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: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather Demetrios

Book Review: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1) by Heather DemetriosExquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios
Series: Dark Caravan Cycle #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
2 Stars
Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

Book Review:

I came very close to not finishing EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. More than once, actually. The first half of the book took me days to read, which is unusual for me. EXQUISITE CAPTIVE just didn’t draw me in or make me want to keep reading.

While reading, I felt like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE was the second book in a trilogy, and I would have preferred it to be a second book. So much interesting stuff — Nalia’s capture, the jinni war — take place in flashbacks or conversations, and if the series had started there, I think I would have been a lot more interested and not as lost trying to make sense of all the jinni stuff.

The best part of EXQUISITE CAPTIVE? The jinni. Really, that’s the only reason I kept reading. I liked the glimpses the author gave of the jinni homeworld, jinni customs, jinni magic, etc. I just wish that information hadn’t come in flashbacks awkwardly inserted into the current story.

Otherwise … meh. I really wanted to like EXQUISITE CAPTIVE. The idea is so cool, but the execution just wasn’t there for me.

Take Nalia, for instance. The main character. She’s a jinni enslaved to a horrible man, but okay. Whatever, Nalia. I didn’t feel sorry for her. The author didn’t make me feel sorry for her. Malek, Nalia’s master, was more interesting to me than Nalia. I did appreciate that the author tried to do something darker with their relationship — in my opinion, there are hints of Stockholm Syndrome — but then Nalia meets Raif. And then they fall in love, leading to a weird love tangle. There’s a lack of action, too. So much of the book felt like it was Nalia whining about her situation rather than trying to do something about it.

Socialize with the author:

Heather Demetrios:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

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

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

Book Review:

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

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

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

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

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

Socialize with the author:

Rebekah Weatherspoon:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm Lovejoy

Book Review: Henge (Le Fay #1) by Realm LovejoyHenge by Realm Lovejoy
Series: Le Fay #1
Published by Self-Published on November 11, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
4 Stars
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.

Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven—the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.

But Morgan has a secret—years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time—and Morgan’s powerful fire—will tell.

--

"Camelot meets Hogwarts meets Panem in this intriguing, well-written beginning to a planned YA series."--Kirkus Reviews

henge blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for HENGE by Realm Lovejoy. The tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can visit the full schedule here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

HENGE kicks off a new series featuring Morgan le Fay, set in modern-day Camelot. Morgana le Fay is my favorite in Arthurian legends, so I’m always interested in seeing different takes on her character.

In Realm Lovejoy’s version of Camelot, cellphones and magic exist side-by-side. The ability to use magic isn’t guaranteed, and even if you can manipulate air, water, or fire, chances are you won’t be anything more than a performer. Unless, that is, you are chosen to become one of the upcoming king’s Rounds. The best Round will be selected as the king’s magic advisor, and the rest will be employed by Camelot as Knights or Relic Keepers. Political acumen is just as important as good magic skills.

Morgan’s dream is to become the king’s Maven. She wants magic users to have more rights, not less. And she’ll do anything to pursue that dream, including sneaking out from under her father’s watchful eye, or diving headfirst into the dangers of Camelot.

HENGE is quite interesting. I really liked the world the author created, the intriguing mix of magic and modern technology, old legends and new political tangles. There’s a lot of familiar names, including Merlin, Mordred, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but they’re not all straight from the old legends — they all have their own personalities. I wanted to learn more about each of them, as well as Morgan’s mother, Morgause.

Morgan herself was the most interesting character for me, since I was curious to see how the author would develop and grow her. Morgan’s a bit impulsive and tends to jump to conclusions, but she also wants to get rid of the injustices magic users face. I believed her reactions to everything that happened, and the last line of HENGE? I’m not going to spoil it, but yeah. I can’t wait to read more about Morgan!

Giveaway:

signed paperback of Henge + swag (US)
4 paperbacks of Henge (US)
6 ebooks (INT)
1 ebook + $20 Gift Card (INT)
Giveaway Ends November 28th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author realm lovejoyRealm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently, she lives in Seattle and works as an artist in the video game industry. CLAN is her first book. You can find out more about her and her book at www.realmlovejoy.com.
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Buy link: Amazon

– leeanna

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve SilverRush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 11, 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 361
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Book Review:

The idea behind RUSH is one I really like: teenagers pulled into a game to fight aliens. The book had me at “game” and “aliens.” I enjoyed that part of RUSH, and looked forward to every time Miki was pulled so I could learn more about the game and the aliens.

But RUSH also has two big reeding peeves of mine: a jerkish love interest and withholding information from the main character. So that factored into my enjoyment of the book. I didn’t love RUSH, I didn’t hate RUSH. It was okay. But that’s not really a bad thing, since RUSH did pique my interest enough for me to pick up book two, PUSH.

When Miki tries to save a deaf girl from being hit by a car, she’s the one that’s hit. Instead of dying, she wakes up in the game. Within minutes, she’s given a weapon and told not to let her life monitor turn red. Then she and the others are off to fight aliens. Not the green kind, but nasty ones who eat brains like chocolate and want to destroy Earth. The game is deadly, but it’s the first time Miki’s felt alive since her mother’s death.

Desperate for answers, Miki turns to her team’s leader, Jackson. But Jackson insists it’s every man for himself, and there is no team. He also has an incredibly infuriating habit of not answering Miki’s questions. I really, really dislike this tactic, especially when I don’t know anything and I spend my time being confused. For the majority of the book, Miki was confused too, which led to a lot of inner monologuing and questioning, which bogged down the action.

Then we get to the other problem I had with RUSH. Despite Jackson’s every man for himself attitude, he likes Miki for some reason. He even saves her life. And even though Jackson tries to push her away, even telling her he’s not a good guy and doesn’t have good intentions, Miki falls for him. She could be a minute from fighting, but she’ll notice some appealing feature of Jackson’s. I guess the author was trying to go for a love-hate relationship, but Jackson just came off as a jerk and I didn’t buy Miki’s interest in him. Now I’m quite critical of relationships, especially in YA, so you might vary.

The time in the game? Fantastic. My favorite parts of RUSH for sure. The author wrote some great action scenes, and had some really cool/creepy ideas on aliens. I like the idea of alien fighting being framed in a game, a way to get the players motivated and moving.

Socialize with the author:

Eve Silver:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Book Review:

THE JEWEL is a difficult book for me to rate. I loved parts of it and other parts made me want to tear my hair out. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but went with 4 in the end because I was entertained by the story.

To start off, THE JEWEL has a really cool idea. Poor girls used as surrogates for the ultra wealthy? Bought and sold like property, treated like pets, and expected to make designer babies? Usually I don’t like stories that have even a whiff of pregnancy, but I dove head first into this one and enjoyed most of the ride.

THE JEWEL is a fast read. I kept flipping the pages because I wanted to know what would happen next to Violet. I normally read quickly, but I was consumed by this book. I couldn’t get enough of the opulent world of the Jewel, of the powerful and moralless women who rule it. The author painted a vivid picture of life within the Jewel, of the money thrown around carelessly while the poor starve and live in mud-brick houses.

There were some holes in the worldbuilding: we never find out what led to the creation of the Lone City. The city is arranged in five circles, each with an industry — as a farmer, I can’t quite believe in all the food being grown in one specific circle, especially land right next to a circle full of factories. I’m also not sure why only the girls of the Marsh (the poorest circle) are able to access the Auguries, although I imagine that will be explained in future books.

THE JEWEL does start a little slowly, with Violet saying goodbye to her old life, but once she’s bought at auction, the book takes off. I was fascinated by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet’s owner. She’s ruthless, and I liked how she treated Violet. (Yeah, I know that makes me twisted.)

But then we come to the part of THE JEWEL that frustrated me. The insta-love. Violet falls superfast for the companion of the Duchess’s niece. He falls superfast for her. Insta-love is a big peeve of mine, and while Violet and Ash do have music to bond over, I wish they wouldn’t have progressed to the “I love yous” so quickly. I wanted to roll my eyes whenever they were together. Violet/Ash drew me out of the spell of the book because I couldn’t believe in their relationship.

Overall, though, THE JEWEL was a blast to read, and I’m eager for the next book in the series.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Ewing:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James LucenoTarkin by James Luceno
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on November 4, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly ... and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation ... or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy ... and its enemies’ extinction.

Book Review:

I’ve long been a reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In fact, most of my favorite characters and storylines come from the books, not the movies. But Tarkin is one that caught my interest in the movie, and I’ve been waiting a long time for his story.

But TARKIN just wasn’t the book I hoped it would be.

First I should say that James Luceno’s writing style doesn’t always work for me, and this is one of those books where it really didn’t work. I slogged through this book, constantly distracted by descriptions of every single person encountered, down to their hair color, facial features, and attire. Once you take away all the descriptions and random tangents, there’s not a lot of story left. And the story that is there … well, I can’t imagine Tarkin being outfoxed in the way he was, and by a group that didn’t have a strong motive. I’m also not sure I buy his “training” on Eriadu.

TARKIN contains passages from characters other than Tarkin, including Emperor Palpatine and the ship thieves, but … everyone sounds the same when they open their mouths. I just can’t see Darth Vader speaking like this: “Then there was some purpose to turning a blind eye to illegality, and to fostering dishonesty of a particular sort. But times have changed, and it is incumbent on you to change with them (Chapter 7).”

I was hoping for a book about Tarkin, but though TARKIN contains some flashbacks to his youth, the book is mostly about him and Darth Vader taking a trip around the galaxy to find Tarkin’s ship. There are a few examples of Tarkin’s ruthlessness, which I did like, but otherwise … I didn’t believe in Luceno’s version of him. It just didn’t work for me. Hunting animals and living primally doesn’t turn one into a military strategist — why not show more of Tarkin’s time at the academy? Why not show some important events, instead of telling me about them? That’s another big gripe I have with the author’s writing: he tells almost everything, instead of showing me what’s going on. And I’m not going into the tons of classes of ships I’d never heard of before, and dialogue like the line I quoted from Darth Vader.

Ultimately, TARKIN was a disappointing story about such an iconic character. When I finished the book, I thought, “That’s it? Really?” The main plot was, well, weak, and there were unresolved side plots, including the Emperor feeling dark currents in the Force? The ending of the book felt rushed. Instead of spending so much time detailing everything, maybe more attention should have been giving to developing sub plots and connecting everything together.

I think from now on I’ll stay away from Star Wars books written by Luceno, and possibly the new reboot of the EU, since I haven’t liked what’s come out of it so far.

– 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: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia SullivanShadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Published by Ravenstone on October 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her...

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Book Review:

The first chapter of SHADOWBOXER hooked my interest because I tend to like cocky, tough protagonists, and Jade is exactly that. A talented martial arts fighter, Jade has a tendency to get into fights when she shouldn’t, such as when she defends the gym’s cat from a movie star. Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to get her out of the star’s sights, as well as to see how well she can fight as a pro.

The parts of SHADOWBOXER set in Thailand were some of my favorites. I can’t recall reading a YA book set there before, and I liked that the author included some Thai phrases/ways of thinking, such as “mai pen rai” and “jai yen.” I actually felt like I was in Thailand, watching Jade train and fight. I know absolutely nothing about MMA and Muay Thai fighting, but the author described the fights very well, so I could easily “see” them.

But Jade’s story is not the only one in SHADOWBOXER. The first time Mya showed up, I had no clue what the heck was going on. Why did the book switch from Jade’s first person point of view to Mya’s third person? And who was this ten year old girl?

Mya has a very special ability: she can travel into the immortal forest. It’s an ability her guardian uses for evil, and when Mya learns he has nefarious plans for her, she flees there. Eventually, Mya and Jade do connect, but not for a while, and I ultimately felt like there were two separate stories inside of SHADOWBOXER. I did like the elements of Thai mythology Mya’s journeys into the Himmapan showcased, but the supernatural elements didn’t 100% mesh for me with Jade’s problems, and vice versa.

Socialize with the author:

Tricia Sullivan:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

Socialize with the author:

Ava Dellaira:
Website
Facebook
Twitter

– leeanna