Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Epoque, by Tobias Churton

occult-paris-coverTobias Churton

on Tour December 15-21 with

Occult Paris:
The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque

(nonfiction – history – occult)
Release date: October 30, 2016
at Inner Traditions • Bear & Company
ISBN: 978-1620555453 – 528 pages

 

SYNOPSIS

Historian Tobias Churton explores the magical, artistic, and intellectual world of the Belle Époque Paris. He brings into full perspective the personalities, and forces that made Paris a global magnet and which allowed later cultural movements, such as the “psychedelic 60s,” to rise from the ashes of post-war Europe.
EXCERPT – Chapter Three
Meetings with Remarkable Men
We can see that symbolic powers, occult powers, and poetic powers emerge from the same source, the same depths.Gaston Bachelard, Preface to Richard Knowles’s Victor-Émile Michelet, Poète ÉsotériqueDuring the 1960s and 70s, British historian Dame Frances Yates astonished and perplexed the community of historical scholarship by her reasoned advocacy of the view that a highly significant factor in promoting the genesis of modern science and its representative the “scientist” was the Renaissance Hermetic movement’s veneration for the Magus. The Magus is concerned with extending his powers over all aspects of creation, even unto immaterial realms. In analyzing the life of Dominican friar Giordano Bruno in particular (Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, 1964), Yates demonstrated how the opposition of the Catholic Inquisition created the idea of Bruno as a “martyr to science”–he was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600 as an impenitent heretic–when his actual views were regarded in the main as superstitious claptrap by many 19th-and 20th-century scientists operating on “Newtonian” lines. Rekindled in Florence after 1460, Yates declared the gnostic “Hermetic Tradition” stimulated the rediscovery of Man as a free-willed Operator in the universe, a co-creator with the divine, to whom no secret need remain hid. [. . .] Thus “occult philosophy” was not in fact “hidden philosophy”–the deliberate cultivation of esoteric obscurity–but revealed what had formerly been hidden to the eyes of the fearful and the ignorant; in another word, science, but science with esoteric and spiritual balls: Gnostic science was the vehicle of revelation.

What is truly fascinating about developments in Paris in the 1880s and ’90s is that at the very time when many scientists had reached an apogee of materialist certainty verging on hubris–feeling themselves and their experimental methods utterly alien to the figure of the Mage who “dreamed but did not get real results”–yet at that very moment we find the Magus’s position as the desirable ideal and archetype being assumed not as the ideation of the scientist, but as the apotheosis of the ARTIST. The aim? That Art trump Science. New men will embrace the new religion, universal, already hidden in spiritual symbols, which, while the traditions and cultures around them might differ superficially, exist as one in essence.

Esotericism insists there is correspondence between all things. One thing opens a door to another: all rooms are connected. The new religion was at home in the Temple, whether of ancient Egypt, the Panthéon in modern Paris, or the contemplative mind in its study, or with like-minded friends. [. . .] In this religion, the Magus and prophet is not the scientist who limits the universe to measure it, but the Artist who seeks the infinite, the one who accepts the “open secret” of the universe as mystery. The Artist becomes one who reveals the hidden truth, not of matter itself, but of Man and the determinative occult world behind nature. Hail the Artist as custodian of spiritual being, of idealization, of beauty, of essential truth!

The dizzy heights of this realization were given verbal form in sweeping style by Bailly bookshop habitué Joséphin Péladan: “There is no reality other than God. There is no Truth other than God. There is no Beauty other than God.”3 Péladan deduced that the greatest art had necessarily been generated for the Catholic Church and the time had come for the Church to realize that the true hierophant of the mysteries was the Artist, the Magus come to the cradle of the Lord with gifts. [. . .] He was sacrificer and bridge-builder between the invisible and the visible, between this world and the world to come: the master of the ikon and of memory. The Artist’s business was with the ideal and the spiritual, not with reproducing the visual plane of nature like an ape. Paraphrasing Hermes Trismegistus, Péladan concluded: “Artist, you are Magus: Art is the great miracle.” The materialist scientist will only take you further into the endless darkness of matter, progressively enslaving the spirit to rational categories and destroying the divine humanity. The Magus, of whom Leonardo was a shining exemplar, combined search into the quantitative visible world with a no less penetrating search into the invisible and symbolic world, the infinite worlds, the boundless worlds of imagination, not to be confused with merely external fantasies as in the vulgar notion of “surrealism” or visual whimsicality. He was a man of imagination and his genius transcended his time, perhaps time itself.

So we see the figure of the Hermetic Magus return, and his gift was to justify the position of the artist, to secure him at the heights. [. . .] Hermetism made exalted sense of the Artist and his peculiar life and vocation. It thus became desirable for the new artist, who, like Redon, found the “ceiling” of the Impressionists too low for comfort to explore occult traditions, to partake more fully in the insights of the condemned gnosis. For this purpose, the L’Art Indépendant shop in the Rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and the Librairie du Merveilleux in the Rue de Trévise became essential calling points. In those oases of the ideal freedom, the movement could take its store of inspiration while sharing thoughts and carrying them out into the artists’ apartments, studios, informal salons, and café meetings. Now joined, Symbolism and Occultism shared mutual waves that would rise into an aesthetic flood, rolling through the streets of Paris in an attempt to sweep away the barricades of materialism, to oppose the Barbarians at home and abroad with unearthly Beauty and the power of the Spirit. After all the historic, failed revolutions that promoted what was perceived to be Paris’s decline into decadence, a spiritual revolution was afoot. Its weapon: ART, perceived as the exercise of the “High Science,” that is to say, Hermetic magic.

“Occult Paris by Tobias Churton © 2016 Inner Traditions. Printed with permission from the publisher Inner Traditions International. www.InnerTraditions.com
MY REVIEW
I really had no idea what to expect with this book, but what I didn’t expect was to be overwhelmed with names and places and events, basically being plunged headfirst into Symbolism, Decadence, Impressionism, and Hermetic philosophers… among others. I’ll be honest and say that this book took me a long time to read, and I still do not feel entirely certain of my knowledge of its contents. I rather feel like I should have read a Wikipedia (or other) primer of the cultural movements referenced, and especially of the men mentioned.
There were a great many mentioned, but I still do not have any real idea as to why/how the various persons noted became Symbolists, or Martinists, or Theosophists (etc).  What was the underlying motivation? There is a great deal of information in this book, and for someone better versed, I have no doubt that it would be a gold mine and inspiration, compelling and intense. I’m afraid I’m not that person, or at least not yet, not without learning an awful lot more first.
I am somewhat intrigued, however, and I am wondering about the role of women in these movements, aside from being ‘feminine’ inspirations, or symbols of wisdom, like Sophia. The art in the book often shows women, but they appear to be objects or symbols rather than real people. I suppose it would be a question to put to Churton himself, whether or not any women participated in these movements, and if there were any known more generally.
A note on the book itself: the hardback is a handsome edition, high quality, and has very good colour photographs in an insert. Definitely one for display on the shelf, if that’s your thing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

occult-paris-tobias-churton

Tobias Churton
is Britain’s leading scholar
of Western Esotericism,
a world authority on Gnosticism,
Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism.
An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University,
where he is a faculty lecturer,
he holds a master’s degree in Theology
from Brasenose College, Oxford,
and is the author of many books,
including Gnostic Philosophy and
Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin.
He lives in England.

Visit his website.

Follow Inner Traditions/Bear & Company on Facebook | Twitter
Subscribe to their newsletter

Buy the book: on Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

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Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Purged By Fire, by Diane Bonavist

purged-by-fireDiane Bonavist

on Tour
December 1-14
with
Purged by Fire:
Heresy of the Cathars

(historical fiction)
Release date: July 29, 2016
at Bagwyn Books
ISBN: 978-0-86698-810-0
274 pages

SYNOPSIS

In the thirteenth-century, a unique civilization flourished in the region that is now Southwestern France. The tolerant rulers of this realm embraced the Cathar faith which kept the simple teachings of the early followers of Christ, and rejected the venality of the Catholic Church.

To destroy the heretical faith, the pope declared a holy war. With the infamous words “Kill them all, God will recognize his own,” the crusade against Christendom began. For two decades, these wars decimated the old regions of the Languedoc and the troubadour culture. But when they still failed to destroy the heretical faith, the papacy gave special powers of inquisition to Dominican monks. Their mission was to root out heretics, compel confessions, and burn the unrepentant at the stake.
Purged by Fire tells the intertwining stories of three people enmeshed in the treachery of the Inquisition. Isarn Benet believes he has survived the wars by accepting the pope’s will and the French rule, until Marsal, the child he once rescued, arrives on his doorstep, forcing him to question every conciliation he has ever made. Marsal has lost everything to the Inquisition. Raised to always turn the other cheek, now she wants back what the Catholic Church has stolen, and she will aid anyone who helps her do so, even outlaws and rebels. Isarn’s son Chrétien can barely remember his life as a soldier and troubadour, the time before he knew and loved Marsal. Condemned and hunted by the Catholic Church, the two escape to the mountain fortress of Montségur.
Here, as the forces of the Inquisition lay siege to their place of refuge, they must make one final choice—between life and love or death and faith!
EXCERPT
“The Inquisitor is close at hand.” Chrétien stopped to catch his breath after ducking inside. “He’s walking the streets preaching as he goes.”
We all got ale and filed upstairs.
“The empty streets and shuttered windows remind me of when I was in Paris,” Martin said, as we crowded around the only window in the gallery. “The city was in the grip of illness— the devil’s influence they call it—and everyone stayed locked indoors.”
“Here he is,” cried Chrétien, peering down at the street.
I would never have recognized William Arnald. He was only five years older than I, yet he walked like he was Methuselah, slowly, slightly bent, as if under the burden of our sins. Behind him an acolyte followed ringing a large bell. About five paces further back were three men with papal heraldry on their armbands, swords at their belts, and long shields held straight up at their sides. When Arnald reached the tavern, he stopped. Almost in unison, the four of us drew back from the window.
“He knows we’re here,” said Chrétien mockingly but in a whisper. “The man must be omniscient.”
There was some snickering among us, but really it was too uncanny for comfort. I looked down at the tonsured head and half-expected it to snap back and his eyes to nail us with his gaze.
William had not inherited the Benet height. He was a small man. My scant memories of him did not include anything imposing in either his manner or his speech. So that day, when he began to preach, I was taken aback by the way his voice filled the street, the voice of a giant, a man made larger than us all by authority and conviction.
He told us that there were many sinners among us and everyone must search his soul. If we so much as broke bread with an enemy of the church, then we became like that heretic. He promised light penance to those who came forward and voluntarily confessed their errors. But woe, woe, woe —he said it three times—to those who did not come forward and were then shown, by the accusation of others, to be heretics or fraternizers with heretics. For those, the punishment would be dire and swift.
MY REVIEW
Reading historical fiction is always such a nice change, being able to be taken back into the past, into a time period that I may or may not know much about. In the case of the Cathars, I knew very little, beyond a vague understanding that they were persecuted for their faith.
I was immediately pulled into the story in the first pages, and it was one I only put down reluctantly (since chores still have to be done). I was intrigued by Isarn Benet’s role in the story, and how he connected to all the others, and then by Marsal, the baby he’d saved. Combined with these interesting characters, the increasing tension (and one might say, doom) with the religious fervour and beliefs encouraging discrimination and cruelty, made for a fantastic read. I wanted to see Marsal succeed and be happy; wanted to see Isarn impart the secrets he needed to; and wanted to find out what happened between Chretien and Marsal.
I felt immersed in the world Ms Bonavist created. I’m hoping that she will write more historical fiction, whether about Cathars or others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

purged-by-fire-diane-bonavist

Diane Bonavist’s fiction
has appeared in Tiferet Journal,
The Milo Review, Fable Online,
and The RavensPerch.
She is a former Editor in chief of Tiferet Journal.

Her other novels are Daughters of Nyx,
a mystery of ancient Greece and Waters and the Wild,
a multi-generational story set in the Hudson River Valley,
both to be published in 2017.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: on Amazon

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Midnight at the Orpheus is #3 in Best Bisexual Fiction at the Rainbow Awards!

MidnightAtTheOrpheus

#1 was Tal Bauer’s romantic suspense novel “Enemies of the State”, and #2 was ARcher Kay Leah’s sci-fi/futuristic novel “For the Clan”. My book was #3 :)

Check out Midnight at the Orpheus at Bold Strokes Books, Amazon, BN.com, or your local bookseller!

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, Cecilia 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 and 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.

Menage m/f/f.

It’s release day for BETTING ON COURAGE, the latest in the Thurston Hotel series!

coverfinalmd-bettingoncourageBetting on Courage
A Thurston Hotel Novel – Book 8
thurstonhotelbooks.com

The Thurston Hotel books are stand-alone romance novels in a collection, connected by common settings, characters, and events. The overall storyline covers a year, one book for each month. This is a ‘warm romance’ series.

On the run from her stalker ex-boyfriend, Charity Wong finds herself in Harmony. She takes a job waitressing at the 100-year-old Thurston hotel and rents a room from an older man–a man one of her co-workers warns her about. She’s not sure what to expect from him and the last thing she expects is to fall in love.

All David Evans wanted was someone to run errands and help him stay cocooned from the world. But with his new boarder, he’s experiencing more joy in his life than he has in years. Can he possibly fall in love when he can’t even manage to go out on a date?

And, when he learns Charity is in danger, can he overcome his fears and save her?

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Buy in eBook or read on Kindle Unlimited:

Book review, excerpt & giveaway: Paris Nights, by actor Cliff Simon (& Loren Stephens)

Paris NightsCliff Simon
with
Loren Stephens

on Tour October 24-November 2 with

Paris Nights:
My Year at the Moulin Rouge

(memoir)
Release date: July 15, 2016
at Waldorf Publishing
ISBN: 978-194384892-8
197 pages

Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

A memoir by the critically acclaimed actor Cliff Simon.

Paris Nights, the memoir of a South African soldier turned performer in the world’s most famous cabaret, delivers in a hugely entertaining way.

Little did Cliff Simon know that a single phone call and a one-way ticket to Paris would ultimately change his life forever.

Now the acclaimed television and film actor shares his journey from Johannesburg to the Moulin Rouge to Hollywood in his debut memoir, Paris Nights: My Year at the Moulin Rouge.

From a young age Cliff Simon knew he was headed towards big places. Having grown up as both a skilled gymnast and a competitive swimmer, performance was in his blood. But with the onset of Apartheid and the looming threat of war, he and his Jewish family soon retreated from Johannesburg, South Africa to the London countryside. Before he knew it, he joined the British swim team and was near Olympics-bound with a full-ride offer to a United States university.

But something wasn’t quite right. Instead, Cliff returned home and enlisted in the South African Air Force. Cliff’s habit of impulsive risk-taking would continue but ultimately pave the foundation for an experience most of us would only dream of. After he was honorably discharged, twenty-seven-year-old Cliff worked a series of odd jobs at a resort near the Indian Ocean until he received a phone call from an old friend inviting him to join him at the iconic Moulin Rouge.

Here begins the story of Cliff’s meteoric rise at the Moulin from swing dancer to principal in the glamour filled show, Formidable; his offstage encounters with street thugs and diamond smugglers; and the long nights filled with after parties and his pick of gorgeous women. Encounter the magic, the mayhem, and the glory that was and still is the Moulin Rouge.

EXCERPT

At dawn, I took the Métro back from Sophia’s hotel to my apartment on Rue de la Victoire. The night before, somebody had taken my spot in the courtyard, so I left my car on the street. I fell into bed exhausted from a night of lovemaking and slept fitfully. When I got up at about noon, I took a quick shower, made myself a cup of coffee, and then opened the heavy doors of the courtyard out on to Rue de la Victoire. My car was parked where I had left it the previous evening, but there was a bouquet of dead red roses tucked under the windshield wipers. I had seen enough murder mysteries and read enough spy thrillers to know that this was bad. Chantal or one of her goons had followed me back to my apartment from Sophia’s hotel, and now they knew where I lived.

I ran back upstairs to look for a weapon. I got a kitchen knife and stuck it inside one of the leather boots I was wearing, and I put a stick inside my jacket sleeve. I thought about taking my car to the Moulin, but I decided I’d rather walk. Someone might have put a pipe bomb underneath my car. My imagination was getting the better of me, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I had seen worse things than that in South Africa—ANC vigilantes setting fire to cars, kidnapping whites from their houses, planting bombs in trash cans.
It was eight o’clock in the evening. I found Monsieur Thierry, who was talking to one of the chorus boys. I needed to speak with him immediately. I told him about the fight with Chantal, and finding the dead flowers on my car. He winced, “Les Fleurs du Mal.”

“What do you mean?”

“The Flowers of Evil. It’s a poem by Baudelaire. Read it someday.”

I was in no mood for a lesson in French literature. “I need to speak with Monsieur Clerico. Can you arrange it? This is serious.”

Thierry gave me his standard response. “Monsieur Clerico doesn’t make appointments with the cast. He leaves these matters up to Doris, Ruggero and me.”

I asked him, “You want to mess with the Mob? I think they are somehow involved in this.”

“All right. Come by tomorrow before the show. I’ll talk to Monsieur Clerico. Maybe he’ll see you.”

For the first time since I had been in Paris, I felt nervous that something might happen to me. I had a feeling that I might need protection on the street, and who better to give it to me than Monsieur Clerico.

REVIEW

I will admit that I knew nothing about Cliff Simon when I picked up this book, but I quite enjoy memoirs, and I’d never read about a dancer from the Moulin Rouge before. I didn’t actually look him up until after I’d finished the book, and now I realize I’d seen him in a couple of Stargate eps. Very cool, and I’d had no idea he’d been a dancer.

His time in Paris was somewhat predictable in that he slept and partied his way through his year of dancing, but somehow I would expect no less from someone with such energy and need to be doing things. As for the Moulin Rouge itself, seeing behind the curtain and learning about the organization and backstage secrets was fascinating. I think it’d be very cool to be able to truly go backstage and see how it all works. Mr. Simon’s book is a great teaser and taste of what the dance hall must be like. I’d be curious to see how it has changed since the 80s, and how it has stayed the same.

Though I picked up the book because of the Moulin Rouge reference, I was more intrigued by Cliff’s tellings of his younger life, in pre-apartheid South Africa. Though he could have blunted or softened his earlier (perhaps more naive) views, he approached the issues with honesty, acknowledging the difference between views then and now. It’s refreshing, and shows the depth of his thoughts, and his voice is very specific and unique.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Paris Nights Cliff Simon

 

Cliff Simon
is a well-known television actor,
born in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He appeared for 7 seasons on the sci-fi thriller,
Stargate as the evil Ba’al.
Some of his recent appearances
have been on CSI, 24,
the Americans, and in the film, Project Eden.

Paris Nights Loren StephensLoren Stephens
has been twice nominated for
the Pushcart Prize for the Best American Short Story,
and her essays and short stories
have appeared in the Los Angeles Times,
the Chicago Tribune, Peregrine,
the Montreal Review, to name a few.
Her novel “All Sorrows Can Be Borne,” set in Japan will be published in 2017.

Visit Cliff’s website and his fan page
Follow Cliff Simon: Facebook, Twitter

Visit Loren’s website: Write Wisdom

Follow Loren Stephens: Facebook
Follow Waldorf Publishing on Twitter | on Facebook

Buy the book: Amazon | Indiebound | Barnes & Noble | Target

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Book review & Giveaway: The Art of Rebellion by Brenda Joyce Leahy

the-art-of-rebellionBrenda Joyce Leahy

on Tour October 17-21 with

The Art of Rebellion

(YA historical)
Release date: June 15, 2016
at Rebelight Publishing
ISBN: 978-0994839985
252 pages
Website
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Released June 15, 2016, by Rebelight Publishing, this beautifully written, lush piece drops you into tumultuous and breathtaking late 19th century Paris.

Sixteen year old Gabrielle dreams of becoming an artist but her ambitious parents agree to an arranged marriage to an aging Baron. In protest, she runs away from her provincial home of Laval to Paris, the City of Light, intending to live with her grandmother and pursue her passion for art. Her bold plan disintegrates as she arrives in Paris to discover her grandmother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Alone in the capital, Gabrielle wonders who to trust: her new artist friends or the handsome but irritating stranger she met on the train, who just might be stalking her. Gabrielle’s pride, ambition and impulsive nature thrust her into Paris’ underbelly of betrayal and abuse. Will she find the courage to begin a new life on her own terms?

REVIEW

It’s been a while since I’ve read YA. From the start I was rooting for Gabrielle, cringing at the Baron, and the staunch demands of her mother. I cheered when she ran away, and agonized to see her making her decisions, knowing that she’d suffer some. But then, that’s what growing up is, isn’t it? Or at least, what it should be. I admire her determination, even when she has no money and is in a dangerous situation. More people should have such willpower.

Brenda Joyce Leahy brings 19th Century Paris to life, and I loved reading this book. I loved to learn about the feminists, about the Exposition, about the tawdriness, and dirt, and desperation. Politics, domestic life, art, passion, all rolled into one.

The Art of Rebellion was on the Calgary Bestselling Fiction list in August 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

the-art-of-rebellion-brenda-joyce-leahy

Brenda Joyce Leahy
loves historical fiction
and thinks she was born a century too late
but can’t imagine her life without computers or cell phones.
So, perhaps, she arrived in the world
at just the right moment to tell this story.
She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta
but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta.
After over 20 years practising law,
she has returned to her first love of writing fiction.
She is a member of several writing organizations,
including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers’ website
Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society and leads a YA/MG writers’ critique group in Calgary.

Visit Brenda’s website

Follow her on Facebook | on Twitter
Follow Rebelight Publishing on Twitter

Buy the book: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

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I have news! My new book is coming out Nov 17th! #thurstonhotel

coverfinalmd-bettingoncourageBetting on Courage
(release date November 17, 2016 on Amazon)
A Thurston Hotel Novel – Book 8
thurstonhotelbooks.com

The Thurston Hotel books are stand-alone romance novels in a collection, connected by common settings, characters, and events. The overall storyline covers a year, one book for each month. This is a ‘warm romance’ series.

On the run from her stalker ex-boyfriend, Charity Wong finds herself in Harmony. She takes a job waitressing at the 100-year-old Thurston hotel and rents a room from an older man–a man one of her co-workers warns her about. She’s not sure what to expect from him and the last thing she expects is to fall in love.

All David Evans wanted was someone to run errands and help him stay cocooned from the world. But with his new boarder, he’s experiencing more joy in his life than he has in years. Can he possibly fall in love when he can’t even manage to go out on a date?

And, when he learns Charity is in danger, can he overcome his fears and save her?

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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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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

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on Goodreads and Pinterest

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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