Book Tour Review: Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza

Monday, January 29, 2018
Title: Blood of a Thousand Stars
Author: Rhoda Belleza
Genre: science fiction
Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies #2
Pages: 344
Published: expected February 20 2018
Source: ARC from publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

The second book in Rhoda Belleza's politics and revenge-driven YA science fiction series, Blood of a Thousand Stars offers more of what made the first so much fun: fast-paced action, interesting characters of diverse backgrounds, clever plots, and general mayhem in space.  This time around the stakes are higher and the plots are thicker, the villain more devious -- the author pulls no punches with her sophomore offering. Galactic war threatens everyone and everything, and the Ta'an sisters and their allies have to scramble to find their place in everything and try to stop a tyrant.

Empress of a Thousand Skies was undoubtedly Rhiannon's story, and Blood of a Thousand Stars belongs to Kara/Josselyn's struggle and evolution. While there are still three pivotal rotating POVs --  this time: Kara, Rhee, and Alyosha -- it is Kara that dominates the narrative. Hers is the POV that stood out the most because her choices are the most crucial to the plot of the novel. The other characters have become steadily more real and defined people over the course of both books, and they again play essential roles, but Kara remains the linchpin of the narrative. Rhiannon is a strong supporting main character; she still grows and learns about herself; Alyosha finds himself once again in unexpected but dire straits and complements Kara in more ways than one.

Belleza features a lot of action and assassination attempts and political maneuvering in her second novel. There are some high stakes and high adventures as each character fights -- for the throne, for their people, for themselves. At times the pacing of essential scenes can feel almost frenetic; with a lot happening and different narrators covering various events, it can be confusing to keep straight. There can be clarity issues when it comes to the fight scenes, especially, but it's an improvement from the same situation in book one. There also is a third-act plot reveal which feels like a bit of a retcon from key events that took place  in Empress of a Thousand Skies -- <spoiler>now Veyron is revealed as loyal and his ill-fated assassination attemped was timed perfectly so Dahlen would save Rhee? But then who would have saved Julian from Nero because Rhee was alive?....</spoiler>  -- but tied in neatly with how Julian was involved in this book's plot. I'm not sure it entirely works but I did appreciate how Julian complicated Rhiannon's narrative and made her reflect on her past choices and actions.

While there is still room and space in this galaxy to explore further stories, there is a definite feel of finality to at least this particular arc of Kara and Rhee's stories. There's bittersweet resolution that fits the harsh events that preceded it. Blood of a Thousand Stars was quickly-moving and and engaging; it may be on the lighter side of scifi but doesn't lack for imagination or for a death toll. The plotting could use a little more finesse, the universe feels a tad bit small (why are all these journeys over so fast? Space is huge!) but overall, a surprising and entertaining sequel and an improvement on its predecessor.

Guest Post: Blood and Sand's C.V. Wyk

Thursday, January 25, 2018
Title: Blood and Sand
Author: C.V. Wyk
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Untitled #1
Pages: 320
Published: expected January 16 2018
Source: review copy from publisher


The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic―and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus...

For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk.

Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end―and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus...

Today I am happy to have C.V. Wyk here talking about favorite Romans and how they influenced the story in Blood and Sand.

Most of my favorite Roman figures didn’t make it directly into the book by name, but rather exerted their influence on the characters, plot, and events in BLOOD AND SAND in a subtler way. For instance, the general Gaius Marius was a brilliant tactician who was responsible for making the Roman army the infamous fighting force it was as early as 100BC. The concepts of a standing army and soldiers by trade were introduced under Marius and allowed for non-Romans to earn citizenship and acclaim. Without giving away spoilers, this is…important haha.

Other men like Marcus Aurelias and Tiberius Gracchus inspired the character of Lucius and how a young Roman patrician might have viewed the flagrant inequality and brutality of ancient Rome. Gracchus was well-known for his disdain of social inequality and spent his life trying to fight the tyranny of economic and political oppression. The death of Marcus Aurelias, who is often referred to as the Philosopher Emperor, signaled the end of the Pax Romana and ushered in the decline of the Roman empire.

A few of historical figures who are mentioned in BLOOD AND SAND by name are rather villainous inmy adaptation, specifically the members of the House of Flavius. Crassus was not a Flavian (his real name was Marcus Licinius Crassus), but he was a true Roman general whose greatest accomplishment was defeating Spartacus during the Third Servile War, or The Gladiator War, in 73BC. Titus Flavius was a real emperor after his father Vespasian, but according to historical documents, he was benevolent and well-loved. In the book however, much of his story arc is influenced by two figures: Lucius Aurelius Commodus (the dictatorial son of Marcus Aurelius), and the first true Roman Emperor, Augustus, who ruled as early as 27BC. Augustus was also the adopted son of Julius Caesar and later worked with Mark Antony to bring Caesar’s assassins to justice. Moreover, these men later influenced the Shakespeare quotes that appear at the beginning of BLOOD AND SAND. One line of that quote, in particular, shaped the narrative of this book: O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth! I imagine it was Attia’s lament as she cursed herself for not saving her father or her people.

My last few favorites include Boudicca and Livy. Boudicca was actually Celtic queen who fought against the Roman invasion of Britain. She was a fiery character with a tragic past who really helped shape the histories and personalities of Xanthus, Attia, and Lucretia. Livy, whose full name was Titus Livius, was a well-renowned Roman historian who died in approximately 12AD. His massive history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condite Libri (Books from the Foundation of the City), were incredibly useful during my research for BLOOD AND SAND.

And, of course, there is Spartacus, perhaps one of the most famous Romans of all time. Even here, in his list of my Roman historical figures who influenced the book, there are nearly no women save for the queen of a distant kingdom. But more than any other figure, Spartacus—who had no verifiable or recorded history—was someone open to interpretation, to borrowing and twisting and reconfiguring the facts as we know them. Spartacus not only found a way into this book, but completely took over. But what else would you expect from the slave who defied an empire?

Thank you so much for stopping by and talking ancient Romans with me, C.V.!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Title: The Odyssey

Author: Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository

The first great adventure story in the Western canon, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty, and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

In this fresh, authoritative version—the first English translation of The Odyssey by a woman—this stirring tale of shipwrecks, monsters, and magic comes alive in an entirely new way. Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, this engrossing translation matches the number of lines in the Greek original, thus striding at Homer’s sprightly pace and singing with a voice that echoes Homer’s music.

Wilson’s Odyssey captures the beauty and enchantment of this ancient poem as well as the suspense and drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, from the cunning goddess Athena, whose interventions guide and protect the hero, to the awkward teenage son, Telemachus, who struggles to achieve adulthood and find his father; from the cautious, clever, and miserable Penelope, who somehow keeps clamoring suitors at bay during her husband’s long absence, to the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this translation as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

A fascinating introduction provides an informative overview of the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the major themes of the poem, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of scholars, students, and general readers alike.

I can't believe this is the first official translation by a woman. I've already heard it's making the menz mad with the word choice (something about Achilles seeming less than supremely manly? Odysseus a bit less than all-knowing?) and I am entirely Here For It. 

A Year in Reading: 2017

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

As always, I enjoy breaking down the numbers to read I read each year. It's the only time math is ever any fun.

Goal: 350
Books Read: 455
Rereads: 73 (16% of total)
Total Pages Read: 178,737
Average Page Length: 395
Average of Pages Read Per Day: 490
Longest: 1243 (Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson)
Shortest: 95 (The Ghost Line by J.S. Herbison)

5-Star Reads: 81
4-Star Reads: 206
3-Star Reads: 111
2-Star Reads: 45
1-Star Reads: 12

Average Rating: 3.5

Hardcover: 144
Paperback: 167
eBook: 142

Number of Different Authors: 320
Female Authors: 70%
Male Authors: 30%
Most Read Author: J.K. Rowling

Most Read Genres: 
122 books 
(26.5% of all books read)

Historical Fiction


Age Groups:
MG: 17 (3.8%)
YA: 174 (38.4%)
NA: 18 (4%)
Adult: 244 (53.9%)

Backlist: 240 (53%)
New Release: 213 (47%)

2018 Blogging Resolutions

Monday, January 1, 2018

Hello again! 2017 was an interesting year for us at APR. We had some months that it was very easy to create content and interact in the community... and we definitely had months where we struggled. I think we did pretty well holding it all together; we're going on the better part of a decade so I would hope we have some kinda handle on this hobby. Each year is a new try and I have hopes that 2018 will be a successful year for both Dani and me.

1. Comment more!

For the first half of last year we had had a pretty good comments section activity. A few dedicated and amazing souls popped in and had discussions and laughs on most of our posts. I worked at reciprocity -- which wasn't hard since they have fab blogs -- but then I had a personal life fail about halfway through the year and just.. lacked the bandwith to really interact with people, even on a textual level. Well... I'm slowly finding my way back to myself and that means I am once again ready to people amongst you.

2. Find new blogs to follow

This ties in with the first -- I want to find some new voices. I dearly love the blogs I frequent and the friends I have.... but I also recognize it's been a minute since I've added to the perspectives I listen to. It's more than time to seek out the POV and reviews of some new bloggers.

3. Review Archive Up-to-Date

Dani and I implemented the Review Archive in 2016. As of January in 2018, it is still woefully behind the times. I recently added about four months' worth of reviews... which got us current all the way up to December of 2014. So that's a goal for 2018 -- that when I write a review it's immediately entered into the archive and b.) the archive is completely current.

4. Cross-Post Old and New Reviews

This extends to from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to NetGalley and edelweiss. For a while last year I was still writing my impressions of books I had read but not sending them in. So I have a bit of a backlog to organize, edit, expand, and post. And then send into various outlets that should receive said reviews.

5. Have Fun & Feel No Guilt

This is a hobby. I need to work on remembering that, sometimes. There's no need for pressure and recrimination over something supposed to be done for enjoyment.

What about you? Any plans for blogging? Reading? Life in general for 2018?

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