen you.

ONE MINUTE

Nessa will be Called soon. No one thinks she has any chance to survive. But she's determined to prove them wrong.

TIME'S UP

Could you survive the Call?

Book Review:

I tend to enjoy books where the Sidhe are as creepy as they are in the old legends. Wicked, magical, and ruthless, the Sidhe in THE CALL have isolated Ireland and turned it into their own personal hunting ground. Only 1 in 10 teenagers survive the Call, when they are sucked into the Grey Land for a day, or three minutes and four seconds on Earth.

But THE CALL wasn’t a book for me. It was one I struggled to finish. The biggest reason the book didn’t work for me is that I’m a character driven reader, and I just didn’t care about any of the characters at all. I can barely remember most of their names. Nessa did stand out slightly, because she has polio but didn’t let it stop her even though everyone else thought she was useless. Everyone else, though, meh. I have to care about the people I’m reading about, but the author didn’t succeed in making me worry about anyone or care about them. Even when a character was killed, I just wanted to see what new gruesome way they’d die.

I also really disliked the whole Conor obsessing/wanting to hurt Nessa thing, because I am so sick of guys wanting to do horrible things to girls because their obsession isn’t returned. I also didn’t like how Nessa just kinda sat back and let her life be in danger from Conor because she wanted to see another boy she was crushing on. For a girl who wanted to survive so badly, it felt like she just sat back for a lot of the book.

The writing style in THE CALL also contributed to my lackluster feelings about it. It’s written present tense, third person, with some head jumping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure whose perspective I was in, so I’d have to go back and reread. Head jumping like that is a big peeve of mine.

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Peadar O’Guilin:
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– leeanna