Book review: Finding Fontainbleau, by Thad Carhart

Finding Fontainbleau, by Thad Carhart

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (May 17, 2016)

FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU recounts the adventures of Carhart and his family—his NATO officer father, his mother, four siblings, and their dog—in the provincial town of Fontainebleau, France, in the 1950s. Dominating life in the town is the beautiful Château of Fontainebleau. Begun in 1137, fifty years before the Louvre and more than five hundred before Versailles, the Château was a home for Marie-Antoinette, François I, and the two Napoleons, among others, all of whom added to its splendors without appreciably destroying the work of their predecessors.

With characteristic warmth and humor, Carhart takes readers along as he and his family experience the pleasures and particularities of French life: learning the codes and rules of a French classroom where wine bottles dispense ink, camping in Italy and Spain, tasting fresh baguettes. Readers see post-war life in France as never before, from the parks and museums of Paris (much less crowded in the 1950s, when you could walk through completely empty galleries in the Louvre) to the quieter joys of a town like Fontainebleau, where everyday citizens have lived on the edges of history since the 12thcentury and continue to care for their lieux de mémoire—places of memory.

Intertwined with stories of France’s post-war recovery are profiles of the monarchs who resided at Fontainebleau throughout the centuries and left their architectural stamp on the palace and its sizeable grounds. Carhart finds himself drawn back as an adult, eager to rediscover the town of his childhood. FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU imagines a bright future for this important site of French cultural heritage, as Carhart introduces us to the remarkable group of architects, restorers, and curators who care for and refashion the Château’s hundreds of rooms for a new generation of visitors. Guided by Patrick Ponsot, head of the Château’s restoration programs, the author takes us behind the scenes and shows us a side of the Château that tourists never see.

MY REVIEW

This book was the perfect mixture of memoir and history text, and it took me little time at all to read it through. When I got to the end, I wished it was longer, so that I could spend more time there, and learn more of the history. But most of all, I was delighted to learn about the everyday French life of the time. Most amusing were the surprising contortions of the parents of his schoolmates when students were expected to have a glass of milk daily, and for reasons political, all his French schoolmates produced doctor’s letters stating that they were not to have any milk. But Thad, being unknowing, drinks his milk without complaint. At least, until he realizes what’s happened, and his parents somehow have to get him a letter also. That was one of the quirkiest bits in the book, I found. Other little details surprised me, such as the taking of inventory, and that a house that had fixtures (stove, toilets, some furniture, etc.) was considered fully furnished, and that there were houses with nearly nothing that would be considered unfurnished. Far different from my rental experiences here in Canada, where an unfurnished apartment is still expected to come provided with a stove, fridge, a proper bathroom, and quite possibly window coverings.

And the history… oh the history. I really wanted to be there in Fontainbleau, seeing the old theatre as it was, wandering in under the eaves, seeing the workshops for the workers, and watching the restoration. I have been to Versailles, and found it immense (and tourist-filled, uncomfortably so), but Fontainbleau sounds much more intimate by comparison. I have not yet been there, but I know that it will be on my list of places to visit when I next travel to Europe. I will not miss it. And I thank Mr Carhart for introducing me to its fascinating history.

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Unknown-1About Thad Carhart

Twenty-six years ago THAD CARHART moved to Paris with his wife and two infant children. He lives there now, with frequent visits to New York and Northern California. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published by Random House. Across the Endless River, a historical novel, came out in 2009 with Doubleday.

Connect with Thad

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Thad Carhart’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Paris Runaway, by Paulita Kincer

Paulita Kincer

on Tour July 18-27
with

Paris Runaway cover

Paris RunAway

(women’s fiction)

Release date: June 30, 2016
at Lulu.com

ISBN: 978-1-365-18923-4
220 pages

Author’s page
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens before they can stumble into more trouble. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

REVIEW

This book was a refreshing read, especially because the heroine was not an early-20s woman, but one of middle age, with teenage kids and a ‘normal’ life. That is, hectic and messy and full of the little details that a lot of books gloss over. I connected with her immediately, and could feel her frustration and anger and worry all at once.

And when the action moved to Paris, I was delighted to be ‘visiting’ one of my favourite cities once more. I could absolutely envision the car chase through the huge traffic circle at the Arc de Triomphe, and wandering down avenues, and experiencing Paris for the first time.

Now that I’ve read The Paris Runaway, I think I’m going to need to go read all of Ms Kincer’s other books!

EXCERPT

I’d been distracted by my class of first graders, my fingertips dripping with paint, as one boy pulled on the hem of my dress and a strange man in shiny shoes walked into the classroom. He said, “I’m lookin’ for Sadie Harrison Ford.”

“That’s me,” I said, my brows scrunching together at the bridge of my nose. No one called me by my maiden name and married name. I was fine as Sadie Harrison or Sadie Ford, but combine the two names, and I became a Star Wars joke waiting to happen.

“Got some papers for you,” the man said as he moved a piece of chewing gum to the side of his mouth.

“Well, I obviously have my hands full right now,” I told the man, irritated that the office had let him come down to my classroom. “Just put them on my desk.” I jerked my head toward the oversized wooden desk that had piles of papers on one side, a stack of wavy artwork on the other side, but a nice empty section in the middle where an envelope would not go astray.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that Mrs. Harrison Ford,” he said as he approached me holding out the envelope.

“Just a minute, Josiah,” I told the boy pulling on the hem of my dress.

“Miranda,” I called to a little girl nearby, “take that envelope and put it on my desk please.”

She obediently stood and approached the man with her hand out.

“I’m afraid no one but you can take this envelope.” The man stretched the envelope higher as if Miranda would try to jump up and snatch it.

“Oh, fine.” I reached out to grab the envelope with blue, red and purple fingers then moved to toss it onto my desk.

“Consider yourself served,” the man said.

I looked around for a camera as if I starred in a reality television show. “What do you mean?”

“Those are divorce papers from your husband.” The man threw the words over his shoulder as he walked toward the door.

And that’s how my official divorce papers got rainbow-colored fingerprints all over them as I tugged the stiff white papers from the envelope, and my face collapsed in a sudden rush of shame and tears. This couldn’t be happening to me. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paulita Kincer

Paulita Kincer
has an M.A. in journalism from American University.
She has traveled to France 11 times,
and still finds more to lure her back.
She currently teaches college English
and lives in Columbus, Ohio,
with her three children, two cats and one husband.
Visit her website www.paulitakincer.com and her blog at http://www.paulita-ponderings.blogspot.com
or follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer
Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer.
Email paulita@paulitakincer.com

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway:
2 winners, choice of print or digital copy of this book.

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I’m guest blogging at Canadian Lesfic!

Today over at the Canadian Lesfic site, I’m blogging about writing local, the how and why I like to set some of my stories in the Great White North of Canada.

http://canadianlesfic.com/writing-local-by-alyssa-linn-palmer/

When I first started writing fiction seriously, I hardly even considered setting a book in Calgary. Why Calgary when there were so many more fascinating places? Calgary felt dull; it had the wear of the familiar, the everyday. It was the place where I’d grown up, gone to school, and worked. But yet, for this story, nowhere else seemed to work nearly as well. As much as I love the cosmopolitan feel of a city like Paris, or San Francisco, or New York, this story felt like it needed to be home.

Bold Strokes Flash Sale! 20% off Goldie Award finalist Midnight at the Orpheus!

My latest book, Midnight at the Orpheus, is a finalist in Historical Fiction at the Goldie Awards! To celebrate, my publisher (Bold Strokes Books) has put all the finalists (and there are many, many excellent books) on sale for 24hrs only!

Go get 20% off!

MidnightAtTheOrpheusChicago, the Roaring Twenties.

Cecilia Mills is new to town and struggling to survive. Her world is turned upside down when she falls for gangster Franky Greco’s moll Nell Prescott. Working at The Orpheus dance hall thanks to Nell, she becomes known as CeeCee and rubs elbows with gangsters and the city’s elite, and she and Nell hide their affair from Greco.

Patrick Sheridan is fresh out of prison, bent on revenge, with Greco in the crosshairs. He gets a job as CeeCee’s bodyguard, and despite her infatuation with Nell, love blossoms between CeeCee and Sheridan. When Sheridan sees his chance, thanks to a disillusioned cop seeking his own revenge, he must choose where his loyalties lie as CeeCee and Nell are caught in the middle.

You’re losing an hour, but here’s a great read for when the time’s short… and it’s on sale!

BSB_The_Artists_MuseBold Strokes Books is having a promo for Daylight Saving Time, and my novella The Artist’s Muse is a part of it. Thru Sunday evening, select novellas are now only $1.99, a huge savings!

Broke and desperate after her girlfriend leaves her for a man, Colette finds a job as an artist’s model. When she arrives for an interview, she’s surprised to meet a striking young woman, Lise Beauclerc. Her relief at not having to pose for a man turns to infatuation as she observes Lise during their sessions, creating fantasies in her mind during the hours she poses.

Colette has no idea if Lise would return her affections, and when she finally gets up the courage to ask her out, their connection is more than she’d ever hoped for. However, a few days later, Lise introduces her to Marcel, her former fiancé. They seem intimately involved, and Colette is devastated. Will her dreams of Lise be unrequited?

 

Book Review, Giveaway AND Guest Post: In Another Life, by Julie Christine Johnson

In Another LifeJulie Christine Johnson

on Tour March 1-10 with

In Another Life

(Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction/
Fantasy/Romance)
Release date: February 2, 2016
at Sourcebooks
368 pages
ISBN: 978-2954168197
Website | Goodreads

Read the GUEST POST here.

SYNOPSIS

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life–and about her husband’s death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think. Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of the Languedoc region, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

MY REVIEW

This book kept me absolutely intrigued all the way through, wondering at what was real and what was not, and what was going to happen. I read a lot of books, and this one was fascinating. There’s something about the combination of historical fiction, with the touch of the supernatural, that I really enjoy. Rather like the classic Anya Seton novel “Green Darkness” (which also involves a sort of ‘time travel’ in history, and past lives).

Lia’s grief was very well portrayed, and I felt bad for her, and already from the first paragraphs, wanting for things to go well. Of course, they don’t, and the ensuing tangles kept me reading late into the night, wanting to know what happened next.

I’m trying to think of what I could say about the book without giving too much away. The history goes back to Templar times, so it’s quite a range, and I learned a lot about history as well as being entertained by the book. I think readers of books like Outlander, and the aforementioned Green Darkness, would really like this one. I’m already planning to recommend it to several people.

Don’t forget to read the author’s guest post, here, and to scroll down to enter the giveaway (below).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In Another Life- Julie Christine Johnson

Photo by Al Bergstein

 

Julie Christine Johnson
is the author of the novels In Another Life
(February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark)
and The Crows of Beara (September 2017, Ashland Creek Press).
Her short stories and essays have appeared in several journals,
including Emerge Literary Journal, Mud Season Review;
Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim;
Cobalt, the anthologies Stories for Sendai;
Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers;
and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss
and featured on the flash fiction podcast, No Extra Words.
She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology
and a Masterís in International Affairs.
A runner, hiker, and wine geek,
Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state
with her husband.
In Another Life is her first novel.

***

Visit Julieís website and blog
Follow Julie Christine Johnson on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive her Newsletter.

***

Global giveaway open to US residents only:
5 participants will each win a print copy of this book.

Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
for more chances to win

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

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Guest Post: Divine Sparks, by Julie Christine Johnson, author of “In Another Life”

In Another LifeJulie Christine Johnson

on Tour March 1-10 with

In Another Life

(Historical Fiction/Contemporary Women’s Fiction/
Fantasy/Romance)
Release date: February 2, 2016
at Sourcebooks
368 pages
ISBN: 978-2954168197
Website | Goodreads

Divine Sparks
By
Julie Christine Johnson

“Certain bodies… become luminous when heated. Their luminosity disappears after some time, but the capacity of becoming luminous afresh through heat is restored to them by the action of a spark, and also by the action of radium.” ~ Marie Curie

I’d been warned by authors who’ve launched many a book before me that the muse would flee in the weeks and months leading up to and following the release of In Another Life; all my energy would be taken up by the demands of supporting my book virtually and in person. It would need to be nudged along, out of the nest, set free to soar on its own, but I’d need to remain close by, watching, guiding, occasionally letting the book draft behind my lead.

And to be sure, these past weeks have been filled with a busyness bordering on frantic. There’s a sense that no matter what I do, it, it isn’t enough. And then there is a novel I’m on deadline to revise. So I carefully apportion my time and energy, reminding myself to focus, to breathe, not to skip yoga or a hike or making dinner or folding the laundry—the meditative, restorative, ya-ya releasing activities that take me out of mental chaos into the sweet comfort of routine.

One of the unintended consequences of writing/talking about my book’s subject matter, its themes, the research, characters, setting and inspiration, is to be enthralled again by the Cathars, Languedoc, the tangle of history and geography, the wonder of an afterlife that weaves reincarnation with redemption with angels with good and evil and all the layers in-between.

And somewhere in those layers, my imagination, my writer’s soul, continues to work, digging in, excavating, uncovering ideas and holding them in her hand, like tiny embers just waiting for the breath of words to burst into the flame of a story.

In this time, when my attention and energy is as far from the blank page as it’s been since I committed to a writer’s life, a torrent of sparks has burst into the air.  A character has risen—a bit wobbly and unformed, a slip of clay that needs other elements to take solid form—but she is there, complex, a little feverish with her own possibility.

And then came a scribble on scrap paper, an opening line of humor for my upcoming author readings. I pulled my pen away and laughed for a different reason. I’d just released an idea that I may love. A story idea crazywonderfulsparklethisisnutsbutiloveityesyesyes 

The Cathars regarded stars as divine sparks—angels if you will—created by one fallen angel from the crown of another who had dominion over the waters of the earth. From half the crown, the Fallen Angel made the light of the moon and from the other half he created starlight.

Somehow, that starlight-moonlight illuminated the parts of me gone dark in this rushed and anxious and excited time. Though I can’t pull away just yet to follow the tendrils of light, I no longer fear the luminosity will fade. I hold the divine spark in my hands.

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Book Review, Giveaway, and Excerpt: Messandrierre, by Angela Wren

MessandrierreAngela Wren

on tour February 23-27 with

Messandrierre

(murder mystery/romance)
Release date: December 8, 2015
at Crooked Cat Publishing Ltd
119 pages
ISBN: 978-1910510759
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim? Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

MY REVIEW

I’ve had a bit of a thing for French  mystery novels (having indulged myself in the books put out by publisher Le French Book, for one), and this is another excellent French mystery, albeit less gory than Frederique Molay’s novels, for which I was thankful. It’s not every day that I want to read about violent, awful, vivid killings.

Forêt is an interesting fellow; he’s a former Paris cop now in a small town, and he seems to be still adjusting. He’s an occasional babysitter for a five-year-old boy who idolizes him, chasing up those who haven’t paid their car tax, and finding stolen bicycles. And then there’s the tourists that keep going missing, which no one seems to notice until a young man disappears and his friend insists that he wouldn’t have. He definitely was an engaging character, and I was intrigued by his previous history with Englishwoman Beth. I’m hoping there will be another book, so that I can find out more.

This book starts quietly, and you think that nothing bad at all could possibly happen in this small French town, where everyone seems to know everyone else. But as more and more evidence comes to light, it’s apparent that not all is what it seems, especially when it comes to the missing tourists.

I’m usually really awful at guessing who the villain(s) is(are), but this one was a little easier than most. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. :) But the book is definitely worth reading, even if it was fairly easy to figure out who (although not necessarily the why).

EXCERPT

it begins

I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual. My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they carried their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre. My innocent white coverlet allowing the earth around me to shift and settle unseen and become comfortable again.

september 2007

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Messandrierre Angela Wren

Angela Wren
Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, for about 5 years. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

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Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Google +

Connect with her on LinkedIn

Buy the book on Amazon or on Smashwords

***

Global giveaway open internationally:
5 participants will each win a copy of this book:
print or digital for Europe residents
digital otherwise

Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
for more chances to win

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

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