Book review & giveaway: The Madeleine Project, by Clara Beaudoux

Madeleine Project-CoverClara Beaudoux

on Tour July 12-18 with

The Madeleine Project

(biography/history)
Release date: September 12, 2017
at New Vessel Press
ISBN: 978-1939931498
288 pages
Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman’s attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion.
Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era.

MY REVIEW

The blurb for this book fascinated me, as I’ve always wanted to be the fortunate one to discover a treasure trove of personal items from a time past. (So far, I haven’t had much luck!) The book covers the first two “seasons” where Clara finds and begins to dig through Madeleine’s effects, left in the cellar in suitcases and boxes. Each little bit of the past intrigued me, and though I enjoyed the book, it was also frustrating. The format is such that the pages are filled with the author’s Twitter posts. Nothing wrong with that overall, but you can’t enlarge any of the photographs she’s placed in the tweets. For me, liking detail, it defeats the purpose of the book altogether.

I did, however, go find the author’s website and read through all four seasons, clicking happily to enlarge photos or to watch video. It was far more satisfying. (go here: http://madeleineproject.fr/ — Google can translate a lot of it for you if you don’t speak French, though Chrome doesn’t seem to like translating the storify’d pages of tweets.) I expect this book would be better in its print format than on ebook (I was provided a copy of the PDF via Edelweiss, which I found limiting), as a record of Clara’s experiences.

Don’t let the formatting put you off; the material itself was fantastic and fascinating.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Project-Beaudoux

Clara Beaudoux
is a Paris-based journalist for the France Info news network.
The Madeleine Project has been wildly popular in France.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Clarabdx

In French: on Facebook, The Madeleine Project page,
and the author’s main website

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Land poor, Elly leaves the family farm and heads to the big city to become something better than a waitress in a small-town diner. Though she’s succumbed to economic necessity and the siren song of her one-time lover, Alex, she can’t bear to give up the farm that has been in her family for generations. As much as she wants to, she can’t have everything she desires, and she’ll have to decide what is more important: the past or the future.

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: The Enemies of Versailles, by Sally Christie

enemies-of-versaillesSally Christie

on Tour March 20-31 with

The Enemies of Versailles
(historical fiction)
Release date: March 21, 2017
at Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
416 pages
ISBN: 978-1501103025

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.
MY REVIEW
I knew very little about this part of French history, aside from the very basics of Marie Antoinette’s story (though as I recently read Will Bashor’s new book, I know a lot more about Marie Antoinette and her time in prison, I’ve begun to know more), and I had only passing knowledge of the Comtesse du Barry, and less still of the king’s daughter, Adelaide.
I should have known there’d be scheming, and lots of it. Even from prim and proper Adelaide, though a lot of hers seemed to stem from her desire to be pleasing to her father and to have his company. The scheming of the du Barrys (and not just the Comtesse) was staggering, and even a bit cringe-worthy. From the first (getting Jeanne married to a du Barry) and then further one (trying to get the king to marry her), sometimes I wanted to slap her (and her associates) and other times look on in wide-eyed admiration for their nerve/gall. And yet, all the women in this book, particularly the main players, seem somewhat let down by their circumstances. If only they’d been able to do something with their lives beyond scheming and men and position. But given the period, of course, women weren’t even full citizens yet, if I recall correctly. So their roles are not surprising.
This is a great book, very rich in detail, and entertaining. It’s a good way to get an introduction to the period that won’t bore you with a dry history tome. I really need to make a point of reading the other two books in the series, because they sound quite good.
EXCERPT
excerpt-enemies

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sisters of Versailles - Sally Christie

Sally Christie
is the author of The Sisters of Versailles
and
The Rivals of Versailles.
She was born in England and grew up around the world,
attending eight schools in three different languages.
She spent most of her career working
in international development and currently lives in Toronto.

Learn more her Versailles trilogy on her website
Become a fan to hear about her next novels!

Visit her Facebook Page

Check her Pinterest page

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Review, excerpt & giveaway: Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days, by Will Bashor

MARIE ANTOINETTE’S DARKEST DAYSWill Bashor

on Tour March 13-24 with

Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days:
Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie

(history – nonfiction)
Release date: December 1, 2016
at Rowman & Littlefield
392 pages
ISBN: 978-1442254992
Website | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

This compelling book begins on the 2nd of August 1793, the day Marie Antoinette was torn from her family’s arms and escorted from the Temple to the Conciergerie, a thick-walled fortress turned prison. It was also known as the waiting room for the guillotine because prisoners only spent a day or two here before their conviction and subsequent execution. The ex-queen surely knew her days were numbered, but she could never have known that two and a half months would pass before she would finally stand trial and be convicted of the most ungodly charges.

Will Bashor traces the final days of the prisoner registered only as Widow Capet, No. 280, a time that was a cruel mixture of grandeur, humiliation, and terror. Marie Antoinette’s reign amidst the splendors of the court of Versailles is a familiar story, but her final imprisonment in a fetid, dank dungeon is a little-known coda to a once-charmed life. Her seventy-six days in this terrifying prison can only be described as the darkest and most horrific of the fallen queen’s life, vividly recaptured in this richly researched history.

MY REVIEW

Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days is aptly named, given the subject matter. Though I’d known the basics about her imprisonment and execution, Bashor’s book brought to life in great detail the hellish, difficult days and nights that she endured in prison. The historical research was immense (and many pages of notes and references are included, if you’re the sort that likes to go back to primary sources!)

I found it fascinating that there were so many plots to try to save Marie Antoinette’s life. Notes rolled up in carnations, invisible ink, letters written by poking a pin through a page… they were all there. Even in her darkest days, she had many supporters, both within and without the prison, and people at the highest ranks trying to negotiate to save her from the guillotine. Unfortunately (and as we all know), they were unsuccessful as things dragged on and she became less valuable as a hostage/pawn in the negotiations between France and Austria.

I definitely recommend this book to those interested in this period of French history, whether from the side of the royals or the rebels.

EXCERPT

When Rosalie received word that the queen of France was doomed, she fled to her room, stifling her cries and sobs. At seven o’clock, Warden Bault ordered her to go down to the queen and inquire if she would like something to eat. When Rosalie entered the queen’s cell, she found two candles burning and the young guard sitting in the corner. The queen was dressed in black, lying down with her face turned toward the window, her head resting on her hand.

“Madame,” Rosalie said with a trembling voice, “you did not eat anything the night before and almost nothing yesterday. Will you have something this morning?”

Tears rolled down the queen’s cheeks. “My child,” she said, resigned to her fate, “I no longer need anything; everything is over for me.”

“But, madame, I have some broth for you on the stove,” said Rosalie.

Recovering herself, and perhaps out of compassion for her servant, the queen said, “Well, Rosalie, bring me some of your broth.”

When Rosalie went to fetch the bouillon, she discovered that the Commune had given orders that the queen not be allowed any food at all. Although Marie Antoinette had been condemned to death, the Commune still wanted to show the people of Paris a woman weakened by terror and stripped of her noble pride. When Rosalie returned an hour later, the queen asked her for help dressing. The queen first stepped between the bed and the wall to hide her body from the guard’s view as she let her black dress drop to the floor. When the young guard approached the queen to watch more closely, Marie Antoinette immediately put her scarf over her shoulders

“In the name of decency, Monsieur” she said, “allow me to change my linen in private.” “I cannot consent,” the guard replied. “I have orders to keep an eye on all of your movements.”

The queen sighed. She removed her bloodstained chemise, replacing it with a clean one. In addition to the long trial and her hunger over the past few days in the cold, dank cell, the queen’s hemorrhaging had exhausted her even further. She then put on her white negligee and draped a large muslin scarf over her shoulders, tying it under her neck. After the queen had arranged her white mourning cap on her head, Rosalie watched as she carefully rolled up the bloody chemise and tucked it into one of its sleeves. The queen looked around and found a small crack in the wall in which she hid the tattered garment.

Rosalie was too distressed to bid Marie Antoinette adieu. The queen sat trembling from the October cold when Rosalie left the cell. A sworn priest named François Girard arrived next. The former curé of Saint-Landry demanded to hear her confession, but the queen refused.

“You are guilty,” said the priest.

“Ah, sometimes careless,” said the queen. “Never guilty.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Bashor picture

Will Bashor
earned his M.A. degree in French literature
from Ohio University
and his Ph.D. in International Studies
from the American Graduate School in Paris
where he gathered letters, newspapers, and journals
during his research for the award-winning
Marie Antoinette’s Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution.
Now living in Albi, France,
and a member of the Society for French Historical Studies,
his latest work, Marie Antoinette’s Darkest Days: Prisoner No. 280 in the Conciergerie,
was released in December 2016.
He is currently working on the final part of his historical trilogy,
Marie Antoinette’s World: The Labyrinth to the Queen’s Psyche.

Visit him on his website
and here are many ways to follow him:

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: The Paris Effect, by K.S.R. Burns

the-paris-effectK.S.R. Burns

on Tour January 9-13 with

The Paris Effect

(women’s fiction)
Release date: June 1st, 2016
at Velvet Morning Press
ISBN: 978-0692710852
246 pages
Author’s website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Friendship, loss and a tantalizing trip to Paris in this highly praised #1 Amazon Best Seller!
Amy and Kat had planned a secret trip to Paris. Even Amy’s husband wouldn’t know about it. But when Amy loses Kat to cancer, she knows the plan is gone forever. Or is it?

Guided by memories of her friend and dissatisfaction with her own calorie-counting life in Phoenix, Amy sneaks off to Paris while her husband is away on a business trip. Once there, she’s robbed, stalked, arrested and almost kidnapped. Worse, she finds that all her problems have come right along with her.
Through her adventures, laced with luscious descriptions of food and Paris, Amy learns that often in life, love and friendship, nothing is exactly as it seems. Grab a croissant and settle in for a decidedly non-touristy trip to the City of Light.
MY REVIEW
This book really hit me hard, as I recently lost a very good friend of mine to cancer, similar to the main character, Amy. I actually had to stop reading for a bit because it was too much for me. But when I did start reading again, I couldn’t really put the book down.
I cheered Amy on as she finally got up the courage to go to Paris, and was then concerned (and then relieved) as she got into scrapes, and then was somewhat rescued by a nice Englishwoman named Margaret. And yet, got into more scrapes. But, that’s par for the course, it seems. Very much Amy.
The book was a satisfying read, and the ending seemed just about right. I’d like to read more of Amy, and see what she gets up to next. Perhaps the author will give us a sequel. I hope!
EXCERPT

When I was six Dad gave me an old record player he picked up at a carport sale. I loved that thing—the hard rubber turntable, the chunky plastic dials, the dusty electrical smell. It came with half a dozen albums from the swing era, one of them “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.” My mother didn’t listen to any music at all and Dad liked only fifties rock‐and‐roll, so to them the records were worthless.

But on Saturdays while they were out working in the yard, I would drop Ella onto the turntable, place the needle into the groove just right, so it didn’t squawk, and play the record over and over. Sometimes I’d tie my old blue baby blanket around my waist and waltz around my bedroom.

My very favorite song from that album was “I Love Paris.” Ella loved Paris in the springtime. She loved it in the fall. She loved it in the summer when it sizzles. She loved it in the winter when it drizzles.

At that age I didn’t know if Paris was a where or a who or a what. Well, okay, I was pretty sure it was a where. What I was totally sure about, even at age six, was that every single note of that song is about yearning.

About desire.

Paris assumes that if you are not in Paris, whatever, whoever, wherever you are is legitimate cause for dissatisfaction. Because if you are not in Paris, you are nowhere worth being. Because—mais oui!— in Paris life is bigger, better, and more beautiful.

Most of all, you can be who you really are in Paris.

Unlike in Phoenix, Arizona, an ugly, makeshift, temporary place, a place that feels nailed together just yesterday, a place of lost losers, a place that has never felt like home. This knowledge felt like a secret and possibly shameful thing I wasn’t meant to possess, insider information forbidden to obscure‐ish people such as me and my parents, people living in a two‐bedroom bungalow in central Phoenix, thousands and thousands and thousands of miles away from sizzling, drizzling Paris.

Eventually I realized how lame the whole thing was. Still, Ella Fitzgerald is the reason I defied conventional wisdom and studied French in high school and college instead of Spanish.

Now high school and college are long over and the faraway Sacré‐ Coeur quivers on my guest bathroom wall. Whispers, “The Plan.”

Whispers, “It’s not too late.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

k-s-r-burns-the-paris-effect

Unlike her character Amy in THE PARIS EFFECT,
K. S. R. Burns has never ventured down
into the scary and forbidden catacombs.
Nor has she run away from home,
but she has lived and worked in 22 cities,
one of them Paris
(because she does definitely share Amy’s passion for Paris).
Burns is also the author of THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF WORKING GIRL:
REAL-LIFE CAREER ADVICE YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE (Running Press 2009),
because while living in 22 cities she racked up a total of 59 jobs,
thereby learning a lot about the world of work.
She currently writes a weekly career advice column for The Seattle Times.
No longer a wanderer, Burns currently resides in the Pacific Northwest
with her husband and cat.

Visit her website.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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One year on, David Bowie.

bowie-imp

Bowie’s death gutted me. A friend had sent me the news via Facebook message, and I opened it that morning with no idea what it would be. The breath left me, I grabbed at the kitchen counter to slow my collapse as my knees weakened. And I sobbed. The world hadn’t ended, but the man, the rock star, the actor, who meant so much to me was no more.

My first memory of David Bowie was, like so many of my age group (particularly female), that of Jareth the Goblin King, tormenting a youthful Jennifer Connelly. Labyrinth is still a favourite film, but for half a dozen years after watching it often, I had yet to realize that its main villain was anything more than an actor. I was twelve or thirteen when that happened, in the early 90s. I devoured biographies, scoured my city library’s tape and LP collections…. anything I could find. This was pre-Internet, of course.

Once the Internet arrived, one of the first things I searched for was Bowie, using a text-based browser, and coming across a website on Stanford.edu, choosing one picture, a Thin White Duke one, to download (which took ages). That site, The David Bowie File, turned into Teenage Wildlife. Without the Internet, I wouldn’t have found so many other fans, and had so many amazing experiences. I would have been stuck in my hometown, wondering where all the other Bowie fans were. But because of the Internet, and Teenage Wildlife, and the early BowieNet, I know so many others, and am still friends with my first Bowie online friends.

In 1995, I bought 1. Outside, the first Bowie album I’d been able to purchase on release day. Since then, I haven’t missed one. Bowie’s music has been the soundtrack to my life, taking me through childhood, adolescence, and into my mid-thirties. His interests provoked my own, sending me on tangents and down rabbit holes. I credit him with further expanding my literary knowledge.

And there was nothing like a Bowie live show to get the blood rushing, the adrenaline pumping, the delight taking over my entire being. It wasn’t just about the albums, the songs, it was his entire presence. Vancouver on September 6, 1997 was a revelation, the first show of the Earthling tour on its North American leg, and my very first show, age 17. I saw six shows altogether, including two in New York in 2000, one in 2002 in New York again, and two during the Reality tour (in Calgary and Edmonton). If I had a time machine, I’d go back and see many, many more.

It would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday today, and it’s almost the one-year marker of his passing, I am grateful and thankful that he did what he did, shared his creativity and ideas with the world, and made such a mark upon my life.