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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 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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Posted by on February 15, 2017

Follow the yellow brick road!

Dorothy thinks she’s lost forever when a tornado whirls her and her dog, Toto, into a magical world. To get home, she must find the wonderful wizard in the Emerald City of Oz. On the way she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion. But the Wicked Witch of the West has her own plans for the new arrival – will Dorothy ever see Kansas again?

Every now and then I like to travel back to books that I loved when I was younger. When a new show that is based on an old favorite book I really want to read the book again, thanks to Emerald City I went back and read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book is truly enjoyable and one of the reasons that I became such a fan of books along with some other classics of course.

The book is so much different then the classic Judy Garland film, it is darker and of course the slippers aren’t ruby at all but silver. There really isn’t much I can say about this book other then I enjoyed every page just like I did when I was a kid. It is a classic for a reason and as one of the earliest fantasy works you can really see how it plant the seeds in the genre. It might seem “trope” like to readers who are coming to it late in life or the younger generation but when it was written it really was something different. To me it stands the test of time even if it doesn’t to others. This will be one that I keep coming back to every now and then. Not much left to say because really I think almost everyone has read this one or at least knows a fair amount about it.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on February 10, 2017

When duty forces a shaman to stop a vampire from her revenge, love doesn’t just burn… it bites. For two hundred years, Niki DeVeraux has been tracking the monster who murdered her family and made her a vampire. She finally catches up to him only to face more than she bargained for in a too-sexy sheriff who makes her remember she’s still a woman. With duties as Keeper of the peace and Sheriff, Shane Spencer must protect humanity and stop the friction between the local Arcaine races before it turns into an all out blood war. When wolves start turning up dead, the tension between the races grows and suspicion falls on Niki. Shane knows she’s not to blame, and it has nothing to do with the primal urges she stirs within him. Working together, they must stop the hostilities from going over the edge. Trouble is, the desires raging between them might prove more dangerous than the surrounding threats.

At long last here is my final review of books I read in 2016. I know it seems like I took forever and I did a bit, but here it is. Long live 2017 from now on.

This book was alright, I would not jump up and down and call this my next big vampire series to read but I also didn’t hate it. It is a fast and easy read at only about 190 pages. What kept me from truly being able to fully love this book instead of just feeling lukewarm about it was that everything just felt a little bit on the surface. If the book had been longer, we may have been able to dig into it more, get more connected to the characters and their stories.

Due to the fact that so much of it was just right on the surface there were quite a few plot holes big enough to drive a mack truck through. I hate saying that, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. The format is there, the interesting characters and other items that could have really drawn the reader in are all there but they are only lightly touched on. Case in point Nikki is hunting down the Vampire who turned her into a vampire. His name is Thomas, when he came, he killed Nikki’s entire family, but allowed her to not only live but turned her. Why? What was his motivation in doing that? Why not kill her as well, so that he was not leaving someone behind who could seek vengeance upon him? Let alone turning her into a creature like him with long life so that she could basically hold on to that grudge. What was his thinking behind that? It wasn’t like she stayed around as his companion or anything.

Shane also came across as a character that was a little creepy. He was more than happy to have a sexual relationship with someone who looked much younger? I had some of the same issues with Twilight, but at least Edward was dating in his own, age pool per-say. He didn’t look like an adult going out with a teenager. With all of that said, it was not the worst book I have read and even if it was superficial I did enjoy it. I would not be picking on these exact points if I didn’t. I just wanted to enjoy it much more.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on January 25, 2017

An ancient city. A wondrous invention. A perilous journey.

The epic sequel to the incredible debut novel The Iron Ship.

Deep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise.

The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages.

As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.

Industry and magic, gods and steampower collide in the captivating sequel to The Iron Ship.

I have to start this review by saying I have not read the first book in the series. When I saw this book on Netgalley I got so excited by the description I overlooked that it was book #2. So some of my thoughts on this book spring from that which is my own fault. Now with that said, on to the review.

This is an absorbing book that takes place in a world that is complex, rich and absorbing. It did take me a little longer to get into this book than I would have liked, but I suspect that comes from not reading the first book. I was a little confused as to everything going on in this world, but eventually I did get settled in and I enjoyed the book a great deal. I plan on going back and reading the Iron Ship and then revisiting this story so see more things in context.

This book is simply one of those kind of books that seems to sprawl out before you in one grand adventure. It is the kind of book that allows you to feel as if you are in the pages, in that world with the characters and not just an outside reader. I feel that this fantasy world ranks right up there with the likes of Middle Earth and Narnia. I couldn’t personally develop any “feelings” towards the characters in this book, but I feel that might change as I delve deeper into the series. This book is simply a very enjoyable read and the land in which it takes place is so well described it feels like a place I could go to.

There is a huge cast of characters within the book and they all seem to be getting ready to have some kind of convergence when the series comes to an end. While the large cast of characters makes it interesting, I feel it is also the reason I couldn’t connect with anyone. At the end of the day, this is a book worth reading and a series worth getting excited about. If you like fantasy I think you will enjoy this book, it made me want to make like Bilbo Baggins and yell that I was going on an adventure!

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on January 18, 2017

The world is changing.

For thousands of years, witch song has controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons. But not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by the dark Witch, Espen.

As the last echoes of witch song fade, Espen grows stronger as winter and summer come within the space of a day. Now she’s coming for the one she missed—a shy, untrained girl of fifteen named Brusenna.

Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find Espen. Fight her. Defeat her.

Or there won’t be anything left to save.

I had such high hopes for this book. I love powerful books where women go on a journey to find themselves, witchcraft is always a plus for me and just the genre in general. The cover was interesting and yes, I know not to judge a book by its cover, but I was judging it in a positive way. Perhaps I went in having hopes that were too high, because for the most part they fell flat. The first red flag for me should have been on the books good read page where the author herself posted a 5 star review that literally just says, “Well, I think it’s fabulous. But I wrote it . . . ;)”. I know it seems petty to mention that, but it is one of my peeves, but I really was excited about the book so I just chalked it up to a very excited author which is understandable and dug into the book.

The main character of the story, the lovely heroine witch Brusenna is pretty 2 dimensional to me. She has everything you expect to see in a book heroine, all the right basics, but beyond that I myself just did not see much depth. I don’t mind having characters that are built on a template base, it is pretty common after all in the different genres. However, what truly makes a character for me is what comes after that template all the good things you pour into the simple base. Brusenna was just kind of there, the base and with that basic base I just really could not find a connection which never bodes well in my opinion for a book I am reading. When the main male character also comes up to be a bit of a basic base without depth like I felt Joshen was, I know I am going to end up sighing. Honestly, there were a few times even though it is a shorter book I thought I would set it down as a DNF but I try not to do that so once more into the breach my friends once more I soldiered on.

There is a lot of action and obstacles and lots of things that have to be overcome through this story. Some of the witch spells, or songs as they are presented were creative and interesting. Some of them weren’t anything new to me, but they still seemed to be built solidly. The fact that they all had to rhyme, well, I have never been a fan of that kind of spell craft, but since it was about songs it got a little bit of a pass. Did I mention that they then throw seeds with the song? Yes, seeds like the things that grow tree’s and flowers and what have you. There were points where I wondered what would happen to a bird if they came along and ate one of those seeds. That might have been amusing.

So before I ramble on anymore about this, the bottom line is while the book did have some bright spots, I really didn’t enjoy it that much. There are a lot of readers who did enjoy it though according to Goodreads. So I will put this one in the try it if you want, but honestly, you might be better off taking a look for a different witch story. This is, as noted by the title, having a #1 in it a series and I know sometimes it can take a little time to get a series rolling. Unfortunately, I myself am not going to be giving any of the other books in this series a read, unless someone forces me to. Another end of 2016 book, another meh feeling.

Glad I only have one more 2016 books to finish the write up for, people are going to start thinking all I read is books that make me go meh.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Posted by on January 12, 2017

Penniless and disgraced, Adelaide Wentworth is feeling rather desperate. With nothing left to lose, she and her sister, Louisa, flee to Lake Geneva with Adelaide’s lover, the infamous poet Julian Estes. There, Louisa hopes to persuade Bayard Sonnier—celebrated writer and her former lover—to advance Julian’s career. He is their last hope for salvation.

At the Villa Diodati—the place that inspired the writing of Frankenstein sixty years earlier—Louisa plots to rekindle her affair with Bayard, while Adelaide hopes to restore her fading love for Julian by being the muse he needs.

But soon, secrets are revealed, passions ignited, and hidden talents discovered. Adelaide begins to imagine a different life. Confused, she turns to Giovanni Calina—Bayard’s assistant and a man with his own secrets and deep resentments—and the two form a dangerous alliance. No one leaves unscathed in this richly imagined, emotionally nuanced tale of passion, ambition, inspiration, and redemption.

I want to thank Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me to get an ARC of this book. I will admit that it was the cover which drew me in first, but the description kept me interested and the book and the book itself that made me keep reading.

This is one of the most unique books I have had a chance to read in a while and the tapestry of characters is rich and interesting. If you are a reader who is also very interested in writing and the entire process it has you are really going to enjoy a drop of ink because it is all about the process of writing and the characters who are writers while of course also giving you a nice dash of history and romance too. If you are looking for a happily ever after kind of romance this is not the book for you, I am just going to say that now without giving away any major spoilers.

The year is 1876 the place is Lake Geneva in Switzerland, at a Villa where famous writers Lord Byron and Mary & Percy Shelly stayed some 60 years ago. It was this Villa where Frankenstein and his Monster were born. There is a curious collection of characters gathered here this time as well, Bayard the famous writer, Giovanni his assistant who is trying to claw his way up the social ladder, Estes, who is, well, in my opinion a useless poet who likes his drug flask way t0o much and the Sisters Adelaide and the rather insane Louisa.

You get plotting and scheming and controversy and sometimes of course scandal. Overall, I really enjoyed the book it was fun and entertaining and the historical backdrop was nice. Other times I could not help but roll my eyes a little and sigh, some of the drama that Louisa caused was just over the top and Adelaide well she was not much less crazy at times then her sister. The fact that so many people didn’t really seem to notice all the drama was also a bit curious and yet those people had no problem showing up and surrounding the famous writer. The trope of the grumpy ole writer who hated being surrounded like that was probably my least favorite of the bunch. However, when it comes to complaints that is really a small one as far as things go.

This book really was one that I enjoyed a great deal. It had supernatural theories and fun playing along as well as humor, romance and history. I have always adored the idea of writing a book in the old way with a dip or fountain pen on parchment paper. So this one was bound to be a fun, enjoyment for me. The ending really was not overly satisfying for me, but it was realistic and I understand that sometimes realism has to win over the happily ever after.

My Gemstone Rating:

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