Monday, December 24, 2012

The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott

I was first drawn to Patricia Elliott's  "The Pale Assassin" by it's beautiful cover, and I do appreciate attractive book designs. Set in the years and days leading up to the French Revolution and featuring a character called le Fantome and since the Recommender is all ablout that other Phantom I was intrigued by this one. Instead of living in the cellars below the Paris Opera, this Fantome lurks about spying on aristocrats. The book begins with him (real name Raoul Goullet) having been bested at gambling and humiliated by the marquis Sebastion de Boncouer. He later arrives at the marquis's estate to kill him but is, again, thwarted and vows vengence. Sebastion has a small child, a girl, Eugenie. This gives le Fantome an idea.  He will destroy the marquis AND his family.
10 years later, as Eugenie de Boncouer and her governess are making their way through Paris during a demonstration they are offered safety and a ride in a carriage by a gentleman. Raoul Goullet. Neither he nor Eugenie recognizes the other. Eugenie scrutinizes the man who has helped them. He is cold and pale and his hands are covered by black gloves. He studies the girl. Though he himself might not be attractive he has a great love for beautiful things and Eugenie reminds him of his collection of precious china figurines, the largest and most valuable in all of Paris.
He asks their destination and when Hortense, the governess, tells him... she notices a change in his eyes, for now he knows who Eugenie is. "He had been watching her older brother for some time, and now, fate had brought him the sister. She was young, now, but one day she would grow up. He had only to wait..."
Wait for what Eugenie will learn, later, as we get to know our heroine, a spoiled young aristocrat living at the estate of her elderly guardian, and mingling in upscale circles though those in the upper classes are growing increasingly nervous because change is in the air and the poor and downtrodden wish for equality and bread and jobs. Her brother and his friends have sympathy for the King and Queen but these are dangerous times and the guillotine has recently been invented and looms as a way to deal with enemies of the people. Eugenie is willfull and defies the common sense advice she recives to lay low and attends a party where she meets a very attractive aristocrat, Guy Deschamps, with whom she is much taken. What happens to Eugenie as she struggles to survive in a changing world and will she, her brother and his friends change with it or stay true to the crown, is something you will have to find out for yourself. The French Revolution was a thrilling time in history and the author captures the turmoil of the streets very well. This book is, of course, recommended and there is a sequel,and, yes, the Recommender does have some sympathy for Le Fantome, and will be looking forward to reading it...very soon!

Speaking of France and revolutions, Les Miz (or Les Mis, if you prefer!)opens tomorrow! The Daily Beast ran this today, the French Revolution for Dummies. Quite informative!

And, below, a quick French history lesson by way of youtube and the brilliant Peter Brooks film with a very long title which is often encapsulated as "Marat/Sade". It stars the Royal Shakespeare Company featuring Patrick Magee as the marquis de Sade,who, while imprisoned in an insane asylum, spends his time writing plays for the amusement of the asylum director, his family and guests who come to watch the inmates perform them. Ian Richardson is an inmate playing the radical journalist Jean-Paul Marat and a lovely young Glenda Jackson as another inmate playing Charlotte Corday, Marat's assassin. If you haven't seen it, it is one of the best plays of all  time with some pretty catchy brecht/weilian style music.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shadowlands by Kate Brian

What is it with creepy teachers? This seems to be a theme in a couple of great books I've read recently (See "Break My Heart 1,000 Times" by Dan Waters). In this absorbing, fast paced story Rory Miller, an attractive teen girl, is taking a short-cut home from school through the woods when she is attacked. Attacked by Mr. Nell, the math teacher that all the kids thought was cool in a retro dorky kind of way. She struggles and manages to escape by running into the road and flagging down the car of Chris, a boy she always liked but who was once the boyfriend of her sister, Darcy. He rescues her and calls 911. Next thing, the FBI has shown up and informed Rory, her self-obsessed sister and her distant Dad that Mr. Nell is actually a serial-killer named Roger Krauss who killed 14 girls and she is the only one of his intended victims to have survived, and he never leaves a job unfinished so they will have to assume new identities and go into the witness protection program.
Leaving behind all they know, the Miller family find themselves in a beautiful, too good to be true beachy resort town. Will they be safe? Or will Mr. Nell/Roger Krauss track them down?  What happens to them on this new adventure makes for a gripping read and one you'll not be able to put down. The Recommender says read this one NOW!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

(Love this cover!)
Hannah is just trying to get through the summer, one of the hottest on record.  She wants to be a happy, normal girl doing normal things... but that's kind of hard when she is consistently haunted by the ghost of her best friend, Lillian, and there's a serial killer loose in her home town requiring her to chaperone her sister, Ariel, and her friend, to and from summer school.
Lillian self-destructed, letting herself die bit by bit by not eating. Trying to be the perfect, popular girl. She and Hannah were inseparable, friends from childhood, the leaders and trend setters of their group of girls. Now Hannah doesn't know who she is anymore, and why is she suddenly noticing Finny Boone, a tall, muscular boy with bleached blonde hair and a penchant for petty theft and a reputation as a delinquent and a loser... but is there something more to him than those easy labels?
This is a book that grips you right from the start. It's a stay up all night reading till the end kind of story. The Recommender hasn't read one of  Brenna Yovanoff's books before but I am going to be sure to check out her other titles because she is a wonderful writer and Hannah is someone  you care about and want to spend time with as she tries to understand the secret of the Paper Valentine killer as well as what made Lillian want to die... and was she partly to blame? I won't give away any more of the story because this is a book you'll want to lose yourself in and uncover the mysteries of the hot, hot summer of murder, friendship, love and loss.