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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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review 2018-02-05 05:29
The Lost Castle - Book Review

This story is spread out between three women - three women who are strong willed and unwilling to conform to the world around them. They fought, loved, and lived through some of the most troubling times in history. Aveline who has her life arranged for her by her family, but wants something different. Vi, who refuses to sit back and watch the world change around her. Ellie - who wants to unlock the secrets of her grandmothers life, but unwilling to budge on what she sets her mind to.
Ellie wants to know about her grandmothers past, and the secrets that are locked within the confines of her mind. Alzheimer's has ravaged the once clear and brilliant mind, leaving her millions of miles away - not always knowing her granddaughter, or where she is. The secrets that haunt her grandmother send Ellie off on a search for the answers - all the way to France.
Once there, she encounters Quinn, who holds almost as many secrets as her grandmother. As the stories flip between Aveline, Vi and Ellie, the past comes to life once more.

Aveline's story really spoke to me. The French Revolution was a dangerous time. But her concern was not the money or the social standing. She bucked convention and tried to help those who needed it the most. Instead of marrying the man that was set before her, she found love in one of the most unlikely places, with someone who was willing to look past the scars and accept her for who she was.
Vi was someone who wanted to do her part in the war, no matter the cost to her, because she believed in what they were fighting for.

I really enjoyed reading through this book. It held my attention throughout, and the flipping back and forth was not really hard to follow at all.

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review 2017-11-24 05:30
Accessible adaptation of a classic tragedy
By Victor Hugo Manga Classics: Les Miserables Softcover - Victor Hugo

I quite liked this adaptation. I've always found Les Misérables to be pretty tough going, and the tragedy tended to overwhelm its beauty, so the stripped down format and much faster pacing of a graphic novel/manga version works much better for me. It still touches on the tragedy and fits in much of the complexity, while exposing the story structure more plainly. Also, it's pretty. Great way to introduce a classic in a more accessible way.

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text 2017-09-12 00:07
A Place of Greater Safety - Hilary Mantel

I am currently reading this. No one writes like Hilary Mantel. Events are very detailed and read slowly, and then a passage suddenly hits you like a freight train.

 

And this is a story of The French Revolution: war, blood, anarchy, science, philosophy, a doomed monarchy. What took me so long?

 

I used to read entire books within days. Now it takes me weeks. Maybe our ADHD social media-addled society is to blame? Or maybe it's just me. Enough with the excuses. 

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review 2016-11-09 02:37
The Black Count
The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo (Pulitzer Prize for Biography) - Tom Reiss

The name Alexandre Dumas is well known, but before the author and his playwright son was the General.  Tom Reiss brings the little known founder of the Dumas family into the spotlight in The Black Count, a born slave of noble blood turned Republican general in the service of France.  This giant of a man both of stature in the view of his novelist son cast a long shadow since his death.

 

Born in modern Haiti as a slave to a French nobleman father, Alexandre life suddenly changed when he joined on his father’s return journey to France to take is family title.  However after years of dealing with his father behavior, Alexandre joined the French army and with the coming of the French Revolution into Republican government.  His daring feats in the field and dedication to the ideals of republicanism sent him quickly up the chain of command to General.  Continuing his lead in front style, Alexandre was sent to lead men on every front that France needed him.  But it was his feats during the Italian campaign that truly brought him his greatest fame and yet began his long cold relationship with another General, Napoleon.  After more spectacular feats in Egypt and yet more conflict with Napoleon, Alexandre decided to return to France but was then captured in southern Italy only to emerge two year later into a new France in which his desire to service his country was rejected by its new leader.  Five years after his release, Alexandre died leaving his young son bereaved.  Yet, the legendary events of his life would inspire young Alexandre with a lot of material for his epic heroes including one Edmund Dantes.

 

The Black Count is a thrilling ride following a mixed raced former slave fighting for the republican ideals of his new homeland even as radical political events shift all around him, yet Alexandre Dumas quickly became a hero to the French until his capture and release into an entirely different France that didn’t appreciate him.  Tom Reiss brought to life of a little known French Republican general that had a long lasting impact on history outside of the military and political sphere to the enjoyment of readers around the world.

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