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Scorpio Rising by Monique Domovitch

Scorpio Rising

by Monique Domovitch

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Funny thing about this book - I already had bought it and it was at about my waist in my TBR pile that is now taller than I am. And I'm just topping out at 165cm, if I stand up straight. And I didn’t realize it was in that pile until I went to do a search for the book information to write this review. As always, I was provided an eBook copy by the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.

The majority of the book is two concurrent but very different story lines, also done in two very different voices. The book starts with Alex Ivanov at age 12: son of a Russian immigrant mother, absent father and living in Brooklyn. Quickly we are taken to meet Brigitte Dartois, a young girl in France with a new and abusive stepfather and a cold and removed mother.

From two different perspectives, we see the effects of that early abuse or indifferent behaviour and how it shapes the relationships and attitudes of these two young people, as they grow into adulthood and need to find their way in the world. Alex wants nothing more than to create and design buildings that will sit as monument to his talent. Brigitte is an artist with a bold, emotive style that utilizes everyday objects to create emotion in those who see her paintings.

The story was beautifully written, with a solid and distinct voice for each character that reinforces the characters we are coming to know. While through a series of coincidences, the characters meet, although it was a rather predictable outcome, it came on faster and with less introspection on all sides, when the history of the characters is considered. The ending felt a bit rushed, and while it is leading nicely into the sequel, that transition felt as if it was more of a “I should” decision by the author rather than asking “Should I ?”. I almost feel as if the book could have ended without the second to last section as a lead in to the next volume. And that, is why this was a 4.5 star book for me, rather than a full on 5.

( )
  IamIndeed | Mar 29, 2013 |
I want to start by stating when I signed up to read this as part of the Book Club Bash, I had not realized I had at one point begun to read it last year when it came out. The opening scene turned me off and I was not interested in reading about a male protagonist at the time mainly, from what I can remember, because of the way she does character building. I did not like Alex at first so I had put it aside and never did finish it. Boy I could not have been more wrong, the beginning may bother you like it did me the first time and again this is all because of how Ms. Domovitch does her character building. Just one example of this is how she uses the experiences of the past to develop the experiences in the future for the group of players within the pages of Scorpio Rising. My advice? Push on through the first two or three chapters you will not be disappointed.

There are two main protagonist and a few supporting characters in this who come together in a type of blended montage of old and new. Ms. Domovitch writes in alternating narratives and with the all the characters having such strong voices it is easy to follow. The narratives blend and weave back and forth, their stories each seeming to have the flavors of different literary pieces from the past, almost a classical feeling. And with the story's setting from the era of early 1940's America and France to the early to mid 1960's it gives it an edge of those paperbacks you would find around the summer rental growing up (if you are my age which is mid-40's).

Alex comes from a horrific childhood which he did not let set him back in his dreams in fact he uses these experiences as a way to catapult and keep them solidified throughout his advanced schooling to be an architect. Despite his mother being a prostitute who would practice her trade while he tried to sleep in his own bed, in the same room, he ended up achieving one dream, to finish school and move across the bridge and into Manhattan where his dreams rose above the tallest buildings and beyond. However he never was quite able to rid himself as many of us have experienced in our lives, of all the dirty remnants of the past. Damaging his ability to have any lasting or healthy relationships with women, which will end up biting him back hard in the end, it ends up doing the opposite to his ambition. His drive was strong and at the expense of repeating another reviewer, I to had the feeling of Mad Men, which makes sense since it is set to be in the expanse of the 1940'so the early 60's, however for me it reminded me more of the 1970's era. There was a sense of the disco mentality, but I am wondering if the feeling was due to his lack of being able to connect emotionally with not just women but anyone. The 70's were all about the "me" no one made connections on an intimate level. It was a rebellion of the 60's love fest where you love everyone and the beginning of the love myself, not thy neighbor. I am taken to the backseat of the car at the beginning scene to "Saturday Night Fever" where in the end his exclamation of, "what was your name again?" comes to mind.

Brigitte gave me the same feeling I had when I read a novel years ago based on the early life of Coco Chanel. It had the same feeling of rising from the bottom and entering into a world from nothing to become something and shining. Like Alex, she took what she had from a broken home, quite literally in fact and had to overcome her misconceptions and warped sense of relationships due to the abuse from her step-father and abandonment of her mother. Through her rebirth she ends up not only being able to cope but nearing the end of her this part of the series, end up being an influence to so many with her art.

Bridgette's story is still at the beginning, at least for me, and her character is not as strong as Coco's (and she will not go on to spy for Nazi Germany either) but as with Coco in the 20's she created style as she moved upward with experience, talent and age. Bridgette has many facet's and aspects which I have yet to really come to terms with, though I think this has more to do with the fact of the author having her past come back to haunt her constantly. Alex also has his past beginning to bite him in his nether regions but it has yet to be addressed fully in this novel, he first in the Scorpio Series.

The story builds into a strong and tall tale, structurally sound and full of bright colors where there was once the water-color mix of brownish grey; a 2 year old's blend of everything in her small white palette to an exquisite use of oil's used in a striking presentation of strength, beauty and grace. Each character becoming more and more complex as they gain not only life experience, but reclaim their damaged existence by creating their own futures. When they meet it can be described as a multimedia collage in narrative voices, some convoluted weaker sub-plots which stand up within the story due to the stronger "medium" of the main characters and presented on a global canvas.

My main issues are it took to long to get to the point, though a solid read, and one I could not stop reading once I was able to plug my way through all the back stories, was it ended with way to many ribbons and trails left untold and unfinished. I hope they are wrapped up in the second and final book, and considering our cliff hanger they will. Another issue is how easily Alex seems to give up his dream, but... perhaps he does not? No one knows until they pick the second one up, The Sting of The Scorpio (available on Amazon).

I highly recommend this as a not only a great book club read, but also one that would be great over the holidays when visiting those wonderful families we oh so miss each year and when we get there we need to find a bit of escape. This would be a grand way to escape the chaos of the holidays. ( )
  AKMamma | Dec 21, 2012 |
This is an incredibly fast-paced book that tells the story of Alex Ivanov and Brigitte Dartois — two different people in two different parts of the world. They both start out with rough lives, but constantly work hard and their ambitions pay off. Throughout the story, we see these two characters’ lives change and evolve, and finally intertwine.

I don’t normally read books that are this fast-paced. A few hundred pages covers a time span of probably over 10 years. I was a little iffy at first, but soon realized that the time frame made this book very intriguing and difficult to put down! I read the entire thing in one sitting! There’s so much going on that there’s never a dull moment and you’re always eager for more.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Alex because of his attitude towards women. To be fair, he had a tough start to life that basically taught him women could be used for sex. That resulted in him for the most part seeing women as a way to “fulfil his sexual needs.” However, there were two characters I absolutely LOVED!!

Brigitte, of course. She’s the amazing, strong, incredibly likeable main woman of the story. I completely admire the fact that she never lets anything bring her down. She experienced some true horrors in her life but she never let them consume her. At the beginning of the book, her mom kicks her out of her home when she’s only a young teenager. That alone would probably destroy most young girls. But Brigitte knows she has to do something about it, so she’s immediately out there looking for a job.

Later in life, Brigitte makes her way in the world by becoming an artist and trying to sell her paintings in Paris. As a bit of an artist myself, I loved reading about this! It was fascinating to see Brigitte improve her technique, live the life of a “starving artist,” and finally start to make a name for herself.

My second favourite character is Anne Turner. I love her, but I hate her. She’s a manipulative gold digger. She wants to live a life of riches and to do that, she decides she has to find and marry a rich man. She uses one man after the other, satisfying her need for luxury, until she finally sets her sights as high as they can go: William Brandon, the owner of the empire that is William Brandon & Company. She spends two years putting her plan in motion, from landing a job at his company, to seducing him and becoming his mistress, to making sure his wife finds out about the affair to break the mup, etc. She does everything she can to manipulate Brandon into giving her a ring. Let’s just say… it was SO INCREDIBLY SATISFYING to see her get what she deserves.

I did have two pretty big issues with the book though.

First, Alex enters into a very competitive “Architecture and Design International Contest.” He puts a lot of time and effort into this competition, and ultimately it’s what brings him and Brigitte together. I found myself getting really excited about the competition, hoping that Alex would somehow win, only to have the whole thing stop abruptly. From practically page 1, Alex’s ambitions were all about becoming a successful architect, so it was disappointing to see that suddenly cut short. I’m sure he’ll find another way to succeed in book 2, but this was a really interesting part of Scorpio Rising that I would have liked to see more of!

Second, is Alex and Brigitte’s relationship. I guess this is due to the fast-paced nature of the book, but it simply happened way too quickly. Their relationship felt like a combination between insta-love and a relationship of convenience. I also felt like we needed to see more growth from Alex. Previously, he had basically been all about one night stands. He had a whole system worked out where he could meet a girl, make her fall for him, sleep with her by the third date, and then break it off with her. Suddenly with Brigitte, everything is different, but I didn’t quite understand why Alex suddenly changed, and why he suddenly wanted a ‘real’ relationship.

But overall, this was a very enjoyable read. You can easily get through it in one sitting! It’s fascinating to watch the two characters grow up and try to make their dreams realities. The lives of all the characters intertwine so beautifully. One character will pop in and then leave, and you assume that will be the end of it.. only to later realize that the character still plays a very important role.

A word of caution: this book does end on an insane cliffhanger! You may want to have the second book, The Sting of the Scorpio already on hand! ( )
  tripsis | May 24, 2012 |
Diverse cultures intertwine as Monique Domovitch sets the stage for a very spectacular read. Set in the 1940's, the book catapults us into the lives of Alex Ivanov and Brigitte Dartois, two people who have no idea, as of yet, that they exist within each others worlds. Told between the perspectives of each of the characters, we're able to glimpse their triumphs and defeats, their loves and their losses, and the determination that rumbles throughout their very cores as they seek to establish themselves within the worlds they live in.

Alex, the son of a Russian immigrant, is intent on claiming the best of what the world has to offer. He's not content on being ordinary and dreams of achieving the success that his parents never had. Setting aside his insecurities, he sets off to stake his claim, intent on making his name known through out the highest circles. All the while, he makes sure his mother is comfortably provided for. Despite the fact that there are those who seek to drag him down, he's determined to show everyone that he can make the best of what he's given and immerses himself in every task he undertakes.

Brigitte Dartois' life has never been easy. Losing her father at the age of thirteen, she feels a tad embittered by the fact that her mother has remarried so quickly. Her faith in those around her is further tested when her stepfather abuses her every chance he gets. When her mother accidentally discovers her new husband within her daughter's bed, she finds herself on the streets with nothing to her name and no money within her pockets.

Flitting through life and adjusting to changes as they come along, Alex and Brigitte refuse to accept the cards they have been dealt. Their only goal is in achieving a better future - the drive that spurs them on, something we can all definitely relate to. It's hard to settle for the mediocre when something better sits around the corner.

Soon their paths unexpectedly intertwine. Alex finds himself intrigued by the beautiful woman and knows he has to stake his claim on her somehow. Brigitte, on the other hand, has her reservations about losing herself to a man she barely knows. Yet the call of the heart is hard to ignore. Little by little, the ice begins to melt and she finds herself feeling things she never knew were possible.

As they give in to the passions harbored deep inside, they realize they have nothing left to lose. Acceptance is sometimes hard to come by but with the love of another anything is possible. Yet little do they know, the ghosts of the past can sometimes come back to haunt you.

I truly enjoyed this book very much and am so looking forward to reading it's counterpart soon. Monique is quite the storyteller and she draws you in to her story from the very first page. So much so, you find yourself so immersed within the book that it's hard to put down. ( )
  LizzieBeth95 | Dec 23, 2011 |
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