Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow

Book Review: Fast into the Night by Debbie Clarke ModerowFast into the Night by Debbie Clarke Moderow
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 2, 2016
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
A captivating memoir of one woman’s attempt to finish the Iditarod, led by her team of spunky huskies with whom she shares a fascinating and inextricable bond.

At age forty-seven, a mother of two, Debbie Moderow was not your average musher in the Iditarod, but that’s where she found herself when, less than 200 miles from the finish line, her dogs decided they didn’t want to run anymore. After all her preparation, after all the careful management of her team, and after their running so well for over a week, the huskies balked. But the sting of not completing the race after coming so far was nothing compared to the disappointment Moderow felt in having lost touch with her dogs.

Fast into the Night
is the gripping story of Moderow’s journeys along the Iditarod trail with her team of spunky huskies: Taiga and Su, Piney and Creek, Nacho and Zeppy, Juliet and the headstrong leader, Kanga. The first failed attempt crushed Moderow’s confidence, but after reconnecting with her dogs she returned and ventured again to Nome, pushing through injuries, hallucinations, epic storms, flipped sleds, and clashing personalities, both human and canine. And she prevailed. Part adventure, part love story, part inquiry into the mystery of the connection between humans and dogs, Fast into the Night is an exquisitely written memoir of a woman, her dogs, and what can happen when someone puts herself in that place between daring and doubt—and soldiers on.

Book Review:

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is a memoir about running the Iditarod, failing, and trying again. Debbie Moderow isn’t your typical Iditarod competitor. She was forty-seven for her first attempt, following in the footsteps of her son. The entire family mushed, but the kids were more competitive than the parents. Debbie’s son ran the Iditarod when he was 18, and when he finished, he told her she had to do it, too.

A retired Iditarod dog named Salt played an important role in Debbie’s life. He helped her recover from two devastating miscarriages by reigniting her love of the outdoors and adventure. And then the whole family got into sled dogs and mushing, spending their vacations mushing to a cabin and watching the kids compete in junior races.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT is primarily a remembrance of Debbie’s 2003 Iditarod attempt and her 2005 finish. Running the race is never something I’d do myself. I’m a total wimp in 20F weather, I can’t imagine racing with the temperature in negative degrees, facing blizzards and wind storms and more. But Debbie brought the course of the race to life for me, through sparse yet descriptive writing. I felt like I was there, and I knew all the difficulties she went through. She also delved into the personalities of each dog, which really showed her connection to the team.

I liked that Debbie showed herself in all lights, good and bad. She didn’t edit her thoughts to make herself look better. Her honesty made me feel like I could trust everything she wrote.

FAST INTO THE NIGHT wasn’t my typical read, but I’m happy I came across the book and read it.

Socialize with the author:

Debbie Clarke Moderow:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: As I Descended by Robin Talley

waiting on wednesday

as i descended by robin talleyAs I Descended by Robin Talley
Release Date: September 6, 2016

Maria Lyon and Lily Boiten are their school’s ultimate power couple—even if no one knows it but them.

Only one thing stands between them and their perfect future: campus superstar Delilah Dufrey.

Golden child Delilah is a legend at the exclusive Acheron Academy, and the presumptive winner of the distinguished Cawdor Kingsley Prize. She runs the school, and if she chose, she could blow up Maria and Lily’s whole world with a pointed look, or a carefully placed word.

But what Delilah doesn’t know is that Lily and Maria are willing to do anything—absolutely anything—to make their dreams come true. And the first step is unseating Delilah for the Kingsley Prize. The full scholarship, awarded to Maria, will lock in her attendance at Stanford―and four more years in a shared dorm room with Lily.

Maria and Lily will stop at nothing to ensure their victory—including harnessing the dark power long rumored to be present on the former plantation that houses their school.

But when feuds turn to fatalities, and madness begins to blur the distinction between what’s real and what is imagined, the girls must decide where they draw the line.

From acclaimed author Robin Talley comes a Shakespeare-inspired story of revenge and redemption, where fair is foul, and foul is fair.

I’m not the biggest fan of Shakespeare, but if anyone could write a Macbeth-inspired book and make me like it, it’s Robin Talley. And it’s F/F! Her other books have been 5 stars for me (LIES WE TELL OURSELVES and WHAT WE LEFT BEHIND), so I’m sure that I’ll love this one, too.

Socialize with the author:

Robin Talley:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

Book Review: The Rivals of Versailles by Sally ChristieThe Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie
Series: The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #2
Published by Atria on April 5, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
And you thought sisters were a thing to fear. In this compelling follow-up to Sally Christie's clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.

I write this before her blood is even cold. She is dead, suddenly, from a high fever. The King is inconsolable, but the way is now clear.

The way is now clear.

The year is 1745. Marie-Anne, the youngest of the infamous Nesle sisters and King Louis XV's most beloved mistress, is gone, making room for the next Royal Favorite.

Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a stunningly beautiful girl from the middle classes. Fifteen years prior, a fortune teller had mapped out young Jeanne's destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King's arms.

All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals - including a lustful lady-in-waiting; a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters - she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.

Enigmatic beauty, social climber, actress, trendsetter, patron of the arts, spendthrift, whoremonger, friend, lover, foe. History books may say many things about the famous Marquise de Pompadour, but one thing is clear: for almost twenty years, she ruled France and the King's heart.

Told in Christie's witty and modern style, this second book in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the world of eighteenth century Versailles in all its pride, pestilence and glory.

In May, I will be on the blog tour for this book. Remember to stop back for a guest post from author Sally Christie!

Book Review:

Last year, I rather enjoyed THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES, Sally Christie’s first foray into the women of Louis XV. So I was eager to see what she had in store for Madame de Pompadour. I read THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES twice, so it’s safe to say I enjoyed it as well!

Between my reads of the book, I actually went back and reread THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES. It was quite interesting to see the evolution of the king in two books. His initial hesitation at straying from the queen in book one to visiting whorehouses set up by Pompadour in book two.

Because a lot of my reading of that period in French history has centered on Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, I didn’t realize how much Louis XV contributed to the downfall of the monarchy. But after reading THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES, and seeing how men around the king tried to manipulate the women in his life, to have power over the king through those women, I saw how his behavior and decisions left his grandson a perfect storm.

In the Note from the Author, Sally Christie says that the Marquise de Pompadour was one of the most powerful women of the 18th century. I think the author showed that power quite well, displaying the influence Pompadour had over government decisions, but also the charitable and artistic contributions she made.

Some of the book is written in Pompadour’s point-of-view, but there are also sections from three of her enemies/want-to-be-mistresses. By using those other POVs, the author showed how Pompadour did something incredible: she remained Louis XV’s official mistress without being able to bed him. Pompadour’s evolution was just as interesting as the king’s, as she went from bourgeois to marquise. There’s this scene where her landscaper wants her to move an entire village of people to improve the view, and she does it, because that’s what nobility does.

THE RIVALS OF VERSAILLES is very readable. I like the author’s style. Her writing drew me in, and I felt like I was there, watching events unfold. It was like reading a historical soap opera, but one that had substance along with the fun fluff.

Socialize with the author:

Sally Christie:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie BerryThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on April 12, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

Book Review:

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is a hard book to categorize. It’s labeled Young Adult, but I feel it’s slanted more to an older audience. I love historical fiction and always have, but my teenage self wouldn’t have gotten far past the religious aspects of the book. I guess I should have expected a focus on religion, as Dolssa’s a runaway heretic, but somehow my mind just didn’t make the connection.

THE PASSION OF DOLSSA is set mainly in 1241, in Provensa, just after the Crusades. A dangerous time to be alive if you went against the Church in any tiny way. Dolssa is a young woman accused of speaking heresy by preaching in her own home because non clerics don’t speak of God, especially not women. But Dolssa sees nothing wrong with spreading the word of her beloved — Jesus — and so she refuses to repent. When she’s sentenced to burn at the stake, she escapes, only to be hunted down by a very determined friar. Dolssa is rescued by Botille, one of a trio of sisters who run a tavern in Bajas. But sheltering Dolssa leads to danger for Botille and her family.

Some of the religious tension of the time is evident in the narrative, and the author provides a lengthy explanation at the end of the book. But I wish that material at the end had been at the beginning of the book, or better explained in the story itself. I might have enjoyed THE PASSION OF DOLSSA more had I known what I know now about the religious history of Provensa. There’s also a glossary of the Old Provencal words.

Here’s the thing. I’m not really sure of the intended audience for THE PASSION OF DOLSSA. As I said above, my younger self would have put this book down as soon as it got too deep into religion, heresy, and churchmen using their faith to kill innocents. It’s just not something I’m interested in. I’m know there are teens who want to read about religion, but the book doesn’t really feel like a YA book. It’s more… literary YA, if that makes any sense. It’s somewhat open-ended (especially the ending), and it’s a book you’re supposed to think about and draw your own conclusions.

I’m sure this book will be up for awards, and I did like some things, such as the strong female friendships, strong family relationships, and the strong characters of the sisters. But overall, I didn’t enjoy the reading experience. I didn’t get invested in the story or the characters or their dilemmas. This wasn’t a book I wanted to keep reading. I’m starting to think Julie Berry just isn’t an author for me, as I wasn’t a huge fan of her other YA, ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME.

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Julie Berry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Book Review: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon ThomasKingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
Series: A Wicked Thing #2
Published by HarperTeen on February 23, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss. Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale.

But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king’s tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan—someone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan’s kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power—something so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them—she begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before…and uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

Book Review:

KINGDOM OF ASHES is the second book in the A Wicked Thing duology. It picks up right after the end of A WICKED THING, with Aurora on the run from the mad king. In case you missed the first book, this series wonders what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up.

I wasn’t entirely sold on A WICKED THING last year; my rating was 3 stars, which is an average book for me. But I was intrigued enough to want to see what else the author had in store for Aurora.

It took me a while to figure out my rating for KINGDOM OF ASHES. I was bored for a lot of the pages, just like with the first book. There’s almost no recap of previous events, and I couldn’t remember a lot of what had happened. So I was confused and ehhhh for some of the book.I needed a reminder of why Aurora was running away from her country.

However, I really liked the ideas the author tried to explore, such as the expectations placed upon Aurora by the people of her country. How she’s supposed to save them from their unhappy lives simply because she woke up. But if she tries to take power into her hands, they’ll eventually hate her, like her country turned on their first female leader/founder.

But… KINGDOM OF ASHES just didn’t keep my interest for the majority of the story. For me, the dragons didn’t seem to fit. They kind of came out of nowhere; I was much more interested in Aurora and Celestine’s connection. I didn’t need the dragons, and I’m a reader who usually loves magical beasts. Give me more Aurora and Celestine!

Socialize with the author:

Rhiannon Thomas:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Book Review: The Glittering Court by Richelle MeadThe Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Series: The Glittering Court #1
Published by Razorbill on April 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
For a select group of girls, the Glittering Court offers a shot at a life they’ve only ever dreamed of, one of luxury, glamour, and leisure. To high-born Adelaide, whose wealthy family is forcing her into a loveless marriage, the Glittering Court represents something else: the chance to chart her own destiny, and adventure in an unspoiled, prosperous new land across the sea.

After a chance meeting with the dazzling Cedric Thorn, Adelaide poses as a servant to join the crop of impoverished girls he promises to transform into proper ladies. But her familiarity with upper class life comes with a price: she must hide her identity from her new friends, mysterious refugee Mira and fiery former laundress Tamsin, and most importantly, from Cedric himself—even though she’s falling in love with him.

Everything begins to crumble when Cedric discovers Adelaide’s ruse, and she catches the eye of a powerful young governor, who wants her for a wife. She didn’t leave the gilded cage of her old life behind just to become someone else's property. But nothing is as daunting—or as wonderful—as the potent, forbidden attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. One that, if acted on, would make them both outcasts in a wild, dangerous, uncharted world, and possibly lead them to their deaths.

Book Review:

For some reason, I thought THE GLITTERING COURT was a book about faeries and their courts. I don’t know why — maybe the title gave me that impression? Anyway, that misconception aside, I’m not sure why THE GLITTERING COURT is classified as fantasy. There’s no magic, extraordinary creatures, special powers. Nothing.

Basically, THE GLITTERING COURT is THE JEWEL + THE SELECTION set in a pseudo-Frontier America. A young countess escapes an arranged marriage by taking her servant’s identity and place in the Glittering Court. The Court takes impoverished girls who want a better life and shines them into jewels to be sold into marriage in Adoria, a land low on women and high on money. In Adoria, the girls are displayed and advertised by the value of their scores on subjects like dancing and polite conversation.

If you like books full of glitz and glamour and descriptions of dresses and rooms, THE GLITTERING COURT might be the book for you. But I like my fantasy with substance and worldbuilding and magic, so I was quite disappointed.

Even if I ignore that the book is classified as fantasy (and this might be the fault of the publisher, not the author), there’s still a lack of worldbuilding and some wild leaps that just made my head hurt. For example, Adelaide runs away from an arranged marriage by going into the Glittering Court… to be sold as a bride. Instead of being smart and trying to get high scores, she downplays her abilities to be in the middle of the pack, where she’s unlikely to get her choice of husband.

I was bored and/or frustrated by the majority of THE GLITTERING COURT, and I almost put it down several times. I kept reading in the hope it would get better, only to be annoyed by “hey, let’s reveal secrets at the end, but keep them from the reader until book two!” or “hey, let’s save the characters from their own stupid with a miracle!” The author brings up topics that could have been interesting, like religious heresy, but doesn’t dive into any of them. Everything stays on the surface in a very bland way, even attempted rape, without any consequences or the characters doing any emotional processing.

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Richelle Mead:
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– leeanna

Waiting on Wednesday: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

waiting on wednesday

age of myth by michael j sullivanAge of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) by Michael J. Sullivan
Release Date: June 28, 2016

What does it mean if the gods can be killed? The first novel in an epic new fantasy series for readers of Brent Weeks, Brandon Sanderson, Peter V. Brett, and Scott Lynch.

Michael J. Sullivan’s trailblazing career began with the breakout success of his Riyria series: full-bodied, spellbinding fantasy adventures whose imaginative scope and sympathetic characters won a devoted readership. Now, Sullivan’s stunning hardcover debut, Age of Myth, inaugurates an original five-book series, and one of fantasy’s finest next-generation storytellers continues to break new ground.

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between men and those they thought were gods changes forever. Now, only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer, Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom, and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over; the time of rebellion has begun.

I’ve been meaning to read Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria books for a while. Alas, I’ll probably never get to them, but that’s okay. Because AGE OF MYTH sounds even more like my sort of book. I’m hungering for good fantasy lately, and I tend to like stories where gods fall and annihilation threatens humankind. And I’m already curious about Persephone.

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Sight Lines by Michelle DiCeglio

Book Review: Sight Lines by Michelle DiCeglioSight Lines by Michelle DiCeglio
Published by Elloras Cave Publishing Inc on November 6, 2015
Genres: LGBT, Mystery
Pages: 173
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
3 Stars
Police Detective Lacey Mills is on a mission to find a serial killer. Still reeling from the unsolved murder of her girlfriend two years earlier, Lacey has buried herself in work for too long. At least that’s what she’s told on her mandatory appointment with a shrink after being involved in a deadly shootout. It’s time to stop running away from every woman who shows interest in her.

When she meets a beautiful web designer named Ali, Lacey follows the doctor’s advice and lets herself take another chance on love. So much for cutting back on work—it turns out Ali has been hiding a big secret that might change the entire direction of Lacey’s murder investigation.

Book Review:

SIGHT LINES is a short but complete murder mystery with a side of romance. I was interested in reading it because Lacey, the main character and detective on the murder case, is gay. Her sexuality isn’t an issue — this isn’t a coming out book. I’m always on the lookout for more books with diverse characters that are characters outside of their diversity. For example, Lacey’s a detective who just happens to be gay.

Lacey’s latest case is a difficult one to crack. Several women have been killed, all by a gunshot to the head. The killer is very careful to not leave behind any forensic evidence. Lacey doesn’t want the cases to go cold, but with almost no evidence, there’s not much to go on. Her personal life isn’t going much better either; after the death of her girlfriend two years ago, Lacey’s been alone. But when web designer Ali comes along, Lacey takes a chance on starting something new.

I liked SIGHT LINES. It’s always nice to get a complete story in one go, without needing to wait years for the whole series. I also liked how Lacey wasn’t always right, and was able to admit when she made mistakes.

At the same time, SIGHT LINES was just too short, leaving me wanting more character development and development for the relationship between Lacey and Ali. I also had a few unanswered questions from the murder mystery. The author’s writing style was a bit too detailed for me in odd places — I would rather have had meaty info rather than knowing what a bit character wore or how they looked.

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Michelle DiCeglio:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Reburialists by J.C. Nelson

Book Review: The Reburialists by J.C. NelsonThe Reburialists by JC Nelson
Published by Ace on March 1, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
The author of Wish Bound and the Grimm Agency novels returns with an all-new urban fantasy novel!

Burying the dead is easy. Keeping them down is difficult.

At the Bureau of Special Investigations, agents encounter all sorts of paranormal evils. So for Agent Brynner Carson, driving a stake through a rampaging three-week-old corpse is par for the course. Except this cadaver is different. It’s talking—and it has a message about his father, Heinrich.

The reanimated stiff delivers an ultimatum written in bloody hieroglyphics, and BSI Senior Analyst Grace Roberts is called in to translate. It seems that Heinrich Carson stole the heart of Ra-Ame, the long-dead god of the Re-Animus. She wants it back. The only problem is Heinrich took the secret of its location to his grave.

With the arrival of Ra-Ame looming and her undead army wreaking havoc, Brynner and Grace must race to find the key to stopping her. It’s a race they can’t afford to lose, but then again, it’s just another day on the job . . .

Book Review:

THE REBURIALISTS is delightfully quirky urban fantasy. It’s full of action, a super cool mythology, and even a partnership/romance. “Burying the dead is easy. Keeping them down is difficult.” Who can pass up a summary with that line?

I’m typically not a fan of zombie books; they’re just not my thing. But ancient Egyptian inspired zombies? Totally my thing. The mythology in THE REBURIALISTS was my favorite thing about the book. In J. C. Nelson’s world, the dead can rise. So most people are cremated now, and if they aren’t, they’re buried with tendons cut and jaws pinned shut. Many of the risen dead are just shamblers, but they’re under the control of a very intelligent Re-Animus.

One of those Re-Animus knows Brynner Carson by name. One of the most famous agents of the Bureau of Special Investigations, Brynner’s also a playboy with a reputation. When a Re-Animus asks for something his dad hid, Brynner must work with Grace Roberts, an analyst who believes in science and only science. Predictably, they clash plenty of times in THE REBURIALISTS, but because the book is written from both of their POVS, it’s a great way to see both sides of the story and mythology. Brynner’s all belief and instinct, where Grace is rational and methodical.

For now, THE REBURIALISTS is a standalone. It’s a complete story, but I would like to see more of Brynner, Grace, and the author’s supercool world. There’s a lot of story and a lot of stuff happening in THE REBURIALISTS’ ~400 pages, all of which I enjoyed. I definitely didn’t expect some of the twists, which is always nice.

The only part of THE REBURIALISTS that didn’t quite work for me was the relationship between Brynner and Grace. I just didn’t see a spark between them, and wished they had stayed friends. That said, once the kinks were worked out, I did like them together, and liked how they backed each other up (even when they were mad at each other).

THE REBURIALISTS is a fun read. I enjoyed how the author mixed ancient Egyptian mythology with zombies and science. I never thought anyone would get me to read a book about scary walking dead, but J.C. Nelson did.

TL;DR Version:

the reburialists mood graphic

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– leeanna

Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall KellyLilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Published by Ballantine Books on April 5, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this powerful debut novel reveals an incredible story of love, redemption, and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages.

Book Review:

LILAC GIRLS has one good and one bad thing about it: Caroline Ferriday.

The book is written from the perspectives of three very different women: Caroline Ferriday, New York socialite and charity worker; Kasia Kuzmerick, Polish teenager, resistance member, and Ravensbrück rabbit; and Herta Oberheuser, the sole female German doctor at Ravensbrück.

Now, why do I say Caroline is good and bad? Because for the majority of LILAC GIRLS, I couldn’t stand her chapters. We go from Kasia suffering at Ravensbrück to Caroline being miserable because her married beau disappears after Germany takes France. I wanted to skip Caroline’s chapters, because I just did not care about her and Paul, and her whinging over him got old. I’m always picky about romances; Caroline and Paul had no chemistry for me and I winced whenever he showed up. Caroline’s war year chapters dragged down LILAC GIRLS for me.

I was much more interested in Kasia’s story, because I haven’t seen the Rabbits mentioned in a lot of WWII historical fiction*. Even Herta’s chapters were intriguing, although I wish the author had spent more time on her moral transformation, going from reluctant to kill to eager to practice surgery on unwilling test subjects.

But at the end of the book, I learned Caroline was a real person. And that was the best part of LILAC GIRLS for me: the book brought to light an incredibly important person. With all the reading I’ve done on WWII, Caroline Ferriday is someone I should’ve heard about, but she’s been forgotten to history.

The other part of LILAC GIRLS I appreciated is that the author continued the book after the war years. A lot of WWII historical fiction is set in 1939-1945, and that’s it. Story over after the end of the war. But here, we stayed with the characters for a lot longer. By continuing Kasia’s story, the author showed how the war didn’t really end for many of the victims.

*ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein was my first introduction to the plight of the Rabbits, and I highly recommend it.

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Martha Hall Kelly:
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– leeanna