21 Sep 2018

Review - Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn McMaster

Title: Blackmail, Sex and Lies

Author: Kathryn McMaster

Synopsis:

For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?

This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier. 

After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents' wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.

Sadly, insane jealous rages and threats of blackmail are suddenly silenced by an untimely death. 


My Thoughts:

Blackmail, Sex and Lies is a Victorian true crime story. In the 1850s Madeleine Smith, upper-middle class resident of Glasgow was accused of poisoning her lover Emile L'Angelier to get rid of him so she can marry someone more suitable richer of her class. Emile was a working class man and the fact that a young lady of a higher class conducted a secret love affair with someone below her status made for a great scandal.

To be honest, the root of the story fascinated me the most, namely the poisoning. I only ever read about arsenic poisoning before, in We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and I remember a line from that book stating that arsenic poisoning is a very painful way to die. Well, here in Blackmail, Sex and Lies it is described in a detailed manner why it is so.

Victorians were crazy people. They took arsenic to feel more lively, more energetic. They took it to have a more pleasing complexion as well. They knew it was poision, still they used it and reommended it to each other. Both Emile and Madeleine had arsenic in their possession for one reason or other, that's why it was possible either Madeline to poision Emile, or Emile to commit suicide/overdose.

I will state here that I absolutely hated the two main characters. Emile was a world class j*** and Madeline so naive it hurt to read. Their love letters of which the book includes quite a few are syrupy and repetitive.

BUT each time I got to the parts where speculations were made or the two sides' actions were described, I found myself interested again. The writing style fit the era, the wording and the spinning of the tale kept me involved. 

My opinion is kinda mixed about this book as you can see, but still I'm glad I learned more about this case.



15 Sep 2018

Books Around the World #1



I'm planning to make this the first of a series of posts in which I'll recommend books based on where they are set.

Recently I finished and reviewed Claire's Last Secret by Marty Ambrose and it came to me that I have several books I like that are set in Italy. Let me show you some of them, they may pique your interest and entertain you in the future if you decide to pick them up.

These could be good choices if you're planning a trip to Italy and would like to choose a book for the occasion, but even if you're far away from the country physically, these novels can transport you there in spirit.


Three books I've read:


Title: The Savage Garden 

Author: Mark Mills


Synopsis:

Tuscany, 1958 

Behind a villa in the heart of Tuscany lies a Renaissance garden of enchanting beauty. Its grottoes, pagan statues and classical inscriptions seem to have a secret life of their own - and a secret message, too, for those with eyes to read it. 

Young scholar Adam Strickland is just such a person. Arriving in 1958, he finds the Docci family, their house and the unique garden as seductive as each other. But post-War Italy is still a strange, even dangerous, place and the Doccis have some dark skeletons hidden away in their past. 

Before this mysterious and beautiful summer ends, Adam will uncover two stories of love, revenge and murder, separated by 400 years... but is another tragedy about to be added to the villa's cursed history?


This book was one of my favourite reads in 2017. 

The story, which tells us the details of two murders committed hundreds of years apart is set in Tuscany. A beautiful but sinister garden hides ugly secrets that eventually get revealed by the protagonist, a young scholar called Adam, who visits the Docci family, the owners of the garden.

I loved, how classic literature was involved in this novel, it totally amazed me with its references to Ovid and Dante.

Since Adam is interested in architecture and art, he travels to several cities in Italy and the descriptions of the different places are very lively; the country is truly brought to life on the pages of this book.



Title: Angels and Demons

Author: Dan Brown

Goodreads

Synopsis:

When a world renowned scientist is found brutally murdered in a Swiss research facility, a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is summoned to identify the mysterious symbol seared onto the dead man's chest. His baffling conclusion: it is the work of the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years - reborn to continue their bitter vendetta against their sworn enemy, the Catholic church.

In Rome, the college of cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Yet somewhere within the walls of the Vatican, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion. While the minutes tick away, Langdon joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, to decipher the labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome to the long-forgotten Illuminati lair - a secret refuge wherein lies the only hope for the Vatican.

But with each revelation comes another twist, another turn in the plot, which leaves Langdon and Vetra reeling and at the mercy of a seemingly invisible enemy...

Even though The Da Vinci Code was the first Dan Brown book I read, I devoured Angels and Demons as well, right after. The puzzles this author provides are mind-blowing and astonishing.

I had the chance to visit Vatican City myself last year, St Peter's Basilica is as magnificent as I'd imagined when I was reading this book.



Title: A Room With a View

Author: E. M. Forster


Synopsis:

Lucy has her rigid, middle-class life mapped out for her until she visits Florence with her uptight cousin Charlotte, and finds her neatly ordered existence thrown off balance. Her eyes are opened by the unconventional characters she meets at the Pension Bertolini: flamboyant romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, the Cockney Signora, curious Mr Emerson and, most of all, his passionate son George.

Lucy finds herself torn between the intensity of life in Italy and the repressed morals of Edwardian England, personified in her terminally dull fiancé Cecil Vyse. Will she ever learn to follow her own heart?

Honestly, I couldn't live with myself if I didn't mention at least one of E. M. Forster's works on this list. The English have always loved to spend their holiday in Italy, they are drawn to this country, that's a fact. E. M. Forster himself was fascinated with the Italian culture and the open-mindedness that the Italian people represent. 

As always, he deals with class differences and a forbidden love affair in this book and he crams all the beauty of Florence in between the lines. I'll always cherish this novel of his.


Three books I'm planning to read:

by André Aciman


 I so want to read this and watch the movie too afterwards. 

There was a lot of hype surrounding this title not long ago.


Empress of Rome (The Empress of Rome #3) 
by Kate Quinn


I adore this series, read the first two books, can't wait to put my hands on the third.


by Henry James


This will be the first Henry James I'll ever read and I'm excited for it. I heard his writing style is not easy to get used to, but I know and love the story so I hope we'll be good friends with Henry, haha.

That's all for now, I hope you enjoyed the post! 

What are YOUR favourite novels set in Italy?

 

14 Sep 2018

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #26


Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.


This week the spotlight is on:

by Kathryn McMaster


Synopsis:

For 160 years, people have believed Madeleine Smith to have been guilty of murder. But was she? Could she have been innocent after all?

This Victorian murder mystery, based on a true story, takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, 1857. It explores the disastrous romance between the vivacious socialite, Madeleine Hamilton Smith, and her working class lover, Pierre Emile L’Angelier. 

After a two-year torrid, and forbidden relationship with L’Angelier, that takes place against her parents' wishes, the situation changes dramatically when William Minnoch enters the scene. This new man in Madeleine’s life is handsome, rich, and of her social class. He is also a man of whom her family approve.

Sadly, insane jealous rages and threats of blackmail are suddenly silenced by an untimely death.



Book Beginning:

Pierre Emile L'Angelier thrashed and writhed in excrutiating agony.

 The only book I've read so far that involved arsenic poisoning was We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It must be very painful, dying of arsenic.



The Firday 56:

It would break my mother's heart. Oh, Emile, be not harsh to me. I am the most guilty, miserable wretch on the face of the earth.

From a letter from Madeline Smith to Emile L'Angelier



I hope your week has been splendid!



7 Sep 2018

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #25


Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.


Take a look at what I'm reading this week:

by Alice Walker


Synopsis:

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
 

 Book Beginning:

You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.

A powerful first line. Actually the whole book is a series of letters to God, then to someone else.


The Friday 56:

Me and Sofia work on the quilt. Got it frame up on the porch. Shug Avery donate her old yellow dress for scrap, and I work in a piece every chance I get. It a nice pattern call Sister's Choice. If the quilt turn out perfect, maybe I give it to her, if it not perfect, maybe I keep. I want it for myself, just for the little yellow pieces, look like stars, but not.

 It's nice Celie can appreciate such small things.


What are you reading this week? Are you enjoying it so far?

5 Sep 2018

Review - Claire's Last Secret by Marty Ambrose

Title: Claire's Last Secret

Author: Marty Ambrose

Release date: September 1st, 2018

Synopsis:

1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the 'haunted summer of 1816' Byron/Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty, but the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula.

But Rossetti's presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816 - when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with George Gordon, Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives came together - to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

Claire's Last Secret is the first book in a trilogy that unrolls a mystery involving Claire's long lost daughter, Allegra. Claire Clairmont, Mary Shelley's half sister usually doesn't get much recognition when the creative group that spent the 'haunted summer' in Geneva is mentioned. It's little wonder actually, given that she was the only member of the party that didn't turn her experiences of that summer into a literary success.

However, in her novel Marty Ambrose wants to show us that despite the fact that she didn't produce anything lasting from a literary point of view, Claire was still as important part of the circle as any other member. According to the author she deserves to be remembered in a favourable light, as someone who inspired Byron and the Shelleys with her love and friendship.

I'll confess it was hard for me to think with the writer's head in the beginning, because I had my own picture of Claire, which wasn't exactly flattering. I've read several biographies of the Shelleys, and Claire has always come across as a pushy, somewhat annoying individual, who always wanted to be the centre of attention. It is rumoured she had an affair with Shelley as well, and if it's true, it was an awful betrayal towards Mary.

In Claire's Last Secret we meet a very different Claire though. In the book she is an old lady who remembers her youth and sees her youthful foolishness in a very reasonable light. She doesn't regret anything and she wouldn't change anything in her past. She accepts herself as she is; someone who is chiefly driven by her emotions. I think it's a pretty romantic notion that the heart leads a person's actions, not the head and this simple twist on the character of Claire made her foolish decisions a lot more acceptable for me.

The book is written in a lovely manner, it was a joy to read. It's always great to revisit the events in The Villa Diodati during 'the year without summer', but it's even better if the writing is exquisite. To take a boat trip with Byron and Shelley, to be there when Mary Shelley reads from Frankenstein for the first time.... ahh to be there... 

If you like the second generation of romantics, or know nothing of them, either way, this can be a fun read. I'll definitely pick up the second book.



2 Sep 2018

August Wrap-Up, September TBR


August was a busy month for me, the number of books I managed to read shows that pretty clearly.

Anyways, this previous month was about moving and settling down, starting a new exciting life and, naturally, that began with packing, organizing, doing lots of shopping and stuff. 

I'm hoping in September I'll be able to chill a bit and read more, watch more tv shows and just generally enjoy autumn, my favourite season of the year. I can't wait for the wather to turn a bit cooler to create the perfect autumn feel...

I already can't wait for Halloween... But let's not jump ahead, let's enjoy September first. And without further ado, please see the summary of the month of August on the blog below!


Here is a summary of August on Paradise Found:

I've finished two books:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Review

Claire's Last Secret by Marty Ambrose


Other posts on the blog in the month of August:





Weekly Memes:

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 (Aug 3, Aug 17


Plans for September:


I'd like to read the following books in September (in no particular order):

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Blackmail, Sex and Lies by Kathryn MyMaster

In Azgarth's Shadow by Cassie Sweet

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

(For the Timeless Book Club. Join here if you're interested: Lucy Preston Literary Society)

 How did your August go? Did you reach your reading goal?

 

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