Review: Ghosts of Christmas Past by Corrina Lawson

ghosts of christmas past by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #3.5
Length: 167 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: November 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

As Christmas approaches in crumbling Charlton City, Detective Aloysius James and his partner, Noir, are at a crossroads. Figuring out how to reconcile their careers with their relationship is harder than catching the bad guys.

Now that Noir has learned to control her invisibility and is making a name for herself among the city s artist collective, Al senses there s something she s keeping from him. And he doesn t know how long they can remain partners. Or even lovers.

Noir isn t sure how Al would take it if he knew how deeply he has touched her artistic soul, or how he could react if he saw the secret drawings that have helped heal the wounds of her past.

When a murder lands them on opposite sides Al ready to arrest a suspect Noir insists in innocent they re going to need to unwrap all the ghosts of their pasts to make this Christmas the first of many. Or it could be their last.

My Review:

luminous by corrina lawsonGhosts of Christmas Past is a direct sequel to the earlier novella in this series, Luminous. It fills in some of the background gaps that were left at the end of the first book, and tells a lovely story about what happens to the hero and heroine after the supposed happy ever after. The journey to HEA is a bit rockier than anyone expect.

And the nod to Dickens is totally exploited. The scenes of A Christmas Carol do come into play in this story, in a way that is novel but totally in keeping with the season.

But don’t read Ghosts of Christmas Past without having read Luminous first. The Al and Noir stories feel like a separate sub-series in The Phoenix Institute. You know the Institute is in the background, but Noir and Al only have limited contact with it.

The issue in this story is their contact with each other.

At the end of Luminous, Al hands Noir the results of his research into missing young women at the time she was taken. He helps her reunite with her parents, and gives her the information she craves about the person she was before the kidnapping.

Lucy was a 17-year-old artist. She was also a white girl from the middle-class suburbs. Al is a black cop in a corrupt city. Even though Lucy is no longer 17, Al is still about 15 years older than Lucy. Between those facts, and Al’s general lack of belief in himself and his ability to be anything other than a workaholic cop, Al is certain that Lucy will leave him sooner or later, possibly sooner. So he’s already detaching himself.

But Lucy isn’t just Lucy anymore. She suffered over 5 years of being a human guinea pig and then rescued herself with her own latent psychic abilities. Lucy may be part of Noir, and vice versa, but she is not the woman she would have been if the kidnapping hadn’t happened. She needs to find her way to being a synthesis of Lucy and Noir. While she loves her parents, and is grateful to have found them, she is very, very far from being the little girl they remember.

Lucy is her own woman, and that woman loves Al James, workaholism and all. She just has to get him to believe it. While they both help and work against each other to solve a murder and corruption case in City Hall.

They’ve always been good at solving crimes together. Now they have to figure out if they trust each other enough with all the other parts of their lives. And Al needs to finally develop some other parts to his life, before it’s too late.

Escape Rating B+: Ghosts of Christmas Past feels like it completes the story in Luminous. We find out a bunch of things about both Al and Lucy/Noir that we didn’t learn in the first book. It was not clear by the end of Luminous whether Noir’s talents were created in the lab, or whether it was something in her all along. It was good to see that question answered, and to discover that Noir’s talents were latent, but they were something within Lucy’s DNA. Doctor Jill (Frankenstein) was crazy but not that talented.

It also fits better into this worldbuilding that Lucy was a latent. So far, none of the gifted have been created in a lab, and I like it better this way. We have met the future, and it sometimes turns invisible. Or heals itself.

ghost phoenix by corrina lawsonLucy’s talent is also a variation on Marian Doyle’s talent in Ghost Phoenix. The self-healing talent seems to be surprisingly wide-spread in this relatively small group, so it is good to see that other talents are as well.

But the core of this story is about trust. Al can’t let himself trust that Lucy will stay. Lucy is having a difficult time trusting that Al will make room in his life for her, especially since he isn’t recognizing the way that she has and continues to make room in the life she is creating for him. Lucy is both Lucy and Noir, but Al seems to think that she has to make a choice, and that it won’t include him.

Lucy feels forced from all sides – her parents want her to be the girl she was, and Al wants her to be Noir and not Lucy. Meanwhile, Al has to solve a murder at the City Museum that involves corrupt officials, the lover of one of Lucy’s friends, Tiny Tim’s crutch and Snow White’s glass coffin.

Al needs Lucy and her new artist friends to solve the case. It just takes him a while to see that putting the case together is a metaphor for their relationship.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Ghost Phoenix by Corrina Lawson

ghost phoenix by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #3
Length: 277 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: October 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Richard Plantagenet, self-exiled prince of an immortal court, is content living the uncomplicated life of a California surfer. Until his brother’s sudden death and his Queen’s wasting illness wrest him from his ocean-side solitude for one last quest.

The Queen needs a cure. To get it, Richard needs assistance from someone with a singular—and slightly illegal—talent.

As the latest of a long line of ghost-walkers, Marian Doyle can, literally, walk through walls—bringing objects with her. Her gift comes in handy for her family’s shady antiquities business, but Marian’s had it with breaking the law. She wants a life of her own choosing.

Instead, she gets Richard.

Their mission seems simple: Find the body of Gregori Rasputin and procure a small sample of his DNA. But when they discover the Mad Monk of Russia is very much alive, the prince and the phantom must form a bond to battle a man who desires to remake the world in fire.

My Review:

I read The Phoenix Institute series all in one giant binge, and I’ll admit that Ghost Phoenix is the point where it almost jumped the shark. But the romance between the hero and heroine was so much delicious fun that it pretty much jumped back.

phoenix legacy by corrina lawsonThe evil dude in the previous book, Phoenix Legacy, went by the name Edward P. Genet V. At the end of the story we discover that his real name is Edward Plantagenet, briefly King Edward V of England. Back in the late 1400s.

If the name rings any bells at all, it’s because Edward V was also one of the famous Princes in the Tower. Shakespeare claimed that Edward and his brother Richard were killed by their uncle, the recently discovered Richard III. (Contrarians say that the Princes were murdered by their sister’s husband, King Henry VII. We may never know)

But it turns out that the people that the Phoenix Institute has discovered are not the only folks out there with special gifts. The Plantagenets have a strain of self-healing in their DNA, making some of them effectively immortal. Edward was one such, as was his brother Richard. In this scenario, they weren’t killed after all – they disappeared into the shadow court of their immortal queen, who turns out to be Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Eleanor is wasting away of some unknown malady that is preventing her from accessing her healing talents. Edward’s pursuit of Delilah and Drake’s genetically engineered baby was all part of his plan to create someone with the talent to heal others. However, messing with Drake’s family was a guaranteed way of getting killed. A sword through the heart will kill anyone. Even a self-healer can’t heal around a big honking piece of sharp metal in a truly vital organ.

Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin

Richard is forced back to court by his duty to his brother, and to his queen. He never approved of Edward’s methods, but now he has to find out what truly happened to his brother, and find a cure for the queen. Since Drake and Delilah’s baby is now out of reach, the court has discovered another possible method – studying the corpse of the mad Russian monk Rasputin, who was also had the power to heal others – as well as being a charismatic and nuttier than a fruitcake. Legend has it that Rasputin was poisoned, shot and drowned, so it is assumed that one or all of those methods overcame his self-healing ability.

Richard thinks he’s looking for a valuable corpse. So he hires Doyle Antiquities, especially Marian Doyle, to dig up (if necessary literally) the body of Rasputin. The Doyle family is known for possessing a rare psychic gift – the ability to turn to mist and go through walls. Marian is the only member of the family in this generation to possess the gift – as well as a talent for researching where lost treasures might be found.

Richard discovers that Marian is the most pleasantly surprising person he has met in centuries. She is intelligent, beautiful and talented, and always manages to do the unexpected. As they hunt what they think is an artifact, they discover that in spite of the centuries, they belong together. If they can survive the mess they have gotten themselves into.

Rasputin is still alive, and his followers are every bit as fanatical in the early 21st century as they were in the early 20th.

Escape Rating B+: The combination of the immortal Plantagenet court with Rasputin went really too close to the “believe three impossible things before breakfast” idea. In a world where multiple people have some kind of psychic/telekinetic talent without having had the equivalent of a mutated spider bite them in a lab, it is logical that there would be others with some talent.

There are so many stories about Rasputin, that it isn’t a stretch to believe he had some real power. He and his followers certainly thought he did. But adding the Plantagenet court into the mix almost went over the top.

But Richard Plantagenet is surprisingly empathetic as the surfer dude who could be king. He has rejected much of the isolation of the court and become a surfer in California. He may love the queen, but his attachment is to contemporary life. Watching him straddle both worlds makes him more human. He is still an autocrat at times, but he also knows how to value the short-lived human lives around him – and he knows there are lines that can’t be crossed, a lesson his brother never learned.

Richard meets with the Institute and Philip Drake, yet everyone walks away with their organs intact. He mourns his brother, but acknowledges that Drake’s actions were more than justified. He would protect himself and his to that same extreme – he can’t fault Drake for doing the same.

However, it is Richard’s relationship with Marian that grounds him and makes him human enough to feel for. He needs to win her love and approval, and she keeps him on the relatively human straight and narrow.

It is also her talents that discover the truth about the Queen’s illness. He needs her, and she needs him to boost her confidence so she can break away from the family that uses her and takes her for granted. In the early scenes, where Richard puts her overbearing grandfather in his place, that makes the reader first see him as “one of us” and not “one of them”..

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Phoenix Legacy by Corrina Lawson

phoenix legacy by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #2
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: November 13, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Philip Drake is immortal by virtue of a psychic power that heals all but the worst injuries. He’s needed every bit of it as a black ops agent, a life so violent that the line between pain and pleasure is tangled up in his head.

When he walks away from the CIA, the last thing he expects is to discover someone stole his DNA to create a race of super-healers. And that the expectant mother is a woman from his past who’d consider it her pleasure to spit on his grave.

One moment, Delilah Sefton is listening to a seriously hot, seriously deranged man giving her some half-baked explanation as to why she’s pregnant with no memory of how she got that way. The next, armed men swarm into her bar, and she and Mr. Sexy-Crazy are on the run.

Safety at the Phoenix Institute is only temporary, but it’s long enough to put the pieces together. A madman plans to steal her son in a plot to take over the world. And to stop him, she must learn to trust the baby’s father—a man she blames for her greatest loss.

My Review:

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonPhoenix Legacy is the direct sequel to Phoenix Rising, unlike Luminous which told a side story in this same fantastic universe.

The impact that Luminous has on Phoenix Rising is that it provides the excuse for telepath Beth Nakamora to be out of town and unavailable during the events of this book. IMHO the mystery would have been way too easy to solve if Beth had been around to read everyone’s occasionally tiny mind. She’s not, so it takes some more good old-fashioned talking for the good guys to all get on the same page and deliver the bad guys their just desserts.

Phoenix Legacy is a story about all the chickens coming home to roost. Including, in one very important part of the story, with eggs (or egg). Everyone’s past, including the past of the Phoenix Institute itself, come back to bite everyone’s ass one more time.

The skeletons in everyone’s closet all come out to dance, and it makes for one wild ride.

Alec Farley has been investigating the many and varied programs and businesses owned/sponsored by his late and unlamented foster father, Richard Lansing, as owner/creator/perpetrator of The Resource. Alec created the Phoenix Institute out of the ashes of The Resource when he inherited it from Lansing.

There are a lot of rocks to turn over, and way too many nasty things crawling out from under those rocks. Now that Beth Nakamora and Alec are lovers, Beth’s foster father, the ex-CIA agent Philip Drake, is unhappy that Alec is trying to clean up the existing structure instead of scrapping it and starting over. Or running away.

Drake knows that Lansing did a lot of dirty dealing, and dismantling his old organization puts Beth in danger. However, the rock that Alec turns over in this story brings way more trouble and danger to Drake than Beth. And it turns out to be a good thing.

Lansing, among other nefarious dealings, was the co-owner of a genetics lab that was researching the possible creation of a psychic healer who could heal others and not just him or her-self. Lansing and Drake were/are both self-healers.

In order to create this super-healer, Lansing gave the genetics lab (Orion) three sperm samples, his own, Drake’s, and Alec Farley’s. The kind of guy Lansing was, neither Drake nor Alec were informed or consented.

And, it turns out, neither was the woman who was artificially inseminated with that sperm. Not that she didn’t know where the sperm came from, but that she was kidnapped and medically raped, and then abandoned back at her home with a gap in her memory.

Lansing, having been a complete bastard, picked Drake’s childhood friend to kidnap and impregnate. Of course the baby is Drake’s. There would have been no fun for Lansing in tormenting a woman he didn’t know, the whole point of choosing Delilah Sefton was to hurt and possibly control Drake.

But Lansing is dead, and his partners are still after the baby, for what appear to be megalomaniacal reasons of their own.

Philip Drake, dead certain that he is not worthy of the love of the woman he used to call Lily, can’t help himself from protecting her and their unborn child – whether Lily can ever forgive him for all the pain he’s caused her in the past, or not.

It’s going to take a LOT of forgiveness to fix his earliest and greatest mess.

Escape Rating A: Of all the stories in this series so far (I’m up to #3.5) Phoenix Legacy was the most fun, at least for me.

Drake is one of those tortured, wounded souls that just cries out for healing and a happy ending, no matter how difficult achieving that HEA is going to be, or how little he thinks he deserves it. Also, Drake has been an enigma through the first two books in the series. His backstory was twisty and convoluted and sad, and I’m glad that we got to find out what makes him tick. As much as a man like him ever reveals such intimate details about himself.

Delilah Sefton, formerly known as Lily, is the first person we’ve met who knew Drake when he was very young. The events that pushed them toward an intense childhood friendship, and its brutal aftermath, were a critical part of Drake’s character formation. From her story, we find out what we need to about him.

At the same time, Delilah’s medical rape and the dangerous pursuit that follows in its aftermath make for an adrenaline fueled suspense story. The people pursuing her see her as a lab experiment, and not as a woman who was raped and is going to have a child. But then, they see her son as a guinea pig and not as a real person.

Delilah’s ability to get one of the surviving scientists to pull his obsessive focus away from his work to see the harm he did was awesome. But the surviving backers of the experiment have a hidden world-domination agenda that is even scarier than Lansing’s delusions. They are willing to do anything to imprison Delilah and take her baby when he’s born, for reasons that only half make sense to Drake.

When all is revealed, it makes for a jaw-dropping conclusion. Which doesn’t take one iota of evil away from the insanity they cause.

The romance that develops, or partially redevelops, between Delilah and Drake is meltingly hot, and even more fantastic for the way that this very scary badass manages to fall in love, be intensely protective, and still come off as dangerous and scary to everyone but the one woman who finally reaches what is left of his soul.

That there wasn’t much left to reach, and that Delilah manages it without giving up her agency or her core self, says awesome things about her character. This story is a winner.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-18-15

Sunday Post

It’s mid-January, and the weather in Atlanta is beautiful. So of course we’re planning a trip to someplace cold and possibly snowy. There are perfectly valid reasons why the American Library Association tends to hold its conference at what feels like the wrong time of year (Las Vegas at the end of June for example) and there are even more logical reasons why the conference returns to Chicago on a regular basis, but I ask you, who schedules a conference in late January in Chicago? I didn’t know we were the American Masochists Association, but it always feels that way at Midwinter.

dreaming-of-books-2015At least the days are getting a bit longer again. But there is still plenty of time for reading!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop
$25 Gift Card + a copy of City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin
$25 Gift Card + a copy of Maxwell Street Blues by Marc Krulewitch

 

station eleven by emily st john mandelBlog Recap:

A- Review: After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson
B+ Review: Luminous by Corrina Lawson
B+ Review: Windy City Blues by Marc Krulewitch + Giveaway
A Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop
B Review: City of Liars and Thieves by Eve Karlin + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (118)

 

through the static by jeanette greyComing Next Week:

Ryder: American Treasure by Nick Pengelley (blog tour review)
Romantic Road by Blair McDowell (review)
Through the Static by Jeanette Grey (blog tour review)
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (review)
Phoenix Legacy by Corrina Lawson (review)

Review: Luminous by Corrina Lawson

luminous by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #1.5
Length: 117 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: May 29, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

As a teen, Lucy left home to gain the independence to pursue her dreams. When a renegade scientist captured and used her as a guinea pig, she escaped, but not unscathed. Rendered permanently invisible and with little memory of her previous life, she has transformed herself into Noir, a rogue crime fighter with one goal: find and stop her tormentor from harming anyone else.

Police Lieutenant Aloysius James thought he’d seen it all in the crumbling and corrupt Charlton City, but a brutal bank robbery committed by a monster has left him feeling he’s out of his depth. One man is missing from the scene and if he isn’t found soon, Al fears he’ll be as dead as the rest.

Al is unprepared for the one woman with the key to solving the case—Noir, who seems equally surprised he doesn’t find her unique ability repulsive.

Together they go out into the night, joining forces to track the monster down. They never expected their desperate alliance would generate a force of a different kind. Attraction…and desire.

My Review:

Okay, I’ll admit it, the name of the town in this book made me crack a smile every time. This entry in the Phoenix Institute series takes place in “Charlton City”. I never knew my husband’s family had a whole town named after them, even a fictional one.

I know, I’m digressing. Again.

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonAlthough Luminous is a novella in the Phoenix Institute series, the Institute (or its characters) doesn’t appear until the very end of the story. This one is about the kind of person the Institute wants to help, and how she’s coped without their help until now.

It also shows that there are more “gifted” people in the world than just the few that the Institute has found, and that there are more evil mad scientists fooling around outside their expertise (and mental stability) than just the ones employed by Richard Lansing before his timely demise.

In some ways, Luminous reminds me more of Batman than the X-Men, who seem to be the inspiration for the Institute. In Luminous, we have a mysterious crime fighter a la Batman, teaming up with a righteous cop in a corrupt city, a la Commissioner Gordon and Gotham.

The difference is that in Luminous, our mysterious crime fighter has lost the ability to “take off her mask” and her relationship with the cop is way more than just a crime fighting partnership.

Our heroine only knows herself as “Noir”. Years of being the victim of sadistic experimentation by a truly mad scientist have left her with no memory of her life before she was kidnapped, and a bad case of “Invisible Woman” syndrome.

Noir is completely invisible, even to herself. That invisibility is what allowed her to escape from her tormentor, but she can’t remember, or find a way, to turn it off. When she needs to be seen, she dresses in black from head to foot, including a mask and gloves, so that there is something there for people to react to.

Not that she lets people see her to have a reaction very often.

But Noir has a goal; to find and stop the doctor whose diabolical experiments caused Noir so much pain. She also needs to stop the monster that her tormentor has created out of the man who used to be that same doctor’s brother.

The kidnapping, bank robbing, murdering spree has just got to stop. Noir has lots of information on Doctor Jill and her Monster Brother Jack, but no way to put it in the right hands – until she watches Police Lieutenant Aloysius James take charge at the scene of the monster’s latest rampage.

While it can be said that Noir is trying to be a hero, she also needs a hero. She needs someone she can trust, someone who will both believe in her and believe her, and someone who can accept her as she is, invisibility and all.

Al James is the one uncorrupt cop in a very corrupt city. Because he isn’t on the take, he’s always alone – none of the other cops think they can trust a man who isn’t as morally bankrupt as they are. Yes, there is an irony in that. The untrustworthy are only capable of trusting those equally untrustworthy.

But in his isolation, Al is willing to trust a woman he can’t see over a bunch of his fellow cops who he sees all too clearly. He may not be able to see Noir’s face, but he can tell from her actions that she is on the side of right.

Too many of his supposed brothers in blue are all too ready to take a payoff to either turn a blind eye to the evil in Charlton City, or to turn Al in to the forces of evil for cold, hard cash.

Noir is the only person who can save him from the crap he’s stepped in to – and Al is the only person willing to save Noir from her life on the invisible run. But first, they have to take down evil. Together.

Escape Rating B+: Luminous reads like a combination of Batman (with a gender twist) and Frankenstein. Doctor Jill certainly qualifies as the evil scientist who creates a monster (or two monsters, counting her crazy self).

In the mad scientist vein of SF (and SFR) we’re never quite sure in this book whether Noir’s power of invisibility is an accidental side-effect of Doctor Jill’s experiments, or whether it is something that was latent in her all along. One of the scary things for Noir is that she doesn’t know either.

Al and Noir are both messed up people, and their fairly heavy baggage draws them together. Al needs both a case where he can really make a difference and to let someone or something into his life besides work. Noir needs someone she can trust with her secret, someone she can be herself around, even if that self is invisible. Under her invisibility, she’s still a woman who needs contact with other people.

Both Al and Noir are wearing masks in one sense or another. Noir’s disguise is literal, she can’t be seen. Al hides his love for the city he serves (or at least its people) under sarcasm and cynicism, just as he hides what Noir discovers is a totally fine body under rumpled and even slightly oversize clothes.

Noir is able to be herself with Al, even if the only self she knows is the one she has constructed in the few months since she escaped the experimental lab. Al needs to re-discover a self that is not just a workaholic cop, but actually has a real life.

Al’s road is surprisingly rockier than Noir, in spite of, or perhaps because of, his ability to remember his whole life.

ghosts of christmas past by corrina lawsonSolving the case turns out to be easy – for certain bloody and beat up cases of easy. Solving the possibilities of a real future relationship turns out to be a lot more difficult, but we don’t discover those details until Ghosts of Christmas Past.

The Phoenix Institute turns up at the end, as Al discovers both Noir’s identity before her kidnapping, and that the Phoenix Institute wants to help people like her. The future involvement of the Institute, and particularly psychic Beth Nakamora, provides the plot-excuse for Beth to be unavailable in the next Phoenix Institute story, Phoenix Legacy. The case in that story would have been much too easy to solve with Beth’s telepathy on tap.

But Noir and Al’s story is a terrific superhero-type romance/adventure all on its own.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

 

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 1-4-15

Sunday Post

It’s still a wonderful time of the year, even if the holidays are over. The days are getting longer again, and the weather should be getting better in a couple of months. While it is still surprisingly warm here in Atlanta, I remember January as being the worst month of the year in too many places I’ve lived. The days were very short, often very cold, and everything was gray and gloomy. But hey, it’s already January 4, so there are only 27 days left in the month.

SFRQ Issue5-CoverLooking ahead to next week, I know that The Secret History of Wonder Woman has been on my “coming next week” list three weeks in a row. I’ve actually finished it this time and it was fascinating. Also about 35% of the length of the book is in the footnotes, so it was a bit shorter than I was expecting, too.

And for all you science fiction romance lovers out there, the latest edition of the Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly was released on December 31, 2014. All new articles, stories and reviews (some by yours truly). Kaz and Company put together another fabulous treat for SFR readers.

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $10 Gift Card in the Christmas Wonder Giveaway Hop is Rose S.

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonBlog Recap:

B+ Review: Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake
14 for 14: My Best Books of the Year
A- Review: Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson
New Year’s Day 2015
15 for 15: My Most Anticipated Books for 2015
Stacking the Shelves (116)

 

 

 

all that glitters by michael murphyComing Next Week:

Dirty Deeds (Cole McGinnis #4) by Rhys Ford (review)
All That Glitters by Michael Murphy (blog tour review)
The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore (review)
Digging for Richard III by Mike Pitts (review)
Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford (review)

Review: Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #1
Length: 230 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date Released: November 1, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, All Romance

“He was born to be a weapon. For her, he must learn to be a hero. “

Since birth, Alec Farley has been trained to be a living weapon. His firestarter and telekinetic abilities have been honed to deadly perfection by the Resource, a shadowy anti-terrorist organization the only family he has ever known. What the Resource didn t teach him, though, is how to play well with others.

When psychologist Beth Nakamora meets Alec to help him work on his people skills, she s hit with a double-barreled first impression. He s hot in more ways than one. And her first instinct is to rescue him from his insular existence.

Her plan to kidnap and deprogram him goes awry when her latent telepathic ability flares, turning Alec s powers off. Hoping close proximity will reignite his flame, she leads him by the hand through a world he s never known. And something else flares: Alec s anger over everything he s been denied. Especially the passion that melds his mind and body with hers.

The Resource, however, isn t going to let anything or anyone steal its prime investment. Alec needs to be reminded where his loyalties lie starting with breaking his trust in the woman he s come to love.

Warning: Contains telekinetic sex, nuclear explosion sex hot enough to melt steel, and various and sundry swear words.

My Review:

Phoenix Rising is a fairly popular title. I mean that literally, there are a slew of books with the title “Phoenix Rising”. The first time I thought I was reading this book, I discovered after I finished that I had read the wrong book titled Phoenix Rising. (It was still good. And also steampunk, so somewhat germane).

I digress.

The Phoenix Rising by Corrina Lawson is a “making of the superhero” book, especially if you parse that word as “super” and “hero”. Alec Farley was born a powerful telekinetic with the ability to control fire. He doesn’t just start fires, he can also stop them and direct them. It is an extension of his TK, he just makes the molecules move faster and faster, until they burn.

At the beginning of the story, while Alec may be super, he isn’t a hero. It’s not that he’s a villain (there is one in the story) but that he isn’t in control of his own life enough to be a hero for anyone else.

There is an element of Pinocchio becoming a real boy (a real man, Alec is 23). Alec is being manipulated and controlled by his foster father Richard Lansing, who is very definitely the villain of the piece.

Alec just thinks of Lansing as someone who plays mind games, without realizing that a big part of those mind games is controlling Alec’s entire life and convincing him that it is for his own good. Lansing has a contract with the CIA to investigate powers like Alec’s, and quite a few government military contracts to use Alec and his team of excellent ex-military soldiers to fight terrorism and criminals that need Alec’s special gift. Alec doesn’t realize that his team are also his minders.

Until Beth Nakamora enters his life. Beth is a counselor for troubled teens, particularly those with anger-management issues. The difference with Alec is that if he loses control of his temper, he also loses control of his fire. The CIA is worried that Alec is on the road to causing more collateral damage than any of his ops repair or prevent actual damage.

But Beth has a secret. Beth has several secrets, but her biggest secret is that Beth also has a gift – she is a telepath. However, her power is suppressed as a result of an extreme childhood trauma. Her other secret? Her foster father is a CIA agent who manipulated his contacts to get Beth assigned to work with Alec, because he knows Richard Lansing is keeping Alec a virtual prisoner, even if Alec doesn’t know enough about real life to figure that out.

Putting Beth together with Alec turns out to be explosive, in more ways than one. They have off-the-charts sexual chemistry, something that neither of them is quite prepared to deal with. Alec has some experience of sex, but none of real relationships. And Beth is too scared of revealing her secrets to have let many people into her life.

Their chemistry is explosive in another way – something about Beth’s telepathy amps up Alec’s power, and vice versa.

But the real explosion is the dismantling of all the secrets surrounding Alec’s life and his manipulation by Lansing. As Alec starts to see, not just what he’s been missing, but what an adult life is supposed to be, Lansing turns up the screws on Alec, Beth, and Beth’s mysterious foster father, Philip Drake.

Lansing is playing for ultimate power at any cost, and he won’t let anyone stand in his way – not even his sons.

Escape Rating A-: Phoenix Rising reminded me quite a lot of the X-Men movies. Phoenix Rising would be roughly equivalent to the story of the start of Professor Xavier’s Academy, but with Xavier as a firestarter instead of a telepath. There’s definitely that sense of the creation of the Phoenix Institute out of the ashes of “The Resource” in order for Alec to have the opportunity to give people like him a better start than he had.

Also the universes have a similarity in that so far, the gifted are born and not made in laboratories. There is some genetic engineering going on, but even that starts with at least one, or possibly two, parents with gifts. Also one of the gifted is 200 years old, born in a time when the genetic engineering necessary to produce a “super” from not much would have been pure fiction.

As an origin story for the Institute and Alec, it works very well.

One of the fascinating subplots is the relationship between fathers and their children, and how that can go both wrong and right, whether the children are born to the one who parents them, or whether that responsibility is taken on voluntarily.

In this particular circle of life, we have four people with gifts; Richard Lansing, Philip Drake, Alec Farley and Beth Nakamora. Lansing is a self-healer, and he’s over 200 years old and has gone nutso. He’s convinced that he is a superior being, and that superior beings should rule the world, under his direction, of course. He also has a large dose of Victorian era “white man’s burden” imperial racism just to make him even more intolerant (and intolerable).

Philip Drake is Lansing’s biological son, but Lansing rejected him because his mother was part Native American. It wasn’t until after Drake reached adulthood that Lansing discovered Drake had inherited his gift for self-healing. But they couldn’t come to terms because Lansing couldn’t get past his racism.

On the other hand, Lansing adopted Alec Farley and raised the firestarter as his son. He was a distant, manipulative and emotionally abusive father, but he actually did his best. It just wasn’t very good in the nurturing sense. Lansing raised Alec to be a living weapon, and it is a testament to Alec’s innate good nature that Lansing failed.

There’s a third hand in this one. Beth Nakamura is Drake’s foster daughter. He rescued her from a lab when she was 8, and he’s watched over her ever since. Now that Beth is 23, their relationship has changed a bit, but it is obvious in every scene they have together that they love each other and would do anything for each other. Even though Drake is not Beth’s biological father, he is her real father in a way that Lansing never was to him or Alec. Drake learned from Lansing, as well as from an abusive step-father, what not to do. So he did the opposite and raised a marvelous woman who is definitely her own person.

Phoenix Rising also lays the groundwork for the worldbuilding in this series, and it does an excellent job while still telling a heart-pounding adventure with a sweet, sexy romance.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Dual Review: Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

dreams of the golden age by carrie vaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook
Genre: Superhero romance, Urban Fantasy
Series: Golden Age #2
Length: 318 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: January 7, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Like every teen, Anna has secrets. Unlike every teen, Anna has a telepath for a father and Commerce City’s most powerful businessperson for a mother. She’s also the granddaughter of the city’s two most famous superheroes, the former leaders of the legendary Olympiad, and the company car drops her off at the gate of her exclusive high school every morning. Privacy is one luxury she doesn’t have.

Hiding her burgeoning superpowers from her parents is hard enough; how’s she supposed to keep them from finding out that her friends have powers, too? Or that she and the others are meeting late at night, honing their skills and dreaming of becoming Commerce City’s next great team of masked vigilantes?

Like every mother, Celia worries about her daughter. Unlike every mother, Celia has the means to send Anna to the best schools and keep a close watch on her, every second of every day. At least Celia doesn’t have to worry about Anna becoming a target for every gang with masks and an agenda, like Celia was at Anna’s age.

As far as Celia knows, Anna isn’t anything other than a normal teen. Still, just in case, Celia has secretly awarded scholarships at Anna’s private high school to the descendants of the city’s other superpowered humans. Maybe, just maybe, these teens could one day fill the gap left by the dissolution of The Olympiad…

Our Review:

Cass: After the Golden Age was better.

Sidney-Harris-MiracleMarlene: (refers Cass to Sidney Harris cartoon). Not that I don’t agree with you. After the Golden Age was better. But I think we need to be a little more explicit in our reasons. (and for anyone who is wondering, no, Sidney Harris is not a relative. And DAMN)

Cass: FINE. I can work with that. If you insist.

The primary issue with Dreams of the Golden Age was Anna. As a protagonist she left me utterly cold. I do not mind teenage narrators, so it wasn’t an issue of youth. She was just so damn boring. I didn’t care about her powers, or her typical teenage drama. For example, after a (SARCASTIC SPOILER ALERT) very bad thing happens, she immediately jumps tracks to talk prom. Seriously? There aren’t more important issues for you to deal with right now?!

More Celia and Arthur! The whole book should have been about them.

Marlene: I’m with you on Anna. So much of Anna’s angst is about her power being such a boring kind of power. It’s not showy, and it’s not offensive. It’s not even defensive. The problem is that her endless internal whinging about how dull a power she got dealt also gets boring.

Celia and Arthur? Now there’s a fascinating story. Also Celia and Mark, for that matter. Celia is dealing with so much very real and heart-rending “stuff” during the whole book. If it had been all her again, I’d have been much happier.

Cass: Absolutely! Anna’s “wah wah my powers are terrible” just made me want to reach into the book and slap her. Really? Your mother and sister have no powers at all. Remember how your mom spent her teenage years being abducted and held hostage? Maybe use your brain and figure out how to capitalize on what you’ve got. Which is so much more than 99.99% of the boring humans out there get.

I really wanted more of Celia and Arthur. I just skimmed through the Anna Chapters looking for references to them. Celia’s troubles were so much more engaging than Anna’s, I couldn’t even figure out how Carrie could stand to write Anna’s perspective alongside Celia’s.

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnHell, even stories about how they dealt with all the trauma from After The Golden Age would have been better. Also, will no one EVER acknowledge the serious PTSD Celia has to be rocking due to her horrific childhood?

Marlene: In Dreams of the Golden Age, so much of what felt like the “true” story rested on Celia. And Celia’s story was a bigger and stronger story than anything focused on Anna’s point of view. Anna’s perspective was just too small. I think one of the differences between After and Dreams is that in After, Celia was an adult. She still had tons of trauma that she had to get over (and probably never got therapy for) but she had some perspective on the scope of the events taking place that was beyond her headspace. Even if some of that perspective might have been her version of the mutation.

Anna doesn’t feel mature enough to carry the story.

Cass: I didn’t think the problem was with Anna’s lack of maturity – I really blame the problem on the writing. Showcasing Anna’s perspective could have provided a very interesting counterpoint to Celia’s decisions to keep things from her children, or how Celia and Arthur’s parenting was so clearly superior to what Celia was subjected to.

The problem was that Anna’s chapters read like someone had studied teenagers by watching The WB and the Cartoon Network without ever interacting with real young people. Just because kids are hormonal doesn’t make them useless, stupid, or oblivious to the world around them. Anna’s limited perspective would have made more sense for a child much younger. Someone who was say, 10 or 12.

However, I did really enjoy the glimpses we got of what it was like living in a City of Superheroes/Villians. From both the idiotic child and elite businesswoman perspectives.

Marlene: It may be that I just plain didn’t like Anna. There were times when her younger sister Bethy seemed to have a more sensible head on her shoulders, powers or no powers.

There are plenty of totally immature adults, and mature teenagers in real life as well as fiction. Anna’s perspective just didn’t work for me in the same way that Celia’s did in the first book.

It still felt like Celia was the real central character in this story. It was her plan to arrange for all the children and grandchildren of the original experiment to get into Elmwood Academy one way or another and for her to see if the Olympiad recreated itself by, what, spontaneous generation?

She’s still obeying her own mutation, and giving her all, and it very nearly is absolutely everything she has, to see that Commerce City flourishes.

And the poor woman manages to get kidnapped. Again.

Cass: We’re definitely in agreement. Celia was the true protagonist and star of the show. I admit that I started laughing when she got kidnapped. You’d think after so many years, people would learn.

I hope that if the author returns to Commerce City, she sticks with the real movers and shakers (namely, Celia and Arthur) rather than forcing us to spend too much time with what is properly the supporting cast.

I did love Celia’s long term plans to regenerate the Olympiad. It was great to see her acknowledged for her intelligence, something that I felt most people overlooked in After the Golden Age. Brilliance may not be as flashy as setting shit on fire with your mind, but I’d rather have a Celia in my city than the (old or new) Olympiad any day.

Escape Rating C: This is hard. I want to give Anna an F, and Celia an A. So I’ll split the difference.

I would not recommend anyone read Dreams unless they’ve already read After. Too much of the plot and character development depends on knowledge of what took place in the first book.

Marlene: Let’s get past the “Up with Celia, Down with Anna” rant to talk about the overall story just a minute. And for that, I need to quote Battlestar Galactica. “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again,” with a dose of Euripides by way of Star Trek, “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
The plot in Dreams has a ton of recycled elements from After, starting with using the daughter’s perspective, which is why we got so much Anna shoved at us.

But the crisis is kind of the same; a secret attempt to take over Commerce City’s halls of power, hidden behind a smokescreen. The smokescreens are different, but the baseline concept feels the same. Celia’s kidnapping is just the icing on that cake.

Cass: Excellent point! “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Though I’m loving the Cylon reference, it’s not working for me, since they have thousands upon thousands of years to repeat their mistakes. This is only one generation!)

Would it kill a supervillain to crack a book on occasion? Maybe not fail at taking over the city the exact same way their predecessors did?

Marlene: The Cylons are quoting J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. A historical footnote that perturbs me no end.

It would also be a terrific thing if all the supervillains didn’t have the same parent-child rivalries, but that’s not necessarily something they could prevent by cracking open a book. Sometimes the apple does fall pretty far from the parent tree. And in a really good way.

Cass: I forgive it in this case – if only because the genesis of Commerce City Powers stems from a very limited genetic pool – it’s not uncommon for relatives to have the same mommy/daddy issues.

Marlene: This is my case of not forgiving the writing as much. It makes sense that families have similar dynamics, although we don’t know that the supervillain family in After is the same as the supervillain family in Dreams. It’s only speculation. And since family dynamics are nurture as much as nature, and there was no contact that we know of, that stretches it even further for me.

Also it’s part of the cascade of repeats. Daughter perspective, supervillain has same plot to take over Commerce City, and supervillain family has the same kind of parent/child breakaway issues.

But the grand scenes at the climax where all the supers, old and new, got together and used their powers could have been part of a climactic battle for an Avengers franchise movie.

Escape Rating B: In spite of having too much Anna and not enough Celia, the parts of Celia (and Arthur) that I got were awesome. I loved the bits about “getting the band back together”. Celia’s angst was real and heartfelt, I could feel her being pulled in every direction and never sure if she was doing the right thing.

Like Cass, I would love to see the “stories in the middle”; how Celia and Arthur managed to heal after the big mess of After the Golden Age. Or a future now that Celia is going to have to let go a little bit. And poor Mark, he’s an unsung hero in all of this. And someday, Bethy is going to be awesome.

Cass: My grade stays the same! In case anyone was wondering. There was just not enough awesome despite all the potential. (Bethy is counted amongst all the potential.)

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 2-9-14

Sunday Post

It’s warmed up a bit in Seattle, but on Wednesday no one cared about the temperature. 700,000 people lined the streets downtown for the Seahawks’ welcome home parade. The library faces the parade route, so we had a marvelous (and warm) view of the whole thing. What a blast!

Between the Share the Love Giveaway Hop and the Fire and Ice Blog Hop there are two chances to win a $10 Amazon or B&N gift card. Both hops are open until February 15.

Current Giveaways:

fire and ice blog hopShare the Love Giveaway Hop: $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
Fire and Ice Blog Hop: another $10 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd (hardcover)
The End and The Long Road by G. Michael Hopf (paperback)
Tourwide Giveaway: $25 Amazon Gift Card from Victoria Davies
Tourwide Giveaway: Happy Medium Trilogy (ebook) from Meg Benjamin

hunting shadows by charles toddBlog Recap:

C Review: The End by G. Michael Hopf + Giveaway
B+ Review: Happy Medium by Meg Benjamin
Guest Post from author Meg Benjamin on Scary Stories + Giveaway
A- Review: Love at Stake by Victoria Davies + Giveaway
D- Review by Cass: Halo by Frankie Rose
A- Review: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd + Excerpt + Giveaway
Fire and Ice Blog Hop: Hot Reads for Cold Nights

dreams of the golden age by carrie vaughnComing Next Week:

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn (dual review)
Haunt Me by Heather Long (blog tour review)
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (blog tour review)
Back to You by Jessica Scott (review)
Cass moved her Series Shakedown of Terran Times to this week. Great snark takes time!

Review: After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

After the Golden Age by Carrie VaughnFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genre: urban fantasy, superhero romance
Series: Golden Age #1
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: April 12, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

It’s not easy being a superhero’s daughter….

Carrie Vaughn has captured legions of fans with her wildly popular Kitty Norville novels. Now she uses her extraordinary wit and imagination to tell a sensational new story about superhuman heroes—and the people who have to live with them.

Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Comemrce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder.

Rejecting her famous family and its legacy, Celia has worked hard to create a life for herself beyond the shadow of their capes, becoming a skilled forensic accountant. But when her parents’ archenemy, the Destructor, faces justice in the “Trial of the Century,” Celia finds herself sucked back into the more-than-mortal world of Captain Olympus—and forced to confront a secret that she hoped would stay buried forever.

My Review:

Why did I wait so long to read this?

That’s not a coherent review, but it was my first thought. I poured through this in an afternoon, barely stopping for breath or meals. After the Golden Age is awesome stuff.

It’s a superhero story. But really, it’s a post-superhero story. It’s the origin and the aftermath all rolled into one glorious exploding KA-POW!

It also reminded me a little bit of The Incredibles. What do the superheroes do when they aren’t out there fighting crime? How would they raise a non-superpowered child?

How would you feel if you were the mundane child of the Fantastic Four? If everyone around you had a secret identity, and you were just “original recipe human”?

It’s pretty easy to walk in Celia West’s shoes, and feel that every day would be a major blow to her self-confidence. If most people either emulate their parents or choose lives in reaction against them, well, without superpowers Celia’s choices were limited. Emulation was out.

She chose reaction. Instead of a spandex uniform, she became a forensic accountant, a job most people consider the most boring option on the planet. Of course, that was after a teenage rebellion where she tried the path of evil. For two whole months.

After having been kidnapped. Again. Celia gets kidnapped a lot. It happens so often she’s a bit bored by the whole thing.

As an adult, Celia has tried to create a life that doesn’t reflect the glow of her parents’ super-shininess, no matter many assumptions people make about how wonderful it must have been to grow up in the Olympiads’ inner circle, or how often people try to use her to get close to her famous parents.

But then her boss asks her to bring her accounting skills to bear on the latest “trial of the century”. (There’s always a trial of the century, haven’t you noticed?) The world’s greatest supervillain, The Destructor, has finally been called to account for his misdeeds, not for his heinous destruction, but for his financial chicanery. (This is classic, Al Capone was finally convicted for tax evasion)

But The Destructor is a combination of Kryptonite and Achilles’ Heel for both Celia and The Olympiad. As Celia unravels the winding trail of his black ops’ funding, she finds an origin story she never expected to uncover. And with it, the birth of a conspiracy theory that will bring down the foundation of everything that the good people of Commerce City have ever believed in.

But she will also discover the truth about herself.

Escape Rating A+: After the Golden Age is about the creation and destruction of legends. We find it so easy to put people up on pedestals, and even easier to pull them down. While it’s amazing how quickly the population is manipulated to turn on their heroes, it’s also easy to understand. We’ve seen it happen in real life.

Celia West is the main point of view character, a normal person in a family of supers. She is still recovering, almost atoning, from one act of teenage rebellion. She has had to define her own self-worth from a perspective where nearly everyone, including her own parents, has always judged her as “less-than” because she isn’t super.

So many people have tried to use her to get close to her family; she’s accustomed to it. But when her boss does it, her research deconstructs the legend. Her process of discovery is meticulous without ever being dull, and it occurs on two layers. For each scrap of history she uncovers, she also finds reaches a bit more of her own truth.

After the Golden Age reads like myth creation. And like the best myths, it feels true.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.