Friday, July 29, 2016

Crime and Passion at the Met

I’m not, on the whole, a huge reader of YA literature. I have nothing against it. I’ve read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. My Legends novels and even The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel have their teenage fans, and I love that. It’s just that I came along at a time when YA didn’t exist as a separate genre. As a kid, I read everything I could lay my hands on: Georgette Heyer and Agatha Christie, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Exodus, Barbara Cartland and Mazo de la Roche and Sergeanne Golon, not to mention Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers. It never occurred to me that I should use anything other than my own interest to determine which books to consume. That said, I’m sure I would have loved Bridgette R. Alexander’s Southern Gothic, if it had existed to cross my path in those days. A voracious reader likes nothing better than a smart, lively opener to a brand-new series—and one about art history, at that.

Celine Caldwell, a gifted sixteen-year-old, is heading to her internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when a tattooed stranger accosts her on the museum steps in an attempt to blackmail her mother. Until then, Celine’s biggest problem has been balancing the demands of her divorced parents, both involved in new relationships, while keeping up with the classwork at her fancy prep school. But this threat against her mother, the Met’s curator, forces Celine into a difficult situation. Two paintings are missing from the museum’s latest exhibit, and the police seem determined to pin the theft on her mother, whose prickly personality and obsession with art do little to convince anyone of her innocence. Celine—with the assistance of her best friend, Baheera, and the local heartthrob, Sandy—undertakes her own investigation to prove her mom’s innocence. She soon discovers that there is more to the missing art work than daubs of paint on a canvas.

One of the many delights of this story is its racially mixed cast, which is presented without stereotypes and without emphasis but just, as it should be, as a natural part of life. Celine has her own website, as does her author. Take a look at one or both to find out more. And since the series is not yet well known, I am naming it a Hidden Gem.

Disclosure: Bridgette Alexander’s publicist sent me a free copy of her book for an honest review, which I have posted on and on GoodReads as well as here.

Three other pieces of news this week:

I removed The Golden Lynx temporarily from KDP Select, Amazon’s exclusive e-book publishing program, so that I could submit it for the Library Journal Indie e-Book Award and to the curated collections at Self-E, a program designed to make small press and self-published books available to libraries. Because that meant that the book would no longer be available for borrowing at Amazon, I lowered the price from $4.99 to $2.99. Alas, while reducing the price, I managed to re-enroll the book in KDP Select. But the admirable Amazon Customer Service representatives had that glitch fixed within 24 hours. As a result, I have returned The Golden Lynx to Barnes & Noble and the iTunes Store at the same price, at least for the moment. The prices for The Winged Horse and The Swan Princess also came down, to $3.99 each, although they are print and Kindle only.

Also, if you love historical fiction, check out the Summer of History contest. Eighteen authors have banded together to give away a $100 gift card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes and one copy each of their novels—including several that Five Directions Press members have selected as Books We Loved. The drawing is on or shortly after August 1, 2016, so don’t miss your chance to sign up.


Last but not least, I discovered an adorable book review site in the UK called jaffareadstoo Jaffa will soon be reading The Swan Princess—together with his human, Jo—so stay tuned for their review. Thanks, Jo and Jaffa! My cats would be proud, although I can’t help thinking that Jaffa might prefer The Golden Lynx to a bird, however graceful....

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