Books Diversity Non Fiction

The Black Count and Alex Haley

When you think of France you undoubtedly think of one place: the Eiffel Tower.

But what do you think of when you think of 18th century France? Do you think of Les Miserable or The Three Musketeers?

If so, you’d be almost correct.  The story of The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, is a tale of  Alex Dumas, the man who fathers the man who writes The Three Musketeers and inspires The Count of Monte Cristo.

As a side note, I often refer to The Shawshank Redemption (or Friends) for many private chuckles.  In this case, the prisoners in Shawshank prison visit the library and one of them sees a book entitled The Count of Monte Cristo.  The prisoner mispronounces the author’s name as Alexandree Dumass.  (chuckle)  They are then informed that this book is about something they might be interested in:  a prison break.


Anyway, where were we?

oh yes, the Black Count.

Who is the Black Count? It’s no other man than Alex Dumas, the man who fathered the man who wrote The Three Musketeers, etc.  You know him, we discussed him in the previous paragraphs.  So, it’s no big deal, right? A black man fighting in the military? Maybe so today, but 3 centuries ago, this was practically unheard of.  There was, however, a brief time in France in the 18th century (1700s) when Blacks experienced moderately good civil rights.  They could be free, own property, conduct business, marry within and outside their race, etc.

I thought it might be interesting to find out what Black men looked like back then.

Notice anything familiar? It’s our Alex Dumas in the lower left corner, riding the horse; the same man as on the cover of The Black Count.  Also? The man on top of Alex Dumas? Yep, that’s his son, the author (Three Musketeers).

Now that we know what men might have looked like I thought it would be equally as interesting to see what the women looked like.  These photos, however, were more difficult to find.

I can only assume the lack of depiction of Black women had to be because of their lack of social standing regardless of the laws.  What I find interesting is what the mixed race people might have looked like.  If Dumas was from a White and Black union, the depictions I’ve seen don’t show it.  Some of the pictures show lighter skinned Blacks who, to me, look like they could be mixed.  But then, I guess this could be a cause for deeper research, sort of like an Alex Haley type of Roots exercise; remember that book? Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were more photos of the French and Haitian people of this time period so we could compare Alex Dumas’ history to Alex Haley’s?

If you like history or Black history or French history or The Three Musketeers, pick up a copy of The Black Count and research the turbulent history for yourself.  It’s amazing, really.

I give the book 4 paws for the historical retelling of life for 18th century Blacks; the book is, however, very informative and thorough, much like a textbook.



Books Children

Little Gestalten: Madame Eiffel

You’ve heard about the Eiffel Tower, right? Did you know it was a present from a husband to his sick wife?

What?? You didn’t know that?  Well check out my video review of this adorable picture book!

For all the little Francophiles in your life!

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Adult Fiction

Book of the Month Club: The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Have you ever just wanted to kick yourself? Sometimes I do. And this week was one of those times.  I began reading The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman, which was my September Book of the Month Club pick. I chose it because it was Alice. Friggin. Hoffman.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

I thought I would skim my way through this book and be done in a day or two. But I received no such luck! Because I hadn’t read any reviews or even the synopsis (at least very well) I figured this was just a typical book about a woman getting the love she wants. That’s why I could kick myself.

Turns out, I was kinda right and kinda wrong. I was hooked after the first chapter! Turns out the heroine is the mother of famed impressionist Camille Pissaro.  I also learned that the family were French Sephardic Jews living in what is now the US Virgin Islands.

Hoffman takes you there in the story; about how the Jews were expelled from various countries and islands, the difficulty of life on the Virgin Islands, and the difficulty of life with Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro as a mother, and the general difficulty of life in the mid 1800s.

The book was dense and fulfilling and I was transported to the island to see the faces of the donkeys, feel the intense heat, and feel the anger of the slaves and the Jewish people who owned them. Who knew Jews owned slaves? I sure didn’t!

I finished the book and realized it was promoted as a historical fictionalized account of the artist Camille Pisarro. I was like, DOH!

Anyway, I enjoyed this very much! Also? It became a book I finished during the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and the impetus for my Mini Challenge Diversity Challenge.


The Marriage of Opposites is the perfect book club book. Suitable for teens and adults of all ages.




2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Blogging from A to Z Challenge Books Children

April Blogging A to Z – Q Quasimodo

And here we are at letter Q. I know you’ve got to be thinking: What in the world are you gonna show us for Q? Well, if you look at the title, you’ll see Q is for Quasimodo!

Quasimodo the Brave by Disney


Excuse the quality of the photo; I’m thrilled that I found this book at Goodwill for like $.49! Anyway, Here is why I”m chosing Quasimodo for today’s letter:

  • Disney version is for kids
  • Quasimodo was born with a hunchback and a wart over his eye (check original version)
  • Quasimodo was born to a Romani family  (often called Gypsy)

So if those last two facts don’t convince you that Quasimodo belongs in our multicultural a to z challenge, then nothing will.  Granted, the Disney version is much sappier and cleaner and less horrifying but it still shows that Quasimodo had a kind heart.

Have you read The Hunchback of Notre Dame?

Tea Parties

Pretty Minnie In Paris by Danielle Steel

I love Danielle Steel’s new book Pretty Minnie in Paris!

Pretty Minnie

I love it so much we decided to host a tea party with Minnie. It was so FABULOUS!

pretty minnie Collage

Have you read this new book? What do you think?

Adult Fiction So This is Paris

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay @LeFrenchBook


Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

Just how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky is back, in love and rearing to go, when he’s handed an odd case. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

It’s Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and rearing to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? This is the second in the prize-winning Paris Homicide series.

You know how much I love books from Le French Book right? Who doesn’t love homicides and Paris?

“Procedural fans will appreciate the fresh take.” –Booklist

“For readers who enjoy a low-key approach with detailed descriptions, Molay is just the ticket.” – Publishers Weekly

“A highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read… unreservedly recommended.” –Thinking about Books


So This is Paris

So This is Paris: a book review of The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier

From my literary vacation to Paris, here’s my book review.

Adult Fiction

Reading A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable is Almost Like Being in Paris

You might have figured out by now that I love all things Paris. Here are my thoughts on A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable.


It’s the perfect beach read!

So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Treachery in Bordeaux



Here we are with more of the winemaker’s mystery! This is the series that starts it all.  Here’s an excerpt:

The drive was short between Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, where Grangebelle was nestled, and the pier in the small port town of Lamarque. Benjamin drove the nine miles slowly to savor the crisp morning air and make the most of the always-comic show his quivering dog put on, his impertinent snout up to take in the view. The car was quickly loaded on the Médocain, a modern functional ferry stripped of all poetry. Benjamin felt nostalgia for the old captain, Commander Lemonnier, who skillfully piloted a straight-from- the-past boat called Les Deux Rives, an ancient pot-bellied tub whose curves became graceful when, in the hands of a real sailor, they caressed the sea foam. Lemonnier, a former Cape Horner and a formidable master mariner, had started piloting this fresh-water crossing between inland Médoc and the Blaye citadel when he was well beyond seventy. He was capable of steering his boat through fog and dark nights without using any sophisticated navigational instruments. All he needed was a compass, a chronometer, and a tide schedule to avoid the mud banks and skirt the treacherous islands of Île Verte and Fort Pâté, with its headlands. It took him barely twenty minutes to reach the other bank, and it was a pleasure to watch him in the wheelhouse, examining his little black Moleskine notebook, wherehe had noted maneuvering speeds and course durations, giving orders with a authoritative voice, and landing at the pier without even lifting his eyes from his chronometer’s silver box.

The other side was a foreign land, a place that you could reach with a cannon ball, if not with the lob of a slingshot. Like the kids from the Médoc, young Benjamin had dreamed of bloody attacks, galleys in distress, pirate raids, toothless buccaneers, and wild mutinies when he had spent summers here. And after a stormy night, when the current carried knotty peat, empty containers, and puffed-up plastic bags, he could still imagine combats and skinned corpses, their bellies filled with saltwater.

As soon as Benjamin landed on the right bank of the Gironde, he had the same feeling of adventure that had captivated him when his grandfather Eugène had taken him to visit Blaye. He parked the convertible in a downtown lot and headed toward the citadel. Bacchus barked and had already gone through the king’s gate when Benjamin started over the bridge leading to the ramparts.

Their walk continued for two full hours. Dog and master explored the fortress at great length: the Minimes Convent, the barracks, the prison and the powder magazine, the Dauphine counterscarp, the Liverneuf gate, the central pavilion, and the fortified flanks. Benjamin perchedon the Cônes stronghold, pausing for a long time to watch the estuary’s slow-moving muddy water. He stared at a swirling eddy in the distance, then set his gaze on a sailboat before eyeing some lone branches washing against the foot of the cliff.

Afterward, he climbed the Eguilette tower and took out his spiral notebook. He unscrewed the top of his fountain pen and jotted down some notes in his precise, swirled writing:

Vauban, a man from Dijon (develop this idea)… the two visits from the King (check the dates)… Fort-Médoc kids… fishing for freshwater river shrimp… plaice fillets, court-bouillon (recipe with fennel)… Roland de Roncevaux (be concise)… do not forget Ferri, layout of Fort Pâté… arms factory, troop housing… the water is yellow, brown even, flowerbeds of the houses on the right… shops without giving any details, clock above the bridge, stone watchtower.

He crossed out “stone” and replaced it with “suspended.”

It was nearly noon when he turned back toward the middle of town. Bacchus was thirsty and was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Benjamin walked over to a cast-iron fountain and knelt beside the running water, cupping his hands to catch it for his dog to drink. They had enough time before the next ferry to visit an antique shop downtown.

Thanks for traveling to France with me and Le French Book!


Books So This is Paris

So This is Paris: The Paris Lawyer

The Paris Lawyer I’ve featured before so we thought it would be fun to visit some of the locations mentioned in the book!

My Creuse by Sylvie Granotier

The Paris Lawyer is a psychological thriller set in Paris, yes, but also in Creuse, a rural region in the center of France. Here are some of my favorite spots there, and inspiration for the book.


In Creuse, there is not much in terms of public transportation, so you need a car. Wherever you drive, you’ll find beauty. There are small rivers, forests, grazing cows, sheep and lambs in the spring. The land slopes gently up and down. Stop, walk around and if you see a café, don’t miss a chance to stop. There are not many, which is strange for France, but that’s what it’s like here. Visit the churches also. They are all ancient—sixteenth century is banal.

route de Creuse

Creuse is not renowned for its cuisine. Still in Aubusson, I can recommend Le Lion d’or, which has great food and a pretty setting. Aubusson also has a fascinating tapestry museum.

Guéret has a municipal museum, with hidden treasures and the funniest assemblage of stuffed animals, snakes on the ceilings, sad lions and funny dogs, goats, wolves, chickens, birds, what have you.

There’s a book fair on a Friday in mid-August in Felletin. All year around every Friday morning, Felletin has a wonderful open-air market, with excellent produce, meat, cheeses and bread. It’s pretty and joyous.

Settings from The Paris Lawyer

And if you want to visit settings I used for my novel, take the road from Aubusson to Pontarion, turn left toward Chavanat, drive on towards Le Monteil Vicomte and you’ll find La Rigole du Diable—The Devil’s Wash, where the climax occurs. Catherine stays in a guesthouse in Aubusson. It exists and belongs to my friends Jean-Pierre and Nicole Dessemond.

There’s another one in a small village ten kilometers from there that is very pretty and comfortable two, owned by my friends Jean Claude and Anne Marie Arvez.

And, the prettiest village of them all, because no modern construction ever damaged its charm, is Chambon-sur-Voueize. It is worth the drive and has a lovely restaurant, l’Auberge de la Voueize.

Finally, a place to see very near my house is Moutier d’Ahun, a beautiful ancient church where in the seventeenth century, a passing woodcarver stopped and sculpted the most incredible pageant faces and fruits and devils. In that village, there is also a very unusual bridge over a lovely river.

And then there are the ruins in the woods…

Something both urgent and mysterious guides Catherine through this confusing labyrinth. She no longer feels worried or tired. She is going where she has to go. She stops in front of a bright yellow bush the color of the sun, shining with a luminous intensity reminiscent of springtime. She feasts her eyes on it before again sensing something that is simply out of synch. The burning bush marks the entrance to another world. Two steps are enough for her to discover the ruins of a mansion.

The details that remain indicate that this home once had nobility. The structure no longer has a roof, and the walls are crumbling, but there’s a small, elegant wrought iron balcony, a stone staircase with a subtle curve to it, and splendid window frames. These ruins are more romantic than worrisome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA She decides that it is Sleeping Beauty’s castle and thinks about her mother, because, clearly, everything comes back to her mother.

(from The Paris Lawyer, chapter 17)

Sleeping Beauty’s house?

Yep, I’ll play along. Wasn’t that tour spectacular? Have you ever been to inner France?  I’ve never gone further South than Rouen and Caen, which were both lovely.