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review 2018-06-01 21:55
The Second Blast of the Trumpet: The Second Book In The Knox Trilogy - Marie Macpherson

Usually in trilogies, novels start losing their pace during the second instalment. However, this is not the case with The Second Blast of the Trumpet. It picks up right where the first instalment ends.

 

We re-join - the not so young by now - John Knox soon after he was set free from serving his sentence as a galley slave. His fervour and his determinations to bring about a reformation to his beloved Scotland are stronger than ever and he is ready to preach. But he continues to come across political and religious boulders that obstruct his way to glory. We follow him on his journey through England to Switzerland and back and watch him develop into the man who will bring about the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. 

 

Marie MacPherson skilfully continues to lift the curtain on the not so well known part of John Knox's life and his influence on people around him, especially women.  The novel is not short of historical characters such as Marie de Guise, William Cecil and John Calvin and the political intrigue that took place behind closed curtains. I will admit - it was refreshing to read a novel that expresses what the other side thought of the Tudors and their politics. :D

 

I had a privilege to read the book in its draft form and thoroughly enjoyed it in its print form as well. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.  

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review 2018-05-27 20:50
"They seek him here, they seek him there ..."
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy,Gary Hoppenstand
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Stephen Crossly,Emmuska Orczy

Oh, what a glorious prelude to the 2018 Summer of Spies.

 

Maybe not a "spy" novel in a narrower sense, but writing in 1902 and leagues ahead of her time, Orczy created the first book of what would become a series of perfect swashbucklers, starring a power couple in which the heroine is every bit her partner's equal and then some.

 

Indeed, cleverly Orczy even tells this book's story chiefly from Marguerite's point of view, which not only has the benefit of keeping the first-time reader (though ... is there such a creature, in this day and age, when it comes to this particular novel?) unaware of the Scarlet Pimpernel's identity as long as possible, but also gives Marguerite an added reason to hurtle all the way to France in Sir Percy's pursuit once she has cottoned onto (1) his alias, and (2) the fact that Chauvelin has unmasked him as well and is now hunting for him in turn.  After all, the narrative perspective would go to hell in a handbasket if Marguerite were to just stay at home and gnash her teeth, anxiously awaiting her husband's safe return -- whereas this way, Orczy is able to present her as a woman of action ... even if, for the most part, it looks like the much-touted "cleverest woman in Europe" is stumbling blindly after her husband and Chauvelin in their respective tracks and comes darned close to ruining Sir Percy's whole enterprise, not to mention imperiling the life of her beloved brother Armand, to whose assistance Sir Percy had rushed off to begin with (well, that and in order to finish the job of getting the de Tournay family safely across the Channel).

 

No wonder, in any event, that the reading public soon demanded a sequel -- and Marguerite  and Sir Percy would soon also find their way onto the silver screen.  The rest, as they've never said more truly than here, is history ...

 

 

My "Summer of Spies meets Women Writers Project" reading list:

Women of Intelligence

(http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/897/women-of-intelligence)

 

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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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