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Ambrosia's bookshelf: currently-reading

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
tagged: currently-reading
At the King's Pleasure
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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
Ambrosia has read 1 book toward her goal of 26 books.
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Posted by on January 31, 2018

Award-winning author Matt Rees takes readers to 18th century Austria, where Mozart’s estranged sister Nannerl stumbles into a world of ambition, conspiracy, and immortal music while attempting to uncover the truth about her brother’s suspicious death. Did Mozart’s life end in murder? Nannerl must brave dire circumstances to find out, running afoul of the secret police, the freemasons, and even the Austrian Emperor himself as she delves into a scandal greater than she had ever imagined. With captivating historical details, compelling characters, and a real-life mystery upon which everything hinges, Rees—the award-winning author of the internationally acclaimed Omar Yussef crime series—writes in the tradition of Irvin Yalom’  When Nietzsche Wept, Louis Bayard’s The Pale Blue Eye, and Phillip Sington’s The Einstein Girl to achieve the very best in historical fiction with Mozart’s Last Aria.

*****

This book for me had a series of unfortunate events so it took me a while to get through it, but I was excited for it Sadly, I ended up not really enjoying this book as much as I hoped I would. It wasn’t a bad book, but it also wasn’t one that I would say is riveting. The hardest part for me to deal with in this particular book was the way Mozart’s sister Nannerl was written. I have read other books with his sister ad maybe that is why I am having an issue with it, she just really didn’t stand out as a character I could connect to in this book. She was the “Sherlock” of this book and I just wasn’t really feeling I could believe that.

I know this is historical fiction, but a lot of it just felt a little off the believable scale for me. It might be fiction, but if it is based on real events and people I would hope it would follow that path. For me, I felt this one went a little too far afield. Again, it was not a bad book, it just didn’t really get me into the good book area either. If you want to give it a try go for it you might like it better than I did.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on January 5, 2018

‘Let him feel that he is one of us; once fill his mind with the idea that he has been a thief, and he’s ours, – ours for his life!’

The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens’s tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters — the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, in Oliver Twist Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

This is the first critical edition to use the serial text of 1837-9, presenting Oliver Twist as it appeared to its earliest readers. It includes Dickens’s 1841 introduction and 1850 preface, the original illustrations and a glossary of contemporary slang.

Ah Oliver Twist is truly one of the classics and for me it was a fun re-read. I really enjoyed this book when I read it for school and when I read it a few years ago and I enjoyed it again when I read it this time. It always takes a little bit of time to get into it, classics are written so differently but after the first chapter or 2 I always settle in and really enjoy it.

Dickens wrote so vividly and when you read his work, getting into it you can really get a full sense of what it must have been like to live and be in that time. The conditions were so horrible and what people had to go through just to live. Of course if one looks around society today it is not hard to see a lot of the gaps starting to widen again and we may be headed towards another version of this, that is scary too. All we need is the work houses.

There isn’t much to give away on this one it is a classic and has movies and musicals and all the rest done about it so everyone seems to know about Oliver Twist. If you like classics you will probably like Oliver Twist, if you don’t you probably won’t.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on January 1, 2018

Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children’s books, is confronted with the unthinkable: his only child, three-year-old Kate, is snatched from him in a supermarket. In one horrifying moment that replays itself over the years that follow, Stephen realizes his daughter is gone.With extraordinary tenderness and insight, Booker Prize–winning author Ian McEwan takes us into the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Kate’s absence sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on diverging paths as they each struggle with a grief that only seems to intensify with the passage of time. Eloquent and passionate, the novel concludes in a triumphant scene of love and hope that gives full rein to the author’s remarkable gifts. The winner of the Whitbread Prize, The Child in Time is an astonishing novel by one of the finest writers of his generation.

Read this book in preparation for the made for TV movie with Benedict Cumberbatch. It is a great book but it is not one that is going to be for everyone. There are parts of it that are very slow and parts of it that are fast. It is one of those books that you really have to pay attention to while you read it. Also the bottom line of why many people don’t like this book is that you don’t get resolution with what happened to the daughter. The book isn’t meant to be about that, its about what Stephen goes through.

I don’t want to give away the entire book as usual I tend to ramble on a bit to much about complex books like this one and get some stank eye for it (no really I do, lol) but this book really is about the journey and heartache that Stephen takes when his daughter is taken. It is literally every parents worst nightmare and you go along with him through the process. It is a horrible and heart wrenching thing and that makes this book really really uncomfortable and that is also what makes this book really good. If you can handle the heart wrenching nature of the book and don’t mind a book that you really have to pay attention to detail with, this is going to be a read that you enjoy. You will feel like you went through the ringer when you finish, at least I did but it is a really good book.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on December 27, 2017

Sent back in time to Victorian England to stop the invention of a deadly weapon, Helen Foster knows the job looks too easy: All she has to do is go to an auction, buy the weapon plans, destroy them, and she’ll save millions of people back in her own time. And even if she spends the rest of her life as a spinster stuck in the English countryside with a plethora of cats, changing the future is worth it.

Then she meets Edward Clifton, Duke of Somervale, the man she’s supposed to blackmail. He is one of the most powerful men in the land, so handsome and cold that debutantes have been known to faint in his presence. After one meeting, Helen will be thrilled to never see his royal (and quite spectacular) backside, ever again.

But as her mission falls apart and danger closes in, Helen has no choice but to turn to the one man powerful enough to help her not just change the future, but survive the night.

This is one of my freebies that I got from Amazon, and honestly, I was not expecting too much from it. That said, I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit short and there was some of it that didn’t really seem to fit together completely, but beyond that it’s a fun read and I have learned to accept that free reads are often going to be shorter. My biggest complaint is that the ending is really open. I am sure that was done on purpose so you will want to read the next book, but I don’t like books that literally feel like they end mid thought. Anyways, onto the book itself.

I don’t want to give spoilers away, but this is a really fun little romp. A strong fantastic woman from the future goes back to Victorian times when women had to act in a far different manner so she can save the world. I admire the bravery it took to go back to this time knowing full well that even if she succeeds in her mission, she would never see her home world again. Of course, everything has a wrench thrown in when the man she needs to blackmail the Duke of Somervale really isn’t so bad after all. Helen certainly has to make a lot of choices and finds herself in a lot of different pickles she didn’t expect. It was a bit of a lesson in how to not assume things will go like you think just because they look simple on the surface.

While I had a few issues with this book it was good enough to make me want to read the next one to see what happens. So I will be looking at the second installment and hopefully it will help me a bit with my closure issues.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on December 2, 2017

At not quite fifteen, Stefan’s father finally let him board the longship Sja Vinna to take part in his first Viking raid. Yet, the battle was not at all what he expected and he soon found himself alone and stranded in Scotland.

Thirteen-year-old Kannak’s problem was just as grave. Her father deserted them and the only way to survive, she decided, was to take a husband over her mother‘s objections. Suddenly she was helping a hated Viking escape. Could Kannak successfully hide a Viking in the middle of a Scottish Clan? And why was someone plotting to kill the clan’s beloved laird?

Tis the season where I try to play catch up on my reviews. My bad, again maybe 2018 will be better, LOL on the bright side I am not as behind on my reading as I was last year. Anyways to the review.

It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I was hooked. It was a freebie and really it shouldn’t have been, but a great way to get someone hooked for the series! The first chapter or so goes slow but don’t give up, trust me, you’ll get hooked and enjoy the read. Stefan takes such an interesting journey when he is stranded in Scotland, literally see’s his family everything he knows taken away. He has to find a way to live again. If that wasn’t entertaining enough, it gives you a strong female lead like Kannak who has to make her own hard life choices at a young age and one of those choices is hiding the Viking outsider in a Scottish Clan, I mean talk about a grown up choice for a young woman to make.

The story is an adventure and danger and a good dash of love involved. While the players may be young when we meet them, it’s important to remember that in the times of Vikings, life spans were shorter and so people grew up faster. It was a harsh time, with death and blood everywhere as the book shows us flat off and by the ongoing looming plot there is to kill the clans laird. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because I think everyone who loves this genre should read this one and judge it for themselves, I promise you will be hooked and not that I would judge a book by it’s cover but look at the cover it’s a beauty! Honestly, that is what drew me in when I was browsing freebies on kindle that and because it was about one of my favorite groups of people Vikings. This is an interesting look into the life of the time, a time where things were very much influx interns of religion and how people were traveling. A time in life that was very unique.

My Gemstone Rating:

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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 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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