Friday, January 17, 2020

Until Love Blooms Again: "The Stars May Rise and Fall" by Estella Mirai

 Exquisitely written, Ms. Mirai's gorgeous book The Stars May Rise and Fall draws us into the  world of a Japanese Glam/Metal style rock band, playing small clubs, hoping for their next big break.
Teru has been around bands and the drummer for La Rose Verboten for long enough that he has seen younger, newer bands appear and get record deals overnight while they struggle on. Between gigs, Teru works part time in a convenience store to make ends meet and afford his tiny apartment.  One night, he is surprised to find a note in the dressing room while preparing for a show. Someone had left him a card saying "I can help you. Call Me." and a phone number. At first, he thinks it's a prank, maybe one of his band members? None seem to know anything about it. Later, alone in his room, unable to sleep, he keeps thinking of the card. Finally, building up his courage he dials. Then after a couple of rings, he hangs up, feeling uneasy. Not minutes later, it rings. A text appears. "I heard you sing" it says. Teru explains that he is the drummer, he doesn't sing. Then the phone rings again, and a sensual male voice speaks, telling Teru he has a beautiful voice. That he heard him singing in the dressing room. That he can help him become a better singer. He asks Teru to meet with him. At his apartment. He explains it is difficult for him to get out.

Puzzled, Teru agrees, and a couple of days later he finds himself outside the apartment of the man who was going to change his life in more ways than he expects. This man, Rei, appears to be handicapped. He wears a silver mask covering one side of his face, the other side is beautiful. He also wears a blue wig. He has other physical disabilities, but they don't diminish his talent. He tells Teru he is writing the band's new break-out single.

From this first meeting, The Stars May Rise and Fall becomes a dreamy, swoony love story. A story, not just of Teru's blossoming, all encompassing love for  Rei, but about Rei's past, and his lost love and the hopeful love of a young woman for Teru.  It is a story of heartbreak, and persevering in spite of it. And all around are the clubs, and bands and the fans who can help make or break a band.

Partly, this is a very different retelling of Phantom of the Opera, and it successfully gives us the broken yet brilliant Phantom figure in Rei. This is a book that will stay with you long after you finish. The characters are so real you can hear their music as you read the words. Teru and Rei's love story, too, is one that will resonate with you. What happens between these two and the others in the band and on the sidelines is something you will need to discover for yourself . Available in print and as an ebook. I loved this one so much, I bought both!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Avenging Angel: "Reanimated" by Laura DeLuca

The Recommender is a big fan of Laura DeLuca's Dark Musical series from the very first one that introduced Lord Justyn Patko and Rebecca Hope as teens involved in a school theatrical production of Phantom of the Opera. Over the years and through the series we have followed them as they grow and age through college, summer theatre and to Broadway stardom, marriage and parenthood and each book was based around a musical. Also, the couple seem to attract "the crazies" as they call them and each book features some murderer or other that seems to target our favorite couple.
Reanimated is based on a version of Corpse Bride, or Ghost Bride, as it is called here and Justyn and Rebecca are now co-owners of a dinner theatre along with Tom and Carmen, their long time friends. This dinner theatre was featured in a previous book, so be sure to read the whole series to know the back-story.
 They have hired kitchen and wait staff and actors who will be performing the original production of Ghost Bride.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has been doing something else besides acting, and taking care of their wonderfully talented son, Erik, who is also an actor, and their baby daughter, Harmony. Tired of being a victim, she has been taking shooting lessons and is the owner of a licensed handgun. And, she and her friend Victoria, have decided to help  women who have been abused and are in need of safety by working for an underground Railroad led by a dedicated Detective and a cabbie.
As with Ms. DeLuca's previous books, this one will grab you and pull you into the lives of Lord Justyn, Rebecca, their children, family and friends. It's a compelling story complete with murder, crimes and ... wait! Is something wrong with Lord Justyn? Surely this can't be the last book in the series, can it? I was yelling "What???  and "Oh, No!" at the Kindle during parts of this one! Not giving anything away, though. No spoilers, here!
If you are a fan (or Phan) of Phantom, musical theatre and murder mysteries along with original characters, then be sure to check out all of the Dark Musical books and you, too, will fall for Lord Justyn, just like I did when he first stood at the back of the school auditorium and watched his future soul mate audition for the part of Christine!

Below is a song, one of several referred to in the book, brought to you through the miracle of youtube!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Secret Love: "An Eternity of This" by Amanda Osborne

Christine has left him, married now to Raoul. The Paris Opera House was destroyed in the process of his trying to make her love him and be his bride. Erik still lives and stalks the  hidden passageways of the rebuilt Opera, listening to all the secrets shared within, and it is through this habit that he discovers a new employee now occupying the room Christine once did.
Genevieve Devereaux, a new seamstress has joined the staff at the Opera Populaire. She is tall and almost pretty, though she dresses in severe dresses with her hair pulled up in a tight bun and glasses, giving the air of a spinster. In fact, she is a former Comtesse, now divorced from a handsome titled man whose fa├žade hid the sadistic abusing monster beneath. She has affected the disguise to hide her whereabouts in fear of her life, and also to indulge her talent for designing and sewing, a talent that had been frowned on as unseemly for a girl, then woman, of her station.
It is this secret, Erik overhears, and decides he can make use of it. But first, he might need a new wardrobe, his having been damaged in the fire. Will his hold over Genevieve force her to follow his written demands?
And as for Genevieve, has she left one form of hell for this new one where this Opera Ghost could turn her over to her hated ex-husband if she did not follow his instructions?
Amanda Osborne has given us a sympathetic and believable protagonist in Genevieve  and her story which takes us behind the scenes and into the demanding roles of the costume designers and seamstresses as they work with the various cast members who populate the operas presented on stage.
And Erik, the commanding, attractive yet exasperating figure who will act out in destructive ways if he can't get what he wants. Still desperately longing for Christine who could never love him for who he was, was he destined to always be alone and unloved?
This is a love story for anyone who loves Erik and hoped for more for him. Beautifully written and realized and filled with details, passion and heartbreak. If you are a Phantom Phan  (and even if you're not) then don't hesitate to get a copy of "An Eternity of This". You won't be disappointed and you'll find yourself hoping for more from this author!

There is a love story that's kept secret in "An Eternity of This". Who could sing about secret loves better than Doris Day through the miracle of Youtube?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Clued In: "Missing Person" by Sarah Lotz

One afternoon, in a village in Ireland, twenty-something bookstore employee Shaun Ryan is taking his dog, Daphne, for a walk in a cemetery when he's approached by a man who has an Elvis vibe and says he knew Shaun's dead uncle, Teddy. Johnny Mckinnon, fresh out of jail and home to care for his ailing Mum, was best mates with Teddy and says he wasn't dead. He went to New York to get away from the hate the family heaped on him for being gay.
Shaun, also gay, had looked up to Teddy as an icon of cool, and now, his world shaken, he has to figure out what to do with this information.
Somewhere in the US, a group of online amateur sleuths,, is sharing information on a long time unidentified body, a young man, possibly the victim of a hate crime, and found mysteriously wearing a pink dress. Was it his own dress, or did the murderer stage this crime?
Ratking, the admin of this particular group, has to keep reminding the members that they are now limited to helping ID the missing person and no longer sleuthing. But as the facts on this particular unidentified begin to mount up can Ratking, Rainbowbrite and Mommiedearest keep themselves from working the case to help police bring closure for a family out there, waiting for word.
Meanwhile, Pete, a family man with a stepdaughter and a wife who works a lot, is keeping tabs on the forum. He participates secretly, using the name Bobbiecowell. What is his interest in this case?
How will the people behind these online identities come together to solve this mystery? And what of Shaun and the revelation of his uncle? Get a copy of Missing Person and find out!
Sarah Lotz has once again written a riveting read all night story with great characters and an unusual premise. She is one of the Recommender's favorite authors and  recommends her work regularly to everyone... including anyone reading this review!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Love: "Of Love and Deception" Book 1 of the Tainted Love Series by Kayla Lowe

Sarah MacKenzie and her best friend/cousin, Addison, are settling into their freshman dorm and ready to start college life. The future seems to hold endless possibilities for these two girls from good homes with loving, supportive parents. Both girls are excellent students and as they begin classes they fall into a routine of studying and enjoying each other's company.
One thing they have at college that they didn't have at home is... faster internet! Sarah is a Phantom of the Opera Phan and she enjoys interacting online with others who share her passion. It's just harmless fun, the way Addison feels about her favorite group, Duran Duran.
But just as they are getting ready to go out to dinner with friends, a message pops up on Sarah's laptop signed YOUR PHANTOM LOVER all in caps and his opening sentence stops her in her tracks: WELL HELLO THERE, ANGEL! Who could this be? Why all caps?
Later, while enjoying ice cream in their room with Addison, Sarah opens her laptop to find more messages from this mysterious Phantom presence. Bit by bit, message by message, Sarah and her mysterious Phantom begin to communicate and then they move beyond simply messaging to sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams and ... feelings.

Can Sarah be falling for someone who seems to be luring her deeper and deeper into an online reality. Addison has been chatting with someone, too. The ability of the faster internet seems to distract these two young women from what was most important to them, getting a good college education and making their parents and grandparents proud of them.
Sarah, especially, finds herself longing for those moments when she can chat with her Phantom. Will she ever meet this Opera Ghost in real life? Will he be everything she dreamed about if she does?

Author Kayla Lowe brings these young women and their families to life in a completely believable way. The Recommender found herself yelling at the Kindle and trying to advise Sarah to wait, to be cautious! Can this online Phantom be too good to be true? Be sure to get a copy of Of Love and Deception, and by the end you, too, will find yourself anxiously awaiting the next chapter of the Tainted Love series!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

On the Road Again: "The Angel's Flight" by Louise Anne Bateman

Spoilers! Because this is a sequel, if you haven't read Ms. Bateman's first Phantom of the Opera based novel, The Angel's Shadow, then go back and start there before you read any further!
We begin at the end of the Angel's Shadow with the fire that destroys the Paris Opera House. Meg and Antoinette Giry were in the midst of being quizzed by the chief of gendarmes as to their relationship with the Phantom of the Opera, or Opera Ghost, when the explosions leading to the fire take place.
Standing outside, watching their home and belongings burn and wondering what will become of them, Meg and Antoinette hear a familiar voice instructing them to board a carriage.  Joining Erik, they leave behind the world of ballet and opera, and eventually find themselves in Erik's childhood home, the place he fled years ago.
Meg, in this series, is talented and troubled. She is intrigued by Erik and compulsively followed him and provoked him in the previous book.
He is such a man of mystery. He alternates between kindness and cruelty in his dealings with her. Although she is a young woman, Erik treats her like a child. Now the three of them are all living together. Will Meg survive? Will Erik?
Ms. Bateman takes these beloved characters on some new and surprising adventures and in the case of Meg... sometimes VERY surprising.
If you are a Phantom Phan and looking for a book that will shake up what you think about Meg, Erik and Madame Antoinette Giry, then start with the Angel's Shadow and continue the story with The Angels' Flight.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Valentine's Book Exchange: The Honor Series by Kristen Heitzmann

This past Valentine's Day several friends and I decided to do an Elfster Valentine's Day Book Exchange which was a great success! I won the book exchange jackpot! I received a whole series from my secret Valentine (maybe not so secret: Kayla???):
 The whole idea of the exchange was to gift someone with a book YOU love, so this was a whole series someone loved. This series was by an author I wasn't familiar with, Kristen Heitzmann. The titles, in order were Honor's Pledge, Honor's Price, Honor's Quest, Honor's Disguise and Honor's Reward. They are published in the category of Christian fiction but don't let that get in the way of taking a chance on this series because I have to say, I fell in love with the characters and the world this gifted author created.
The series takes place in the late 1870s and revolves around a young woman, Abbie Martin, who is so engaging, you'd want her for your best friend. She is 17 at the start and someone who is brave, outspoken, a loyal friend, and not afraid to be herself. She is a tomboy who loves the land she's grown up on in and around Rocky Springs, Colorado. Her father owns the local newspaper and her mother keeps house on the farm they own. Abbie can ride and shoot and climb trees and catch fish with a spear, things she learned alongside her best friend from childhood, Blake McConnel.
This first story begins with Blake calling out a man by the name of Montgomery Farrel, a southerner who had bought a ranch in the area. He's ready to shoot Mr. Farrel for paying a little to much attention to Abbie in town that morning.
Abbie intervenes and the Sheriff hauls Blake away to a jail cell to cool off. Later she gets Monte Farrel to drop the charges which he does due to her insistence and her charm and... though she is oblivious to the fact, her beauty.

So begins this series that will have you reading one after the other to see what lies ahead for Abbie as she goes from this spitfire 17 year old to an equally headstrong young woman, falling passionately in love, having her heart broken more than once and racing off on sometimes heart-stopping adventures on behalf of those she loves.
 Along the way, a ranch hand, Cole Jasper, is introduced. He's just one of the many memorable characters you'll meet, and wish you could know in real life.
 Some things in this frontier life will surprise you, some things are shocking, and sometimes you'll shout "Oh No!" at the books or booohooo at other parts. If you are looking for something that will captivate you, grab your attention, and make you want to reread it from the beginning, then look no further than Ms. Heitzmann's Honor series!