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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Book Trailer:

About the author:

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

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

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

Book Review: Belle Chasse by Suzanne Johnson

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

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

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

belle chasse by suzanne johnson blog tour

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.

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

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

a song of war: a novel of troy

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

Giveaway:

A Song of War

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Book Review: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura KamoieAmerica's First Daughter by Laura Kamoie, Stephanie Dray
Published by William Morrow on March 1, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 624
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
In a compelling, richly researched novel that draws from thousands of letters and original sources, bestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father's reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

america's first daughter by stephanie dray and laura kaomie blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. Having enjoyed Stephanie’s work in the past, I was interested in seeing her tackle early American history. The tour is hosted by Inkslinger PR and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

As much as I like historical fiction — which is a lot — I rarely read about American events. I’m much more interested in ancient times and lands, but when I saw Stephanie Dray as one of the authors of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER, I knew I had to look at the book. I enjoyed Dray’s stories in the collaborative historical fiction books A DAY OF FIRE and A YEAR OF RAVENS, so I was sure that if anyone could get me interested in America’s early days, it would be her.

AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is the story of Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, or Patsy, as she was called before her marriage. I knew absolutely nothing about her, and not much about Jefferson other than common facts. Now that I’ve finished AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER, I’m blown away by how much I’ve learned. Not just about Jefferson and Patsy, but about America’s early political troubles, plantation life, slavery, and the role and expectations of women in Colonial America. The authors obviously did an immense amount of research, and they imparted that knowledge without letting it overwhelm the narrative.

The book starts off just after Jefferson’s death, with Patsy taking up what might be the most important task of her life: editing her father’s letters to preserve his image forevermore. In the process of sanitizing his words, she looks back at her entire life, detailing the incidents written of in the letters she burns. One example: the authors do believe Jefferson had a long affair with his slave, Sally Hemings, and that relationship threads through Patsy’s life, her views on it changing as she journeys from teenager to wife to mother. Sally’s predicament, and that of her children with Jefferson, also affect Patsy’s views on slavery.

The book is Patsy’s, but it’s also the story of Jefferson through the eyes of his devoted daughter. Patsy spends her entire life trying to protect and care for her father, sometimes at the expense of her own happiness. Because AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER spans so many years, it’s a great way to see Patsy eventually come into her own, trying to embody her father’s ideals about independence in time where women were essentially the property of their husbands or fathers. It’s also interesting to see Jefferson as a father and man; I could see why Patsy idolized him, but I also wanted to shake some sense into her at times.

AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER is quite long. But I appreciated the length, as it’s the epic saga of a famous family. The authors covered so many episodes of Patsy’s life that I can’t believe they left anything out. But they did, as they explain in the Author’s Note. I do think the beginning of the book, covering Patsy’s childhood, was a bit slow. But once the book got going, the authors hooked my attention, and I devoured the rest of it. I particularly liked the writing style: very readable, but with just enough old fashioned style to help set the historical period. There are a few difficult passages about domestic abuse, but the authors do present an argument for its historical accuracy. Lastly, it’s impossible to know that two people wrote this book, which is always a good thing with co-authored works.

In AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER, the authors breathe life into a little known but very important historical figure. Martha Jefferson Randolph literally was America’s first daughter as she filled the role of first lady for her father. I can’t believe I didn’t know more about her before this book, so I’m grateful to the authors for writing such an engrossing character and interesting me in the history of America’s earliest days.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

author stephanie draySTEPHANIE DRAY is an award-winning, bestselling and two-time RITA award nominated author of historical women’s fiction. Her critically acclaimed series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into eight different languages and won NJRW’s Golden Leaf. As Stephanie Draven, she is a national bestselling author of genre fiction and American-set historical women’s fiction. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital. Before she became a novelist, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the stories of women in history to inspire the young women of today.
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Newsletter | America’s First Daughter Website

author laura kamoieLAURA KAMOIE has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction as the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty books, Laura Kaye. Her debut historical novel, America’s First Daughter, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowed her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters.
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Newsletter | America’s First Daughter Website

– leeanna

Blog Tour: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

the conqueror's wife blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE CONQUEROR’S WIFE by Stephanie Thornton. I totally got my dates mixed up, so today I just have a spotlight of the book for you. But I’ll have my review up soon, and I thought it was a fantastic book, especially if you like reading about strong historical heroines brought to life. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

the conqueror's wife by stephanie thorntonInfo:
Title: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: NAL/Penguin Group LLC
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 496
Rating:

Summary:

A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)…

We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander’s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia’s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

About the author:

author stephanie thorntonStephanie 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.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora,” “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt,” and “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” are available now. “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great” will hit the shelves in December 2015.

For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Buy links: Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

– leeanna

Book Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

Book Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie PerinotMédicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on December 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

blog tour medicis daughter

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for MEDICIS DAUGHTER by Sophie Perinot. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

I’m sure you’ve heard of Catherine de Médici, but have you heard of her daughter, Margot? Catherine and her sons tend to overshadow her daughters, so that was the first thing to interest me about MEDICIS DAUGHTER. I tend to like historical fiction that introduces new-to-me people, and this book was no exception.

MEDICIS DAUGHTER follows the early years of Margot’s life, from her start at court to the beginning of her marriage with Henri of Navarre. If you’re familiar with French history, you know this is a very turbulent time, but even if you aren’t, the author conveys that turbulence well through Margot’s view. The Valois are staunch Catholics, but in the interests of trying to broker peace, King Charles and his mother are willing to make a few concessions to the Protestants. In a way, those Protestants have more freedom and influence with the king and his mother than Margot does.

One of the things I liked most about MEDICIS DAUGHTER is how the author conveyed Margot’s lack of control in her life. I’m sure a lot of us would like to be royalty, but in most countries, princesses were just tools in the game of marriage alliances. Margot is no exception, and it’s easy to empathize with her pain when she’s turned down by Don Carlos, son of King Philip II, and then also refused by King Philip himself. Catherine de Médici’s preference for her sons is easy to see, particularly Henri, Duke of Anjou. Margot, though perhaps as clever as Catherine herself, is seen just as a pawn, and she can never make her mother happy. Or even be listened to, when a brother tries to malign her reputation. I also liked that the author went there with Anjou and Margot.

Over the course of the book, Margot learns how to use her circumstances to her advantage. I liked seeing her grow up and grow into herself. It was also interesting to see the rest of the royal family through Margot’s eyes, particularly her mother. I’ve read a few books with Catherine de Médici as the main character, but I preferred Perinot’s version, seeing Catherine as a mother and queen behind the throne.

I feel like the author did a good job of bringing Margot to life, as well as the French court, the royal family, Margot’s friends, and the religious wars of the times. After I finished MEDICIS DAUGHTER, I went and looked up everything I could find about Margot. That’s the mark of a good read: the author hooked me into the historical figure and I want to learn everything about them. I do hope Sophie Perinot continues Margot’s tale, because her life was even more interesting after her marriage.

About the author:

author sophie perinotSOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times.
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

– leeanna

Book Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion

Book Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s RebellionA Year of Ravens by E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Russell Whitfield, Ruth Downie, S.J.A. Turney, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on November 17, 2015
Genres: History
Pages: 440
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

blog tour a year of ravens a novel of boudica's rebellion

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A YEAR OF RAVENS by Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield. This is a very unique book, one I enjoyed quite a bit. 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:

I’m not a huge fan of short stories. I’d rather read a whole book about the same characters and their stories. But last year, I read A DAY OF FIRE, which showed the last days of Pompeii through six different characters in six different stories. All of the characters interacted in some way, and there were several plotlines that carried through the whole book. I really enjoyed A DAY OF FIRE, and so when I saw several of the same authors (and some new ones) were coming together to write about Boudica, I couldn’t wait to start it.

The beauty of a book like A YEAR OF RAVENS is that if one character’s point of view doesn’t interest you, you can easily skip to the next chapter and see events through someone else’s eyes. I personally enjoyed every section, but the book is written in such a way that you won’t be lost if you don’t like a certain section.

Boudica is someone I’ve always been interested in, but somehow I’ve never read much about her. A YEAR OF RAVENS doesn’t have any sections from her viewpoint, but by seeing her through the eyes of those around her, as well as her enemies, I feel like I got a great idea of the woman she might have been. Because there are so many viewpoints and the book doesn’t focus just on Boudica as a character but the overall rebellion, I also got a great picture of all the events leading up to and during the year of battle.

The viewpoints in the book include:

  • Queen Cartimandua, a client queen who did not revolt against Rome
  • Slave girl Ria, the illegitimate daughter of King Prasutagus of the Iceni
  • Roman Tribune Gnaeus Julius Agricola
  • Andecarus, an Iceni tribesman hostaged to Rome at a young age
  • Druid Yorath, the only druid to survive a Roman massacre; Felix, a Roman soldier captured by Yorath
  • Duro, Boudica’s war chief; Valeria, wife of Britannia’s procurator
  • Sorcha and Keena, Boudica’s daughters

As you can see, there’s something for everyone, and both sides of the story are also represented. I couldn’t pick a favorite character, which is unusual for me. I liked everyone! And I felt for everyone as their circumstances changed, which says something for me, since it usually takes me a lot of page time to get attached. The sections flow almost seamlessly — except for a few areas of expertise, like Russell Whitfield’s knowledge of Roman armies — it’s difficult to tell each section is written by a different author. The smooth continuity of the plotlines and character interactions in A YEAR OF RAVENS make it a very unique, very cool book.

Giveaway:

A Year of Ravens

*giveaway is tour-wide

A Year of Ravens authors:

a year of ravens authors
Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, & Russell Whitfield
Buy links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

– leeanna

Book Review: Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle

Book Review: Mercury Retrograde by Laura BickleMercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on October 27, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Something venomous has come to Temperance …

It's been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance's resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.

Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don't want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters' own murderous skills.

Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.

With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.

mercury retrograde by laura bickle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for MERCURY RETROGRADE by Laura Bickle. As I quite enjoyed the first book in the Dark Alchemy series, DARK ALCHEMY, I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review MERCURY RETROGRADE. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

As a fan of Laura Bickle, I was excited to see that she was continuing her Dark Alchemy series. Earlier in the year, I read DARK ALCHEMY and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if it was a standalone or not. So I was quite happy to see MERCURY RETROGRADE pop up on my radar.

MERCURY RETROGRADE picks up two months after DARK ALCHEMY. Although I recommend reading the first book, I think you could read MERCURY RETROGRADE as a standalone and be okay. The author explains events that happened in the previous book as necessary. But you’ll definitely have a better appreciation of everything if you read book one.

In MERCURY RETROGRADE, Petra and her sidekick coyote Sig face off against a gigantic snake that’s turned Yellowstone into its personal hunting ground. But with giant snake videos going viral, they aren’t the only ones in the park — there are plenty of tourists, monster hunters, and even the government. Also on the search for the snake are Gabe and the Hanged Men, who need the snake’s blood to save their tree. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a cult of motorcycle-riding women who worship snakes … and they want to feed everyone to the giant snake.

I never know quite what I’m going to get with a Laura Bickle book, which is one of my favorite parts of reading her work. She twists things in ways I don’t expect, and always puts her own spin on traditional fantasy creatures. I was pretty creeped out by the giant snake, but I also sympathized with it by the end of the book. I also enjoy her dark humor and sarcasm, sprinkled at appropriate points. And lastly, she’s ace at writing great animal characters. I was overjoyed to see more of Sig!

I enjoyed MERCURY RETROGRADE even more than DARK ALCHEMY, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Petra, Sig, and Gabe.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

laura bickleLaura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Book Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally ChristieThe Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie
Series: Mistresses of Versailles #1
Published by Atria on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France's most "well-beloved" monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot - and women - forward. The King's scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie's stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

the sisters of versailles blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES by Sally Christie. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES is the first in a historical fiction trilogy about the mistresses of Louis XV. This first book is about the five Nesle sisters, four of whom became the king’s mistresses. It sounds extraordinary, even for a king, but it’s true. They’ve been overshadowed by Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, which I think is a real pity.

I’d never heard of the sisters before — this book is the first time they’ve been written about in English. I usually enjoy historical fiction that introduces me to new people and/or time periods, and here, I definitely enjoyed my introduction to the Nesle sisters. I think the author did a fine job of giving each their own personality and ambitions based on what is known about them. THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES is written from each sister’s perspective, and their voices are distinct enough that it’s not confusing. The book spans over a decade, and reads like a historical epic that’s light enough to be enjoyed by readers who might not want a ton of historical detail, but want to read about Louis XV’s early mistresses.

Louise, Pauline, Diane, and Marie-Anne all have their time with the king for their own reasons, whether it’s actually love or to gain power and security. I liked, disliked, and wanted to slap reason into each at various times, which I think speaks to the author’s success at turning little known historical figures into living, breathing women. As for Hortense — the one sister who didn’t succumb to the king — she begins and ends the book, an elderly woman looking back, realizing that life isn’t as black and white as her pious, judging self once thought.

Louis XV was Louis le Bien-Aimé — Louis the Well-Beloved — but he wasn’t so loving to the sisters. I liked seeing the king through their eyes, and then their lives after him. THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES doesn’t really go into the politics of the time, perhaps because most of the sisters are isolated and don’t care too much about politics. The book mainly focuses on life at Versailles, the intrigues and scandals that make up palace life. I quite liked the relationships between the sisters — a little love, but mainly of the “what can she do for me” variety, with competition and hatred thrown in. I found the different feelings rather realistic, especially at a time when women had to manipulate their surroundings as best they could to improve their lives.

About the author:

author sally christieI’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.

If you’d told my 12-year old self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.

I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).

For more information please visit Sally Christie’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.
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Buy links: Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Chapters | iTunes | Indiebound | Kobo

– leeanna

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen KincyClockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #2.5
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on September 1, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Dieselpunk, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 102
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
1914. Konstantin would love to hide in his laboratory and dissect the clockwork dragon captured from Russia, but the Archmages of Vienna have other plans. He finds himself shipped off to St. Petersburg as the scientific attaché to an ambassador. His orders? Look, but don't touch. Of course, he considers this an impossible request with so much enemy technomancy to explore.

To make matters worse, Konstantin has to work with the dashing zeppelin commander Himmel, a man who should also be untouchable. They can't act on the smoldering attraction between them without risking it all. Faced with an illegal relationship and a devious rival technomancer, Konstantin might not return from this mission in Russia without conquering the forbidden.

A companion novella to the Shadows of Asphodel series, from Konstantin's point of view.

clockwork menagerie blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE by Karen Kincy. CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the Shadows of Asphodel series. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the dieselpunk world of the Shadows of Asphodel series. While the series mainly follows Ardis and Wendel, this novella focuses on Archmage Konstantin and zeppelin captain Himmel. The two are part of a diplomatic mission to Russia, Austria-Hungary’s enemy. Konstantin is just supposed to observe Russia’s technomancy, but he’s distracted by two things: his attraction to Himmel and the illegal use of souls to power clockwork creations.

You don’t necessarily need to have read the main books in the Shadows of Asphodel series to understand CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE, since the novella has different main characters and takes place mostly in Russia, but I’d recommend checking them out for full understanding of Karen Kincy’s universe. Or use CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE as your introduction to the author’s world. Because Konstantin is an archmage, there’s enough explanation about the magic in this series that it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. Konstantin likes to geek out a lot about the magic, which I enjoyed.

For the most part, I enjoyed CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE. It’s about 100 pages, so a good length for a novella. The story doesn’t leave any loose ends, which is always nice. And it’s a story I liked, because Konstantin and Himmel go up against a devious Russian technomancer. Well, Konstantin does. Himmel wants to follow orders, which are to look but not touch. Konstantin manages to get himself into scrape after scrape, but luckily he has Himmel to rescue him. You know how even super smart people can have no common sense? Yeah, Konstantin’s a great example of that. For example, he remembers to pack magical supplies but no food for himself.

The romance in CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is the aspect that didn’t work for me. I was intrigued by a relationship between Konstantin and Himmel, because I could see it, but I wanted more development for me to really believe it. I understand their attraction to each other is forbidden — it’s 1914, in Russia — but still. I think if the novella were a bit longer, there would have been more room to expand on their attraction and relationship.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna