Book review, excerpt & giveaway: The 6:41 to Paris, by Jean-Philippe Blondel

641to_paris_digital-3-900x1200Jean-Philippe Blondel

on Tour January 25-29 with

The 6:41 to Paris

(fiction)
Release date: December 1, 2015
at New Vessel Press
153 pages
ISBN: 978-1939931269

Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Cecile, a stylish 47-year-old, has spent the weekend visiting her parents in a provincial town southeast of Paris. By early Monday morning, she’s exhausted. These trips back home are always stressful and she settles into a train compartment with an empty seat beside her. But it’s soon occupied by a man she instantly recognizes: Philippe Leduc, with whom she had a passionate affair that ended in her brutal humiliation 30 years ago. In the fraught hour and a half that ensues, their express train hurtles towards the French capital. Cécile and Philippe undertake their own face to face journey—In silence? What could they possibly say to one another?—with the reader gaining entrée to the most private of thoughts. This is a brilliant psychological thriller, a high-wire act of emotions on rails, about past romance, with all its pain and promise.

REVIEW

I’d heard many good things about this book, and I was eager to read it. At first, the switch in point of view confused me, before I realized that we get both Cecile and Philippe’s point of view (though they are not marked). Once I sorted that out, the book flowed smoothly, and I found it to be one I couldn’t put down.

The plot is quite reflective, as memories for both characters are triggered by the appearance of the other. Philippe is quite unhappy in life, at where he has ended up, and how he looks now (as compared to when he was a teenager). Cecile, on the other hand, is at the top of her game, though she too is not entirely satisfied with life. The book progresses with flashbacks for both characters, giving the reader their history, both together and apart, and you begin to feel like you know them, at least in this sliver of time.

I tended to sympathize more with Cecile, as she was wronged by Philippe thirty years ago, but I sympathize with both of them because neither have really gotten over what happened. The book also made me think of my own missteps as a teenager, and how everyone, when growing up, makes mistakes, and hurts others.

This book is thought-provoking, reflective, and somewhat nostalgic, and if you’re in that kind of mood, it’d be perfect.

EXCERPT

No, I had something to do with it, too.
I shouldn’t be disingenuous. I wasn’t the type of girl who had men turning around as I walked by. And I didn’t do anything to encourage them. I preferred wearing baggy clothes and shapeless sweatshirts; guys must’ve thought I spent my weekends sprawled in front of the television. And so they were often pleasantly surprised when I took my clothes off. And discovered that I actually had a figure.

Plus shyness.
No, that’s not it, either. I’ve never thought of myself as shy. It was just I didn’t feel like struggling for hours to impose my taste or my point of view, to defend a particular film or rock band or politician. It all seemed useless. I would look at them, all those strutting peacocks, puffing out their chests and crowing louder than anyone. And sometimes there in the barnyard a few hens would cackle as they pecked around the cocks, and the peahens would spread their feathers, because their song was so horrible; and then there were the graylag geese. Pasionarias who took every subject to heart, and they could easily go up an octave to stand up to the kings of the farm, another way of getting attention, of displaying their charms. And it worked. Men like it when you stand up to them. It arouses their hunting instinct. I wasn’t that kind.
I was worse.
I was one of those girls who are said to have a blank gaze, simply because behind our expressionless masks we hide our true contempt for all the jousting, for all those tinsel princesses and papier-mâché knights in shining armor. And for ourselves, above all. My self-contempt was equal to my disdain for them. A pretty picture.

But it didn’t show, at all.
I know what people said about me in those days. She’s nice. She’s easygoing. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Quiet. Reserved. A little empty, maybe. Having said that, you can always count on her.
And in bed, did any of that cross his mind, Philippe Leduc? No. He would only have been thinking about his erection, which he had trouble maintaining. He must have been conjuring images of girls who were flashier than me—famous actresses, rocker chicks in leather pants—and his only aim would have been to stay hard, as long as possible. And to what end? Not for my pleasure, surely, he couldn’t have cared less. Not even for his own. Just out of pride. So he could say, “Sure, I scored.”

Don’t you think we might have missed something then, Philippe?
Because our bodies were a good fit; because there were times you managed to forget your fear, your obsession with performance, because our skin would touch and the tenderness that came from that caress surprised both of us. We didn’t know that life is long, that our alliances would change, and that, anyway, over time we’d lose that urge to boast. We didn’t know we might have been a good match, one of those couples who understand each other intimately, who exchange knowing glances when other people go on and on.
Do you at least remember what it was like afterward?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

portrait de Jean-philippe Blondel

Jean-Philippe Blondel
was born in 1964 in Troyes, France
where he lives as an author and English teacher.
His novel The 6:41 to Paris
has been a bestseller in both France and Germany.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Alison Anderson is a novelist and translator of literature from French. Among the authors she has translated are JMG Le Clézio, Christian Bobin, Muriel Barbery and Amélie Nothomb. She has lived in Northern California and currently lives in a village in Switzerland.
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Bowie memories.

db_roseland_2000

The initial shock of David Bowie’s death is beginning to wear off, and I’ve been listening to a lot of his music, including some old bootlegs from some of the shows I’ve attended.

In 2000, I was in New York for the BowieNet show (and for the other two shows that weekend in June… although the Saturday one didn’t go ahead, due to Bowie having lost his voice). It was brilliant meeting all the people I’d talked to online from BowieNet and Teenage Wildlife, and I burned the candle at both ends.

But what I remember most about Bowie specifically is that during the concert (though which of the two, I can’t recall), after everyone had been waving at him, he looked my way, and I waved, just a small, short bend of the hand, one-two. And he waved back with one finger, one-two. And I laughed, and he grinned.

That’s about as close as I ever got to a ‘fan encounter’ with Bowie. I never met him; I was too nervous to even consider it, and at that time in my life, very shy. But just thinking about that moment still makes me smile. Bowie had that absolute gift of making each person feel special, and in that instant, when his gaze met mine, and he saw me, it was enough.

One of the greatest artistic influences ever. David Bowie.

labyrinthbowie

David Bowie has died.

I barely have words to explain how much I am grieving, but I will try.

I first became aware of David Bowie when I watched the film Labyrinth. I was six, maybe seven years old, and it became my favourite film. Several years later, as I entered adolescence, I became aware of Bowie as musician, and thus began my love of his work. My teenage years had a Bowie soundtrack: Black Tie White Noise, Buddha of Suburbia, 1. Outside (still my favourite record), and every back catalogue album I could get my hands on in the pre-internet days.

I first saw him in concert in 1997, during the Earthling tour, on September 6, 1997 in Vancouver at the Plaza of Nations. By this point I’d been online and participating in forums, most notably Teenage Wildlife. I met some of my best friends there, and on BowieNet. Because of Bowie, I traveled, met people, and learned a great deal. I saw him six times in concert (1997, 2000 (twice!), 2002, 2004 (twice)). I read books he read, listened to music he listened to… He was a huge influence.

I never met him, but if I could meet him today, I’d say thank you. Thank you, David, for making art for art’s sake, for making films and music, and for being such a huge part of my growing up.

He left a new album, two days before he died. That he could give his fans a last something is why I love him even more.

I’m guest blogging today!

Check out the post on Bold Strokes Books’ author blog:

https://boldstrokesbooksauthors.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/it-started-with-a-song-and-ended-with-gangsters/

I talk about how I researched my new book, Midnight at the Orpheus, and about how I got the inspiration for it. :)

Book review, excerpt, and giveaway for Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat

Liza PERRAT

on Tour

December 14- 23

with

Blood Rose Angel

Blood Rose Angel

(historical romance)

Release date: November 14, 2015
at Liza Perrat

349 pages

ISBN: 978ñ2954168197

Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

1348. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it: heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Midwife Heloise has always known that her bastard status threatens her standing in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. Yet her midwifery and healing skills have gained the people’s respect, and she has won the heart of the handsome Raoul Stonemason. The future looks hopeful. Until the Black Death sweeps into France.
Fearful that Heloise will bring the pestilence into their cottage, Raoul forbids her to treat its victims. Amidst the grief and hysteria, the villagers searching for a scapegoat, Heloise must choose: preserve her marriage, or honor the oath she swore on her dead mother’s soul? And even as she places her faith in the protective powers of her angel talisman, she must prove she’s no Devil’s servant, her talisman no evil charm.

EXCERPT

The outlaw looked on the birth scene with obvious surprise. A scowl darkened his grimy, sweat-slick face. ‘Christ drowning in merde. What the …?’ He stepped inside, a stench of smoked fish and old ale filling the room, the horsewhip he brandished in one shovel-like hand making unearthly cracks.

Despite the fearsome display, and the sword in his scabbard, a reckless courage flared inside me.

‘Get out,’ I ordered, jabbing a finger at the door. ‘Can’t you see this is a birthing room … a sacred place for women only?’

The outlaw glowered down at me. ‘Bit bold for a woman, aren’t you? Who might you be?’

‘I’m the midwife, and I order you out of this cot now!’ A drop of sweat rolled down my nose.

The room remained silent, save the outlaw’s bellows-like panting, and the ragged breaths of the women and Nica’s boys. The man’s gaze flickered sideways, locked on the newborn. He stepped towards Alix and her baby. ‘What’s wrong with its head?’

‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘He’s a perfect child.’

‘Yes, perfect,’ Poppa affirmed.

‘Looks like the head of the Devil itself.’ The outlaw laid his whip over the baby’s brow, stroking the tender skin with the tip, as if caressing a kitten. ‘Such a monstrous thing don’t deserve to live.’ His scarred face puckered into a grin that could have melted stone.

The new mother shrank away, whimpering and clutching her son to her breast.

‘Don’t hurt that newborn,’ I said, ‘or God will see you straight to Hell.’

The outlaw turned his crooked stare on me. In a movement more deft than a slaughterer’s knife, he wrenched the babe from Alix’s grasp. Jerking the newborn free of his swaddling, he held the bawling child upside down by the ankles.

As the infant screamed, writhing like a trout snagged fresh from the Vionne, the outlaw eyed the cot wall beside him. My insides seized with sudden terror.

Oh Lord no! Blessed Virgin save him.

‘Stop,’ I said. ‘Give me that child.’ I began rocking my angel pendant back and forth before the brigand, stepping towards him until I was level with the black hairs unfurling from his tunic. His eyes widened, fixed on the talisman’s glowing blue and green ones.

I knew the newborn’s life––probably all our lives––depended on not showing him fear. As a woman who’d lived without a man at her hearth for almost two years, I’d learned that terror only fuelled such lawless beasts.

With the soft, low voice I’d used to sing my daughter to sleep, I said, ‘If you don’t hand me the baby, and leave this cottage right now, a pack of wolves will pounce on you as you sit around the fire with your friends, boasting the spoils of Lucie. They’ll rip out your black heart and feed it to the Devil.’

Still gripping the bawling child, the outlaw’s eyes didn’t flicker from the swinging pendant.

‘Give me the child,’ I went on, in my lullaby voice. ‘Pass him to me now.’ The pendant swung back and forth, back and forth.

REVIEW

This book was a fantastic historical novel, filled with more detail than I could almost take in. The time period, when the Black Death was rife in Europe, made for a tense, even sometimes suspenseful backdrop for the story. At times I felt every horror-stricken moment, when Heloise had to choose between caring for her own family, and caring for those in her village struck down by the plague.

Most fascinating was the detail of midwifery, and of Heloise’s skill. And of course the knife-edge of being only one step removed from witchcraft in the eyes of the populace. I was never sure that Heloise would survive, given the malice against her.

Definitely a book worth reading, both for its plot, which was well-paced and intriguing, and for its historical detail. I think I’m going to read the other books Ms. Perrat has written, since I finished this one so quickly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liza Perrat 2Liza Perrat grew up in Wollongong, Australia,
where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus,
she moved to France, where she has been living
with her husband and three children for twenty years.
She works part-time as a French-English medical translator,
and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago,
several of her short stories have won awards,
notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004
and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines.
Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines
such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.
Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in her French historical trilogy, The Bone Angel Series.
The second ñ Wolfsangel ñ was published in October, 2013,
and the third, Blood Rose Angel, is published in November, 2015.
She is a founding member of the author collective, Triskele Books and reviews books for BookMuse.

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Midnight at the Orpheus in wide release! 1920s Chicago, with gangsters, a lesbian love affair, and corrupt cops, all in one.

Get Midnight at the Orpheus everywhere! 

Now available at Amazon, B&N, The Book Depository, Chapters/Indigo, Kobo, and many other retailers.

MidnightAtTheOrpheus

Chicago, 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.

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Paperback:

Andinebook:

ISBN-13: 978-1626396074

Spotlight & Giveaway: The Winemaker Detective Omnibus, by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen

I’ll be reviewing it soon!

Jean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN

on Tour November 23-December 23 with

winemaker omnibus1

The Winemaker Detective:
An Omnibus

(mystery)

Release date: December 5, 2015
at Le French Book

309 pages

ISBN: 9781939474568

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

The ideal gift for mystery and wine lovers — An immersion in French countryside, gourmet attitude, and light-hearted mystery.

Two amateur sleuths gumshoe around French wine country, where money, deceit, jealousy, inheritance and greed are all the ingredients needed for crime. Master winemaker Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien solve mysteries in vineyards with a dose of Epicurean enjoyment of fine food and beverage. Each story is a homage to wine and winemakers, as well as a mystery.

In Treachery in Bordeaux, barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage?

In Grand Cru Heist, Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. He and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and a very particular heist.

In Nightmare in Burgundy, a dream wine tasting trip to Burgundy turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era.

This made-for-TV series is “difficult to forget and oddly addictive” (ForeWord Reviews).

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alaux-Balen

 

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen,
wine lover and music lover respectively,
came up with the idea for the Winemaker Detective series
while sharing a meal,
with a bottle of Château Gaudou 1996,
a red wine from Cahors
with smooth tannins and a balanced nose.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS

Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.
***
Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage. Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset, along with a number of titles in the Winemaker Detective series. She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.

 

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Enter here

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Betting on Love scores an honourable mention from the Rainbow Awards!

Betting on Love 300 DPII’m delighted to find out that my book Betting on Love has scored an honourable mention from the Rainbow Awards. Keep your fingers crossed for the announcement of the winners on Dec 8th :)

Overall a very well-written story, with strong, authentic characters and a very delicate, soft touch of coming-of-age plot under the romance. I enjoyed this book quite a lot and would recommend it to an interested reader. The book gets off an awkward start that doesn’t really feel like a start, or even as if the story is starting in the middle. But the plot that develops from this start is done very well. It’s strongly character-driven and takes some unexpected – therefore good – twists and turns, which happily are always in-character for the character triggering that twist. Plus, subplots. While at the surface, this might look like a romance, underneath runs a very fine and delicate coming-of-age/growing-up plot. Sometimes it’s a little too delicate, but it’s there. Very nice. Full points here for clever use of setting. There were two settings/props that played a very strong part in the story: a farm and the other character’s motorcycle. Both settings/props were used very well, featured strongly, and even stood symbolic of the character, their personal development, and of the development of their love story. That was done very elegantly and very well. Like the coming-of-age plot, the character development sometimes was a little … too hidden. Yet both main characters developed; they grew, they grew up. Plus additional character development of side characters. Again somewhat hidden but very noticeable in their words and actions. Very smoothly flowing – so smoothly that you aren’t even aware of time passing or your progress through the book, until something startles you out of it. (At least, that’s what happened to me). Now, it’s a somewhat difficult style that I am not sure many readers will enjoy. Mostly beccause the author doesn’t give a lot of insight into the characters heads and emotions and into their development. And it’s true, occasionally the author could have done with a little more showing instead of presenting the reader with facts. However, it is obvious from the text that this is the author’s personal style, and I know other authors who don’t bother explaining a lot. They present the reader with their story and let the reader draw their own conclusions. And while I enjoy the insights into characters’ minds and emotions a lot, I am also aware that this particular style is a lot harder to pull of successfully. So, kudos to the author.