Book Review: The Collector of Dying Breaths, by M.J. Rose

First, the contest!
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The blurb:
collector-of-dying-breaths-coverFrom one of America’s most imaginative storytellers comes a passionate tale of love and treachery, spanning the days of Catherine de Medici’s court to the twenty-first century and starring a woman drawn back, time and again, to the past.

In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.

But it’s René’s other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.

Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.

Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.

My review:
I’d read Seduction last year, and quite enjoyed it, so I was delighted to be able to get The Collector of Dying Breaths ahead of time. And it didn’t disappoint at all. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more. The intrigue of the court of Catherine de’Medici, and the present-day mystery of Jac’s strange employers, combined to make a novel that kept me reading intently. If I hadn’t had to sleep, and work, I’d likely have inhaled it in a single (rather long) sitting.

Jac’s brother Robbie has died, and she’s sucked into the orbit of a very troubling, obsessive woman named Melinoe, who is determined to discover the secret of immortality, of the dying breaths. Jac accepts, and once she arrives at the chateau, she begins to see the life of the perfumer René. In some ways, seeing René’s life is like knowing the ending to a movie, but still being on the edge of your seat with horror and anticipation.

I think this is my favourite of M.J.’s books so far. The mix of French royalty and history, and the gripping suspense, kept me anxious and reading as much as I could.

Release date: April 8, 2014
by Atria Books

ISBN13: 9781451621532
also available as an ebook

Hardcover, 384 pages
Author’s page | Goodreads

About the Author
mj-roseM.J. Rose, is the international bestselling author of 13 novels;Lip Service,In FidelityFlesh TonesSheet MusicLying in BedThe Halo EffectThe Delilah ComplexThe Venus Fix,The ReincarnationistThe MemoristThe HypnotistThe Book of Lost Fragrances, and Seduction.

Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online and with Randy Susan Meyers of What to Do Before Your Book Lauch.

She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors:AuthorBuzz.com. She runs the popular blog; Buzz, Balls & Hype.

Getting published has been an adventure for Rose who self-published Lip Service late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors had loved it, but didn’t know how to position it or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre.

Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a readership for her work, she set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet.

After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.

Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek and New York Magazine.

Rose has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.

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Review: Wolf Wood, by Mike Dixon (& interview!)

SONY DSCReading Wolf Wood is like going back in time. That statement sounds really cliché, I know, but it’s very accurate. The book is extensively researched, and the historical accuracy (from what I could tell–I’m no historian, not really) was incredible.

I was intrigued by the dispute over the font, and how such a small thing could trigger such fury, and violence, and affect the entire community. These days the church and religious matters are not as important in the Western world, and I forget how essential belief was. And speaking of belief, the persistent idea that Alice (a woman working in an alms house, who was educated and a healer) could be a witch… Naturally, she was my favourite character. A spirited, educated woman in the midst of so much ignorance.

I haven’t read historical fiction in some time, so it took me a little while to immerse myself in the story. But once I became used to the world in Wolf Wood, the medieval way, the narrative kept my attention, and I had to read to the end. I’m glad to see that Part 2 is already out!

About Wolf Wood (Part 1): The Gathering Storm

In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font.  Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered.  Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch.  Others saw her as a saint.  Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages.  The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middle class is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France.  Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.

Release date: June 14, 2013

Part One, ISBN 978-0-9875989-0-5.

PURCHASING INFORMATION

On the author’s website: http://mikejkdixon.com

Buy the book:

Part One URL: http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-Wood-Part-One-ebook/dp/B00DF556C4/

Interview with Mike Dixon:

Q: What first bit of research or reading inspired you to write Wolf Wood?

A:  I was born in Sherborne and attended school there.  Even after the passage of five hundred years, the story of the Fire of Sherborne Abbey was still being told.  Why a priest should have shot a flaming arrow and burnt down the abbey was a mystery to me as a boy.  Many years later, on a visit to Sherborne, I started to research the background to the famous fire and discovered that a remarkable amount of information had survived.  That was the inspiration for Wolf Wood.

Q: Were you able to visit some of the locations in your book as a part of your research?

A: I went to school in France as part of an exchange scheme in which I stayed with a French family and their son stayed with mine.  I know the Normandy region well and have made a study of the sites that featured prominently in the final stages of the war with England.

Q: What is your favourite scene in the book?

A: My favourite character is Steven, who is entirely fictitious.  My favourite scene is the Battle of London Bridge when Steven solves the problem of having a homicidal uncle who poses a severe threat to himself and his parents.  The battle took place soon after the defeated English troops returned to England.  Commander Gough (more correctly referred to as Captain Gough, to use the title of the day) died attempting to block the rebels passage into London.

Q: What can we expect in book 2, and in your future writings? What are your next releases?

A: Steven and other members of his generation come to the fore in Part 2.  It is already written and is on sale for $0.99 as an ebook from Amazon.

I am working on Part 3 in parallel with a novel in my Hansen Mystery Series.

Mike DixonAbout the Author:

I was born in Sherborne (Dorset) and attended school there and (as an exchange student) in the Medoc region of France.  I studied physics at Oxford and received a PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge.  Following teaching and research appointments in South Africa, Scotland and Australia, I joined the Australian Government Service and worked, for a while, as a ministerial assistant.  I entered the tourist industry through public relations and scuba diving and established one of Australia’s first backpacker resorts.  I have a keen interest in medieval history and I am a frequent visitor to Britain and France.

As a boy, growing up in Sherborne, I heard about the famous fire of Sherborne Abbey and was told that a priest shot a flaming arrow into the tower and set the building on fire.  The marks of the fire are visible today, over five hundred years later.  And there is a lot more to tell us what happened.

There was an inquiry into the dispute that led to the fire and the surviving documents tell of a bitter feud between the abbot and the townspeople.  It’s highly dramatic stuff and it inspired me to write my Wolf Wood novels.

My books are fiction.  Some of the characters are based on real people; others are entirely imaginary.  I have done my best to be faithful to the main course of historical events and fill in the gaps with the sort of things that could have happened to my characters.

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