Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the YA contemporary/paranormal novel By Blood by Tracy E. Banghart, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours! You can follow along with the rest of the tour here. Today I have my review of By Blood, which I LOVED, as well as more info about the book and the companion novel, Moon Child...and a huge giveaway too!
Release Date: Feb. 18, 2013
For 17-year-old Emma Wong, spending a summer in England should be a dream come true. Gorgeous scenery? Check. Lots of hot guys with accents? Yes, please.
Throw in an estranged mom, annoying new stepdad, and drooling baby half-brother, and it's a disaster even her favorite cherry red leather jacket can't fix. Even worse, there's (hot) live-in research assistant Josh to contend with. The only thing more embarrassing than drunk-kissing him hours after they meet? Knowing he'll be witness to her family's dysfunction all. summer. long.
But when Emma meets a mysterious girl who happens to be a Druid, her vacation suddenly promises to be far more intriguing than she anticipated. Powerful rituals, new friends, an intoxicating sense of freedom...and Simon, the sexy foreign stranger she was hoping for. It's all a perfect distraction from dirty diapers and awkward family dinners.
Trouble is, intriguing doesn't often mean simple. And Emma is about to discover just how not simple her life really is.
By Blood is a novel about the ways that blood can bind us to others - or tear us apart.
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When I read the synopsis for By Blood, I knew I had to have it—modern Druids in England (specifically, Oxford)? Yes, please! I’ve been obsessed with ancient religions in the British Isles since I was a teen, and my teenage self would have been all over this book. Luckily, the writing and story was even better than I’d hoped for, and my adult self was all over it too!
Our main character and narrator, Emma, is traveling to Oxford to spend the summer with her professor mom and stepdad, as well as her baby half-brother, when the book opens. I have only spent one day in Oxford on my one trip to England, and it was immediately clear to me that Tracy Banghart knows the city much, much better than I do. But even from my brief time there I can say that she got it right—the mixture of old and new, of ancient buildings and museums and youth culture, of crowded urban areas and idyllic natural beauty. I loved the depth and skill of the writing Tracy used to evoke her setting, and how well she integrated it into her story. I know this is a bit of a cliché, but I really felt like I was there as I was reading.
Main character Emma has a memorable and realistic teenage voice, and while some readers might find her a little whiny at the beginning, she was true to her age and I enjoyed her honest attitude. (Sidenote: I’m finding I almost always like and identify with the more “whiny” characters…maybe this is b/c I’m a very whiny person myself?!) As the book progresses, Emma discovers some aspects of her family history that add a lot more depth to her struggles and her character. And these struggles are, at least in part, what attracts her to a group of modern Druids in Oxford…
I really liked the way the author incorporated the Druid element, and I especially appreciated the variety of characters that were attracted to the Druid rituals for various reasons. Some of these characters were more likable than others, and even though they were all very different, I could see bits of myself and my teenage fascination with pagan rituals in Emma, Ash, and Bryna. And the rituals/beliefs themselves were described with just the right amount of mystery, walking the line between realism and fantasy.
There is a romance in By Blood too, maybe even a bit of a triangle, but it’s pretty clear who’s the right guy for Emma. The romance is fun, not too overbearing or angsty, and I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the novel.
Overall, I LOVED this book, and I really hope I can find time to read the companion novel, Moon Child, soon!
And on that note, here's some more info about Moon Child...
Release Date: Aug. 16, 2013
Before Emma's adventures in Oxford, her best friend Diana came face-to-face with a killer...
Diana Calvert is so over high school. Who cares if Olivia hates her? And David needs to forget about having a crush on her STAT. Even Emma’s crazy fashion choices can’t keep Diana entertained. All she can hope for is a dance scholarship to a college as far away as possible from too-small, too-boring, too-nothing-ever-happens New Freedom, PA.
Then Diana meets Nicholas Woodhaven. He’s pale, angry…yet weirdly charming. The more time they spend together, the more she wonders who – or what – he really is. Because he isn’t anything like the other guys she knows. Not with the whole only-going-out-at-night thing. And living with his creepy aunt. And not going to school.
Just when Diana thinks she’s got Nicholas all figured out, people in her small, nothing-ever-happens town start dying. She has to wonder – can she trust him? And even more alarming – could she be next?
A murder mystery with a paranormal twist, Moon Child is best read under the covers with a flashlight...if you dare!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
'Tracy E. Banghart is a cheesy movie–loving, fantasy football–playing (go Ravens!), globe-trotting Army wife who began “practicing” her craft at the age of five, when she wrote her first story. She loves visiting the international friends she met while pursuing her MA in Publishing and spends a portion of every summer at her family’s cabin in Canada, where she finds inspiration and lots of time to relax on the dock. She lives with her husband, son, two lazy dogs and one ornery cat. When not writing or spending time with her family, she is on a mission to bake the perfect cupcake.