Tag: Paris

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Paris Hours, by Alex George

TheParisHours_300
Image belongs to Flatiron Books.

Title:  The Paris Hours
AuthorAlex George
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 

One day in the City of Light. One night in search of lost time.

Paris between the wars teems with artists, writers, and musicians, a glittering crucible of genius. But amidst the dazzling creativity of the city’s most famous citizens, four regular people are each searching for something they’ve lost.

Camille was the maid of Marcel Proust, and she has a secret: when she was asked to burn her employer’s notebooks, she saved one for herself. Now she is desperate to find it before her betrayal is revealed. Souren, an Armenian refugee, performs puppet shows for children that are nothing like the fairy tales they expect. Lovesick artist Guillaume is down on his luck and running from a debt he cannot repay—but when Gertrude Stein walks into his studio, he wonders if this is the day everything could change. And Jean-Paul is a journalist who tells other people’s stories, because his own is too painful to tell. When the quartet’s paths finally cross in an unforgettable climax, each discovers if they will find what they are looking for.

Told over the course of a single day in 1927, The Paris Hours takes four ordinary people whose stories, told together, are as extraordinary as the glorious city they inhabit.

This was…slower than I would have liked. It had a dreamy, floaty feel to it for me, and I just couldn’t make myself care about the characters. To be fair, I’m not generally a big fan of literary fiction, so that was probably the main problem.

Excellent writing and the setting was so vivid, as were some of the secondary characters (Proust), but in the end, this just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Alex George was born in England but now lives in America. The Paris Hours is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Queen of Paris, by Pamela Binnings Ewen

the queen of paris
Image belongs to Blackstone Publishing.

Title:  The Queen of Paris
AuthorPamela Binnings Ewen
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Coco Chanel doesn’t care about the war. She cares about keeping her secrets and the rights to her legendary perfume. But the Nazis have other ideas, and when they occupy Paris during the war, Coco finds she has much more at stake than she ever imagined. And even more secrets to hide.

I love a good historical fiction read, although the subject of this was a little bit outside my wheelhouse. An interesting look at how Coco grew up—and how she became the icon she became. The writing was vivid and well-done, but the character herself was a bit off-putting to me, being mainly focused on herself and her concerns, with no self-awareness or interest in anything outside her own little bubble.

Pamela Binnings Ewen lives outside New Orleans. The Queen of Paris is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine, by Rebecca Raisin

the little bookshop
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Little Bookshop on the Seine
AuthorRebecca Raisin
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.

But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.

I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!

Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Spectacle, by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

spectacle-red-final
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Spectacle
Author:  Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Genre:  YA, fantasy, historical
Rating:  3.7 out of 5

Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column in 1887 Paris. It’s her job to tell about each day’s new arrivals to the morgue, which the citizens of Paris are fascinated with. It’s morbid, but it’s just a job, until the day Nathalie sees a vision of the murder of the body before her…from the perspective of the murderer.

When the body of another woman is found a few days later, all of Paris is talking about it—and speculating it won’t be the last. Nathalie’s visions may be the only way to help find the killer, but can she figure out who the murderer is before her own life is forfeit?

This wasn’t a bad read. The premise is unique, but I found it a little erratic. Sometimes, Nathalie seemed very childish and naïve—who wanders around a busy city alone when they are the target of a serial killer? And who would go into the Parisian Catacombs like that, especially? I liked the concept, but the execution could use a little bit of polishing.

Jodie Lynn Zdrok holds two MA degrees in European History, and an MBA. Spectacle is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Tor Teen via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Love à la Mode, by Stephanie Kate Strohm

love a la mode
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Love à la Mode
Author:   Stephanie Kate Strohm
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Rosie Radeke is from East Liberty, Ohio, a small town where winning local baking contests is a big deal. But now Rosie got into Chef Laurent’s prestigious cooking school in Paris, and she just knows she’s finally going to start living all her celebrity-cooking-show-inspired dreams. But a nightmare chef/instructor soon makes Rosie wonder if she has any talent at all.

Henry Yi was raised in his dad’s Chicago restaurant. Cooking is in his blood, and it’s all he wants to do. His mother, however, insists he do more—and gets him extra work from his instructors to prove it. Henry likes Rosie, but between his extra homework, his fear of being an uninspired cook, and Rosie’s growing friendship with famous model/chef Bodie, does he even stand a chance?

This was a sweet tale, in more than one way. First, don’t read this if you’re hungry. The pastry descriptions alone will have you drooling. And this is a clean book, which I appreciated, told from both Henry and Rosie’s point-of-views. Well-written, with quirky and entertaining characters (the secondary characters are a riot), this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Stephanie Kate Strohm writes children’s and YA books. Love à la Mode is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fromage à Trois by Victoria Brownlee

Image belongs to Amberjack Publishing.

Title: Fromage à Trois
Author: Victoria Brownlee
Genre: Fiction, romance
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ella and Peter have been together 8 years and she’s expecting a proposal. What she gets is Peter telling her he’s off to find himself—and he never intended to marry her. With her heart broken, Ella decides to move to Paris for a year. Her French is questionable, and she doesn’t know a soul there, but she knows a change will do her good.

In Paris, Ella wanders into a fromagerie—a cheese shop—and ends up in a bet with Serge, the owner, that she can’t eat 365 kinds of cheese in a year. In between washing dishes at a coffee shop, she explores the city, works on her French, and meets a dashing French man.

Ella is torn between the two sides of life and Paris, and she’ll have to decide if her dreams will ever live up to reality.

This was a fun read. I might have wanted to slap Ella couple of times, but her adventures made me laugh. I can’t imagine just moving to another country for a year, so I admire that, and the cheese made me drool!

Victoria Brownlee is a writer and editor from Australia who now lives in France. Fromage à Trois is her first published novel.

(Galley provided by Amberjack Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: On the Spectrum, by Jennifer Gold

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Image belongs to Second Story Press.

Sixteen-year-old Clara, daughter of a famous ballerina, is totally normal. Or so she thinks. But her mom’s unhealthy obsession with food—and never eating anything “unhealthy”, including carbs—has taken over Clara’s life as well, to the point where it’s all she thinks about. After a social media disaster, Clara decides to spend the summer in Paris, with her estranged father and her six-year-old brother, Alastair, who is on the autism spectrum.

Alastair and Clara explore Paris, and Clara starts to wonder about her obsession with food. A young French baker teaches her about love—both of food and the “first love” variety, but Clara still struggles with the idea. Will it take another disaster to get Clara to admit she has a problem?

On the Spectrum is a spot-on portrayal of the affect today’s social media obsession can have on people, from the Instagram-worthy pictures of thigh gaps, to staged food photos touting healthy lifestyles. Clara struggles with learning that her way of life is not healthy, and admitting she has a problem. (That’s the first step in recovery, right?) her mental battles are portrayed vividly and believable, until the reader wants to cast suspicious looks at a croissant right along with her. Clara grows so much in the book, and her struggles are truly heart-wrenching.

Jennifer Gold is both a lawyer and teacher, and has studied at York, McGill, and Harvard. On the Spectrum is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Second Story Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)