Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare BlakeThree Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
3 Stars
Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest.

Book Review:

THREE DARK CROWNS is the first in a new dark fantasy series about three queens, only one of which will survive to take the throne. The queens are sisters, and after their sixteenth birthday, they have a year to kill each other. The last one standing wins the crown.

I was intrigued by THREE DARK CROWNS because I love me some dark and twisted fantasy. Sisters killing each other for the throne? Gimme. Each a user of a different type of magic? Gimme. Political factions scheming for power? Gimme.

THREE DARK CROWNS was a good series starter, but just a bit too slow for me. The majority of this first book is set up, introducing the sisters and their people, the different types of magic, and meandering along to the ceremony of Beltane. I think the author did a good job of describing the sisters’ current situations, but I was lost on the worldbuilding as a whole. For the longest time, I thought each sister was on a separate island, and I didn’t understand references to the mainland. Yes, I know there’s a map, but it was hard for me to make out land boundaries.

Because the pacing was slow, the middle of the book was a bit of a slog for me. I would’ve preferred more action and a less token romance. Each sister had her own romance subplot, and I’m not a romance fan, so that was a lot for me. Now, I should say I liked how Arsinoe handled her suitor. That was good. But her buddy Jules? Meh.

But the end of THREE DARK CROWNS redeemed that slow middle for me, and this is a series I’ll continue. With all the set up out of the way, I’m hoping the second book will be a lot darker. For a book about three queens who must murder each other, there was surprisingly little Bad Stuff happening.

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Kendare Blake:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Book Review: Magic Binds by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #9
Published by Ace on September 20, 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Book Review:

Last summer I went on a Kate Daniels binge, reading all the available books in the series in the space of two weeks. I’m a huge urban fantasy fan and have read a lot of different series, but Kate instantly skyrocketed to the top of my list. I’ve been looking forward to MAGIC BINDS for a year, because after reading eight books about Kate and Curran and Post-Shift Atlanta, I needed more!

MAGIC BINDS was more than worth the wait. I’m in a reading slump at the moment — I’ve only read one book this month, which is super rare for me. I usually average fifteen books a month. But MAGIC BINDS pulled me out of that slump. I couldn’t put this book down. The author, Ilona Andrews, has a perfect mix of seriousness and humor, battle scenes and fun diversions, and interesting lore and worldbuilding. I like every single thing about this series, which is another rare thing, because I’m a picky reader.

I know that when I pick up a book starring Kate and Curran, I’m going to get a fantastic story, with lots of action, character development, an intriguing main story and side stories, scary villains, and stuff that comes out of nowhere but fits into the plot. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a major fangirl for this series, and for MAGIC BINDS in particular.

MAGIC BINDS might be my very favorite Kate Daniels book so far. Why? Kate and Curran are about to get married — finally! — but of course her dad won’t sit back and allow her to keep Atlanta. Black volhv Roman takes on the role of wedding planner, Roland is courting Julie and building a mega-gigantic castle, Kate can’t get a moment to herself safe from witch visions, and so on. By the ninth book in a series, sometimes it’s the same old, but that’s not the case here. MAGIC BINDS definitely moves the story along while giving readers what they’ve come to expect.

I’m not going to spoil anything, but when you read the last page, you’ll be just as desperate as I am for the next book!

Socialize with the author:

Ilona Andrews:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Taken by Inbali Iserles

Book Review: The Taken by Inbali IserlesThe Taken by Inbali Iserles
Series: Foxcraft #1
Published by Scholastic on September 29, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
Isla and her brother are two young foxes living just outside the lands of the furless -- humans. The life of a fox is filled with dangers, but Isla has begun to learn mysterious skills meant to help her survive.

Then the unthinkable happens. Returning to her den, Isla finds it set ablaze and surrounded by strange foxes, and her family is nowhere in sight. Forced to flee, she escapes into the cold, gray world of the furless.

Now Isla must navigate this bewildering and deadly terrain, all while being hunted by a ruthless enemy. In order to survive, she will need to master the ancient arts of her kind -- magical gifts of cunning known only to foxes. She must unravel the secrets of foxcraft.

Book Review:

The first in a new trilogy based on foxes and their magic, THE TAKEN follows young Isla as she tries to find her family. Instead of following her parents to their den, she disobeys and stays behind to gather berries. When she returns, she gets the biggest shock of her life: her parents and brother are gone, and dangerous foxes are hunting her down.

I’ve always thought foxes were pretty cool animals, so I was curious to see how an author would envision life through their eyes. For the most part, the author does a good job of showing a city and humans through a fox’s perspective: roads are “deathways,” cars are “manglers,” and so on. I could usually figure out what Isla was looking at; for example, seeing a zoo from her vantage was quite sad. It did take a little while to get used to the foxes’ terms for everything; if you’re confused, there’s a helpful glossary at the end of the book. There’s also some cool mythology about foxes.

I liked the concept of “foxcraft,” the magic foxes use to evade humans and capture food. Such skills include slimmering, or invisibility, and karakking, imitating the call of other creatures. Isla doesn’t know very much about foxcraft at the beginning of THE TAKEN, but on the quest to find her family, she meets Siffrin. A fox from the wild, he’s been sent by the Elders to find Isla’s brother, Pirie. He teaches Isla about foxcraft, and though he helps her, she’s not so sure she can trust him. But what is a young fox to do when she has no one else?

I enjoyed THE TAKEN while reading, but was left a bit empty at the end. I wish more had happened during the book; a lot of it was Isla wandering around the city, trying to find her family and hiding from the dangerous foxes. All that wandering helped establish the setting and give an opportunity for Sirrin to explain foxcraft, but I wanted more story advancement.

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Inbali Iserles:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Book Review: The Grace of Kings by Ken LiuThe Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Series: The Dandelion Dynasty #1
Published by Saga Press on April 7, 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 623
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.

Book Review:

I have a confession to make: at first, I didn’t like THE GRACE OF KINGS. I almost put it down a couple of times because the book just wasn’t clicking for me. But a couple of chapters in, things changed, and I started to really like the book. By the time I finished, I went back and reread the chapters that I’d mostly skimmed in the beginning because I wanted to see if I’d missed any details.

The reason I didn’t like the THE GRACE OF KINGS at first? I’m a character driven reader. I like to connect to a book’s characters, to have someone to root for or against. But in this book, the country of Dara is the most important character. How its territories and people prosper or suffer based on who’s in charge or how the rebellion is doing.

THE GRACE OF KINGS also has a different feel at first, because of the unique style of storytelling, a style that combines Eastern and Western influences. Once I got used to that as well, I flew through THE GRACE OF KINGS, and was quite disappointed to turn the last page. I need the next book in the Dandelion Dynasty now!

What I liked best about this book is that it explores what happens after you win. Most fantasy books stop when the tyrant is overthrown and the good guys are in power, but THE GRACE OF KINGS goes many steps further than that. Kuni and Mata are opposites in every sense of the word, and the author uses them to show flexible versus inflexible thinking, breaking out of the box versus following traditions, etc. Add in “silkpunk” — a new technology where fantastical devices are developed from organic materials like silk and bamboo — and there are some awesome ideas here.

I do wish the characters — especially female characters — had more development. I also would have liked to see more females in the book, as they were often relegated to the sidelines or used as tragic devices. I understand that fits the time period, but still.

Overall, I liked THE GRACE OF KINGS a lot, and I’d recommend it for epic fantasy fans looking for something a bit different. I also recommend checking out interviews the author’s done, which isn’t something I usually say, but the interviews added even more to the book for me.

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Ken Liu:
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– leeanna

Book Review: First Position by Melissa Brayden

Book Review: First Position by Melissa BraydenFirst Position by Melissa Brayden
Published by Bold Strokes Books on August 16, 2016
Genres: LGBT, Romance
Pages: 249
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
5 Stars
Anastasia Mikhelson is the rising star of the New York City Ballet. She’s sacrificed creature comforts, a social life, as well as her own physical well-being for perfection in dance. Even her reputation as The Ice Queen doesn’t faze her. Though Ana’s at the peak of her career, competition from a new and noteworthy dancer puts all she’s worked for in jeopardy.

While Natalie Frederico has shown herself to be a prodigy when it comes to ballet, she much prefers modern dance and living on her own terms. Life is too short for anything else. However, when the opportunity to dance with the New York City Ballet is thrust upon her, it’s not like she could say no. Dealing with the company’s uptight lead is another story, however. When the two are forced to work side-by-side, sparks begin to fly onstage and off.

Book Review:

The first time I read FIRST POSITION, I sped through it so quickly I knew I’d have a hard time writing a good review. It’s rare that a contemporary romance book grabs me so strongly. I originally wanted to read the book because it’s set in the ballet world — I’ve got a thing for ballet books — so getting a ballet book with two great characters and a sweet romance was a real bonus.

Ana is your typical overachieving, dedicated ballet dancer. At the start of the book, she’s finally promoted to principal dancer after years of hard work. Convinced this is her year — as long as she figures out how to bring more emotion to her dancing — Ana’s shocked to have newcomer Natalie share the biggest role of her life. Natalie is everything Ana’s not: the life of the party, a slacker, and almost flippant about her dance talent.

By sharing the lead role in a new ballet, Ana’s supposed to brush up Natalie’s technique, and Natalie’s supposed to help Ana find emotion. They start out as rivals, but that turns to something more as that sharing spreads beyond the job. The romance in FIRST POSITION was a nice slow burn, with plenty of time for Ana and Natalie to get to know each other and spend time together. I really liked how they influenced each other and how each woman grew over the course of the book.

There’s also something really big that happens, and while I won’t spoil it, I liked how the author handled overcoming a disaster. I also liked how it eventually made Ana and Natalie’s relationship even stronger. I liked how Natalie brought Ana out of her shell and made her see there’s more to life than ballet, while Ana helped Natalie realize being serious once in a while was a good thing.

Notice how I’m using “I like” over and over? Yeah. I loved FIRST POSITION. I enjoyed this book enough to read it twice in a month, and I’m greedy enough to wish FIRST POSITION was double its length. This book was the perfect mix of slow romance, character development, fun sexy times, humor, seriousness, ballet, and good writing.

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Melissa Brayden:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Young Adult
Pages: 388
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Book Review:

I was super excited to read WOLF BY WOLF. A young adult, alternate history imagining what might have happened if the Nazis won the war? What would Europe look like if Hitler and Emperor Hirohito controlled much of the world? What if Nazi medical experiments produced a human with supernatural powers? What if one of those humans fought back?

I love alternate history, especially alternate history of the WWII variety. I think author Ryan Graudin did a great job of creating a plausible post-war Third Reich and getting across her vision for a mostly Axis-controlled world. The Axis Tour, a motorcycle race over 20,000 kilometers, from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, is the center of WOLF BY WOLF. A race to show off the best of German and Japanese youth, it’s a fierce competition filled with sabotage and danger. Only open to boys, until Adele Wolfe stole her twin brother’s identity and won last year’s Axis Tour.

Enter Yael. She survived a death camp and medical experimentation to come out stronger, but cursed with the ability to skinshift. She can shift her features to impersonate anyone, which makes her perfect for the Resistance’s plans. This year she’ll enter the Axis Tour as Adele Wolfe, win, and assassinate Adolf Hitler.

All Yael has to do is fool Adele’s brother Felix and another racer she has history with, escape detection, deal with the sabotage attempts of the other competitors, and come out on top. Easy, right?

WOLF BY WOLF has an excellent balance of past and present events. Most of the book focuses on the race, and Yael’s efforts to impersonate Adele in the presence of Felix and Luka. But there are a few sections set in her past, showing the people most important to her, the people she’s lost. Yael isn’t entirely sure of who she is, but she remembers herself by remembering them. I quite liked the author’s writing style — it was perfect for developing Yael’s character and thoughts, as well as the world. Graudin has a unique way of describing things, and I also liked that she included Yael’s inner voice. Yael is a great character: she’s survived hell and found a way to fight back. She’s sure of her mission at first, but as she spends time with the other racers, she begins to question who they are. In the author’s note, Graudin says she wrote about identity — what makes people who they are — and I think she did a good job at exploring that, by showing the other racers through Yael’s eyes.

WOLF BY WOLF captivated me, from the author’s version of a world where Hitler still lives to the deadly Axis Tour. There were times when I wasn’t sure if Yael would be able to complete her mission, or even survive the race without getting her cover blown. I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 because despite lots of action, it dragged a bit in the middle for me and I wanted things to move along. Otherwise, I’m eagerly waiting for the second book, and I’ll be recommending WOLF BY WOLF to anyone looking for a creative, fast-paced, unique YA book.

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Ryan Graudin:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica CluessA Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
Series: Kingdom on Fire #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 20, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
4 Stars
I am Henrietta Howel.
The first female sorcerer in hundreds of years.
The prophesied one.
Or am I?


Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she's shocked when instead of being executed, she's invited to train as one of Her Majesty's royal sorcerers.

Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.

But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?

Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess's spellbinding fantasy introduces a powerful, unforgettably heroine, and a world filled with magic, romance, and betrayal. Hand to fans of Libba Bray, Sarah J. Maas, and Cassandra Clare.

Book Review:

The best description for A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is in the Acknowledgments: Victorian Cthulu Harry Potter. I saw that when I finished the book, and yeah, that’s a great way to describe it.

Jessica Cluess takes a bunch of tropes and cliches and builds off them, turning tired old stuff into a fun, well-written series starter. I read A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING in a day, absorbed by the author’s besieged London and Henrietta.

Because a witch was partly responsible for summoning the Ancients who are trying to destroy England, female witches are now executed. Henrietta’s hidden her magic abilities her entire life, but when she saves her best friend’s life, a sorcerer sees it. But instead of being killed, Henrietta’s whisked away to be trained as a sorcerer. Female sorcerers don’t exist, but it’s prophesied that one will defeat the Ancients.

There’s only one problem: Henrietta’s living a lie. She knows she isn’t the Chosen One.

One of the things I liked the most about A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING is there’s not a lot of romance. There’s a little there, but I was really worried this book would slide into love triangle or even love quadrangle territory, given that Henrietta’s fellow students are all male. Sure, one of them tries, and the banter is fun, but I so, so appreciated that the author didn’t turn the book into a romance with a light side of fantasy. No, Henrietta remembers what’s at stake.

The book did lag a bit for me in the middle, and I was tired of the misogynistic attitude of some sorcerers. Not to mention the whole blaming all witches for the Ancients when a male magician was also responsible. I also don’t know why the Ancients are trying to take England for their own, but I’m guessing that will come up in the next book.

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– leeanna

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
5 Stars
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Book Review:

Ready for the shortest review ever?

ILLUMINAE is █████ out of this world.

That about covers it, but here’s a longer version:

ILLUMINAE is the sort of book I’ve wanted to read for a long time.

First, the format: It’s composed entirely of interviews, emails, IM convos, recovered video footage, conversations with Artificial Intelligence, and other neat stuff like ship schematics and casualty lists. I geek out over that type of stuff, because it makes me feel like I’m the book’s world. I know the non-traditional format might be off-putting for some readers, but the authors did an amazing job. That kind of format can go wrong, but here, it was perfect. The emails and IMs and other content really worked to develop the characters. I knew Kady and Ezra within pages, and everyone else, too. Rarely do I tear up when bad stuff happens, especially to minor characters, but here I did, because I knew these guys and I was rooting for them.

Second, the story: After the Kerenza colony is attacked by BeiTech, Kady and Ezra and the other thousands of survivors are in a deadly race for their lives. They have to outrun the Lincoln, a ship bent on their destruction so there aren’t any living witnesses of the atrocities at Kerenza. But they also have to survive the fleet’s AI, which has gone… a little crazy. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new plague no one has seen before.

Third: the experience: reading ILLUMINAE really is an experience. Don’t let the length put you off. Yes, it’s over 600 pages, but it goes by quickly. I was actually trying to drag it out because I loved the experience of reading this book. There’s dark humor, references to classic sci-fi, great characters, moral dilemmas to puzzle over, and tons more. The formatting is well done too, which really adds to the experience. For example, I’ve never read a battle scene the way it’s shown in ILLUMINAE, and now I can’t imagine how I’ll go back to normal blocks of text. This is great YA sci-fi, folks.

ILLUMINAE is a book with a lot of hype behind it. Very rarely do hyped up books meet my expectations, but this one did. ILLUMINAE vaporized the hype monster. I need the rest of this series so badly that waiting is going to be painful… has anyone invented a jump gate generator yet?

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Jay Kristoff:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown

Book Review: The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie BrownThe Stargazer's Sister by Carrie Brown
Published by Pantheon on January 19, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
3 Stars
From the acclaimed author of The Last First Day: a beautiful new period novel—a nineteenth-century story of female empowerment before its time—based on the life of Caroline Herschel, sister of the great astronomer William Herschel and an astronomer in her own right.

This exquisitely imagined novel opens as the great astronomer and composer William Herschel rescues his sister Caroline from a life of drudgery in Germany and brings her to England and a world of music-making and stargazing. Lina, as Caroline is known, serves as William’s assistant and the captain of his exhilaratingly busy household. William is generous, wise, and charismatic, an obsessive genius whom Lina adores and serves with the fervency of a beloved wife. When William suddenly announces that he will be married, Lina watches as her world collapses.

With her characteristically elegant prose, Brown creates from history a compelling story of familial collaboration and conflict, the sublime beauty of astronomy, and the small but essential place we have within a vast and astonishing cosmos. Through Lina’s trials and successes, we witness the dawning of an early feminist consciousness, of a woman struggling to find her own place among the stars.

Book Review:

Before coming across THE STARGAZER’S SISTER, I had never heard of Caroline Herschel. Now that I know more about her, I’m sad she’s been lost to history, likely because she was overshadowed by her more famous brother, and also because she was a woman.

THE STARGAZER’S SISTER is not a feel good book. But I think it is realistic of a woman’s life in the late 1700s. Lina’s early life is cruel, including an abusive mother and typhus. Typhus condemns her to an even crueller future, as it marks her face and body, leaving her unsuitable for marriage. When brother William rescues her, bringing her to England to assist his research, life is still difficult. But for the first time ever, Lina is happy — even if all of her genius does go towards supporting William and his eventual discoveries.

I did enjoy reading about Lina, especially her later life, when she had more independence and made her own astronomical observations. But I did have trouble understanding Lina’s intense devotion to William. I also wasn’t a fan of the literary style of THE STARGAZER’S SISTER, but that’s because I’m not a fan of literary books. If you’re expecting straight-up historical fiction, you might want to check out a sample of the book.

Socialize with the author:

Carrie Brown:
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Class Act by T.L. Hayes

Book Review: A Class Act by T.L. HayesA Class Act by TL Hayes
Published by Bold Strokes Books on August 1, 2016
Genres: LGBT, Romance
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
Twenty-five-year-old theater grad student Rory Morgan walks into her Intro to Theater class expecting it to be a piece of cake. She isn’t prepared for the diminutive little fireball of a professor who walks in. She is instantly captivated by Dr. Margaret Parks, her forty-year-old professor, and even works up the courage to flirt a little, which Dr. Parks quickly dismisses. After their first class, Rory finds herself thinking about the professor more and more and spends most of her class time watching the professor as she passionately does her job. Rory really wants to ask her out, but she doesn’t know if the professor is even gay, to say nothing of the fact that she’s her professor. What follows is a romance full of humor, passionate awakenings, and college politics. Can they overcome the hurdles that lie before them and still be a class act?

Book Review:

I’m not always a fan of romance, but as A CLASS ACT has two of the tropes I do like (older/younger and professor/student), I thought I would like it. Combining the two should have resulted in a make-me-happy romance, but I just couldn’t get into this one.

I almost put A CLASS ACT down after the first few chapters. Rory is so judgmental of other women that I got sick of her thoughts very quickly. From the first chapter: “She always fell for good conversationalists who could challenge her on any given topic and who were not slaves to fashion and makeup.” It’s like her brain is full of stereotypes on how butches should think and act.

But throw all that aside, because Rory’s immediately attracted to her professor, Margaret Parks. By chapter two, Margaret’s noticing how attractive Rory is. Soon after that, Rory’s pursuing Margaret, and the rest is mostly history. But here’s the thing: I never felt any chemistry between Rory and Margaret. I could have been reading about two stick figures.

I wanted to like A CLASS ACT. I did. I even pushed through my initial “this isn’t for me” feeling and finally finished. But all I remember is the blah characters, insta-love romance, writing full of cliches and honeyed dialogue (Rory and Margaret refer to each other as “my love” 30+ times), and a lame conflict.

– leeanna