Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances (Reincarnationist #4)The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am quite surprised by how much I liked this book. The title really intrigued me when I saw it on Netgalley.com and I decided to give it a try. It had something for everyone. There was mystery, intrigue, politics, fantasy, action, romance and adventure. I don’t much care about the romance part of it but, in some ways it is the crux of the story. In other ways, it is a byproduct of one of the key elements of the story. I am not sure how I feel about the ending but, I can say that even if it did not end exactly as I expected there was something unexpected and wonderful at the end.

One of the best things about this book is having multiple locations in the story like Paris, France, along with China, Tibet, and even Egypt. What makes it even more interesting is that the story is told in multiple periods in most of these locations. There is a historical aspect of the book and I like how some of the past is revealed. I don’t think I have ever read a book that covers the topic of reincarnation or Tibet. The relationship between China and Tibet is one of the main storylines of this book and is a merging of fiction based upon fact and M. J. Rose did a good job on the research of the political situation and the life of Tibetan monks and nuns. There was a good history given of fragrance creation and it was I am quite surprised by how much I liked this book. The title really intrigued me when I saw it on Netgalley.com and I decided to give it a try. It had something for everyone. There was mystery, intrigue, politics, fantasy, action, romance and adventure. I don’t much care about the romance part of it but, in some ways it is the crux of the story. In other ways, it is a byproduct of one of the key elements of the story. I am not sure how I feel about the ending but, I can say that even if it did not end exactly as I expected there was something unexpectfascinating learning about Cleopatra and her relationship to perfumes. I had no idea that there were Tibetan nuns. I thought nuns were typically Catholic. It was great to read about Buddhism and the relationship between China and the intricacies of reincarnation.

The characters and their development play a huge role in this book. The author did an excellent job describing the trials of mental illness and the effects it can have on a family. Another great aspect of this book was the in-depth history of the L’Etoile family and their perfume boutique and how the family created the perfumes by hand. There was a good history of each generation as they created the perfumes. Of particular interest was one of the ancestors, Giles, and the time he spent time in Egypt and how one of his discoveries affected the lives of future generations of L’Etoiles.
I was a bit worried that the book was more on the romance side and not something I would enjoy, but, I did stick with it and I was so happy I did by the end of the book. The author did a good job of covering all of the topics and it was very well written. I was a little confused in one of the areas where the past converged on the present, how it happened, and who was actually involved. Despite that, I think that she will attract a large, diverse group of readers and few will walk away from it not finding something they loved about it. For me it was the intrigue, history and art in Paris.

Review can also be found at http://LadyTechiesBookMusings.blogspot.c...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest Blog by Cat Adams

Creating a culture


In our series, THE BLOOD SINGER, heroine Celia Graves discovers at the end of book 1, BLOOD SONG, that she is part siren. In our reality, sirens have a lot of the same mythology as in the classic Greek legends. They live on an island (which we moved to the Pacific, between Hawaii and Japan) and in ancient times, they really did lure men to their deaths on the rocks. Well, at least some of the men. Some of them were pretty and, being a matriarchal society, they needed . . . breeder stock.

To create a culture that has evolved alongside humankind, we needed to do several things. First, we had to create their homeland, the Isle of Serenity. Because of where we’d placed the island on the globe (but not the map, because the siren’s magic prevents the island from being pinpointed on paper,) we borrowed heavily from the Polynesian culture. The names of people are Hawaiian-sounding. Celia’s middle name is Kalino, named for her grandfather, the brother to the Queen of queens,  Lopaka. We made the island so that it would hold a limited number of people. In the culture’s past, they only kept female children—either banishing the boys from the island or allowing “accidents” to happen. Yeah, they were sort of ruthless. But times change, and so do people. By the time Celia was born, they were a “kinder and gentler” species that co-existed with humans pretty well. Of course, once that happened, overcrowding did too. So now there are parts of the island that are sanctuaries and parts that are cities that have had to build upward rather than outward. Celia hasn’t spent much time in the cities of Serenity (yet!) and has only gotten the view of the island as a garden paradise thus far that happened in book 2, SIREN SONG. Her knowledge will soon change and, reality being what it is, it will directly impact her and those around her. (Sorry...no spoilers of future book! LOL!)

We’ve been creating the history of the sirens as we go, which has been a lot of fun. There are good points and bad to every culture. There are things to be proud of and sore, embarrassing wounds yet to be healed. Some of those wounds were shown in book 3, DEMON SONG, when Queen Lopaka got angry with Celia for an innocent question that reopened one of those embarrassing wounds. They’ve healed it over, sort of, but there’s more to come that will strain their newly established relationship.

There’s so much to do when creating a people—from language to religion, monetary system and customs. Everything has to make sense to the reader so it feels real. One of the things that happens in Celia’s life in THE ISIS COLLAR is directly related to the siren culture. Celia’s mother, Lana, is an alcoholic and wound up in jail because of repeated DUIs. But because of her siren heritage, being in jail was killing her. Literally. She was cut off from the ocean, a death sentence to a siren. Queen Lopaka arranged for Lana to be incarcerated on Serenity as a kindness.

Unfortunately, because of the matriarchal, queen-influenced culture, things went wrong quickly. After all, if Celia is a princess, then so is Lana. And the sirens are accustomed to treating royalty with a certain regard. Like not actually locking the prisoner behind bars.

Oops.
Naturally, Lana decided she would rather hop on the nearest boat and head back to her favorite bar. Here’s how Celia finds out that lovely bit of news . . . during a session with her psychologist:

*********************

 “So,” I said to Gwen, my therapist, snuffling after my fifth tissue in the past five minutes, “Am I a complete loon?”
           
“Actually, you’re not.” It almost sounded like she was surprised. “Most people would be. You are very mature for your age but . . .” There was always a but with Gwen. “You have to learn to give up some control. Much of your anxiety stems from taking everything onto yourself. You can alienate people just by your sheer dominance.”

I shrugged, feeling my defenses leap back to full power. “I sort of have to. Nobody else steps up to the plate. If I alienate people who aren’t doing their job . . . um, so? Do I care if they like me? No. I would rather they like me, but I would also rather they do the right thing so I don’t have to get involved. Does that make sense?”

Like a spider leaping on a fly from above, the next words out of her mouth caught me by such surprise I froze, barely breathing. “Like your mother?”

“Well . . . yes, I suppose. But I have stepped away from that. Like I told Ivy, she made her choices and she’ll have to pay the price. Lord knows I have, plenty of times.”

“So you wouldn’t . . . for example, help her hide from the police?”

What a weird question. “Um, no. I never have before. In fact, I usually tipped off the cops where she was, especially when she was driving drunk.”

“When’s the last time you saw her?” I felt my hackles rise, and Gwen must have seen something in my face, because she said, calm as ever, “Celia, please don’t get agitated. I’m only trying to help.”

Agitated? Who was agitated? Just because I could feel my heart pounding and my fists were clenched? “Why are you asking me these questions, Gwen?” My voice was coming out in a growl. It was too early in the day for the vampire to need to come out and play. I’d even eaten, and I knew there was plenty of meat broth in the smoothie. I was in control. “I’m dealing with Mom. I am. She’s in the best place for her right now. They can help her. I can’t.”

Gwen sighed. “I believe you, Celia. But I had to ask.” She raised her voice. “You can come in, ladies.”

Ladies? Huh? I turned and jumped to my feet as the door to the office opened. Two casually dressed women walked in. I vaguely recognized one of them but couldn’t remember from where. It wasn’t until her intense eyes met mine that I remembered. Her name was Baker. She was tall and buff with hair cropped short in a buzz cut that should have been very masculine. I’d envied the weapons on her belt when I’d first met her and she’d added a few since then. She was a siren, the queen’s own security.

Oh, crap.

The woman bowed her head in respect. “Princess. I’d hoped you knew something that you could share. But we didn’t want to startle you, so we came first to your healer.”

I felt a chill come over me as I remembered Ivy’s frantic motions. “What’s wrong with my mother? That’s what you’re here about, aren’t you? Where is she?”

The second guard, with a name tag that read Natura, dipped her head politely. “I’m afraid we don’t know. She was taking her daily walk along the beach path but never came back to the facility. Several boats went to the mainland that day, so . . .”

I tried to process what they’d just said. “Um, let me get this straight. You let a woman known for avoiding the law out of her cell . . . alone?” Holy Crap!  “How long has she been gone?”

Baker let out a low, frustrated growl and wouldn’t look at the woman with her. “Two days. While I wouldn’t have made the same choices as my associate, Princess, please understand that, like you, your mother is royalty. That allowed for more privileges. And since one of her ailments was ocean withdrawal, walking near the water helped center her. For a time after she disappeared, we believed she was visiting with someone, but after searching the whole island, we’re convinced she’s left.”

Great. Just great. They’ve been treating my conniving mother like a freaking celebrity. She would eat that up and absolutely take advantage of it. I reached up to try to rub away the sudden headache that was making my forehead throb. Different headache for a different problem. No wonder Ivy was so panicked. Not only had she probably watched mom slip onto a boat, she wouldn’t be able to track her over water. Ghosts don’t do well over running water, just like vampires. “Um, wow. I can’t even describe the level of wrong that was. It had never occurred to me in my wildest nightmares that you might let her outside of a walled and spelled environment until she’d gotten massive therapy. But if you’re asking if she’s come to see me, the answer is an emphatic no. I am the last person on earth she would go to in a crisis. She’d be more likely to roll a junkie for money.” I sighed and collapsed back into the chair where I’d been sitting. Well, gosh, hadn’t this been an emotional roller coaster of a session? “Where else have you looked on the mainland?”

******************

What fun to be a siren, huh? But this is only the beginning of the great fun stuff that will happen in THE ISIS COLLAR.  Now, obviously, since this is part of our blog tour, we're giving PRIZES! Comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of THE ISIS COLLAR hot off the press. We'll pick one lucky person (yes, international addresses are okay!) at the end of the full tour so make sure you include your contact email so we can get in touch with you.

Oh, and if you’re intrigued (and you know you are) go out and buy THE ISIS COLLAR by Cat Adams right away! And if you’ve never heard of Celia Graves’ earlier adventures in BLOOD SONG, SIREN SONG and DEMON SONG, they’re on sale until the release of ISIS! It’s a really good sale, too: only $2.99 for any format of ebook download. Heck, that’s three for the price of one! And if you’re a print fanatic, they’re also on sale at Amazon on a 4-for-3 special. But lots of other retailers have them on sale too, so go to our publisher’s website (http://us.macmillan.com/theisiscollar/CatAdams ), scroll all the way to the bottom and choose your favorite store.