Category Archives: The Phantom

Mad Enchantment by Ross King

There was another surprise waiting for us under the door at One Book Two headquarters today! The Phantom reviewed Mad Enchantment, a focused look at Claude Monet and his series of Water Lilies paintings.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mad EnchantmentTitle: Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies
Author: Ross King
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Genre: Art History
Source: From the publisher at BEA 16

Publisher’s DescriptionClaude Monet is perhaps the world’s most beloved artist, and among all his creations, the paintings of the water lilies in his garden at Giverny are most famous. Seeing them in museums around the world, viewers are transported by the power of Monet’s brush into a peaceful world of harmonious nature. Monet himself intended them to provide “an asylum of peaceful meditation.†? Yet, as Ross King reveals in his magisterial chronicle of both artist and masterpiece, these beautiful canvases belie the intense frustration Monet experienced at the difficulties of capturing the fugitive effects of light, water, and color. They also reflect the terrible personal torments Monet suffered in the last dozen years of his life.

Mad Enchantment tells the full story behind the creation of the Water Lilies, as the horrors of World War I came ever closer to Paris and Giverny, and a new generation of younger artists, led by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, were challenging the achievements of Impressionism. By early 1914, French newspapers were reporting that Monet, by then 73 and one of the world’s wealthiest, most celebrated painters, had retired his brushes. He had lost his beloved wife, Alice, and his eldest son, Jean. His famously acute vision–what Paul Cezanne called “the most prodigious eye in the history of painting”–was threatened by cataracts. And yet, despite ill health, self-doubt, and advancing age, Monet began painting again on a more ambitious scale than ever before. Linking great artistic achievement to the personal and historical dramas unfolding around it, Ross King presents the most intimate and revealing portrait of an iconic figure in world culture–from his lavish lifestyle and tempestuous personality to his close friendship with the fiery war leader Georges Clemenceau, who regarded the Water Lilies as one of the highest expressions of the human spirit.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


The_Phantom_100The Phantom says…

Very detailed story about the end of Monet’s long life in Giverney, his gardens and lily pond. Also about the friendships with other painters, particularly Clemenceau.

It seems too much and too dry for any but the most ardent Monet fan. I found it boring, but I think Monet fans will find every bit of this book fascinating. It is a big book about a very small part of Monet’s life.

However, the painting, Water Lilies, is the most important and well-known painting of his art. The author doesn’t go into much about the technique. He talks a lot about the size of the canvas, but not about the technique, so I don’t think I would even look at this painting differently. I did learn that Monet ruined at least as many canvases as he kept while creating the final masterpiece. He took a knife to them, put his foot through them, or burned them. The final painting is 800 feet long on 20 canvases and is displayed across 2 rooms which was custom built to display the painting.

badge3v4If you are an art history major with an emphasis on Monet, this is the book for you. The author, Ross King, also wrote Brunelleschi’s Dome which I would recommend over Mad Enchantment for other readers because it moved faster and had more characters involved, along with scientific/engineering problems that needed to be solved, which made for a more interesting read.

FTC Notice: This book was provided free in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

We have an exclusive here on One Book Two!  Agent Annie, detective that she is, managed to connect with the Phantom, who usually slips review under the door at One Book Two headquarters.  Through covert means, Annie was able to interview the Phantom about the novel, Circling the Sun.

Circling The SunTitle: Circling the Sun
Author: Paula McLain
Series: Stand-alone
Publish Date: July 28, 2015
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description:Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Paris Wife, takes readers into the glamorous and decadent circle of British expats living in Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun tells the story of the beautiful young horse trainer, adventurer, and aviator Beryl Markham, from her childhood in British East Africa to her relationship with hunter Denys Finch Hatton and rivalry with Out of Africa author Karen Blixen—a notorious love triangle that changed the course of Beryl’s life.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent_Annie_50So why did you pick up this book originally?

The_Phantom_50I had previously read Beryl Markham’s memoir, West with the Night. I had picked that up because of my own experiences in Kenya and thought this book would be interesting, too. I also knew that Beryl Markam was friends with Karen Blixen. who wrote Out of Africa under the pen name Izak Dineson.

Agent_Annie_50Did you like the book? What was your favorite part of the book?

The_Phantom_50Yes, I enjoyed the story. It brought back memories of living in Africa by its descriptive sections. It called up reminders of Out of Africa (movie and book).  Beryl was a very strong woman in an age and place where women where second class citizens or playthings.

Agent_Annie_50What did you think of the “Happy Valley Set” and their role in that era?

The_Phantom_50I am fascinated by the colonial era and the Brits who came to Africa and threw off all the restraints of home—in dress, in behaviors and relationships.

Agent_Annie_50Beryl was not what people expected her to be. Do you think Beryl was a good person?

The_Phantom_50She would take any dare that came her way. Having grown up with a horse trainer father and following in his footsteps, she placed herself in a man’s world. which eventually lead her to the airfield where she became a world renown aviatrix and the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic, East to West. I don’t believe she was a happy person—she was in love with a man who was already loved by her good friend and that love-triangle was difficult—but it is the reason Beryl had access to much more than she would have.

Agent_Annie_50Does this book make you want to become a flyer?

The_Phantom_50Yes, I think the author made the parts about flying much more appealing than the descriptive parts about Africa.  I think Paula McLain writes very clearly about the exhilaration of being airborne and making that happen yourself.

badge4v4I have recommended this book to others and give it a 4.  I have recommended this to my book group because there is a lot of thoughtful issues that can be discussed, mostly dealing with women’s issues.

Agent_Annie_50I give this book about a 2.  I thought it was OK but really lacked in developing the supporting characters.  I think the author researched much on Beryl’s life, but she didn’t make the story flow.  I felt it was more a series of chapters of her life that happened to be put in chronological order, but didn’t lead naturally into each other.

badge2v4For example, Beryl meets a man named Tom somewhere in the middle of the book and it’s just  a short meeting by the side of the road and a car is fixed. And that‘s it!  Much later you find out that this is the man who will introduce Beryl to flying, which is the title of the book and what she is most well known for.  As the reader, this first meeting has zero significance, yet it should be one of the most important things that happens to her.  

Unfortunately, I felt most of the book was written this way.  I did, however, enjoy reading about the 1920’s and the Happy Valley Set of Brits/Americans in Africa.  The world they lived in was beautiful, but the money it took to be in that environment was astronomical. 

I also enjoyed learning more about horse racing in Africa.  I hadn’t realized that horse trainers and breeders had an entire community that was well respected in Kenya at that time.  I also liked the connection with the book Out of Africa by Izak Dinesen.  The main character, Beryl, definitely led an interesting life filled with adventure, sorrow, joy, beauty & hard work, but I don’t think this book did that life full justice.

Banshee by Terry Maggert

Dragons and their riders out to save the world…

25044045TitleBanshee
AuthorTerry Maggert
Publish Date:  March 7, 2015
Genre:  Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionCities Fall. Dragons Rise. War Begins.
The war for earth began in Hell. First came the earthquakes. Then came the floods. Finally, from the darkened mines, caves and pits, the creatures of our nightmares boiled forth to sweep across the planet in a wave of death.

Mankind, on the run and unprepared, is not alone. We have dragons.
Emerging from their slumber, giant dragons select riders to go to war. Their forces strike back at the legions of demons that attack on the night of every new moon. The Killing Moon, as it becomes known, is the proving ground for warriors of skill and heart. Among the riders is Saavin, a brave young woman from the shattered remains of Texas. Her dragon, Banshee, is swift and fearless, but they will need help to fight a trio of monstrous creatures that Hell is using to take cities one by one.

With the help of French Heavener, a warrior of noble intent, Banshee and Saavin will launch a desperate defense of New Madrid, the last city standing. But first, they’ll have to go into the very cave where demons bide their time until the sun fades and the moon is black.

The hope of mankind rests on dragon’s wings and the bravery of Saavin and French.

They have the guts. They have the guns.

They have dragons.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


The_Phantom_100The Phantom says…

Banshee by Terry Maggert reminded me a bit of the book World War Z by Max Brooks. Both books are post-apocalyptic in nature and humanity is in the brink of extinction. In this book, demon like creatures are taking over the world instead of zombies. Dragons are on the side of humanity by fighting with the humans to stem the seemingly eventual destruction of the world.

I normally read books that lead me to identify with the protagonist, getting invested in him/her by knowing where the character comes from, what is their motivation, and what trauma he/she endured to move though the story to present time. Banshee has the normal story structure within it’s pages, but like World War Z, it has historical chapters which are like interviews of individuals who have survived but not associated with the main characters. These historical chapters are informative and help set up the story line, but were very distracting for me. I believe the continual shifts between history and badge4v4advancement of the character development slowed down the process of becoming invested in any one character. With that said, I eventually got to know the characters and, for me, that is when the adventure began.

On the other hand, the author took a risk with this book by using chapter divisions to recap history and advance characters. I must concede that the shifts in perspective did help with the story development as well as the specific characters. The risk was wisely taken as it was a positive to the book – it just took getting used to. It was a breath of fresh air to what I’m normally reading as a format to a fantasy story. The book was engaging and I read it in one sitting, but to be honest, I was more curious than compelled to see how things would end.

There is no cliffhanger to this book, but there could possibly be lead in to a sequel. I want to give this book a solid 3.5 rating.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try these suggestions from Goodreads.

The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones

Darynda Jones’s newest Charley Davidson novel is pretty popular here at One Book Two. Four of us “claimed” the book, including The Phantom!

dirt_on_the_ninth_grave_coverTitle:  The Dirt on Ninth Grave
Author:  Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson Book 09
Publish Date:  January 12, 2016
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionIn a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she’s more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.

But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her—even from her new and trusted friends—the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn’t help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she’s lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Nervous_Nellie_100Nervous Nellie says…

“I’ve loved you for a thousand years.”~ Charley Davidson

Je t’ai aim’ee pendant mille et un.” (I’ve loved you for a thousand and one)~Reyes

Talk about romantic. *sigh* Charley may not remember anything about herself, but her core values remain unchanged. For me, the best part of the book was to watch Charley fall in love with Reyes all over again. Proves to me that it’s meant to be no matter what obstacle stands between them. He worries for her and takes care of her as best he can without her knowing. He’s temporarily (he hopes) lost the love of his immortal life, but he spends every day with her just to protect her. Reyes makes me swoon.

Everyone has a part in the book, but it’s mostly about Charley figuring out who and what she is while trying to save the lives of a family she has gotten very attached to. Charley is drawn to Cookie as a BFF all over again. Charley automatically loves Ubie, but doesn’t know why. It’s amazing to find friends and family willing to drop everything to help Charley and keep her safe.

badge5v4The ending isn’t exactly a cliffhanger, but it does lead into book #10. There is a lot of information at the conclusion of the book that needs to be taken note. More players are revealed and angles played become more obvious. Again, Reyes makes promises to do things in order to keep Charley by his side, but even though the terms appear to be non negotiable, the Powers That BE may be getting less fulfillment of the contract than they bargain for…

Invested_Ivana_100Invested Ivana says…

I’ll admit I was kinda concerned at the end of the last book how Ninth Grave was going to go. Charley learned everything there is to know about herself, and then forgot everything! Were we going to start her story over? How would that work?

badge5v4But, Darynda has more imagination than I do, that’s for sure! Ninth Grave turned out to be a lot of fun. It was very interesting to see Charley surrounded by all of her friends, but not recognize them. It was interesting to see how she naturally started to solve cases, too, just because she’s a good person. I’m eager for my second “read-through” when the audio comes out; Lorelei King’s performance as Charley just can’t be beat.

I don’t want to say much more, so as not to spoil anything. Book 10 is going to be a doozy, if the end of nine is any indication. I can’t wait!

Ruby_Lee_100Ruby Lee says…

“I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again.”
― Laura Nowlin, If He Had Been with Me

In the early days of 2011, Nell shoved First Grave on the Right in my face and told me that I HAD to read this book. In normal Ruby fashion, I ignored her because we never like the same books. Then in April 2015, I had First Grave on my iPod as I was driving to some far off destination. I fell in book love immediately. It was fast paced, funny, romantic, and supernatural all rolled into one addictive series. So I started reading the series in my spare time, which is hard because I read many books for One Book Two.

So last week, I had 2 books left in the series and then I could read Ninth Grave. I was planning to binge read the last three books, but then my New Year’s resolution kicked in. I had promised myself that I would slow down and savor life a little more. This amazing series that Darynda Jones has created is too good to binge read. I have the right to enjoy each story in my own time, which is exactly what I plan to do.

I know that Ivana may kill me in my sleep but I have no review for Ninth Grave. I am 99.9% sure it will be spectacular and I plan to come back and tell you what I think after I have read it. Besides a little extra publicity never hurt any book. If you haven’t started this series, do it. Nell was right on this one but don’t tell her I said that.

OFFICIAL REVIEW from Ruby Lee:

A few months ago when Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones was released, I wasn’t ready to give a review because I didn’t want to rush through Seventh Grave and No Body and Eighth Grave After Dark. You see, I was a little late coming to the Charley Davidson party, so I was behind in the series with the Ninth Grave deadline looming over my head.

I believe books are about fun, relaxation, and pretending that you are living a life that would easily kill the real you. I didn’t want to rush through this wonderful series just to get to the end. It seemed counterproductive to me and I am sure that most authors would agree that they want people to savor their books and, boy, did I ever savor those three books.

My first thought when reading Dirt on Ninth Grave was that Darynda Jones is a very brave author. She could have easily stayed with what had worked, which was Charley working on cases, almost getting killed, dealing with ghosts, and raising everyone’s temperature with some steamy scenes with one Reyes Farrow. It was definitely a formula that worked but that was not the story that she wanted to tell so she shook things up a little bit the same way that a 9.2 earthquake shakes things up.

In Ninth Grave, the readers were taken to a new world. We sort of knew the characters but we were as confused as Charley. So instead of seeing the demon-kicking Charley that had it all figured out, we got a new Charley that knew nothing about her past or her identity. I feel that this was an excellent move by Jones because we as readers were finally able to understand parts of the character that were only revealed when she was vulnerable. We also got a better understand of those around her. We saw her friends and what she meant to each of them.

Overall, I feel that Dirt of 9th Grave was a brilliant transition book as we move into the next stage of this battle. Jones needed to introduce a lot of new material and she did it spectacularly. There are two specific parts I would like to mention. The first is the character that sacrificed himself to save Charley. That brought tears to my eyes. The second is that I thought the use of the word asshat to describe the angels was a wonderful nod to the TV drama Supernatural. That made me smile.

So if you haven’t begun this series, you need to start. The Curse of Tenth Grave is released June 28, 2016 and you will want to savor this series. It is way too good to rush through.

The_Phantom_100The Phantom says…

Fans will not be disappointed with The Dirt on Ninth Grave. Don’t give up if it seems that the action is slow coming. With Charley’s memory loss, the build up takes a little longer than previous books. It is worth the build! All of the action and romance you have come to expect from Charley is there. Mysteries to solve, questions to answer, relationships to rebuild, it all left me wanting to keep reading. After a couple of chapters it was really hard to put down.

badge5v4The only downside to not putting the book down is that the wait for the next book will probably seem that much longer. The ending will leave you marking your calendar for the next release date.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try the Ciel Halligan series by Linda Grimes, the Alex Craft series by Kalayna Price, or the Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer series by Rebecca Chastain.

The Dawn: The Bombs Fall by Michelle Muckley

A low grinding noise fills your ears as the giant mechanism rocks forward, pushing you up, up, up from underground.  The surface!  The giant doors above you slide back, giving you the first glimpse of sunshine you’ve had in heaven-knows-how many years–Dang it! You’re yanked out of the world as you’re told it’s time to get off the computer and go socialize for a while.  Bah.  But, what book to grab to read on the way and when you can scrounge some time away from everyone?

DawnTitle:  The Dawn: The Bombs Fall
Author:  Michelle Muckley
Series: The Dawn Book 01
Publish Date:  September 12, 2014
Genre:  Dystopian Science Fiction
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s Description:  Zachary Christian is Delta Tower resident 8652. He has been stuck inside his tower since the bombs destroyed the world he knew. The reason for the war is still a mystery, but ever since that day the world stands still, trapped by the nuclear winter and the Guardians who patrol the exits. Zachary should feel lucky to be alive, but he is haunted by past mistakes which he never got a chance to put right.

The only way out is the New Omega Lottery. The prize is a place in Omega, a giant glass tower in the center of their barren world where the new government, The Conservators, rule. Nobody from Delta has ever won. But when Zachary meets Emily he knows she is not from Delta. Convinced there must be another way out, he vows that he will find it. But he doesn’t realize that The Conservators have already found him.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


The_Phantom_100The Phantom says…

The Dawn: The Bombs Fall is a solid piece of classic-style dystopian writing.  It honestly feels more like a prologue than a true “Book 1,” but the level of exposition is necessary to set up the rest of the series.

We primarily follow the life of Zack, a man working in Delta Tower–there are several of these towers where people are crammed in to live, and each tower produces a necessity of life such as power, water, food, and so on.  Delta Tower is a bleak place where people are beaten down into virtual zombies who work nearly around the clock, following the terrible bells that denote shifts on and off.  They exist as would workers in a gulag, with what passes for food and water strictly rationed.

There is, of course, one hope of escaping that hell:  The Lottery.  Everyone who lives in the Tower has at least one numerical tattoo on their arm that identifies them.  People can spend what precious little money they have getting additional ones, with each number a chance to be picked in the Lottery.  Winners of this are allowed to go to Omega Tower, which seems to be a place of whitewashed bliss, characterized by a life of ease and consumption rather than deprivation and production.

One of the few criticisms I have is that the author tries to build suspense at the choosing of the Lottery winner–there wouldn’t be a series if the protagonist didn’t win.  I get what she was going for, but it felt rather artificial.  It didn’t serve to invest me more in the protagonist; his actions to those even less fortunate than he is are what drew me into him as a character.  He is willing to buck the system in small ways, trading little things like pillows here, a liter of water there, a bit of medicine he was able to scrape up–he often visits the lowest levels, where the people who weren’t fortunate enough to get in away from the radiation live.  He knows that even as bad as things are for him, they could be worse, and does what little he can to make things easier for people here and there.

I’m a little afraid to keep reading in the series, as I don’t know if I want to know how sudden ease changes him.  As far as I’ve read into the second book, he’s taken a shower that lasted half an hour, which used up a large amount of water that would have taken Delta hours (or was it days?) to process and clean.

badge4v4So, if you’ve been dragged away from Fallout to visit your family and friends, I’d definitely recommend The Dawn: The Bombs Fall as a book to take with you to keep the post-apocalyptic feeling going.

The Dawn is a five-book series.  There is an omnibus version if you want all of the books at once.

Other reviews…

If you like this book…

…you might try the Fallout video games.  The Dawn really feels like the Fallout games.