Jean-Baptiste St Michel, known simply as Michel (thank goodness) was tempted away from England and his mother by his famous choreographer father to le...moreJean-Baptiste St Michel, known simply as Michel (thank goodness) was tempted away from England and his mother by his famous choreographer father to learn ballet in Paris. Abandoned by his absent father and disillusioned in his dancing abilities, Michel is plucked from obscurity by ballerina Nadia Petrovna to become an apprentice in the small but striving Islington Ballet. Director Charles Crown is less impressed, but Michel's determination and persistence pay off as he becomes a formidable talent.
Jonni is an aspiring actress new to London who becomes entangled in the exciting and close knit group that revolve around Michel's flat. Despite their immediate attraction, Michel's only true commitment is to dance and their relationship falters as Jonni wants more than Michel is able to give.
There's actually far more to this book than I can give in a brief synopsis; there's 730 pages and never a dull moment! It's a theatrical, passionate saga with a huge range of varied characters and sub-plots and I don't want to give anything away. I loved Michel, despite him being a self-obsessed egotist for much of the book, he's perfect! Primo is fabulous, Jonni is mildly irritating and wet and I adored the behind the scenes details and the creation of new ballets.
Even though it's not completely perfect, I lurved this book! It's totally indulgent, Jilly Cooper-esque in both size and sweeping breadth, whisking me off to another life and I couldn't put it down! (less)
Three women are battling the bulge at the local "Fat Chance" slimming club. Holly lives with Rob but has to deal with the far too frequent visits from...moreThree women are battling the bulge at the local "Fat Chance" slimming club. Holly lives with Rob but has to deal with the far too frequent visits from his overbearing mother. Naomi is a wedding photographer who finds unusual perks to the job and recently widowed Kate has been seeking solace in the fridge. The three become firm friends and support each other through the strict diet regime, a boot camp and their own personal dilemmas.
I just loved the cover and even though I know you shouldn't judge by that alone, I probably am a marketer's dream and yes, I do fall for the trap! But I didn't realise (should have checked the blurb on the back) until I'd bought the book that Claudia Pattison also writes as Leonie Fox. I read one of those a couple of years back and wasn't overly enthusiastic.
As a parody of the horrors of slimming clubs, there was a couple of points where I smiled, but Amanda the club leader is beyond horrific (and at times makes Marjorie Dawes look empathetic!) so it might be funny, at first, but is completely unbelievable that anyone, particularly a professor of psychology, would pay for the privilege of being harangued by such a person. And that's my main problem with this book, it seemed over the top, cartoonish at times with such bizarre situations that I just couldn't enjoy it. I really didn't like or care for anyone throughout the story. Without giving spoilers, Naomi was the most unreliable character as I not only disliked her life choices but there was no indication as to why, and as Naomi apparently weighs in at 11 stone is she really likely to be attractive to Toby's "interesting" predilections? On the plus side, it does rattle along and I still love the cover! (less)
Ageing ballerina Nina Revskaya, formerly of the Bolshoi, now lives in Boston and has decided to sell her extensive collection of jewellery to help sup...moreAgeing ballerina Nina Revskaya, formerly of the Bolshoi, now lives in Boston and has decided to sell her extensive collection of jewellery to help support the Ballet Company she has worked for in her later years. However, renewed interest in the history of the treasures alongside her increasing frailty and illness makes Nina reluctantly dwell on her past. The book combines a modern day story with Nina's earlier experiences before she defected to the West; working through the ranks to become a star dancer, known as the "butterfly" to the exclusion of almost everything else, including the dangers and motives of the people around her.
Drew is managing the details of the auction and is fascinated by Nina's reticence to discuss the jewels and her own past. A set of amber earrings and bracelet are particularly interesting and the intrigue increases when university professor, Grigori Solodin, donates a matching necklace to auction alongside the Revskaya collection. Drew searches for specific details of the owner, whilst Grigori has his own reasons for the personal interest in the history of Nina and her husband the poet, Victor Elsin.
Although I know quite a lot about about the ballet, I'm pretty ignorant about Russia, particularly the era covered in this book, so it was an interesting read. The descriptions of life in the Bolshoi were realistic and contrasted the beauty created on stage with the hard work, physical tolls and seediness of backstage life. The historical aspect was well done and obviously well researched without coming across as inserting big chunks of a text book into the plot. A claustrophobic atmosphere was created where the characters had to cope with the bleakness, lack of privacy and poverty of everyday life, where there was real danger in being seen not to conform. I thought it was brave that many of the main characters in this section weren't particularly likable, although by the end of the book most have redeemed themselves. It showed people in frightening circumstances managing the best way they can.
As I became absorbed in the Russian back story, I actually found the modern day sections with Grigori and Drew a bit of an irritation. They are both thoroughly decent characters and are needed to shed light on Nina's earlier decisions and the eventual reveal, but I wasn't really bothered. It was also difficult at first to see how the young Nina became the old (not very nice) Nina, but that became more apparent as the story developed.
I really enjoyed this book and its unravelling mystery. Just to be really picky there was a couple of things could have put me off! Firstly I didn't get the gorgeous cover that I'd seen on goodreads, I've said before that I know I should judge by the cover, but let's be honest, we all do to some extent! Secondly, the four and a half pages of quotes to tell me how wisely I'd chosen seemed a bit of overkill on behalf of the publishers, I can go for a couple of admiring quotes on the back cover, but honestly! However, that's not the author's fault and I would recommend this as a tale of dance, history, love and betrayal...a good read! (less)
Diana Bishop is an American academic based at Oxford University, she is also a witch. Through her specialism in the History of Science she encounters...moreDiana Bishop is an American academic based at Oxford University, she is also a witch. Through her specialism in the History of Science she encounters a mysterious alchemical manuscript, known as Ashmole 782, which displays strong magical powers. As Diana has a severe aversion to using her witchy skills, she sends the manuscript back to the stacks, much to the chagrin of all the other witches, vampires and daemons in the vicinity, who don't believe that things are that simple or that she's so ignorant. Matthew Clairmont, a charismatic scientist who also happens to be a 1500 year old vampire is the first creature on the scene and although Diana has been warned she can't help herself from being drawn in.
I'm not going into any further detail as I dislike giving spoilers, but also it's such a huge book (almost 700 pages) I couldn't possibly do it justice and okay, I'm going to 'fess up and declare that this is my new guilty pleasure! I LOVED it!! I know I probably shouldn't and that there's many more worthy books out there and although it isn't perfect, I've given this 5 stars because I loved the whole indulgent experience! It's pure entertainment and I know I'll have to by the sequel in hardback as I won't be able to wait.
I see this novel as a wish-fulfilment for all the more mature readers of the twilight series, who felt a smidgen bad for being way too old to lust after Edward (go, on...I know you did, we've talked about this at work!) and have struggled to hide their guilty secret! Deborah Harkness has given us a gorgeous, but definitely more age appropriate vampire with even more back story and hidden depths!
Diana is mildly irritating (which at least allows the female reader to feel superior as they'd be far cooler in the same situation) but she did grow on me as I became more involved in the story. She does need rescuing too often; the whole denial of her witchiness was a bit grating and seemed a bit teenagey-angst for a woman in her mid thirties. However, she does become more interesting as her abilities develop.
I know I'm gushing, and I accept it's not going to be for everyone, but it's an atmospheric, indulgent fantasy read that made me very happy and I can't wait for the next one! (less)
A 4.5 star really! When an important figure in the Disraeli government dies in a compromising position at the Lotus House, Victorian Madam, India Black...moreA 4.5 star really! When an important figure in the Disraeli government dies in a compromising position at the Lotus House, Victorian Madam, India Black has to act quickly to avoid any disruption to her business and reputation. Calling on the dubious talents of the odoriferous street urchin Vincent, she has a plan to remove the body discreetly, but is interrupted by government spy French. Blackmailed with the threat of losing the Lotus House she is drawn into his world of espionage to serve the British government.
It seems her “punter” was carrying important documents that put the government in a tricky situation with the Russians and they’ve gone missing! India and French end up in the most unlikely situations to save the day!
I bought this book hoping it would fill the huge hole left by my favourite Victorian female characters. I worship Amelia Peabody, love Lady Julia Grey, wait for the new Parasol Protectorate books with excitement and even read Emily Ashton (although they’re not my favourites!). I enjoy my strong, clever, sarcastic characters that thrive on disaster, near death and criminal activities. The other important factor in all these is also the strong, devastatingly cool and handsome male interest. So India Black, slightly different background to the others and I wasn’t at first convinced that it’d work, but despite my reservations (and I still think it referred to her professional activities a little too much and unnecessarily, which is why I docked half a star!) I really enjoyed it!
India has a high regard for herself and her talents, but the overall tone is light and humorous. French (we don’t find out his first name!) is suitably intelligent, devious and handsome, (yay!) but remains fairly mysterious. Although India acknowledges his looks and there is a spark between them, this first in the series doesn’t go down the romance route, which is probably better for future books if it develops into a long running series. Vincent, although thinly sketched, I’m sure will develop into a far more interesting character and some of India’s more colourful work colleagues and acquaintances will just have to reappear in later books.
To sum up…it’s a fun, fast paced read with strong lead characters. The cover is also really pretty, but a bit too “romance” for the style of the writing. I’ve already bought the second book and although it hasn't completely stopped me wishing for many more (and immediate) Amelia and Julia books, I found it a really enjoyable read. (less)