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Commentaires écrits par
Gail Cooke (TX, USA)
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The Venetian Bargain
The Venetian Bargain
par Marina Fiorato
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 25,92

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A RETURN TO 16TH CENTURY VENICE, 29 avril 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Venetian Bargain (Relié)
Half-Venetian and married on the Grand Canal in Venice Marina Fiorato’s love for and ties to Italy are clear in her writing - pages glow with glorious evocations of that country’s architecture, religion, and culture. She captures the beauties and extreme dangers of 16th century Venice, all vividly unfolding with each page. Fiorato is a master at blending history with an imagined romance which she brings to big screen life with an accuracy of language and period details.

It is 1576 and the bubonic plague is rife in the Ottoman Empire. Bent on revenge for a defeat in battle the sultan of Constantinople decides to send the killer disease to Venice via a ship to be sailed by the father of Feyra, a beautiful and extremely intelligent young woman who has been serving as doctor to the sultan’s harem. However, she has every reason to fear for her life when the sultan is poisoned, and so she makes a dangerous choice - she stows away on the ship bearing deadly cargo.

Once the ship reaches Venice it is only a matter of days before the plague spreads throughout the city. The Venetian doge commissions the most gifted architect, Palladio, to build a monumental cathedral in the hopes of pleasing God and saving Venice. Realizing the importance of safeguarding Palladio until the cathedral is finished the doge hires the most accomplished plague doctor in the city, Annibale Cason, to look after the architect. The young medic has an agenda of his own in wanting to find a place to quarantine his patients, and discourage the quack doctors who only wish to take advantage of the sick and dying.

At the same time Feyra is left alone in a place that will label her an infidel. She hides, she runs, and at last finds refuge and work as a maid. It is not surprising that she will cross paths with the handsome Annibale Cason, yet it is initially an inauspicious meeting.

Fiorato unflinchingly describes the horrors of a city ravaged by plague and captivates readers with descriptions of a growing romance. The Venetian Bargain is historical fiction at its best, a well told tale enriched by accuracy and imagination.

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


The bloomsbury cookbook : recipes for life, love and art : Edition en anglais
The bloomsbury cookbook : recipes for life, love and art : Edition en anglais
par Jans Ondaatje Rolls
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 42,00

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A COOKBOOK LIKE NO OTHER, 21 avril 2014
What a joy The Bloomsbury cookbook is to read and to return to again and again. Relooking at the book is not only for copying the incomparable recipes but to be reminded of the wit and wisdom of the Bloomsbury Group. It is to hear their voices once more and be reminded of their unique personalities whether it be E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, T. S. Eliot or one of many others. These were important personages in the worlds of art, literature, politics who turned over the traces of the repressive Victorian era and encouraged others to do the same. They invited open communication, debate, argumentation, laughter and love. Thanks to the skill of Jane Ondaatje Rolls we are privy to their thoughts, letters and jottings accompanied by photographs and paintings - what a gift!

While much as been written about the Bloomsbury Group to my knowledge no one save Rolls has presented them at table where they conversed, solidified friendships, pondered and disagreed at length. We learn their favorite foods, which illuminates a side of their personalities hitherto unexplored. For instance, Lytton Strachey’s favorite dish was rice pudding which he ate every day and was prepared by Dora Carrington who was a self taught cook all the better to care for him. Frances Partridge prepared “Tipsy Chicken” (the meat was marinated in gin). The group lingered long at table and like many of us had a fondness for chocolate cake. Further, we learn whose table was bountiful and whose a bit on the lighter side.

Readers may vicariously enjoy sharing ideas and breakfast with the Group at Monk’s House, picnics (sometimes washed down with champagne), evening parties at Gordon Square and summer parties in Charleston. The glimpses we find of the Group in The Bloomsbury Cookbook are so apropos, so intimate that it is as if we had become a part of their circle. Such is the skill, artfulness, and prodigious research that Rolls brought to her writing. This is a book to treasure.

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke


Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin
Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin
par Harold Lancer
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 25,24

5.0 étoiles sur 5 HELPFUL, PRACTICAL ADVICE, 18 avril 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Younger: The Breakthrough Anti-Aging Method for Radiant Skin (Relié)
“Younger” - what an inviting title! In truth, wouldn’t all of us want to look and feel somewhat younger? Admittedly, I opened this book with a bias of mistrust as I’ve read far too many tomes promising to rejuvenate skin. I was in for a happy surprise because after a month of following Dr. Lancer’s advice I cannot claim to look younger but I do look decidedly better according to friends, family and mirror.

The good doctor’s suggestions made sense to me - all of them for this is a comprehensive highly readable volume covering not only skin but exercise, sleep, diet, and stress all of which will affect our skin. I soon found myself crimping page corners to remind myself to do or try something, so “Younger” is a now a staple in our house.

In the event that you’ve not heard of Dr. Lancer he is a dermatologist with an office on Rodeo Drive IN Beverly Hills. He’s the go-to guy for Hollywood elite with Oprah and Ellen Degeneres being among his major boosters.

A major focus for him is his “3-step Method” (Polish, Cleanse and Nourish), which he tells us will keep skin fresh, protected and hydrated. He notes that a common mistake is to treat the dermis or layer beneath the surface of the skin. He turns this mode of treatment around.

Yes, Dr. Lancer does include a list of recommended skin care products for every budget. That should be in caps because he is one of the few who recommends not only his line but others as well. His recommendations allow us to provide outstanding home care rather than going to a pricey salon. Another plus for him.

There’s much to be gleaned from the pages of “Younger,” and you don’t have to go to Beverly Hills to benefit from the results.

- Gail Cooke


All I Have in This World
All I Have in This World
par Michael Parker
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 23,30

5.0 étoiles sur 5 THE ACHE OF BEING LOST AND THE JOY OF BEING FOUND, 11 avril 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : All I Have in This World (Relié)
The latest from award winning author Michael Parker (The Watery Part of the World) may initially be a bit of a puzzler for some as the main character is a car. Albeit not just any car but “a 1984 Buick Electra....It was a sweet low block of a ride, light blue with a strip of black vinyl along the bottom of the doors, perfect for rumbling around town with the windows open.”
It has somehow wound up in a used car lot in the unremarkable town of Pinto Canyon, Texas. How and why it came to this place we learn by the magical pen of Parker who weaves in the Electra’s travels during the past 20 years. Who owned it and what did it mean to them?

In the present day we meet two surprising protagonists, both down on their luck, both seeking forgiveness. Marcus Banks is a young man who had a dream - he wanted to build a farm and educational center on his family’s land in North Carolina. Not such a great idea as the property is foreclosed on by the bank. He has not only lost his inheritance but his sister’s as well. Running is all he knows to do so he hops into his pickup and heads for Mexico with a stopover in Pinto Canyon. Once there impressed by the beauty of the land he decides to take a hike and explore some of it. While he’s communing with nature his pickup is stolen.

Maria is nervous about seeing her mother who is waiting for her in the El Paso airport’s Baggage Claim. It has been ten years since Maria has been in Texas - a decade since she ran away from Pinto Canyon after her boyfriend, Randy, killed himself. Now, for reasons that she may not be able to articulate she is returning home, taking a leave of absence from her job as a chef in Oregon to help her mother run a motel. Both are chary of the other, careful of what is said or unsaid.

Eventually Maria decides that she needs her own car and as fate and Parker would have it she meets Marcus at the local used car lot. Both of them are eying the Electra and as Maria knows nothing about cars she asks Marcus to do a test drive for her. He’s a bit taken aback wondering, “What sort of place is this, anyway? A lithe and lovely woman, blown up from nowhere, had just asked him to test drive a car for her.” As it happens that is the car he wants. Since both are somewhat strapped for cash they come up with an unusual solution - they will buy the car together and share its use.

It is through this relationship that the pair overcome their reticence and initial suspicions to become friends. In the doing of this readers are treated to descriptions of the heartbreak and hopelessness each has suffered. Parker has an eye, an awareness of human hearts and finds perfect words to describe their condition.

At times funny, sometimes sad, always gentle All I Have In This World holds something for those who have experienced the pain of being lost and the grateful joy of being found.

- Gail Cooke


Mimi Malloy, At Last!: A Novel
Mimi Malloy, At Last!: A Novel
Prix : EUR 10,96

4.0 étoiles sur 5 IT'S NEVER TOO LATE FOR LOVE, 10 avril 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Mimi Malloy, At Last!: A Novel (Format Kindle)
Perhaps being 68-years-old and forced into retirement isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Neither is living on a fixed income or as Mimi Malloy puts it “fixed just above the poverty line - enough so you can survive, but not enough to have much fun.” Nonetheless, Mimi’s making the best of it. She’d be content to smoke her True Blues, listen to Frank Sinatra records and sip a Martini. Oh, if only she could do this in peace and quiet.

Mimi, the third of seven daughters once known as the glorious Sheehan sisters, is alone now. Some 15 years ago her husband divorced her and ran off with his bookkeeper. But she does have six daughters, one especially determined one - Cassandra who wants to see Mimi in an assisted living facility. No way as far as Mimi is concerned, although her financial situation is certainly precarious. And then there are those strange black spots on her brain that showed up on a recent MRI.

She does hear quite often from her four surviving sisters or as she calls them the Yik Yak Club. They love to talk about the past, remembering their youth. But Mimi has no desire to do this; she’d much rather forget about her impoverished childhood. However, it soon seems she has no choice.

Mimi’s grandnephew wants her help in making a genealogical chart. All are in favor of this and pester Mimi to contribute. Then she accidently comes upon her mother’s blue pendant whhich she had not seen in years. Her dear mother had died in childbirth, and was soon replaced by a stepmother, the beautiful Flanna who is the epitome of every evil stepmother seen or imagined.

As Mimi’s thoughts begin to coalesce she thinks of her younger sister, Fagan, who was only five when their mother died. Despite tongue lashings and slaps Fagan refuses to kowtow to Flanna. The other sisters were told she had been sent to live with a family in Ireland but would return to them....or would she?

Mimi Malloy At Last is a sad, funny story of life and family as well as a reminder that it’s never too late to love.

- Gail Cooke


The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
par Gabrielle Zevin
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 23,11

5.0 étoiles sur 5 IF YOU LOVE BOOKS..., 5 avril 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (Relié)
Gabrielle Zevin has expressed in her story a respect and love for books that I feel but cannot put into words. She does it with warmth, wit and tenderness as she relates the life of a rather curmudgeonly book dealer on Alice Island, A. J. Fikry. One of A. J.’s more endearing qualities is to describe moments or situations through an author’s work, such as (heaven forbid) a Danielle Steele moment or a Raymond Carver situation. His world is books, totally books, since his beloved wife died.

A.J. is still shy of 40 but drinks too much as his bookstore, Island Books, teeters toward bankruptcy. Then, quite suddenly his life changes. His prize possession, a copy of Poe’s Tamerlane (valued at $400,000) is stolen, and a girl, a very small girl, Maya, who is 25 months old “very smart and verbal for her age” is left in his bookstore. Maya develops a great affection for him, and once he learns her mother has drowned herself he doesn’t have the heart to abandon the child to foster care. He adopts her - an unlikely pairing if there ever was one.

Many changes will occur as the islanders visit Island Books to make sure A.J. is taking proper care of Maya. And, there is the arrival of Amelia Loman, a publisher’s representative who paints her nails yellow on the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, adores Humbert Humbert “while accepting the fact that she wouldn’t really want him for a life partner, a boyfriend or even a casual acquaintance.” Among the books she is pushing for Knightley Press is her favorite, The Late Bloomer. To say that A.J. greets Amelia and her books with indifference is putting it politely.

But then, things may change. After all, they both love books and a shared sensibility is important. As the plot carries us along we meet a local police chief who befriends A.J. and in turn expands his own small world.

Each one of Zevin’s characters is unique and empathetic. Her writing is zingy, insightful, alive and thoroughly satisfying. Have I mentioned that The Storied Life Of A. J. Fikry is quite simply a marvelous book? It is.

- Gail Cooke


You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood's Golden Age
You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood's Golden Age
par Robert J. Wagner
Edition : Relié
Prix : EUR 26,01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES, 29 mars 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood's Golden Age (Relié)
If you’re old enough to have read movie magazines - those glossies that purported to tell the “real truth” about Hollywood stars you’ll relish this look at those stars from an insider. If you’re not of that age you’ll be fascinated by these stories of their lives and idiosyncracies as related by one of them. Robert Wagner is both candid and charming as he remembers the glory days of the silver screen with fondness and a smidgen of regret.

This was an exclusive group and they wanted it that way as is shown by their clubs, parties and homes. A great deal is learned about a person by his or her home. For instance, the most opulent house Wagner ever visited was Jack Warner’s - “It was an immense neoclassical mansion, more than 13,000 square feet sitting on nine acres of property.” In addition it boasted two guesthouses, terraces and gardens, three hothouses, a nursery, and a nine-hole golf course. For all his wealth and power it is said that Warner was “mortally afraid of his wife”

On the other hand James Cagney’s home on Coldwater Canyon was unpretentious, resembling a Connecticut farmhouse. There was a dance studio inside where Cagney could practice, assuring himself that he could still do the steps he did as a New York chorus boy. Among the best party givers during those years were Bill and Edie Goetz. From the outside their home looked like many other Holmby Hills mansions but once inside you were awestruck by a magnificent display of Impressionistic art. In fact, they owned one of the finest private collections of art in America, and entertained often to share or show-off their paintings. Each invitation from them indicated whether you should wear black tie or a business suit, and Edie did want you to know that their butler had once been employed by the Queen of England.

Sumptuous parties are described as well as a few snippets about who was being unfaithful to who with whom. All in all You Must Remember This is a bird’s eye view of days and places past told by someone who seems to have enjoyed every minute of it (lucky guy!)

- Gail Cooke


Children of the Revolution: The 21st DCI Banks Mystery-
Children of the Revolution: The 21st DCI Banks Mystery-
par Peter Robinson
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 9,38

5.0 étoiles sur 5 HAPPY TO SHARE ANOTHER PINT WITH BANKS!, 25 mars 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Children of the Revolution: The 21st DCI Banks Mystery- (Broché)
Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Peter Robinson and his Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks novels. There - my bias has been admitted up front. For me, these stories never fail to excite, satisfy and surprise. Robinson has a wonderful ability to mesh his characters personal lives with the mystery at hand, thus creating a reader/character bond. So, beginning another Banks novel is very much like visiting with an old friend (in a pub over a pint of Sneck Lifter, of course).

One of the pleasures found in reading a Banks novel is being privy to the way the Chief Inspector’s mind works, and this comes to the fore in Children Of The Revolution. Robinson loses no time in collaring his readers as on page 2 we find Banks called to a crime scene where he views “the crumpled body of an emaciated old man.” The name of the deceased is Gavin Miller, a recluse who has struggled to live at the poverty level since his dismissal from Eastvale College job following charges of sexual misconduct some four years ago.

Miller’s body was found beneath a railroad bridge. The side of the bridge was too high for him to have simply fallen - he had to have been lifted up or thrown over. Was it the result of a fight, murder or manslaughter? To further confound officials 5,000 pounds was found in Miller’s pocket - drug money?

Banks heads the investigation with his team spread out to uncover any information they could about Miller whether it be in his neighborhood or from former colleagues at Eastvale. What few answers they receive only further muddy the waters; contradictions, half-truths abound. However, it eventually becomes apparent that the answers Banks needs are not to be found in the recent past but more than likely in events that occurred some 40 years ago. As they track Miller’s past life Banks finds a link between Miller and Lady Veronica Chalmers, a beautiful woman married to a wealthy producer of musicals, a successful author in her own right, and aunt to the man who may well be the next home secretary.

A brief preliminary visit to Lady Chalmers brings down the wrath of his superiors and Banks is ordered to back off - never contact her again. Despite the warning he cannot shake the idea that she is hiding something, but what? Banks decides to try to hide any further investigation of the Lady thus endangering not only his career but that of a member of his team.

What a pleasure it is to follow this precisely constructed, thoughtfully paced plot to its surprising but thoroughly satisfying conclusion! Children Of The Revolution is a winner on all fronts.

- Gail Cooke


Clever Girl
Clever Girl
par Tessa Hadley
Edition : Broché
Prix : EUR 12,07

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A PAINTERLY PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN'S LIFE, 18 mars 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Clever Girl (Broché)
It is a simple story, yes, but a telling one as it is a carefully wrought portrait of a woman's life. As our heroine, Stella, makes choices, chooses paths we are reminded of the twists and turns our lives may take. As she relates her life Stella does so from her point of view - but then, if we look at our lives don't we see them from our points of view? Clever Girl is a painterly portrait of the stages in her life, and an engaging read.

Born a British girl in 1956 Stella is intelligent and seemingly intuitive. The child of divorced parents she often turns to her mother and grandmother, excels in school and seems a sure bet for university. Her predictable life changes when her mother remarries, and Stella turns to books and the pursuit of her intellectual curiosity. She believes she has found her perfect mate in Valentine who soon leaves her not knowing she is pregnant with his child. She decides to keep the baby and forget her ambitions for higher education

As a single mother she takes menial jobs and joins a commune filled with art students. Once there she again becomes pregnant by a new boyfriend who suddenly dies. Stella once again determines to further her education, and eventually takes her two sons to live with a gay schoolmaster. He will offer her shelter in return for housekeeping. That is not the last of Stella's choices, options for which she has no explanation. Thus, it frequently seems as though despite pain and humiliation she cannot understand what motivated her to do this or that as she looks back at her life.

It is the quality of Hadley's writing that holds us - her creation of a narrative voice that brings people, places and events to vivid life. She is able to limn a time, an atmosphere so that we perfectly see it. Simply put Clever Girl is engrossing and compelling penned by one of today's finest writers.

- Gail Cooke


Bitter Eden
Bitter Eden
par Tatamkhulu Afrika
Edition : Relié

5.0 étoiles sur 5 POWERFUL, TENDER, UNFORGETTABLE, 13 mars 2014
Ce commentaire fait référence à cette édition : Bitter Eden (Relié)
Raw, powerful, tender, honest Bitter Eden is not an easy book to read due to the suffering men endure in prisoner of war camps. Yet at times it is heroic when we see the best in humankind as these imprisoned men seek to comfort their fellows amidst illness, hunger, deprivation and violence. Afrika does not spare his readers in this autobiographical novel of life in a World War II POW camp. His descriptions are graphic, often painfully so, which in part accounts for the book’s strength and the indelible impressions it leaves on one’s mind.

First published in Britain in 2002 Bitter Eden describes the emotions that arise among men who find themselves in dire circumstances. They are in a place where a mate or friend is necessary for survival. Our narrator is Tom Smith who was captured by the Germans in 1941, and sent to camps in Italy and Germany. Initially Tom is pursued by fellow prisoner Douglas Summerfield who looks after him, jealously guards him, mothers him, and on the first night there with a roof of sorts over their heads Douglas finds “a double body’s length of sand we can call ‘his’ and ‘mine,’ there is an appearance of domesticity of a home...”

While Tom appreciates Douglas’s care of him the continual “fussiness” becomes a bother, especially when he meets Danny a rugged, well-toned individual, a former boxer. The two develop a relationship which causes Douglas pain and jealousy.

Relief from the dullness and deprivations of camp life is sometimes found in Shakespearean plays put on by Tony, an openly gay POW. In addition there are the Red Cross rations (cigarettes!) which gives the POWs things to barter.

Bitter Eden is a short book, only 234 pages yet it brilliantly captures the range of emotions as men fight to maintain their humanity while existing in the most deplorable conditions. It is a novel that will not be forgotten.

- Gail Cooke


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