Saturday, October 22, 2016

Blog Tour: Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick | Giveaway

Last year I read two nonfiction books about twentieth-century Russian history. I cannot say enough good things about Candace Flemings' The Family Romanov and M.T. Anderson's Symphony for the City of the Dead (featured here). Both were absolutely fabulous, and I walked away from them with larger understanding of the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Soviet Regime and a desire to read more about that time. Enter Blood Red Snow White. I'm so excited to be part of the tour for this fascinating book.

Blood Red Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Published in the US by Roaring Brook Press - October 2016

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Russia, Fairy Tales

Source: Review copy from the publisher

It is 1917, and the world is tearing itself to pieces in a dreadful war, but far to the east of the trenches, another battle is breaking out - the Russian Revolution has just begun...

Blood Red, Snow White captures the mood of this huge moment in history through the adventure of one man who was in the middle of it all; Arthur Ransome, a young British journalist who had first run away to Russia to collect fairy tales.

Told as three linked novellas, part one captures the days of revolution but retells the story as Russian Fairy Tale, with typical humour and unashamed brutality. Part two is a spy story, set over the course of one evening, as Ransome faces up to his biggest challenge, and part three is a love story, full of tragedy and hope, as every good Russian love story should be. 

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Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red Snow White is set during the years of the Russian Revolution and the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Blood Red Snow White is a smart and beautifully written book that weaves history and the lives of real historical figures with Russian fairy tales. 

The Russian fairy tale aspect is probably strongest in the first novella that chronicles the lead-up to the Russian Revolution. The writing, the pacing, and the charging Russian bear all lend a fantastical quality to the historical events, yet they remain tragic and bloody, as Russian fairy tales often are.

The World was changing. Nothing could stop that. There can be no magic by daylight, it is a thing of the dark and shadows and the black and white of nighttime, and just as that is true, it is also true that fairy tales cannot live in the modern world of color. The time for princes and tsars and grand duchesses and especially holy madmen was gone. In its place came a world of war and revolution, of tanks and telephones, or murder and assassination (from Part I: A Russian Fairy Tale).

In Parts Two and Three, Sedgwick tells the story of Arthur Ransome, a British journalist working in Russian. A real historical figure and well-known writer, Arthur Ransome published, among other things, a book of Russian fairy tales entitled Old Peter's Russian Tales

Russian fairyland is quite different... Somewhere in that great forest of trees--a forest so big that the forests of England are little woods beside it--is the hut where old Peter sits at night and tells these stories to his grandchildren (from the epigraph).

Other than his name, I did not know anything about Arthur Ransome before reading this book, and I found his life fascinating. Ransome had to navigate through a very dangerous time in Russia. He knew many important political figures of the day, including Lenin and Trotsky. He fell in love with Trotsky's secretary and risked his life for her. As a man trapped between two worlds, Ransome was never safe.   
I thought I knew what I was doing, and why. Or should I say, who I was doing it for, but life is never that simple, and with hindsight we see our lives laid out behind us and we think; God damn me to Hell, I was a fool (from Part 3: A Fairy Tale, Ending).

Sedgwick's story is just intricate enough to be very interesting and so readable. I loved the tone of the book and the mood established by the fairy tale structure. My days reading about Russia are far from over.

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About the Author:

Marcus Sedgwick was born in Kent, England. Marcus is a British author and illustrator as well as a musician. He is the author of several books, including Witch Hill and The Book of Dead Days, both of which were nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. The most recent of these nominations rekindled a fascination with Poe that has borne fruit here in (in The Restless Dead, 2007) the form of "The Heart of Another" - inspired by Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." Of his story, Sedgwick says, "This was one of those stories that I thought might be a novel originally but actually was much better suited to the tight form of the short story. I had the initial idea some years ago but was just waiting for the right ingredient to come along. Poe's story, as well as his own fascination with technique, provided that final piece of the puzzle."

He used to play for two bands namely playing the drums for Garrett and as the guitarist in an ABBA tribute group. He has published novels such as Floodland (winner of the Branford Boase Award in 2001) and The Dark Horse (shortlisted for The Guardian Children's Book Award 2002).

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Asian and Indian Fantasy

Setting is such an important aspect of a good fantasy. I've really enjoyed the fantasies I've read recently that are steeped in ancient Rome, the Arabian desert, or the Asian highlands. All the fantasies in this Reading on a Theme are inspired by Asia and India in terms of both setting and mythology. If you are looking for an Asian-inspired YA or middle-grade tale, these books are full of lush settings, gorgeous writing, and unforgettable characters.

The Grimm Brothers in Mongolia: 
In a fantastical Mongolian-inspired setting, Shannon Hale retells "Maid Maleen" by the Brothers Grimm in which a lady and her loyal maid are locked in a tower for seven years as punishment for the lady's refusal to marry the man her father wants her to. Shannon Hale's books are such a joy to read. I fell in love with Dashti and Khan Tegus and My Lord the cat. The setting is rich and truly almost a character in its own right. I love how the gods of the Eight Realms were a crucial part of the climax of Book of a Thousand Days. At the same time, the plot and the writing style are well-suited for the middle-grade audience, the fairy tale outline, and the Asian inspiration.
Hindu Tales:
Mayavati is the daughter of a king, one of many in the harem of Bharata, but she is hated and feared by the other women because her horoscope links her with death. When her father decides she must choose a husband, she becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar, a stranger from an unknown land full of secrets and mysteries. The Star-Touched Queen is masterfully written. Mayavati is a strong, fiery character with drive and resolve, and the setting is spectacular. The language and images are beautiful. Inspired by Hindu stories, Roshani Chokshi weaves a world of magic, secrets, and fate. I fell into this book and didn't want to get out. The Star-Touched Queen was out April 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

Chinese Folklore:
Minli lives in the Valley of the Fruitless Mountain with her mother and father. Her mother constantly complains about the family's ill-fortune and one day, Minli decides to do something about it. She embarks on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon to ask him how to change their fortune. I love the that this middle-grade book inspired by Chinese folklore is told in stories. Grace Lin beautifully weaves the stories together, leaving no loose ends. I felt I truly understood the characters because I knew their stories. I loved the themes in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. They include, but are not limited to: faith, trust, hope, happiness, love, thankfulness, story, and letting go. A beautiful read.

Chinese Legends:
Eon, one of a few young men who can see the Energy Dragons, is competing to become a Dragoneye, a man who will commune with his Energy Dragon to help control the forces of nature. The thing is, Eon is really Eona, a girl disguised as a boy for the purposes of the competition, and she doesn't just see one Energy Dragon, she sees them all. All that is, except the Mirror Dragon, who was lost eons ago. Alison Goodman creates a captivating and complex world in Eon. This Asian-inspired fantasy has a great setting and many elements that correspond to Chinese legends. The twelve Energy Dragons, for instance, correspond to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. I hope that in the sequel Eona embraces her true self and her immense power. 

Chinese Dystopia:
No one in Fei's isolated mountaintop village can hear. The population long ago adapted to their hearing loss, but now, devastatingly, villagers are beginning to lose their sight. Desperate to save her sister, who is one of the afflicted, Fei and miner Li Wei leave against the village's will to make the treacherous climb down the mountain for help. Their encounters with the larger world reveal that the village's problems are much greater than they realized.I thought the premise of Soundless was interesting. Richelle Mead's book has an Asian folktale quality to it both in the plot and in the telling, in that it's a very quiet story despite the high stakes. Out November 2015. Preview from NetGalley.

Book of A Thousand Days, Eon, and Soundless reviewed by JoLee.
The Star-Touched Queen and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon reviewed by Paige.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog Tour: The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker

Welcome to my stop on The Delphi Effect Blog Tour!

I am a crazy, huge fan of Rysa Walker's Chronos Files.The trilogy is one of my very favorite time travel stories ever, and I feel like I might have gone a little nutty over my love and subsequent endorsement of that series. In fact, when I was reading the Acknowledgments section of The Delphi Effect (what doesn't everyone read the Acknowledgments?), and Rysa thanked the bloggers who supported The Chronos Files I totally felt like she was thanking me.

Anyway, after all that love, I absolutely could not turn down the chance to promote Rysa Walker's new book. I just knew it would be great.

The Delphi Effect by Rysa Walker

Publisher / Year: Skyscape - October 11th, 2016

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Source: Review copy from the publisher 


It’s never wise to talk to strangers…and that goes double when they’re dead. Unfortunately, seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has no choice. Resting on a park bench, touching the turnstile at the Metro station—she never knows where she’ll encounter a ghost. These mental hitchhikers are the reason Anna has been tossed from one foster home and psychiatric institution to the next for most of her life.

When a chance touch leads her to pick up the insistent spirit of a girl who was brutally murdered, Anna is pulled headlong into a deadly conspiracy that extends to the highest levels of government. Facing the forces behind her new hitcher’s death will challenge the barriers, both good and bad, that Anna has erected over the years and shed light on her power’s origins. And when the covert organization seeking to recruit her crosses the line by kidnapping her friend, it will discover just how far Anna is willing to go to bring it down.

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Seventeen-year old Anna Morgan has more than her fair share of problems. A foster kid for as long as she can remember, all she wants is to bide her time until she's released from the system and make sure her foster brother, Deo, stays out of trouble too. If only life could be that simple.

You see, Anna has this other little problem: she picks up ghosts. When Anna touches something that a ghost loved, she opens herself up to sharing her mind with an incorporeal visitor.

Her current hitchhiker, Molly, is a particularly insistent companion. She wants Anna to contact her grandfather, a former policeman, and give him the information he needs to find her killer.

Convincing someone that you are carrying a ghost around inside your head is no easy task, and it lands Anna in quite a bit of trouble. The silver lining to all of this is that she meets some other kids who have some pretty fascinating talents themselves. Aaron and Taylor were definitely bright spots in this spooky tale.

Rysa Walker tells a good story. This one is action packed from the very beginning, and I really liked the whole conspiracy angle. Anna is a fantastic narrator. She's has a maturity that I think fits nicely with all that she's been through. I loved her relationship with Deo, and I think the developing friendships with Aaron and Taylor are also handled well.

Every October I like to find myself some spooky books for the Halloween season, and The Delphi Effect would be a perfect addition to a Halloween reading list. As if picking up ghosts wasn't creepy enough, things get even weirder as Anna discovers more about her abilities and the covert organization that seeks to exploit people like her.

Another thing that was an added bonus for me as I was reading this book is that it is set in Maryland, and I live in Maryland. I love it when I get to read a book that is set close to home. In The Delphi Effect, the characters spend a good amount of time driving around Maryland, and it just made my nerdy little heart so happy because I knew where they were.

I'm definitely going to continue on with this series. That ending is not one that you are going to want to leave sitting. In fact, I already have plans to audiobook the next in the series because the narrator is Kate Rudd (you might know her voice from a little audiobook called The Fault in Our Stars), and she did such a fantastic job with The Chronos Files.

The Delphi Trilogy has so much potential, and I'm thrilled (but not at all surprised) that Rysa Walker has delivered another fantastic book.

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About the Author: 

Rysa Walker is the author of the bestselling CHRONOS Files series. Timebound, the first book in the series, was the Young Adult and Grand Prize winner of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Rysa grew up on a cattle ranch in the South, where she was a voracious reader. On the rare occasions when she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stoplight. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she is working on the next installment in The Delphi Trilogy. If you see her on social media, please tell her to get back to her Writing Cave.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Reading on a Theme: What the Dead Left Behind

This is our third "What the Dead Left Behind" post (others here and here). Every time we put together one of these posts we are so impressed with the books. There are some heart-wrenchingly beautiful stories in this bunch.

A List of Cryptic Instructions:
Kids of Appetite by David Arnold is one of those books that's hard to summarize. It's about a boy with Moebius Syndrome who runs from his mother's engagement party with his dead father's ashes and finds a secret message among his remains. It's about the group of orphans who become his family. It's about a murder investigation. It's about loss and love and finding family. There are so many things to love about this book. I love the way the story is told; I love how the reader learns about the characters little by little; and I love how Arnold brings together a diverse cast of characters. Kids of Appetite is out September 20th, 2016. Review copy from Penguin First to Read.

A Limp:
Despite how obvious it is that new girl Grace Town is a mess (damaged, deeply depressed, and visits the cemetery daily) Henry Page can't help falling for her. Our Chemical Hearts chronicles their ill-fated relationship. This debut by Krystal Sutherland is well-written and so compulsively readable despite the fact that it is not an action-heavy plot. I think I finished it in two sittings. Many YA high school romances are about kids meeting their one and only, but the make-ups and break-ups and entangled, confusing romances of this book are much more true-to-life. The overarching themes deal with friendship and romance and trying to figure out which is which when the line gets blurry. Our Chemical Hearts is out October 4th, 2016. Review copy from Penguin First to Read.

An Observatory:
Carrie's hit rock bottom. Her sister's dead, her mom left, and now her dad insists she work in the park all summer building a footbridge to the observatory. She's certain to have the worst summer of her life, but working along side the new boy from next door might not be so bad. Carrie is a great character. She runs with her sister's cool friends, but in her heart she's really a music and astronomy nerd. My only complaint was that I had a little trouble settling into this book's time period; it's not present day but it's not the distant past either. Lisa Selin Davis really nailed the emotion of the story, and I ended up feeling that Lost Stars is a really great read. Out October 4, 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Fear of Swimming:
A year after Paige Hancock's first boyfriend died in a tragic accident, Paige feels like it's time to more on. She's tired of being known as the girl with a dead boyfriend. Her plan involves getting a date with her long-time crush, Ryan Chase, and joining a club. The plan goes awry when Ryan's cousin Max convinces her to join Quiz Bowl. I loved this book. Max is totally my kind of boy. I definitely have a thing for nerds, and I loved how the two main characters in this book were really big nerds. I've loved every one of Emery Lord's books (find the others here and here). She has quickly made her way to the top of my "favorite YA contemporary authors" list. The Start of Me and You was out in March 2015.

The Neighbor's Child: 
Abram and Juliette's father and mother were involved in an affair that culminated in a car crash that took both their lives. Now, the neighbors are struggling to cope with their parents' deaths and the painful betrayal. The two have avoided one another for months. A chance encounter at the pharmacy leads to an unexpected friendship. Juliette and Abram realize that the person who can relate most to how they are feeling is right around the corner. Despite the painful circumstances, the two start to put the pieces of their lives back together, together. I enjoyed the quirky (but damaged) characters in Jay Clark's story of love and redemption. Finding Mr. Brightside was out March 2015. Review copy from NetGalley.

Kids of Appetite, Our Chemical Hearts, The Start of Me and You, and Finding Mr. Brightside reviewed by JoLee.
Lost Stars reviewed by Paige.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reading on a Theme: Young Adult Books Set During World War I

In 2016 we are in the midst of the centennial of The Great War (1914-1918). When I was in college I did a study abroad in London. One of the classes I took there was "World War I and Modernism." We read war poetry, traveled to some of the battle sites, saw the remains of the trenches, and placed a poppy on the grave of an unknown soldier. It's an experience I won't soon forget, and I definitely want to commemorate the war's centennial years. One way I'm doing this is by reading books set during World War I. Here are five choices perfect for young readers.

A New Recruit:
Near the beginning of the Great War, Samantha Donaldson is recruited by La Dame Blanche to infiltrate the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Her mission is to extricate another LDB agent. Among the many complications is the the fact that Samantha only knows the agent's code name: Velvet. Velvet Undercover takes us behind the lines to Berlin and into the Kaiser's inner circle. If you are struggling with the unrealistic set-up, don't give up.  After a few reversals, I began to see that Teri Brown had me exactly where she wanted me. In other words, I was suppose to be uncomfortable with the situation. Pick up if you like spy novels or are interested in World War I. Out October 2015 from Balzer + Bray.

A British Nurse:
Set in 1914 England, Poppy gives up her place as a chambermaid in a grand house to become a volunteer nurse. Mary Hooper's Poppy reminded me in all the best ways of Eva Ibbotson's books. It's also perfect for Downton Abbey fans. Mary Hooper evokes the early 20th-century atmosphere so well. I was so engaged with Poppy's story. I loved reading about all the details of her training and life during The Great War. I loved how this book dealt with the beginnings of the breakdown of the class structure and told the story of an average girl doing her best to help the war effort. I absolutely flew through this book, and then (and this is rather uncharacteristic) I immediately purchased the sequel and read that book in one day too. Out in the U.S. on August 30th, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Belgian Spy:
After fleeing the invading Germans and working as a nurse for the British, Manon Wouters is recruited to spy for La Dame Blanche. She returns to her hometown in Belgium and begins gathering information. What I loved most about A Dangerous Game is that it is set in Belgium. I really enjoyed situating myself in this area of the world and thinking about how the war affected Manon's family and fellow countrymen. Belgium was pretty devastated during World War I, so it really is the ideal setting for a WWI spy novel. John Wilson's story is a quick read with a little bit of family drama, a little bit of nursing, and some dangerous espionage. Out September 13, 2016. Review copy from NetGalley.

A Great Pandemic:
Makiia Lucier's novel is about the Spanish Influenza pandemic that struck on the heels of World War I. When the influenza hits Portland, Oregon 17-year-old Cleo Berry's life is completely upended. A bit rudderless, Cleo finds volunteering with the Red Cross suddenly gives her the sense of purpose she's been craving. I found A Death-Struck Year to be an impressive little tome. It is clearly well-researched, but it's the characters that make the tale truly wonderful. Cleo's actions and motivations are well supported. The side characters, Kate and Edmund (a med student and war vet), will also keep you reading. A Death-Struck Year was out March 2014 from HMH Books for Young Readers.

A Steampunk World War I:
Leviathan is set during an alternate 1914. The world is on the brink of war. Alek, the son of murdered Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie, must run for his life. Deryn is a Scottish girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can join the Air Services. The two cross paths aboard the Leviathan, the crown jewel of the British Air Force, a giant hydrogen airbeast, fabricated from the DNA of hundreds of animals. I love Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan series. The books are a fantastical romp around the world, from England and Austria to Switzerland and the Ottoman Empire to Russia and the United States. I wish I could read more about this amazing setting and the characters who populate it.

Learn More:
The United States World War I Centennial Commission
The National World War I Museum and Memorial 
Imperial War Museums (UK)

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Story Continues: Ghostly Echoes, Ten Thousand Skies Above You, & Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver

It's time for some more sequels! I absolutely love the Jackaby series by William Ritter and the third in the series Ghostly Echoes was my number one most-anticipated book of the summer. It did not disappoint! I also finally got a chance to read Ten Thousand Skies Above You. I've been meaning to read that book for almost a year. It is great, and silver lining to waiting so long to read it is that I won't have to wait terribly long for the third book to come out. In keeping with the purple cover theme, I read Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver, another sequel I've had on my TBR pile for quite some time. It feels good to make some headway with some of these series.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Publisher / Year: Algonquin Books for Young Readers - August 23, 2016

Genres: Young Adult Historical Fantasy

Source: Review copy from the publisher

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William Ritter's Jackaby series is so much fun. I really enjoyed the first book, was completely blown away by the second book, and could not wait to get my hands on this latest installment. It was my most anticipated book of the summer.

In Ghostly Echoes we are back in New Fiddleham. Abigail Rook and Jenny Cavanaugh are on a mission to figure out what caused Jenny's death ten years ago, and if they have to go behind Jackaby's back to do it so be it. Strange things begin to happen in New Fiddleham, as they are wont to do and they echo the events of the past. Soon Jackaby and Abigail must solve Jenny's mystery or they'll meet her same fate.

It was so much fun to be back with these favorite characters. I really enjoyed all the scenes with Abigail and Jenny. Their experiments were kind of creepy, and yet the two obviously have a close bond. Ghostly Echoes definitely upped the danger and the stakes with a conspiracy that reached back a decade and up to the highest heights of New Fiddleham.

I loved finally solving the mystery of Jenny's murder and her fiancé's disappearance. I also really enjoyed the nods to Greek mythology. Book three answers many of the questions left dangling at the end of Beastly Bones

And I'm so thrilled that there's another book forthcoming so that I'll be able to return to New Fiddleham one more time.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray

Publisher / Year: HarperTeen - November 2015

Genres: Young Adult Science Fiction

Source: Audiobook from my local library

Goodreads | Amazon

I definitely have a soft spot for parallel reality stories. (Posts here and here and one upcoming.) I like exploring alternate realities and thinking about the consequences of decisions both big and small. I loved the first book in Claudia Gray's Firebird series and was itching to read the next installment in the series, but it just kept not happening. (I post about how Book 2 was a highly anticipated release in 2015 and a book that I meant to read in 2015 but didn't get to.)

Well, here we are September 2016, and I finally read it. And I loved it. And the silver lining of waiting so long to read this book is that I won't have to wait terribly long for book three.

Ten Thousand Skies Above You begins some months after the conclusion of the first book in the series. This jump forward in time threw me off for a bit, mostly because it had been awhile since I read the first book, and when Marguerite mentioned things that had happened in the past I was like, "Wait, did that happen in the last book because I don't remember it." Usually the event in question had not happened.

Anyway, Wyatt Conley and his Triad corporation still wish to dominate the multiverse, and after failing to get Marguerite's help through bribes Conley resorts to force. He splinters Paul's soul and will only reveal the locations where he's hidden them if Marguerite does his dirty work.

I love how complex the multiverse becomes in this book. Traveling to the different dimensions and seeing what all the main characters are doing in each one is my favorite part of this story. The end of this book is great set-up for the next in the series. I really am so eager to get my hands on it come November. 

Jillian Spectre and the Dream Weaver by Nic Tatano

Publisher / Year: Harper Impulse - April 2015

Genres: Young Adult / New Adult Paranormal

Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon

I really enjoyed the first book in the Jillian Spectre series. Jillian lives in the Mystic Quarter of Manhattan with her mother. The two of them can see the future. During one of her readings Jillian sees her client die and go to heaven. This moment propels Jillian toward discovering a second power, learning about her missing father, and halting an evil plot. 

After the harrowing event of the past year, the arrest and containment of Jillian's criminal father, Jillian and her friends are ready to put all that behind them and enjoy their first year of college. They are just getting settled when they learn that Jillian's father's mind has been visited by another mystic. Then Jillian's dreams are invaded. Jillian and her friends are going to be put to the test once again.

I think it's a lot of fun when an author brings supernatural powers into the real world, and Nic Tatano's paranormal world is a lot of fun. The powers that he's given his characters are interesting. Most of all, I love how the friends are stronger when they work together. The forces working against them know this too, and boy to do they work hard to tear the group apart.

While there are some really evil adults in this book, Jillian continues to benefit from some great adult role models. I definitely appreciate that. I was however, a little disappointed with how fixated the group seemed to be on good looks and outward appearances. At times they came across as a bit shallow and definitely used the word "slut" way too often for my taste.

The story itself is great. It's a quick read but it's filled with twists and surprises.

All books reviewed by JoLee.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blog Tour: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow | Review + Giveaway

I'm excited to be today's stop on The Swan Riders Blog Tour. Last fall I read The Scorpion Rules, the first book in Erin Bow's post-apocalyptic series. I loved The Swan Riders even more than the first book. I'm kind of still reeling from its beauty even now. 

We are giving away 3 finished copies of The Swan Riders. Enter the giveaway below, follow the tour, and read why I loved this book so much. However, be aware that there are spoilers for the first book in my review. Believe me, they could not be avoided.

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow

Series: The Prisoners of Peace

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books 

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction 

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Out:  September 20th, 2016

Greta Stuart had always known her future: die young. She was her country's crown princess, and also its hostage, destined to be the first casualty in an inevitable war. But when the war came it broke all the rules, and Greta forged a different path.

She is no longer princess. No longer hostage. No longer human. Greta Stuart has become an AI.

If she can survive the transition, Greta will earn a place alongside Talis, the AI who rules the world. Talis is a big believer in peace through superior firepower. But some problems are too personal to obliterate from orbit, and for those there are the Swan Riders: a small band of humans who serve the AIs as part army, part cult.

Now two of the Swan Riders are escorting Talis and Greta across post-apocalyptic Saskatchewan. But Greta’s fate has stirred her nation into open rebellion, and the dry grassland may hide insurgents who want to rescue her – or see her killed. Including Elian, the boy she saved—the boy who wants to change the world, with a knife if necessary. Even the infinitely loyal Swan Riders may not be everything they seem.

Greta’s fate—and the fate of her world—are balanced on the edge of a knife in this smart, sly, electrifying adventure.

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | The Book Depository 

Last year I fell in love with two sentient Artificial Intelligences. The first was Talis, the AI who rules the world in Erin Bow's post-apocalyptic Prisoners of Peaces series. Talis and the other AIs were my absolute favorite part of the first book in the series, The Scorpion Rules. Talis is enigmatic, scary, and weirdly fascinating. In many ways he is a complete contradiction. He's a robot but he has a bit of humanity. He's a machine but also nearly a god. He's all powerful but not invincible. He has his own set of (questionable) morals. (The other AI I fell for last year, by the way, was AIDAN from Illuminae.)

At the end of The Scorpion Rules Greta casts her lot with the AI which means additional challenges and danger for her, but it also meant that in the sequel I would be able to spend all my time with the AI. Sorry Greta, but I couldn't be happier.

The Swan Riders begins just after The Scorpion Rules left off. Greta is now an AI, and she must travel with Talis and two of his Swan Riders back to Talis's headquarters in the Red Mountains. It is a very dangerous journey, both because of Greta's precarious state as a new AI and because the events of The Scorpion Rules have inspired outright rebellion. 

I was completely floored by The Swan Riders. I liked it so much. Basically, The Swan Riders built upon all the things that I loved most about the first book in the series. (Namely the AI and all their complexities.) Although, let me issue a warning: If Greta's relationship with Xie was your favorite thing about The Scorpion Rules you should go in knowing there's not going to be much progress there. Personally, every once in a while I find it really refreshing to read a book where romance is not a major player, and, in The Swan Riders it's much more realistic to set that relationship on the back burner now that Greta is an AI. 

The Swan Riders, from which this book takes its name, are the young people who serve Talis. They are part army and part cult. I found them to be quite fascinating, and the Swan Riders we got to know well over the course of the novel burrowed their way into my heart.

I have always loved Erin Bow's writing style. She writes with a lovely smooth cadence that I find so soothing. This is not a fast-paced story, but a slower pace has never put me off a book, and believe me there are many surprises.

Finally, The Swan Riders is glorious complicated. The enigma of the AI is only intensified in this second installment. The line between human and machine becomes even fuzzier. All the relationships in this novel are extremely complex. There are so many levels of love and devotion and what exactly that means when one is dedicated to a godlike AI. Honestly, some of it was so heartbreaking. I was quietly wiping away tears at the end of this book.

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Tour Schedule:
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Week 2:



Hi! My name is Erin Bow -- physicist turned poet turned author of young adult novels that will make you cry on the bus. I'm a white girl, forty-something, feminist, geeky enough to do the Vulcan salute with both hands -- in public. I live in Canada. I love to cook, hate to clean, and yes, I do own a cat.

In the beginning, I was a city girl from farm country -- born in Des Moines and raised in Omaha -- where I was fond of tromping through wood lots and reading books by flashlight. In high school I captained the debate team, founded the math club, and didn't date much.

In university I studied particle physics and worked briefly at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, Switerland. Physics was awesome, but graduate school kind of sucked, and, at some point, I remembered that I wanted to write books. 

Books: I have six of them -- three novels, two volumes of poetry, and a memoir (the poetry under my maiden name, Erin Noteboom). My poetry has won the CBC Canadian Literary Award and several other awards. My two novels, Plain Kate and Sorrow's Knot, also have a fistful of awards, including Canada's top award for children's literature: the TD. The third novel, The Scorpion Rules, still faces its award season. No one read the memoir.

Right now I'm looking forward to the publication of my fourth novel, a companion piece to The Scorpion Rules called The Swan Riders, which will be out September 20th from Simon & Schuster. I'm at work on an entirely different novel and a book of poetry about science. 

Did you notice I got to Canada in there somewhere? Yeah, that was true love. I'm married to a Canadian boy, James Bow, who also writes young adult novels. We have two small daughters, both of whom want to be scientists.   

Visit Erin Bow Online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

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