Book reviews and the bookstore on Boulevard Georges-Favon

While I was waiting for my books to arrive here in Geneva, I found myself without any books at all. I even read everything that Z had brought with him. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read X’s books. So as a treat to myself, I went out in search of the English bookstore in the city. It’s called Off the Shelf, on the second floor of a centuries-old building. Because I had a stroller with me, I had to go in the back way where an ancient elevator wedged into the stairwell JUST fit me and the stroller. Like, just. I almost sent the stroller up in the elevator and ran up the flight of stairs myself. I know that sounds really irresponsible. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on this. Baby in elevator while I run up the stairs? Just, in case, you know?

Anyway, this place is a book lovers dream. It’s hardly big, in fact, it’s crammed into a former apartment, with each room a different section. It’s a little dusty and quiet, like a forgotten place, but with the sun streaming in through the windows I just wanted to find a warm corner and curl up with a book. It was nice to find a children’s area, because did I mention how many times I’ve read X’s books to him? Here’s the haul I came away with.

Blood and Beauty, by Sarah Dunant

Book description: Is there a family in history more dazzling, dangerous and notorious than the Borgias?

A powerhouse of the Italian Renaissance, their very name epitomizes the ruthless politics and sexual corruption of the Papacy.

The father, Pope Alexander VI, a consummate politician and a man with a voracious appetite both as Cardinal and Pope.

The younger Juan, womanizer and thug, and their lovely sister, Lucretia, whose very name has become a byword for poison, incest and intrigue.

But how much of the history about this remarkable family is actually true, and how much distorted, filtered through the age old mechanisms of political spin, propaganda and gossip?

What if the truth, the real history, is even more challenging? 

“Blood & Beauty: The Borgias” is an epic novel which sets out to capture the scope, the detail, the depth, the colour and the complexity of this utterly fascinating family.

My review: I have been interested in the Borgia family for awhile, although I don’t know much about them. I do know they are bloody and violent, took over the papacy and there was some weird incest in the family. And what better way to discover a historical family than to read historical fiction? I’ve read some of Dunant’s work before and I like her, so I was excited to find this.

I was left a little underwhelmed, however. For all the topic is bloody and lusty, the book read a little dry. Like, it might have even been more like a non-fiction than anything. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate the amount of research Dunant did for this book. But is it possible to be a little over-researched? The amount of papal conclaves that occurred got a little tedious. The truth is we read historical fiction for the naughty bits. Not that I’m looking for incestuous naughty bits – we already have Game of Thrones for that. It’s just … I don’t need to know every last historical event that occurred at the time. I was left wanting more.

 

Deep Blue Sea, by Tasmina Perry

Book description: Beneath the shimmering surface lies a dark secret…

Diana and Julian Denver have the world at their feet. With a blissful marriage, a darling son and beautiful homes in London and the country, Diana’s life, to the outside world, is perfect. But nothing is as it seems…

When Julian dies suddenly and tragically, Diana is convinced there is more to it than meets the eye. She calls on the one person she had never wanted to see again – her sister, Rachel.

A former tabloid reporter, Rachel appears to be living the dream as a diving instructor on a Thai island. The truth is she’s in exile, estranged from her family and driven from her career by Fleet Street’s phone-hacking scandal.

For Rachel, Diana’s request opens old wounds. But she is determined to make amends for the past, and embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth – wherever it may lead…

My review: Don’t let the luscious cover fool you. I thought this would take place in an exotic location – I thought it would, and it was totally the reason why I bought this little bit of escapist fluff. Turns out it takes place (mostly) in London – less exotic but still pretty glamourous. As for it being escapist fluff … that’s exactly what it is. And it has everything you could be looking for … rich people! Secret pregnancies! Affairs! International corporate espionage! More secret pregnancies! Plus some happy sisterly reconciliations and the makeover of a little cafe. C’mon, it’s missing practically nothing. This was a fine book and I’m certain I’ll probably forget it sometime over the next week. If you’re ever nearby, you can steal it from me and read it on a beach somewhere.

 

But Not the Hippopotamus, by Sandra Boynton

Book description: Serious silliness for all ages.

X’s review: Da da da da dah. Gaaaaah! (long raspberry) He loved it.

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