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review 2018-09-13 17:44
French Takes on Teens
The Secret Place - Tana French

The Secret Place is Tana French’s fifth entry in her fantastic Dublin Murder Squad series.  Like in the previous novels, French selects one member of the squad to build a story around.  This time, French concentrates the action on Stephen Moran, a new officer first introduced in her third book, Faithful Place.  Moran played a pivitol role in that novel, and it provides background information about his methods and character.  The earlier work also establishes his initial encounter with Frank Mackey, an MS detective who also appears here in The Secret Place. Holly, Mackey’s daughter brings an important clue to Moran who is starting out in the Cold Cases department.  It involves an unsolved murder that took place a year ago at her posh private school.  A boy from the school next door was found dead in the woods, but the perpetrator and a possible motive was never discovered.  Moran is ambitious and leaps at the opportunity to bring the new evidence to a Murder Squad member who might vouch for him and advance his career.  Unfortunately, the detective assigned to the case when it was active was Antionette Conway.  She is an outcast in the Murder Squad, and her prickly demeanor and easily offended sensibilities will make working with her a challenge.  Moran and Conway reopen the case and head up to St. Kilda’s school to follow up. Their investigation brings them in contact with two opposing groups of tight-knit girls who definitely know more than they admitted last year.  French juxtaposes the two cliques, exploring teen friendships-some based on dominance/intimidation, and others on blind loyalty and co-dependence. It is a pretty negative and stereotypical portrayal of adolescent girls, and Conway is also not presented as the best example of a well-adjusted female.  There is a different tone to The Secret Place, which is often considered to be the weakest entry in French’s otherwise successful series.  Some elements stretch credulity and the character development is not as extensive as in the others.  Fans accustomed to her gritty realism and deeper psychological themes may find it a bit disappointing, but French’s writing and storytelling are still more impressive than most.  Her next Dublin Murder Squad book, The Trespasser, is French at her best again and not to be missed. Each Murder Squad mystery can stand alone, but the sequential reader benefits from a richer understanding of the characters, their history, and their interactions with other members of the squad. A new stand-alone work, The Witch Elm is due to be released in October 2018.

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review 2018-09-09 18:58
Diary of a Wombat - Jackie French,Bruce Whatley

Read along as a wombat takes us on a journey of her week - digging holes, sleeping, eating, and training the new neighbors. Wombats can get into lots of trouble during the course of a week.

 

Students will laugh as the wombat wreaks havoc. After reading students can write their own animal diaries and come up with fun scenarios for their animals to be in. 

 

Lexile: 390L

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review 2018-09-07 17:00
‘Enchantée’ will sweep you off your feet and take you back to 18th-century Paris; this historical fantasy is rich with magic, romance, and even some actual events
Enchantée - Gita Trelease

*Warning: words en Francais may appear sporadically.

 

This book is…enchanting. I didn’t have it on my radar until quite simply everyone seemed to be asking about this novel about two sisters living in Paris during the French Revolution, one with the gift of magic, and with the desperate need to get themselves out of the dire situation they are in. They are poor, with Camille using her magie to turn pieces of metal they find in the dirt into coins, while Sophie is ailing, weak with a terrible cough. Their brother Alain is a drunkard and cruel, deeply in debt from his gambling, and the sisters just dream of finding a home away from their brother, Sophie perhaps marrying into aristocracy and money, while Camille has dreams of owning a print shop like her deceased father once did.

 

I’m not usually swept up into a book such as this, one that is a spell-binding combination of magic, romance, historical fiction, and fantasy, but although it’s a long book (some parts seemed overly long, and I felt like the whole thing could have been quite a bit shorter), I was entranced by the characters, as well as the setting.

 

Author Gita Trelease has painted a vivid portrait of Paris in the 18th century in ‘Enchantée’, when the contrast between the rich and the poor was stark, and Marie Antoinette was taking court. Readers will be pleased to know that they will served up ‘beacoup de’ servings of what it was like to live as a French aristocrat at that time, as Camille takes on a new persona, as the Baroness de la Fontaine, when she uses her ‘magie glamoire’ to gain entry to Versailles to play and turn cards. While there she rubs elbows with the rich she would otherwise detest, but ends up making friends as she makes enough money to change things for herself and Sophie. She internally struggles with her use of magie and the differences between the rich and the poor at that time, even though she is using it to change her fortune.

 

There’s a ‘rags-to-riches’/Cinderella tale here, a face-off between the handsome suitors (the handsome, devilish rogue, Seguin, and the more reserved but romantic ingenue, Lazare). The book provides a wonderful look at the culture of the time (I absolutely loved all the research obviously done regarding the use of hot-air balloons; that was probably my favorite part), as well as our protagonist wrestling with so many ideals and virtues. This gives a fantastic deeper edge to the book, and gives a real nod to climate preceding the Revolution. The poverty that was experienced by the ‘poor’ thanks to the disparity created by taxes and wheat prices, is fervently clear throughout, and it’s the thing that drives Camille all the way through her saga at Versailles, and pushes her use her magie. But the question is always, is it worth it? And does this make her just like the aristo? I think the answers are a bit murky at the end, despite the ‘happy ending’.

 

I would very much imagine that many of those who have fallen particularly for the setting of belle Paris, have not had the privilege, like myself, of visiting France, and may not even speak much French; the book is addled with short French phrases, for which, Trelease has put a glossary in the back of the book. It may remove a little enjoyment to keep looking things up, if you don’t know the meaning of those words, but my guess is you have rudimentary French knowledge to have interest in the book in the first place. I appreciate the explanation of all the historical facts and figures as they appear in the book, as they are fascinating.

 

The pace of the book picks up rapidly at about half way through the book, which I felt could have been a lot plus rapide; I feel as though a historical fiction/romance is a bit extravagant at close to 500 pages. If you’re looking for a book with lots of action and adventure, this one isn’t it, and thanks to the coy teasing nature of the romantic flirting, even that isn’t super juicy and doesn’t take up a wild amount of those pages. But of the ones that it does, they’re not overdone or too sickly sweet.

 

‘Enchantée’ is a fabulous romantic story set in Revolutionary France and I’d say ‘vas-y’ (that means go for it), if you’re enamored by historical romance at all. This has a sumptuous setting, unique voice, and made a change in all the YA I’d read lately.


By the way, Paris remains one of my most favorite cities today; take a plane and read ‘Enchantée on the way (sorry that you have to wait until February for it, malheureusement)!

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/36613718-enchant-e
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text 2018-09-06 16:35
L’inconnu du Pont Notre Dame by Jean-Francois Parot

I’m going to read this next. As far as I can tell, it’s not here in Booklikes’ database and I don’t feel up to adding it manually from my phone. I’ve probably said it before, I really hate typing on a little screen. My regular phone is broken. 

 

 

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review 2018-09-02 15:25
The Day of the Dead - Nicci French
The Day of the Dead - Nicci French

  Read for the Darkest London square. 

 

Nicci French books are a counter to all those serial killer/women in peril books: there are women in peril, but the women are the protagonists, not some guy coming in to save them. More recent authors in the same vein would be Gillian Flynn and Carol Goodman. I love these sorts of books.

 

The Frieda Klein series is set primarily in London and one of the notable quirks  of Frieda is that she walks when she can't sleep, which is often all night. There's an interesting parallel with Aaronovitch's Peter Grant series, in that both have the rivers of London running through them as a motif. Anyway Frieda spends a lot of time traveling around London, so the category brought it to mind immediately. That, and the books have a very dark side. But I love them because they also have a great warmth to them. Frieda is a therapist who ends up helping the police with their inquiries when one of her patients is murdered and over the next decade she is involved in other cases in various ways. Anyway, Frieda is a naturally solitary and intensely private one, but she is also very kind, consequently she has a large circle of friends and relations who care deeply for her, and get all up in her business. So despite having dark and brutal crimes, there is this woman on her own in a charming and snug little house, and the varied people who exasperate her with their drama but whom she remains helpful and available for. There is a balance between the two poles of alone and attached that pleases me and soothes me.

 

This book was a truly satisfying conclusion to the series. There's no attempt to tie up all tje loose ends, but there's quite a bit of resolution. 

 

Highly recommended, and good for Suspence, Terrifying Women, maybe Modern Noir, Murder Most Foul, Amateur Sleuth, and arguably Slasher Stories. The first Frieda Klein novel , Blue Monday, is also the 13th Nicci French novel.

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