Book Review: A Day of Fire

Book Review: A Day of FireA Day of Fire by Ben Kane, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on November 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 315
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek resurrection and redemption as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

a day of fire blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for A DAY OF FIRE. A tale of Pompeii’s last hours, this book is written by six different authors: Vicky Alvear Shecter, Sophie Perinot, Ben Kane, Kate Quinn, E. Knight, and Stephanie Dray. The tour is hosted by HF Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

I don’t usually read collections of short stories. I’m a greedy reader, and I’d rather enjoy an entire book’s worth of characters and their stories. But the premise of A DAY OF FIRE drew me in — the last days and hours of Pompeii, seen through the eyes of citizens throughout the social strata. And gods, am I happy I read this book! I couldn’t put it down.

There are six authors and six different main characters in A DAY OF FIRE, but the book flows seamlessly. Rather than think of A DAY OF FIRE as a collection of different short stories, think of it as one, big overarching story that gives you a detailed look at how six different characters and their friends and family survived — or didn’t — the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Characters show up in each story, so you get to follow almost everyone’s tale to conclusion.

I’m not going to review each story individually, because for me, they all worked together so well that most of the time I thought I was reading the same author’s writing. That was probably one of my favorite aspects of A DAY OF FIRE, because there wasn’t the usual jarring transition between authors and stories that I’ve had before when reading short story collections. At the beginning of the book, the authors do say you could skip a story if you’re not liking it, and yes, you could do that if you wanted.

The authors also include notes on what interpretations they made of the eruption and Pompeian history, which characters are inspired by real figures and which are fictional. I always value those sorts of notes in historical fiction, because I tend to go on Googling and non-fiction sprees after I read a particularly inspiring book, and because I like to know what authors changed, if anything.

There’s a little something here for everyone, thanks to the wide variety of characters. From a war veteran to a girl on the eve of marriage to a senator to a prostitute, you get to see how the eruption affected all levels of society. As I got to know the various characters, the end of A DAY OF FIRE pretty much tore my heart out and stomped on it, which isn’t something that happens very often.

If you like stories of Pompeii, ancient Rome, good historical fiction, characters that will rip at your heart … and a ton of other things, check this book out.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

author stephanie draySTEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at www.StephanieDray.com.

author ben kaneBEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers.Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net.

author e. knightE. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, MY LADY VIPER, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com.

author sophie perinotSOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at www.SophiePerinot.com.

author kate quinnKATE QUINN is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar. Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com.

author vicky alvear shecterVICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning 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 biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon–set in Rome and Egypt–“magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main.

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Discussion: The Black Sheep Life

black sheep life at leeanna.me

Wow! It’s been months since I’ve done a discussion post, and though I’ve had plenty of ideas, they usually just stay in my head. But recently, there have been some crazy events happening in the book blogosphere. Rather than add my two cents about all those events, I’m going to tie them into a topic I feel strongly about: being a black sheep.

Because I don’t really care for any of the definitions I found online for black sheep, here’s how I’m defining it:

Black Sheep: One who does not enjoy a book that everyone else loves.

So, you might ask why this is relevant to #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout. I’ve read a lot of articles and discussion posts and tweets in the last few weeks, and I’ve seen a few mentions of how some people think any review below 5 stars shouldn’t be allowed to be posted. That book reviewers should be forced to use their own names because that would cut down on negative reviews. That sites like Goodreads shouldn’t exist because they’re a hotbed of bullying and other bad behavior. That some authors think everyone should love their books.

(Note – I’m pulling together lots of reading, so I can’t find links for everything, and some of that is just my general feeling.)

Yeah. There are problems, I won’t deny that. But I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Imagine for a minute that there’s only one site to find information about BOOK X. And there are only positive, glowing reviews for BOOK X. But when you buy it, you hate it. And then you start to wonder what’s wrong with you because you didn’t like BOOK X.

I bet you would feel like this sad puppy:

sad puppy

I feel like that sad puppy quite a bit, and I have tons of resources out there: Amazon, Goodreads, and most importantly, hundreds and hundreds of book blogs. My reading tastes don’t always match the general populace. Lately there have been quite a few books I’ve been a black sheep with. Although I usually try not to read other reviews when I’m reading a review book, sometimes I can’t help it. I start to think, What’s wrong with me? What am I missing? Why don’t I love this book?

When I don’t like a book, I don’t want to feel like I’m the only person on Earth who didn’t like it. I’ll look for other readers like me, ones who didn’t see the magic. Sometimes it’s really hard to find other black sheeps, but that’s when it’s even more important for me to be honest and not follow the herd. Because I know other black sheeps will come along, readers who want to feel better knowing they’re not the only ones who couldn’t enjoy a book everyone else is raving about.

So why does being a black sheep matter? Because we need to be honest. We need to feel safe to be honest when we don’t like a book. We shouldn’t have to fear an author complaining about a bad review, or going to the extremes of stalking or even physical attacks. I hope #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout bring about some changes, so that we all feel safe and comfortable expressing our opinion when we’re not part of the “I LOVE this book” readership.

What do you think? Have you ever been a black sheep? How do you feel about posting negative reviews for books that everyone else loves?

– leeanna

*sheep clipart from http://sweetclipart.com/.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

waiting on wednesday

the price of blood by patricia bracewellThe Price of Blood, Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2 by Patricia Bracewell
Release Date: February 5, 2015

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.
Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

SHADOW ON THE CROWN, the first book in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy, was one of my favorite books of 2013. I was sooooo excited when I saw the cover and summary for book two, THE PRICE OF BLOOD. This is historical fiction just the way I like it: realistic and dark, with an incredibly strong woman at the forefront. February cannot come quickly enough: I need this book now! I scavenged the Internet for everything I could find about Emma after I finished SHADOW ON THE CROWN, but I’d much rather read the continuation of her story from Patricia than watch another documentary :D

Socialize with the author:
Website
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Twitter

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia SullivanShadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Published by Ravenstone on October 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her...

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Book Review:

The first chapter of SHADOWBOXER hooked my interest because I tend to like cocky, tough protagonists, and Jade is exactly that. A talented martial arts fighter, Jade has a tendency to get into fights when she shouldn’t, such as when she defends the gym’s cat from a movie star. Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to get her out of the star’s sights, as well as to see how well she can fight as a pro.

The parts of SHADOWBOXER set in Thailand were some of my favorites. I can’t recall reading a YA book set there before, and I liked that the author included some Thai phrases/ways of thinking, such as “mai pen rai” and “jai yen.” I actually felt like I was in Thailand, watching Jade train and fight. I know absolutely nothing about MMA and Muay Thai fighting, but the author described the fights very well, so I could easily “see” them.

But Jade’s story is not the only one in SHADOWBOXER. The first time Mya showed up, I had no clue what the heck was going on. Why did the book switch from Jade’s first person point of view to Mya’s third person? And who was this ten year old girl?

Mya has a very special ability: she can travel into the immortal forest. It’s an ability her guardian uses for evil, and when Mya learns he has nefarious plans for her, she flees there. Eventually, Mya and Jade do connect, but not for a while, and I ultimately felt like there were two separate stories inside of SHADOWBOXER. I did like the elements of Thai mythology Mya’s journeys into the Himmapan showcased, but the supernatural elements didn’t 100% mesh for me with Jade’s problems, and vice versa.

Socialize with the author:

Tricia Sullivan:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

Socialize with the author:

Ava Dellaira:
Website
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Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Goodreads
2 Stars
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Book Review:

Villains are usually my favorite characters in books. Call me twisted, but I love bad women/guys, characters who do anything to get their way, characters who have questionable morals and/or goals. So I should have loved THE YOUNG ELITES, because it’s supposed to be a villain’s story.

Adelina is tired of being hurt, of being used. A survivor of the mysterious blood fever, she lost an eye. One would think that would be enough, but her father has hurt and hated her for years, trying to find some value in having a malfetto for a daughter. When Adelina finds out her father is going to sell her, she escapes … and murders him in the process.

On the day of her execution, a fire already set at her feet, Adelina is rescued by the Young Elites. They are a group of malfettos with magic powers, and they want Adelina because she’s one of them. But the rescue isn’t quite what it seems, because the Young Elites want to use Adelina, as does Teren, leader of the Inquisition that nearly killed her.

All of that? Pretty promising, I’d say. But there was just something missing in THE YOUNG ELITES, something that’s very difficult for me to put my finger on. I should have flown through this book, but it took me days to finish. That’s abnormal for me, because I usually read a book a day. THE YOUNG ELITES just didn’t hold my interest. I feel like I trudged through it, and there were several points where I just wanted to put it aside. I didn’t, but only because I’d heard the ending was worth it. The ending was okay, the best part of the book for me, other than the epilogue.

Why didn’t THE YOUNG ELITES hold my interest? To start, there’s a real lack of worldbuilding for a fantasy book. The world feels a lot like Renaissance Italy, and there are lots of descriptions of buildings and pretty masks and clothing, but not of the important stuff. Where did the blood fever come from? How does magic work for the Young Elites? Adelina describes using her powers, but I didn’t quite get the idea behind the threads, or many of the powers of the other Elites. Etc.

I also never connected to Adelina. I don’t necessarily have to like a main character to like a book, but there has to be something about a character to grab me if the story doesn’t. I should have loved that Adelina is making steps towards being the bad guy, but she didn’t feel very developed to me. I read in the Acknowledgments that she was originally a side character, and then the author rewrote the book around her.

There’s more bad I could go on about, but I’ll stop there and just say I was underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I expected more — I really liked Marie Lu’s first book, LEGEND, which read almost like playing a video game. If I made the same comparison, THE YOUNG ELITES read like being stuck on the loading screen.

So why 2 stars instead of 1? Because there is some cool stuff in THE YOUNG ELITES. Parts of the book are quite dark, which I usually like, and I liked that the author tried to go there. I could see promise, but there was a lack of execution/focus. I probably would pick up the next Young Elites book, but I’m crossing my fingers that it’s better.

Socialize with the author:

Marie Lu:
Website
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

waiting on wednesday

the sin eater's daughter by melinda salisburyThe Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Release Date: February 24, 2015

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

I first saw THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER in a Waiting on Wednesday post on Mother, Gamer, Writer. First, I dig the cover. I really hope it doesn’t change for the final version of the book. Second, I dig the summary. The concept sounds unique: the embodiment of a goddess who kills? We all know how much I love that sort of thing! Give me this book now! I have high hopes — the author says she’s a Slytherin :D

Socialize with the author:
Website
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Enchantress by Maggie Anton

enchantress blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ENCHANTRESS by Maggie Anton. This tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit the rest of the tour here.

enchantress by maggie antonInfo:
Title: Enchantress
Author: Maggie Anton
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Plume
Series? Rav Hisda’s Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 376

Summary:

Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.

One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava–whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a “man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death–the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where “abracadabra” originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.

Praise for Apprentice (Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Book I):

“A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture—a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!” —Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series

Anton, the author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novel… Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone’s historical fiction reading list.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Fascinating reading await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry … Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud … what we have is the work of a master craftswoman set upon repairing a major gap in Jewish literature —Philadelphia Jewish Voice

“Rav Hisda’s Daughter provides a wealth of historical detail about Jewish life in Babylon and Israel in the 3rd century CE. It depicts the daily life and coming of age of a prominent rabbi’s daughter rather than propelling its reader through a traditional arc of action with a crisis and resolution. Its interest lies in its portrayal of the sorcery, incantations, and women’s customs in this exotic, faraway period of time and place, sometimes against the backdrop of war.” —Historical Novel Society

Praise for the Rashi’s Daughters Trilogy:

“Anton delivers a tour de force . . . [Readers] will fly through the pages and come away wishing for more.” –Library Journal (starred review)

“A compelling combination of drama, suspense, and romance.” –Lilith magazine

About the author:

author-maggieantonMaggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente’s Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

In the early 1990’s, Anton learned about a women’s Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi’s daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a trilogy of historical novels about them was born.

After the success of “Rashi’s Daughters” Anton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote “Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Bk 1 – Apprentice,” which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction.

For more information please visit Maggie Anton’s website and blog.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

waiting on wednesday

star wars: tarkin by james lucenoStar Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno
Release Date: November 4, 2014

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly . . . and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation . . . or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy . . . and its enemies’ extinction. (summary from goodreads)

In case you didn’t know, I am a HUGE Star Wars fan.

Evidence:
star wars bookshelf

That’s most of my Star Wars books. I haven’t liked every experiment the Expanded Universe has undergone, but books about classic villains? Yes please. I’ve always been intrigued by Grand Moff Tarkin, and so I’m super excited that he’s getting his own book. Fingers crossed that this returns the EU to a good place, like Luceno’s STAR WARS: DARTH PLAGUEIS did for me.

On a related tangent, I’ve been thinking of doing super short videos, on my favorite characters in books. Instagram length videos, so 15 seconds. Usually I don’t like to watch videos, but 15 seconds isn’t too bad. Any opinions? Cool idea, or silly?

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe Shine

Book Review: I Become Shadow by Joe ShineI Become Shadow by Joe Shine
Published by Soho Teen on June 10, 2014
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen and chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: the fearless and unstoppable guardian of a future leader. Everything she held dear—her family, her home, her former life—is gone forever.

Ren survives four years of training, torture, and misery, in large part thanks to Junie, a fellow F.A.T.E. abductee who started out as lost and confused as she did. She wouldn’t admit it was possible to find love in a prison beyond imagining, but what she feels for Junie may just be the closest thing to it.

At eighteen they part ways when Ren receives her assignment: find and protect college science student Gareth Young, or die trying. Life following a college nerd is uneventful, until an attack on Gareth forces Ren to track down the only person she can trust. When she and Junie discover that the F.A.T.E. itself might be behind the attacks, even certain knowledge of the future may not be enough to save their kidnappers from the killing machines they created.

Book Review:

You know how most fourteen-year-olds stress about high school? Ren doesn’t have to worry about that for long, because she’s abducted by F.A.T.E., a secret organization that protects the world’s future important people. Instead of worrying about boys, popularity, grades, etc., Ren’s worried about making it through training alive. Most kids taken by F.A.T.E. don’t make it, which is no shock, considering the classes include weapons training with live rounds, beating the stuffing out of each other, and a nightly injection that kills all the nerves in your body.

I BECOME SHADOW starts off slowly and with some backpedaling, because Ren fills the reader in on her normal life before being taken. If you’re confused at the start, keep going and things will eventually make sense. Ren has a unique voice, one I think readers will either like or dislike. She’s sarcastic, mouthy, no-nonsense, and cocky, but sometimes she’s also “woe is me.” Most of the time I liked her narration, but once in a while it did feel like the author was trying too hard.

After Ren starts training and then once she gets her assignment, the book is full of action. I thought the author did a good job writing the action scenes; sometimes I skim them because they’re boring or hard to picture. That wasn’t the case here.

I BECOME SHADOW was almost a really good book for me. There are some great ideas, including F.A.T.E. and its mission. When Ren graduates training, she’s linked to the person she’ll spend the rest of her life protecting. The process makes it almost painful for her to be away from him, and if he’s in danger? Forget about it. She’s supposed to stay in the shadows, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying she breaks the rules.

Then we get into the parts of the book that didn’t work out so well for me. Ren starts to have feelings for Gareth, the kid she protects, but are they real or a byproduct of the link? At the same time, she’s pining for Junie, a guy she went through training with. I believed in Ren and Junie’s friendship, but not their romantic feelings for each other. I really wish the author would have kept it as a friendship rather than try to add romance. Because apparently all YA books need romance. Not.

The end of I BECOME SHADOW also felt rushed. A lot of the book is spent on training time, and then some with Ren on the job protecting Gareth. Then the big climax, and boom, the book’s over. When I finished I BECOME SHADOW, I had quite a few questions about F.A.T.E. and Shadows and other things. I’m guessing there will be a sequel or two to flesh things out? I don’t know for sure.

Overall, I BECOME SHADOW is strong in the action and sarcastic heroine departments, but lacking in the romance and storytelling.

Socialize with the author:

Joe Shine:
Twitter

– leeanna