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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Immurement (The Undergrounders #1) by Norma Hinkens

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It is the year 2069, six years after the Earth’s core overheated, causing a meltdown.  In the Sawtooth Forest of central Idaho, a group of survivors has formed an underground community which is split up between 8 bunkers that are connected by a shared tunnel.  These are the Undergrounders.

Derry Connelly is 16 years old and she lives in one of these bunkers with 23 other survivors.  Her mother died on the day of the meltdown and her father is the camp drunk who hasn’t been able to cope since.  There is also her older brother, Owen, 18 years old.  Owen has become a master hustler and a leader among those who keep the bunker running smoothly.  Rounding out the family is Derry’s trusty dog.  She doesn’t go anywhere without her collie, Tucker.  One of the other people of importance in Derry’s life is Jakob Miller, her boyfriend.  Jakob’s the same age and hails from a clan of Separatists aka Septites.  The Septites are a non-violent religious sect who also reside in the underground bunkers.  They are sure not to approve of the relationship between Derry and Jakob.  Then there is Big Ed who is Derry’s closest friend.  Big Ed is a mountain man with a troubled past.  He moved off the grid decades ago; after the one world government with its sovereign leader was formed to supposedly tackle global warming.   Mason is a recent newcomer among them, an ex-military man who seems to be hiding something.  Derry doesn’t trust him.

 The Undergrounders spend their nights hunting and scavenging and their nights in the underground bunkers hiding from the Sweepers.  The Sweepers are those who come in eerily silent ships that hover over the mountains and suck people up inside, never to be seen again.  They aren’t sure who or what the Sweepers are but they are sure they don’t want to find out.  With the most recent disappearance haunting them, tensions are beginning to escalate among the Undergrounders.  There are rumors of a snitch among them who is selling them out to the Sweepers.  Soon Owen and Jakob have disappeared and it is feared that they have been taken by the Sweepers too.  Derry feels she has no other choice… accompanied by Big Ed and Mason, she leaves the bunkers and sets out to find Owen and Jakob.

On their journey into the unknown, this small group will confront a great deal of danger, many unwelcome realities and possibly the final end of mankind.  At a tender age, Derry has already been through some pretty tough losses.  Now she will grow aware that there are many other fears to face down.  She will need to examine her conceptions of good versus evil and she will struggle with her choices in a world where all this exists.

This is a well-written and fast-paced read featuring everything from rogue killers to mad scientists.  If you read a lot of dystopia, you might wonder if this is just another blip on the radar.  I know I did at first.  No worries, this book turns out to be a great action-packed adventure with some unexpected twists.  It crosses many genres and is sure to appeal to a wide audience from young adult to old.   I really enjoyed the story and I’m looking forward to reading the second book.

Immurement is billed as the first book in a young adult dystopian trilogy and it is the 1st place Winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Fiction 2016.

I want to thank the author, Norma Hinkens for providing me with a copy of her book.  This is a fair and honest review.

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Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes

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My previous review of Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

SYNOPSIS:

When mankind resettled on Echo over 1200 years ago, they were led into darkness by the Regime.  Enforcing the Regime’s policies is the job of the Department of Enforcement.  As part of this department, it is the job of Kish Atriya and his elite unit of Enforcers to take down any Dissidents that have fled the Regime’s policies.

In this volume, Kish and his team have been sent into one of the areas known as the Wastes.  The Wastes are made up of the less savory types in society such as rapists, cannibals and gangs.  An assignment to the Wastes is a life-threatening escapade and they will face danger at every turn.  As if this assignment weren’t dangerous enough, Atriya knows that he has pissed off some powerful people in the Regime.  Most likely the higher-ups have fixed it so that he won’t make it out alive.  But Atriya was born to be a warrior and when the going gets tough the tough get going.  Even with the knowledge that his partner and his team are against him, Atriya must be true to who and what he is.  While logic tells him to do one thing, his instincts dictate another.  In the process of this one harrowing day, Atriya will have to make some life-altering decisions and he will find out what kind of man he really is.

MY THOUGHTS:

 Volume 2 takes off with a bang!  Atriya hits the ground running and the entire volume continues along at full speed.  Atriya’s every thought and maneuver is described in minute detail.  This is not a bad thing!

We are in Atriya’s head as he goes into a hyper-alert state and blazes away at enemies left and right.  Add in some really cool enhanced technological weaponry and armor, a terrifying Enhancile and lots of tension between the main characters and…oh man, this is getting good!  The author states that he loves to thread everything with hidden significance so pay attention!  Although it wasn’t yet out when I finished, I am so far behind on my reviews that the next volume has now been released.  It’s called Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony and I’ve snatched it up!

Warning: Contains language and violence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I discovered this author through his blog on WordPress and I recommend you check it out.  Kent Wayne can be found at dirtyscifibuddha.com

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North of Here by Laurel Saville

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Miranda has suffered a shocking loss of all she’s ever known and she’s desperately trying to find her way back to happiness.  When she goes back home and starts spending time with her family’s handyman Dix, she thinks she may have found what she needs.  Dix knows exactly who he is and he’s very comfortable in his skin.  He is calm and peaceful and she finds comfort in his company.

David is a rich kid who has rebelled against his upbringing.  He has created a new persona and taken a new name to go along with it.  Now known as Darius, he reads a lot of romance in order to hone his skills as a seducer of people.  Darius fancies himself a foster figure and he founds a commune to take in wayward souls.  Darius’s commune is called The Source and it’s a bit reminiscent of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.

Time reveals that Miranda’s troubles are more deep-seated than we know.  She is completely the opposite of Dix.  She picks at everything around her, she’s constantly irritated by her life and she just cannot find inner peace. As her relationship with Dix begins to fall apart, she is drawn to Darius and taken with his outlook on life.  She wants to participate in the work he does at The Source and feels that it may give her life new meaning.  But Dix is concerned about Miranda spending time with Darius.  He begins to wonder what’s really going on out at The Source.

<i>North of Here</i> is an exploration of the human psyche.  Whether a person is born rich or poor, they still need to find what might bring true happiness and purpose to their life.  Ultimately happiness comes from within.  People need to explore their inner psyche in order to understand who they really are and where they fit into the world.  While this book makes a good point, I just wasn’t overly enthused.  The overall atmosphere was somewhat dreary and I just didn’t find that one thing in this book that will make it memorable for me.  The whole commune thing is overdone and I’m so bored with it.  I think this one would really depend on each individual reader.

I won a hardcover of this book and another one from Magdalena Johansson’s book blog A Bookaholic Swede.  As you know, there are a lot of blogs for book reviews because those of us who are readers love to share our discoveries.  In this big world of book reviewers, Magdalena is among the truly superb!  Please check out her blog.  I promise you’ll love it!

I want to thank the publisher (Lake Union Publishing) for providing me with a copy of this book through A Bookaholic Swede’s blog contest for an honest review.

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Bone War by Steven Harper

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It is from the Fates that Danr and his friends have learned that every action, every decision, every act, no matter how small, will cause ripples throughout the world and twist the future down a different path. Now the future of that world is in jeopardy once again when one of the three Fates is kidnapped by the wicked Elf Queen.

The two Fates that are left enlist Danr to find the missing Fate. But first he must find a legendary sword known as the Bone Sword. The Fates will also need Aisa’s help during this dark time. Danr and Aisa will be separated from their companions but in the end all characters will converge as this trilogy comes to an end.

This final book in the trilogy wraps things up on a more serious note and brings into question Danr and Aisa’s continuing relationship as the Fates cause them to examine life and the future. All of the loose ends are nicely tied up, giving us a final showdown between Death and Queen Vesha, and most of all, letting us know what on earth will happen with Aisa. Girl has so many options!

The Books of Blood and Iron is a series that follows in the footsteps of other great fantasy works, with all of the expected characters, but Steven Harper has given us a fresh perspective on these characters. I have to say I liked them a lot! Well most of them (I really wanted to smack the Elf Queen). The Norse-based mythology is very well done. I also really liked the way the author addresses the growing pains of a new love and how two people will handle the obstacles put in their path. This is an enjoyable series full of adventure and well worth the read.

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

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Blood Storm by Steven Harper

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“I am Prince Hamzu, son of Kech and Halldora, TruthTeller from Under the Mountain, Nephew to Queen Vesha of the Stane.”

A man of many names, Hamzu, TruthTeller, Trollboy, Danr;

Danr and his companions are the renowned heroes of the Battle of the Twist.  They have united Kin, Stane and Fey when it was believed the three would never live together in the same city.  Danr is hated by many and adored by many, but all he really wants is to be left alone.  He longs to become a farmer and lead a calm, predictable life with his lady love, Aisa.

Aisa is troubled.  She loves Danr but now she has seen his monster unleashed, and the memories haunt her.  While she is also being hailed as a hero, she finds herself being carried along in the wake of Danr and his friends, taking her further away from her dreams of the ocean.  Her dreams keep calling to her and she’s becoming restless for more.

Danr and Aisa first visited Death last year when she sent them after the Iron Axe.  Death rewarded them handsomely and she has since called for Danr and company’s assistance a few times.  Now as Death sits knitting, she tells Danr of the power of the shape, a gift once wielded by the Kin before the Sundering, sacrificed in order to destroy the Axe.

Danr longs to find the power of the shape, for with it, he could become fully human and live a normal life.  But others want the power of the shape just as bad.  They will force Danr to find it whether it is for his use or theirs.  Before it’s over Danr and Aisa will have to confront a giant wyrm known as Grandfather Wyrm, along with the Three Gardeners, the Fates known as Nu, Tan, and Pendra.  They will find themselves sailing the stormy seas, and Aisa will actually get to see those mermaids she’s longed to keep company with.

This is a fun romp with characters that I’ve grown fond of.  The series is just travelling right along on the high seas of adventure…and you know it’s gettin’ good when the mermaids show up!

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Iron Axe by Steven Harper

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In Steven Harper’s The Books of Blood and Iron series we are introduced to a world where trolls, dwarves, and giants are known as the Stane; elves, sprites, and fairies are known as the Fae; and humans are known as the Kin.

The main character, Danr is 16 years old, his mother was Kin and his father was Stane.  When Danr was brought into the world, his mother was frowned upon for the birth of her half-troll child, and she was forced to accept work as a thrall to an unkind farmer.  Danr has suffered the cruelties that the world has to offer by being born as socially unacceptable and touted as a monster.  Now his mother has passed away and he desperately misses her.  He also knows that he must never forget to abide by the one piece of advice she always gave him, which was not to unleash the monster inside him.

One of Danr’s few friends in the village is Aisa, who is a couple of years older than Danr.  Aisa has also suffered a hard life.  She was sold into slavery by her father and after being a slave to the elves in Alfhame, she is now a slave to a man named Farek, who sexually abuses her.  Aisa hides from the world by keeping herself covered from head to toe in a dark cloak and never allowing her face to show.  But she dreams of one day travelling to the South Sea, healing the sick and earning enough money to buy a small boat so she can sail out among the merwomen and regain her face.

As these two try to escape the harsh realities of the life they’ve been given, a series of unusual events takes place which will change their paths.  Rumors are heard that the Stane have come down from the mountains and killed some villagers.  Now those villagers’ spirits are haunting the village and cannot be laid to rest.  As the rumors spread that the hated Stane are responsible, Danr’s place in the village becomes precarious.   Danr decides to flee the village and he sets out to find the truth behind the rumors and to learn more about his Stane heritage.  Danr is joined in his travels by Aisa and a new friend, Talfi, who bears no memories of who he is or where he came from.  Danr’s quest brings the group into contact with Death herself, who tells them that they must recover a powerful weapon known as the Iron Axe in order to tip the balance of the world back to its rightful place.  As they pursue the Iron Axe, they also wind up on a deeper quest for the truth about themselves and the world around them.

Iron Axe features strong, loveable characters that each have their own personal struggles.  It is written in a straight-forward, no frills manner.  Harper has also effortlessly included gay characters within the story.  While the story at times seems simplistic, the characters have been through a lot of darkness.  Told in the style of traditional fantasy, the story moves along at a good clip and comes to a satisfactory end, with two more books to follow in this series.  I can also easily see this as a graphic novel, appealing to young adults and adults alike.  If you’re looking for a good book with a Beauty and the Beast crossed with a Norse-type Mythology vibe, you will enjoy this one.

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Gaslight Grimoire: A Steampunk Collection by K.C. Finn

Book Blurb

Enter a whole new world of possibilities…
Expert storyteller K.C. Finn ventures into the Victorian world of steampunk fantasy for this brand new collection of tales, featuring everything from classic fairy stories, to cautionary horror fables and thrilling new adventures.
Suitable for readers of all ages, this anthology contains eight brand new stories and three much beloved reprints, as well as the full-length novella of MIRA AND THE MAW, featuring Mirabelle Blake: Victorian Zombie Hunter.
Prepare for a world like no other: a world filed with dragons, magic, fairies, ghosts, beauties, beasts and, perhaps most importantly, cogs and steam!

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My Thoughts

This is a great collection of short stories featuring many wonders of the fantasy world.  I was initially drawn to the very cool cover when I spotted this book.  Little did I know that it would also prove to be some of the best steampunk reading that I’ve read to date.  Since I am not that big on short stories, I wasn’t sure about it.  But each story proved to be a delight all its own and in this day of all of the never-ending series, it was actually quite refreshing to read these.

About the Author

K.C. Finn was born and raised in Cardiff, South Wales, where her love for storytelling grew at a precociously young age. After developing the medical condition M.E. / C.F.S., Kim turned to writing to escape the pressures of disabled living, only to become hooked on the incredible world of publishing. Kim spends most of her time locked in the writing cave with an obscenely large mug of tea. When not writing, she can be found pursuing her PhD in Linguistics, watching classic British comedy, or concocting evil schemes in the secret laboratory in her attic.

I would like to thank the author, K.C Finn for providing me with the ARC through the LibraryThing Giveaways program for an honest review.

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Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban

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Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art is an oft repetitive and scattered account of the life of the ‘80s Neo-Expressionist painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat.  Basquiat was the first contemporary African American artist to become an international star.  In this book, the author draws from interviews with ex-girlfriends, friends and peers of the art world.

Sweeping from Jean-Michel’s middle-class upbringing in Brooklyn, NY to the height of ‘80s decadence in Manhattan, this book is as much a portrait of the excess of the times as it is of Basquiat himself.  During the heyday of clubs such as CBGBs and the Mudd Club, Basquiat toiled alongside other fellows of the arts such as Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Longo, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, Sandro Chia, oh and of course let’s not forget Andy Warhol!  If you were around during the heyday of the 80s a lot of these names will be familiar to you.

In his school years Basquiat became one of the star illustrators in the school yearbook and newspaper.  This is where his oft-used pseudonym SAMO was born in an essay about a bogus religion.  After leaving home at 15 years old, Basquiat put his artistic talents to use by scrawling cryptic graffiti all over Manhattan under that same pseudonym.  Around that same time he collaborated with his friend Michael Holman, who is now an award-winning writer, director and producer, creating the industrial band, Gray.  By the time he started painting, Michel had already become a steady presence in the underground art/rock scene of Manhattan.  In the decade to follow he would not only become a legendary artist, he would become a victim of the times and die of a heroin overdose at 27 years old.

Although Basquiat is remembered as charismatic, kind, gentle and loving by ex-lovers and friends, they all talk frankly of how he was also a very pained and isolated spirit.  He would unwittingly sabotage his relationships, both personal and professional.  He had a fear of betrayal and he could not maintain emotional bonds, often driving people away with his behavior.  He was not tactful, was very selfish and could sometimes be offensive.

“The one word that applies to JeanMichel is ‘excess.’ The one word is ‘more.’ If you asked JeanMichel what he wanted, the answer would be ‘more.’ He was never happy. He was obsessive about everything. He wanted more, whether it was people, or food, or drugs.”

On the professional side, he yearned for and eventually got recognition by Andy Warhol, working alongside him at one point, but eventually sabotaged that relationship as well.

As the new money of the eighties was being rapidly invested in art, art dealers were continually trying to exploit him.   He was being pressured to produce painting after painting non-stop.  John-Michel hated the ever-increasing demand on him and couldn’t take the unending pressure of being treated like a commodity.  Some of this can be seen in the art he produced as he layered meaningful messages within each piece.  It is during this time that his paintings seem to become somewhat repetitive.

Basquiat’s art also reflected his passion for language, knowledge, pop culture, music and other things he obsessed over such as being black and his own death.  In the end, Basquiat left behind an enduring legacy in the art world.  The importance of his work, in terms of financial worth and historical relevance, has increased dramatically in the decades since his death and within the eighties generation of painters, Basquiat alone has consistently set records for the prices paid for his paintings sold at auction.

I was very interested in reading about Basquiat and I should have liked this book.  Being a child of the 80s, I absolutely loved the music and art of that decade.  I recognize that it’s got to be hard to splice all the info contained in this book into a comprehensive timeline and it definitely shows.  The book was poorly constructed, jumping back and forth through time and becoming very repetitious.  In the end, it sounds like Jean-Michel just got tired of the same old, same old, and that’s exactly how I felt reading about it.

I want to thank the publisher (Open Road Integrated Media) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

 

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When the bruja meets her dead, she will welcome them. She will open her heart and know her true potential. —The Deathday, Book of Cantos

In less than two weeks, Alex will turn 16 years old.  Alex belongs to a Latino family of powerful witches known as brujas/brujos.  Their magic develops at puberty but so far all attempts to reveal her bruja powers have failed.  Now, as she turns 16, Alex’s family plans the Deathday ceremony that all brujas are given at that age.  Her family will gather in ceremony to wake the spirits of her ancestors, and Alex will receive their blessings, allowing her magic to grow and reach its full potential. Without the blessings, bad things can happen.

But Alex has been keeping a dark secret from her family and she has no intention of becoming a bruja.  At the Deathday ceremony, as her dead ancestors are summoned, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her bruja powers.  The spell turns disastrous and her whole family vanishes.  Now Alex must find a way to bring them back.

In the company of the young and mysterious brujo, Nova Santiago, Alex travels to another realm known as Los Lagos.  Los Lagos is the land of in-between.  Alex will need to confront a creature that lives at the heart of the land known as the Devourer.  The Devourer feeds off of the Tree of Souls, collecting its power throughout the month and then turning it to raw energy at the eclipse.  Alex will find her family at the Tree of Souls but she must do so before the next eclipse.

As Alex and Nova traverse the evils of Los Lagos, they learn that their powers are stronger when used together.  But Alex isn’t quite sure who Nova really is and whether he can be trusted.

Labyrinth Lost is a young adult fantasy with definite tones of Beautiful Creatures.  It says so in the blurb and that couldn’t be more accurate.  It is full of the usual teenage angst that accompanies that time of life when you are trying to figure who you are and how you will fit into the world around you.  But this book does have a few new things to offer.  The characters are drawn from a diverse pallet, with multi-racial characters and a gentle look at bisexuality as Alex comes to realize that she is attracted to Nova, yet she is also attracted to her female friend Rishi.  The author also draws from both Latino and Spanish Caribbean influences by incorporating aspects of the Day of the Dead and Santeria.  So there’s a little something for everyone to identify with here making it a very contemporary take in the young adult world.

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

 

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His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

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

Will Laurence is the successful naval captain of Britain’s HMS Reliance.  Laurence comes from well-to-do family, he’s patriotic to the core and he’s got his sights set on getting home to propose marriage.  Little does he know that his life is about to undergo a drastic change.

The HMS Reliance has captured one of Napoleon’s French frigates and seized its cargo.  Included in the cargo is an unhatched dragon egg which will hatch before they make land.  In Britain and France, dragons are a valuable asset.  A dragon and its handler are assigned a crew and form part of the Aerial Corps used in combat against the enemy.  It is common knowledge that the dragon’s handler has to be a person that is present at its hatching, and he must be able to harness the dragon.  One of Laurence’s men must be willing to give up his life at sea and go into aerial combat with the dragon.  His man Carver is picked to be that person but much to Laurence’s chagrin, when the baby dragon hatches it has different ideas.  The baby dragon chooses Laurence to be the one that harnesses him.

Laurence names the dragon Temeraire.  When he hatches he is already very knowledgeable.  He began learning the languages of those around him while he was still in the shell.  Did I tell you that these dragons talk too?  Temeraire in particular, takes great interest in learning as much as he can and loves nothing better than having a book read to him.  Laurence is charmed by the little fellow and enjoys his company immensely.  But being Temeraire’s handler means that he will have to give up his navy career and become part of the aerial corps.  He also realizes that his station in life will now be much different and he won’t be able to make that marriage proposal.

With Napoleon’s forces drawing close, her Majesty’s forces rally to defend their country.  The question is whether Captain Will Laurence will be defending it from the air or the sea.  Can Temeraire be convinced to accept a new handler?

Captain Will Laurence is a likeable character; he’s a stand-up guy who is well-bred, young and successful, a man you would want by your side in a time of need.  Temeraire is absolutely delightful.  His enthusiasm for learning and everything around him is infectious.  That said, this is definitely an introduction to a series of books and a lot of this book is just fleshing out the story to come.  It’s a fun premise with the combination of humans and dragons set against the background of the Napoleonic Wars.  I enjoyed it and I plan to continue reading.  I am certain that this series has a lot more to offer.

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Vici by Naomi Novik

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Vici is a short story introducing us to the world of Naomi Novik’s Termeraire series.  It is considered Book 0.5 of the series.  If you are interested in reading this series, start here and you will get a perfect little glimpse of what you’re getting into.

You can find this story by going to at Fantasy Magazine.  It was originally published in the anthology titled The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited by Jack Dann.

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Worst Journal Ever by Spencer Clark

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Its Spencer Clark’s first day of the 8th grade and he and his class are asked to write a journal about their summer experiences.  Spencer is a little put out.  How on earth can he show off his amazing writing skills with this lame topic?

“It was official, I was about to begin writing the worst journal ever.”

Spencer decides he will put his own spin on the journal by telling a different story.  With a lot of sarcasm and 8th grade humor, Spencer Clark tells his fantastical version of the first day at a new school ala Groundhog Day, rehashing the same day over and over with the most popular girl by his side.

I bought this book for .99 cents from Amazon at the author’s urging.  I personally wasn’t at all enthused about the story line of this book.  There was no depth here and it all seemed rather unoriginal and juvenile to me.  I did finish it because it’s a quick read and I don’t do DNFs often.   I’m sure it might be entertaining to another 8th grader, just not my cup of tea.  Now if Spencer Clark is actually an 8th grader then I might have to reevaluate the quality of the writing.  I’m just not clear whether that is the case.  As Spencer would say:

“Fine, I’m weak sauce.”

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Jem: Lessons in Living by John Donald Middleton

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Like a lot of providers, John Donald Middleton spent many years wrapped up in his work, on the road a lot, and drinking quite a bit.  His family had grown used to him being unpredictable and unreliable.  When John’s drinking escalated to a crisis point, it was time to seek help.  He entered a recovery program.

As John entered his retirement years, he began to realize that he hadn’t been the father or the husband that he should have been.  In conjunction with his recovery, John begins mending fences between himself and his children.  When one of his sons gets a new puppy, a pug named Jem, John begins to spend a lot of time playing “grandpa” to the delightful little dog.  John has had many dogs come and go throughout his life but Jem captures his heart like no other has before.  Not only is Jem good therapy during his recovery, but spending time with Jem, gives John’s life purpose.

SPOILER ALERT –> 

(more…)

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A Library of Literary Interestingness

erin morgenstern

READING AND REVIEWING BOOKS

Bionic Book Worm

Book reviews, tags, and random bookish thoughts

Rachel Poli

I read. I write. I create.

The Musing Quill

A Blog on Writing, Poetry, Stories & Books.

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The scars of my soul bled through words in the form of poetry.

A Book. A Thought.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Book Princess Reviews

A princess and her book - reviews on stories full of hearts and pages!

Myths of the Mirror

Life is make believe, fantasy given form

A Dog's Life? (Stories of me and him)

Life with Ray - 75lbs of Attitude in a Fur Coat!

Annika Perry's Writing Blog

Join me as I edit my first novel and aim for publication

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Enjoys the company of books.

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Books, book reviews and book thoughts

The Bibliophile Struggle

Where book-aholics come to satisfy their addiction

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