Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

Time’s Convert. Deborah Harkness. Penguin Publishing Group. September 2018. 448 pp. ISBN#: 9780399564512.

What is it like to be adopted and become a vampire?  What is it like to become a vampire and then be married to another vampire.  In this prequel to the author’s previous All Souls Trilogy about the de Clermont family, we discover the background of Marcus Whitmore and the 23-year-old bride to be, Phoebe Taylor.  She becomes a vampire but like a baby must undergo a 90-day period of change from a human to vampire, with all the physical, mental and spiritual changes accompanying such a huge and formidable transformation.  During that period of time, Marcus has agreed to remain separated from her and endure all the frustrations of that change.  They are well-suited to each other with their independent, fiercely demanding and intemperate desires.  They are also a thorn in the flesh of those around them which provides many amusing and almost catastrophic scenes that elicit a range of erratic emotions in the reader as well as the characters.  “Becoming” is mysterious and exciting as well, to say the least!

Another plot line centers around two twins, Philip and Becca, born to a couple who are vampire and witch respectively.  It turns out that these twins have magical powers parallel to witches which must be softened, monitored and disciplined into permissible behavior so that disaster does not strike, as it almost does several times.  Their parents have a huge adjustment to manage as well as they never expected babies to satisfy their own desires immediately, including one making friends with a familiar, a griffin whom Philip names Apollo. The latter is also in dire need of control and discipline, proven by the humorous and frightening scenes that demonstrate just how deeply bonded Philip and Apollo are!

A third and fascinating subplot shows what it was like to live in the times of the American and French Revolution.  Marcus originally lived in that time in the 1700s.  Growing up with an abusive father and negligent family certainly did not bode well for the future and it was his father Matthew de Clermont who adopted Marcus and made him a vampire.  Learning about the extended family of vampires is awesome by itself. Vying for power and satisfying one’s own desires make for familial scenes that are more like a civil war.

Although this novel is connected to the earlier series, it works just as well as a stand-alone story.  Constant action, conflicts, funny takes, and the solving of some mysteries about the de Clermont history enable the reader to fly through these pages and engage with these endearing yet formidable characters.  Deborah Harkness has clearly done her research and has more than ample talent to craft a richly complex story, with just enough complexity in character depiction to satisfy every reader.

Well-done, again, Deborah Harkness!  Looking forward to more of immediate and extended family evolution and progress!  

The Lost Carousel of Provence: A Novel by Juliet Blackwell

The Lost Carousel of Provence: A Novel. Juliet Blackwell. Penguin Publishing Group. September 2018. 384 pp. ISBN#:  9780451490636.

Cady Drake has spent her whole life yearning so badly for a family, someone to show her love and to affirm that she was a good, deserving person.  Tossed from foster homes to group homes for years, Cady’s dream is never fulfilled.  However, the need to survive taught her strength and gave her focus on skills that have made her a photographer who is always in demand, albeit not a famous one.  Her fascination is for pictures of carousels from anywhere in the world.  A need to escape the aftermath of a personal tragedy and the wise, tough and loving advice of a good friend leads Cady to accept a plan from a publisher to photograph as many carousels as possible in Paris, France.  Readers will learn about the various types of carousels in Paris as well as the major artists who sculpted the brilliant and loving figures that gave so many children, teens and adults childlike pleasure for centuries.

The narrative voices switch from contemporary France to the 1940s France when a young carver female gets hired by Gustave Bayol, an actual famous carousel creator. Yes, she learns the trade, starting on the bottom cleaning brushes, etc. and graduating to carving the inside of the animals on the actual carousels made for very rich patrons. But she also falls in love and is saved by a refined patron who is as lonely as Maelle, the budding artist.

Back in the countryside outside of Paris, Cady winds up staying in a home with a very grumpy old man, Fabrice, whose family has a story that will leave the reader rapidly flipping the pages through various aspects of both a mystery and several romances. Cady will eventually be told the answer about the photograph of a beautiful woman and a love letter hidden inside a carousel rabbit. She will get the chance to restore an abandoned and semi-destroyed carousel and perhaps find some romance at the same time.  An unusual ending allows the reader to imagine the end of this superb story, instead of finding instant closure. 

This magnificent novel is about the essence of evolving relationships, be they familial, friendly, or romantic.  Realizations and explorations galore will assault the reader’s mind and heart so that this provokes some very special thinking and feeling. That in itself makes this story a gem! 

Enjoy a grand, exciting, mesmerizing and yet peaceful read! Highly recommend The Lost Carousel of Provence!

The Washington Decree: A Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Washington Decree: A Novel. Jussi Adler-Olsen. Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright 2018. pb. 592 pp.; ISBN: 9781524742522.

When chaos and breakdown create a domestic crisis, the President, Cabinet, Senate and House of Representatives are designed to handle every situation.  However, the scenario that shakes America within the pages of this novel defies the order, law and protocols set up for such a situation. 

The story begins sixteen years before Senator Bruce Jansen becomes President.  After winning a geographical contest, Doggie or Dorothy Rogers and a fellow contestant, Wesley Barefoot, and some other contestants win a free trip to China.  The days in China are filled with a lifetime of wondrous memories which are suddenly destroyed by an attack which winds up with the murder of Senator Jansen’s wife.  Years later, when Jansen has been elected President, he agrees to appear at an event in the hotel owned by Doggie’s father, Bud Curtis.  During that major event, President Jansen’s pregnant wife is assassinated, and the killer and Bud Curtis are arrested.  Bud Curtis is convicted and sentenced to Death Row.

But here is where the horror begins.  President Jansen has been unhinged by the deaths of his two wives, evidenced by the draconian measures he institutes, supported by a small cadre of powerful politicians.  All ammunition for guns of any kind must be surrendered.  The press is now to be censored by the government.  All TV shows about violence are removed.  In fact, most TV channels are closed if not censored for every soundbite that they transmit.  The National Guard and eventually all military are called to serve within America only as the rising tide of revolt, protest and violence increases.  Violent deaths, rapes, beatings and arrests are the new order of the day! America seems to be a civil war against itself.

The remainder of the novel centers on how several characters, mainly Doggie and some of her former colleagues, realize that the preceding events were not just caused by previous acts of violence but perhaps deliberately programmed so that someone could wind up with complete control of the government and the people of the United States of America!  Anarchy, however, still cannot be suppressed!

The Washington Decree… is a novel that could very well become reality.  The division in contemporary America certainly could foster such an attempt to wrest control from such divisive controls.  The author plots out the conflict deftly! Readers know it will evolve into a solution, but the tension is aptly placed so one is not quite so sure about the outcome!  In an epilogue, the author states that institutions such as FEMA, the Office of Homeland Security, and others might be unable to quell the consequences of such a scenario.  Jussi Adler-Olsen keeps the reader engaged but more than that makes the reader ask significant questions about the state of American democracy under threat!  Good contemporary thriller read!