BBAW 2012 Day 3: Book blogging in 10 points

 Day 3 topic is:

What does book blogging mean to you?


1) First, I’m still a novice, just ready to celebrate my 2nd blogiversary only, so I don’t have that much experience yet. See my very first review on Words And Peace!

I did write a bit about my readings on a previous blogs, but even more shortly, and with several books per page.

2) It definitely means that I’m remembering so much better what I read. Before that, I kept track of the titles of books I read, and I admit for some books I read 5 years ago, just seeing the title doesn’t ring any bell at all.

3) I love reading, surprise huh?, and I love talking about the books I read. So this is the perfect venue, though I have many others, such as a reading husband, I know it’s  a treat  not shared by all book bloggers; reading neighbors, and the book club I created for my block; reading colleagues, yes I work in a library; and advanced online French students, who are often eager to share about books. See for instance the books we shared at one of our last Book Club (trading titles format.)

4) It makes me try to be more articulate about the books I read, why I liked them or not. It’s a bit like way back when I had to write pages and pages on a topic or a book.
My goal would be actually to write longer reviews, but often the problem is the time constriction, as I have lots of other things going on apart from blogging: part-time job, French tutoring, English-French translations, and rockpainting. Have you seen my rocks yet??


5) Blogging works both ways: I post, but then I receive comments. This means community building, plus sometimes really fascinating conversation on a book or a topic. See for instance some comments received recently for The Second Empress.

6) And I get to know other book bloggers. In case you missed some I discovered recently, you can see my post here.

7) Which means I get to hear about books I would never discover or read by myself. The only problem here is that my Goodreads TBR increases dangerously every week. I’m at over 200 titles.

8) And I get challenged to read outside my regular comfort zone through Reading Challenges. I love those!

9) I also get to be connected with some authors. I had  for instance a few exchanges with Helen Grant, whom I follow on Facebook.
And an email interview is in the making with Debra Dean, author of The Mirrored World!

10) Finally, and this is high on my list actually, I receive free books, some I win at giveaways organized by other book bloggers, sometimes directly from authors, but mostly from publishers through Netgalley and Edelweiss.



I love France #28: (2012) #39 review: The Second Empress


I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

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The Second Empress:

A Novel of Napoleon’s Court


Michelle MORAN

320 pages

Publication date: by Crown, on August 14th 2012

Ebook provided by NetGalley & Crown/Random House




How exciting to present you Michelle Moran’s brand new book, The Second Empress, even before publication date!

Since Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, I am a great fan of Michelle Moran. Even though I thought this book was not as fantastic as Madame Tussaud, it is still very good.

Moran does as usual a fantastic homework. It shows here, as she inserts many excerpts of letters by her characters, mostly Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife Joséphine, and manages to draw an interesting portrait of the imperial couples. We get to know what happened between Napoleon and Joséphine, and then more in depth between Napoléon and Marie-Louise, as major episodes of European history develop: Napoleon’s overwhelming power over many nations, followed by his quick fall after his trying to invade Russia, ending in a total disaster.

The chapters and events are presented in turn by three narrators: Marie-Louise, his very reluctant second wife from Austria; Pauline, his sister, full of jealousy, just as ambitious as him, and as sex oriented as him (they may even have had some incestuous relationships), and maybe more insane; and Paul Moreau, Pauline’s Haitian servant for thirteen years.

I liked this triple perspective, especially by characters who are not often considered as central, such as Paul. This was actually really smart to have Paul as close witness to Napoleon’s last six years: Paul is a native from Haiti, and Haiti was always a painful memory to Napoleon, for what he did there.

Marie-Louise’s sacrifice is beautifully rendered: as her great-aunt Marie-Antoinette, she has to leave her lover and the Austrian court for a country she does not know. She hates the idea of being married to Napoleon of ill-fame, but does it uniquely to save her country and her father’s position.

As for Pauline, she is portrayed as insanely in love with Egypt and pushing her brother to try to reach to the eternal grandeur of its pharaohs, hoping of course to share the same fame. She is very sick in her body and her mind.

Through Moran’s narrative, you get a good image of what’s going on. Napoleon is shown in all the insanity of his thirst for power, ambition, but also for his love for his first wife. Unfortunately, she never gave him an heir, hence his second marriage.

His second wife is more like a useful tool for him, and she DOES produce an heir; while married to her, Napoleon still exchanges love messages with is first wife. From the first day she hears about Napoleon’s predicament while a teenager at the Austrian court, Marie-Louise abhors this prospective husband; once married to him, she is delighted when she sees him go away for his foreign campaigns. But she also needs to reign as regent during those times, and her being from Austria does not make her international affairs easy.

We follow her until the fall of the Napoleonic regime, during his exile, and see her finally go back to Austria and marry the man she always loved, after Napoleon passes away.

The only reproach I have for this book is that it could actually have been longer, with even more in depth presentation of the characters. But is is still a very good book, and if you like French historical fiction, you really have to read it.


National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir.

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies. [Goodreads]


Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer’s Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.

Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction. A public high school teacher for six years, Michelle Moran is currently a full-time writer living in California. [goodreads]


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I love France #20: La Conciergerie et Marie-Antoinette


I plan to publish this meme every Thursday.
You can share here about any book
or anything cultural you just discovered related to France, Paris, etc.

Please spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, etc !
Feel free to grab my button,
and link your own post through Mister Linky,
at the bottom of this post.


Did you enjoy your bread and cheese last week?

That was a little tease, but this week, it will be French history! You most probably HATED history classes. I sure did; not sure why, but all my history and geography teachers for 7 years were all so very boring.

Later on, I discovered some very good history teachers, I was asked myself to teach some medieval history classes, and the most fun of it all, is to visit places and learn what happened there.

So, do you know anything about this building?

It is called La Conciergerie.

La Conciergerie (French pronunciation: [la kɔ̃sjɛʒəʁi]) is a former royal palace and prison in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité, near the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is part of the larger complex known as the Palais de Justice, which is still used for judicial purposes.

As many buildings, it is being restored. I thought it was whimsical to cover the facade being restored with some ads trying to encourage students to study law to become a magistrate or a judge.

The Conciergerie was decommissioned in 1914 and was opened to the public as a national historical monument. It is today a popular tourist attraction, although only a relatively small part of the building is open to public access — much of it is still used for the Paris law courts. We are nevertheless not going to speak about its current use.

So, what happened in this building before that?

It was built in the Middle Ages:

Le Palais west part of the island was the site of a Merovingian palace; and from the 10th to the 14th centuries was the seat of the medieval Kings of France. Under Louis IX (Saint Louis) (1226–1270) and Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (1284–1314) the Merovingian palace was extended and more heavily fortified.

The Hall of the Guards, one of the largest surviving medieval parts of the Conciergerie

Louis IX added the remarkable Sainte-Chapelle – and we will visit it next week!

In 1391 the building was converted for use as a prison. Its prisoners were a mixture of common criminals and political prisoners. In common with other prisons of the time, the treatment of prisoners was very dependent on their wealth, status and connections.

So imagine you are arrested and brought there. One of the first step is the secretary, who keeps a record of all your belongings as you enter:

Now, in what category will you be?

  1. The very wealthy or influential? Good for you, you will have your own private cell with a bed, desk and materials for reading and writing. How could you not enjoy your time in prison!
  2. You are actually less well-off? You can still afford to pay for a simply furnished cell, a pistole, which would be equipped with a rough bed and perhaps a table.

you even have a window!

  1. Alas, you are very poor, you are known as a pailleux from the hay (paille) that you sleep on at home, so why expect better here? I’m sorry to tell you, but you will be confined to a dark, damp, vermin-infested cell called oubliette (literally “forgotten place”). In keeping with the name, you will be left to die in conditions  ideal for the plague and other infectious diseases which are rife in the unsanitary conditions of the prison.

But, if it can be of some consolation, the end will come soon, if not from disease, through the guillotine, and there you will even share the fate of the rich!

Indeed, la Conciergerie became internationally famous as the “antechamber to the guillotine” during the Reign of Terror, the bloodiest phase of the French Revolution.

Before men were led to the guillotine, they were aloud to say goodbye to their wives, behind some bards in the “courtyard of the women”. It is still today a place where you can feel the dreadful heavy spirit of so much grief:

During the French Revolution, la Conciergerie housed the Revolutionary Tribunal as well as up to 1,200 male and female prisoners at a time. The Tribunal sat in the Great Hall between 2 April 1793 and 31 May 1795 and sent nearly 2,600 prisoners to the guillotine.

Its rules were simple. Only two outcomes existed — a declaration of innocence or a death sentence — and in most cases the latter was chosen.

One of the most famous prisoners (and victims) was Queen Marie Antoinette.

Her cell has been reconstituted:

As you can see, she was under the constant vigilance of a guard. I believe this was after she tried to escape – she almost made it!

A friend, tourist guide in Paris, told us that people still come daily to put flowers on her grave! Yes, there are still some monarchists in France.

If you want to pursue your visit with a good book, I highly recommend Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution, by Michelle Moran. You can click on the link to read my very enthusiastic review, if you missed it last year. It is an excellent book on the Revolution, full of fascinating history and details.

What a stoke of genius of having chosen Madame Tussaud as the main heroine: her way of maneuvering between both sides of the fence at the peril of her life fits so well. Believe me, you WILL enjoy history when you read this historical novel.

next week, it will still be history, but a bit more uplifting!



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