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Thursday, May 28, 2015

To Ride a White Horse...Review

About the book:
Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.

Set against the backdrop of 1840s Ireland and America, To Ride a White Horse is an epic historical saga of hope, loyalty, the strength of the human spirit, and the power of love.

With Ireland ravaged by famine, and England unsympathetic to its plight, Kathleen Deacey, a spirited and strong-willed young Irish woman faces a devastating choice—leave her country to find work or risk dying there. Despising the English for refusing to help Ireland, she sets sail for Canada, determined to save her family and find her missing fiancé.

But her voyage doesn't go as planned and she ends up in America, forced to accept the help of an English whaling captain, Jack Montgomery, to survive. As Jack helps her search for her fiancé and fight to save her family and country, she must make an impossible choice—remain loyal to Ireland or follow her heart.

With insight and compassion, award-winning author Pamela Ford captures the anguish of a devastating period in Irish history, illuminates the resilience of the human spirit and celebrates the strength of love. To Ride a White Horse is a deeply-moving novel that wraps itself around the heart and doesn't let go.

In the midst of the potato famine, Kathleen Deacey's fiance doesn't return from Canada. At her brother's insistence, she boards a vessel bound for Canada, hoping to discover Danny's whereabouts, but also to find work and send money to her desperate family.

On deck during a storm, Kathleen is washed overboard and rescued by a whaling vessel captained by Jack Montgomery. She ends up in Boston, working as a maid to the Captain's grandfather. As Kathleen searches for her fiance and worries about her family, she is drawn to Jack and soon her heart must choose.

I appreciated the view of Ireland and the devastation brought on by multiple years of famine. The author captured the essence of desperation and deprivation of those suffering. Kathleen was a determined, spunky heroine. Loved her interactions with Jack.  The story ends somewhat as expected, but the journey there is worth the read.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Pamela Ford here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Last Book Ever Written...Review...DNF

About the book:
In a futuristic American society where all citizens have computerized chips in their brains and insert needles into their veins to enter a virtual reality, Victor Vale leads a fairly typical life. He is an officer of the law with greater ambitions, a family man, and a dutiful citizen of the Nation. Yet when The Chief assigns him a case to go undercover and expose a community of illegal “creators,” Victor finds himself strangely compelled to write. For the first time, he starts to question the world around him, and becomes involved in a web of lies, uncertain of whom to trust, and unable to distinguish between virtualism and reality. As he searches for answers, Victor slowly begins to unravel hidden truths about the world, and even uncovers an astonishing secret from his own past.

The Last Book Ever Written satirizes our competitive, success-driven society, foresees the effects of the economic recession, and warns what could happen if we let technology go too far.

A promising debut with a fascinating premise. Heavy on the social commentary, it would be a good choice for a book group or classroom discussion. Ultimately though, it was one that didn't resonate with me and I had to set it aside. Mine seems to be the minority review though and fans of dystopia will likely enjoy it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Jonah Kruvant here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Ryder: Bird of Prey... Review

About the book:
The Maltese Falcon was no mere legend—this fabulously jewelled golden bird really existed. Still exists, according to the last words of a dying man. Ayesha Ryder is on its trail, but not just to find the Falcon itself. It is said to contain a clue to the lost burial place of King Harold of England, a potent symbol for ruthless politicians determined to break up the UK and create a new, independent English Kingdom. The Falcon may also contain a second clue, one that few would believe.

Labelled an assassin, hunted by Scotland Yard and Dame Imogen Worsely of MI5—as well as those who want the Falcon and its secrets for themselves—Ayesha joins forces with Joram Tate, the mysterious librarian known to her friend Lady Madrigal, a one-time lover of Lawrence of Arabia. As Ayesha’s attraction to Tate grows, they follow clues left by long-dead knights to the tomb of a Saxon king and to the ruined Battle Abbey. When the trail leads them to a stunning secret hidden for a thousand years beneath an English castle, Ayesha must battle modern killers with medieval weapons before confronting the evil that would destroy her nation

Ayesha Ryder is fast becoming one of my favorite literary characters. She's a female Indiana Jones with guts and gumption and skill.  Her history is tragic, but she has risen above it and her curiosity for history has made her an expert. Searching for the not-so-mythical Maltese Falcon, Ayesha is drawn into a dangerous game involving murder and an overthrow of the British Prime Minister. In order to stop it, she must discover the tomb of King Harold, who died at the Battle of Hastings, and locate his sword.

Historically rich, I loved that most of the action was set in Hastings, England and involved so much of the 1066 battle area. My husband is from Hastings, so I'd ask him about some of the places mentioned and they were familiar to him.

Third in the Ayesha Ryder series, the novel can stand alone, but my recommendation is that you read the entire series in order. Many characters return including Dame Imogen and Lady Madrigal. The addition of Joram was terrific. There is more to his story and I really hope he becomes a regular.

The story contains mild sexuality and moderate profanity.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book. Your can learn more about Nick Pengelley here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Residence...Review by the Doctor

About the book:
A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

As someone who grew up British, but is now an American, the White House holds kind of a fascination for me. It is intriguing both as a seat of power, and also as a symbol of freedom.

I looked forward to reading this book because, like most people, I kind of like the “behind-the-scenes” reality. However, if you thought that Downton Abbey was sometimes “stretching the borders of realism”, I think you would be amazed at some of the stories that come out of the White House.

Maybe someone should do a television show about that, because I think it would be fascinating, and probably somewhat terrifying.

What struck me most about this book was the absolute dedication of the staff who run the White House, and who stay long after the incumbent President leaves. Their stories make up a considerable portion of this book, and they are every bit as fascinating, and more human, than some of the Presidents who lived there. The staff behind-the-scenes have to dedicate their lives in the service of the President, in some ways almost as much as the Secret Service. Some of them lost spouses and other good opportunities to work at the White House, and the stories of how their lives were swallowed up in the scheduling desires of the incumbent President and First Lady was mind blowing, and almost disturbing.

One of the stranger, and less satisfying aspect of this book was to read and realize just how much the President and First Lady (both Democrat and Republican) are willing to make life difficult for the house staff, just to satisfy their own personal desires that have little to do with the office which they hold.

From Presidents having affairs to Presidents being naked in front of the staff, from First Ladies wanting a redecoration of the room to occur in a ridiculously short period of time to desiring floral arrangements that are “very specific”, it struck me that someone has to be pretty narcissistic to occupy the presidency. While that probably does not come as a shock to anybody, I came away from this book with a little less respect for some historical figures.

This was a fascinating read, and I enjoyed it great deal. I thoroughly recommend this book as a great afternoon of fascinating insights.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Kate Brower here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, May 8, 2015

To Win Her Favor...Review

About the book:
A gifted rider in a world where ladies never race, Maggie Linden is determined that her horse will become a champion. But the one man who could help her has vowed to stay away from thoroughbred racing forever.

An Irishman far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He's come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and begin farming, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he'd wagered, especially when Maggie Linden's father makes him an offer he shouldn't accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the inaugural Peyton Stakes, the richest race ever run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance---and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder---Maggie's father, aging, yet wily as ever, makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail---Maggie must marry a man she's never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

I had a harder time getting into this one, but ultimately it was one I enjoyed.

Maggie wants nothing more than to race her horse and save her family farm. Cullen want to reclaim his life and hopes to do so in Nashville. The two come together in a way neither ever imagined when Maggie's father agrees to sell Linden Downs, only on the condition that he marry Maggie. Each is desperate to fulfill their dreams and agree to the proposition.

Post-Civil War Nashville is full of people trying to recover from the devastation of war. I love the horse racing aspect and the strength of Maggie to stand up for her right to have a female jockey race her horse. I loved that Cullen stood up for the same thing, and stood up to those who tried to shut him out and destroy his livelihood.

I appreciated the examination of racism and its consequences: the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and their accepted atrocities toward blacks and the treatment of the Irish who came to America to escape the potato famine. I know these things still happen today and it just breaks my heart at the level of intolerance that has plagued this country for so long. But, the exploration here was terrific.

Part of the Belle Meade Plantation series, but the story stands alone just fine.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Tamera Alexander here. You can see other reviews and tour stops here. You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/15

* * *
3/5 Stars