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.


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

Paris Runaway cover

Paris RunAway

(women’s fiction)

Release date: June 30, 2016

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

Author’s page



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.


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!


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. 


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 and her blog at
or follow her on Twitter @paulitakincer
Like her Facebook page at Paulita Kincer Writer.

Buy the book (print, ebook audiobook): Amazon


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


on Tour

December 14- 23


Blood Rose Angel

Blood Rose Angel

(historical romance)

Release date: November 14, 2015
at Liza Perrat

349 pages

ISBN: 978ñ2954168197

Website | Goodreads



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.


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.


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.


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.


Visit Lizaís blog
Follow Liza Perrat on Twitter | on Facebook | on Pinterest | on Google +
Sign up to receive her Newsletter.


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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.

Review, giveaway, & excerpt: In the Shade of the Almond Trees by Dominique Marny

In the Shade of the Almond TreesDominique Marny on Tour September 29 – October 8 withIn the Shade of the Almond Trees

(historical fiction)

Release date: September 29, 2015
at Open Road Media

280 pages

ISBN: 978-1480461178

Website | Goodreads


This is the second book I’ve read by Dominique Marny (the first being “I Looked for the One my Heart Loves”). This one is historical fiction, set just after WWI. It follows the family Barthélemy, focusing most specifically upon Jeanne, the daughter who must run her family’s estate after her father’s death, her mother’s inability, and her brother’s departure to India.

There are a great many characters, and this book is written in a omniscient point of view, which is one that is not used very commonly. I will admit that it threw me for the first few chapters, as I mostly seem to read limited third person point of view stories. (You will find that many books written in older times, ie. by Joseph Conrad, or Elizabeth Gaskell, for example, are more likely to be in an omniscient point of view.) There also were quite a lot of characters, and so keeping things straight was a bit difficult.

For me, I found that Jeanne was the most interesting of the characters, as she had drive and determination, and seemed to be the only one who didn’t really accept her lot in life and strove to improve. She struggled to improve her family’s estate, and to keep them afloat, whereas many of the other characters seemed to merely allow what happened to them to be the only thing in their lives.

In reading this book, I felt that the point of view, though it gave the thoughts of many characters, did not give a particularly deep understanding of most of them, and that made the story seem more superficial. I was not emotionally moved by any of the scenes, though they were interesting enough. For me, this book did in the end fall a bit flat, and I would have liked to see a deeper inspection of fewer characters. However, it was interesting in a historical sense, and learning about olive groves and nougat and almonds and such, because I had little idea of these things before.


From Chapter 17:
Dressed in black, Mrs. Laferrière greeted her in a living room that exuded old-fashioned charm. Her white hair was held up in a chignon, and she had bright, amber eyes.

“Good afternoon,” she said to Jeanne, a bit coldly.

Antoine offered Jeanne a seat, and she felt that every movement she made might trigger some sort of derogatory comment after she left. An awkward conversation followed.

“My son tells me you live in Cotignac,” the old lady said. “I often went there when I was young. It’s a beautiful region.”

As they traded banalities, Jeanne took in the stuffy and expensive environment that Antoine’s mother seemed to enjoy. She noticed the heavy velour drapes in the windows, the busy wallpaper, and the knickknacks everywhere, as well as the many photos of a man who must have been Antoine’s father.

“And this estate you’re taking care of,” Mrs. Laferrière said, “it must be a burden for someone your age.”

“I don’t have any choice.”

“Are you optimistic about things?”

“I have to be.”

“I understand you’re living alone.”

“My brother is going to return soon.”

Jeanne was offered a cup of tea. More and more ill at ease, she wondered what she was doing in this house where, obviously, she wasn’t welcome.

“It just seems odd to me that a proper young woman should live like this,” Mrs.
Laferrière said.

“Live like what?” Jeanne snapped back.

“Come now, young lady … Don’t get angry.”

“I am angry,” Jeanne said, “and I’m leaving.” She grabbed her handbag and gloves.

Antoine rose to his feet.

“What is it, Jeanne?” he asked.

“It’s your mother. She decided, even before meeting me, that I wasn’t worthy.”

“That’s not true. You’re wrong!”

“No, I’m not,” Jeanne said. Turning to Clotilde Laferrière, she added, “Have a good
day, madam. …”

Then she walked out of the room.

Antoine ran after her and blocked her way before she reached the front door.

“I beg you … It’s a misunderstanding. … If you care about me just one bit, don’t leave. … Not this way.”

“Just so that things are clear between us, you should know that I’m never going to bow to any hypocritical bourgeois conventions. Your mother dreams of a docile young woman for you. That’s not me.”

“I don’t care what my mother thinks.”

“So why was it so important for me to meet her, then?”

Antoine looked so sad that Jeanne felt tenderness toward him for the first time, and she caressed his cheek. Still, the gap that had existed between them was now wider than ever. Life’s hardships had taught her to be independent, to refuse to play other people’s games, and she insisted on being accepted for who she was.

“Let me go,” she told Antoine.

“Antoine!” Mrs. Laferrière called out from the living room.

Antoine took Jeanne’s hand and led her to the street.

“I’ll walk you to the train station,” he said.

“You don’t have to. Besides, I feel like walking around town a bit.”

“I’m going with you.”

They wound up sitting on the terrace of an ice cream shop. Jeanne’s face was still red from anger, and her eyes shone bright.

“Jeanne,” Antoine said, “why are you always trying to hurt me? What’s the point?” Without giving her the chance to answer, he added, “It’s as though you were trying to punish me for something someone else did to you. Am I wrong?”

Caught off guard, Jeanne hesitated before saying, “I’m not trying to punish you, but I
can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. …”

She leaned toward him and spoke softly. “Antoine, open your eyes. I’m not the right woman for you. I need freedom, responsibilities.”

“But you’d have responsibilities.”

“Yes, whichever ones you chose to give me.”

“You could have anything you wanted. I swear!”

She knew he was being sincere, but unfortunately he didn’t trigger in her the sort of fervor and passion that Régis had. Antoine was a kind man, a nice man, someone without a fire inside. And Jeanne, full of contradictions herself, was scared that she’d be bored to
death with him.


In the aftermath of World War I, a family estate hangs in the balance.

For generations, the Barthélemy family tended to the olive trees of Restanques, a sprawling property in Cotignac whose olive oil and almonds were as incredible as the countryside that produced them. But all that changed when war came to France. Robert Barthélemy never returned from the trenches, and without him, the farm is beginning to die. His widow has lost the will to live, and only the fierce efforts of their daughter, Jeanne, have kept the creditors at bay.

Jeanne is spending an afternoon at home with the family’s grim financial statements when a handsome stranger appears on the front steps. His name is Jérôme Guillaumin and he is a brilliant botanist about to embark on a journey around the globe. From the moment they meet, Jeanne is struck by feelings she never thought possible: feelings that could save her life or destroy everything she has ever known.


In the Shade of the Almond Trees - Dominique Marny

Dominique Marny
was raised in a family that loved art, literature, adventure, and travel. In addition to being a novelist, she is a playwright and screenwriter, and writes for various magazines.

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Book review: The Collector, by Anne-Laure Thiéblemont, with Excerpt & Giveaway!

Oh my goodness, this book was just what I was looking for. I love art, and I like thrillers, and to have both in one book is exactly what I needed.

Marion Spicer seems bland at first, not really interested in her job, not very enthusiastic, but when her estranged father dies and leaves her his estate and collection, subject to certain difficult conditions, her life changes. She has a personal stake now, in this collection, and this mystery of missing sculptures, and there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of her surprise inheritance at stake.

The inheritance, and this mystery, becomes her obsession, to the point where she lies to friends and colleagues, sleeps with a sleazy art gallery owner, and bargains with thieves and murderers.

Fortunately, this book didn’t make it easy to pick out the perpetrators, which made it a much more enjoyable read. I only wish it had lasted longer, as the ending did seem somewhat abrupt. I felt like there could have been another chapter, maybe even two. And there’s an epilogue that intrigues. I’m hoping this book is part of a series, not unlike the Nico Sirsky books by Frederique Molay.

The Excerpt

“This way.”

The assistant’s directive dripped with arrogance.

Without any further formalities, he disappeared behind a copper-colored silk wall hanging. She followed and discovered a reinforced door that opened to a narrow staircase. She hurried down the steps just as the door closed behind her. It made surprisingly little noise, considering its weight.

Marion stopped at the bottom of the stairs. The space was cold and devoid of light, sound, colors, and smells. She peered into the darkness. It seemed like an unknown abyss, and she had the disturbing sensation that she was being watched.

Gaudin flicked on the lights. A shiver traveled up Marion’s spine, and she gasped. In the faint illumination provided by the bulbs, literally hundreds of clay sculptures and vessels took shape. Floor-to-ceiling shelves were lined with odd-looking creatures. Some had hollow eyes, stunted bodies, and swollen arms and legs. Many looked sickly and tormented. They stared at her with lifeless eyes.

Marion’s mouth went dry, and her legs began to shake. Eventually she inched closer and examined the sculptures one by one. She knew that some of the pieces were pre-Incan portrait vases. She had never cared for these indigenous works. And in such large numbers, she found them disturbing. Certainly there was nothing aesthetically pleasing about the frozen assembly of cripples in this place.

A second room was equally disquieting, filled as it was with oversized phalluses and female genitalia in every possible position and depiction—pimple-covered erections, clitoris-shaped noses, pumas copulating with toads, skeletal women being sodomized. By the looks of it, Magni had relished the world of sexual obsession. Marion just stared at the impassive expressions on the faces of the silent participants.

“Thousands of years, and these bodies are still here for us to see and touch. Isn’t that fascinating?” Gaudin said from behind her.

Marion didn’t respond. She could barely breathe. This space was a shrine to her father’s obscenity, negotiated at the cost of gutted tombs and stolen memories. And for what? A dark and irrational desire to claim ownership over the souls of the dead? An attempt to give them a second life? Or to extend his own? Was he afraid of something? Or of someone?

Anne-Laure Thiéblemont
on Tour August 10-29 with


The Collector


Release date: August 11, 2015
at Le French Book

211 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474445

Website | Goodreads



Some people collect art, others collect trouble. Marion Spicer spends her days examining auction catalogues and searching for stolen works of art. She is a top-notch investigator when it comes to eighteenth-century art. But for her it’s just a job and her life is well ordered. All this changes when she inherits a huge and very prestigious collection of pre-Columbian art from a father she never knew. There are conditions attached: she must first find three priceless statues. That is when her troubles begin. Her father’s death sparked much greed, and Marion finds herself facing the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, with its sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams, and attacks. Her quest draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty.



Collector Anne Laure Thieblemont ©RobertTerzian An art reporter and trained gem specialist,
Anne-Laure Thiéblemont
is known for her investigations into stolen art
and gem trafficking.
She currently works as a magazine editor,
and splits her time between Paris and Marseille.


Sophie Weiner is a freelance translator and book publishing assistant from Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in French from Bucknell University and New York University, Sophie went on to complete a master’s in literary translation from the Sorbonne, where she focused her thesis on translating wordplay in works by Oulipo authors. She has translated and written for web-based companies dedicated to art, cinema, and fashion as well as for nonprofit organizations. Growing up with Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince, Sophie was bitten by the Francophile bug at an early age, and is fortunate enough to have lived in Paris, Lille, and the Loire Valley.


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July is Poetry Month! Paris in the rain…

Inspired by Amanda, of course, who wrote her own poem about Paris in the rain. 🙂

Muted light through the skylight,
The patter of rain on glass,
Pigeons cooing.

Warm under the thick duvet,
This lazy Paris morning of
My vacation.

Ready for a day of walking,
Scarf around my neck,
Umbrella open.

A café crème at the café,
The waiters turn the heaters on,
Smoke-filled terrace.

At Trocadero, the souvenir sellers are not deterred
But they huddle in their coats,
Soaked through.

Time for a second café crème,
A good book on the table,
Settled in.

Book Review: The Morgenstern Project, by David Khara (+ giveaway & excerpt!)

First, the Excerpt (and skip below for the review & the giveaway)

“I mean seriously, what the hell are we doing here?” Hansen said. “There’s nothing but fucking rocks and sand that’ll wreck this tin can. I spend hours cleaning the engine every time we get back to base. Why’d they send only one team to check out the area if it’s a danger zone? Isn’t that messed up?”

“You’re a Marine, man. You knew what you signed up for,” Terry teased. “We’re a recon unit, so…”

“Chill. I know what we’re supposed to be doing. But does that mean we have to like being out here all by ourselves with our asses exposed? This is the perfect setup for an ambush.”

“We’re not exactly by ourselves. They’ve assigned us a backup chopper. So shut up. I’m trying to focus. And you two in the back, stay alert.”

Twenty minutes went by with only the steady roar of the Humvee engine and the whir of the helicopter blades.

Too many hiding spots for the enemy, Terry thought as he inspected the dry rolling landscape. They could surge out at any second.

An abrupt swerve threw all four passengers against the side of the Humvee. Hansen slammed on the brakes, inciting a chorus of protests.

“Just a small technical problem! Instead of giving me shit, how about you cover me,” he ordered.

Hansen opened the door and leaped out of the vehicle, followed by his fellow Marines. The newbies stationed themselves on each side of the Humvee. They lowered themselves into firing position, one knee on the ground.

Hansen made his way around the vehicle and opened the hood.

“God dammit! Shit!”

“What’s going on?” Terry barked as he approached his partner, his eyes still fixed on the surroundings.

“Broken drive shaft and an oil leak the size of Niagara Falls, Sergeant,” Hansen said, kicking the bumper. “And the tires are blown.”

“Did you hit any rocks?” Terry asked.

“No, I swear I didn’t!”

“Can you get us out of here?”

“Not in this piece of junk. It’s a good thing our loving commanders provided us with… Hold up, where’d the fucking chopper go?”

Terry looked up and searched the sky. Preoccupied with the vehicle, he hadn’t noticed the disappearance of their aerial support.

“I can’t believe it,” he grumbled as he held down the switch on the transmitter attached to his protective vest. “Vanguard to command, our vehicle is immobilized in the middle of unfriendly territory.”

“Command to vanguard, copy that loud and clear,” a choppy voice confirmed.

“Would you be kind enough to inform us of the whereabouts of our backup chopper?”

“Command to vanguard, we’re checking on that.”

“That’s right. Check on it, asshole. And take your sweet time,” Terry sneered after cutting off the transmission.

Beneath the wrecked Humvee, Hansen was cursing up a storm. When he came out a few seconds later, he was wearing a worried look, one that Terry had never seen on him before.

“Dude, there are shards of metal under there. Something busted up our ride.”

“Are you serious? What? A mine would have vaporized us.”

There was no time to get to the bottom of it. Terry knew they couldn’t stay out in the open.

“Guys, we’ll station ourselves in twos behind the rocks on either side of the hill over there,” he ordered. “Hansen’s with Baker. Charlie’s with me. We’ll cover each other while we wait for the cavalry. Go!”

The men started running toward their posts.

The first shot snagged Charlie in the arm. He fell to the sand with all the weight of his massive body. Seconds later another blast caught Baker and sent him flying through the air. He landed on his back, a hole in his belly.

Cut off before they could reach the hill, Terry and Hansen dashed back to the busted vehicle, their only shelter under what was now heavy fire. They hoped to cut off the invisible assailants’ field of vision.

My Review

I absolutely could not wait to get my hands on this book. I’d already devoured the other two books in the series (The Bleiberg Project & The Shiro Project), and I hoped this one would be just as good.

I was not disappointed. As a reader, we find out yet more about the enigmatic Eytan Morgenstern, and this time accompany him, and Eli and Jeremy & Jackie on a fantastic trip. However, my favourite parts of this book were the historical sections, where Khara has given more background on Eytan once he escaped the clutches of Bleiberg. These pieces fit well into the present narrative, deepening the reader’s understanding of Eytan. And the present narrative itself kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering if Eytan and his friends would escape the American military, and the designs of the Consortium.

This book is a fantastic thriller, and not to be missed. I’d even say that it’d be likely that one could read this as a stand-alone novel, but I’d really recommend starting with The Bleiberg Project first.

The Morgenstern ProjectThe Morgenstern Project


(translated by Sophie Weiner)

Release date: April 9, 2015
at Le French Book

260 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474353

Website | Goodreads



Past and present collide. When you kill a legend, it becomes inspiration, and you can’t kill inspiration. Jeremy Corbin and Jacqueline Walls lead a calm life in a New Jersey suburb, when one day everything changes. Eytan Morgenstern returns to save them, and this improbably team must take on the Consortium, leading them on an epic journey from London to Tel-Aviv, from the Polish forests to Manhattan high-rises, from the shameful past to the threatening future. After a lifetime of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the Mossad operative is once again fighting those who wish to study his superhuman body. The self-sacrificing secret agent must rely on the help of his friends to finally free himself of the physical and emotional scars of his past.



Shiro project David KharaFrench author David Khara, a former journalist,
top-level sportsman, and entrepreneur,
is a full-time writer. Khara wrote his first novel–a vampire thriller–in 2010, before starting his Consortium thriller series. The first thriller in the series, The Bleiberg Project, was an instant success in France, catapulting Khara into the ranks of the countryís top thriller writers.

Follow David Khara on Twitter
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Sophie Weiner is a freelance translator and book publishing assistant from Baltimore, Maryland. After earning degrees in French from Bucknell University and New York University, Sophie went on to complete a masterís in literary translation from the Sorbonne, where she focused her thesis on translating wordplay in works by Oulipo authors. She has translated and written for web-based companies dedicated to art, cinema, and fashion as well as for nonprofit organizations. Growing up with Babar, Madeline, and The Little Prince, Sophie was bitten by the Francophile bug at an early age, and is fortunate enough to have lived in Paris, Lille, and the Loire Valley.


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below

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

Global giveaway open internationally:
2 US resident winners will receive 1 print copy of The Morgenstern Project
3 winners will receive this book in digital format



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Book Review: Scent of Triumph, by Jan Moran (+ giveaway!)

My review (for giveaway, see below!)

At first, the novel reminded me a bit of MJ Rose’s works (as she has books featuring perfumers), but MJ’s works are always somewhat supernatural, whereas this is not (and believe me, it doesn’t suffer for it at all.) Having just finished reading a book on Chanel, this one was a perfect follow-up, as Danielle Bretancourt is a very similar strong woman, and involved in similar work. Although Chanel was not a perfumer herself, and Danielle is. And I found the Hollywood life to be fascinating, and how Danielle struggles to succeed in her new life. (Chanel went to Hollywood only briefly.)

What I loved most about this book is that it felt epic. The word itself is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it will do. There was a real sense of time and of history. This wasn’t a book that takes place within a few weeks or months; we get years of Danielle’s life, and get to really know her. There are threads of romance, history… really there’s a bit in this book for everyone. I’m definitely going to look into the author’s other works now that I’ve read this one.

SCENT OF TRIUMPHScent of Triumph:
A Novel of Perfume And Passion

(historical novel)

Release date: March 31, 2015
at St. Martin’s Press
384 pages

ISBN: 9781250048905



Perfume is the essence of beauty, the heart of illusion, the soul of desire. It is my past, my present, my future. -from the journal of Danielle Bretancourt

When French perfumer and aristocrat Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for the remains of her family, relying on the strength of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a British shipping heir and Royal Navy officer. Finally, in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.

Amidst the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Danielle works her way up from meagre jobs to perfumer and fashion designer. Still, personal happiness eludes her. Can her sheer force of will attract the elusive love she desires, or will it only come at the ultimate cost?



Scent of Triumph - Jan MoranJAN MORAN is the author of Fabulous Fragrances I and II,
which earned spots on the Rizzoli Bookstore bestseller list,
and other contemporary novels,
including Flawless, Beauty Mark, and Runway.
A fragrance and beauty industry expert,
she has been featured on CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine,
and has spoken before prestigious organizations,
including The American Society of Perfumers.
She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School
and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writersí Program.

Visit her website. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Subscribe to her newsletter

Go deeper with her Reader’s Discussion Guide

Buy the book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks

IndieBound | Powell’s | Books A Million | Kobo | | GooglePlay


You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below

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

Global giveaway open internationally:
1 winner will receive 1 print copy of Scent of Triumph


Scent of Triumph Vintage Perfumes

ñ independently from this book tour ñ
With every purchase of Scent of Triumph,
she is offering a free ebook of Vintage Perfumes,
a nonfiction guide to the finest classic perfumes, for epub and mobi.
Just email her some proof of your purchase
(receipt, email receipt, photo of yourself with the book or ebook on your reader, etc.),
and she will send you the free ebook of Vintage Perfumes.


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