Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Review: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin TalleyLies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Published by Harlequin Teen on September 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept "separate but equal."

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Book Review:

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES is a book that touched me deeply, and one I want everyone to read. This is a book that deserves all the readers.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES tackles a lot of things: racism, women’s rights, and even LGBT issues in 1959. But it doesn’t read like an “issue book.” Everything comes together in a well-told story, one that kept me reading until 5am.

The first part of the book is from Sarah’s view. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend a white school, and we see every horrible, cruel moment of integration from her eyes. The author doesn’t shy away from history or try to paint it in a better light. The second part of the book is from Linda’s view. Daughter of the vehemently racist editor of the town’s paper, Linda is also against integration. In her eyes, the black students are ruining everything. The last part of the book is told from both of their perspectives.

I liked how LIES WE TELL OURSELVES was set up; the differing perspectives let you get into both character’s minds and see how they both feel about everything. Each chapter is also titled with a lie, such as “There’s no need to be afraid (Sarah)” or “None of this has anything to do with me (Linda).”

I read this book a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it. I’ve sat on this review for a while, trying to figure out just what to say about LIES WE TELL OURSELVES. In the end, I think that’s the best praise I can give. This book is still in my head, and I’m sure it’s going to stay there. It’s a rare book that does that, because I read upwards of 100 books a year and most are forgettable.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES ripped at my heart, made me feel for both Sarah and Linda and the other characters, and then left me feeling just a bit hopeful at the end.

Socialize with the author:

Robin Talley:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara CooneyThe Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney
Published by Crown Publishing on October 14, 2014
Genres: Biography
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging For Books
Goodreads
5 Stars
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt's second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

Book Review:

Lately I’ve been on an ancient Egypt reading kick. It’s so bad I’ve been rereading a couple of historical fiction novels over and over. So Kara Cooney’s biography of Hatshepsut, THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, came along at an excellent time for me.

Actually, I would have enjoyed it anytime, because I found THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING to be an enjoyable read. It’s quite informative, covering from before Hatshepsut’s birth to after her death. This gives as complete a picture as possible about the world she lived in, the customs of the 18th dynasty, religious practices, etc. I find that kind of thing fascinating.

In the Author’s Note, Kara Cooney explains that any biography of Hatshepsut will have little certainty, because of the time that has passed and because so much of Hatshepsut’s reign was erased. So there’s a fair amount of conjecture and speculation in THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, but with Cooney’s background, I think she’s qualified to do so, and she’s careful to mention when she’s venturing into the realm of guessing, and to back up those guesses with reasons.

This book is very readable and easy to understand. I’d recommend it for readers new to Hatshepsut, or others who want a deeper look into her kingship and how she forged it. I was only vaguely familiar with Hatshepsut before, but now I feel like I know a lot more. Such as how religion and ruling power were connected, and how Hatshepsut used her understanding of the gods and their mysteries to pave her way to being pharaoh, not just a regent.

THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING includes a section of photographs of statues, Hatshepsut’s obelisk, temples, and temple reliefs that helped me visualize Hatshepsut’s many building projects. The footnotes at the end are also interesting reading, all 30+ pages. Lastly, the author includes a long list of books to turn to for further reading.

When I finished THE WOMAN WHO WOULD BE KING, I wished I could take Cooney’s course on women and power at UCLA. I’m really into the idea that one of the reasons Hatshepsut was forgotten is because she did everything right: no scandals to mar her reign, successful military and trade campaigns instead of disasters, and a peaceful death.

Socialize with the author:

Kara Cooney:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

Book Review: Treasure by Rebekah WeatherspoonTreasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Published by Bold Strokes Books on October 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 230
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

Book Review:

You know how sometimes you want a book to go on and on? Because you’re in love with the characters, their relationship, and the story? TREASURE was one of those books for me.

Very rarely do I like a romantic relationship; I tend to be extremely critical of relationships in young adult and new adult. But Alexis and Trisha were adorable and realistic. That’s ultra important for me. Yeah, there’s some lust at first sight, which is understandable because they meet when Tricia gives Alexis a lap dance. Then they meet again when they’re in the same computer science class. But rather than jump on each other immediately, they become friends, have crushes, and then do the dirty.

TREASURE is, right now, a rare book. It’s F/F, has two diverse characters, and is new adult. Trisha is balancing life as a stripper (to pay the bills/help her mother) and starting a computer science program. Alexis is dealing with a tragic event in her past and learning who she is, independent of what her parents want for her. They’re both figuring out the relationship thing, as this is the first for each of them.

I also enjoyed Rebekah Weatherspoon’s writing. TREASURE reads very smoothly, and I was halfway through the book before I realized it. I liked that she didn’t use euphemisms for body parts, although there were a couple of times that word choices pulled me out of the scene. But I’d rather have that than be subjected to “hot rod of love” type of terms.

So I’m basically writing a love letter to this book, but I really, really enjoyed TREASURE. I hope the author writes more F/F new adult books, because we need them! Especially books that have realistic, developed relationships with well-rounded characters.

Socialize with the author:

Rebekah Weatherspoon:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Day of Fire

Book Review: A Day of FireA Day of Fire by Ben Kane, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on November 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 315
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek resurrection and redemption as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

a day of fire blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for A DAY OF FIRE. A tale of Pompeii’s last hours, this book is written by six different authors: Vicky Alvear Shecter, Sophie Perinot, Ben Kane, Kate Quinn, E. Knight, and Stephanie Dray. The tour is hosted by HF Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

I don’t usually read collections of short stories. I’m a greedy reader, and I’d rather enjoy an entire book’s worth of characters and their stories. But the premise of A DAY OF FIRE drew me in — the last days and hours of Pompeii, seen through the eyes of citizens throughout the social strata. And gods, am I happy I read this book! I couldn’t put it down.

There are six authors and six different main characters in A DAY OF FIRE, but the book flows seamlessly. Rather than think of A DAY OF FIRE as a collection of different short stories, think of it as one, big overarching story that gives you a detailed look at how six different characters and their friends and family survived — or didn’t — the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Characters show up in each story, so you get to follow almost everyone’s tale to conclusion.

I’m not going to review each story individually, because for me, they all worked together so well that most of the time I thought I was reading the same author’s writing. That was probably one of my favorite aspects of A DAY OF FIRE, because there wasn’t the usual jarring transition between authors and stories that I’ve had before when reading short story collections. At the beginning of the book, the authors do say you could skip a story if you’re not liking it, and yes, you could do that if you wanted.

The authors also include notes on what interpretations they made of the eruption and Pompeian history, which characters are inspired by real figures and which are fictional. I always value those sorts of notes in historical fiction, because I tend to go on Googling and non-fiction sprees after I read a particularly inspiring book, and because I like to know what authors changed, if anything.

There’s a little something here for everyone, thanks to the wide variety of characters. From a war veteran to a girl on the eve of marriage to a senator to a prostitute, you get to see how the eruption affected all levels of society. As I got to know the various characters, the end of A DAY OF FIRE pretty much tore my heart out and stomped on it, which isn’t something that happens very often.

If you like stories of Pompeii, ancient Rome, good historical fiction, characters that will rip at your heart … and a ton of other things, check this book out.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

author stephanie draySTEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at www.StephanieDray.com.

author ben kaneBEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers.Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net.

author e. knightE. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, MY LADY VIPER, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com.

author sophie perinotSOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at www.SophiePerinot.com.

author kate quinnKATE QUINN is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar. Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com.

author vicky alvear shecterVICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon–set in Rome and Egypt–“magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main.

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria Strauss

Book Review: Passion Blue (Passion Blue #1) by Victoria StraussPassion Blue by Victoria Strauss
Series: Passion Blue #1
Published by Skyscape on November 6, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Goodreads
5 Stars
"Be sure you know your true heart’s desire, or you may find yourself surprised by what you receive."

This is the warning the Astrologer-Sorcerer gives Giulia when she pays him to create a magical talisman for her. The scorned illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy the dire fate predicted by her horoscope, and use the talisman to claim what she believes is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs–not likely prospects for a girl about to be packed off to the cloistered world of a convent.

But the convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises. There are strict rules, long hours of work, and spiteful rivalries…but there’s also friendship, and the biggest surprise of all: a workshop of female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty, using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion blue. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn the mysteries of the painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. She is haunted by the sorcerer’s warning, and by a question: does she really know the true compass of her heart?

Set in Renaissance Italy, this richly imagined novel about a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into a fascinating, exotic world where love, faith, and art inspire passion–of many different hues.

Book Review:

I’m not big on art. Famous paintings and sculptures and the like are nice in a historical way, but that’s about it. I prefer words over pictures, always have. Once in a while I’ll read a good biography or historical fiction about a famous painter, but that’s the extent of my interest.

So, if I don’t like art, you might ask why I enjoyed PASSION BLUE so much. The answer is easy: Victoria Strauss made paintings, the process of painting, and color theory come alive in words. Thanks to her vivid and clear descriptions, I could see Giulia’s drawings, see the paintings the nuns created, and see their enjoyment in their work. I could also see the gorgeous uniqueness of Passion blue, the secret blue color the convent’s painting mistress is famous for discovering.

PASSION BLUE is historical fiction with a little supernatural mixed in. When Giulia is sent to the convent of Santa Marta against her will, she asks an astrologer to make a talisman for her. She wants her dream of marriage and children to come true, not to be sentenced to a lonely, barren life behind convent walls. But in the convent, Giulia’s artistic abilities are discovered, and she’s taken under the wing of Maestra Humilità. Giulia is surprised to discover that women have more options inside the convent than outside. Inside, she could be a painter. Outside, she would just be a servant, maybe a wife if she’s lucky.

Anasurymboriel, the spirit inside Giulia’s talisman, will help her achieve her heart’s desire. She just has to figure out what it is.

PASSION BLUE is a book I’ve read twice since its release in 2012. I’m sure I’ll read it again in the future. It’s one of those books about art that makes me see why so many people enjoy artwork. It makes me want to pick up a paintbrush and play with colors, even though I can’t draw a stick figure. That’s how well the author described painting and color and composition. I also found convent life interesting: the differences between common-born and noble-born nuns, and how women sometimes had more freedom locked away from the world.

PASSION BLUE is an engaging historical fiction novel of painting life in Renaissance Italy, one girl’s pursuit to find her true heart’s desire in the place where she might never have expected it.

Upcoming:

Make sure you check back tomorrow, September 19, for my review of PASSION BLUE‘s sequel, COLOR SONG!

Socialize with the author:

Victoria Strauss:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de CastellTraitor's Blade by Sebastien de Castell
Series: Greatcoats #1
Published by Jo Fletcher Books, Quercus Books on July 15, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
5 Stars
With swashbuckling action that recall Dumas' Three Musketeers Sebastien de Castell has created a dynamic new fantasy series. In Traitor's Blade a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that's exactly what's happening.

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they'll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor's blade.

Book Review:

Before starting TRAITOR’S BLADE, I had just finished a nine book epic fantasy series. I was still in the mood for fantasy, but something lighter and not so lengthy. This book fit the bill so perfectly I felt almost as if it had been written just for me. Now, TRAITOR’S BLADE does have plenty of dark stuff in it, from tyrannical dukes to abused peasants to a murdered king, but it’s written with such dark humor that you’re laughing even as you’re watching the main character go into a fight he’s almost certain to lose.

Essentially, TRAITOR’S BLADE is a fantasy book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and I loved that.

I was hooked from the very first page, and didn’t stop until I finished TRAITOR’S BLADE in one sitting. I actually read this book twice in two months, because the first time I tried to review it, all I could write was, “READ THIS NOW.” I’m still saying that, because I liked this book even more the second time.

I mean, how can you not love a book that starts off with this?

“You know what I find odd?” Brasti went on.
“Are you going to stop talking at any point in the near future?” I asked.
Brasti ignored me. “I find it odd that the sound of a nobleman rutting is hardly distinguishable from one being tortured.”
“Spent a lot of time torturing noblemen, have you?”
“You know what I mean. It’s all moans and grunts and little squeals, isn’t it? It’s indecent.”
Kest raised an eyebrow. “And what does decent rutting sound like?” (p. 3)

Sebastien de Castell has a great sense of humor, lots of creativity, and skill at telling a story. I got sucked into the plight of Falcio and his fellow Greatcoats. I felt sorry for them and their situation — basically outlaws after the death of their King — but I also couldn’t wait to see how Falcio would get out of each mess he got into. And Falcio is very, very good at getting into messes, so there’s lots of entertainment even while you’re hoping he makes it out alive.

I realize this isn’t a very good review, but you know how sometimes there are books that make you fangirl (or fanboy) endlessly and just make you happy to read them? Books that you want to push on everyone, but are too incoherent to scream anything but “READ THIS” and shove it into their hands? Yeah. TRAITOR’S BLADE is one of those books.

Socialize with the author:

Sebastien de Castell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall

Book Review: The Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray KendallThe Garden of Darkness by Gillian Murray Kendall
Published by Ravenstone on June 24, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Their families dead from the pandemic SitkaAZ13, known as Pest, 15-year-old cheerleader Clare and 13-year-old chess club member Jem, an unlikely pair, are thrown together and realize that, if either of them wishes to reach adulthood, they must find a cure.A shadowy adult broadcasting on the radio to all orphaned children promises just that — to cure children once they grow into Pest, then to feed them and to care for them.

Or does this adult have something else in mind?

Against a hostile landscape of rotting cities and of a countryside infected by corpses and roamed by voracious diseased survivors, Jem and Clare make their bid for life and, with their group of fellow child-travelers growing, embark on a journey to find the grownup they believe holds the cure. Their only weapon is Clare’s dog, Bear.

But Clare and Jem, as well as their followers, are hampered by the knowledge that everything in this new child-led world had become suspect—the love of diseased adults, alliances, trust, hope. As Clare and Jem learn to stitch wounds, skin deer and survive in the ashes of the old world perhaps it is no surprise that they begin to find that friendship is as redemptive as anything they seek—that friendship has its own kind of healing power. And, at the end of their journey, in the face of the ultimate betrayal, they discover that out of friendship can come love.

Book Review:

Sometimes when I finish a book, I feel … gutted. In a good way. I’m sad that I finished the book. I’m sad that I won’t get to spend any more time with the characters, watching them explore their world and grow in the process. I’m sad that my adventure in reading the book is over. I find it hard to start another book, because I’m still thinking about the book I just finished.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS made me feel that way. This book got to me. That’s hard for a post-apocalyptic/dystopian book to do, because I’ve read a ton in the genres, almost to the point where they’re all the same. To a degree, THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is like a lot of what’s out there: all adults are killed by a mysterious disease leaving the world full of kids. Some kids band together, some go it alone, some live, some die. There’s usually someone smart who takes advantage of the chaos to create their own castle and rule like a king. And so on.

All of that, and darker, is in this book. But what’s different about THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is how it’s written and the characters. Instead of employing the usual first-person point of view that’s common, the author tells the story in third-person. This sort of keeps you from the full emotional impact of the known world ending, but then the little things really pop up and sucker punch you. Like when Clare realizes there probably won’t be any new books written for a very, very long time. The author also sometimes gives hints as to when something really bad is going to happen, which got me. For example, saying that if Clare knew what was going to happen next, she would have enjoyed X moment of happiness. This tactic had me trying to flip ahead so I could find out right away what would happen, which is hard to do when you’re reading an e-book.

The characters and the relationships they form are another great part of this book. I’m always critical of romantic relationships (and they usually don’t work for me), so it’s super refreshing to see friendship be so important. I think one of the themes of THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS is the family you choose. Clare nearly loses herself after her parents die from Pest, but when she meets Jem, Mirri, and Sarai, she has a new reason to live. And all of the characters were so distinct, so alive. Not just the main four, but all of them, from the gang of city kids to Ramah and Bird Boy. I could have read a lot more about every one of them.

For the first third or so of the book, I wanted THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS to move faster. It’s somewhat slow at the beginning, setting up Pest, then following Clare’s depression after her parents’ death. But as I got further in, I started to enjoy the slow pace. The book does pick up after Clare meets those who will become her family. The action builds from there, to a showdown with a creepy villain. I rather liked that part, though it’s hard to say why without spoiling everything. Let’s just say the author doesn’t take the usual route, and I enjoyed that.

THE GARDEN OF DARKNESS breathes fresh light into the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genres, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a new twist on the same old. Oh, I forgot to mention one more good thing — this book is a standalone!

About the author:

Gillian Murray Kendall is a American author and a Professor of English literature at Smith College. A specialist in Shakespeare and English Renaissance drama, and a graduate of Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program, she teaches a course on the post-apocalyptic novel as well as on topics in Renaissance literature. Kendall is the author of articles, short stories and a book of essays.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis Hall

Book Review: Iron & Velvet (Kate Kane #1) by Alexis HallIron & Velvet by Alexis Hall
Series: Kate Kane #1
Published by Riptide Publishing on December 16, 2013
Genres: Adult, LGBT, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 277
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

Book Review:

I’m not really sure what took me so long to get into IRON & VELVET, but boy, do I regret waiting to read it. IRON & VELVET is one of those books I couldn’t stop reading — I felt as if it was written just for me. I adored everything about it, and there is one upside to not reading it when it was released — I don’t have to wait for book two, SHADOWS & DREAMS.

Kate Kane, paranormal investigator extraordinaire, doesn’t work for vampires. But with business being non-existent, and the Prince of Cups, one of the most powerful vampires in England, asking for her, she doesn’t have much choice but to take the case. Before long, she’s up to her eyeballs in vampires, werewolves, witches, tentacle monsters, and more. The whole gamut and then some. Kate herself has some supernatural blood; her mother is the Queen of the Wild Hunt, but that’s mostly an inconvenience.

I really liked the world the author created, as well as his twists on the different supernatural creatures, from vampires to demons to werewolves. Most of the creatures are true to legend, but upgraded for modern times. I also liked that three of the most powerful characters: Julian, vampire Prince of Cups, Tara, the alpha werewolf, and Nimue, queen of mages, are female.

Oh, yeah. IRON & VELVET is full of gay women, including Kate, Julian, and Nimue. This is an f/f paranormal book, possibly the f/f paranormal book I’ve been craving. There’s some pretty damn hot sex, and I couldn’t help but laugh every time Kate had to remind herself not to sleep with the client, or to keep her eyes on someone’s face when she was talking to them.

The author’s writing style pulled me into the book. If you like any combination of sarcasm, dry humor, and dark humor, you’ll probably enjoy Kate’s narration. “Here lies Kate Kane. Eaten by big bad werewolves. Beloved daughter. Sorely missed (Chapter 3).” Kate’s an alcoholic, has trust issues, is attracted to almost anything female that moves, but she does sincerely care about the victims. Kate usually tries to do the right thing, fucks up here and there, but keeps trying until things are right (or as right as they’re going to be). Yeah, in case you can’t tell, I kind of loved Kate.

Everything about IRON & VELVET kept me flicking the pages, from the murder mystery to Kate’s voice to Julian’s sexiness to well, everything!

Socialize with the author:

Alexis Hall:
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– leeanna

Book Review: White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3) by Jill Archer

Book Review: White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3) by Jill ArcherWhite Heart of Justice by Jill Archer
Series: Noon Onyx #3
Published by Ace on May 27, 2014
Genres: New Adult, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting...

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

white heart of justice blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE by Jill Archer. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. There’s a pretty neat tour-wide giveaway after my review, so make sure to check that out.

I’ve also reviewed the first two books in the Noon Onyx series: DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL.

Book Review:

With WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, the Noon Onyx series is now one of my favorite urban/dark fantasy series. The second I finished the book, I wanted to read the next book, because that ending! I’m not going to spoil anything, but if you’re like me, you’re going to want a fourth book, too.

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE starts off with Noon fighting to be St. Luck’s competitor in the annual Laurel Crown Race. The winner gets to pick where they will do their fourth-semester residency, important because that residency usually turns into a permanent job. Noon needs to win the race because she doesn’t want to be stuck torturing or killing rogue demons. Although she’s come a long way since her initial reluctance to accept her waning magic powers, she’s still not thrilled about the idea of torturing or killing on command.

Noon’s assignment for the race is to find the fabled White Heart of Justice, an ensorcelled sword created by Metatron, a famous Angel, for Justica, the Demon Patron for Judgment, Punishment, and Mercy. The only problem? The sword has been missing for centuries, and oh yeah, it’s in Tartarus, which is basically Hell in an ice fortress.

No big deal, right? Not after what Noon and Rafe, her Guardian Angel, have already been through in previous books. But Jill Archer tops herself in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Noon starts the race off half dead, after being hit by a spelled arrow. Her former best friend and Angel, Peter, is out for blood because Noon didn’t want to search with him. Noon’s also still trying to accept that her ex-boyfriend, Ari, hid the fact that he’s a demon. And that’s just the first third of the book.

Noon’s growth as a character has always been one of my favorite things about the series, as well as the author’s worldbuilding. Both are present in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Noon has changed so much from book one, DARK LIGHT OF DAY, but in a believable, realistic way. She accepts her power and uses it in her own way. Noon’s also growing up as an adult, dealing with heartbreak, a potential new relationship, and making better decisions. Yeah, there’s a bit of romance between Noon and Rafe, which I liked! I’m usually not a fan of romance, but I liked how the author did it here, and I ship Noon/Rafe now.

The journey to Tartarus and Tartarus itself … brrr. A freezing cold fortress is my idea of Hell (I hate being cold). I liked the legend built up around it, and the inside of it, boy, that was creepy.

I’m not mentioning half of what’s in WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. If you like the series, I think you’ll like the newest book. I certainly did, and am hoping Noon’s story continues. If you haven’t started the series, check it out if you’re looking for something a bit different.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

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

Book Review: Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell

Book Review: Expiration Day by William Campbell PowellExpiration Day by William Campbell Powell
Published by Tor Teen on April 22, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
What happens when you turn eighteen and there are no more tomorrows?

It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania’s life are not real?

Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again.

Book Review:

EXPIRATION DAY is the YA science fiction book I’ve been looking for. I would actually recommend it for teens and adults alike, since I think it has a wide audience. When I finished the book, I really wished I had someone to talk about it with, since it’s a book that’s stayed in my mind for a couple of weeks.

Essentially, EXPIRATION DAY explores what it means to be human. There’s not any complicated science to understand, which I appreciated, since it can be really easy to get caught up with new technology or a new world and overlook the main issues. Written in diary format, the book tells the story of Tania Deeley, from age eleven to eighteen. Tania lives in a world where very, very few children are born. To help prevent social collapse, Oxted Corporation came up with the genius idea of loaning childless couples robot babies. The robots are practically impossible to distinguish from normal humans, but at eighteen, they are returned to Oxted.

Here’s the thing about EXPIRATION DAY that really got to me, and why I enjoyed it so much. Normally, the kind of stuff Tania does as she’s growing up, from taking a vacation with her parents to figuring out how to date to learning to play the guitar — that doesn’t really interest me. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction because I like to venture into new worlds. But because Tania herself questioned what it means to be a human or a robot, I started to think about that too.

Are robots capable of creating original music or poetry? What does it mean to create something? Would a robot’s behavior change if it knew it was a robot? What’s the importance of teenage lust and crushes? Other than the human-like robots, and living in a world changed by war, Tania’s life is pretty normal. So it makes you consider how much influence “normal” human experiences have.

EXPIRATION DAY isn’t packed with action or adventure. I would have liked more worldbuilding, because the world Tania lives in sounded fascinating, but otherwise, there’s nothing I didn’t like about it. As I said at the start of my review, it’s a book that’s stayed in my head, and I know I’ll enjoy rereading it in the future and pondering what it means to be human.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like your science fiction packed full of new technology/science/new stuff, or easier to comprehend?

Socialize with the author:

William Campbell Powell:
Website

– leeanna