Not the story you think

Yellow Crocus Laila Ibrahim

On the surface this is a book about slavery and the small steps that America took to move from that horrendous nightmare.  When I read it in that way I was kind of disappointed.  There are many better books about that time focussing on the relationships between slaves and the slave masters.  That’s probably why she went the self published route.  This isn’t The Help.

Yet, a better of understanding of Laila Ibrahim and how she came to tell this story reveals a slightly different story than I first suspected.

Ms Ibrahims’ bio documents her interest in child development and in particular Attachment Theory.  I only have the most basic appreciation of this developmental psychological model.  Exploring such a relationship between a privileged white girl and a family slave gave the author the chance to explore the potential for the long term impact on the child.  As Elizabeth grows she understands that she has never had the prime place in Mattie’s heart, that is reserved for Samuel.

Reflecting on the story of this relationship I can see that the impact of waiting for Mattie to abandon her must have taken its toll on Elizabeth.  It made me wonder about her broken engagement – of course the brutal rape is the catalyst but did she too easily accept marrying someone she didn’t love?  Did that reflect that her prime relationship as an infant was one where she was loved but not with the unconditional love that comes from a parent rather than a slave?  A relationship she knew by looking around her, would not remain the same as an adult.  Did she not feel she was worthy of more or was it purely the social norms?  Or did the attachment to someone in such a subservient position encourage her intial subservience?

The author’s interest in this area is evident in the scene where Elizabeth’s birth mother attempts to breast feed her son perhaps because she can see the relationship between Mattie and Elizabeth is so strong.  You want her to succeed because you want her to be the mother she could be, but she can’t.

Clearly, the author wants reader to question whether such a relationship with a slave has Elizabeth questioning the norms of her time or is it purely her fiancé’s behaviour?  But I wondered to what degree did her attachment to Mattie blind her to what really should have been obvious – such as her half sister?  Whilst she knew the surface issues of slavery, did she not open her eyes to the brutality because it would raise issues that she couldn’t easily deal with?  She knew she couldn’t fight for Mattie, indeed what did Mattie really truly feel about her as a representative of a race who treated Mattie and her family as cattle?

There are some other strong themes in the book about the role of women, power and social norms.  Whilst I enjoyed, the read more so thinking about the impact of Elizabeth and Mattie’s connection I thought overall the novel was weaker than I liked.  The characterisation wasn’t as strong as I like and I found the ending a little too convenient.  I do question whether the family would have allowed such a strong connection between Elizabeth and Mattie to continue unchecked only by her pregnancy.


Jamie’s gotta go

Grey E L James

I’m in a book funk – have been for weeks.  I still am.

Yes, its slightly annoying that it rehashes every conversation, email and text that Christian and Anastasia exchanged.  Yes, on a positive side you do get a better glimpse into Christian’s psyche.

I’m a fan of the film but its the film that totally ruined it for me.

I read it intending to channel Charlie Hunnam but all I could see was Jamie Dornan.  Yep, he’s a very good looking boy, nice physique and he’s accent is ok.  But the more Christian’s “fucked up ness” revealed itself, the more he isn’t Jamie.  It’s not just the intensity.  There’s something innately childlike about Christian – he’s both 4 and 27 at the same time.  He’s petulant and sophisticated at the same time.  He might be controlling but he’s equally well managed – interestingly he surrounds himself with people to do just that.

His food issues were actually quite humbling (which I did not expect).  Jamie would accept Lelliot’s offers of a beer (he’s a lad afterall), Christian can’t understand the offer nor the impact of saying “busy” constantly.  And its interacting with his family and Kate that Christian becomes more real than in the original trilogy.

Would I recommend this book?  If you’re a fan who’s curious about Christian – you’ll get something out of it and its a simple enjoyable enough read.  The Inner Goddess has gone – thank god!  And it doesn’t feel like the money spinner it no doubt is, it reads like Ms James wants to share Christian more with her fans.  But its not a must read, and if you’re fixated on who the better Christian would be then I wouldn’t recommend it.

Skip the epilogue

Garrett #2 Cold Fury Sawyer Bennett

Sometimes you just need an easy ronseal romance.  You want a book that just does what you expect (like ronseal!).

Well, I got that and a whole load more with this one.  Sports star finds girl and gets his HEA books are a dime a dozen, but this was actually pretty brilliant.  In fact, I loved it.

Garrett was great, unlike every other manwhore I’ve ever met he wasn’t hiding behind some great tragic childhood.  In fact, he was a pretty stable and happy chap and a fantastic ice hockey player too.  Nope, he just liked sex and he didn’t have a reason to say no.  His and Olivia’s romance was totally believable, it was simple – he changed because he wanted to change.  There was no endless angst waiting to be sorted.  And thank god for that.

Olivia was very likeable, as I’m trying to avoid spoiling the secret in the book’s blurb its hard to say more.  But her story is more than your usual romantic heroine.

Sawyer Bennett writes a cracking story, and creates romance that was simply more.  I can’t stop thinking about it – especially the ending.  And that sadly let it down.  Why oh why did we need that ridiculous epilogue?

We got a real ending that suited both of them and the story and it shone with integrity.  It warmed my heart and made me smile.  Sadly, the epilogue just ruined it.  What on earth is a writer the calibre of Sawyer Bennett writing such silly fluff for?

So my advice is download it (the first book Alex is pretty okay too!) but don’t read the damn epilogue and you’ll enjoy it a whole load more.

Was it the mob?

Today, I’m featuring an interview I did with Alyssa Richards author of The Fine Art of Deception.  Given her paranormal romance takes place in the art world, we’re talking all things art –  theft, sculpture and more!

It seems that we share a love of outdoor sculpture (check out her pics!).  I have to thank Alyssa for my current fascination – the Isabella Gardner art heist, which is the backdrop to Alyssa’s story.  I didn’t know much about it before I read her book but I’m fascinated by it now.  I love how a book can open up a whole new world for me.

And look out there’s a competition for a $20.00 book voucher (Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

What research did you do to understand the art world & art galleries?

I’ve loved art, art history and museums for as long as I can remember. Every vacation is usually built around a museum and a bit of history. I did have to research the Gardner heist in detail and now I’m obsessed with that crime — as everyone seems to become once they read about it.

Can you share your favourite art galleries to visit? 

Museums are my favourite haunt. I’m hoping that one of them will let me move in one day.
The Louvre in Paris, (as well as Musee d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie ) Tate Gallery in London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, The British Museum in London, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The High in Atlanta, Los Angeles County Museum of Art…
I remember the art I’ve seen in these museums the way sports fans remember the plays of a game.

I love sculpture especially outdoor like the Cass Sculpture Park in Goodwood UK.  What’s your favourite form of art?

I love sculpture as well! I went to Musée Rodin over the summer in Paris and just could not get enough of his work. Many of his pieces are spread throughout his gardens, which are an exhibit in and of themselves…   I think the opportunity to appreciate sculpture outside, in nature, allows a more uninhibited appreciation of the piece. We feel unhurried and less aware of others appreciating the art near us

I also love portraiture as created by the masters. It’s fascinating to me to think about the how Picasso or Matisse or Renoir might observe the same person.

Is there a piece of art with a potential story that you think would make a great book?  I’m thinking along the lines of a girl with the pearl earring… 

Ohh, I saw Girl with a Pearl Earring not too long ago. They had just restored it and it’s exquisite! Every piece of art has a story, as Addie Montgomery shows us in The Fine Art of Deception …  Right now I’m researching several well known artefacts as potential story centres. I love to look at an artist’s intent, why they might create such a piece, and the life it takes on once appreciated by so many.

What’s your theory about the Isabella Stewart Gardner art? 

I think it was a hack job by the mob – not a very well planned out heist on a soft target. When you look at how the thieves navigated the museum and what they took, it’s easy to think that they hadn’t planned ahead of time what they would take.
The Gardner Museum, was not unlike many others, in that they did not maintain solid security systems in an effort to cut costs.  Terribly short sighted decision at an extraordinary cost.  Art is sold along the black market at roughly 10% of its value. It’s thought that dealers in the black market hold and sell the art against other types of debts.
It hurts my heart to say this, but I doubt we ever see those pieces again.

What artist would you have liked to hang out in his/her studio?  For me it would be Matisse or Pollock.

I would love to travel back to 1920 and live in Montemartre among the expats who lived, wrote and painted in that era. (Stay tuned for future books along this theme…!) I’ve read so many books on those characters I would probably have to repeat the decade several times to get my fill!

What’s your favourite period in art history?

That’s hard for me to answer since I have such a voracious appetite for art history. I’m not much on modern installations and such, though I do try to appreciate them. I much prefer the more classical works.

One for the girls – do you have a favourite female artist?

I love Camille Claudel’s work. There is such an innocence and a life, a soul to her pieces,  especially when she sculpted female figures, that I’ve not seen anywhere else.   Look at the difference between her work here, as it sits next to Rodin’s:  There is a sensitivity to her work that doesn’t appear in Rodin’s piece.

So, have you had any spooky or romantic moments in art gallery?

No romantic moments, but there was a portrait I saw once — the energy of the woman in the painting was so strong, it was unnerving. It was as if the artist captured her in that work and it was dying to get out… Fodder for another book, perhaps….

Thanks Alyssa – especially thankyou for getting me hooked on that art heist!

Here’s the link to the competition for the gift voucher so you can go shopping for Alyssa’s book. And meet Adeline & Blake, the connection between them is old and fascinating.

Alyssa photo_1



Family ties and so much more

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh

Politics, drama, romance and unforgettable quotes – Ms Singh is in the form of her life!

“You’ve made me a better man”.  How many times has the romantic hero yearned to a better person for his love?  Kaleb being a prime example.  I loved this twist, for once its the girl who wants and needs to be a better person.  It was beyond touching as she dares to be more than she thinks she can be.

Zaira the pied piper with a pony t-shirt – who saw that coming?!  Yeah!

Yet, what resonated for me was the insight into family.  Aden sets himself the task of creating a family for the Arrows, drawing on two role models – an old and a new character.  Its a pretty easy stretch to compare this new family with those of the changeling packs.  But I think Ms Singh is saying so much more.

She’s asking what do you do about renegade family members?  Can the bonds of family loyalty stretch to include others?  What should you sacrifice for your child?  Aden’s view of a renegade family member is extraordinary and will have rung true with anyone who’s suffered from the terrible actions of a family member.  You can love and accept someone who stands for all you abhor.  How hard is that?   Whilst Nikita didn’t give Sasha the kind of relationship she wanted from her mother it was what she needed.  And that was no doubt painful for both.

As for Aden’s own parents – their ambition for him was worse than any stage parent I’ve ever come across, yet they set in motion so much of the good that is now happening.  I loved that Aden, wasn’t conflicted by them – they didn’t define him or his story.  That would have been an easy angst story, but not good enough for Aden.

Ms Singh is the queen of the quotes – they make you smile, grab your heart and always add to the characters.  My kindle is full of highlighted text.  Kaleb and Sahara discussing Nikita and Anthony – absolutely perfect!

As its Nalini Singh the fantastic story adding layers to her already rich world is a given.  What’s challenging now is not to work out who the next book will focus on, but who’s behind the political shenanigans.  Its only as you start to ponder who the architect of the drama is, that you appreciate how rich the psy changeling world is -there are so many candidates.  And all of them valid.

Congratulations Nalini what an extraordinary achievement this series continues to be.