January 31, 2016

Rewind & Review #54

I'm back at school! We've already had a snow day, and it's way too cold for my tastes. I don't mind the snow and cold, not really. But I do when I have to walk everywhere in it. *sigh* Um, I'm been getting into the swing of classes and work. I'm taking a photography class this semester, which I hope is something I'll be good at. I'm also taking intro to poetry writing for my major, which has not been nearly as fun as fiction writing just because it's not my strength. Finally, I'm taking a history course for my minor and two literature courses. There's gonna be plenty of projects, papers, and exams, that's for sure.
Highlights of the last few weeks: went on a donut adventure this past Friday, finished season 3 of The Good Wife, got Netflix (so now I can watch Gilmore Girls anytime), took photos for a project at Joseph-Beth, and took photos on the two snowy days we had.

Books I Received for Review
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas (from Delacorte via NetGalley)
Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black (from Amulet Books via NetGalley)
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (from Little, Brown BFYR via NetGalley)
The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson (from St Martin's Griffin via NetGalley)
Holding Court by K.C. Held (from Entangled: Teen via NetGalley)

Books I Won/Traded for/was Gifted
You're Invited by Jen Malone and Gail Nall (traded for)
Burn by Elissa Sussman (from @irishbanana)
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius (from my Secret Sister, @talkingbookworm)

Books I Read
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (4 stars)
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche (reread)
The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens (4 stars)
In Real Life by Jessica Love
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (reread)
Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay (reread)
Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray (reread)
Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle (2 stars)
Playing with Matches by Suri Rosen (4 stars)
The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
What Maisie Knew by Henry James (2 stars)

Blog Posts You Might've Missed
   (From 1/11-1/16)
   (From 1/17-1/23)
  • The One Where I Share More of My Writing
  • TTT: Historical Settings I Want More Of
  • Review: The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  • Do I Favor One Publisher Over Another?
  • So You Like... #23
  • When I Was Little, I Read
  • TTT: Favorite Quotes Involving Romance
  • Round Three of Secret Sister
  • Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  • Random Friday: Characters I Love to Hate

January 30, 2016

Review: Da Vinci's Tiger

Da Vinci's Tiger by L.M. Elliott
Grade: C
Summary: Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.

When the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: I was drawn to this book because it was set in a different period than most YA historical fiction that's written these days. I thought Da Vinci's Tiger would be fascinating and fun, and unfortunately, I was wrong. 
You can tell the author did a lot of research. The descriptions of the city and the clothes are very precise, and almost the entire story is based on fact, according to the author's note. But what I look for in historical fiction is just that - fiction. I want a story I can connect to and love, not just read and think, "Oh, that was interesting and informative." I learned a lot from Da Vinci's Tiger but that extra spark just wasn't there. There was no actual plot, just sort of a brief, sparse fictionalization of what really happened.
Ginevra, the main character, interacts mainly with the men of the story and I wanted to see more with the women. A female character, spoiler alert, dies towards the end, and I felt no sadness. Lucrezia de' Medici seemed like she was a very interesting woman but she only appears for a few brief scenes. The one male character I did like was Ginevra's brother, Giovanni. He seemed to receive the most characterization besides Bernardo, and especially more than Ginevra. I honestly can't tell you much about the protagonist; I know she loved poetry and was fairly humble but that's about it. I wanted to know why she was the mountain tiger.
Warning: there is a scene where a male character tries to force himself on the protagonist, so if that's triggering for you, I'd avoid Da Vinci's Tiger.

The Verdict: Still looking for a great YA historical fiction novel set in the Renaissance.

Will I be adding this book to my library?: No.

January 29, 2016

Random Friday: Book Cover Colors

Want to participate in Random Fridays? Just do the following: 
  • Include the above image in your post and link back to my post.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
The problem with planning these posts months in advance? I kind of forget why I choose some of the topics...like this one. So when I went to write up this post, I played it by ear and decided to pull books from my shelf for the colors of the rainbow plus two more.

So there's sixteen books with colorful covers!

January 27, 2016

Front Lines Blog Tour: Michael Grant Talks Historical Fiction

I have mad love for historical fiction, especially ones that give an alternative account of what actually happened. That's why I'm happy to shove Front Lines by Michael Grant at y'all through this blog tour.

The Guest Post

When I was first thinking about FRONT LINES I wondered what category it fit into.  The obvious answer was alternate history, but I wasn’t entirely sure.  I’d always thought of alt-history as being about different outcomes, like Philip K. Dick’s Man In The High Castle, which posits a Nazi and Japanese victory in World War 2. 
I did not intend FRONT LINES to show an alternative outcome, just an alternative way to get there.  My one major change was to insert women into combat. Other than that, and some relatively minor adjustments to time-lines for narrative purposes, I’ve stuck as close as I can to reality.
But then I realized there is a different way to come at alt-history that is less about changing outcomes and more about inserting fictional characters into historical settings, which we tend to call just historical fiction.  And since I am easily bored by jesuitical debates over what is and what is not this or that category of literature . . . Zzzzzzzzzzz snort zzzzzz drool zzzz.  Sorry, where was I?  

Anyway, here are some of the authors of alternate and/or historical fiction that I love:

1) Patrick O’Brian.  O’Brian was deeply knowledgeable and an excellent prose stylist who wrote a series of books which follow the adventures of Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend, surgeon/naturalist/spy, Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic war and the war of 1812. I have read the entire series at least three times.  Okay, five.  Stop judging me, it’s my escape from reality.
2) George MacDonald Fraser. The Flashman series follows a thoroughly offensive, sexist, racist, cowardly, caddish British army officer with an amazing talent for showing up in the midst of every major historical event of the Victorian age. Fraser uses this character’s cynical voice to highlight villains and heroes with unsparing wit, and along the way he teaches a lot of history. Get past the offensive (era-appropriate) language and see the heart of decency and love of truth that beats beneath it. 
3) Elizabeth Wein - I had Code Name Verity on audio as I was driving around Sicily researching FRONT LINES and I was so impressed by Wein’s depth of character creation and prose skills I almost considered giving up.  This book has period detail and authenticity, style and heart, adventure and horror and love, and, using a narrow lens focused on just a handful of characters, manages to convey so much of what World War 2 meant.
4) Bernard Cornwell - You would not believe how relatable a Saxon/Dane/Viking with the unfortunate name of Uhtred son of Uhtred, can be.  Cornwell has multiple series going, covering everything from earliest Britain (Vikings! Stonehenge!  More Vikings!) to the Napoleonic Wars, where I can’t believe his characters didn’t run into Aubrey and Maturin.  Can fictional characters wave at each other or does that cause a black hole or something?
5) Lindsey Davis - Marcus Didius Falco is a loser in ancient Rome, an ex-legionnaire (soldier) who finds he can (barely) make a living applying his observational skills and his penetrating reason to answering questions the people in the togas don’t always want answered.  He is a much funnier Sam Spade in sandals.
6) Umberto Eco - The Name of the Rose is a book about medieval monks trying to answer the question: did Christ laugh?  I know, it doesn’t sound exciting, but Eco places believable, relatable characters into a world so well-researched you can practically smell the unwashed bodies.  Did you know medieval monks could wear glasses?  I didn’t.
7) Alex Haley - Roots changed the world, which is not something you expect of any book, really.  The book spawned a record-breaking TV show which brought something of the vicious reality of slavery to an American public who, when they heard the word, ‘slave’ largely thought of Mammy from Gone With the Wind.  
8) Larry McMurtry - Lonesome Dove follows a cattle drive from 1800’s Texas north and we travel with some of the most indelible characters ever to appear as words on a page: Gus McCrae, W.F. Call, Clara Allen, Jake Spoon, July Johnson and one of the all-time great villains, Blue Duck.
9) Diana Gabaldon - Yes, I know The Outlander series is built like a romance, but there’s plenty of sword play and backstabbing to go with the icky love stuff.  Gabaldon did her research and with consummate skill takes us into the world of 18th century Scotland, using the device of a time-shifted 20th century nurse.   

The Book

Front Lines by Michael Grant

World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war.

These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

The Author
Okay, trying this again. Goodreads lost the bio I just spent 30 minutes writing. So now it's just going to be incoherent rambling. Yes, the earlier draft was also incoherent rambling, but way better. 

I'm the co-author or author of about 160 books, including the ANIMORPHS series, the GONE series, the BZRK series, the MAGNIFICENT 12 series (Mommy, make him stop saying series!), the MESSENGER OF FEAR series, and soon (well, eventually) the SOLDIER GIRL series.

The best way to reach me is at Twitter @MichaelGrantBks. I'll be honest: I keep forgetting there's mail here. Here's the thing: I don't have an assistant or a staff. I would, but then I'd have to hire someone and train someone and give them stuff to do, and relate to them as a human being, possibly even care about them. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. 

But if my handle is in the Tweet, I read it. And once or twice a week I go on at random times to chat with fans. I love my fans, but it's either be honest with you and be my actual self on Twitter, or fob you off on some assistant, and how would that be better? I already have my father-in-law handling email from my ancient website. I'd rather be harder to write to but really be me, and really talk to you, if that makes sense. 

Honestly, if it was up to me and I had the time we could all just hang out at random Starbucks. Or if you're over 21, a pleasant cocktail lounge perhaps. At some point there would be ice cream. There must always, at some point in the day, be ice cream. 

I also have a personal Facebook page at AuthorMichaelGrant, but that's limited to 5000 friends and apparently I actually have that many. Who knew? But I leave it public so if I have something to say I'll do it there. 

I hope you'll give my books a try. If you don't like one, that's cool, I don't like every book I read, either. But maybe give them a try. People seem to like them. 

Now, my publishers want me to sell you on my stuff, so I'll do two brags: 1) Everything I write is like nothing you've ever read before in young adult literature. I don't copy, I don't imitate, I don't clone. 2) I know how to end a series. 

And that's my advertisement. Thank you. 

You can find Michael at the links below:

The Giveaway

The Tsar's Guard Parade Spotlight Post

It's been an honor these past several months to be a part of the Tsar's Guard, which is the street team for The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye. The character reveals have been a blast. And now the book's release is less than four months away! Y'all definitely need to add this book to your TBR lists and consider preordering it.

The Book

The Crown's Game (The Crown's Game, #1)
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Release date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Balzer+Bray

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

The Author

Evelyn Skye was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on "So You Think You Can Dance," and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn't writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies. THE CROWN'S GAME is her first novel. Evelyn can be found online at www.evelynskye.com and on Twitter @EvelynSkyeYA.

You can find Evelyn at the links below:

The Giveaway

January 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: What I've Recently Added to My TBR

I know this was last week's topic, and I didn't do it originally for a reason, but I've recently added a lot of interesting-sounding books to my TBR list and I wanted to share them with y'all!

1. Interference by Kay Honeyman

2. The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

3. You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche

4. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

5. You Don't Know My Name by Kristen Orlando

6. Spindle by E.K. Johnston

7. Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

8. The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow

9. Royce Rolls by Margaret Stohl

10. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

What did you choose as your topic for this freebie week of Top Ten Tuesday?

January 25, 2016

Seventeen 2017 Reads

2016 has started, which means it's time for my first list of 2017 releases that I think will be stand-outs. I plan to do only three of these posts instead of four like last year, so I'll be choosing very carefully. Watch in April or May for the next one! I tried to be very careful picking these, so I hope all of them are still due to release next year. Anyways, without further ado, I present seventeen of my most anticipated 2017 releases.


Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
World War II is still popular for YA historical fiction, but I'm always willing to read it.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
It sounds comparable to The Ring & the Crown, but I'm very much looking forward to the sort-of futuristic setting. Plus, I'm always up for alternate history.

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
It's hard to consider 1996 history since that's when I was born, but I guess it technically is. I'm always up for books about the Olympics and the protagonist is diverse!

The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
Goodreads classifies this as fantasy, but it sounds like historical fiction to me, so I'm classifying it as historical fantasy. I'm excited for a setting a bit different than the usual ones we see in YA historical fiction.

Even the Darkest Stars by Heather Fawcett
I especially love the sound of that setting.

The Freemason's Daughter by Shelley Sackier
I can't properly put it into words, but the sound of this one has me very excited.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
2016 is the year of the pirate ship, and I'm so glad this trend is continuing into 2017.

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Hurrah for a mystery and an interesting topic for historical fiction!

The Judas Society by Matthew Landis
Benedict Arnold, Revolutionary War... My parents, especially my mom, love the American Revolution time period and I've grown up around it to some extent, so I'm bouncing in my seat.

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
Holy wow, does this one sound cool and very fun. Yay for STEM girls and royalty! (Also shout-out to Rhiannon for making my Fifteen 2015 Reads and Seventeen 2017 Reads lists.)


Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson
I really liked This Side of Home, and this sounds like the type of contemporary YA I enjoy.

This Promise I Will Keep by Aisha Saeed
As hard as it will be to wait until 2017 for Aisha's sophomore novel, I'm sure it will be well worth it.

Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
This sounds deliciously fun.

By Your Side by Kasie West
Kasie West is an auto-buy author at this point. I love all of her contemporary romance novels.

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
It's a YA You've Got Mail. IT'S A YA YOU'VE GOT MAIL.

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Tokyo! We don't see that too often in YA.

Romeo and What's Her Name by Shani Petroff
One of the Swoon Reads choices that sounds fun and cute.

I love how half the list is contemporary - clearly my bias is showing. I do hope there will be a lot of historical fiction, too. As more book deals are announced, I'll plan Seventeen More 2017 Reads!

January 23, 2016

So You Like... #22

It's no secret that I'm an Ally Carter fangirl. I love the Heist Society trilogy so much, and the Gallagher Girls series was one of my first ventures into young adult fiction. So I thought it was time that I do a So You Like... themed around Ally Carter's books. (And as always, clicking on the book's cover will take you to the Goodreads page.)

If you like...

Books about spies/thieves/etc.

You should read...





If you like...

The friendships

You should read...



If you like...

The boys (for when you go into Zach/Hale/Alexei withdrawal)

You should read...




So if you've already read Gallagher Girls, Heist Society, and all the Embassy Row books published thus far, here are some books that'll help you with that Ally Carter hangover.

January 21, 2016

Professor Emma Teaches Classics Anew

So I don't know about y'all but there are some classics I like and others that are just so dry and dull that I can't imagine how they ever become renowned. But there's this trend of retelling classics, particularly in the YA world, and it's one I can definitely get behind. (Heck, I want to write a Hamlet retelling someday.) So the final class I'm teaching this spring at the Bibliophile University is...

 Classics Anew.

It would be all about retelling classic books, plays, fairytales, and legends, and I'd love to discuss with the students what elements from the original are needed to call it a retelling and not just "inspired by," and talk about what makes a good retelling (we'd definitely have to watch clips from Clueless and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries). 

Scratch that. Before I start rambling too much, here are the five books I'd assign for my students.

Required Reading
Recommended Reading
Are there any other retellings you'd teach? (There's a few upcoming ones I'm very interested in, but I obviously couldn't include them.) And would you want to take this class?

January 19, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been on My TBR the Longest

The original topic was recent additions to your TBR, but that's always changing for me and I wanted to write this post in advance because I'm a busy college student. So I'm going to share the seven books that have been on my TBR the longest since I know I won't read any of them before this post is published. Three of them have already been released; the other seven are due to publish this year. Technically, there are more than ten books that have been on my TBR longer than the last three but I didn't want to only include unreleased books.

1. Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
January 6, 2014

2. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
January 14, 2014

3. When I Wake by Elizabeth Norris
February 15, 2014

4. The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
March 6, 2014

5. Sea Spell by Jennifer Donnelly
April 20, 2014

6. Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell
May 8, 2014

7. Shuffle, Repeat by Jen Klein
May 8, 2014

8. Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
August 5, 2014

9. Ruby Reinvented by Ronni Arno
August 5, 2014

10. Queen by Aimee Carter
September 26, 2014

So what are recent additions to your TBR list, or what books have been on your TBR list the longest?

January 18, 2016

From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen: Cornbread

It's always really fun when I can write these posts with dishes actually mentioned in the book. 

In The Game of Love and Death, Flora mentions the jazz club's cook's cornbread, and when This Is Teen (Scholastic's publicity team) created a book club guide, they provided a recipe for the cornbread. Obviously I had to make it.

Domino Cornbread

1 1/2 c. flour (half all-purpose, half whole wheat is best but I only used all-purpose and it turned out fine)
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. milk
2 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil
3 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round pan. Melt the butter and set aside. Mix flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix milk, eggs, oil, and butter in a small bowl. Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients and mix only until blended. Pour into pan and bake about 35 minutes. The top will be golden and an inserted toothpick will come out clean. Let cool at least 5 minutes and enjoy!

(Sorry I don't have a picture of the bread and the book. I left my copy at school, and we devoured the cornbread rather fast.)

Have a recipe/book suggestion for From the Bookshelf to the Kitchen? Leave it in the comments below or email it to MDBCnumber1fan [at] gmail [dot] com.