All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot SeeBook Review

Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author:  Anthony Doerr
Imprint: Scribner
Published: 2014
Pages: 544
ISBN: 978-1-5011-0456-5
Stars:  4.0

I am not usually drawn to novels set during World War II.  Maybe it’s because I am half German, and have no desire whatsoever to read anything about Hitler, particularly now that we are living in a political climate fuelled by a buffoon dictator just south of the border, in 2017. I do, however, love stories set in Paris, which is why I decided to give this book a try, although it was also enthusiastically recommended to me by my good friend Deborah Ledon who did not steer me wrong with her last recommendation.

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2014 novel, is a work of art in more ways than one.  Each short chapter is like a photograph come to life, filled with colour, texture, and light, revealing one image, a small piece of the story. Doerr’s prose is so beautiful that we cannot put the book down for wanting to experience, with all of our senses, that next piece of the story. And all of our senses are heightened as we do.

The book begins on 7 August 1944 as Germany is bombing France, or more specifically, Saint-Malo, France, as a 16-year-old blind girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc kneels over a table at Number 4 rue Vauborel, holding a model of the city in miniature. She knows every centimetre of the model by touch and has memorized its street names. She can hear the bombers, who are three miles away, approaching Saint-Malo.

“Five streets to the north, a white-haired 18-year-old German private named Werner Pfennig wakes to a faint staccato hum.” He is in the Hotel of Bees, a once cheerful address where Parisians would stay on weekend holidays. Werner is in the building when bombers brandishing high-velocity anti-air guns known as 88s start to destroy everything in the vicinity of the hotel. What, we wonder, could possibly happen next?

Compelled to turn the pages of each short chapter, we study them as if they are photographs on exhibition in an art gallery. As we move through each chapter in the first 90 pages of the book, a ten-year history of these two main characters is revealed in snapshot after snapshot.

We learn about the curse of an ancient blue diamond containing a touch of red at its center, known as the Sea of Flames. The 133 carat diamond has been locked up in a cleverly disguised vault in the basement of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris where Marie-Laure’s father works as the principal locksmith.

We also learn that Werner was raised with his sister Jutta, in a Children’s Home in Zollverein, a coal-mining complex near Essen, Germany by a kind woman named Frau Elena, and that young Werner, who has a love of science, also possesses a knack for repairing radios, which may just save him from having to work in the coal mines like all of the other 15-year-old boys in the region.

Sergeant Major Reinhold Von Rumpel, a gemologist before the war, now works for the Reich. It is his mission to find the Sea of Flames for the Führer for his proposed empyrean city in Linz, Austria, at the center of which he plans to build a kilometre-long museum filled with the greatest treasures in all of Europe and Russia.

The author flips us back and forth between what is happening to Marie-Laure and what is happening to Werner from 1934 to 1944, his exquisite writing moving with the pace of a suspense thriller. And then he starts to weave in the story of Von Rumpel and we slowly discover how all three characters’ lives will intersect.

Werner’s story is particularly heart-wrenching as he is recruited by the Reich – who force 14-year-old boys to train for their Machiavellian purposes – always weeding out the weakest, with unbelievable cruelty, while staying focused on building their superior Aryan race. Werner is small, sensitive and very smart and he dreams of becoming an engineer. He tries with all his strength to hold onto those dreams as the grim realization of his situation becomes evident and he slowly understands just how evil the force that he has had to follow and support really is.

By the time I read half of this novel, my guts were gripped by the horror of how vicious human beings can be and I cried as I was reminded that although we earthlings have endured two World Wars, so many of us don’t seem to have learned anything from them as the current political state of affairs in much of the world can attest to.

However, it is the indestructible optimism and resilience of the spiritually strong, like Marie-Laure,  who give us hope that things can change for the positive in the future. When one’s will to live is as strong as hers, there may be no limit to what we can endure. However, the price we pay for surviving the struggle is steep.

By the time I read half of this book, I was filled with sadness. This is not the type of book I should be reading as throughout this winter I have struggled with stress and depression. I read on because I had to know what happens to these characters in whom I had become deeply invested. There has to be some light at the end of this literary tunnel, some redemption, joy even. After all, the title is All The Light We Cannot See…but by page 400 there is still no light.

By the time I had almost finished the book, I could barely read the last 50 pages because of the ugly, depressing, soul-destroying events that occur page after page in relentless succession. Surely there can be no light in reliving this dismal history? I understand Doerr’s metaphors and by the end of the book I could see the light he refers to in the title, but that light just didn’t shine brightly enough to make me feel that reading this book was a gift and something that I shouldn’t have missed out on. The novel has its share of beauty and light, to be sure, but the cold, hard facts of what people endured in World War II at the hands of a fascist dictator are definitely not something I ever want to relive in a story, of any kind, ever again.

Introducing Ron Chatterjee and The Colony of Roses – A Novel of Murder and Politics Set in 1960’s India

The Colony of Roses by Ron ChatterjeeMEDIAARIA CDM is proud to announce the signing of writer Ron Chatterjee for the publication of his debut novel – THE COLONY OF ROSES.

Possessing all the ingredients to be a literary master work of its genre, THE COLONY OF ROSES is a story of murder and politics set against the backdrop of a changing 1960s India, where societal issues of abortion and divorce rages between political factions of the ultra-left and ultra-right. Told in the best tradition of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy, over the course of seventy-two hours, THE COLONY OF ROSES follows the investigation of an Indian homicide detective’s dogged pursuit of the truth and his journey deeper and deeper into the shady and macabre world of lovable rogues, fall guys, femme fatales, corrupt cops, idealists and all the myriad quirky characters that inhabits THE COLONY OF ROSES.

Ron Chatterjee was born in a small town in West Bengal, India, where his life experiences would inspire his high-octane political thriller. Ron immigrated to the United States twenty years ago and has since settled into small town American life. Ron currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and daughter working on his second novel.

Prepare to enter an intricate world of dysfunctional characters, greed and head-spinning adventure that will leave you guessing until the explosive end in Ron Chatterjee’s debut novel – THE COLONY OF ROSES.

To keep updated with news concerning Ron Chatterjee’s THE COLONY OF ROSES, click here. The novel is due for release in 2015.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (My All-Time Favourite Series of Books)

Outlander by Diana GabaldonBook Review
Title: Outlander
Author:  Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Seal Books
Released: October 9, 2001
Pages: 896
ISBN-10: 0770428797
ISBN13: 978-0770428792
Stars:  5.0

Like millions of other Outlander fans, I’ve been watching the new Starz television series of the same name and LOVE it! I think the producers have done an excellent job of staying true to the book and I’m sure that’s because author Diana Gabaldon is a consultant for the series. The casting of Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as Claire & Jamie Fraser and Tobias Menzies as Frank/Black Jack Randall is perfect, and even though the casting of Dougal MacKenzie seems wrong because Graham McTavish doesn’t look like Dougal and seems too old for the part, he is doing a great job with it. I can’t wait to see what comes next…although having to wait for April 2015 to see the second part of Season 1 is PAINFUL!!

Needless to say the Outlander series of books are those which fans read over and over again. While I’m not a super-duper obsessed fan, I have always named Diana Gabaldon as my favourite author since I read the first four novels in the late 90’s. Then, like everyone else, I waited and waited and waited for the next books to be written and in the meantime, I had theChristine Bode meets Diana Gabaldon for the second time great pleasure of meeting Diana Gabaldon twice at book signings…once after the release of A Breath of Snow and Ashes (2005) and once after the release of Lord John and The Brotherhood of The Blade (2007).

I own all of her novels but I haven’t read the last two books in the Outlander series yet and that’s because I decided that I would have to make the time to re-read the series in order, back to back, so that everything would be fresh in my mind. I read A Breath of Snow and Ashes when it came out and haven’t read another of her books since. So, now is the time! The television series has inspired me and the next year will be the year of Diana Gabaldon for me. And what a sensational year of reading it will be!!

I finished reading Outlander for the second time at 3:00 am this morning. It took me two weeks and two days, and that’s with reading at least a couple of chapters a day. These mammoth tomes are hard for an engaged reader to put down so that they can sleep, work or just get on with their day. I know they’re very long novels, but I swear that every chapter is captivating.

Although there have been an army of authors who have tried to replicate the success of these novels for themselves, no one else has come close to the popularity of Diana Gabaldon’s novels. This very intelligent woman, who happens to hold three science degrees including a PhD in Quantitative Behavioral Ecology, has sold over 25 million copies (the books have been published in 26 countries and in 23 languages) and continues to live happily with her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona. Diana Gabaldon is an extremely smart, charming, witty and beautiful woman and that’s why her books have stolen the hearts of so many people.

I’m going to reiterate what Outlander is about using Diana’s own words:

“In 1946, after WWII, a young Englishwoman named Claire Beauchamp Randall goes to the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. She’s an ex-combat nurse, he’s been in the army as well, they’ve been separated for the last six years, and this is a second honeymoon; they’re getting re-acquainted with each other, thinking of starting a family. But one day Claire goes out walking by herself, and comes across a circle of standing stones—such circles are in fact common all over northern Britain.  She walks through a cleft stone in the circle…and disappears. Back into 1743, where the first person she meets is a gentleman in an 18th-century army officer’s uniform. This gentleman, Jack Randall, looks just like her husband Frank—and proves to be Frank’s six-times-great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he also proves to be a sadistic bisexual pervert, and while trying to escape from him, Claire falls into the hands of a gang of Highland Scots, who are also trying to get away from Black Jack Randall—though for other reasons.

In order to avoid being handed over to Captain Randall, Claire is obliged to marry one of the young clansmen. So she finds herself trying to escape from Castle Leoch and her Scottish captors, trying to get back to her husband Frank, trying to avoid being recaptured by Captain Randall—and falling in love with Jamie Fraser, the young man she’s been forced to marry. The story rolls on from there…”

And what an amazing, fantastic, romantic, adventurous, historical story it is!!

There’s not much more that I can add about Outlander except to say that if you haven’t read this series yet, do it! Now!! Before you die, you have to read at least the 8 novels that are currently in print (if you skip the Lord John Grey novels, you’ll be forgiven, but you should read them too) because I guarantee you, that if you love romantic, historical, adventurous, fantastical stories, no finer have ever been written. And no ladies, Jamie Fraser does not actually exist. A man like that is purely a fictional creation! Amen.

NOTE: Chapters Kingston is now selling the Outlander series (except for Written In My Own Heart’s Blood) for 2 for $15!

 

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

An Eternity of Roses by Natalie G. OwensBook Review
Title: An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1)
Author:  Natalie G. Owens
Publisher: Rose of Atlantis Press/Natalie G. Owens
Released: January 5, 2013
Pages: 468
ISBN-10: 0988577216
ISBN-13: 978-0-9885772-1-3
Stars:  4.0

”She crashed headlong into an incandescent whirlpool of emotion from which she never wanted to escape.” Emma Deramore, in the throes of ecstasy after being separated from her true love for over 200 years…yes, I’ll have what she’s having!

It’s always such a joy when I read a book by a Facebook friend that I enjoyed enough to review. An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans: Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens is an intelligently written, passionate, historical paranormal romance that will leave you wanting to read Book 2 of The Valthreans series, A Lifetime for Revenge, right away.

An Eternity of Roses is the story of the dashing blonde & blue-eyed Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouth and his raven-haired, doe-eyed, adventurous betrothed, Lady Emmaline Deramore who in December 1807 are about to be married, thus creating a union that their British society are excited about. What they don’t know is that fate has its cruel twists mapped out for them as the jealous, red-haired, green-eyed, inherently evil immortal witch, Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is going to use a powerful curse to separate them for over 200 years.

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Well, I do love all those things so I read the book and am not sorry that I did. I was only sorry when the story came to an end.

In the Prologue we discern the history of the Valthreans, an immortal race originating in Kashmir, India.  Their namesake Valther was murdered within sight of his brothers Nila & Candaka by the Naga King Aravala for not immediately revealing that he had found a magic Chalice that was part of a group of mystical objects that would allow him to enter a state of immortality. Valther, who had a keen interest in the science of healing and a thirst for knowledge, had found one of the legendary Cups of Life from the lost seven Chalices of the River Demon. King Aravala possessed supernatural powers that allowed him to control the seasons and the weather, and he decided who lived and died. He also used the venom of cobras to kill immortals.

Valther was deemed a traitor to his people and sentenced to death by the sting of the cobra. The Naga people’s (The Cult of the Snake) sworn enemy, King Asoka, conspired to destroy the Naga beliefs.  Knowledge of magic was coveted by both peoples and Asoka could not allow Aravala to possess more knowledge of the Black Arts than he. Aravala, the Snake King, cared only for power and wealth and his people were either terrified of him or believed in the same things while the Valthreans sought to live peacefully. But what Asoka and Aravala didn’t know was that Nila & Candaka possessed the remaining Cups of Life and they were prepared to spend eternity protecting their own by keeping them from falling into the wrong hands.

An Eternity of Roses is a highly imaginative tale of the lengths one woman will go to, to be reunited with her true love and what another will do to keep that from happening. Emma’s adventures take her from England to Scotland to Italy to Holland and back to England over the course of 200 years. Her love scenes with Adrian are steamily and sensuously written but they’re far and few between as this is a story about separation, stolen identity, revenge and redemption. Lady Madeleine de Brandeville is a deliciously vile antagonist. She kidnaps Adrian, casts a spell on him that makes him forget his past, gives him a new name (Adam Alvar), makes him an immortal and cohabitates with him in a loveless marriage, because no matter how hard she tries, Adrian does not feel any love for her. Madeleine fortuitously gets her hands on the Demon’s Chalice and positions herself as an ally of a very influential member of the Cult of the Snake’s hierarchy. She has to remain in his good graces or suffer the ultimate consequence of betrayal. However, when members of the Valthrean Council catch up with her she has to flee her home in Scotland which provides Adam with the opportunity to leave her and embark on a new life of travel and adventure.

Emma in the meantime befriends another immortal, the mysterious Massimiliano “Max” Damiani (the main character in Book 2 of this series) in 1944 in London, who is instrumental in helping her find her lost love. Max is a friend of Nila and Candaka, now known as Neil and Cam, the oldest Valthreans in existence, and head of the Council, an organization that can find just about anything and who will go to any lengths to ensure that Valthreans remain able to live in peace among humans. What will happen when they do find Adrian, who doesn’t remember a thing about his past? Although the war is coming to an end, the battle for true love has yet to begin.

This is an epic adventure that readers of both historical and paranormal romance will undoubtedly enjoy. Owens’ (a former lawyer who lives on the island of Malta) poetic prose is far better than the average self-published work and even though she indulges in a few moments of extreme cheesiness and (“Mayhap one day is all I can say. But never forget, brother, home is in here.”) the book’s cover could be more enticing, it deserves a large audience. I will definitely read more of Natalie G. Owens’ work.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe by Lynn CullenBook Review
Title: Mrs. Poe
Author:  Lynn Cullen
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: October 1, 2013
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 1476702918
ISBN-13: 978-1476702919
Stars:  4.0

Over the past year I’ve had a few opportunities to revisit the genius that was Edgar Allan Poe, a main character in the thoroughly engaging new novel Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen. Poe’s literary work has inspired every dark fiction writer who succeeded him as well as an inconceivable number of other twisted, creative minds. Late last autumn I watched The Raven, an interesting but flawed graphic crime thriller about a madman committing murders in the mid 1800s inspired by Poe’s writing, starring John Cusack and directed by James McTeigue. Earlier in 2013, I became addicted to a brilliant new television series called The Following starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy. It’s about a charismatic, yet psychotic serial killer who engages with other killers and psychologically disturbed individuals to create a cult who follows his every, Poe-inspired command. I’ve had a volume of Edgar Allan Poe Stories (published by Platt & Munk in 1961) on my book shelf for years and was compelled to start reading it after I finished reading Mrs. Poe so that I’d be more familiar with his most popular work.  I’m not the only one who is captivated by the mythology of Poe and if you’re equally interested, I’d recommend adding Lynn Cullen’s novel to your reading list.

Based on the true story of Edgar Allan Poe’s obsessive liaison with Frances “Fanny” Sargent Osgood, Mrs. Poe begins in the winter of 1845 and concludes in the winter of 1847.  During that period we’re transfixed, like peeping Toms gazing through a forbidden window, by Cullen’s spin on the mythology of Poe. In her story, he’s at the height of his literary fame in New York City following the publication and astounding success of “The Raven.”  He’s married to his much younger cousin Virginia Clemm who is slowly dying from tuberculosis and they live in poverty with Virginia’s mother, Maria (“Muddy”) who runs their household while subversively trying to rule their lives. Poe is constantly writing and attending literary conferences as well as a weekly gathering of New York’s literary crowd hosted by Miss Anne Charlotte Lynch, where he meets and is captivated by the writer Frances Osgood. Unfulfilled in his mainly chaste marriage, Poe cannot help but be drawn to lovely, yet lonely, Mrs. Osgood but is soon surprised to discover that his wife is also interested in getting to know her better.

Mrs. Poe is narrated by Fanny, whose no-good, cheating, artist husband, Samuel, is usually nowhere to be found, leaving his wife and two daughters to subsist on the charity of her dearest friends, Eliza and John Bartlett.  We care about Fanny, an intelligent, attractive woman of 33 whose talent as a writer has impressed Mr. Poe.  Although he’s a man appreciated by the ladies, his image is that of a moody alcoholic who doesn’t seem to have many friends and who no one really knows, although that doesn’t stop them from speculating about his character.  In particular, critic Reverend Rufus Griswold, loathes him because he has an obvious crush on Fanny.  Griswold encourages her to stop writing the flowery poetry and children’s stories that she’s known for and start to contribute stories of the macabre to The Evening Mirror.  Fanny finds that too difficult a task but agrees to interview the Poes for an insider’s look into their personal lives for a payment that she can’t afford to turn down.

In the meantime, Mrs. Poe asks Edgar to bring Fanny home to meet her, not realizing at first that he already has feelings for her.  Although her mind is sharp, Virginia is a small, pretty, fragile woman who depends on both Edgar and her mother for everything. Fanny’s visits continue for over a year and steadily become more unpleasant for her as she becomes more deeply embroiled in a secret affair with Edgar, with whom she has been exchanging public love poems that incite gossip among their readers.  Edgar makes every effort he can to be in Fanny’s presence without revealing his motive, but she can’t help but notice that Virginia is becoming very suspicious.  Strange mishaps and accidents occur involving Fanny, who worries more and more for her own safety as she pieces together evidence that points directly at Mrs. Poe.

Lynn Cullen infuses her historical novel about unfortunate love with equal parts mystery and sensuality and does an excellent job of creating a backdrop for the New York literary society, on which she paints a vivid cast of characters. Poe is depicted as the complex man that he undoubtedly was…someone who took his writing very seriously but who was largely insecure about his talent despite the public’s reaction to it.  A man who marched to the beat of his own drum, he cared little for what people thought of him personally and was ready to leave his wife for Osgood.

An essential supporting cast assists in setting up opportunities for Edgar & Fanny to meet while peppering the background with references to famous people of the time (Walt Whitman, Audubon, the Astors). Although the cover is lame in my humble opinion, the prose is well written and easy to read while suspense builds with a slow burn that ultimately leads to the final explosive denouement.

This tale is not unlike a Merchant Ivory film: slow moving, filled with dialogue, gorgeously depicted and ultimately rewarding to those who watch the whole thing. If you read Mrs. Poe to the very end, you’ll be satisfied that it was worth the effort.  Now that I’ve read it and Poe’s most celebrated stories, I want to go back and re-watch Season 1 of The Following all over again.

The Wolves of St. Peter’s by Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk

The Wolves of St. Peter's by Gina Buonaguro & Janice KirkBook Review
Title: The Wolves of St. Peter’s
Authors:  Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: April 23, 2013
Pages: 288
ISBN-10: 1443417459
ISBN-13: 978-1443417457
Stars:  4.0

In The Wolves of St. Peter’s by Toronto’s Gina Buonaguro and Kingston, Ontario’s Janice Kirk, young Francesco Angeli is the unenthusiastic houseboy/assistant of the irritable, arrogant and eccentric Michelangelo (he keeps a three-legged chicken as a pet!) who is busy at work on his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Although educated and a lawyer by trade, Francesco’s libido has got him into trouble. After becoming involved with Juliet, the wife of his employer, Guido del Mare, his father sends him from Florence to Rome to work for Michelangelo.

Francesco often shirks his responsibilities to either bed the married gypsy girl Susanna who lives next door, or to hang out with his friend Raphael and the artists who gather socially at the home of Imperia, a madam who operates a brothel near the Vatican while Pope Julius II ignores its activities.

One rainy morning, Francesco witnesses a golden-haired woman’s body being pulled from the Tiber River and is shocked when he recognizes her as being one of Imperia’s prostitutes, Calendula, (who reminds him of his illicit lover and who had been flaunting an expensive ring given to her by an unknown paramour) or so he believes. And if her death wasn’t enough of a mystery, Francesco is even more horrified when other people he knows turn up dead as well.

In the meantime, the rising waters of the Tiber are flooding city streets and turning the citizens of Rome – who are terrified by the possibility of a plague – into refugees and the Coliseum into an emergency shelter.  Hungry wolves descend from the hills at night to “stalk the city like ghosts,” but these wolves are really just a metaphor for the true wolves of the city that are far more dangerous than their canine counterparts. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but are inside ravenous wolves.”

As Francesco follows the deepening mystery from the backstreets to the pope’s inner sanctum, he begins to realize that danger and corruption may lurk behind the most beautiful of facades.

The cast of lively characters include not only Michelangelo and Raphael, but also Marcus, Calendula’s artist lover; a rich shipping merchant and admirer of Calendula’s referred to as The Turk; Guido del Mare’s brutish bodyguard Pollo Grosso “Big Chicken”; the Pope’s suspicious right hand men Cardinal Asino and Paride di Grassi; and Dante, a fine wood-carver who with every full moon undergoes a transformation and believes himself to have changed form, this time into a bat.

I loved The Sidewalk Artist by Buonaguro & Kirk and read it in 2011 which is the reason I said yes to reviewing The Wolves of St. Peter’s.  I understand that this book is the first of a planned trilogy.  The authors are currently working on the second installment which is set in Venice during the carnival season of 1510 and also stars Francesco Angeli as its protagonist.  I also discovered in an article written about the book and its authors by Wayne Grady of the Kingston Whig-Standard on April 18, 2013 that Gina and Janice discovered, “From their reading of the contemporary historian Benevenuto Cillini, they gained a sense of the casual nature of violence in Renaissance Italy — “Everyone carried a dagger, and thought nothing of using it.” As a result, 16th century Rome emerges as a dark, dangerous and curiously ironic place. Its plot was informed by their discovery that painters of the images of the Madonna and Child found in nearly every Roman household often used prostitutes for their models.”

What strikes me most about Buonaguro & Kirk’s writing is the detail with which they sculpt their superior prose. The amount of research they undertake for their stories is obvious, the settings are captivating and their characters are quirky, interesting and complex at the same time while remaining totally accessible to the reader. They allow the characters to describe their point of view and I loved the characters of Michelangelo and Raphael who were so different but who would each go on to become two of the most famous, celebrated artists in history. Francesco’s scenes with Michelangelo and the three-legged chicken were particularly entertaining.

The romantic and somewhat gothic setting of corrupt, Renaissance Rome in 1508 sets the tone for this captivating murder mystery and the writers’ inclusion of humour at key points in the story perfectly balances the dour atmosphere in which the main characters find themselves. I must say that I didn’t solve the mystery myself until it was revealed near the end of the book. This is an immensely satisfying read for fans of historical fiction or Renaissance Italy and the artists of its time that would translate delightfully into a stunning feature film.

Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk, who now have a new Facebook page, will be signing copies of The Wolves of St. Peter’s at Chapters Kingston on Saturday, September 28th from 12-3 pm while they’re in town for Kingston WritersFest so don’t miss this wonderful opportunity to meet two of Canada’s finest writers.

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1) by Natalie G. Owens

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)  by Natalie G. OwensBOOK PREVIEW

An Eternity of Roses (The Valthreans, Book 1)

Two lovers separated by an evil curse.
A desperate quest through time.
A love that wants to beat all odds.
And all the while, deadly danger brews around a two-thousand-year-old secret society and the enemy that lives to decimate it.

“…’Til the end of my life, I shall belong to you as your husband.”

That was the promise Adrian made to Emmaline. And then, he was gone forever…It is 1807. Adrian Segrave, Viscount Bournemouthe, and Lady Emmaline Deramore are about to wed and British Society teems with excitement at this imminent love match. But Madeleine de Brandeville, a mysterious Frenchwoman, has her lustful and ambitious sights on the groom. When she sets her cruel plan in motion, she leaves devastation in her path.

Heartbroken, Emmaline embarks on an adventure she’d never imagined having. As the world changes and chaos brews, her fate becomes linked with the Valthreans, a group of immortals who must learn to face a deadly enemy that threatens their place in the human world. But all the while, there is one thing she wants more than any other–to get back her man.

When she finally finds her prize and the intense blue flame of desire burns once more, her worst nightmares are far from over and the toughest battle is yet to begin. Will love win the war in the end?

Disclaimer: Do not read this novel if you dislike drop dead sexy heroes, strong heroines, intriguing immortals, magic, spells, mystery, amazing adventures, exotic settings, secret cults, and sensual love scenes.

Author Bio:

Natalie G. Owens got her first taste of serious writing by penning award-Author Natalie G. Owenswinning poetry, short stories, and articles for college and local publications. She sold her first book to a small publisher in 2007 and is currently indie published. Her favorite stories to write are romances with a dark edge featuring brooding heroes, strong heroines, and a good dash of fantasy.

Social Media links:

Website: www.nataliegowens.com
Facebook profile page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563297082
Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Natalie-G-Owens-Author/24911987111
Twitter: https://twitter.com/natalie_g_owens
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4527498-natalie-g-owens

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115212743960662992349/posts

A Word from the Author:

I happen to be a big fan of the Highlander series since it first came out. I simply loved Adrian Paul in his role of tortured hero fighting for justice and survival. Who can resist a character like that? 🙂

So one day, I started thinking that there are some amazing series out there in the paranormal/fantasy romance genre, but I couldn’t think of a specific one featuring immortals that live under a legal and political system they formed over time. Immortals with their own style of government and their own code of ethics. Basically, a secret society of these special individuals that aims at furthering the interests of its people and the humans they live with. Of course, as with each government, there is opposition—some justified, and some not so much.

Another thought I had was: what if Man had someone—or something—powerful and magical to come to the rescue at certain crucial points in history? Some things could have happened differently—or turned out much worse. And what if Man’s fate and future is determined by warring factions of these immortal beings? The germ of this idea started in my mind, and together with my interest in myth and adventure, the Valthreans were born.

The story and practices of the Valthreans constitute the backdrop of each book in the series, the glue that holds them together. Some pretty amazing characters make up the higher ranks of this unusual organization—sexy heroes and kickass, determined heroines—and my goal is to tell you their stories and happy endings :).

***

Praise for AN ETERNITY OF ROSES:

“A fast-paced, loving, lovable romp through time and character and romance … with characters who are so fully fleshed that I felt they were standing beside me.”

“WOW! Talk about everlasting love!”

“Wahoo! Yummy and seductive read.”

“Refreshingly different.”

“More than just your everyday romance!”

“The story is tautly engrossing, the plot beautifully constructed, and the characters humanly complex. This paranormal romance is a must read!”

“I truly fell in love with An Eternity of Roses.”

“This story is definitely going into my “To be Read Again” pile.”

Download from:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/13cT8Qy

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/TFFH8E

Amazon (print): http://amzn.to/11hmLma

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/146WxmN

Barnes and Noble (print): http://bit.ly/11hmFem

Smashwords:   http://bit.ly/V0gWVJ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/TVLOEY

iTunes: http://bit.ly/SYUSMv

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/13vbYmX

Somewhere My Lass by Beth Trissel

Somewhere My Lass by Beth Trissel

BOOK PREVIEW

I asked my Facebook friend, author Beth Trissel if she would like to contribute to my blog and she has graciously obliged me. I’ll let her tell you all about her latest book (I love time travel stories!) which I think sounds like a lot of fun!

“Thanks, Christine, for having me on your super site to share about my suspenseful time travel romance novel, Somewhere My LassBook 2 of my Somewhere in Time series. Somewhere My Lass was an intriguing tale to weave and quite an adventure. It’s also one I had no intention of undertaking until the vivid dream that led to the startling intro: the hero, Neil MacKenzie, returns home from work to find his elderly housekeeper lying murdered at the bottom of the winding staircase and a young woman in full Scottish dress slumped at the top. She, however, isn’t dead.

‘What the heck,’ I said to self. And that’s all I had to go on at the start of this venture, but was so intrigued I had to learn their story and pondered all the clues given. An old Victorian house, check, I’m very familiar with those; man wearing modern suit, so the story opens in present day, got it, but the young woman came from the past. Scotland’s past. This will take some doing, I concluded. Being a member of Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, a fabulous online group, was/is a great resource. I’d taken a Scottish history class and reread that trove of material while doing my usual obsessive research. I love gleaning more about the past and used an actual feud in 1602 between the MacKenzies and MacDonalds as a jumping off place.

Both Neil and the heroine, Mora Campbell, were so clear in my mind and a lot of fun to work with—send their regards—and definitely rank among my cast of favorites. The romance between them is one of the best I’ve written. The chemistry just took off. Although the heat level of this book would be termed sensual, not super-hot.

The wonderful old homes I grew up in and visited over the years are an integral part of the inspiration behind this series. In Somewhere My Lass, I used a compilation of Victorian homes for the mysterious house in historic Staunton, Virginia (my birth place) where the story begins. How do they go back and forth in time, you may ask. Why through ‘the door to nowhere,’ of course, a portal to the past. I was acquainted with just such a door as a child.”

“Mrs. Trissel masterfully blended the past and the present in order to create a lovely romance that spans centuries.” ~ Long and Short Reviews

“A good adventure and romantic time travel story that delivers.” ~ Romance Novel Junkies

“A Wonderful Time Travel Romance.” ~ Night Owl Reviews

Story Blurb:

Will Mora and Neil be too late to save a love that began centuries before?

The MacDonald comes’ warns Mora Campbell when Neil MacKenzie finds the young Scotswoman lying unconscious at the top of his stairs after he discovers his murdered housekeeper slumped at the bottom. Mora’s claim that she’s his fiancé from 1602 and was chased to the future by clan chieftain, Red MacDonald, through ‘the door to nowhere’ seems utter nonsense. Neil thinks she’s addled from the blow to her head until his life spirals into chaos and the avenging Highlander shows up wanting blood. Mora knows the Neil of the future is truly her beloved Niall who disappeared from the past, but he must also remember. And fast.

Although Niall’s kinsmen believe he’s dead, and Mora is now destined to marry his brother, she’s convinced that if she and Neil return to the past, all will be right. The balance of the present and future are in peril if she marries another, and the Neil of the present will cease to exist. The only problem is how to get back to 1602. An ancient relic, the ultimate geek friend, and a little Celtic magic help pave the way back to the enormous challenge that awaits them. If they’re in time.

A Bit About Beth: Married to my high school sweetheart, I live on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia surrounded by my children, grandbabies, and assorted animals. An avid gardener, my love of herbs and heirloom plants figures into my work. The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration. In addition to American settings, I also write historical and time travel romances set in the British Isles.

For more on me, my blog is the happening place:  http://bethtrissel.wordpress.com/

Also catch me on, Twitter and Facebook.

***Somewhere My Lass is available in Kindle for the lofty price of .99, where it currently has 22 5 star raves.

The Time In Between by Maria Dueñas

BOOK REVIEW
Title: The Time In Between
Author: Maria Dueñas
Publisher: Atria Books
Released: November 2011
Pages: 624
ISBN-10: 1451616880
ISBN-13: 9781451616880
Stars: 3.0

A book could have all the rave reviews in the world from prestigious sources (as this one does); it could have a beautiful, stylish jacket, an author who is a PhD, and be set in countries that you have an interest in, and still not be what you expected it to be.  This is the case for me with The Time In Between by Maria DueñasSimon & Schuster Canada generously gifted me with an advanced reader’s copy of this bulky, literary spy novel because after I read its synopsis, I really wanted to read it.

The Time In Between by Maria Duenas is an international bestseller that spans the Spanish Civil War to World War II. This beautifully spun novel tells the story of a seamstress who rises to become the most sought after couturier and an undercover spy who passes information about the Nazi regime to the British Secret Service through a secret code stitched into the hems of her dresses.

The Time In Between is one of those rare, richly textured novels that, down to the last page, has you hoping it won’t end. Written in splendid prose, it moves at an unstoppable pace. An exceptional debut, it is a thrilling adventure through ateliers of haute couture, the glamorous elite, political conspiracies and obscure secret service missions blended with the unhinged power of love.”

The fact that it took me over two months to read and I seldom found myself wanting to make time to finish it is definitely not a good sign.  I’m trying to figure out why I feel this way about the book because it certainly has an interesting storyline and I enjoyed the section that was set in the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco (Tetouan) very much.  However, I just didn’t really connect with the main character, Sira Quiroga, because she felt quite restrained and lacking in passion for life and love and that’s not how I expected to feel.  She evolves from a being an uneducated young woman who is foolish in love, to a self-doubting, fearful entrepreneur, to a confident, globetrotting secret agent.  I pictured her as Angelina Jolie: someone who is beautiful to look at, interesting for a while, capable of acting fragile or tough, and then you just get sick of her.  Perhaps some of her character traits didn’t translate well from the original Spanish (Daniel Hahn translated), but I found it hard to really empathize with her or understand why she would decide to become a spy for the British when she didn’t seem to have any real understanding of what was going on in her own homeland of Spain nor in England during World War II at the time that she became a spy.

The novel begins in Madrid at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War with a young, naïve Sira about to marry a “modest government clerk” after knowing him for only a few weeks.  She works as a seamstress with her mother in a local dressmaker’s shop that services a distinguished clientele.   As she is considered a girl with no professional expectations, it makes sense to her to marry Ignacio and become a wife and perhaps later, a mother.  But she doesn’t really love him and it doesn’t take long for her to be completely swept off her feet by a smooth-talking, tall, dark and handsome typewriter salesman named Ramiro who she meets when Ignacio convinces her that she should learn how to type and takes her shopping for a typewriter.  Sira quickly breaks Ignacio’s heart when she leaves him for Ramiro.

Sira’s mother, who had raised her as an only child on her own, introduces Sira to her father, a wealthy engineer and foundry owner named Gonzalo Alvarado, who is married and has two sons from whom he is estranged.  Gonzalo is worried about the state their country is in under Franco’s dictatorship and fears for his life so he decides to put his affairs in order and acknowledge his daughter by giving her an inheritance consisting of boxes of family jewels.  He convinces Sira that she must leave Madrid for Morocco where it will be safe and although her mother refuses to join her, Ramiro goes willingly to Tangiers, and later, unsurprisingly, deceives Sira by leaving her and stealing her family jewels.

Alone and unable to pay her hotel bill, Sira flees to Tetouan with next to nothing, only to be apprehended by Commissioner Claudio Vázquez who then decides to help her get back on her feet so that she can repay her debt, by putting her in the care of a street smart boardinghouse owner named Candelaria.  Candelaria the Matutera (the Smuggler) is one of my favourite characters in the book because she has a large, fearless personality to go with her heart of gold.  She doesn’t always operate on the right side of the law, but she’s a survivor who is willing to help those who are less fortunate and will do whatever it takes to keep food on her table and the authorities off her case.  It’s not long before Candelaria and Sira embark on a dangerous, exciting adventure that leads to Sira being able to set up her own dressmaker’s shop where she suddenly finds herself making clothes for wealthy Nazi’s wives and meets a mysterious blonde British waif named Rosalinda Fox.  Rosalinda is involved in an extramarital affair with Spain’s high commissioner in Morocco, Lieutenant Colonel Juan Luis Beigbeder and they (who were in fact real people) are responsible for recruiting Sira for a life of espionage.

I was quite transfixed with the story up until this critical juncture.  Sira’s friendship with Rosalinda presents a pivotal turning point in her life.  Dueñas’ narrative prose is exceptional and historical research thorough.  The story moves quite quickly in Part One and is still captivating in Part Two (Tangiers in the 1930s) where we meet another interesting character named Félix who becomes a good friend to Sira.  However, as the plot becomes more about politics and espionage, the characters who are introduced are unsympathetic and tedious, with the exception of Marcus Logan, but even he isn’t allowed to be truly remarkable until the very end and by then I just didn’t care.

A lot more occurs in The Time In Between, but I won’t give away the entire plot.  It’s full of twists, turns and individuals whose lives later intersect.  By Part Three, Dueñas started to lose me and from there on it took me a long time to finish reading the book.  In Part Four, Sira, now using the name of Arish and pretending to be Moroccan, departs for Lisbon to try to infiltrate a textile distributor named Manuel Da Silva who is in business with the Third Reich.

So in contradiction of Simon & Schuster’s synopsis, I found myself wishing the book would end because it moved from the second half on at a sluggish pace and I didn’t find much emphasis was put on the power of love at all.  This is not a love story but rather the story of a gifted seamstress who discovers that she has what it takes to be a great spy, in spite of the people she cares about.  This is just my opinion.  A Nobel Prize Laureate loved it so I think you’ll have to decide for yourself.

The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Book Review
Title: The Map Of Time
Author:  Felix J. Palma
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Released: June 27, 2011
Pages: 624
ISBN-10: 1439167397
ISBN-13: 978-1439167397
Stars:  4.0

I recall that The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma was a very fun Sci-Fi/Adventure read, filled with fascinating concepts, but to be honest I’m so behind in my book reviews that I have read six other books since this one, so I will do my best to reiterate my opinion of Palma’s now.

Originally, Felix J. Palma’s novel was printed in Spanish as he is a celebrated and critically acclaimed author in Spain.  Simon & Schuster Canada graciously provided me with an advanced reading copy of the translated edition and I must apologize to them for not writing a review of it in a timely fashion.  Life and work do often get in the way of hobbies.

Felix J. Palma was inspired to write this novel when he re-read The Time Machine by one of his favourite writers, H.G. Wells, and so great was his inspiration that he made Wells a character in The Map of Time, along with authors Bram Stoker and Henry James.  He set the story in 19th century Victorian London (at the time the largest city on earth) beginning with the horrific reign of Jack the Ripper who is also a character, and also included an interlude with Joseph (a.k.a. John) Merrick, the Elephant Man.  This is one of the main reasons why I found the book so intriguing.  It is set during a time in history that I find very interesting as so much new technology was being born during the Industrial Revolution and some of the greatest scientific thinkers of all time were inventing their greatest and most life-changing inventions.

Palma managed to get into the head of H.G. Wells and wrote a multi-dimensional character in him that rings entirely true within the context of a fictional story that deals with love, predestination, greed, jealousy and revenge, and also speaks to the very nature of time.

The Map of Time is presented by a narrator (who I envision as a man not unlike the narrator in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who speaks directly to the reader and makes an appearance from time to time, including at the beginning of each part of the novel (of which there are three), to do a little narrative juggling and make sure that we understand the author’s intentions for his storyline.

The story begins with the introduction of young noble Andrew Harrington who is still reeling, eight years later, from the murder of his beloved prostitute girlfriend Marie Kelly, at the hands of Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel.  Andrew wants to die but his cousin Charles decides he must intervene and give Andrew a reason to keep living.  Charles gives Andrew a copy of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells which he doesn’t read and then later introduces him to the sinister Gilliam Murray, the creator of Murray’s Time Travel, a business that has become a hit with London’s upper class as it professes to transport its patrons to the year 2000 where they can watch a re-enactment of the cataclysmic battle between the brave Captain Derek Shackleton and the evil automaton Solomon that has taken over the world.  Charles is convinced that if he can get Murray to send Andrew back in time to the exact night of his beloved’s murder that he will be able to prevent Jack the Ripper from killing her.

Murray deflates the Harringtons’ balloons by explaining that his time machine can only travel to the year 2000 and he cannot help them.  So Charles decides to seek out H.G. Wells, who must have invented a time machine that could travel to any year, to see if he can.

Part Two introduces Claire Haggerty, a young woman of means who yearns for love and adventure and who is not content with her lot in life, but rather wishes that she was born in another era.  Claire and her friend Lucy have decided to take Murray’s Time Travel trip and while Claire is in the year 2000, she accidentally meets the forbidden Captain Derek Shackleton who she falls in love with at first sight.  This, of course, causes serious problems for both of them.

In Part Three, Inspector Colin Garrett of Scotland Yard (imagine Johnny Depp’s character in Sleepy Hollow) battles with his weak stomach to try to find the killer of a corpse found in Marylebone – a corpse which just happens to sport a ghastly wound that could have only been inflicted by the weapon he had seen Captain Derek Shackleton wielding in the year 2000 during his visit there.

The “Map of Time” ponders the ways our minds can create our own truths, denying what we don’t want to know or see, believing what we most wish to be true. And by making Wells the fulcrum, the book also becomes a wonderful meta-fiction, commenting on the act of writing itself, and how fiction can shape and alter our lives. ~ Sarah Willis

This is extremely satisfying storytelling even though it does go on a bit in places (the novel is over 600 pages).  Palma deftly weaves the tales of all of his remarkable characters in a seamless plot line that will keep you turning page after page long into the night when you should have turned out the lights.  Palma’s writing is so good that H.G. Wells, himself, would have been proud.