The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose
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).
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.
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Blog Tour Schedule
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
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
Monday, August 8
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, August 9
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, August 11
Review at Girls Just Reading
Friday, August 12
Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, August 15
Review at Fangirls Ahead!
Publication Date: February 18, 2016
Paperback; 596 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
“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.
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.
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Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m really looking forward to or really enjoyed. This time around it’s a book I absolutely loved: Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh by Katie Hamstead.
When Naomi’s sisters are snatched up to be taken to be wives of the erratic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, she knows they won’t survive the palace, so she offers herself in their place. The fearsome Commander Horemheb sees her courage, and knows she is exactly what he is looking for…
The Great Queen Nefertiti despises Naomi instantly, and strips her of her Hebrew lineage, including her name, which is changed to Kiya. Kiya allies herself with Horemheb, who pushes her to greatness and encourages her to make the Pharaoh fall in love with her. When Akhenaten declares Kiya will be the mother of his heir, Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy Kiya.
Kiya must play the deadly game carefully. She is in a silent battle of wills, and a struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. If she does bear an heir, she knows she will need to fight to protect him, as well as herself, from Nefertiti who is out for blood.
This is Katie Hamstead’s first book, but since she was writing about my favourite historical period (ancient Egypt) I had incredibly high expectations for her. It’s a testament to her writing that she exceeded them all.
There were some historically questionable theories, but most of it was either a plausible way to fill in gaps in the historical record or the actual events that were occurring at the time. Katie Hamstead had quite a bit of leeway here because very, very little is known about Kiya, who is supposedly the mother of the famous Tutankhamun. (To be truthful, we don’t even know that for sure.) Still, the details of ancient Egyptian life were correct and her portrayal of historical figures felt spot-on.
Part of what makes historical fiction so hard to write is the fact that you have to do so much research in order to tackle famous figures. You have to not only get the details of their lives right (or mostly right), you have to decide what angle to portray them from. For example, Akhenaten was not the usual unstable despot, but a very kind and loving, but slightly unstable man. Or take Horemheb, who is both ruthless and very compassionate toward Kiya’s plight. Katie Hamstead could have easily gone with the stone-cold army commander angle with Horemheb, but she chose to go deeper and make the man more complicated.
What really made Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh such a great book, however, was Kiya/Naomi herself. She carried the whole thing on her shoulders and had she been one of those horribly whiny narrators I would have beat my head against my desk. We’re trapped in her point of view for the entire story, but because Naomi is such a resourceful, compassionate young woman, that’s actually a good thing!
If you love history, romance and especially ancient Egypt, you will adore Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh.
Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m really looking forward to or really enjoyed. This week it’s A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, a book it seems everyone is talking about.
In A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin has created a genuine masterpiece, bringing together the best the genre has to offer. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of the first volume in an epic series sure to delight fantasy fans everywhere.
In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the North of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
Is A Game of Thrones the best fantasy book ever published like some claim? No, not really. But is it a good book? Certainly!
I love to get lost in a good book, especially when it’s epic fantasy, so George Martin’s book was a great escape for me lately. Being propelled into a world where dragons once existed and where winters can last for years was quite the change from the swath of realistic and historical fiction I’ve read lately. I haven’t curled up with a good fantasy book in a while and if you haven’t either, I’d highly recommend A Game of Thrones.
The world-building is pretty good, but it’s definitely the characters that made me want to highlight this book. The Starks are obviously the main attraction since the saga follows them, but characters like Tyrion Lannister will make you see both sides of the conflict. Of course there are the ‘bad’ characters as well, but they’re not all they seem as well. Cersei, the Queen of Westeros, seems to be your stereotypical Evil Queen, but it’s her background story that makes her oddly sympathetic to me.
I don’t want to give too much away, but if you like characters with actual depth and long, intertwined narratives, you’ll love A Game of Thrones.
Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m really looking forward to or really enjoyed. This week it’s a book I really, really loved: Prophecy of the Setting Sunrise by Diantha Jones.
It’s official. Myth is doomed.
And it’s all Chloe Clever’s fault.
Still as whacked out as ever, Chloe is now faced with an even uglier truth: Not only is she the Pythia of the Great Unknown, but she is more powerful than she ever imagined and only the manifestations of her prophetic mind can save them all now.
With her Prince boyfriend, Strafford, and the Quad Fraternity always armed and ready to annihilate the opposition, she will embark on a mission to stop a great power that could consume every god in Myth…and everyone else she’s come to love.
But the worst is still to come.
This is just one of those books you zoom through then want to start again immediately after you’ve finished. It’s also one of the rare sequels that doesn’t get bogged down in the details necessary to set up the third book. Both of these things are rare on their own, but together they make Prophecy of the Setting Sunrise an incredible read.
Not only do we learn how Strafford came to be in disgrace, Chloe develops more and the Great Unknown Prophecy is beginning to fall into place. Here we have a fantasy book with the fast pacing of an action/thriller novel and Diantha Jones has also managed to weave in aspects of Greek mythology seamlessly with the modern era. There are believable explanations for why nobody knows about the Greek gods in the modern era, as well as a believable system of how the gods operate and how they’ve managed to stay immortal.
I’m not the biggest Strafford fan out there, but at least he isn’t your typical jerk Prince that you find in YA. No, he has a believable backstory as to why he was such a jerk in the beginning and he’s actually moved beyond that, another rarity. Say whatever you like about him, but at least he’s able to change, unlike a lot of bad boy types in literature and movies.
If you haven’t already read Prophecy of the Most Beautiful, you need to. Right now. And once you’ve read the first book, you’ll devour the second book and be desperate for the third, which comes out sometime this summer.
Spotlight is my weekly feature in which I highlight a book I’m looking forward to or really enjoyed. This week I want to do the latter and talk to you about an amazing book: Other Side of Forever by Shannon Eckrich.
Seventeen-year-old Allie Anderson’s telekinetic powers are anything but useful–she can’t bring her father back, can’t stop her mother’s downward spiral into alcohol, and can’t keep her from falling in love with Ethan Bradley. Loving Ethan is easy, but it comes with a hefty price: Ethan is prohibited by his people from interacting with mortals–because he isn’t mortal himself. When Allie and Ethan’s love is discovered, there’s someone who will do anything to keep them apart. If Allie can’t learn to control her powers and fight to save Ethan, this dark entity will make every attempt to stop her beating heart. And if that happens, not even the energy of an immortal can bring her back.
I know, I was just gushing over this on Wednesday, but it warrants repeating: Other Side of Forever is that extremely rare YA book that avoids clichés like love triangles and completely happy endings. The heroine, Allie, was smart and resourceful but also had a vulnerable side when it came to Ethan. Ethan himself was a complete gentleman, not the total ‘hot jerk’ stereotype you see so often in YA. We need to see more male leads like him, that’s for sure!
Not only is the plot fast-paced, but unpredictable. Honestly, just when you think you know what’s going to happen, Shannon Eckrich sends another plot twist your way. Sometimes authors sacrifice character development in the name of pacing, but not in Other Side of Forever. Both Allie and Ethan were fully developed and had believable character arcs as well as a sweet, completely genuine romance. It didn’t feel forced at all, another rarity.
Seriously guys, you need to read this book right now.
Spotlight is my Saturday feature in which I highlight a book I am either really looking forward to or really enjoyed. This time I’m highlighting a book I really enjoyed: The Song of Troy by Colleen McCullough.
In The Song of Troy, the bestselling author of The Thorn Birds recounts the tale of Helen and Paris, the immortal lovers who doomed two great nations to a terrible war. It is told through the eyes of its main characters: the sensuous and self-indulgent Helen; the subtle and brilliant Odysseus; the sad old man Priam, King of Troy; the tormented warrior prince, Achilles; and Agamemnon, King of Kings, who consents to the unspeakable in order to launch his thousand ships. This is an unputdownable tale of love, ambition, delusion, honour and consuming passion.
It’s hard to pick a favourite character out of the entire book because Colleen McCullough has made each unique and interesting. Not all portrayals are necessarily the most flattering (see: Helen herself), but the way the story is told they feel more realistic. There are no divine interventions, only people fighting a vicious, bloody war for reasons of their own.
Although newcomers to the legend of Troy would be able to understand things perfectly, The Song of Troy is more of a refreshing change for people who have read at least one different interpretation or even the original. Having read at least one other interpretation allows you to truly appreciate the monumental effort Colleen McCullough put into her novel to make legendary figures more human. Being human, they are wonderfully, fatally flawed as well.
Even if you don’t like historical fiction in general, I would definitely recommend The Song of Troy.