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review 2018-03-06 14:58
The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix
The Space Between Words - Michele Phoenix

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution. 

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Amazon.com

 

 

American tourist Jessica is recovering in a Paris hospital in November of 2015, the day after the Paris attacks.

 

"Did a lot of people die?" I asked. I had to know.

 

The nurse nodded, and I saw tears in her eyes too. "Many," she said. Then she took a deep breath and added, "But many survived." She patted my hand where it still gripped her wrist. "I know you are americaine, but you are French now too."

 

 

Trying to heal from the injuries she sustained as an attendee of the death metal concert, Jessica is encouraged by friend Patrick to return to their apartment in town to continue her recovery. As time passes and she begins to show signs of physical strength returning, she feels compelled to return to the States, but Patrick thinks it would be good for her, mentally, to go on with their trip as planned. He stays insistent through her many refusals until he eventually wears her down and she agrees to his idea. 

 

There was a muddiness to mature adult friendships -- the expectation that they would lead to something more. That they should. And after that night, with our relationship more clearly defined, we'd moved forward more freely, autonomous and intertwined, an unusual duo bound by similar passions and complementary interests. Patrick and I knew what connected us was rare. It didn't matter anymore how others wanted to define it. 

 

One stop on their journey takes them to a little out of the way antiques shop where Jessica comes across what turns out to be an old sewing box, a box she later discovers dates back to the 17th century. Inside a hidden compartment, Jessica finds the journal of one Adeline Baillard, whose writings explain her fight to escape the Huguenot Persecution. Their crime: being Protestant in a Catholic nation.

 

There are only a few scant entries to Adeline's journal, giving the impression that she was hurriedly writing an account of her experiences in secret during the time of the persecution. A driving need to know how Adeline's story ended gives Jessica something to focus on other than her PTSD induced nightmares / hallucinations. The process of going on a hunt for the truth also gradually brings Adeline around to a modicum of healing in regards to her own traumatic experiences & memories. 

 

I'll just get this upfront right now -- this will likely be a tough read for PTSD sufferers. Chapter 17 is especially intense. Being a sufferer myself, I can tell you a number of passages in this book had my nerves on edge or me suddenly in a puddle of tears reading of Jessica's (fictional) account of the attacks. Also, imagining the fear someone in Adeline's position had to live with on a daily basis... this novel was one whopping emotional drain! But in a good way! 

 

"I want to believe that there's a force for good in this world and that the force won't let the bad have the final word. It doesn't explain or undo the darkness, but... I think somehow it covers it with light." 

 

~~ Grant

 

Note for sensitive readers: Within the excerpts of Adeline's journal, there are some brief scenes of brutality depicted, as Adeline writes of the torture endured by those who refused to convert to Catholicism. There are also some gruesome scenes illustrated during Jessica's descriptions of the shootings that occurred at the concert venue. 

 

Some of my favorite bits: 1) OMG, I ADORED Nelly, the tour guide at Canterbury Cathedral! Her wit and grandmotherly sweetness!  Also neat that in her author notes at the end, Michelle Phoenix reveals that the details of the adventure to the church that Jessica and Grant go on is based on a trip Phoenix herself took to the same church. 2) I found myself moved by little Connor and his visions of "shiny ninjas" (you'll understand this once you read the book).

 

The one knock I would give this story is the "common misconception" conversation about Grant and Mona. Just found it annoying that all these little things going on between them gave the impression that they were a couple and then they casually explain they're brother and sister, but people often get it confused. Well, dang. Introduce yourself as siblings at the start and we won't have a bunch of confused readers later! But Iater on I kinda saw why Phoenix might have written it this way... we need the brother available for confused feelings / possible romantic tension between him and Jessica! But still, annoying. 

 

I'd definitely recommend this one over Phoenix's Of Stillness And Storm. I found the plot here much more complex, entertaining and emotionally moving. I'm strongly anticipating her future works! 

 

Enduring with courage, resisting with wisdom, persisting in faith... 

 

FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2018-03-01 12:26
Ein Fall für Monsieur Le Floch
Commissaire Le Floch und das Geheimnis der Weißmäntel - Jean-François Parot,Michael von Killisch-Horn

„Commissaire Le Floch und Das Geheimnis der Weißmäntel“ von Jean-François Parot ist eine weitere Station in meiner andauernden Suche nach meiner Heimat im Genre der historischen Romane. Der Reihenauftakt, der in Frankreich bereits 2000 veröffentlicht wurde, wurde mir vom Newsletter der Random House Gruppe schmackhaft gemacht. Die Mischung aus Setting, einer delikaten Staatsaffäre und einer Mordermittlung weckte meine Neugier. Außerdem habe ich bisher nur sehr wenig Erfahrung mit französischen Schriftsteller_innen; ich konnte also zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen. Ich fragte das Buch beim Bloggerportal an und erhielt ein Rezensionsexemplar.

 

1759 wird der junge Notariatsgehilfe Nicolas Le Floch von heute auf morgen nach Paris beordert. Er soll sich bei Polizeipräfekt Gabriel de Sartine melden, um eine Ausbildung als Gesetzeshüter zu beginnen. Sartine teilt ihn dem grimmigen, schroffen Kommissar Lardin zu, der sich den Anweisungen des Polizeichefs widerwillig beugt. So beginnt Nicolas‘ neues Leben in der pulsierenden französischen Metropole. Er arbeitet und lernt fleißig und besitzt zu viel Anstand und Respekt, um die regelmäßigen Fragen des Polizeipräfekten zu den Gewohnheiten seines Mentors Lardin in Zweifel zu ziehen. 1761, zwei Jahre später, verstirbt unerwartet Nicolas‘ Vormund. Er eilt in seine bretonische Heimat, um an den Trauerfeierlichkeiten teilzunehmen. Bei seiner Rückkehr nach Paris erwartet ihn eine unerfreuliche Überraschung: Lardin ist verschwunden und Sartine eröffnet ihm, dass der gealterte Kommissar in eine weitreichende Korruptionsaffäre verwickelt ist, die sogar König Ludwig XV. bedroht. Nicolas soll Lardin finden. Unerschrocken stürzt er sich in die Ermittlungen, während auf den Straßen der Stadt der Karneval tobt. Wird er den abtrünnigen Lardin aufspüren und so einen internationalen Skandal verhindern können?

 

„Commissaire Le Floch und Das Geheimnis der Weißmäntel“ war für mich ein gewagtes Experiment. Mit einem historischen Krimi bewegte ich mich weit außerhalb meiner Wohlfühlzone, denn ich habe bekanntermaßen so meine Schwierigkeiten mit historischen Romanen und Krimis stehen normalerweise erst gar nicht auf meiner Lektüreliste, weil ich sie zu langweilig finde. Es freut mich daher umso mehr, dass ich dieses Experiment als Erfolg verbuchen kann. Obwohl alle äußeren Faktoren dagegensprachen, gefiel mir der Auftakt der Reihe „Nicolas Le Floch“ überraschend gut. Ich fühlte mich in den Händen des Autors Jean-François Parot sehr gut aufgehoben; der studierte Historiker und anerkannte Experte für das 18. Jahrhundert vermittelte mir eine verblüffend präzise, atmosphärische und realistische Vision der Lebensumstände in Paris in der turbulenten Epoche der Aufklärung. Die Lektüre war eine überzeugende mentale Zeitreise, die mich trotz des etwas umständlichen Schreibstils mühelos mitten in die Straßen der französischen Hauptstadt beförderte. Die verzwickt konstruierte Rahmenhandlung des Kriminalfalls portioniert die schiere Fülle geschichtlicher Fakten, Hintergründe und Tatsachen in mundgerechte Häppchen, die dazu einladen, mithilfe des neuen Wissens munter mitzurätseln. Ich habe nicht erwartet, beim Einschlafen tatsächlich darüber nachzugrübeln, wie die verschiedenen Ebenen des Falls interagieren. Es gelang mir jedoch nicht, das Puzzle zusammenzusetzen, da mich die vielen geschichtsträchtigen Namen und teilweise konträr verlaufenden Interessen verwirrten und ablenkten. Für meinen Geschmack hätte Parot den politischen Aspekten der komplizierten Korruptionsaffäre, die sich rasant mit einer Mordermittlung verbindet, außerdem deutlich mehr Aufmerksamkeit schenken können, wenngleich ich verstehe, dass sein Kernanliegen, den Pariser Kosmos im Jahr 1761 detailliert abzubilden, besser innerhalb privat-bürgerlicher Grenzen umzusetzen war. Er eröffnete sich so die Möglichkeit, die alles beherrschenden Standesunterschiede der Bevölkerungsschichten explizit herauszuarbeiten und – was ich herrlich sympathisch fand – besonderes Augenmerk auf die Beschreibung des Essens als kulturelle Facette zu legen. Schade, dass der Protagonist dieser bunten, lebendigen Kulisse nicht gerecht wurde. Nicolas mutete wie eine erwachsene Variante Oliver Twists an: konturlos, einseitig und modellhaft. Er trägt keinen Funken Verschlagenheit, Verlogenheit oder generell Schlechtigkeit in sich, verhält sich stets tugendhaft, gesetzestreu und regelkonform. Ich fand ihn sowohl menschlich, als auch als Ermittler unglaubwürdig, denn niemand kommt ohne Ecken und Kanten aus, schon gar kein Polizist, der sich gegenüber perfiden, kriminellen Komplotten behaupten muss. Sein sympathischer, aber tadelloser Charakter bedingt eine Profillosigkeit, die ihn neben der puren Vitalität des Settings verblassen lässt. Ich stelle es ungern fest, doch die Figur des Nicolas Le Floch ist meiner Ansicht nach bedauerlicherweise zu schwach, um „Das Geheimnis der Weißmäntel“ entscheidend zu prägen.

 

„Commissaire Le Floch und Das Geheimnis der Weißmäntel“ ist ein faszinierender historischer Krimi, der Fakten und Fiktion geschickt verblendet und dessen größte Stärke in der hervorragenden, atmosphärischen Darstellung des Settings liegt. Jean-François Parot bewies seine exzellente Expertise und zeichnete für mich ein schlüssiges, authentisches Bild von Paris im 18. Jahrhundert, das Kriminalfall und Protagonist des Reihenauftakts mit Leichtigkeit überstrahlt. Dadurch ist das Buch zwar eher interessant als spannend, entpuppte sich allerdings nichtsdestotrotz als lohnende Lektüre. Ich kann mir durchaus vorstellen, der Fortsetzung „Commissaire Le Floch und Der Brunnen der Toten“ eine Chance zu geben. In einer Epoche, in der ganz Europa politisch in Aufruhr war, gibt es sicher noch einige Geheimnisse, die Kommissar Le Floch aufklären kann.

 

Vielen Dank an den Verlag Blessing und das Bloggerportal von Random House für die Bereitstellung dieses Rezensionsexemplars im Austausch für eine ehrliche Rezension!

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/jean-francois-parot-commissaire-le-floch-und-das-geheimnis-der-weissmaentel
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review 2018-02-19 05:49
The Birth of the West by Paul Collins
The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century - Paul Collins

TITLE:  The Birth of the West:  Rome, Germany, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century

 

AUTHOR:  Paul Collins

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2014

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  978-1-61039-368-3

_____________________________________

 

Tenth century Europe may have been a chaotic mess, but Paul Collins believes that the process which ended in the Renaissance and Enlightenment had its beginnings in the tenth century Europe.  Collins attempts to show how various individuals (e.g. the 3 Ottos and Gerbert d'Aurillac/Pope Sylvester II) injected vigour into the Holy Roman Empire, reorganised the Church and bring some semblance of order to the State.

The book (briefly) covers the breakup of Charlemagne's Empire in the mid-800's; the development of France under Viking invasions and settlement into a large number of smaller semi-independent regions; and the solidification of a Germanic Holy Roman Empire during the 10th century under the Saxon kings Otto I, II, III.  It also follows the development of Roman Catholicism and the Papacy.  There is also a fairly decent description of monastic life, as well as the role of monasteries and religion in the lives of ordinary people.

Collins weaves a sometimes convoluted narrative, starting somewhere in the middle, going back to the beginning, discussing historical events, then focusing on individuals in a biographical manner, hopping around different regions in Europe from Spain and Britain to Byzantium.  The first chapter was a bit tedious but the pace of the narrative picked up by the second chapter and the story became more interesting.  There are a few maps in the book but I would have preferred a few more.  I would also have found a timeline useful.  A more structured approach would also have been more useful as well as more analysis.  The author dropped the ball a few times by failing to connect his various chapters to the main thesis of the book, making this something of a collection of juicy facts but failing to show how they relate to the birth of the west.

I would not recommend this book to the history novice but it may prove interesting to someone who has some familiarity with events after Charlamagne.

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review 2018-02-11 20:19
Eugenie Grandet by Honore de Balzac
Eugénie Grandet - Christopher Prendergast,Honoré de Balzac,Sylvia Raphael

Classics, we are told, are books that “stand the test of time” – that, even after the society that birthed them has passed away, continue to enthrall readers with their complex and relatable characters, their insight into universals of human nature, their artful command of language. I read Eugenie Grandet in translation, so I won’t attempt to pass judgment on its use of language (Raphael’s 1990 translation is acceptable though not impressive in its own right). But the characters, the conceptions of human nature: these represent the tropes and prejudices of Balzac’s own society, nothing universal or transcendent.

This is a short book with a fairly simple story, though it is detailed and atmospheric enough so as not to require large amounts of plot. Felix Grandet is a miser, who makes large amounts of money through sometimes scurrilous means but refuses to use any of it for the comfort of his wife and daughter, Eugenie. When her city cousin Charles comes to visit for the first time, Eugenie falls immediately in love, but the corrupting influence of money threatens everything meaningful in her life.

Unfortunately, the main characters are not particularly complex or interesting. Felix Grandet is “the miser,” and Balzac takes every opportunity to hold forth on the characteristics of all misers. I’m pretty sure I’ve never met a miser or even heard of a real-life one secondhand, if we define a miser as someone who hoards money for its own sake rather than saving for anything in particular and who refuses to spend even small amounts for their own or their family’s comfort. So this old-fashioned trope and Balzac’s “insights” into the character of misers fell flat for me. Eugenie is defined by another musty trope; she’s the angel in the house, that selfless, innocent, long-suffering 19th century woman. “In her honest simplicity she followed the promptings of her angelic nature,” Balzac tells us at one point. Like her father and the other characters, Eugenie is written as a character in a parable; they exist to fulfill specific roles in the story, and there’s no sense of depth beyond that.

Meanwhile, Balzac’s indictment of misers is strange to my 21st century eyes. We are clearly supposed to feel bad for Eugenie because she’s required to eat simple foods and use footwarmers rather than having a fire in the spring and fall, even when this lifestyle is credited for her robust good health. Wow, how awful? But Eugenie and her mother (who does legitimately suffer from Felix’s behavior) are portrayed as the only people of moral character in the book, which makes it appear that Balzac is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue. On the one hand, Felix is morally repugnant for refusing to “live up to his income” (that 19th century virtue) and provide his family the luxuries they can afford, but on the other hand, his refusal to do so is a recipe for producing the ideal woman, an angelic figure absent from the households of the Grandets’ moneyed acquaintances. Admittedly, this is complicated somewhat as [Eugenie grows older and picks up some of her father’s traits, but that only happens after she remains single and at home long past the prescribed age, suggesting that marrying as a young woman should might have allowed her to continue unspoiled. And she continues to live for religion and devote her money to charity, even while she is unhappy. (hide spoiler)]

Either way, Balzac brings a boatload of gender-based generalizations to the table, which he is eager to share with the reader. For instance:

“All women, even the most stupid, can use wiles to attain their ends.” (60)

“Is it not the noble destiny of women to be more touched by the trappings of poverty than by the splendours of wealth?” (63)

“Pity is one of the qualities in which women are sublimely superior; it is the only one that they are willing to reveal, the only one they will forgive men for allowing them a greater share of.” (90)

“Women have in common with angels the special care of suffering beings.” (93)

“A woman’s mistakes nearly always stem for her belief in good news or from her confidence in truth.” (109)

“In every situation, women have more cause for grief than men and suffer more.” (134)

To my amusement, the writer of the scholarly introduction (which, as usual, you shouldn’t read before the book unless you want to be spoiled) shares many of these complaints. “Much of the contrast [between Eugenie and her father] is best skated over – Eugenie is written in the imagery of the ‘angelic’ and the painfully embarrassing analogies with Raphael’s madonnas and so on,” he writes. And, “There is much tiresome rhetoric about it being in the nature of women to show ‘angelic patience’ in the face of misfortune.” And, “This is the dimension of Balzac’s manner which tends to turn his novels into machines for spewing out generalizations, maxims, quasi-proverbial utterances on virtually every conceivable subject . . . many of them are false or just inadequate to the complexity of experience.” Indeed.

The introduction writer then attempts to defend Balzac by pointing out his use of chiasmus and antithesis, and perhaps if you are the sort of literary reader more interested in techniques and symbolism than characterization, insight or wisdom, you might find much to enjoy in this book. As for me, I found little to appreciate and much cause to question its status as a classic, though I did learn a bit about Balzac’s society from it.

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text 2018-01-30 04:49
Top Considerations When Renting Group Ski Chalets

One of the best ways to enjoy or get up to date with your friends is by having a ski vacation. This way, you can enjoy several snow activities, delight in the amazing sceneries, and a lot more. To make the most of your vacation, it is recommended to hire group ski chalets during your stay. A lot of ski resorts have numerous lodgings near them, so how will you ascertain which one to acquire? To guide you, here are a couple of pointers that you must always think about:


1. Facilities
In the first place, you must assess the dimensions of the chalet you are considering. It should have the adequate number of bathrooms and bedrooms for everyone. The dining room and parlour must have adequate space for your group so you're able to eat and de-stress with no hassle. If you are taking your own vehicle, make sure to scrutinise if the chalet has a parking space.

2. Services
Prior to booking a ski chalet, pay attention to the services the owners can offer. For instance, check out how frequent their house cleaning personnel will visit to change the bed linens and restock the towels. You can even ask if they've got laundry and dry cleaning services so you can clean your clothes and ski equipment after a long day outdoors. At the same time, ask the owners if they could organise service trips to the resort and nearby sites so you can be saved from the inconvenience of driving or taking the public transport.

3. Price
Having a ski vacation isn't inexpensive, however, you can decrease your costs by preparing appropriately. You can find the top deals for renting chalets with the use of the Internet. Nowadays, you will find various online sites where you can check out and hire chalets situated near ski resorts. By going to such online sites, you'll be able to compare costs much quicker and locate the top deals today at once.

4. Food
Without food, your ski trip would be uninteresting. That is why when choosing a ski chalet, always select one that has the meals everyone will enjoy. Some chalet owners will put together catered meals while some will even permit you to prepare your own food. Check if the chalet can provide meals throughout the day or just on a certain schedule. Also, you can research if there are restaurants around your chalet where you can all visit and have taste some local food.

5. Ski trainers
Ultimately, verify if you can train with experienced ski instructors once you hire a certain chalet. That's best not only for amateur skiers who need to learn but also for professional ones who like to try something new. Studying with ski instructors is another great way to meet other people, learn new skiing tricks, and explore the snowy mountains.

Whenever going on a ski holiday with your friends, booking a chalet is a very great idea. It'll make your vacation much more cosy and unforgettable. However, make certain to choose the right one for you. Or else, your holiday might be messed up. Do not forget all of the things discussed here so you're certain to experience a fantastic and trouble-free holiday.

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