Monday, 29 July 2013

Desperate Duchesses (Desperate Duchesses #1), Eloisa James - The Review

Rapiers. Dawn, Wimbledon Commons, near the windmill. Tuesday. I have a chess game planned with Lord Bonnington tomorrow and can’t bother with this. You are a hot-headed Fool who clearly has no sense of the Importance of Women (none whatsoever) nor of a good Sleep (vastly to be desired). I shall, however, resign myself to killing you.

Roberta St. Giles knows that if she leaves the matter of getting her married off in the hands of the Mad Marquess (her poet dad), she will die an old hunchbacked maid, so when she meets and instantly falls in love with  the most eligible bachelor in the kingdom, she takes matters into her own hands. She pursues the duke of Villiers to London intending to have his hand in marriage one way or another.

The Concept
So what do you do when you commit to writing a historical romance novel/series but you are too gifted of a writer to just write a typical girl meets boy ....... boy marries girl story?

You give us a whole cast of beautifully drawn characters who all have so much interesting stuff going on with them, and then expertly weave into the story, references to and games of that wonderfully elitist, pseudo-intelligent game of chess.

The Writing

The Story
Roberta is twenty one and unmarried! Even more tragic, there are no prospects on the horizon. All the eligible bachelors are in London and she is stuck in the backwaters of somewhere. She is therefore not about to ignore fate when it brings the magnetic - 'He was a dangerous mixture of carelesness and supreme elegance' - Duke of Villiers into her life. He promptly offers her a roll in the hay, not caring whether he shall have her or not. She declares "You shan't have me" and proceeds to immediately fall in love.

Jemma, recently arrived from a life of pleasure, balls, and sin in Paris to bear her husband, the Duke of Beaumont an heir before he unexpectedly drops dead from overworking himself in the house of Lords, decides to take Roberta on as a project. She will take advantage of the fact that she is a superb chess player to get the chess obsessed Duke of Villiers to give up his lady killer ways and settle down with Roberta.

Who have we left out? Jemma's brother of course. And her husband. And her childhood bestfriend.

What have we left out? It is set in late eighteenth century United Kingdom.

The Resolution
After the duel at Wimbledon Commons, near the windmill, Boy marries Girl.

The Verdict
Reading the book is like watching Sergei Bubka jump. You are wowed until you realize he's holding himself back just so he can break the world record again next week. And the week after that.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Skios, Michael Frayn - The Review

Dr. Norman Wilfried and Fox Oliver (Mr.) exchange identities (accidentally so for only one of them) and proceed to take us on a hilarious journey where we are invited to choose to ponder existentialist theories or not ponder.

The Concept
Suppose you write a book with a perfect mix of humour which tickles the thoughts of the mind's eye and humour that overwhelms the vision of the mind's eye, would the mind's sense of humour be grateful or be resentful?

Throw in questions about the meaning of life, the beginning of life, the idea of predestination, the non-rigidity of identity and other questions, to ensure the sourpuss mind without a sense of humour comes away with something as well.

Write the book well.

The Writing
It is very well written.

The Story
Oliver Fox mostly lives up to his reputation. He is a live in the moment guy - see a fork in the road, take it, go where it goes, and if it goes nowhere/somewhere unpleasant, retrace your steps.

Oliver has had his plans for a fuck filled weekend in the Greek island of Skios fucked up by a last minute rescheduling/cancellation.

Oliver sees a fork in the road on arrival at the airport - an enticing, well put together gentle woman, holding up a sign for Dr. Norman (or Wilfried, it has been at least a month, I forget which is which), entreats him with a smile to be the said doctor.

Oliver becomes Dr. (two first names), having, surely, by some act of providence been mistakenly stuck with said doctor's luggage.

Phoksoliva is the unlikely Greek salutation, which alters the course of Dr. Wilfred Norman's (or Norman Wilfred's) Greek adventure. Instead of the pampering his well earned reputation as a sought after, international, guest speaker deserves, he ends up in a remote cabin miles away from any living creature, save for a herd of goats, until he is joined first by Mr. Fox's intended sexual feast for the weekend and then by Mr. Fox's somewhat estranged long term girlfriend.

There's little chance you'll forget at any point in this book that it is a farce.

The Resolution
There is a moment of horror when it seems all the book will leave behind are probabilities and possibilities of several endings. In the end though, we are treated to an outrageous and fantastical ending, which in my opinion takes more away from the story than it adds.

The Verdict
If you fail to have a successful relationship filled with love and laughter with this book, be not mistaken, it's you not the book.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Blind Sight (Through The Eyes of Leocardo Reyes), Ermisenda Alvarez - The Review

The Concept 
Here's this normal ordinary guy, Leocardo, at home with his normal ordinary blind sister on a normal ordinary day.

Blind sister, Odette, starts to act strange, and next thing you know, Leo and Odette are installed in a new apartment, as the newest reluctant immigrants on a picturesque, magical island nation, Edaion, on which you may only use your magic in the winter - when all the tourists are gone. 

No Leo, you are no tourist, you can't leave. Yes Leo, this is where you belong, nobody not even your parents remember you in your former existence. Focus Leo, your sisters' gifts may have put her in peril of her life, you must protect her. What now Leo, you like the princess?! She may be with the bad guys, you know? 

So magic, got it. Intrigue, check. A pseudo-kidnap, got it. Romance, check. Add in the philosophical question of whether (and if yes why?) history repeats itself and top it off with a race against time and circumstance to save the lives of a number of strangers and as well as the beloved Odette's. 

The Writing 
It didn't go down as easy as it should have. 

There didn't seem to be much wrong with the writing though, so I figure it had more to do with the often-times strange usage of language. Chalked it down to English not being the author's first language. 

The Story 
Leocardo Reyes and his sister Odette are transported by what can only be magic, from their home in Barcelona, to a beautiful and strangely alive land, minutes after the blind Odette had drawn that land to exquisite detail and immediately after they'd both been captivated by the flashing of the name of an island nation, Edaion, on TV. 

Leocardo does his best to settle them in Edaion while carrying on an inner battle with the magic of Edaion, to remain in charge of his desire to go back home. 

Thoughts of escape soon give way, to the more pressing matters of whether Odette's unique gifts place her in the center of a historical political intrigue which would cost her, her life, and what the right thing to do to save her is.  

The Resolution 
When the end comes, many of the key questions still remain unresolved. There is the big build-up, the fire, and the collaborative heroics, but it didn't feel like an appropriate end, if only because the link to Odette's recovery is imo a bit tenuous. 

The Verdict 
I couldn't really get into it. 

It's a good story and even with the sometimes not so familiar English language, it is well written. 

So much as I hate to admit that my like or dislike for a main character greatly influences my take on a book, my feelings about Leocardo, (I saw a whiny, gay, twelve year old bitch! - he was none of these things of course but that was my impression of him), may have had a bit to do with my inability to really like the book. 
This post is part of the Blind Sight Blog Tour. Blind Sight is an urban fantasy novel written in two volumes, each telling the story through a different character's perspective. preview on Barnes and Noble preview on Amazon

Blind Sight (Through The Eyes of Leocardo Reyes), Ermisenda Alvarez - Author Insights

Ermisenda Alvarez on Dreams, Imagination, and Perspectives
Blind Sight Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes by Ermisenda AlvarezI had a dream; I wanted to write novels. I have been writing since I joined a Harry Potter guild on Neopets at twelve years old. You could write short pieces to receive points. Writing didn't stop there. I had a vivid imagination; I wanted to know more. Often, after finishing a book I pondered about how the story could have been retold from a different perspective, maybe a different character. What if we were able to read the story of Snape over the course of seven novels rather than Harry Potter? I had chance on my side; I met Eliabeth and we were two young women crazy about writing. So, what did we do? We wrote. How did we write? The nature of our friendship began on a role-playing site whereby we wrote from different characters to create scenes and stories. We had a dream, vivid imagination and each other. What more did we need? Not much else as we embarked on an amazing journey and wrote Blind Sight despite living half the globe away. Writing a novel was a dream I have had for a long time but I was so excited to write a two-sided novel that followed two different perspectives. It was an ambitious choice for us to make but one of the best. We have not only challenged ourselves but have provided readers with a new way of reading. For those who only wish to read one side, that is okay, but for those of us who are interested in the power of different perspectives and multiple stories we have another side to offer. The power of multiple stories cannot be emphasized enough in our daily lives. How many times have we heard one story about an acquaintance but once we have met them, we receive a second story, in which might completely contradict the first. Is either one wrong? Maybe not. But your understanding of the person, or novel in the case, is enriched. Growing up in a Spanish family and living in Australia has taught me a lot about language in my, so far, short life. My very first language was Spanish, but when school started English became my "mother" tongue. A simple saying can dramatically change through translation, those of you who know more than one language will understand this perfectly. I have had to translate pieces of Spanish into English for friends and even though the words I have translated make sense in English, only I can grasp the full meaning and implications of the phrase. Staying open minded, listening to varied opinions and soaking up what we can from the zillions of stories out there in the world is part of life. Eliabeth and I have channeled the essence of that concept into our first two-sided novel. We live on an earth with billions of people. We all think differently, we see the world differently and together, we are the characters of humanity. I am inspired by dreams, imagination and people. The story of Leocardo, Aniela, and Odette in Blind Sight can be enjoyed through one color, one perspective but, why limit yourself? There is not only another color to live through but together, a new range of shades to enjoy. Ermisenda Alvarez This post is part of the Blind Sight Blog Tour. Blind Sight is an urban fantasy novel written in two volumes, each telling the story through a different character's perspective. preview on Barnes and Noble preview on Amazon

Blind Sight (Through The Eyes of Leocardo Reyes), Ermisenda Alvarez - An Excerpt

Blind Sight Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes by Ermisenda Alvarez

Blind Sight is an urban fantasy about a blind girl who suddenly develops the ability to draw. Told in two different novels, Ermisenda tells the story through the eyes of the blind girl's brother, Leocardo. He thinks Odette is having premonitions. The other volume written by Eliabeth, tells the story through the eyes of Odette's best friend Aniela, who thinks Odette is a medium channeling voiceless spirits. This is the prologue to Blind Sight Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes.

Blind Sight Through the Eyes of Leocardo Reyes


by Ermisenda Alvarez

  Something was wrong. Leocardo’s blind, sixteen-year-old sister Odette was drawing. She stood next to the fridge and scribbled feverishly on a piece of paper.   “Odette?” he walked over, certain his eyes deceived him. He quickened his pace when she didn’t respond. “Odette what are you doing?”   Something was wrong with her eyes; her pupils were huge, and they engulfed her usual chestnut color.   “Odette, stop.”   He tried to pull her arm, but like a cat that didn’t want to be picked up, she seemed to become instantly heavier. The pen continued to run across the page as her silence persisted. He frowned, growing angry.   “Odette!” She did not flinch.   He glanced down at the paper and realized her scribble was actually an image. Trees and mountains framed a large lake on the paper and Leocardo was frozen in confusion. How was she drawing? The pen fell onto the paper as Odette collapsed into Leocardo’s arms.   Twisting her around to face him, he demanded, “What were you doing? Answer me!”   Her limp body shook in his arms; her eyes closed and she was barely audible as if on the brink of passing out. “I don’t feel good,” she murmured weakly. Even though she was naturally petite and fragile, now she looked like she was about to shatter. “I want to sleep.”   The warm brown crept back into her unfocused eyes and her pupils normalized.   “Odette,” he started again, but her trembling became more violent so he stopped. “Okay.” He scooped her up in his arms and carried her to her room. As soon as she hit the sheets, the trembling stopped and almost as quickly, snoring followed.   Leocardo wanted to wake her up so he could question her, but he wasn't sure if she would have any answers. He couldn’t help but wonder if this had happened to her before. He stormed back to the kitchen, picked up the paper, and examined the drawing. The sun’s rays tore through the clouds, and Odette had even added glimmer to the lake’s rippled surface. Odette had been blind since birth; so how could she have drawn this so perfectly? If he hadn’t seen her doing it, he never would have believed it.   Leocardo slouched into the leather couch, still holding the paper. He felt a throbbing pain behind his eyes. Staring at the drawing, he tried to glean some divine understanding of what it meant or how she had done it. His black labrador, Cielo, had abandoned him to sit outside Odette’s bedroom. He was stunned; he knew he shouldn't have been angry with her, but he had been scared and confused.   An hour passed; he was no more enlightened. He looked up to find Odette standing in the open doorway to her room. He kept silent, but his gaze followed her. She seemed better, no longer moving with the mechanical gestures she had used when she was drawing. Cielo’s nails clicked on the hardwood floor as she followed Odette’s every move.   With disbelief, he watched as Odette began to prepare some sandwiches. “Odette,” he called softly, not wanting to startle her.   “Yeah?”   Leocardo hesitated; why was she acting like nothing happened? “What happened to you before?”   She shrugged, “I guess I had low blood sugar. It was just a headache.”   “What do you remember?” he pried. How could she not remember?   “I had a headache. I went to the fridge. I got dizzy for a second. You caught me.” She paused. “How’d you get from the couch to the fridge that fast?” she asked, as though he was the one who did something strange.   “What?” Irate, he marched over. “Don’t you remember drawing this?” He flapped the page so she could hear it rustle. “What are you trying to pull? This isn’t a game.” He was losing his already short patience. Something could be seriously wrong and she was being evasive.   Her brow pressed together and her lips thinned as she let out a frustrated huff. She spoke slowly, as if concerned he was losing his mind. “Leo…you know I can’t draw, much less see whatever it is you might be holding.”   “I know you can’t,” he said a little defensively. Why was she questioning him when she should be providing answers? “You got up and went to the fridge before you started to draw this. I’m not making this up. I have the drawing right here in my hand!” He restrained himself, shaking the paper again, as if hearing the sound made his story more believable.   Odette’s calm expression indicated that she was not amused.   “How can you not remember?” he asked angrily.   He sighed and dropped the drawing onto the floor. His fingers ran through his hair as he tried to make sense of everything without flying off the handle.   “I’m sorry,” Odette murmured, “but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”   “It’s okay…sorry,” The moment was awkward and disjointed; he was unsure what to do. Odette went back to making the sandwich, and Leocardo returned to the sofa. He snatched the remote and flipped between channels until he settled on the news.   Tragedies flashed on the screen as Leocardo watched, desperate for a distraction. Something wasn’t adding up, cognitive dissonance, ironic that something he was learning in school was relevant to his life for a change. Maybe he imagined it all. Maybe the lack of sleep was getting to him and he had drawn it. Television bored him, but he didn’t know what else to do. The news changed topics, now featuring Alaska and its trading partners.   “Edaion,” Leocardo repeated one of the countries listed. A sudden and overwhelming desire to visit this island nation overtook him.   Odette came over and sat next to him, her unfocused eyes in the direction of the screen. Leocardo leaned forward as if being pulled into the screen. He was mesmerized. Slowly he felt his eyelids droop.   “Edaion,” Odette whispered. A silence fell over them and a supernatural film began to wrap around them. Invisible to all, it pressed down on them. Cocooned in this new state, he continued to stare in a trance at the screen. Unable to understand why, he had never wanted anything in his life as much as he wanted to travel to Edaion.   When he tried to stand, he felt an immense pressure upon his shoulders, face, and chest. He reached out to Odette, feeling as though he was falling through the sofa itself. Cielo whined and nuzzled his knee. His grip around Odette’s hand tightened. Suddenly the pressure snapped and he felt the painful sensation of being rammed from all sides, as if hit by a train.   In a dreamlike state, he stumbled forward with Odette sandwiched between him and Cielo. They were somewhere else, no longer in the cozy Barcelona apartment. The air was clean and chilly. A stranger’s arm brushed up against him as a group huddled together, all looking lost and confused. Half a dozen dogs circled and sniffed them. While trying to restore his equilibrium, he noticed the dogs wouldn’t leave Odette alone. They sniffed and licked her palms causing her to wipe them on his shirt. Someone asked him if he was okay, but he didn't answer. The speaker herded the group onto a bus, and as soon as he was seated, Leocardo’s head fell against the windowsill. Blackness engulfed his vision.   The bus lurched and Leocardo was propelled into the seat in front of him. His eyes flew open; his throat felt dry and his nose was pink from the cold. Someone held a colored version of Odette’s drawing before his eyes. It was blurry, and as he reached out, his fingers hit glass. With his sleeve, he wiped the window to see the drawing become clear. Something was wrong.   Why was it behind glass? Where was he? Why was he on a bus? His gaze darted back to Odette who had Cielo nuzzling her affectionately. Her eyes were closed. He woke her up with a shake of the shoulders.   “What is this?” Leocardo demanded as if she would know.   “What’s what? You’re the one who can see, remember?” Her voice was soft and timid. He realized she was just as confused. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close and then placed a soft kiss on her forehead.   His gaze returned to the window. It was still there. As the bus meandered through perilous mountains, he never lost sight of the lake. It was glistening, majestic and overwhelming in size, but it was not a drawing. This time he knew it was real. Something was terribly wrong.   -end excerpt- This post is part of the Blind Sight Blog Tour. Blind Sight is an urban fantasy novel written in two volumes, each telling the story through a different character's perspective. preview on Barnes and Noble preview on Amazon