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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 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 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 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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Posted by on January 11, 2017

There ARE creatures lurking in the dead of night… Seventeen year old Nikki and her twin brother, Nathan, move to the small town of Shore Lake to start over after their mother is brutally attacked. When a missing teenager washes up on shore during their first night at the cabin and there are whispers of vampires in Shore Lake, Nikki begins to realize that there are things roaming in the darkness that are far more sinister than what they left behind in the big city.

This book contains some graphic language, violence, and mild sexual situations.

My Gemstone Rating:

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Another book where I cannot help but giggle that they had to put a little warning disclaimer in the description of the book about adult content. Maybe this is a new trend that I am not aware of? Just last time I checked when you were choosing an Erotica or romance. Now with that said again (sorry about the broken record), time to sink into the review.

This is not the worst book I have ever read, but again like many of the last books I read in 2016 this book just really fell short of what I hoped it would be. This book was so rushed it really felt like perhaps the author was frantic just to get words typed out and shoved into a book. Yes short books are always going to be a little rushed, but with a skilled hand, you can still manage to make them feel less so (I think anyways) and you can deepen the plot and characters.

Nikki is just a one dimensional cut out of hormones that I simply could not connect with. At times I even got flashes of Anita Blake once she started being a bit hyper sexual too (I hope I can bring myself to continue the series after Cerulean Sins), and well that just boded badly. The monsters and other characters of the book all fell pretty flat for me. I rolled my eyes so much when I was reading this one that I was sure they were going to get stuck up there.

The book gets a 2 rating instead of anything lower because there were a few little points that I did enjoy. The idea could be better if it was fleshed out better, if it had not been so rushed awkward and cheesy. Nathan was the character for me that had the most promise, he was a bit better fleshed out for me.

So the short of it is, if you want a fast read that won’t bore you to tears, but is not fully fleshed out you might like this one more then I did. I also find myself once again pleading with Indie/Self published authors, please for the love of all the Gods please stop rushing things. Take the time to make the story longer, to give the characters more life and the plot a bit of time to simmer and truly come together. Instead of making a long series of really short stories just make one or two longer ones. Please. You might take a little bit longer to get it done, but if you spend that extra time on it there is a much bigger chance that you will get loyal readers! That makes the extra time worth it, really it does. Oh, and for the love of Gaia please at least give the story a brief proofread! Please! I beg this on behalf of all readers out there who really do try and support smaller authors. Totally random and not really something that matters this one hurt a little bit extra because the Author is from/in my hometown.



Posted by on January 6, 2017

When witch for hire, Megan Stephens, is assigned to help the local werewolf pack leader find a mate, she thinks the job will be easy. Get in, get him up and get gone. But when she meets Zack Connor, she realizes her future might have a lot more dog jokes in it than she ever imagined.

This is a short story– approximately 40 pages in length– and includes an excerpt from Love is Darkness, the first book in the Valerie Dearborn series.

**Please be aware that this book contains sex. And not in a fade-to-black-sort-of-way but an-OMG-that’s-in-public-sort-of-way**

Okay, first I have to say I can’t help but giggle a little bit at the fact that I am finding more and more erotica/romance books with the beware of sex in this book listed on the description. Okay, that is just a personal little giggle of mine.

On to the review, I got this as a free book and honestly I am glad that it was free. The premise of this book is good, the idea and the basic components of something that should be a riveting read is all here. It just seems to have all gone sideways somehow. Like a perfectly prepared souffle that then just falls flat. The book is extremely short and all very slap dash put together honestly. You get no depth to the characters of the book, no real plot development and what little plot there is felt very convoluted. It felt like the author just did not know where to put ideas and thought they all needed to be shoved into the smallest shortest group of chapters possible.

I gave a two gem/star rating because the heroine was sassy and what development of her was there was enjoyable. I also gave it that extra star because I really did want to like it. I really wanted everything to come together in a fun fast read. You can of course try it for yourself and perhaps you will like it a bit better then I did.

My Gemstone Rating:

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