Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Review of The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile

The New York Times recently published a glowing review of Kevin Guilfoile's The Thousand.
The Thousand

The Thousand by Kevin Guilfoile

The blurb:
In 530 B.C., a mysterious ship appeared off the rainy shores of Croton, in what is now Italy.  After three days the skies finally cleared and a man disembarked to address the curious and frightened crowd that had gathered along the wet sands.  He called himself Pythagoreas.  Exactly what he said that day is unknown, but a thousand men and women abandoned their lives and families to follow him.  They became a community.  A school.  A cult dedicated to the search for a mathematical theory of everything.  Although Pythagoras would die years later, following a bloody purge, his disciples would influence Western philosophy, science, and mathematics for all time.

Chicago, the present day.  Canada Gold, a girl both gifted and burdened by uncanny mental abilities, is putting her skills to questionable use in the casinos and courthouses of Las Vegas when she finds herself drawn back to the city in which her father, the renowned composer Solomon Gold, was killed while composing his magnum opus.  Beautiful, brilliant, troubled, Canada has never heard of the Thousand, a clandestine group of powerful individuals safeguarding and exploiting the secret teachings of Pythagoras.  But as she struggles to understand her father's unsolved murder, she finds herself caught in the violence erupting between members of the fractured ancient cult while she is relentlessly pursued by those who want to use her, those who want to kill her, and the one person who wants to save her.

The Thousand is ambitious, unusual, and difficult to characterize.  Guilfoile introduces us to an elite thousand families that served as early disciples of Pythagoreas, these Thousand  hold secrets and untold technologies that derive from elaborate and amazing mathematical discoveries and proofs.  It's a brilliant idea and Guilfoile develops it well.  It is possible to imagine these advanced discoveries in all aspects of trade, business, and living based on mathematical principles.  And to then extrapolate a schism in philosophy and politics that divides the Thousand and the deadly rivalry that ensues.

Guilfoile weaves in the story of Reggie LaSalle, a defense attorney who defends renowned composer Solomon Gold, who is accused of a bloody and cruel murder.  The acquittal brings LaSalle fame, clients, and a reputation that many would kill for -- as well as a guilty conscience and his client's death.

Canada Gold, Solomon Gold's only child, is another important character.  Her father's death bestows a large fortune and considerable notoriety.  As a child Canada had been unusual and gifted, but as a adult, her photographic memory, exceptional intelligence and ability to spot patterns lead her to unconventional and occasionally unwise choices.

The well developed characters and unusual plot makes The Thousand a gripping and satisfying read.  Whether a thriller or mystery or part fantasy,  The Thousand makes for a great escape.

ISBN-10: 1400043093 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 24, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publicist and publisher.

About the Author:
Kevin Guilfoile has written for McSweeney's, Salon, The Morning News, and The New Republic.  his first novel, Cast of Shadows, has been translated into more than fifteen languages. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children.

Thank you so much to Dana and the publisher for this review opportunity!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Venom by Jennifer Estep

Venom (Elemental Assassin, Book 3)

Welcome to the book blog tour of Venom by Jennifer Estep.  The third in her Elemental Assassin series featuring Gin Blanco, otherwise known as the assassin Spider.

The blurb:
What kind of assassin works pro bono?

It's hard to be a badass assassin when a giant is beating the crap out of you.  Luckily, I never let pride get in the way of my work.  My current mission is personal:  annihilate Mab Monroe, the Fire elemental who murdered my family.  Which means protecting my identity, even if I have to conceal my powerful Stone and Ice magic when I need it most.  To the public, I'm Gin Blanco, owner of Ashland's best barbecue joint.  To my friends, I'm the Spider, retired assassin.  I still do favors on the side.  Like ridding a vampire friend of her oversize stalker -- Mab's right-hand goodn who almost got me dead with his massive fists.  At least irresistible Own Grayson is on my side.  The man knows too much about me, but I'll take my chances.  Then there's Detective Bria Coolidge, one of Ashland's finest. Until recently, I thought my baby sister was dead.  She probably thinks the same about me.  Little does she know, I'm a cold-blooded killer. . . who is about to save her life.

I hadn't read the earlier novels in the series before reading Venom.   Although, having become attached to the character of Gin Blanco, I intend to catch up on her earlier adventures. 

Venom takes us to the midsized city of Ashland at a time when magic is an acknowledged part of life.  There are several basic "elementals" of magic:  Stone, Air, Fire, Ice.  Aside from magicians, there are magical beings of all sorts from vampires to giants.  Here are some of the main characters:

  • Mab Monroe - has powerful Fire magic and a longstanding rivalry with Gin's mother.  
  • Elliot Slater - giant and enforcer of Mab Monroe.    Slater has a deep anger against Gin Blanco and will seize any excuse to attack her.
  • Gin  Blanco - comes from a line of magic. Her mother held powerful Ice magic and father held Stone magic.  Her mother and sisters were targeted Mab Monroe and her henchmen in a murderous attack when Gin was a child.  Through luck and the generosity of Fletcher Lane, Gin learns a deadly trade and inherits Pork Pit, a barbecue joint, which serves as a perfect cover for her identity as Spider, the deadly assassin.
  • Finnegan Lane - son of Fletcher Lane, investment banker, and loyal friend to Gin Blanco.
  • Jo-Jo Deveraux - dwarf,  Air elemental, beauty salon owner by day works miracles on her patron's wrinkles is an unparalleled healer for her select patients.
  • Sophia Deveraux - dwarf, Air elemental, cook at the Pork Pit and "cleaner" who disposes of many of Spider's kills.
  • Owen Grayson -  strikingly handsome and wealthy entrepreneur who is not shy about declaring his interest in Gin Blanco. 
The book opens with Gin Blanco suffering a savage beating - she purposely doesn't defend herself to hide the extent of her powers.  As an assassin, Spider is cautious, patient, and deadly but her  protective side might get her killed. 

Full of action, adventure and tales of loyalty and friendship the Elemental Assassin series is a fun escape.

ISBN-10: 1439148015- Mass  Market Paperback
Publisher: Pocket; Original edition (September 28, 2010), 416 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Jennifer Estep is an award-winning features page designer for a daily newspaper.

Spider's Bite and Web of Lies are the first two books in her Elemental Assassin series.  She is also the author of Bigtime paranormal romances series that include Karma Girl, Hot Mama, and JinxLearn more about her and her books at

Thank you to Pocket Books for this review opportunity!

Book Blog Tour of Aching for Always by Gwyn Cready

Aching for Always
Welcome to the book blog tour of Aching for Always by Gwen Cready!

The blurb:
Ambitious and feisty Josephine "Joss" O'Malley has spent years fighting to keep her mother's map-making company alive.  Just when she finds herself considering taking a risky next step wiht bad-boy entrepreneur Rogan Reynolds -- whose generosity has helped keep the business afloat -- Joss meets dark and mysterious Hugh Hawksmoor. 

Hugh's deft touch and old-world seduction stir Joss's desires like a storm at sea, and she has no clue that he has sailed three hundred years into the future to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of her father.  Or that she holds the key to a map that will help him undoe the destructive changes her father wrought in the past.

When Hugh lures Joss into a treacherous journey through time, there's not a twenty-first-century trick that can save her.  But when she applies her own insticts to a course she thought was set, she discovers that the high seas hold some scandalous surprises.

Aching for Always  combines the fun of historical romance with time travel. 

Joss struggles to keep her mother's company afloat.  Hugh travels through time to correct an injustice.  They're drawn to each other from the moment that they meet and as we gradually learn how their lives intertwine, we're drawn into Gwen Cready's story. 

Loyalty, love, and great injustice drive the story forward -- and make for a gripping adventure.

ISBN-10: 1439107289 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher: Pocket; Original edition (September 28, 2010), 448 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Gwen Cready is the recipient of the 2009 RITA Award for Best Paranormal Romance and the author of Tumbling Through Time, Seducing Mr. Darcy, and Flirting With Forever.  She received a BA in English Literature and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago.  She lives in Pittsburgh and, like Joss, loves the secrets that maps can hold.