Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm Lovejoy

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm LovejoyHenge by Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay #1
Published by Self-Published on November 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

--

"Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series."--Kirkus Reviews

henge blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HENGE by Realm Lovejoy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

HENGE kicks off a new series featuring Morgan le Fay, set in modern-day Camelot. Morgana le Fay is my favorite in Arthurian legends, so I’m always interested in seeing different takes on her character.

In Realm Lovejoy’s version of Camelot, cellphones and magic exist side-by-side. The ability to use magic isn’t guaranteed, and even if you can manipulate air, water, or fire, chances are you won’t be anything more than a performer. Unless, that is, you are chosen to become one of the upcoming king’s Rounds. The best Round will be selected as the king’s magic advisor, and the rest will be employed by Camelot as Knights or Relic Keepers. Political acumen is just as important as good magic skills.

Morgan’s dream is to become the king’s Maven. She wants magic users to have more rights, not less. And she’ll do anything to pursue that dream, including sneaking out from under her father’s watchful eye, or diving headfirst into the dangers of Camelot.

HENGE is quite interesting. I really liked the world the author created, the intriguing mix of magic and modern technology, old legends and new political tangles. There’s a lot of familiar names, including Merlin, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but they’re not all straight from the old legends — they all have their own personalities. I wanted to learn more about each of them, as well as Morgan’s mother, Morgause.

Morgan herself was the most interesting character for me, since I was curious to see how the author would develop and grow her. Morgan’s a bit impulsive and tends to jump to conclusions, but she also wants to get rid of the injustices magic users face. I believed her reactions to everything that happened, and the last line of HENGE? I’m not going to spoil it, but yeah. I can’t wait to read more about Morgan!

Giveaway:

signed paperback of Henge + swag (US)
4 paperbacks of Henge (US)
6 ebooks (INT)
1 ebook + $20 Gift Card (INT)
Giveaway Ends November 28th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author realm lovejoyRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at www.realmlovejoy.com.
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Buy link: Amazon

– leeanna

Blog Tour: The Last Changeling by Chelsea Pitcher

the last changeling blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE LAST CHANGELING by Chelsea Pitcher. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here.

the last changeling by chelsea pitcherInfo:
Title: The Last Changeling
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Release Date: November 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Series: Faerie Revolutions #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 360

Summary:

A Kingdom at War . . .

Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.”

A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .

To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.

Excerpt:

ELORA:

I was seventeen when death crossed my path. Before that, I’d only dreamt of twisted limbs and blood as bright as poppies. But late one night, death offered me an opportunity. She whispered dirty secrets in my ear and pulled back my eyelids with curling hands.

There,” she said, and pointed.

I did not recognize her voice then. I did not know who was leading me into the darkness.

I followed.

Down below, a girl traveled the highway alone. She carried a hefty knapsack—the staple of the runaway. Her hair was red like mine and we might’ve been sisters, if not for the obvious difference.

She was a mortal.


I picked the excerpt from the very first page, because I think it sets the tone for the rest of the book rather well.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author chelsea pitcherChelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
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– leeanna

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

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.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Shameless by Nina Lemay

Book Review: Shameless by Nina LemayShameless by Nina Lemay
Published by Self-Published on August 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Author, Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.

I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?

But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.

He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.

The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.

shameless by nina lemay blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for SHAMELESS by Nina Lemay. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

The summary for SHAMELESS drew me in. A pessimist stripping to pay her way through college? A girl who gets the shock of her life when a guy she gave a lap dance to shows up as her photography professor? Yum! I like some “forbidden” relationships, and this one has two. I also liked the cover, since I could see Hannah as the girl on the cover. Photography plays a big role in SHAMELESS, so I think the cover style was a great choice.

For the most part, I enjoyed SHAMELESS. I liked Hannah. She always sees the worst in things, expects bad things to happen, and doesn’t glamorize her life as a stripper. It’s just something she’s doing to pay for school, and yeah, she recognizes that’s a huge cliche. Too bad. She likes financial independence. I liked that she wanted to take advantage of men looking at her, and that she was shameless about her job choice.

Hannah’s not in a great place in her life. I would say it’s possible she’s depressed, just going through the motions. Until Emmanuel shows up, in the club and then at school. The two are drawn together, and while Hannah is at first worried Emmanuel will spill her secret, he shows her otherwise when he rescues her from a bad clubbing night. I did think their relationship progressed very quickly. Emmanuel is an incredibly sweet guy, and I could tell he wanted the best for Hannah. I could see why she liked him, but I wasn’t sure why Emmanuel was drawn to Hannah. I mean, Emmanuel offers to do some crazy things so they can date without it causing trouble, but I’m still not sure why. A bit more development for both Hannah and Emmanuel would have really helped me believe in their relationship, but once I got past that, I did enjoy seeing them together.

Some of the things that happened are maybe a tad unbelievable, but I can’t really go into those without spoiling way too much of the book. So, to be incredibly vague, I could sort of believe what happened, but I would have believed it a lot more if Hannah’s tragic past had been … more tragic. She’s hiding a big secret about why she thinks most guys hate women, but when the reveal came, I expected it to be … bigger.

SHAMELESS is set in Canada, Montreal to be exact. I appreciated a book set outside of the U.S., and enjoyed the author’s descriptions for Montreal and especially Quebec City. I do wish an explanation for a couple French Canadian terms had been provided, but a quick trip to Urban Dictionary helped out.

I think what I liked most about SHAMELESS was that Hannah didn’t let anyone change her. You don’t like that she’s a stripper? Fuck you. I absolutely loved her final photography project, and what it shows about others’ attitudes regarding stripping and women. And thanks to the author’s good descriptions, I could actually “see” each photo.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author nina lemayNina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Color Song (Passion Blue #2) by Victoria Strauss

Book Review: Color Song (Passion Blue #2) by Victoria StraussColor Song by Victoria Strauss
Series: Passion Blue #2
on September 16, 2014
Pages: 334
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
By the author of the acclaimed "Passion Blue," a "Kirkus Reviews" Best Teen Book of 2012 and "a rare, rewarding, sumptuous exploration of artistic passion," comes a fascinating companion novel.

Artistically brilliant, Giulia is blessed - or cursed - with a spirit's gift: she can hear the mysterious singing of the colors as she creates them in the convent workshop of Maestra Humilita. It's here that Giulia, forced into the convent against her will, has found unexpected happiness and rekindled her passion to become a painter?an impossible dream for any woman in 15th century Italy.

But when a dying Humilita bequeaths Giulia her most prized possession - the secret formula for the luminously beautiful paint called Passion blue - Giulia realizes she's in danger from those who have long coveted the famous color. Faced with the prospect of a life in the convent barred from painting as punishment for keeping Humilita's secret, Giulia is struck by a desperate idea: What if she disguises herself as a boy? Could she make her way to Venice and find work as an artist's apprentice?

Along with the truth of who she is, Giulia carries more dangerous secrets: the exquisite voices of her paint colors and the formula for Humilita's Passion blue. And Venice, she discovers, with its gilded palazzos and masked balls, has secrets of its own. Trapped in her false identity in this dream-like place where reality and reflection are easily confused, and where art and ambition, love and deception hover like dense fog, can Giulia find her way?

This compelling novel explores timeless themes of love and illusion, gender and identity as it asks the question: what does it mean to risk everything to pursue your passion?

color song blog tour

I adored PASSION BLUE by Victoria Strauss when I read it last year, so when I was offered the chance to be on the blog tour for the companion novel, COLOR SONG, I was super excited.

The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

I really enjoyed PASSION BLUE, the first book about Giulia, a girl who wants to be a painter. But in Renaissance Italy, women aren’t painters. They’re servants or wives or nuns or prostitutes. Giulia was sent to a convent against her will, but against all odds, she finds a way to pursue her dream inside the convent.

Giulia’s story could have ended there, but thankfully, it didn’t. COLOR SONG is a companion to PASSION BLUE, and while it’s not super necessary to have read PASSION BLUE, it is helpful. Giulia does recap most of her story though, so you could dive right into COLOR SONG if you’re the impatient sort.

Sequels don’t always work for me, but I liked COLOR SONG even more than I liked PASSION BLUE. I didn’t want this book to end, because it was chock full of good stuff. The name comes directly from Giulia’s new ability: she can hear colors. Each one has its own song that fits the color. Malachite green has an acid whine, lead white purrs like a cat, and so on. Passion blue, the secret color that causes so much angst and joy for Giulia, has the very best song of all. I really liked this concept of color song, because it added even more to the author’s sumptuous descriptions of color.

In COLOR SONG, Giulia runs away from the convent and goes to Venice, the city for art. Venice was practically a living, breathing character, and I enjoyed seeing the city through Giulia’s eyes. I also really liked the descriptions of life in a master’s painting workshop, contrasting it to the one in the convent. But the descriptions of Giulia’s painting and color creation were the very best of all: I felt like I could really see each color she created. And the processes of creating those colors! So cool. I geek out over that sort of stuff.

Giulia has to disguise herself as a boy to follow her dream, but even as she does, she wonders how long she can keep her secrets. She’s not sure if she wants to live a lie, but with the attitudes against women, what can she do?

I could go on and on about COLOR SONG, but I don’t want to give away too much of the story. Yes, it is a tad depressing because of Giulia’s struggles, but she has help from unexpected sources. The epilogue gives a hopeful nod to the rest of her story, and while I would love another book about Giulia, if there isn’t one, I’m very satisfied with how everything wraps up.

I recommend COLOR SONG if you like historical fiction, art fiction, and/or stories about girls making their own futures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author victoria straussVictoria Strauss is the author of nine novels for adults and young adults, including the STONE duology (THE ARM OF THE STONE and THE GARDEN OF THE STONE), and a historical novel for teens, PASSION BLUE. She has written hundreds of book reviews for magazines and ezines, including SF Site, and her articles on writing have appeared in Writer’s Digest and elsewhere. In 2006, she served as a judge for the World Fantasy Awards.

An active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), she’s co-founder, with Ann Crispin, of Writer Beware, a publishing industry watchdog group that tracks and warns about literary fraud. She maintains the popular Writer Beware website, Facebook page, and blog, for which she was a 2012 winner of an Independent Book Blogger Award. She was honored with the SFWA Service Award in 2009.

She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey Stewart

Book Review: Adagio (The Company #1) by Delancey StewartAdagio by Delancey Stewart
Series: The Company #1
Published by Self-Published on May 6, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 205
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
3 Stars
The world of professional ballet is built on illusion. The illusion of perfection. The illusion of effortless beauty. The illusion of eternal love.

But backstage, few members of the Union Ballet Company suffer from such illusions.

Anna Glaser has dreamed of nothing but dancing professionally her entire life. And when she’s finally offered a position with Union, she takes it, giving little more than a passing thought to what she might have to give up in exchange. But Sebastian Kaplan, the director who gave her the chance, won’t forget so easily.

When Anna meets Cain, who has been dubbed by the local media as Union’s most eligible bachelor, she realizes that making a deal with the devil might mean that Heaven — in the form of a gorgeous dark-haired man — is forever out of her reach.

Dancers at Union know that something that glitters and shines under the stage lights can still be vicious and evil when the lights go down.

Adagio is the first episode in the series The Company – an engaging drama-filled ride through the darker parts of the ballet and the lives of those who live to dance.

*This book contains explicit content and is suitable for readers over 17

adagio blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for ADAGIO by Delancey Stewart. If you’ve been around here for a while, you might know I like ballet books, so I was excited to check this one out.

The tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide givewaway.

Book Review:

ADAGIO dives into the dark aspects of ballet within the opening pages. At her audition to dance with the Union Ballet Company, the director offers her a private audition to show she really belongs. Sebastian wants to know how far she’ll go to dance, if she will do anything necessary. Anna jumps at the chance to make her dreams come true, but later wonders if she did the wrong thing, and what Sebastian will want in return.

Anna lives to dance. The order and devotion required to succeed keep away the nightmares and problems in her past. But when she joins Union, Sebastian’s manipulations, company politics, and a possible romance with a fellow dancer shake up everything. Suddenly, dance isn’t the refuge it’s always been. Sebastian pushes Anna almost to her breaking point, but not everyone is content to watch him be a controlling bastard.

There’s a lot going on in ADAGIO, more than just Anna’s dealings with Sebastian and her romance with Cain. I think some of the side stories were unnecessary, and took focus away from really developing Anna and Cain, and their relationship. For example, Anna was taken advantage of in the past, which has made her uncomfortable around men. The first time she tries to be with Cain, she can’t go through with it. Once he learns why, Cain is super understanding, is willing to wait, and wants to help Anna get over her past. But it doesn’t take very long for Anna to practically jump Cain, which I found a tad unrealistic. Otherwise, I thought the relationship between the two was really sweet, and I liked the little things Cain did, like buy groceries and make sure she got home safe every night.

At 205 pages, ADAGIO is a quick read. I like books set in the ballet world, so this was good for me. I read it in one sitting, because I wanted to know what would happen with controlling Sebastian, to see if Anna would succumb or triumph. I also wanted to “see” the ballet the company works towards putting on, a steampunk version of Coppélia. I think there’s a good balance of dance life and real life in ADAGIO, and it’s a good start to a series.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

delancey stewartDelancey Stewart writes contemporary romance.

Stewart has lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns. She’s been a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer and a direct sales representative for a French wine importer. But she has always been a writer first.

A military spouse and the mother of two small boys, her current job titles include pirate captain, monster hunter, Lego assembler and story reader. She tackles all these efforts at her current home outside Washington D.C.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Storms of Lazarus (Shadows of Asphodel #2) by Karen Kincy

Book Review: Storms of Lazarus (Shadows of Asphodel #2) by Karen KincyStorms of Lazarus by Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #2
Published by Self-Published on July 13, 2014
Genres: Alternate Universe, Dieselpunk, New Adult, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sometimes escape is impossible. Sometimes love isn't enough.

1913. Christmas Eve. Ardis hardly expects a quiet holiday with Wendel, between fleeing Constantinople and hiding from an ancient society of assassins. And they owe a debt to a certain archmage.

In Königsberg, Prussia, they work with Konstantin on the next evolution of Project Lazarus. Wendel once called Königsberg home, the city now besieged by the Russians and their clockwork engines of war. This may be Wendel’s last chance to save his family and find redemption, but he's tormented by nightmares and tempted by laudanum. Ardis fears her love isn’t enough to save Wendel. Her hands are full piloting the automatons, and she's terrified to tell him a secret of her own. Will they—and their love—survive the storms of war?

storms of lazarus blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for STORMS OF LAZARUS by Karen Kincy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can check out the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

Last year I read SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL, the first book in Karen Kincy’s dieselpunk/steampunk series of the same name. I enjoyed the combination of necromancy, airships, automatons, magic, and other good stuff. I hoped there would be a second book, so I was excited to see STORMS OF LAZARUS pop up. I liked this book even better than the first, which is a rarity for me.

STORMS OF LAZARUS starts off right after the end of SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL. There isn’t much recap of what happened in book one, which is my only complaint about this book. I read the first in December 2013, so I couldn’t remember a lot of what happened. More of a refresher would have been helpful, but otherwise, STORMS OF LAZARUS was quite enjoyable.

In the first couple of chapters, Ardis and Wendel are arrested, meet a vampire, acquire a pet raven, reunite with Konstantin, and survive an airship crash. And oh yeah — World War I is about to start. Ardis, Wendel, and Konstantin travel to Prussia in an attempt to stave off invasion, but you know nothing goes to plan. As with the first book in the series, the author shows off her creativity, bringing in a clockwork dragon and wasps, and making an interesting connection between necromancers and vampires. The backdrop of war also makes for a lot of adventure, and the book is almost non-stop action. There’s even more automaton battles, which made me a happy reader.

In the first book, I didn’t quite support the relationship between Ardis and Wendel, but here I was rooting for them. Ardis really supports Wendel in Prussia, where he has to face the family that disinherited him because of his necromantic abilities. Wendel is his usual sarcastic but noble self, and has some great lines. I’d quote some of my favorites, but that would spoil things.

Basically, if you liked SHADOWS OF ASPHODEL, then I think you’ll really enjoy STORMS OF LAZARUS. It has everything the first book had, but more. It’s like a double helping of dieselpunk/steampunk goodness. I sincerely hope there’s a third book in the works, because I need more of Ardis and Wendel’s story.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author of shadows of asphodel: karen kincyKaren Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.
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– leeanna

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron

Book Review: UnWritten by Chelsea M. CameronUnWritten by Chelsea M. Cameron
Published by Self-Published on July 10, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 308
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Blair Walton isn't your average curvaceous tattooed children's librarian. She's also one half of bestselling romance author, Scarlet Rose. Along with her BFF Raine, she spends her nights writing books so steamy, she's afraid they would shock her Southern conservative grandmother to death . . . if she knew about them. That's why she and Raine write in secret.

On deadline for their latest book and out of ideas, Raine suggests (demands) that Blair find a guy and "do some research." Declan Bennet has all the qualifications: He's British, looks fabulous in a suit, has glorious blue eyes and gets bonus points for being an amazing single dad to his adorable son, Drake. But what starts out as a research project quickly turns into something much more. And Blair's not the only one with secrets.

unwritten blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for UNWRITTEN by Chelsea M. Cameron. The tour is hosted by Inkslinger PR. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

Book Review:

Romance isn’t typically my genre of choice, but sometimes a book grabs my attention, usually because of the author or summary. The idea behind UNWRITTEN is what pulled me in: Blair is a children’s librarian by day, and an author by night. She and her best friend, Raine, write steamy novels together.

UNWRITTEN starts off with this sentence: “What’s another word for [ladyparts]?” (My edit). You can’t go wrong with a book that starts like that!

As a wannabe author, I couldn’t want to dive into Blair’s secret life. She and Raine are having trouble with their current work in progress. They’re under deadline stress, but are stuck. Convinced they need fresh inspiration, Raine pushes Blair to date the cute, single dad that’s started bringing his son to the library. But what’s supposed to be a simple fling soon turns into something more. But are Blair and Declan ready for that something more?

I read UNWRITTEN as just the right time: I needed book that would cheer me up, make me feel good while I was reading. I blazed through it in a few hours, and wanted my own Declan when I finished. The romance between Blair and Declan is swoon-worthy, and I don’t say that very often. Declan was a great love interest, romantic and considerate, and oh yeah, amazing in bed. I don’t like kids, but his son was adorable, and I laughed when Blair thought about how to turn him into an even better reader.

I also liked the super strong friendship between Blair and Raine. Come to think of it, I’d like my own Raine, too. They often joked that they were platonic life partners, because they were always there for each other, and because they knew each other so well. The banter between them, especially when they were writing or brainstorming, reminded me of myself and a writing buddy. I was also happy that the author put so much of writing into UNWRITTEN — from writer’s block to deadline stress to constantly coming up with new ideas to having characters talk inside your head. Yup.

There’s a lot of humor in UNWRITTEN, as well as tons of pop culture and music references. But it’s not all fun and games, as Blair does have to deal with an unexpected tragedy. I loved seeing Raine and Declan stand by her, offering support and reassuring her that not everyone reacts the same to bad things.

I would have liked to see a bit more of the happily ever after, but overall, I quite enjoyed UNWRITTEN. It’s a stand-a-lone, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a novella about Blair and Declan, or a book for Raine, as I’m sure she has her own story to tell.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

Chelsea M. Cameron is a YA/NA New York Times/USA Today Best Selling author from Maine. Lover of things random and ridiculous, Jane Austen/Charlotte and Emily Bronte Fangirl, red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car and tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman). She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maine, Orono that she promptly abandoned to write about the people in her own head. More often than not, these people turn out to be just as weird as she is.

Her New Adult Contemporary Romance titles include My Favorite Mistake, which has been bought by Harlequin along with a sequel, Deeper We Fall and Faster We Burn (April 20, 2013).

Her Young Adult books include Nocturnal, Nightmare and Neither, the first three books in The Noctalis Chronicles. The fourth and final book, Neverend will be out in 2013. Whisper, the first in The Whisper Trilogy is also available, with the second book in the series, Silence and the final book, Listen coming out in 2014.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

– leeanna