The Mermaid’s Tale by D.G. Valdron

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Okay, first of all who the heck is D.G. Valdron?!

About the Author

Den Valdron, is a reclusive writer, originally from New Brunswick, currently living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over the years, he has published in print and online a variety of short stories of speculative fiction, and articles on obscure pop culture topics. Like many writers, his previous occupations have included mechanic, carpenter, schoolteacher, journalist and ditch-digger. He is currently an aboriginal rights lawyer. He loves B-movies and tries to be nice to people. The Mermaid’s Tale is his first published novel.

I know we usually see the “About the Author” bit at the end of a book and/or review but I wanted to put it first in my review today.  Why?  Because I want to hear more from this author soon!

D.G. Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale feels like a new and fresh experience in the fantasy genre.  It features all the species that fantasy lovers are used to and some we don’t get to see often; vampires, orcs, giants, trolls, hobgoblins, goblins, dwarves, selkies, mermaids…  But these species are not cut from the same cloth we are used to and this time we are reading it from the POV of a female “arukh.”  How frickin’ fantastic is that?!

What is an “arukh” you ask?  Well, it’s another word for orc, defined here as a mixed breed, a cross between a vampire and a goblin, and these arukh do not have names.  Arukh is what they are!  The different species fall into levels in society and the arukh are at the bottom of the totem pole, known as soulless abominations.  The arukh life is one of brutality, often at its own hands.  They are a very violent species, full of anger and hatred at all things, which can come in very useful.  The dominant species see them as tools for the dirty work.  After all, they aren’t afraid of anything, they are mad, bad and dangerous to be around.

The female arukh in question has been summoned to the waterside where the mermaids reside.  One of the mermaids has been butchered in a brutal fashion and this particular arukh is known for her smarts in these matters.  As the arukh works to unravel this murder mystery, we follow along with her and learn more about this crazy world of hers.

Make no mistake; The Mermaid’s Tale does contain violence and graphic sexual situations.   This is a dark world, one of danger on all sides, teetering on the brink of a war between the species.  It’s also balanced with some hilarious banter with mermaids regarding sex and general playfulness.  The arukh’s interactions are captivating and her journey of self-discovery makes this one of the best books I’ve read this year.  So yes, I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author!

I want to thank the publisher (Five Rivers Publishing) for providing me with the ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for an honest review.

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Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

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When Quinn Collins set out to live on her own, she answered an ad for a roommate and moved in with Esther Vaughan never dreaming that Esther would turn out to become her best friend.  Then one morning she awakes to the sound of Esther’s alarm going off but Esther’s not in her room and her bedroom window is wide open to the freezing cold Chicago air.  Surely she didn’t climb down the fire escape in the middle of the night!  Quinn waits in vain for Esther to return but it doesn’t happen.  It seems that Esther has disappeared!  Was she kidnapped?  Did she run away from something?  Quinn idolizes Esther and she can’t imagine what has happened to her.  She enlists the help of her friend Ben from work and tries to figure out where Esther is.  But the more Quinn tries to puzzle through what happened to Esther, the more she realizes how little she really knows about her friend.  She’s beginning to think that Esther is not the saint that she always imagined.

Meanwhile, in a small town near Lake Michigan, a young man named Alex Gallo has given up his dream of college to take care of his father who became a good-for-nothing drunkard when his mother left.  He spends his hopeless days working as a dishwasher in the Priddy’s café.  One day a new customer comes in and she’s a young woman he has never seen around town before.  Alex gives the woman the name “Pearl” and he finds her to be quite an intriguing mystery.  He sets his sights on finding out more about her.  But Alex’s boredom and loneliness may be leading him down a dangerous road.

Don’t You Cry is full of suspense and the details of each storyline will keep the reader guessing right up until the end.  Piece by piece the puzzle falls into place until the big reveal.  This is one of those where you think you have it all figured out but you never quite get there.  A fast-paced and compelling read!

I want to thank the publisher (Harlequin- US & Canada) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Old Records Never Die: One Mans Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel

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Eric Spitznagel got it into his head one day that life just wouldn’t be the same unless he could recover his lost record collection.  We’re not talking about just any old piece of vinyl; he wanted the actual record that was in HIS collection, the ones he shared with friends, the ones he sold, the ones he stashed his weed in.  His quest takes him on a journey through many a used record store, basement sale and out-of-town record expo.  But this isn’t just a physical journey, it’s also a spiritual one, as Eric recalls the magical moments of the past that reside in his soul and are connected to each piece of music he hunts for.

Wow, Eric….I SO GET THAT!  Records had character…fingerprints, warps, scratches, writing on the covers!  I too am a vinyl junkie, but unlike Eric, I have never parted with my vinyl.  Having worked in a record store when I was younger, I have a LOT of vinyl.  It would be like taking a piece of my soul to get rid of certain records.

Does anyone remember that “if you could only bring one album to a deserted island, what would it be?”  Eric certainly does!  I mean come on; this was a standard question in the days of vinyl.  In today’s electronic age only those of us who lived through the vinyl years know how badly we miss it.  What a world of difference it felt like sitting and listening to music while holding the sleeve in your hand and examining it.  It’s about so much more than the music.  It’s about the people you listened with, the thoughts going through your head, what you were doing at that precise moment, the arguments with friends over this song or that song, this musician or that musician…  So many memories are wrapped up in that one piece of vinyl, moments in time as vivid today as they were those many years ago.  Something about vinyl could be so comforting, creating a world of illusion all its own!  I just have no idea how you can get that same vibe listening to downloaded music.

So I guess you could say I identified with this book, LOL!  All vinyl junkies will!  For the readers who weren’t around in the vinyl days, just read it to understand.  The great foreword by Jeff Tweedy will help you on that score too!       

I want to thank the publisher (Penguin Group PLUME) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Empire of Ivory (Temeraire #4) by Naomi Novik

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Finally, Laurence & Temeraire and company have arrived home after more than a year away.  Also in tow are the feral dragons, Tharkay, the rescued Huguenots and the baby dragon, Iskierka.  The home front has markedly changed though and not for the good.  Temeraire’s fellow dragons that were left behind in England have been hit by an epidemic, some kind of dragon consumption.  The consumption has killed some and left others badly weakened, one of which is Maximus, who will not last much longer without a cure.  Also of consequence is the fact that England is desperately trying to keep Bonaparte from getting wind of the dragons’ sickness.  Laurence is also quite interested to see that his father’s political friends are beginning the parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery.  Somewhat to his consternation, Laurence also finds that his foreign adoption has been a bit embellished and he is somewhat of a celebrity.

CONTAINS SPOILERS —————————————————————————————————->

The side issues in Black Powder War have now been brought to the forefront.  Temeraire is still in a huff that the dragons in England are not treated with the same reverence as the dragons in China.  He despairs of a return to the boredom of patrolling the English Channel, especially in the company of the feral dragons that Tharkay recruited, as they have been behaving badly. They desperately need Tharkay’s help in settling the feral dragons into the Corps, but with the other dragons sick they also need him to return to Turkestan and bring more feral dragons to Her Majesty’s service.  Granby has his hands full with Iskierka, the baby dragon, who is quite a little hothead and hard to keep a handle on!  Temeraire doesn’t need to worry about boredom for very long though.  Laurence and Temeraire are sent to Capetown to seek a cure for the dragon sickness.  Once in Africa, they run afoul of a tribal king and things will only get worse from there.  They also bear up-close witness to the harrowing plight of the indigenous people as they are kidnapped by white men and forced into slavery.

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I still think this is a great series for kids.  They will get to explore the world through the eyes of dragons and learn some history as they read along.  Each book is an adventure.  That being said, there are spots where I feel this series needs to be revved up a notch.  I feel a little as if I’m on repeat when reviewing these books.  The author covers a lot of territory so why does it seem like such slow going when I’m reading?  The series has become very formulaic and I still find that I am not as big of fan of Novik as most fantasy readers.  This series is good but for me it’s just not great.  I must admit that for a small amount of time I had even confused Jane Roland with Catherine Harcourt, so I may have drifted off a bit somewhere along the line.  It seems that Roland has become an admiral and Harcourt has been embroiled in a romantic relationship!  Luckily, I do like both Will and Temeraire and I was charmed by the first book so I still want to see where this is going.  The saving grace in these books is the utter charm of Temeraire which is why the series is named for him I guess!  That’s good because I still have five books left to review.  I am also hearing rumors that Peter Jackson holds the film rights and I like the idea that with the publication of the 9th book this series does come to an end.  Some series just go on too long and I just don’t know if Novik can recapture that feeling of newness the premise had in the first book.  I am crossing my fingers that I can be won over more completely.

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Beyond the Veil by Jessica Majzner

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In the village of Valwood there is a centuries-old feud between the humans and the immortals that border their lands.  The Elders rule the village and they now have a tentative truce with the werewolves.  Vampires and werewolves have been banished from the village.  There is a wall dividing their territory from that of the werewolves and it is known that any crossing of boundaries will result in the forfeit of lives.

17 year-old Natalya is the daughter of one of the Elders in Valwood.  She is a vampire huntress, even more powerful than her mother, who was killed by the most-feared vampire around, Arkadith.  When Natalya goes into the woods with her mentor Anesa, they are led into a trap and Anesa is killed by Arkadith too.  Natalya vows revenge against Arkadith for all he has done and she refuses to let anything stop her.

Natalya travels deep into the forest on the trail of Arkadith.  The trail she follows takes her into the Ruins and the forbidden territory of Claw Haven.  This is where she will run into the first werewolves she has ever seen.  It is here that Natalya meets Voren, a werewolf who seems to be the complete opposite of everything she has been taught.  Voren opens Natalya’s eyes to the rich culture and beliefs of the werewolves and how some of them see their existence as cursed.  They have lived as enemies of the vampires too and they tell Natalya of how the curse may be lifted if Arkadith is defeated.  Natalya has learned more of the truth of the werewolves than any human before her.  She wants to seek an end to the war between humans and immortals.  But Arkadith has a different ending in mind and when Natalya doesn’t return home the humans seek vengeance on the werewolves.

This is a tale of tragedy to be told in the dark of night.  There is nothing pretty about this story, these werewolves and vampires are to be feared.  I did particularly like the werewolves’ storyline and felt great empathy for them.  But if you’re expecting the usual supernatural YA romance story, you will be disappointed.  If you would like a more realistic look at what is probable in a world where humans live side-by-side with immortals, this will definitely not disappoint.  I could easily see this as a graphic novel too!  Beyond the Veil is very unpredictable and a fresh take on the usual.

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Daddy Dearest by Paul Southern

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My daughter has always had a thing about lifts.

Every time she walks in, I imagine it’s the last time I’ll see her.

That leaves a gap of thirty seconds. You’d be surprised what can happen in that time. I was.

Daddy Dearest is written a bit differently than most books you read.  It is told from the first-person perspective of a father who remains unnamed.  Right at the beginning we learn that his worst fear has come true.  While enjoying his custodial visit one weekend, his beautiful little girl got into the elevator and the doors closed before he made it in.  When daddy gets to the bottom floor, his daughter is nowhere to be found.  As the police investigation into his little girl’s disappearance unfolds, daddy goes back in time to tell us more, more about himself, more about his daughter, more about his distinctive view on life.

Let me just say that right from the start of this book I found the father unlikeable.  He’s a balding, middle-aged, anti-social actor who complains about his neighbors’ noise, makes comments about race, gays, bohemians, the underclass…and yet, he proclaims himself to be PC!  He just seems to hate the outside world in general and comes off as a real creepazoid.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that this is definitely what the author wants you to feel.  He paints a picture of a very troubled man with some real problems who seems to have only one redeeming quality.  The one thing this daddy dotes on in life is his little girl.  She is his treasure and life is just better when she’s around.  Even his ex-wife thinks he’s a wonderful father and that counts because he really cares about what other people think.  His very existence has been validated since becoming a father.

The book is well-written and as a side note, there were quite a few words here that had never made it into my vocabulary which I found interesting.  That’s quite uncommon but I love looking up new words!  If you are looking at the cover and the title of this book thinking it’s a bit spooky, you’re not wrong there.  Daddy Dearest is a dark and deeply disturbing psychological thriller.  One of those books that makes your skin crawl.  Here it’s because the author takes an unflinching look at a very flawed human being, and he’s manipulating the reader as he goes about it.  I feel like you will either love it or hate it.  As for me, I was somewhere in the middle, but I did keep turning the pages to find out what really happened.  This is where I think the author shows some real talent because I have to say it went in a direction I was so not expecting.  But then I really wondered…why didn’t I expect that?  As I said, manipulation, people!  So I will leave you to decide for yourself.  Check it out!

I want to thank the author Paul Southern for providing me with a copy of this book through the BookLikes Giveaways program for an honest review.

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Mercy (The Guardians #1) by Wendy Saunders

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Mercy is a small town in Massachusetts that was founded by the survivors of the Salem witch trials.  Olivia West’s family is the oldest family in town, but Olivia hasn’t been to Mercy in 20 years.  She became a ward of the foster system at a young age.  Now she is all grown up and has become a historian and author.  Her area of expertise is centered on the witch trials of America and Europe along with the history of witchcraft.  When Olivia’s Aunt wills her the family home known as The Stick House, Olivia is forced to return to Mercy.  Here she will have to confront her past, one that’s full of murder and mystery.  The trauma of her mother’s and grandmother’s murders, along with her father’s subsequent incarceration still haunts her.  Olivia only has fragmented memories of what took place back then.  She remembers her grandmother dead on the floor in a pool of blood and her father sinking a knife into her mother’s chest, and then visions of an inferno.

Mercy is a town full of dark secrets and Olivia gets pulled further and further into its mysteries.  All of those mysteries seem to center around her family.  When a new string of murders start happening, Olivia learns that her mother and her grandmother were not the only victims 20 years ago.  There were a string of murders that led up to those and all of them stopped after her father went to prison.  Now these recent murders are very similar and the police suspect her father or someone working with him.  They may even suspect it’s her.

Theodore Beckett is from Salem, Massachusetts in the year 1695.  He has been having dreams of Olivia since he was a child but he has no idea who she is.  Theodore and his brother Logan are witch finders working with a man named Nathaniel Boothe but Theodore feels that Nathaniel is not to be trusted.  When Boothe and Logan bring Bridget and Hester West to be held prisoner in his family’s barn, Theodore is urged to protect them.  What Theodore doesn’t realize is how these sisters and his dreams are connected.

With its switching POVs and captivating twists and turns, Mercy is anything but ordinary.  This is a promising first book in a five book series and I was hooked.  It’s full of mystery, magic, folklore, time travel and romance.  I am definitely moving on to book two and after you read this one, so should you!

I want to thank authoramp.com for providing me with a copy of this book for an honest review. 

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The Angels Die by Yasmina Khadra

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I have long been a fan of Yasmina Khadra, whose books usually give one a realistic look at Arab culture and family life, alongside the cultural oppression and fundamental extremism that has saturated their daily lives.  This book takes us back a bit further than others I have read.

The Angels Die is set in 1920s and 1930s Algeria during a time when French colonials ruled over the Arab nation and the native population has been decimated by a century of bloody conquest and rampant disease.  Those born in Algeria are treated as if they are foreigners in their own land.  The French live in luxury while the Algerians live in squalor.

Twenty-seven year old Turambo grew up in a shanty town in Oran.   Turambo tells us of his life growing up in Oran where he constantly rages at the unfairness of life.  But Turambo’s willful spirit doesn’t allow him to give up his dream of a better future.  At home, he is embarrassed by and resentful of his father, while he longs for an unspoken but promising love with his cousin Nora.  When Turambo finds an unlikely friend in a French boy, Gino, who cares for a sick mother, he begins to take refuge from his life in Gino’s apartment.  As Turambo grows from a boy to a man, he is sure that his chance to become a boxer is his way out of the harsh life he was brought up in.  He will make a success of himself, win the girl he loves and show the oppressors that Algerians are a proud and indomitable people.  But Turambo’s rage at all the inequities of the world could very well cause him to be his own worst enemy.

Maybe you can tell that this book caused me to take a little look at the history of Algeria.  Khadra continues to educate me each time I read one of his books.  The history of Algeria is both tragedy and triumph at different times as is so much of the world.  IMHO, we need to continue translating all authors of this caliber.

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The Penitent Damned (The Shadow Campaigns #0.5) by Django Wexler

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Book Blurb:

Alex is a master thief, with dark magic to give her an edge. When she goes up against Duke Orlanko’s Concordat secret police, though, she may have taken on more than she bargained for…

This is a prequel short story to The Thousand Names. It was released for free on io9 — and is also available on the Kindle Store.

My review:

Book 0.5 of The Shadow Campaigns series

I wish I’d read this one first as it explains more about Duke Orlanko and the Black Priests.  The review just prior to this is for Book 1 and I believe I mentioned that I felt kind of lost in the beginning.  If you haven’t started the series yet, start with this.

The main character of this short story is Alex and she will be brought back in to the series at a later date.

I love these little side snippets that short stories give us in a series and this one is particularly good.  If you haven’t read any Django Wexler yet, this is a great taste for what’s to come!

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The Thousand Names (The Shadow Campaigns #1) by Django Wexler

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Book 1 of The Shadow Campaigns series

I have to admit, in the beginning of this book, I wasn’t too keen on it and I was a bit baffled.   It seemed like we were thrown in to a world with a lot of long, confusing names and it was a bit hard to keep straight the who, what, where and when. That does happen in some fantasy and if you feel that way when you start, no worries, you can get past it and boy is the gettin’ good!

The intro starts out from the POV of Ashe-Katarion’s new rulers in Khandarai, the capital of Ashe-Katarion.  Jaffa-dan-Iln, the Grand Justice is meeting with Yatchik-dan-Rahksa, the priest of the Seraphic Council, who has been appointed to oversee the cleansing of foreign taint from the land.  Prince Exopter, the Chosen of Heaven, Supreme Ruler of Khandar and the Two Desols, has fled the Palace with all of his valuables, after years of tyranny.  Most of the population was not sorry to see him go.

Switching POVs, we join the regiments of Vordanai’s Old Colonials, who have been sent to the outskirts of the empire to fight the Khandar army, in a quest to restore Vordanai’s rightful ruler.  No one would volunteer for this dangerous post in enemy territory.  In a fight that seems already lost, they will need to face down the deadly desert tribes.  And somewhere amid the sands, they are being hunted by Malik-dan-Belial, the Steel Ghost.  A man in all black robes with a brushed steel mask, the Steel Ghost is the chieftain of the Desoltai desert raiding tribes and the hero of a hundred stories.  He was famous long before the Redemption and has been a thorn in the side of the Vordanai for years.  It is said that he has traded his soul to a demon for the ability to see the future.  In the Great Desol, armies are devoured, whether it is by raiders or from hunger and thirst, and the Old Colonials will face all of the terrors the desert has to offer.

The eccentric, beguiling and fearless leader of the Old Colonials is Count Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich Mieran.  Janus is always sure of himself and he doesn’t take the easy way out of things.  But what were his motives when he campaigned for this post?  He is a military genius, but is he a good or bad guy?  Janus remains somewhat of a mystery all the way to the end where are left wondering about his true motives.

Senior Captain Marcus d’Ivoire has volunteered to follow his friend Adrecht to this post.  That’s right, he volunteered.  He lost his entire family to a fire while at the academy and he no longer cares about advancing his career.  Marcus and his fellow captains, Adrecht, Mor and Val have been together awhile and have each other’s back no matter what their irritations with one another.  Marcus is an officer through and through, very honorable and loyal to a fault, which is why, although he is skeptical, he follows Janus’s orders.

Winter Ihernglass has escaped from Mrs. Wilmore’s Prison for Young Ladies and is now hiding out disguised as a male Ranker in the Old Colonials.  She is well read and good with languages.  In the beginning she’s laying low and being teased by the fellow soldiers of her regiment because she doesn’t fit in.  But when Janus struggles to come up with enough sergeants from the green recruits, she is promoted.  Circumstance brings her to the forefront where she gets to show us how gutsy she is.

This book is chock full of intriguing characters.  I was quite taken in by all of main characters and the supporting characters as well.  Among some of those there is Jennifer Alhundt, the Ministry of Information liaison, working for His Grace, Duke Orlanko in the Concordat secret police.  She has been sent out to the desert to keep an eye (or spy) on Janus.  Although everyone is leery of her, Marcus begins to spend a lot of time with her.  There is also Feor, a young woman who has been rescued by Winter.  Feor is a priestess of the old ways, a naathem.  She belongs to an order charged with being guardians to the religious artifacts known as The Thousand Names.  What she is doing in the middle of the Desol is a question Winter would like to know the answer to.  Some other mentionable characters are Bobby and Folsom, whom I hope to see a lot more in future books.

The Thousand Names starts us on an epic journey through a world that is everything a great fantasy is made of, religion, politics, battles, magic and otherworldly enemies.  Amid 19th century muskets and gunpowder, we enter what is known as the Flintlock Fantasy world.  Not my first, but definitely my favorite so far.  The focus lies strongly on battle tactics and maneuvers and at first I was skeptical about whether I would like it.  I have to say I usually zone a little during some battle scenes but not this time.  The battles were so well-written and in the off time I became immersed in the camp politics.  With light references to magic throughout, what we don’t fully realize until the end is that this world is full of powerful magic and that may be the true enemy.   Fantastically written and richly layered, this book slowly sucked me in a little at a time.  The explosive and deadly ending with a shocking betrayal will leave you wanting to proceed to the next book quickly.

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The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza

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The Night Stalker is the Book 2 in Robert Bryndza’s Detective Erika Foster series.

A shadowy figure creeps upon a house in London seeking retribution against the man within.  We bear witness to Dr. Gregory Munro’s killer in action.  Four days later his mother enters the house and find’s her son’s dead body with a plastic bag over his head.

Detective Erika Foster is called to the murder scene, a scene that appears to be a sex crime.  When another just like it follows, indications are that there is a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose and Erika and her team must figure out what these murders have in common.

Erika is a tough, uncompromising detective who will get the killer at any cost and her determined doggedness doesn’t always go over well with her boss or her peers.  She is once again put on notice about not doing thing’s the department’s way.  Despite rubbing people the wrong way, she will continue to lay both her job and her life on the line to catch the killer.

When we first met Erika in the first book, she was freshly grieving over the death of her husband Mark and just returning to work.  Erika’s grief for Mark is still very present and she agonizes over it in more detail, all the while still blaming herself.  This also enables us to get more of a glimpse into her past and how Mark’s killing went down.

Robert Bryndza is such a good writer and he is definitely making a name for himself with this series.  The twists and turns don’t let up and keep you guessing to the end.  He has also done some nice work on the character development here.  In the end the characters are what makes or breaks a series.  We learn a bit more about Crane, Moss, Peterson, Marsh, Stark, and Isaac Strong.  Erika is getting to know each of them and so are we.  She is beginning to foster friendship, loyalty, respect, and of course some antagonism.  Each of the afore-mentioned supporting characters is sketched in further and one of them even becomes a prime suspect in the killings.

I want to thank the publisher (Bookouture) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. 

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The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

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It’s 1938 in Paris and Solange Beaugiron is a 19 year old woman living with her father.  She is an aspiring writer looking for inspiration, when her rather reserved father unexpectedly introduces her to his estranged mother, Marthe de Florian.  The two women begin to spend time together each day as Marthe relives her past for Solange, with Solange taking notes.  The story alternates between Marthe’s past during France’s Belle Époque era and Solange’s present as World War II approaches its borders.

Marthe tells Solange of the squalor of her poor childhood in Montmartre circa 1888 where she saw her young sister die.  As the days go by, Marthe’s story continues to unfold and she grows into a young woman who finds herself unwed, pregnant and working her fingers to the bone as a seamstress.  Feeling she must give her child a better life, Marthe bore her son but gave him up for adoption, requesting that he be told about her when he reached 18 years of age.  During an era where France became a hotbed for the arts, Marthe then chose to remake her life in the theater.  She eventually becomes a courtesan to Charles, a wealthy married man who sets her up in an elegant apartment and showers her with everything she could need or want.  She tells her granddaughter of her taste in the exotic arts and how her patron provided money to purchase all of the treasures she has coveted through the years, including a lovely pearl necklace and a commissioned painting of her by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.

Marthe’s love for fine things is apparent and as her story unfolds it’s as if she is painting a work of art on a new canvas, with no detail gone untouched.  It’s truly the story of another time and place and Solange is fascinated by Marthe’s story.  Solange also realizes that Marthe has become somewhat reclusive and while reliving her past, she is oblivious to the happenings of the present day.  When Solange leaves her grandmother’s side each night she must deal with a harsh realities of her present-day world, where the Germans are preparing to invade France.  Solange is part Jewish and she and her friends know it will become necessary to flee Paris.  She’s not sure what her future holds but one thing is certain, she is fascinated by the life of her grandmother and someday she will publish all of her writings.

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Anyone who appreciates art, beauty and fashion is apt to like this lavish and sensual work of historical fiction as Marthe de Florian transports her granddaughter back to a magical place and time in her life.  It’s also serious fodder for someone who loves vintage discoveries and imagining the story behind them.  The book is actually based on a true account of an abandoned apartment discovered in Paris after lying untouched for over 70 years.  The original painting by Boldini is divine and the apartment is full of antiquities that boggle the mind.  I am absolutely amazed at this find in a city that was ravaged by war.  So many items here peak my curiosity.  You will definitely want to check out the article about this apartment Inside the Paris apartment… and then you should read this lovely book.  Taking inspiration from the apartment, Alyson Richman has woven a beautiful and intriguing glimpse into what might-have-been.

I want to thank the publisher (Berkley Publishing Group) for providing me with the ARC through the Goodreads Giveaways program for an honest review. 

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Perilous Judgement by Dennis Ricci

28153207Perilous Judgment is a legal thriller that takes us to the forefront of the ongoing issue of immigration.

Edward Lamport is a man of great conviction and as a federal judge he exercises those convictions in his rulings.  His most current case is of one of great controversy.  Voters in his home state of California have voted to pass Proposition 68 concerning illegal immigration and now Edward has to rule on whether the proposition is constitutional.  With his fellow judges and political contacts pressuring him, he is carefully weighing his decision.

Edward is also happily married to Jacqui.  Jacqui works for the California school system and with pressure from her coworkers and peers she is becoming more and more anxious herself to find out what her husband’s ruling will be.  Edward and Jacqui both know the danger they may face if he makes the “wrong” decision.

Now a woman Edward was once in love with resurfaces and begs for his help.  Alana tells Edward of the son he never knew about, who is now a grown young man.  This son, Carlos was born and raised in Mexico and works for Bancomex.  In the course of his work he has stumbled on dangerous information involving his employers and his life is in jeopardy.  Alana wants Edward to use his political connections to help get Carlos out of Mexico and into the safety of the U.S.

Edward is going to have to manage a very complex balancing act here.  How will he manage to be true to the integrity his job demands while trying to get his illegitimate son asylum in the U.S.?  Why are all his political connections stonewalling him?  And how is he going to face his wife with the secrets of his past?  Will the woman he was forced to leave behind 25 years ago stir old feelings anew?  Will he be able to save his son’s life and will that son accept a father he has never known?

This is a book where we are reminded that the big issues that the talking heads on TV argue about incessantly are not as black and white as they are made out to be.  No matter which way the decision goes there are real people behind the scenes who will be affected.  We would like to think that the judges ruling on these issues are personally detached but what if one of them weren’t.  What if something like this happened to them?  Now that could be a far reach, but hey, in today’s world maybe not.  It is a most unfortunate fact that political corruption, blackmail, drug running and money laundering are all alive and well.

But in this book we also see a man torn by his convictions and struggling to make the right decisions, none of which are easy.  With all of his options growing slim, Edward will turn to his strong Christian faith and values for guidance.   With all of the obstacles we face in this world, this is a strong reminder that in the end, it’s up to us how we handle our beliefs and act on them.

I want to thank the publisher (Waterfall Press) for providing me with the ARC through the Goodreads Giveaways program for an honest review.

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Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend by Deirdre Bair

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Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend as written by Deirdre Bair tells us of an Al Capone who has not previously been revealed to the world.  The author concentrates more on the private man than the public figure, utilizing personal testimony and archives from family members, and she gives us a wider portrait of the man who became a criminal legend during the Roaring Twenties.  In fact, Al Capone, aka Public Enemy No. 1, was arguably the most notorious gangster in history and in 2014 Smithsonian magazine named him one of the hundred most influential Americans in the entire history of the country.

Taking us back to a time before Al’s heyday, we learn how Al Capone’s parents emigrated from Naples to America in the 1890s where his father established himself as a barber in Brooklyn, NY.  Alphonse was their first child born in the New World on January 17. 1899.  He had 6 brothers and a sister.  Al and his siblings were given more opportunity then their parents and they were encouraged to use those opportunities to gain an education and become hard-working, honest citizens.  All to no avail, as Al and his brothers all left school very early on and turned to crime.  Al always thought of himself as an American, rather than an Italian.  He was a quick learner and earned good grades during the time he attended school, but he also had a fiery temper and was quite big for his age.  By the age of 9 he was already known in the neighborhood for the many fights he won and he became part of a group of Italian boys that thought of themselves as a gang and called themselves the South Brooklyn Rippers.  These boys were led by Frank Nitto, who later became the infamous Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s enforcer.

Later on, Al became part of a gang who called themselves the Forty Thieves Juniors and this brought him to the attention of crime boss, Johnny Torrio.  This was the point upon which Al’s future would take a turn toward the legend he became.  During those same years, Al met a pretty Irish girl named Mary Josephine Coughlin who was always called Mae.  Al and Mae’s son, Albert Francis Capone, who was always called Sonny, was born in December of 1918 and his parents were subsequently married.  His mother-in-law thought of Al as a charming and attentive husband and father and a man who always took care of his family financially.  Al treated Mae like an angel and he wanted to give her and his son the best.  Working for Johnny Torrio and Frankie Yale would help Al provide for them and he was sent to work for the Chicago Outfit.

Al proceeded to become one of the most powerful figures in the world of crime so it has become difficult to tell which stories of Al’s life were facts and which were exaggerated to the point that they became myths.  The author makes great efforts to separate the two.  What is not in doubt is Al’s careful and strategic climb to the top of Chicago’s gangland where he ran one of the most successful criminal operations that there has ever been.  An interesting fact from the book is that there was an Economics case study performed at the Harvard Business School showing how Al ran the Outfit as if it were a major corporation. The HBS study examined the years 1920– 33, when Al controlled literally hundreds of “brothels, speakeasies, and roadhouses, which served as venues for the gang and administered gambling, prostitution, and illegal alcohol sales.”  The conclusion of the Harvard case study was that there were roughly 700 gang-related deaths from 1920 to 1930, with Al Capone either “directly or indirectly responsible for over 200.”  Boy, Al sure didn’t let anything get in the way of bringing home the bacon!

There is no doubt that Al was known as a very generous person and there are many stories of true kindness to others on his part.  He loved his wife and son and was not only protective of them but very protective of his other family members as well.  His wife Mae did not get along with Al’s siblings but she did manage to suppress most of this, and Al was always given respect by both parties so the family coexisted peacefully.  Al’s word was law in the family however Mae did manage to keep their sickly son, Sonny hidden from the public eye for his own protection.  Al was also very generous with his money and was known to give money to those in need, which made him well-liked in a lot of circles.  He had a family that he sheltered with and he was very generous to them as well.  But in the bigger picture, he angered a lot of people who mattered, and these people saw Al as an ill-mannered, illiterate and ruthless murderer.  He would take on airs to make himself seem more cultured, but in the end he would never actually be the man he envisioned himself to be.   None of this would stop the paparazzi from recording his every move.

Of course, some of this material was not new to a reader who knows anything about Al Capone.  The author does cover personal things such as Al’s syphilis, the scars on his face from a barroom brawl, which led to the nickname Scarface and what she finds to be most likely a myth, about his extravagant use of cocaine leading to a deviated septum.  She also covers infamous parts of Al’s murderous and cruel professional life such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the lengths he went to for his own protection and his eventual downfall for tax evasion which led to his imprisonment at Alcatraz.  There is a lot of material here, some new and interesting, some old and some rehashed to the point of boredom.

I want to thank the publisher (Doubleday Books) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. 

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Beneath the Skin (The Witchbreed Series #2) by R.L. Martinez

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Expected publication: July 21st 2017

Lakewater Press

Editor:  Kate Foster

Paperback, eBook

Genre: Fantasy

One of my first reviews was In the Blood (The Witchbreed Series #1) by R.L. Martinez and it turned out to be one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was very excited to be offered an ARC of the second book in the Witchbreed series, Beneath the Skin.

Oriabel Dominax is a witch and she has always used the magic she was born with to heal those around her, but now her magic has taken on a new and deadly form and she no longer trusts herself to use it.  With her life in danger, she has fled Corlaan, the only home she has ever known.  She travels in the company of her sister Ottilde and two strangers, Wilder Coomb and Artair och Mahan.  Separated from her husband, she longs to be reunited with him but she has no idea if he longs for the same.

Oriabel’s twin sister, Ottilde Dominax was once a knight but then she became a prisoner of her country.  She is a fierce survivor and driven to keep her sister safe at all costs, yet she too is learning to control a new and deadly side of herself.  Still on the run from the prison she escaped, Ottilde finds herself relying on the one man she shouldn’t trust, the prison warden Wilder Coomb, to help keep her sister alive.

These two sisters are on the run and threatened from all sides.  They live in constant peril and how to trust and who to trust will affect them each in different ways.  Everyone has a motive and love and betrayal can often be tied together.

I love it when you pick up a book and feel like you’re coming home to characters you love to spend time with.  I hadn’t had enough of them at the end of book 1 and I still want more after book 2.  The author gives us a study in extremes on both good and evil with well-defined characters who can straddle both.  This book twists and turns and outright socks you in the end.  I was never certain where it would end up and that’s the way it should be.  My anticipation was richly rewarded with another installment that ranks as a fave and I cannot wait for R.L. Martinez to write more!

You can buy the books here: 

In the Blood

Beneath the Skin

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About the Author:

I write mutant stories – you know the kind that are a little of this and a little of that – that have dark edges and corners. So, while I love putting romance in my tales, the lovers have to go through some serious sh*t to be together. And sometimes, even then, it doesn’t work out.

My favorite scenes to write are about death and destruction – gotta let the inner killer blow off steam SOMEHOW – followed by scenes with lots of witty banter. Comedy and death make my inner killer very happy. Yep, that’s right, instead of an “inner goddess” (bleh, by the way) I’ve got an inner killer and she has her eye on you.

And now the boring stuff: I live in Oklahoma with my husband, two small sons, two naughty puppies, and a mouse-killing cat. Now you know why I write FANTASY with lots of mayhem in it.

More here: robinlmartinez.com

I want to thank the publisher (Lakewater Press) for providing me with the ARC for an honest review.

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I Shot Bruce by Brett Busang

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The life of an antique dealer doesn’t seem so bad does it?

No, not really…unless you could have been a star playing in one of the most famous rock and roll bands of all time.

Oh, when you put it that way….

Vijay Asunder will never understand how he could have been dissed by his friends from the Keysters.

It was exactly 11:47 when his band mates shattered him with the bad news.

It’s now 50 years later and Vijay still can’t forget and there is only one way he can think of to put things right.

In what appears to be this author’s first book, we get an in-depth look at a what-if scenario.  What if you had ALMOST been the drummer in The Beatles….er…I mean The Keysters?

I want to thank the publisher (Open Books) for providing me with the ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program for an honest review.

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Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard

26827446Sir Winston Churchill was an accomplished, larger-than-life, somewhat pompous and unlikeable, yet oft-revered historical figure.  He was born a British nobleman, the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and his wife, Jennie Jerome, an American socialite.  As such he was a direct descendant of John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough and his parents were personal friends of the Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria’s oldest son and heir.  For a member of Churchill’s high social class, the highly bold and unabashed ambition he had was a novelty, if not an outright scandal.  Every move Churchill made from early adulthood was in conquest of glory and the strong belief that he would someday be Britain’s Prime Minister.  Indeed, not only did Churchill serve two separate and very memorable terms as Britain’s Prime Minister, he has also been remembered through time as a brave soldier, a great journalist and a riveting orator.

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Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill concentrates on Churchill at the age of 24.  He had already served in two wars and while working as a journalist he wheedled his way to the frontlines of south of Africa during the Second Boer War.  The Boers were Dutch-speaking settlers, mostly farmers, who had lived in southern Africa for centuries, but rose up to defend their land against annexation by the British in the 19th century.  The Boer Wars had turned out to be more of a challenge than the British expected.  Having lived, fought and learned alongside the fierce Shaka Zulu of the Zulu Nation, the Boers were more accomplished in military tactics than the British understood.  Churchill proves himself to be a man of courage while accompanying a scouting mission on an armored train that is ambushed, but he is subsequently captured by the Boers and interred as a POW.  Churchill, who was absolutely used to being master of his own fate, manages to escape from the prison and cross 300 miles on his own.  When he reaches safety, he wants only one thing, a commission, so that he can go back and wreak revenge on those who held him.  This, despite the fact that he knew the War Office had a rule barring correspondents from being soldiers and soldiers from being correspondents.

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This was my first foray into any kind of bio on Churchill and it was a great place to start.  This particular glimpse into the history of Churchill definitely gives us a deep understanding of who the man was.  Winston Churchill was definitely a man to be remembered and Candice Millard managed to not only gave me a fantastic primer on the man himself, she also broadened my knowledge of South African history and the Boer Wars.  I have to say I really admire her writing style.  She managed to bring the adventure, the tragedy and the terribly inhumane conditions of the experience to life for the readers.  This author paints beautiful scenes and her background research is impeccable.  This is not a bio to be slogged through, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

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I want to thank the publisher (Doubleday Books) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik

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On the heels of a harrowing diplomatic mission to Peking, Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire would like nothing better than to get back to England.  But alas, it will not be quick or easy.

Their new assignment takes them on a difficult journey by land from China to Istanbul to retrieve three valuable dragon eggs and bring them home.  As they travel via the Old Silk Road they will need a guide.  This comes in the form of a new character named Tharkay, a toughened Nepalese/Englishman whose loyalty and motives are somewhat questionable.  En route, they have a run-in with bandits and meet some feral dragons that live in the mountains away from humankind.  Once in Istanbul, they are not received kindly and find some resistance to their retrieval of the dragon eggs.  I found this part of the book to be way too predictable and was happy when they made it out of Istanbul.  As they travel from Istanbul to Prussia a delightful and frightful new terror is born in the form of the feisty baby dragon, Iskierka who is going to be a right handful.  Oh yes, she will also need her own handler!  Once in Prussia, Laurence, Temeraire and company wind up as unwilling participants in Napoleon’s Siege of Danzig.  Adding to all of this danger, it is revealed that Napoleon has a new officer in the form of a dragon who bears a very strong grudge towards Temeraire.

The focus of the series remains on the strong bond between Will and Temeraire and their adventures during the Napoleonic Wars.  We are also offered up a couple of side plates on slavery and dragon rights.  The former being a very real and upcoming cause of the time period and the latter being a great fictional one to introduce.  Tharkay and Iskierka and the feral dragons are interesting new additions and I feel like there is much to be explored here in future books.  I look forward to seeing more of that character development.  I still think that the premise of the series is great and there are definitely some parts that tickle me.  I would recommend these for young adults because Novik continues to weave cultural differences, geography and history into her story in an interesting way.  She also does a good job outlining battle tactics from the unusual viewpoint of an aerial dragon force.  She covered quite a bit of ground in this book, picking up the pace after Throne of Jade.

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The Virgin Queen by Maureen Peters

29921168Thomasin Drew was 13 years old when she went to stay with her uncle in the country.  This is where she first meets a young Lady Elizabeth, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn.  Befriending Lady Elizabeth sets Thomasin on a path that she will follow the rest of her life, that of friend, confidant and attendant to a royal.  Lady Elizabeth would one day become Queen Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.  In this piece of historical fiction as told by Thomasin, we get an up close and personal view of Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth was born a princess but when her mother was beheaded by the King, she was declared illegitimate and sent away.    Cast off and out of favor, she lived with her stepmother, Catherine Parr.  This is the time period when Thomasin first encounters Elizabeth.  She describes Elizabeth as a person who often found the world to be enchanting and full of excitement.  But beneath her smiling and giggling exterior she was often a sad and lonely person.  She had no true friends until she met the forthright Thomasin.  Thomasin could always be relied on not to flatter and fawn over her as others did.

Maureen Peters skims through the years of young Elizabeth’s life leading up to her reign.  Her father, King Henry VIII had taken a total of six wives, creating quite a stir and leaving behind many potential successors to the throne.  The years that lead up to Elizabeth’s succession to the throne were often turbulent, filled with religious conflict, wars, beheadings and political maneuvering.  King Henry VIII had designated his 9 year-old son, Prince Edward, the son of former wife Jane Seymour, to be his successor.   King Edward VI’s reign ended after only 6 years due to a fatal illness.  Though he attempted to have his half sister Mary removed as his successor, she seized the throne from the proclaimed Queen, Lady Jane Grey after only 9 days.   Queen Mary I was crowned in 1547 and would rule 5 years.    The stiffly Roman Catholic Queen would become known as Bloody Mary due to her many executions of Protestants.  When Queen Mary becomes pregnant, Lady Elizabeth is called to her side to attend her.  However, the pregnancy is a false alarm and as it turns out Queen Mary is actually dying, and so the Elizabethan era begins.

This is the core of the story.  Yes, politics and the realm are a big part of Elizabeth’s story but what about the story behind the scenes?  Why didn’t Elizabeth ever marry?  Elizabeth’s story is oftentimes a sad and heartbreaking one.  She seemed to be full of exuberance for life yet unable to live it.  She had many men try to woo her but unable to marry for love, she could not bear to marry at all, and she died being known as “The Virgin Queen.”  Every overture made toward Elizabeth was possibly tainted, whether with fear or betrayal.  Her siblings, cousins and all those surrounding her could not be trusted, for there was an ever present threat that they might try to usurp her throne.  Elizabeth had to rule with her head instead of her heart and she has gone down in history as a powerful and politically savvy monarch who managed to rule for almost 50 years.  Many of the facts surrounding her reign are skimmed over here with the story concentrating primarily on Elizabeth’s many dramatic moods, her strong determination, her trials with love and friendship and her inner qualms over her decision to imprison her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.  This is what might have been a side of Elizabeth I that the public never got to see.  It’s a fascinating and decidedly human side, filled with tragedy, yet spoken with the tenderness of a longtime companion.

I want to thank the publisher (Endeavor Press) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir by Patricia Gucci

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Gucci is a world-class Italian fashion empire that has been around for almost 100 years.  While there may be people in the outback or a comparatively isolated place that have not heard of Gucci, I think I’m safe in saying that most of you reading this aren’t included in that group.  I myself love all things fashion so I was immediately drawn to this book.

In the Name of Gucci is a heartfelt memoir penned by Patricia Gucci, Aldo Gucci’s daughter.  Between these pages, Patricia Gucci tenderly recollects the love between her parents.  She tells us of the times that she and her mother Bruna, spent with Aldo, along with the times that they didn’t get to spend with him because Aldo was already married with three sons.  Aldo’s relationship with Bruna was not only an adulterous relationship, but one that was punishable by law in Italy in the 1960s.   But that didn’t stop Aldo Gucci.  When he laid eyes on young Bruna working in one of his stores, he was unable to resist her and Bruna found herself swept away by this older, charming and very well-known man.  It was a relationship that had to be hidden from the public eye but it lasted decades.

As Patricia researched her book, she had a hard time getting her mother to open up.  Bruna, a quiet and devoted woman, did eventually share some anecdotes along with a bundle of love letters she had kept close to her heart.  While the matter of a relationship between a married man in his 50s and a young girl of 20 is far from ideal, Patricia manages to see past the heartache that she, her mother and Aldo’s family must have felt as she delves into the love that her parents had for one another.  The memories from her childhood are of a loving mother and father.  This is surprising because Aldo was an absentee father the majority of the time and Bruna was understandably, a sad and withdrawn woman.

Patricia also outlines the history behind the making of a fashion empire that still exists today.  Her grandfather Guccio Gucci went from being a page at the Savoy Hotel to being the founder of the Gucci brand.  She also details the family squabbles that took place within the company, Aldo’s time in prison and her eventual involvement in the company.  Patricia Gucci has written a book that has it all, love, glamour, success, adultery, betrayal, crime, etc.  This book is a very thoughtful family portrait.  I found myself thoroughly immersed in the Gucci story and I recommend that you add this to the top of your nonfiction reading list!

I want to thank the publisher (Crown Publishing) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

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In the third book of The Red Queen’s War series, Mark Lawrence starts us off with a neat recap of the characters and storyline thus far.  But for goodness sake, don’t start here, go back and read the first two books if you haven’t done so already.  As a matter of fact, with the references to Jorg Ancrath made in this book I am thinking it might have been better had I read Mark Lawrence’s other trilogy, the Broken Empire series first.

Regardless of where I started, I was absolutely hankering to continue on with the adventures of the incorrigible self-described coward, Jalan Kendeth.

As we rejoin Jalan he is traipsing through the desert after having escaped from Hell.  He tells us of his time in Hell in reoccurring flashbacks.  What has become of Snorri?  We are not yet certain but in time it shall be revealed. I thoroughly enjoyed it as Jalan described his journeys through the desert and by sea.  As with most things he does, he tells us of his travels with a humorous cynicism.  We don’t get the potentially long and boring travel descriptions of some books.  Travelling through Jalan’s eyes, these journeys become vastly entertaining.

“The desert is hot and boring. I’m sorry, but that’s pretty much all there is to it. It’s also sandy, but rocks are essentially dull things and breaking them up into really small pieces doesn’t improve matters. Some people will tell you how the desert changes character day by day, how the wind sculpts it endlessly in vast and empty spaces not meant for man. They’ll wax lyrical about the grain and shade of the sand, the majesty of bare rock rising mountainous, carved by the sand-laden breeze into exotic shapes that speak of water and flow . . . but for me sandy, hot, and boring covers it all.”

As usual Jalan is in the thick of it.  He’s still not too keen on responsibility of any type and he certainly doesn’t understand how he keeps getting in the positions he gets himself into.  He longs to be back home playing the rich playboy grandson of the Red Queen.  But alas, you can’t turn back time!  Jalan’s grandmother the Red Queen has taken an army to confront the Lady Blue.  The girl he longed to marry has married his best friend.  As for Jalan, he is still running from Maeres Allus, wanted by the banking world and on the run from those who seek what he now holds, Loki’s Key.  Oh yeah, there’s also still a little matter of revenge on Edris Dean for his role in killing Jalan’s mother and his unborn sister.  Speaking of the unborn sis, well you know…the “unborn” have been something of a problem for Jalan.  With no certain escape from all of the dangers that chase him, Jalan knows that he is bound by circumstance to proceed on his journey.  It soon becomes apparent that he will need to head toward the Wheel of Osheim to avert certain disaster.  Am I for one minute worried that the fate of the world is in Jalan’s hands?  Not on your life!

This final book in the trilogy is supreme entertainment from page one!  You will come to love the well wrought characters.  It’s full of “I didn’t see that coming” surprises, genuine chuckles and ever-present danger around every corner.  I will leave you with one final thought before you get started reading:

“When someone lets you off too easily there’s always that suspicion that they know something you do not. It’s an irritating thing, like sunburn, but I know a sure-fire way to ease it. “Let’s get a drink!”

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Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

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Miller’s Valley is a finely woven family saga narrated by the main character Mary Margaret Miller, aka Mimi.  As an adult, Mimi is facing eminent domain of her family’s land and the small town that was named after them.  Her family has resided in the town for over 100 years.  This is their home, the place they know and love.  But the state wants to open up the dam and flood the valley to create a recreational lake area.

As Mimi recollects her time growing up in the small farm town of Miller’s Valley, PA., she starts when she was an 11 year old child.  Mimi is a very smart and observant child with a promising future.  She is the only girl with two older brothers.  There is Eddie, who grew up, got married and moved away.  Then there is Tommy who she once looked up to.  But Tommy went off to Vietnam and came back a changed person.  There’s also a town girl that Tommy got pregnant before leaving.  Her Mom and her Aunt Ruth don’t get along even though they live next door to each other.  Then there are the conversations she overhears between her parents at night, where they fret because the state is pressuring her father to sell his land.  The land that her father farms, the land they live on, the land that also houses her Aunt Ruth who doesn’t ever step foot outside her house.

This is not a long book; as a matter of fact it’s probably just right.  It’s something you read while curled up by the fireplace on a rainy day.  It has the resonance of one of those small town stories with a retro feel.  A glimpse of everyday ordinary lives with love, joy, pain, secrets and most of all, the powerful memories created.

I want to thank the publisher (Random House) for providing me with the ARC through the Goodreads Giveaways program.  This is a fair and honest review.

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The Girls by Emma Cline

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“Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of love. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get.”

Summary:

Evie Boyd is now in her fifties as she reflects back on her time as a 14 year old living in late ‘60s Northern California.  As with most 14 year old girls, Evie is young, impressionable and longing to find her place in the world.  She comes across a group of young women in the park and their carefree ways captivate her.  Soon she manages to befriend one of these young women, Suzanne.  Suzanne takes her under her wing.  Evie is swept into Suzanne’s world when they visit the ranch where the girls are living.  She is introduced to their leader, Russell Hadrick.  Russell is an enigmatic man who has this fantastic following and seems to be on the edge of fame.  He and his “family” seem to have the world in the palm of their hands and Evie can’t resist the pull.

The Premise:

This book has gotten rave reviews.  Perhaps I am alone in not finding it all that captivating.  None of the characters in this book were likeable including the main character, Evie.  It’s so obvious that this is a fictional representation of a young girl being taken into a Charles Manson-like cult.  Knowing the outcome of that horrendous true-crime story makes it hard for me to understand how anyone could be lured to it.  I read Helter Skelter when I was very young and I was appalled by it.  I didn’t get how those young women could be drawn to such a monster and I still don’t get it even after reading this book.  Someone of a younger generation who cannot recall those events so easily might find this book much more riveting than I did.  Like Gone Girl, this book just made me want to take a shower.

The Writing:

Each generation has their version of living on the edge and doing things that seem taboo.  The 60s were a great turning point in the freedoms that society experiences to this day.  It was a turbulent time of change for young people.  Emma Cline takes us into the head of one young girl during that time.  Evie became easily misdirected and her poor decisions will forever haunt her.  To me, there is one very important point here.  When we are young our expectations of the world are high.  Society leads us to believe that things should be a certain way.  We begin to realize during adolescence that maybe for some of us those things aren’t that easy to come by.  Is the world going to be disappointed by us?  Are we going to be disappointed by it?  The heart can be a lonely confusing place and we all long to belong somewhere.  As we grow away from some we’ve been close to and towards new people, we each have an inner journey going on that no one else is privy to.  Cline did indeed give us a vivid picture of the strife that can come with this journey.

I want to thank the publisher (Random House Publishing Group – Random House) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

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His Majesty’s Dragon is the second book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.

When Captain Will Laurence’s ship the HMS Reliant captured one of Napoleon’s French frigates, a rare and valuable egg was part of the seized cargo.  The egg hatched and out popped a delightful dragon.  At first reluctant, Captain Laurence went from being a Navy man to being the handler of the newly hatched dragon.  He named the dragon Temeraire and started his new service as Temeraire’s master in England’s Aerial Corps.  Working together and living together, Temeraire and Laurence have become a part of each other.  Neither can imagine himself anywhere else but by the other’s side.  They are not just a great team in combat, they are best friends.

But now it has recently come to light that the dragon egg bearing Temeraire was intended to be a gift from China’s imperial emperor to France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, England’s worst enemy.  Temeraire is a rare and valuable Celestial Dragon and now that he is in British hands, China is none too pleased.  A Chinese delegation has been sent to bring Temeraire home.  Facing forcible separation, Laurence and Temeraire must unwillingly embark on a voyage to China with Laurence’s former second-in-command, Captain Riley at the helm of the HMS Allegiant.  The mixed company of the Chinese with the English navy and aerial corps plus one dragon is a voyage like Laurence has never experienced before.

Upon arrival in China, Temeraire is treated with the utmost reverence and Laurence begins to notice that he is being won over to Chinese ways.  Important differences in cultural values are revealed to Temeraire.  With his keen intelligence, Temeraire begins to realize the things he likes and doesn’t like about life as he knows it in England.  Will’s experiences in China aren’t quite so pleasant and he faces great danger from the Chinese at every turn.  Not only is his future as a companion to Temeraire threatened, his life is too.

It’s rather interesting and unexpected that Naomi Novik took us to a new country in this book.  This was a great way to involve new characters and new dragons and expand Temeraire’s world.  The author is rebuilding our world and its history to include dragons as a part of everyday life.  The problem at times is that she seems to be doing so one brick at a time.  This makes the story a wee bit slow at times.  But in among such things as descriptions of what it takes to care for a dragon at sea, there are some really great moments simply because Temeraire is so engaging.  When the action scenes do come, they are very good and the last third of the book really picked up the pace, making up for the slow drag of the voyage at sea.  So far Novik has managed to end the first two books with great segues into the follow-ups.  This series is currently up to nine books.  While it will without a doubt keep the young readers enthralled, it will be interesting to see if Novik can keep it fresh for the more jaded reader.  Having always wanted my own pet dragon, I’m willing to keep going at this point!

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Feast or Famine (Temeraire #1.5) by Naomi Novik

 

Blurb:  Breakfast in Dover, with complications.

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Dragons can be very clever when they’re hungry!

Set between the events of His Majesty’s Dragon and Throne of Jade, Feast or Famine is an amusing side jaunt along the way.  Mention of the happenings in this story are made in Throne of Jade so if you don’t read it going in you will want to on the way out.

You can find this short story at naominovik.com

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A husband and wife adventuring through fantasy worlds together

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I am as stubborn as it gets, but I'm a good soul...really...

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