Friday, September 4, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Memory Painter, by Gwendolyn Womack {ends 9/13}

Review by: Rachel Gonzales

“I am here now. I’m here now. I’m here now. I’m here now.” Bryan Pierce chanted the words over and over with desperate intensity, keeping his eyes squeezed shut as he rocked his body back and forth in a soothing motion. But then just as suddenly, he stopped. His body went slack and his eyes grew distant as a strange calm descended over him. He got out of bed.

This debut novel by Gwendolyn Womack wonders what might happen if you could take a drug that helped you remember your past - not just your immediate past, but all of your pasts, going back to the beginning of your being. And what would happen if, in remembering, you found out that your pasts lives have been intertangled with others’ going back decades, centuries, even millennia?

Official Synopsis:
Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artists whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to his success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new skills … like the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections -- if he is re-experiencing other people’s lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding the genes that help the brain make memories -- until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan’s shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago.

As Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists’ deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The premise of this novel is interesting to me - while I don’t necessarily believe in reincarnation, and I don’t think time travel is scientifically possible, I still enjoy a good sci-fi and/or paranormal yarn about both ideas. This book incorporates both, in a way I haven’t quite seen before - it just assumes that reincarnation is real, and then proceeds to tell the story of characters’ past lives in a non-linear way. It’s kind of like Somewhere in Time meets Back to the Future, with a bit of Inception thrown in.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about this book is that the imagery surrounding Bryan’s memories, which later become his paintings, are far more detailed and vivid than the description of the characters. We learn about the characters through their actions and interactions but not how they look; I found this helpful as Bryan and Linz moved throughout their various timestreams. Something about the way the author created and described these characters made it very easy to picture entirely unique persons and bodies over thousands of years, not just the same figures in different outfits, like paper dolls.

Focusing on the paintings and the memories that inspired them was also effective in maintaining the central mystery of the story - what actually happened to those research scientists, and why? There is a twist at the end, but the storytelling style helps to keep the reader guessing until the end, without being infuriatingly blindsided by a Big Bad who comes out of nowhere. My biggest complaint about this novel is that almost all the past lives were important cultural figures, which led to a lot of diving down rambling research rabbit holes. (I have this complaint about many reincarnation stories; why was nobody ever some random farmer who died of plague in a past life?)

I give this book 4 stars out of 5. Side trips down Wikipedia Way notwithstanding, it’s a pretty quick yet satisfying read that could be great for a long weekend.

{Click here to purchase}

About the reviewer:

Rachel Gonzales is a wife, mom, theatre geek, and substitute high school teacher (not necessarily in that order) from Pennsylvania. She reads anything and everything, including bizarro comic books that she finds on dusty old shelves in the back of the toy store near the mogwai. Her favorite color is purple and her favorite punctuation mark is the Oxford comma.


Enter via the widget below. One lucky reader will win a hardcover copy of The Memory Painter. Giveaway will end Sunday, September 13th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be notified the next day via email and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

The Memory Painter


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