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The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony…
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The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray

by E. Latimer

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Latimer's greatest strength in "Bryony Gray" is atmosphere. The London setting is well drawn, full of vivid descriptions of stuffy attics, splendid houses and galleries and restaurants, and other period-appropriate locales. Latimer gives these a spooky, creepy twist that is quite appealing.

Less appealing are the characters, which read to me as one-dimensional tropes rather than living, breathing people. The villains are mustache-twirlingly villainous -- Bryony even comments on this herself, at one point -- and the heroes are unflinchingly courageous, colored by the One Thing that makes them distinct.

The plot wanders and meanders, with lots of fits and starts that allow the reader to see the narrative rails on which the plot runs. Bryony is a character that things happen to, but only rarely does she take real agency of her own. When she does, it is often because the story requires it. Despite her being the heroine, I was left on many occasions with the distinct impression that she is not really a very nice person, and only the shine on her Hero Armor keeps the reader on her side.

There is also a heavy reliance on a certain work of literature, making this novel a sort of sequel. The biggest problem is that in both style and content, it doesn't hold up, leaving me with a desire to simply reread that classic work.

I don't mean to be overly negative. There is certainly enough quality content in this book to engage members of its target audience, and I'll likely keep my copy on my bookshelf, ready to recommend to young adults of an appropriate character. Latimer is an author worth watching. ( )
  shabacus | Jul 2, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The most peculiar things always happen to Bryony Gray. As if it isn’t bad enough that her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients, she’s becoming rather well known in the art world… since all her customers seem to go missing.
This book is aimed at middle graders and I’m very happy to say it does not “talk” down to its intended age group, instead the writing and characters are intelligent and competent and still manage to act in a way that seems age appropriate.
The book has a good balance of action, humor and creepy horror and I found it to be very well paced. At no point did the story seem to drag or feel rushed. My only real complaint was the main villain, their motivations and overall ending of the story felt a bit flat, a bit to…pedestrian for lack of a better word and kind of undid the eerie atmosphere the story had going for it up until then.
A slightly weak ending aside, this was a very strong book and I have to admit that I went into this book blind so the main “twist” was unknown to me and it took me way longer than it should have to clue into Bryony’s family, the author did a great job folding that into the story without beating you over the head with it. I really, really enjoyed this book and strongly recommend it, not just for middle grade ages but for any age. ( )
  Kellswitch | May 16, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bryony Gray is very quickly becoming a well-known painter in London, but her life is anything but glamorous. Her wicked uncle keeps her locked in the attic, making her paint portraits for his wealthy friends. Something bizarre is happening now and her paintings are strangling coming to life. While researching her family history, Bryony uncovers some disturbing family secrets and, in the process, unlocks an old, horrifying family curse.

With the help of her friends, Bryony is determined to discover why her clients are suddenly disappearing under mysterious circumstances. Can she find the answers she seeks before her treacherous uncle silences her forever?

A dark, delightful story with a middle school audience twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde will leave young readers sleeping with the lights on! ( )
  RavenShoe | May 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Ms. Latimer draws the reader into a world of historical London in her sequel to the classic Picture of Dorian Gray. Bryony is a gifted, intelligent, and fearless heroine who inadvertently unleashes a disaster, and with the help of new friends, unravels the mystery behind her gift and makes things right. The narrative moves at a good pace, although Bryony and her friends spent too many pages running around. an adult, I loved this book, and passed it along to a middle school friend of mine to get her opinion. It satisfied my definition of a good read: brought me into another time and place, and kept me up late at night turning pages. ( )
  meacoleman | Apr 24, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Listed as middle grade books, I, as an adult, enjoyed it a great deal. I read a lot of YA, but don't often venture quite into middle grade territory, but I would say this book is a hefty read for middle grade and might actually be on the younger end of YA. The story was fun, (lots of synopsis in these reviews, so I'll just go with editorial) but I found it a bit on the slow side. Part of the problem for me was I kept trying to find Dorian Gray in it, since there's some obvious allusion going on with the title and living portrait idea, but in the actual story there wasn't enough allusion for me. That's a pretty nit-picky criticism, but I'm a Wilde fanatic, so that's what I'd hoped for more of in this book and its absence bugged me. I wanted to see Dorian written for kids. Maybe not a re-telling exactly, just thick with allusion at least. I still enjoyed the book overall though. ( )
  blueviolent | Apr 3, 2018 |
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Publisher Annotation: Bryony Gray is becoming famous as a painter in London art circles. But life isn't so grand. Her uncle keeps her locked in the attic, forcing her to paint for his rich clients . . . and now her paintings are taking on a life of their own, and customers are going missing under mysterious circumstances. When her newest painting escapes the canvas and rampages through the streets of London, Bryony digs into her family history, discovering some rather scandalous secrets her uncle has been keeping, including a deadly curse she's inherited from her missing father. Bryony has accidentally unleashed the Gray family curse, and it's spreading fast. With a little help from the strange-but-beautiful girl next door and her paranoid brother, Bryony sets out to break the curse, dodging bloodthirsty paintings, angry mobs and her wicked uncle along the way.… (more)

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