Monday, March 30, 2015

Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1)

Title: The Witch of Painted Sorrows
Author: M.J. Rose
Publisher: Atria Books
Published: March 17, 2015
Series: Daughters of La Lune #1
Format: Kindle ARC
Pages: 384
Date Read: February 24, 2015
Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley 
in exchange for an honest review
Add To Your TBR list on Goodreads

My Rating: 2 Stars

Synopsis:
 Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

Melissa's Musings:
When I first got approved for The Witch of Painted Sorrows, I was thrilled. Both because it was my first time ever requesting a book from Netgalley, and being approved, and because the premise of this book seemed so interesting.

I'm sad to say my interest in the synopsis was misguided.

As a main character, Sandrine didn't really do much for me. I wasn't all that interested in her. She just didn't feel fleshed out enough. Of what we learn about Sandrine, most of her personality is clouded over by the secrets of the life that she's running from, and then further complicated by the family history that she's run into by coming to Paris.

I was more intrigued by her grandmother. She too, was a frustrating character, in the sense that she only hints at things that Sandrine needs to know, but doesn't come right out and say them. Sadly, she her role is quite diminshed as the story progresses.

The most frustrating part of reading this book is that every time it seemed like Sandrine's grandmother was finally going to tell her the truth about the history, and why Paris isn't a good place for Sandrine to be, the author throws in some useless detail to distract the story and never gets to revealing anything of importance. One scene where Sandrine and her grandmother are in a restaurant, is particularly aggravating. They are eating and it seems like Sandrine is finally going to learn about her family history the story turns to the atmosphere of the restaurant, and then it weaves back around, and just as they are going to discuss the curse a rock comes right through the window where the two are sitting. There are a few other instances of this, but the restaurant scene is the one that most stuck out for me.

One of the parts of the book that I did enjoy was the authors world building in terms of the setting. I really felt that I was back in Paris in the Belle Epoque of the late 1800's. There are several well placed mentions of literature  of the time throughout the story. And of course there is all of the exploration of the art of the time, which is of course central to the story and the family curse. As frustrating as the distraction of it was, the setting in the restaurant scene also helped paint the picture of the time and the world that Sandrine and her grandmother were living in.

There is a romance between Julien and Sandrine that is important to the story but it fell flat for me. The love scenes between them do have an element sensuality, but overall there is too much to be learned about Sandrine's secrets and not enough foundation apart from the physicality to become caught up in their romance.

The witchcraft/occult element of the story is a bit more dark and twisty than I was expecting. Normally the stories I read about witches have to do with the exploration of their powers. This story is ultimately about how La Lune posesses Sandrine and gets her to do disturbing things to ensure that she can be with Julien. I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

There's an element of religion to the story as well, so you see both the light and dark sides of Sandrine's predicament. I'll let you guess which one wins out in the end.

The end of the story is predictable. I was rooting against the ending, but I understand why it has to play out that way because that's the best way to set up the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, I was not impressed. The story felt half-hearted. Sandrine isn't an interesting enough main character for me to want to read on about what happens in the rest of her story. And while the history, art, and setting of the time are intriguing, they aren't enough to keep me reading either, unfortunately.

Before this story, I had not read any of M.J. Rose's other works. After reading this, I'm not sure I will read any of them.

I'd love to hear other thoughts and opinions on this novel. Have you read it? What did you think?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review: Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen

Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen (The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, #2)

Title: Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen
Author: Sally Smith O'Rourke
Publisher:  Victorian Essence Press
Published: September 22, 2012
Series: The Man Who Loved Jane Austen #2
Format: Kindle
Pages: 261
Source: Received from author in exchange
for an honest review.

Synopsis: 
Was Mr. Darcy real? Is time travel really possible? For pragmatic Manhattan artist Eliza Knight the answer to both questions is absolutely, Yes! And Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley Farms, Virginia is the reason why!

His tale of love and romance in Regency England leaves Eliza in no doubt that Fitz Darcy is the embodiment of Jane Austen’s legendary hero. And she’s falling in love with him. But can the man who loved the inimitable Jane Austen ever love average, ordinary Eliza Knight?

Eliza’s doubts grow, perhaps out of proportion, when things start to happen in the quiet hamlet of Chawton, England; events that could change everything. Will the beloved author become the wedge that divides Fitz and Eliza or the tie that binds them

My Rating:
3 Stars

Melissa's Musings:

When Sally Smith O'Rourke first approached me about doing a review of this book I was hesitant. Ashamedly, I have never read any of Jane Austen's work, (Horrible, I know. Though they are on my TBR) So, I was afraid that I wouldn't be the best candidate  to do a review. She assured me that I didn't need to be familiar with Jane Austen's work in order to enjoy the books, and she was right.

I did thoroughly enjoy this book. It is told in alternating chapters, that flash back and forth between a span of a few years in the 1800's and the present day.

The story itself is an easy read. I wouldn't say that I got swept away by it, but it was enjoyable. I wish that there had been more rounding of some of the characters, but I understand why there wasn't. The main focus of the story was on Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the progression of his relationship with Eliza. 

Jane's role could possibly be seen by some as a love triangle of sorts, depending on how you look at it. Except Fitz is never in love with Jane herself, only the idea of her. Though Eliza's jealousy of the time he spent with Jane, is a very real thing that she has to work through so that they can move forward with their own relationship.

I would say that the story is very much romanticised. Fitz says a lot of things that are just right, and the disagreements between he and Eliza don't last all that long.They're  solved in what seems like seconds.  The details are perfect in setting the scene for the romance between  Eliza and Fitz, and although Eliza puts up some resistance, it didn't feel genuine to the vibe I got from her character. I would have liked to have seen more of a struggle between them, instead of them just feeling "like home" for each other throughout.

The one naggingly unexplained detail is the whole fact that no one ever really figured out the time travel element. That was too easily wrapped up and explained away. 

Simmons, the stable hand employed by Jane Austen's brother wants to go through the portal that is open between the two times to see if there will be better opportunities for him in Fitz's time. So, he goes through the portal in a field of the Chawton estate that opens at sunrise and sunset.

There just happened to be a renactment going on the day that Simmons stepped through the portal, so he fit in well enough. They assumed he was Amish to explain away his lack of understanding of technology, and they automatically assume that he knows Fitzwilliam Darcy without checking to find out for themselves. I wish that there had been some mention of how the portal was discovered in the first place. Since this is the 2nd book in the series the explanation isn't there, but I feel it would have helped to have a brief recap of some sort.

Overall, the story is very enjoyable. It's a nice look at Jane Austen's world for someone who isn't quite ready to delve into her work, with a nice glimpse of what she might have been like. If you're looking for an easy, romantic read, this is it.

If you'd like more information on the author and her books, be sure to check out this guest post

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Reading Challenges

I decided not to do a 2014 recap post, since my reading in 2014 was pretty lackluster.

If you'd like to check out those lackluster results you can take a look at my Past Reading Challenges page

I'm keeping this year's goals simple again.

  • Continue with my goal of reading 1,000,000 pages in my lifetime:  Currently 93,022 pages
  • Read 115 Books
  • Read 15,000 pages
  • Witches and Witchcraft Reading Challenge (Detailed post on this coming soon)
What are your reading goals this year?