Book Review: Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

Book Review: Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen OhFlying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh, Grace Lin, Jacqueline Woodson, Kelly J Baptist, Kwame Alexander, Matt de la Pena, Meg Medina, Soman Chainani, Tim Federle, Tim Tingle, Walter Dean Myers
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 3, 2017
Genres: Anthology, Diversity, Middle Grade
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

Book Review:

FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES is a short but powerful anthology of diverse stories by diverse authors. Really, these stories could fit into any anthology, because the themes — sibling relationships, first crushes, friendship, etc — are universal. But these stories are extra important for young readers (and old!) who might not see themselves reflected in many books and stories.

The stories in FLYING LESSONS AND OTHER STORIES span a range of voices from a boy on vacation with his eccentric grandmother to a disabled basketball player to Sam, who’s awed by/wants to know the new girl at school. I would’ve liked to read longer versions of every story in the anthology, which for me, was a sign of each author’s success at pulling me into their characters’ lives in a handful of pages. I’m a greedy reader — I always want more when I get invested in characters.

The opening story, “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium” was a bit of an outlier at first for me. Unlike the others, it’s written from the second-person POV. But after I got further into the book, I personally took Matt de la Peña’s story as a way to open my mind. Grace Lin’s story about a Chinese girl sold into slavery who escapes her fate in an unusual way… I definitely want a book about Lingsi! And Meg Medina’s “Sol Painting, Inc.” hurt my heart for Merci and Papi. “Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains” was the one story that I didn’t understand.

I didn’t find any of the stories too preachy or heavy-handed with messages. The kids are kids, doing their thing, and hopefully along the way, they’ll show the rest of us how to be more tolerant and open-minded of others who have different backgrounds/viewpoints than us. A great book for the intended middle-grade audience and adults too!

Check out the authors:

FlyingLessonsAnthology.com | We Need Diverse Books

– leeanna

Book Review: The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Kahn Gale

Book Review: The Wizard’s Dog by Eric Kahn GaleThe Wizard's Dog by Eric Kahn Gale
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on January 17, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Meet Nosewise. He's spunky. He's curious. And he's a dog who can't understand why his pack mates Merlin and Morgana spend all day practicing magic tricks. If it's a trick they want, he's the dog to ask! He can already Sit!, Stay!, and Roll Over!

But there's no way Nosewise is Stay!ing when his master and best friend, Merlin, is kidnapped. There's nothing Nosewise won't do to get Merlin back, even if it means facing the strange Fae people and their magic-eating worms, or tangling with the mysterious Sword in the Stone. But it may take more than sniffing out a spell to do it!

Book Review:

THE WIZARD’S DOG is a fun fantasy romp full of magic and adventure. It’s narrated by Nosewise the dog, who has an excellent nose and a talent for magic. When I was younger, I loved books written from the perspectives of animals, and Nosewise rekindled that love.

Nosewise is curious as to why Merlin and Morgana spend all day in the study. He picked up his tricks quickly enough, why do they need so much more practice? When Nosewise learns some magic of his own, he’s the only one capable of rescuing Merlin after the wizard is kidnapped. So he sets off on the adventure of a lifetime, aided by his capable nose and brain.

THE WIZARD’S DOG is, as I said above, a fun book. Nosewise’s observations about humans are amusing, his travels are quite the adventure and learning experience, and he gets in and out of trouble like, well, a dog. I liked that the author kept Nosewise a dog — sure, he’s smart, but he can’t see all colors and he thinks poo is great. He’s loyal to the humans that deserve it; there’s even a little about animal abuse mentioned.

I do wish the Nosewise on the cover looked less silly, because my younger self might have passed this book up because of his comical appearance. Yeah, he’s funny, but he and this story are more than that.

THE WIZARD’S DOG is an enjoyable, unique take on Merlin, Arthur, and the Sword in the Stone, starring one very special dog. I know this is a standalone, but I gotta say, I’d like to see more of Nosewise!

Socialize with the author:

Eric Kahn Gale:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Pocket Full of Tinder by Jill Archer

pocket full of tinder by jill archer blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for POCKET FULL OF TINDER by Jill Archer. The book is number 4 in the Noon Onyx series. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after the excerpt.

pocket full of tinder by jill archerInfo:
Title: Pocket Full of Tinder
Author: Jill Archer
Release Date: December 15, 2016
Publisher: Black Willow, LLC
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 362

Summary:

Noon Onyx is back! In this long-awaited fourth installment, Jill Archer returns readers to the dangerous world of Halja, where demons, angels, and humans coexist in an uneasy state of détente.

Maegester-in-Training Noon Onyx feels like she’s done it all – mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons, and survived having her heart broken by both love and an arrow, but now she’ll face her greatest challenge yet…

Far to the north lies an outpost famous for its unrest – Rockthorn Gorge. The town’s patron has specifically requested Noon’s help. Her assignment? Help the neophyte demon lord build his fiefdom and keep what’s his. The problem? Lord Aristos – Noon’s new employer – is her erstwhile lover, Ari Carmine, the aforementioned heart breaker. And the number one thing he wants is her.

When Rockthorn Gorge’s viaduct is destroyed by Displodo, an enigmatic bomber, killing a dozen settlers and wounding scores more, Noon sets off early to aid in the search and rescue. Ari is listed among the missing and the suspects are legion. But Noon’s search is just the beginning. Her journey forces Noon to confront not only those she loves, but also enemies hell-bent on destroying them.

Excerpt:

The claw-and-ball had been chewed clean off. It lay on a patch of sunny parquet floor, just to the right of an antique, aubergine wool rug now covered with the splintered remnants of an eleventh century pedestal table and one very large, ghastly looking, somewhat repentant barghest.

Nova’s head rested on her front paws as her gaze shifted warily from me to Miss Bister, Megiddo’s dormater, or house mother.

“Megiddo’s lobby is not a kennel, Miss Onyx. That”—she motioned dismissively toward Nova—“beast can no longer be housed here.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but Miss Bister continued speaking, her tone rising only infinitesimally, her back as stiff as Luck’s lance must have been, and her expression just as hard. She pointed toward the previously priceless, three-footed piece of furniture that was now a worthless, two-footed pile of kindling.

“No amount of money – or magic – can fix that, Nouiomo. It’s beyond repair. I warned you. I made an exception to my ‘no pets’ rule because you never cause trouble. You never forget your key; you promptly pick up your deliveries; you change your own light bulbs; you double bag your trash. You leave nothing behind in the bathroom; you don’t monopolize the washing machines; you are exceedingly polite to the lift operator; you don’t sing in the shower.”

I suppressed a sigh. After a year and a half of painstaking efforts, harrowing experiences, and endless hours of education, my worth had just been measured by the fact that I could change a light bulb. I’d mastered fiery magic, become an adept fighter, learned the law, killed countless demons (one regrettably, the others much less so), freed myriad immortals from an accursed, tortured bondage, and survived having my heart nearly destroyed by both love and an arrow, yet none of that meant bupkis next to the fact that I double bagged my trash. And yet…

I couldn’t really argue with Miss Bister either. Everything she’d said was true. And who was I to tell her what she should deem important? I respected that she valued domestic order and antiques. I did too, if not nearly as much as I valued the thing that now threatened our continued access to such. I glared at Nova, who swept one paw over her eyes as if she could hide from me and the evidence of what she’d done.

Barghests are giant hellhounds. They’re bigger than bears, fiercer than rabid raccoons, and uglier than naked mole rats. Their teeth are the size of railroad spikes, their claws as sharp as a sickle, their breath as foul as sewage gas. But they are also affectionate, brave, and loyal. What barghests lack in magic, they make up for in devotion. And even though I was plenty mad at Nova for chewing up Miss Bister’s table, I also knew it wasn’t Nova’s fault.

It was mine – for thinking the lobby of a demon law school dormitory would be a good place to keep her. 

“Miss Bister, please,” I said. “I’m truly sorry. I know I can’t replace that exact table. But if you would just allow me to—”

“No,” Miss Bister said simply. “Either the beast goes… Or you do.”

I stared at the small, frail, magicless woman in front of me, trying desperately to think of some way to fix this problem. Wasn’t there something I could do, or say, or offer her that would make amends and convince her not to kick us out?

But all I could think of was how useless some of the things our society valued most were. As Miss Bister had pointed out, neither magic nor money would help. If I was going to repair the table, I’d need to find another way. Which would take time. And that meant I’d need to find somewhere else for us to sleep tonight. Because if the beast was going… I was too.

“Yes, Miss Bister,” I said. “I understand.”

She narrowed her eyes, slightly suspicious of my now gracious defeat since I’d just spent the last half-hour trying to persuade her to accept various forms of reparation. But then she nodded, handed me a couple of paper bin bags, and left.

I slid one bag inside the other and stooped down to pick up the slobbery remains of Nova’s mangled chew toy. When I finished, she came over to me and nudged my arm with her head. She let out a woofy whine.

Was she sorry? She darn well better be!

 I gave her a scratch behind the ears.

“Now that you’ve sharpened your teeth on my former dormater’s furniture, are you ready to eat some real food for breakfast?”

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jill archerJill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, White Heart of Justice, and Pocket Full of Tinder. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Discussion Questions | Newletter | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

– leeanna

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:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– 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.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– 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.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– 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.

Socialize with the author:

Michael Livingston:
Website
Twitter

– 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:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– 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.

Instagram <3:

Socialize with the authors:

Amie Kaufman:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

Jay Kristoff:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– 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