All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue

Review: All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue

James W. George has created a fascinating and complex world sure to delight those who love his style of fantasy. I appreciated his deftness with words and his ability to evoke an emotional response with his characters. Descriptions are succinct yet effective, and the plot scampers along at a good pace.

I enjoy novels with multiple points of view and commend this author for effectively interweaving at least five distinct stories while introducing two would-be heroes to the reader. There is no question James W. George is good at his craft.

Alas, he doesn’t happen to write the sort of fantasy I prefer. For all that I love reading about make-believe worlds and alternate histories, I tire of violence and I lose interest when too many characters treat too many people too horribly too often.

Most of this first book alternates between the toxic masculinity of a perpetually warring race (think Klingons with sex slaves) and the alternative of a matriarchy of disdainful women who abuse their men physically and emotionally. My interest was finally piqued when he introduced the green religious zealots and the orange greedy merchants, as neither of them appeared to regularly beat up their own people. Sadly, it was too far into the novel for either to play much of a role.

I did enjoy the interesting twist he has put into the story of the blue matriarchs, but this is clearly only the first book of the series and nothing is resolved. One would have to read on to find out where his interesting idea leads.

I recommend this book to all those who like their fantasy darker and more violent than I do. I’m sure that’s a sizable group, and if you fall into this camp, I encourage you to check out this well-written series.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see All the World’s Colors: The Queen of the Blue.

 

False Light: An Art History Mystery

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Claudia Riess and her mystery novel, False Light: An Art History Mystery.

Author’s description

Academic sleuths Erika Shawn, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, a more seasoned art history professor, set out to tackle a brain teaser.  This time the couple—married since their encounter in Stolen Light, first in the series—attempt to crack the long un-deciphered code of art forger Eric Hebborn (1934-1996), which promises to reveal the whereabouts of a number of his brilliant Old Master counterfeits.  (Hebborn, in real life, was a mischievous sort, who had a fascination with letters and a love-hate relationship with art authenticators.  I felt compelled to devise a puzzler on his behalf!)

After publication of his memoir, Drawn to Trouble, published in 1991, he encrypts two copies with clues to the treasure hunt.  On each of the title pages, he pens a tantalizing explanatory letter.  One copy he sends to an art expert; the second, he releases into general circulation.  The catch: both books are needed to decipher the code.

When the books are at last united 25 years later, Erik and Harrison are enlisted to help unearth their hidden messages.  But when several research aides are brutally murdered, the academic challenge leads to far darker mysteries in the clandestine world of art crime.  As the couple navigate this sinister world, both their courage under fire and the stability of their relationship are tested.

My Review

False Light is a fun read, enhanced with a dose of real-life art history and made more interesting by the endearing romance of its two main characters.

The plot contains the requisite amount of clues, twists, and suspense, along with the genre-required action-filled climax, so I suspect most lovers of crime novels will enjoy it. However, I found its real charm to lie in three unexpected joys.

The first comes from Riess’s background. I have, at best, a passing acquaintance and mild interest in art, but I am captivated when an author brings expertise to a story like this. Claudia Riess helps her readers learn about masterpieces, forgeries, and auctions, without ever dumping information. (She got me looking into real-life art forger Eric Hebborn, and I’m always delighted to be introduced to a too-strange-to-be-fiction character.)

Another surprise is the relationship between the two lovers at the heart of this tale. They’ve gotten past the first hurdle of commitment (apparently in the previous novel) and now struggle to figure out how to live with their promises. I found their relationship compelling, and suspenseful in its own right. I appreciate an author who acknowledges falling in love is easy compared to making love work.

What didn’t I like? While the writing is generally okay, the pacing lags on occasion, particularly early on. Some parts required a little too much attention and rereading to follow multiple characters and complicated plot lines. Yet, none of this was enough of a problem to keep me from enjoying the story.

Years back, during a difficult time, I devoured J.D. Robb’s novels about a futuristic detective and her billionaire husband, and I realized there is this wonderful escapism involved in reading about the very wealthy solving crimes. (At least as long as they are nice people, which these characters are.) That brings me to the third pleasant surprise of this novel. Though Riess’s characters are unique to her story, their life of sumptuousness provided me with that same gentle nepenthe while their adventures held my interest.

As this virus has wreaked havoc with life, I’ve found myself eating rum raisin ice cream. That sweet treat is getting me through a lot these days. Why do I mention it here? Because when I finished this book I thought I’m glad I read this. In a world filled with too much frozen broccoli and canned soup — this is a rum raisin ice cream kind of a book. I plan to check out the author’s other flavors.

About the Author

Claudia Riess, a Vassar graduate, has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart, and Winston and has edited several art history monographs.

Find Claudia Riess at
https://www.amazon.com/Claudia-Riess/e/B001KHYQK2
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3052782.Claudia_Riess
https://twitter.com/ClaudiaRiesshttps://claudiariessbooks.com/
http://www.facebook.com/ClaudiaRiessBooks
https://www.instagram.com/claudiariessbooks/

Buy False Light: An Art History Mystery on Amazon. The book is on sale for only $0.99 during this tour.

Yes, there is a giveaway

Claudia Riess will be awarding a $50 Amazon or BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter here to win.

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

GF

My Favorite Excerpt

Owen Grant was ebullient—“ripped with joy,” his beloved wife might have said. He smiled, remembering the flutter of her eyelids that accompanied her minted phrases. Now that she had died and his arthritis no longer permitted him to jog up a sweat, he satisfied his lust for life—which remained, five years after retirement, as vigorous as it had been in his teens—with voracious reading and clay sculpting. Today, however, he satisfied it with the Art and Antiques article that had set his heart racing when he’d come across it this morning while sifting through his mail. He stole another glance at the newsletter on the kitchen table. In the article, a used and rare book shop owner spoke about having acquired a copy of a memoir by Eric Hebborn, the infamous art forger. “It was in a carton I picked up at an estate sale,” the owner had said. “The author’s handwritten note on the title page literally blew my mind!”

Hebborn’s note was displayed in a photograph. Owen had recognized the handwriting at once. Imagine, after decades of searching for this copy of the book—placing ads in all the art magazines, later in their online versions, finally giving up—proof of it had fallen into his life as he was about to venture another sip of his scalding morning coffee.

Now it was 8:30 p.m., and there was nothing more to prepare for. Owen had contacted the shop owner—how young and breathless she had sounded!—and they had made plans to meet. He had invited his longtime friend and colleague, Randall Gray, to collaborate with him. Randall, twenty years his junior and still in the game, was more current in his knowledge of the world of art crime and eager to have a look at the book as well. Owen was on a skittering high, unable to concentrate on his usual avocations. Rather than wear a hole in the carpet pacing in circles, he opted for a walk in Central Park.

He headed for the nearest pedestrian entrance at Fifth Avenue and 72nd Street, two blocks from his luxury apartment building on 74th. There, he chose the rambling path leading to the Lake and Loeb Boathouse. It was a balmy night, on the warm side for mid-April. He might have stepped out in his shirtsleeves, but his conditioned urbanity, always at odds with his truer self, had held sway, and he had worn his suit jacket.

Aside from the couple strolling up ahead and the sound of laughter coming from somewhere south, Owen was alone. There had been an uptick of muggings lately, but his frisson of fear only piqued his excitement for the adventure shimmering on the horizon. As he walked, he silently chatted with his wife, Dotty, as he often did, so that their separation would not be absolute. He commented on the moonless night and looked up, for both of them, at the rarely visible canopy of stars. For a few seconds he was lost with her, until, without warning, he felt a hard object pressed against the back of his skull—the skull that held all memories, like Dotty’s fluttering eyelids and the smell of new clay. He knew what the object was without ever having touched one. He was a man of reason, not a fighter. He flung up his hands. “I have money. Let me get to it.”

There was no response. He reached into his pocket for his wallet—how warm the leather was against his thigh—and his keys jangled of homecomings, and the child in him whimpered please no, before the explosive pop of a champagne cork ended him and Dotty and all the rest of it.

The Red Pearl

Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Chloe Helton and her novel The Red Pearl.

Author’s description of the book:

“The Red Pearl is a delight. Meticulously researched, it transports the reader to the inns and backstreets of Boston in 1778. Lucy Finch’s personal tragedy spurs her on to take an active role in the revolutionary war, despite the immense danger it brings to herself, her family and friends. Ms. Helton’s characters are warm, living beings with gifts and flaws. Their relationships are altered — broken or strengthened — by the battles on distant fields and the evil of individuals closer to home.” – Carrie Bedford, Author of Nobilissima

There’s something peculiar about the small group of men who have begun to frequent The Red Pearl, the tavern that has hosted a variety of Boston’s men since before the Revolutionary War began. In a rebellious city that does not tolerate Loyalists, men could come here and speak freely without fear of the repercussions — and Jasper Finch, the tavern-keeper, has always been proud of that.

But now the war is in full force, and Lucy Finch — the tavern-keeper’s wife — is growing nervous about The Red Pearl’s most loyal customers. Their clandestine meetings and hushed whispers suggest dark secrets — secrets which may threaten the safety of Boston, and the future of the war itself.

Lucy struggles to stay loyal to her husband’s wishes while grappling with the surprising truths of America’s war for independence. When a terrible assault makes her ache for revenge, she must make a choice: Will she keep quiet about the explosive secrets she has learned, or will she expose them and risk her marriage and possibly her life?

Set in the wild and unpredictable world of the Revolutionary War, fans of historical fiction will fall in love with Lucy Finch, who faces impossible choices that may change the fate of a nation.

About the Author:

Chloe Helton is the author of four historical fiction novels, including And the Stars Wept and the Wattpad favorite A Thousand Eyes. Her readers have journeyed with her from the shores of Elizabethan England to the stormy battlefields of the Civil War in search of the often-hidden stories of women who made history.

Find Chloe at her website, or on Goodreads, on Facebook, on Book Bub, or on Twitter.

Purchase her book here at the Amazon link for The Red Pearl.

Yes there is a giveaway:

Chloe Helton will award a randomly drawn winner a $15 Amazon/BN GC.

Enter here to win

My favorite excerpt:

“I came to tell you something to pass to your captain.”

“Such as?”

“Information. Men talk, especially when they’re drinking in the tavern, and I’ve heard things that might be of interest.”

“Tavern gossip is not our concern, Lucy. It was good to see you.”

My lips pursed. Jonathan had never been the most friendly of us, but this was rude. “No. I paid fifteen pennies and took a whole day to come here, which my husband would have my hide for if he knew of, by the way, and I won’t let you pass me off. As your sister, I deserve to be listened to, at least.”

He looked away, then sighed. “I regret my rudeness. You may speak.”

Tempted to clench my jaw – you may speak, how patronizing of him – I launched into the story immediately, my enthusiasm spiraling with every word, and when I finished I glanced at him proudly, anticipating his astonished and impressed smile.

His fingers twitched. “Thank you,” he said flatly. “I’m sure it will be taken care of.”

That didn’t sound right. “You’re not going to do anything about it?”

There were a few other soldiers on the other side of the empty pit, and they perked up for a moment at my urgent tone.

“We get dozens of tips like this,” my brother informed me quietly. “The colonists never have a problem foiling British shipments.”

“You don’t understand. They’ve gotten away with it so far; they said they’ve never had a ship that didn’t pass through.”

He considered this. “Okay.” It wasn’t a rejection, but it wasn’t a promise, either. It was less than he would have given Thea, who had married a good patriot, whose first love had not been so wild as to scare our father into marrying her to someone so absurdly sensible as my husband.

“I promise you, I am speaking truth,” I told him. “I wouldn’t bring this to you if I didn’t believe it.”

This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish.

Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.

A Personal Note from Me:

I knew I wanted to feature this book as soon as I read the description. I love stories of strong women who affect history! My own blurb for One of One also contains the phrase “the fate of a nation.” It’s a great phrase; it never fails to give me the shivers.

Although I didn’t get a chance to read this fascinating novel in time to review it along with this post, it sits high on my to-be-read list.