Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Paris Hop! by Margie Blumberg

Title: Paris Hop!
Author: Margie Blumberg
Publisher: MB Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Illustrated à la mode by Renee Andriani.

Having visited Paris, I can testify to what a fun and interesting city it is. I've been on the world's largest lightning conductor - La Tour Eiffel - during a thunderstorm which was a fun experience. I can also testify to what a magnificent view it is from there, even partially obscured by rain. Paris isn't - or wasn't, when I was there - a city full of looming and obstructive skyscrapers, so you can on a clear day, as they say, see for miles.

Grandma Goldie and her granddaughter, Aimee (yes, Aimee, you know who you are!), are interested in seeing how the city looks at sunset, and they plan on heading over to the tower in good time to see it. The problem is that there is so much else to see, so many distractions, so many sights and sounds and smells which keep on getting in their way. For the Français-challenged, there is a glossary of French words used in the text.

First there's the boulangerie where croissants, éclairs, and baguettes lure them in. Then there are the street artists and the Punch and Judy puppet show. The Louvre of course, is not to be missed, but having only one day in Paris, I rather suspect at this rate it will take them far longer than one hour to get to the tower!

I also suspect the visit to the dress shop might have been put on the back burner, but then I am not a fashion fetishist, so perhaps it's not for me to judge! La Place de la Concorde definitely beats the dress shop in my book, but it's one more delay.

I like that the itinerary actually makes sense - they're heading west along the Seine pretty much - rather than being an insane random walk. It really doesn't matter that much in a children's book like this but it does satisfy my anal instinct for verisimilitude. There! I knew I'd get a chance to work that word into a review sooner or later! Next up, rectitudinous. If that's even a word!

Yes, all exactitude is lost, in a rectitudinous manner, when the next stop comes up, since they've evidently taken a river boat to the Notre Dame which is pretty much returning them the entire distance back east which they've just traveled west! Our Lady is gorgeous though, so maybe it was worth the effort.

What is without-a-doubt worth the effort in this story is Renee Andriani's art work. I don't think I've seen anything by him before, and while the work is merely functional in some parts of the story, there are illustrations in this, particularly vis-à-vis the river boat trip, which are, mes amis, très belle. You can see a sample on my blog. The colors are quite breath-taking. I recommend this hop across the pond.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable

Title: Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa
Author: Benjamin Constable
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Rating: WORTHY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of her story, but even so, it will probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!

I must be fated to start out not liking ebooks as I begin them, liking them as I dig deeper, and then unpredictably either liking them or hating them as I read through to the end! Strange but true. Constable may be a famous last name in English art, but that still didn’t make me want to read any introductions, prefaces, prologues or forewords written by this particular Constable. As I've said before, if it’s worth reading, it’s worth putting into chapter one, which was where I started reading. That's also where I had a problem enjoying it.

Note that the male protagonist in this novel is Benjamin Constable. Why he chose to depict himself - or perhaps more accurately, use his own name for the character - or indeed whether Constable is a real person or merely a pen name for someone, perhaps even a female author, I have no idea at this time. To distinguish between Constable the character and Constable the author, I shall refer to the character as BC, and the author as Constable from this point onwards.

The first thing we get to read is a suicide letter, which normally ought to make a reader perk up and pay attention, but I found myself so distracted by the rather pretentious and overly florid language of the meandering letter that I really started not to care if this person had died! In the end, I felt rather cruelly comforted by her absence from this world, if it meant that she had taken this kind of fluff with her when she left! Fortunately for Constable, the story began to pick up after that, and I found that I’d read some hundred and fifty pages effortlessly, without feeling any awful thoughts towards Constable or towards his female protagonist. The purportedly dead one of his two female protagonists, that is....

The assumption is that she's dead, but I am not convinced. Indeed, given his penchant for not only seeing, but also interacting with a large but non-existent cat, I have to even question whether Tomomi Ishikawa exists at all, much elss whether she did exist and is now dead by her own hand. There is no body, and there is some suggestion that she might still be alive - which even BC himself considers as a possibility eventually! I found myself really starting to like Tomomi Ishikawa even though, as I was to discover, she had some really unlikable traits. Having said this, I have to add, in the end, that I really disliked her! I have a soft spot for Japanese women, so that took some doing! So sue me! Or is it: see Sumo?!

The author of the suicide note had written it on her laptop, printed it out, put it into an envelope, and pushed it under BC's door while he was at work one Friday. Yes, he's quite literally telling this fable about himself - and it’s in the first person! Yes, I know I swore off first-person stories, but I had this one on my e-shelf long before I made that semi-serious declaration. Constable's first person isn’t obnoxious, although he does seem to slip between present and past tenses unpredictably. But maybe this will turn out to be the very first person novel that I've been looking for, as an antidote to the dotes I've been nauseated by of late! We'll see!

BC's ostensibly dead friend is the Tomomi Ishikawa (TI) of the title. The novel is in three parts, one for each of her lives presumably, and the first of these is in Paris, where BC works as an English teacher. Having read the disturbing note, he heads over to her apartment and retrieves her computer, which she evidently intended him to have (since his own is a crappy piece of trash which dies on him soon thereafter). I'm going to blithely assume that his was a nasty old Windows machine and hers is a cool-looking Mac, because I can! There's a complete absence of evidence to the contrary! When he boots it up, he discovers that most of its content has apparently been deleted (and he evidently doesn't know - or doesn’t care - that it’s possible to undelete files if the computer hasn't been wiped with military efficiency). There are several folders apparently left there specifically for his eyes.

At first, these files make no sense (there's a folder titled 'My Dead' which includes his name, for example) along with a handful of others. Some folders contain seemingly random photographs taken all across Paris, others feature entertaining stories (with one or two somewhat boring ones). A couple of the stories relate that TI has killed at least two guys: guys who were evidently suicidal anyway, but this nonetheless makes her at best a Jack Kevorkian-like facilitator and at worst, a murderer. But are the stories true, or are they merely fiction?

BC slowly discovers that TI has left for him a kind of treasure map, whereby if he follows her slightly cryptic clues, which for him are not so cryptic since he knows both TI and Paris so well, he can uncover "treasure" in the form of notebooks or other items (such as, for example, an umbrella) left for him in various hidden locales, secreted in landmarks or hidden in places he and she knew together. These treasures provide further clues which lead him on a journey.

One journey he discovers that he's too chicken to undertake, is to follow a clue which would necessitate him sneaking down into the Paris Metro (subway, underground) tunnels. I thought that this maybe significiant for the novel's finale - and it is! Eventually these clues take him from Paris to Manhattan, where he meets the second female protagonist who accompanies him on his treasure hunt. Her name, curiously, is Beatrice! Curious that is, for me, since I'm currently immersed in writing a parody of Divergent! Yet another weird coincidence in my reading-writing adventures! Maybe I should write a novel à la Constable about those?!

At each place where I had to stop reading this, I found myself looking-forward to resuming it, which is always a good feeling for a reader. This story is a bit like a Dan Brown novel, but with a real story in place of the trade-marked high-speed Brownian motion. And this is enough spoilers for a new novel, so the rest of this review will be much mroe vague observations, not detailed descriptions, and the first of these is that Constable really has a charming way with his characters (the suicide note notwithstanding!). Their interactions (even with TI who can be obnoxious to him at times in his reminscences), and especially with Beatrice, are whimsical and endearing. There is a sly sense of humor running through their conversations which I very much appreciate.

His initial encounter and budding relationship with Beatrice at the New York Public Library and afterwards is completely captivating. I was impressed by the maturity and playfulness of the friendship, with both BC and Beatrice contributing equally to the bond which they created between them, and this is exactly how it should be in my mind. What a pleasure it is to read something of this quality after having dealt with some truly dreadful relationships in YA novels of late! It’s like comparing a blue ribbon mousse with several day-old, rubbery, chewy Jello which is of a flavor you didn’t even like to begin with.

The relationship doesn't come as a gilt-edged security however, because Beatrice is uncomfortable with all the coincidences which seem to be popping up, and rather leery of his treasure hunt. However this doesn’t appear to prevent their relationship from continuing to blossom. BC - who evidently hails from the Midlands (of England), just as I do - also begins to feel uncomfortable, but not with Beatrice. His discomfort comes from the fact that he's still receiving emails from TI forwarded to him by a third party (or from TI herself, perhaps). Whoever it is has evidently followed him from France to the US, and is tailoring the emails to his activities. He's being watched!

In the end, I was a bit disappointed in how this story came to a conclusion, even though it was entirely in character with what had happened before. Pretty much all of my theories were wrong - save one! I felt a bit cheated by the ending; however, given the quality of writing, and the characterization of the main protagonists, Ben, Tomomi, and Beatrice, I highly recommend this: it's excellently well-written and quite enchanting.