#PubDay Book Review | “The Fortune Teller” by Gwedolyn Womack Sophomore release by the author of “The Memory Painter”

Posted Tuesday, 6 June, 2017 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: Originally, as a hostess of HFVBTs (Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours) I was able to participate on the blog tour for Ms Womack’s debut novel: The Memory Painter. (see also Review) I was contacted by the author to gauge if I had interest in her sophomore release ‘The Fortune Teller’ of which I researched on her site and found the premise to be quite intriguing. I readily accepted her offer to read this for an honest review and she had her publisher send me a paperback copy of which I was grateful. I received a complimentary copy of “The Fortune Teller” direct from the publisher Picador in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I enjoyed reading this author’s previous release: The Memory Painter

Womack uses creative juxtapositions throughout her novel – where we’re with Bryan and Linz one moment, whilst being treated to a sequence of knowledge not yet introduced to the main thread of the story-line. This is where she shifts both perspective and the trisectional splitting between the main context of how Bryan & Linz are inter-connected to each other, the critical research on Alzheimer’s and the mystery History has attempted to shroud out of memory and sight from humanity. She presents her characters with a depth of being who are grounded as much as they are dimensional. You can sense their emotions, even at a first glance to how they hold themselves and how they allow themselves to interact with others. There is quite a lot bubbling just below the surface – not only of the narrative direction but through the stitchings of how her characters are moulded together.

Womack writes with a subtle accuracy of giving you just enough information per each scene or character visit to allow you to tie everything together in the larger scope of things. It’s an interesting told narrative, from the point-of-view of shifting perceptions and how you are augmented through different portals of how the story-line is moving forward. The main focus is centred on Bryan and Linz, but you have other influences moving the timeline as well as how each cross-section pertains to the two protagonists who hold the key to the whole story! You can simply let your mind alight through Womack’s graceful narrative and let yourself wander as you wonder how the author knitted the story out of the ethers!

I give a nod of excellence to Womack for compellingly giving her readers a visceral level of realism towards understanding how Bryan painted his portraits of life and death! She used words as he uses paint – you could not help but feel as if you were standing below his portraits, seeing how everything felt alive and telling in that stance you took to see what shouldn’t be able to be seen. It’s a lovely novel of depth for the world of art, as similar to music, art is at times hard to conceptionalise on the page; Womack had such an organic way of presenting the art, you could not help but appreciate it in full!

How Womack was able to intervene on History to such a level of intriguing juxtapositions, I am uncertain! As she even brought back to life the compelling argument of how sometimes not everything is fully resolved before or after death! She interwove Egyptology in such a fascinating and inventive way as to cross their Ancient History with our current timeline! It was wonderful to watch her pull her layers together, explore the details further and to watch how even her characters were a bit startled by how everything was inter-connecting straight through to the finish! Her mind truly has captured the intricacies of a plot that is told not only through multiple perspectives but through a threading of counter current lives who are affectingly drawn to each other due to how their past lives originally affected their soul’s journey. Now that’s beyond impressive for a debut novel!

-as quoted from my review of The Memory Painter

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#PubDay Book Review | “The Fortune Teller” by Gwedolyn Womack Sophomore release by the author of “The Memory Painter”The Fortune Teller

Semele Cavnow appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, specializing in deciphering ancient texts. And when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele's life. But what happened to the cards? As the mystery of her connection to the manuscript deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Brossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Brossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 9781250099778

on 6th of June, 2017

Pages: 368

Published By: Picador (@PicadorUSA) via St. Martin’s Press
imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group,
which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers

Available Formats: Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

About Gwendolyn Womack

Gwendolyn Womack Photo Credit: Copyright JennKL Photography

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema.

Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

Photo Credit: Copyright JennKL Photography

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why i was keenly curious about this sophomore release:

I was picking up hints of the author’s new novel, where I must admit, I was growing in curiosity about the story-line! It is quite wonderful knowing her new book is publishing at the start of June. It’s my birthday month and I love finding new releases in both books and films during that month as it’s generally an extra special treat of joy!

I loved the layers and the dimensional style of her story-telling from the last novel, and by reading the full synopsis on her website for ‘The Fortune Teller’ I must admit, even I am curious how everything will tie together! I think it’s clever attaching the mystery to Ancient Egypt too. So many hidden secrets in the world go back to the Ancient World. I am unsure if all those truths which have been shrouded from view will every let out in the open but pondering what has been held hostage from history’s mirror is always a wicked good premise to a Thriller.

Also, despite my ardent love of her first novel – there were a few things I had hoped might be refined in her next release. There were moments where I felt the conception and delivery of the book’s wider world-building suffered a bit but the heart of what she had wanted to explore and deliver was still visible. I wanted to see how she could re-address the bridge between the Ancient World and the trajectory of a modern day thriller whilst encompassing the fullness of a mystery straight out the back-story of where we find her lead character hunting down clues to uncover what time has lost.

my review of The Fortune teller:

We alight inside one man’s last breath where he weighs the measure of what he’s accomplished by what he’s left undone. As he slips into the next life by exiting this chapter, you can sense the full weight of what he takes to his grave; especially the piece of information he wanted to share but had not the strength nor the will of breath to ink out the seconds needed to place the call. It’s a somber opening – yet within it’s short reprieve we see the courage of one man’s final thoughts which speak of their own mystery of what is unfolding.

The man who died is quite important in the circles where collecting books and manuscripts is not mere hobby but a profession. He had quite the tome of knowledge encased in a special room which would be any book collector’s dream of where perfecting temperature, elements of nature and air are ever to be afeared and where the books themselves remain as refreshed as they were first produced. Quite the testament to Marcel’s dedication and to the passion he had for preserving the books for future generations. I was quite in awe alongside Semele. And equally unnerved by the presence of Theo; of whom was the one mentioned by name as Marcel died of ‘needing pertinent information’.

As Semele worked to dismantle Marcel’s impressive collection we find she is smitten by his son, Theo. Her curiosity and attraction to Theo is unbounded by conventional standards; it’s not based on his appearance, personality or even their cursory exchanges. She simply felt and sensed they were meant to be together for a particular purpose which was still left unknown to her at this point in time. She’s definitely intuitively in-tune with herself and the path she is walking in life; picking up on certain cues and hidden bits of perception others might either dismiss or not understand themselves. Likewise, she was in for an incredible surprise by finding Marcel still had a way of surprising her from the grave! I must admit, this was my favourite scene in the opening bridge of the novel – of her discovery of what was tucked out of sight and left off the inventory of what she was curating to disperse to libraries, museums and private auction.

The lost library of Alexandria as seen through the eyes of the librarian’s daughter is definitely a segue I could get behind, as this particular library has held my curiosity for most of my life. For any reader whose become passionate about stories and the worlds which captivate us through the printed pages of books whilst mindful other books serve to teach and educate us; who amongst us has not been curious about Alexandria’s lost archives? There is so much yet unknown about the library itself and therefore, a lot of lore has become attached to it. Both in fiction and of course, through Science Fiction and Fantasy inasmuch as what is purported through motion pictures and tv serials. If anything, Alexandria has the tendency of making an appearance when you least expect it and each variation of it’s inclusion is just as stimulating to contemplate as the last.

I am truly taken right now with Ionna + Semele; their dual timelines are wickedly drawn together and the duality of voice + strength of their heroism is wicked brilliant. They were each ahead of their time and wholly independent for their social conventions which did not affect their independence.

As we move between Semele (in the present) and Ionna (in Alexandria) we are entreated to entreating inside Ionna’s journal; the book which was hidden from view and left for Semele to find by Marcel. Ionna is the librarian’s daughter from Alexandria and one which lived with a bit of spunk and rebellious spirit. She was the one who walked into sunken chambers locked by key and accessed by only a select few where she would find a treasure of uncertain value: a deck of tarot. You know what she’s discovered before she recognises their worth; as the flow of narrative is held eclipsed by what she understands and by what her translator-in-arms Ariston reveals to her by reading the words she is blind to understand (she only knows her native tongue). Although I do not study the tarot myself – I have seen the decks in book shoppes and New Age shoppes all the same and have a healthy respect for them. I also know there is a right and wrong way to approach honouring their legacies but being a novice at best in knowledge on their behalf, I might err and not catch something important about how they are used in this novel. I yield to those readers who understand the tarot and their history better than I.

The pulse of the novel quickens as Semele leaves Marcel’s residence and starts to re-enter the world; where danger lies in wait to catch her off-guard. The first time she is clued into this realisation she’s quite unprepared for the gravity of how Marcel’s last words would echo a humble truth about fate and the path she walked as a curator of manuscripts and letters. Mind you, I think any woman could sense the fear clutching Semele who was flying solo at the hotel and the unnerving knowledge your personal things had been pried into by an unknown foe. Of course, this just makes understanding the reasons ‘why’ a bit sweeter; why is this journal of such great importance? What makes it different? Semele and I were simpatico in that particular query of thought!

Reading the devastation of how the library of Alexandria fell in this story – to fire and ash – was quite difficult to take in as you feel for Ionna and the twisting of fate; of how she was not yet prepared to embrace a gift oracled from the Ancient past but of a truth she was starting to believe. All of us who love reading can feel the grief of seeing tomes of knowledge enveloped by flame and fuelled by wind to where no end to the inferno could save what was contained within the bowels of a library. A library so full of depth and channeled into a cavaenous labyrinth of sections where subjects in science, medicine and mathematics stood adjacent to philosophy, religion and old world beliefs. A university of human knowledge passed down by those who would study the works and gain self-knowledge of everything which could be known through industrious reading. Something which is overlooked in modern society – the pursuit of self-directed and self-disciplined knowledge outside of formal education.

As much as you feel an attachment to Semele, it is Ionna who clutches your heart a bit tighter; how she had to seek out courage from despair and strength out of sorrow. She had to forge a path where no path lay before her if only to continue to follow the guide of a historical echo painting her towards a tomorrow she had not foreseen herself. Semele was caught between dedicated passion for her job and the winding of actions not of her choosing which were set to cause her to stumble off the path she was most inclined to pursue. Each of them were fated to embrace the knowledge of Ancient Truth and to resurrect the intuition passed down through a linkage of ancestral origin; but therein, lies the greater mystery – how are the two linked outside of the seeker of truth (Semele) and the girl (Ionna) who charted her own inward exploration of intuitive prescience?

There was a point where I suspected this story might involve reincarnation – there were subtle hints towards this being a connective thread but I wasn’t sure if this was how Womack had envisioned the threads to knit into her novel’s tapestry. What was quite eloquent is the disclosure of social and political history – especially following my reading of The Patterning Instinct (see also Review) it felt quite fruitious this would be the next book I’d read. I was following the back-histories of where time and civilisation cross-sected with pivotal moments of History as one remembers memories encased in their mind’s eye; courtesy of the forementioned reading.

Ionna’s journal is foretelling Semele’s future which is a way of their dynasty to carry forward; as Ionna’s own path was foretold by another. It’s how Semele understands Ionna’s journal and how Ionna helps Semele understand what makes them both unique and a step out of time which sets the pace for most of the novel. This is a novel of stories – stories from the Ancient times to the Modern world; legacies of living histories foretelling new chronicles of truths which intersected with major historical events. Yet, within all the intuitive glimpses of lived history – there still remained the question mark against what is fated and what is not yet known; for free will still be a counterbalance to premonition.

This novel eclipsed my hopeful expectations of where I knew Ms Womack could transcend her own muse and unite her imagination into the throes of historical mysteries where truth and fiction walk together through the ages to give the best impression of how man and time determine our truer destinies. As a reader, I sometimes catch a glimpse of an author in the process of understanding their own writerly talent; I felt a connection with Ms Womack’s writing style within the pages of The Memory Painter but it’s how she’s mastered the art of her own soulful style of augmenting truth into fiction which warmed my heart the most. Like Semele, she’s found her wings to own her own truth.

Notes on Content:

On how the Tarot is layered into the texture of the novel:

Instead of changing the text arrangement or font to denote passages of a journal (herein those words by Ionna) they are arranged in chapters with the infinity symbol where the chapters which mark off the passages for Semele have chapter headings such as you would find in a regular novel with one marked difference: they are the names of the tarot (they follow the Major Arcana suit of cards – see also Wikipedia).

The is revealled in the mid-to-late 200+ pages of the novel but I caught on to the sequences within the first two chapter headings. Novels have patterns – in effect, each writer has a pattern of telling a story; it is how we use the craft of writing to paint the palette of words which alight in our minds to tell which curate the pattern we leave behind to be found. If you look into what the names of the cards represent based on this bit of information, you can denote a bit of forbearance of events yet known as the titles of the chapters were not randomly selected to hint of the tarot but rather clue the reader into the scenes currently unfolding per each chapter.

I was fascinated by a bit of research outside the text to discover the original purpose of the tarot was not divination but rather a fanciful game of cards; similar to the card games we play today with decks by Hoyle. There is a bit of speculation (of course!) on the validity of this claim as the origin of the tarot is also up for debate in regards to which century the tarot actually first was known to be in existence. Like most things in life, the longer time shifts forward the greater chance a hidden secret in History is let out by those researching the clues lost to time.

Journals & Epistolary Texts:

I have a penchant for Epistolary texts and those novels which seek to bend between narrative and journalled entries or those which involve letters and/or correspondences. They’re a delight on several levels, one of which being obvious as I am a correspondent IRL. It is clever to find traces of truth from characters or the evolving back-story of a mystery or thriller ebbing out of journalled entries. You get to bend time and cross between what is known in the present and past time-lines all at the same time. In this, I find authors like Womack give us a layered approach to their genre of choice and deepen the curiosity for us to see how the threads of their vision unite into one comprehensive story-line.

On the blessed absence of:

And, blessedly – my humble hope Ms Womack would lean on the belief her writings were on a different level of literary gold – to where vulgarity and strong language need not interfere with her narrative prose has come true! The few words which blinked into sight were well placed and the rest of her words arched in and out of the journalled past where the future collided into one time-line.

why i appreciate the style of ms womack’s #histfic:

When you pick up Ms Womack’s novels, you feel a part of the adventure – she has a very engaging narrative, wherein you feel as if you’ve started walking alongside her characters straight from the moment you begin reading her stories. I love the thrill of the chase – of sorting out what is hidden from time and history and of what could be of such great importance it is absolutely necessary to have certain ‘guardians’ take up the protection of certain artifacts (herein: books!) which are not meant for ordinary eyes.

Time slip narratives are amongst my favourites and Womack has started to master the way in which you can bend time and narrative around a slippage of focus between two strong female heroines! As I was truly captured by how Semele was her own person in the present and how Ionna defied convention in Ancient Alexandria. Both women were not tethered to the constrictions of her era nor would they cower to convention or social etiquette of how they were meant to behave or perform their duties. I even liked how Ionna was most concerned about her appearance in a way Semele never would be; Semele liked the more subdued approach to personal style whereas Ionna liked the bold and fierce compliments make-up and fragrance can provide contrasted against bold colours in cloth.

There is a fluidity to this second novel I missed in the first novel; all the components were within The Memory Painter but within the chapters of The Fortune Teller, Womack heightened the joy of soaking inside the high octane world of where antiquity meets a modern-day thrilling chase to unlock the untold secrets of the Ancient Past. You are pulled so wholly into the narrative – your eyes cannot devour the pages quick enough to see how taut the suspense will become and how daringly close Ionna and Semele each become to the dangers lurking just outside the shadows of their footsteps.

This is the novel I knew Womack was capable of writing – it’s the culmination of everything I hoped it would become but even moreso; it’s the realisation of how compelling she makes Ancient History feel when in direct contrast to the sinister heart of a select few whose hearts are blackened by greed & the darker arts. Most definitely one of my #unputdownable reads of 2017!

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This book review is courtesy of:

Gwendolyn Womack + Picador Books

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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 {SOURCES: Cover art of “The Fortune Teller” and book synopsis were provided by the author Gwendolyn Womack. I was able to reuse the author’s photograph and biography (from the blog tour for “The Memory Painter”) with the author’s permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Book trailer for “The Fortune Teller” was able to be embedded due to codes provided by YouTube. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Tuesday, 6 June, 2017 by jorielov in Ancient Civilisation, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Book Trailer, Content Note, Epistolary Novel | Non-Fiction, Equality In Literature, Father-Daughter Relationships, Genre-bender, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Modern Day, Pharaohs & Dynasties, Premonition-Precognitive Visions, Seers, Supernatural Fiction

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