Are you having a monstrous Monday? Do you need something to brighten it up? I am glad you stopped by for Something Wicked Returns Day #21. I cannot believe that we are embarking on the last full week of Wicked posts.... speaking of posts, Ali@My Guilty Obsession is your hostess this week and she has a week packed with fun posts and giveaways so be sure to check in with her daily. I still have plenty of bookish treats for you as well, but before we get to that here are the must visit posts today:
Ali@My Guilty Obsession: Susannah Sandlin:Penton Legacy
Now *rubbing hands gleefully* I have a delicious book for you all today.... I am happy to welcome back author Fiona Paul a.k.a. Paula Stokes. I was thrilled to host Fiona last
year during Wicked with her debut book Venom. I was most impressed with this meticulously researched historical book that takes place in Venice at the turn of the 17th century. It is a tale of canals, gondoliers, forbidden romance and body snatchers. Fiona is back today with book two: Belladonna, a sequel that exceeds its predecessor. Book two,
finds Cass trying to save her fiancé, who has been framed by the dubious Joseph Dubois. To rescue him, Cass must find a mysterious and dangerous book called The Book of the Eternal Rose. To find the book, she must journey to Florence. Once there, she learns that evil is afoot as people are being accused of vampirism. Are you interested yet? I hope so! I found this tale absolutely intriguing, and I hope you will check it out, too! I am getting ahead of myself, though. First, let me introduce you all to Fiona (Paula).
Fiona Paul lives in the Midwest but travels a lot since she can’t breathe if she spends too much time away from the ocean. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in psychology and spent a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea while she was deciding what she wanted to be when she grew up. Answer: everything. In addition to being a teacher and a writer, she’s also worked as a sauté cook, sporting goods manager, veterinary assistant, and registered nurse. When she’s not working, you can usually find her kayaking, reading, or helping turtles cross the road. Her future goals include diving with great white sharks and writing more books, not necessarily in that order.
Fiona also writes under her real name Paula Stokes and she will have a contemporary novel THE ART OF LAINEY releasing in 2014. Visit Fiona on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads and find Paula Stokes on Facebook and Twitter.
Fiona is here with her post on fear:
Hi everyone! Fiona (aka Paula) here to talk about what scares me in honor of Halloween. I did a similar post like this last year for Nova Ren Suma where I talked about sharks. I wanted to do something different for you guys, and that got me thinking about fear in general. I decided there are three basic types of fear:
1. The kind of fear that makes your heart race and your skin clammy, like being afraid of getting eaten by a shark
2. The kind of abstract fear that keeps you from reaching your potential in life, love, etc., like being afraid of commitment
3. The kind of fear that makes you all wiggly and freaked out, even though there’s no immediate danger, like when you had to dissect that frog in biology class.
I am going to talk about the third type of fear. I’m actually not creeped out by frog innards, but one thing that makes me totally wiggly-jumpy-shrieky is a good-sized spider. I can handle the teensy weensy ones, as long as they don’t make it onto my skin. I prefer not to kill them because I don’t like to hurt things, so I do my best to capture them in cups and take them outside. Sometimes my kitties eat them before I get a chance but that doesn’t bother me too much. It’s the circle of life, right?
But any spider bigger than a quarter leaves me completely helpless and incapacitated. I’m too scared to catch those and I certainly couldn’t kill them. OMG, the thought of spider parts squishing under my foot. No, just no. Luckily nothing too big has ever made it into my apartment, but there was this one vacation…
It’s Costa Rica. Pretty, right? Unfortunately our hotel was, like a lot of tropical places, an indoor-outdoor kind of place. The restaurant and gym were outdoors. There were no screens on the windows or sliding glass doors. Our bathroom window was stuck slightly open, a convenient pathway for assorted creepie-crawlies. At first things were fine. My friend and I arrived very late so we dropped our luggage on our beds and planned to go immediately to sleep. Then she made the mistake of going down into the sunken living area of our room to flip on the TV. Under the coffee table, she found this:
I didn’t have the presence of mind to put down a quarter for comparison’s sake, so you’ll just have to trust me—that spider is bigger than a quarter. My friend started freaking out, insisting there was no way she was sleeping in the same room as a spider and that I needed to either kill it or go find a desk clerk to kill it since I was the one who booked the room. [Note to self: be less helpful about booking stuff in the future.] Well, it turned out the desk staff left at midnight and I was not about to call the emergency number to report a freaking spider, so I decided we should just put a trash can over it and go to sleep. My friend said “no way.” I told her there was no way I was killing it. Ugh, squishy spider parts--I can’t even. I almost had her convinced we could sleep safely in our beds when she caught a glimpse under the sofa of…TWO MORE EVEN BIGGER SPIDERS! At this point I started freaking out too—I mean OMG we were outnumbered! The two of us basically ran around the room screaming until…there was a knock at the door.
We screamed again, but then opened it to find an older Canadian guy standing outside looking puzzled. “I saw you through the patio window,” he said. “A lot of running around. Is everything all right?” Sweet love! The heavens had bestowed upon us a savior. We pointed out the spiders and our distinguished new friend picked them up in tissue—squishy spider parts and all!—and disposed of them in the toilet.
Which I then flushed like six times, just in case.
So the moral of this story is not that you should avoid Costa Rica (because where else can you brake for coatimundis) but that sometimes if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. And other times, if you just run around screaming, a Canadian might do it for you. #YayCanada
P.S. I am also a little afraid lovely reader-people like you won’t realize that in addition to being fabulous Fiona, I also have some contemporary books coming out under the name Paula Stokes :D Feel free to check me out on twitter or facebook. THE ART OF LAINEY comes out just two months after STARLING. I’m so excited about 2014!
Please note: All photos are courtesy of Paula Stokes.
Wow! Now I am not sure I want to visit Costa Rica! Giant spiders in your hotel room is just creepy. I imagine your tore apart your bed and searched thoroughly before climbing in...*shudders*. Thanks, Paula for sharing your Costa Rican nightmare with us. After that frightening tale, I bet you all are in the mood for a giveaway, right? Paula (Fiona) is generously offering a chance to win a copy of Belladonna, and the best part? She is making this giveaway International as long as the Book Depository ships to you! Be sure to show her some love in the comments. To enter please read the Contest Policies and fill out the Rafflecopter. I am certain you will see both Fiona and Paula back here in 2014.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Here is my review:
Belladonna(Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2) by Fiona Paul
In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results! In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent. So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself. Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time? Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Philomel (first published July 1st 2013)
Source: Publisher for an honest review
Four Stars: A dark and deadly trip to seventeenth century Florence.
Cass shrieks awake. She is still having nightmares after her narrow escape from a killer. She is trying to put it all behind her and settle into her life. That means reconciling with her fiancé Luca and letting go of Falco. Cass and Luca are getting along and things are going well, but her heart is torn. She clutches tightly to the one and only letter she received from Falco since he left. Is it possible to be in love with two people? Then tragedy strikes. Guards storm the villa and arrest Luca for supposed heresy. He has been falsely accused and sentenced to die in a month, unless Cass can prove his innocence. The only way she can do that is by finding a mysterious book called The Book of the Eternal Rose. She heads to Florence in hopes of finding this book. Florence, however, presents all new deadly dangers. There are rumors of vampires and girls are being put to death for consorting with vampires. Treachery and danger lurk around every corner. Can Cass free her fiancé by finding The Book of the Eternal Rose?
What I Liked:
- I loved being whisked back to Italy at the turn of the seventeenth century. Ms. Paul's meticulous research pays off as her world building is exceptional. I had no trouble picturing Italy during this era, and I especially love how she always remembers to include all the small details. I enjoy learning more about life in Italy long ago, and I appreciate that she doesn't romanticize it. There is plenty of discussion about the foul stench that rises of the canals and all the mold and sewage. Venice is not all glamour and gondolas. There is a dark and dirty side too.
- Book two has more mystery and suspense. The first half of the book is exciting as you follow Cass to Florence. Once in Florence, there are girls being put to death because they are believed to be contaminated by vampirism. After the girls are drowned, they are buried with bricks shoved down there throats to prevent them from chewing their way out of their graves. It is an atmosphere of suspicion and accusations. It reminded me of the witch hunts. I liked, though, that the reason behind the vampires was realistic and it stayed true to the era. It was certainly frightening to witness how helpless girls were when accused of consorting with vampires, it was almost always a death sentence. The church played a heavy hand in fueling the vampire and witch craze, and I liked that all this information was included. Fascinating stuff!
- I am enjoying watching Cass continue to grow. She has come along way from the sheltered girl of privilege. She refuses to sit idly by and let them falsely execute Luca. Instead she takes matters into her own hands and does what is necessary to try and save him. She is courageous and determined in her quest, even if that means putting herself in dangerous situations. I admired her spirit and courage as she takes on the powerful and deadly Belladonna. This time around, Cass does the majority of the footwork on her own without the aid of Falco or Luca.
- Speaking of Belladonna, she is truly a villain that gave me the creeps. She is beautiful and deadly, and absolutely horrible. She made me shudder every time she was in a scene. The perfect villain that I love to hate. I was especially disgusted when I learned her true nature and motives. She is narcissistic and nasty all rolled into one.
- I was pleased that this book did not falter and flounder as a middle book. There is no middle book syndrome with this one. In fact, I think the plot is stronger and tighter than in Venom. I feel overall that this was the perfect blend of action, danger suspense.
- There is no jarring cliffhanger, either. The ending reaches a good stopping point, while leaving some tantalizing story lines for the third and final book.
And The Not So Much:
- The romance plays a very minor role in this one. I enjoyed the exciting, forbidden romance that occurred between Cass and Falco as they traversed the Venetian canals at night hunting down the body snatchers in Venom. This time, Falco is absent the first half of the book, and it appears Cass has settled for Luca. I was desperately hoping for Falco to make an appearance, but when he does he is far removed from the dashing, outspoken and fun boy I grew to love in Venom. He is uptight and quick to throw out his opinions, and then he gets angry when Cass and the others don't agree with him. I kept hoping he would return to his old roguish ways, but it doesn't happen. He is strange and aloof. Then there is a scene at the end that makes you wonder who he is anymore. I am not giving up on him yet, but he has a lot of redeeming to do. Even though there is a love triangle present, I don't mind it so much in this one because it is done right and realistic.
- I was totally caught up in the events of the first half, and I was eager to understand what was really behind the vampire attacks. Once Cass is injured at Belladonna's house, the book's pace slowed up a bit and I wasn't as engaged. I thought that too much time was spent on Cass' convalescence, even though it was an important part and it led to Cass uncovering the disturbing truth behind the vampire outbreak. For some reason, I felt the book faltered a bit during this part. I wanted more excitement and action. Thankfully, it definitely picks up at the end.
- I have always appreciated that these books maintain a realistic feel. I was fully on board with everything right up until the part where Belladonna's beauty secret is exposed. I didn't fully buy the explanation for her youthful looks, and I thought the book lost a bit of believability at this point. While I know there is truth to people actually doing what she did, I don't think it could really make someone look twenty when they are forty in this era.
Belladonna is an exciting and suspenseful sequel that does not fall prey to the middle book syndrome. This book has solid, well researched world building along with an action packed plot. There is mystery and danger at every turn. The romance falters a bit in this one, but I thought the suspense made up for it. I am eager to see how everything ends with the final book Starling in 2014.
"I spend every waking minute becoming a better artist, a better man. One day I will offer you the life you deserve, the life we both desire. One day I'll be good enough, or I'll die trying."
"Truth is a pesky rodent. No matter how deeply it is buried, it will dig its way to the surface eventually."
"Living burial usually results in death caused by suffocation or sheer terror." -The Book of the Eternal Rose
"Starling," he said. "I cannot believe it. Are you the product of too much wine or too many wishes?"
"She gave in, pulling him close, tangling her hands in his hair, tasting his skin and his lips and his tongue. She expected him to taste like ale, but he just tasted warm, like summer and sunrise. And happiness."
"Was it love or was it madness? Was there any difference between the two?"
"The priest would have you fear invisible attacks by monsters, all the better to keep you from fearing what is really threatening Florence----the tyranny of religion."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.
Another day wrapped! See you back on Wednesday with Tina Connolly~