Book Reviews: Novak, Bourne, and Piersall; and ROW80 Goals

Books galore!

I've got three reviews today, starting with Brenda Novak's A Matter of Grave Concern (isn't that a great title? Read the blurb and you'll see why!)

"When Maximillian Wilder hides his noble identity and joins the notorious body snatchers known as the London Supply Company, the last thing on his mind is love. He's worried about Madeline, his vanished half sister, who was last seen in the company of Jack Hurtsill, the gang's conscienceless leader. Raiding graveyards, stealing corpses, and selling them to medical colleges as dissection material is dirty work, but Max knows he must gain Jack's trust. He's determined to find out what happened to Madeline -- and to bring Jack to justice if she was murdered for the coin her body could earn.

Beautiful, spirited Abigail Hale, daughter of the surgeon at Aldersgate School of Medicine, detests the challenging, hard-bargaining Max almost as much as Jack. But she must procure the necessary specimens if she is to save the college and her father's career. She believes she is going to be successful-until Jack double-crosses her. Then she's swept into a plot of danger and intrigue, one where Max must intervene to protect her, no matter the risk to his plan... or his heart."

I always enjoy diving into a Brenda Novak story -- the characters pull you in right away. Their predicaments are of the how-will-they-get-out-of-this variety and I love seeing the intriguing solutions they carry out. Abby and Max/Lucien are both very independent, and it's exciting watching them come to trust one another as they are forced to work together. Their dialogue feels very natural (despite a few anachronisms); I only wished the story slowed down a little in the bedroom, and at the end, during Max's later activities, so that I could be even more in their point-of-view, and experiencing everything over their shoulders.

Spoiler: Despite historical accuracy, I wish Abby could have had her wish of studying to become a surgeon!

Next up is Joanna Bourne's Rogue Spy.

"For years he'd lived a lie.
It was time to tell the truth...
even if it cost him the woman he loved.

Ten years ago, he was a boy, given the name 'Thomas Paxton' and sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London, alone and unarmed, to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he's given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.

Lovely, lying, former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from her safe rural obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he's holding—only to find an old colleague already on the case. Pax.

Old friendship turns to new love and Pax and Camille's dark secrets loom up from the past. Pax is left with the choice — go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever."

I could never write book reviews professionally because I'm always at a loss as to what to say about a story I've really enjoyed. How do you begin to dissect a novel whose characters are so true to life that you think you might just meet them if you happened to be on the right street at the right time? Although there are different types of such characters, I suppose. Anne Shirley or Jo March, you'd like to be friends with, for instance. But Pax and Cami, well, I almost feel I'd have to have something special to impress them with...

I always enjoy reading about the deft, the mysterious, the adept. Honourable spies make for some of the most fascinating characters because their motives are high, despite some of the stickier situations they land in, and it's thrilling to read about their skillful handling of exactly those types of situations.

But that's all general talk; Pax and Cami in particular are enthralling because they know each other so well, having shared the same hardships in childhood, but now find themselves at odds, unsure whether they can trust each other and not willing to admit to each other what their ultimate aims are. Yet they are also finally of an age where their attraction to each other leaves no alternative but that they open themselves up.

What's not to like in this book? The Fluffy Aunts, the kitten in the bed, the sayings of the Baldoni, the glimpses of beloved characters from earlier novels, and -- if any writers needed an ideal to emulate -- Jo Bourne's masterful command of languages and dialect and deep point-of-view.
Highly recommended!

Look, a colouring book!
Coloring Animal Mandalas by Wendy Piersall.

"From the Sanskrit word for "circle," mandalas have been used for meditation and healing for thousands of years.
"Coloring Animal Mandalas" adds the beauty of the animal kingdom—including butterflies, tigers, swans, snakes, peacocks, seahorses and even unicorns—into these intricate designs for page after page of coloring book bliss.
As you transform the detailed shapes in this book into stunning works of art, you'll find yourself relaxing, focused, reaching a higher state of mindfulness and simply enjoying yourself."

Here are a couple of sample pages, both coloured and in black and white:

It might be a fan-of-Tolkien thing (he drew lots of friezes and sigils and emblems that I find very attractive) but I've always enjoyed colouring in patterns and shapes, and even drawn a few geometric repeating patterns of my own (usually when in class...).

There's lots of enjoyment to be had in this book if you're also a fan of that sort of thing. Just looking at the images gets my fingers itching to pick up coloured pencils!

And there's even a time lapse video showing a colouring-in.

I'm a week late in posting my ROW80 goals. Mainly because I've counted up all the remaining notebook pages and I know I won't be able to finish typing up Larksong before NaNoWriMo starts. I might try to finish with the current notebook, at least, or I might stop in the last week of October to begin preparing for NaNo (updating my profile, finding a title for the story, settling the character's names, and finding the various pages of notes I've made here and there).

I'm also doing the October writer's exercise over on the Forum, where we're sharing First Five Sentences (and, later, First 25 Lines) for critique. Here are the first five sentences of paranormal romance Druid's Moon:

From the moment she'd been accepted to join Professor J. Ronald's team on his much-publicised dig near Afanc Cave in Cornwall, Lyne Vanlith had secretly hoped for an exciting, mysterious find that might earn her a co-writing credit on the Professor's paper. But the manuscript that turned up in the first week of excavations was not quite the type of puzzle she had allowed herself to daydream about.
"'The Curse of the Octopus,'" she read out loud, , the Middle English script as she went. Octopus? A sudden gust of wind shook the printout in her hand.

Next week I'll share the first 25 lines...and a cover reveal by Medeia Sharif!

Will you be doing NaNo?
Please share your first lines, here or on your blog!


I will definitely be doing Nano. It is always the highlight of my year. I was also a bit late with getting my goals in a row for this ROW80 round ...
I too have trouble writing book reviews. I can't believe you did three at one time! I sure never thought about reviewing a coloring book. What a great idea and great inspiration. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like doing a little bit of coloring inside - or outside - the lines. Have a great week.
Crystal Collier said…
As much as I've ranted about NaNo, I am playing along this year. Too many deadlines coming my way... We all need that extra kick in the pants, eh?
Anonymous said…
As long as we keep working towards our goals, it doesn't matter how behind we are. I hope I get the chance to catch up with your NaNo adventure, and check in with you on your goals for ROW80 :-)
Conny Kaufmann said…
Good luck on ROW80 and your NaNo Prep. I'm doing NaNo for the second time this year, but I won't stress about it. If I manage it, that's fine, if not, at least I participated. :)
I would've enjoyed that coloring when I was younger. Might've made my own.
octopus really caught her of guard.
S.P. Bowers said…
I love coloring too. (hubby and I colored on our first date) I love that one of the peacock!
Good luck with NaNo. Look forward to readings more ROW80 progress! :)
dolorah said…
No NaNo for me, I'll be working on some unfinished short stories though.

These were great reviews. I love the coloring book too. What a great way to clear your mind for a while.
Romance Reader said…
All the best with your NaNo! I have to complete and get one ms ready but no Nano for me.
Zan Marie said…
Rogue Spy!!!!! Come on, Nov. 4--I need this book. ;-)

Good luck with NaNo! I'll be trying to finish the current WIP's holes.
Deniz Bevan said…
By the way, Conny, I can't seem to access your profile..

Popular posts from this blog

Contest to Celebrate My 900th Post!

IWSG Day, and RIP Tom Petty

Books, etc.