Synopsis from Goodreads: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: It takes a rich imagination indeed to make a story like the real-life and still unsolved theft of $500 million worth of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston more interesting. Congratulations B.A. Shapiro, you have done just that and what a fantastic imagination you have!
Claire Roth was, just three short years ago a graduate student with a promising career as a painter in her future. Thanks to one significant and utterly disastrous decision Claire’s bright future and budding reputation are derailed simultaneously leaving her known in the art world as The Great Pretender and her former professor (and lover) dead. Claire now spends her days diligently and expertly copying famous works of art for an on-line retailer and having little to no hope of making a new name for herself on the strength of her own paintings. And then one day the strikingly handsome and incredibly prominent art dealer and gallery owner, Aiden Markel shows up on Claire’s doorstep with a proposition. The proposition is both elegant and simple: copy one of the paintings long-thought lost in the Gardner Museum heist, make a ton of money, and earn yourself a one-woman show in Markel’s gallery. Markel’s delivery is so smooth and confident and Claire is, quite frankly so desperate, that she makes yet another significant and disastrous decision. The money is just too good to pass up, the one-woman show is an unexpected and once unfathomable opportunity and, according to Markel there is no way the dirty deed can be traced back to either one of them.
From the moment the painting Claire is to copy arrives in her apartment she has some serious doubts about its authenticity. Given the sketchy nature of her job Claire chooses to keep those doubts to herself and sets to work copying the work of the great 19th century Impressionist master, Degas. This section of the book is one of its great strengths with fascinating background information about known and very successful forgers, the process by which one forges or copies a great master, and how the “original” work Claire is copying came be a part of Belle Gardner’s private collection. Shapiro flawlessly mixes fact and fiction to create a wonderfully detailed backstory involving Belle Gardner, Degas, and the building of one of the U.S.’s most important collections of art. Shapiro is very careful not to overdue the technical elements of the forging process so the story will appeal to a wide range of readers and not just those with a background in art and art history.
As Claire works we learn more about her past and how she came to be known as the Great Pretender. Claire’s sad past elicits sympathy from the reader but also feeling of frustration as you see her walking into the same trap she found herself in previously. Again, Claire stupidly falls for the charms of an older man who has promised her things he just can’t deliver. And this, dear reader is where the story really, really gets good. Of course you know the entire scheme unravels and Claire’s only hope of saving herself and Aiden is to prove, beyond all doubt, that the “original” Degas she copied was in fact a forgery as well. Claire’s quest to prove the “original” Degas is a forgery leads to her having to reveal her role in the scheme as well as proving she copied to work by doing the whole thing again in front of a group of experts. This is by far the fastest-paced section of the novel and it brings the past and present together in a delightfully interesting way. All of the secrets, all of the schemes, and all of the plots come to light and not all is well in the end.
The bottom line: this is a fantastically well-written bit of art historical fiction that I had a very, very hard time putting down once I got into the story. Getting into the story took about four pages, by the way. Both Claire and Belle’s respective pasts are intriguing and certainly inform the plot, the real forging information is fascinating and the drama of the plot will keep you from putting the book down. I love that Shapiro is willing to sacrifice the happiness of some her characters in favor of the overall plot and how her writing style is reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Susan Vreeland. Shapiro is in no way a forgery (HA!) of Vreeland but a fine contemporary writing in the same vein. This novel will certainly appeal to lovers of mystery (the heist), art and art history as well as those interested in finely crafted and fast-paced reads.
Synopsis from Amazon: An ancient and malevolent female immortal is rising in Manhattan to reclaim her son, the archangel Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena Deveraux, a vampire-hunter-and Raphael’s lover.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series is one that I truly wish I had not discovered until the entire thing was complete and there was no hope of more new books being added, ever! I WANT MORE, NOW!!! Archangel’s Consort is the third installment of this on-going series and after finishing it in record time, I have discovered that my natural lack of patience has become even more pronounced. The major plot line in Archangel’s Consort is Singh’s version of Mommy Dearest. Reports of foul weather and acts of extreme aggression among members of the Cadre lead Raphael and Elena to believe that an ancient is waking. Turns out, that ancient is Raphael’s ridiculously old and viciously cruel mother, Caliane. Major plot line number two: Raphael and Elena have returned to New York from the Refuge and are immediately bombarded with reports of vampires breaking their contracts and committing heinous crimes. As archangel of New York, Raphael must contain and control this situation before it gets out of hand. With the help of his consort and the usual cast of minor characters, Raphael begins to restore order to his territory.
Generally speaking a reader keeps returning to a series because of the main characters. That is not the case with this book or this series. Raphael and Elena are certainly intriguing figures and Singh has continued to develop those characters but the real beauty of the book lies in the cast of minor characters. There is not a single minor and/or supporting character in Archangel’s Consort that I do not want to know more about, NOW!! Singh cleverly ensnares us (and ensures we will come back for more) by dumping chunks of information about these characters on us. Not tidbits, not small nuggets of information but huge honking chunks of information! However, and this is where Singh’s evil genius comes into play, she never tells us the whole story about any of the supporting cast. Now my lack of patience makes more sense, right? Here’s what I want to know: why is Illium (aka Bluebell) so nervous about the presence of his mother; will Elena’s half-sister really be allowed to develop her burgeoning hunter skills; what happened to Dmitri to make him so fiercely loyal to Raphael; why doesn’t Aodhan liked to be touched and why is his move to New York such a big deal; and finally, why is Venom so creepy yet disturbingly likeable?
The way Singh presents information to the reader is remarkably clever and opens up so many possibilities for future novels. Archangel’s Consort clearly establishes one thing: Singh is in no way close to being done with these characters.
She has developed so many characters and potential plot lines that the Guild Hunter series could realistically continue for years and years to come. Thank goodness for that because I am apparently going to continue to be sweetly addicted to this series and this author.
Synopsis from Goodreads: The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.
Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.
As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…
My Rating: 5/5 stars
My Review: Bloody Hell! Nalini Singh’s Archangel series just keeps getting better and better with each addition. Archangel’s Blade is the fourth full-length novel in this series and is the first that doesn’t focus almost exclusively on Elena and Raphael. Archangel’s Blade is the story of Dmitri, and man is it a good one.
I feel pretty safe in saying that most readers have, to this point, likely found Dmitri to be totally creepy, seriously lethal, absolutely intriguing, and disturbingly sexy. None of these qualities change in this novel but we are given a glimpse into Dmitri’s world and particularly his past that helps the reader better understand his personality. Dmitri’s past spans a bit more than a thousand years and to say that that past is bloody is putting it mildly. We learn that Dmitri honed his skills as a warrior as a result of his abuse at the hands of Isis; he carries a torch for his long-dead wife, Ingrede; and his loyalty to Raphael runs deeper than anyone ever suspected.
And then there is Honor St. Nicholas, the totally damaged Guild Hunter whose first mission following her abduction and abuse at the hands of a gang of demented vampires is with Dmitri. Man, did she draw the short straw, or what? The problem however is much more complicated than simply dealing with Dmitri’s vampirism. The larger issues are: 1) Honor is still flashing back to her time in captivity which makes her a bit twitchy and somewhat lethal; 2) she and Dmitri are trying to track down a sadistic killer who is taunting Dmitri with memories from his past and; 3) that both Dmitri and Honor are ridiculously attracted to one another.
Here’s what I liked about this book: freakin’ everything!! Once again, the plot not only unfolds but deepens leaving the reader with a ton of questions about what’s going to come next. And we know there is going to be a next. The characters, all of them not just Dmitri and Honor, evolve as the story goes on but remain true to their basic natures – an absolute strength for this series. As for the secondary characters, well, Singh once again manages to dangle just enough information to make the reader crave more. For example, there’s Venom who is still remarkably creepy but evidently has a soft spot for Sorrow (nee Holly), Illium is still dangerously far too interested in humans, and Ashwini has become a more prominent player. With all this being said, Singh doesn’t ignore the older more established characters like Elena and Raphael; they are still very much a part of this series even when they are not center stage. Singh’s willingness to move established and beloved characters like Elena and Raphael to a secondary position is a risk but one that she makes work each and every time. As a dedicated reader of this series I find the risk to be worth it as it allows more time and pages for the development of other characters.
Bottom line: Singh changed my mind about Dmitri; I always thought he was a dangerously sexy but didn’t really care for his attitude. After this book, I’m good with Dmitri and looking forward to seeing how his character will further evolve in future novels. As for Honor, she has nowhere to go but up and with Dmitri at her side, they may be damn near unstoppable as a team. The long-term plot line has far-reaching possibilities and has yet to become even remotely close to stale. I have yet to feel frustrated or cranky over an Archangel novel’s ending because I know, without doubt, that Singh is going to trot out something equally as good within the next year.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Northumberland, 1815
At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.
Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…
Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: General Jack Armstrong’s life is planned; he will live and die as a member of the military and there will be no one to get in his way. If only the universe had been aware of Jack’s plans then he wouldn’t find himself returning home to a woman he hasn’t seen in five years and only married as a means of fulfilling a death-bed promise made to his best friend. Elizabeth Armstrong never thought she would find herself married, widowed, married again, and the mistress of a large farm all within two weeks’ time. Yet here she is the widow of a man she dearly loved, the new wife of a man who not only doesn’t want her or the marriage but is leaving for a long campaign in Canada at the behest of the British military. Oh, and she knows virtually nothing about running a farm that specializes in fine horses. Though Elizabeth is not happy with her situation she is bound and determined to make the most of her lot and life.
For five years Jack and Elizabeth exchange polite letters all the while living totally separate lives – a fact which will most assuredly come back to bite Jack quite firmly on the butt and absolutely enrage Elizabeth. Despite his feelings about marriage and Elizabeth, when Jack returns to England he finds Elizabeth to be strong, confident, capable, and attractive – the complete opposite of the woman he left behind. Elizabeth’s appearance and attitude are more than enough to entice Jack and he finds himself more than eager to finally consummate his marriage. As Jack quickly discovers, his wife not only knows about his extracurricular activities but is quite prepared to kick his ass to the curb if he can’t find a way to make matters right.
The bottom line: I truly enjoyed this novel and reading about the path Jack and Elizabeth travel to find one another. As you might expect the path is neither smooth nor easy but it is one the two must travel in order to find one another and make a go of their marriage. While there are no great surprises as far as the plot is concerned, the novel is full of interesting characters, good dialogue, richly described environments, and a fair amount of naughty bits which certainly spice up the read. I found An Infamous Marriage quite easy to become absorbed in and easy to get through. I would certainly recommend this adult read to lovers of period pieces and romances.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Abigail Shelton is dead.
Spring Valley’s golden girl is found floating face-down in her boyfriend’s pool, hands bound behind her back, head bleeding, drugs and alcohol in her system. Her friends are the only suspects – and they all have reasons to want her dead. Everyone has an alibi, but no one is innocent.
ALIBI is a 4-part young adult e-book series. Each one-hundred page installment reveals the perspective of a different character: the secret love, the nemesis, the boyfriend, the best friend. As their tales unfold, we learn that Abby is not as perfect as everyone believes, but she’s not the only one with secrets to hide. This page-turning tale of suspense, betrayal, murder, and lust will keep fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars up and reading well past curfew.
Source: Authors for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4½ stars/5 stars
My Review: When I read the synopsis for Alibi (a four novellas into a single novel) I, quite frankly, just wanted to see if multiple authors could synthesize their unique voices into a cohesive story. Not only have the authors brought their voices together they have also pulled together a fantastic story full of lust, betrayal and murder, and all while navigating the treacherous waters of high school.
Each of Alibi’s four novellas tells the same story from a different character’s point of view and while this may sound repetitious, and in some places it is, it actually gives the reader a new and different look at the plot as well as more information about the character telling the story. Each novella is the same story but enhanced and more fully developed by the particular character’s backstory and how he or she came to be involved in the overall plot. The entire plot is quite the doosy as it revolves around the death of Abby, a bitch I can’t drum up even a little bit of sympathy for even when she is found dead! Abby has two distinct sides. There is the public persona who is emotional, lovingly devoted to her boyfriend, and a good student with a bright future ahead of her. Then, there is the other Abby, the one who is manipulative, deceptive, and only ever out for herself and her own gain. Despite her wretchedness, Abby is a sort of magnet who attracts nearly everyone to her and that is exactly how the other major characters have come to be so intimately involved in her death.
Here’s the breakdown:
Charles: ah, a hot boy with an accent; does it get any better? Charles lives with his cousin’s family after having been forced to leave his home following an unfortunate event involving his beloved sister. Charles is friendly and kind and though a bit of a man-whore, you still like him and hope he can come through all of the madness surrounding him unscathed.
Palmer: tall, beautiful, smart, and bound and determined not to turn out like her mother. Palmer is driven by her desire to get out of her hometown and graduate from an Ivy League school. While Palmer is generally very focused on her goals she doesn’t count on her strong attraction to Charles and the newly revealed secret regarding the identity of her biological father. The secret and the attraction to Charles cause the usually intelligent Palmer to make some stupid decisions that impact nearly everyone in this twisted little tale.
Ace: Charles’ cousin and Abby’s boyfriend who has always sought yet never achieved the respect of his father. This may be because this poor, pathetic kid takes dumb and pretty to a whole new level. Ace’s insecurities where his body, mind and talents are concerned cause him to make even more stupid decisions than any other character in the novel. Between the drugs, the alcohol, and the general stupidity I’m not quite sure how this boy’s last four brain cells make it through each and every day. Add to all of this is random hook-ups with someone other than Abby and you have a recipe for disaster far too stupid to figure out what he has gotten himself into.
Rowan: Holy balls this chick is serial-killer-in-the-making scary!! Rowan is a scrawny, completely unattractive, generally unnoticed super-nerd who is somehow best friends with Abby. Rowan counts on everyone not noticing her because it allows her to plot, scheme, and manipulate both people and events. Rowan is so detached from all emotion that she actually sees everyone around her as pieces on a chess board rather than human beings. Sadly, this detachment extends to Rowan’s own body which, to her, is merely another tool in her arsenal to be used as a manipulation device. As far as Rowan is concerned each and every one of the other characters has wronged her in some ways and her plots and plans are her vengeance as well as her vindication.
The bottom line: The one thing keeping me from adding the last half star to my review is the very adult nature of this book; these are teenagers acting like adults and in many instances their actions were more than a bit disturbing when you consider their age. Overall, I liked this book alot (disturbing moments excluded J) and found it very difficult to put down once I started reading. The plot becomes more fully developed and complicated as each character tells his or her story. I really enjoyed each character’s perspective, backstory, and how he/she acted and reacted to the others around them. These actions and interactions amp up the drama and the suspense as you hurtle toward Abby’s inevitable death. Despite knowing who “did it” pretty early on I was ridiculously surprised by how the story actually ends. There is no discernable difference between each of the author’s voices so each novella feels like another chapter in a book rather than a completely new section written by a different person. This is a distinct advantage causing the four novellas to feel like a harmonious whole.
Synopsis from Goodreads: When Cormac O’Malley–Dogwood, Ohio’s former bad boy and a man just released from prison–returns and shows up on her doorstep, librarian Eloise Carmichael hires him as a handyman despite warnings and misgivings. After a body is found at the library, Eloise becomes obsessed with the mysteries surrounding a murder that took place fifteen years ago. But as the body count rises and family secrets are brought to light, Eloise and Cormac realize the only hope for redemption–and love–lies in each other.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Emma Elliot’s A Thin, Dark Line is a triple threat with a dark mystery, a character driven plot, and a sweet romance that delivers on all levels. Everyone has a past but Cormac O’Malley’s includes fifteen years in prison for murder. Eloise Carmichael’s past included a privileged upbringing in a cold an unloving environment but no murder. To say the least both Cormac and Eloise are not what their parents expected them to be.
Cormac has never denied his guilt and now that he has served his time he has returned to his hometown to care for his ailing and aging grandfather. Unfortunately for Cormac it is his grandfather and perhaps two other people who are happy about his return. Unfortunately for everyone else, Cormac doesn’t care; he has unfinished business that needs attending to and he will see it through before leaving town for good. What Cormac so doesn’t count on is Eloise Carmichael coming into to his life.
Eloise, affectionately known as El to her friends, is a refreshingly real character who always, no matter the consequences stays true to herself and her beliefs. Oh, and she has a habit of speaking her mind often before her internal edit button has a chance to engage. Like Cormac, El is her family’s black sheep despite being well-educated and successful in her career. The morning Cormac re-enters El’s life is the same morning she decides her life is in a rut and she needs a full-time handyman for the library she runs.
From the beginning, everyone except El, questions both El’s sanity and her decision to hire Cormac as the library’s handyman. Why the hell shouldn’t she hire him? He has the necessary skill set, he proves reliable immediately, and he has paid his debt to society. True to her nature, El rabidly and frequently defends her decision and Cormac to anyone who cares to question her. El often also finds herself reminding everyone that the past is just that, the past. Or is it? When the first dead body falls out of the library’s attic on top of El the past suddenly begins to rear its ugly head and every finger in town is pointing toward Cormac as the most obvious suspect. On yet another unfortunate note, the first dead body is just the first dead body. Before long the body count starts piling up and the past and the present are on a collision course with one another.
Here’s what I like:
*The mystery: It’s no secret I love backstories so Elliot’s mystery which involves both the past and the present totally satisfied my need for a thriller mixed with a long-buried dirty little secret. The backstory brings everything together and ties up all the little loose ends that have been, like the dead bodies, piling up throughout the novel.
*El’s relationship with, well, everyone! You may not like El and her attitude but she is a real and authentic character whom the author never allows to deviate from her strong personality. El’s honesty, loyalty, and ability to trust despite all the damning evidence right in front of her makes her all the better. El trusts her gut and knows, without doubt that her faith hasn’t been misplaced.
*The Flow: A Thin, Dark Line moves so smoothly from start to finish you don’t even realize how much you have read. While the mystery is a mystery, it isn’t overly complicated or drawn out to the point of absurdity. The plot moves like it means it without being at all rushed and the mystery unravels logically if somewhat tragically. Once the past and present meet there is no stopping the inevitable and all of the players come together for an excellent finish.
*The Epilogue: this is the second time this year I find myself giving an author some major props for rocking the epilogue. As it should be, everything is tied up in the epilogue and the resolution of each character’s story is quite satisfying. El and Cormac’s budding romance is finally able to blossom, all of the dirty little secrets and the truth have been exposed which allows everyone, but in particular Cormac, to move forward.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Third in the Merry Widows series From the moment Daphne, Lady Pomeroy, meets the mysterious Marquess of Hartwell at a masquerade ball, she’s determined to seduce him. The handsome, charming man cannot possibly be the cold, calculating lord who Society calls “Black Hart.” Risking everything, the lonely widow invites the elusive Hartwell to her dinner party . . . for two.
Hartwell’s arrogant reputation is built on a lie. For he has a shameful secret that keeps him in the shadows: a stutter—his downfall since childhood. He’d rather keep his mouth shut than look the fool. But he’s shocked to discover that in Daphne’s company—and in her bed—his stutter vanishes.
After one wanton evening together, Daphne is hurt when the lord lives up to his Black Hart name. Yet his reasons for leaving surprise even him. Now he must confess everything or risk losing Daphne forever…
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: Lady Daphne Pomeroy is a widower at the ripe old age of thirty-three. She has a fine if somewhat boring life living with her bachelor brother, Hugh. She has money, a bit of status, and absolutely no designs on bagging a new beau. And then one day her lovely brother mentions the possibility of a ball; a grand affair with costumes and masks that will allow his sister to re-enter London society. According to Hugh “We can invite a herd of titled gentlemen who are in dire need of a wife and line them up for your perusal.”
At first Daphne is a bit scandalized by the thought of such an affair but as the planning continues and the date draws closer she begins to see the masquerade as a romantic affair that will provide her with an excuse to dance, laugh, and just enjoy the night. All is going according to plan until Daphne spots a wonderfully handsome masked man from across the room. At once Lady Daphne determines that this fine gentleman will be hers. The only problem with her plan? The masked man is none other than the Marquess of Hartwell or as London society commonly refers to him “Black Hart”. Black Hart is well positioned in society, has loads of money, and absolutely no desire to socialize. They only thing anyone really knows about him is that he is openly rude and rarely ever speaks to anyone. If only they knew . . . .
Daphne is bound and determined to know Hartwell! Breaking with all tradition and good manners Daphne pursues Hartwell first for a simple dance, then a conversation and a kiss, and then a night neither of them will soon forget. As a widower, Daphne is less concerned with a scandal attaching itself to her and her good name and more concerned with pursuing Hartwell and finally understanding the meaning of true passion and desire. Daphne is absolutely certain Hartwell is not the man everyone thinks he is.
Hartwell simply doesn’t know what to think or do with the beautiful and intriguing Lady Pomeroy. She defies every standard set by 19th century London society when she openly pursues him. And, while Hartwell isn’t actually the cold and heartless rat bastard everyone thinks he is, he is still gentleman and is concerned with ruining Lady Pomeroy’s good name. But there is something about her that he just cannot resist.
The highlight of this novella is far and away its characters. Daphne is a woman after my own heart: she is unashamed by her desire and willing to fly in the face of tradition to pursue her desires. She isn’t wanton or low-class by any means but sure of herself, her desires, and her ability to win over the gorgeous Marquess. Daphne is also kind and caring and despite a few bumps in the road is patient and understanding where Hartwell is concerned. Hartwell is never really portrayed as a heartless or black-hearted character, just a man with a secret that he is not willing to share with just anyone. Hartwell is, in all actuality a good if lonely man with a kind heart and a burning desire for Lady Daphne. Daphne and Hartwell’s lust-filled night together is quite fun for everyone, including the reader. The only problem with their night together is Hartwell’s sudden and extended disappearance the very next day. Didn’t I just say he isn’t a cold-hearted rat bastard?? Well, I am not spoiling this for you; you’ll just have to find out what happens for yourself.
The bottom line: This is a quick (30-45 minute) historical romance for adults only that is sweet, lusty, and full of fun. Daphne and Hartwell are both good and relatable characters that the reader can care about almost immediately. The only thing keeping me from rating this as a full 5 stars is length. (There is so no pun intended here!) Since I did like both characters so much (and their sex) I would have liked to have known more about them; that is, I would have liked a longer story with more naughty bits.
Synopsis from Goodreads: Snuff, a guard dog who performs thaumaturgical calculations, accompanies his master, Jack, on collecting expeditions into the Whitechapel slums of nineteenth-century London.
Zelazny manages to cleverly combine Jack (the Ripper), Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Frankenstein, and Dracula together with witches, werewolves, druids and many others in this amusing tale of an approaching confrontation that, on the Halloween of a full-moon, will change the cosmic balance of power between good and evil. Told through the eyes of Snuff, Jack’s guard dog, who performs magical calculations in addition to accompanying his master on collecting expeditions into 19th century London. Twists and turns of magical espionage and adventure unfold as this unforgettable tale plays out over the course of 31 lonesome nights in October.
My Rating: 5 ginormously large stars/5 stars
My Review: I realize that I am likely the last person on earth to read (and review) Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, but I am damn glad I finally read it! This book came to me as a recommendation from a well-read friend. I won’t lie; I was a bit afraid I just wouldn’t “get” this book. Quite to my delight, not only did I get this book, but I also loved it, devoured it, and am fairly certain I will read it again and again.
Nearly all of Lonesome October is told from the perspective of animals, a device I have been absolutely partial to since first reading Christopher Moore’s The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. Among the animals are Snuff the dog, Graymalk
the cat, Needle the bat, and Nightwing the owl. Each of the animals are companions to the Players in the Game. Among the Players are Jack, the Mad Monk, the Count, the Good Doctor, and the Great Detective. One quickly figures out that, yes, all of these characters are exactly who you think they are, and it makes the read so much more fun.
Each of the animals has his/her own unique voice and personality. The reader is
able to connect with these characters just as they would any human character. The interactions between the animals are brilliantly conceived; each animal is, for all intents and purposes, just as much a part of the Game as their human companions. In fact, much of the Game is set up and determined by the animals themselves, who barter and bargain with one another for information that will help their companion win the Game. One of the book’s pure highlights is the animal-to-animal interactions; the animals are strong characters with intelligence, cunning, humor, and loyalty, and every characteristic plays out throughout the novel!
While the reader is left mostly in the dark about what the Game actually is, the reader doesn’t care. The book moves swiftly, the dialogue is very well-written and witty, and so much is going on that the particulars of the Game don’t really matter until the end. And the end, dear reader, is when you need to know the particulars of the Game. While the Game, and by extension, the ending could have been long and drawn out, Zelazny doesn’t dawdle. Everyone, including the completely involved reader, comes together in the last chapter to play out the Game. If you’re not rooting for your “team” at this point, you need to start from the beginning and read the book again!
Bottom line: I adore this book! Zelazny plays to one of my greatest loves in books, giving the animals their own voice. Why shouldn’t the animals talk or tell the story? After all, the animals are always present and paying attention ☺ (Side note: it would
probably suck for me if my animals ever grew a “real” voice and started talking.) From a technical perspective, everything about this book is excellent as well: the writing style is smooth, the dialogue is top-notch, and the action moves swiftly and smoothly straight through from start to finish. As for whom I would recommend this book to: any adult or mature young adult with a love of the paranormal, animals, and a sense of humor! Happy reading ☺
Synopsis from Goodreads: In a world of love bonds, rituals, dark magic, ancient enemies and immortals, nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted.
Seventeen-year-old Amber enters the paranormal world by chance when her brother, Dallas, sets her up with a summer job in Scotland. Dallas has spied something in the woods he thinks could make them rich beyond their wildest dreams. But instead of finding riches, Amber unknowingly enters a paranormal race—and promptly wins the first prize—a prize for which many would kill. Soon, she discovers her new boss, Aidan, didn’t employ her for her astounding housekeeping skills and he isn’t who he claims to be either.
As the dark forces slowly conspire against Amber, her naivety and love for Aidan catapults her into a calamitous series of otherworldly events. With every immortal creature hunting for her, whom can she trust with her life?
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 4/5 stars
My Review: What could be better than a summer in Scotland house-keeping in an old yet incredibly beautiful mansion that is owned by a boss you rarely ever see? Although cooking and cleaning are not really strengths (or even skills) she possesses, seventeen-year-old Amber sees the job as the perfect escape from her off-again relationship with her boyfriend and a way to build her college fund. Surely she can fake her way through a little cooking and cleaning, right?
Within a few days of her arrival, Amber gets a call from her brother Dallas who convinces Amber to accompany him on a smash and grab mission in the woods near the mansion. This is one of the few instances in A Job From Hell that I couldn’t really buy into for two reasons: 1) I couldn’t accept that being siblings was reason enough for the otherwise smart and responsible Amber to go along with theft and; 2) Scott goes to great lengths to establish the remote location of the mansion so how likely is it, really for Dallas to have found out about the jewels and their location in such a remote place? I got over myself and kept reading J
The ill-fated trip into the woods establishes Amber as the winner of a paranormal contest that was meant to be won, this time around, by none other than her boss, the totally lickable vampire, Aidan. For Amber, being a mortal and the winner of a paranormal contest is a dangerous combination. What Amber begins to discover is that winning the contest imbued her with certain powers that are held in high regard by most of the paranormal world. In other words, the pretty little mortal now has a huge target on her back – it so sucks to be her! As Aidan begins to unravel Amber’s role in the contest he also discovers an undeniable attraction to his housekeeper that he just can’t shake. Aidan’s attraction to Amber causes him to take more and more risks in order to ensure her safety and protect her life.
One of the things I like most about this book is Amber’s attitude and toughness. Rather than freaking out over the fact that her boss is a vampire and most of his friends are either vampire or some other breed of weird, she takes it all in and rolls with it. Additionally, as Amber comes to know Aidan and his reasons for so desperately wanting to retrieve the jewels himself, she sees no alternative but to suck it up and help him if she has any hope of returning to her “normal” life. Amber is resilient, snarky, and vulnerable all at once while Aidan is protective, stubborn, and vulnerable all at once. Aidan and Amber’s journey is fraught with drama, dilemmas, near-death (which is kind of huge for immortals) experiences, and ultimate victory. What the reader doesn’t see coming is the ultimate victory and what that victory actually is. Thank you, Jayde Scott for this particular ending – I find it tiring and completely unsatisfying knowing how a book is going to end before it actually ends.
Bottom line: this book was very good and perfectly directed at a young adult audience. For me, this book has it all: strong lead and secondary characters; a plot that is both strong and interesting; an appropriate level of fighting and action; and just a little bit of romance. In all, I found A Job From Hell quite entertaining and would certainly recommend it to those who enjoy a little paranormal in their lives.
Synopsis from Goodreads: When Kate Mitchell decided to research the mysterious portrait in the student gallery, she had no idea how her life would change. She thought she knew what she wanted. She had a great boyfriend, a promising career, and a clear path.
How could one simple portrait change all that?
A photograph. A sculpture. A painting. One clue leads to another, and Kate learns that pieces of the past might leave unexpected marks on her own future, too.
And how, exactly, did she end up in an irritable sculptor’s studio?
One portrait may hold the answers, but learning its secrets will challenge everything Kate thought she knew about love, art, and life. A single picture can tell more than one story, and in the end, a young artist will discover that every real love story is a unique work of art.
The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary romance novel for adult readers.
Source: Author for a fair and honest review
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Me Review: Elizabeth Hunter’s The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary adult romance
set in the art communities of both California and New York. This novel is what I like to think of as a “just one more chapter” book. In case you aren’t familiar with this type of novel, allow me to explain. It’s the book you’re still reading at two a.m. when you know you should be sound asleep, but just want to read one more chapter. Before you know it, the sun is up, the book is finished, and you just can’t bring yourself to feel bad about that.
Genius’s plot revolves around photography graduate student Kate Mitchell. Kate has spent her academic career studying the fine art of photography and has focused all of her attention (and thesis, yikes) on the work of the immensely talented, world-renowned, and ultra-reclusive photographer Reed O’Connor. Kate intimately knows everything there is to know about O’Connor’s work. That is, until the day she comes across a photograph that is absolutely uncharacteristic of everything O’Connor has ever produced. Like a dog with a bone, Kate can’t let it go.
The bulk of the novel moves back and forth between the present and the past, following Kate as she tracks down O’Connor’s friends and colleagues in an effort to understand the mystery
behind the unusual photograph. What Kate discovers takes the reader and most of the novel’s characters on an emotional ride through the past and into the private life of one of the world’s most famous and misunderstood artists. Hunter has successfully overcome the sort of disjointed feel that novels of this type often have. In fact, Hunter has created a present and a past that are truly two inseparable parts of a whole; the time periods come together in
beautifully cohesive way.
The journey to understanding O’Connor is made even more fascinating by the people in his
circle, and how each and every one was effected by Reed’s life and significant drama. Through her research Kate meets and introduces the reader to O’Connor’s inner circle, a group that is still surprisingly close-knit. These superbly-developed characters are so perfectly written that each and every one has a balance to their own personality found in another character. Hunter
cleverly only allows each character to divulge so many pieces of the puzzle before pointing Kate toward another member of the group. In truth, the characters and the story they tell will completely engross the reader. Each character is so intriguing in his or her own way that they become as important to the overall plot as Kate and O’Connor are. Again, two halves of a wonderfully cohesive whole.
The bottom line: if you’re not reading Elizabeth Hunter’s novels, you should be! Her plots and characters are fully developed and well-researched. The artspeak and technical parts of
this book are a fine balance between informative and interesting yet not so technical as to turn off the casual reader. (Susan Vreeland, anyone?) Hunter’s writing style is so smooth, and her plots (this one included) just carry the reader through from beginning to end.