Posted in Phiction Spotlight, The Phantom's Lair

Phiction Spotlight: The Most Dangerous Dream: Leroux’s Phantom Reimagined

The Most Dangerous Dream by Kelsey Brickl is one of the best Phantom retellings I’ve had the pleasure of reading. “Leroux’s Phantom Reimagined” is a perfect description of it because that is exactly what it is.

Brickl’s book starts off in the Opera Populaire just as the original novel does, but instead of taking the exact same turns that the original novel does, The Most Dangerous Dream takes a few unexpected twists and spins – dare we say better twists and spins than the original? Not to dishonor the memory of Leroux, but I quite enjoyed this reimagined version of the classic tale.

The Story

Without giving too much away, I’ll say that this is one for the Erik/Christine lovers. If you’ve always wanted to see Erik get the girl, then this is the read for you. Erik does a couple of key things differently in this book that make it plausible to believe that Christine was able to return his affections. Raoul gets his shot, but pretty boy can’t hold a candle to her mysterious, darkly alluring Angel of Music.

Unfortunately, a chance encounter with Meg puts everything in jeopardy, causing Erik and Christine to flee the Paris Garnier, leaving behind their lives there to build a new one in…Argentina of all places. Don’t cry for me, Argentina… (I’m sorry. I always break into that song from Evita when I hear “Argentina.” LOL)

I’m not going to reveal any more of the plot at this point. I’ll just say that it’s an exhilarating read that will leave you needing a box of tissues handy at the end of it.

The Characters

Of course, we have Erik (The Phantom) and Christine. Meg, Raoul, Madame Giry and even the Daroga play their own little parts in Brickl’s reimagining. I love the liberties the author took with the characters. For instance, Christine is still innocent and naive, but she isn’t stupid. She can indeed have a backbone when she needs one. That was a nice change for this reimagining because Christine, bless her heart, I love her dearly, but I usually find myself wanting to scream at her, “Stand up for yourself every once in a while, will you?” I didn’t have to do this in Brickl’s book. Don’t misunderstand. Christine is still a kind, gentle soul, but she doesn’t let Erik walk all over her either.

Speaking of Erik…I love how Brickl really captured what I call “my” Erik. The way I imagine the Phantom is dark and dangerous to the world but not to Christine. He’s got a temper, and he’s a strong, dominant male. Too many authors want to turn Erik into a lovesick pup (“He’s the Phantom of the Opera, for God’s sake,” I always want to scream.), but Brickl doesn’t do that. She works with Erik’s flawed, broken character to illustrate his humanity in a way that leaves the reader understanding and even sympathizing with him.

Monsieur Lefevre gets a larger role in Brickl’s reimaging, which I also liked. I like it when authors use characters that previously didn’t receive much love and explore them more. There are also a few new characters introduced to the plot. I won’t spoil them for you. You’ll meet them soon enough. *wink*

The Verdict

Overall, this book is very well-written. Sometimes it’s hard to find Phantom books that use proper grammar, punctuation and so on, but Brickl is obviously a good writer. She weaves plenty of facts into her fiction. She also has some great symbolism and uses witty metaphors in her writing that make it that much more fun to read. What is the most dangerous dream? You’ll have to read her book to find out…

About the Author

From Amazon:

Kelsey Brickl is a wife, mother, language enthusiast, travel addict, and unabashed history nerd. She is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Indiana, where she studied history and received the Blecka-Zatko Award for Excellence in Senior Composition. She is also a graduate of the Keough-Naughton Institute at the University of Notre Dame, where she studied Irish Language and Literature and Irish Studies. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, son, and two cats.

From me:

Kelsey is one of the most down-to-earth authors you’ll ever have the pleasure of chatting with. She’s personable, friendly, and humble. I want to thank her for allowing me to do this Phiction Spotlight and wish her luck in all her future writing endeavors.

To learn more about Kelsey or her other books or to contact her, visit her author website: kelseybrickl.com/

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Posted in Phiction Spotlight, The Phantom's Lair

Phiction Spotlight: Disfigured

This Phiction Spotlight is long overdue, and I want to start off by thanking the author of the book featured in this spotlight (as well as you, my blog readers) for her (and your) patience.

Penned by Wendy Coles-LittlePage, Disfigured, is now another one of my all-time favorite POTO reads. A gothic romance, to be sure, that leaves the reader wanting more. (Fortunately for us readers there is more to come because the author is currently in the process of finishing up the second book in what will become the Disfigured series. Yay! We’ll talk more about this later, though.)

Disfigured: A Gothic Romance Featuring the Phantom of the Opera (Disfigured Series Book 1)

The Heroine

Let’s begin with the heroine of our story: Sylvie Bessette. A charming character, Sylvie is no Christine. As I’m sure most of my blog readers know by now, I was always traditionally an Erik/Christine supporter, but as I’ve started reading more and more books by authors like the one who wrote this phabulous novel, I’ve become more in support of other character pairings with our beloved Phantom. Yet, again, another author has caused me to root for Erik to be with a more mature woman who can see past his physical deformity to the man underneath.

Sylvie isn’t the naive child that Christine was. However, in the same token, she still maintains a sense of innocence and goodness. She’s a caring and nurturing soul who’s bravely struck out to make a new, independent life for herself. She wants to stand on her own two feet while still helping others, and while she’s met with a few setbacks, she’s innovative and perseveres.

The Phantom

The author crafted the Phantom wonderfully, in my humble opinion. He was exactly as one would expect the Phantom to be. He’s not all fluffy kittens and bunnies and can even come off as a bit cruel and gruff at times. A powerful figure ensconced in darkness and mystery – just as we would expect him to be. Until Sylvie begins to break down his barriers, that is.

The Story

Sylvie’s passion is cooking, and can you guess it? That’s how she comes to be connected with the Phantom. After making friends with the Phantom’s aid, Madame Celestine Giry, Sylvie is commissioned to prepare meals to be delivered to the Phantom via a strict and somewhat odd set of instructions. Of course, Sylvie being the free, independent spirit that she is breaks the Phantom’s rules at every turn and ends up getting to know Erik, despite all the walls he’s put up to keep himself from getting hurt again after the fiasco with Christine Daae. Alas, I don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers. Just read the book, and you’ll see how gripping this story is.

Wait! There’s More…

While Disfugured is one of the best continuations of the tale of The Phantom of the Opera that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and stands well enough on its own, after much prodding and encouragement from so many Phans who loved her book (I don’t want to say any names but…LISA! Lol), she’s graciously decided to continue forth by writing a sequel entitled About Face. She was even generous enough to provide us readers with a special sneak peek on her website, which you can view by clicking here: Wendy Coles-Littlepage’s Author Site

The Author

And that brings us to the author: Mrs. Wendy Coles-Littlepage herself. A delight to chat with, Wendy’s always enjoyed writing from an early age and enjoys hearing from her readers. Disfigured is her debut fiction novel, and she’s one of the sweetest authors I’ve ever had the pleasure to chat with. You can contact her via her website listed above or her Facebook page: Wendy Coles-Littlepage’s Facebook

Posted in Phiction Spotlight, The Phantom's Lair

Phiction Spotlight: Seen Through the Phantom's Eyes: The Omnibus Edition

For those Phans like myself who crave more after reading Gaston Leroux’s original novel, The Phantom of the Opera, there’s Sharon E. Cathcart’s novels. Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes: The Omnibus Edition is actually a compilation of two novels and a collection of short stories. If purchased separately, they consist of the following:

  • In the Eye of the Beholder
  • In the Eye of the Storm
  • Through the Opera Glass

Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes: The Omnibus Edition

Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes: The Omnibus Edition contains all of these in the aforementioned order. However, the author herself stated that they don’t necessarily have to be read in that order. I would advise reading In the Eye of the Beholder before reading In the Eye of the Storm. However, if you happen not to, it’s no big deal because the author is conscious of making it so that readers who haven’t read her first book are quickly brought up to speed in her second one.

The Through the Opera Glass book is the one that’s a collection of short stories, so it can certainly be read any time you wish. However, I think that it provides for a richer reading experience when you read all the books in the order listed. After doing so, I believe you’ll understand why I say this.

That said, on to the review…

Let’s begin with Claire. She’s the first character we’re introduced to in In the Eye of the Beholder, and she’s the principal character throughout the first novel, although she certainly remains a prominent one in the other novel and the short story collection as well. Claire is not your typical, simpering Victorian lady. She’s a strong, independent woman (as much as society would allow anyways), and she’s got a good head on her shoulders. She knows how to think for herself, and she’s obviously very different from the naive child (Christine Daae) who our notorious Phantom, Erik, had fallen in love with previously.

I absolutely loved Claire! She was a refreshing change, and although I have stated that she was a strong woman, she had her moments of vulnerability as well, all of which worked together to make her quite a realistic and believable character. Although her moral compass was certainly rooted, she also went outside the realm of what society at that point in time deemed acceptable. She stood up for what she believed in, and her compassion knew no bounds.

Our Phantom, as well, was a greatly developed character. He wasn’t quite as darkly depicted as some Phantoms are, but he wasn’t too vulnerable either. Instead, I believe he was the perfect mix of dark and light, making him believably human.

Fiction that Makes a Statement

Sharon’s Phantom tales are more than just sappy Phan phiction. Not only do they offer a realistic continuation of the beloved tale of the Phantom of the Opera, but they also reference real historical events and contain a essence of realism that you don’t get from the everyday fiction book. Her novels not only weave a delightful story for our Phantom, but they also illuminate real life issues, such as the plight of women living in a male-oriented society, the cruelty of mankind, and the injustice of inequality, just to name a few.

I particularly loved how the author would take a certain issue that she feels strongly about and weave it into her novels in such a way that highlights the injustice of the topic and prompts the reader to feel that same injustice. For instance, without giving too much of the storyline away, I will reveal that Claire is rendered virtually penniless when her cousin is given control over her inheritance simply because he is the closest male relation to her. As we learn of how that injustice affected Claire’s life, we, as readers, feel for the plight of women who were restricted by the constraints of their sex.

Beyond that, I will say no more, other than that I highly recommend these books to any Phan. These Phantom books not only entertain, but they teach as well, highlighting societal issues that some people still deal with today. Also, the author very considerately included a glossary of terms in her books so that those who are unfamiliar with certain equestrian and French terms she used in her writing can look up their meanings for better understanding. I, for one, greatly appreciated this, for I would have never know what some of the foreign terms meant otherwise.

The Author

Not only is Sharon E. Cathcart an author, but she’s an award-winning one at that. Like her character, Claire, Sharon is also a very generous soul. She frequently hosts e-book giveaways and such, and she’s a delight to interact with. To contact Sharon or learn more about her published works, go her author website and/or her Facebook fan page.

Sharon E. Cathcart Author Page

Sharon E. Cathcart’s Facebook Fan Page

Posted in Phiction Spotlight, The Phantom's Lair

Phiction Spotlight: Redemption of Shadows

After much prompting from fellow Phans, I finally got around to reading Redemption of Shadows. Since I’d heard nothing but good things about this book from fellow Phans, I was quite excited to read it.

Redemption of Shadows: A New Tale of the Phantom of the Opera

As usual, my phriends were right! This book didn’t disappoint. Not only is it beautifully written, but it’s also a refreshing change from much of the typical Phan phiction that we read.

Not Your Typical Phantom Novel

The author, Cathy M. Conway, isn’t an Erik/Christine shipper in this book. Instead, she introduces us to a new character: Caitlin. I absolutely loved Caitlin! Adored her! What can I say without giving away key plot points? I’ll say this:  despite the traumatic experiences Caitlin goes through, she’s still a strong, independent woman capable of deep love.

I also love the way the author portrayed Erik in this novel. He has the perfect balance of that mysterious power that we all find so alluring and the vulnerability that makes him human rather than monster and endears him to us so much.

This continuation of the beloved tale of the Phantom of the Opera is a believable and satisfying one to say the least. I highly encourage any Phan to give it a read. I think you’ll quickly find that it’ll become one of your all-time phavorite Phantom books.

The Author

The author of Redemption of Shadows, Cathy M. Conway, is a delight to chat with. Redemption of Shadows was her debut novel, and she was especially kind to me when I reached out to her after reading her book. (As most of you know, I simply love connecting with the authors of books that I’ve read, especially if the books were really good like this one was.)

If you want to reach out to Cathy yourself or view any of the other works she’s published, you can do so on her Amazon author profile by clicking here: Cathy M. Conway on Amazon.

Posted in Phiction Spotlight, The Phantom's Lair

Phiction Spotlight: Chanson de l'Ange

As many of you know, I’m currently in the process of catching up on all the wonderful phiction out there, reading everything I can get my hands on pertaining to Phantom of the Opera. I’ve read plenty of notable works so far and thought I’d start taking time out every so often to feature some of my favorite Phan authors and their books in what I’ve lovingly dubbed the Phiction Spotlight. So without further ado, let’s kick off the first Phiction Spotlight with the Chanson de l’Ange series.

Chanson de l’Ange Book One: Orphan in Winter (Volume 1)

The Books

If you’ve been a Phan for very long, then you’ve probably heard these books mentioned by fellow Phans, or perhaps you’ve stumbled across them while conducting a search for Phantom books on Amazon. Regardless of how you heard about them, let me be the first to tell you that all the hype you’ve heard about them is true! These are by far some of the best Phantom-inspired books I’ve ever read!

In fact, I just finished reading the Chanson de l’Ange series a few days ago, and I was simply blown away! I am not normally one to physically express emotions while reading a book, but Paisley’s books had me laughing, smiling and crying in turns. My heart skipped beats within my chest and then ached in despair, depending upon the plight of the characters.

Paisley has a writing style that is truly unique and her own, and her plot is believable. Her retelling of the beloved tale of The Phantom of the Opera is, by far, one of my most loved ones ever now, and I encourage every Phan to read it.

A word of caution, though: once you begin reading these books, you won’t want to put them down! Many times I would reach a “calming” point in the book and then I would make the mistake of reading a snippet on a break at work only to be filled with longing to return to the pages throughout the rest of my word day. That is how good and addicting these books are!

Although there is so much more I could say in praise of this series, I dare not say more for fear of revealing elements that would spoil the story for readers who haven’t read these books yet. In a word, they are PHANTASTIC and a must-read for all lovers of The Phantom of the Opera!

Other Considerations

If you’ll note, I took care not to present any spoilers in this review, but the most that I will say is what the author herself reveals in her preface and that is that there is somewhat of a happy ending to her series. This is not to say that Paisley’s works are not riddled with drama and strife. Indeed, they are! Many times I caught myself wanting to throw my Kindle across the room and scream at the top of my lungs in despair. (Fortunately, I kept my wits about me and didn’t allow myself to indulge in my desires, of which I’m glad since I’m sure I would have regretted any damage done to Kindle once my frazzled emotions had calmed. Haha.) However, even when your heart in wrenched in two as it undoubtedly will be during those more “difficult” scenes, keep reading: it will get better!

If you think you might be interested in learning more about this wonderful series, check out the promotional video below, which is in itself beautiful:

The Music

Part of what’s so unique about this Phantom series is that it has music that was specifically made to accompany it. Inspired by all three novels, Immortal Aria is also a worthy work of Phantom art, and I highly encourage readers of this series to purchase the album as well.

This album consists of 10 tracks, and the neoclassical style music is simply amazing and serves as as perfect backdrop to the scenes in the books. It contains both instrumental and vocal pieces, and the melodies are intoxicating. Of course, the vocals are astounding as well with their crystalline and velvety timbres. Per the author’s advice, I listened to the first two songs of the album prior to reading the series and then indulged in the remaining tracks upon finishing it. The album itself tells the story that the series does, and I an envision each moment in the book within every strain of the powerful music on this album every time I listen to it. My personal favorites are The Bleeding Rose, a vocal selection, and Waltz with Death, a haunting and lovely instrumental piece.

https://www.amazon.com/Angels-Song-Immortal-Aria/dp/B01EWF7LK0/ref=sr_1_1?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&qid=1533943297&sr=1-1-mp3-albums-bar-strip-0&keywords=Immortal+Aria

The Author

Speaking of the author, Paisley Swan Stewart is actually Bonnie Anne Pinard, and she’s one of the sweetest and most responsive authors you’ll ever have the fortune to meet. She’s a delight to chat with and loves receiving feedback from her readers about her works. A humble soul, Bonnie graciously accepts readers’ praises and is always kind in answering readers’ questions. During my latest correspondence with her, she even obliged to share with me the significance behind her pseudonym, which is quite an interesting story in and of itself! If you want to connect with Paisley (a.k.a. Bonnie), you can do so via these destinations:

Her dedicated author website Chanson de l’Ange

Her Facebook author page: Paisley Swan Stewart, Author

Her personal Facebook page: Bonnie Anne Pinard

If any of you have read this series or listened to the album and would like to leave your thoughts below, as always, please feel free to do so!