June Reads, 2017

SilverSilence_SinghSilver Silence by Nalini Singh.  I loved this book! Hope we get to see a whole lot more of StoneWater. And add my vote for an Arwen/Pasha novella. Pretty please!  Lots of other story possibilities here.  Stasya and someone from BlackEdge, for instance.  Tanique and Leila.  I don’t think it’s time for Bo, because I really think he’s going to be paired with Miane.  And, of course, poor Lily.

About the Architect.  Shoshona would be way too easy.  But I have no doubt she’s involved, and no doubt thinks she’s the Architect!

Lady Susan by Jane Austen.  I very much enjoyed this early Austen work and don’t see why anyone thinks it needed a rewrite.  It didn’t take very long at all for me to have a serious hate on for Lady Susan Vernon.

DangerousDuke-London_HunterThe Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter.  Typical historical romance with an angry hero bent on revenge on the heroine’s family.  Enjoyable while I was reading, but not much stuck with me afterwards.  The heroine, Lady Clara, was a little unusual in that she was aware of this possible/probable motive for seduction.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.  After reading and loving Lady Susan, I decided to read another Jane Austen work I hadn’t yet read.  I didn’t like it nearly as much.  Mostly, I think, because I didn’t warm to any of the characters.  No one stood out or inspired much emotion in me at all.  Very un-Austen.  The exception on the emotion front was Mr. Crawford.  I wanted to smack him.

Neanderthal_CameronThe Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron.  This was an enjoyable, imaginative read, but I think I would have enjoyed this book more without the trips into the modern world.  I realize that the comparison between Girl and Rose, between a Neanderthal and a modern human female, was one of the main themes of the books, but I would have preferred knowing how Girl interacted with the female who was and was not part of the families she meets at the end of the novel.

The Chosen by J. R. Ward.  The only thing of interest here, for me, was Lassiter’s change in station.  Layla and X’cor hold no interest for me, and, frankly, I’m getting a little tired of Qhuinn being an ass and Blay tragically suffering for it.  I think this marks the end of the BDB for me.  I’m even less interested in Assail than I was in Layla and X’cor.

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Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke

To the rest of the world, this book bears the title Skin, and it is much more apropos.

Born to the skinless, or lost to their families before naming, the unskinned were not claimed by a totem.  Their souls were fragmented, unbound to the Singing…The passage from womb to world was only half a birth–the body’s birth.  Our souls were born when we were plunged, as babes, into river water, screaming at the cold shock of it, given our name and called to skin…Skin was our greeting, our mother, our ancestors, our land.  Nothing existed outside its reach.

Beyond skin there was only darkness.  Only chaos.

Because I was without skin I could not be plunged or named.  I was half-born, born in body but not in soul.  Born to the world but not to the tribe.  I could never marry lest skin taboos were unknowingly betrayed.  Deer did not marry well to owl.  Owl to oak.  At Ceremony I had to be silent, and keep to the edges.  For where would I stand?  What would I chant?

I lived with these losses, but the one that hollowed my chest was that I was not permitted to learn.  All learning began and ended with the songs of skin.

Left at the kitchen doorstep the Tribequeen’s dwelling as a babe newborn, cord still attached, Ailia was raised by the Cookmother. Being an orphan without known blood kin, she was skinless, outside the tribe.  Without skin she was forbidden to marry and permitted no knowledge.  Even something so basic as learning to swim was denied her.  And yet, the seeds of Knowledge were within her, fostered by the Mothers and they would not be denied.

In the first century A. D., Cunobelinos, King of the Catuvellauni, began to carve out the beginnings of an empire for himself in southeastern Britannia.  Conquering, first the Trinovantes, a tribe allied to Rome.  But the king chose his timing well, for the Romans were otherwise occupied following their shocking defeat at Teutoburg Forest.  He with his sons and his brother, would continue to expand their influence to Cantii and the Artrebates before his death in about A. D. 40.  One of his sons, Caratacos, completed the conquest of the Artrebates, and their king, Verica, fled to Rome, providing the Romans under Claudius just the excuse for which it had been waiting to invade Britannia for the second time.  The Romans are no respecters of skin.

Ailia finds herself torn between the two worlds.   When her skin is finally revealed, you kind of want to smack yourself because it was rather obvious with clues galore scattered throughout the book.

Skin/Daughter of Albion is a wonderful story about a young woman’s need to belong.  Her struggle for knowledge, for love, and for family.  Ilka Tampke’s world is richly imagined, drawn from our small knowledge of Druidic doctrine and the traditions of the Aborigines which, somehow, fit together seamlessly.  When the sequel comes out, I’ll definitely be reading it.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

There may be a few minor spoilers, be warned.

Allegiance_SinghThe pacing was quite different from the other books in the series, so it took me a chapter or two to get into the rhythm, but after that, Allegiance of Honor was a treat for heart for all of us devoted to the characters of this series.  Ms. Singh describes this book as an ensemble cast, and it is, but there’s also a focus, though a soft one, on Lucas and Sascha.  On Naya.

But, as promised, there were scenes with just about everybody.  We got to meet the pupcubs and see Xavier reunited with his Nina.  Annie and Kaleb, finally, meet.  We see more of BlackSea, and of Faith’s brother.  I smell a romance there.  I’m also getting that vibe from certain members of BlackSea and the Alliance.  We’ll see. And, of course, there’s Anthony and Nikita.  Just what is going on there will be used to torture us for many books to come, I think.  The fun kind.

And, then there’s the Architect.  Who, by the way, I still think is Shoshana.  She’s been way too quiet for way too long not to be up to her neck in the Consortium.  And, as always, her overweening ambition is going come back and bite her in the ass.  The Architect has a rather long and bloody list of assassinations in their long range plans for world domination and, leaving aside the Changelings on that list, on the Psy will put her on the bad side of a particular powerful Clan and its extremely ruthless and cunning matriarch.  In the end, that final epic showdown, I think it might end up, at the heart, being Shoshona against Nikita.  There will be other players, of course, but they’ll be the epicenter.  Also, whether of not Shoshona is or is not the Architect, I have a feeling the Alliance chips are going to play into her Queen Bee delusion.  And isn’t it interesting that the Architect has so much respect for, and was so observant of, Zee Zen?  Truthfully, that part was just enough to poke a small hole in my Shoshona = Architect conviction.

I love this series and can’t wait for Wild Embrace in August.

Rating:  4.75 out of 5 stars

May Reads 2016

TangleofNeed_NaliniSinghThis month has, mostly, been occupied by my Psy-Changeling reread and am more than ready for Allegiance of Honor. Even after this third time reading Tangle of Need, I still think Adria got gypped. That one continues to irritate me.

Between visits with the leopards, the wolves, and the Psy (oh my!), I read a few other things.  I really enjoyed the latest in Lorraine Heath’s Hellions of Havisham series, The Earl Takes All.  Although, I do think Julia was way less pissed than she should have been.  She forgave Edward too easily.  Earl-Takes_HeathOnly Beloved, the last book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors Club, was another good one, and I also enjoyed her novella, Another Dream, in Once Upon a Dream.  Wulfric Bedwyn continues to be one of my favorite fictional gentlemen.  Less enjoyable was Eva Leigh’s The Temptations of a Wallflower, the third installment in her Wicked Quills of London series. I almost choked on some of the purple prose spouted by The Lady of Dubious Quality.Beloved_Balogh

Next was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It didn’t take two chapters before things started going down hill. Sittenfeld’s Lizzie Bennett is, obviously an idiot, a condition to which I vehemently object in that character. I managed to stick it out until chapter 38 when Jasper’s last name was revealed. It kind of dashed my last hopes for Liz’s intelligence. However, on the bright side, Sittenfeld’s Mr. Bennett made me laugh every bit as much as his Austenian counterpart, but, alas, this was not enough to induce me to continue.

I picked up the much anticipated by me Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman and the very interesting sounding Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke, but I haven’t found the time to dive into them, yet.  That’s for June.

What have y’all been reading and loving lately?

April Reads 2016

Debutante-Ruin_JordanAfter finishing Because of Miss Bridgerton last month, I entered a Regency groove. Lord knows I have enough of them on my TBR pile/USB.  First, I did a quick re-read of Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me for no other reason than Pal Mal and the Mallet of Death. Then, with breaks for The Beast and The Obsession, I devoured the following series: Sophie Jordan’s Debutante Files, Lorraine Heath’s Hellions of Havisham and her Scandalous Gentlemen of St. James, Eva Leigh’s Wicked Quills of London.  Earl_LeighThey were all great fun.

Then I started on Sabrina Jeffries’ Sinful Suitors series.  The first book and the follow-up novella were pretty good, but I did not finish the second book, The Study of Seduction. Ethan and Clarissa were discussing their fake “secret” engagement after she was accosted by that French guy, and I just could not make myself read any further. Such convoluted idiocy. And, with that, my historical romance spree was broken.

Beast_WardThe Beast was surprisingly good. Assail didn’t bore me, for once. For the last several books, I’ve done a lot of skimming over his scenes. Especially Lover At Last. He got way too much page time in that book, and Quinn and Blay not nearly enough. But Assail’s scenes in this one. OMG! For one shining moment, I had hope that the whole Assail/Sola thing was dead and we could move on to something more interesting.  But, then, came the Cincinnati signing and all my hopes on that score were dashed. Unless the Warden plans on writing a menage HEA. I would be okay with that if it fit the story, but I know many would not. And, with what she revealed about Lassiter at the signing, the next book, The Chosen immediately went on my most anticipated list for 2017.

The Obsession was okay, but not awesome. The identity of the copy-cat killer was rather obvious. I’d pegged him for what he was shortly after he made his appearance earlier in the book.  When he made that lame attempt at blackmail.

Pompeii_Quinn-KaneAfter the romance, I was still in the mood for something historical, so I dug around/scrolled and found A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii by Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter. It provided a nice visit with Quinn’s Diana Cornelia and Senator Norbanus. I also really enjoyed Shecter’s contribution, “The Son,” from the point-of-view of Pliny the Younger and Knight’s “The Mother” almost made me cry it was so sad.

The end of the month saw the beginning of my Psy-Changeling re-read.  And I started the new Eva Leigh, Temptations of a Wallflower, and Lorraine Heath, The Earl Takes All.

March Reads 2016

Written_BishopMarch was an excellent reading month, for me. I devoured two new-to-me series, one with extra relish. I loved Anne Bishop’s series The Others. There were a few people I was hoping would meet Tess, but, no such luck. Their deaths were appropriate, mostly, for their crimes, but I was saddened they didn’t get the Asia Crane experience. Vindictive? Oh, yeah.

Magical_BlakeI also blew through Deborah Blake’s Baba Yaga novels. Although, frankly, I didn’t like them as much as I thought I would. I loved the first novella, Wickedly Magical. It was laugh out loud funny, at times. The rest of the series, not so much.

OtherworldMen_ArmstrongI dipped my toes, so to speak, into Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. After reading a few of the novellas, I’m still not sure what I think. I’ll probably read the first full length novel, Bitten, before giving a final verdict. Right now, I’m on the shelf. (I couldn’t resist!)

FireTouched_BriggsAnd, speaking of Baba Yagas, there’s a strange and creepy one in Patricia Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson books, the latest of which Fire Touched, was awesome. Mercy ends up going into Underhill where she battles, among others, The Widow Queen who inspired the villainess in such tales as Snow White and Cinderella. But we start things off with a visit from an Avon lady type saleswoman and an epic battle with a huge green troll. While I prefer Charles and Anna, Mercy and Adam are a trip.

Phoenix_TylerAlso in the paranormal fiction category was the much anticipated (by me, anyway) Phoenix Reborn by J. D. Tyler, the latest of her Alpha Pack series. But I’m still a little pissed that it was a novella instead an actual novel. Nix and, especially, Noah deserved better than that. And the whole resolution of conflict was a bit of a cop out. As you can probably tell, I was more than a little disappointed in this one.

Guide_MacomberAnother disappointing read was A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber. In fact, I think I’m about ready to drop Macomber from my reading list. For the last couple of years her books, with the exception of the Blossom Street series, haven’t done anything for me. They haven’t been horrible, just not good.

Bridgerton_QuinnJulia Quinn’s latest, Because of Miss Bridgerton, was as far from a disappointment as you could get. It was hilarious, and wrenching, and heart-warming. All the things you’d expect from a Bridgerton, indeed, a Julia Quinn, novel. The ending, however, grated a bit. It was evil. That last sentence. How long do we have to wait for the next book?

Housewife_EllisAmerican Housewife, a collection of short stories by Helen Ellis was another amusing read. I especially got a kick out of “Wainscotting Wars.” The Tampax one, though, was kind of disturbing. It may take a while before I can walk passed a Tampax display without getting the heebies.

Words_LahiriI also read Jhumpa Lahiri’s new nonfiction work, In Other Words. This is the story of her journey into Italian and was, in fact, originally written in that language. It also reveals her frustration, alienation, and isolation with always being considered a foreigner in her native land, her native language. Even in that of her parents.  Very thought provoking.

1536_LipscombFinally, I read Suzannah Lipscomb’s 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII. This was a fascinating exploration of how the events of 1536 affected Henry’s physical and psychological health. Especially interesting was Dr. Lipscomb’s theories concerning the Framing of Anne Boleyn and her portrayal of Mark Smeaton as a stalker. I’m surprised the movie makers haven’t jumped all over that.

What about y’all. Read anything good lately?

Written in Blood by Anne Bishop

I really liked this book.  The world Ms. Bishop has created is a fascinating one.  Leaving aside, of course, the YA-ish place names.  I found Tess and the Elementals especially interesting.  Tess is not someone, or something, I would ever want to meet.  The sensation I imagined with the phrase “raining inside her head” was really unsettling.  Freaky.  Creepy.

Written_BishopMy only real problems with this book revolve around the monumentally idiotic character of Asia Crane.  The sheer stupidity of this woman really irritated me.  Sure, she’s clever, but, when it comes to dealing with the Others, she was consistently stupid.

But she had never heard of Others named Ponygard, which meant the stupid ponies were just animals. They would be a distraction, a way to stir things up, nothing but collateral damage in the overall scheme.

The utter and complete idiocy of that left me gaping at the screen. Horses are prey. Would there be any horses working, calmly, among Wolves if they weren’t some sort of Other? And, later, after the exile scene with Simon, she’s more afraid of her “backer” and “the benefactor” than she is of the Others.

Another bit of stupidity that bothered me was Meg’s reaction to Asia. She kept getting tingles around Asia, but it never occurred to her that those tingles might be warnings.  Hell, everyone seemed to be getting tingles and “feelings” about Asia Crane and everyone shrugged them off.  When Meg, finally, put it together enough to have the Sugar Prophecy, I nearly shouted “Hallelujah!”  And did mumble “About, freakin’ time!”

Wonder if “the benefactor” realizes he’s a walking dead man with a life just waiting to be harvested?

I enjoyed this book very much and will definitely be reading Murder of Crows very soon.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

February Reads 2016

ReadingRoundup_dsI spent a lot of the first half of the month reading and skimming my way through a good portion of J. D. Robb’s In Death series. After finishing the latest, Brotherhood in Death, I thought of a few scenes from previous books that I just had to revisit. It kind of snowballed from there. Scene by scene, I hopscotched my way through over a dozen books. Sometimes I re-read the entire thing, but, mostly, I skimmed as a looked for particular moments. It was fun. Other than that, nothing really stood out. Not that there was much. Just four new reads for the whole month.

Golden_GowdaThe Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda – I loved Leena’s story. It was gripping and compelling, tragic and triumphant. Anil’s story, however, didn’t do anything for me. I found it difficult to sympathize with is character. I would have enjoyed this book more if we’d stayed in India. Maybe focused a little more on Anil’s siblings and the contrasts between his favored status and theirs, between his book education and their real world experience. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Robb_BrotherhoodBrotherhood in Death by J. D. Robb – I nearly always enjoy my visits with Eve, Roarke and company. This one especially because Eve isn’t the only one with a crush on the adorable Dennis Mira.  Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Noah_StarckNoah’s Wife by Lindsay Starck – This was one of my most anticipated debut novels of the year, and I won a copy of it at Goodreads. It was an interesting spin on the Noah Flood story. I liked the writing, though I found the story a little to slow for my taste, but I did not like the ending. It was unsatisfying and I didn’t feel like anything was actually resolved. Especially between Noah and his wife and between Noah and his god. Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Rush_BurtonUnexpected Rush by Jaci Burton – This month’s brain candy. It was okay, though what conflict there was felt contrived. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

January Reads 2016

ReadingRoundup_dsI had three Five-Star Reads this month.  That’s amazing.  Usually, I’m lucky if I read one every two or three months.

I, the Sun by Janet E. Morris – I love Hittite history and Suppliluliuma is one of its most dynamic figures.  It was he who built the Hittite Empire, literally, from the ashes.  He brought the Great Kingdom of Mitanni to its knees and managed to expand his borders into the Levant without overly antagonizing Egypt.  Of course, that might have gone differently if anyone else but Akhenaten was Pharaoh.  The story of his reign also includes the mysterious disappearance of one queen, a shocking request from another, murder, and plague.  In other words, Janet Morris had a lot of raw material to work with in weaving a dramatic “autobiography” of Suppiluliuma.  So much that, if I wasn’t familiar with the history, I’m not sure if I’d have been able to keep everything straight.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone – The murder of Andrew of Hungary, Duke of Calabria, by his adulterous wife, Joanna, Queen of Naples, was one of the great scandals of the Middle Ages.  It was made even more so by her exoneration purchased by the enormous bribe of Avignon.  That, at least, is the version of the tale found in most books.  Goldstone, however, puts a different spin on it.  Or, to be more accurate, wades through centuries of spin to find the truth.  Joanna, it seems, was completely innocent.  And she didn’t sell Avignon to the papacy, she rented it to them at a steep discount.  But it’s still a thrilling, scandalous, story of family intrigue, treason, scheming, and murder.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Duke of Scandal by Gaelen Foley – This is the first full length novel in Foley’s new Moonlight Square Regency series.  There’s a prequel novella called One Moonlit Night which I didn’t like at all.  It was boring.  But, since I like most of Foley’s books, I decided to give this one a go despite that.  And was surprised that I liked it.  Felicity and Jason were neighbors, growing up, and they have become more if not for the intervention of her overprotective big brother, who, of course, is Jason’s best friend.  Jason then becomes a manwhore and Felicity and prim and proper miss who prefers the shadows to the spotlight.  But, then, they realize they’re grown ups now and can be together.  Or Felicity does, and she’s not shy in going after who she wants.  Jason’s a little slow on the uptake, but men generally are.  This was a fun read.  Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Janet Morgan – I adored this book.  It was hilarious and tragic at the same time.  Equally as likely to make cry with sadness as it is with laughter.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – This first novel of Sarah MacLean’s new Scandal and Scoundrel series, begins with an awesome “You go, girl!” moment involving an ass (in two senses of the word) and a pool.  It was great.  I was very proud of our heroine, Sophie.  But then, she meets the hero and promptly loses several IQ points.  I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, that’s the power of MacLean.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn – Blurbage is often misleading, but, not here. As skillfully as any ancient bard, Llywelyn takes the tales ofLebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland or The Book of Invasions), and weaves them together with wonder and ruin into a stirring, absorbing narrative of the epic struggle between the Children of Milesios and the Children of Light.  Amergin himself couldn’t have done better.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom – I loved this book, told to us by Music with music.  Be sure to read it with YouTube open so you can listen to the music as you read.  It really does enhance the experience.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf – Somehow, I missed this one.  I always enjoy my visits to Holt, Colorado, and this was no exception.  The ending, however, is unsatisfying, to say the least.  Rating:  4.25 out of 5 stars

After Rome by Morgan Llywelyn – This was bit of a disappointment after the awesomeness of Only the Stones Survive.  I spent most of it wondering why Cadogan didn’t just sell Quartilla to the Pict.  She was annoying.  And what was with Dinas, Meradoc, and the flying horse prophecy thing?  Cadogan’s story was interesting, and I would have liked to see more of Saba and Pelemos.  Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth – Anna is thirty-eight years old, and she as Alzheimer’s.  Luke is forty-one, and he has frontal-lobe dementia (trouble with finding the correct words and with the physical act of speaking).  Their story is sweet and tragic.  Keep a box of tissues close.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

 

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

As befitting a book written by Music, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto has a soundtrack.

Presto_AlbomOn an evening in the small Spanish town of Villareal, a young woman, heavily pregnant, enters a church to light a candle. Then the raiders come, followers of Franco, and her labor begins. In a hidden room attended by a single nun, her son, Francisco Presto, enters the world, grabbing a giant handfull of Music as he comes. In a desperate attempt to keep him quiet, his mother hums to him Francisco Tárrega’s Lágrima.  As the church begins to burn, the new mother, the nun, and the infant huddle together.  Only one of the women make it out alive.

Thus begins the life of musical legend, Frankie Presto who would die so spectacularly.  His life and music touched and was touched by so many.  Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Elvis Presley, Lyle Lovett, Tony Bennett, and many, many more.

I loved this book, told to us by Music with music.  Be sure to read it with YouTube open so you can listen to the music as you read.  It really does enhance the experience.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars