Book Review: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

Book Review: Half the World by Joe AbercrombieHalf the World by Joe Abercrombie
Series: Shattered Sea #2
Published by Del Rey on February 17, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

Book Review:

In 2014, the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea trilogy, HALF A KING, was one of my favorite books of the year. I’m two months into 2015 and I already know the second book, HALF THE WORLD, will be one of my favorites for this year.

Some awesome things about HALF THE WORLD:

♥ It’s the second book in a trilogy, but you DO NOT need to be familiar with book one. I recommend you read HALF A KINGbecause Yarvi’s story is fantastic. But if you skip it, you won’t be confused. The author fills you in on what you need to know.

♥ If you like kick butt, prickly, determined, stubborn female main characters, you’ll probably love Thorn Bathu. Thorn’s my kind of girl — she wants to be a warrior, the first female warrior to stand in the shield wall. But everyone’s against her, and when her trainer names her a murderer, she almost loses her life. Father Yarvi rescues her from death, but is his rescue really a rescue? If you read HALF A KING, you’ll know Yarvi plays his own game, and even if you haven’t, his actions show his character in HALF THE WORLD. The short version? Thorn comes out even stronger in the end of the book than she was in the beginning, but it’s a bumpy ride. Even worse than hauling a ship overland.

♥ As the title implies, HALF THE WORLD shows a great deal of the world of the Shattered Sea. The characters do journey over half the world trying to find support for their country. As much as I like the Viking feel of Gettland, it was cool to see other cultures and peoples. HALF THE WORLD feels epic in scope without clocking in at 700+ pages. I love big fat fantasies, but sometimes it’s nice to read something that’s less than 400 pages and still get the same feeling.

♥ This is quite unusual for me, but I actually liked the romance in HALF THE WORLD. It’s not a big part of the book, but it is there. At first, I rolled my eyes when I saw that Thorn and Brand were attracted to each other, because I didn’t want the book to be full of them making eyes at each other and falling in loooove right away. It’s not. Anyway, Thorn and Brand have some missteps, and spend a good portion of the book mad at each other for reasons a lot of people will recognize. I thought the romance bit was a lot more realistic than you usually see, which is why I liked it.

In case you can’t tell, I thought HALF THE WORLD was fantastic. I think I liked it even more than HALF A KING! I cannot wait to see how everything ties up in the last book, HALF A WAR, due out later this year. I need my Yarvi and Thorn fix!

Socialize with the author:

Joe Abercrombie:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia Bracewell

Book Review: The Price of Blood (Emma #2) by Patricia BracewellThe Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell
Series: Emma of Normandy #2
Published by Viking on February 5, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
5 Stars
Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure.

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.

Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

Book Review:

In 2013, I read an amazing historical fiction book that stuck with me. I named SHADOW ON THE CROWN, the first book in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy, one of my favorite books for 2013. Every so often, I would check to see when the next book was coming, because I needed more of Emma’s story.

I had to wait two years for more, but THE PRICE OF BLOOD was more than worth the wait. I just hope I don’t have to wait another two years for the last book of the trilogy. After reading the last page of THE PRICE OF BLOOD, my greedy self needs more again. But you would too, because this book is fantastic. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction. The author interested me in a period of history I never cared about before, which is a mark of successful historical fiction for me.

Like SHADOW ON THE CROWN, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is told from four viewpoints: Emma, Queen of England; Æthelred, King of England; Athelstan, the king’s oldest son; and Elgiva, daughter of one of the king’s chief rivals. It’s easy to know who’s who, and the different characters give a more complete picture of what’s going on in 1006 England. In the first book, Emma was my favorite. But in this book, I also enjoyed Athelstan and Elgiva, as I felt like their stories really expanded. Athelstan has to deal with his paranoid father who thinks Athelstan wants the throne at any cost. Like Emma, Elgiva is a woman in a man’s world, but they go about trying to acquire power and influence in very different ways. Emma uses knowledge and connections while Elgiva uses sex and attempts to manipulate men into doing what she wants. It was an interesting contrast for me.

There’s a lot going on in THE PRICE OF BLOOD, but in the best way possible. Since it had been two years since I was last in this world, I was lost at the beginning. The book includes a helpful glossary, dramatis personae, and map, and after a few chapters, I found my footing. I couldn’t read quickly enough. Patricia Bracewell penned an intricately written tale, bringing together all four characters and their individual struggles to show the effect of Viking invasions on England. Let’s just say the title is an apt one.

THE PRICE OF BLOOD is almost like watching an episode of Vikings — but from the view of the English. The author doesn’t shy away from describing anything, from an ugly battle to a woman being claimed by an unwanted husband to the stark difficulties of living in a country that can’t fight off a more powerful enemy. I actually felt like I was beside the characters, waiting for the next town to be burned. There’s a high level of historical detail in this book, but it doesn’t feel overly researched or like the author’s trying to cram facts down your throat. Patricia Bracewell’s just trying to tell a great story, and she does a brilliant job of it.

Extra!

The publisher, Viking, and the author have created an online book club kit. It’s pretty cool — there’s a recipe, suggested music, little known facts for the time period, and a Q&A with the author. Be sure to give it a look!

Socialize with the author:

Patricia Bracewell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan StratfordThe Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford
Series: The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 6, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Mystery
Pages: 240
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Jordan Stratford imagines an alternate 1826, where Ada Lovelace (the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) meet as girls and form a secret detective agency!

Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude—but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, Mary is to become Ada’s first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary.

Mystery fans will love this tween girl riff on Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. History buffs will be delighted to see all the real figures who play a role in this story and appreciate the extensive backmatter that helps separate truth from fiction. Parents and educators hoping to promote the STEM fields for girls will be thrilled to have a series where two girls use math, science, and creative analytical thinking to solve crimes. But most especially--emerging readers will love this series filled with humor, action, intrigue and wonderful artwork from Kelly Murphy.

Book Review:

I adore the premise and characters in THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. Featuring Ada Lovelace and Mary Shelley, this book is the first in a new series aimed at middle-grade girls. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency wants to show girls that math, science, history, and literature can be used for everyday problems and maybe even to change the world.

Yes, this series does experiment with history. For example, Ada and Mary were eighteen years apart in real life, but are three years apart in this book so they can be friends. Sometimes it annoys the heck out of me when authors mess with history, but I’m all for it here. The author makes it work. Even though I’m not the target age, I was still interested by his characterizations of Ada and Mary, and when I finished the book, I went searching for information on Ada. At the end of THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE, the author does include biographies of most of the characters, filling readers in on their real lives and any changes he made for the book.

I flew through THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. The mystery isn’t too difficult to solve, but I had a hoot watching Ada and Mary work through it. I loved Ada from page one. I mean, she has a balloon on the roof of her house, and thinks “Oomph times zoom equals kaboom!” on page one. Ada and Mary approach things differently, and I think any reader will find something to identify with and like in one or both of them. Ada’s not so good at dealing with emotions and people; she prefers math. Mary’s better with people, likes poetry and romance, and has the Very Good Idea of the detective agency. It was great to see the girls become friends and understand each other’s strengths while they subvert 1820’s society’s view of girls.

Lastly, there are some great illustrations in THE CASE OF THE MISSING MOONSTONE. I would have loved them as a kid, and I still loved them as an adult. I thought they added a lot to the story, and I really appreciated that one of Ada’s equations was drawn out. All too often math equations (if they’re mentioned at all) aren’t shown, so it’s tricky to know what the character is talking about.

Socialize with the author:

Jordan Stratford:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers

Book Review: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFeversMortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on November 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 444
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

Book Review:

I loved the first two books in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin series: GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH. The series is a blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance. I read both books multiple times and enjoyed them more each time.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started MORTAL HEART. I was sad to see the series end, but I was also worried. Would this book live up to my expectations? Would I enjoy MORTAL HEART as much as the other books?

By the Nine, MORTAL HEART was amazing! I read it straight through, seven hours glued to the book until I flipped the last page. And when I did finish, I wanted to start right over again, so I could enjoy Annith’s story again.

It’s really hard to review the last book of a trilogy without spoiling everything. Ismae and Duval do show up, as do Sybella and Beast, so we get to see a little more of their relationships and futures. The plight of Brittany and its young duchess is resolved. But MORTAL HEART is really Annith’s tale, and what a good tale it is.

Sentenced with a future she doesn’t want — seeress for the convent — Annith takes her future into her own hands. Over the course of MORTAL HEART, Annith grows from an obedient novitiate to a confident, independent woman. Even when secrets from her past threaten to overwhelm her, she doesn’t let them. MORTAL HEART has more supernatural aspects than the other two books, but I think that only makes sense, since Annith is very devoted to Mortain. As for her love interest — I’ll admit, at first I didn’t quite go for Balthazaar as Annith’s man, nor the conclusion. But after thinking about it for a bit, and reading the Author’s Note, Balthazaar is the one.

I could go on and on about MORTAL HEART, and maybe I’m biased because I love this series so much, but I think this book is fantastic. A more than worthy ending to an amazing series.

Socialize with the author:
Robin LaFevers
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– leeanna

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:
Website
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– leeanna