The Kill by Emile Zola

The Kill by Emile Zola

Description from Goodreads

The Kill (La Curée) is the second volume in Zola’s great cycle of twenty novels, Les Rougon-Macquart, and the first to establish Paris – the capital of modernity – as the centre of Zola’s narrative world. Conceived as a representation of the uncontrollable ‘appetites’ unleashed by the Second Empire (1852-70) and the transformation of the city by Baron Haussmann, the novel combines into a single, powerful vision the twin themes of lust for money and lust for pleasure. The all-pervading promiscuity of the new Paris is reflected in the dissolute and frenetic lives of an unscrupulous property speculator, Saccard, his neurotic wife Renée, and her dandified lover, Saccard’s son Maxime.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book a great deal. This is the second part of the infamous Rougon-Macquart cycle of twenty volumes by Emile Zola, and follows on from ‘The Fortune of the Rougons’.

For a relatively short book of 260 pages this took me an inordinate amount of time to read. I kind of lost my way at the midpoint and didn’t get back to it for a few months. That is not to suggest that this was the fault of the book though. I gave this book four stars out of five despite the high quality, since I know that other books in this cycle are even better.

The writing was technically very proficient, as one might expect, and the descriptive passages evocative of everything one imagines of Paris of this period.

It was an interesting insight into the influence of Haussmann on the architecture of, and ultimately, the face of the future Paris.

The power of this book, I believe, is the authors ability to bring to life the hedonistic lifestyle followed by many Parisians, and the debauchery that prevailed at the time. He combined this with an exploration of the underbelly of Paris and the corruption associated with the development and rebuilding of the city.

I enjoyed the character development, which was superb, along with the relationships of Renee with her husband, Sacard and his son, her lover, Maxime. The characters were interesting and fully formed. I liked the numerous small links to the family history, as this both tied the story in with the previous volume and set the stage for future volumes.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Paris of this period, due to the dearth of information that can be gleaned from it, or those interested in classic French literature. It was a fantastic account of the period, and an excellent read.

The Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding

echoesThe Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding

Description from Goodreads

Seduction, passion and the chance for new love.A terrible truth that will change two lives forever.

Venetia Aston-Montagu has escaped to Italy’s most captivating city to work in her godmother’s architectural practice, putting a lost love behind her. For the past ten years she has built a fortress around her heart, only to find the walls tumbling down one night of the carnival when she is rescued from masked assailants by an enigmatic stranger, Paolo Barone.

Drawn to the powerfully seductive Paolo, despite warnings of his Don Juan reputation and rumours that he keeps a mistress, Venetia can’t help being caught up in the smouldering passion that ignites between them.

When she finds herself assigned to a project at his magnificent home deep in the Tuscan countryside, Venetia must not only contend with a beautiful young rival, but also come face to face with the dark shadows of Paolo’s past that threaten to come between them.

Can Venetia trust that love will triumph, even over her own demons? Or will Paolo’s carefully guarded, devastating secret tear them apart forever?

I gave this book five stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. The plot was moderately paced and brim full of romantic suspense. This was a very well written, and different kind of romance. The alluring cover of this book made me want to check it out, even before I read the description, which only increased my desire to explore this further.

There are many beautifully crafted passages, in particular those relating to the scenery and architecture of Tuscany and Venice, that created a marvellous backdrop to this love story. It was easy to visualise oneself in these magical locations.

I particularly enjoyed the development of the relationship between Paolo and Venetia. The interaction between these two main characters was fascinating, watching their actions and reactions, and learning about the events of the past that influenced each of them.

Learning how Venetia’s father fitted in to the puzzle was very revealing, as was Paolo’s relationship with the stunning Allegra. Another interesting character was the caddish and odious Duke Umberto, whose despicable behaviour towards both Venetia and Paolo, revealed his true nature.

I enjoyed the way that the current behaviour of the main characters could be traced back to the presence of deep psychological scars. There was a lot of sexual tension between the main characters, and I felt that the love scenes were executed in an exceptionally tasteful manner.

The ending of the story was intriguing, and provided an unexpected conclusion to what I considered to be an exceptionally riveting romance. This conclusion suddenly made the title of this book make a lot more sense. I would certainly recommend this to fans of the intelligent and suspenseful romance.

This review is based on a digital ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

The Sixth by Avery Hays

The SixthThe Sixth by Avery Hays

Description from Goodreads

Welcome to the gaslit, cobblestoned streets of Paris, 1910.

Florbela Sarmentos, 21, knows what she wants: art, romance, and to free her father from the prison of Portugal’s despotic King Manuel II. Born in Lisbon, educated in London and at a painting academy in Cherbourg, France, the cosmopolitan Florbela moves to Paris and takes up residence in the wildly bohemian enclave of La Ruche, there to pursue a creative life.

Some of the yet-to-be-discovered artists living in her building are Diego Rivera, Amadeo Modigliani and Marc Chagall. By day she paints, and by night she attends parties with the residents of La Ruche, who introduce her to collectors and creative spirits in Paris’s fabled Sixth Arrondissement. Along the way, Florbela attracts several hot-headed admirers, two of whom become so inflamed with jealousy that they become each other’s deadly enemies.

But Florbela’s fledgling artistic and social life is soon eclipsed, when she can no longer escape the political shadow of her father, a Portuguese writer imprisoned in Lisbon for criticizing the corrupt monarchy.

Florbela tries to find news of her father through Portuguese political exiles and sympathizers in Paris — with alarming results. When she contacts a friend of her father, Professor Almeida, he turns up dead, killed by an assassin from the pro-monarchist society Ordo Crucis Incendio — the Order of the Burning Cross. Professor Almeida’s dying words lead Florbela to a secret, encrypted painting that might save her father and overthrow the king. Now, Florbela is the assassin’s next target.

With the help of Armand, a dashing French rebel, Florbela fights to bring the secret painting to the Portuguese resistance fighters. It just might save her country… and her life.

I gave this book four and a half stars out of five

My thoughts:

This book was wonderful. I found it fascinating. I would definitely describe it as a page turner, keeping me fully engaged, wanting more, right to the last page.

I loved the beautifully presented accounts of Paris life at the turn of the twentieth century. I was enthralled by the wonderfully descriptive passages that revealed the creative and artistic lives of characters that were to eventually become household names, and of the region known as the sixth and its surrounding environs. My personal knowledge of the art world is severely limited piqued my interest in gaining a greater familiarity with these people and their world.

The main character Florbela Sarmentos, whose father was a revolutionary imprisoned in Portugal, was also a fledgling artist, struggling to find her place in the art world. It was a story of intrigue, romance and mystery.

The main premise behind the story was that of the revolution in Portugal, although this often seemed to take a back seat to her romantic liaisons with three different suitors. The discovery of a secret coded message that could aid the revolution and gain freedom for her father resulted in the  involvement of the freemasons in aiding in the translation of the code and ultimately in uniting two of her previously antagonistic suitors.

The action ranged from Paris to Portugal, with Florbela and Armand, the third suitor and her self-appointed protector, pursued doggedly by the legendary assassin Onca do Papa. Finally finding safety amongst the revolutionaries the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, tying together the loose ends very neatly.

I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it to others, especially if you want a story with romance, intrigue and mystery. The use of historical characters from the art world, not limited just to the artists, but also their benefactors, meant that I was able to learn a lot from this book, in addition to the sheer pleasure obtained from the story. Definitely a book I would recommend to others.

This review is based on a digital ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer

Salinger ContractThe Salinger Contract by Adam Langer

Description from Goodreads

An enthralling literary mystery that connects some of the world’s most famous authors—from Norman Mailer and Truman Capote to B. Traven and J. D. Salingerto a sinister collector in Chicago.

Adam Langer, the narrator of this deft and wide-ranging novel by the author of the same name, tells the intertwining tales of two writers navigating a plot neither one of them could have ever imagined. There may be no other escape than to write their way out of it.

Adam is a writer and stay-at-home dad in Bloomington, Indiana, drawn into an uneasy friendship with the charismatic and bestselling thriller author Conner Joyce. Conner is having trouble writing his next book, and when a menacing stranger approaches him with an odd—and lucrative—proposal, events quickly begin to spiral out of control.

A novel of literary crimes and misdemeanors, The Salinger Contract will delight anyone who loves a fast-paced story told with humor, wit, and intrigue.

I gave this book four stars out of five

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the authors style and found it very difficult to put this book down. I was always eager to know what was going to happen next, always wanting to read just a few more pages.

The plot was interesting and filled with suspense. The characters well rounded and very real. I loved the literary context of this book, and the way that famous authors were weaved in to this story of what was ultimately the escapades of a criminal mastermind.

There were always a few surprises for each of the main characters, in this cleverly written story. The big reveal kept me guessing right to the nice little twist at the end.

Told mostly from the viewpoint of the author, it was interesting how he was recounting a story that was being told to him. It was nice to understand his thought processes about whether the story being told to him was true, whether the character relating it to him was reliable, and ultimately good for the reader in determining the reliability of the narrator himself.

If you want a thrilling, well written, literary mystery that will keep you guessing to the end, then this would be a good book for you. I heartily recommend it. A most enjoyable read.

This review is based on a digital ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher.

Collection Book of the Week – Sir Percy Hits Back

Once again it would appear that I have been remiss in my blog duties and have not posted a solitary post for a week, not even a reblog. How the fuck can I expect to retain any followers, I do not know, (gratuitous use of the word fuck, I know, but I just had to use it at least once). I have also been neglecting my collection book of the week series, but fortunately found some pictures on my camera that I did not realise that I had with me. So for the joy and wonder of all I shall be able to make another post in this stuttering series. I hope that you enjoy it.

P1000105

This book is not especially valuable, but I found it at one of the first book fairs that I ever attended and really liked it. It has sentimental value for that reason and has been included here. The book is ‘Sir Percy Hits Back’, by Baroness Orczy, part of the Scarlet Pimpernel series of novels. I have always enjoyed the Scarlet Pimpernel story. Who wouldn’t? Disguises, rescues and pretending to be a fop and a dandy, whilst all the while being the hero that society is talking about. No, I am not talking about myself here. I cannot honestly say I have ever been accused of being a fop or a dandy, and I am certainly no hero.

So on with the details. I bought this book at a PBFA book fair in Chelmsford a few years back as I was beginning to start collecting books. It cost me the princely sum of £9.00, one of my cheaper acquisitions of the day. I just liked the look and feel of the book. It is amazingly light in weight, and the paper has a soft texture, browning at the edges, but without any real sign of foxing.

P1000107

P1000108 P1000106The dust cover is in reasonable condition, with a little loss at the top and bottom of the spine. All in all the book is in nice condition, a slight rolling of the spine is all. This book was published by Hodder and Stoughton Limited and is a seventeenth edition. First published in 1920, this edition was published in 1935, original price two shillings.

It was made and printed by Butler and Tanner Ltd of Frome and London. I liked the similarity of Frome to my surname, sad I know, but these little pleasures amuse me.

So, as I said, not especially valuable, but a nice book, that I am very pleased to have purchased. It would look a lot better on a shelf with others in the series, something I may have to consider looking into.

I hope this is of interest to the ‘many’ followers of my ‘Collection Book of the Week’ series. I will try to do better and keep this going. No doubt I shall return with some more Enid Blyton treasures for your delight and wonderment. For now, that’s all.

Comments as always gratefully received, unless they are bad ones, of course, and even then as long as they are lewd, I’m okay with it.

Four Years of WordPress

So the other day I received an email from WordPress informing me that I had registered with them four years ago.

Shit, I thought, that seems a long time, four years. No way! I looked and am only just coming up to my 150th post. What the fuck have I been doing all this time? 150 posts in four years. That is less than 40 a year on average. Yes, I am quite sure most of you could have done that insanely, complex piece of  mathematics yourself, but I have been used to living in a nanny state, where spoon feeding everyone has become the norm. So why so long, and why so few posts? When you take into account that nigh on 130 of those posts have been made this year, you may ask yourself why I even had a blog in those days. You and me both, believe me.

This blog was started, in the main, as a vehicle for work. My original intent was to use it to write about current hot topics in environmental chemistry and analysis. This would then be used to drive traffic to the company website, in much the same way I envisaged twitter working for us. That turned out to be so boring and uninspiring that I almost never posted, and certainly not on topic. Over time, the blog morphed to become a little more personal and then I made one of the most important decisions of my life. That decision was to start to blog on a more regular basis, and on something I actually cared about, books and literature, although as you all know, I am also partial to the occasional lewd comment.

It has been amazing having somewhere to share my thoughts regarding the things that I am passionate about. Literature, books, and reading, in particular. Having somewhere that there are other people willing, and able, to discuss those passions has been so immensely rewarding.

I have met many wonderful people here since making this change and I would like to thank everyone that has made blogging such an enjoyable experience. I hope that readers of this blog occasionally find some value in my posts. Of course, I never expected to find love through blogging, but that happened too. Like I said, it was a pivotal moment in my life, when I started blogging again, although I didn’t know this at the time.

So here is to another four years. Who knows what I will be doing with this blog then, or indeed if it will even exist. Thank you once again, to one and all, for being part of my extremely enjoyable WordPress experience.

Comments, especially lewd ones, (see the tagline above), are appreciated, as always.

More Reading Progress

So, I have been rather preoccupied lately, and have been noticeably absent from WordPress. For this I apologise to one and all. I promise I will post something more interesting shortly, but for now, more reading progress, since I have still been reading, naturally. I have recently finished Robert Louis Stevenson’s, ‘Treasure Island’, and Mark Twain’s, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’.  These are two books that I am ashamed to admit that I had never read before. I enjoyed both immensely. No idea why I haven’t got to them long before now.

I am also currently reading a book by Alana Muir, ‘An American Guide to Britishness’. I am struggling with this. It seems designed to be a sort of guide to differences between British and American usage of different terms, but appears to me to be more a vehicle for bashing the British, although the definition of pissed is pretty good. I am also reading ‘The Faceless One’ by Mark Onspaugh, which I am nearly finished and shall be putting up a review on, shortly.

I am sure you will all be very proud of me, either that or not really give a shit, but each one these books is being read as an ebook using the kindle app on my tablet. It is great., I love being able to see what percentage I am up to.

So, sorry this is such a short post, but I am working on it.