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Ambrosia's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
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At the King's Pleasure
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Posted by on November 9, 2017

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

This was of course a re-read for me as I have loved Ross Poldark for quite sometime. This book of course was as good as I remembered and Ross the hotheaded but good hearted man I remembered him to be. The new cover art thanks to the new BBC movie is also something worth enjoying (lol) truly I think that Aidan Turner makes Ross to spring off the page.

There are many who don’t like the books because of some of the content. All I can say is two things about that. The first being Ross and the others in the book are very flawed humans not the standard romantic heroes. So they do a lot of wrong things. Also when these books were written the style of romance was much more forceful. Simple as that. This is not to make excuses and there are things I don’t appreciate that happen, even when they are done by my beloved Ross.

Anyways I digress. This book is well written and tells a story that could truly happen to any of us. Ross was a happy young man who went away to war with the thought of love and what he would come back to. However, war changed him, but worst of all the world he left was as if he stepped through the looking glass when he returned. His father gone his lady love going to marry his cousin. You can hardly blame the man for being angry for lashing out. Can you honestly say that any of us wouldn’t act in a similar manner? He is a good man with a heart that hates seeing people treated unfairly. I don’t want to go too far into saying things because I could truly go on for a long time about the whole series and giveaway the spoilers and details.

This is one that you should read even if you already watch the show. If you have not read the books you really are missing out in my humble opinion.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on October 14, 2017

This is the story of the making of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the years in which King Alfred the Great, his son and grandson defeated the Danish Vikings who had invaded and occupied three of England’s four kingdoms.

The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed nobleman, who is captured as a child by the Danes and then raised by them so that, by the time the Northmen begin their assault on Wessex (Alfred’s kingdom and the last territory in English hands) Uhtred almost thinks of himself as a Dane. He certainly has no love for Alfred, whom he considers a pious weakling and no match for Viking savagery, yet when Alfred unexpectedly defeats the Danes and the Danes themselves turn on Uhtred, he is finally forced to choose sides. By now he is a young man, in love, trained to fight and ready to take his place in the dreaded shield wall. Above all, though, he wishes to recover his father’s land, the enchanting fort of Bebbanburg by the wild northern sea.

This thrilling adventure—based on existing records of Bernard Cornwell’s ancestors—depicts a time when law and order were ripped violently apart by a pagan assault on Christian England, an assault that came very close to destroying England.

Full disclousure this series will make you want to watch the netflix series based on the books and you will get to see…this guy (yup excuse to use this gift again LOL sorry not sorry.)

Bernard Cornwell is an amazing author and I find that his stories are so rich and textured and layered. These are really books you can sink your teeth into. Better yet most of his works are part of a series so you get to spend a lot of time with the characters you enjoy. This is the first of the Saxon Series and you get to dive into a crazy world. England was just starting to be forged into what we know it as today and watching the transformation unfold while following these characters around is truly enjoyable.

Uhtred is such a fantastic character you can’t help but feel drawn to him. Even before seeing him brought to life on the screen he is the type of character you can see in your mind because he just jumps off the page. He is so charismatic and unique as a character. Born a Saxon but raised a Dane it really just makes a unique man with a different look on the world.

He is not a perfect man by any means, he is flawed and he makes bad choices and he admits to them. That is what makes him so fantastic though, you get to see his flaws and yet see him still be a hero. It is easy to like a character that is just a hero and always seems to make the perfect choices. It is harder to look past flaws, things we might not chose to do ourselves and still see a character as a hero.

If you like history, intrigue and just a plain good read I would recommend giving this one a try. It isn’t a fast read, but it is a really good read.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on September 12, 2017

From acclaimed author Ellen Marie Wiseman comes a vivid, daring novel about the devastating power of family secrets–beginning in the poignant, lurid world of a Depression-era traveling circus and coming full circle in the transformative 1950s.

On a summer evening in 1931, Lilly Blackwood glimpses circus lights from the grimy window of her attic bedroom. Lilly isn’t allowed to explore the meadows around Blackwood Manor. She’s never even ventured beyond her narrow room. Momma insists it’s for Lilly’s own protection, that people would be afraid if they saw her. But on this unforgettable night, Lilly is taken outside for the first time–and sold to the circus sideshow.

More than two decades later, nineteen-year-old Julia Blackwood has inherited her parents’ estate and horse farm. For Julia, home was an unhappy place full of strict rules and forbidden rooms, and she hopes that returning might erase those painful memories. Instead, she becomes immersed in a mystery involving a hidden attic room and photos of circus scenes featuring a striking young girl.

At first, The Barlow Brothers’ Circus is just another prison for Lilly. But in this rag-tag, sometimes brutal world, Lilly discovers strength, friendship, and a rare affinity for animals. Soon, thanks to elephants Pepper and JoJo and their handler, Cole, Lilly is no longer a sideshow spectacle but the circus’s biggest attraction. . .until tragedy and cruelty collide. It will fall to Julia to learn the truth about Lilly’s fate and her family’s shocking betrayal, and find a way to make Blackwood Manor into a place of healing at last.

Moving between Julia and Lilly’s stories, Ellen Marie Wiseman portrays two extraordinary, very different women in a novel that, while tender and heartbreaking, offers moments of joy and indomitable hope.

First, I want to say thank you to Net Galley for letting me have an early copy of this book so I could review it.

The life she was given is a beautifully written story that spans generations, lives and shows what happens when families keep secrets. There are events in the book that are simply horrifying, but at the same time you can’t look away because the book holds your attention. This is a story that while I know it is fiction (some loosely based on real events) it is one that could be nonfiction, someone sharing the story of their family.

Lilly and Julia are both amazing characters that are well fleshed out and I could see them as I traveled back and forth between their stories. The change ups were nice and happened just about every chapter giving the book a smooth and easy rhythm that I appreciated. Some books that split between more than one POV can be very clunky and turn me off because I can’t settle into the story.

Life in the circus was not a good one back in the era this story is told in. Animal rights were pretty much nothing and rights for people not much better. Yet within the horror and the trauma, there is still love and hope to be found. That was the message that came out the strongest to me and it is a message I was happy to see in our world today that seems to be getting darker.

The only thing that kept me from making this one five stars is that for all its wonder and how good it was the story felt a little too close to Water for Elephants for me. I know it is not the same book and that often books set in the same time period risk being similar but there were certain parts I felt could have been directly inserted into Water for Elephants and not be noticed. That being said, the book is still a beautiful work that does tell its own story. So I would highly recommend you give this book a chance if you can because it is a story that will stay with you.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on July 8, 2017

Coming from a race of highly-evolved humans, Julia Jaynes has the perfect life. The perfect family. The perfect destiny. But there’s something rotten beneath the surface—dangerous secrets her father is keeping; abilities she was never meant to have; and an elite society of people determined to keep their talents hidden and who care nothing for the rest of humanity. So when Julia accidentally disrupts the Jaynes’ delicate anonymity, she’s banished to the one place meant to make her feel inferior: public high school.

Julia’s goal is to lay low and blend in. Then she meets him—John Ford, tennis prodigy, all-around good guy. When Julia discovers a knack for reading his mind, and also manipulating his life, school suddenly becomes a temporary escape from the cold grip of her manipulative father. But as Julia’s powers over John grow, so do her feelings. For the first time in her life, Julia begins to develop a sense of self, to question her restrictive upbringing and her family prejudices. She must decide: can a perfect love be worth more than a perfect life?

 

I was so excited when I was approved for this book on Netgalley, it has been a while since I have visited there and this book caught my eye. Sadly the excitement for me didn’t last very long. It isn’t the worst book I have ever read, but it is not anywhere near a favorite either.

The ingredients for this being a solid and even great read. The idea of special humans isn’t new of course but the premise on this one focused on kids and trying to come off as normal. Of course they were in High school, yeah it wasn’t great the first time around. Anyways for me this book just kinda never took off, it was just okay I didn’t find myself feeling connected to any of the characters.

All the lust and waffling that came from our main character just had me wanting to pull my hair out. If you like more then a little teen angst and a lot of whiplash you might like this book. For me however it just wasn’t all that great.

 

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on May 18, 2017

The recipe for a warm and humorous story…

In a modest bowl of Nashville, gently place a girl who is Country music, Bible belt, and a Steakhouse foodie.

Then add a surprise portion of exotic and handsome Anglo Indian, who is a passionate Bollywood director, vegetarian and Hindu.

Stir vigorously on a bed of intense attraction.

At first, the ingredients will seem to clash and separate.

Keep stirring…

Include a dollop of jealous boyfriend and a meddling mother.

Splash in a serving of fun and mischievous friends. Keep stirring…

Add a dash of crazy aunt and a minister father to keep the flavors working together.

Sprinkle in even more complicated family members to taste.

Cook on high emotions.

The secret ingredient that cuts through the sweetness is a final layer of shocking revelation that adds a surprising depth of flavor.

Finish with a twist of ‘Oh My God! Is she really going to do that?’.

Serve as tasty bite-size chapters in a novel dish of mayhem and madness with a side of Country music and Bollywood dancing.

I went into this book really excited. The idea of combining Nashville and Bollywood really had my attention of course as often happens when I go into a book with high expectations I was left a little bit flat. I did enjoy the book however, it might not be a rereader for me but it was enjoyable for the most part.

What we have here is a basic boy meets girl story with a little twist thrown in for measure. Mary is your fairly standard run of the mill Daughter of a pastor, who seems to fight that yolk a bit in her life. Then you have, the more colorful and “exotic” Simha. There are of course all the things that go along with a white Christian girl and a non white non Christian man going on around in the book. I think for me personally the biggest problem is while the subjects are there, they are only on the surface. We as the reader never really get to dig deeply into any of the subject matter. Mary was also a little bit hard to connect to for me. I did feel a connection with Simha though, and I think overall that is what saved this for me.

So the bottom line for me, not a terrible read, but not a great one. Take a look at it and maybe see if it is your cup of tea.

I was given an advanced copy of this book to read through Net Galley, all the opinions are my own and honest.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on April 5, 2017

THE PRINCE was written by Niccolo’ Machiavelli in the 1500s. It has continued to be a best seller in many languages. Presently, it is translated into modern English, with illustrations by Benjamin Martinez and an Introduction by Adolph Cso.

The Prince is a classic book that explores the attainment, maintenance, and utilization of political power in the western world. Machiavelli wrote The Prince to demonstrate his skill in the art of the state, presenting advice on how a prince might acquire and hold power. Machiavelli defended the notion of rule by force rather than by law. Accordingly, The Prince seems to rationalize a number of actions done solely to perpetuate power. It is an examination of power-its attainment, development, and successful use.

Ah yes, another Machiavellian text, what can I say I was in a mood to read the old classic. So many who pick up Machiavelli see his work as a general list of how to be a jackass while running whatever part of the world you are in. I see it as more than that, the bottom line and Machiavelli is so right in this that when you are governing there is no place for you to put your own stamp of moral thoughts onto events happening around you. Morality is a moving target and seen differently by everyone for one, then there is the simple fact that while we might wish to be idealistic, real life is rarely forgiving enough to allow that to happen.

Communism as an example, at it’s stripped down basic core is the desire to have everyone be equal and on the same level. Of course we know that is not how it worked when implemented at all. Those in power were still in power and would always set themselves above the others and punish anyone who thought differently in brutal fashion.

Or how about those Princes and Princesses who thought it was their good and moral duty to press upon the people they ruled over their own religious ideals and outlooks. Those who failed to conform were burned at the stake so that their soul could be cleansed from their sins as they left this earth and get into heaven. I am fairly sure those people would have rather not been burned at the stake.

This has been a bit of a rambling review, sorry about that the bottom line is that I find the Prince interesting reading and I don’t see Machiavelli or some of his views as evil. He makes many valid points that still ring as true today as they did in his time. As always, reading the Prince has got my mind thinking again and looking at past events as well as modern ones in a slightly more Machiavellian fashion.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on March 25, 2017

Voltaire said, “Machiavelli taught Europe the art of war; it had long been practiced, without being known.” For Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), war was war, and victory the supreme aim to which all other considerations must be subordinated. The Art of War is far from an anachronism—its pages outline fundamental questions that theorists of war continue to examine today, making it essential reading for any student of military history, strategy, or theory. Machiavelli believed The Art of War to be his most important work.

When people hear the name Niccolò Machiavelli they tend to think of The Prince, it is by far his most well known book, but certainly not his only one. Machiavelli was a hugely prolific writer and although only a few ( I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head) of his works were published in his life time but thankfully we have his works now.

Other people hear the name Niccolò Machiavelli and think of immorality and many other unkind thoughts because of the way his work is. So, well Machiavellian.

A third group will hear the name Niccolò Machiavelli and think of this guy:

Okay, perhaps a shameless excuse to use a picture in my review, something I don’t usually do. Anyways, I digress.

I have always enjoyed reading Machiavelli, yes, he is a little dark overall. However, within that darkness is an honest look at the human condition and all that comes with it. Most think of a completely different book when they think of The Art of War and so perhaps they they have some disappointment in this book because of that. This is one book that has been sitting on my TBR for a while and was one that I did not read before now.

The Art of War by Niccolò Machiavelli is like any of his works an insightful look and for me another great read. It takes a solid look at military maneuvers and the history of them. If you like reading military works this is a book that you shouldn’t skip IMO. This one ranks up there with Caesars’s Gallic wars for me. The theory and strategies that are brought up in this book is just as relevant today as it was when first written down. As much as I enjoyed another solid classic, this book also makes me a little bit sad. That sadness comes from looking at just how little the world has changed in all of this time. We are still highly war driven as a race and I suspect that will never change and so we will always need books like this.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on March 17, 2017

A fresh, humorous, and timely YA novel about two teens conceived via in vitro fertilization who go in search for answers about their donor.

Milo has two great moms, but he’s never known what it’s like to have a dad. When Milo’s doctor suggests asking his biological father to undergo genetic testing to shed some light on Milo’s extreme allergies, he realizes this is a golden opportunity to find the man he’s always wondered about.

Hollis’s mom Leigh hasn’t been the same since her other mom, Pam, passed away seven years ago. But suddenly, Leigh seems happy—giddy, even—by the thought of reconnecting with Hollis’s half-brother Milo. Hollis and Milo were conceived using the same sperm donor. They met once, years ago, before Pam died.

Now Milo has reached out to Hollis to help him find their donor. Along the way, they locate three other donor siblings, and they discover the true meaning of the other F-word: family

First, I would like to say a thank you to Net Galley for giving me this book as an ARC to read. I was very excited about the approval, my opinions, however, as always are my own.

I wanted to like this book more than I did, that is not to say it was terrible, but for me it just hit a middle ground road for me. The concept of this book and the overall plot was very good and interesting. The idea of a family that has two siblings whom were conceived by sperm donors. Wanting to know where you come from is a very human emotion. Even those of us who know who both of our parents are often wishing to know more, to dig back into the past and find it all out. For that I applaud this book and for the message that it gives throughout it is wonderful and that is where most the 3 rating comes from me.

Where it fell short for me is that much of it just feels incomplete. There were places where the book could have gone deeper found another level. SO overall ,I am just a little on the fence with this one, it was a good enough read, but not one I am likely to pick up again. I might take a look at future works from the author though all the right things were there just put together a little wrong.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on March 15, 2017

When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley’s grandmother used to tell him stories about their family—stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called “the African.” She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the “Kamby Bolongo” and had been out in the forest one day chopping wood to make a drum when he was set upon by four men, beaten, chained and dragged aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.

Still vividly remembering the stories after he grew up and became a writer, Haley began to search for documentation that might authenticate the narrative. It took ten years and a half a million miles of travel across three continents to find it, but finally, in an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered not only the name of “the African”–Kunta Kinte—but the precise location of Juffure, the very village in The Gambia, West Africa, from which he was abducted in 1767 at the age of sixteen and taken on the Lord Ligonier to Maryland and sold to a Virginia planter.

Haley has talked in Juffure with his own African sixth cousins. On September 29, 1967, he stood on the dock in Annapolis where his great-great-great-great-grandfather was taken ashore on September 29, 1767. Now he has written the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him—slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workers and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects—and one author.

But Haley has done more than recapture the history of his own family. As the first black American writer to trace his origins back to their roots, he has told the story of 25,000,000 Americans of African descent. He has rediscovered for an entire people a rich cultural heritage that slavery took away from them, along with their names and their identities. But Roots speaks, finally, not just to blacks, or to whites, but to all people and all races everywhere, for the story it tells is one of the most eloquent testimonials ever written to the indomitably of the human spirit.

As I have mentioned before in a small handful of reviews there are some books that will stay with you forever. I first read roots in High School and it has stayed with me since that time. It was not however, until 2017 that I actually picked it up again. With the excitement about the new mini series event it was hard not to pick this one up and see how I handled it now as an adult.

The book is still as it should be horrifying. What was done to a wonderful and amazing people should never have been done. Slavery the way it came to be in America is, there really are no words to properly state how I feel. I have always known it was bad but sometimes you have to look with the eyes of someone who has lived life a little longer to truly understanding just how bad. Kunta Kinte is a charismatic character that simply can’t be denied you feel his feelings and you truly seem as if you are right there with him as so much changes in his life.

I know there have been accusations that Haley plagiarized some of the book and I can’t say one way or another as I have not yet researched that. If he did, well shame on him I will never hold with stealing another writers work. With that said, I simply can’t knock the book down any ratings. I truly love and abhor this book all in one. I feel that abhorrence because of what was done to people, human beings being treated worse then animals and bred just like cattle or horses. Roots does and always will shine a light onto something that we American’s should never forget. It is a shameful thing that was done, but we must learn from history. So even if Haley did lift work from other authors the book for me still stands up as a meaningful must read.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on February 23, 2017

Remember the places you touched me.

The parts of Mira Cillo that Ben touched are etched on his soul.

Palm. Hair. Chest. Cheek. Lips. Throat. Heart.

It was the last one that broke her. After her death, Mira sends Ben on a quest for notes she left in the seven places where they touched—notes that explain why she and her sister, Francesca, drowned themselves in the quarry. How Ben interprets those notes has everything to do with the way he was touched by a bad coach years before. But the truth behind the girls’ suicides is far more complicated, involving a dangerous infatuation, a deadly miracle, and a crushing lie.

There are some books that when you go into them you have fairly high expectations, for me this was one of those books. Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to what I hoped it would, I tried, I really did, but even with that said it doesn’t make it a bad book. It could just be that this book was not my personal cup of tea in general.

Two young sisters are found wrapped together, clutching one another at the bottom of a quarry, the question then becomes how did they get there in that place together? The premise of this read is solid, it promises for intense reading and at times discomfort for the reader and on that it does not disappoint and it lives up to the title of the girls being broken. The cover of the book is also haunting and beautiful at the same time, yes you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes a good cover really can be an added bonus.

The way the book unfolded and the letters we see through Ben’s eyes is interesting, but for me it just was not interesting enough. The story goes back and forth in time and there are times that on its own made things a little harder to stay connected. There are books out there that can do that two different time lines game fairly well and one’s that can’t for me this one fell into the can’t area. Then there is the over detailing on things. This is what for me caused my attention to wane from the story. While the writing is beautiful when I get to many details thrown at me, I feel as if I can’t imagine the world for myself. I like to feel as if I can picture some of the story in the way that I want to picture it and that is where I get a disconnect. I also honestly found Ben to be more than a little bit creepy, but that could have been what the author was going for.

So at the end of the day this book was not the worst I have ever read by any means, but it just falls into the meh area for me. I am sure other readers will like it better so I wouldn’t call it a complete pass, it will depend on what kind of writing you really enjoy.

I would like to thank the Publisher for allowing me to have a digital ARC from NetGalley of this book. This review is completely my own and honest opinion and has nothing to do with getting the ARC for free.

My Gemstone Rating:

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