Review: Maigret and the Apparition (Maigret #62) ~ Georges Simenon, Eileen Ellenbogen (Translator)

MaigretISBN ~ 978-0156028387
Publisher ~Mariner Books
No. Of Pages ~ 164 pages
Links ~ AbeBooks, Book Depository, Amazon

Maigret arrives home exhausted after cracking an especially difficult case, only to be awakened within hours by the news of a nearly successful attempt on the life of a colleague. Plainclothes Detective Lognon, known to Maigret as “Inspector Hapless,” has become involved beyond his depth in an international art fraud and is suffering the consequences. Maigret’s only clue to Lognon’s assailant is the single word “apparition” spoken by the victim as he emerges from the operating room. The apparition leads Maigret to the highest echelons of the Parisian art world–and the depths of greed and cruelty.

Maigret is a registered trademark of the Estate of Georges Simenon.

3 Thumbs-UpWhen it comes to foreign language detective novels that were written in 1940’s, 50’s and early 1960’s I tend to enjoy the Maigret books more than the other in this genre during this era.

The characters in this, as in other Maigret novels, are ones that a newcomer can easily feel comfortable with and a die-hard lover of this series can welcome back like an old friend; there is nothing too deep or complicated in their construction and none of them reveals any inner turmoil or traits to the reader that could be misconstrued as weakness; a journey back in time to the days when men were men, and women were there to make their lives easier and more attractive.

The location for this little whodunit is an older Paris, set in the days when not everyone was plugged into a phone, or even owned one at home, smoking was common, and files and cases were researched using leg work and taking manual notes.  Because of this the novel can at times seem a little disjointed and makes Maigret seem somewhat irrational in his handling of this case;  I tend to regard it as the Author allowing the reader into the Detective’s thought processes, complete with all its twists and turns from a straight path.

At a 164 pages, this little book is something that can be read at bedtime, as it probably takes no longer to read than an episode of a TV series would take to watch.  It is a darn good story that will not fill your slumbers with gory and disturbed dreams, and may even leave you wanting to read some more novels by this Author.

I would highly recommend this and other Maigret novels to anyone who enjoys this genre, and is looking for a quick and satisfying read to round off the day.

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C. D. Wright, 1949–2016

Wright_cd_download_2

The following article appeared on January 14th 2016, in The Paris Review and was written by by .

“The poet C. D. Wright died unexpectedly this week at the age of sixty-seven, in Providence, Rhode Island. “It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free,” Wright once said, “and declare them so”; poetry was “the one arena where I am not inclined to crank up the fog machine.” Over the course of more than a dozen books, she “found a way,” as The New Yorker put it, “to wed fragments of an iconic America to a luminously strange idiom, eerie as a tin whistle.”

Wright’s poem “Our Dust,” which might double as a kind of eulogy—“I made / simple music / out of sticks and string … I / agreed to be the poet of one life, / one death alone”—appeared in the Winter 1988 issue of The Paris Review, and is reprinted in full below. It was later collected in her book Steal Away. You can watch her read it aloud here.

Our Dust

I am your ancestor. You know next-to-nothing
about me.
There is no reason for you to imagine
the rooms I occupied or my heavy hair.
Not the faint vinegar smell of me. Or
the rubbed damp
of Forrest and I coupling on the landing
en route to our detached day.

You didn’t know my weariness, error, incapacity,
I was the poet
of shadow work and towns with quarter-inch
phone books, of failed
roadside zoos. The poet of yard eggs and
sharpening shops,
jobs at the weapons plant and the Maybelline
factory on the penitentiary road.

A poet of spiderwort and jacks-in-the-pulpit,
hollyhocks against the tool shed.
An unsmiling dark blond.
The one with the trowel in her handbag.
I dug up protected and private things.
That sort, I was.
My graves went undecorated and my churches
abandoned. This wasn’t planned, but practice.

I was the poet of short-tailed cats and yellow
line paint.
Of satellite dishes and Peterbilt trucks. Red Man
Chewing Tobacco, Black Cat Fireworks, Triple Hut
Creme Soda. Also of dirt dobbers, nightcrawlers,
martin houses, honey, and whetstones
from the Novaculite Uplift. What remained
of The Uplift.

I had registered dogs 4 sale; rocks, dung,
and straw.
I was a poet of hummingbird hives along with
redhead stepbrothers.

The poet of good walking shoes—a necessity
in vernacular parts—and push mowers.
The rumor that I was once seen sleeping
in a refrigerator box is false (he was a brother
who hated me).
Nor was I the one lunching at the Governor’s
mansion.

I didn’t work off a grid. Or prime the surface
if I could get off without it. I made
simple music
out of sticks and string. On side B of me,
experimental guitar, night repairs and suppers
such as this.
You could count on me to make a bad situation
worse like putting liquid make-up over
a passion mark.

I never raised your rent. Or anyone else’s by God.
Never said I loved you. The future gave me chills.
I used the medium to say: Arise arise and
come together.
Free your children. Come on everybody. Let’s start
with Baltimore.

Believe me I am not being modest when I
admit my life doesn’t bear repeating. I
agreed to be the poet of one life,
one death alone. I have seen myself
in the black car. I have seen the retreat
of the black car.

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Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune #1) ~ M.J. Rose

witch of painted sorrowsISBN ~ 978-1476778068
Publisher ~ Atria Books
No. Of Pages ~ 384 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

3 Thumbs-UpAlthough the first in this series, this is the third novel written by this Author and, to be honest I’ve not read either of the previous two.  However the synopsis intrigued me and held a certain promise, so I set off to wind my way through its pages.

I’m going to come straight out and say this; I did not like the main protagonist at all.  I did not understand her or her motivation for anything she did, and had even less understanding for those things she didn’t do but probably should have.  As much as I tried I could not find myself either empathizing or sympathising with her in any way which resulted in her just being a downright annoyance throughout the whole novel.  Why she had to keep banging on about her one and only failed attempt at watercolour painting just confused the heck out of me, and she seems to use this as an excuse for all her bad behaviour and dishonesty when related to art school.  I did feel sorry for her Grandmother who tried her hardest to steer the lead character in the right direction but was constantly ignored and dismissed.  But again I was also disappointed in her, for a woman who had made a living in her given profession she was not very strong-willed at all, and usually ended up just giving in to the main character for the sake of a quiet life I felt.

So why did I give this book a three thumbs rating?  As already said it was not the characters that helped the novel achieve this rating, but rather the location and the way in which the Author used the words on the page.  The streets of Old Paris leapt of the page through the descriptions of the courtyards around which people made their homes, and the words rolled of the page not in a rush and bluster but as if they were taking a leisurely stroll down the Champs Elysees on a warm summer day.  As much as I enjoyed the relaxed way in which the book was written I felt somewhat let down too; after all the synopsis had promised witchery and there was nothing remotely ominous and witchy that I could find in these pages.  Maybe I like my witches too dark, and the kind featured here were just so innocuous they escaped my attention.

If you are already familiar with this Author, you may just enjoy this book; as for me I doubt very much that I will be reading anything by her again… as the saying goes ‘it wasn’t you, it’s me’

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Review: The Bones of Paris (Harris Stuyvesant #2) ~ Laurie R. King

Bones of ParisISBN ~ 978-0345531766
Publisher ~ Bantam
No. Of Pages ~ 432 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House

Paris, France: September 1929. For Harris Stuyvesant, the assignment is a private investigator’s dream—he’s getting paid to troll the cafés and bars of Montparnasse, looking for a pretty young woman. The American agent has a healthy appreciation for la vie de bohème, despite having worked for years at the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. The missing person in question is Philippa Crosby, a twenty-two year old from Boston who has been living in Paris, modeling and acting. Her family became alarmed when she stopped all communications, and Stuyvesant agreed to track her down. He wholly expects to find her in the arms of some up-and-coming artist, perhaps experimenting with the decadent lifestyle that is suddenly available on every rue and boulevard.

As Stuyvesant follows Philippa’s trail through the expatriate community of artists and writers, he finds that she is known to many of its famous—and infamous—inhabitants, from Shakespeare and Company’s Sylvia Beach to Ernest Hemingway to the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. But when the evidence leads Stuyvesant to the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Montmartre, his investigation takes a sharp, disturbing turn. At the Grand-Guignol, murder, insanity, and sexual perversion are all staged to shocking, brutal effect: depravity as art, savage human nature on stage.

Soon it becomes clear that one missing girl is a drop in the bucket. Here, amid the glittering lights of the cabarets, hides a monster whose artistic coup de grâce is to be rendered in blood. And Stuyvesant will have to descend into the darkest depths of perversion to find a killer . . . sifting through The Bones of Paris.

2 Thumbs-UpIf the macabre and gruesome are not what you enjoy in your reading material this is a book that you may want to pass over; it’s also the second book in a series, which I didn’t realise when I started reading and I feel that by not reading book one I may have missed some important details that would have raised the rating of this book higher.  However, with that said, this novel is a stand alone with a few grey areas.

The main protagonist is a private investigator, not the usual sort but a man who follows the money and goes where he is needed.  I found him to be unlikable and lacking in the kind of judgement I would have hoped to see in a man of this kind, and despite his being on retainer he seems to spend his time throughout the book living from hand to mouth and making bad decisions about most aspects of his life and the case the book centres around.  There is no real depth to him, or any of the other characters mentioned in the book, and this made it a slow and plodding read for me.

Location wise though I could not fault the book; Paris at the tail end of the 1920’s and featuring some of its more famous residents, was well written and researched.  I particularly enjoyed the references to the Paris catacombs, and the way in which they came about.  I seem to be reading a lot of books that feature places I have visited, and this one was no different; because of this the visual elements of the story, such as the aforementioned catacombs came vividly to life.  I did find, however, that the lack of pages given over to solving the crime was rather disconcerting and that when the culprit was revealed it was rather an anti-climax.

For anyone who has read the first book in this series, they may enjoy this one; as for me I doubt if I will go back and read book one as this book was a disappointment that would be hard to recover from.  I also doubt that I will read anything else by this Author.

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Summer Reading for Gardeners ~ Five Books to Inspire and Delight

Summer is the time readers and gardeners can really get out into the fresh air and embrace their passions under the sun.  Below are five recommendations for both the reader and the gardener out there; the former will get great joy out of wandering through the gardens mentioned; the latter may blessed with inspiration for their own corner of nature, no matter how small:

New Shade gardeningTitle ~ New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change
Author ~ Ken Druse
ISBN ~ 978-1617691041
Publisher ~ Stewart, Tabori and Chang
File Size ~ 92315 KB
Print Length ~ 256 pages
Text-to-Speech ~ Enabled

Description:  There is a new generation of gardeners who are planting gardens not only for their visual beauty but also for their ability to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In The New Shade Garden, Ken Druse provides this generation with a comprehensive guide to creating a shade garden with an emphasis on the adjustments necessary for our changing climate. Druse offers advice for common problems facing today’s gardeners, from addressing the deer situation to watering plants without stressing limited resources. Detailing all aspects of the gardening process, the book covers basic topics such as designing your own garden, pruning trees, preparing soil for planting, and the vast array of flowers and greenery that grow best in the shade. Perfect for new and seasoned gardeners alike, this wide-ranging encyclopaedic manual provides all the information you need to start or improve upon your own shade garden.

Paris GardensTitle ~ In & Out of Paris: Gardens of Secret Delights
Author ~ Zahid Sardar
Photographer: Marion Brenner
ISBN ~ 978-1423632702
Publisher ~ Gibbs Smith
File Size ~ 142667 KB
Print Length ~ 264 Pages
Text-to-Speech ~ Enabled

Description:  Among the more than 30 great and small projects within In & Out of Paris are Vaux-le-Vicomte, Versailles, and Courances—all classic André Le Nôtre–style French gardens. Also discover the Paris gardens of celebrated artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and art aficionado Pierre Bergé, architect Kenzo Takada’s Japanese retreat in the Bastille, Australian couturier Martin Grant’s tiny terrace in the Marais, Mexican painter MariCarmen Hernandez’s Montmartre rooftop, and American architect Michael Herrman’s homage to Le Corbusier’s surreal ChampsÉlysées garden for bon vivant Charles de Beistegui.

Modern masters Louis Benech, Gilles Clement, Pascal Cribier, Christian Fournet, Camille Muller, Hugues Peuvergne, and Pierre-Alexandre Risser are also featured, representing a new era of experiments, color, and asymmetry in the Paris garden.

HighgroveTitle ~ Highgrove: An English Country Garden
Author ~ HRH The Prince of Wales and Bunny Guinness
ISBN ~ 978-0847845613
Publisher ~ Rizzoli
Print Length ~ 240 pages

Description: The pioneering demonstration of organic gardens planned and planted by the Prince of Wales over thirty years at Highgrove. The gardens at Highgrove are one of the world’s most celebrated examples of organic gardening, offering inspiration to generations of gardeners by showing that a gorgeous landscape through completely organic and earth-friendly means is truly possible. Like a personal tour through each of the seasons, the Prince of Wales, along with Bunny Guinness, describes the thinking behind each planting, lessons learned from trial and error, the highlights and triumphs, as well as future plans. Lavishly illustrated with photographs that capture both the light and detail of this majestic space, this beautiful book will delight and inspire gardeners of every level. It is an exquisite celebration of garden design, full of passion and inspiration.

on garden styleTitle ~ Bunny Williams On Garden Style
Author ~ Bunny Williams
ISBN ~ 978-1617691539
Publisher ~ Stewart, Tabori and Chang
Print Length ~ 288 pages

Description: In Bunny Williams on Garden Style, Williams visits impeccably designed gardens around the world, shedding light on the key components that make a garden so appealing and idyllic. For Williams, gardens offer an escape, and she imparts vital information on how to envision your garden and design a space that translates into a lush sanctuary reflecting your taste and style. Once you’ve imagined your garden, Williams offers advice for bringing it to fruition—the garden structure,” furnishing the space, and establishing an aesthetic. The book also includes plant lists, a reading list, and more. Filled with new photography of spectacular gardens, this latest volume is both a wonderful inspiration and a practical guide to gardening from one of the world’s most renowned design experts.

layered gardenTitle ~ The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage
Author ~ David L. Culp and Adam Levine
ISBN ~ 978-1604692365
Publisher ~ Timber Press
File Size ~ 38607 KB
Print Length ~ 312 pages
Text-to-Speech ~ Enabled

Description: Brandywine Cottage is David Culp’s beloved two-acre Pennsylvania garden where he mastered the design technique of layering — interplanting many different species in the same area so that as one plant passes its peak, another takes over. The result is a nonstop parade of color that begins with a tapestry of heirloom daffodils and hellebores in spring and ends with a jewel-like blend of Asian wildflowers at the onset of winter.

The Layered Garden shows you how to recreate Culp’s majestic display. It starts with a basic lesson in layering — how to choose the correct plants by understanding how they grow and change throughout the seasons, how to design a layered garden, and how to maintain it. To illustrate how layering works, Culp takes you on a personal tour through each part of his celebrated garden: the woodland garden, the perennial border, the kitchen garden, the shrubbery, and the walled garden. The book culminates with a chapter dedicated to signature plants for all four seasons.

As practical as it is inspiring, The Layered Garden will provide you with expert information gleaned from decades of hard work and close observation. If you thought that a four-season garden was beyond your reach, this book will show you how to achieve that elusive, tantalizing goal.

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Review: All the Light We Cannot See ~ Anthony Doerr

All the light we cannot seeISBN ~ 978-1476746586
Publisher ~ Scribner
No. Of Pages ~ 531 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great-uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

2 Thumbs-UpWhat a confusing book, flipping backward and forward between time periods and not being what I was expecting at all from the synopsis; and it’s not as if the Author gradually leads the reader into all this mayhem, he throws them right into it from the very first chapter.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am not against the multiple thread novel, as I have reviewed other Authors that use this tactic, and use it well; it was just not the case in the book and, in my opinion did nothing to improve or help the novel in any way.

The book has two main protagonists from different sides of the conflict that book is set partly in, World War II.  I’m not sure if it was me, or I am losing my touch but I really found nothing that make me connect to either of these characters; I didn’t like them at all.  In fact the only emotion I had for them was pity that they had been placed in a novel such as this.  Yes, it was sad that the female main lead was blind, but did we have to be reminded of it every few pages; and given the amount of miles her fingers walked they must have been nothing but nubs by the end of the book.  As to the male lead, given he was an orphan he lacked the zeal and love for the Nazi party that many orphans felt, as they found a ‘family’ at last that needed them.

Thinking that this was a historical novel was the reason I picked it up in the first place, so imagine my surprise when it seemed to turn on its heels and become a fantasy mystery; very strange.  In my mind it would have been better if the object of the mystery had been connected with Nazi thefts during the war, rather than some magical and mysterious properties it was supposed to possess.  This added to the tediousness I was beginning to feel over the flipping between eras, and just added to my lack of overall enjoyment of this book.

The saving grace for this novel and the reason for the two thumbs rating was the prose.  With an elegant pen the descriptions of objects, places, sensations encountered by the senses was just beautiful; it brought to the front of the reader’s mind how much we take for granted the sense of touch and smell and results in making them experience the mundane on different level in their own lives.

I’m sure there are some readers out there who will totally disagree with my review, but that is the nature of the world and both sides of a coin have to be seen to get a well-rounded picture.  If you enjoy fantasy, mystery and WWII historical fiction all in one book, this may be a good read for you.  If you like to keep your genres separate unless they are skilfully blended together, I would give this a miss.  I doubt I will be reading anything else by this Author.

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Review: Paris at the End of the World: How the City of Lights Soared in Its Darkest Hour, 1914-1918 ~ John Baxter

Paris at the end of the worldA preeminent writer on Paris, John Baxter brilliantly brings to life one of the most dramatic and fascinating periods in the city’s history.

From 1914 through 1918 the terrifying sounds of World War I could be heard from inside the French capital. For four years, Paris lived under constant threat of destruction. And yet in its darkest hour, the City of Light blazed more brightly than ever. It’s taxis shuttled troops to the front; its great railway stations received reinforcements from across the world; the grandest museums and cathedrals housed the wounded, and the Eiffel Tower hummed at all hours relaying messages to and from the front.

At night, Parisians lived with urgency and without inhibition. Artists like Pablo Picasso achieved new creative heights. And the war brought a wave of foreigners to the city for the first time, including Ernest Hemingway and Baxter’s own grandfather, Archie, whose diaries he used to reconstruct a soldier’s-eye view of the war years. A revelatory achievement, Paris at the End of the World shows how this extraordinary period was essential in forging the spirit of the city beloved today.

2 Thumbs-UpI was really looking forward to sitting down and reading this book, after all according to the title I would get an insight into what life was like for the French, in particular Parisians during World War One.  What I actually found between the pages was more a memoir written by the Author of his search for his Grandfather who was in Paris during the ‘war to end all wars’.

Questions I wanted to know such as the Parisians reaction to a war raging so close to their city was not covered and, although the journey of discovery the Author writes about was marginally interesting, not enough was in it to stop me asking myself what this had to do with not only Paris, but the way it reacted to the Great War.

This book turned out to be a huge disappointment as I was hoping for more of a social history of Paris, a city I greatly love and another perspective on the attitudes of the people who lived here and in this time.  Each time the reader comes close to Paris it seems as if the Author decides to take the left fork in the road instead of following the path into the city, some readers may not find this irritating but for me it was a major peeve, and was one of the reasons this book only receives a 2 thumbs rating.

If the is book had been listed as a memoir the disappointment I felt in it would not have been so great and, it would probably have received a higher rating; also if this book were re-categorized into the memoir genre, I feel it would reach a wider, more satisfied, reading audience than it possibly does under its current classification.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy memoirs, but I highly doubt I will read anything else by this Author.

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