Tag Archives: Supernatural

The Witch of Painted Sorrow by M.J. Rose

In The Witch of Painted Sorrow by M.J. Rose, the reader is drawn into the cultural world of 1890’s Belle Époque Paris filled with the romance of the sight, sounds, and language inherent to this time and place. Sandrine Salome has fled her self centered husband in New York City who has driven her beloved father to suicide through his embezzlement from the bank they jointly managed. Sandrine turns to the only place of refuge open to her, the home of her grandmother, Eva Verlaine also known as L’Incendie or The Fire, a celebrated courtesan living at Maison de la Lune. To her horror, the lavish house is dark and devoid of human life. Luckily a neighbor brings her to her grand-mere’s new location, a short distance away. While Sandrine is led to believe that the mansion is closed for renovations, the elegant house is really being inventoried and readied to become the Museum of the Grand Horizontals. Although Eva loves Sandrine, she is horrified at the turn of events and encourages her grand-daughter to return home to her husband Benjamin. Sandrine has no intention of returning to a loveless marriage and feels drawn to her ancestral home where she spends more and more of her time, especially when she discovers the charismatic, handsome curator and architect, Julien, who is inventorying the vast collection of artifacts. Sandrine fears she is as frigid as her husband claims, but discovers she does have a passionate side, both in love and in art. This must have been an inherited talent passed on through the generations, unless it is as her grandmother fears, a ghostly interference by La Lune who is capable of invading the soul of the women in the Verlaine family. Grandmother warns, “For the women in our family, love is a curse, not a blessing.” La Lune feeds on strong emotions, especially the erotic, but Sandrine throws caution to the wind, enjoying her new found freedom as a woman. Her life centers around being an artist and a lover as she immerses herself into the Parisian culture of the bohemian crowd.

M.J. Rose weaves an intricate tale. Her detailed back drop makes Paris comes alive and we don’t blame Sandrine for wanting to take advantage of the opportunities, even if her normally timid personality is overcome by an invading spirit. Of course, La Lune does more than direct Sandrine’s life. Tragedy also paves the way for the ever selfish diva to burrow deeper into her host’s soul. The loving grandmother must be punished for her interference. Others as well feel the results of La Lune’s wrath.

As in all Gothic novels, at times you must suspend your belief and accept the surreal. So, while the story seems a bit far fetched, despite the supernatural theme, it is still an enjoyable read (just don’t look too closely at all the details). Even though there is quite a bit of action within the story, a lot of the narrative consists of Sandrine’s introspection as her desires are awoken. She fears her grandmother is right about the danger of becoming possessed and wonders if her new behaviors come from within or is she reflecting the nature of La Lune. Yet, Sandrine is enjoying life too much to want this experience to stop. My main criticism is that too much time is spent on these repetitive thoughts. I would have liked to have seen more action or a better development of the plot and minor characters. Also, the author tends to go to extremes where the tragedies are just a little too tragic. The husband is made out to be a bigger villain than he really is – not abusive, just an inconsiderate lover. While he brought dishonor through his actions to her father, was he truly a murderer? Then again, when evil is in the heart, who knows how it will be expressed. While Sandrine’s initial reactions to Benjamin seem to be misplaced (as if her life were in danger), perhaps it was her newly discovered personal freedom which she wanted to keep from his grasp. The mores of the times are forever in the background, where women had limited rights in a male dominated world. This puts Sandrine’s outrageous behaviors into greater perspective. Since this is the first of a series, the ending, by necessity, had to be open ended enough for the sequel, but I felt the conclusion was satisfying.

My advice is to read at least the first hundred pages or so before judging the book. Once the stage is set, the pace picks up as Sandrine explores her expanding universe, including Parisian Night Life and the occult, as she sets out to break down barriers. Three and a half stars.

A thank you to Atria and Netgalley for allowing me to read a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

What lurks beneath the facade we present to the world? What secrets do we keep hidden, even from ourselves? How many lies are we willing to live in order to satisfy the realization of our innermost fantasies? The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma is a fascinating character study of a group of adolescent girls who struggle with their true identities, the ones that fill their souls.

The book banters back and forth between premiere ballerina, Violet, set to attend Julliard in September, and Amber, sentenced to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center for a heinous crime she was accused of committing at the age of thirteen (an act so horrendous that even her own mother refuses to visit). One common denominator between these two teens is Orianna – former best friend to Vee and cellmate to Amber. Ori is a girl who is easy to love, one who brings light even to the squalid prison conditions of the institution. The inmates who struggle daily with their own feelings of guilt fail to see exactly how this harbinger of kindly gestures could have been dubbed “The Bloody Ballerina”.

Yet, that’s the story which is slowly revealed through the musings of our two storytellers – exactly what happened that day behind the dance studio where the pubescent girls gathered for a “bit of air” in the smoking tunnel. Even more fascinating is the narrative of life behind bars for young female inmates at the Upstate New York detention center. Throw in a touch of supernatural déjà Vous and you’ve got a mesmerizing little book.

While, at times, the plot allusions get confusing, it is readily evident which are the guilty parties. The author’s style keeps the reader riveted wanting to know how the events all tie in together with a conclusion that is in some ways predictable and in others totally shocking. Each character’s motivation, however, is not kept a secret. We might not approve of their actions, but we understand the circumstances that led to their dastardly deeds (and there are several). It’s too bad I can’t go into further details, as there are numerous highlights I am dying to discuss.

Don’t be put off by the Ballet theme, this is a book for both teens and adults, even those who don’t know a cartwheel from a plié. I especially liked the literary references (Amber’s life skills assignment was to wheel the library cart around, just in case anyone wanted a book to read or a message to pass). While Suma includes numerous citable quotes in her narrative, I was especially tickled with Ambers’s assessment that “reading a new book before anyone else got to it was like getting the first hot lunch”. Four stars for a fascinating psychological study.

A special thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Darkness by Erin Eveland

Darkness by Erin Eveland is the story of a young girl unaware of the power of darkness and light buried deep within her soul. When her Nana, the only loving family in her life, dies, Catherine goes to live with her self absorbed, alcoholic mother, Kathy. Her sordid life of poverty in the trailer park of a small town has one bright spot, Nathan, who is patiently waiting for her to graduate from high school before professing his love. There’s a problem, however, with their budding romance, since Catherine is unwittingly being groomed by the mysterious Artros to fulfill her role as the black rose. This infatuation with one so young is due to a love of the power she holds which can strengthen Artros’ role as Master of Darkness. It is only through Catherine, the light, that the mystery of the quest can be unlocked. Artros makes Nathan his apprentice as leverage against Catherine. Their lessons include teachings such as “the father of color is darkness” and “the power of darkness is a tool”. Although Catherine is totally unaware of this planned destiny, others feel the disturbance. It brings Jorgen who has recently recovered from near death after a previous defeat by Artros in a battle over his supposed lover, Esa. Jorgen sees the potential hidden within Catherine and vows to protect her. Thus the contest for dominance over the shadow world begins.

There is a lot of potential for an interesting if not dynamic story, but, unfortunately, the word I would use is to describe this book is cumbersome. This supernatural tale is surrounded by wordiness. It’s as if the author has entered a contest to see how many different ways she can say the same thing, in the most verbose style possible. Why tell us once, when you can describe an event with an infinite variety of explanations, each different, but yet the same. There is also a touch of pretentiousness, with phrases such as “embalming solitude”, “the longing within was quenched”, and “death was just an escort ticket for the soul”. In spite of all the explanations, such as “Darkness lulls the heart to sleep, and in Darkness the heart will be awakened,” and “The mother of colors was light and Catherine in her innocence exemplified that light,” I remained confused about the source of power, although it’s destructiveness was clearly represented, resulting in some gruesome scenes.

Instead of eliminating the repetition and condensing the story, at the end of the unsatisfactory conclusion of Darkness, we discover it is just the first part of a series, with book two, Shadows, continuing the saga. I don’t think I can put myself through this ordeal again – two stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Selladore Press for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.