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Friday, March 31, 2017

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast - Nancy Campbell Adam

When Lucy, a well-known botanist, hears of the ailment plaguing her cousin Kate, she travels to Blackwell manor in hopes of providing a cure for her. Upon her arrival she finds she is unwelcome, especially since the family is still recovering from the recent death of Lord Miles Blackwell's wife and the death of his own sister, Marie. People suspect Kate has caught the Blackwell curse by marrying into the family with Jonathon.

Lucy doesn't believe in curses and is convinced there is a reason for her cousin's illness, but the list of suspects is long: unhappy servants, competitive rivals, spurned love interests,...

Adam's smooth writing makes this a delight to read. Lucy is independent, confident, and a bit sassy, especially when it comes to her encounters with the overbearing Lord Blackwell. Her discoveries about the manor, the people, and what transpired happens over a gradual period. My only complaint is an unfortunate predictable villain monologue near the end that is, of course, used to save the protagonist's life.

Although this is the only book the author has written in the Steampunk genre, I hope for more in the future.

More by the Author:
The Secret of India Orchid
From Cairo, With Love
Autumn Masquerade

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Affinity Bridge - George Mann

When an airship in Victorian London crashes and the piloting automaton disappears in the wreckage, Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes are put on the case. If this mystery wasn't hard enough they have the addition of a glowing policeman who is linked to a string of strangulations and the added pressure of a zombie-like plague infecting the city.

Although technological progress has provided many every day conveniences, there are many disturbing advances making their jobs all the more difficult. Both agents must use their sleuthing and physical prowess to find the truth lying somewhere between the technological and the supernatural.

While I enjoyed the multiple plot lines and how they were woven together, the writing itself jumped a lot and a lot of events were tedious. Neither of the agents were particularly engaging. The narrator often mentions how adept Newbury and Hobbes are, but we don't see it until the very end when all is revealed. I'm not compelled to continue the series due to my many gripes.

Books in the Series:
The Osiris Ritual
The Immortality Engine
The Executioner's Heart

Friday, March 17, 2017

Assassin's Creed: Heresy - Christie Golden

As the new head of the Historical Division, Simon Hathaway wants to experience how the Animus works. When he dives into his ancestral past as Gabriel Laxart to fight alongside the famed Joan of Arc, he discovers that what he's learned about the Templars, even with his insight as a member of the Inner Sanctum, may not be true.

As he experiences the lies and betrayals of Joan, these same experiences seem to start haunting his real life. He tells himself he is only experiencing leaking and becoming paranoid from his consistent use of the Animus. Or perhaps his livelihood as a corporate head and his place in the Inner Sanctum of the Templars isn't as safe as he has been led to believe. But even more disturbing is the idea he may not be on the right side of history.

One of my favorite parts of the Assassin's Creed video game series is the alternating and intersecting plot lines, so I was happy to see this same point of view carried on into this stand alone novel. The way in which Simon's consciousness merges with Gabriel's throughout the Animus portions of the novel were well-done. Gabriel's discovery intertwines in the modern world with Simon's plotline perfectly. While the plotlines of this novel come together in the end, there is still an openness at the end for future books.

As somebody who has read a lot on Joan of Arc, I was pleased to see some dialogue throughout the past reflect what is recorded in pieces such as Joan of Arc: By Herself and Witnesses. Many of the alternative ways events unfold I have seen speculated in other texts with alternative ideas of how things happened. I was satisfied with how the author decided to mix fiction with known history for the sake of plot.

For those who enjoy the Assassin's Creed series this is a fantastic addition. For those who are interested in a different idea of how Joan of Arc's life may have been, this is also a good read.

Friday, March 10, 2017

How to Be a Hero - Lynn Daue

When Ricky Nishizuka's son died while on duty, he decided to share his son's positive attitude with the world. Through collaboration with writer Lynn Daue and illustrator John O'Neill they created a wonderful board book for young children.

Children learn by seeing the gallant acts of firemen and the upright and virtuous faces of military personnel. More importantly, children will learn the value of daily acts through the illustrations, like a faithful crossing guard holding traffic in the rain,
the mentorship of an older friend, and the importance of appreciating diversity with the inclusion of the word xenophile and yearning to learn about other cultures.

The adults and children in the book are of varying color and ability, so children will certainly see both themselves and the people around them. If you are looking for a book to encourage right action at a young age, this is a good piece to read.

Related Links:
Live Like
Live Like Reid - Facebook
Reid Nishizuka Mentorship Award

Friday, March 3, 2017

Yes Please - Amy Poehler

Although well-known as a comedian during her years with Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler is probably currently best known as Leslie Knope in the television series Parks and Recreation. Although Poehler makes comedy look easy and natural, which it should be considering she's been practicing since she was a kid, she worked hard to get to where she is.

In this autobiographical piece, Amy shares her defeats and triumphs flavored by her own brand of humor to not only talk about her only life, but also to encourage others to reach for their own dreams.

I was happy I had chosen to listen to the audiobook version, which is narrated by Poehler herself and many others, including Carol Burnett, Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, and even her own mom and dad, it brought the writing to life as they acted out the parts. We hear about Poehler's early experiences as she struggles to live off of waitress wages while simultaneously spending her nights as a member of the comedy troupe, Upright Citizens Brigade, as well as her experiences with the many celebrities and politicians she's had the pleasure of working with during her time on SNL and many other projects. We also get to learn how she keeps up with her career, while caring for her wonderful family.

If you are a fan of Amy Poehler, as I am, I definitely recommend her humorous autobiography to get a glimpse of who Poehler really is behind the scenes.

More featuring Amy:
Upright Citizen's Brigade
Saturday Night Live: Best of Amy Poehler
Parks and Recreation