Blog Tour Stop!: “A Mad, Wicked Folly” by Sharon Biggs Walker

Hey, everyone! Welcome to my stop on the “Mad, Wicked Folly” blog tour! I’m currently reading the book, and man, I’m loving what I’m seeing. Golden Age/Fin de Siecle France, England, and art, as well as challenging traditional female roles? Yes, please. Also, THAT COVER.

Today we have Walker talking about first seeing the cover for the book, which is kind of awesome. You do see authors talking about “yay, cover art” on twitter, but here I feel like we get a good, in depth look at the process, too. Which is awesome. So, without further ado, let’s see how Walker feels about her cover – after the jump.

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Blog Tour Stop!: “Tsarina” by J. Nelle Patrick (Jackson Pearce) – A Guide to Call Upon an Elk…

17382389Hey, everyone!

We’re back, and we’re on a blog tour! Hooray! I’ve actually been looking forward to this book for awhile, and am reading it now. So I’m pretty happy to be on the tour for this one. I just finished it last night and it was AWESOME. Tragic in bits, but awesome nonetheless (review to come!). Faberge Egg Powers? Female Tsars? Romanov family stuff? Yup. Count me in.

So join me, after the jump, to see Patrick/Pearce’s guide to “Ways to Call Upon An Elk if you Lack Magical Faberge Egg Powers”. This should be quite fun!

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Review: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

WitchstruckTitle: Witchstruck

Author: Victoria Lamb

Genre: Historical, YA Paranormal, Witches

Publication Date: September 24, 2013 (Harlequin Teen)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.

Meg Lytton has always known she is different;that she bears a dark and powerful gift. But in 1554 England, in service at Woodstock Palace to the banished Tudor princess Elizabeth, it has never been more dangerous to practice witchcraft. Meg knows she must guard her secret carefully from the many suspicious eyes watching over the princess and her companions. One wrong move could mean her life, and the life of Elizabeth, rightful heir to the English throne.

With witchfinder Marcus Dent determined to have Meg’s hand in marriage, and Meg’s own family conspiring against the English queen, there isn’t a single person Meg can trust. Certainly not the enigmatic young Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, despite her undeniable feelings. But when all the world turns against her, Meg must open her heart to a dangerous choice.

The Secret Circle meets The Other Boleyn Girl in Witchstruck ,the first book of the magical Tudor Witch trilogy.

2.5/5 stars – The longer it goes on, the more the romance takes over

Witchcraft alongside the intrigue of Tudor-era England sounds fun, right? According to most of the reviews, it is. I can agree with that! Sadly, the most entertaining elements of Witchstruck fall by the wayside and can do very little to redeem this ultimately frustrating novel.

Most Tudor-era YA historicals are set during King Henry VIII’s reign, but Lamb sets it during Princess Elizabeth’s confinement  in 1555/1556. I honestly thought this was AU at first because I had no idea about it! A good Tudor-era scholar I am not. Despite the frustrations that slowly built up as the novel went on, it’s easy to care a lot about where Meg and her story are going, especially since female friendships/the powers and rights of women are thoroughly emphasized. Most of the characters are merely okay, but Elizabeth shines in all of her appearances. If only it were the same for Meg and Alejandro, our main characters.

Alejandro is by far the more grating of the two as he falls in love with Meg over the course of 70 pages and a handful of conversations. After that, a choppy time-skip tells us Meg has gotten closer to him, she loves how he’s such a good conversationalist, etc. and we’re expected to take this poor relationship development as-is. Not in this house! The development he gets closer to the end is appreciated, but it’s not enough to make up for everything that bothers me about his character.

Meg is the textbook “okay” heroine. She has something of a personality, she doesn’t hate other women, she’s admirably loyal to Princess Elizabeth, and all the mistakes she makes are forgivable. Sounds good, right? Yet her heavily flawed first-person narration makes it easy to let the flaws of the prose reflect back on her.

One of her worst narrative sins is how maddeningly repetitive she is. She thoroughly details why she hates Marcus Dent twice in a single chapter and tells us a few details about a person but then proceeds to repeat those few details about them almost every single time they come up. It almost seems like she thinks the reader has about as much memory as a dead bird. As if we could easily forget Marcus is a cruel, wealthy man and Joan is the simple girl who called Meg a witch after bringing them up so many times!

The ending’s deus ex machina with Meg’s sudden superwitch powers after surprisingly little witchery beforehand eased few of my issues and doesn’t encourage me to stick around for Witchfall. It’s easy to recommend to fans of Jessica Spotswood’s books and anyone who unabashedly loves witches, but others may want to be cautious.

Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire RealTitle: Rose Under Fire

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: YA Contemporary, Historical

Publication Date: September 10, 2013 (Disney-Hyperion)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

4.5/5 stars – Wonderful sequel/companion to Code Name Verity!

Had I been at BEA with my other friends, Rose Under Fire was the one ARC I would have shoved people over to get to in time because I wanted it that badly. Seeing as I didn’t go and it went up on NetGalley, that particular crisis was averted. We’ve all got those books, right? And when those books we’d steamroll over people to get disappoint us, we’re sadder than usual. Thankfully, Rose Under Fire lives up to the lofty expectations I had for it! I don’t love it as much as Code Name Verity, but it’s still a wonderful book I look forward to buying soon.

Verity’s tale was riddled with lies and it took someone else’s point of view to make it all unravel and come back to the truth, but Rose is about the truth from the very beginning. After spending months in one of the toughest women’s concentration camps there was, she wants to tell the world what happened and tell the world she does. Her account of what happens to her within Ravensbruck’s walls is unflinching even though we know the entire time her particular account is fiction. What makes it work is that there are countless other stories just like it from this time and camp that are very, very real.

Even though Rose is our sole narrator via epistolary style (articles, letters, journal entries, etc.) other than a few pages in which other people are sending letters after Rose is captured, she;s telling so many other stories in addition to her own. There are the Rabbits, who were experimented on by the doctors in horrific ways; a character from Code Name Verity(!); prisoners taken for reasons ranging from being a professor to being a Girl Scout caught delivering contraband items; and more. The Jewish experience is largely absent from the novel because Rose never interacts deeply with any Jewish characters. RUF focuses more on the stories of other groups, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

What makes me rate RUF less than CNV is investment issues. Neither book hooked me instantly, but Verity’s skill as an unreliable narrator, how her lies unraveled,and how her book eventually made me cry earned it all five stars. RUF took over 200 pages to hook me and it was the campwide effort to keep the Rabbits from being put to death in the gas chambers that finally got me into the story. RUF wasn’t able to make me cry either and it wasn’t me. Just a few hours later, a documentary about a tragedy I’ve become largely desensitized to made me sob and documentaries make me no more sentimental than books do. RUF is still an emotional read that can go from happy to sad in 1.5 seconds, but it didn’t quite get me to cry.

Seriously, anyone who hasn’t at least tried Code Name Verity needs to ASAP and anyone who loved said book should be awaiting Rose Under Fire with bated breath. It’s just as good despite me being too tongue-tied to make it obvious!

Review: “The Resurrectionist” by EB Hudspeth

15799400Title: “The Resurrectionist”

Author: EB Hudspeth

Genre: Historical Fiction, Horror

Publication Date: May 21, 2013 (Quirk – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC/FC

Summary: Philadelphia. The late 1870s. A city of cobblestone sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages. Home to the famous anatomist and surgeon Dr. Spencer Black. The son of a “resurrectionist” (aka grave robber), Dr. Black studied at Philadelphia’s esteemed Academy of Medicine, where he develops an unconventional hypothesis: What if the world’s most celebrated mythological beasts—mermaids, minotaurs, and satyrs—
were in fact the evolutionary ancestors of humankind?

The Resurrectionist offers two extraordinary books in one. The first is a fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, from his humble beginnings to the mysterious disappearance at the end of his life. The second book is Black’s magnum opus: The Codex Extinct Animalia, a Gray’s Anatomy for mythological beasts—dragons, centaurs, Pegasus, Cerberus—all rendered in meticulously detailed black-and-white anatomical illustrations. You need only look at these images to realize they are the work of a madman.

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a gorgeous bestiary of mythical creatures past, and the downfall of one man into madness!

Review: There’s a lot going on in “The Resurrectionist”, guys. It’s not all pretty sketches of various people and mythical creatures (though those do make up a pretty big chunk of the book), but it’s also all about one famous doctor’s descent into utter madness. Or is it? Though this obviously draws a lot on historical bits of Americana (the vaudeville/carnie scene of the late 19th century/early 20th century) and Gothic atmospheric books like “Frakenstein”, his tale is short, and it kind of left me wanting more. If anything, it felt like a bit of a short summary of his life, and only really got detailed when he became obsessed with mythical creatures. Nevertheless, if you want to see some amazing pictures of what could have been our genetic ancestors (according to Dr Black) and be treated to a tale of evolving scientific academia, definitely give “The Resurrectionist” a try.

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Review: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)” by Fiona Paul

13399046Title: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)”

Author: Fiona Paul

Genre: YA, historical, paranormal, retellings, AWESOME

Publication Date: July 16, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – an absolutely AWESOME followup to book one!

Review: Okay, guys, if you liked “Venom”, you’re going to totally fall head over heels for “Belladonna”. “Belladonna” builds upon “Venom” in every single way, and ups the stakes to every single extreme. There’s also a bit of a potential bit of a retelling of a real-life person, and it’s just…awesome. We also get a semi-resolution of the love triangle posed in book one. This review may have spoilers for book one, so if you haven’t read book one, you might want to hold off on reading this review. Either way, if you haven’t already, you simply MUST give the “Eternal Rose” series a try – it’s one of my favorite YA historical paranormal series out there today.

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Review: “Mortal Fire” by Elizabeth Knox

16002023Title: “Mortal Fire”

Author: Elizabeth Knox

Genre: YA, Historical, Paranormal

Publication Date: June 11, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Canny Mochrie’s vacation takes a turn when she stumbles upon a mysterious and enchanting valley, occupied almost entirely by children who can perform a special type of magic that tells things how to be stronger and better than they already are. As Canny studies the magic more carefully, she realizes that she not only understands it–she can perform the magic, too, so well that it feels like it has always been a part of her. With the help of an alluring seventeen-year-old boy who is held hostage by a spell that is now more powerful than the people who first placed it, Canny figures out the secrets of this valley and of her own past.

☆: 4/5 – a gorgeous magical reality tale!

Review: This was an absolutely gorgeous treat of a book, guys. Though a little on the long side, “Mortal Fire” is a beautiful magical reality tale set in 1959, Southland New Zealand. And get this – it has paranormal romance AND characters of color! That feels so rare now in YA, which is really a shame. If you’re looking for a good vacation read to really sink your teeth into, definitely give “Mortal Fire” a try.

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