Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT SMOKE AND GOLD by Pauline Suett Barbieri @suettpauline

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs at http://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Alison has been reading Smoke and Gold by Pauline Suett Barbieri

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Smoke and Gold by Pauline Suett Barbieri

Rowena Culloden, a young English girl, and her mother from Liverpool are visiting Amsterdam on holiday in 1972. Whilst having tea in a small French café on the edge of the Red Light District, they are joined by a mysterious but friendly stranger. They have a long chat together.  Some years later, her mother dies and while Rowena is studying for her Art Degree, she keeps coming across references which remind her of the stranger. Where was the factory where he worked and supposedly repaired a diamond? Round the corner from the café? Which corner? Why was he dressed as if he lived in the 18th century? How could he know so much about how Rembrandt mixed his oils? Did he say he spoke nine languages? Who was this man? She asked herself almost every day.  Could he really be the French alchemist Count St Germain, who Madam Blavatsky, Founder of the Theosophical Society, named as one of the eleven masters in the world at any one time, alongside such figures as Christ, Buddha, Apollonius of Tyana, Christian Rosenkreutz and Francis Bacon? He was said to have been born in the12th century and some people believe he is still alive. According to the ‘Paris Soir’, he was last seen in France in 1967.  Rowena was determined to find out. But what else would she encounter on her journey through the Art, Culture and Magical life of the ageless and dynamic city of Amsterdam? 

This is a very unusual read – the author’s background as a poet is obvious and she creates some stunning imagery and uses some fabulous language. This isn’t structured traditionally; you move back and forth on a sometimes confusing, but always interesting, journey with Rowena, through a well-researched and skilfully depicted Amsterdam. The author has truly brought the city to life – it was previously a place I’d never had much interest in visiting, but now it’s definitely on my list.

There are many references to art, artists and literature. In other hands this could be distracting, annoying and even pretentious, but here their inclusion works really well, adding another layer to an already richly complex tale that twists and turns through vivid descriptions and interesting encounters.

Rowena is a lovely main character, interesting, completely un-stereotypical and warm. I really enjoyed the sections about her past, and her affection for her mother and their lovely relationship was a real strength of the book.

I did feel that we didn’t get to know enough about Meneer Surmount – I would have loved this strand of the story to have been developed more, although he perhaps deserves a whole book of his own!

Aside from this, my only real gripe is that there were quite a few typos in the version I read, for example misplaced speech marks, unnecessary capitalisation, and misspellings. This became a little distracting, a real shame because this book is a little gem.

Four out of five stars.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Romancing September author – Cheryl Koevoet (Day 8)

Day 8 of the Romancing September World Blog Tour and today we meet author Cheryl Koevoet. Then in a few hours time you can go over to Georgia to Stephanie Hurt’s blog and meet Cheryl again for a discussion on writing romance in today’s society.

Cheryl Koevoet

Let’s meet Cheryl;
1) Where is your home town?
Good question, but not an easy one to answer! I was born and raised in West Linn, Oregon, U.S.A., (a suburb of Portland) but from the time I married a Dutchman in the early 90’s, I have been living just outside The Hague, The Netherlands for most of my adult life. I consider both cities as being my “hometown.”
2) How long have you been writing?
I have been writing in one form or another since grade school, but mostly just “functional” items such as newsletters, articles, short stories and the occasional poem. I didn’t sit down and actually start writing a novel until 2010.
3) Why did you choose to write a fantasy romance? What inspired you?
I’ve had this epic love story of two star-crossed lovers swirling around in my head for more than twenty years, but have just never had the time to write it down. Then, one day out of the blue, I finally decided that if I didn’t get the story out of my head, it would burst! I was surprised at how fast I was able to churn it out — probably because the story had many years to simmer in my brain before it was finally released onto the page.
4) You’ve published “The Carnelian Legacy” with WestBowPress which specialises in helping authors self-publish, would you recommend this route to others?
Yes and no. I chose the self-publishing route because it fit my needs, but it is much more expensive and time-consuming than traditional publishing. Probably most important of all, one must really believe in the quality of their story enough to put their money where their mouth is. If success is important to you but you’re not willing to spend hours of your life promoting your book and networking in every way imaginable, then you probably shouldn’t be self-publishing.
5) Can you explain how the title of your book relates to the story?
This is one of those books that the reader will only truly understand the significance of the title once he or she has finished the book. At the risk of spoiling the story for those who have not yet read it, let me just say that part of the title will become immediately apparent to the reader, but the other part will only make sense on the very last page! Oh that sounds intriguing!
6) Marisa, our heroine gets sent to an alternative world, does she ever master the skills of swordsmanship?
In The Carnelian Legacy, Marisa is just learning the ropes of survival the futuristic-medieval world of Carnelia and knows nothing about self-defense. However, in book two and three of the trilogy, her knowledge and skills increase exponentially through special lessons she receives (such as history, philosophy, protocol, sword fighting and self-defense). One of the most rewarding things about writing this series is to observe Marisa’s growth from first being a helpless teenager into becoming a strong, independent woman and leader. The transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but she manages to work hard and develop herself into the woman she is meant to be. Believe me, that is so exciting to watch!
7) You’ve also got monsters in the book, tell us about some of them.
The “monsters” in this book were one of my favorite parts to write. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I grew up with the urban legends of Sasquatch (Bigfoot) and re-imagined them for this series. They aren’t the cumbersome, skittish beasts that shy away from humans portrayed in documentaries on TV, but rather, in The Carnelian Saga, they are an incredibly fast-moving, giant-sized, bloodthirsty beast that run in a pack and chase humans as their prey. They’ve been described as a three-way cross between a bear, ape, and wolf, but more deadlier than all three animals combined. You’ll have to read the book to find out more about  them and the other monsters they run up against!
8) Fight scenes can be hard to write so that the reader can follow the action, how hard was it to write fight scenes in your book?
There are action and chase scenes sprinkled throughout the book that thrust the plot forward, and they were so fun to write! Some of the sword fighting scenes were more difficult, but when I close my eyes, I can see it as it happens and then try to describe in words the scene that is playing out before me. And not just visually. I try to infuse as many senses as I can in order to put the reader right into the middle of the action. The metallic clanging of the sword. The scent of sweat dripping from the man’s stubbly chin. The roar of agony when the hero’s sword meets its mark in the beast’s chest.
9) You’ve had some brilliant reviews for “The Carnelian Legacy”. One person said you were a cross between Stephanie Meyer and Johanna Lindsey. What marketing plans have been a success in getting this book out to the readers?
Thankfully, I am a natural-born marketer and have embraced (not repelled) the promotion side of publishing the book. But back when I was still writing, I received some super advice about building a platform before the novel is published. It is so important for a writer to understand that in today’s market, you must establish a platform and build up a network of friends, fellow writers and followers that you can draw from later.
I asked several writer/author friends to help me launch the book and each of them rose to the occasion. It’s very much a give-and-take relationship with other writers, and I have very much enjoyed that process of getting to know them. And I haven’t forgotten those who have helped me along the way. I am always looking for ways to help other authors get their foot in the door. Having said that, I discovered early on that you must stand alone in “branding” yourself as an author. When someone hears your book or name in a conversation, what images or ideas do you want to convey? Your brand is what makes you uniquely you in a sea of voices all screaming to be heard. Be yourself, and be consistent. You owe it to your fans, and you owe it to yourself.
10) Fans can’t wait for the next book in the series have you got a title and release date yet?
Book two of the Carnelian saga is titled: The Carnelian Tyranny: Savino’s Revenge. I am shooting for a late November/early December 2013 release, but the exact date is not yet known. Fans can keep updated with the launch date on the official Facebook fan page at: www.facebook.com/CarnelianLegacy
The Carnelian Legacy
Find your copy on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Thank you very much for being my guest today and Good luck with the next book.