5 Feb 2020

Review - A Shadowed Fate by Marty Ambrose

  Title: A Shadowed Fate (Claire Clairmont #2)

  Author: Marty Ambrose

  Publication Date: March 03, 2020

  Synopsis:


1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is reeling from the series of events triggered by the arrival of Michael Rosetti two weeks before, which culminated in a brutal murder and a shocking revelation from her old friend, Edward Trelawny.

Stunned by her betrayal at the hands of those closest to her, Claire determines to travel to the convent at Bagnacavallo near Ravenna to learn the true fate of Allegra, her daughter by Lord Byron. But the valuable Cades sketch given to her by Rosetti is stolen, and Claire soon finds herself shadowed at every turn and in increasing danger as she embarks on her quest. Is the theft linked to Allegra, and can Claire uncover what really happened in Ravenna so many years ago?

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

I've been waiting for A Shadowed Fate for a long time and here it is at last. Marty Ambrose managed to pull me in with her first book in her Claire series so much, that in the past 1.5 years I've been checking and rechecking if there were any news about the second instalment. It hits the shelves shortly, and I received a copy on NetGalley, so here is what I think.

I flew through this novel as well as the first one. They are quite short  which is a shame. In ASF Claire is going on a road trip with her friend Trelawny and her small family in order to find out what happened to her daughter, Allegra, when she lived in the convent of Bagnacavallo. While on the road a dangerous stranger seems to be on their heels, and with Byron and Shelley's valuable letters in her pocket Claire has to look over her shoulder continuously if she wants to keep her loved ones safe.

Like in Claire's Last Secret, here we got glimpses into the past too, this time of Byron's years in Ravenna, when he supported the Carbonari's revolution for a united Italy. Through journal entries the reader gets caught up in a shoot-out at the fringe of a forest, where Byron is the target, and an equally heated situation on the streets of Ravenna, where once again, bullets fly low. It was an interesting addition to the book, because I've never really read much of this part of Byron's life before.

I also enjoyed the child Allegra's journal entries and was glad the author gave her a voice. I'm looking forward to read more of her story later.

Claire and Trelawny's relationship develops quite a lot in this novel and we hear more of the one night they spent together in the past. We are also given reasons why it never really worked out between the two and we are left with a big question mark regarding their future relationship. Another reason for me to want to read the third book.

Diving into Marty Ambrose's prose was easy, as if I had just finished the first book and picked up the second right after. She's got a very clear style and she makes you care and root for her characters. It still surprises me, but with some magic she makes me like Claire, while I've never really cared  much for her before.

Sign me up for the last book in the trilogy, I'm still in! 



Read my review of Claire's Last Secret here.

4 Feb 2020

Review - The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Title: The Secret Garden

 Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

 Synopsis:

  Mary Lennox is sent from an India as an orphan to live at
 Misselthwaite Manor. She arrives as a sour-faced,
 sickly and ill-tempered little madam but becomes friends with
 local lad Dickon and her poorly cousin Colin. In their
 restoration of a secret garden all their lives are changed for the better.



My Thoughts:

When, once finished,  you close a book with the thought: "I'll definitely read this to my children one day", that's a clear testament to the book's merits.

The Secret Garden is pure magic, an ultimate feel-good retreat, a novel that shows the healing power of nature and the world around us. Though generally labelled as a children's book, it is not only for children; it warmed my poor adult heart in ways that are impossible to describe.

"Mother says as th' two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way – or always to have it."

When Mary Lennox arrives to Misselthwaite Manor, she's a haughty, self-centered little girl. While before she was always surrounded with people who served her, at the manor she's left to her own devices to entertain herself throughout the day. Her uncle Craven is hardly ever at home, and Martha the maid has chores around the house therefore she cannot be with her all the time. 

When she ventures outside to the gardens she feels a change in herself that she cannot really grasp, and when Ben the gardener and Martha mention a garden that has been locked up for 10 years, she cannot help but dream about finding the key.

The Secret Garden has a history that has something to do with the soft crying of a child she hears on the corridors of the manor sometimes, and of course Mary has to go and investigate. 

Strong friendships are born in this book that bridge gaps in between classes. Martha's little brother Dickon is like a little Mowgli of the Yorkshire moors, he charms Mary very quickly with his gentle nature and ability to speak with the animals.  

"Where you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow."

Three children find a haven in this novel; a place where they can grow, heal and learn, and as they do, the reader does the same alongside them. Again, I say, it is a magical experience. 


26 Nov 2019

Film Review - La Novia (The Bride)

  Title: La Novia/The Bride

  Director: Paula Ortiz

  Year: 2015

  Genre: Drama

  Cast: Inma Cuesta | Álex García | Asier Etxeandia

  Trailer

  IMDB

My Thoughts: 

The film is based on the Federico García Lorca play Bodas de Sangre (Blood Wedding), which I read this month. It wasn't a question that I'd watch this adaptation, given that I know some of the actors and I'm always in search of new Spanish films/series for language learning purposes.

Blood Wedding was inspired by a true story from 1928, when a bride fled her wedding with a cousin, who was later murdered by the groom's brother. The difference in Lorca's version is that the the lover and the groom himself face each other in the end to create the tragic conclusion of the drama together.

The creators of La Novia stayed loyal to Lorca's play in many ways. Almost all the lines the characters speak come from the actual text and the lyrical quality and the beautiful cinematography support each other so well, together they create a brand new work of art. 

Each frame if carefully composed, masterfully arranged, the whole movie is a real delight for the eyes. The rhythm of Lorca's 'singing' poetry beats together with these pretty visuals the feeling of pain and pleasure is intensified by being transmitted through both words and scenery at the same time.

There are frames where individual characters stand alone, like the bride in white dress in front of the night sky and the moon above, or the lover, Leonardo on her horse, a solitary figure in a desert-like dry-yellow landscape these all took my breath away. The group scenes at the wedding and the wedding party are amazing as well, especially the parts with singing and dancing in it.

I absolutely loved the music. García Lorca was first and foremost a poet, and he also collected folk songs for a long time. His poem/song La Tarara that he composed from several songs for children was also put in the film, the scene in which the bride sings it is one of my favourites. A Spanish version of Little Viannase Waltz, which you might know from the Leonard Cohen song 'Take This Waltz' is used, during the knife-fight scene.

The only thing I found a bit too much in the movie was how the symbols were overused. The play itself is full of objects and characters that have certain meanings, like the horse, the different kind of flowers, colours, the character of the moon and the beggar woman. There is too many of these, even in the original material if you ask me, and the makers of the movie added some more which seemed superfluous. However, they merged the moon and the beggar character into one and that I consider a good choice, the twist they pulled in the end with this character was pleasantly surprising too.

I could rave on about this film forever and I think I'll rewatch it many times yet.

15 Nov 2019

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #37

Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.

What I started reading this week:

(Whyborne & Griffin #3)
by Jordan L. Hawk

Synopsis:

Mysterious happenings are nothing new to reclusive scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne, but finding one of his colleagues screaming for help in the street is rather unusual. Allan Tambling claims he can’t remember any of the last hour—but someone murdered his uncle, and Allan is covered in blood.

Whyborne’s lover, dashing ex-Pinkerton detective Griffin Flaherty, agrees to prove Allan’s innocence. But when Allan is deemed insane and locked away in the Stormhaven Lunatic Asylum, Griffin finds himself reliving the horrifying memories of his own ordeal inside a madhouse.

Along with their friend Christine, the two men become drawn deeper and deeper into a dark web of conspiracy, magic, and murder. Their only clue: a missing artifact depicting an unknown god. Who stole the artifact, and why can’t Allan remember what happened? And what is the truth behind the terrible experiments conducted on Stormhaven’s forbidden fourth floor?

It will take all of Whyborne’s sorcery and Griffin’s derring-do to stop the murderers and save Allan. But first, they must survive an even greater challenge: a visit from Griffin’s family.

Book Beginning:

Newly installed electric lights blazed from atop the department store, theater and even the street corners where ordinary gas lamps had burned just a month ago.

The winds of change are blowing in Whyborne and Griffin's world.

The Friday 56:

He flung himself off the end, dragging me with him. We had an instant of weightlessness as we fell – then the rank water slammed into me with physical force, knocking the air from my lungs before it closed over my head.

From what I've read so far from this book it looks like water as an element will have a key role in the story.

What are you reading this week? Share your Friday post with me by leaving a link below.

12 Nov 2019

Review - Escape to Everly Manor by Chalon Linton

   Title: Escape to Everly Manor

   Author: Chalon Linton

   Synopsis:

   Nineteen-year-old Lizzy and her young brother, Thomas, find themselves orphaned after a tragic accident claims the lives of their parents. Their estranged Uncle Cline arrives to claim his inheritance, and his roguish ways cast a shadow over the manor. Both the family estate and guardianship of his niece and nephew were left to him, and diabolical Uncle Cline is determined to indulge in his newfound wealth and rid himself of his charges. Desperate to save her brother from a dangerous life at sea, and herself from being married off to a detestable old gentleman, Lizzy knows there is only one choice left—they must run.

Lizzy and Thomas sneak away and find refuge in an abandoned cabin. There they remain hidden—until fate acquaints Lizzy with Mr. Barton, a charming gentleman who is immediately intrigued by the mysterious young woman. Concealing her identity, Lizzy is unaware that there is much more to this compassionate man than meets the eye. Through his kindness to herself and her brother, Lizzy begins to trust him. Soon Lizzy realizes Mr. Barton may be her best hope for a life in which she can live—and love—as she chooses . . .

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:


The cover caught my eye on NetGalley, I find it very pretty with the autumn forest and the solitary lady in the center. The fact that I've basically only read regency romance from Jane Austen so far urged me to give it a try too.

The story is simple: two orphans, Elizabeth and Thomas, run away from an evil uncle to avoid being separated from each other. They come across a kind-hearted gentleman who is willing to help them. Romance ensues but it only complicates things. The choice between her dear brother and the love of her life seems impossible to Lizzy.

I instantly connected to Lizzy because I myself have a young brother and just like Lizzy I'd do anything to keep him safe. Sisterly love was such an important force in this story, it drove the plot, which I appreciated because it balanced out the romance that slowly developed between Lizzy and Barton and thus kept it from being cheesy.

The little brother Thomas somehow grounded Lizzy and made her look beyond the pink cloud. You guys know that these days romance is a risky genre for me because I often find myself impatient with it, but here I felt it was well-executed.

There were quite a lot of twists in the story; an accident, an unexpected and unwanted guest appearing, a rescue mission having to be planned... I was never bored while this book was in my hands.

I'm hoping to ready more such good regency romances in the future.

5 Nov 2019

Review - Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss

   Title: Pressed to Death (Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum #2)

   Author: Kirsten Weiss

   Synopsis:

   Perfectly pressed. Perfectly proper. Perfectly deadly.

Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski thinks she has the perfect paranormal exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But before she can open the exhibit, she’s accused of stealing the antique press. And when her accuser is found murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie.

Solving the crime is the last thing on Maddie’s mind, but her mother insists she investigate. Does her mother have a secret agenda? And why has the local charity, Ladies Aid, seemingly gone gangster?

In this light, cozy mystery, haunted houses, runaway wine barrels, and murder combine in a perfect storm of chaos. Facing down danger and her own over-active imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum. 

My Thoughts:

I've been eager to 'visit' San Benedetto again after reading the series opener of The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum this spring. I'd forgot how much I like small town crime/mystery stories and these cozy books reinitiated me into the genre.

Just like in the first novel our protagonist Maddie Kosloski plays detective after a vineyard owner is found dead in a grape vat. To the current-time crime joins a past mystery around a haunted grape press that Maddie acquires for her museum. 

The double puzzle is always a joy in Kirsten Weiss's books and I also appreciate that Maddie has to investigate not only in the future but back into the past too. So far in both novels there was a haunted object through which San Benedetto's murder-ridden history was revealed and with each story you wonder less and less why the body count is growing in this sleepy rural town.

Again, I had a good time getting to know the new characters (there are a lot of them and Weiss still juggles them well): Leo, the weird teenage kid, who is suspicious but whom Maddie likes a lot, Elthia, who runs a Death Bistro and is pretty emotional all the time, the new tyrannical leader of Ladies Aid who acts like she is the Godfather... All of them were pretty entertaining.

After Maddie got together with Mason the motorbike shop owner viking in the first book I expected to see their relationship blossom, however the guy is pretty much absent most of the time and Maddie has to rethink their relationship while she deals with everything else that disrupts the peace in San Benedetto. I didn't mind that, because I ship Maddie hard with Detective Slate and as things are looking I might get my wish and see them together in the next book...

Until I get there, I cannot recommend this book series enough for people who are after a light, entertaining, fun read for a cozy weekend.


 Read my review of The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum here.

Next in the series:
by Kirsten Weiss


1 Nov 2019

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #36

Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.

This week the spotlight is on:

by Norah Lofts 

 Synopsis:

'Princesses are born to the exiled. What is the alternative? Spinsterhood?' Thus the future of Caroline Matilda, youngest sister of George III, was settled - exile to a foreign country, and marriage to a nearly insane Crown Prince of Denmark. This novel tells her story.

Book Beginning:

The Dowager Princess of Wales had long ago learned to control her voice, her facial expression, and her hands; but in anger or distress the pupils of her eyes widened, reducing the blue to a mere rim. 

The Friday 56:

He had entertained thoughts – When I am King I will put Count Reventlow in the Blue Tower and have him beaten, every day – but such thoughts were not sufficient to sustain him in moments of misery.

Not a very promising king-to-be...

Leave a link to your Friday post so I can visit your blog and see what you're reading this week.