A witty spoof on the Gothic novel, by a master of the art. This book reads very much on the surface like a Jane Austen novel, yet with Elliot’s own spA witty spoof on the Gothic novel, by a master of the art. This book reads very much on the surface like a Jane Austen novel, yet with Elliot’s own special twists. Elliot has the same gift of sharp subtlety, which is probably why her writing sometimes reminds me of Austen.
Right away we learn that a deadly bolt of lightning has electrified a clear blue sky, striking a stone wall and causing it to collapse, squashing Uncle Greendale “flat as a crepe.” This event sets the stage for a uniquely-told, humorous (yet with a dark side) tale set in the Regency period.
Rather oddly, Uncle Greendale has left every penny (a substantial amount of them) to Clarinda, his niece, and this transforms her life. A girl of unremarkable beauty and no wealth, she has received very few offers of marriage. But of course, this infusion of cash, making her an heiress, will cause her face to shine with newfound pulchritude upon the unmarried gentlemen of her family’s acquaintance. Unfortunately, things cannot go as smoothly as they should for kind-hearted Clarinda from here on out.
Mr. Foyle dies under a strange circumstance no one can explain away, and his last advice to the Fair and Handsome (but penniless) Lord Harley Venn is “Marry the sweet girl who’ll come your way.”
One of Venn’s cronies claims to have seen something just before Foyle fell to his death—a tall, hooded figure with skeletal arms, reaching out to the victim. Venn saw it too, though he says nothing.
These are but two of a series of inexplicable deaths in The Villainous Viscount Or The Curse of the Venns.
The dialogue is utterly charming, with flavors and imagery of the actual times in which it takes place, while also walking the tightrope of being clear and accessible to the modern reader. Not an easy feat but perfectly done. The author has also included a glossary at the end for more obscure words. What I liked most was how each scene flowed as my eyes read, drawing me from one sentence to the next, as realistic and natural as though these people were in the room with me and we were all having a chat.
The Villainous Viscount is populated with a cast of eccentric characters. Reckless yet perspicacious children, pugilists, (of which Venn is a member), protective valets, and loose women.
Venn himself is subtly complex: I spent half the book despising him and the other half thinking “Awwwww.” He is dark and light in one immature yet hopefully redeemable body.
When Clarinda is exposed to Venn (the second time) she is warned off by gossip. “Avoid him without being impolite,” she is ordered. So what does Clarinda do? At the very first opportunity, she strikes up a conversation with him. The entire exchange is quite engrossing (Elliot has a real gift for dialogue) and I could see where this story was headed.
Clarinda wisely refuses Venn’s proposal, right up until the moment her reputation is ruined, yes ruined, by assisting him after he’s been beaten on the street! She helps him to his home: that’s all it takes in Regency England, I fear, to destroy a girl’s reputation.
Yet there is far more to The Villainous Viscount than a simple romance (with the ulterior motive of coin on Venn’s part and coerced submission on Clarinda’s), for soon the dark, ghostly edges come weaving in, threatening Clarinda and Venn and everyone around them. Who is the figure in the hooded robe, the appearance of which frightens full-grown men into death? Who is the vengeful, enraged Crone, and why can she not rest?
Mystery and danger creep closer as Clarinda and Venn fumble their way along, trying to make a success of their marriage, and the story moves faster and faster, turning into almost a thriller, with the Gothic addition of the climax happening at one crumbling Stoke Castle, of course!
All humor aside, there are darker underlying aspects to The Villainous Viscount Or the Curse of the Venns—violence causing repercussions that echo through the generations, and which will hearken right into our own modern times with stark, uncomfortable, disturbing clarity.
I have enjoyed every one of Elliot’s Gothic spoof-romances....more
An excellent and evocative finish to one of the best series I have ever read. As usual, Hawker captured my imagination and my attention. She took me iAn excellent and evocative finish to one of the best series I have ever read. As usual, Hawker captured my imagination and my attention. She took me into the world of Ancient Egypt, where I smelled the incense, closed my eyes against the hot wind, burned the offerings at the god’s feet, tasted the figs and honey cakes, waded among the lotus blossoms in turquoise pools, and suffocated along with Neferure as she made her escape. This author is a master of description.
I very much liked how Hawker went directly into this story without a lot of hashing over of the previous books, which always kind of annoys me and removes me from the setting, and, as with all the books I’ve read by this author, I loved the character development. Neferure is not sympathetic, at least she wasn’t to me: I muttered “Kill her,” or something to that effect a few times as I read, but due to the great character development, I could see her point of view, even if it was grudging.
Wholly satisfying, and I say goodbye to all the wonderful characters I grew to love (and hate) with regret. ...more
Full of mystery and heart-pounding suspense, this intricate story follows Elizabeth as she is taken from the normal everyday world into a different PlFull of mystery and heart-pounding suspense, this intricate story follows Elizabeth as she is taken from the normal everyday world into a different Place. Is Elizabeth losing her mind, or will she be the only link between what is and what can be?
The Place is a mind-bending thriller, first and foremost, that ends on an unforgettable note. The familiar becomes dark and cruel, and no one, not even Elizabeth, can tell what is real and what is imagined.
Taut, gripping, brilliant, and shocking. As compulsive as “The Thirteenth Tale,” as bendy and twisty as “Gone Girl,” as lush and emotional as “The Green Mile.”...more
I was given an advanced reading copy. Oh how lucky I was to see this before it was released. I was torn between wanting to finish quickly so I would kI was given an advanced reading copy. Oh how lucky I was to see this before it was released. I was torn between wanting to finish quickly so I would know the outcome and wanting to draw it out and savor it. I loved these characters, and make no mistake, they grow deeper in this third book than should be possible. How I hated some and loved others. One in particular, who was not endearing before, became a hero in my eyes--totally redeeming himself. They run the gamut of human frailties and strengths.
I like stories that make me soar and sink, fly and plummet. This book does all that in spades.
Absolutely a favorite, a book I look forward to reading again, along with its two companions. ...more
This was one of the most unique books I have had the pleasure of reading. It is both prose and poetry, and bravely delves into the murder of poor IphiThis was one of the most unique books I have had the pleasure of reading. It is both prose and poetry, and bravely delves into the murder of poor Iphigenia by her ruthless father, Agamemnon, and the not surprising hatred that act births in Iphigenia’s mother, Clytemnestra. Then it goes on to the affair between Clytemnestra and Aigisthos and the affair (probably not consensual) between Agamemnon and Cassandra, the return of Agamemnon from Troy, and his own murder, which of course sparks the story of Orestes.
The protagonists of this story are beautifully fleshed out—even Cassandra, a secondary character: her torment and madness, if it was indeed madness and not divine Sight. The entire book is a lovely yet keen character study, not only for Clytemnestra, a woman with whom I have long sympathized, but also Orestes and Aigisthos, plus we have history and myth delicately woven in.
The second part of the story goes into a fierce argument between the Furies and Apollo, and later between the Furies and Athena, as Athena takes up Apollo’s side. Apollo seems to suggest that as power has passed to men, it’s no big deal to kill one’s mother, and though he says, “the senseless cycles of murder must end,” he seems to have perpetuated it. He of course wants Orestes pardoned for his crimes, but the Furies do not agree. They ask, pointedly, “For the son killed his mother. Are mothers less than fathers and kings? Do they not deserve to be avenged?” A good question!
This is a story that has long needed to be written. I myself can remember reading of the myths for many years, and seeing, again and again, Clytemnestra cursed and condemned on all fronts for the murder of Agamemnon, while Agamemnon slipped away from any judgment for what he did.
The Furies speak a warning which resonated with me: “The day will come when gods and men will rue this day…” and “The day will come, you will wish the Erinyes were still with you and your farms and cities.”
I enjoyed this book immensely. It spoke well to my sense of fair play and has added to the richness of Greek stories and myths. ...more
In tenth century Italy, Sara loses her parents and sister to the plague. With nowhere to go, she reluctantly enters a convent as a novice, but her spiIn tenth century Italy, Sara loses her parents and sister to the plague. With nowhere to go, she reluctantly enters a convent as a novice, but her spirit, her heart, her disposition are not suited to becoming a nun. Sara is a woman of strong passions, of fire, and of an exultation of life itself. Although the attack by savage Saracens, occurring at the outset, is horrendous and violent, in a way it works in her favor, as it frees her from a dreary, lonely future cloistered away in a nunnery. It forces her to take charge of the few other survivors. She herds them to safety, but the Saracens catch on and come chasing after them. In her first act of heroism, she sends the other nuns on and stays behind to distract the warriors, a brave effort which ends badly for her--yet again, what she suffers works in her favor, for had it not happened, she would never have met the love of her life.
I'm not sure if Sara's age is ever mentioned, but it's pretty obvious that she's young: probably a teenager. The choices she makes as she travels with the mysterious Nicolo rang true for me because of her age and the sequestered life she's lived. Sara's heart aches for romance, for adventure, for excitement--as a teenage girl's will, always, whether the century is the tenth or the twenty-first. Even though she can see Nicolo is falling in love with her, she keeps certain secrets, wanting to "create a perfect scene" with him at "the perfect moment." Because of this choice, things go down a very different path than she envisioned, and she must endure a long period of regret, but in the end, this, and everything that happens, becomes a ladder of growth for her.
I loved the author's descriptions. The soldiers in the barracks, swilling liquor and bragging about their sexual prowess, the herald finally coming with the dagger and message for Umberto, sending him into unaccustomed realms of doubt and trepidation. In fact, what I loved best about this novel is the beautifully descriptive way the author has written it. Every scene comes to life. Every bower, every forest, every meadow, clearing, villa and coastline. I could almost smell the mud, hear the birds, feel the armor heavy upon my back.
Sara is wholly sympathetic, a fierce woman who will never allow herself to be defeated--and oh yes, there are a few who try very hard. Umberto's oft-spoken declaration is "I will break you yet, Sara." But in fact it is Nicolo who comes closer to being broken than Sara. Umberto, the baron, is a delightfully complex man. He is cold and vicious, yet there seems unplumbed depths to him when he calls out "Sara!" after she has cursed him. He is affectionate and agreeable to Imelda, leaving the reader wondering why he cannot be to Sara. This character is quite the enigma.
Very reminiscent to me of "Le Morte d'Arthur," by Sir Thomas Malory. I recommend it to those who yearn for tales of lady loves, heroic acts and brave heroes, where honor and courage are worth dying for....more
Magical, otherworldly, a modern-day hunt for the Grail, this story drew me in from the first page, with mystery and tension that slowly escalates fromMagical, otherworldly, a modern-day hunt for the Grail, this story drew me in from the first page, with mystery and tension that slowly escalates from page one to the end. I loved the characters, who were vividly created, both good and evil, members of the "real" world and those who exist in a dream-like other place, but there are two other characters to this novel: Bermondsey and the Grail itself. I loved seeing Bermondsey through Adelaide's eyes, with its "long and tangled history, stretching back to the Romans," and London itself was deftly and wonderfully described so that I felt I was there. I suspect a lot of research went into this story, though it's all so subtle that it's completely unobtrusive.
The author is a gifted storyteller, offering rich, heady prose. The action takes off from page one, when Adelaide is sucked into this other world without warning, right from her office space, and the intrigue only heightens: two victims are trapped in Time and ghostly waters, and Adelaide is determined to free them.
The Bermondsey Grail does an excellent job of mixing our modern hustle and bustle and noise with a magical, lost, medieval era that many of us long for.
The characters, led by Adelaide, a single woman of indeterminate age, are wonderfully engaging. They run the gamut from good to pure evil, the kind of evil that fools you for a long time, and good that is created from past hurt, good in defiance of all expectations. I found myself looking forward to what crazy outfit Imogen would be wearing next, and the slow crumble of Joe's defenses. Interestingly, I noticed that everyone is beautifully described except for Adelaide, leaving the reader to make of her what he or she will.
Slightly, vaguely reminiscent of the Narnia books, and/or The Da Vinci Code, yet completely unique....more
The sequel to "Curse" furthers the adventures of Nell and her friends, and brings all of them into more acute danger. Our feisty heroine, Nell, is detThe sequel to "Curse" furthers the adventures of Nell and her friends, and brings all of them into more acute danger. Our feisty heroine, Nell, is determined to find the lost final pages of "The Book of Wexkia," and more people of her own kind. This goal takes her and her supporters to a few different worlds, Gramlax and Corl and Linque, and draws the attention of dangerous entities who do NOT want this information found.
Nell is fearless and takes on some really bad bad guys, meets new offworlders who help her in her quest, and becomes very close with a whole new set of friends. She even meets her grandmother for the first time. She has amazing powers that continue to develop in this book and go a long way toward protecting her. For me, one of the major themes is her expanding powers, how she learns to deal with them and control them, and learns to control her own fiery emotions.
Entire worlds are fully envisioned. There's lots of imagination in these books. The descriptions are quite unique, and the author makes her scenes and characters foreign yet familiar at the same time: no easy feat. She even tackles bullying.
Another delightful and compelling read in the continuing saga, perfect for all ages. My mind is already wondering what we'll discover in book three, "Justice," and I'm looking forward to jumping in! ...more
The characters in Rubies achieve the rare status of being "real," easy to imagine fully, and sympathetic.
Characters are the core of a story for me. IThe characters in Rubies achieve the rare status of being "real," easy to imagine fully, and sympathetic.
Characters are the core of a story for me. If the author doesn't get that part right, the rest just doesn't matter, which is why I have such a problem with so many movies these days, that give all their attention to action at the expense of character development. If you don't really care what happens to a character, what good is all that exciting action?
Rubies goes on to achieve a believable setting, during the up and coming power of Nero--a fascinating time in our history, and it's written in such a way that readers don't have to know Roman history, or the Roman language, to enjoy it.
Rubies of the Viper was a pleasure to read from beginning to end. Highly recommended....more
What a roller coaster ride this was! The story begins in a scene of battle, and two men, both wounded, pledging lifelong friendship. They make it backWhat a roller coaster ride this was! The story begins in a scene of battle, and two men, both wounded, pledging lifelong friendship. They make it back to their homes, hoping for lives of peace and harmony, but such is not to be.
Each finds love and marries, but their wives are very different creatures from each other. One utilizes superstition and magic to improve her life, to make it more complete, while the other uses the same things to harm others she is envious of.
But in one of life's inexplicable twists, what she does comes back to strike her squarely in the face, leaving her with a terrible choice to make. I did NOT see that coming.
I was completely engrossed in this marvelous tale. Although I happened to be reading one of my all-time favorite books at the same time as this, one I re-read every year, I ended up abandoning it in favor of discovering what would befall the characters on the next page in this book. I had to know how it would all be resolved. I often mentally work out an ending as I read books, but in this case, I was actually quite wrong in my assumptions.
Seldom if ever have I so longed for an antagonist to receive his or her just desserts. The antagonist of Orphan of the Olive Tree is evil incarnate! What eventually happens to this person is not what you might think, yet is eminently perfect in every way.
I felt the thoroughness of the research, and clearly saw the setting, and the importance of the Church in everyday life, just as I imagine it truly was. The lovely descriptions throughout engaged all my senses. Historical tidbits are woven in with great skill, so that the reader never bogs down into boring details, but the mental image of the place and time comes to rich, vibrant life. I always enjoy descriptions of food and herbs in the historical novels I read, the medieval methods of healing arts before the time of antibiotics, the fascinating properties of certain flowers and roots, and this book was exceptional in that regard.
I did notice that another review or two called the book "predictable." I found it anything but. I hoped for a certain outcome, but how would it be achieved? That was the million-dollar question. The ending, when it came at last, (and the author keeps you wondering until almost the last page) was very satisfying. In fact, the dénouement moved me to tears.
One of my favorite lines: "A tarantula thinks it is king of the world until someone crushes it beneath a heel."
A compulsive read for me, highly recommended....more
In "Ravensdale," Elliot continues her skill with satire, and tongue-in-cheek humor, combined with engaging characters the reader cannot help but rootIn "Ravensdale," Elliot continues her skill with satire, and tongue-in-cheek humor, combined with engaging characters the reader cannot help but root for.
I haven't read many novels set in the 1700s, but this story won me over. I was so engrossed that I couldn’t stop reading and ended up with a terrible headache, but it was worth it. What an amazing bunch of characters! First of all, there’s Lord Reynaud Ravensdale, the Disgraced Outlaw and Earl: this is a character to really fall in love with. He’s intelligent, quick, wild, impetuous, an amazing shot, and absolutely bursting with honor. Oh, and he’s apparently handsome to the point of being “nondescript,” a term that will come to haunt Lady Isabella, the heroine of the story. Isabella is an amazing kick ass woman, and a true, perfect match for the larger than life Ravensdale. She has no desire to be a shadow to a man—any man. She wants to run off and become a brigand (like the mysterious Mr Fox.) Reynaud and his cohorts have their hands full in their well-meaning but inept and misguided attempts to make her a prim, docile “lady.”
There are several layers to this story, which I don’t wish to spoil. One thing I enjoyed very much and do with all of Elliot’s books is the humor. It’s not very often I get to guffaw when I’m reading historical fiction. The setting is brought to life through picturesque descriptions that made me feel I was there, breathing in the scent of roses and watching the butterflies rise, dancing in the moonlight.
An eminently satisfying book. Bold, swashbuckling characters. A tender, memorable romance. Action, growth, and personality development working alongside plot. Not to be missed! ...more
I received an ARC for reading and reviewing purposes.
I've been bothering the author for months now trying to get my hands on Book Three of Xenofreak NI received an ARC for reading and reviewing purposes.
I've been bothering the author for months now trying to get my hands on Book Three of Xenofreak Nation. I read it in a matter of two days, I think it was: it was quite difficult to put down.
Action lovers will be thoroughly happy with this, the eagerly-awaited third installment of the Xenofreak Nation trilogy. It never stops: one event leads into the next like gunfire. Lives hang in the balance as the Typhoid-like supervirus expands. Where did this contagion come from, how is it spread? Who is to blame for it? How can people protect themselves? These are the questions Bryn and Scott, Jason and Mia must answer, and quickly, before more deaths occur. The bad guys return as well, Maddy, Fournier, Dundee, and Maddy's father, Philip Singh. All have their own agendas, and some of it is, well, very bad for humanity.
There were times I wondered how these tireless heroes could go on, how they could possibly deal with yet another crisis. Yet, somehow, they do, to a backdrop of riots, trickery, and murder.
The book is filled with amazing, prophetic, imaginative twists, encompassing science, medicine, and futuristic technology that I found enthralling and captivating. I hope some of these ideas actually come to pass.
A must-read for fans of the first two books....more
I really loved this book: part mystery, part ghost story, part love story, part action-thriller. From the first page, I was involved and intrigued, anI really loved this book: part mystery, part ghost story, part love story, part action-thriller. From the first page, I was involved and intrigued, and many hours were lost in this supernatural world set in both modern-day London and the last century. I believe the author has touched upon an idea that is mesmerizing not only to other writers but avid readers as well. The idea? Of a fictional character coming to life. Actually tearing himself out of the pages of a story and forcing his way into the real world, bent on revenge. "Motivated by Gothic dark passions of obsessive love and hate as it is... a disembodied Heathcliff." Who out there who has ever read or written a book is not able to think of a character he/she would love to meet, face to face?
A compelling concept.
The creator of this problem is Aleks Sager, a protagonist who begins as almost an anti-hero, yet soon he reveals just how sweet and loveable he truly is. He will go to great lengths to protect the woman he loves from the dangerous character he wrote into life.
Elliot writes beautifully, visually, so that the reader is caught up in the smells, the textures, the food and lights and life of London. Each scene is immediate, vividly drawn, filled with sensory details. There's more: she's a master at characterization: I LOVED the way Aleks and his best mate, Rick, banter and curse at each other, and poor Natalie's vapid thoughts, and the wonderful Aunt Sally. Then she brings in the scary, paranormal element, which includes, yes, an ouija board. Elliot never fails to include humor in her stories, a dry, tongue-in-cheek look at the foibles of humanity.
Perhaps it's inevitable that a modern day woman falls in love with this romantic figure from old Russia. Their scenes together are so animated, as are all the scenes, really, that I began to think what a wildly popular movie this story would make. Ivan Ostrowski, the character dragged from fiction into reality, is more enticing than any zombie or vampire out there.
I received an advanced reader's copy of this book for review purposes.
Dying Phoenix is its own story, but in its pages, the reader gets to know the chI received an advanced reader's copy of this book for review purposes.
Dying Phoenix is its own story, but in its pages, the reader gets to know the child of Andrew Cassimatis and his young Greek lover, Anna, from Proctor’s book The Long Shadow. As I dearly loved The Long Shadow, I was thrilled to see Andrew again and to meet his tempestuous, mesmerizing, passionate daughter, Nina. Nina will capture your heart instantly.
Nina has grown up in England, though she was born in Greece: she's married to the deeply flawed yet somehow loveable Englishman, Max Hammitt, so she is a child of two worlds, just like her father. As she says, “My mother’s Greek warrior blood stirs in me.” It is, perhaps, this warrior blood that sends her over to Greece during a dangerous time of political uproar and upheaval.
When the book opens, Max and Nina are separated, due to casual infidelity on Max’s part. Needless to say, Nina is not the type of woman to easily forgive such a betrayal.
It just so happens that Max is in Greece at the same time as Nina, though they aren’t together. He gets caught up trying to rescue a young girl from her brutal pimp—an act of kindness that causes him much harm later in unforeseen ways, leaving me feeling very sorry for him.
Set in the tumultuous political events of the nineteen-sixties, Nina and Max are swept up in terrible circumstances. They are exposed to, and endure, much, as do many others.
Dying Phoenix is lyrical and immediate. It is both beautiful and ugly. It will seize you and place you into those ancient towns, the dusty streets, nightmarish prisons, the riots and their repercussions. The dialog is especially well done: natural and flowing, spiced with Greek phrases, it gives an enticing flavor of native conversation.
Max, Nina, and Andrew are wonderful characters, but there’s also an unforgettable supporting cast—finely-drawn, idealistic resistance fighters, older, jaded, yet surprisingly caring friends, innocents caught up in savage situations. Dying Phoenix alternates between beauty and brutality, never shying away from reality or falling into trite euphemism.
All these things left me feeling I was in the hands of a master author. I read Dying Phoenix with great enjoyment, and at times sadness, punctuated with shock. Though I’m an American reader, and a bit too young to know much about this period in Greek politics, I was utterly absorbed by the story, never lost or confused. A captivating follow up to The Long Shadow, Dying Phoenix is a masterful creation, deserving of high accolades.
This book is an amazing fantasy ride, full of unique characters and vivid scenes.
Nell is facing college and has secretly applied to one. But there's aThis book is an amazing fantasy ride, full of unique characters and vivid scenes.
Nell is facing college and has secretly applied to one. But there's a reason her father doesn't support this idea, and it isn't any reason you've ever heard of before.
For seventeen years, Nell has lived a rather lonely--but fairly normal--life. Then one day an alligator speaks to her, and from that moment on, BIG changes come barreling, sweeping her away from any hint of normalcy, and taking her good friend Sam with her.
This story surprised and delighted me at every turn. I don't want to give any spoilers, but The Curse of Wexkia has a lot going on. It's a little bit sci-fi, a little bit fantasy, a little bit teenage angst, a little bit rebellion, and a little bit sweet budding romance. While the story ends very satisfyingly, there is definitely room for a sequel, and many more adventures. ...more