Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review of The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

Kate Morton meets Daphne du Maurier in this atmospheric debut novel about a woman who discovers the century-old remains of a murder victim on her family’s Scottish estate, plunging her into an investigation of its mysterious former occupants.

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves London and her strained relationship behind for Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. She intends to renovate the ruinous house into a hotel, but the shocking discovery of human remains brings her ambitious restoration plans to an abrupt halt before they even begin. Few physical clues are left to identify the body, but one thing is certain: this person did not die a natural death.

Hungry for answers, Hetty discovers that Muirlan was once the refuge of her distant relative Theo Blake, the acclaimed painter and naturalist who brought his new bride, Beatrice, there in 1910. Yet ancient gossip and a handful of leads reveal that their marriage was far from perfect; Beatrice eventually vanished from the island, never to return, and Theo withdrew from society, his paintings becoming increasingly dark and disturbing.

What happened between them has remained a mystery, but as Hetty listens to the locals and studies the masterful paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that still reverberate through the small island community—and will lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.


  • Atria Books | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501126918 | 
  • August 2016
She headed for the dunes to the west and climbed to the top, emerging through the grasses into a scene that was instantly recognisable-her painting, laid out in front of her. The sun was already beginning its slow descent towards a distant horizon, reflected in the pools and rivulets left by the tide, and even the rocks in the foreground were where she expected them to be. Blake must have set up his easel right there, in that sheltered spot in the angle of a ruined wall, and she went and sat where he might have sat, in a place of stillness and calm, and listened to the waves coming ashore.

What a strange sensation it was, feeling the painting coming alive around her. It seemed to envelop her, drawing her in and binding her close with a sense of connection, strange and powerful. And it was here, not at the grim little graveyard, with the flung cries of the seabirds above her, that she felt the spirit of the young painter, restless and driven, glorying in his talent, before his world fell apart. 

True elements of various storylines in du Maurier's, Rebecca along with shades of similarities from Kate Morton's Lake House can be read within the pages of, Sarah Maine's debut novel, The House Between Tides as the description states. I reiterate this point only to let the reader know that what we have here is a stunningly beautifully written Gothic, three generational family story centered upon intrigue, a love triangle, all set in the beautiful Outer Hebrides.  

When I first read the description of The House Between Tides, I prayed that it would not only be a good story but a well written one, as well. All my hopes were brought to fruition and then some!  Intelligently thought out plots with such captivating characters and settings that I could not put this book down. Truly, I never, ever, get tired or frustrated reading about abandoned manor houses trapped between parallel scopes of time, bitter wives trapped in loveless marriages with artistic men who are motivated ultimately by money and power.  Tragedy always seems to be at the bottom of these stories. The problem is most of these books are so poorly thought out, riddled with predictable clichés that the reader gives up a quarter of the way through. Well, not in this case.  

I am getting ahead of myself, I know but I really love this book. I am so happy to discover author, Sarah Maine. It is not always that I find a writer who can structurally create a sound storyline; and so beautifully executed. When this happens, I find myself reading the good bits out loud in a room all by myself so that I can hear not only the tone but the character's thoughts are much better conveyed.  It helps me as I piece together the family lineage. 

Here we have three generations of The Blake Family but I cannot go into specifics or any further details without completely giving away the twist and surprise the reader will discover at the final completion of The House Between Tides.  I only hope Gothic lovers and anyone who loves Scotland and The Highlands will give this book a try. 

Of course, I got completely wrapped up in both storylines i.e. Hetty Devereaux of 2010 researching painter and businessman, Theo Blake along with his wife, Beatrice Blake who hold many, many secrets while living in Muirlan House during 1910...

She left the museum in a daze. She had reached through the years and experienced a past emotional charge, a charge that Blake's photograph and, later, his painting had captured in ways that were poles apart, depicting the joyful beginning and the broken end. And Beatrice's sepia phantom had seared herself onto her mind's eye. She walked slowly back to the hotel, past the lochan fringed with yellow iris, thinking how, over these last weeks, through his paintings and letters, the jagged ill-fitting pieces of Theo Blake's life had begun to come together. And it had been a tragic life, almost operatic in its drama. 

Thank you to Atria Books for mailing my paperback arc edition of, The House Between Tides and available now for purchase,  Amazon

 To pre-order in the United Kingdom, The House Between Tides can be purchased, Amazon UK

NOTE:  It should be mentioned that The House Between Tides was previously published in the United Kingdom under the title, Bhalla Strand by Sarah Maine in 2014 by Freight Books in Glasgow, Scotland. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Review of Cutting the Gordian Knot - The Final Solution by Kevin Marsh

Two months after their disastrous holiday, Orlagh and Jerry are at home in Ireland recovering from their terrifying ordeal. The Belgae Torc is at last on display at the National Museum and Orlagh is under increasing pressure to divide her time between her work at the museum and heading up an archaeological dig in County Meath. She is convinced that an ancient battle between Iron Age tribes took place here and is determined to prove her theory, but as archaeologists begin to unearth the truth, they are faced with some unexpected surprises. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Jack Harrington is making discoveries of his own and finds himself juggling personal and professional commitments. His organisation is still recovering from recent events in the Mediterranean and is loathed to be drawn into another deadly conflict, but like it or not, there are unresolved issues that cannot be avoided. The Phoenix Legion is about to implement the final phase of its master plan and this time Schiffer is convinced that nothing can stop him from realising his goal. With the past merging with the present, the elements of a deadly conclusion are finally coming together. Will history repeat itself or can another worldwide catastrophe be avoided?
  
  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (14 July 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178222470X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782224709

Cutting the Gordian Knot is a well thought out end to the trilogy. Author, Kevin Marsh does a wonderful job with the varied storylines including chapters on World War II, Hitlerian events. I found that part of the book intriguing.  

My favorite couple are the characters Orlagh and Jerry. They are so good together and good for each other. I have always enjoyed the way Kevin brings them together and keeps their relationship interesting by creating tension and passion!  

There is plenty of history to do with The Celts, i.e. many terrific chapters centered around an ancient object called a, 'Torc' as well as actual Druids who appear out of the mists.  Well, you'll have to read it for yourself but Kevin does such a fine job not only giving the story a believable and interesting ending but the characters come full circle as well. It is not just tied up nicely with a big red bow, Cutting the Gordian Knot is a finely crafted, beautifully written, adventurous ending to a trilogy I thoroughly enjoyed.  

I appreciated a quirky, mysterious character named, 'Pixie Lee'.  She is a online friend of Jerry's that has maintained a friendship throughout the trilogy. She is very funny and very smart. A good person to have in your corner when you need some top secret information shared privately.  Kevin brings her out of her shell a bit more and as usual the dialogue scene's are very funny! 

Take heed and do not worry I believe you can read this as a stand alone novel. If you have not read the previous two books,  you should be able to enjoy it nonetheless.  

I look forward to more books from author, Kevin Marsh. I have always enjoyed his writing style and humor.

To purchase in the United States, Amazon  and to purchase in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK 


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Emily Jane Brontë ~ The Isolated Artist (July 30, 1818-December 19, 1848)

Emily Brontë by Patrick Branwell Brontë © National Portrait Gallery, London 

The Night Wind by Emily Brontë (1818-1848)
In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
How dark the woods will be!

"The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem."

I said, "Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

"Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supple bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow."

The wanderer would not heed me;
Its kiss grew warmer still.
"O come!" it sighed so sweetly;
"I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

"Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

"And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And THOU for being alone."

In these stanzas a louder gale has roused the sleeper on her
pillow: the wakened soul struggles to blend with the storm by
which it is swayed:--

Ay--there it is! it wakes to-night
Deep feelings I thought dead;
Strong in the blast--quick gathering light--
The heart's flame kindles red.

"Now I can tell by thine altered cheek,
And by thine eyes' full gaze,
And by the words thou scarce dost speak,
How wildly fancy plays.

"Yes--I could swear that glorious wind
Has swept the world aside,
Has dashed its memory from thy mind
Like foam-bells from the tide:

"And thou art now a spirit pouring
Thy presence into all:
The thunder of the tempest's roaring,
The whisper of its fall:

"An universal influence,
From thine own influence free;
A principle of life--intense--
Lost to mortality.

"Thus truly, when that breast is cold,
Thy prisoned soul shall rise;
The dungeon mingle with the mould--
The captive with the skies.
Nature's deep being, thine shall hold,
Her spirit all thy spirit fold,
Her breath absorb thy sighs.
Mortal! though soon life's tale is told;
Who once lives, never dies!"


 Emily Brontë (sister portrait) painted by Patrick Branwell Brontë

Her position before was sheltered from the light: now, I had a distinct view of her whole figure and countenance. She was slender, and apparently scarcely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding: small features, very fair; flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck; and eyes-had they been agreeable in expression, they would have been irresistible-fortunately for my susceptible heart, the only sentiment they evinced hovered between scorn and a kind of desperation, singularly unnatural to be detected there.  (Wuthering Heights, Chapter 2)

Emily's diary paper, bearing the date of her twenty-seventh birthday, Thursday, July 30, 1845.
Her sketch at the bottom shows her writing in her tiny bedroom, previously the room the Brontë children called their "study." Her dog Keeper lies at her feet, while Anne's dog Flossy and a cat occupy the bed. 

I came across two of 'Emily's Diary Papers' as they were called, one from July 30, 1841 and another from July 30, 1845. Remarkable that her very own words, feelings, and descriptions survive pertaining to two of her birthday's. I still can't believe I am reading her own thoughts on the subject.  How amazing for us and generations to come that they survive. 

Emily J. Brontë's Diary Paper, July 30, 1841


It is Friday evening–near 9 o'clock–wild rainy weather I am seated in the dining room 'alone'–having just concluded tidying our desk-boxes–writing this document–Papa is in the parlour. Aunt up stairs in her room–she has been reading Blackwood's Magazine to papa–Victoria and Adelaide are ensconced in the peat-house–Keeper is in the kitchen–Hero in his cage–We are all stout and hearty as I hope is the case with Charlotte, Branwell, and Anne, of whom the first is at John White Esq., Upperwood. House, Rawden; the second is at Luddenden foot and the third is I believe at Scarborough - editing perhaps a paper corresponding to this– A scheme is at present in agitation for setting us up in a school of our own as yet nothing is determined but I hope and trust it may go on and prosper and answer our highest expectations. This day 4 years I wonder whether we shall still be dragging on in our present condition or established to our heart's content Time will show–
          I guess that at the time appointed for the opening of this paper–we (i.e.) Charlotte, Anne and I–‘shall' be all merrily seated in our own sitting-room in some pleasant and flourishing seminary having just gathered in for the midsummer holydays our debts will be paid off and we shall have cash in hand to a considerable amount. papa Aunt and Branwell will either have been–or be coming–to visit us–it will be a fine warm summery evening. very different from this bleak look-out Anne and I will perchance slip out into the garden a minutes to peruse our papers. I hope either this or something better will be the case–

The Gondalians are at present in a threatening state but there is no open rupture as yet–all the princes and princesses of the royal royaltys are at the palace of Instruction–I have a good many books on hands but I am sorry to say that as usual I make small progress with any–however I have just made a new regularity paper! and I mean verb sap–to do great things–and now I close sending from far an exhortation of course courage! to exiled and harassed Anne wishing she was here


Emily Brontë's Diary Paper, Thursday, July 30, 1845

My birthday–showery–breezy–cool–I am twenty seven years old today–this morning Anne and I opened the papers we wrote 4 years since on my twenty third birthday–this paper we intend, if all be well, to open on my 30th three years hence in 1848–since the 1841 paper, the following events have taken place

          Our school-scheme has been abandoned and instead Charlotte and I went to Brussels on the 8th of February 1842 Branwell left his place at Luddenden Foot C and I returned from Brussels November 8th 1842 in consequence of Aunt's death–Branwell went to Thorp Green as a tutor where Anne still continued–January 1843 Charlotte returned to Brussels the same month and after staying a year came back again on new years day 1844 Anne left her situation at Thorp Green of her own accord–June 1845 Branwell left–July 1845 

Anne and I went our first long journey by ourselves together–leaving Home on the 30th of June-monday sleeping at York–returning to Keighley Tuesday evening sleeping there and walking home on Wednesday morning–though the weather was broken, we enjoyed ourselves very much except during a few hours at Bradford and during our excursion we were Ronald Macelgin, Henry Angora, Juliet Augusteena, Rosobelle Esualdar, Ella and Julian Egramont Catherine Navarre and Cordelia Fitzaphnold escaping from the palaces of Instruction to join the Royalists who are hard driven at present by the victorious Republicans–The Gondals still flourish bright as ever I am at present writing a work on the First Wars–Anne has been writing some articles on this and a book by Henry Sophona–We intend sticking firm by the rascals as long as they delight us which I am glad to say they do at present–I should have mentioned that last summer the school scheme was revived in full vigor–We had prospectuses printed, despatched letters to all aquaintances imparting our plans and did our little all–but it was found no go–now I dont desire a school at all and none of us have any great longing for it. We have cash enough for our present wants with a prospect of accumulation–we are all in decent health–only that papa has a complaint in his eyes and with the exception of B who I hope will be better and do better, hereafter. I am quite contented for myself–not as idle as formerly, altogether as hearty and having learnt to make the most of the present and hope for the future with less fidgetiness that I cannot do all I wish–seldom or ever troubled with nothing to do, and merely desiring that every body could be as comfortable as myself and as undesponding and then we should have a very tolerable world of it

          By mistake I find we have opened the paper on the 31st instead of the 30th Yesterday was much such a day as this but the morning was divine–

          Tabby who was gone in our last paper is come back and has lived with us–two years and a half and is in good health–Martha who also departed is here too. We have got Flossey, got and lost Tiger–lost the Hawk. Hero which with the geese was given away and is doubtless dead for when I came back from Brussels I enquired on all hands and could hear nothing of him–Tiger died early last year–Keeper and Flossey are well also the canary acquired 4 years since

          We are now all at home and likely to be there some time–Branwell went to Liverpool on 'Tuesday' to stay a week. Tabby has just been teasing me to turn as formerly to-'pilloputate'. Anne and I should have picked the black currants if it had been fine and sunshiny. I must hurry off now to my taming and ironing I have plenty of work on hands and writing and am altogether full of business with best wishes for the whole House till 1848 July 3oth and as much longer as may be I conclude

E J Brontë

To read more of Emily Bronte's papers, CUNY Edu Brooklyn Academy

 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

PUBLISHED AND ON SALE NOW: Cutting the Gordian Knot-The Final Solution by Kevin Marsh


Two months after their disastrous holiday, Orlagh and Jerry are at home in Ireland recovering from their terrifying ordeal. The Belgae Torc is at last on display at the National Museum and Orlagh is under increasing pressure to divide her time between her work at the museum and heading up an archaeological dig in County Meath. She is convinced that an ancient battle between Iron Age tribes took place here and is determined to prove her theory, but as archaeologists begin to unearth the truth, they are faced with some unexpected surprises. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Jack Harrington is making discoveries of his own and finds himself juggling personal and professional commitments. His organisation is still recovering from recent events in the Mediterranean and is loathed to be drawn into another deadly conflict, but like it or not, there are unresolved issues that cannot be avoided. The Phoenix Legion is about to implement the final phase of its master plan and this time Schiffer is convinced that nothing can stop him from realising his goal. With the past merging with the present, the elements of a deadly conclusion are finally coming together. Will history repeat itself or can another worldwide catastrophe be avoided?


  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Paragon Publishing (July 14, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178222470X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782224709
Out now and available worldwide.  The final installment of The Torc Trilogy. I for one cannot wait to read it!

To purchase in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

To purchase in the United States,  Amazon

 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Peacock & Vine: On William Morris and Mariano Fortuny by A.S. Byatt: A Review

Born a generation apart in the mid-1800s, Fortuny and Morris were seeming opposites: Fortuny a Spanish aristocrat thrilled by the sun-baked cultures of Crete and Knossos; Morris a member of the British bourgeoisie, enthralled by Nordic myths. Through their revolutionary inventions and textiles, both men inspired a new variety of art that is as striking today as when it was first conceived. In this elegant meditation, Byatt traces their genius right to the source.

Fortuny’s Palazzo Pesaro Orfei in Venice is a warren of dark spaces imbued with the rich hues of Asia. In his attic workshop, Fortuny created intricate designs from glowing silks and velvets; in the palazzo he found “happiness in a glittering cavern” alongside the French model who became his wife and collaborator, including on the famous “Delphos” dress—a flowing, pleated gown that evoked the era of classical Greece.

Morris’s Red House outside London, with its Gothic turrets and secret gardens, helped inspire his stunning floral and geometric patterns; it likewise represented a coming together of life and art. But it was a “sweet simple old place” called Kelmscott Manor in the countryside that he loved best—even when it became the setting for his wife’s love affair with the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Generously illustrated with the artists’ beautiful designs—pomegranates and acanthus, peacock and vine—among other aspects of their worlds, this marvel-filled book brings the visions and ideas of Fortuny and Morris to vivid life.
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (August 2, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1101947470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101947470
"Every time I thought about Fortuny in the aquamarine clarity, I found I was also thinking about the Englishman William Morris. I was using Morris, whom I did know, to understand Fortuny. I was using Fortuny to reimagine Morris. Aquamarine, gold green. English meadows, Venetian canals. I closed my eyes and found my head full of aquamarine light, water flowing in canals, the dark of the Palazzo Pesaro Orfei." A.S. Byatt
"They were both men of genius and extraordinary energy. They created their own surroundings, changed the visual world around them,studied the forms of the past and made them parts of new forms. In many ways they were opposites. Morris was an English bourgeois whose father had made an unexpected fortune in tin mining. He became a convinced and passionate socialist. Fortuny came from an aristocratic Spanish family of painters and artists and lived in an elegant aristocratic world. Fortuny’s imaginative roots were Mediterranean-North Africa, Crete and Delphos. Morris was obsessed by the North and the Nordic-the Icelandic sagas, Iceland itself, the North Sea."  A.S. Byatt

In Peackock & Vine Byatt divides chapters of both men according to physical, descriptive geographical location, four directions: North, South, East, and West, as well as the houses they lived in. For instance, Morris's homes are mentioned by name.  Fortuny's Venetian family Palazzo Pesaro Orfei made me yearn to be there if only for a few minutes.

What I found so very refreshing was in the case of William Morris, Byatt does not go over old ground. For instance, there is only the briefest mentions of his personal life, his wife, Jane Morris, etc.   Cleverly, Byatt juxtaposes aspects of their own individuality and creativity through describing their travels thus affecting their own works.  For instance, Morris created his written prose through his own Kelmscott Press as well as his wallpapers and paintings.

Mariano Fortuny, whom I did not know until Peacock & Vine used his Mediterranean influences to create his works of fabrics, clothing designs using natural light to infuse his vision. He became one of Venezia's most influential fashion designers. His muse was a woman who worked with him for twenty-two years, Henrietta, who became his wife.  It was incredible learning how her creativity and vision influenced his and how they worked together.  He also drew and photographed her but he would be known for his fashion.

Overall, A.S. Byatt writes of her own personal favorite works and pieces of Morris and Fortuny's that she owns. She discusses how these men influenced her so much so that she had to write this gem of a booklet under two-hundred pages.  I am so glad I was able to read an online digital review copy.  It gave me a chance to learn so much about two creative geniuses that really weren't that different.

Peacock & Vine by A.S. Byatt is published now in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

Peacock & Vine by A.S. Byatt will be published in the United States on August 2, 2016, pre-order your copy, Amazon