Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: The Secret Language of Stones

The Secret Language of Stones: A NovelAuthor: M.J. Rose
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Series: The Daughters of La Lune # 2

As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

Of all the work I did, I found that it wasn’t the watches but the solace my lockets gave that proved to be my greatest gift to the war effort.

Trying to find where his amorphous fingers had lain, trying to pick up a sense of him. But there was nothing there. He’d gone. And I was alone. Again.

Every soul requires secret places for contemplation as well as open spaces for celebration.

This book looks and reads like a dream. Every single word was so eloquent, beautifully written, and perfectly placed. This story is enchanting and will be sure to capture readers from the first paragraph. We follow a group of extraordinary women, especially zoning in on Opaline. Opaline has a gift for working with stones and jewels and uses her magic as a connection from the living to the dead. The setting is the always wonderful Paris, but this time the book is set during World War I, when most of Europe was being ravaged by war. The author makes everything seem so real; readers will feel like they are time traveling right back into the pages of history.

The war is especially brought to life throughout the pages of this book. Readers will face love, loss, political intrigue, and a bit of the paranormal as they journey through this book. This book literally mixes all of my favorite genres into one: historical fiction, paranormal romance, and anything that has to do with magic. I was so entranced as I read this story. I couldn’t take my mind off of the characters and all the unanswered questions that I had even when I wasn’t reading. I didn’t realize after reading The Witch of Painted Sorrows that this would end up being a series, but I am so pleased and cannot wait to see where the story goes from here!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Atria Books in exchange for my honest review***

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Review: A Certain Age

A Certain AgeAuthor: Beatriz Williams
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow

The bestselling author of A Hundred Summers, brings the Roaring Twenties brilliantly to life in this enchanting and compulsively readable tale of intrigue, romance, and scandal in New York Society, brimming with lush atmosphere, striking characters, and irresistible charm.

As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband. 

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

And I decided, right then, that there was something to be said for a young lover, after all.

It’s Sylvo, who rises from his desk and kisses me tenderly, and then sits me down on the leather Chesterfield sofa, hands me a glass of cream sherry, and tells me he wants a divorce.

Too bright, really. Last night’s paltry fall of snow has given way to a sky make of blue ice, and a brilliant sun fixed at its eastern end. 

Beatriz Williams has such a way with words. I have read every single book she has published since 2013. I cannot get enough of her writing and her incredible characters and story lines. This time she writes a compelling piece set in the every elusive Jazz Age. Our story this time around follows a Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue who has fallen in love with a younger man while trying to hide it all from her husband. Throw another, much younger, woman in the mix and you have got yourself a little scandal, which is just what happens in this story. Not everything is as it seems and all of the characters in this fabulous new novel definitely have something to hide.

I must admit that Theresa Marshall, the main character, was my least favorite character for many reasons. However, I enjoyed reading about the mess she got herself into. The four or so main characters spin a web of lies and deceit and as the story unravels we, the readers, find out more and more about these characters. By the end of the story I was blown away by how meticulously Williams weaved a tale so spectacular and vivid that I did not want it to be over. I have not found a single one of her books that does not mesmerize me within the first chapter and give me so much to invest in. Beatriz, please do not stop writing!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at William Morrow in exchange for my honest review***