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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #64: Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan.

Expected Publication: August 25, 2014.
by: Simon & Schuster BYR.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Beatrice Knowles is a Maid of Honor, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s secret protectors. Known for her uncanny ability to manipulate men’s hearts, Beatrice has proven herself to be a valuable asset in the Queen’s court—or so she thinks. It has been three weeks since the Maids thwarted a plot to overthrow the Queen, and Beatrice is preparing to wed her betrothed, Lord Cavanaugh. However, her plans come to a crashing halt as rumors of a brewing Scottish rebellion spread among the court.

Beatrice’s new assignment is to infiltrate the visiting Scottish delegation using her subtle arts in persuasion. The mission seems simple enough, until the Queen pairs Beatrice with the worst of the lot—Alasdair MacLeod. Beatrice cannot help but think that the Queen is purposefully setting her up for failure. But Alasdair could be the key to unlocking the truth about the rebellion….and her own heart. Caught in a web of ever-more-twisting lies, Beatrice must rise up among the Maids of Honor and prove what she’s known all along: In a court filled with deception and danger, love may be the deadliest weapon of all.

Why I'm excited:
I really enjoyed the first book, Maid of Secrets, and I love the fact that each book in the series will focus on a different Maid of Honor! I'm looking forward to reading Beatrice's story and seeing how she uses her charms to get through what seems like it'll be a set of sticky situations! Ah, drama at court. I really can't ever get enough.

What are you waiting on this week?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Historical TV to Books

One of the things I've noticed when it comes to stories set in the past is that a lot of people seem to love to watch them on TV, but not as many love to read about them in books. So today I'm looking at two current, popular historic fictional TV shows and giving suggestions of some fairly recent historical fiction books to try for the people who love them.

First up, Downton Abbey.

If you watch for the upstairs/downstairs contrast and drama:

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

If you watch for the ladies doing as ladies did (or refusing to act like ladies) during this time period:

Summerset Abbey series by T.J. Brown

If you're interested in the women's rights movement of the time:

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Next, Reign.

If you watch for the drama & romance set in the past:

The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen

If you watch for the history (yeah, right, but I went in hoping for interesting 1500s drama and got... drama, at least. So I'll say if you originally went in for the history):

The Royal Circle Series by Katherine Longshore

If you watch for the mystery and intrigue:

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

If you watch for fiery Mary:

The Wild Queen by Carolyn Meyer

Bonus: The Americans.

If you watch for the Cold War intrigue, the spying, and the political tension:

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Hopefully this will give lovers of these shows some YA historical fiction suggestions to help tide them over for the wait between seasons and maybe expand some horizons! If there are any I missed that you think would be a great match, let me know! Or, do you know of a YA historical fiction novel great for fans of a different historical show? I want to know that too!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #63: Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Schecter

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Schecter.

Expected Publication: May 27, 2014.
by: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic).

Goodreads Synopsis:
When your world blows apart, what will you hold onto?

TAG is a medical slave, doomed to spend his life healing his master's injured gladiators. But his warrior's heart yearns to fight in the gladiator ring himself and earn enough money to win his freedom.

LUCIA is the daughter of Tag's owner, doomed by her father's greed to marry a much older Roman man. But she loves studying the natural world around her home in Pompeii, and lately she's been noticing some odd occurrences in the landscape: small lakes disappearing; a sulfurous smell in the air. . . .

When the two childhood friends reconnect, each with their own longings, they fall passionately in love. But as they plot their escape from the city, a patrician fighter reveals his own plans for them -- to Lucia's father, who imprisons Tag as punishment. Then an earthquake shakes Pompeii, in the first sign of the chaos to come. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world?

Why I'm excited:
ANCIENT ROME!!! I am always looking for more YA that focuses on ancient societies and Rome is one that has so many potential stories in it. Pompeii is certainly great conflict fodder so I'm very excited to see how this plays out, especially with a seemingly meant-to-be (but possibly doomed) love story at its heart.

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: Going Over by Beth Kephart

Going Over by Beth Kephart.

Published: April 1, 2014.
Published by: Chronicle Books.
Source: Requested an ARC from the Canadian distributor in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Raincoast Books!

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall--Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.

My Review:

Going Over is many things. It is set in a fascinating time period, in a fascinating place. It is a story of lovers separated. It is a story told with words chosen selectively and fine-tuned so that each serves a purpose. It tells of the many struggles people faced living in Cold War Berlin. 

Ada and Stefan's love story has already begun when we meet them. Ada has been visiting Stefan in East Berlin a few times a year and writing to him in between. At this point she is beginning to get tired of waiting for him to cross the wall so they can be together, while he is struggling with all the potential outcomes of making the illegal jump from East to West. These two really are just kids in love and there are certainly moments where they seem like the kids they are, but there is a maturity that I think must have come from the situation they've had to grow up in that comes through in their relationship. 

One of the things I found most interesting about the novel is the changing writing style. While Ada's sections are written in first person, Stefan's are written in second person. It felt like a strange choice at first but I ended up really liking the distinction it made between the two voices as well as the way it made Stefan's story feel more personal in a way. I think I felt the impact of the inner struggle he faced very strongly because of the way it was presented. As for Ada's storytelling, I felt it really integrated the mature/immature dichotomy of her character through her sentiments and her language. There were moments she came across as the young girl she is and there were many others where she felt weighed down by troubles that should be far beyond her years. They both came across very well in her passages and I believe Kephart worked hard on getting Ada's balance right.

While Ada and Stefan are the focus of this story, their struggle is not the only one brought to life here. The storylines of Turkish immigrants and the trouble they are faced with, the previous wall-jumpers' successes and failures, and the family members who have disappeared on both sides of the wall are all interwoven with the central love story to bring forward the true turmoil of this tense time for everyone, not just those separated by the wall. This helps to broaden the scope of the novel beyond just the issue faced by the two teens, yet the way these are brought in - through Ada and Stefan's grandmothers, Ada's mother, Ada's job - keeps them from becoming overwhelming. I also enjoyed the way Ada expressed her frustrations, her desires, and the stories that keep her going through her graffiti. I almost wish this aspect had been expanded on more because I liked that it reflected what was on her mind. From the descriptions of the graffiti I couldn't quite picture what the art looked like, which I wish I could have.

All in all, Going Over is a moving story about struggle and how we deal with it, and about humans at the core and what we will do for love or the promise of it.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Guest Post: Anne Blankman's Top 5 Historical Badasses

I'm so excited today to welcome Anne Blankman, author of the upcoming Prisoner of Night and Fog to Archives April to talk about her favourite Historical Badasses!

Anne Blankman's Top 5 Historical Badasses

I'm going to confess something to you guys--sometimes I was bored in social studies class. *hangs head in shame* I know, it's an awful thing for a YA historical fiction author to admit! But some lessons were so dry that the only way I kept myself awake was by doodling in my notebook until the margins looked like they'd been decorated by Picasso's far less talented kid sister.
Then there were the days when my teachers taught us about historical figures so fascinating, so brave and tough and breathtaking real, that I would listen to every word, transfixed. Those people and their amazing stories are the reasons why I wanted to write historical fiction. So today I wanted to share my top five historical badasses with you--people who overcome tremendous obstacles...or didn't, but faced them with grace and determination.

5. Jean Moulin, 1895-1943. This French civil servant is now legendary for his work with the French Resistance during World War Two. Moulin helped form the Maquis, the French guerrilla forces that fought the Germans, and was instrumental in developing the National Council of the Resistance, which coordinated many resistance groups throughout France. Eventually he was arrested by the Nazis. He endured horrific torture in various prisons. Eventually, he died from his extensive injuries--without having revealed a single piece of information to the Nazis. One of the most quietly heroic people I've ever read about.

4. Saladin, 1137/8-1193. This famous military leader led Islamic forces during the Crusades. His victory in the Battle of Hattin in 1187 brought Jerusalem back under Muslim control, after it had been in Christian Crusaders' hands for nine decades. When Saladin's soldiers entered the city, he forbade them from killing and looting. A magnanimous victor? Seriously badass, my friends. Plus, under his firm but fair leadership, he managed to unite various rival Islamic territories, and became the sultan of Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine.

3. Joan of Arc, c. 1412-1431. Okay, I know there's some controversy about whether or not she actually fought in battle or just waved a banner from the sidelines to give the soldiers emotional support. And some modern psychopaths have speculated that the fact that she heard voices might mean that was schizophrenic. I don't care. Her story's still inspiring. When she was seventeen, she convinced the French dauphin (the eldest son of the French king), to provide her with troops to battle the English. While fighting, Joan was shot through the neck with an arrow. After getting stitched up, she immediately returned to the battlefield. In 1430, she fell into enemy hands and was burned at the stake. A peasant who successfully led her countrymen in battle back in the Middle Ages when the status of females fell somewhere between cows and cow dung? Seriously badass.

2. Galileo, 1564-1642. This mathematician and scientist got himself into serious trouble with the Holy Catholic Church when his discoveries contradicted their teachings. Galileo's sunspot theories proved that the earth revolved around the sun--a big no-no, according to the Church in Rome. Galileo had to appear before the Italian Inquisition, who found him guilty of heresy and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life. He still continued writing and experimenting--while going blind. You've got to respect someone who won't give up even while his world slowly fades to darkness.

1. Eleanor of Aquitaine, 1122-1204. Eleanor was a triple threat: smart, gorgeous, and rich. While married to her first husband, Louis VII of France, she accompanied him on the Second Crusade. After they started having marital problems, they secured an annulment from the Pope and she married a much younger man, Henry II of England. Not only did they have eight children together, but she'd had two daughters from her first marriage for a total of ten. Just thinking about that many pregnancies makes me tired. She participated actively in the administration of her realm and oversaw the court's artistic and social life. When her sons were grown up, she helped them plan a revolt against their father. After it failed, Henry had Eleanor imprisoned for about a decade. Eleanor outlived him, though, and his death signaled her release. Although she was an old woman by then, she remained active in politics. While her son Richard I, aka the Lionheart, was fighting in the Crusades, she worked hard to keep the kingdom out of her younger son John's greedy hands. When Richard was captured by the duke of Austria, Eleanor collected his ransom and personally brought him back to England. She was over eighty when she died, a ripe old age by today's standards but practically unheard of in medieval Europe. I love a woman who can be smart, tough, devious, and successful in a time when she was merely expected to be a glittering ornament. It's hard to get more badass than that.

Thank you so much, Anne! I love your choices! Bringing the incredible circumstances (and people) of the past alive is something I absolutely adore about historical fiction. What do you think of Anne's choices? Such interesting people, right? Who else would you add to the list of historical badasses?

About Prisoner of Night and Fog:
To be published April 22nd by Balzer + Bray.

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #62: Born of Deception by Teri Brown

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Born of Deception by Teri Brown.
Born of Illusion #2.

Expected Publication: June 10, 2014
by: Balzer + Bray.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

Why I'm excited:
I really enjoyed the first one and I'm so looking forward to seeing what's next for Anna, especially since she's headed to London! Sounds like it's going to be interesting, for sure!

What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The 2nd Annual Into the Archives April

Welcome once again to Into the Archives April. This is my second year doing this event, which will, for the whole month of April, feature my favourite genre of fiction, historical. Historical fiction seems to kind of get the short end of the stick a lot - it's touted as a "hard sell", it's rarely largely represented in catalogs of upcoming books, etc etc. But I have such a love for the genre that I hate seeing it ignored. I want to take some time to push the historical I've loved and get excited for some upcoming historical that sounds fantastic.

I hope you'll get excited about the historical bonanza that will be coming at you this month. There will be some fabulous authors stopping by, reviews of some pretty wonderful historical novels that you're going to want to keep up with, and some little treats you could win along the way.

Don't forget that you can subscribe to the blog by email or on Bloglovin (both in the right sidebar) to make sure you don't miss a post or giveaway!