Book Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Michael Grant:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta SepetysSalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Published by Philomel Books on February 2, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Book Review:

I’ve studied World War II for years. I’ve read countless books, both nonfiction and fiction, and watched a lot of documentaries. My undergrad degree is even in history. But somehow, before SALT TO THE SEA, I’d only heard about the Wilhelm Gustloff once.

One mention of such an immense tragedy.

I’m thankful to Ruta Sepetys for writing SALT TO THE SEA. I always enjoy historical fiction that introduces me to something I didn’t know before, which she certainly does. But more than that, the author has such a deft, confident hand that I could sense the amount of research she did and the respect she has for the survivors and victims of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Sepetys doesn’t overwhelm you with her knowledge, but inserts it subtly, weaving it into the backstories, thoughts, and actions of the characters.

SALT TO THE SEA is told through the eyes of four characters. Joana is Lithuanian, a nurse who always wants to help people in need, even if helping them might place herself in danger. Florian is Prussian, a boy with a pack of secrets. Emilia is Polish, a girl on the run from unspeakable horrors. Alfred is German, a member of the Kriegsmarine, and loyal to Hitler’s every thought. By using characters of different nationalities and loyalties, the author is able to show the many sides of Operation Hannibal, when Germany evacuated soldiers and citizens ahead of the Red Army.

The “chapters” in the book are short, often 2-3 pages before hopping to another character. For the first few chapters, this bugged me a bit, as I couldn’t get to know anyone with such short chapters. Then I got used to it and liked the short chapters, because the sparseness was more impactful than overloading me with details would have been.

SALT TO THE SEA is one of those rare books that I’ll be thinking about for a while.

Socialize with the author:

Ruta Sepetys:
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– leeanna

Book Review: House of Rejoicing by Libbie Hawker

Book Review: House of Rejoicing by Libbie HawkerHouse of Rejoicing by Libbie Hawker
Series: The Book of Coming Forth by Day #1
Published by Running Rabbit Press on May 31, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 369
Format: eBook
Source: Own
Goodreads
5 Stars
House of Rejoicing is Libbie Hawker's long-awaited return to the lush decadence and dark power of ancient Egypt.

In the waning years of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty, when female power can only come at an unsettling price, four royal women struggle against the shadowy influence of Akhenaten, the infamous heretic Pharaoh. Akhenaten wields control of a strange, emerging religion unlike anything Egypt has seen. His power can’t be denied, but whoever can maintain her grip on the unpredictable Pharaoh will hold all of Egypt in her hands—and better still, will remain mistress of her own fate.

Tiy, once the undisputed might behind the throne, must choose to relinquish her hard-won influence, or manipulate the innocent in order to secure her hold on Akhenaten’s leash. Kiya, an idealistic foreign princess, will win Akhenaten with love—if he’s capable of feeling love at all. The celebrated beauty Nefertiti will use the Pharaoh for her own ends, turning the tables of a deadly political game to free herself from her ambitious father’s grasp. And Sitamun, kept imprisoned as the Pharaoh’s plaything, will defy the gods themselves to save her daughter from a similar fate.

Book Review:

I don’t usually review books I read for pleasure anymore, but I had to review HOUSE OF REJOICING. It’s the start of a new ancient Egyptian historical fiction series set during the Amarna period. AKA when Akhenaten raised the Aten above all other gods.

I’m always looking for good ancient Egyptian historical fiction. I’ve read a lot, but I always come back to Libbie Hawker (previously under the pen name L.M. Ironside). I’ve read her Thutmoside saga 3 times, so I was excited to see her tackle Akhenaten and Nefertiti. I like Hawker’s books because she grounds her stories in what’s known, but then makes educated diversions. I also feel like I’ve travelled back in time, thanks to the plethora of details and scene setting. I never feel like I’m reading about modern characters with an Egyptian window-dressing.

And then we get to the characters. Hawker takes the classic Akhenaten is crazy approach, but in a way that I found scary. Sometimes when authors go for that angle, he’s just laughable in his craziness. But in HOUSE OF REJOICING, Akhenaten is scary-crazy. And the author lays a better foundation for his craziness and focus on the Aten than I’ve read before, by spending a lot of the book on the end of his father’s reign.

HOUSE OF REJOICING is written from the viewpoints of four women. Kiya, a Mitanni princess sent to wed Amunhotep. Tiy, Amunhotep’s Great Wife. Sitamun, Akhenaten’s sister. And Nefertiti, raised by her father to be the next pharoah’s Great Wife. None of these women are fully good or bad; I liked and disliked all for various reasons, and also empathized with all of them. I like the way the author envisioned each of these women. Nefertiti is the ambitious beauty she’s always written as, but here she’s more than that. We see why she supports Akhenaten in his quest to glorify the Aten above all other gods. Partly for her own ambition, but also because she sees how dark the future could be, and that supporting Akhenaten might be the only way to gain any shred of control over him. And so on, with each character.

If you like ancient Egyptian historical fiction, I can’t recommend Libbie Hawker highly enough. I’m already looking forward to my next read of HOUSE OF REJOICING, and to the rest of the series.

Socialize with the author:

Libbie Hawker:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

Book Review: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie ThorntonThe Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton
Published by NAL on December 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 512
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Stephanie Thornton:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

Book Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie PerinotMédicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on December 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

blog tour medicis daughter

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for MEDICIS DAUGHTER by Sophie Perinot. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

I’m sure you’ve heard of Catherine de Médici, but have you heard of her daughter, Margot? Catherine and her sons tend to overshadow her daughters, so that was the first thing to interest me about MEDICIS DAUGHTER. I tend to like historical fiction that introduces new-to-me people, and this book was no exception.

MEDICIS DAUGHTER follows the early years of Margot’s life, from her start at court to the beginning of her marriage with Henri of Navarre. If you’re familiar with French history, you know this is a very turbulent time, but even if you aren’t, the author conveys that turbulence well through Margot’s view. The Valois are staunch Catholics, but in the interests of trying to broker peace, King Charles and his mother are willing to make a few concessions to the Protestants. In a way, those Protestants have more freedom and influence with the king and his mother than Margot does.

One of the things I liked most about MEDICIS DAUGHTER is how the author conveyed Margot’s lack of control in her life. I’m sure a lot of us would like to be royalty, but in most countries, princesses were just tools in the game of marriage alliances. Margot is no exception, and it’s easy to empathize with her pain when she’s turned down by Don Carlos, son of King Philip II, and then also refused by King Philip himself. Catherine de Médici’s preference for her sons is easy to see, particularly Henri, Duke of Anjou. Margot, though perhaps as clever as Catherine herself, is seen just as a pawn, and she can never make her mother happy. Or even be listened to, when a brother tries to malign her reputation. I also liked that the author went there with Anjou and Margot.

Over the course of the book, Margot learns how to use her circumstances to her advantage. I liked seeing her grow up and grow into herself. It was also interesting to see the rest of the royal family through Margot’s eyes, particularly her mother. I’ve read a few books with Catherine de Médici as the main character, but I preferred Perinot’s version, seeing Catherine as a mother and queen behind the throne.

I feel like the author did a good job of bringing Margot to life, as well as the French court, the royal family, Margot’s friends, and the religious wars of the times. After I finished MEDICIS DAUGHTER, I went and looked up everything I could find about Margot. That’s the mark of a good read: the author hooked me into the historical figure and I want to learn everything about them. I do hope Sophie Perinot continues Margot’s tale, because her life was even more interesting after her marriage.

About the author:

author sophie perinotSOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times.
Website
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Buy links: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound

– leeanna

Book Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion

Book Review: A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s RebellionA Year of Ravens by E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Russell Whitfield, Ruth Downie, S.J.A. Turney, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on November 17, 2015
Genres: History
Pages: 440
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

blog tour a year of ravens a novel of boudica's rebellion

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A YEAR OF RAVENS by Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield. This is a very unique book, one I enjoyed quite a bit. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway. The blog tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

I’m not a huge fan of short stories. I’d rather read a whole book about the same characters and their stories. But last year, I read A DAY OF FIRE, which showed the last days of Pompeii through six different characters in six different stories. All of the characters interacted in some way, and there were several plotlines that carried through the whole book. I really enjoyed A DAY OF FIRE, and so when I saw several of the same authors (and some new ones) were coming together to write about Boudica, I couldn’t wait to start it.

The beauty of a book like A YEAR OF RAVENS is that if one character’s point of view doesn’t interest you, you can easily skip to the next chapter and see events through someone else’s eyes. I personally enjoyed every section, but the book is written in such a way that you won’t be lost if you don’t like a certain section.

Boudica is someone I’ve always been interested in, but somehow I’ve never read much about her. A YEAR OF RAVENS doesn’t have any sections from her viewpoint, but by seeing her through the eyes of those around her, as well as her enemies, I feel like I got a great idea of the woman she might have been. Because there are so many viewpoints and the book doesn’t focus just on Boudica as a character but the overall rebellion, I also got a great picture of all the events leading up to and during the year of battle.

The viewpoints in the book include:

  • Queen Cartimandua, a client queen who did not revolt against Rome
  • Slave girl Ria, the illegitimate daughter of King Prasutagus of the Iceni
  • Roman Tribune Gnaeus Julius Agricola
  • Andecarus, an Iceni tribesman hostaged to Rome at a young age
  • Druid Yorath, the only druid to survive a Roman massacre; Felix, a Roman soldier captured by Yorath
  • Duro, Boudica’s war chief; Valeria, wife of Britannia’s procurator
  • Sorcha and Keena, Boudica’s daughters

As you can see, there’s something for everyone, and both sides of the story are also represented. I couldn’t pick a favorite character, which is unusual for me. I liked everyone! And I felt for everyone as their circumstances changed, which says something for me, since it usually takes me a lot of page time to get attached. The sections flow almost seamlessly — except for a few areas of expertise, like Russell Whitfield’s knowledge of Roman armies — it’s difficult to tell each section is written by a different author. The smooth continuity of the plotlines and character interactions in A YEAR OF RAVENS make it a very unique, very cool book.

Giveaway:

A Year of Ravens

*giveaway is tour-wide

A Year of Ravens authors:

a year of ravens authors
Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, & Russell Whitfield
Buy links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

– leeanna

Book Review: Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman

Book Review: Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily HollemanCleopatra's Shadows by Emily Holleman
Published by Little Brown and Company on October 6, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
2 Stars
Page-turning historical fiction that reimagines the beginnings of Cleopatra's epic saga through the eyes of her younger sister.

Before Caesar and the carpet, before Antony and Actium, before Octavian and the asp, there was Arsinoe.

Abandoned by her beloved Cleopatra and an indifferent father, young Arsinoe must fight for her survival in the bloodthirsty royal court when her half-sister Berenice seizes Egypt's throne. Even as the quick-witted girl wins Berenice's favor, a new specter haunts her days-dark dreams that have a habit of coming true.

To survive, she escapes the palace for the war-torn streets of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Berenice confronts her own demons as she fights to maintain power. When their deposed father Ptolemy marches on the city with a Roman army, both daughters must decide where their allegiances truly lie, and Arsinoe grapples with the truth, that the only way to survive her dynasty is to rule it.

Book Review:

I wanted to like CLEOPATRA’S SHADOWS more than I did, because I thought the idea was a great one. The author intended to reimagine the beginning of Cleopatra’s saga by telling the story through her younger sister Arsinoe. Cleopatra barely appears this book, which I was more than okay with, as I tend to like historical fiction that centers on lesser known figures. Arsinoe, and Cleopatra’s older sister, Berenice, are both footnotes in history because of their more famous sibling, but both had important lives of their own.

CLEOPATRA’S SHADOWS alternates chapters between Arsinoe and Berenice. Berenice takes the throne when King Ptolemy sails to Rome for aid. Arsinoe is left behind in the palace by her father and mother, a lost child. Berenice struggles to hold the throne, to find enough men to fight for her, and to deal with her vengeance hungry mother. Arsinoe longs for Cleopatra, in the way younger sisters long for older sisters, but must beg Berenice for her life.

I think my biggest problem with CLEOPATRA’S SHADOWS is that … it just wasn’t very interesting. It wasn’t riveting or page-turning. It didn’t keep my attention. There were portions that were good, such as Berenice debating between her mother’s lust for vengeance against Ptolemy’s other daughters or mercy for Arsinoe. Berenice was much more interesting for me than Arsinoe, but even so, many of her chapters plodded along. Arsinoe’s chapters were even more boring — even though her life was in danger, I never felt like she would die, and I got tired of the many tutoring lessons. Other readers might find the inclusion of Roman histories and tragedies interesting, but I eventually had enough of being lectured. I also had a lot of unanswered questions, such as why Ganymedes left Arsinoe in the market. Based on the bonus material at the end of the book, I have a feeling CLEOPATRA’S SHADOWS is the first in a series, so perhaps my questions will be answered in future books.

I’m a character-driven reader, and unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with either Berenice or Arsinoe. I didn’t like or hate either one of them. My feelings towards both, and the secondary characters, were very blah. The author didn’t bring them to life enough for me to care about what they did or what happened to them, and an hour after finishing CLEOPATRA’S SHADOWS, I’ve already forgotten a fair bit of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Emily Holleman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

“See you in hell, mister.”

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Erin Bowman:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

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

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

She also has a secret.

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

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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Rae Carson:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Book Review: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally ChristieThe Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie
Series: Mistresses of Versailles #1
Published by Atria on September 1, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
A sumptuous and sensual tale of power, romance, family, and betrayal centered around four sisters and one King. Carefully researched and ornately detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an exciting new historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France's most "well-beloved" monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed.

Goodness, but sisters are a thing to fear.

Set against the lavish backdrop of the French Court in the early years of the 18th century, The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters: Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne, four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot - and women - forward. The King's scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters:sweet, naive Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne, will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

In the tradition of The Other Boleyn Girl, The Sisters of Versailles is a clever, intelligent, and absorbing novel that historical fiction fans will devour. Based on meticulous research on a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie's stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood; of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough.

the sisters of versailles blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES by Sally Christie. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES is the first in a historical fiction trilogy about the mistresses of Louis XV. This first book is about the five Nesle sisters, four of whom became the king’s mistresses. It sounds extraordinary, even for a king, but it’s true. They’ve been overshadowed by Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry, which I think is a real pity.

I’d never heard of the sisters before — this book is the first time they’ve been written about in English. I usually enjoy historical fiction that introduces me to new people and/or time periods, and here, I definitely enjoyed my introduction to the Nesle sisters. I think the author did a fine job of giving each their own personality and ambitions based on what is known about them. THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES is written from each sister’s perspective, and their voices are distinct enough that it’s not confusing. The book spans over a decade, and reads like a historical epic that’s light enough to be enjoyed by readers who might not want a ton of historical detail, but want to read about Louis XV’s early mistresses.

Louise, Pauline, Diane, and Marie-Anne all have their time with the king for their own reasons, whether it’s actually love or to gain power and security. I liked, disliked, and wanted to slap reason into each at various times, which I think speaks to the author’s success at turning little known historical figures into living, breathing women. As for Hortense — the one sister who didn’t succumb to the king — she begins and ends the book, an elderly woman looking back, realizing that life isn’t as black and white as her pious, judging self once thought.

Louis XV was Louis le Bien-Aimé — Louis the Well-Beloved — but he wasn’t so loving to the sisters. I liked seeing the king through their eyes, and then their lives after him. THE SISTERS OF VERSAILLES doesn’t really go into the politics of the time, perhaps because most of the sisters are isolated and don’t care too much about politics. The book mainly focuses on life at Versailles, the intrigues and scandals that make up palace life. I quite liked the relationships between the sisters — a little love, but mainly of the “what can she do for me” variety, with competition and hatred thrown in. I found the different feelings rather realistic, especially at a time when women had to manipulate their surroundings as best they could to improve their lives.

About the author:

author sally christieI’m a life-long history buff – and I mean life-long. One of the first adult books I read was Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow! That book just blew my little ten year old mind: something about the way it brought the past right back to life, made it live again on the page. I date my obsession with history to that time, but I’d been writing (“writing”) ever since I was able to hold a pencil.

If you’d told my 12-year old self that I’d not be a writer when I grew up, I would have laughed you out of the tree house. With a few detours along the way, to work overseas in consulting and development, as well as to go to business school, I’ve finally come full circle to where I think I should be.

I currently live in Toronto and when I’m not writing, I’m playing lots of tennis; doing random historical research (old census records are my favorite); playing Scrabble, and squirrel-watching (the room where I write has French doors leading out to a deck; I avidly follow, and feed, a scruffy gang).

For more information please visit Sally Christie’s website. You can also find her on Goodreads and Pinterest.
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Buy links: Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Chapters | iTunes | Indiebound | Kobo

– leeanna