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review 2017-10-20 03:19
Years of Change (Upstairs Downstairs) - Mollie Hardwick

Before 'Downton Abbey', there was 'Upstairs, Downstairs.' This book, 'THE YEARS OF CHANGE', is based on an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs that takes the Bellamy Family and their servants at 165 Eaton Place from the spring of 1912 to August 1914. 

Once I began reading 'THE YEARS OF CHANGE' on the subway to work earlier this week, I didn't want to put it down. For all of its 239 pages, it was packed with some of the most lively, intense, and at turns joyous and tragic family drama that I've encountered in a novel for quite a while. The reader also gets full views of what the lives of both servants and their so-called 'betters' (i.e. the ones upstairs as represented by the Bellamy Family) were like in considerable detail. For instance, the Bellamy son, James, a rather restless, impatient and frustrated man who had left the Army (he had been an officer in India) to take up a job in London -with his father's help - with a trading company, had married a typist in haste after professing undying love to her. After the first few weeks of shows of passionate devotion and affection, the marriage settles into one of stultifying indolence. One couldn't help but feel sorry for Hazel, James' wife, who clearly deserved better. There is a scene at a hunting party in the countryside (to which James had been invited by one of his moneyed, propertied friends) in which all the invited couples had retired for the night after a day of hard riding and shooting. James was peeved at Hazel for having defied his edict that she not ride. But she had been urged on by Lady Diana Russell (who had fancied James for some time - but having been spurned by James when he was feverishly in love with Hazel, she settled for a marriage offer from another man of her class she didn't love) and several of her friends to join in the hunt. Besides, they assured Hazel they would have a placid-tempered horse for her to ride. Well, Hazel was given at the last minute a more spirited horse to ride, which gave her a fright and made her a spectacle before James and his conferes. Hazel suspected that James, having regretted married her, was awaiting his chance to steal away in the night to Lady Diana's room for some "horizontal refreshment." After all, under such circumstances, it was not at all unusual for the rich and privileged set in Britain to quietly swap partners overnight. So long as discretion was observed and maintained, there was no reason for complaint from an aggrieved husband, or cause for public scandal. 

"THE YEARS OF CHANGE" is packed with so much. I enjoyed becoming acquainted with the Bellamys, the young Lady Georgina Worsley (a distant relation of the elder Bellamy's newly arrived from a Swiss boarding school), the society in which they lived with all its complex social standards and rules, as well as the servants 'downstairs - Mr. Hudson, the head butler and manager of staff; Mrs. Bridges the cook; Edward, the footman; Daisy, the sweet assistant parlour maid he came to love; Rose, the head parlour maid; and Ruby, the loveable, well-meaning, and unassuming kitchen servant. This is a novel that, once you begin to read it, you'll probably find yourself staying up all night to reach the finish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
 

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review 2017-10-02 06:58
1 1/2 out of 3 ain't bad?
Primal Need: A Sexy Male/Male Shifter Anthology: Wolf in King's ClothingThe Alpha's ClaimDark Water - Holley Trent,Parker Foye
THREE HEARTS--For a shifter anthology, this didn't deliver as expected. (avg. doesn't include the 2nd story)

Wolf in King's Clothing by Parker Foye - 3.5-3.75 Hearts

They call him "Prince".

A half breed, small assassin that has had the worst life ended up being my favorite of the anthology, go figure?



The unlikely hero who has been shat on, exiled and doesn't speak due to lacking social manners? My toes couldn't stop curling. Set in alternate Victorian period where werewolves are known, "Prince" aka Kent doesn't really know his true name. He's been collared and kept as a witch's assassin as an adult. He's been bartered over and kept like trash, exiled from wolf packs, he has no kind to call his own. His owner tasks him to do one more retrieval and he will have his freedom, Kent agreed before she even finished her sentence. Kent goes to the highlands to rescue an alpha who isn't like any alpha Kent's met.

But he doesn't care for the alpha, Hadrian's peculiar nature, he just needs to make sure he brings Hadrian back in one piece to his master. The road trip back to York is eventful, as the rival pack that kept Hadrian wants him back. The reasons why Hadrian needed to be retrieved are a little murky.

However personable Hadrian who has his own magical secret was a good choice as a foil to Kent's surly silence. The chip is mega wide on Kent's shoulder and Hadrian's steady persistence to at first befriend Kent was fun to read. The camaraderie, bodyguard/ward relationship takes a romantic turn. And it's subtle, which worked one hand and didn't on the other. The romance is pretty subtle, too subtle in the primal need department. Hadrian is alpha? He read like a beta which I can be down with. But when push comes to shove, he didn't claim his mate.

Kent still has to go through trials during this novella. And it endeared me to him. The story has a nice action/suspense twist and the reader gets to slowly learn about Kent's past and why he's so special.

I thought the reason why Kent is badass was cool. I haven't read about his type much in urban fantasy I've read.

The sex? One scene and no penetration for the smutsters keeping score. The story is interesting and evenly paced. I enjoyed the world building, pretty close to Victorian period with magical/paranormal exceptions.

Out of all the stories, this was the one that showed the most promise. If it's ever re-edited and lengthened, I'm there. Definitely would read more from this author!

The Alpha's Claim by Holley Trent - DNF Delight

A lot of anthologies have a stink bomb or two in their arsenal... this is Primal Need's



The writing style leaves a lot to be desired. Telling, shallow and none of the characters have substance. Then the setting bungle. It's supposed to be set in New York but the setting seemed like it was an internet search and find deal.

If a customer stiffs you repeatedly from tips for weeks... you end up in his bed to get the money you earned?

For what I've read, it's definitely stink face inducing.



Shifter fail. Plot fail.

NOPE.

Save yourself the time.

Dark Water by K.L. White - 2.5 Hearts

If you read the anthology, after the reading the previous stink bomb, Dark Water might read as manna from heaven.

Kelpie shifter lead is definitely on the unusual side of go to shifters.




Being as I didn't suffer through that, I read this without fume-weary eyes. This story is from a debut author... and it reads like it's from a new author. Not a bad thing, I love newbie authors. But the story, while more unusual due to the kelpie shifter mythology brought to the table, the execution has some hits and misses.

Benjamin is on the brink. He's a former naval officer in Maryland who leaves the hospital to kill himself. Trigger warning: attempted suicide. He's blind, has no friends or family other than a racist dementia diagnosed father who wouldn't recognize Benjamin on a good day. He best friend Rez was killed in front of him while trying to save his fellow officers. It's one of the last images in Benjamin's mind. He goes to the beloved beach to die.

At that beach, a kelpie marks him for sacrifice. The kelpie turns out to be Rez, Benjamin's best friend thought to have died on that deadly mission. The mark means Benjamin must die but Rez can't do it. And tries to save his friend. This mission of saving Benjamin gets buried under repetition, different threads to a plot that would've be best kept simple and an underwhelming chemistry.

The length could have been longer to tackle the heavy topics such as a veteran battling depression suicidal thoughts, a new permanent disability, PTSD. The items are touched on, but those are weighty topics that deserved more meat.

And to add more issues: sexuality. Benajimn identifies as heterosexual and never had any sexual feelings toward his friend. Being savd, learning his friend is actually alive and hearing his friend kiss another man helps him discover a part of sexuality he's never questioned?




Benjamin loved Rez as a friend, and while they'd kissed and touched, he didn't know if he was seeking comfort in blindness.


I'm leaning toward that camp of questioning Benjamin's motives as Rez seemed like he wasn't attracted then he was, then he kissed another man even tough he shot the persistent guy down. And now he wants to mate for life to Benjamin.

The kelpie population is dying and the men are charged to mate and make new kelpie foals with female kelpies. Another factor that makes me question the entire relationship factor as Rez wants to do his duty but needs to save his friend more.

And when they have sex, it was "I'm not attracted to males" vs. "but I have to sleep with you to save your life". I'm not liking the way the chips are stacked. It read forced and not sexy. Rough sex for an anal virgin? The possessive streak is usually my go to hot factor but I wasn't feeling it in this context. And the suicidal thoughts were still there close to the end.  I get why the need to mate was needed to keep Benjamin alive but I'm not liking the reasons.

And then way everything is neatly tied up? Uh-uh. Right. Sure.

The ideas are good. The execution is questionable. The story would have been better for me both men had an inkling of shared passion prior to meeting, the suicide and killing didn't happen and the plot remained simple.

My rating is for the kelpie folklore mostly and the premise.

The title of this anthology is Primal Need and not one story addressed that factor. So if you're a reader looking for primal shifters, look somewhere else. The good thing about this anthology is the stories are also sold separately. I'd read samples before getting any of the titles.

So, 1 1/2 out of 3?



A copy provided via Netgalley for an honest review.
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review 2017-10-02 00:00
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy - Ta-Nehisi Coates WE WERE EIGHT YEARS IN POWER revisits the best of Coates's writing in The Atlantic from the past 8 years - one for every year of Barack Obama's presidency - in the context of today. Coates doesn't mince words; we are living in a racist, imperfect time and there's no guarantee America will see that end in any of our lifetimes. President Obama's election couldn't change it, and now the country has embraced shameless, boldfaced racist rhetoric in direct response to his administration, rather than pretending it doesn't exist. The truth is that America as we know it could not exist without systemic racism built into our laws, into the very founding of the country itself. We have to acknowledge this past in order to start any reasonable discussion of racism today.

This is not a hopeful book. There are no answers within the pages. But if there was ever essential reading, this is a fine place to start.
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review 2017-10-01 21:23
Jot of Blood, (The Coventry Years #1) by Katherine Bayless
A Jot of Blood: The Coventry Years - Boo... A Jot of Blood: The Coventry Years - Book One (Volume 1) - Katherine Bayless

Lire is returning to school and she’s not looking forward to it. As a clairvoyant she’s resigned to being an outcast - even her teachers are wary of their secrets being accidentally read through Lire’s skin.



But this school year not only brings some excellent friends - Cal the werewolf and Zach the Hidden, but no shortage of adventure as well: with murders, missing werewolves, and considerable attention from some of the most important people in the magical world.


It’s time for Lire to leave her shell


This is the book I never asked for but turned out to want anyway.


I love this series, I like the characters, the world is awesome and I can’t wait for Lire’s story to continue after the events of the last book.


So hearing there was a new book starring Lire and set in this world and I’m doing my happy dance and all ready to sign up. Then I hear it’s a YA story of Lire in her school days. And I want to pout in a corner because I didn’t ask for this - who asked for this - bring back Adult Lire on whom the fate of the world rests who has gone through lots of epic shenanigans.


I pouted, I sulked, I opened it up grimly ready to snark or be passive aggressive. But I liked it a lot.


Hey, a magic school where people learn stuff! Every other magical school I’ve read produces a population of young sorcerers who are experts in divination and potion making but cannot read or master basic arithmetic. But Lire’s school teaches foreign languages and English and maths, y’know actual subjects. I give so many points for a magical school that actually teaches!


I love the exploration of the different magical systems and curses, how this occasionally results in the school being divided and the accommodations that have to be made for people with different magical gifts. I really like the Hidden - the magic around the Invisible Men - is a nice unique element.


There’s also an interesting insight into how teachers treat pupils, how they bully their students - not through the very obvious. There’s some comparisons to disability discrimination and I don’t generally like - comparing marginalised people to actual super-powered people - but it’s an well done comparison of when people need accommodations. The problem of singling people out, of drawing attention to their needs in front of the whole class, giving accommodations you assume the people want without actually consulting them - and not asking what they actually need.


One of the reasons this works is that even while Lire and Zachary do have considerable magical powers, those powers come with severe drawbacks as well. Lire’s inability to touch anything comes with strict dietary requirements, special clothing and a constant awareness. Similarly, Zach being completely invisible leads to different ways he is regarded by others to say nothing of the difficulty of not having people sit on him. The parallels of disability are not inaccurate.


The story itself is very personal to Lire and I’m generally not a great fan of character driven high school stories. Not a judgement of those stories, just not my thing. But the connection to her powers, the wider world and hints of things to come all add a series of plot lines; including lots of nice action, investigation, foreshadowing and other fun things all while making Lire very much her age and experience. I like how we have the broad world, the meta-plot, the murder investigation, the characters and Lire’s own high school struggles. The balance is really well done, I love it.

 

 

Read More

 

 

Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/09/jot-of-blood-coventry-years-1-by.html
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review 2017-09-26 00:27
Gave good enemies to lovers vibes!
Rough Edges - Cardeno C.
3.75 HEARTS--Another Cardeno C winner for me! Short and contemporary from this author seems to work for me.

I love a lot of tropes, but enemies to lovers is near and dear. In Rough Edges, the enemies are within a group of friends.




Can we say awkward especially when they all hangout?

Thirty-something year old Kyle is determined. He's come a long way from that trailer park in Alabama. He fought and studied hard to be a professional at a prestigious firm in LA. He's got the right clothes, the perfect job, and soon to be the perfect condo. And others think he's a pretentious snob, so what? He's earned it. What he can't stand are people who are "lazy" and live off their trust funds without working and making something of themselves.

Unfortunately, the guy he started to crush on when he first moved to LA, Brent, falls under that category. And Kyle's been prejudiced ever since. Two years has passed from that initial magic meeting. The vitriol that Kyle spews is still iron strong. He digs at the happy go lucky Brent any chance he gets.

One day Kyle loses it all. (Cardeno is good at that, giving a character maximum crap day dealings by the boatload) And you know who helps the pissy guy out? You guessed it, Brent. They become roommates.

In this book the enmity read more one sided but Brent had the mouth and backbone to give as good as he got. But damn is Kyle a prick to Brent. I get Kyle's mindset: when you come from nothing and have to fight for any semblance normal you can get, you could resent others who have it easier aka born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

But Brent's not that guy. He's so likeable. He gets under Kyle's skin. And best part is he gets why Kyle is the way he is toward him.

Kyle is angry and pretentious and that stick in his ass is rooted deep. (The thing is I expected Kyle to be appreciative and humble. But he's not that guy.)




Thankfully, the chemistry is there. And we got dual POV because if it was one sided, I might not have bought it.

I both read and listened to new to me narrator, Kevin Chandler. I think he did a pretty good job. And I would listen to him again. Chandler didn't make all the voices distinct.  But I loved what he does for Kyle's voice. I knew exactly where he was from (the South). And when Kyle gets upset, the Southern intensifies. That was the best part of the audiobook, his take on Kyle.

The roommates learn about each other. That years long lust that was shelved for Kyle's ridiculousness? It comes off the shelf...


"When you want more, I'll give you my dick and then we can see which of us is begging to finish first."



Yes!

The sex is hot, nothing extreme. But the author sets up the characters to share just enough of themselves for the moment to feel intimate. Having Chandler narrate those bits didn't hurt.

Someone's monogamous and definitely a relationship guy. (Cardeno C staple!) Once bedroom action happens, he wants his man. The relationship is not one sided. And the guys seemed to be a great fit, in and out of the bedroom.

Kyle's the type of character who needs to learn as a person to grow. I think he's still a work in progress. He shares his inner demons with Brent. And Brent brings out the best in him.

Overall, a pretty great story with good narration. I'd recommend either version: ebook or audio.



A copy provided for an honest review.
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