The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

Seduction by M.J. Rose

Seduction by M.J. Rose shifts from the present day to the 1850s as Jac E’Toile uncovers more of her family and Malachai’s secrets, as well as the connections to seances, the Druids, and reincarnation.  Memories and past lives cricle in on themselves revealing bit by bit how entwined Jac’s life is with Theo Gaspard, the man who invites her to the Isle of Jersey to research the island’s Celtic roots.  In the process, readers see a side of Victor Hugo they may not have heard of before, a side that has been documented in his own notations.  Like the other books in Rose’s reincarnationist series, Seduction can be read as a stand alone novel, though some readers may want to read The Book of Lost Fragrances (my review) first.

“They climbed the wrought-iron circular spiral. Its steps were narrow and turned on themselves sharply, making them hard to navigate and easy to fall down, Jac thought. The upper balcony hung over the fist floor. From the slightly different scent, Jac knew there was a concentration of older volumes up here.” (page 153 ARC)

Rose weaves mystery with romance, history, and elements of spiritualism.  Hugo and the Gaspard family become obsessed with loss and overly consumed to the point where they are nearly willing to make a deal with the devil to bring back those they love.  Jac and Malachai have known each other since she was a teenager, and while he continues to obsess over the search for the 12 memory tools, Jac continues to hold him in esteem until events shake her faith in him.  However, Seduction is less about the search for memory tools and more about uncovering the past and past lives.  Each of these characters is seduced, either by their grief or their fear, and in the end, their triggers may be different but their obsessions threaten to take them over.

“To be a decent writer you must have both empathy and imagination.  While these attributes aid your art, they can plague your soul.  You don’t simply suffer your own sadness, experience your own longing and worry about your own wife and children, you are burdened with experiencing the emotional states of multitudes of others you don’t know.”  (page 80 ARC)

While the narrative slips between Jac’s story and that of Victor Hugo, as well as a period during the time of the Druids, these stories could have easily stood on their own had it not been for the reincarnation connection threading through the entire novel.  In many ways, the connection to Hugo could have been explored without the Druid connection, but Rose’s story arc carries a deeper sense of connection between her characters.  In addition to reincarnation and seances, the narrative has elements of the Gothic, with the dark brooding sea and the mysterious disappearances of young girls, intertwined with the treasure hunt for Victor Hugo’s journal.  Rose’s narrative is like the faint scents of perfume winding their way into the nasal cavity from a distance, only to strengthen as the tantalizing aroma beckons the reader further on the journey to the source.  Seduction by M.J. Rose is a novel full of mystery that only unravels with time and patience as Jac journeys outside her comfort zone to embrace her talents as a perfumer and a reincarnated soul.

I, for one, cannot wait to see what Rose has in store for the next installment in this series, though I’m not ready to say goodbye to Jac.

About the Author:

M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of eleven novels and two non-fiction books on marketing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the ’80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors – Authorbuzz.com. The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose’s novels in the Renincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and runs the blog- Buzz, Balls & Hype. She is also the co-founder of Peroozal.com and BookTrib.com.

Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.

For more information on M.J. Rose and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE. You can also find her on Facebook.

Also Reviewed:

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose
The Memorist by M.J. Rose
The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose

Mailbox Monday #211

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Unabridged Chick.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  What Changes Everything by Masha Hamilton, which came unexpectedly from Unbridled Books.

What Changes Everything is truly an American story on an international stage, told through an ensemble of heartening characters. In a gamble to save her kidnapped husband’s life, Clarissa Barbery makes the best decisions she can in the dark nights of Brooklyn. Stela Sidorova, who owns a used bookstore in Ohio, writes letter after letter hoping to comprehend the loss of a son on an Afghan battlefield and to reconnect with the son who abandoned her when his brother died. And Mandy Wilkens, the mother of a gravely wounded soldier from Texas, travels to Kabul to heal wounds of several kinds. At the same time, What Changes Everything is the story of two Afghans who reveal the complexity of their culture, the emotions that hold it together and those that threaten to fracture it. These lives are braided into an extraordinary novel about the grace of family.

2.  Seduction by M.J. Rose for review in May with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

In 1843, novelist Victor Hugo’s beloved nineteen-year-old daughter drowned. Ten years later, Hugo began participating in hundreds of séances to reestablish contact with her. In the process, he claimed to have communed with the likes of Plato, Galileo, Shakespeare, Dante, Jesus—and even the Devil himself. Hugo’s transcriptions of these conversations have all been published. Or so it was believed.

Recovering from her own losses, mythologist Jac L’Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey—where Hugo conducted the séances—hoping to uncover a secret about the island’s Celtic roots. But the man who’s invited her there, a troubled soul named Theo Gaspard, has hopes she’ll help him discover something quite different—Hugo’s lost conversations with someone called the Shadow of the Sepulcher.

What follows is an intricately plotted and atmospheric tale of suspense with a spellbinding ghost story at its heart, by one of America’s most gifted and imaginative novelists.

3.  Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman for review from the author.

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky.  She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and opens her own graciously-appointed shop in Charleston. Breathing new life into these discarded objects gives Teddi purpose, but has never alleviated the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to find him. It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.

Looking for Me is an unforgettable novel that is full of Hoffman’s signature heart and humor—and a grown-up love story to boot. It is destined to make her a bestselling novelist readers will want to read again and again as they have with Adriana Trigiani, Fannie Flagg, and Dorothea Benton Frank.

What did you receive?