Spotlight: The Secret Language of Stones by M. J. Rose

The Secret Language of Stones by M. J. Rose

The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose

Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages
Series: The Daughters of La Lune, Book Two
Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy
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As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

A spellbinding ghost story that communicates the power of love and redemption through Rose’s extraordinary, magical lens.” (Alyson Richman, internationally bestselling author of The Lost Wife)

 

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About the Author

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed.

She is the author of more than a dozen novels, the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.

Connect with M.J. Rose on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads.

Sign up for M.J. Rose’s newsletter and get information about new releases, free book downloads, contests, excerpts and more.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 12
Review at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight at The Mad Reviewer
Review at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, July 13
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, July 14
Spotlight at Teddy Rose Book Reviews

Friday, July 15
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Monday, July 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Tuesday, July 19
Review at First Impressions Reviews

Wednesday, July 20
Review at Laura’s Interests

Thursday, July 21
Review at Read Love Blog

Friday, July 22
Review at Nerd in New York
Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Monday, July 25
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, July 26
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Wednesday, July 27
Interview at First Impressions Reviews

Thursday, July 28
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, July 29
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Monday, August 1
Review at The Book Junkie Reads

Tuesday, August 2
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, August 3
Review at Diana’s Book Reviews

Thursday, August 4
Interview at Diana’s Book Reviews

Friday, August 5
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, August 9
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For

Wednesday, August 10
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, August 11
Review at Girls Just Reading

Friday, August 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, August 15
Review at Fangirls Ahead!

Tuesday, August 16
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review at The True Book Addict

Spotlight: Bela’s Letters by Jeff Ingber

02_Béla’s Letters

Publication Date: February 18, 2016
Paperback; 596 Pages
ISBN: 978-0985410025

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Béla’s Letters” is a historical fiction novel spanning eight decades. It revolves around the remarkable life story of Béla Ingber, who was born before the onset of WWI in Munkács, a small city nestled in the Carpathian Mountains. The book tells of the struggles of Béla and his extended family to comprehend and prepare for the Holocaust, the implausible circumstances that the survivors endure before reuniting in the New World, and the crushing impact on them of their wartime experiences together with the feelings of guilt, hatred, fear, and abandonment that haunt them. At the core of the novel are the poignant letters and postcards that family members wrote to Béla, undeterred by the feasibility of delivery, which were his lifeline, even decades after the war ended.

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About the Author

Jeff is a financial industry consultant, who previously held senior positions at Citibank, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation. His latest book is “Bela’s Letters,” a family memoir based on his parents, who were survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust. Jeff also has written a screenplay entitled “The Bank Examiners.” He lives with his wife in Jersey City, NJ.

For more information visit Jeff Ingber’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway

To win a copy of Béla’s Letters please enter using the GLEAM form below.

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The Girl Who Loved Camellias by Julie Kavanagh

The Girl Who Loved Camellias by Julie Kavanagh(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

The little known, riveting story of the most famous courtesan of her time: muse and mistress of Alexandre Dumas fils and Franz Liszt, the inspiration for Dumas’s The Lady of the Camellias and Verdi’s La Traviata, one of the most sought after, adored women of 1840s Paris.

Born in 1824 in Normandy, Marie Duplessis fled her brutal peasant father (who forced her to live with a man many years her senior). Julie Kavanagh traces Marie’s reinvention in Paris at sixteen: as shop girl, kept woman, and finally, as grand courtesan with the clothes, apartment, coach and horses that an aristocratic woman of the time would have had. Tall, willowy, with dramatic dark hair, Marie acquired an aristocratic mien, but coupled with a singular modesty and grace, she was an irresistible figure to men and women alike. Kanavagh brings her to life on the page against a brilliantly evoked background of 1840s Paris: the theater and opera, the best tables at the cafés frequented by society figures, theater directors, writers, artists–and Marie, only nineteen, at the center of it all. Four years later, at twenty-three, she would be dead of tuberculosis.

I first heard of Marie Duplessis because of my love of opera.  She was the inspiration for Dumas’s The Lady of the Camellias, which was the inspiration for my favourite opera of all time, La Traviata.  After watching an amazing version of La Traviata with Anna Moffo in the lead role, I wondered how close her interpretation was to the real Marie Duplessis.  Then I began to wonder who Marie Duplessis the person was, not just the character writers, painters and musicians have made her into over the decades.

Although Duplessis only lived to the age of 23, Julie Kavanagh was able to give us a very in-depth, detailed look at her life.  Not only that, she provided context for Marie’s rise from simple but pretty farm girl to one of the most sought-after courtesans in Paris’ demimonde.  She was a complex woman who could be both unbelievably selfish and petty but at the same time, caring and genuinely kind to the people around her.  Money ran through her hands like water to feed her wardrobe and her general lifestyle but at the same time was known to give generously to charities and was very religious in her later years.  If she were a mere character in a novel she’d probably be called unbelievable and contradictory, but Kavanagh’s highlighting of her contradictions really humanized Marie for me.  She became a living, breathing person instead of this distant legend.

As it says in the blurb, from a very young age Marie was likely sexually abused and when she fled from the countryside she had no illusions about what a wonderful place 1840s Paris was for lower class women.  She clawed her way up the unofficial courtesan hierarchy, first being a grisette (a lover to somewhat poor university students) and then a lorette when she found an older, wealthier patron.  And then, finally when the simple Alphonsine Plessis caught the eye of a young duke, she was transformed into Marie Duplessis, the irresistible courtesan.  It was not an easy path and Kavanagh talks about her struggles in fairly stark language that brings home the idea that while being a courtesan could be glamorous at times, there were many times it was not.

What I especially liked about The Girl Who Loved Camellias was the postscript that detailed the sale of Marie’s estate to pay off her debts and the introduction where Marie’s cultural impact is discussed.  Of course, most famously there’s the book The Lady of the Camellias and Verdi’s opera La Traviata but there have also been films and even ballets about her life.  Even though few people today actually know her name, Marie Duplessis lives on in the beautiful works of art she inspired.

My favourite thing about this biography is that while Julie Kavanagh goes into detail, she does not get encumbered by it as so many biographers do.  While she includes the text from some letters pertaining to Marie’s life, she does not get bogged down in detailing Marie’s correspondence.  Instead, she includes short quotes where it’s relevant (which seems like common sense but sadly all too few biographers do this, preferring to include every single scrap of correspondence they can find pertaining to their subject).  She gives historical context to Marie’s life but again she doesn’t get too bogged down in irrelevant details.  Basically, she tells a detailed but interesting story about a woman who packed quite a lot of living into just twenty three years.

If you’re looking for an interesting biography that’s a fairly fast read, I highly recommend The Girl Who Loved Camellias.  It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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Lazy Sundays: The Benefits of City Life

So I’ve lived in the city for almost eight months now and I’m really just starting to get used to it.  Obviously it has its drawbacks but so does living in a rural area.  What are some of the benefits I’m appreciating right now?

  1. If I want to go to a concert, I can just hop on the bus and go that night.  I don’t have to plan two days so I can travel to the city (what used to be a four hour drive), watch the concert in the evening, stay in a hotel and drive home the next day.  It’s actually amazing.  So far this year I’ve seen both Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony live.  For a classical music lover like myself, seeing pieces I’ve listened to over and over on CDs being performed live has been exhilarating.
  2. You can get food pretty much any time you feel like it.  Feel like eating Subway at 11:00pm?  Well, there’s one down the street from my apartment.  Want to watch a movie at 1:00am because of your insomnia and you don’t have any snack foods?  There are 24/7 convenience stores located close by.  In my hometown everything closes down at 6:00pm but in the city, you can pretty much guarantee something is going to be open at all hours of the night.
  3. Not having to travel for everything.  If I wanted to go clothes shopping back home, I’d have to drive an hour to the nearest large town.  In the city, I just ride the bus for 10 minutes and stop at one of the four main malls.  Of course this has been a big temptation when it comes to book shopping since there’s an enormous Indigo store right next to one of the malls.  As if I didn’t have enough books already.
  4. Racism, misogyny and homophobia are far less commmon.  Of course, wherever there are human beings there will always be discrimination but I find that it’s a little less common here in the city because of the more diverse population.  And it helps that the city is large enough that when you do find a horribly prejudiced person you can easily avoid them (unless you work with them).  In a small town, you’d encounter that person constantly.  It’s a really nice change.

As I said, city life isn’t perfect (the air quality leaves something to be desired) but I’m so much happier than I ever was in my hometown.  Getting away from rural life has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

My Chronic Pain Story: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance…and more Anger?

I’m so angry right now I don’t know whether I want to scream or cry.

The anger seems to rise up in my throat as my hands shake and my heart races.  I am not the sort of person that experiences blinding rage very often so it’s almost terrifying to experience it now.  But what I’m feeling at the moment is more than just anger.  It’s the five stages of grief all at once.

I’ve discussed my chronic back pain at length in the past.  One thing I never metioned was how sometimes I get a shooting pain down my right leg that makes it go quite stiff, giving me a visible (and painful) limp.  I never mentioned it because it only happened once or twice a year.  But slowly, as the years have gone by, it became more and more frequent to the point where this January it began happening once or twice a week.  So although I had accepted my chronic back pain, I went through the five stages of grief once again as I mourned the possible loss of my mobility.  This time the depression stage was much shorter but the anger lasted almost twice as long as it had when I realized my back pain was only getting worse.

I was so angry that not only was my back pain still a problem but that I was also experiencing pain in my leg that limited my life even more.  While we as a society have made quite a bit of progress when it comes to physical disabilities we’re still not perfect and my occasional limping has made that painfully clear.  Not only did the pain make me angry, people’s reactions to me did as well.  It’s hard to go out to the mall and get stared at by almost everyone because you’re an otherwise physically normal young woman with an obvious limp.  It’s hard to go from nearly having to fight salespeople off in every store you enter to being left alone (and sometimes actively avoided) by everyone.  But I digress.

So why am I angry now?  I’ve gone through the five stages of grief for my back and my leg.  Well, two days ago I had an appointment with a physiatrist (physicians who “treat a wide variety of medical conditions affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons“).  Instead of acting like all of the specialists I’ve seen to date (i.e. immediately dismissing me as “too young to be in pain without any obvious physical defects”) he took the time to examine me and ask me questions about my medical and family history.  And because of this physical examination, the questions he asked and the MRI I had done three years ago he was able to diagnose me within fifteen minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

I have been in constant pain for nearly five years.  I’ve seen specialist after specialist, sometimes waiting for up to a year to book an appointment that lasted ten minutes and ended with the specialist accusing me of lying or seeking drugs.  And the worst part?  At least half of those specialists should have come to the same conclusion as my physiatrist given my medical and family history.

Essentially I, like 10% of the population, have hypermobile joints.  I have naturally loose ligaments and so my joints extend beyond the normal range of motion.  For a lot of hypermobile people this isn’t really a problem.  However, in my case I seem to have extended my back too far and caused stress on a vertebra in my lower spine.  This caused the muscles in my lower back to tense up to compensate for the stress on this vertebra, which in turn caused the muscles in my upper back to tense up to compensate for that.  And as I had to give up the sports I loved due to the pain, the pain got worse as I lost core strength and my muscles had to work even harder to hold things together.  The stress seems to be worse on one side of the vertebra, which caused the intense shooting pain that runs down my right leg.

The cure for this?  Targeted physiotherapy.  The physiotherapy I had before, shortly after the pain started, only exacerbated my problems as the physiotherapist had me doing exercises that forced me to move my joints beyond the normal range of motion and put additional stress on them instead of stabilizing them.  Basically, I need to go see a physiotherapist with experience treating hypermobile people who will determine what exercises I should be doing on my own time and that’s it.  It won’t happen overnight and I’ll always need to do them, but the exercises should essentially cure me of my chronic pain.  And as I get older, my ligaments will naturally tighten up so my joints won’t be so prone to moving in ways they shouldn’t.

Which brings me back to the anger.  I’m feeling so many things right now: a weird combination of denial, acceptance, depression, despair, etc.  But the prevailing feeling is definitely anger.  I’m angry that for years doctors dismissed me because they couldn’t find an easy answer.  I’m angry that all they saw was a hysterical young woman instead of a patient experiencing pain.  Had they looked—actually looked at me instead of relying on a stereotype—maybe I would have had a diagnosis sooner.  Maybe I could have already been doing proper physiotherapy for months, years even.  Maybe I didn’t need to be in constant pain for so long.

I’m angry that I missed out on so many things because I was in pain.  It’s infuriating to think that I gave up things I loved like volleyball and swimming because of a treatable, easily diagnosable problem.  And it’s especially aggravating that I gave these up because of pain that could have been managed shortly after my symptoms began.  Every single doctor that bothered to examine me remarked upon how flexible I was despite the pain.  They didn’t think this was a clue, one that might lead them to conclude there was something wrong with my connective tissues.  No, they just took it as proof I was a drug and/or attention seeker who was wasting their time.  After all, someone who is in so much pain shouldn’t be able to move better in certain ways than a normal person, should they?

It’s only been two days since my diagnosis but already the anger is subsiding.  It’s still here but it’s fading, making way for something I haven’t felt in a long time when it comes to my health: hope.  The hope that with a lot of hard work and a little luck I can go back to something resembling normal.  That maybe I can sit or stand for more than half an hour without being in excruciating pain. That maybe I can walk around the mall without everyone’s eyes on me because my appearance doesn’t match their idea of how a disabled person should look.

After all these years of pain and suffering, things are finally starting to look up.

I’m Back! (A Blogging Update)

I know it’s been a while and some of you probably think I’ve given up on blogging for good but now I’m back and I’m here to stay.  Life was difficult after moving to the city for a number of reasons but I’m finally in a place where I can spend the time and energy I want to here on The Mad Reviewer.  I could have tried to do half-hearted posts and updates these last four months but I didn’t think that would be fair to you guys.  Now, however, things should be back to normal after tomorrow’s special post.  Thank you so much for sticking with me.

I’ll also be catching up on all of the emails and other updates from authors I’ve received in the past few months.  Please be patient!  I will get back to you as soon as I can.

And the Winners of the 2015 Mad Reviewer Reading & Reviewing Challenge are…

Well, I won’t keep you guys in suspense.  The winner of the draw for the 2015 Mad Reviewer Challenge is Sadie of See Sadie Read, who completed the Mad Reviewer level.  Congratulations, Sadie!  I’ll be in contact soon to give you your $50 Amazon gift card as well as a paperback copy of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook copy of Aranya by Marc Secchia.

And of course thanks to these authors, I can announce three runners up:

  1. Elena of Elena Square Eyes  (Crazy Reviewer)

2.  The Daily Opine  (Sane Reviewer)

3.  Chelsea of To Each Their Own Reviews  (Mad Reviewer)

I’ll be in contact with each of you guys this Monday with details about your prizes!  Here are the prizes:

Runner up #1: Ebooks of Wish for Me and Dream of Me by Diantha Jones, an audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet.

Runner up #2: An audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet, an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of Dragonfriend by Marc Secchia.

Runner up #3: An audiobook and ebook of The Carnelian Legacy by Cheryl Koevoet and an ebook of The Carnelian Tyranny by Cheryl Koevoet.

Special thanks go to Diantha Jones, Marc Secchia and Cheryl Koevoet for their generous donations!