Archive | historical

Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I feel like I’ve been waiting to read this book forever. ADSOM came out in February, but I’ve been making grabby hands since Ms. Schwab first mentioned her work in progress (then dubbed “Pirates, Thieves, and Sadist Kings”) on Twitter. Everyone I follow seemed to love it, so the longer I had to wait for my library hold to come in, the more nervous I became. What if I was the black sheep?

Guys. I am so not the black sheep. THIS BOOK ROCKS.

I’m a white sheep, hooray!

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Review: LION HEART by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet has captured the hearts of readers as well as the heart of Robin Hood, and after ceaseless obstacles and countless threats, readers will finally find out the fate of the Lady Thief.

Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince’s clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

Scarlet was an introduction, full of flying knives, prickly girls, and angsty love triangles. I loved itLady Thief was a meaty middle book. It looked at the darkness and pain in Scarlet and laughed throatily before turning the dial to eleven. Gone was the love triangle, but boy oh boy was the angst still there. The book hit the market and lo, the blogosphere was filled with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And Lion HeartLion Heart was a celebration, a full-throated fete with life and love, sword fights and derring-do, reunions and, yes, happy endings.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and songwriting legend Cynthia Weil’s extraordinary YA debut opens the secretive doors of the Brill Building-the hit factory that changed history. Part Mad Men, part Grace of my Heart, part murder mystery, I’m Glad I Did is a coming-of-age story at an unforgettable cultural tipping point: the summer of 1963.

JJ Greene, a gifted 16-year-old songwriter, defies her lawyer parents by secretly applying for a job in the famed Brill Building-the epicenter of songwriting for a new genre called rock-n-roll. But their warnings about the evils of the music industry prove far darker than she imagined when she finds herself at the heart of a cover-up that involves hidden identity, theft, and possibly murder. 

This book is such a sad trombone. It started beautifully, packed to the gills with 60s flavor and music business lingo. I felt like I had legitimately traveled back in time! But oh, how this book dragged. The writing really needed a couple more edits, the pacing was really wonky, the love interest liked the heroine because she wasn’t “like other girls,” and the plot… Let’s just say the plot wasn’t much of a surprise, and it certainly didn’t deliver what the cover copy promised. If you’re going to hype a book set in the “cultural tipping point” of America, give me some culture that’s tipping! The consequences in this book were at next to nothing, both on a societal and an individual level. I wanted something with bite and instead felt like I was being gummed to death.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s a thriller, and I have a hard time with thrillers because I guess EVERYTHING in advance. It’s a blessing and a curse. Also, I had a hard time getting engaged because Alicia and Lexi are pretty awful people for much of the book. “Oh dear, you might die? Sorry, dearie.” I also think the plot would have been much cooler as a New Adult novel.

On the other hand, once the plot really ramps up, I was feeling sufficiently tense. The consequences of this book stretch far beyond death. Death is a one and done type of threat, but Lexi faced being jailed for horrific crimes that she didn’t commit. Her life would have been RUINED. Honestly, there was a point where I was convinced she’d never be able to clear her name, so points to you, Ms. Omololu!

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Mini-Reviews: LOVE BY THE MORNING STAR by Laura L. Sullivan and THE NIGHTMARE DILEMMA by Mindee Arnett

Upstairs, downstairs, and in which lady’s chamber?  

On the brink of World War II, two girls are sent to  the grand English country estate of Starkers. Hannah, the half-Jewish daughter of a disgraced distant relative, has been living an artistic bohemian life in a cabaret in pre-war Germany and now is supposed to be welcomed into the family. Anna, the social-climbing daughter of working-class British fascists, is supposed to be hired as a maid so that she can spy for the Nazis. But there’s a mix-up, and nice Hannah is sent to the kitchen as a maid while arrogant Anna is welcomed as a relative.

And then both girls fall for the same man, the handsome heir of the estate . . . or do they? 

In this sparkling, saucy romance, nearly everything goes wrong for two girls who are sent to a grand English estate on the brink of World War II—until it goes so very, very right!

I think you have to be in just the right mood to appreciate this book, which thankfully I was. Despite the sweet, romantic cover, Love by the Morning Star is less about tender, gentle romance than you might think. It’s flippant and farcical, a bit manic and definitely irreverent. In my notes, I described the narration as “omnipresent jaded view,” as the lens follows all of the characters in and out with a distinctly dry ennui. The characters themselves are a mixed bag—from spoiled and clueless Anna and Pollyanna-meets-Amelia-Bedelia Hannah to Traudly (one half of the Double Transvestite Tango) and real-life human, Prince George!

The plot is uneven in places, and the story is not for those who enjoy earnest storylines. However, if you enjoy the frenetic slapstick of 1940s comedies (think: Arsenic and Old Lace or Bringing Up Baby) and/or Shakespearean soap opera-ish misunderstandings and humor (think: A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Much Ado About Nothing), you will enjoy this book.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Dusty Everhart might be able to predict the future through the dreams of her crush, Eli Booker, but that doesn’t make her life even remotely easy. When one of her mermaid friends is viciously assaulted and left for dead, and the school’s jokester, Lance Rathbone, is accused of the crime, Dusty’s as shocked as everybody else. Lance needs Dusty to prove his innocence by finding the real attacker, but that’s easier asked than done. Eli’s dreams are no help, more nightmares than prophecies.

To make matters worse, Dusty’s ex-boyfriend has just been acquitted of conspiracy and is now back at school, reminding Dusty of why she fell for him in the first place. The Magi Senate needs Dusty to get close to him, to discover his real motives. But this order infuriates Eli, who has started his own campaign for Dusty’s heart.

As Dusty takes on both cases, she begins to suspect they’re connected to something bigger. And there’s something very wrong with Eli’s dreams, signs that point to a darker plot than they could have ever imagined.

Mehhh. I read this sequel ages ago and never bothered to write a review, because all it inspired was apathy. It’s a shame, really, because I enjoyed The Nightmare Affair. That book was creative, fluffy, and just all-around fun. This one? Not so much. The story felt rough, like it needed another, oh, four passes or so through the development and editing process before it should land on shelves. The linchpin of the plot–Paul’s return to campus and Dusty’s order to get close to him—made no sense at all. Sure, the characters tried to justify and explain what was going on, but the reasoning was pretty weak. The writing itself was awkward in places and overall lacked polish. And if ONE MORE CHARACTER (Dusty included) tried to brush off Paul’s previous actions, I was going to scream.

All in all, not a strong showing for Ms. Arnett, and now I’m questioning my plans to finish the series.

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Review: BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein

Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.

Black Dove, White Raven (BDWR), first and foremost, is a book about family. Emilia Menotti and Teo Gedeyon are family, despite their different skin and lack of blood ties. Rhoda Menotti and Delia Dupré, Emilia’s and Teo’s mamas, were family through and through, both in the air flying their stunts and on the ground in Jim Crow America. When Delia dies, family means Emilia, Teo, and Rhoda moving to Ethiopia where Teo won’t be shunned because of the color of his skin, and where Rhoda can fly and heal in equal measure. Family means sticking together when the Italians crowd the Ethiopian border, emboldened by Mussolini and the apathetic response from the League of Nations. Family means speaking with only a Nod, and staring into the teeth of war together, hand in hand. Continue Reading →


40 Days For 40 Years: Tuck Everlasting Anniversary Blog Tour


Confession time. Until this blog tour, I had never read Tuck Everlasting. Sure, I’d heard about it. (It’s been around since 1975; word travels.) I’d even watched the movie, but the book remained on my to-read list.

The one from 2002 with the girl from Gilmore Girls and the guy from Nashville—not the 1981 one no one remembers.

When Macmillan contacted me about being part of the tour, I jumped at the chance to participate. What a perfect excuse to read the book! Also, I was intrigued by the question they posed: What if you could live forever?

The heart and soul of Tuck Everlasting revolves around the concept of immortality. At first blush, immortality seems like the best gift ever. How wonderful would life be without an expiration date? Without death or pain or illness or sudden and cruel finality, life on Earth would be one big party. Even better, the immortality in Tuck Everlasting doesn’t just keep the characters from dying; rather, it keeps them frozen in the exact age and state that they were when they first drank the magic water. Never wear a seatbelt! (No death or lasting injury!) Eat pizza and ice cream for breakfast every single day! (No high cholesterol or diabetes!)

Some more suggestions:

1. READ ALL THE BOOKS! Seriously. You’re going to live forever. You literally cannot die with books unread. It’s not an option. I don’t remember if the book discussed the need for sleep (as opposed to the psychological desire for sleep), but odds are you can train yourself to go with very little even if you do still have to sleep. (No adverse physical side effects!) So stay up! Binge read!

2. Go back to school! Bear with me here. You have forever stretching out in front of you. There’s no rush to settle into a career to save for retirement or to find The Perfect Person. Go back to school! Learn! Earn a bajillion doctorates and seven different languages. Fill your mind until it explodes with wonder.

3. Travel! The world is HUGE. Go visit all the places you’ve ever wanted to see. You have the time, and now you don’t have to worry about the symptoms of old age (arthritis, dementia, bad back, etc.) sneaking up and stealing your fun. And hey, once you’ve seen everything, the world will have changed, so go back and see it again! Maybe by then, we’ll have commercial flights into space and you can go explore THAT.

4. Pick up a new hobby (or ten)! Ever wanted to learn archery? Now’s your chance. Code a website? Ditto. Salsa dancing? Parkour? Judo? Play the oboe? Cosplay? Painting? Beekeeping? Sky’s the limit! (Actually, not even, because again, you’ll be able to live through the revitalization of space travel.)

5. Change the world! Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? Not a problem for you. You’ve LIVED history. You ARE history. Be a sneaky little immortal person and build up your social capital. Go full-on Darkling and reinvent yourself to hide the truth of your age even while you shape the world around you with your limitless knowledge and experience. (Just remember me and treat me well, k?)

Sounds awesome, right? Full life of immortality, sign me up! Only… I don’t think I would. In the book, the Tucks see immortality as a curse, not a blessing.

Here are some reasons why:

1. You might not die, but everyone else does. Can you imagine that? Everyone you ever know and love will one day be dead, and you’ll have to live without them forever. It would be like getting attached to a fruit fly. It’ll hurt, and we’ve all seen enough gloom and doom moments from certain Time Lords, Elves, and Norse deities to know how that wears on a body.

2. Living is expensive. Yeah, sure, read all the books, travel to all the places, and take all the classes… you and what money? I, for one, have no inclination of working for an eternity, nor would I turn to a life of crime to sustain my lifestyle, because how much would a lifetime sentence in jail completely suck?

3. Scientists are scary. And the government is scary. And powerful crime lords are scary. Pretty much anyone who might possibly learn your secret and then torture and/or dissect you to learn about that secret is scary. Sure, you can’t die, but you can feel pain. You can want to die after being boxed in a tiny white room for several centuries. I watch superhero movies. I know things.

4. Can you really keep a secret? Can you keep your mouth shut? Can you go your entire existence without telling anyone about what makes you different? The Tucks couldn’t, and that’s what caused the mess in the book. If you saw a kid dying of cancer and knew the water could heal him, would you really not tell? If your loved one was growing old, would you really not save her? But then what. One person tells another person who tells another person, and suddenly everyone knows. Everyone’s living forever. Bad people who should not have power suddenly can’t be stopped. Even good, trustworthy people are a little more careless, a little more reckless. No one dies. There are too many people, no room for new life when the old refuses to leave. Earth stagnates and dies. And all because you couldn’t keep quiet.

5. I don’t want to be this me forever. Sure, I like me, but growth is a good thing. Change is necessary. In the book, the Tucks are nice people, but they don’t change. Jesse will always be 17, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. His mother and father will continue to have to same neurochemistry, reactions, and thought patterns that they did when they first became immortal. I don’t think or act the same way I did when I was 15, and I won’t think or act the same way when I’m 35 as I do now. (And purely on a trite, vain level, what age would you pick? In your twenties when you’re still dealing with the last spurts of acne? In your thirties when your metabolism goes haywire? LATER?!)

So those are my thoughts. Tuck Everlasting is a mere slip of a book, but it taps into so many questions that I didn’t even know I had. We get to see immortality through the eyes of the Tucks, but also through the eyes of Winnie, a curious, ten-year-old girl with her life ahead of her. When she makes her choice, it’s a choice that’s right for her. Would you make the same choice?

The 40th anniversary edition of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt will be in stores on January 20th. You can preorder your own copy here.




 Doomed to—or blessed with—eternal life after drinking from a  magic spring, the  Tuck family wanders about trying to live as  inconspicuously and comfortably as  they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take  her home  and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it  might  seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a  stranger who wants to  market the spring water for a fortune.


Review: THE GHOSTS OF HEAVEN by Marcus Sedgwick

A bold, genre-bending epic that chronicles madness, obsession, and creation, from the Paleolithic era through the Witch Hunts and into the space-bound future.

Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick’s gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.

I picked up this book knowing it would be outside my comfort zone. I’ve never read one of Mr. Sedgwick’s books before, and I was eager to see how we got along, but very little about the description promised a tailor-made Shae experience. Linked short stories? One of which is about a witch hunt? (Oh no.) The description reeked of mysticism (not my favorite), but the possibility of history and science being linked was too intriguing to pass up. Also, I’m a sucker for a pretty cover, and LOOK AT THAT BEAUTY. Continue Reading →


Review: WAISTCOATS & WEAPONRY by Gail Carriger

Class is back in session…

Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style–with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what–or who–they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine’s proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.

Warning: This review will likely contain spoilers for previous books. You have been warned. Continue Reading →


Review: DANGEROUS DECEPTIONS by Sarah Zettel

As a lady in waiting in King George’s London court, Peggy has survived a forced betrothal, royal scandals, and an attempt or two on her life. And now she has a new problem: her horrible fiancé has returned to claim her! To save her neck, or at least her hand in marriage, Peggy joins forces with her cousin Olivia and her sweetheart, Matthew. But if she doesn’t play her cards right, her career as courtier and spy might come to an end at the bottom of the river Thames . . .

2014 has been SLAYING it when it comes to sequels, and I’m happy to say that Dangerous Deceptions continues the trend. Our daring Peggy is back in the court of King George, now only as herself, her charade as the slain Francesca having been laid to rest in the last book. Now Peggy seems to have more trouble than she can handle with friends who feel betrayed, another possible Jacobite plot, an insistent betrothed, trouble in the royal marriage, and her Uncle Pierpont’s mysterious behavior. Continue Reading →


Review: WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted–by beings distinctly nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets–and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed–if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

Full disclosure: I am an ardent Claire Legrand fangirl. I adore her middle grade books and shove them into my TTT lists whenever I can. I converse with her often online and have even met her in person. She’s wonderfully kind and funny, and I was so looking forward to her first foray into YA. Mechanical dragons! A Nutcracker retelling! Girls with knives! I was ready to love this book. It was a Shae book. I could feel it in my BONES.

Unfortunately, my bones are liar mcliarpants. I honestly can’t remember the last time I mourned over a negative review like this. I’ve avoided even thinking about this book for over a month just so I wouldn’t have to write this review. And now I just want to rip the band-aid off and be done with it, so buckle up. Continue Reading →


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