Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Book Review: Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle ClaytonShiny Broken Pieces by Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra
Series: Tiny Pretty Things #2
Published by HarperTeen on July 12, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose…and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?

Book Review:

I loved TINY PRETTY THINGS last year. I read it twice before I reviewed it. I gushed about it. I couldn’t wait for the sequel.

SHINY BROKEN PIECES is just as good as TINY PRETTY THINGS. As with the first book, I read it twice and loved it each time. I read it twice because I sped through too quickly the first time to be able to write a coherent review.

First, I love me a good ballet book. You know how sometimes there’s no actual dancing in a ballet book? That’s so not the case here. Yep, there’s plenty of drama in SHINY BROKEN PIECES, but there’s also sooooo much dancing. The ballet this time is Swan Lake, and I greatly enjoyed watching everyone practice and perform.

Second, the characters. Bette, Gigi, and June are back. After last year’s accident, Bette’s been suspended from the school, because everyone suspects she pushed Gigi. But Bette isn’t going to sit in the shadows and give up quietly. I liked the mystery aspect of SHINY BROKEN PIECES, where Bette is trying to clear her name. The authors had me thinking this person or that did it; the big reveal had me going :O.

But back to the characters. Everyone is dealing with a lot. Gigi’s trying to recover from the accident, but is also drifting into mean girl territory. June is battling her eating disorder while figuring out what she wants in the future. The characters have grown and changed from the first book, and there’s something to like/dislike about each of them.

Really, the short version of what I’m trying to say is: I love Bette, Gigi, and June. They’re cutthroat, dedicated, driven, and not above a little backstabbing when necessary. I also love that Gigi and June both address the lack of diversity in the ballet world.

Third, everything else. Yeah, this isn’t turning out to be a good review, but I just love this series something fierce, and that’s rare for me. I swear, Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton could write a cereal box and I’d be enthralled. I sincerely hope there’s another book in the Tiny Pretty Things series — while SHINY BROKEN PIECES does tie up a lot of the storylines, I’m greedy and want more!

Socialize with the authors:
Sona Charaipotra:
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Dhonielle Clayton:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon Skovron

Book Review: Hope and Red by Jon SkovronHope and Red by Jon Skovron
Series: Empire of Storms #1
Published by Orbit on June 30, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
In a fracturing empire spread across savage seas, two young people from different cultures find common purpose. A nameless girl is the lone survivor when her village is massacred by biomancers, mystical servants of the emperor. Named after her lost village, Bleak Hope is secretly trained by a master Vinchen warrior as an instrument of vengeance. A boy becomes an orphan on the squalid streets of New Laven and is adopted by one of the most notorious women of the criminal underworld, given the name Red, and trained as a thief and con artist. When a ganglord named Deadface Drem strikes a bargain with the biomancers to consolidate and rule all the slums of New Laven, the worlds of Hope and Red come crashing together, and their unlikely alliance takes them further than either could have dreamed possible.

Book Review:

HOPE AND RED is the first in the Empire of Storms trilogy. The book follows Hope, a girl trained as a monk assassin to get vengeance for her slain village and Red, an orphaned thief with a gift for smooth talking his way in and out of trouble.

Sounds like your run of the mill fantasy, right? Wrong.

HOPE AND RED is dark and gritty fantasy, two underdogs taking on the corrupt empire. It’s also funny, with characters like Sadie the Goat and lots of the underprivileged making fun of the rich and their lacey ways. And it’s serious, such as when female characters challenge and beat male expectations. Add in plenty of action, scary magic, and there’s a lot to like.

The author has a real gift for making memorable characters. Hope and Red are the standouts naturally, and I liked both for different reasons. But even characters who only showed up for a page stayed with me. Such as Hope’s father, who wore his daughter’s gift of a necklace and didn’t care that the other fishermen mocked him. Or Captain Carmichael, whose life eventually showed Hope vengeance wasn’t the only answer.

While we don’t get to see the entire empire in HOPE AND RED, we do get a good introduction to how life is for the poor. From Hope’s village being destroyed for a biomancer experiment to Red’s mother dying from toxic paints, life sucks a lot if you’re poor. Crime bosses and their gangs control what the imperials don’t.

I was sucked into the hard world of HOPE AND RED from page one, and I couldn’t get enough. Also, the author created some slang, which fit perfectly into the world. Most words are easy to figure out, but there’s a funny glossary at the end, written by one of the laceys.

I made myself read HOPE AND RED in several sessions, so I could enjoy the book for longer. But I really wanted to read the whole thing at once, because I enjoyed it that much. I definitely can’t wait for book two, BANE AND SHADOW, because I know it’s going to be even more epic.

Socialize with the author:

Jon Skovron:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Book Review: Age of Myth by Michael J. SullivanAge of Myth by Michael J Sullivan
Series: The Legends of the First Empire #1
Published by Del Rey on June 28, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
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.

Book Review:

I’ve wanted to read something of Michael J. Sullivan’s forever, since I’ve heard good things about his Riyria books. But I never got to any of them, so when I saw he had a new series coming out, it seemed like the perfect time to finally check out his work. And by the gods, am I glad I read AGE OF MYTH, because now I want to binge read all of his books.

First, I appreciated the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book. I’m always wary of starting new epic fantasy series because there’s that chance they won’t be finished. No worry of that here — all five books in The Legends of the First Empire are already written. That gives me such peace of mind knowing I’ll get the entire story, and too, I like knowing the author stuck to his ideas for how everything would go, and was even able to work in lots of foreshadowing.

Second, I like the squad of unlikely heroes. Born in a harsh land, Raithe has only ever known fighting and becomes the mythical God Killer. But all he really wants is to quit fighting and find a quiet place to settle down. Widow Persephone must give up leadership of the clan she’s helped lead for 20 years when her husband is killed. But when the new chieftain shows himself unworthy of protecting their clan, she kicks aside generations of tradition. And so on.

Third, AGE OF MYTH is epic fantasy without requiring 800+ pages per volume to be epic. There are big consequences to little events, battles where the underdog is overwhelmed and against the wall, and big powerful bad guys who see humans as rats. Classic fantasy stuff in some ways, but Sullivan puts his own spin on it all. And that ending? Oh man oh man! It’s going to be a long wait until summer 2017.

Socialize with the author:

Michael J. Sullivan:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir

Book Review: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison WeirKatherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir
Series: Six Tudor Queens #1
Published by Ballantine Books on May 31, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 624
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
The lives of Henry VIII's queens make for dramatic stories and Alison Weir will write a series of novels that offer insights into the real lives of the six wives based on extensive research and new theories.

In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon's first husband, who is said to have loved her in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister? Or that Henry VIII, an over-protected child and teenager, was prudish when it came to sex? That Jane Seymour, usually portrayed as Henry's one true love, had the makings of a matriarch? There is much to reveal ...

Alison will write about the wives in the context of their own age and of the court intrigues that surrounded these women and - without exception - wrecked their lives. She will transport readers into a lost and vivid world of splendour and brutality: a world in which love, or the game of it, dominates all.

Book Review:

Alison Weir can be hit or miss for me, but I knew she would do a good job with Katherine of Aragon. And she did. I read the book once, and I’m already into my second read!

KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN is one of the most complete fictional accounts of Katherine’s life that I’ve read. There are three parts, each covering a major period of Katherine’s life in England: The Princess from Spain, The Queen of England, and The True Queen.

I really liked all the little details the author put into the book. Such as Arthur leaving his personal effects to his sister, not his wife. Or Henry being a virgin just like Katherine. Or Katherine enjoying sex. Or Katherine possibly putting the initial doubts in Henry’s head, about the validity of the pope’s dispensation. And so on. Alison Weir made Katherine feel like a flesh and blood person, not just a famous historical figure.

In the Author’s Note, Alison Weir said she wanted to show Katherine in the context of the time which she lived, when women didn’t have the independence they do today. Looking back, it’s hard to see how Katherine rolled over for all of Henry’s misdeeds, and thought Cardinal Wolsey and Anne Boleyn were the architects of everything, instead of giving Henry his fair share of the blame. But I can understand it, because Katherine was raised that way, to believe that her husband was her lord, and that her duty as wife and queen was to please him first. It’s hard to read at times, but I think the author accomplished her goal of showing the context of Katherine’s life.

I also liked how much attention the author gave to the religious side of Katherine and Henry’s divorce. I’ve read a lot of books about Katherine, but I can’t recall many going so into the religious implications of Henry’s actions regarding the dispensation and eventual departure from the Catholic church.

Lastly, Anne Boleyn is such a villain in this book that I can’t wait to see how the author will portray her sympathetically in the next book in the series.

I recommend KATHERINE OF ARAGON, THE TRUE QUEEN if:
a) you’re a Tudorphile
b) you like historical fiction

Socialize with the author:

Alison Weir:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Book Review: Roses and Rot by Kat HowardRoses and Rot by Kat Howard
Published by Saga Press on May 17, 2016
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, New Adult, Retelling
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Imogen and her sister Marin have escaped their cruel mother to attend a prestigious artists’ retreat, but soon learn that living in a fairy tale requires sacrifices, be it art or love.

What would you sacrifice in the name of success? How much does an artist need to give up to create great art?

Imogen has grown up reading fairy tales about mothers who die and make way for cruel stepmothers. As a child, she used to lie in bed wishing that her life would become one of these tragic fairy tales because she couldn’t imagine how a stepmother could be worse than her mother now. As adults, Imogen and her sister Marin are accepted to an elite post-grad arts program—Imogen as a writer and Marin as a dancer. Soon enough, though, they realize that there’s more to the school than meets the eye. Imogen might be living in the fairy tale she’s dreamed about as a child, but it’s one that will pit her against Marin if she decides to escape her past to find her heart’s desire.

Book Review:

Every so often, I read a book that seems as though it’s been written just for me. Like the author looked into my head and plucked out everything I ever wanted to see in a book. ROSES AND ROT is one of those books. I didn’t want to put the book down once I started it, and read it all in one day. And I already want to read ROSES AND ROT again.

Imogen and Marin are sisters who haven’t always had a perfect relationship. They’ve survived a childhood of abuse, coming out on top with success in their artistic careers. When they’re both accepted to a prestigious arts program, it’s the perfect opportunity to work on their relationship while furthering their artistic futures.

Imogen is a writer, a student of fairy tales who wants to create her own. The nine month residency at Melete is an amazing opportunity to push the boundaries of her writing. Imogen’s written fairy tales are scattered throughout ROSES AND ROT, and I could have read an entire book of her work. They were my kind of fairy tales: dark and scary and true.

Melete is a fantastical place. I wish it existed so that I could go there — yes, even with the big twist! Seriously, it’s a place any writer/painter/singer/etc would dream of going. The author described everything so well that I could imagine it, and while I’m on the subject, I really enjoyed Kat Howard’s writing style. It was descriptive without being too purple, sparse yet flowing, loud but introspective. I could write a love letter to Kat Howard’s writing, I swear. It matched the stories she told.

I’m all over the place in this review, but that happens sometimes when I’m really excited about a book. I wish I could take ROSES AND ROT and put it in everyone’s hands.

ROSES AND ROT is the book for you if:
a) you like fairy tales, especially the dark ones
b) you want to know how “happily ever after” is reached in those dark tales
c) you like stories about complicated sibling relationships
d) you like stories about artists who risk everything to be great

Socialize with the author:

Kat Howard:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris

Book Review: The Seer by Sonia Orin LyrisThe Seer by Sonia Orin Lyris
Published by Baen on March 1, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 656
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
The debut of a stunning new talent. A poor, young woman rises to the heights of a crumbling empire, where she must speak hard truth to power in order to save a world from chaos.

Everybody Wants Answers. No One Wants the Truth.

The Arunkel empire has stood a thousand years, forged by wealth and conquest, but now rebellion is stirring on the borders and treachery brews in the palace halls. Elsewhere, in a remote mountain village, a young mother sells the prophesies of her sister, Amarta, in order to keep them and her infant child from starving. It's a dangerous game when such revelations draw suspicion and mistrust as often as they earn coin.

Yet Amarta's visions are true. And often not at all what the seeker wishes to hear.

Now in a tapestry of loyalty, intrigue, magic, and gold, Amarta has become the key to a ruler's ambitions. But is she nothing beyond a tool? As Amarta comes into her own as a seer, she realizes she must do more than predict the future. She must create it.

Book Review:

THE SEER is a complete, well developed, dark, realistic, and intriguing fantasy. While I would like another book (I’m greedy!), it was refreshing to get such a story in one volume, rather than having to wait and wait for sequels.

Amarta’s visions provide just enough coin to keep herself, her older sister, and her sister’s son alive. When Innel wakes her in the middle of a night to see his future, Amarta gets an inkling of what she’s capable of, for she helps Innel kill his brother. Innel eventually marries the heir to the realm and becomes one of the most powerful men in Arunkel, all because of Amarta’s vision. And then Amarta’s visions keep her and her family alive, when Innel sends men to hunt her down.

Because of the summary, I expected THE SEER to be all about Amarta, but a big portion of the book focuses on Innel. Once I got into his sections, I didn’t mind that at all, because I really enjoyed the world the author created. Innel is a survivor of the Cohort, where noble children are whittled down to a few survivors, one of whom will marry the king’s daughter. Words, actions, and even appearances matter in Arunkel, and I enjoyed seeing Innel navigate the tricky nobles and the power-hungry king while also keeping his new wife happy. I often complain about the lack of worldbuilding in fantasy novels, but THE SEER had plenty to keep me happy. Yay!

Amarta’s visions were quite interesting. She could use them to save her life, but often only in the moment, as the future is ever changing. When she used her visions for another, I thought the author did a good job of showing how confusing it would be to sort out the tangles and intricacies of an entire kingdom. It reminded me of “if a butterfly flaps its wings…” Her visions, and the way people listened (or didn’t) made me think.

I also want to give a shout out to the author’s version of mages. They were spookily cool. I liked the hints we got of Marisel’s training, as well as seeing her try to do her little bit to help humanity when other mages would only work for the wealthy.

I do feel that the book was a tad long. I could have done with less of Amarta running away from Innel’s hunter. But that was because I wanted to see more of the Amarta we get at the end of THE SEER, which is why I said I’d like another book in this world. The one chapter from Cern’s perspective also made me want to see more from her. For all of the buildup, I feel like the ending came too quickly. But the ending satisfied me, which is another thing I don’t usually say.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE SEER. I finished the book a few days ago, but I’ve found myself thinking about Amarta and Innel and Arunkel, which is rare for me, since I read so many books. THE SEER immersed me in its world and characters and story, and this is a book I’ll enjoy rereading in the future.

Socialize with the author:

Sonia Orin Lyris:
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– 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: America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

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

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

Book Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

Book Review: Front Lines by Michael GrantFront Lines by Michael Grant
Series: Soldier Girl #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 26, 2016
Genres: Alternate Universe, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 576
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant has created a masterful alternate history of World War II in Front Lines, the first volume in a groundbreaking series.

Book Review:

FRONT LINES is a brilliantly imagined and wonderfully told alternate history of WWII. A Supreme Court decision has extended the draft to all US citizens regardless of gender. But will men welcome women into their ranks? What does the enemy think?

FRONT LINES is told through the eyes of three very different girls. Rio is the classic all-American small town girl, maybe fighting for her dead sister, maybe for the disatisfaction she feels with the expectation of being a wife and mother. Rainy is Jewish, determined to use her brains in intelligence to do her part to fight Hitler. Frangie is African American, has dreams of being a doctor, but has to deal with racism and sexism while trying to save lives.

The author doesn’t try to sanitize the anti-Semitic, racist, and/or sexist attitudes of the 1940s. All the girls deal with those attitudes, from their fellow soldiers and up the chain, as well as their families and the people around them. I appreciated the honesty, and that the author didn’t stick with just Rio’s perspective for the book.

FRONT LINES is one of those books I just loved. I devoured it. I could have read another 500 pages about Rio, Rainy, and Frangie, as well as America’s first steps into the war. The action takes place in Tunisia, the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Most YA WWII historical fiction is set in Europe, so it was good to see a different area.

The author has a way of drawing you into the book, building on the little things and the experiences the girls undergo, to really ramp things up. The beginning of FRONT LINES is a little slow, but well worth it. I also liked that Grant spent a good amount of time on everyone’s training. I always enjoy that, but I also thought it was a good way to show how some male opinions on women in the forces changed. As well as to show how important friendships were for the girls, as they needed others who understood exactly what they were going through.

Considering how much I loved FRONT LINES, it’s going to be a long, long wait for the next Soldier Girl book!

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Michael Grant:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Book Review: Arena by Holly JenningsArena by Holly Jennings
Published by Ace on April 5, 2016
Genres: New Adult, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She’s died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...


The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League’s elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...

Book Review:

I’m a long time gamer, so my review of ARENA might be a bit biased. But if you’re a gamer and/or have always wanted to check out the virtual world, this might be the book for you. The idea behind ARENA is super fun, the execution is good, and there are just enough pop culture references to classic games to add to the geeky atmosphere.

Kali Ling is a warrior. Every week she fights to the death in the RAGE tournaments, watched by millions around the world. Move over, football and soccer and basketball. Gamers have taken over as the star athletes in 2054. Games have evolved as well, to the point where gamers plug into pods and play with their entire bodies in an immersive world.

There’s virtual sports, racing, RPGs and more. The RAGE games are a classic example of capture the tower PVP, played by teams of five. This season, Kali is making history — she’s the first female team captain in RAGE. But Kali’s not so sure she’s up to the challenge. She’s dealing with the death of a teammate, melding his replacement into the team, the expectations of the team’s owner and the media, and her own increasing frustration at being a cog in the virtual machine. It’s a lot to juggle, and Kali has to keep the team from losing anymore games while dealing with all of that, because if they lose one more time, they’re out of the tournament.

As a gamer who would love to set foot in World of Warcraft, I loved the idea of Kali and her team playing in virtual reality. Fighting the other team and defending their tower to the death. Death doesn’t kill them in real life, but real life injuries transfer to the game. I especially liked that the gamers had to be skilled in real life at martial arts and weaponry — if you can’t swing a sword in real life, you aren’t killing anyone in the game. It’s logical. The evolution from watching gamers stream on Twitch to watching them play in Super Bowl like matches makes sense, too.

I liked that ARENA detailed a lot of the team’s training and matches. I geek out over that sort of stuff, and I also enjoyed Kali’s efforts at team bonding with classic games like Mario Kart. I could tell the author had really thought about how virtual sports would work, such as regular athletes not being able to cross over successfully, because they don’t have gaming experience. Jennings also considered how celebrity status could impact the gamers, talking about drug abuse, anxiety and depression, and virtual reality addiction. There’s even some dialogue on women in gaming, Kali’s Chinese background, and finding a balance between virtual life and real life.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance between Kali and Rooke in ARENA. At least it wasn’t the dreaded insta-love, but something about it just felt a little off. To me, it would have made more sense if they stayed friends, but then I’m usually critical of romances.

Overall, I had a ton of fun reading ARENA. It’s a fun book, with lots of gaming action, but it also delves into a few deeper topics. I believe this is a standalone, but I’d enjoy seeing more of Kali. Based on her journey during ARENA and the ending, I think she has a lot more story to tell.

ARENA’s over 9000!

Socialize with the author:

Holly Jennings:
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– leeanna