The Beautiful Ones: A Review

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest release The Beautiful Ones is a lush tale of betrayal, innocence lost, romantic obsession, and telekinesis. A departure from her prior release, Certain Dark Things, which I reviewed on Graveyard Shift Sisters. Moreno-Garcia’s strength and confidence in moving from the alternate history of struggling vampires in Mexico to the luxurious ballrooms of historic France is enviable.

Synopsis: 

In a world of etiquette and polite masks, no one is who they seem to be.

Antonina Beaulieu is in the glittering city of Loisail for her first Grand Season, where she will attend balls and mingle among high society. Under the tutelage of the beautiful but cold Valérie Beaulieu, she hopes to find a suitable husband. However, the haphazard manifestations of Nina’s telekinetic powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.

Yet dazzling telekinetic performer and outsider Hector Auvray sees Nina’s powers as a gift, and he teaches her how to hone and control them. As they spend more and more time together, Nina falls in love and believes she’s found the great romance that she’s always dreamed of, but Hector’s courtship of Nina is deceptive.

The Beautiful Ones is a sweeping fantasy of manners set in a world inspired by the Belle Époque.

 

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This novel is reminiscent of a sinister Jane Austen work, set several decades later in La Belle Époque, or The Beautiful Era. This brief period of France’s history, from 1871 to 1914, is said to be the last hurrah of the societal elite.

After this time, technology and industry began to advance at speed. The lower classes began to question the status quo of upper class rule. The playing field began to level out, and the influence of the elites began to dwindle. Trapped in their traditions, they ignored the changes in society, instead choosing to bury themselves in elaborate restrictions to differentiate themselves from lower classes.

The Beautiful Ones is set during this last hurrah and the rigors of the society are keenly drawn. Antonina is an ingénue, and not familiar with the rules of the Loisail’s Grand Season. She quickly discovers proper ladies do not have powers, or go to great lengths to hide them. When she meets Hector and sees his firm control of his powers, she asks to be tutored, soon falling in love with the magician.

But even Hector’s newly found wealth doesn’t exempt him from scorn. He is “new money” and looked down upon by Nina’s family and society at large. And he has secrets of his own, that will destroy Nina’s innocence and hope for a future with him.

Nina is a sympathetic character and thankfully, doesn’t fall into the simpering victim category. Society itself is a character, with all the strength of a well-crafted villain. Character progression (or regression in on particular case) pulls the reader along, deeper into the mystique of this world, showing that even with manners, dirty deeds can be accomplished with ease. Deception is hidden behind smiles and promises, as it seems everyone has a say in what Nina’s life should be.

Except Nina.

Moreno-Garcia brings deceit, and first love with a touch of magic power to create a historical romance with power and redemption.

The Beautiful Ones will be released this month. Check Moreno-Garcia’s blog for updates.

 

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Emily Knight I Am… – A Review

I don’t know if I’ve ever reviewed a YA novel for this blog before. Not that I’ve specifically excluded them, but …

*shrugs*

Well, now I am. And it’s a wonderful one to start with: Emily Knight I Am… by A. Bello.

I met her in September of last year at the Triskele Literary Festival in London. She was fun and energetic, and her work was so impressive. She was also a finalist for the Great British Entrepreneurship Award in 2016. For more on that and the press she’s started, you can read my interview with her on the Graveyard Shift Sisters website.

When she asked if I would review Emily Knight, I was flattered. Her book has a brand-new cover, more vibrant than the last in my humble opinion.

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Emily Knight is a troubled thirteen year-old girl, who takes her frustration out on the world around her. She fights, she steals, and is unrepentant when caught. She doesn’t need to steal, she’s from one of the wealthiest, most well-known families around. The paparazzi have captured many of her thefts on camera.

But Emily is crying out for attention. Her father hasn’t been home in years, instead he’s searching the planet for her long-lost brother, Lox. Both Emily’s father and brother are famous fighters, with the ability to fly, breathe underwater, command fire. While Emily is struggling to control her power. Surrounded by wealth and privilege, she’s still unhappy.

When Emily gets the chance to go to the Osaki Training School, where her father and brother attended, she’s nervous. She wants to learn, but is worried the other students (and teachers) will expect more from her and she won’t be able to deliver. She’s Thomas Knight’s daughter, after all.

Soon, what everyone else thinks doesn’t matter as an evil older than she is resurfaces, and Emily will have to use her intelligence and cunning to protect everything and everyone she loves.

Emily Knight I Am… is a page-turner, full of magic and dojo-style fights, perfect for any reader that loves to watch an imperfect character grow into a hero.

It’s rare for me to read about a character of color from a wealthy, famous family who is tested and challenged to become something more than she started to be. The teachers as well as the students in the Osaki Training School are of diverse backgrounds, both racially and socio-economically, which makes it feel like a real specialist school. The lessons are fascinating, and I was amazed to find out that there is real danger of injury and pain for the students.

The second book in the series Emily Knight I Am…Awakened will be launched here in the UK on September 28th at Waterstone’s Islington 6:30-8:00pm. If you can’t make it, grab a copy of Bello’s Emily Knight I Am… on Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Emily Knight 2 book launch invite

Day 8: Nuzo Onoh

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Nuzo Onoh is a British author from Enugu in the Eastern part of Nigeria, in what was formerly known as the Republic of Biafra. Their civil war with Nigeria, which she experienced firsthand, had an enormous impact on her writing style. In her books The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves, you get a deep draught of local Nigerian culture and her writing reflects the oral storytelling traditions of the Igbo tribe. Onoh doesn’t shy away from the gritty details when creating trauma to put her characters through.

She states that her goal is to establish African Horror as bona-fide horror subgenre, rather than the general perception of the term as a negative condition of the continent portrayed by the popular media. It is Nuzo’s hope that soon, African Horror will be recognized and enjoyed as other regional horror— Japanese, Korean, and Scandinavian.

 Her latest release, The Sleepless is her first novel. Buy it here. (Beware, if you are put off by injury to animals, skip the first few pages.) Her other works, The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves, are short story collections steeped in actual practices and chronicle the divergent lifestyles–all dread-inducing–of characters in Nigeria.

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Onoh publishes her work on June 28th so her readers will always know when to expect more from her. For more information about Nuzo, please visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Day 7: Tananarive Due

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Tananarive Due was born in Tallahassee, Florida is a recipient of The American Book Award (for The Living Blood), NAACP Image Award (for the In the Night of the Heat: A Tennyson Hardwick Novel, with Blair Underwood and Steven Barnes), and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award (for the short story collection Ghost Summer).

Due was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for The Between (Superior Achievement in a First Novel) and My Soul to Keep (Best Novel). Due, author of twelve novels and a civil rights memoir, was inducted into the Medill School of Journalism’s Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University in 2010.

Danger Word, a short horror film funded by a successful crowdfunding venture, is based on the post-apocalyptic sci-fi short story of the same name by Due and husband Steven Barnes. The short story has also sparked full length YA horror novels Devil’s Wake and Domino Falls.

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Featuring an award-winning novella and fifteen stories—one of which has never been published before— her first short story collection, Ghost Summer is a must read. Keep up with Tananarive on her website, her mailing list, and on Twitter.

The New Mrs. Collins: A Review

I love a female villain. I don’t read about a lot of them, however. Maybe it’s the books I’m choosing but I don’t see it often enough in my opinion. And black female villains? So rare. During an online Twitter party a week ago, I read about how many readers would love to see a black female villain.

Enter The New Mrs. Collins by Quanie Miller. It’s listed as paranormal on Amazon, but I’d venture to say this book steps its toes into the waters of horror. Just a bit. Enough to cause a few ripples.

Deservedly so. The New Mrs. Collins is an unsettling book with a female villain whose origins are initially obscured. Adira doesn’t know what she is (and neither does the protagonist or the reader until much later.). I enjoy when an author is able to make a “What type of monster is this?” background work for a character. I also love to draw my own conclusions in a book, so I like that not everything about the villain is spelled out.

Adira has a great deal of self-hatred, perhaps understandably, but it didn’t make me sympathetic toward her. I did, however, sympathize with our heroine. Leena is jilted on her wedding day and finds out her husband-to-be had taken up with the mysteriously beautiful, poised, and successful Adira. Adira breezes in, making demands that Leena “give in” to what’s happened and try to move on with finding her own happiness.

Cover of The New Mrs. Collins. Gorgeous. Chilling. Love it.
Cover of The New Mrs. Collins. Gorgeous. Chilling. Love it.

But she can’t. There’s something wrong with Mrs. Collins and few people can see it. Those who do are quickly dealt with in ways made even more chilling because of the distant, almost carefree manner Adira uses.

Miller’s writing style is strong and self-assured. I found the setting of small town Louisiana realistic and refreshing in a story that isn’t steeped in voodoo. She doesn’t hesitate to include colloquialisms, and glimpses into the African-American lifestyle in the South in her work without explanations for those unfamiliar. Since I am familiar, I enjoyed those gems: quips and witticisms of town matriarchs, creative expletives, the whole town’s involvement in preparations for the wedding, and the town ladies’ open criticism of the other woman.

In addition, I felt the fact Leena had a child, was not something covered in a lot of paranormal stories today. It made a connection to the former fiancé that was unbreakable, also making Leena’s son a pawn in Adira’s game. Miller is also not shy about putting her characters in desperate situations. After the jilting Leena gives the store clerk her engagement ring to pay for her “My world is crumbling right now” snacks.

One of the best things about the book was that these female characters were fighting for something other than a man. Yes, the struggle began because if his abandoning Leena at the altar, and you would think the entire plot struggle would make him crucial in its resolution, but it happily didn’t. (Honestly, I’m struggling to recall his name.) But the story is about the mystery of Adira that Leena can’t leave alone and her determination to uncover her secrets. She knows there’s something wrong with her… something off and she has to solve it.

Even after being warned off, Leena has to get to the bottom of Adira’s origins. Her obsession causes people who were on her side to turn their backs on her. (Another reason I want to call this a horror novel. Leena experiences so much isolation. Most from her legitimate attempts to help other people whom Adira has tried to destroy.)

Finally, Leena discovers Adira’s mother and we find out a little more about the woman’s motivations through a glimpse at her childhood. Again, it didn’t make me necessarily sympathetic toward her, because kids can be creepy. But I did see the genesis of evil, helped along by a heavy dose of parental fear.

I won’t give you anything on what Adira is capable of, that’s part of the fun of this book. But I will say that I would recommend it as a great summer chiller.

Get The New Mrs. Collins on Amazon or find out more about the author on her website.