Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Book Review: Armada by Ernest ClineArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown Publishing on July 14, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 349
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
4 Stars
Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Book Review:

ARMADA is one of those books that’s just fun to read. I think most gamers and sci-fi fans have dreamed of the day their esoteric knowledge will save the world. Zach Lightman actually gets that opportunity, when his top 10 standing in the Armada video game makes him eligible to join the Earth Defense Alliance and save the planet from aliens bent on Earth’s destruction. From start to finish, ARMADA is a fun, geeky ride through space.

The beginning of ARMADA is a little rough, especially if you’re not up on all the cultural references. The author overloads the first part of the book with those references, and while it’s fun, it’s also something that could lose readers that aren’t familiar with every single movie or game mentioned. The author doesn’t give a lot of context for his references, so when he uses them as a description for something else, it gets confusing. However, the plethora of cultural references does even out after a while, and if you’re a super nerd, you’ll probably enjoy all of them.

Zach is also a bit bland, but I didn’t mind that in ARMADA. Because he didn’t have a lot of personality, I was able to imagine myself in the action. I won’t spoil the story itself, but I did really like the idea of using a video game as secret government training, as well as the gaming technology the author adapted for war against the aliens.

Even though I have some complaints about ARMADA, mostly I enjoyed the book. It was the perfect read for me at the time — I recommend it for when you want something fun and geeky.

Socialize with the author:

Ernest Cline:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

Book Review: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie ThorntonThe Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton
Published by NAL on December 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
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…

Book Review:

What’s more interesting than reading about Alexander the Great? Reading his story through the eyes of the women in his life. Thessalonike, Drypetis, and Roxana aren’t as well known as Alexander, but those three women, and Hephaestion, his best friend, should be. Because author Stephanie Thornton breathed life into them, and made them much more interesting to me than Alexander himself.

Thessalonike is Alexander’s half sister. She wishes she could join him and see the world, but she’s stuck in Macedon with Alexander’s dangerous mother. Her only escape is learning to fight with her half sister, Cynnane. Drypetis is Princess Drypetis, the daughter of King Darius and the hostage of Alexander. She’s interested in all things mechanical and thwarting Alexander however she can. After nearly being sold as a whore by her father, Roxana takes her destiny into her own hands, doing anything necessary to secure her future. Hephaestion is Alexander’s best friend, sometimes lover, and the only voice of reason he’ll sometimes listen to.

The four are the main voices in THE CONQUEROR’S WIFE, and through each of their perspectives, the reader gets a good view of Alexander and the world he created. The book has a bit of a slow start, as every character is introduced and their backgrounds established. But after that, the book moves at a good pace, and it wasn’t hard to remember who anyone was, as every character has a distinct personality and storyline. I quite liked all of them, which is unusual for me, as I typically have a favorite character. But the author did such a good job with everyone, and made me want to spend more time with everyone.

Because the characters all have their own thoughts about Alexander — good and bad — Alexander himself isn’t romanticized, which I appreciated. He’s such a famous historical figure that it would be easy to turn him into a Gary Stu. I could tell that the author did her research, showing the good and bad sides of Alexander, and also of the empire he built.

THE CONQUEROR’S WIFE is over 500 pages, so it’s a good, meaty book, and I could have read another couple hundred after I finished the book. I also appreciated that the author showed life after Alexander’s death for the characters, giving their conclusions instead of just ending the book.

Socialize with the author:

Stephanie Thornton:
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– 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: 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 Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson

Book Review: The Art of Language Invention by David J. PetersonThe Art of Language Invention by David J. Peterson
Published by Penguin on September 29, 2015
Genres: Non Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
An insider’s tour through the construction of invented languages from the bestselling author and creator of languages for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Syfy series Defiance.

From master language creator David J. Peterson comes a creative guide to language construction for sci-fi and fantasy fans, writers, game creators, and language lovers. Peterson offers a captivating overview of language creation, covering its history from Tolkien’s creations and Klingon to today’s thriving global community of conlangers. He provides the essential tools necessary for inventing and evolving new languages, using examples from a variety of languages including his own creations, punctuated with references to everything from Star Wars to Michael Jackson. Along the way, behind-the-scenes stories lift the curtain on how he built languages like Dothraki for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Shiväisith for Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, and an included phrasebook will start fans speaking Peterson’s constructed languages. The Art of Language Invention is an inside look at a fascinating culture and an engaging entry into a flourishing art form—and it might be the most fun you’ll ever have with linguistics.

Book Review:

THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION is a thorough, funny introduction to the basics of creating a language. Apparently, making a new language involves a lot more than making a word list or alphabet. Who knew?

I tend to geek out over learning how things are done, and I learned a lot reading this book. I swear I learned something on every page. The author gives information on a ton of topics, such as the different types of oral sounds, how grammar plays a role, and even a quick primer on font creation. There’s also sections on how language evolves in different ways and why that’s important, morphology, and thinking about how aliens might speak. I had no idea just how much work and creativity goes into language creation, nor did I know that there are communities of people who create languages for fun.

THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION really could be a textbook. It is a bit dense at times, but I’m just a layperson, not a linguist or beginning conlager. To keep things from getting too dense, the author includes case studies on how he created languages for shows such as Game of Thrones and Defiance. I could see those sections being super interesting for fans of those shows, since it really was cool to see how he evolved Dothraki from a few words in the books to a real language. Lastly, the author has a humorous writing style, and he uses jokes and pop culture references to make his examples easy to understand.

I’d recommend THE ART OF LANGUAGE INVENTION for fans who want to know more about Dothraki, Castithan, Irathient, or any of the other languages created by the author; people who want to dip their toes into creating a new language; or even sci-fi/fantasy writers, because just thinking about how a language might evolve could help with worldbuilding.

Giveaway:

Thanks to the generosity of Penguin, I’m offering a copy of this book for giveaway! US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Socialize with the author:

David J. Peterson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin BowmanVengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Western, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

Book Review:

VENGEANCE ROAD is a book that grabbed me from the second sentence and never let go. I read this book straight through, and I feel like I followed Kate every step of the way on her quest for vengeance.

I’ve never really liked Westerns as a genre (books or movies), but I do like the time period. And even before I started the book, I thought Kate sounded like a great character. A girl who disguises herself as a boy to get justice for her murdered father? Yeah, that’s right up my alley. So I took a chance with VENGEANCE ROAD, and boy am I happy I did. If you’re a little hesitant on the Western part, don’t be. If you like books about vengeance, with murder and shoot outs and a strong, strong main character, don’t pass this book up.

Kate is the real gem in this book. I adored her from the start. When she finds her father hanging from a mesquite tree and their home burned, she doesn’t sit back and cry. Well, she does, but only for a minute, and then she’s off to get revenge, Colt and Winchester in hand. Kate’s Pa raised her to be strong, to fend for herself, and she uses that strength to keep herself together even when she finds out secrets about her family. Kate’s prickly, loyal, and determined. Even when she gets herself in over her head or rushes into danger, she owns up to it. I also liked that Kate grew throughout the book, and by the end, really thought about what vengeance meant and what it was worth.

I just loved Kate’s voice. I mean, I’d think just like her if I was after someone who’d killed my father:

“See you in hell, mister.”

And that’s where I’m going, sure as the sun will rise, ‘cus I feel nothing. No remorse. No guilt. Not even a sliver of doubt. He deserved it, and I’d do it again. I’d do it over and over, and I wonder if something’s wrong with me.” (p. 10)

Kate’s Pa was great, too! We only see him in a few flashbacks and Kate’s memories, but he sounded like a great dad. Even though he kept secrets from her, he taught her how to defend herself and how to be a good person. I could easily see why Kate would want to punish his murderers.

The only thing I had a little trouble with in VENGEANCE ROAD was the thread with Kate’s mother. I can’t say why without spoiling things, but it was a bit over the top for me. But otherwise, I really enjoyed VENGEANCE ROAD, and I hope the author writes another Western YA, because she knocked this one off the trail.

Socialize with the author:

Erin Bowman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae CarsonWalk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Series: The Gold Seer #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on September 22, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Book Review:

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is the first in Rae Carson’s new Gold Seer trilogy, a YA series set during the California Gold Rush. While the main character can sense gold, which gives the book a touch of fantasy, this first installment is mostly historical fiction as Lee travels from Georgia to California in a wagon train.

I don’t know about you, but I liked playing The Oregon Trail game as a kid, and this book really did feel like the game come to life. But with a great cast of characters, especially Lee. I really liked Leah. She’s devoted to her family, helping them work their claim and use her special ability to make things a little easier. But when her parents are murdered, and her only living relative turns out to be a slimy man who wants her gold divining ability for himself, Lee takes her life into her own hands. Disguising herself as a boy, she manages to survive plenty of dangerous situations before even setting foot on the trail. When she makes mistakes, she learns from them. And though she’s afraid Hiram might find her, she relentlessly keeps going in an effort to have independence and use her ability for herself.

WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER spends a lot of time on the trail to California. I really got the feel of how difficult and dangerous such a journey was, and all the various hardships one could face. I think the author did a fantastic job of setting the scene, making me feel like I was on the trail. Rae Carson also showed the attitudes of that day, such as racism towards Native Americans and African Americans, and contrasted them with modern views. I also liked how Lee thinks about family, if it’s possible to pick your own. I like the idea of having a new family based on shared experiences and bonding, and not being forced into staying with bad blood.

I did expect a bit more fantasy in WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER, mainly because of Lee’s gold sensing ability. Lee doesn’t question her talent or wonder where it comes from. I wanted to know more about it, but I suppose that’s coming in the next books. There are also a couple of hard-to-believe events, such as Lee finding two people from home in the space of weeks in Independence. Looking back, the pacing of WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER is also a bit slow, with so much time spent on the trail and Lee’s difficult journey. I’m guessing the purpose of the book is to forge Lee into an even stronger woman, one ready to face off with her uncle.

Overall, I’d recommend WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER if you’re looking for a great YA historical with just a touch of fantasy. I really can’t wait to see what’s next for Lee and the others.

Socialize with the author:

Rae Carson:
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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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– leeanna

Book Review: Alice by Christina Henry

Book Review: Alice by Christina HenryAlice by Christina Henry
Published by Ace on August 4, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Retelling
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Book Review:

I’ll admit that I’ve never read ALICE IN WONDERLAND, but I know the basic story. And I’m always up for a retelling of a classic, especially a dark, inventive retelling. ALICE is definitely dark and inventive, full of horror with a shot of weird and “WTF did I just read?”

I had to read this book in bits, because at times the world was just so overwhelmingly bleak for women. In the Old City, girls are often commodities, taken or sold, raped or killed. The many mentions of rape and abuse got to me, and I do wish there had been a bit less of women being victimized in the book.

Otherwise… I think the best way to describe ALICE is to say it’s a mindfuck. A mindfuck in the very best way possible, mind you. I was never sure what would happen next, and often felt like I was tumbling down the rabbit hole. ALICE picks up ten years after the tea party (and other events). Alice has spent those ten years in an asylum, because when she came back from the Old City, she was ruined and babbled about the Rabbit. But she couldn’t remember what happened to her, so eventually her parents locked her away. For years, her only contact has been Hatcher, an axe murder in the cell next to hers; they talk through a mouse hole. When the two escape from the asylum, the story really begins, because the fire that sets them free also frees the Jabberwock.

There’s just enough of the familiar (Cheshire, the Rabbit, Caterpillar, etc.) but the author puts her own inventive spin on everything. I think Christina Henry did a fantastic job in establishing the gritty, yet fantastical world and the characters within. Because Alice and Hatcher can’t remember most of their lives before the asylum, they discover important things along with the reader, which I enjoyed. The writing also fits the book perfectly: it’s sparse yet descriptive, and there are some great lines on power and death. I also liked Alice’s growth throughout the book; she grows from a girl who wants the safety of the hospital to a quietly confident woman.

At first I rated ALICE three stars, but as I worked on my review and thought more about the book, I upped my rating to four stars. ALICE is a book that crept into my mind, much like the Jabberwock crept into Hatcher’s, and made me really think about it.

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Christina Henry:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Undertow by Michael Buckley

Book Review: Undertow by Michael BuckleyUndertow by Michael Buckley
Series: Undertow #1
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 376
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Sixteen-year-old Lyric Walker’s life is forever changed when she witnesses the arrival of 30,000 Alpha, a five-nation race of ocean-dwelling warriors, on her beach in Coney Island. The world’s initial wonder and awe over the Alpha quickly turns ugly and paranoid and violent, and Lyric’s small town transforms into a military zone with humans on one side and Alpha on the other. When Lyric is recruited to help the crown prince, a boy named Fathom, assimilate, she begins to fall for him. But their love is a dangerous one, and there are forces on both sides working to keep them apart. Only, what if the Alpha are not actually the enemy? What if they are in fact humanity’s only hope of survival? Because the real enemy is coming. And it’s more terrifying than anything the world has ever seen.

Action, suspense, and romance whirlpool dangerously in this cinematic saga, a blend of District 9 and The Outsiders.

Book Review:

Just when you think you’ve read everything in YA, along comes something different. Different doesn’t always work, but UNDERTOW worked for me, and I’m eager to read the rest of the series.

Lyric lives in the middle of a war zone, a Coney Island divided by humans and the Alpha. What are the Alpha? A new race of sea people. Thirty thousand of them are camped on the beach, and now some of the kids are about to integrate a school. It’s the 1960s all over again, but with a new species. And it goes about as well as you might expect.

Lyric is in a unique position to sympathize with the Alpha, but really, she just wants to lay low. Avoid attention. Maybe leave town when her family. But when she’s strong-armed into giving Fathom, the Alpha heir, private lessons, she’s thrust into the middle of a clash of the cultures.

I enjoyed UNDERTOW. The Alpha are wicked cool, and I really want to learn more about them. I also liked that Lyric had migraines, because I can’t recall many characters having headaches. It’s a little thing, but it turns out to be more important than you think, and it’s nice to see a character suffer the same sorts of things you do.

I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Lyric and Fathom. Lyric acknowledged to herself that she shouldn’t love him, couldn’t love him, but she did anyway. I’m not quite sure where their attraction and feelings for each other came from, and would have liked more development on their relationship for me to believe it. I also had a hard time imagining the final battle scenes, maybe because they felt a bit rushed after so much focus on the tense school integration.

But otherwise, I thought UNDERTOW was a good start to a new series, and I would check out the next book.

Socialize with the author:

Michael Buckley:
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– leeanna