Book Review│And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

andthentheyweredoomedAs a middle school language arts teacher by day, one of my favorite authors to teach is Agatha Christie. The kids get so into it even though the language and time are dated because Christie is such a master at weaving together a mystery and making you think it is someone when the twist at the end is someone entirely different that you often either never thought of or even forgot about as the story went on. Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli borrows many Christie references that weave this cozy, dark mystery through its pages.

A Mysterious Letter

If you are a fan of And Then There Were None, you know that 10 strangers receive an invitation from the mysterious Owens’ to enjoy a long weekend on Solider Island, a luxurious residence that stands alone on an island. None of them have anything in common other than having been involved with murder and gotten away with it. Slowly, they are killed one by one until there is only one of them left. So, when author Zoe Zola receives a letter edged in black inviting her to an Agatha Christie symposium at an old Upper Peninsula hunting lodge, she is a little bit spooked especially when she realizes that she has been invited by a Ms. Emily Brent. In Christie’s novel, Emily Brent was an old pious spinster who drove her maid to suicide when she found out that the girl was pregnant. Zola goes anyway, eager to find out the mystery behind the letter and what is about to unfold at the old hunting lodge.

10 Little Christie Scholars…

Much like Christie’s And Then There Were None, 10 Christie Scholars appear on the Peninsula. Each one has an eerie resemblance or some similarity to one of the people from Christie’s novel. For instance, some of their names are the same or similar or even more strangely, just sound like one of the characters from Christie’s book. All the guests assemble for dinner and their first lecture. Here, Zoe notices that there are figurines of children around the floral centerpieces only they are not as innocent as they appear because each represents a line from the famous poem that the killer uses in And Then There Were None  to kill each of their victims:

soldier boys

And much like Buzzelli’s source material, Zoe soon finds that each night brings about a new disappearance of a guest and she must find a way to survive long enough to get herself off the Peninsula. She immediately calls her friend Jenny Weston for help, only, Jenny has to wait out the storm over Lake Superior before she can get to her friend. Zoe must use her wits to keep herself safe until help arrives. As she waits, Zoe’s story unfolds and the secrets of her own past and of her family’s are brought to light.

This dark cozy mystery is a fast read and if you love Agatha Christie, you will surely love, And Then They Were Doomed the fourth installment of the Little Library Mysteries.

Book Information

And Then They Were Doomed by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli is scheduled to be released on August 13, 2019 with ISBN 9781643850009 from Crooked Lane Books. This review corresponds to an advanced electronic copy from the publisher that was given in exchange for this review.

For special pre-ordering pricing, snag your copy here —–> https://amzn.to/30OjzQl

Book Review: The Botticelli Secret

secretSteeped in the turmoil of the non-unified Italy of the 1400’s, Marina Fiorato skillfully weaves a detailed and evasive mystery around one of Botticelli’s more famous paintings, Primavera or Allegory of Spring. The painting is packed with meaning alone, but Fiorato takes the painting to an entirely new level in her book, The Botticelli Secret.

Primavera

Painted in 1482, the Primavera was created by Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. He was of the Florentine school and worked during the Early Renaissance or Qauttrocento. It is suggested that the allegory had been petitioned by the Medici family.

The work is largely accepted as an allegory of springtime, however, other themes and meanings have been explored, including the idea that the painting illustrates the ideal of Neoplatonic love. For Fiorato, the painting serves as the basis for her art history mystery in her novel.

The Plot

Fiorato opens her novel with the introduction of her heroine- common whore by the name of Luciana Vetra. She is described as a classical beauty, with long flowing ringlets and a sharp tongue from the four years that she spent on the streets of Florence. She is aptly named for how she arrived in Florence. Her origins for much of the novel are unknown, but from the beginning Luciana speaks of her uncommon arrival in the city- as a baby washedup on the shores of the city in a glass bottle.

The reader is quickly drawn to her, despite her abrasiveness and crassness that are abundant in the earlier part of the novel, but softens as she finds herself and finds love during the course of the story. Her flaws make Luciana realistic and easy to relate too, despite the over-the-top mystery and life that she eventually gets swept up in to.

Fiorato’s story of Luciana, Primavera and the mystery that engulfs everything is skillfully rendered and so lush that the reader easily gets immersed in the world of what Italy was like during the early part of the Renaissance. Fiorato leaves nothing to the imagination and stays away from romanticizing the period, leaving the reader with a raw and detailed depiction of what life was like during the time that Botticelli lived and worked.

The Botticell Secret by Marina Fiorato was originally published in April of 2010. It is available for purchase through St. Martin’s Griffin, New York with ISBN 978-0-312-60636-7.

Book Review: The Sidewalk Artist

sidewalkA blocked writer, unhappy with her life and relationship takes off for a Parisian vacation. It is there that Tulia Rose encounters beautiful chalk drawings of some of Raphael’s most beautiful and famous creations of cherubs and light. The chalk drawings’ artist Raffaello, intrigues Tulia. She quickly finds herself asking if she loves him? Or is he a stalker? Or could he even be the reincarnation of the Renaissance artist Raphael?

Dreamy Settings

Tulia’s story and eventual love-affair takes her across Europe to lush settings that are both dreamy and romantic. Readers are indulged in sensual Paris, dream-like Tuscany and beautiful Venice as Tulia navigates herself through her budding affair and eventual break-up with her New York boyfriend, Ethan.

The settings are beautifully described and detailed by an author with a keen eye for the intricacies that the romance of Europe offers its visitors. Buonaguro writes, “What truly moves Tulia is not the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral or any of the wonderful sights. It is the little things. A windowsill with a pot of geraniums and a glimpse of lace curtain, the way the sun glances off a puddle, the echo of her heels as she walks down a narrow cobblestone street, the taste of coffee at an outdoor cafe, the sound of children calling out to each other in French,” making it easy for the reader to fall in love with Paris even if they haven’t had a chance to make it there yet.

The Failing Hero

The downfall of The Sidewalk Artist, in my opinion was Raffaello – Buonaguro’s hero. Instead of being the romantic artist that was meant to sweep readers off their feet as they read, I found Raffaello to be more creepy than to be someone with whom I would want to disappear into the European countryside with. I kept waiting for a plot twist wherein the entire story line became something sinister and it was with that thought that kept me from completely falling in love with the story though I did find the idea of the parallel plot and romance to be creative and intriguing.

The Sidewalk Artist makes for a quick read and is great if you’re looking for a sweet story to spend a day at the beach with.

The Sidewalk Artist by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk is available for purchase through St. Martin’s Griffin with ISBN 031237805X. It was released on April 1, 2008.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Edging out the 9th spot on my 100 book challenge is Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist. I bought this book at Heathrow airport to read in 2014 when we were headed home from our big Euro-trip. I wound up being allergic to the person in front of me on the plane. I seriously still would like to know what kind of perfume it was…so, I wound up sleeping thanks to benadryl for the entire flight home. I never even opened the book.

And from there I moved around and it sat in my bookshelf and in a box for sometime, before I finally picked it up again this summer. I really wished I had read it sooner. I love the Netherlands. When I do go back to Europe, I want to spend a good chunk of time in the Netherlands, riding bikes and eating copious amounts of cheese. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

TheMiniaturist

In Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, we follow a young girl, Petronella Oortman, who is recently married to one of Amsterdam’s most well-off merchants, Johannes Brandt.  The two barely know each other and it becomes clear about Nella’s arrival that all is not what is seems in her new home. She has a sister-in-law who appears devout and overtly religious, a mix of servants that owe their lives to Johannes and a husband that has little interest in Nella as a wife.

It’s pretty easy to figure out almost immediately that Johannes is gay and pretty much only married Nella out of duty to give his family a proper facade. They do develop a friendship in their marriage, that for me, I felt was more about Nella constantly protecting her new family instead of herself. It was a good, quick read and it paced very well, with a lot of tension as well as suspense driving most of the book.

The ending however, had me wondering what the point of including the sub-plot of the miniaturist was? Outside of driving suspense for the novel, the ending really had her fizzle out without much reason as to why she had even been there in the first place. It was pretty interesting how she sent messages to Nell through the miniatures that she ordered from her for her doll house, but it is not even explained how the woman knew some of the things she warned Nella about or what her motivation for doing any of it was? I found her ending confusing at best.

I was really surprised to learn that this novel was based on real people: Johannes and Nella were a merchant couple, who married and lived in Amsterdam in the late 1600’s. Learning that, I thought it was a bit salacious to write the events of the novel as they were, seeing as there is no historical evidence of a sham marriage to hide a man’s homosexuality. And yes, there is even a real dollhouse that had inspired the author when it was on display at a museum:

Dolls__house_of_Petronella_Oortman

The dollhouse at the time, had cost the same as buying a real canal house in Amsterdam. Can you imagine that? So crazy! People like Peter the Great even attempted to buy it, but wouldn’t rise to the crazy price that the family was trying to sell it for.

This is definitely good for a quick summertime read. I’ve recently started the much controversial Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman.

 

Late Night Books

I can’t remember the last time that I was so into a book that I stayed up all night reading it. I had a lot of work to do last night, I had a syllabus to write and a course to finish putting together, but the temptation for a fun read was just too great last night.

In high school and college, I was just like a plethora of other teens and kept, religiously, a LiveJournal. I loved it. It opened up to me an entire world where I was able to “meet” people from all over the world and read about their lives. In fact, I met many writers, artists and other creative through LJ. I loved that community.

Of one of the people that I “met,” was New Orleans based author, Poppy Z. Brite. I fell in love. I loved her books and her wit. I was very sad when she stopped updating her blog.

Some years later, she began to update again and I once again was reminded of why I loved her writing as much as I did. She had since begun to identify as a he, officially, even though so much of his writing had been about his gender dysphoria. He was also creating really cool art and had retired from publishing. Recently, he started posting dibs books, which are books from his personal collection that he signs and ships out. I was lucky and grabbed two, one of which is the extremely dark Exquisite Corpse.

I had read the first 100 pages in an hour, I had forgotten how dark and immersive the book was. I stayed up until nearly 2am laying on my couch reading a book that I wanted to read. It was amazing! I haven’t been able to read a book for fun since Phil and I went to Wildwood for a long weekend last year. I’ve just been so busy with my teaching courses and with my PhD that hobbies have sort of fallen to the side. I plan to finish it tonight and move onto the stack of books that I have sitting in the shelf of my headboard.

I really need to start making some more time for myself.