Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen

Book Review: The Witch of Stalingrad by Justine SaracenThe Witch of Stalingrad by Justine Saracen
Published by Bold Strokes Books on March 17, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, LGBT, Romance
Pages: 264
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
4 Stars
As the German Blitzkrieg brings the Soviet Union to its knees in 1942, a regiment of women aviators flies out at night in flimsy aircraft without parachutes or radios to harass the Wehrmacht troops. The Germans call them “Night Witches” and the best of them is Lilya Drachenko. From the other end of the world, photojournalist Alex Preston arrives to “get the story” for the American press and witnesses sacrifice, hardship, and desperate courage among the Soviet women that is foreign to her. So also are their politics. While the conservative journalist and the communist Lilya clash politically, Stalingrad, the most savage battle of the 20th century, brings them together, until enemy capture and the lethal Russian winter tears them apart again.

Book Review:

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD initially captured my interest because of the night witches. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of them before, because now I’m fascinated! Once I dove into this book, I dove just as quickly into researching the night witches, and I was pleased to learn the author based many of her characters on real Soviet pilots.

The book is told from the perspectives of two different women: Lilya Drachenko, Soviet pilot extraordinaire and night witch, and Alex Preston, American photojournalist and a former Russian. Throughout the course of THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD, both women question the beliefs they’ve grown up with as well as question what their futures could be. There is a lot of character growth in this book, which is something I enjoy.

THE WITCH OF STALINGRAD is way more than just a wartime romance. At first, I didn’t expect such depth and historical accuracy, but I was delighted to find it. This book is gritty, a realistic look at life in a warzone. There’s details on living under Stalin for the Russians, lots of piloting from night witch flying to fighter battles, and even time in a concentration camp. If you have any interest in the Soviet side of WWII, or the night witches, I’d recommend this book for that alone.

Lilya and Alex do become attracted to one another, but also spend a lot of the book apart, due to the war and their respective duties. Their relationship is sweet and realistic, with a few hints of explicitness that fit into the time period. Aside from Lilya and Alex, this book is full of strong women, female friendships, and women supporting each other. I like how the author put her own spin on “women can’t do X or Y,” showing over and over again that yes, they can. And I loved when Alex went off on General Patton. I’d quote, but I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say it’s fantastic.

Let’s talk about it:

Do you like when historical fiction introduces you to things you’d never heard of before?

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Justine Saracen:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Web (Fianna Trilogy #2) by Megan ChanceThe Web by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #2
Published by Skyscape on January 20, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
In Victorian New York, seventeen-year-old Grace Knox is tangled in the web of an ancient prophecy.

The Fianna, legendary Irish warriors, have been magically called from their undying sleep to aid Ireland in its rebellion against Britain. But the Fianna have awakened in New York alongside their bitter enemies, the Fomori. A prophecy demands that a Druid priestess—a veleda—must choose between these two sides. Grace is this veleda.

But being the veleda means she must sacrifice her power—and her life—to her choice. On one side are her fiancé, Patrick Devlin, and the Fomori. On the other are the Fianna—and the warrior Diarmid Ua Duibhne, with whom Grace shares an undeniable connection. Patrick has promised to find a way to save her life. In three months, at the ancient ritual, Diarmid must wield the knife that kills her.

Grace doesn’t know whom to trust. As dark forces converge on the city, she struggles to discover the truth about her power. Can she change her own destiny? Can she escape the shadows of the past and reach for a future she could never have imagined?

Book Review:

THE WEB is the second book in Megan Chance’s Fianna Trilogy. The series is a cross between historical fiction and fantasy, set in Victorian era New York where heroes of Irish lore have come back to life.

The first book, THE SHADOWS, was just okay for me. My favorite part was the Celtic mythology/fantasy. My biggest complaint with THE SHADOWS was that not a lot happened, and unfortunately, that’s the same complaint I have with THE WEB.

THE WEB suffers from Second Book Syndrome: the plot barely advances, Graces mopes and angsts over being attracted to Derry, and … that’s it, I think. I finished the book about an hour ago, and I can’t think of much to say about it.

Supposedly a Druid priestess, Grace is stuck between the Fianna and the Fomori, heroes and villains of Irish folklore. Between gang boy Derry and her fiancé Patrick. Yup, there’s a love triangle here, but THE WEB focuses mainly on the Grace and Derry leg. I didn’t buy it, especially since they started talking about how much they loved each other in this book. But then I tend to be very critical of romance in YA.

And that’s about it, really. For the length of the book (~380 pages), more should have happened. I wanted more plot and less romance. After the cliffhanger in THE SHADOWS, I just expected more from THE WEB.

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Megan Chance:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan Chance

Book Review: The Shadows (Fianna Trilogy #1) by Megan ChanceThe Shadows by Megan Chance
Series: Fianna Trilogy #1
Published by Skyscape on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Grace Knox has grown up hearing the folktales of her Irish ancestors, especially about the warriors who fought for control of Ireland. In 19th-century New York City, however, these legends are far from Grace's mind. She's much more concerned with how to protect her family from debt collectors, and whether her childhood friend Patrick Devlin will propose. Patrick is a member of the Fenian Brotherhood, a group of young Irish American men intent on fighting for the independence of their homeland, whatever the cost. Patrick and the Brotherhood use ancient magic to summon mythical warriors to join their fight to protect Ireland. One of them, Diarmid, finds himself drawn to Grace, and she to him. When Diarmid discovers that, in their desperation, the Brotherhood has also summoned a rival group of ancient warriors, he warns Patrick that there will be bloodshed. Grace is caught in the middle of two men she loves, and discovers she alone holds the power to save Ireland?but at a dangerous price.

Book Review:

THE SHADOWS is the first book in a YA historical fiction/fantasy trilogy, mixing Victorian era New York with Celtic mythology. I was curious about the book because of the Celtic connection; I haven’t read a lot of it before, and I’m always interested in learning more and seeing new interpretations.

Overall, THE SHADOWS is an okay book. The Celtic mythology/fantasy aspect was my favorite part. There are a lot of YA cliches, including a love triangle, love at first sight, the well-off boy wanting to rescue the impoverished heroine, a heroine possessing unknown magical powers, etc.

Once you wade through all that, not that much happens. THE SHADOWS feels like setup for the rest of the trilogy, information dumping everything now so action can come later. The book does read quickly, but it’s long at 400 pages — too long for the little that happens within. And to top things off, the book ends on a cliffhanger. A really big cliffhanger.

THE SHADOWS is told from the perspectives of each important character: Grace, Patrick, and Derry. Grace’s chapters are first person point-of-view and the boys are third; Patrick and Derry sounded identical to me. Grace is the impoverished heroine, trying to do what’s right to save her family. Patrick is the rich young friend who has always loved her and wants to marry her. He also wants to see an independent Ireland. Derry is actually Diarmid Ua Duibhne, one of the Fianna. The Fianna are heroes of myth, reawoken to save Ireland.

As I said above, the Celtic mythology/fantasy was my favorite part. I did some quick searching and I don’t think the author deviated a lot from the original sources. But it was new to me, so I enjoyed it.

I was disappointed that THE SHADOWS ends on such a big cliffhanger. After so much buildup there’s a really quick battle scene and then wham! Cliffhanger. I wish more had actually happened in book one, rather than so much setup.

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Megan Chance:
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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: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan Shepherd

Book Review: A Cold Legacy (The Madman’s Daughter #3) by Megan ShepherdA Cold Legacy by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #3
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 27, 2015
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Horror, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
After killing the men who tried to steal her father’s research, Juliet—along with Montgomery, Lucy, Balthazar, and a deathly ill Edward—has escaped to a remote estate on the Scottish moors. Owned by the enigmatic Elizabeth von Stein, the mansion is full of mysteries and unexplained oddities: dead bodies in the basement, secret passages, and fortune-tellers who seem to know Juliet’s secrets. Though it appears to be a safe haven, Juliet fears new dangers may be present within the manor’s own walls.

Then Juliet uncovers the truth about the manor’s long history of scientific experimentation—and her own intended role in it—forcing her to determine where the line falls between right and wrong, life and death, magic and science, and promises and secrets. And she must decide if she’ll follow her father’s dark footsteps or her mother’s tragic ones, or whether she’ll make her own.

With inspiration from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this breathless conclusion to the Madman’s Daughter trilogy is about the things we’ll sacrifice to save those we love—even our own humanity.

Book Review:

A COLD LEGACY is the last book in the Madman’s Daughter trilogy. Like its predecessors, it’s inspired by a classic work of literature: FRANKENSTEIN. The way Megan Shepherd uses classics for inspirations and twists them to her own purpose remains one of my favorite things about this series.

There’s not a lot of recap of what happened in the previous books, THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER and HER DARK CURIOSITY, which left me a bit lost at first. I tend to like when an author reminds me of past events, so that I can get my bearings. At the start of A COLD LEGACY, Juliet and the gang are on the run, trying to reach Ballentyne, a safe haven in the Scottish moors, before they’re apprehended for murder.

Ballentyne and its owner, Elizabeth von Stein, were my favorite things about A COLD LEGACY. The castle provides an excellent setting for the conclusion of Juliet’s story. With hidden passages, mysterious servants, and a laboratory for forbidden science, it’s the perfect gothic setting. I liked Elizabeth a lot because I saw her as an older, more responsible version of Juliet. It was good for Juliet to have a female role model that was interested in science and didn’t let anyone change her. Plus, Elizabeth was just cool. Think of the FRANKENSTEIN connection and you’ll see why.

Otherwise, the rest of A COLD LEGACY is okay. It’s a decent ending to the series, but it didn’t have the oomph I expected. I found the villain of this book somewhat silly and not quite believable. In past books, I disliked the love triangle of Juliet, Edward, and Montgomery, and while it isn’t present here, I wish the author would have brought up that attraction between Juliet and Edward rather than ignoring it. Juliet and Montgomery are engaged in this last book and on their way to being married, but it got on my nerves how they were constantly hiding Big Important Things from each other.

I really, really liked THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. HER DARK CURIOSITY had middle book syndrome, but I had high hopes A COLD LEGACY would be amazing. But it was just okay, not the epic conclusion I expected. The more I think about it, the more I could find to critique. So I’ll just stop there and be satisfied that it was a good end to a creative series.

Socialize with the author:

Megan Sheperd:
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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: 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: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. Knight

Book Review: Prisoner of the Queen (Tales From the Tudor Court #2) by E. KnightPrisoner of the Queen by E. Knight
Series: Tales From the Tudor Court #2
Published by Knight Media on July 30, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 342
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
I have served three queens in my life. One was my sister, one was my savior, and one my bitterest enemy.

Knowing she was seen as a threat to the Queen she served, Lady Katherine Grey, legitimate heir to the throne, longs only for the comfort of a loving marriage and a quiet life far from the intrigue of the Tudor court. After seeing her sister become the pawn of their parents and others seeking royal power and then lose their lives for it, she is determined to avoid the vicious struggles over power and religion that dominate Queen Elizabeth’s court. Until she finds love—then Kat is willing to risk it all, even life in prison.

prisoner of the queen by e. knight blog tour

I’m on a historical fiction kick lately, so it’s appropriate that I have a tour stop for PRISONER OF THE QUEEN by E. Knight. The book is the second in her Tales From the Tudor Court series, but you don’t need to read the books in order. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

Most people know the tale of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen. I’ve read several books about her, fiction and nonfiction, but PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is the first book I’ve read that tells the story of her sister, Katherine. That’s what attracted me to the book in the first place, and I think E. Knight does a fantastic effort reimagining Katherine’s story.

Katherine’s story is not a happy one: for daring to marry the man she loved behind Queen Elizabeth’s back, she spent the rest of her life imprisoned. But even before her marriage to Edward Seymour, Katherine wasn’t in control of her life. Both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth felt threatened by her presence, for she also had a claim to the throne, although she wanted nothing to do with it.

Katherine is an easy character to root for. She doesn’t want to be a pawn, used for the gains of men. She just wants to be happy, to enjoy life, to have a husband and children. But that isn’t in her stars, because of her royal blood and the political complications of the time. I liked how the author mentioned how pamphlets written by rebellious men impacted Katherine’s life — they were only thinking about their own gain, and never considered that Elizabeth would punish Katherine even more harshly. I didn’t quite agree with the author’s characterization of Elizabeth at first — jealous and fearful of losing power — but as the book went on, I believed it. For once, it was good to see Elizabeth from the view of someone wronged by the queen.

PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a great book for fans of Tudor historical fiction. I really enjoyed Katherine’s story, and the ending made me tear up a bit. That doesn’t usually happen! I’m not always a fan of romance, but I got behind Katherine and Ned’s relationship, and wanted them to have a happy ending even though I knew they didn’t. The author included letters the two actually wrote to each other, and quotes from a poem written about their star crossed relationship kick off each chapter. PRISONER OF THE QUEEN is a different look into Tudor court life, from the eyes of one who doesn’t really want to be there.

About the author:

author e. knightE. Knight is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America and several RWA affiliate writing chapters: Hearts Through History, Celtic Hearts, Maryland Romance Writers and Washington Romance Writers. Growing up playing in castle ruins and traipsing the halls of Versailles when visiting her grandparents during the summer, instilled in a love of history and royals at an early age. Feeding her love of history, she created the popular historical blog, History Undressed (www.historyundressed.com). Under the pseudonym Eliza Knight, she is a bestselling, award-winning, multi-published author of historical and erotic romance.
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– leeanna