Cover Image: A Face without a Heart

A Face without a Heart

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Although entertaining, this novel doesn't reimagine much the Dorian Gray story. It's basically the same story, with a drag queen that doesn't evolve throughout the novel, in a slightly futuristic setting. I was waiting for changes, a more explicit version, more LGBT+ content, because the original novel was very scandalous for its time, but today it's very light, and the same thing happened here, in addition to Gary (Dorian) being more heterosexual than LGBT+. It focuses more on drugs than anything else, but without elaborating on the topic beyond "Drugs are bad" and "he's just exploring."
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An incredibly modern and diverse retelling of the famous classic. This book offers three amazing characters and the author gave them many dimensions, loud vioices and messages to permit that felt true, as much as Reed's style and story is dangerously winning and touching.
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*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book.*

This is a modern day retelling of Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" with Liam as an artist taking pictures of his muse and modelling them into holograms. The hologram of Gary Adrion (see the pun?) is his masterpiece and he falls in love with the ethereal beauty of young Gary. But Gary soon makes wrong decisions and as his actions become more cruel, violent, and terrible, he remains young and beautiful.

As retellings go, this was super predictable, but this one didn't take me in, emotionally. I thought many things were quite ridiculous (SUCH A LONG PENIS!), especially that graphic sex scenes are supposedly super shocking and how the wickedness of Gary, but it felt more like a caricature. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see what the modern setting would do to the story: surprisingly, not a lot. The alcohol, the drugs, the sex and the artist's helpless infatuation are the same. Yes, it was dirtier and more graphic, but it didn't make it much more shocking. Also trigger warnings galore: violence, abuse, rape, sexual assault,...

2,5-3 Stars
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I rated this a 3 because it was well-written, etc. but it was more of a 2 or 2.5 for me. There were a lot of POVs. I kind of get why they were necessary in the end, but it was overwhelming at the beginning. Zoe's POV especially was a bit... much. Like I get why it was that way but I didn't really get her. Even if she didn't care about the dancing anymore, why would she purposely dance badly? Especially if she knew people were coming to see. Like I get that she didn't care anymore but it seemed more like she was going out of her way to fuck things up for some reason I couldn't understand. Then Gary's reaction seemed ridiculous. The entire thing felt more like reading a screenplay than a book, to be honest. Like it was leaving room for the actor's to find their own version of the characters and bring them to life, but without actors they were flat.
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In a face without a heart, Liam is an artist who is fascinated by bizarre things and one day he creates a three-dimensional hologram of Gary a young man whose beauty mesmerizes those who see him. For those who do not know the original story, the painting, or in this case the hologram will continue to age while Dorian or in this case Gary remains eternally young. The painting represents the soul of Gary and in the novel, we see the dilemma that the protagonist faces when taking a side between good and evil.
I honestly always liked the portrait of Dorian Gray and I loved the way the author represented this classic book.
4 stars to me
thanks to NetGalley and Ninestar Press for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
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The synopsis for this book sounded amazing, it ticked a lot of the boxes for me from the community of people it revolves around to the fact that it's a re-telling of a beloved classic, but for whatever reason I couldn't connect with it the way that I had hoped I would. I wanted to love it, but the best I found it to be was 'readable' and 'okay'. I wish I could have walked away loving each and every one of the characters, but the best I can say about them is that they're likeable enough, tolerable at best, and I find that to be a real shame. I don't know if it was the book itself or me, but I was never able to fully connect with it, and every time I got into the book, I was thrown out again by the various narrative and tense changes, the skipping of huge chunks of time with no real explanation as to what happened between, etc. On paper, this should have been one of the books that I usually connect with and fall in love with, but in practice I struggled to finish reading it from start to finish and felt disappointed with the gaps never filled in from previous branches of the plotline. 

However, the plot in general is complete, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, all the highly significant plot points are woven throughout and wrapped up by the end, and for what it is it's all there. It's possible I expected too much of it as a re-telling of such a huge book, or because I expect more of the books that I usually do read, but whatever the reason, unfortunately, the completeness of the story alone wasn't enough for me personally to connect with it in such a way that made me love it rather than merely liking it. Hopefully others will be able to get into and take away from it far more than I managed to, because it is a good book beyond the problems that I struggled with throughout it.
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In Rick R. Reed's Face without a Heart, he does his take on Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.  For Reed it seems more of a challenge to take on and is relevant to the live the fast lane culture that youth sometimes decide to take on.  

Reed's story moves at a fast pace to keep my interest.  The major problem I had was most particularly in the beginning in how it is written.  Gary Adrion, an anagram for Dorian Gray, talks about how he falls in love, and the next time he narrates he talks about how he fell out of love.  

To me it was too sudden.  Gary doesn't talk about how he falls in love or a narrative leading up to it.  He is just suddenly in love at first sight and of course she's in love with him. The break up also happens so quickly, which at this point in the book, both characters are annoying.

Gary overall is definitely a character to find annoying and it was intentional.  It was the other characters that i felt empathy and aggravation with.  In real life, i don't feel they would hang on to their friendship with him considering how selfish Gary is.  

Overall, I enjoyed Face without a Heart.  Brutally honest and at times gruesome.  A modern day retelling that is fun to read and goes places the original couldn't go to, due to the times.  Rick R. Reed is someone I look forward to reading some of his original works.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Ninestar Press for providing a copy for review.

This was so different from what I was expecting. I really liked the characters. Gary had a crazy character arc, Liam was interesting, and Henrietta was a riot. This book starts with a punch to the gut, and a slight mystery. There is quite a bit of insta-lust going on. Gary is basically walking perfection. He just seems to naturally draw attraction. Liam is a photographer, with a penchant for younger men. Henrietta is a brash, fairly cynical drag queen who keeps the other two in check as best she can. There was a lot more LGBTQ rep than I was expecting and I loved it! It was also a pretty heavy and dark story. For a retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray, this was not expected. It deals really well with what happens if you sell your soul for youth and beauty. It also deals with AIDS and the heavy party scene. There is A LOT of partying happening. The second half of the book was definitely darker than the first. The second watches Gary's descent into turmoil while he realizes that he's not aging and life had essentially lost meaning. I just really enjoyed this one.
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This book shows how excess of anything can be tremendously dangerous. I don't know why its blurb gives away everything but maybe it is because it is the retelling. Lust, love, greed, jealousy, drug addiction and every other emotion is  portrayed to its best extent.  I like the character of Henrietta, a drag queen, who is one  the main character of this book. Tbh, I had not read any book having drag queen as a character! And I really enjoyed reading Henrietta's philosophy and twisted opinion towards world. 
One point of disappointment is that this book has been narrated from the perspective of almost all characters in the story. Though it is good to understand every character's thought process, yet it can get really tiring sometimes. 
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and definitely recommend to you all.
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I have to admit that I did not really connect with this story as much as I would have liked to. I felt like the myriad of points of views that were used to continue the stories were unnecessary while I was in the thick of the story, but now realize that they were necessary to bring about the climax. I did not like Zoe's point of view much, felt like it was much too child like, which I imagine was kind of a way to show Gary's innocence dying off with her suicide. But it made it really hard to connect with her the way she was characterized and the way she was shown in the story to really make her death impactful to the reader. I wished more had been done to really flesh out Liam's character so that, by the time his death came, the reader felt more impacted by his death or maybe came to feel much like Gary did when he killed him: annoyed. There was much that his novel left wanting in me, to be completely honest. But above all I wasn't too sure about the way Reed treated Henrietta. I am not trans, nor am I a drag queen so I can't speak about it with complete certainty that it wasn't right, but I just know that it didn't sit well. I hope more people from that community reads this and really opens up about that representation.
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Gary, raised by an aloof grandfather in a rich family, has never wanted for money or beauty, only for love. Liam, a photographer who creates holograms, sees Gary on the train one day and, astonished by his beauty, requests to make a hologram of him. Gary agrees and Liam creates a masterpiece which highlights both his artistic skill and his awe for the other man. Liam's best friend, the cynical drag queen Lady Henrietta, believes this awe to be only a passing fancy but quickly becomes Gary's best friend as well, encouraging him in some of the more hedonistic parts of life. After tragedy strikes, it becomes apparent to Gary that his hologram ages while he does not. At first this is a blessing, allowing Gary to partake in any number of pleasures without worry for the consequences. But as his friends age without him and his life continues with little purpose, he realizes that maybe beauty and decadence aren't all they're made out to be.

Content warnings: graphic sex, drug use, suicide, rape, murder, victim blaming

This novel is a modern retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray, a classic which I unfortunately have yet to read. So this review will not be analyzing A Face without a Heart in comparison to the original story, but instead relaying my experience of reading it as a independent novel. Still, I began this book with expectations for it to be an examination of youth, hedonism, and depravity which makes more explicit the homoeroticism of Dorian Gray that I have heard so much about. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

Prose usually isn't a huge deal to me. I've read prose that others find over dramatic (Nevernight) or overly descriptive (Wheel of Time) and though I can acknowledge the flaws, I usually get past them fairly easily. However, the prose in this novel did bother me. It wasn't necessarily awful, but it was lacking in nuance. I'm not one for flowery writing, but the writing here was so straight-forward that I found it unpleasant to read sometimes. There seemed to be a good deal of telling, rather than showing. Something I am a bit more picky about is dialogue, which felt unnatural to me throughout most of this novel. If nothing else, the plainness of the righting made it quick and easy, though not necessarily enjoyable, to read.

Yet, the biggest issue for me was the characters. Ignoring the fact that "Dorian" was named Gary of all things, I simply didn't connect with him, Liam, or Lady Henrietta. I realize that these characters weren't supposed to be likeable (except perhaps Liam who I think I would have liked if we had seen more of him). I can appreciate unlikable characters who are bad people so long as they're still good, well-developed characters. In this case, however, they felt one-dimensional and unrealistic. Henrietta, in particular, seemed like a conglomeration of stereotypes whose defining features were being excessively outspoken and pessimistic.

At around 250 pages long, this novel is much shorter than most others I read. On the one hand, this was good for me because if it wasn't so short, I probably would have stopped reading about halfway through, and the book does get much better in the second half. On the other hand, I think the quick pace of the novel is part of what contributed to its unbelievability for me. I know that an in depth narration of Gary's entire adult life isn't possible, but I think I would have been much more convinced by his character development, such as it was, if it occurred more gradually and we got more insight into his inner dialogue. There were even a couple of critical scenes that we only heard about in retrospect as he talked about them with Henrietta, which is a decision I didn't understand at all.

In the end, I'm most disappointed because I didn't find much of a point or takeaway from book unless it was "don't do too many drugs" or "don't promise to marry someone you've only just met." Of course, not every book has to have a meaningful takeaway, but I was expecting that this one would since it is a retelling of a well known, philosophical classic. I think the message was perhaps supposed to be that hedonism doesn't make for a satisfying or happy life, but the depravity in this book was almost too extreme for that to be a convincing conclusion. (I could easily argue that one could live hedonistically, pursuing the pleasures of life, without complete disregard for their own well-being or that of others and thus might have a better life than Gary did.) Having never read The Picture of Dorian Gray, I can't say whether it shares this downfall with A Face without a Heart or not.

Finally, I feel I have to mention that if you're looking for a retelling of Dorian Gray with a greater focus on homo/bisexuality, this isn't it. Not that it really claims to be, but I think some people will come in with that misunderstanding. There is no M/M romantic relationship, and though Gary has sex with other men, I (as someone who is bi) don't think you could label him as bisexual; he only does so when he's too drugged up to care and even then doesn't seem to receive any pleasure from it.

Despite my lack of enjoyment of A Face without a Heart, I am giving it two stars rather than one because it's not truly a bad book. I can see how many people who didn't have the same issues I did with the prose and pace might like it, and I did find myself slightly more invested in the second half of the book even if it was too little, too late for me.

A Face without a Heart was published June 1st, 2020. If you're interested, you can find it on Goodreads and Amazon.

Many thanks to NineStar Press and Netgalley for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I haven't read a lot of horror/thriller work before, but this one had me enamoured from the prologue. I found reading of Gary's slow decline into corruption intriguing, and I was grateful that none of his actions were glamorised or portrayed as less corrupt/harsh as they are. Gary is as he is written to be- an unlikable character who at first begins as naive, but steadily becomes more disturbing the more you read on. I enjoyed the multiple POV, as this allowed me to connect a little more with the various side characters instead of focusing solely on Gary, allowing for a more enjoyable experience. That being said, I do wish that the characters had been fleshed out a little more, as at times (especially in the first half) it felt like the characters only had one or two personality traits, and so I struggled actually imagining them as real people, which made me feel less for the actions they took. Regardless, Reed's writing stood out to me, as personally it drew me in from page 1, and I really enjoyed his use of language. There were a few lines in the first few chapters which struck me as odd and took me out of the story, as I wasn't sure of their purpose (whether they were giving us an insight on that specific characters' personality or not) however they didn't have a major impact on the overall experience, and by the end of the book I was feeling positively unsettled, which I think for a book in the horror/thriller genre is a job well done.
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First of all, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. 

TW: graphic sex, drug use, murder

This was a brilliant and graphic modern retelling of the Dorian Gray story we all know. Where Oscar Wilde held back and edited himself, Rick went for it and for the most part it totally hit the mark for me. 

I love how this version told the story from multiple viewpoints and gave us a glimpse into the thoughts and perspectives of the secondary characters. This is a format that I love in books when done right. It's very easy to get wrong if you have too many people telling the story but I think really nailed it here. I didn't feel like it switched too much and I didn't feel like there were too many people, considering for the most part it was only 3 people the majority of the time. 

One thing that's more of a personal preference in the stories I read is that I usually avoid erotica books, it's not typically my thing. However I feel like in this book it was done well. Especially when it showed Gary revel and descend into debauchery.

The only complaint I really have with this book is that towards the end it got a bit verbose. Perhaps this is because I knew where the story was going but it felt drawn out for me when the rest of the book had a steady pace. 

That's really the only negative thing I can say about this book. Rick has done a very good job with this retelling and this is a book I would be proud to add to my collection and recommend to anyone who can stomach the graphic content.
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I love supporting queer horror and I thought the theming surrounding Dorian Gray was very clever, but I just could not get into this one. The beginning was amazing, but I am not enough of a romance reader to be patient enough to be horror. I have decided to DNF it. I do not publically rate or review books I don't finish.
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Firstly I'd like to thank the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with this book in exchange of an honest review.

A Warning; the book contains graphic sex, drug use and lots of other immoral topics. Take that into consideration before reading. 

It's been a long time since I've read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Grey, and I have always been fascinated by the story. It's been something that stuck with me, whilst I didn't adore the original I did enjoy the story and the commentary it has on corruption. 

I found getting into this story, for me at least, took a bit of work. It was unexpected to come across multiple POV's as I thought we would hear the slow decline of our Dorian (named Gary - which I hated but that's beside the point) purely from his point of view. I really didn't like it, and found that I couldn't connect to the story because of this in the early chapters. I felt that all the different characters felt written the same and were indecipherable, at least at the beginning. Later on in the book it changes and each character develops a distinct voice and it improves the flow of the story. 

The focus of the story is Gary, his innocence and decline into corruption when given the opportunity to get away with things he otherwise wouldn't have because of his immortal beauty. I really enjoyed how the 'portrait' of Gary was now digital/holographic. I appreciated how none of his actions were glamorised. He was an unlikable and disturbing character and the author had no qualms about showing this. My favourite character was Henrietta, I loved her charm, poise and presence and felt that the story would not be the same without her. 

I did feel however that the story both felt too long and too short all at once. I felt there was at times a lot going on without much flesh to it. The relationship he has at the beginning of this book being a prime example, instalove to instahate almost immediately. It felt flippant and annoying, but I suppose it does lend itself to the man he becomes and the start of his downfall. 

Overall it was an enjoyable story, I am still fascinated by the plot and idea of it and think this version would make a much more enjoyable movie than the original. I loved the creepiness and it was definitely a book that had me feeling actually disgusted with the main character and making remarks about him out loud. 

3.5 stars
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This book provided me with the opportunity to try to read the original work by Oscar Wilde so I could fully appreciate both works and their creators.

'A Face Without A Heart' is a modern retelling of 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' that follows a more modern setting with Drag Queens and a more heavily set LGBT+ themes. 

It commences with a holographic maker rather than painter, Liam, who spots the gorgeous Gary Adrion (Love the anagram by the way) and asks the beautiful young man to be a model for him. Liam goes as far as to follow the man off the train the two were riding together in the hopes of getting the man's attention and permission for his project.

From there the story is continued on like Wilde's original classic with a more modern tone and setting and the language much easier to comprehend. I would definitely recommend this book to those who love The Picture of Dorian Gray or even those who struggled to get into the classic. As it possesses writing that is beautiful but more manageable to read, it may help one fully understand the story in Reed's new light of how a man's soul acts as a bargaining chip between him, the hologram and the life he is.

Dark and sinister, this book play's on the darker side of the human mind and revels in the dark details of Gary's new world.

Just a slight notice that there are graphic scenes of drug use, suicide, and sexual content within this book so please be aware of these when you are reading.
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A Face Without a Heart is a fantastic take on all of the amazing themes from Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. The great thinks discussed in Wilde's novel like the human soul, but more importantly, the sins that corrupt a human being are brought to light in this modern version. We discuss in the modern day society what is a sin in a society that is supposed to be more advanced and less judgemental than it was in the Victorian era. The book also covers the topic of corruption of innocence and to the human soul. With characters in the LGBT community that would have been a scandal in Oscar Wilde's days. A great way to bring back a classic and really immersed the vital parts of it into a phenomenal discussion into today's world.
Trigger Warnings: Use of drugs, suicide and alcoholism (which if you have read The Picture of Dorian Gray are a given)
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To live life without a moral compass or conscience: chilling!😈

What a horror story for our times when the search for physical perfection dominates the culture!  The author really gave me chills as he described one man's descent into ever more depravity and a friend who seems intent on egging him on.  

Young Gary Adrion somehow bargains his way to maintain his peak 20 year old physical perfection but the deal leaves him free to live a life without consequence.  His 17 year descent into a murky world of excess where he indulges himself constantly and hurts others indiscriminately was compelling, but I did find the end result depressing.  

Still, I love the wide variety of Rick R.  Reed's work, particularly his romances and his novels with an element of magic or fantasy.  This is not my favorite of the dozen or so of his books I've read but I did find it a pageturner.  A gritty drug and party culture features prominently and Reed includes some pretty violent scenes that showcase the lengths to which this remorseless anti-hero will go.

I've never read the horror classic upon which Reed's story is based, maybe to the good so I could evaluate it on its own merits and not as a comparison to the original.  I've read several of the author's works that describe the seedier side of 🌃Chicago's nightlife and, like those, this is a cautionary tale.  Beware the consequences of getting what you impulsively wish for!😲,

Thanks to publisher NineStar Press and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of the book;  this is my voluntary and honest review and the opinions expressed are my own.
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I've always been fascinated by Oscar Wilde's story about Dorian Gray. I think it is an absolute must read for those that enjoy classics. So, when I saw that A Face Without a Heart is labeled as a modern day retelling of it, I knew I had to read it. 

The book follows Gary Adrion (very clever), who is basically a 21 year old trust fund kid. He has been extremely spoiled with material things his entire life, yet he lacked any emotional guidance. After being spotted by Liam; who is not a painter, but rather makes holograms of people; he agrees to model for him. If you are familiar with The Picture of Dorian Gray, you can probably guess where this story is headed. 

Let me say this is a interesting and well done book. Each character in the story gets their own chapters, and they are all told from their point of view. I think the characters are all well done, if not very likable. I don't think I connected with a single person in this book. They all have their own problems, and mostly don't know how to handle them. 

A Face without a Heart is definitely a dark and gritty read. The sex scenes are told as a matter of fact and in explicit detail. It isn't for the faint of heart. Suicide and drugs also play a big role in it. Just as a fair warning to potential readers. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

Thanks to Netgalley and Ninestar Press for the review copy.
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Rick R. Reed has undertaken a big task in re-telling “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and I have a mixed response to it.

It’s pretty clear in “A Face Without a Name” who the characters are. Gary Adrion is an anagram for Dorian Gray, Henrietta is Henry but as a drag queen… etc. Reed’s version of this story is in a contemporary setting. In some ways that makes the story more gritty and visceral. It’s much less subtle than the original story was and I think that both ways work when it comes down to it.

Liam is an artist who creates holograms of people. When he sees Gary he knows that he wants to relate a hologram of him in spite of the fact that he immediately feels as though Gary is a threat. The hologram is created… and Gary says that he would “sell his soul to the devil” to stay as beautiful as the way Liam has depicted him. Thus begins the supernatural connection between Gary and the portrait.

Reed’s story focuses on the downward spiral of Gary Adrion’s life. Once he learns that the hologram takes on the aging that his physical being would normally do, Gary hides it away. At the same time as he is bothered by the connection, he is aware enough that he doesn’t want anyone to know about it.

The main theme of the story is that a focus on pleasure and hedonistic behavior as the dark side of human nature. The more that Gary does that is cruel, dark, evil, the older, and more disgusting the hologram becomes. As a fan of the original story, I found Reed’s to be much more literal. There’s a finesse in Oscar Wilde’s version that makes Dorian still likable in a way… even as he spirals out of control. I found Gary to be unliveable. He was at best, naïve and at worst he was a complete monster. It was a bit too black and white for me.

I would say that none of Reed’s characters in this story are likable.. that makes this a hard read if you like to connect with characters.

If you haven’t read the original and like very dark literature, this may be the book for you. If you’re interested in comparing them, Reed is certainly a great writer. I’ve been a fan of quite a few of his books. I wouldn’t say this book was a “favorite” but I can see the great writing and appreciate the attempt to retell and modernize a great story.
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