Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Ocean Light



Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity) by [Singh, Nalini]















Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity)- Nalini Singh 
Berkley/Penguin Group
Release Date: June 12, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚📚📚

Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead!

Synopsis: Security specialist Bowen Knight has come back from the dead. But there's a ticking time bomb in his head: a chip implanted to block telepathic interference that could fail at any moment--taking his brain along with it. With no time to waste, he should be back on land helping the Human Alliance. Instead, he's at the bottom of the ocean, consumed with an enigmatic changeling...

Kaia Luna may have traded in science for being a chef, but she won't hide the facts of Bo's condition from him or herself. She's suffered too much loss in her life to fall prey to the dangerous charm of a human who is a dead man walking. And she carries a devastating secret Bo could never imagine...

But when Kaia is taken by those who mean her deadly harm, all bets are off. Bo will do anything to get her back--even if it means striking a devil's bargain and giving up his mind to the enemy...

__________________________________________________________________

The last time we saw Bowen Knight, human security chief of the Alliance, he was being shot by an assassin and falling into the waters of Venice, presumed dead (Silver Silence).  He was already on limited time thanks to a degrading experimental chip in his brain designed to create a shield against psychic manipulation. Thankfully for him (and readers!) his sister Lily calls in help from the mysterious changelings of BlackSea, who have a possible, highly experimental, solution to all of these problems. Two months after being shot and the events of Silver Silence (not necessary to read before this, but highly recommended because it is a fantastic book!) Bowen comes out of a coma in a BlackSea clinic and meets the station's chef, Kaia Luna.  Kaia and Bowen have plenty of suspicions to overcome, multiple traitors to uncover, and different worlds to reconcile before they can be together- if his brain doesn't kill him first.

Bowen and Kaia are an incredible couple.  He's scarred from a Psy attack when he was a teen and has dedicated his entire life to building the Alliance and protecting humans from the stronger Psy.  She's afraid of loving and losing those who matter most to her.  He is a deadly predator, a hunter determined to see the three races build bridges and live on some level of equality.  She is a graceful creature of the deep who cares for everyone within her sphere.  Two worlds meet and clash, and the sparks between them are both instant and amazing.  I especially loved Kaia- a strong and independent woman who is willing to overcome past trauma and crippling fears for a chance with the man she loves.  Bowen does a great job of figuring out how to blend their two worlds together, not allowing all the obstacles to keep them from the happiness they both deserve. Despite the almost certain death sentence he is under, he lives every moment to its fullest and never gives up. There are some fun cameos by characters from earlier books (especially Kaleb and Sahara!) but Ocean's Light, like the rest of Singh's Psy-Changeling series, can be read as a stand alone book.

Ocean's Light is the first time Nalini Singh really allows us into the mysterious world of BlackSea- the loose 'pack' of all the water changelings on the planet. Interestingly, she doesn't have one of the alpha, political, leaders being our introduction, but a more 'regular' person.  While readers (and Bowen) know Mal and Miane slightly from earlier books, Kaia is new and a more accessible person to show us the alien world of the water changelings as if it is normal.  Because to her, it is.  Singh remains very coy about who shifts into what and although we get some hints, it is clear we're going to have to wait for future books to confirm our guesses.  We don't even get solid confirmation of Kaia's animal until pretty far into the book- a nice piece of careful writing on Singh's part!    

An intense, thrilling, and emotional read, Ocean's Light is a brilliant, must-read, addition to the Psy-Changeling world and hopefully opens doors to exploring some new aspects of that world.  Wonderfully written, with excellent characters and chemistry, this is a book you won't be able to put down after starting- so make sure to clear your schedule for a few hours and enjoy! 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Monday, June 11, 2018

Wagering for Miss Blake



Wagering For Miss Blake (Lords & Ladies in Love) by [Hutton, Callie]















Wagering for Miss Blake- Callie Hutton
Entangled: Scandalous/MacMillan
Release Date: June 11, 2018

Rating:
📚📚

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Synopsis: Mr. Giles Templeton, third son of the Earl of Wexford, is a rake of the highest order and a confirmed bachelor. Yet, marriage-minded-mamas continue to drag their daughters to his attention. He's everything a young lady of the ton could want—handsome, wealthy, charming, and kind. For Miss Suzanna Blake, though, Giles is missing the one thing her parents require in a potential son-in-law—a title. 


Giles has a golden touch—investments, horses, connections but when he falls…hard for Suzanna, she turns him away, despite the passion sparking between them. At wit’s end, Giles wagers her that not only will she marry him but he’ll make her fall in love with him. If Suzanna wins, she gains a sizable fortune for her favorite charity but she faces a loveless marriage to a titled man. Though her heart yearns for a true love-match with Giles, she has never gone against her parent’s wishes. All bets are off when happiness lies in losing a wager.
___________________________________________________________________

Callie Hutton's Lords and Ladies in Love series (Denying the Duke) continues with Giles Templeton's story, Wagering for Miss Blake.  Giles and Suzanna meet at her cousin's wedding to his friend and Giles is instantly captivated.  He goes from thinking there's no point to marrying to being ready to propose in an hour flat.  Suzanna recognizes an attraction right away, but is far too sensible to assume that will lead to marriage.  Not only do they know nothing about each other, but her mother refuses to allow Suzanna to look at anything less than a titled man.  
Although Giles' insta-love was pretty hard to believe, they do have a nice, instant chemistry that made you think a relation could work.  Suzanna's claims that she will only marry a title ring false and it's impossible to blame Giles for thinking he can change her mind, since Suzanna herself actually doesn't care about titles.  He might be annoyingly arrogant in believing he'll win her hand if he just keeps asking, but since he actually courts her, I was able to deal with his arrogance.  Suzanna, I had a much harder time with.  I spent the first half of the book wondering why it mattered that her mother wanted a suitor with a title since Suzanna herself didn't care- and wondering why she didn't admit to Giles early on that that was the problem. After we finally meet Suzanna's parents, things are a little easier to understand.  Her mother is a complete terror and rules over her father so he only makes decisions based on what will get him the least harangued.  It became more of a surprise that Suzanna wanted to marry for love at all, since the only reason her father allowed her mother to be so controlling was that he loved her- and was willing to sacrifice both his happiness and his daughter's for his beloved wife's.  
The idea of wagering on whether Giles would marrying her- and she'd fall in love with him- seemed to me pretty pointless.  Both are competitive, but the real competition should have been whether they could work together to change Mrs. Blake's mind.  Then right when Suzanna thinks she's figured out how to work around her mother, Giles misinterprets something and, instead of fighting for this incredible love he claims he feels, he turns and runs.  I thought Suzanna let him off the hook far more easily than she should have, but eventually there's a happy ending and a pretty clear set-up for the next book.  A lot of Wagering felt more like it was a bridge book to get you to the next in the series- presumably Hawk's book- without emotionally investing me in the characters enough that I'd go out of my way to look for the next one when it comes out.  

Wagering for Miss Blake is a quick read, with shallow characters and an equally shallow plot line- entertaining enough to pass the time, but not so interesting a book, writing, or characters that I find myself wanting to read more in the series. 

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Price of Greatness




















The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy- Jay Cost
Basic Books
Release Date: June 5, 2018

Rating:
📚📚

Synopsis: In the history of American politics there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison's bitterly personal falling out. Together they helped bring the Constitution into being, yet soon after the new republic was born they broke over the meaning of its founding document. Hamilton emphasized economic growth, Madison the importance of republican principles.

Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right--and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment. He shows that each man in his own way came to accept corruption as a necessary cost of growth. The Price of Greatness reveals the trade-off that made the United States the richest nation in human history, and that continues to fracture our politics to this day.

_____________________________________________________________


The Price of Greatness explores the origins of much of the American political and economic engines that we still see today, from the starting point of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.  These two Founding Fathers quickly became divided over America's identity and path, and Jay Cost argues that both men were, in ways, right- and wrong.

I always like learning about original context in history- political, social, economic, etc. and The Price of Greatness does explain some of America's early economic ideas. Unfortunately, the book was a little too dry and rambling (and repetitive) for me to manage more than about a chapter at a time, which means I probably didn't retain or understand as much information as I would have liked.  Particularly by the end, Cost seems to stray from the original point of the book- which I took to be the creation of early American political and economic systems- to wander down a recital of various historical ways the government has not acted 'for the people, by the people'.  He begins to talk about corruption- as we understand the term today and as Madison and Hamilton would have used the term- and tries to show the reader how to return to America's founding greatness.  But all he really succeeds in showing us, in my opinion, is that human nature and greed will naturally take advantage of any system, and that there will always be conflict.  

Ultimately, The Price of Greatness does only a mediocre job in explaining "the Creation of American Oligarchy", but if you can get through the dry and repetitive writing, there are some interesting historical nuggets hidden within the text.  I'm not entirely sure, however, I found it worth the effort of working through reading the book.



I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Shadow Keeper



Shadow Keeper (A Shadow Riders Novel) by [Feehan, Christine]
















Shadow Keeper- Christine Feehan
Berkley/Penguin Group
Release Date: May 29, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚

Synopsis: The paparazzi can't get enough of infamous bad boy Giovanni Ferraro. But unknown to them--and the women he beds--he's just playing a role. Keeping the spotlight on himself keeps it off the family business. And if this lethal shadow rider can't hunt in the dark, he'll find his pleasure elsewhere...

Sasha Provis grew up on a Wyoming ranch and thought she knew how to protect herself from predators. But in the nightclub where she works, she's fair game--until one of the owners steps in to protect her. Giovanni is gorgeous. He's dangerous. And his every touch takes her breath away.

The devil at her heels may have finally met its match...


_______________________________________________________________


The third book in Feehan's Shadow Rider series, Shadow Keeper reminded me why I still read Christine Feehan's books.  As hard as many of them are to get through thanks to poor (or no) editing, sometimes the characters are still worth the read.  Giovanni and Sasha are great characters, with instant and believable chemistry between them that grabbed my interest from the beginning.

The Ferraro family seems to the outside world like a crime family of the rich and famous.  Men resent them, women try to catch them for the money.  Unsurprisingly, the Ferraros have grown more than a little jaded by the fortune hunters- and it becomes harder when they have to keep up the fast lane lifestyle to cover their true lives: Shadow riders who help mete out justice.  Giovanni has been sidelined from riding the shadows thanks to an injury and this is the first book in the series that doesn't actually focus on the shadow-rider aspect of their lives, but on the more human and personal aspects (and costs).  Sasha works at the nightclub the Ferraros own and believes Giovanni's playboy image.  When he comes to her rescue at the club, she has to reevaluate what she thinks she knows- about him and herself.  It was sweet to see Sasha, such an honest and straightforward person, in contrast to all the manipulative money hungry people around her.  She doesn't come across as overly naive and Feehan does a good job of letting Sasha stay true to herself, but also giving her enough backbone to stand up to anyone in the Ferraro family.  

Shadow Keeper was more enjoyable than many of Feehan's latest books.  It was better written and focused, so I didn't have to skim through pages of the same thing over and over again.  The mystery and threat of Sasha's stalker stayed front and center, and Feehan didn't let herself get too sidetracked.  While Shadow Rider, the first book in the series, is still my favorite, I enjoyed Keeper.  The importance of family and honesty is a dual theme woven throughout the book, and really speaks to the core of the entire series.  A good book for paranormal romance readers to add to their to-be-read pile.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, May 18, 2018

From Unseen Fire














From Unseen Fire (Aven Cycle) by [Morris, Cass]






From Unseen Fire- Cass Morris
DAW? Penguin Group
Release Date: April 17, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚📚📚

Synopsis: The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

______________________________________________________


I can't lie, it was the cover that first caught my attention for this book.  It made me want to read the synopsis, which made me want to read the book- which led to one of the best fantasy books I've read in quite some time.  A book that lives up to its potential, From Unseen Fire takes place in an alternate, fantasy, version of ancient Rome.  The cruel dictator who governed the empire and terrorized its people is dead and now it is time to pick up the pieces- socially, politically, personally, and militarily.  

Latona of the Vitelliae is one of those who suffered under the dictator in order to protect her family.  Now freed from his shadow, she finds she cannot fit easily back into the life she led before.  No longer can she hide herself or her talents, or her wish to do more to rebuild the Republic and help its people.  All her life Latona has been held back by other people: her parents, who worried that unscrupulous men would use her and her magic; her husband who wants only a quiet life in the country focusing on his business; and Aventan society itself, which says that a woman who is not a priestess should focus her life and her magic only on her family.  Then she meets Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious man who hates to see talent wasted, and sees in Latona huge potential- if only she can find the courage to reach for it.  Sempronius is the first person to see Latona as she is, not as he wants her to be, so it can be no surprise that their friendship grows into a magnetically compelling attraction.

Sempronius is among those who want to rebuild Aven, and he joins the political clash on what the Republic should look like.  He hopes to break down barriers and allow people to thrive as their talents allow, without being trapped by class or citizenship restrictions.  Others want to return to the glory days of the old Aven, and the ways of the city's founders hundreds of years ago.  Some want to focus only on home while others worry about growing disturbances in the provinces.  Iberia becomes a hotbed of chaos with Aven's allies threatened by a new war-chief determined to protect his land and his people.  

At first glance, these seem like too many different story lines to work, but Morris weaves them together into a brilliant, seamless novel.  From Unseen Fire kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, wondering what would happen next, if favorite characters would succeed in their personal quests. I was constantly worried that the book would end on a cliffhanger and I'd be left waiting desperately to find out what happened next.  True, the book doesn't wrap everything up in a neat bow- this is the start of a series.  But neither does Morris leave her readers yelling "How could you end it there!?" when they reach the last page.  I was struck throughout the entire book by how each of the characters believes completely that their actions are for the good of their land and their people.  Looking at it like that, none of them can be really considered 'villains', although some are more willing to take questionable paths to reach their idea of the greater good.

Although a debut novel, From Unseen Fire reads like it was written by a veteran author.  I greatly look forward to Cass Morris' next Aven book, both to keep following these characters and this world, and to see if Morris can keep to the high bar she set for herself here. 


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tyrant



Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics- Stephen Greenblatt
W.W. Norton
Release Date: May 8, 2018

Rating:
📚📚

Synopsis: As an aging, tenacious Elizabeth I clung to power, a talented playwright probed the social causes, the psychological roots, and the twisted consequences of tyranny. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.


Cherished institutions seem fragile, political classes are in disarray, economic misery fuels populist anger, people knowingly accept being lied to, partisan rancor dominates, spectacular indecency rules―these aspects of a society in crisis fascinated Shakespeare and shaped some of his most memorable plays. With uncanny insight, he shone a spotlight on the infantile psychology and unquenchable narcissistic appetites of demagogues―and the cynicism and opportunism of the various enablers and hangers-on who surround them―and imagined how they might be stopped. As Greenblatt shows, Shakespeare’s work, in this as in so many other ways, remains vitally relevant today.

____________________________________________



Shakespeare may have lived in a time when it was dangerous to openly criticize the monarch or the government, but he became an expert at finding ways to bring political questions to the people anyway.  By setting his plays in ancient Rome or Scotland, Shakespeare could use the fact that history always repeats itself to make people think about current times when he boldly criticized past leaders.  In this same way, English teachers for generations have tried to draw correlations between Shakespeare and modern society to convince their students that literary classics still have relevance in the modern world.

In Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, Greenblatt examines the careers of several of Shakespeare's famous kings and leaders: Macbeth, King Lear, Richard III, Coriolanus.  How did these men rise to power? Why did they receive help from followers who must have known what they would be like once they had risen to the throne?  Shakespeare was interested in what mental or emotional triggers create and destroy tyrants and in this book Greenblatt summarizes each case history for us.  It becomes obvious pretty quickly that what Greenblatt  is interested in is holding Shakespeare's views on tyrants and tyranny up to today's political mirror.  Without naming names, Greenblatt leaves the modern reader in no doubt what modern politician he is thinking of when he describes Shakespeare's tyrants.  

While I would have been more interested in reading about Shakespeare's plays and how he used them to safely criticize politics in his own time, Greenblatt's Tyrant was still somewhat interesting.  What I was left uncertain at the end was, what was Greenblatt's point? To hold Shakespeare's plays up as a mirror of life today? To show that the more things change the more they stay the same? Was the reader supposed to see how the general public can prevent tyrants from gaining the power and control they seek? Or was Greenblatt offering suggestions of literary paper topics to future students? The end result is an ok book, but not one that seems to contribute anything new to the study of Shakespeare's plays, his time, or our own.   



I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Monday, May 7, 2018

Other Lady Vanishes



The Other Lady Vanishes by [Quick, Amanda]
















The Other Lady Vanishes- Amanda Quick
Berkley/Penguin Group
Release Date: May 8, 2018

Rating:
📚📚📚📚

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Synopsis: After escaping from a private sanitarium, Adelaide Blake arrives in Burning Cove, California, desperate to start over.

Working at an herbal tea shop puts her on the radar of those who frequent the seaside resort town: Hollywood movers and shakers always in need of hangover cures and tonics. One such customer is Jake Truett, a recently widowed businessman in town for a therapeutic rest. But unbeknownst to Adelaide, his exhaustion is just a cover.

In Burning Cove, no one is who they seem. Behind facades of glamour and power hide drug dealers, gangsters, and grifters. Into this make-believe world comes psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. Adelaide and Jake know better than to fall for her kind of con. But when the medium becomes a victim of her own dire prediction and is killed, they'll be drawn into a murky world of duplicity and misdirection.

Neither Adelaide or Jake can predict that in the shadowy underground they'll find connections to the woman Adelaide used to be--and uncover the specter of a killer who's been real all along...


_________________________________________________________


What would you do if you were locked up in an asylum by your husband so he could spend your inheritance and you could be used as a test subject by doctors?  If you're Adelaide Blake, you escape and head to the small town of Burning Cove to recreate your life.  Adelaide spends two months getting comfortable, making friends, and helping the small tea shop where she works do a booming business in herbal tea remedies for the Hollywood stars who come to Burning Cove to get away from it all.  Then things start getting complicated.  Adelaide's new neighbor, Jake Truett, shows an unusual interest in her, as does psychic to the stars Madame Zolanda. It's hard for Adelaide to know who she can trust, especially when people start dying at a suspiciously fast pace.  Adelaide and Jake must uncover the secret behind her time in the asylum, lies, deceit, and blackmail to stop a deadly drug ring- before they number among its victims.

Adelaide is a deceptively sweet and trusting character, with a delightful strength and real world experience that should appeal to readers from the beginning.  She may not think of herself as strong, but she saves herself from the asylum, creates a new life for herself, and doesn't allow past betrayals to keep her from developing new friendships.  Jake is more of a mysterious figure than Quick's usual hero, and while we know from the beginning that he's one of the good guys, it takes longer than usual to peel back his layers.  We discover him at the same time that Adelaide does, we raise the same questions and get the same surprises.  I enjoyed how, each time you thought you'd learned all there was about Jake, he sheepishly admits to one more surprise.  I especially loved the one about the fountain pen!

The Other Lady is a mystery full of surprises, from first to last.  The drug ring, the murders, betrayal and surprise assistance- Lady has them all.  Then just when you think you've got it all sorted out, you realize there is one final mystery: the mystery of the Other Lady. I enjoyed guessing, thinking I had it figured out, then discovering what the red herrings were and what small clues were bigger than they seemed.  Quick is at her best here, keeping the reader on their toes and immersed in the shadows and silvery glamor that is 1930s Burning Cove.
  
In Amanda Quick's first foray into the world of the 1930s, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Quick introduces us to the small town of Burning Cove, California. The Other Lady Vanishes expands our familiarity of the town, introduces new and colorful characters, and brings back some favorites from Girl.  You don't have to have read Girl to dive into Lady, but it does help you further enjoy some of the returning characters.  The Other Lady Vanishes is a great mystery, full of tricky twists and turns that keep you guessing until the last page.  

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review