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Review of The Lens and the Looker

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The Lens and the Looker This review is part of a blog tour I have signed up to. Thanks to Pump Up Your Book and to Lory Kaufman for the wonderful opportunity to read this book.

It’s the 24th century and humans, with the help of artificial intelligences (A.I.s) have finally created the perfect post-dystopian society. To make equally perfect citizens for this world, the elders have created History Camps, full sized recreations of cities from Earth’s distant pasts. Here teens live the way their ancestors did, doing the same dirty jobs and experiencing the same degradations. History Camps teach youths not to repeat the mistakes that almost caused the planet to die. But not everything goes to plan.

In this first of a trilogy, we meet three spoiled teens in the year 2347. Hansum almost 17, is good looking and athletic. Shamira, 15, is sassy, independent and an artistic genius. Lincoln, 14, is the smart-aleck. But you don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find his insecurities.

These three “hard cases” refuse the valuable lessons History Camps teach. But when they are kidnapped and taken back in time to 1347 Verona, Italy, they only have two choices; adapt to the harsh medieval ways or die. The dangers are many, their enemies are powerful, and safety is a long way away. It’s hardly the ideal environment to fall in love – but that’s exactly what happens. In an attempt to survive, the trio risks introducing technology from the future. It could save them – or it could change history. (From Goodreads)

Okay. Word to the wise; there is sci fi elements, but you won’t be spending too much time in the future world. The book is mostly set in 14th century Italy. That being said, this might disappoint some readers who are looking forward to reading about a post-dystopian world. I didn’t mind as historical fiction was always something I liked to read. Mixing historical fiction with science fiction elements also provides an interesting story. The sci-fi element does make a significant impact on the story (with Pan) but it doesn’t overpower it. Which is nice, as there’s lots of historical setting descriptions to provide a good accurate setting that is easy to picture.

I thought it was interesting the author decides to make this book a post-dystopian society/setting. With all the dystopian fiction out there, this is an interesting and refreshing twist. Although not all the answers on how the setting came to be is revealed. It would have been nice to provide that bit of background information, alas it’s not necessary.

The main general plot was really good. It gets even better towards the end with a good action climax and the ending leaves you wanting to know what happens next (there is a bit of a sneak preview of the second book at the back). As mentioned before, I liked the description of the historical setting. Not only was it concise and in detail but it was enforced and repeated throughout the novel. I can only think this is because it makes the characters (and the reader included) realize how much everything is taken for granted. The constant reminder of people’s rotting teeth was rather gross, but it really does enhance the setting, and lets you count your blessings for being born in a different time period.

The three characters were nicely written and well done. I would have preferred to see more of Lincoln in this story (he is a smart aleck and has a funny quote or two). Yet the story focuses a lot more on Hansum and a little on Shamira. Lincoln does disappear for some time during the last half of the book however I am hoping he would come back with a bigger role in the second book. I’d have to say I liked how all three developed in their own way. Lincoln ends up maturing a lot as he used to be the real mouthy and rebellious one of the three. I liked Hansum, he was the steadier and unspoken leader of the three plus the love story with Guilietta provides a good part of the romance in the book – I thought they were rather cute together. Although besides Lincoln, I liked Pan a lot too. He helped the three through their adventures, but also provided a means of making their living situations improve (however it does have consequences). I’d like to know more in detail what consequence this may have in the future, but for now you do see a change in Pan’s appearance (which is comical).

With such a unique idea of the History camps and an interesting blend of science fiction and historical fiction, this book was a real fun read. It had a bit of everything in one well written book. Readers might also notice it’s also an interesting history lesson on 14th century Italy (well, at least on how people lived back then). I would definitely recommend this to other readers (I think it’s most suited for those that like YA). It’s certainly a different read and lets readers take a break from the massive amounts of dystopian fiction out there.

I give it a 7.5 out of 10

Written by Karoline

May 23, 2011 at 8:00 am

Posted in 7.5, Review

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Review of The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner

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The Tudor Secret

The Tudor Secret

I got this book as part of The Tudor Secret blog tour by Pump Up Your Book. Thanks! it’s greatly appreciated! I’ve read another one of his books previously; The Last Queen. I do have The Confessions of Catherine de Medici on the TBR pile (waiting to be read soon!)

The era of the Tudors was one of danger, intrigue, conspiracy, and, above all, spies. Summer 1553: A time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king’s brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth’s protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past. A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth’s quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies, and murder. Filled with the intrigue and pageantry of Tudor England, The Tudor Secret is the first book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. (From Amazon.ca)

I have a thing where I love any historical fiction that has a lot of intrigue and mystery. I also love the politics behind the court. I’m fascinated by it. This book has everything you want. Intrigue, mystery, twists and turns, some action, a bit of romance, it’s a mixture of everything! however it’s so well written and well done that it doesn’t feel like it’s been put together sloppily.

The plot flows and the pace is even. What I liked the most is the point of view of the character. Most historical fiction novels take place in the viewpoint of someone who’s Royalty, and almost always it’s a female character. So, seeing the story from Brendan’s eyes is definitely something different and I would say, refreshing. It’s about time we see it from a guy’s point of view! and a ‘nobody’ at that!. I’d have to say I liked him from the start. He’s easily likable and his development throughout the novel was from a young man with an almost childlike naivete to someone who’s well versed in how to behave and act in court, and who’s about to become a double agent (so to speak). I thought the change was very well done. Brendan matured throughout the novel and the transition was smooth.

I’m a huge fan of political intrigue, and this book has a lot of it. I loved the double crossing, the secrets revealed, and the deeds done in the past that are coming back to haunt certain individuals in the book. The Dudleys are as scheming and ruthlessly ambitious as ever (and I still have a strong dislike for Robert Dudley. Always have. Always will). Frances Brandon follows close behind on my hate list. It’s amazing how ambition and greed takes precedence over everything else and brings out the worst in people. It might be a challenge to keep track of all the intrigue however once you get all the characters straightened out, everything does fall into place.

Besides Brendan, I’ve taken a liking to Cecil. Although he’s also a sneaky sly character who uses Brendan, and others to his own purposes and agenda, I like how he underhandedly talks himself out of a tense situation and manages to turn it around. He remains unharmed and still in a powerful position as Elizabeth’s advisor. He’s a very ‘quiet’ character, yet his behind the scenes actions make the plot interesting and makes it move forward with Brendan’s help.

I think it might have helped to have a little family tree chart handy, or at least a list of characters for those that might not be familiar with Tudor history it does get slightly confusing towards the end it takes a bit to straighten out Brendan’s connections and ties with other families. However, those well versed in the history, will have no problem. Other than that, there is no other issue I can think of with this novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and as this is the first book in the Spymaster Chronicles, I am waiting for the next one! I loved the intrigue. Absolutely loved it. I definitely recommend this for historical fiction lovers of Tudor history.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

February 22, 2011 at 7:47 am

Review of A New Birth of Freedom: The Visitor

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The Visitor

The Visitor

Thank you Tribute Books! for allowing me to read and review this book for the blog tour! it was much appreciated.

It has taken centuries to recognize that all humans possess certain unalienable rights. There will come a time when we have to consider whether others deserve those rights as well. That time will come on July 3rd 1863. When a stranger carrying a shiny,metallic valise steps aboard a train carrying Abraham Lincoln home from a 2 year stint in Congress, everyone stares, wondering about the stranger’s odd clothing and strange footwear with the word Nike emblazoned on them. When the strange man shows up in Lincoln’s office at the White house 14 years later, still wearing the same clothes, carrying the same valise and looking not a day older, the president and his staff know something is odd. But when Edwin Blair opens his valise and projects a 3d image of the Earth on Lincoln’s wall, then proceeds to tell a fanciful tale about time traveling aliens preparing to land at Gettysburg on July 3rd, they are sure they’ve met a lunatic.
Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. (From Goodreads)

It took me a while to get into this book. It’s very different and a little difficult to get the gist on what’s going on. It helps being patient, and then your interest in the book should grow as you go along. It’s most definitely something very interesting to read. It’s a great mix of historical fiction and time travelling, mix that with aliens and it’s a pretty good adventure to read through.

It does help a little if you’re into the history. Unfortunately the American Civil War isn’t my strong point and one of the periods of history that I am the least interested in. So, although I know the names of the big players, the others (Lincoln’s presidential staff, for example) just went over my head. It’s a little frustrating as when reading historical fiction, I prefer knowing who’s who. Besides that, I found Lincoln depicted accurately as someone who is open minded, and intelligent. It’s interesting to see his reaction towards Blair, and the ability to think out of the box and to accept Blair’s explanation was well done. General Lee was also interesting to read as he listens to Blair as well. It took quite a bit of convincing but I thought that was a memorable scene.

This is a great alternate history book, with science fiction mixed into the story. I would probably have liked this book more if I was more interested into this kind of history. However, no regrets on giving this one a try. The writing is great and flows clearly plus the unique storyline is an added bonus. Don’t hesitate to pick this book up. I think it’s definitely worth it.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

Written by Karoline

February 21, 2011 at 7:48 am

Posted in 7, Review

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