Readin' and Dreamin'

All In with the Duke

All In with the Duke - Ava March Another good one from Ava March!

Here we have a basic story really: Max is a bit lonely, so he goes to a brothel to remedy that. He figures, if he pays for companionship, then there's no way to get hurt. Here, he comes across Tristan, who he is instantly smitten with, obviously.

Due to circumstances which I will not state, the two enter into a bit of an arrangement, but the feelings that each man has for the other makes things a bit tricky.

There's angst; there's lovey-dovey stuff. And with all of Ava March's books, there is a fabulous historical romance without an overload of historical. There's just enough to give you a feel for a period, which gives room for the actual story.

I cannot wait for the next book in the series. Too bad I have to wait so long.

Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers

Agamemnon Frost and the Crown of Towers - Kim Knox A very satisfying wrap-up to a surprisingly good trilogy. I keep saying 'surprisingly' because I'm still surprised I like a set of books about the subject of aliens.

Of course, they're about more than just aliens, but aliens are just not my thing. I think the fact that there was so much humanity, is what got me. I'm also a sucker for alternate historical fiction.

The series was very well written and the three books flowed easily. I could see all three books put together into one, seeing as how none of them are particularly long.

Since this is the third book in the series, I'm not gonna say much for fear of spoilers. I will say that my favorite thing about each book was the character development. You give me a series with character development, and I will wait impatiently for each book.

Highly recommended to m/m readers who like steampunk, historical fiction and the like.

A Spark Unseen

A Spark Unseen - Sharon Cameron I echo the sentiments of other reviewers: this is very different from the first book.
First of all, this book takes place almost entirely in France, during the time of Napoleon III, where Katharine goes to search for Lane. Second of all, the story takes place over a wider area, whereas the first book took place in a confined area of a small town.
Intrigue ensues, with shady characters, royal secrets, and the like. New characters pop up, who I quite like and hope to see again, if there is another book, that is.
I can't guess what a third book would be about. This book didn't end with a question mark like the first book, which I knew would have a sequel. I guess we'll just have to see.

Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships

Agamemnon Frost and the Hollow Ships - Kim Knox This is definitely the filler book in the series, but still: wow. I am loving the character development of Frost and Mason, and watching the process of their relationship.

I don't want to give away anything for folks who haven't read the first book, but Frost and Mason are still trying to defeat the martians, this time working as double agents.

So, this was definitely worth it for the characters, and as build-up to the final book. I can't wait to read it!

I'm pleasantly surprised by this series, I honestly didn't expect to like it this much.

Lolly Willowes

Lolly Willowes - Alison Lurie, Sylvia Townsend Warner That’s why we become witches: to show our scorn of pretending life’s a safe business, to satisfy our passion for adventure. It’s not malice, or wickedness - well, perhaps it is wickedness, for most women love that - but certainly not malice, not wanting to plague cattle and make horrid children spout up pins and - what is it? - “blight the genial bed.”


One doesn’t become a witch to run around being harmful, or to run around being helpful either, a district visitor on a broomstick. It’s to escape all that - to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to by others.

The above is a quote I came across on tumblr a few days ago, it was from a book I never heard of: Lolly Willowes. The quote immediately caught my eye, so I went to find out a little more about the book, and was astonished that I had never come across it before. It sounded like everything I love.

And it was. Written in 1926, this is a fantastic piece of feminist fiction about a 48 year old woman name Laura, who after 20 years of being 'Aunt Lolly', has just about enough. She picks up her stuff, takes what money she has, and despite the protests of her family who "cannot do without her", she moves to the country.

I really need to read more books about spinsters who break away from their families and find themselves. So, if anyone has any recommendations, shoot them my way.

Oh, and I didn't even mention the best part: Laura discovers she is a witch, and she isn't even alarmed by it.

Probably my favorite part is when it hits Laura just how miserable and oppressed she was for the past 20 years.

The weight of all her unhappy years seemed for a moment to weigh her bosom down to the earth; she trembled, understanding for the first time how miserable she had been; and in another moment she was released. It was all gone, it could never be again, and never had been. Tears of thankfulness ran down her face. With every breath she drew, the scent of the cowslips flowed in and absolved her.

It struck me so hard that I almost wept.

By the way, you can check out this ebook for free on Open Library, so you really have no excuse in not reading it.

Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death

Agamemnon Frost and the House of Death - Kim Knox Even with reading the summary, I still didn't know what I was getting into, here. Steampunk? Aliens? Victorians? Yes, to all of the above.

Surprisingly, it all worked. I'm not much into aliens, but I liked this. The centerpiece of all this is the new relationship between Frost and Mason. Mason is thrown into all this when he becomes valet for a night for Frost, who seems to be a fop, but is more so.

Mason didn't know what he walked into when he took this job, but it has changed his life forever. This is a short book, so I can't give too much away. However, I will say, that the attraction between Mason and Frost happened immediately, due to the length of the book, but I didn't find it forced.

This is the first book in a trilogy, I believe. I will definitely be continuing with it.

I was provided a galley of this from NetGalley. This didn't affect my opinions.

The 50 Greatest Red Sox Games

The 50 Greatest Red Sox Games - Cecilia Tan, Bill Nowlin The 50 Greatest Red Sox Games would be better used as a reference book rather than the sort of book you would read in order – that becomes tedious after a while.

Cutting down over 100 years of games down to 50 memorable ones was, I'm guessing, not an easy task. There is a list of games at the end of the book that didn't make the cut, and any one of them would have fitted right in to the final 50. Not all of the 50 games featured here ended well for the Red Sox, but they were still games that are etched in Sox lore.

One of the chapters I appreciated was the chapter that highlights game six of the 1986 World Series, a game that before 2004 memories led to nothing but anger for Sox fans. What I appreciated was how it talked about how messed up it was that Buckner ended up being the goat for the whole thing, when really he should have never been in the game in the first place. That I knew, what I didn't know, but learned from this book, was that immediately following the loss, Buckner didn't take the blame. Actually, it was years later, after endless re-showing of that ill fated play, and yahoos talking about that stupid 'curse' (which I never believed), that the play became something bigger than the game. Overnight, it seemed, people forgot about all the blunders that led to that play, and the fact that the manager refused to take an injured Buckner out of the game.

I would recommend this to people who are new fans, or just baseball fans in general that don't know much about the history of the Red Sox. It covers from the 1903 Boston Americans (before Fenway even existed) to the 2004 World Series Champs.

Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy

Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy - Norman Lewis I've been wanting to read this book for a while, so I was thrilled when I got to read a reissue.

Naples '44 is based on the diary of British soldier Norman Lewis, who was a part of the British Intelligence Corps in Naples after the Nazi occupation. Through Lewis' eyes we see the immediate after effects of the Nazi occupation, and through the next year we also see how the locals did what they had to to survive.

At first, the Italians are happy that the Nazis are gone, but there are some who do not care either way, and after a period of time, the Allies have pretty much worn out their welcome. You can see that the Italians just want their country back, and want to start rebuilding.

I really liked the culture clash we saw. Lewis wasn't afraid to admit that he didn't always understand the things that the locals did – the traditions and all that. He also wasn't afraid to admit a few blunders.

Towards the end of the account, Lewis has achieved a great respect for the Italians, and admires their strength. He even says that if he could be born another nationality, he would want to be born Italian, which shows how great his view of the Italians had grown over the year. He ends the account with his last day in Naples, and how he will miss it and the friends he made.

Naples '44 is essential reading for someone like me, who is absolutely fascinated with Italy during the war. Highly recommended, as it is very readable and not very long.

That Good Earth

That Good Earth - S.A. Meade It was so nice to read a m/m romance set during WWI that didn't end tragically.

Mrs. Poe

Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen The entire book is told from the point-of-view of Frances Osgood, a poet who has to support her two daughters after her husband skips out on them. She soon comes into contact with the increasingly famous writer Edgar Allan Poe and his sickly young wife Virginia. She constantly gets thrust into their world, falling more in love with Poe with each meeting, but is also becoming more concerned that Virginia is plotting against her.

I was glad to see a book focused on a now forgotten female writer, even if most of the book is focused on her relationship with Poe rather than her writing. However, I understand that a love affair with Edgar Allan Poe makes for better reading. We do get to see some of her writing, though.

While I did enjoy Mrs. Poe, there were two things that constantly bugged me throughout the book:

First, whenever Frances went to break-off the affair with Poe, it went something like this: “We must stop this. Your wife! My children!” “But I need you!” “OK!” Frances had no spine, here. It was getting frustrating.

Second, Frances kept getting into these 'accidents' and it almost started to get comical. Even at the end of the book, when I found out the story behind all these incidents, I still thought it was a bit much.

Other than that, like I said, I enjoyed the book very much. It was a fast and engaging read. The spirit of 1840s New York was perfectly captured; the sights, sounds, people, everything.

Wings of the Falcon

Wings of the Falcon - Barbara Michaels, Elizabeth Peters I just loved this book so much that I had to write something about it.

The book is told from the point-of-view of Francesca, the daughter of an English father and an Italian mother. Francesca's mother died in childbirth, and she grew up in England not knowing her mother's family, for she was disowned when she ran away with Francesca's father and defied her own father.

When Francesca's father dies when she is 17, her mother's family suddenly pops up, when her grandfather sends her cousin Andrea to fetch her and have her brought to Italy.

The story takes place in 1860, in the midst of Italy's strive for Independence. Roaming the land is the mysterious Falcon, a man who is leading the rebels, and causing lots of problems for the military.

I won't reveal the identity of the Falcon, of course, but the author was very brilliant in making me undecided between two characters. One minute I would think it was one character, and then something would happen and I would think it was the other. However, at one point in the book I started to think about events that happened in the earlier parts of the book, and came to a conclusion and stuck with it. No matter what happened, I was convinced that THIS person was the Falcon, and I ended up being right.

When I was finished, I ended up going back and rereading parts with this character, looking to see if there where things that he said and did that should have tipped me off. Of course, now that I know who he is, things became obvious, but they were subtle the first time around.

I'm going to reveal some things that made me come to the conclusion of the Falcon. I will put these under a spoiler, of course.

Obviously, the only two people who were viable candidates for the identity of the Falcon were Andrea and Stefano. I immediately thought it was Andrea at first, which is probably what a lot of people thought, but as I started getting further into the book, I wasn't so sure.

Andrea was hot-headed and rash, unlike the Falcon. And I thought it was the intention of the author to make us all think it was him, but I started to have my doubts.

I came to the conclusion that it was Stefano when Francesca was helping the Falcon to the tombs. She thought it was Andrea because she could kind of see him through the mask, and saw the birthmark on his chest, but then I remembered earlier in the book when Stefano rescued her from the tombs when her grandfather locked her in. She thought he was Andrea, and at the beginning of the book it was remarked how Andrea and Stefano looked similar. Of course, the author used Stefano's disability as a ruse, and that's how I saw it. It wasn't long before I figured he was faking it. And what a good ruse it was.

When Stefano popped up the day after Francesca left the Falcon in the tombs, injured from his wounds, I started to have my doubts, but when Andrea returned home, I changed my mind again. I KNEW it was Stefano, I just knew it, but it was driving me nuts because I couldn't figure out how the hell he was sitting there after everything had happened.

The Young Clementina

The Young Clementina - D.E. Stevenson The Young Clementina was surprisingly engaging and wonderful. It's the story of Charlotte who, after the man she loves man she loves marries her sister, flees to London for the next 12 years. She returns only to take care of her niece after a divorce and the child's father's death.

She finds the niece an odd child, who she has trouble bonding with. After a bit of time, the two find common ground. Charlotte finds that she is learning more about herself through the care of her niece and her new position as lady of a grand manor.

In many ways, this book was a typical book set in the English countryside, but sometimes it read almost modern. Sometimes, I almost thought it was a modern-written historical fiction book until I would come across a trope used during books written during the time.

I only had a few complaints: one was the treatment of Charlotte's sister Kitty, but that was one of the kind of tropes I was talking about. The other complaint I had was that the ending felt sort of rushed and the story ended abruptly, only left for us to wonder how the characters went on after the extraordinary last few pages.

Anyway, I loved Charlotte's voice and am a little disappointed that her story doesn't continue in other books.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel

Cinnamon and Gunpowder: A Novel - Eli Brown I need to preface this review with the statement that lady pirates are most likely my favorite all-time historical subject. I study and read about them, I watch TV and films with them, I even create my own lady pirate characters for stories. I love them.

So, the fact that this book contained a fierce red-headed lady pirate captain, I was all over it, so to speak. There was the fear that I may be disappointed (it's not like books about lady pirates grow on trees) because this book was written by a male author and told from the perspective of a man. I feared, because I thought the lady pirate may be some unrealistic male fantasy. Alas, no! Captain Hannah Mabbot was a realistic pirate and a fully fleshed out character.

The bare bones of the story is this: chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by Captain Hannah Mabbot after she kills his employer. He gets to keep his life if he cooks one fancy meal a week for her. So, Wedgwood must improvise with the ingredients found on a pirate ship. And I really loved how he worked around getting the ingredients that he got. He had to plan ahead and make deals, it was quite interesting to watch.

But Captain Mabbot isn't just dilly-dallying around eating food, she's after the elusive Brass Fox, with whom she has a mysterious score to settle.

We see all the characters through the view of Wedgwood, and it was quite fascinating to read how his perspective of everyone, and of pirating in general, started to change throughout the months. Of course, the best thing to watch was how his view of Mabbot changed. How she went from a one-dimensional ruthless pirate, to a full formed person with strengths and weakness, goals and fears.

Pirating was not glossed over here, and was not seen as romantic. I thought the book really captured the grittiness of pirating.

I could literally sit here and write paragraphs about Mabbot, but I just have to say I was really impressed. Like I said, it's not everyday a book about a lady pirate comes out, so I have to read what I can get. The fact that I wasn't disappointed in the least, makes me very, very happy. She's everything I love in a lady pirate: the fact that she was really no different from a male pirate. She was realistic, and that's all I wanted.

Tuscan Rose

Tuscan Rose - Belinda Alexandra I have been wanting to read this book for probably two years, and I'm so excited that it's finally being released in the states.

I love historical fiction books set in Italy during WWII, and in my opinion there are not enough. I feel that most people don't understand about Italy's involvement during the war or the horrors the people of Italy went through during the Nazi occupation.

Tuscan Rose didn't mince anything. It showed the true story of Italy during the time of Mussolini and WWII through the eyes of fictional characters, who are probably not unlike the real people who lived through it. Mussolini was an absolute madman, and that's putting it lightly. He single-handedly ruined Italy, all because he wanted to be Hitler's lapdog. And for the horrors Italy went through during the Nazi occupation, you can read my review of The Villa Triste, which focuses just on that specific time.

The book ran a bit long, sometimes there was almost too much detail. When the partisans were discussing strategy, I admit to just skimming. Even if I read it word for word it would have went over my head.

The story follows the character Rosa over a period of fifteen years. When we first find her she's sixteen and living at a nunnery where she was left sixteen years prior by a mysterious man called The Wolf. We see through her eyes the rise of Mussolini, the war, and the occupation. Over the years she grows from an innocent young girl to an efficient woman doing whatever it takes to survive and save the ones she loves.

The ending was a rollercoaster ride. I went from crying my eyes out, to being in shock over something I never saw coming. What a twist!

The Last Telegram

The Last Telegram - Liz Trenow At first look, this looked like another historical fiction tale set during World War II. In some ways, it was, but it had a different settings: a silk factory.

The factory eventually starts making parachutes for the war. This was an interesting perspective: a factory and its workers during wartime.

This book dealt bad choices, regrets, immense love, and bravery.

The point of view we're seeing through is Lily Verner, a young woman who starts working at the family's silk factory. There she finds friendship, love, and learns new and unexpected things about herself.

I'm just giving you the bare bones here, because this book was basically a story about ordinary people during extraordinary times. It will pull on your heartstrings, and like any good book, will make you think about what you might have done in the same situations.

HerStory: Fiction Honoring Women's History Month

HerStory: Fiction Honoring Women's History Month - Dorothy L. Abrams, Lisa A. Adams, Jodie Baptie, Sarah Cass, Lisa A. Cerezo, Alexandra Chauran, Tara Chevrestt, Michelle Cornwell-Jordan, Justine Dee, Laura DeLuca, Dahlia DeWinters, Becca Diane, Dianne Hartsock, Lori Beth Johnson, Megan D. Martin, Angelique Mroczka, Lorr A great collection of shorts stories featuring all kinds of different heroines. With stories ranging from Ancient Rome to the 1970s, and even a story set in the future, we were met with realistic heroines, flaws and all.

Some stories had characters that were entirely fictional, others were based on women who actually existed, famous or not. Some stories were even based on the author's own family member. Whether the heroine made strides in world affairs, or just strides in her own home, she was admirable.

Also noticeable was the fact that were met heroines who were from all walks of life: different classes, races, etc. This was a refreshing change.

There's something here for everyone. Every woman should be able to connect with the women written about here.