Monday, September 26, 2016

Immortal Nights


















Immortal Nights (Argeneau Series)- Lynsay Sands
AvonBooks
Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating (Out of 5):
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Synopsis:Abigail Forsythe’s life hasn’t been easy lately. Still, if there’s one thing guaranteed to take her mind off an empty bank account and abandoned dreams, it’s a naked man locked in a plane’s cargo hold. A very big, incredibly gorgeous naked man. And when instinct prompts her to free him, Abigail must rely on this stranger for survival . . . a stranger who leaves her thrumming with need every time they touch.


Tomasso Notte knows he’s found his life mate in Abigail. Now he just has to hold on to her. They’re miles from civilization, hunted by his kidnappers. Abigail has no idea of Tomasso’s abilities, or of how intensely pleasurable their unique connection can be. But he’s about to show her, beginning with one wild, hot, immortal night . . .
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Immortal Nights was a great way to follow Runaway Vampire, Sands' last book.  The two take place at roughly the same time, each following one of the Notte twins as they escape from their kidnappers and find their life mates along the way.  Nights finds twin Tomasso Notte in a cage on a cargo plane heading for destination unknown and too drugged to do anything about it.  Fortunately for him, Abigail Forsythe has stowed away in the cargo hold and doubts that Tomasso is there of his own free will.  She frees him, he takes her along when he jumps out of the plane.  Through days of walking along the beach/jungle in South America they get to know each other. Tomasso knows Abigail is his life mate, but keeps holding off on telling her a few important details about himself- like he's an Immortal.  When Abigail finds out, will that be the breaking point in the relationship?

I really enjoyed how, for a chunk of this book, the fact that Tomasso was an Immortal didn't really impact the story.  They were removed from civilization, depending on each other, getting to know each other as individuals and potential romantic partners.  Tomasso had the expected problems of a vampire forced to spend several days in the sun with no food source (other than one he was determined not to use) but the relationship and the characters developed alone.  There were no extra characters making mistakes that would lead to Abigail getting suspicious, no hidden bags of blood in a fridge to explain away. It was just two people surviving. And being attracted to each other. And the shared dreams. . .

Because the Nottes are known for not speaking much, before their books it was hard to get a read on their characters, so we were discovering almost everything about Tomasso right along with Abigail.  Who knew the man was a closet geek?  Abigail is a great character- strong despite having gone through so much, with a fun way of thinking about life.  Her mental ramblings were tons of fun to follow.  By the time reinforcements come in the form of Dante, Mary, Justin, and Lucian (who still lets Leigh believe he doesn't know how to change to awful ringtones she programs into his phone), you're sure they are on a good starting point for the future.  Of course, then the kidnappers show up again and everything goes downhill.

The bad guys have played a shadowy backseat role for the last few books.  We see just enough to be sure that they aren't ordinary vampire-nappers, but the plans and who's in charge have been a mystery.  We just know it's not good.  In Nights the bad guy creep-factor rises a lot- both with these two particular bad guys and the mysterious Doctor who seems to be the boss.  We get just enough hints to know that in the next book (Immortal Unchained, out in March) the bad guys are probably going to be a major presence, and very mad scientist-like.

While all of the Argeneau books can stand alone, I'd recommend at least reading Runaway Vampire before or after this to have the whole picture.  Of course, I recommend reading the entire series (in order because its more fun that way) before the next installment in March.  This was a fun new book in a great series.  Lynsay Sands doesn't let her readers down!












Monday, September 19, 2016

Hero of the Empire



















Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill- Candice Millard
Doubleday
Release Date: September 20, 2016

Rating (out of 5):
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Synopsis: At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament.  He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield.  Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him.
 
Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape--but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him.
            
The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.

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I have always been interested in Winston Churchill- his life, adventures, and dry wit have appealed to me since reading My Early Life for a first year college history class.  While in many ways a man of the Victorian Era in his thoughts on colonialism, foreigners, and war, he was also often ahead of his time, and certainly never suffered from lack of self-confidence against all odds.  While most people know him as a politician and leader, he was also a great writer, and threw himself into life and every adventure he could find.

Hero of the Empire focuses on one of Churchill's youthful adventures: His time as a war correspondent during the Boer War, his captivity, and his daring escape. Millard gives us background not only on Churchill, but also the British Empire and the Boers, providing excellent context for the war itself.  While the story centers on Churchill and his experiences, some of the main burghers in government and leading the Boer army are equally on stage.  We come to understand how it was that the British Empire and its soldiers, feared as the best troops in the world, were so devastated against this 'uncivilized' colonial uprising.  The circumstances and strategies of both sides were explained in a way I have never read before, helping me to understand the war and the Empire at the turn of the century in a way I hadn't yet managed through other books.

Even people not normally interested in history will find Hero of the Empire a dramatic read, often more adventure story that the 'dry and boring' biography they might expect.   Intensely researched, written in gripping detail, Millard brings to life the heat of battles, the conditions in South Africa, Winston's enthusiasm and frenzy to make his mark on the world, and his fear during his escape.

This exciting, wonderfully written, book is a must read for Churchill fans, British history enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a gripping true-story of luck, bravery, and adventure.

I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.






Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mad for the Plaid


















Mad for the Plaid (The Oxenburg Princes #3)- Karen Hawkins
Pocket Books
Release Date: August 30, 2016

Rating (out of 5):
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Synopsis:Nikolai Romanovin, a royal prince of Oxenburg, has travelled to the deepest wilds of Scotland to rescue his grandmother the Grand Duchess, who was abducted while visiting an old friend in the Highlands. Wanting to avoid an international incident, Nik plans to quietly slip into enemy territory disguised as a groom at Castle Cromartie. But his plans go awry when he falls under the cool gray gaze of the laird’s daughter.

Pragmatic and clever, Ailsa Mackenzie has been left in charge of the family estate and her unruly grandmother in her father’s absence. Something about the new groom catches her eyes, and makes her think he’s not who he pretends to be—and even more shockingly, stirs her senses. Is it his obviously educated manners? His arrogant, non-servant-like presence? It’s certainly not his towering, powerful form, or slumberous, inviting green eyes!
              
After confronting the imposter and learning the truth, Ailsa agrees to help Nik—for she, too, understands difficult relatives and would do anything for family. Soon their secret partnership leads to growing respect, searing kisses, and then something far more perilous. And when their quest turns dangerous, Ailsa and Nik must discover this unknown enemy while facing the dangerous demands of their own unruly hearts.


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Mad for the Plaid signals the end of the Oxenburg Princes series, and while it was not my favorite book in the series, it was a great ending for the series.  Plaid follows the eldest Oxenburg prince, Nikolai, as he puts off an international diplomatic meeting in order to travel to the wilds of Scotland and track down his grandmother.  While visiting an old friend, "Tata" Natasha, seems to have been kidnapped.  Was she the target? Was it to destabilize Nik's negotiations?  To start a clan war in Scotland?  Nik tries to fly under the radar and find his grandmother before anyone knows she's missing.  Unfortunately, the family Natasha was staying with not only knows she's been kidnapped, but Ailsa (in charge of the estate while her father is away) is determined to prove that she can handle the situation and rescue the captives herself.
              
Most of the book is spent with Nik, Ailsa, and a few others traveling to reach the town where they believe they can find the hostages.  With the exception of several bandit attacks, this doesn't make for much external action and was sometimes a little slow going.  But it provided an excellent "bubble" of time for Nik and Ailsa to get to know each other without titles, money, and duty getting in the way.  They also get to see themselves in different ways.  Nik especially starts to reevaluate his view of himself and his life, he's not happy with the way Ailsa sees him in the beginning but starts to worry that she might be right!  Aisle was a great heroine, strong and stubborn enough to not fall for Nik right away, and who realizes that love, like life and leadership, is work and compromise on both sides. 

Although Plaid didn't have as much of Hawkins' trademark humor as I expected, plenty of sharp wit kept things entertaining.  Every time I thought I had figured out who the traitor was, something would come up to make me question my idea and keep me guessing. Tata Natasha doesn't play as large a role in this book as in others in the series, but her tricks ensure she gets the ending she wants for her grandson in true Natasha fashion.  While this book closes the series, we are left guessing about whether Karen Hawkins will bring Natasha back for future books- the door has definitely been left open on a very entertaining idea!  







Thursday, September 8, 2016

Masked City


















The Masked City (The Invisible Library Series, #2) - Genevieve Cogman
Roc
Release Date: September 6, 2016

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Rating (Out of 5):
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Synopsis: Working in an alternate version of Victorian London, Librarian-spy Irene has settled into a routine, collecting important fiction for the mysterious Library and blending in nicely with the local culture. But when her apprentice, Kai—a dragon of royal descent—is kidnapped by the Fae, her carefully crafted undercover operation begins to crumble.
Kai’s abduction could incite a conflict between the forces of chaos and order that would devastate all worlds and all dimensions. To keep humanity from getting caught in the crossfire, Irene will have to team up with a local Fae leader to travel deep into a version of Venice filled with dark magic, strange coincidences, and a perpetual celebration of Carnival—and save her friend before he becomes the first casualty of a catastrophic war.
But navigating the tumultuous landscape of Fae politics will take more than Irene’s book-smarts and fast-talking—to ward off Armageddon, she might have to sacrifice everything she holds dear....

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The Masked City continues the story begun in The Invisible Library about the mysterious Library and the multiple worlds where it collects books.  Irene and her assistant/trainee Kai have established themselves in an alternate Victorian London and just when Irene is sure things have settled down- they get interesting again.  Kai is abducted, and chances are good its about more than their latest book acquisition.  Irene and Vale (this world's Sherlock Holmes) have to face magic, mystery, and chaos to try and get him back and head off a war.  Caught between the dragons on one side and the Fae on the other, Irene has to decide how far she is willing to go, and how much she is willing to give up, to balance the Library's neutrality with a very personal situation.

Readers who start with this book instead of The Invisible Library will be able to catch up on main characters and basic world building pretty quickly.  The Masked City pitches Irene, Vale, and Kai straight into danger and never really lets them catch their breath as they travel to a high-chaos realm of old Venice constantly in Carnival season.  It's a world poisonous to dragons and closed off from the Library.  Along with Irene we meet several dragons and learn more about the Fae.  Not only does Lord Silver play a slightly larger role here, but new Fae- both enemies and potential allies- are introduced.  Because this Venice is so high-chaos, the power of stories plays a large role in the adventure.  The trick is hoping the story works in your favor: making you the hero, having someone helpful appear just when needed, etc.  Irene needs to not only figure out Fae politics and alliances but also how to manipulate the story to work in her favor.

The Masked City is a fast-paced, witty, clever adventure.  I didn't find it quite as absorbing as The Invisible Library but I enjoyed delving more into Cogman's world(s).  This Venice was a perfect version of everyone's image of Old Venice.  The Fae were a lot of fun, and it was nice seeing a few become allies (at least temporarily). Irene continues to be wonderful- practical, clever, and great in a crisis.  She may not think of herself as a heroine but I certainly do!

Although there were sadly no remote controlled alligators- or their Venice equivalent- in The Masked City, it was still a great continuation of the series.  Readers be warned, while it doesn't end on a cliff-hanger, The Masked City will definitely leave you desperately waiting for the next book!  


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



Sunday, September 4, 2016

Because I'm Watching


















Because I'm Watching (Virtue Falls #3)- Christina Dodd
St. Martin's Press
Release Date: September 6, 2016

Warning: Potential Spoilers!

Rating (out of 5):

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Synopsis:The survivor of a college dorm massacre, a woman accused of her lover's murder, Madeline Hewitson is haunted by ghosts and tormented by a killer only she can see. At night, she works, writing and drawing the monster that slithers through her imagination, and living in fear of those moments when the doors of her mind unhinge and her nightmare lives in the daylight. 
A seasoned military veteran, Jacob Denisov lives alone in his small, darkened home, sleepless, starving, and angry. Every day he lives with the guilt that comes from his own failures and the carnage that followed. When neighbor Madeline Hewitson drives her car through the front wall of his house, she breaks his house--and his life--wide open. Forced to view the world outside, Jacob watches Maddie, recognizes a kindred spirit and wonders what she fears more than herself. Has someone caught her in a twisted labyrinth of revenge and compassion, guilt and redemption, murder and madness? 
When Maddie's imaginary killer takes form, she fights, screaming her fear and defiance. But will she be strong enough to triumph, or is the killer she fears no more than a shadow, an illusion ... that watches? 

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After reading Christina Dodd's last Virtue Falls book, Obsession Falls, I knew exactly how I was going to read Because I'm Watching.  During the day, with lights on, and absolutely not allow myself to read before then trying to go to sleep, no matter how deep into the book I was.  Obsession Falls took Dodd's mystery series to a whole new level of terrifying creepiness and psychological thriller that makes for a great read, but not a nighttime relaxing book when you live alone in the middle of nowhere.  Based on the blurb for Watching, I wasn't going to make this a night book!

Although book 3 in a series, it's a stand alone that allows new readers into the heart of the quaint little town of Virtue Falls.  The quiet kind of town where everyone gets in everyone's business, yet dangerous secrets still manage to hide.  New resident Jacob Denisov lives in a quiet historical neighborhood, dealing with demons from his army days, a massive case of PTSD, and no desire to interact with the outside world.  The outside world forces itself on him when neighbor Maddie Hewitson accidentally drives her car through the front of his house.  Suddenly Jacob has to deal with annoying insurance agents, nosy neighbors, incessant construction crews, arsonists, and Maddie.  Everyone is convinced Maddie is crazy, but Jacob sees a kindred spirit fighting her own demons.  The question is: are those demons in her head, or real?

Maddie and Jacob may be two of the most complex characters I've ever read.  Both damaged by past horrors, both trying to decide how to deal with them and if it is possible to move forward.  As always, Dodd's secondary characters are equally well-written and detailed.  Series readers will enjoy catching up with familiar faces, but new readers won't feel left behind.

Because I'm Watching definitely continues to make Virtue Falls a series of thrillers, but I was glad it didn't try to top Obsession Falls on the terror factor. It's a good, solid, fast paced mystery with twists and turns to keep you on your feet, wonderful atmosphere, and with Dodd's trademark humor coming through exactly when you need it.  A great new read for Christina Dodd fans and thriller fans alike!

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