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review 2019-01-01 02:53
Romantic suspense at its best, kept me turning pages.
Imagine (Black Raven #4) - Stella Barcelona

Sylvia (Leo) and Ace worked together in Black Raven. They had a great friendship but found out there was more between them. Ace realized first and was willing to try, but Leo had her doubts about that "more". They realize how much more they mean to each other in the midst of danger, kidnapping, death. The action was definitely exciting, not too graphic, and had me holding my breath and turning the pages. I highly recommend this story.

I received a copy of this story through AXP Elite Reads, and this is my unsolicited review.

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review 2018-12-27 14:07
heavy on the action but still a good read
Imagine (Black Raven #4) - Stella Barcelona
Independent reviewer for Archaeolibrarian, I was gifted my copy of this book. After THAT kiss on Halloween, Leo and Ace have been avoiding the issue.Or rather, Leo has, and it's all Ace has on his mind. Sent together with a team of Black Raven agents undercover on a gambling cruise liner's maiden voyage, they are thrown into the thick of things, with so much left unsaid. This is book 4 in the Black Raven series, but you don't need to have read the other three for this to make sense, they can all be read as stand alone novels. Books one and three are five star reads from me, though. But this one?? Not so much and I've no idea why! And ya'll know how much that pains me so! maybe it will come as I write this up. Leo is emotionally stunted after the death of her father on 9/11. She doesn't wanna talk to Ace about what happened on Halloween but she has been thinking about it. Ace is her best friend, has been since they started working together. That kiss, though, changes everything for them both. Ace wants to move the relationship on, but they have a job to do first. Feelings for your partner cannot get in the way of a job. But they have a way of worming in, and Leo can see those feelings in Ace's eyes, even if he doesn't want her to see. Told mostly from Leo and Ace's point of view, we also get some of the bad guy in a couple of places, and in the other two books I've read in this series, I loved that. Those bad guys are deeply twisted, and were difficult to read, but it's more of less why I gave those two books 5 stars: the connection I had to the minds of those bad guys. But something didn't quite work here, for me. While clearly insanely greedy (cos it's all about the money) and a lot screwed in the head (cos a LOT of people will die) I didn't feel any connection to the bad guy at all. That makes ME sound a lot twisted in my head, but I think you know what I mean. There seemed to be no background as to WHY (other than the money) the bad guy was doing this, what made them want to blow up a brand spanking new ship, and kill all those people? I needed some background and I didn't get it. This book is HEAVY on the agents work. A little bit too much for me, I think. I got lost when they were running around the ship cos I have no idea what half of those ship terms meant! AND!! It's only the first part of Leo and Ace's story. They are Happy For Now, and I do hope they get their Happy Ever After in the next book. Ain't gonna be plain sailing for them I know that much! So, because on the lack of connection to the bad guy, and because of the heavy action (which gives me the WHY I didn't enjoy this one quite so much) . . . 4 stars, still a really good read, just not on a par with books one and three. **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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text 2018-12-18 14:40
REVIEW BY DEBBIE - Imagine (Black Raven #4) by Stella Barcelona
Imagine (Black Raven #4) - Stella Barcelona

One cruise ship. Multiple kidnappers. In the dark waters of the South China Sea, a handful of Black Raven agents are the only hope anyone has of living to see Christmas.

 

From the back cover:

 

Seventy-five of the world’s wealthiest gamblers are ringing in the holidays with a high-stakes, three-day tournament aboard the Imagine. As the ultra-luxury cruise ship departs from Macau, financial risks are enormous and security is tight. Agents Sylvia (Leo) Leon and Adam (Ace) Evans lead Black Raven’s on-board team. Months earlier, they gave into feelings that caught them both by surprise. Now, Leo wants nothing more than to ignore what Ace is dying to confront.

 

While adversaries execute a seemingly perfect, diabolical plan, Leo and Ace operate in stealth mode to save the Imagine’s passengers. As danger tests the limits of their training and expertise, and their simmering chemistry hits a boiling point, their chances of living to see Christmas narrow. For these two best friends, the Imagine job could change everything…in more ways than one. 

Source: archaeolibrarian.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/12/18/Imagine-Black-Raven-4-by-Stella-Barcelona
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review 2018-09-19 12:26
A magical visit to Barcelona and to the world of books and stories. Unmissable!
The Labyrinth of the Spirits - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Thanks to NetGalley and to Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing Group) for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I enthusiastically and freely chose to review.

I read the first two novels of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books series years back, in Spanish. I have recommended The Shadow of the Wind to anybody who would bother to listen to me (probably multiple times, sorry) and was enthralled by the complex tale of creation and mental unravelling span by The Angel’s Game. In the maelstrom of the last few years, somehow I lost track of the series and missed the publication of The Prisoner of Heaven (although I have been trying to locate a copy since I started reading this volume), but when I saw the last novel in the series was being published in English and offered on NetGalley, I knew it was my chance to catch up. As I also do translations and had read two of the novels in their original Spanish version, I had the added interest of scrutinising what the translation into English would look like. Well, I must say I thought it was superb, in case I forget to mention it later. Lucia Graves manages to capture the style of the author, the complexity and beauty of his language, and translates the local peculiarities of the dialogue, helping readers feel the joy and the intoxicating and magical experience of reading the original. Hats off!

If you’ve read up to this point, you’ll likely have guessed that I loved this novel. To get it out of the way, I’ll clarify that I think it can be read by itself, or as a starting point to a reader’s visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, and although perhaps somebody who starts by reading this book will feel s/he knows already the whole story, I suspect they’ll feel curious and intrigued and will want to learn the full details of the stories that come to fruition here (this is my case as well). Here, the author of the story inside the book, Julián, (yes, the story is full of books and writers) explains how the series works better than I can:

The way I dreamed of it, the narrative would be divided into four interconnected volumes that would work like entrance doors into a labyrinth of stories. As the reader advanced into its pages, he would feel that the story was piecing itself together like a game of Russian dolls in which each plot and each character led to the next, and that, in turn, to yet another, and so on and so forth. The saga would contain villains and heroes, and a thousand tunnels through which the reader would be able to explore a kaleidoscopic plot resembling that mirage of perspectives I’d discovered with my father in the heart of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books.

This is a long novel, and a complex one, although not one difficult to read or follow (I don’t think). As the quoted paragraph says, there are many stories here, and many memorable characters, some dead, some alive, and some… (among them, Alicia Gris, femme-fatale, spy, little girl, seductress, avenging angel, long-suffering survivor of a terrible war; Daniel Sampere, bookshop owner extraordinaire searching for answers; Fermín Romero de Torres, whimsical, fun, full of life and common-sense, witty, heroic, down-to-earth;  Julián Sempere, the stand-in for the author and heir to a long tradition; Isabella, a mysterious figure much of the action revolves around; authors David Martín, Julian Carax, Víctor Mataix; the fabulous Vargas, a hard-working an old-fashioned honest policeman with some secrets of his own; the complex Leandro; the horrifying Hendaya; the intriguing Rovira…). The story moves back and forth in time, from the time of the Civil War in Spain (1938) to its aftermath during the Franco regime, and into 1992. We visit Madrid, Paris —however briefly— although the main setting, and the main character, is Barcelona, in all its glory and horror.

In the darkest corner of her heart, Barcelona, mother of labyrinths, holds of mesh of narrow streets knotted together to form a reef of present and future ruins.

I kept thinking what genre one would fit this book into. Amazon has it listed in the categories of literary fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries. All true, I guess. There are secrets, mysteries, action, revenge, intrigues, crimes, murders, torture… The novel reminds me, in some ways, of the big adventures and narratives of old, novels by Victor Hugo (whose pen, possibly?, makes an appearance in the novel), Jules Verne, the Dumas (father and son), with its sprawling narrative, its wondrous descriptions of people and events, its historical background (the Spanish Civil War and the postwar years, accurately reflected through a fantasy lens), and even its gothic setting (we have mysterious mansions, dungeons, cells, castles, underground passages, true labyrinths…). This book bears homage to literature, to books, to authors, to the power of imagination, and to the magic of reading.

The book talks about books and writing and contains plenty of advice on writing, some of it contradictory, and there are many different types of writers contained in its pages. It is metafictional at its best, and I was not surprised when I read that the author also composes music. There are variations on a theme in evidence (stories are told and retold: sometimes different versions, sometimes from different perspectives, and in different formats). There is plenty of showing, there is telling from direct witnesses, or third-hand, there are documents that bring us missing pieces from the pens of those who are no longer able to tell their own stories, and everybody gets a chance to tell his or her own story, be it in the first person or the third, be it directly or through a narrator. The author has explained that he writes his novels in a similar way to how movies are conceived and designed, and that is evident when one reads the story, as it is impossible not to visualise it. Carlos Ruíz Zafón professes his admiration for Orson Welles and that comes across loud and clear in this book. But, however much he loves movies, he believes books can conjure up worlds that no filmmaker would be able to bring to life, and that is his stated reason for not selling the rights for the film adaptation of the series. Part of me would like to watch it, but I am convinced I’d be disappointed, so incredible is the world the author has built.

I have mentioned the style of writing when I talked about the translation and I have shared some quotes. I kept highlighting and highlighting text while I was reading it and I found it very difficult to select some to share, but I hope the few fragments I have included will pique your curiosity and make you check a sample if you are not sure if you would like it (you would!). One of the tips on writing contained in the book highlights the importance of the way the story is written, above and beyond the plot, but in this case, the two mix perfectly.

I have mentioned some of the themes, the historical background, and the mystery elements included in the story, with some gore and violent scenes, but there are plenty of magical, lighter, and funny moments as well, and I wanted to share a couple of sentences from Isabella’s notebook that I particularly enjoyed, to illustrate the sense of humour (sometimes a bit dark) also present:

We were three sisters, but my father used to say he had two daughters and one mule.

I didn’t like playing with the other girls: my specialty was decapitating dolls with a catapult.

I’m not sure what else I can tell you to try and convince you to read this book. I am from Barcelona and love the city, even if some of the places mentioned in the novel no longer exist (or not in their original form). You could use the book as a guide for a visit (and I know there were tours visiting some of the streets and settings of The Shadow of the Wind), or you could lose yourself in the labyrinth of your imagination. You could imagine the movie, cast the characters, or put yourself in their place (I’d happily be Alicia Gris, pain and all). If you need to live some adventures and take a break from your life, go on, enter the labyrinth and visit the cemetery of the forgotten books. You might never want to find the way out. I am rearing for another visit soon.

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text 2017-11-20 18:40
REVIEW BY DEBBIE - Concierge (Black Raven #3) by Stella Barcelona
Concierge - Stella Barcelona
The Concierge delivers anything…for a price. 

A provider in the underworld of human trafficking, the Concierge fills deviant orders of an exclusive clientele with inventory collected from people who live on the streets. As client requests are delivered, a personal obsession with New Orleans artist Andi Hutchenson festers…until the predator’s quest is possession. 

Andi Hutchenson lives in a world of fear-fueled shadows. 

Two and a half years ago, Andi was kidnapped, tortured, and left for dead. Since then, crippling fear has ruled her life. Round the clock security enables her to leave her French Quarter home to paint the world around her, but Andi’s past is about to collide with her lonely present. 

Gabe Hernandez believes his client is safe…but she isn’t. 

Protecting Andi is a given, but Black Raven Agent Gabe Hernandez is captivated by her and wants to entice her back to the land of the living. Yet with each tug on the lifeline he offers, Gabe is pulled deeper into Andi’s world, where the dividing line between imagined horrors and real-life demons is whisper thin. 

 

 

@debbiereadsbook, #Romance, #Suspense, 5 out of 5 (exceptional)

 

Source: sites.google.com/site/archaeolibrarian/debbie/conciergeblackraven3bystellabarcelona
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