Monday, December 28, 2015

My favorite novels of 2015~Spanning the ages!

It has been a little while since I have chosen my end of year top favorite novels. The ones that have stayed with me and have had a hard time forgetting!  In no particular order.

My criteria is pretty basic:  
It must be descriptive yet beautifully written.
The characters must speak to me in some way.
The storyline or lines (dual era novels) must not only be believable but well researched with a most convincing plot. 
Time and place seem to disappear and all I am left with as a reader is enrapture for the story itself. 

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by Atria Books (first published March 1st 2015)
ISBN 147677806X 
 
DESCRIPTION
Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.
 
MY REVIEW 
Within the pages of The Witch of Painted Sorrows by MJ Rose you will find Sandrine Salome a married woman with no understanding or experience of romantic love who has lived a 'passionless' married existence. In order to understand her reasons for leaving New York City to go to her grandmother's home in Paris, France, you will need to meet La Lune. I don't want to give away too much but Sandrine's journey of self-discovery will thrust her into a world of occult ridden Belle Epoque Paris. The question remains who does she become and will she survive?

If you enjoy the artists of Belle Epoque Paris, i.e. Gustave Moreau, Ecole des Beaux Arts, parisian mansions, sexy handsome men and a grandmother who is let's say anything but dowdy, then my friends you will definitely enjoy The Witch of Painted Sorrows. Sandrine's romantic suitor, Julien Duplessi is a fellow art lover, living in a parisian mansion with every interest in getting to know the beautiful and shy Sandrine. Against her grandmother's warnings, what follows is a tale so beautifully written with erotic scenes of lovemaking and what is thought to be true passion could be veiled by a sinister ghostly spirit named La Lune
 
 
  Hardcover, 593 pages 
 Published October 20th 2015
by Atria Books 
 
DESCRIPTION
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.
 
 
MY REVIEW
Beginning in 1933, you will meet separately and as a family together, the Edevane family presiding at their ancestral home, 'Loeanneth' in Cornwall, England. Sixteen year old Alice Edevane is the main protagonist living with her two sisters Deborah and Clemmie, youngest eighteenth month old brother Theo and parents Eleanor and Anthony. This family dynamic is vitally important because Kate Morton juxtaposes shades of similarities between real life Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith Liddell. For instance, you will meet older man friend of The Edevane family Mr. Llellwyn who again reminds me very much of Rev. Charles Dodgson who was family friend of the Liddell family. He became author Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland. Just pay close attention to the happenings of The Edevane Family living in their manor house in Cornwall during and after that party they had one Midsummer Eve in 1933 when their brother Theo disappeared never to be seen again!

Skip ahead to the second storyline in 2003 (present day) where we meet police detective sargaent Sadie Sparrow who visits her grandfather in Cornwall only to discover an abandoned manor house. She is strangely attracted to it. Remember that old saying, 'curiousity killed the cat'? Well, perhaps D.S. Sparrow should have listened to her own instincts!

Enter into the frame, a grown up, aged, Alice Edevane, now a successful crime writer using the pen name A.C. Edevane. When Sadie writes to her requesting an interview, Alice immediately knows it's about her missing brother Theo. What happens next will awaken The Edevane Family secret which may or not have been laying dormant for seventy years.
  
 
Kindle Edition, 407 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by NAL
ASIN B00O2BS44W
 
DESCRIPTION
 Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature.…
 
MY REVIEW
The tone of the novel, 'The House of Hawthorne' was set from the very first page with the appearance of, Lift Not The Painted Veil by Percy Bysshe Shelley. This is a story of the meeting of two soul mates. Two artistic/creative people; one author and one painter who are attracted to each other soul to soul. It is an inner connection they share more intensely than purely physical attraction. Throughout the novel, Keats' Endymion is mentioned between Sophia Peabody the soon to be Mrs. Hawthorne and her sisters. Having been published in 1818, both Nathaniel and Sophia would have grown up reading the poem and most likely relating to its soul connection story. 

Being a romantic at heart, immediately I found myself recognizing the soul connection creative mentions. The writing style is intelligent and beautiful. Erika Robuck brings both Sophia and Nathaniel to life. It is nineteenth-century Americana at its best. From Salem, Massachusetts and Concord, Massachusetts, the reader begins to understand the personalities of Nathaniel and Sophia. I found myself reading whole chapters out loud. Especially, when Sophia and Nathaniel were meeting, talking together inside candlelit rooms, walking through snowy New England he in a black cloak and she in a warm coat. 


Hardcover, 384 pages
Published March 17th 2015 by William Morrow 
 ISBN 0062356402
 
DESCRIPTION
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.
 
MY REVIEW 
  In, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ you will meet little Gabrielle born to loving parents who ends up orphaned in a rural French convent. Her one saving grace is the fact that she could sew most any pattern, given her, almost to perfection. C.W. Gortner captures the little girl lost inside the woman whose life becomes as unpredictable as she was. Broken up chapters into five acts covering 1895-1945, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ highlights her most pivotal years graced by the author’s beautiful writing style.

As Gabrielle grows up, C.W. Gortner focuses on her male relationships, friendships, lovers and loves lost showing us the dichotomy between the innocent girl and the independent woman who stands on her own truly finding her own way in the world. Gortner makes Gabrielle likable but not pitiful. The reader begins to understand why and how fashion would become her salvation. However, if you are expecting numerous fashion, clothing or fabric descriptive chapters they are not here in abundance. The Mademoiselle Chanel that author, C.W. Gortner writes about and brings to life is the rural French girl who falls in love with sewing to become Coco Chanel the world’s most beloved fashion designer. This is not the novelized biography of the already famous Coco Chanel. It is instead a breathtaking story of the woman behind the icon and I for one am thankful to have read it.

If you want to meet the real woman behind the designer and find out about her early life and most life changing events that shaped her into Coco Chanel, then this is the novel for you. 
 
 Hardcover, 400 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Touchstone
ISBN1476756376 
 
DESCRIPTION
 The next page-turner in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series takes place in the heart of the Tudor court, as the gutsy former novice risks everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.
 
MY REVIEW
I have read and enjoyed The Crown and The Chalice, the two novels that precede this one. The Tapestry remains my favorite.  
Joanna Stafford is such an intelligent and strong character full of conviction.  I really enjoy how Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly brings her again to life. Joanna is a Dominican nun that nobody wants to mess with! Well, she finds herself in a mess of trouble including a murder attempt that begins the novel. 
 The Tapestry is so deftly written with red herrings, plot twists, humor, and is a real edge of your seat thriller
I loved finidng myself in the Tudor era under the reign of King Henry VIII and all the mischief that occurs there.
 

2 comments:

Francine Weberly said...

I love your favorites! So many novels to add to my TBR list.

Hels said...

The only theme I have read before was a Chanel book. Now I will have to read Morrow's analysis.

I am managing the History Carnival for January 2016 and need nominations for your own blog post or someone else’s by 31/1/2016. The theme I have chosen is History of the Visual, Performing, Musical and Literary Arts, but all good history posts will be welcomed. Most of your topics would be perfect.

The nomination form is at http://historycarnival.org/form.html

Thank you and Farewell

This will be my last and final blog post. Due to my work schedule and private life, I sadly must bring this blog to a close. It is no...