Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley



"Riley's engaging and mezmerizing story of self-discovery and love...can be perfectly read as a standalone. This book will appeal to readers of Edwardian novels and Jane Austen-style fiction." —Library Journal (starred review)


Travel through the lush English countryside and explore the magnificent estates of the British aristocracy in this next spellbinding love story in The Seven Sisters series by #1 internationally bestselling author Lucinda Riley.



Star D’Apli├Ęse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.



A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life...



As Star learns more of Flora’s incredible journey, she too goes on a voyage of discovery, finally stepping out of the shadow of her sister and opening herself up to the possibility of love.



The Shadow Sister is the third in the sweeping Seven Sisters series, “soaked in glamour and romance” (Daily Mail) and perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and the novels of Kate Morton.

Review

This is the third novel in the Seven Sister series, but one doesn't have to read the books in order to understand the backstory as each book can stand alone. There are six sisters who were adopted from different parts of the world by a billionaire father. When he passes away, he sets each daughter on a journey of discovery to find her roots. The premise is fascinating, and I suspect the last sister will be revealed at the end of the series. This is the hook that will keep me reading each installment.
Star's story weaves back and forth in time with a woman of 100 years earlier. As the story unfolds, Star develops into a character of great strength. Although the first part of the novel is a tad slow, persevere a little and then the story will really take hold. A great little gem of a read! Looking forward to the next novel in the series. 


Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo


"In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Palombo has married fine art with romantic historical fiction in this lush and sensual interpretation of Medici Florence, artist Sandro Botticelli, and the muse that inspired them all." - Booklist
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.

Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

My Opinion

Was there really a love between Simonetta and Sandro Botticelli? No one will ever know for certain. Although this is only deemed a rumor, author Alyssa Palombo explores this possibility. The prose is lovely, filled with wonderful descriptions of Florence with its location, fashions, and famous personages. The author truly did a fabulous job of weaving a fascinating tale, especially once the conflict kicked into high gear. Simonetta is truly a likable character, aware of her great beauty, but never vain, never one to flaunt it or use it to her advantage. Sandro Botticelli was portrayed as simply enchanting, honorable, respectful. But my highest praise is for the author who chose a lesser known woman in history and recreated her vibrant life. It was a real pleasure to read about someone other than the same over-used female figures such as the Tudor wives. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron


From the bestselling author of The Bear, the enthralling story of two women separated by millennia, but linked by an epic journey that will transform them both.

40,000 years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. After a crushingly hard winter, their numbers are low, but Girl, the oldest daughter, is just coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the annual meeting place and find her a mate. But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling of unknown origin. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter storms, Girl realizes she has one final chance to save her people, even if it means sacrificing part of herself. In the modern day, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby comes. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of early motherhood, both stories examine the often taboo corners of women's lives. Haunting, suspenseful, and profoundly moving, The Last Neanderthal asks us to reconsider all we think we know about what it means to be human.

REVIEW

Novels set in prehistoric times are rare, so I couldn't resist reading this one. The story unfolds through the points of view of two main characters - "Girl" who is a Neanderthal in prehistoric times, and Rosamund Gale, a modern day archaeologist. During an archaeological dig, Rosamund discovers the bones of a Neanderthal and a human in a grave face to face. The story shifts back and forth between the two characters, highlighting not only the complications in their lives, but also their two pregnancies.

Like most novels set in prehistorical eras, I did find a lot of detail and description, but that is to be expected as it is necessary to fully flesh out the early historical period. As for the contemporary setting, there were a number of characters that played minuscule roles in the story and this sometimes stood in the way of allowing the main characters to be fully developed. I also was hoping for a romantic link between the persons the bones belonged to. Despite that, the book was well written and held my interest to the end. A great easy read.

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King



Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.

Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.

REVIEW

Ancient Rome is skilfully blended with the history of Roman cuisine in this fabulous new debut novel by author Crystal King. With colorfully faulted characters, she weaves a tale to include every aspect of the dark side of ancient Roman culture: slavery, violence, murder, poisonings, and intrigue. 

The story's main characters are Apicius, an extremely wealthy and wasteful man who desires fame through culinary extremism, and the talented slave named Thrasius who can fulfill his dreams. 

The prose flows easily and it is easy to fall into the story. The characters' personalities leap off the pages. The food descriptions tantalize as well as repulse with its numerous unusual ingredients. There were plenty of machinations and subplots that kept me riveted to the end. I love Ancient Rome and this was a great read. 


The Half Wives by Stacia Pelletier




Over the course of one momentous day, two women who have built their lives around the same man find themselves moving toward an inevitable reckoning.


Former Lutheran minister Henry Plageman is a master secret keeper and a man wracked by grief. He and his wife, Marilyn, tragically lost their young son, Jack, many years ago. But he now has another child—a daughter, eight-year-old Blue—with Lucy, the woman he fell in love with after his marriage collapsed. 

The Half Wives follows these interconnected characters on May 22, 1897, the anniversary of Jack’s birth. Marilyn distracts herself with charity work at an orphanage. Henry needs to wrangle his way out of the police station, where he has spent the night for disorderly conduct. Lucy must rescue and rein in the intrepid Blue, who has fallen in a saltwater well. But before long, these four  will all be drawn on this day to the same destination: to the city cemetery on the outskirts of San Francisco, to the grave that means so much to all of them. The collision of lives and secrets that follows will leave no one unaltered.

REVIEW

This is a very creatively unique novel. The story takes place of the course of one very important day in the lives of the main characters: Henry, his wife Marilyn, his lover/mistress Lucy and their daughter Blue. The setting is San Francisco in the early 1900's and pertains to an old pauper's cemetery where Henry and Marilyn's only child, Jack, is buried. Their toddler accidentally died on his birthday and that day torments the hcouple on each anniversary.

Despite his failing marriage, Henry cannot bring himself to leave Marilyn for Lucy and his illegitimate daughter Blue. Likewise, Lucy, unhappy with the status of her long-term relationship with a man who will never fully belong to her. 

The author used second person narrative which I found distracting and I disliked. Despite that, the story capture my attention and held it to the end. I recommend this novel for readers who enjoy uniquely written novels outside of the mainstream and for those who like to delve deep into the psyche of a book's characters.