How many authors could bring a stone gargoyle to life and make the reader care for him as much as they would care for a human? Gigi Pandian has done tHow many authors could bring a stone gargoyle to life and make the reader care for him as much as they would care for a human? Gigi Pandian has done this in the first of a series of mysteries that will feature Dorian Robert-Houdin as a French gargoyle who needs the help of herbalist Zoe Faust to survive. A murder at her newly-acquired wreck of a house and the theft of Dorian's book of alchemy cast Zoe back into long-forgotten alchemical mysteries (as well as into the path of a detective whose knowledge of teas and such are both intriguing and puzzling), along with a teenaged who seems determinded to learn alchemy - and gourmet cooking from the talented Dorian.
A few instances of too-much-information that distract rather than enlighten took a star away from my rating, but I do recommend this book as a promising romp.
Recipes and ideas for teas dot the narrative.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is an honest review....more
This book is both delicate and robust -- although one character dies almost immediately, her flawed but hopeful spirit becomes a force in the lives ofThis book is both delicate and robust -- although one character dies almost immediately, her flawed but hopeful spirit becomes a force in the lives of all of the others. This book,set in a college town, is home to decent, intelligent people whose lives may be a mess, but who want to make things right. The sudden appearance of a little boy, ostensibly the son of a gentle professor of Shakespeare, changes the trajectories of lives that might not have been enmeshed, or enriched, if not for his mysterious arrival. Some characters are flamboyant and irritating, others repressed and controlled. Ms.Woodruff illuminates them all without sentimentality and allows them to make mistakes as they progress toward self- and community- awareness together.
4 1/2 stars - 1/2 star off only because little Henry is a teeny bit too perfect. It's a very minor quibble indeed. I loved this book and definitely will read it again to fully appreciate the writing and the subtleties of the characters.
I received this book from NetGalley, and this is an honest review....more
Captivating, intense, painful, and ecstatic. Sherry Jones has created the 12th century in all of its beauty and squalor, and set the lovers in the midCaptivating, intense, painful, and ecstatic. Sherry Jones has created the 12th century in all of its beauty and squalor, and set the lovers in the midst of all of the clerical, political, and social factors that forced them apart. From the utterly dreadful Paris slums to the parties of the rich, from the songs of the Church to the timeless letters of Abelard and Heloise themselves, the reader is immersed.
The highly educated young woman who falls for the brilliant poet-philosopher is part victim, part conspirator. In a period of reprieve from the Abbey where the motherless girl was given a brilliant education, she meets Abelard, and she is utterly seduced, enthralled by the totality of this brilliant, beautiful, talented man. Point for point, she matches him in intellect and intellectual thirst. But she is no match for the hook, which opens her to love and desire.
Heloise loves Peter despite his weaknesses, chiefly his desire to be famous for his theological masterwork. Despite his deep love for her, he is willing to sacrifice more than Heloise can understand - their relationship, their son, even her freedom. Her devotion to Peter and their son rarely wavers, although, as a woman, she believes she has more to lose. Events prove otherwise, and their tragedy plays out as the reader knows it must.
Sherry Jones uses quotes from their letters to introduce each chapter, giving the reader a true taste of the heaven they sought together even as their lives are bruised and battered by the forces of secular and Church politics. Heloise's uncle is the central villain of the story, but even he is given a backstory that puts his actions in the context of his weakness and the necessities of life in that time.
I went into this novel knowing very little of Abelard and Heloise. Sherry Jones uses her knowledge to create their world without battering the reader with extraneous facts; she wears her scholarship with grace.
Recommended wholeheartedly for anyone who loves historical fiction and a fine love story.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is a fair review. ...more
The Bloomsbury gang loved gossip. So do we aficionados of the gang and its satellites: Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Ottoline Morrell, LytThe Bloomsbury gang loved gossip. So do we aficionados of the gang and its satellites: Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell, Ottoline Morrell, Lytton Strachey, etc. We read all the novels, biographies, letters, and journals; we delight in their scrapbooks and photo albums. These free-thinking Bohemian friends and lovers were juicy.
This novel casts itself as an olio of Vanessa Bell's writings - journal, letters - plus communications to, from, and amongst the group. The immediate problem is that Vanessa tells us that she's not a writer (and she was not), but the writing she attributes to herself is as adroit and adept as any word-slinger's. Her observations, especially of Virginia, are barbed; their aim is true. The result is great fun to read, if you don't mind a strange version of the unreliable narrator: the words do not fit the character.
That aside, the chronology is accurate, and some characters, especially Lytton Strachey in his bitchy brilliance, are quite memorable. Vanessa's art and Virginia's greed for her sister's attention anchor the novel, which takes place before Woolf or Strachey have published. Vanessa is deeply wounded by her sister and husband, whose never-consummated affair erodes her trust and sours her love for Virginia.
An afterword is included, with notes on what the characters were to achieve. I wish the author had mentioned the sexual abuse that Virginia experienced. Her portrayal as a beautiful, lethal monster, propelled by alternating bouts of mania and jealousy, is incomplete and strange without those facts.
Three stars: fun, with reservations.
I received this book from NetGalley as an ARC. This is an honest review....more