Armchair BEA 2014: Day 1: Introductions

armchair bea 2014

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

I know I haven’t been very active the past couple of months, but once I saw a mention for Armchair BEA 2014 on Twitter, I knew it was the perfect way to kickoff getting back into blogging. This is my third year doing Armchair BEA, and it’s one of my favorite blogging events. This year I’m hoping to meet some new blogging friends, maybe even some writing friends, and check out a lot of new blogs.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Where in the world are you blogging from? 

leeannaMy name is Leeanna, which is pretty obvious from my blog’s name. When I happened to find out that leeanna.me was available a couple of years ago, I just couldn’t resist. I think it’s unique, but I do have the same problem I have in real life — not everyone spells it properly.

I originally got into book blogging because I used to write book reviews for a newspaper, and I missed it. That blog lasted about 6 months, but I wasn’t involved in the community at all, so it was a lonely endeavor. A year or so later I found the book blogosphere, so I started back up. That was in February 2012, and while I’ve had periods of inactivity due to real life stuff, I think I’ll be blogging for a long time to come.

As for location, I’m in the US, in Ohio. Anyone else hail from NE Ohio?


Describe your blog in just one sentence. Then, list your social details — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. — so we can connect more online. 

One sentence, that’s a bit tricky, but I’ll go with: Leeanna.me: A Little Bit of Everything.

I read a wide variety of genres, from young adult to science fiction to a bit of romance. For a long time, I’ve also been thinking about expanding my book blog to be more personal and to include some posts on other interests of mine, from finance to writing to geek diy and so on.

Social:

Twitter: @leaflette
Bloglovin: ♥♥♥♥♥
Goodreads: leeannadotme
Instagram: leeannadotme


What genre do you read the most? I love to read because ___________________ .

I read almost every genre, except mystery, horror, or western. But if a book in one of those catches my eye, it’s fair game.

I read because I literally don’t know what I would do if I didn’t. Ever since I could read, I’ve had a book in hand, and that will never change. I love to read because it’s an escape, an adventure, a way to learn, etc.


Share your favorite book or reading related quote. 

My favorite quote comes from HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: “It’s real for us.” —Severus Snape


And that’s it! See ya’ll tomorrow.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

Book Review: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. CarlesonThe Tyrant's Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on February 11, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

Book Review:

I started reading THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER while I was waiting on an appointment. I got so into the book that I barely noticed I ended up waiting for over two hours. I was almost disappointed to go to the appointment, because by that point, I would rather have kept reading!

Laila doesn’t know what’s true or false anymore. There, in an unknown third world country, she was raised as royalty. Her father was the king, and her younger brother the prince. Here, she lives in a tiny apartment outside of Washington D.C. with her mother and brother, rescued by the U.S. government after her father was killed in a coup. THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is her story of discovering what really happened there, how it affects what happens here, and what her future is.

On one hand, the book is an easy read, full of American experiences from prom to making out in cars to Starbucks trips. But don’t let that fool you, because Laila’s story is much deeper than that. Yes, she has more freedom than she’s ever had, and is getting to do things she never would have done there, but is the cost of that freedom worth the truth? Is it worth learning that your father was actually a dictator, and that dissenters were tortured under his rule?

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER is a book that made me think, and Laila’s story will stay with me for a while. I think the book does a really good job exploring the power of one person, and how decisions big and small can influence events. My only criticism, and the reason I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 stars, is that I almost missed the big twist. I understand why it was written the way it was, but I wish more time had been paid to the big event, considering some of the detail that went into less important passages. At the end, I was a bit confused and wanted to know exactly what happened, and what might happen in the future.

Socialize with the author:

J.C. Carleson:
Website

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Kissed (The Thorn Chronicles #1) by Kimberly Loth

kissed by kimberly loth blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for KISSED by Kimberly Loth. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here. Today I have an excerpt from the book and a tour-wide giveaway.

kissed by kimberly lothInfo:
Title: Kissed
Author: Kimberly Loth
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Series: The Thorn Chronicles #1
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 250

Summary:

Trapped in a dark cult, sixteen-year-old Naomi Aren has lived a quiet, albeit unhappy, life nestled deep in the hills of the Ozarks. With uncut hair, denim skirts, and only roses for friends, Naomi seldom questions why her life is different from other kids at school. Until the day her abusive father, who is also the cult’s leader, announces her wedding. Naomi must marry Dwayne Yerdin, a bully who reeks of sweat and manure and is the only one person who scares her worse than her father.

Then she meets Kai, the mysterious boy who brings her exotic new roses and stolen midnight kisses. Kisses that bring her a supernatural strength she never knew she had. As the big day approaches, Naomi unearths more secrets of about her father’s cult. She learns she has power of her own and while Kai may have awakened that power, Naomi must find a way to use it to escape Dwayne and her father—without destroying herself. (summary from goodreads)

Excerpt:

“See,” my father said, “she’s obedient.”

Mr. Yerdin grinned. “Yes, of course she is. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you, Dr. Aren. Dwayne, what do you think?”

Dwayne shrugged and shifted his eyes. Me, I kept my mouth shut and listened for the words that weren’t being said.

Mr. Yerdin eyed me up and down. “Well she certainly has the required blond hair and blue eyes.”

“And she’s a virgin.” My father spoke this a little too loudly and I flinched. My mother paused before picking up Mr. Yerdin’s plate. She met my father’s eyes and nodded. Then the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly.

My stomach sank at the thought of what my birthday surprise would be. Although part of me did not want to hear the rest of the conversation, but to escape back into the quiet world of flowers and dirt, another part of me needed to know what my future held, where being a virgin was important.

I cleared my throat. Dwayne smiled a wide toothy smile and my father glowered like I’d done something wrong. Which, of course, I had, but it would be worth the punishment if I got the answers I needed.

“Could someone please explain?” There. I asked the question. So out of character for me and yet satisfying in a strange way, like the way I felt when a teacher praised me for a good job. I bit my bottom lip and tasted butterscotch, which was weird because the cake we had, contained nothing of the sort. While I knew asking questions was not an act of disobedience, I also recognized the power in the asking. As if I was taking control, even if that control was small. I took a sip of my water. Father hesitated for a moment and then frowned. He looked up and saw my mother standing in the kitchen, her eyes boring into his. He didn’t look away from her when he answered me.

“You’ll be marrying Dwayne.”

From Chapter 1

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author kimberly lothKimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina. She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. Currently, she lives in Cairo, Egypt with her husband and two kids.

She is a high school math teacher by day (please don’t hold that against her) and YA author by night. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures. Kissed is her first novel.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: The Sentinel (The Sundering #5) by Troy Denning

Book Review: The Sentinel (The Sundering #5) by Troy DenningThe Sentinel by Troy Denning
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
In the fifth book of the multi-author Sundering series, New York Times best-selling author Troy Denning sends an embittered paladin, Kleef Kenric, on a quest to stop evil forces from taking advantage of the chaos rolling across the land of Faerûn and claiming dominion over the entirety of the Realms.

Stubbornly clinging to his family’s worship of a long-forgotten god, Kleef Kenric soon discovers that his god has blessed him with divine gifts, making him one of a new group of Chosen cropping up around the Realms. This divine gift makes him an excellent ally—and a target for those who wish corral his powers.

After battling his way out Marsember, a city besieged on all sides in the wake of the Sundering, he becomes swept up in the mission of a group of odd allies—a warrior noblewoman, an accomplished thief, and a mysterious short pudgy man exuding a faint odor of decay. With the forces of Shade tracking their every step, they travel to the Underdark to thwart the rise of the goddess of Death, but before long Kleef learns that his allies hide dangerous secrets—secrets that could destroy not only Kleef but the very fabric of the Forgotten Realms.

Book Review:

I’ve enjoyed the first four books of The Sundering series: THE COMPANIONS (R.A. Salvatore), THE GODBORN (Paul S. Kemp), THE ADVERSARY (Erin M. Evans), and THE REAVER (Richard Lee Byers). But number five, THE SENTINEL, just didn’t have the same shine for me as the previous books.

Kleef, a topsword in the Marsember Watch in Cormyr, rescues Joelle and Malik from the Shadovar. Joelle and Malik are Chosen, on a mission to save Toril from Shar by using the Eye of Gruumsh. Along with Arietta, a noble of Cormyr, they fight across Faerûn, on the run from the Shadovar and legions of orcs. Along the way, attempts to trust each other are stalled by back stabbing, and no one is sure of anyone’s true intentions.

I’m having a hard time reviewing THE SENTINEL because it’s hard to say much about it. It seemed like I was reading a D&D game put into book format rather than a book about the Sundering. I didn’t come to care about any of the characters, the action scenes were snooze fests, and the story as a whole? I’m not sure what I read, to be honest. The ending left me confused, and I wish I’d given up on this book when it took me four tries to start it.

– leeanna

Book Review: Timeless by Rachel Spangler

Book Review: Timeless by Rachel SpanglerTimeless by Rachel Spangler
Published by Bold Strokes Books on April 15, 2014
Genres: LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
What would you change about your past if you had the chance? What if you didn’t have a choice?

Stevie Geller doesn’t do conflict. She likes her job as a successful novelist and playwright because it allows her to peacefully ensconce herself in her New York City loft, avoid human interactions, and leave personal drama for the page and stage. When her agent asks her to return to her hometown of Darlington, Illinois, to accept an award, she agrees only because he promises the process will be quick and easy. One panic attack and concussion later, Stevie is forced to confront her past in ways that seem to defy reality. As if befriending a social outcast and confronting high school bullies weren’t enough, she also finds herself falling for a closeted teacher. Along the way, Stevie must decide if some things are worth fighting for. In her rush to escape the past, will she leave behind a better future, or are some conflicts really timeless?

Book Review:

TIMELESS is a book that blew me away. From the summary, I thought it was going to be sweet and fluffy, with a romance between a teacher and her former student. Yeah, there is some fluff, and that romance is there, but TIMELESS is so much more than that. The author took me on a heartfelt ride about facing your past, confronting bullies, overcoming fears, and growing into the person you want to be.

Stevie hates conflict; she’s always avoided it. She’s never liked standing out in a crowd, so when her agent tries to get her to return to her high school for an award, her first answer is no. But he persists, and before Stevie knows it, she’s back in the Midwest, a place where she’s never felt comfortable. But before she can accept her award and jet back to New York City, she’s given the oddest opportunity to revisit her high school years.

There is a romance in TIMELESS, but it’s not the main part of the story. Yeah, it’s important, and I liked the slow burn between Stevie and Jody, and I would like to see more of them in the future. My favorite part of TIMELESS was Stevie: her voice, her character, and the way she used her second chance in the past to grow.

Who hasn’t thought about how life would be different if they’d done X instead of Y in high school? TIMELESS explores that, as well as a variety of issues from bullying to homophobia. I think adults and teens would enjoy this book, and I’d recommend it to everyone. When I finished TIMELESS, I felt so hopeful and so inspired. Not many books give me that feeling, and it’s one of my favorite books for the year.

Socialize with the author:

Rachel Spangler:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Monthly Summary: April 2014


in april…

I’m sorry for disappearing for most of April. I’m not trying to be mysterious, but I’m not ready to talk about why. I imagine I’ll be less active for the next couple of months (no more disappearing, though!), so please bear with me. If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me!

I said last month that I was going to read some chunky epic fantasy books so that I’d always be in the middle of something. I started and got to the halfway point of THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley, but got bored with it. So I picked up my favorite epic fantasy series of all time: Phèdre’s Trilogy, part of the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the first three books. I actually had to replace my copy of KUSHIEL’S DART because I wore out the spine.

   

Reviews Posted:

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland.
Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1) by Jill Archer.
Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell.

– leeanna

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Elizabeth MaxwellHappily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell
Published by Touchstone on March 18, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
In this witty, sexy tale, an erotic novelist meets the fictional hero of her most recent book in real life, and must decide whether she wants to get him back between the pages—or between her sheets.At forty-six, Sadie Fuller’s life isn’t exactly romantic. A divorced, overweight, somewhat sexually frustrated mother of an eleven-year-old, she lives in the suburbs, shops the big box stores, makes small talk with her small-minded neighbors, and generally leads a quiet life. But while her daughter is at school, or when Sadie is up late at night, she writes erotic fiction under the name KT Briggs.

Then, during a routine shopping trip, Sadie runs into someone familiar…too familiar, in fact. She encounters an incredibly handsome man exactly like the one in her imagination—and her latest novel. Is Aidan Hathaway really one of her characters? And if so, what is he doing in Target? As Sadie tries to negotiate this strange new world, her eyes begin to open to romantic possibilities in places she never dreamed of looking... places where Happily Ever After might not be so far-fetched after all.

Book Review:

HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a book that’s just fun to read. When I started it, I was waiting for an oil change, and thanks to this book, I didn’t realize that I waited over two hours for my car to be done. Yay for Sadie and her shenanigans!

A book about writing a book, HAPPILY EVER AFTER mashes several genres together, from contemporary romance to paranormal romance and women’s fiction. As a writer and book blogger, I appreciated the little details about Sadie’s career, including calculating word counts, character backstories, and advanced review copies.

While her neighborhood sleeps, Sadie, aka K. T. Briggs, writes erotic fiction. K. T. Briggs is glamorous, confident, a sex goddess. Sadie is a single parent, a bit overweight, and has panic attacks. Together, both personas make up the “real” Sadie. Sadie is a great main character. Several times I found myself thinking the same thing she thought, and I think a lot of readers will find something to identify with or to like about her.

Who hasn’t wondered what might happen if a book’s characters suddenly appeared in real life? That’s exactly what happens to Sadie, and after a quick freakout, she gets down to business. It’s not easy to figure out why Aidan, the sex-on-a-stick hero of her work in progress is at Target. In the baby aisle, of all places. But Sadie does her best to solve the mystery, bringing the reader along on the crazy adventure.

I originally wanted to read HAPPILY EVER AFTER because I liked the hook of Sadie writing erotic fiction, and then having to deal with her characters in real life. Once I got into the book, though, I enjoyed it for more reasons than just that. Sadie’s realistic voice, her devotion to her daughter, her desire to help her characters fulfill their dreams… it all added up to a touching book.

Socialize with the author:

Elizabeth Maxwell:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1) by Jill Archer

Book Review: Dark Light of Day (Noon Onyx #1) by Jill ArcherDark Light of Day by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #1
Published by Ace on September 25, 2012
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
4 Stars
Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, and the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, the daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret: She was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of, and some would consider her an abomination.

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or to attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

dark light of day book blitz

Today as part of the blitz (hosted by Bewitching Book Tours) for DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL by Jill Archer, I have a review of the first book, DARK LIGHT OF DAY. There’s a tour-wide giveaway after my review, and check back here in the next few days, because I’ll have reviews of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL and WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE.

Book Review:

The first in the Noon Onyx series, DARK LIGHT OF DAY is a paranormal/urban fantasy set at in a demon law school. Yup, you read that right. Noon is studying to be a Maegester, a demon peacekeeper/lawyer/executioner when necessary. Armageddon is over. The demons won, they rule Halja, and they love rules.

Women of the Host are Mederi healers, men are Maegester destroyers. But something went wrong with Noon and her twin brother, Night. She’s kept her waning magic a secret her entire life, but when her mother sends an application to St. Lucifer’s, the best demon law school, Noon can’t keep her secret any longer. Maegesters can feel each other’s magical signatures, and if she doesn’t admit what she is, she’ll die for not telling the truth. Demons don’t like waste.

Noon is an interesting character. She doesn’t want to destroy anything or work with demons, but because she has waning magic, she doesn’t have a choice about her future. Emotionally, she’s all over the place: sometimes strong, sometimes insecure. There were a few times I wanted to shake her, but overall, I found her realistic for a twenty-one year old. It was great to see her grow over the course of the book.

The beginning of DARK LIGHT OF DAY does dump a lot of information, but after I got past that, I didn’t put the book down until I finished it. I thought the setting was super creative — the world hasn’t ended with Armageddon. People pay taxes, work, go to school, and oh yeah, offer tribute to the appropriate demon. I also liked St. Lucifer’s; I tend to like books set at schools, so I liked the descriptions of Noon’s classes and student life.

The only part of the book that I didn’t like were the romantic interests, Peter and Ari. Peter is Noon’s best friend, an Angel who has promised to help her find a way to get rid of her waning magic. Ari is a fellow Maegester and student at St. Lucifer’s. Both like Noon for different reasons, and she likes them, but isn’t sure where her future lies. I thought they were both jerks in their own way, and didn’t see any chemistry between them and Noon.

Other than Peter and Ari, I really enjoyed DARK LIGHT OF DAY. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Noon next, and what other demons she’ll have to deal with.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author jill archerJill Archer writes dark, genre-bending fantasy from rural Maryland. Her novels include Dark Light of Day, Fiery Edge of Steel, and White Heart of Justice. She loves cats, coffee, books, movies, day tripping, and outdoor adventuring.
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna

Blog Tour: Obsidian Eyes by A.W. Exley

obsidian eyes by a.w. exley tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for OBSIDIAN EYES by A.W. Exley. I have an excerpt and tour-wide giveaway. The tour is hosted by Xpresso Book Tours, and you can check out all the stops here.

obsidian eyes by a.w. exley

Info:

Title: Obsidian Eyes
Author: A.W. Exley
Release Date: March 24, 2014
Publisher: Curiosity Quills
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
Page Count: 278

Summary:

1836, a world of light and dark, noble and guild. The two spheres intersect when seventeen-year-old Allie Donovan is placed at the aristocratic St Matthews Academy. More at ease with a blade than a needle, she finds herself ostracised by the girls and stalked by a Scottish lord intent on learning why she is among them.

She begins to suspect the underlying reasons when soldiers arrive to see her friend, Zeb, a mechanical genius. On the hunt for answers she breaks into his underground laboratory. There, Allie discovers he is not just constructing sentient mechanical creatures, he is building a devastating new weapon for the military.

The guilds want the weapon and Allie is trapped by ties of blood. She must obey the overlord of the guild and deliver up her friend, unless she can rely on bonds of friendship, to save both their lives. (summary from goodreads)

Excerpt:

The sword sliced through invisible treacle. The deep green tassel hanging from the hilt swayed back and forth with the blade’s measured progress. The girl’s bare feet were silent on the dark wood floor. With eyes closed and breathing controlled, she appeared to slow time. A second stretched into twenty as she lost herself in the rhythm and balance of the ancient Chinese movements.

Above her head on the mezzanine floor, two men watched through the slated office window: Jared McLaren, student at St Matthews, and Weapons Master Marshall.

The younger man’s gaze followed the intricate dance. His help had been requested to unravel a puzzle. A puzzle who wielded a sword so expertly on the floor below.

“Who is she?” He voiced his question without taking his eyes off the girl. He stood at ease, arms clasped behind his back. Even at seventeen years old, military training oozed from every pore. With an affinity for any weapon and a keen mind, he earned his place as top student in weapons training.

The older man ran a hand through short salt and pepper hair. He flicked his gaze from the girl to his favourite pupil. “Alessandra Donovan, although she prefers Allie. She will be in your classes this year. Her grandfather is the new history master and librarian. He came here from Egypt, six weeks ago, and brought his granddaughter with him.”

Jared frowned. “She’s a commoner?”

from Chapter 1

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life. She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland

Book Review: The Shadow Queen by Sandra GullandThe Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland
Published by Doubleday on April 8, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
From the author of the beloved Josephine B. Trilogy, comes a spellbinding novel inspired by the true story of a young woman who rises from poverty to become confidante to the most powerful, provocative and dangerous woman in the 17th century French court: the mistress of the charismatic Sun King.

1660, Paris

Claudette’s life is like an ever-revolving stage set. From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family’s acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine, Claudette’s life is culturally rich, but like all in the theatrical world at the time, she's socially scorned.

A series of chance encounters gradually pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant.

Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage, with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed.

Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs, becomes ever more desperate to hold onto the King's favor, innocent love charms move into the realm of deadly Black Magic, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life—and the family she loves so dearly—at risk.

Set against the gilded opulence of a newly-constructed Versailles and the War of Theaters, THE SHADOW QUEEN is a seductive, gripping novel about the lure of wealth, the illusion of power, and the increasingly uneasy relationship between two strong-willed women whose actions could shape the future of France.

Book Review:

I could write an extremely long review on why I loved THE SHADOW QUEEN. But no one wants to read a novel about a novel, so here’s what’s really important: I connected with this book. I read it twice, because the first time I flew through it so quickly I couldn’t write a review other than “read this!” The second time, I enjoyed the book even more. It’s one I’m sure to read another couple of times in the future.

I had never heard of Claudette des Œillets before reading THE SHADOW QUEEN, and from what I gather, she doesn’t have the greatest historical reputation. Claudette is known for being involved with the Affair of the Poisons during the reign of Louis XIV. Claudette is also known for being the companion of Athénaïs de Montespan, the “Shadow Queen” of the king, aka the real power behind the throne.

However, Sandra Gulland presents a different side of Claudette. It’s a side that worked very well for me, because I empathized so with Claudette. Claudette’s father dies when she’s young, and he puts the responsibility for her high-strung mother and handicapped brother on her shoulders. The majority of the rest of her life is spent making sure they’re provided for, whether she has to clean chamber pots or find a wet nurse for Athénaïs’s offspring by the king. Whatever it takes to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.

France in the middle to late 1600s was a pretty miserable place for poor people, so I understood why Claudette was so entranced whenever she had a chance meeting with Athénaïs. The encounters start when both girls are children, and even then, Claudette’s easily able to see the difference between their lives. She’s living in a cave, begging to perform for the king while Athénaïs and her pony are dripping in ribbons and silver. So I could see why Claudette would give up one life she loved (theatre) for Athénaïs and the court.

THE SHADOW QUEEN had just the right amount of historical detail to for me to perfectly imagine Claudette’s world, from the theatre to court. I’ve never had an interest in French plays or the history of them, but now I do, thanks to reading this book. Claudette’s parents are both actors, and so the beginning “acts” of the book take place in the theatre world. It was pretty cool to find out how plays were staged back then. Also, when Claudette moves to court, to be Athénaïs’ maid and companion, it was easy to draw allusions between both false worlds.

In between my readings of THE SHADOW QUEEN, I read its companion novel, MISTRESS OF THE SUN. That book is about Louis XIV’s other mistress, Louise de la Vallière. For a complete reading experience, I recommend reading both (the order doesn’t matter in my opinion). I did prefer THE SHADOW QUEEN, mostly because of Claudette.

The only criticism I have for this book is I think “THE SHADOW QUEEN” is a misleading title. The book is about Claudette’s entire life, not just her time at court with Athénaïs. At first I thought the book would be all about the real shadow queen, but it’s not. So if you’re expecting a book entirely about Athénaïs, this is not it. But Claudette’s story is just as good.

I don’t know, guys. I just had a love affair with this book. Both times I read it, I couldn’t put it down. The smooth writing, the historical detail, the interesting story — everything together submerged me so completely into Claudette’s world. My eyes hated me, because I’d just keep flipping page after page.

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– leeanna