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text 2020-06-07 02:40
Reading progress update: I've read 65%.
The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog - Elizabeth Peters

Skipping to the seventh book in the series after only having read the first may have been a mistake. But I was trying to combine a book for both Snakes and Ladders and BL-opoly, and this book has both a dog and a domestic animal (the dog) on the cover. And as I recall, the first Amelia Peabody book was alright, and had a character who set his pocket on fire with his pipe (more books should use that scenario).

 

This one appears to be combining an amnesia storyline where a husband forgets his wife of a decade because apparently he's secretly tired of domestic life or something (I'm not entirely clear on that point but it sounded like a silly excuse), a doctor called Schadenfreude who claims that men and women are natural enemies (see silly excuse above), and some master criminal who deals with antiquities who apparently has shown up in a previous book.

 

At least there's a cool cat called Anubis.

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review 2020-06-06 19:33
The Gamekeeper's Lady by Ann Lethbridge
The Gamekeeper's Lady - Ann Lethbridge

Lord Robert Mountford has a bad habit of hopping into bed with flirtatious married women, but he steers clear of innocent virgins. Unfortunately, one catches him alone and, mistaking him for his twin brother, falsely accuses him of trying to kiss her. He refuses to marry her and is ostracized by everyone he knows. Even his own father kicks him out.

Three years later, Robert has managed to land a position as an assistant gamekeeper at Wynchwood estate, hiding his true identity as best he can. Frederica Bracewell, the young lady of the house, may prove to be his undoing. Sparks fly between the two of them as Robert helps Frederica with her secret project, drawing local wildlife and adding to her art portfolio so that she can eventually run away to Italy and become an artist.

I knew from the start that I probably wasn't going to like this very much. The book began with the hero naked in bed after having had sex with another man's wife. The woman, Maggie, started trying to match him up with her niece before the two of them had even gotten dressed. The whole thing repulsed me. Shortly after that, Robert was kicked out by his father for not marrying the young lady who said he'd kissed her, and then there was a "three years later" time jump.

Frederica was mistreated by her uncle, frequently punished just for being left-handed, and constantly interrupted because of her stutter. I generally like downtrodden heroines because it's fun seeing them come into their own, but I got so frustrated with both her and Robert that I just couldn't root for them. They were both idiots. When they met, it was instant physical attraction. Also, Frederica was happy because Robert didn't seem to take issue with either her left-handedness or her stutter.

If I remember right, the book had two sex scenes, and the first one happened after Frederica and Robert had spoken to each other maybe three times. Although Robert had just reminded her that he could be fired for letting her into his house alone at night, he for some reason agreed to model for her nude (or nearly nude? I wasn't entirely sure). One thing led to another and, boom, sex scene. Frederica lied and said she wasn't a virgin, which I guess prompted Robert to decide it was okay to risk the best job he'd managed to find in three years.

These characters were so very stupid.

Anyway, in the last third of the book, multiple characters revealed that they weren't who they appeared to be, and the sudden complications at least made things interesting, even though I didn't enjoy the romance. Maggie, the woman Robert was in bed with at the beginning of the book, showed up again. It was awkward, but not quite as bad as I'd expected.

The ending was...terrible. It was like most of the characters experienced personality transplants. Frederica and Robert had doubts about each other that were understandable considering that neither one of them really knew each other very well, but that made it very difficult to believe in their happy ending. Which was very, very happy, with everything wrapping up neatly.

I looked at the summaries of the other books in the series. Looks like Charles, Robert's twin, is the hero of the next book, Robert's friend John is the hero of the third, and the fourth features characters I don't think appeared in this book at all. I have no interest in reading any of them.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-06-06 14:44
The Spy
The Spy - Paulo Coelho

by Paulo Coelho

 

This was an amazingly fast read, although it was over 200 pages. It tells the story of Mata Hari, starting with her execution and then flashing back to begin her life story and how she became who she was.

 

The writing, as anything by this author, flows poetically and draws the reader into its depths, involving the reader so completely in the story that it would be easy to imagine oneself as Mata Hari, sharing her experiences.

 

It is divided into three parts with no chapters to break it up further, but I had no trouble reading part two, about 50% of the book, in one sitting. This part took me through some quick personal history up to the beginning of the war and how a dancer got caught up in the war machine. Though an intelligent woman, one bad choice changed everything for her.

 

History gives us spoilers, but reading about the events that led up to the conclusion we started with was fascinating. I do need to read more by this author.

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review 2020-06-06 14:22
The Search for Rasha
The Search for Rasha - Paul B. Skousen

by Paul B. Skousen

 

Bassam Saga book 3.

 

Rasha, daughter of the great Abdali-ud-din leader, is kidnapped during the night by bandits seeking ransom. Her fiancé, Bassam, is as determined to get her back as her father. A caravan guide, Shamar, works out that the girl his clients have with them is a kidnap victim and makes a plan to rescue her.

 

This is a well written story with desert adventure and poetic prose when Bassam speaks of his love for Rasha and resolve to bring her home, though we don't see what he's actually doing about it for a while. Rasha is intelligent and resourceful. She's a strong personality and a likeable character, as is her rescuer.

 

Some of the missives from other people break up the narrative and slow it down. Personally, I would have preferred to keep the story on Rasha and Shamar or move between them and what was being done to find her.

 

The book stands alone well and I didn't feel the lack of background from not having read the previous books in the series. I rather liked the end, though it was sort of predictable. The notes after the story were also interesting as there was historical precedent for much of the story, which I had thought was just a Fantasy.

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text 2020-06-05 20:09
Reading progress update: I've read 380 out of 380 pages.
L'énigme des Blancs-Manteaux - Jean-François Parot

(French text and images below.)

 

Well, that's a wrap.  Somewhat against my own expectations, I finished this book in just under a week.  As I suspected, we don't actually learn that much more in the final 150 pages, even though the action continued to move at a sprightly pace.  There were a few more things I could have done without

(including but not limited to the "dark and stormy night" goings-on which the author, it turns out, had only been saving for the book's final chase(s), as well as a veritable "coup de théâtre" during the final conclave which might easily have backfired in real life),

(spoiler show)

and the author's choice to present the solution in a Golden Age mystery-style "final conclave" didn't really work for me, not least because -- but for the revelations that actually only follow the "final conclave" -- much of what Nicolas says there had at the very least been on the cards since the book's halfway mark or (in part) longer.  But to the last, the book's biggest draw for me was the historical detail -- Parot clearly knows what he's writing about, and he is very good at building it into the story's setting and atmosphere.  (Unlike in other, similar cases, I didn't even mind the footnotes; by and large, they actually worked better for me than a lengthy "historical note" at the end of the book would have done.)  As I said to Tannat in a comment on yesterday's status update, the book feels like Parot is taking the reader on a tour of 18th century Paris (and 18th century Paris society), while at the same time telling a detective story.  Overall, that made for a very enjoyable experience.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Eh bien, voilà tout fini!  Plus ou moins contre mes propres expectations, j'ai fini ce livre dans un peu moins d'une semaine.  Comme j'avais supposé, on n'apprend plus grand'chose dans les 150 pages finales, bien que l'action continue d'avancer à un pas assez gaillard.  Il y avait encore quelques élements de plus auquels j'aurais bien voulu renoncer

(tels que les évenements "nuit sinistre et orageuse" qu'il émerge que l'auteur avait seulement conservé aux chasses finales, autant qu'un véritable coup de théâtre durant le "conclave final" qui aurait bien pu finir manière retour du bâton dans la vie réelle),

(spoiler show)

et le choix de l'auteur de présenter la grande solution façon "conclave final" d'un roman policier de l'Âge Dorée ne m'a pas exactement enchanté, non des moindres parce que -- à part des révélations qui, en fait, suivent au "conclave final" -- beaucoup des faits y  mentionnés par Nicolas avaient été au moins possibles depuis la moitié du livre (ou même plus longtemps).  Mais jusqu'au moment dernier l'attraction la plus grande du livre, pour moi, était le détail historique -- c'est clair que Parot sait de quoi il parle, et il réussit bien à l'intégrer dans la mise en scène et l'atmosphère du récit.  (Au contraire d'autres cas pareils, même les notes individuelles de l'auteur ne m'ont pas dérangé; tout-en-un, je les ai préféré à une longue note historique à la fin du livre.)  Comme j'ai dit à Tannat dans un commentaire à mon status update de hier, ce livre me parait comme si Parot avait invité le lecteur à un tour du Paris du 18e siècle (et de la société parisienne du 18e siècle), tout en nous racontant une histoire policière.  En somme, cela a fait une expérience bien plaisante.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Final images:

 

Etienne Jeaurat: Le carnaval des rues de Paris (oil on cloth, 1757, Paris, Musée Carnavalet)

 

The Carnaval de Paris lasted, in the 17th and 18th centuries, from the day after Epiphany (Twelfth Night) until Ash Wednesday / the beginning of Lent.

 

Ebony and ivory Janseist crucifix: Christ is shown hanging with His hands above His head, so as to make His body form an arrow (rather than the "T" form of the traditional crucifix with His arms outstretched at a right angle to His body).  The arrow pointing down to the congregation in the Janseist cruxifix signified that Christ died only for the elect; whereas the traditional crucifix featuring outstretched arms indicates that Christ died for the whole world.

 

 

 

 

François Boucher: The Crocodile Hunt and The Leopard Hunt (both 1736), Charles Parrosel: The Hunt of the Wild Boar (1738), and Charles André van Loo: The Bear Hunt (1739), some of Louis XV's "chasses exotiques", then at Versailles -- all now at the Musée de Picardie in Amiens. (Right-click on an image to see a larger version.)

 

An 18th century map of the faubourg Saint-Marcel (or Saint-Marceau) -- in the 17th and 18th centuries, an extremely poor and downtrodden working class area -- and its location on a map of the modern city (it was outside the city walls in the 18th century).  Rousseau wrote in his Confessions:

"En entrant [à Paris] par le faubourg Saint-Marceau je ne vis que de petites rues sales et puantes, de vilaines maisons noires, l’air de malpropreté, de la pauvreté, des mendiants, des charretiers, des ravaudeuses, des crieuses de tisane et de vieux chapeaux. Tout cela me frappa d’abord à un tel point que tout ce que j’ai vu depuis à Paris de magnificence réelle n’a pu détruire cette première impression, et qu’il m’en est resté toujours un secret dégoût pour l’habitation de cette capitale."

 

Guérande (Nicolas's home town) and its location on a satelite map.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Previous status updates:

41 pages

94 pages

112 pages

221 pages

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