Fever (Parallon #1) by Dee ShulmanFever by Dee Shulman
Series: Parallon #1
Published by Penguin Books, Razorbill on April 5, 2012
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon
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Two worlds. Two millennia. One love . . .

A fearless Roman gladiator.

A reckless twenty-first-century girl.

A mysterious virus unites them . . .

An inventive love story between a teenage gladiator from 152 AD and a 21st-century girl. They both contract a virus that enables them to time-travel, with electrifying results.

The Parallon Trilogy trailer from Dee Shulman’s website:

I really liked this book. On top of the eye-catching, must-own cover, the love story at the heart of Fever was beautifully woven in and out of the past and present.

Kind of how I imagined Eva.
Kind of how I imagined Eva.


The first part of Fever takes place in present day London with our female protagonist, Eva. Eva is characterized as a girl who is too smart for her own good. Bored by the public school system, Eva hacks one too many computers and is expelled. After this series of unfortunate events,  Eva is promptly enrolled in an exclusive private school that will allow her to indulge her love of science. This is where things start to get Doctor Who-style weird.

Below are some ruins from the day of Roman Londinium.

images (1)images (2)images

The past part of Fever takes place with heroic gladiator, Seth, in Londinium- Roman occupied London from the year 152 AD. I really fell in love with his part of the story and lost myself in it so much that when things would revert back to Eva’s time, I was a little annoyed.

How I imagined Seth Leontis, OF COURSE.
How I imagined Seth the Gladiator, OF COURSE.

But when Eva and Seth’s paths cross because of a scientific fluke, I was completely taken in. I really enjoyed their stories unfolding together. The pacing of the story was a little slow, but well worth the wait by the time we have Seth and Eva together.

The world building of Londinium was really well done and the author does an awesome job of submerging the reader in both present and past. If you’ve seen the film The Gladiator starring Russell Crow, you will be able to visualize Londinium well.

All of the scientific aspects were really interesting and not too far fetched, in my opinion. The secondary characters were fun, although I think a lot of scenes could have been cut involving them to make the story more concise. Overall, I felt fully invested in this story after the first book and I would definitely read it again despite the slow pacing. It was a refreshing read, and not like anything I’ve read recently.

And just for fun:

Your Welcome.
You’re Welcome.
You're Welcom x 2.
You’re Welcom x 2.
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A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs WallerA Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by Penguin Books, Viking Juvenille on January 23, 2014
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

It’s almost been a year since I read this book, but I can’t let the New Year ring in without reviewing it because A Mad, Wicked Folly was one of my FAVE books of 2014.

Imagine the lush world created in 1998’s Titanic film or the luxurious settings of PBS’s Downton Abbey, and you  have the story world of  A Mad, Wicked Folly. As if that isn’t enough to make someone run to their nearest book retailer and pick up a copy, A Mad, Wicked Folly unfolds in an exciting time: the crux of the Women’s Suffrage movement in London.


I LOVE historical fiction novels that have to do with the empowerment of women. This book made me want to run to the voting polls and exercise my right to vote for ANYTHING. It made me appreciate the rich history of women fighting for equal rights for the sake of future generations of women and for the sake of social justice.

A Mad pic

Victoria aka Vicky is the stuff that hardy heroines are made of. She is a talented artist and has a good head on her shoulders. She dares to step outside of the obligations and restraints of her social class and pursue her heart’s desire. While doing so, she causes quite the scandal and her parent’s rush to marry her off to some rich dolt.

Vicky will not have it.

Her thoughts, ideas, perspective- her whole world is set on fire after discovering the woman’s suffrage movement in London upon coming home from art school in Paris, and things will never be the same for her. She’s no longer able to settle into the life her parent’s had planned for her, and in this brilliantly written novel we watch Vicky blossom into a woman.

Everything is beautifully described in the novel. The historical context was so inspiring, and the working-class boy she falls for provides for a dangerous and steamy Edwardian romance. Her clandestine relationship reminds me of Rose and Jack from the Titanic film.

The story kept me engaged until I finished it, practically in one sitting. Fans of Lady Sibil Crawley in the first season of Downton Abbey will LOVE Vicky in A Mad, Wicked Folly.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I adore this book and wish I had reviewed it sooner when it was still fresh in my mind so I could have elaborated more on it’s charms. Needless to say, A Mad, Wicked Folly is one of those books that I will cherish, and reread, and want to pass on to my future daughter.

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Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck: Review+Giveaway!Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
Published by Penguin Books on March 4, 2014
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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Upstate New York, 1928. Laura Kelley and the man she loves sneak away from their judgmental town to attend a performance of the scandalous Ziegfeld Follies. But the dark consequences of their night of daring and delight reach far into the future.…

That same evening, Bohemian poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and her indulgent husband hold a wild party in their remote mountain estate, hoping to inspire her muse. Millay declares her wish for a new lover who will take her to unparalleled heights of passion and poetry, but for the first time, the man who responds will not bend completely to her will.…

Two years later, Laura, an unwed seamstress struggling to support her daughter, and Millay, a woman fighting the passage of time, work together secretly to create costumes for Millay’s next grand tour. As their complex, often uneasy friendship develops amid growing local condemnation, each woman is forced to confront what it means to be a fallen woman…and to decide for herself what price she is willing to pay to live a full life.

“Lovers of the Jazz Age, literary enthusiasts, and general historic fiction readers will find much to love about Call Me Zelda. Highly recommended.” –Historical Novel Society, Editors’ Choice












I was in a poetry rut. Shakespeare, Keats, Wordsworth and Wadsworth, Hesse, Byron, The Brownings: I was familiar with them all on a quotable level. I needed a new poetic fix and ended up running my index finger along the spines of paperback books in the poetry section at a Barnes and Noble store in Austin, Texas.

Edna St. Vincent Millay. It was that name that made me pause. There was just something about it. I tipped the book off of the shelf and opened to a random page. The poem I opened up to was The Philosopher. I read it quickly and was a voracious fan by the second verse. I wanted everything I could find by or on Millay.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay

I read Savage Beauty, a biography on Edna St.Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford next. Erica Robuck draws some of her inspiration and facts for Fallen Beauty from this source. I searched the internet for any fiction or films based on the Jazz-Age Bohemian poet but came up with nothing except the IMDB page for a documentary on Millay that was started a few years back. It has yet to be released.

When I saw an ad for Fallen Beauty on Goodreads I thought, “Finally! Some literary fiction starring Edna St. Vincent Millay!” I’m so happy that Erika Robuck filled the gap and gave all fans of the controversial poet a little piece of scandalous heaven in this book.

The story of Fallen Beauty is familiar enough: a small town girl named Laura gets pregnant, is unwed, and is socially crucified while forced to raise her baby alone. Soon Laura finds herself barely able to pay the bills or keep food on the table for her and her child. That is, until Millay discovers Laura and asks her to create her wardrobe for her upcoming poetry reading tours.

Dress worn by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
Dress worn by poet Edna St. Vincent Millay


She placed her small hand on the book. “Laura, this is exquisite.”

“I wanted to conjure the recurring images of the moon and the night in this one,” I said, running my fingertips over the silver cape trimmed in pearls and lined in pale blue.”

Laura takes a risk accepting the patronage of a poetess that the town refers to as a witch and a wanton. But Laura has already been living on the fringes of society since having a child out of wedlock, and feels like she’s doing what she must to provide for her child. Laura begins to visit the poet on her hill top manor, away from the judging eyes of the town.

“Their eyes never leave,” said the poet. “Their eyes are your eyes, your conscience reflected back at you. They never leave, but down there you can blame them. You can live with it. Up here you can blame only yourself.”

The plot unfolds like the best kind of opera. It’s a sometimes troubling but fully engaging run of things after Laura lets herself enter Millay’s fold. Erika Robuck cleverly shows how some people do their scandalous living on the outside while some do it on the inside. Entertaining parallels are drawn between Laura, the poet, and other townsfolk. The characters are like a concentrated dose of poetry themselves. They are beautifully fleshed out with relevant emotions and show us the best and worst of the human spirit. The author’s writing poured life force into the psychology and physicality of all the characters featured in this book.

Eve has long been crucified for her great folly, for showing us what sin was, but without it, could we know beauty? Can we fully appreciate the summer without the winter? No, I am glad to suffer so I can feel the fullness of our time in the light.

Robuck’s prose is alluring and potent, much like Millay was. After reading about Edna in Savage Beauty, I was conflicted about how I felt about the poet as a person.  Some people might find Edna St.Vincent Millay a hard person to like in fact and fiction. She lived her life in a way that seemed utterly self-serving. She devoured people, men and women alike, for creative fuel and inspiration for her writing. I’m still torn on how I feel about Edna after reading Fallen Beauty but Erika Robuck put into words perfectly the conflicted, obsessive swell of emotions that made Millay who she was. She painted a detailed picture of the bad and good qualities that transfixed so many of Millay’s contemporaries, friends and lovers. I was completely absorbed in how Erika played the fictional character, Laura, off of the real character, Edna, and gave them both something to love and despise in each other.

Even readers who are not familiar with Edna St. Vincent Millay will be able to enjoy this story. It has the same sentimental, sienna-toned feeling that Adriana Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife has. While reading Fallen Beauty, I kept thinking about how well it would translate into a made for television movie or a mini-series. It would be pure magic to see Edna and all her fire-y, consuming glory come to life on film, and Laura’s seamstress shop and sewing creations on screen. After reading Fallen Beauty, I purchased Hemingway’s Girl and Call Me Zelda, also by Erika Robuck. She’s just that kind of story teller- you’ll want to own everything she writes.

April may be designated Poetry Month but you can enjoy poetry all year long with these cool FREE phone apps provided by the Poetry FoundationInstant Poetry and Poetry Daily. In honor of Poetry month, I’m giving away a copy of Fallen Beauty and a books of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay to ONE LUCKY WINNER. Enter below!

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Tsarina by J.Nell PatrickTsarina by J.Nell Patrick
Published by Penguin Books, Razorbill on February 27, 2014
Pages: 331
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
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Natalya knows a secret.
A magical Faberge egg glows within the walls of Russia's Winter Palace.
It holds a power rooted in the land and stolen from the mystics.
A power that promises a life of love for her and Alexei Romanov.
Power, that, in the right hands, can save her way of life.
But it's not in the right hands.

So I was at Barnes & Noble trying to decide if I wanted to splurge on Tasarina or The Winner’s Curse and I couldn’t make up my mind because I had heard such great things about the latter. I decided to read the first few pages of both books to help me decide and ended up going with Tsarina.

I can’t remember the first time I ever learned about the Romanov’s but I do remember a strong curiosity being kindled in my young brain when I did. I remember seeing Christian Bale play a young Alexei of the House of Romanov in a movie called Anastasia when I was a kid, but that’s about it. I have never read any historical fiction on Russia’s doomed royal family so I was eager to see how J.Nell Patrick was going to mix fact with fiction in this novel. I thought Tsarina would be something different than my usual romp through tales of the English and French monarchies and I was excited to see how a magical Fabrege Egg would be the catalyst of this story.

The Romanov Family
The Romanov Family

Set among a chillingly beautiful Russia on the verge of the Bolshevik revolution the author’s words were like bricks, building the walls of the Winter Palace right around me. The beauty of the surroundings throughout Natalya’s journey in Tsarina projected clearly from the page to my mind and made me long to visit the places written about.

The Winter Palace-Russia
The Winter Palace-Russia


Natalya is the romantic, fiesty, and loyal heroine of our story. She is destined to become Tsarina because it is understood that she is Alexei’s, the air to the Russian throne’s, intended. Natalya was born to privilege and her life has safely been tucked away among Russian nobles and the royal court. However, early on in the story we see glimmers of a compassionate, smart, and somewhat rebellious personality when it comes to noble ways and what’s expected of her. I was able to connect with Natalya on many levels but there were moments in the story that I cringed at her lack of forethought and naivete. Despite those flaws, I found her to be an enjoyable and well rounded character.

Who I found myself imagining as Natalya.
Who I found myself imagining as Natalya.

Natalya’s best friend, Emilia, is the sassy and savvy sidekick to the story. I really enjoyed her light-weight character and the comraderie between her and Natalya reminded me of Mina’s and Lucy’s in the BBC’s Dracula.

Who I imagined Emilia and Natalya like.
Who I imagined Emilia and Natalya to be like.

I was caught off guard at the beginning of this story when I realized that Alexei was not to be Natalya’s romantic counterpart throughout the entire novel. I will not go into further detail because I hate spoilers, but I liked being blindsided by that aspect of the story even if I did pout about it for a few chapters. Leo, a working class boy from the other side of the tracks, is the distractingly handsome rebel that Natalya spends most of her time with in this novel. He’s a crystal clear character that I instantly felt drawn too. His motivations and his and Natalya’s character arcs are obvious from the moment they meet but the author plays out their story in a way that is refreshing and heartfelt.

Excuse the mic, but I like Jay Ryan as Leo.
Excuse the mic, but I like Jay Ryan as Leo.

The moment’s that we witness Natalya and Leo connect in this story gave me goosebumps. Their worlds collided roughly and beautifully, and connections became roots that took hold in each other’s hearts and psyches- making them both question their positions in the chaos that their country is caught up in. Both characters are passionate about their cause. Natalya’s is to save Alexei from the hands of the Reds- the rebels against the monarchy- and Leo’s is that of the Red’s (working class Russians) who desire to have an equal shot at life, and diminish the Whites (Russian royalty) monopoly on luxury and happiness.

I love when facts and history are cleverly cloaked  and presented together in an entertaining and thought provoking way. The magical element that was at the heart of this story was clever and well drawn out. The purpose of the Fabrege Egg and the  mystics behind it’s power was such an intriguing and unique spin to the story. After reading this book, I sat back and pondered for a bit about what the Celestial Egg really symbolized.

I loved being reminded of people, places, and events that I no doubt learned about in World History many years ago. I’m sure many of you who also read this book were like me in that respect, reading names like Rasputin or Lenin and thinking, “Ahh,yes. They sound familiar.” Tsarina painted a sympathetic view of both sides in this story and reminds us that in the end we are ALL  people, despite class or politics, who want the best for ourselves and our loved ones.

I’ve always been intrigued by revolutions throughout history. The American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Enlightenment. I’ve read about them all in fact or fictitious form, and now I can add the Russian Revolution. The pacing and tone of the novel were pitch-perfect. J.Nell Patrick’s writing was just right: crisp, concise, and adorned in all the right places. I recommend this book to the history lover and general reader alike. It’s definitely a book you will want to add to your collection. The story is as beautiful as the cover.

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