Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell – Giveaway

Just under a year ago, I read a beautiful historical novel about the love between Claude Monet and his muse and first wife, Camille. Not only did it tell a beautiful love story and give insight into the life of Claude Monet and his rise to fame, but it also gave me a context I had previously lacked for the Impressionist movement.

My review

Stephanie also wrote a very interesting guest post last year about how to piece together an historical novel.

Stephanie’s guest post

If you are someone who likes to wait for things to come to paperback before buying, now’s your chance!

Powells* | Indiebound* | Amazon

I have five copies to giveaway to readers with US mailing addresses, mailed by the publisher. Enter by the end of the day on Friday, April 1.

*These are affiliate links
This giveaway is sponsored by the publisher.

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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Book Review

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

When Hadley Richardson met Ernest Hemingway, something was very clearly special not only about him, but about them together. Supportive from before his career truly began, Hadley married Ernest in order to follow him to Europe. Europe, particularly Paris, was the place to be for up and coming writers in the 1920s, so it was only natural that the ambitious young Hemingway would want to be there. Things are difficult for the young couple, money is extremely tight, and Ernest’s writing does not always come as quickly or easily as he hopes, but still, with a few introductions they are able to join the ranks of the bright young literati. This is a crowd, however, that Hadley never feels completely comfortable with. She is never more than the artist’s wife, never valued for herself, including – it increasingly seems – by Ernest.

The Paris Wife succeeded in making me want to check out Hemingway’s work, while at the same time cementing my inherent misgivings about him. Ernest was arrogant, stepping on his alleged friends and even using them and their work to advance his own. Hadley, though, was quite engaging. McLain balanced Hadley very well, making her not too modern and not too needy, but still very vulnerable and sympathetic.

A fascinating story with an engaging main character and great pacing, I can high recommend The Paris Wife.

Buy this book from:
Powells |  Indiebound | Amazon*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Voltaire’s Calligrapher by Pablo De Santis – Book Review

Voltaire’s Calligrapher by Pablo De Santis
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins

After his parents die, Dalessius is raised by his distant and somewhat unfeeling uncle, a man whose business it is to transport corpses across France to reunite dead soldiers with their families and people who can pay with their birthplaces. He has quite a good racket going, having collaborated with the Church to make people believe that being buried near zone’s place of birth increases one’s chance of heaven. His uncle’s influence helps Dalessius secure a place as a calligrapher to Voltaire, the famous Enlightenment thinker now living in exile on the Swiss border. Dalessius is not in Voltaire’s employ very long, however, before he is sent from the house on an important secret mission involving a court case against a Protestant man accused of killing his son who has converted to Catholicism. The son is being widely regarded in France as a martyr, and it seems that Voltaire worries about this case unduly increasing the power of the Church. While on his mission, Dalessius meets a number of odd characters, including a beautiful young girl he hopes to save from her father’s imprisonment.

Although quite short, “Voltaire’s Calligrapher” is a complicated little book. There is quite a lot packed into these pages: love, murder, religious corruption and conspiracy, and automaton. It was this last category of things that I really did not expect, I must say. Although not quite the main thrust of the book, “Voltaire’s Calligrapher” definitely must be considered to be.steampunk, as the automaton had a surprisingly large and integral role in the story.

In “Voltaire’s Calligrapher” Pablo de Santis has created an historical fiction steampunk thriller. The translation seems to be quite good, but that doesn’t mean it is an easy read. De Santis plots his story in a way that necessitates paying close attention to every word. I confess, by the time I realized just how closely I needed to attend what he was telling me to fully understand what was happening I was well into the book, so I’m sure I missed some things. Even so, I never felt frustrated, or really anything less than captivated.

I would definitely recommend “Voltaire’s Calligrapher” to those willing to work for a fascinating piece of speculative historical fiction set in Enlightenment France. I think those who like to reread would find it to be especially interesting, as I suspect it is one of those books that requires multiple readings to be fully understood.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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For the King by Catherine Delors – Book Review

For the King by Catherine Delors

It is Christmas Eve of 1800 when Paris is rocked by an explosion that narrowly misses killing First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. Chief Inspector Roch Michel is called in to investigate. His investigation is not without danger for him and his family, however. Although Roch is convinced that the Chouans – royalists who wished to reinstate the French monarchy – are behind the attack, the Prefect of the police is adamant that the culprits are the Jacobins – a group to which Roch’s father has some ties. Soon it becomes clear that Roch must solve this case or risk his father’s safety, or even his life.

As is probably evident from the above description, “For the King” is something of an historical mystery or thriller, but it is written to flow more like standard historical fiction than a thriller or mystery. That combination worked brilliantly for me, I loved Delors’ writing.

Perhaps the best thing about “For the King” was how vivid the story way. Delors brought her characters and plot to live so well that I assumed the entire thing was a product of her imagination, just loosely based on the real struggles happening in France post-revolution. This turns out not to have been the case at all. Although she did take some historical liberties, melding or creating a few characters, etc in order to tell the story more fluidly, “For the King” is directly based upon real events. I was absolutely stunned to read that in her author note, after how much life she breathed into the story.

I really enjoyed “For the King” and would highly recommend it to those interested in a bit of historical mystery, or in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

This review was done with a book received for a blog tour.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner – Book Review

The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C.W. Gortner

Catherine de Medici’s early life was rocky. She was orphaned mere weeks after her birth, then at 8 was forcibly placed in a hostile convent when Medici power was overthrown in Florence. Finally, at 11, she was able to go live with her uncle, Pope Clement VII. Rome having recently been sacked by the troops of King Charles of Spain, Clement saw Catherine as an opportunity to cement an alliance with France by wedding her to Henry, second son of King Francois.

Unfortunately, Catherine and Henry didn’t exactly have a fairy tale marriage, since he was far more interested in his nursemaid-turned-mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Catherine’s early denigration at Henry’s neglectful hands require her to become politically savvy and crafty, a trait that will serve her well when she has to advise her son the King – or will it.

I’ve loved C.W. Gortner’s writing since his debut novel, “The Last Queen.” One of my favorite things about him is that he does not simply write the same story that is already dominating the shelves, but chooses amazingly strong and misunderstood women in history, women whose stories are still fresh to the reader. Catherine de Medici is no exception. A patron of Nostradamus, Catherine’s mythology includes a woman who practices dark magic and planned the massacre of France’s¬†Huguenots in the St. Bartolomew’s Day Massacre.

Gortner’s Catherine knows what it is to be persecuted for who you are from the days when the Medicis were overthrown in Florence, and accordingly she actually has a good deal of sympathy for the plight of the Huguenots and advocates a measure of religious tolerance. When conflict between the Catholics and Protestants begins to threaten her familys reign, however, she is forced to take action.

A good half of “Confessions of Catherine de Medici” focused on the conflict between the Catholics and Huguenots, leading up to and following the St. Bartolomew’s Day Massacre. This could have perhaps been overkill, but Gortner made it work very well. I never felt that I’d been reading the same thing over and over, but he kept the story moving forward, even though it was progressing through one main source of conflict.

I highly recommend “The Confessions of Catherine de Medici,” and I can only hope that Gortner is hard at work on another book!

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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