What Are You Reading This Weekend?

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Daffy Daffs of Spring by 24StepsArtAndDesign

I love this bright announcement that spring is here!  The real ones outside are even better.

Art available at Society6.

This weekend I’ll be reading Vivien Jackson’s Wanted and Wired.  Ms.  Jackson is a new to me author, but based on the blurb, this book lands in squarely in my zone.  This book releases April 4th.

On the audiobooks side, I’ve got two going.  Yes, that becomes a challenge, especially when one has a due date.  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón and Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier.

What are you reading this weekend?

The Black Lily by Juliette Cross – Review

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Review by Riley

About The Black Lily

With the threat of the vampire monarchy becoming stronger every day, the Black Lily must take drastic measures. As the leader of the underground resistance, Arabelle concocts the perfect idea to gain the attention of the Glass Tower. Her plan? Attend the vampire prince’s blood ball and kill him. Fortunately for Prince Marius, her assassination goes awry, and Arabelle flees, leaving behind only her dagger.

Marius is desperate to find the woman whose kiss turned into attempted murder, hunting for the mysterious assassin he can’t push out of his mind. But what he uncovers could change the course of his life forever…

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Review of The Black Lily

The Black Lily is a retelling of Cinderella. There are even fairy godmother, stepmother and stepsister characters. Well, the fairy godmother role is shared between two unrelated characters.  And the stepmother and sisters are not related, even by marriage – but they are dimwitted aristocrats that Arabelle and other peasants toil for. And there is a midnight deadline. Cinderella may run away from the ball, and her prince will be looking for her, but the reason she was even at the ball is the real story.

The basic story, is as old as humanity. Wealthy privileged take advantage of the poor and the poor stand up for their rights. That is an oversimplification, but you get the idea. In this case, the privileged are the aristocratic vampire nobles and the poor are the mere humans. The mere humans are led by a woman with rebellious ideas and courage. She is the Black Lily.

So, here’s the setting. Vampire royalty and aristocrats rule the land. Only the powerful ruling Varis bloodline can make vampires out of humans. Otherwise, vampires are born.

Vampires feed off the human population in a non-fatal manner.  They have blood concubines. Willing donors.  Seems innocuous enough. It has even been said to be pleasant for the concubine.

The combination of vampires being born and feeding off of willing donors seems a much more sustainable ecology than the traditional system of biting to create vampires at will and/or biting to drain victims until they die.  Perhaps it is this sustainability that actually brings them out into the public eye.  There is no need to fear vampire hunters.

So why are the servants afraid? They should have no reason. Fear expressed by a servant is the first hint of something not quite right. Then Prince Marius’ cousin Friedrich mentions that things are not going as smoothly as they used to up north. Another hint.

All this before the prince meets Cinderella, er, Arabelle, at the ball.

The ball is just the enticing kickoff of the game of cat and mouse that Marius and Arabelle will play. Who is the cat and who is the mouse? And what exactly will happen when the mouse is caught? Hint: cats like to play with their prey.  I enjoyed that chase!

I’m giving The Black Lily 4 stars. I really did enjoy it, but I thought it was too easy for the hero and heroine to get their HEA.  (More challenge for the heroine and hero please.)

1) It should have been harder for Arabelle to see Marius as something more than a vampire.  I wanted Arabelle to be more kick-ass and have a bigger chip on her shoulder.  This would also have the affect of making it harder for Marius to catch up to Arabelle.
2) Marius should have been slower to learn the truth. Someone who is 100 years old has formed some pretty strong opinions and is unlikely to change their way of thinking overnight.   I wanted Marius to be bit darker.

According the page count on Amazon, this book has 290 pages. It did not seem that long. I must have flown through the pages!  The vampire genre and an old fairy tale get a fresh, entertaining twist in The Black Lily. This is an adventure worth going on.

Through NetGalley, the author provided a copy of her book so that I could bring you my honest review.

 

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Aether Rising by Cecilia Dominic – Review

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Review by Riley

aether-rising

About Aether Rising

The only place to hide could be behind the truth.

No one can lie to Louisa Cobb. It’s her gift. Her curse. Magic her stepfather has no compunction about using to gain the upper hand in business. But when Parnaby Cobb presents her with her latest mark, she realizes he’s testing her loyalty.

Her target is Patrick O’Connell, an Irish tinkerer and scoundrel who stole a kiss—and her heart—years ago. Should she betray her stepfather to set Patrick free, she’ll be cut off without a penny to her name.

Patrick knows exactly he’s been captured, why he’s struggling to lie into Louisa’s sky-blue eyes. He’s invented a device to stabilize and direct the mysterious Eros Element. If he fails to recreate it for Cobb, his closest friends’ happiness will be at risk.

Back in Boston, as Patrick stalls for time and Louisa uncovers secrets of her tragic past, the two of them engage in a treacherous dance on the edge of love and danger. Where one wrong step could condemn them both to everlasting heartache—and unleash an unimaginably powerful force that could destroy their world.

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Review of Aether Rising

Aether Rising is book 4 of the steampunk/romance/adventure series Aether Psychics.  If you are looking for the first three books, you may not be able to find the former Samhain titles.  But if you want to dive into Aether Rising, don’t worry. Ms. Dominic reveals all the relevant details through the telling of the tale.

Aether Rising is has a very interesting ensemble of characters that add to the color of the story and to the diverse paths the story takes between the first page and the last page:

Physicist/Aetherist Edward Bailey – his talent is his intelligence.
Archeologist Iris Bailey – Iris is brainy and has the ability to learn the history of any item by touching it
Actress Marie Bledsoe – has the ability to completely become someone else.
Musician Johann Bledsoe – he plays the violin and is a bit of a charmer.
Doctor Chadwick Radcliffe – Chadwick is black and the year is 1871.  Enough said.
Doctor Claire McPhee – Claire is a psychologist and seems to be able to talk to ghost.
Tinkerer Patrick O’Connell – Inventor Patrick is also a charmer and talks to ghosts.
Truthsayer Louisa Cobb – Tell a lie and Louisa’s hackles get up.
Spy Henry Davidson – or detective or secret agent whose employers are mysterious.
Airship Lieutenant Crow – she is a Pythagorean.  So, maybe the enemy.

Physicist, Archeologist, Actress, Musician, Doctor, Tinkerer, Psychiatrist, Truthsayer, Spy and Airship Crewperson.  What do these people have in common.  An uncommon adventure!

Within the ensemble, there are two couples we want to see get together. The first is Chadwick and Claire. Both are doctors, but Chadwick is a Negro and Claire is white. At the time the story takes place in the US, it was not legal for them to marry, though they intend to make it happen. Their main story took place in book 3, Aether Spirit, but they are still key characters in Aether Rising.

The second couple is Patrick and Louisa. Louisa is the stepdaughter of Parnaby Cobb. She is beginning to have many second thoughts about her relationship with her stepfather who only treats her well because of her talent. Patrick is the tinkerer.  He is man with the knowledge of aether.  Louisa and Patrick met at a party several years ago and shared one sweet kiss.  You know where this is going.  In Aether Rising, the romance is overshadowed by the mystery and intrigue, but it is still a sweet part of the story.

Parnaby Cobb wants to use the aether to provide power to light the streets.  So he says.  It’s pretty clear Cobb has some other horrible purpose in mind.  So Cobb nabs Patrick and holds him prisoner.  At the same time, Patrick’s friends Chadwick and Claire have been ‘captured’ and separated by Cobb and Aunt Eliza in an effort to control Patrick. Claire ended up in Aunt Eliza’s custody and Chadwick in a prison because of his skin color. At this point I am beginning to get outraged for both Chadwick and Claire.

Aunt Eliza.  What a controlling, mean, old biddy. And why does society let people like her take charge of people like her niece Claire? When I read historical novels and there are young heroine’s whose lives are controlled by others, I am outraged. Can’t help it. Even though I know the heroine is going to win in the end (why – because – heroine).

In the meantime, the rest of the crew (the Baileys and the Bledsoes) have been searching for and/or trying to rescue Patrick and Claire and Chadwick.  All while running into people like Henry Davidson and Lieutenant Crow.  Davison and Crow are unknowns and tend to get in the way.  The Baileys and Bledsoes have had their stories told in previous books, so their roles are smaller in Aether Rising.  But they are no less significant and all add to the unfolding story of the Eros element.  I am enjoying this very clever and interesting group of people that adds multiple layers to the plot while continually refreshing the story.

About aether.  The mysterious element whose properties are not totally known, has manifested itself in various ways through the series. In past books, the element has been known to heal, amplify emotions, power weapons and it seems to communicate with ghosts.  Its true nature is still in question and in Aether Rising, while we learn more, the mystery is still left unsolved.  Having said that, I should mention that this book is a complete story – no cliffhanger!

In Aether Rising, Parnaby Cobb’s true purpose is revealed. He has been an enigma in the past, and you never knew for sure what he was up to.  He is a manipulator and, I’m pretty sure he would have you believe that all the events leading up to Aether Rising were personally orchestrated by him.  I have my doubts and that is all I will say on that subject.

Aether Rising has some typical steampunk elements.  Steamcars and airships.  And there are always bugs, in the form of some mechanical flying creature.  Either the Clockwork Guild or the Pythagoreans may be responsible for the bugs, but I never really know who is.  The goals of both of these organizations are murky at best, evil at worst.  There is still more to learn about them.

I just want to talk a bit about the third person perspective.  When one of the main characters has the scene, there is that typical internal introspection to add to the actions of the characters. When the ensemble appears, the internal introspection disappears. Action and dialog make up the page. Although I found this a bit harder to follow, not knowing what the characters were thinking about made me feel more a part of the action.

As I mentioned earlier, because of the demise of the original publisher, Samhain, not all books in the series are currently available.  There are three reasons you should not be concerned about that:  1) Ms. Dominic now has the rights to the books and will soon be re-publishing the series 2) the series prequel novella, Noble Secrets is available and 3) throughout the story of Aether Rising, details from previous installments are added when necessary to make sure you know what is going on.  Each book in the series does stand alone.

As with each of the previous books in the Aether Psychics series, I was delighted with the romance, drawn into the intrigue and carried away by the adventure.  Aether Rising is steampunk adventure and romance worth 5 stars!

The author provided a copy of her book so that I could bring you my honest review.

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The Aether Psychics Series

Noble Secrets
Eros Element
Light Fantastique
Aether Spirit
Aether Rising

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About the Author

cecilia-dominic-readingCecilia Dominic became a clinical psychologist because she’s fascinated by people and their stories, but she couldn’t stop making stuff up. By day, she helps people cure their insomnia. By night, she writes fiction that keeps her readers turning pages past bedtime. Yes, she recognizes the conflict of interest between her two careers, but she prefers to be called versatile, not conflicted. This Amazon bestselling author has been published in short and novel-length fiction and currently writes urban fantasy and steampunk. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with one husband and two cats.

You can find her at:
Web page: http://www.ceciliadominic.com/
Wine blog: http://www.randomoenophile.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CeciliaDominicAuthor
Twitter: @CeciliaDominic
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