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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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.

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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

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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
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Buy the book: Amazon | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

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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.

Follow New Vessel Press on Twitter | on Facebook
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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.

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

Paulita Kincer

on Tour July 18-27
with

Paris Runaway cover

Paris RunAway

(women’s fiction)

Release date: June 30, 2016
at Lulu.com

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

Author’s page
Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

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

REVIEW

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

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

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

EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Consider yourself served,” the man said.

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paulita Kincer

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

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon

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or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
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.

Visit each blogger on the tour:
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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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TO READ REVIEWS, INTERVIEW, AND EXCERPTS

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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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Sign up to receive her Newsletter.

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

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

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TO READ OTHER REVIEWS, EXCERPT, AND INTERVIEW

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Review in progress: Submission (Soumission), by Michel Houellebecq (Part 2)

SubmissionSo, the election happens, the National Front wins the highest percentage, and the Socialists find themselves negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood. Reading this bit made me realize how little I knew about how French elections are structured. I may have to do some research reading as well, but for now I’ll just keep reading Submission. (Part 1 of my ongoing review here.)

I still don’t particularly care for Francois. He’s at least showing some interest in things now, although it’s mostly the election, and having sex with Myriam. The sex scene was quite to the point, but not as eye-rollingly bad as others I have read. Still, I can only figure that he likes/loves Myriam because she has a shaved pussy and gives great blow-jobs. Should be interesting to see where their relationship goes, if it does go anywhere further at all. She’s thinking of them as a couple, but he’s not, and she’s moving to Israel after the election result.

Somewhat spookier is the Muslim Brotherhood demand that schools teach spiritual things, and that Muslim-based schools become standard, and no co-teaching of the sexes, with instruction for girls/women reduced to that of homemaking and literature. Though it’s fiction, I wonder if a party would bend on such a thing in order to keep some of their power. (In this case, the Socialists are the ones bargaining with the MB.)

I shall have to read more.

Review in progress: Submission (Soumission), by Michel Houellebecq

SubmissionI picked up this book as I’d read some reviews and reactions, and because it was selling very well in France. It also had been scheduled for translation, so I didn’t have to attempt to struggle through reading the French version.

So far, I have read the first 45 pages of the UK edition of the book.

Francois, the book’s narrator and main character (as it’s a first-person viewpoint), is a middle-aged academic, who, after finishing his studies (on writer Huysmans) and finding himself required to get a job, ends up teaching at a university that’s not quite as good as where he took his degree. Now, in middle age, having not done the usual girlfriend-marriage-children path, and disliking it, he finds himself having lost all motivation for life.

At this point, the book is only just getting started, and it reminds me somewhat of Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre. The feel of the writing is similar (to me, at least). Francois has lost his purpose in life, and is drifting. Nothing excites him, not even dinner (and possibly sex afterward) with the woman who he claims was his favourite in bed. (Frankly, I think that a man who categorizes women that way is likely missing a few other things in his personality as well, as there’s more to someone than how they fuck.)

So far, I do not have much sympathy for Francois, but I am curious to see how this all turns out.