Social Media Icons

Monday, February 5, 2018

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: Birds of Wonder by Cynthia Robinson @smithpublicity

Birds of Wonder
by Cynthia Robinson

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for this debut novel from Cynthia Robinson!

Continue below for a synopsis, about the author, my review and an excerpt. 
You'll want to put this on your radar.....

Publishing: February 20, 2018
Publisher:  Standing Stone Books / Smith Publicity
Pages:  327 Pages
Stand alone


One August morning while walking her dog, high-school English teacher Beatrice Ousterhout stumbles over the dead body of a student, Amber Inglin, who was to play the lead in Beatrice's production of John Webster's Jacobean tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi. Barely able to speak, Beatrice calls the police. That is to say, she calls her daughter. Jes is a detective with two years of experience under her belt and a personal life composed primarily of a string of one-night-stands, including the owner of the field in which Beatrice has found Amber. In addition to a house and a field, Child Services lawyer Liam Walsh owns a vineyard, where Amber Inglin, along with a handful of other teens who've had difficulty negotiating the foster system, was an intern. Set among the hills and lakes of upstate New York and told in six vibrantly distinct voices, this complex and original narrative chronicles the rippling effects of a young girl's death through a densely intertwined community. By turns funny, fierce, lyrical and horrifying, Birds of Wonder probes family ties, the stresses that break them, and the pasts that never really let us go.

About the Author:

Cynthia Robinson is a writer and art historian based in Ithaca, New York. Her short fiction has been published by The Arkansas Review, Epoch, The Missouri Review, Slice, and others. She is Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Medieval and Islamic Art at Cornell University and has recently, following a very long hiatus, returned to fiction with her first novel, Birds of Wonder.
Birds of Wonder will be available via Amazon and other fine booksellers on February 20, 2018. To learn more visit and connect with Robinson on Goodreads and Instagram.
My Review:

When I first opened this book, I saw the table of contents and thought, "WOW, that's a lot of different POVs!"  And we do get a variety of them: Jes, Beatrice, Edward, Liam, Connor and Waldo.  There are times when too many POVs are introduced and it can get muddled and confusing.  I'm happy to report that this does not happen here.  It's easy to follow along with and I always find it interesting to be able to be inside the mind of the main players of a story.

Mostly this focuses on Jes.  As an officer of the law, she clearly has issues with her relationship with her mother, Beatrice, leads her sex life in a variety of "drive-bys" and doesn't much care what anyone else thinks.  I do enjoy a character with some sass.  I felt myself getting irritated in her attitude towards her mother but then we find out why she is this way and wow.  GOT IT.

This isn't so much a police procedural or even really a thriller ... it is more character driven as we see the relationships between each of them.  Mother/daughter, sisters/brother, husband/wife, co-workers, etc.  The uniqueness of this story are all the bird references.  While this isn't a subject that normally piques my interest, I did find it intriguing in the story line. 

A solid debut novel from Cynthia.  This isn't a book that will shock you with some crazy twist or throat punch you into a WHAT THE moment.  However, it does all come together at the end nicely and the author does keep you intrigued in the need to know.  Sometimes it takes a tragic event to muddle up the waters and move you from that stationary point in your life.

Thank you to Smith Publicity for this gorgeous copy.
Edward painted girls. Girls, in fact, were his discovery.
He found them, mostly in magazines, the filthier the better. They had to be white, so the light could shine through the skin, not just on it. His chosen ones, he cleaned up. Heads and shoulders—never bodies. Faces framed by billows of hair you could sink your face into, necks like warm, slender columns of marble, clavicles bowed like a bird’s wing, the hollows dark and secretive. With every passing week, his girls were inching closer and closer toward perfection—according to his particular definition of the term—frozen in that exquisite moment between the ages of fifteen and eighteen, when molecules and cells twine themselves into lustrous hair, clear pink nails, skin like butter and cream.
His girls, though idealized–his gallerist wielded the adjective like a bludgeon; Edward would have bet his nonexistent retirement savings the woman had never read Plato—were also heart-stoppingly close to real. Each eyelash a whip of three-dimensional beauty, skin textured to believability, inviting touch—he’d learned a thing or two from his days as a photorealist, his girls looked as though they might burst right off the canvas. But they were frozen there, in space and in time, in the moment he had captured, saving them from the inevitable slide—from perfection there was nowhere to go but down—into the prosaic, the everyday, decay and decrepitude.
And his girls represented a sacrifice. Up until two years ago, he’d had a good gallery in MidTown. But then he’d been doing something the art world recognized, derivative though it was. A well-known critic had even attended Edward’s MFA show—he now wrote for the The New Yorker; Edward kept a notebook of his reviews, penning dissenting comments, precisely and in red, in the margins. The man had hailed his work as a new twist in Photorealism—meat-packing district diner scenes, transvestites after they’d been clubbing all night. The later the better—the baggier the under-eye circles, the redder the zits and the scars beneath the makeup. His work had been lauded because of the outré subject matter (it was a cheap shot and he’d known exactly what he was doing when he’d taken it). Following the critic’s review, he’d begun to sell, at first only a trickle, it was true, but he’d been on his way, even a couple of musems had bought small pieces, and eventually he was living decently on the sale of his work, the leaner times supplemented with the steadiness of underpaid teaching.
But then had come the epiphany. One summer evening after an opening—not his, but an artist also represented by his gallery, they’d been a kind of fraternity back then, now they all avoided him—he’d followed a golden-haired girl through the park, the dying light on her skin wouldn’t let him do otherwise. Even though he’d lost her—and he’d had no idea what he’d have said even if he’d caught up to her—by the time he’d reached his studio, he’d known he couldn’t keep doing it.

No comments

Leave a Comment