Friday, September 28, 2018

#BookReview: That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

Genre
Biographic Fiction

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Social Media
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DESCRIPTION: 
The Paris Wife meets PBS's Victoria in this enthralling novel of the life and loves of one of history's most remarkable women: Winston Churchill's scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome.

Wealthy, privileged, and fiercely independent New Yorker Jennie Jerome took Victorian England by storm when she landed on its shores. As Lady Randolph Churchill, she gave birth to a man who defined the twentieth century: her son Winston. But Jennie--reared in the luxury of Gilded Age Newport and the Paris of the Second Empire--lived an outrageously modern life all her own, filled with controversy, passion, tragedy, and triumph.

When the nineteen-year-old beauty agrees to marry the son of a duke she has known only three days, she's instantly swept up in a whirlwind of British politics and the breathless social climbing of the Marlborough House Set, the reckless men who surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Raised to think for herself and careless of English society rules, the new Lady Randolph Churchill quickly becomes a London sensation: adored by some, despised by others.

Artistically gifted and politically shrewd, she shapes her husband's rise in Parliament and her young son's difficult passage through boyhood. But as the family's influence soars, scandals explode and tragedy befalls the Churchills. Jennie is inescapably drawn to the brilliant and seductive Count Charles Kinsky--diplomat, skilled horse-racer, deeply passionate lover. Their impossible affair only intensifies as Randolph Churchill's sanity frays, and Jennie--a woman whose every move on the public stage is judged--must walk a tightrope between duty and desire. Forced to decide where her heart truly belongs, Jennie risks everything--even her son--and disrupts lives, including her own, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Breathing new life into Jennie's legacy and the gilded world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult--and sometimes impossible--balance between love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history.

REVIEW: 
The “Dollar Princesses” are experiencing a surge of popularity, and I can’t say I’m upset to see it. In a blatant exchange of cash for class, these women crossed the Atlantic to marry into the old-world aristocracy. Their wealth revitalized the fortunes of Europe’s elite, but their marriages were often complex, challenging, and dramatic affairs.

Taking inspiration from the life of one of the most scandalous of these women, author Stephanie Barron reimagines the charisma, vitality, and grit of the American-born mother of Sir Winston Churchill. Jennie Jerome was a force in her own right, and Barron’s work explores both the roots of her strength and the trials it saw her through.

I enjoyed That Churchill Woman. The cast felt decadent and fresh, and I loved the social politics of the story. Barron put a great deal of research into the narrative, and I felt her supporting cast, notably Consuelo Yznaga and Mary ‘Minnie’ Paget, as dynamic as Jennie herself. Jennie’s relationship with Kinskey didn’t read as strongly as I’d hoped.

Barron has some exciting content in this piece, but I felt the lack of focus created thematic conflict. Jennie is the heart of the story, but Winston inexplicably becomes a second narrator in the latter chapters, and the book subsequently shifts from Jennie’s character to interfamily relationships. I liked the idea, but I couldn’t help feeling it weakened the ending by allowing the novel’s heroine to be eclipsed by her firstborn.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 25, 2018
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

#BookReview: The Witches of St. Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones

Genre
Biographic Fiction

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Social Media
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DESCRIPTION: 
Inspired by real characters, this transporting historical fiction debut spins the fascinating story of two princesses in the Romanov court who practiced black magic, befriended the Tsarina, and invited Rasputin into their lives—forever changing the course of Russian history.

As daughters of the impoverished King of Montenegro, Militza and Stana must fulfill their duty to their father and leave their beloved home for St. Petersburg to be married into senior positions in the Romanov court. For their new alliances to the Russian nobility will help secure the future of the sisters’ native country. Immediately, Militza and Stana feel like outcasts as the aristocracy shuns them for their provincial ways and for dabbling in the occult. Undeterred, the sisters become resolved to make their mark by falling in with the lonely, depressed Tsarina Alexandra, who—as an Anglo-German—is also an outsider and is not fully accepted by members of the court. After numerous failed attempts to precipitate the birth of a son and heir, the Tsarina is desperate and decides to place her faith in the sisters’ expertise with black magic.

Promising the Tsarina that they will be able to secure an heir for the Russian dynasty, Militza and Stana hold séances and experiment with rituals and spells. Gurus, clairvoyants, holy fools, and charlatans all try their luck. The closer they become to the Tsarina and the royal family, the more their status—and power—is elevated. But when the sisters invoke a spiritual shaman, who goes by the name of Rasputin, the die is cast. For they have not only irrevocably sealed their own fates—but also that of Russia itself.

Brimming with black magic, sex and intrigue, The Witches of St. Petersburg is an exquisite historical fiction debut novel filled with lush historical details from the Romanov era.

REVIEW: 
Fair warning folks, Imogen Edwards-Jones’ The Witches of St. Petersburg is not appropriate for those with weak constitutions, and before anyone asks, the answer is no, that statement has absolutely nothing to do Rasputin’s gherkin-scented breath or wart-tipped phallus.

The hard truth of the matter is that if you can’t stomach the prying of a half-developed chick from its egg, the disintegration of a miscarried fetus as part of a summoning spell, or the idea of Alexandra Feodorovna dropping to her knees to scoop up and eat vomit from the snow-covered ground, this book isn’t for you.

Genre readers who get frustrated when significant liberties are taken with the source material might want to think twice too. A date change is one thing, but pitching Suzanna Catharina de Graaff’s claim as fact is a bit of a stretch. An interesting and arguably creative stretch, but a stretch just the same.

At four hundred and sixty-four pages, The Witches of St. Petersburg is an absolute beast! The pacing is also slow, and I had a tough time with the characters. I don’t mean that I hated them or anything. I just couldn’t understand them or their motivations. Were they selfish social climbers or self-sacrificing Montenegrin royalty? The novel sways back and forth, but the lack of clarity made it impossible for me to appreciate what either sister was about.

There’s some exciting content in this piece, and I think the author flirts with some fascinating concepts, but the execution was all over the place. Complex stories are great, but they need to translate, and I can’t say I felt this one successful on that front.

Not for me and not something I’d have an easy time recommending forward.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Edelweiss
Read: September 25, 2018
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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

#AuthorInterview: Historical Fiction Interview with Kate Quinn, author of The Huntress

Genre
War Era Historical

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Social Media
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DESCRIPTION: 
From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, THE ALICE NETWORK, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.

In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.

Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.

In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth. 

Welcome to Historical Fiction Reader Kate. It’s a pleasure to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us about The Huntress.
Thanks so much for having me! In a nutshell, THE HUNTRESS is a World War II-centric novel about a battle weary English journalist, a Russian female bomber pilot, and a teenage photographer joining forces to track a Nazi murderess gone to ground in post-war Boston.

At risk of sounding impertinent, where did you find this story? Did it strike like lightning out nowhere or did the idea grow over time?
As I was looking for inspiration about what to write after THE ALICE NETWORK, I stumbled across the story of Hermine Braunsteiner, a brutal camp guard nicknamed “The Stomping Mare” for her treatment of prisoners at Ravensbruck. She was discovered decades after the war, living as a housewife in New York, and her husband and neighbors were dumbfounded to learn her history as a war criminal. I was immediately fascinated by telling a story like that from both ends. What would it be like to track such a woman, to try to get inside her head and figure out where she might have gone to hide and why she did the things she did? And what would it be like to live with such a woman, and suddenly realize a person you loved and thought you knew was capable of such terrible things? That gave me two of my three narrators—Ian, a British war correspondent turned Nazi hunter, obsessed with bringing my Nazi murderess to justice; and Jordan, a bright and photography-obsessed teenage girl in Boston who loves her father's new German girlfriend, but also thinks there's something just a little bit...off. That was probably enough to make a novel on its own, but then I also stumbled across the story of the Night Witches, the all-female regiment of night bombers who flew against Hitler's eastern front, and I was so fascinated with their incredible history I knew I had to fit them in, too. It took some mental jig-saw work, but all three threads came together in the end, and I knew I had my story.

Nina and Yelena are Night Witches. Why did you want to write about these women? 
Because the Night Witches are some of the most badass ladies in history, and my goal in life is to find badass women of the past and bring them to life. The Soviet Union was the only country in the Second World War to use women in combat—there were female tank commanders, female snipers, female fighter pilots and bombers—and the all-women regiments of fliers were formed by Marina Raskova, an aviatrix who was basically the Soviet Amelia Earhart. The night bomber regiment flew outdated cloth-and-plywood biplanes, which they would switch off completely at the start of their bombing run, descend silently on their target to drop their payload, then throttle back up and sideslip away from the resulting ground-fire. Taking a plane into the air and then turning it off—that's a certain kind of crazy! The Germans said the whistling of the wind over those cloth-covered wings sounded like witches on broomsticks, and so the nickname die Nachthexen was born. The women flew ferociously long hours on little to no sleep, and they earned more Hero of the Soviet Union awards—the Soviet Union's highest decoration—than any other comparable male regiment.

Ian and Tony represent a unique group of real-life men and women who dedicated their lives to pursuing war criminals who’d escaped justice. Can you tell us more about these characters and the people who inspired them?
Even before the war was over, war crimes investigation teams were being formed to investigate the horror of the camps, log testimony, preserve evidence, and bring the guilty to justice, but it was far too enormous a task to succeed on any sweeping level. The Nuremberg trials brought only a fraction of the guilty to trial, and after they were over, there was a public sense of “well, now that's done” when in reality there were still many guilty parties unpunished. Some fled overseas and some simply went home and took up their old lives; the world wanted to move on from war trials, and the Soviet Union was turning into the new enemy rather than the defunct Third Reich. Most of the official war crimes investigation teams were disbanded, but a handful of individuals continued the fight. Fritz Bauer, a Jewish prosecutor who makes a cameo appearance in THE HUNTRESS, battled considerably antipathy from his peers in his tireless efforts to try and convict German war criminals. Serge and Beate Klarsfeld were a husband and wife team (the inspiration for the husband and wife team in THE HUNTRESS) who famously caught Klaus Barbie “the Butcher of Lyon” and got him extradited to be tried in France. Simon Wiesenthal is perhaps the most famous Nazi hunter, a camp survivor with an extensive and somewhat checkered record of captures; his refugee documentation center was invaluable in preserving evidence and witness testimony from the death camps. There was no unified strategy among the Nazi hunters, who frequently disagreed as to tactics: some insisted on above-the-board extradition after locating a war criminal, others had no compunction about performing a kidnapping rather than trusting the extradition process; others favored outright execution. My fictional heroes Ian and Tony, like many real-life Nazi hunters, are motivated at least in part by personal loss: Tony is Jewish-American and lost entire branches of his European-based family to the Holocaust, and Ian's younger brother—a captive gunner from the Dunkirk retreat—was murdered rather than being taken to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Lorelai fascinated me to no end. There is no mistaking her role, but she boasts a complexity that is hard to miss. Was she a challenge to write? 
Yes, she was. I made her a fictional composite of two real women—Hermine Braunsteiner, who I mentioned above, and Erna Petri, an SS officer's wife who during the war found six Jewish children (escapees from a transport train) hiding near her home in Poland. She comforted the children, took them home, fed them a meal—then took them out to the woods behind her house and shot them. The question that begs to be asked is “How could anyone do such a thing?” It's certainly the question my characters ask Lorelei when they find her. But there isn't any answer to a question like that. It was tough to write her because I had to stay outside her point of view, yet know what was going on inside her head as this very intelligent woman slowly realizes she's being tracked.

PTSD manifests itself in a number of ways in the narrative. Ian, Nina, Lorelei, Ruth and Eve (for those who’ve read The Alice Network) all suffer in some capacity. Why did you choose to hone on this particular subject? 
PTSD is something I know a lot about. With my husband being active duty Navy, I've gotten to know lots of military men and women, and a number of them have suffered from PTSD to some degree depending on their experiences. It's something that manifests differently for everyone who has it, and showing the range of that experience is one of my goals in writing war-damaged characters. Ian, a war correspondent, has seen more action as a journalist than many soldiers—war correspondents hopped from one hot zone to the next, so their war records frequently read like a highlight reel of the most violent conflicts a war had to offer—yet he doesn't feel he has a right to be traumatized, because he was a writer rather than a soldier. Nina, a Night Witch pilot, adapts very well to the inhuman conditions of night bombing (little sleep, over-strain, getting strung out on the stimulants Russian military doctors gave their pilots to keep them awake) but struggles after the war with the lack of purpose in her life, missing the camaraderie and companionship of her regiment. Ruth is a Jewish child who witnesses terrible violence when she is too young to understand it, and struggles with the trauma of half-remembering and half-forgetting what she saw and what it meant. Lorelei, even if she is the villain who has done terrible things, grieves for the people she loved and the home she lost when Germany lost the war. And Eve—who does make a cameo in this book!--suffered terribly from the guilt of betraying her friends in THE ALICE NETWORK.

Water spirits filter in and out of the story. What inspired you to include this content? 
I was trying to find a link that would pull together my Night Witch storyline and the storyline with the Nazi murderess, and I let out an almighty yelp of inspiration the day I found it: Lake Rusalka, a beautiful little man-made lake created by the Nazis in occupied Poland. A rusalka is a Russian lake spirit, a beautiful nymph who comes from the water and is said to have a kiss that kills. Lake Rusalka gave me a real location where my Nazi murderess and my Russian pilot could face off, and it gave me a theme too as I started researching the different kinds of water spirits across a variety of cultures. The Russians and eastern Europeans have the rusalka, the Greeks have the siren, the Scottish have the selkie, the Germans have the lorelei...with that idea of the water nymph, sometimes benevolent and sometimes malevolent, I knew that I could tie the various women of this book together. Nina, my Russian heroine, begins the novel standing on the shore of the vast rift lake Baikal in Siberia. Ruth, my young Jewish heroine, witnesses a terrible crime on the shore of Altaussee in Austria. Lorelei (and of course I had to give her that name, as soon as this idea took hold) grieves for the home she has lost on Lake Rusalka in Poland. Jordan, my young American heroine, begins the novel standing on the shore of Selkie Lake in Massachusetts...and it's around the shores of that lake that all the heroines will at last meet at the very end of THE HUNTRESS. (Ok, I admit made up Selkie Lake so the mythology would work out nice and neatly, but all the other lakes are real!)

What resources proved the most beneficial to your research? 
Amazon with their “One Click Buy” feature and their “Customers who bought X also bought Y” feature are both the bane and the salvation of my research habit. I use my share of online resources, but for in-depth research I like paper books—easier to flip through to find what I need, rather than search in an e-version—and I like to own my research books because I need to underline, dog-ear, and make incoherent margin notes of USE THIS!!! as I go. So whenever I start a new book, I go on a book-buying binge hunting for cheap $5 used copies of all the books I want for my research library. One particularly useful volume was “A Dance With Death,” a collection of interviews done in the nineties with many of the surviving women who had been Night Witch pilots during the war. It was both hair-raising and utterly fabulous to see a photograph of a tiny white-haired Russian babushka with a Red Star and a Hero of the Soviet Union pinned to her cardigan, matter-of-factly saying in her interview “When the bomb got stuck on the rack mid-bombing-run, you climbed out on the wing and gave it a push.”

Do you have a favorite scene in The Huntress? 
Nina's first scene on Lake Baikal, which is such a fabulous setting I knew I had to use it as soon as I saw pictures. The wild dangerous beauty of the world's deepest rift-lake, poised on Russia's furthest eastern edge, somehow made Nina click in my head—she took off in that scene, and never slowed down once through the entire book. I've rarely had a character take over a book from me so strongly.

Authors are often forced to make sacrifices when composing their stories and I always wonder what ended up on the cutting room floor. Is there a character, scene, or concept you wish you could have spent more time on while writing The Huntress?
I read a fantastic historical snippet, when researching the Night Witches, about a male engineer who decided to start mansplaining to a bunch of the regiment's female mechanics and armorers about how to handle their equipment and fuses. The ladies, who had been continuously arming and fixing planes for two years by this point, listened in amusement and irritation until one of them observed the engineer had carelessly picked up a live explosive device and was waving it around. She tore it out of his hands and flung it away; the device exploded and a flying piece of shell gashed Mr. Mansplainer down the cheek. I imagine he was fairly red with embarrassment after this incident, and I would have loved to get it into the book, but I couldn't find a way!

If you could sit down and talk with a member or members of the cast of The Huntress, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you invite and why? 
I adore Nina, my Russian pilot, and I would love to meet her in person. She's a little whirlwind of chaos in human form—she'd tramp mud all over my house, drink her own weight in neat vodka without slurring a single word, slice her sandwiches with the straight razor she carries tucked in her boot (with which she once killed a German soldier, as she will be happy to tell you), borrow my entire stack of Georgette Heyer Regency romances, and eat every cookie, snack, and bag of chips in my cupboard. It would be a wonderful evening.

If you could pick a fantasy cast – anyone at all, living or dead, at any point in their careers- to play your characters in a big screen adaptation of The Huntress, who would you cast?
Oooh, fun question! Claire Foy (The Crown) would make a fantastic Lorelei—the mask-like face and calm blue eyes like a shield over a roil of powerful emotions would make her a fantastic villainess. Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) would be my pick for Ian; a classic lean English gentleman with a deadpan drawl and the ability to wear a fedora cocked at the perfect angle. Colin Farrell at 25 would be the perfect Tony, Ian's wise-cracking American partner with his skill for languages and his ability to sweet-talk anyone on the planet. And Tatiana Maslany proved in Orphan Black proved she could do a killer Russian accent—I think she could play Nina with just the right amount of swagger, charm, courage, and a hint of bat-sh*t crazy.

What do you hope readers take from their experience of this story? 
I hope they flip the final page thinking “That was a wonderful book, and it will make a great gift for my mom, my sister, my grandmother, my boss, my bestie, and the lady at Starbucks who makes my lattes.” :D Speaking seriously, I hope readers walk away as wowed as I was by the real historical achievements of the Night Witches, the Nazi hunters, and the female photographers who are my American heroine's inspiration. These are women of the past who deserve to be celebrated!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

#BookReview: Arthus Trivium: The Young Captive by Raule & Juan Luis Landa

Genre
Historical Graphic Novel

Series
Arthus Trivium #3

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

DESCRIPTION: 
The assignments that the students of Nostradamus have to bring to a successful conclusion are becoming more and more dangerous. Arthus goes to Cucuron with César, the oldest son of the master. But the mystery he has to clear up leads to an even more confusing puzzle! Angulus and Angelique went to Paris in search of a young girl who has disappeared. In the studio of a famous court painter a mysterious painting appears to give access to a dark, captivating world...

REVIEW: 
As with its predecessors, I feel the need to state Arthus Trivium: The Young Captive is a dark and esoteric historical fantasy. These books aren’t for everyone, but I enjoy getting off the beaten path and indulging in the creative intrigues they present.

The Young Captive is the third installment of the series, and though it picks up after The Third Magus, it represents a distinctly new chapter for Nostradamus’ disciples. Like book one, Angels of Nostradamus, The Young Captive is incomplete and builds a story I can only assume will be finished in the next volume.

The Young Captive offers significant background on Arthus and how he came to be a student of Nostradamus, and I liked how that arc paired with the flashbacks to Nostradamus’ academic career. Arthus' journey Cucuron didn't intrigue me as much as Angulus and Angelique's adventure in Paris, but I will say that I appreciated the narrative symmetry of both.

Leonardo da Vinci and the artist Antoine Caron make memorable cameos, as do some of their works. The inclusion of Da Vinci’s John the Baptist and Vitruvian Man brought an unexpected smile to my face, but I was particularly impressed by the story’s imaginative use of Caron’s Water Festival at Bayonne and can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: September 21, 2018
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#BookReview: Berezina: The Fire by Frédéric Richaud & Ivan Gil

Genre
Historical Graphic Novel

Series
Bérézina #1

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

DESCRIPTION: 
In 1812, in order to keep his stranglehold on Europe, Napoleon had no choice but to declare war on the Russian emperor, Alexander. After three months of marching, his men, starved and exhausted, finally made it to Moscow… only to discover that the city had been deserted. Thus Napoleon and his army took up residence in the Russian capital without even the slightest resistance. But by nightfall, Moscow was on fire. Houses, churches and even the Kremlin were ablaze, and the entire French army risked being reduced to ashes. Caught in the trap, Napoleon was forced to leave the city and get back on the road to face his enemy.

REVIEW: 
The Fire is book one of the Berezina series, which itself chronicles Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia. It delves into the scorched earth tactics employed by the Russians during their retreat, and there is a quick glimpse of the Battle of Borodino, but the bulk of the narrative takes place in the largely evacuated city of Moscow.

The destruction of the city it the heart of the book, but Richaud’s cast is also worth mentioning. As individuals, the characters are engaging, and I liked how the author’s decision to showcase the experiences of both occupiers and refugees gave depth to the story.

Readers should approach these books with the understanding that the three installments are not written as standalones. The trilogy follows The Battle series, and while I don’t feel it necessary to have read the earlier books, I admit I am curious to see how the two collectively link the larger story of Napoleon’s campaigns.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 17, 2018
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#BookReview: Secret Shores by Ella Carey

Genre
Literary Fiction

Buy Links
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Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble

Social Media
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter

DESCRIPTION: 
In 1946, artist Rebecca Swift’s dreams of love and a life free from convention are crashing like the waves of the Australian coast below her. And it’s into those roiling waters that she disappears.

Forty-one years later, Tess Miller’s dreams are crashing, too. The once-successful New York editor has lost her most prestigious author to the handsome new golden boy of publishing. Meanwhile, she’s stuck with Edward Russell, a washed-up Australian poet writing a novel about some obscure artist named Rebecca Swift. But Tess may have underestimated Russell. His book is not only true—it’s a searing, tragic romance and a tantalizing mystery set in a circle of postwar modernists. When Tess uncovers a long-hidden secret, she’s drawn even deeper into Rebecca’s enigmatic life and death.

As Rebecca’s past intertwines with the present, Tess finds herself falling for the last man she thought she’d ever be drawn to. On the way, she discovers the power of living an authentic life—and that transcendent love never really dies.

REVIEW: 
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to note I am in the minority when it comes to Ella Carey’s Secret Shores. The majority of those who have picked it up loved it, and while I completely respect their admiration, I confess I struggled with this piece beginning to end.

Forgive me for saying so, but I could not stand the 1980s half of this narrative. I assume that Tess was meant to read as strong and independently-minded woman, but I found her petulant histrionics nothing short of absurd. Her antics grated my nerves so badly that I nearly chucked the novel outright and probably would have if not for the merit I found in the 1940s storyline.

Rebecca is a more artistic soul, and I found myself intrigued by her drive. Where Tess is brash and self-centered, Rebecca is subtle, genuine, and creative. She hones her talents despite lack of support or respect and ultimately commands both through sheer determination and sacrifice. She is honey to Tess’ vinegar, and I thought the challenges she overcame all the more powerful for it.

I found Carey’s depiction of Australia’s modernist art movement exciting but could not help feeling it pale next to B.A. Shapiro’s handling of the abstract impressionists in The Muralist. I liked what Cary put together but I thought she could have gone deeper into the style, techniques, and ideology of the artists.

From other reviews, it is clear that Carey’s highly descriptive prose appeals to many, but the text struck me as over the top and killed the pacing. I stuck it out to the end, but the last-minute plot twist was highly coincidental and required a complete and inexplicable reversal of Tess’ character to pull off. It didn’t work in my eyes and left me at a bit of a loss.

I love that so many have enjoyed this piece, but when all is said and done, my tastes proved ill-suited to this particular narrative, and I admit I'd have difficulty recommending it forward.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley/Kindle Unlimited
Read: September 17, 2018
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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

#BookReview: Arthus Trivium: The Third Magus by Raule & Juan Luis Landa

Genre
Historical Graphic Novel

Series
Arthus Trivium #2

Buy Links
Amazon US
Amazon UK

DESCRIPTION: 
The Demon Zagan, Lord of All Things, and his undead minions have captured the young Charles IX, King of France, as well as Nostradamus and his family and are holding them hostage—but who let them into Nostradamus’ home? None other than his mentor, Scaliger, long believed dead. Consumed by envy for his former protégé, the scholar now serves Zagan, who seeks an orb created by the earliest magicians to defend the earth from the realm of the dead. It’s up to Nostradamus’ three young disciples, Arthus Trivium, Angelica Obscura, and Angulus Dante, to rescue their master from dire peril!
REVIEW: 
Book one of the Arthus Trivium series ends just as the story gets going, which is a little frustrating as you have to read book two to get a real feel for the series. Book two is more substantial, but I don't think it well-suited for those who've skipped book one.

Like its predecessor, Arthus Trivium: The Third Magus is a darkly esoteric historical fantasy with intense imagery, but this volume took it up a notch. The plot includes interesting cameo appearances by Julius Caesar Scaliger, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Paracelsus, and Nectanebo II, and while I’m not convinced any would be thoroughly impressed by their characterization, I thought their inclusion a creative use of the material. Dark as it is, I also thought the references to the Ars Goetia, notably Zagan, equally imaginative and found myself impressed with how it was folded so seamlessly into the story.

My only real complaint is that Henrietta, a character I found quite intriguing in book one, practically disappears from the narrative in book two. It makes sense in the grand scheme of things and makes Nostradamus's students develop into stronger characters, but it rubbed just the same.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: September 17, 2018
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