Book review, excerpt, & giveaway: The Madonna of Notre Dame, by Alexis Ragougneau

The Madonna of Notre DameAlexis Ragougneau

on Tour September 12-21 with

The Madonna of Notre Dame

(thriller)
Release date: October 11, 2016
at New Vessel Press
ISBN: 978-1-939931-39-3 210 pages

Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Fifty thousand believers and photo-hungry tourists jam into Notre Dame Cathedral on August 15 to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. The next morning, a stunningly beautiful young woman clothed all in white kneels at prayer in a cathedral side chapel. But when an American tourist accidentally bumps against her, her body collapses. She has been murdered: the autopsy reveals disturbing details. Police investigators and priests search for the killer as they discover other truths about guilt and redemption in this soaring Paris refuge for the lost, the damned, and the saved. The suspect is a disturbed young man obsessed with the Virgin Mary who spends his days hallucinating in front of a Madonna. But someone else knows the true killer of the white-clad daughter of Algerian immigrants. This thrilling novel illuminates shadowy corners of the world’s most famous cathedral, shedding light on good and evil with suspense, compassion and wry humor.

EXCERPT

“Gérard, there’s a bomb alert. In the ambulatory. Serious stuff this time. Big.”

His shoulder wedged in the doorway, a huge bunch of keys hanging at the end of his arm, the guard watched the sacristan fuss around, open all the sacristy cupboards, and pull out rags, sponges, silverware polish, while muttering expletives of his own composition at regular intervals.

“Gérard, are you listening? You should take a look, really. Fifteen years on the job, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s enough to blow up the whole cathedral.”

Gérard interrupted his search and finally appeared to take an interest in the guard. The latter had just hung the keys on a single nail stuck in the sacristy paneling.

“Later on, if you like, I’ll go see. Is that all right? Are you happy?”

“What’s going on today, Gérard? Haven’t you got time for important things anymore?”

“Look, you’re starting to really piss me off. Thirty years I’ve been working here and it’s the same thing every year: every August fifteenth they have to make a goddamn mess in the sacristy. And I can never find anything the next day. I have to spend two hours cleaning up. I don’t understand why it has to be so difficult. They arrive, they put on their vestments, they do their procession and their Mass next door, they come back, they take off their vestments, and see you next year … Why do they have to go rummaging in the cupboards?”

“Tell me, Gérard, what have you lost?”

“My gloves. My box of gloves for the silverware. If I don’t have them I wreck my hands with their shitty products.”

“You want me to help you look? I’ve got time—just finished opening up.”

“Don’t worry, here, found them. I don’t know why it’s so hard to put things back where they belong, I mean, Jesus H. Christ …”

The guard fumbled in his pocket, inserted coins into the slit of the coffee machine, and pushed a button. He signaled goodbye to the sacristan and then, a steaming cup in his hand, started to walk back to the interior of the cathedral. Gérard caught up with him in the corridor.

“So tell me about your bomb … Worth seeing?”

“The works, I promise: the ticktock, the time switch, and the sticks of dynamite.”

“OK, I’ll go see later, before the nine o’clock Mass. Might still be there. Where’s your explosive device again?”

“In the ambulatory, outside the chapel of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. You’ll see—impossible to miss.”

MY REVIEW

It was a slow start for me, but this book was worth my patience. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any thrillers, and my last ones were books from translator/publisher Le French Book. (Their stable of authors includes Frederique Molay, Bernard Besson, David Khara, etc.) Once this book got going, I really couldn’t put it down. The first suspect seemed too easy, but I couldn’t identify another, and that questioning kept me reading. I like thrillers and mysteries where I can’t easily identify the killer(s).

What intrigued me the most, beyond the external plot, were the details involved in the running of Notre Dame, and of the ‘inside look’ at what it might take to organize and secure such a large and popular tourist destination. Locks, cleaning, security, filming, masses,… it all seemed to be there. I’d love to read a book solely on this background information.

Definitely an excellent read. I look forward to seeing what M. Ragougneau writes next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexis Ragougneau

Alexis Ragougneau
is a playwright and
The Madonna of Notre Dame is his first novel.
He has worked in Notre Dame Cathedral
helping monitor tourist crowds
and knows well its infinite secrets
and the forgotten souls who linger in its darkest corners.

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Buy the book: on Amazon

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[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to US residents:
1 winner will receive a copy of this book

 

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Book review & giveaway: Time and Regret, by M.K. Tod

Time And RegretM. K. Tod
on Tour September 1-10 with

Time and Regret

(historical mystery)

Release date: August 16, 2016
on Amazon

ISBN: 978-1503938403
366 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

Through her grandfather’s vivid writing and Grace’s own travels, a picture emerges of a man very unlike the one who raised her: one who watched countless friends and loved ones die horrifically in battle; one who lived a life of regret. But her grandfather wasn’t the only one harboring secrets, and the more Grace learns about her family, the less she thinks she can trust them.

MY REVIEW

After a somewhat slow start, Time and Regret quickly became intriguing. Martin’s diaries gave way to sections set during the Great War, and I was fascinated. His words weren’t the lengthy sort of diary one usually gets in books like this, but brief, blunt observations that set the stage. Then, to have Grace trying to find clues… I couldn’t stop reading. Things built, and the ending wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. In a good way.

I especially appreciated that Grace was not a 20-something year old, but a woman of an older age, with more experience, and having gone through a divorce. She was a more interesting character for it, and her friendship and relationship with Pierre felt very natural, and not overdone.

It was also refreshing to have a novel partly set in 1991. It’s two historical periods in one novel, and it took me a few minutes to reset my brain to ‘not present time’ when reading about the more modern era. I had to remind myself that 1991 was pre-cellphone, internet, etc. (I am more than old enough to remember it, but still…)

And finally, the art world connection was a real treat. Museums and (*mumble mumble spoilers*). Definitely a book to pick up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Time And Regret MK Tod

Time and Regret is M.K. Tod’s third novel.
She began writing in 2005
while living as an expat in Hong Kong.
What started as an interest in her grandparents’ lives
turned into a full-time occupation writing historical fiction.
Her novel Unravelled was awarded Indie Editor’s Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
In addition to writing historical novels,
she blogs about reading and writing historical fiction at http://www.awriterofhistory.com,
reviews books for the Historical Novel Society
and the Washington Independent Review of Books,
and has conducted three highly respected reader surveys.
She lives in Toronto, Canada,
with her husband and is the mother of two adult children.

Please visit her website and her blog A Writer of History
Subscribe to her mailing list
or contact her at mktod [at] bell [dot] net

Follow her on Facebook and Twitter
on Goodreads and Pinterest

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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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

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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

***

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.

***

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Follow Julie Christine Johnson on Twitter | on Facebook
Sign up to receive her Newsletter.

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

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for more chances to win

Visit each blogger on the tour:
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