Sunday, January 27, 2019

Dreaming of You : "Prelude: Scherzo" by J.M. Smith

So much happens in this third in J.M. Smith's Prelude series, that I have to start out this review of   Scherzo, with a spoiler alert. Well, if you've made it this far you'll already know that Erik is DEAD!
Wait, or is he?
Annie, hearing her beloved Erik has died in far away Mazandaran, where he had gone to design a Palace for the Shah, collapses from the shock. And Giles Giry is there to catch her. Puzzling over the news that her brother died in the place where Annie's fiancĂ© was working as chief architect, he eventually learns the truth. And rather than turn away from this ruse, he sympathetically reaches out to her, sheltering her in his home, caring for her, providing what nourishment she will take and finding himself deeper and deeper under the spell of the beautiful ballerina.
Could Annie ever love this man, the polar opposite of the dark and troubled Erik?
And, aha! News of Erik's demise has been greatly exaggerated. Well, somewhat exaggerated, as he is locked in the Shah's prison, and has given up the desire to live.
Knowing he might never see his beloved Annie, again, and despising himself for his drug-fueled role as the Shah's Angel of Death, the Shah's executioner, he has accepted his fate. The hateful Shah forced Erik to operate the torture chamber he designed for him, executing not just criminals but political prisoners! What happened to that new Palace he thought he was commissioned for?
Refusing to eat and existing in total darkness, he is jolted back to some semblance of life when a beautiful young Persian girl, Yasmin, is instructed to take charge of his meals. Through her persistence, Erik reluctantly begins the slow road to recovery.
And this is just the beginning!
There is so much more to come!
J.M. Smith has given us a whole new spin (to the Recommender, anyway) on the Phantom story, not just giving us a plausible relationship between Erik and Antoinette, one that was hinted at in the Gerard Butler film of the ALW musical and more briefly in the stage version, but bringing to life a very likable Giles Giry, a man who is intelligent, handsome, loving and compassionate. We needed to see what kind of man Madame Giry had been married to... and we will find out how she became the widowed ballet mistress we all know and love. No more spoilers! If you love Phantom and all the versions such a great variety of Phan authors have graced us with, then you don't want to miss the Prelude series!
And don't forget, J.M. Smith is also the author of one of my very favorite Phantom books, The Secret Door! If you haven't read that one yet, you are in for a treat!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Phantom Returns: "Illusion" by Laura DeLuca

When we last met Laura DeLuca's character of Lord Justyn Patko and his now wife, Lady Rebecca Hope Patko, they were appearing in a summer theatre version of Hyde. They had their fair share of drama to get through before the happy ending and the birth of their son, Erik.
Now, some 8 years later, the couple have just completed a successful Broadway run of The Phantom Returns the sequel to Phantom. Set in Coney Island and filled with elaborate sets and costumes, the couple had been acclaimed as the embodiment of the characters. Passionately in love in real life they bring that extra dimension to the Phantom and Christine on the stage.
So famous were they that they have been invited to take the show to Australia. Two theatres were after the couple. Justyn  and Rebecca weigh the options and decide to grace the smaller venue, the Queen's Theatre in Melbourne, with their presence. The theatre had been after the couple for years, and have now made them an offer they can't refuse... they would like Erik to play Christine and the Phantom's son, Gustave. Highly talented and an equally adept musician, Erik is perfect for the role.
Before they leave, Erik has a nightmare. Could it be a premonition? Rebecca also worries that she may be aging out of the ingénue role and that some other Christine might take her place beside her beloved Justyn. Could she live with that? And what of Justyn's hoping to expand their family?
Illusion brings the Queen's theatre and its cast and crew to life and we shall soon see what lies in store for our favorite couple and their son in this thrilling first of a new series featuring Lord Justyn, Lady Rebecca and Erik. Personally, I can't wait to see what awaits them next!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Light and Shadow: "Godsend" by John Wray

John Wray's brilliant Godsend is the story of a young American who becomes a radicalized Muslim and sets off on a journey to Pakistan in hopes of eventually joining a jihadist group. That this person is a girl of 18 who has disguised herself as a boy in order to become a part of this movement is what makes this story such a compelling read.
Aden Grace Sawyer and her sometime boyfriend Decker have planned this adventure together. Both are able to speak Arabic and both are dedicated to the study of Islam. She has shaved her head and bound her breasts to make herself believe in her masquerade as much as anyone she encounters. They arrive in Pakistan and travel to a small Madrassa, a school for the study of the Quran, and which is close to the border of Afghanistan. She is accepted as Brother Suleyman and often just called Little Brother. She excels here and becomes a favorite of the Mullah. Though Decker will keep her secret he still has an attraction for her that she discourages. As the story unfolds we are taken deeper into the world of this school, its students and the call and attraction of the militant group, the Taliban, who are fighting just across the border. There are life changing choices confronting Aden and Decker. What happens to them will keep you riveted to the very end. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Cabin Fever: "Last Time I Lied" by Riley Sager

Riley Sager's the Final Girls kept me up till all hours because I needed to know who did what. This new book, Last Time I Lied, if anything, kept me up even later!
13 year old Emma Davis is sent to spend the summer at an exclusive girls' camp called Camp Nightingale. Her wealthy and neglectful parents have forgotten to even tell her she was going and as a result arrives so late there may be no cabin available to house her for the six weeks she will be there.
Then, the owner of the camp, Francesca Harris-White, or Franny as she wants to be called, a wealthy widow with two adopted sons, has an idea. She'll put her in the last space left, a bunk in a cabin with 3 older girls. These girls, Vivian, Natalie and Allison, will take her under their wing, especially Vivian, whose attention Emma craves. These girls and this summer will change Emma's life forever.
Fast forward 15 years. Emma is now an acclaimed artist. Her huge paintings each contain a secret. Painted beneath the trees and forest scenes three girls are hidden. The painted buried images of the beautiful and engaging Vivian and her two cabin mates are now all that remains of them, a mystery of three girls who disappeared that summer, and one that has haunted Emma ever since.
Could Emma have saved them? Was it her fault they vanished? What about the things she said, the accusations that ended up closing the camp and altering lives?
At a gallery exhibition a woman approaches her. It's Franny, the wealthy owner of the camp on the shores of a man-made lake called Lake Midnight. She has a proposition. Would Emma consider returning to the scene of what has traumatized her for those 15 years?
Franny is planning to reopen the camp and take the emphasis away from it being a camp for wealthy girls. It will now be free and merit-based. She would like Emma to be the art teacher. She has been forgiven for her part in that mystery.
Will Emma return for closure and maybe, just maybe, find out what happened to the girls who vanished from her cabin one night, so long ago?
If you're looking for the kind of intense read that grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very last page, then Last Time I Lied is the book for you!
Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!
*note: in case you're interested, Riley Sager is the pen name of author Todd Ritter.