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

Blog Tour: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

the conqueror's wife blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE CONQUEROR’S WIFE by Stephanie Thornton. I totally got my dates mixed up, so today I just have a spotlight of the book for you. But I’ll have my review up soon, and I thought it was a fantastic book, especially if you like reading about strong historical heroines brought to life. The tour is hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

the conqueror's wife by stephanie thorntonInfo:
Title: The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton
Release Date: December 1, 2015
Publisher: NAL/Penguin Group LLC
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 496
Rating:

Summary:

A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)…

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…

About the author:

author stephanie thorntonStephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.

“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora,” “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt,” and “The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan” are available now. “The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great” will hit the shelves in December 2015.

For more information please visit Stephanie Thornton’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Buy links: Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (paperback) | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

– 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.
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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: Mercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle

Book Review: Mercury Retrograde by Laura BickleMercury Retrograde by Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #2
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on October 27, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
Something venomous has come to Temperance …

It's been two months since Petra Dee and her coyote sidekick Sig faced off against Temperance's resident alchemist, but things are far from quiet. When an Internet video of a massive snake in the backcountry of Yellowstone goes viral, a chase for the mythical basilisk is on. Monster hunters swarm into the area, and never one to pass up the promise of discovery, Petra joins in the search.

Among the newcomers is a snake cult on wheels―the biker gang Sisters of Serpens. Unlike some, the Sisters don't want to kill the basilisk―they want to worship it. But things get complicated when the basilisk develops a taste for human flesh that rivals the Sisters' own murderous skills.

Meanwhile, the alchemical tree of life is dying, and the undead Hanged Men of Temperance who depend on it know the basilisk may be their last chance for survival.

With time running out for everyone around her, Petra will be forced to decide who survives and who she must leave behind in this action-packed sequel to Dark Alchemy.

mercury retrograde by laura bickle blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for MERCURY RETROGRADE by Laura Bickle. As I quite enjoyed the first book in the Dark Alchemy series, DARK ALCHEMY, I was excited to get the opportunity to read and review MERCURY RETROGRADE. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours, and you can visit all the stops here.

Book Review:

As a fan of Laura Bickle, I was excited to see that she was continuing her Dark Alchemy series. Earlier in the year, I read DARK ALCHEMY and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if it was a standalone or not. So I was quite happy to see MERCURY RETROGRADE pop up on my radar.

MERCURY RETROGRADE picks up two months after DARK ALCHEMY. Although I recommend reading the first book, I think you could read MERCURY RETROGRADE as a standalone and be okay. The author explains events that happened in the previous book as necessary. But you’ll definitely have a better appreciation of everything if you read book one.

In MERCURY RETROGRADE, Petra and her sidekick coyote Sig face off against a gigantic snake that’s turned Yellowstone into its personal hunting ground. But with giant snake videos going viral, they aren’t the only ones in the park — there are plenty of tourists, monster hunters, and even the government. Also on the search for the snake are Gabe and the Hanged Men, who need the snake’s blood to save their tree. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a cult of motorcycle-riding women who worship snakes … and they want to feed everyone to the giant snake.

I never know quite what I’m going to get with a Laura Bickle book, which is one of my favorite parts of reading her work. She twists things in ways I don’t expect, and always puts her own spin on traditional fantasy creatures. I was pretty creeped out by the giant snake, but I also sympathized with it by the end of the book. I also enjoy her dark humor and sarcasm, sprinkled at appropriate points. And lastly, she’s ace at writing great animal characters. I was overjoyed to see more of Sig!

I enjoyed MERCURY RETROGRADE even more than DARK ALCHEMY, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Petra, Sig, and Gabe.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

laura bickleLaura Bickle grew up in rural Ohio, reading entirely too many comic books out loud to her favorite Wonder Woman doll. After graduating with an MA in Sociology – Criminology from Ohio State University and an MLIS in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she patrolled the stacks at the public library and worked with data systems in criminal justice. She now dreams up stories about the monsters under the stairs. Her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.
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Buy: Amazon | B&N | iTunes

– 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

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy

Book Review: Clockwork Menagerie by Karen KincyClockwork Menagerie by Karen Kincy
Series: Shadows of Asphodel #2.5
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on September 1, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Dieselpunk, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 102
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
1914. Konstantin would love to hide in his laboratory and dissect the clockwork dragon captured from Russia, but the Archmages of Vienna have other plans. He finds himself shipped off to St. Petersburg as the scientific attaché to an ambassador. His orders? Look, but don't touch. Of course, he considers this an impossible request with so much enemy technomancy to explore.

To make matters worse, Konstantin has to work with the dashing zeppelin commander Himmel, a man who should also be untouchable. They can't act on the smoldering attraction between them without risking it all. Faced with an illegal relationship and a devious rival technomancer, Konstantin might not return from this mission in Russia without conquering the forbidden.

A companion novella to the Shadows of Asphodel series, from Konstantin's point of view.

clockwork menagerie blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE by Karen Kincy. CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the Shadows of Asphodel series. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is a novella set in the dieselpunk world of the Shadows of Asphodel series. While the series mainly follows Ardis and Wendel, this novella focuses on Archmage Konstantin and zeppelin captain Himmel. The two are part of a diplomatic mission to Russia, Austria-Hungary’s enemy. Konstantin is just supposed to observe Russia’s technomancy, but he’s distracted by two things: his attraction to Himmel and the illegal use of souls to power clockwork creations.

You don’t necessarily need to have read the main books in the Shadows of Asphodel series to understand CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE, since the novella has different main characters and takes place mostly in Russia, but I’d recommend checking them out for full understanding of Karen Kincy’s universe. Or use CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE as your introduction to the author’s world. Because Konstantin is an archmage, there’s enough explanation about the magic in this series that it’s not hard to understand what’s going on. Konstantin likes to geek out a lot about the magic, which I enjoyed.

For the most part, I enjoyed CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE. It’s about 100 pages, so a good length for a novella. The story doesn’t leave any loose ends, which is always nice. And it’s a story I liked, because Konstantin and Himmel go up against a devious Russian technomancer. Well, Konstantin does. Himmel wants to follow orders, which are to look but not touch. Konstantin manages to get himself into scrape after scrape, but luckily he has Himmel to rescue him. You know how even super smart people can have no common sense? Yeah, Konstantin’s a great example of that. For example, he remembers to pack magical supplies but no food for himself.

The romance in CLOCKWORK MENAGERIE is the aspect that didn’t work for me. I was intrigued by a relationship between Konstantin and Himmel, because I could see it, but I wanted more development for me to really believe it. I understand their attraction to each other is forbidden — it’s 1914, in Russia — but still. I think if the novella were a bit longer, there would have been more room to expand on their attraction and relationship.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

author of shadows of asphodel: karen kincyKaren Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.
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Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Book Review: All We Have Is Now by Lisa SchroederAll We Have Is Now by Lisa Schroeder
Published by Scholastic on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn't leave, the world will end. But Emerson's world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city's quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people's wishes -- and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day -- maybe even their own.

all we have is now by lisa schroeder blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for ALL WE HAVE IS NOW by Lisa Schroeder. This tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway, and also my answer for Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse.

Book Review:

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW asks one important question: what would you do with your last day on earth? What if you knew an asteroid was going to wipe out North America — would you spend your last day with loved ones, righting wrongs, or hiding? Or would you do something else?

Emerson and Vince, two homeless teenagers, don’t want to wait the last few hours until the end. They’re about to take their end into their own hands when they meet Carl, who has spent his time granting wishes to people. Helping them do something they’d always wanted to, but hadn’t for one reason or another. Carl grants Vince’s wish of having money, and asks that the two pay it forward if possible.

Emerson and Vince have been concerned with surviving on the streets for so long that they’ve forgotten how to really live, how to enjoy themselves. But as they grant wishes and help people, their own wounds start to heal. ALL WE HAVE IS NOW is a hopeful story about the end of the world, one that shows how important human connections can be at the end. I like that the book tries to remind the reader that it’s important to live in the moment and enjoy yourself, rather than always looking to the future.

ALL WE HAVE IS NOW also follows Carl, and I liked that while the book is young adult, we also get the perspective of an adult. It was good to see how he felt about events compared to how Emerson and Vince felt. I was a little let down by the ending, which was too open for me, but overall I liked the message and tone of the book. I think it’s hard for a book about the impending end of North America to be uplifting, but the author accomplished it.

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse

Make-A-Wish-for-the-Apocalypse- There’s just a little over 24 hours until a meteor is scheduled to hit the US. What do you wish for?

Okay, so I wish I could say I’d go out and do something like Emerson and Vince. Or that I’d grant some wish of my own, of things I’ve always wanted to do but never did. But in reality? I’d probably just stay in my house all day. Maybe read some of those books on my TBR pile that I’ve always wanted to read, but haven’t. Or maybe I’d read old favorites, so I’d be assured of enjoying a good book before the end. Or maybe I’d take a nap so I wouldn’t have to count down the hours. Yeah, I’m exciting, aren’t I?

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author:

all we have is now author lisa schroederLisa Schroeder is the author of over a dozen books for kids and teens, including the YA novels I Heart You, You Haunt Me and The Bridge From Me to You. She loves tea and cookies, flowers, family hikes, books and movies that make her laugh and cry, and sunshine. Living in Oregon, she doesn’t get nearly enough sunshine, but the hikes are amazing.

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Buy links: Amazon | B&N

– leeanna

Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. Exley

Book Review: Moseh’s Staff by A.W. ExleyMoseh's Staff by A.W. Exley
Series: Artifact Hunters #4
Published by Curiosity Quills Press on May 18, 2015
Genres: Adult, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 295
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour, Publisher
Goodreads
4 Stars
All things must come to an end…

London is in the frozen grip of an unnatural winter and Queen Victoria wants answers. Cara and Nate know who – the Curator. The queen's artifact hunters just don't know what is responsible. Cara is on the trail of an ancient and powerful artifact capable of freezing a city and stirring demons. First she must confront her past and her father's history. Only in learning why her father became a disciple of the Curator can she hope to learn what the old noble seeks and why he is so fascinated by her.

Then tragedy strikes and the bond forged by Nefertiti's Heart is severed. Nate without Cara succumbs to his darkness and he lashes out at those he holds responsible for her loss. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Inspector Fraser waits for his opportunity to pull down the man known as the villainous viscount.

With London entombed in ice and all hope lost, could this be the end…

moseh's staff blog tour

Publisher Curiosity Quills is having a month long review tour to celebrate their May releases. You can check out all the stops. I’m reviewing MOSEH’S STAFF, the last book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. I’ve reviewed all the books in the series: NEFERTITI’S HEART, HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR, and NERO’S FIDDLE.

Book Review:

MOSEH’S STAFF is the fourth book in A.W. Exley’s Artifact Hunters series. In the past, I’ve described the series as quirky and unique. A good blend of historical fiction, fantasy, romance, adventure, mythology, and steampunk. These descriptions hold true with MOSEH’S STAFF, which is sadly the last book in the series. I’m sad to see the end of Cara and Nate, but I do like how the author finished everything.

As Queen Victoria’s artifact hunters, Nate and Cara must figure out what artifact is causing endless winter and misery in London. It’s April, but the Thames is frozen. London is the only area affected, and Victoria’s not very happy about it. Cara and Nate have a good idea of who is behind events — the Curator — but how to stop him is a different question. How do you stop a man who bleeds water instead of blood?

The hunt becomes even more personal when the Curator reveals his intentions to take Cara as his own, severing the bond of Nefertiti’s Heart that connects her and Nate. I love Cara and Nate together, but it was great to see Nate on his own as well. The author showed more of Nate’s darker side, the no holds barred man he was before Cara’s presence in his life. Nate’s the guy I’d want on my side if someone took me, because he stops at nothing to rescue Cara.

There’s a lot of revelations in MOSEH’S STAFF, tying up loose ends from previous books in the series, such as explaining why Cara and Nate fit so perfectly together, or bringing back the dragon from HATSHEPSUT’S COLLAR. Many of Cara and Nate’s friends show up in MOSEH’S STAFF (minus Loki, sadface), rallying around Nate to help find Cara. And Cara, kick butt woman that she is, isn’t content to sit back and be rescued. She confronts her own demons in MOSEH’S STAFF while trying to figure out which artifact powers the Curator.

All in all, MOSEH’S STAFF is a satisfying conclusion to the Artifact Hunters series, full of what I loved about the previous books: Cara and Nate, twists on mythology, humor in dark moments, and lots of action.

About the author:

author a.w. exley
Books and writing have always been an enormous part of Anita’s life.

She survived school by hiding out in the library, with several thousand fictional characters for company. At university, she overcame the boredom of studying accountancy by squeezing in Egyptology papers and learning to read hieroglyphics.

Today, Anita writes steampunk novels with a sexy edge and an Egyptian twist. She lives in rural New Zealand surrounded by an assortment of weird and wonderful equines, felines, canine and homicidal chickens.
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Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

Book Review: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne JohnsonPirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Published by Tor on April 21, 2015
Genres: Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.

pirate's alley blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for PIRATE’S ALLEY by Suzanne Johnson. The tour is hosted by Bewitching Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. I’ve reviewed two other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series: #1: ROYAL STREET and #3: ELYSIAN FIELDS. After my review of PIRATE’S ALLEY, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

You know how some urban fantasy series start to drag? Well, Sentinels of New Orleans is NOT one of those series. PIRATE’S ALLEY is the fourth book in the series, and I think the author is getting better and better with each installment. Last year, I would have said book three, ELYSIAN FIELDS, was my favorite, but now I think it’s PIRATE’S ALLEY.

PIRATE’S ALLEY picks up a couple of weeks after ELYSIAN FIELDS. There’s enough recap that I wasn’t totally lost, given it’s been a while since I was last in DJ’s world. But I would have preferred a little more, since PIRATE’S ALLEY is much more politically oriented than previous books, and it took me a bit to remember who was who, and why this or that alliance was important.

When I started this series, it irked me when DJ was too rash or continually charged into danger. I love character growth, and boy has DJ grown. In PIRATE’S ALLEY, she shows off that growth: she thinks a lot more than she used to before jumping into a potentially dangerous situation. She thinks about her romantic relationship with Alex, her bonding with Rand, her friendship with Jean Lafitte, and her friendship with Eugenie. All of these different relationships get page time, and they’re all important in their own way.

That’s good, because I think PIRATE’S ALLEY is setting the scene for some serious preternatural action. There’s a lot of political maneuvering in this book as the Interspecies Council tries to find its footing, which isn’t easy, considering practically every prete group is trying to stab another in the back. DJ needs to think first rather than act first, because it’s time for her to consider who deserves her loyalty. But don’t worry, she’s still the same snarky, devoted, talented DJ that she’s always been. And she still charges into danger sometimes.

Usually I can take or leave romance, but I so appreciated that DJ really thinks about her relationship with Alex, and realizes that they needed to talk, not just solve their problems with sex. Even if they didn’t get the chance because of one crisis after another, they still tried to talk. I also appreciated that DJ doesn’t forget about the normal humans just because she’s a wizard, and up to her knees in elves, fae, and the historical undead. Plus she talks with Jean Lafitte about their friendship and what it means. Jean Lafitte is in a lot of this book, which had me happy since he’s one of my favorite characters in the series.

If you’ve liked the other books in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, I’m pretty sure you’ll like PIRATE’S ALLEY. If you haven’t started this series yet, definitely check it out if you like cool magic systems and different takes on the usual supernatural creatures.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author suzanne johnsonSuzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she also is the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine.
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– leeanna