Book review, excerpt & giveaway: One Sip at a Time, by Keith Van Sickle

One Sip at a TimeKeith Van Sickle

on Tour November 6-17 with

One Sip at a Time:
Learning to Live in Provence

(travel memoir)
Release date: January 28, 2017
at Dresher Publishing
ISBN: 978-0998312002
192 pages
Author’s page | Goodreads

 

SYNOPSIS

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence?

Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan…

Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

EXCERPT

Fear the Beard
My beard trimmer broke so I went to buy a new one at the Intermarché.  I found it on the same aisle that had hair dryers and curling irons and things like that.  Except that the beard trimmers were kept in a locked cabinet.  Quoi?

I tracked down a clerk and asked her to unlock the cabinet so I could get the one I wanted, one that only cost about twenty bucks.  She took it out but wouldn’t give it to me. No, no, that would not be secure, monsieur!  Beard trimmers must follow a special security procedure! I think it must be like the one for a nuclear weapons factory.

First, I was told to go to the “Special Bureau” at the front of the store.  I did that, expecting the lady there to give me the beard trimmer so I could go pay.  Oh no, monsieur!  That would not be secure!  Instead, she gave me a long code to hand to the clerk in the checkout line. This mystified the poor clerk, who must only deal with women, children and clean-shaven men.

But eventually we sorted it out. I paid him and got another piece of paper, this one with a new code, to take back to the Special Bureau.

At this point, I was nervously expecting a retinal scan or maybe a cavity search, but happily I got my beard trimmer.

I asked the lady at the Special Bureau why beard trimmers were kept locked up while the much more expensive hair dryers were not.  She looked around carefully, leaned forward and said in a low voice, “Because of the thieves!”

Yes, it seems that beard trimmers were the most-stolen items in Intermarché stores
nationwide, thus prompting the lockdown.  I thanked her for this important news and held the trimmer tightly, scanning the parking lot as I walked carefully to my car.

Later I thought, is this really the best way to deal with the nationwide epidemic of beard
trimmer robberies? Is French society well served by having its thieves unable to trim their
beards, eventually looking like refugees from a ZZ Top concert? Maybe I should lead the other men in town for a protest march, a very French thing to do.
After trimming my beard, of course.

MY REVIEW

The title really says it all. One sip at a time. Lots of short pieces on living in Provence, and it’s easy to read a few in one sitting, or many (how about half the book? Let’s just say dinner was late that night!) As a not very skilled speaker of French, I could feel awkward along with them, and wince or nod or smile, and then laugh. The stories really make me want to go to Provence!

One anecdote that especially made me chuckle (and wince!) was France’s Worst Off-Ramp. Who knew that the French too had horribly designed roads? No traffic circles, cloverleafs…. just survival of the fittest. I wanted to clench my steering wheel with white-knuckled hands, if I’d had a steering wheel.

This book was a welcome indulgence, a way to live vicariously through the fun and travails of others. Now, though, I think I need to go book a trip to France.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One Sip at a Time Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle
is a technology industry veteran
and lifelong traveler
who got his first taste of overseas life
while studying in England during college.
But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland
that made him really fall in love with Europe.
After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again
but were unable to find another expat gig.
So they decided to invent their own.
Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence,
delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating.

Find the author on Facebook and Twitter
Visit his website

Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases.

Buy the book on Amazon.com

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

Madeleine Project-CoverClara Beaudoux

on Tour July 12-18 with

The Madeleine Project

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

SYNOPSIS

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

MY REVIEW

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Madeleine Project-Beaudoux

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

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

Follow New Vessel Press on Twitter | on Facebook
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Buy the book: on Indiebound | on Amazon

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

the-paris-effectK.S.R. Burns

on Tour January 9-13 with

The Paris Effect

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

SYNOPSIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

About desire.

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

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

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

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

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

Whispers, “It’s not too late.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

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

Visit her website.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

Subscribe to her newsletter

Buy the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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: 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

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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.

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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.

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The game isn’t over.

Art dealer Marc Perron relocates to London with his lover, singer Sera Durand, to protect her from past mistakes. Blackmailed by a gangster, he must return to Paris, leaving Sera alone and vulnerable. Forging a precious painting may be his only chance at survival, but if he’s found out, the consequences will be deadly.

Without Marc, Sera struggles in an English-speaking country, coming face to face with his lies, his sexual past, and her own misdeeds. Finding a job at a jazz club called ‘Sanctuary’ is anything but, as she is not safe from her new boss, or the disturbing man who spies on her every move.

Once more, the lovers must play the game, but the stakes are higher than they imagined…