Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Perfect Pink Saturday Morning Spot for Some Reading Inspiration!

The perfect spot for a Pink Saturday Blog Hop morning snack and inspiration!

I know, I know. I've been woefully missing in action for a couple months. I wish I could say that I've been doing exciting and magical things. Alas, it's not so. We are still not fully opened up here from the pandemic, so except for restaurants and malls - neither of which I'm really interested in right now - there still isn't much in the way of fun to be had. For the most part, I've been watching lots of Turner Classic Movies, Raku and Netflix, baking way too many desserts ... and, of course, reading, reading, reading! I've got six - count 'em six! - terrific suggestions for you this week. I'll have some more soon - but I didn't want my book 'reviews' to be as long as an actual book.
A definite change of pace, this novel does an excellent job of placing us in the retro era of the 1950s-60s. Like the novels of Patricia Highsmith, whose books this reminds me of quite a bit, it's a mystery - definitely not a 'cozy!' - and though there is a murder or two it's not a murder story per se. It's a bonafide psychological mystery thriller. With a bang up terrific ending. With obsession, suspicion, mental fragility, fear of past friends and mistrust of loved ones as the orders of the day, it's interesting how measured and evenly tempered this story progresses, told between the points of view of the two main characters.

I recommend this to anybody who like a good mystery, as well as a story that reads like a midcentury black and white movie. 
After reading Ms. Mangan's Tangerine, I searched out her other writing and discovered this, her second book, has just been published. I quickly got it and devoured it. I liked it even more than the first one. This is an author to keep a watch out for new work from.

Like her previous novel, Palace of the Drowned is decadently atmospheric. This time it's 1966, and we're in Venice - the city of dreams, mystery, beauty, art and - in this case - treachery. You may remember that 1966 was the year of the great Venice flood - which plays a large role in this novel. But, I won't tell more than that because giving too much away would be spoiling the (many) surprises.

Also like her previous novel, this is told from the points of view of the two main characters; though in Tangerine they are long time friends and in Palace of the Drowned they begin as strangers to each other. Sometime this storytelling technique can be confusing and frustrating, but Ms. Mangan has mastered it and the voice is always clear and recognizable as the character speaking.

Again, this is a book I heartily recommend. I look forward to finding out her next book is being pubished.
 I wish I could remember who recommended this book to me, because I would really like to give them a big thank you! From the brief description on the Barnes & Noble page, it's not a novel I would usually choose (it sounds a bit too much like a romance to me; they do it a grave injustice), but I trusted whoever gave it the thumbs up and gave it a try. What a good choice.

It's written from two characters' perspective - and from two time periods and locations. First we meet Odile in Paris just before and during the Nazi occupation. Then we discover her again in a one-traffic-light burg in Montana during the 1980's, where we also meet Lily, the teenage girl who lives next door to the now aging Odile.

We live through their joys and tragedies: both endure great personal losses and have to cope with hardships. But, they also have great joys and rewards and learn important things to help them get through their futures. All of this is written with a spare and clean writing style that doesn't allow the tragedies to become mawkish nor maudlin, nor allow the joys to become absurdly over-the-top. And the lessons learned are clear-eyed because they come from reality and not from preaching. I'm not sure any of that is any easy balancing act for a writer and Ms. Skeslien-Charles does it admirably.

But, what I really really loved about this book was the background for a good amount of the novel. The American Library in Paris was (and is) an American based subscription library in Paris. Much of the story involves the love of books, words, writing - and, of all thing!, the Dewey Decimal System - and the fascinating and intriguing cast of employees (of which Odile is one) and the subscribers who are daily visitors to the library. These characters spring to life, and for brief periods we come to know and enjoy each and every one; they are presented with vivid and delightful characterizations and their conversations are a treat.

The fictional book tells the real story of how the librarians of the American Library in Paris defied the Nazis and the Gestapo and kept the library running - and even managed to get books to both French soldiers at the front and to Jewish and 'foreign enemy' victims in hiding. The afterwards goes into detail about the ways research was conducted for the book - and quite a few of the characters in the book are actual people who lived and worked in the APL. It's not only a wonderful character-driven novel, but also a WWII novel with a unique perspective and vision of the war we don't often see or read about.

So, let me be YOUR person who you forget recommended this to you! Just grab a copy and enjoy - it's a very nice change of pace, and perfect for anybody who is in love with books, words, and libraries. 
Anybody who is a fan of noir - whether it be film or literary - has probably read or seen The Big Sleep. As the book flap states, "This work established Chandler as the master of the 'hard-boiled' detective novel, and his articulate and literary style of writing won him a large audience, which ranged from the man in the street to the most sophisticated intellectual." And the film adaptation is almost always in the top five of the greatest American film noirs. I have read it several times over the decades - and seen the movie, well, dozens of times. It punches all the right buttons for a noir fan. There is one tiny issue with it that has always bothered me - and I'm far from the first person to have stated it: the plot simply doesn't make sense. There are leaps of logic, impossible coincidences, and when all is said and done, way too many threads dangling to call it a neatly tied up mystery. So, when I saw this annotated version, I couldn't wait to delve into it. There are hundreds of footnotes, diagrams, photographs, letters and memos, maps, etc. all tying up as much as possible - and also alerting the reader to Chandler's use of plot, characters, and even entire chapters from earlier published short stories (word for word!).

I found this completely absorbing and enjoyable. I will say that I'm not sure I could have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't been reading on a Nook - so when ever a footnote appeared, I could simply click on it, read the footnote and/or see the images associated with it, and the click back to where I was reading. If I had to thumb back and forth in a paper hard copy and search for the footnote and then get back to my place in the book, I'm not sure it would have been as much fun. And, it was fun!

If you already know The Big Sleep, this is a great opportunity (and excuse) to read it again. If you've not discovered The Big Sleep yet, I envy your first time prowling the dark, rain-slick streets of 1940s Los Angeles and your first introduction to the jaded and shallow millionaires, the shady down-at-their-heels hustlers and conmen, the twists, turns, and first appearance on the scene of the now iconic detective, Phillip Marlow. Did I mention a femme fatale or two?

This gets my definite recommendation for anybody who wants to learn more about film noir than just the plot!
This magical faery tale told in the absolute most realistic way is nothing short of brilliant. I was captivated by it the entire way through. It's a book that has stayed with me through the three books I've read since ... the characters - from the lonely, kind and gentle merchant to the vivacious and celebrated courtesan to the shrewd, bitter housekeeper to the savvy, overstuffed, aged whorehouse madam - are rendered in wonderful detail and are constantly amusing, tragic, frustrating and poignant. And, then, there's the mermaid ...

History should always be written this way!
I read this back at the beginning of the year and just realized I never listed it in my 'read' update feed. I don't know why - I thoroughly enjoyed it; in fact, I enjoyed it far more than I expected. It's advertised as a sort of gothic thriller taking place in the art world - but, it's so much more than that. It's really an intriguing - and creepy - character study with, admittedly, lots of twists and turns. But, those twists and turns are more character based than thriller shockers. Oh, there's a killing (though you aren't sure who is dead for quite some time), and there are some tense moments. But, they don't have the kind of tension that makes you feel the writer is gearing up for the film version.

There are three main characters: all rather bizarre and fascinating, if somewhat unsettling. A famous counter-culture philosopher and experimental drug user, his reknown artist hermit-like lover, and an obsessed fan, meld into a story of psychosis, talent, love, betrayal, loyalty, seduction, and murder.

If you like a good mystery with some eerie and unusual characters, this is one for you. It's a rather lengthy novel - but a fast read, mainly because you just can't stop reading. I doubt you'll have this one figured out before it's spelled out for you by the clever author.

Well, that's it for this week! If you've made it this far, I wanted to give you some information about the fabulous sparkling pink kitchen at the top of the post.

Yanna Potter is an insanely brilliant computer graphic artist who will make just about anything sparkle, shimmer, glimmer and gleam! I wouldn't even hazard a guess to the number of pounds of glitter or number of thousands of crystal rhinestones it would take to to do this kitchen. But, then, how about this one?! 
... and just a couple more to end this post where it started ... in the kitchen! 
Thanks for stopping by Enchanted Revelries today - be sure to check out the other terrific offerings on today's Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop!

Now, be more creative and motivated than I - go make something beautiful!

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(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan

 



3 comments:

peggy gatto said...

Oh My!!! I think I will have to pick up a book!!! Thanks for the reviews. I don't know how you find the time to do all you do and am envious!!!

Jeanie said...

Hi Tristan, and thanks for your visits and comments at my place! (Especially about the dog painting!) It's so good to see you here online again.

I really appreciate your well written and comprehensive book reviews. I have The Paris Library on my summer reading pile and I may move it higher to the top after this one. But all the books look very good and in different ways. Being a mystery fan, I can see a couple I'd like to dig into!

I hope things will even out with business and you all can get back on your feet and up to force in the near months. It is looking better here than before but I think we are do for another surge later in the summer or fall, and certainly by winter, so I hope you can max things out while it's good. I also hope I'm wrong about that dire prediction! Take care.

Buttercup said...

Really enjoyed The Paris Library. Sometimes I feel that I've read every novel set in London/Paris during WW II and there's nothing new and then I come upon a twist and I realize a good story teller can take the same set of facts and tell a great story. I liked it so well I did an Instagram story and the author liked it. Made my day. Big Raymond Chandler fan and will be on the lookout for the annotated Big Sleep. My favorite is The Long Goodbye and I think I'm overdue for seeing one of my favorite movies of TLG with Elliott Gould. Take care!