'The Maidens' is the newest release from Alex Michaelides, bestselling author of the debut sensation 'The Silent Patient.' A psychological thriller housed within St. Christopher's College, Cambridge, the author binds mystery and murder to themes of classic Greek mythology.
Told primarily through the narrative of Mariana, a group psychotherapist who's a year into mourning for her late husband, the woman is drawn back to the place where their love story began by what is quite likely the only thing that could motivate her to set foot there. A call for help from her niece, Zoe, regarding her best friend's murder.
Drifting between the memories of their courtship haunting her still and the secrets stacking up around her that seem to be held tightly by both the students and faculty members, Mariana struggles to put the pieces together. Strangeness is afoot amongst a select group of students referred to as The Maidens and their darkly charismatic professor, Edward Fosca.
From the opening pages, Michaelides captures grief exquisitely, affixing it to the page with the expertise of a collector.. as if it's a butterfly pinned neatly under glass for the rest of us to study. Above all else, it's the ability to convey those emotions.. so richly textured, that inextricably bound me to this story through its end.
It certainly doesn't hurt that the author himself seems to be well-read. More than once, though I was loathe to put the book down, I found myself pausing in search of referenced writings that I'd never cared enough to read prior. His romantic description behind Tennyson's grief drove me to read the 3,000 line masterpiece, 'In Memoriam.' I researched theses for Antigone, dissertations on Euripides, and though Aristotle is one of my favorites.. this book had me viewing 'The Poetics' through a different lens entirely.
Periodically, snippets of another narrative appear throughout the book. Snippets of what could be diary entries from an individual who has known great suffering and may in fact be inflicting the same on others. Interestingly enough, there are so many choices presented by the author, that it's difficult to even stick with a guess as to who it might be.
Eloquently penned, the story moves at a steady pace, weaving.. labyrinthine through the lives affected by the murder. Those ripples reaching in some cases much farther than we might anticipate, creating more difficult situations on top of the first.
Though Michaelides did keep me guessing to the end, my only complaint is that I felt almost cheated. I felt robbed of the moment where I might look back and say to myself, "I should have seen that," because it wasn't there. It wasn't just subterfuge and misdirection, it was a blank canvas. I like to call it the 'Saw' treatment.. and never have I been so infuriated by a film.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the book. In a lesser writer's hands that feeling would have won out, but it's just so beautifully crafted and so emotionally driven.. that I forgive him for taking a path that just personally displeases me. I'm truly grateful for having read this story, I haven't been so immersed in a long time.
If you like tense thrillers with a psychological bent and an elegant, artistic approach.. this is the book for you.
[TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the 'CONSTELLATIONS OF SCARS' blog tour brought to you by MIDNIGHT TIDE PUBLISHING, MELISSA ESKUE OUSLEY, and XPRESSO BOOK TOURS!
'Constellations of Scars' by Melissa Eskue Ousley had such an unusual premise, I just couldn't pass it up. The story follows Amelia, a girl in her early twenties with one incredibly unique attribute. Her body grows pearls.
Every month, a crop of valuable pearls breaks through the skin along her back. Her mother considers it a blessing, but to Amelia it's the opposite. It's painful and humiliating. Each harvest offers a brief respite from the agony of the crop, but the scars left behind are almost as embarrassing as the cause.
Kept hidden, home-schooled, and even locked away at times in the attic to 'keep her safe,' Amelia just dreams of freedom. Having been told since the pearls began growing that if anyone finds out about her gift, she'll be held captive out of greed, she soon realizes she's already in that situation at home.
This is such a strange little story and I mean that in the nicest way. Amelia is not a weak girl, she really suffers with the crops of pearls and she has been through an awful experience with her mother. She's been isolated and controlled for almost half her life, stripped of any semblance of privacy, berated and abused.
Determined to achieve a better existence for herself, she sets goals and pushes hard toward them. She doesn't give up at the first sign of difficulty. Amelia is probably one of the strongest female protagonists I've ever read, without becoming overbearing or being turned into a tough stereotype. She shows moments of vulnerability, but perseveres.. even in the worst of them.
Along the way, she finds a new family.. a group of human oddities that help run a museum on the coast. While she discovers what it's like to be on her own, experiences a lot of firsts, and even begins to form deep, long-lasting relationships.. not everything is sunny in the beachside town. There are dangers lurking that she isn't equipped to recognize.
While I did see part of the twist coming, it still went a completely different direction than I expected and I really enjoyed that. The supporting cast is a bit stereotyped, but they were lovely characters.. especially Gabriel.
If you're looking for something a bit strange, this one is a quick read. There is quite a bit of darkness here, but that just added to the atmosphere. It's not complex storytelling, but I think you'll find it's so intriguing that you won't mind.
Constellations of Scars
"..he had a dreaminess to his eyes as well, as if he were somehow fundamentally unmoored from the world, perpetually startled by its sharp edges and small cruelties."
'The Chosen and the Beautiful' by Nghi Vo is a faithful re-telling of The Great Gatsby, wrapped lovingly.. and perhaps a little obsessively, within the cool contours of magical realism.
Though I normally like my re-tellings to vary enough that they can be difficult to recognize at first glance, this one is so full of interesting, creative magical elements and interpersonal nuances that I think varying from the original tale too much would have done it a disservice.
Told from the perspective of Jordan Baker, a queer adoptee originally from Tonkin/Vietnam by a wealthy white family, she has access to social tiers others would not have in the 1920's. She's free-spirited and has the money to pretty much do whatever she likes with her time and that just so happens to mean lots of exclusive parties. While it seems she has everything, she's still treated as an almost collectible oddity by her peers and the most important things remain behind sealed doors for her.
"..soul gone and some terrible engine he called love driving him now, I could see that for him, the world was always ending. For him, it was all a wreck and a ruin, and he had no idea why the rest of us weren't screaming."
Gatsby and Daisy, Nick and Tom, even the Wilsons are all still present here. Yet some of the dynamics have changed, modernizing the feel of the atmosphere. I enjoyed the way the reveal at the end was tucked away, marked only by character reactions and small side comments.. never directly addressed. At first pass, the scene just feels a bit off.. like there's something that doesn't quite make sense.. and then it does.
Tinged with Faustian themes, the author gives us a much more visually vibrant world, however. The magic is otherworldly.. life seemingly made of paper, ghosts sharing space with the living, and all sorts of other intrigues.
I loved the infernal twist on the bootlegging business and really enjoyed the way obsession was explored. It went far beyond just two people in this telling and became more of a spiral of obsession instead.. with one always drawn inexorably toward another until all were essentially connected. At times, the book reads like a fever dream.. and disoriented, you wonder if that's real or if it's the character being affected.
"She was half out of her robe like a snowdrop unsheathed after the winter, fragile and more than a little raw."
Vo is a beautifully lyrical writer who does an excellent job of creating an underlying premonition of dread while dazzling the reader with exuberant scenes and imaginative illusions. If you like a bit of mystery or a sense of fatalism in your stories, read this book. I promise you will not make it all the way through without finding at least one surprise waiting.
Continue below to read my revew of the book and be sure to follow this link - [TOUR SCHEDULE] to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour for 'THE IMMORTAL GAME' brought to you by TBR & BEYOND TOURS, SWOON READS/MACMILLAN, TALIA ROTHSCHILD and A.C. HARVEY!
The Immortal Game
May 25th, 2021
Swoon Reads / Macmillan Children's Publishing Group
Content Warning: Emotional abuse, battle scenes, up-close death
An exiled goddess goes on a quest to clear her name and save Mount Olympus in Talia Rothschild & A. C. Harvey’s action-packed young adult debut, The Immortal Game!
Galene, daughter of Poseidon, desperately wants to earn her place among the gods. But when a violent attack leaves Mount Olympus in chaos and ruins, she is accused of the crime. Banished from Olympus, Galene sets out to prove her innocence and discovers a more deadly plot—one that threatens even the oldest of Immortals.
Fortunately, she has allies who willingly join her in exile:
A lifelong friend who commands the wind.
A defiant warrior with deadly skill.
A fire-wielder with a hero’s heart.
A mastermind who plays life like a game.
All-out war is knocking at the gates. Galene and her friends are the only ones who can tip the scales toward justice, but their choices could save Olympus from total annihilation, or be the doom of them all.
rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5 stars)
'The Immortal Game' by Talia Rothschild and A.C. Harvey tells the story of Galene, a daughter of Poseidon. When unexpected violence brings death to Mount Olympus, she is exiled for the crime. Separated from the home she loves, Galene's only hope of vindication lies in proving she's not to blame.
On a self-imposed mission to clear her name, the goddess discovers a far more sinister plot that threatens all she holds dear and could see even the most powerful Olympians lost. With a group of friends who follow her willingly into exile, she just might stand a chance.
This story is basically a classic mythology quest in the vein of the Labours of Hercules. The goddess and her group face a long journey with many trials along the way and it's questionable if all will survive through the end. Somewhat less traditional, it moves a bit more like an Indiana Jones film, whereas it's pretty fast-paced and something is always happening. If they're not trying to escape death or capture, they're trying to work their way through some other challenge.
With the possibility of war looming, there are others moving around on the proverbial board as well and that turns the journey into a bit of a race against time. The book was actually a quick read because it was so easy to get invested in the hopeful outcome for the characters and there's always so much going on.. I didn't really want to put it down.
Complicated relationships between some of the party members made for some intriguing dynamics. There's so much tension at times it seems the group might just implode and never see the quest to its completion.
Galene is a likeable character and a strong, female protagonist. It was nice to see a truly supportive female friendship, rather than having to watch them try to rise above one another amongst the others. Overall, I was a big fan of Kostas and Braxtus, but the latter especially has a lot of layers to him and I always appreciate a good substory.
I will say, the storytelling itself is a little choppy at times, but I feel like that's because the authors were trying to accomplish so much in a relatively short novel. It also suffers a little from conveniences allowing characters to easily know or learn what they need to in every moment and I felt like I got a bit too much of Kostas main ability, but ultimately these are minor criticisms.
Some of the elements employed, particularly within the magic system were very interesting. I absolutely loved the concept of the Decks of Fates, but I won't go into detail.
There's a ton of adventure and betrayal to be had here, so if you're looking for something that will keep your interest and you have a fondness for the Greek pantheon, this will probably do it. If on the other hand, even something like 'Lore' had too much mythology for your liking, you're going to want to pass. This book is very mythology heavy and that worked great for me.
Talia Rothschild, Italian American, is passionate about stories in many forms—music, dance, photography, film and, of course, great novels. She believes in thick hot chocolate and creamer in your tea.
When she’s not happily writing, she’s mothering the sweetest baby girl and making memories with her husband.
Ashleigh Harvey is teaching high school physics and bringing her writing dreams to life. English-born and world-traveled, she loves filling her life with new adventures, such as visiting a new country or exploring the Wild West with her husband.
She also finds escape in movies, music, literature, and yearly comic conventions.
Giveaway (US Only): One winner will receive a finished copy of The Immortal Game. The giveaway starts on May 31st and ends June 7th . Embedded Link: a Rafflecopter giveaway