I've been doing a lot of review work lately for authors I've met on LinkedIn so here's the two I've enjoyed the most.
This one's by the guy who gave me such a great review for my book - a paranormal horror called Dreamers by Ted Farrar
and he got 5 stars from me but Amazon have refused to put it up so far - or maybe it's my dodgy web connection
Nightmares rock... if you're an adept at dreaming. I loved this inventive, jazzy, street-smart fantasy horror so much I stayed up until the not so wee small hours to finish devouring it - and my tablet died at the beginning of the culminating chapter, though thankfully after the definitive climax where the not so helpless heroine is put beyond the malevolent clutches of the main antagonist.
I will have a hard enough job doing this review without committing major spoilers so let's get nebulous - imagine a season of Buffy penned by Clive Barker? Or if PD James had preferred writing gothic horror? Or Jackie Collins had thought of interviewing vampires, instead of idly studying Hollywood and mobsters? Set mostly in the 1980's where fags are still smoked everywhere and there's no alternative to landlines, the setting around and in Leeds has the ring of truth and a gritty authenticity to underlay the frankly stunning and original fantasy elements, where dreams are most certainly real and, if you die in your sleep, your mind is condemned to gurgling zombiedom, always supposing that your body had not already been murdered by one of your fellow Dreamers... The four central characters, Cole, Anemos, Bright and Greenspite, two living, one murdered and the other very much at death's door, lead the Leeds police force, and in particular DI Gumbold, in a grisly, but frequently comedic danse macabre as twenty leading sleep clinic subjects and their researchers are systematically hunted down by a serial killer with gut-curdling supernatural powers and a viciously audacious masterplan to obliviate the nightmarish Land of Sheol - and to invade heaven itself.
If you appreciate dark fantasy, black comedy and pushing your imagination to rollercoaster heights and troughs then please, please do yourself a real favour and read this rarity - a truly original and funky Tale of the Unexpected. Oh - and forget the vampires. They were just a motif on which to hang the rhetoric. There are none. There are slayers and plenty of literal and metaphoric demons though.
And this one - Second Lisa by Veronica Knox
which is a classy chicklit fantasy bio of the woman who might have been the model for the Mona Lisa - Leonardo's little sister...
Here's a tale about Leonardo Da Vinci and the most enigmatic portrait ever painted that most people would like to know about, but is rarely written intimately from cradle to beyond the grave.
How do you define an era, or its most famous of famous sons? Veronica Knox comes close to nailing down the elusive Mona Lisa and the nature of the genius of the man who created her, by filling in the missing personal and domestic gaps that encompass the life of Leonardo Da Vinci and his closest kin by a subtle lyrical weaving of historical fact and speculative fiction that transcends time and death. The core of the story is conveyed through the self-imprisoned presence of Leonardo's putative (and highly plausible) sister, Lisabetta, residing in the world's most celebrated portrait, housed in the Louvre. When hard up artist and single mum Veronica Lyons and her son Jupiter first set eyes on the Mona Lisa in 2008, Lisabetta decides that the moment has come to free herself and steals away with the mother and child on one last earthly adventure, back home on the chilly west coast of Canada.
Art History has surprising little to say about Leonardo's life, but most of what is known comes not from his great paintings, of which there are only a few handfuls surviving, but from his workbooks where he pursued his real passion for science, biology, engineering and most of all for birds and flying. Through Lisabetta, speaking to Veronica from dreams, Veronica learns about Leonardo the strange child, the troubled man and the ever-curious alchemist. Along the way we see other worthies of the age from Lisabetta's female perspective: of Piero da Vinci, the father who constantly turned his back on his eldest illegitimate son; Verrochio the master studio painter eclipsed by his apprentice' superior skill with a brush when he was barely a teenager; heir to the studio, the vindictive but darkly attractive catamite, Lorenzo di Credi; and charismatic artist Sandro Botticelli who also worked for Verrochio and whose friendship was highly valued by the young da Vinci and his studio assistant sister.
The dream-like melding of known history and inferred fiction is seamless and irresistible as we follow Lisabetta's and Veronica's somnolent dialogue and exploration of Renaissance Italy and France. Delving deep into the wellspring of prodigy and genius endowed on both Leonardo and autistic Jupiter Lyons, the two women spin themselves a mutually conducive cocoon of friendship and romantic rivalry over the sensitive talents of Sandro Botticelli, as they roam over the cusp of the High Renaissance from Lisabetta's birthplace in Anchiano, near Florence to his Leonardo's final home in Amboise, France. Their dream journey swirls back and forth in a backwash of emotional nuance as Lisabetta paints not only her own portrait as one of the many variations on the Mona Lisa theme, but her brother's convoluted psyche as she helps him navigate a sane path through his neuroses as the unworthy, rejected bastard son, who has to battle through the plagues as well as the blessings of superlative brilliance that brings him doubt, debt and perennial insecurity as well as fame, as his prowess as an artist leads to disillusionment and the heretic path that he is the first to tread, as his curious genius draws him ever further from the secular world towards arcane and, often forbidden, scientific mysteries.
This is a story that gives context to the underlying spirit of La Gioconda that has nothing to do with it's usual perception as the image of Lisa del Giocondo neé Gherardini and everything to do with Da Vinci's superlative mastery of the soul of art and the way in which genius is an alien state, misunderstood and shunned as often as it is lauded and envied. The equally spellbinding depiction of Jupiter Lyons high functioning autism alongside Lisabetta's story is made all the more poignant as his mother learns to see his world with his eyes and discovering the consonance with the Da Vinci mind to bring the Renaissance milieu into focus with the new millennium and man's interpretation of all the worlds about us.
Veronica Knox's luxurious prose carries the lives of the Da Vinci into new planes of comprehension and wonder as Veronica's dreaming brings her the peace and closure she has longed for on her own tortured trail through family life and artistic endeavour. This is a gentle waft of a book that is definitely worth staying with as it entices you back into a place and time where the world changed forever, and asks you to see it through the eyes of an artist.
This one's also got dreamlike qualities (nicer ones though) and I really enjoyed it despite or even because of it's meandering style which did get a little tiresome at times. Gave this one 4 stars because of that, even though it was original and well-written because the pace suffered for it especially at the end and so it all wound up rather disappointingly predictable