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Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Spotlight: Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester

I love book blogging.  So much.  It's a lot of fun for me, but sometimes, well, sometimes it gets overwhelming.  And stressful.  And exhausting.  In the crush, things occasionally get overlooked or forgotten.  Take Degrees of Courage by Shari Vester, for instance.  I was supposed to review it today, but I haven't even cracked the cover.  So, I'm going to go with a book spotlight instead.

First, the back cover blurb:

Degrees of Courage tells the story of three women of a Hungarian family—mother, daughter, and granddaughter—their lives set against the most dramatic and turbulent decades of the 20th Century.  Set apart by generations, each is confronted with problems beyond individiaul control, be iturn-of-the-century Victorian prejudice, devastating wars, or life under a terror-driven regime.  To cope, they carried on with equal courage but with vastly different outcomes: one was able to overcome, one was destined to break under pressure, and one turned all to her advantage.

Although the story is semi-fictional, loosely based on family history, it also contains strong elements of historical truth familiar to many people, especially to Hungarians who lived through the horrors of the Second World War and the subsequent Communist takeover that led to a bloody revolt against the hated Stalinist dictatorship.

Degrees of Courage is a testimony of what it took to live in an age and time when today's "Let it be" mentality was simply unimaginable.
Second, the book trailer:

Lastly, here's the link to the book's official blog tour page at Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours.  There, you can find more information about the author and view a schedule of the book's upcoming tour stops.


Derting's Dystopian Series Continues to Satisfy

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for The Essence, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, The Pledge.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Now that Queen Charlaina di Heyse—Charlie, as she prefers to be called—sits on Ludania's throne, it's time to implement all the changes she's been dreaming about since she was a girl.  She abolishes her country's demeaning caste system, encourages all citizens to speak one language, outlaws public hangings, and looks to neighboring countries for ideas on how to modernize her struggling land.  Charlie can't imagine anyone not embracing such improvements, but there's a growing faction that wants things back the way they were.  And the rebels will stop at nothing—not even assassination—to get what they want.

As trouble in Ludania goes from bad to worse, Charlie's desperate to keep her head in the game.  The problem?  Although she fought infiltration from the essence of cruel Queen Sabara, she didn't quite triumph over her old nemesis.  Not 100%.  Sabara's still inside her, whispering to Charlie, urging her to let Sabara—a cunning and experienced ruler—take over.  It would be so easy to give in, to allow Sabara to make all the decisions, but Charlie refuses to let that happen.  She cannot let Sabara's particular brand of evil out to play.  To keep her contained, Charlie must grapple with the insidious voice inside of her.  And she can tell no one—not even Max—what lives inside her.

With her country on the brink of war, Charlie travels to a summit of queens.  As inexperienced as she is, she will need all her wits about her to handle them.  Especially knowing a traitor dwells in her midst.  Charlie's advisers can't help her.  But there is one who can—if only Charlie will succumb to the enticing whispers of Queen Sabara's ancient essence, if only she'll hand over her Queendom to the one who ruled it with an iron fist.  For the good of Ludania, will Charlie finally give in?

When I first read The Pledge, the initial book in Kimberly Derting's YA dystopian trilogy, I was impressed by the original touches the author brought to a genre that seems to grow staler by the minute.  The second read-through didn't blow me away quite as much, but I still found myself enjoying the story.  Re-reading its predecessor did make the next novel in the series, The Essence, much more exciting for me.  And yet, the tale loses a lot of its freshness in the second installment.  Character development continues to be a problem, especially among the men, most of whom are completely interchangeable.  Despite all that, I had a hard time putting The Essence down.  The book's got plenty of action, plenty of romance, plenty of adventure—plenty to hold a reader's interest.  The Essence isn't my favorite dystopian book ever, nor is this one of my favorite post-apocalyptic series of all time, but both are intriguing enough to satisfy.  So, yeah.

(Readalikes:  The Pledge and The Offering by Kimberly Derting)


If this were a movie, it would be rated: 

for language (no F-bombs), violence and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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