My Thoughts Are With The Victims in Paris

EmpireStateFrance

I’m stunned and saddened by the killing of over two hundred  innocent people in Paris last night. I have no words, except to pray for peace and hope we can fight violence in a civilized manner.  Let the victims rest in peace.

Book Review: The Snow Kimono

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THE SNOW KIMONO BY MARK HENSHAW

RATING: 3 STARS

 

The Snow Kimono is a poetic novel about two men reflecting upon their lives. A friendship between Jovert, a recently retired French Inspector, and Tadashi Omura, a Law Professor, is prompted after Jovert receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his daughter. Both men exchange stories about their experiences with loss, betrayal and love. Their stories branch out into seemingly unconnected directions, ending with an ungratifying twist.

Although Henshaw’s lyrical descriptions of Algiers and Japan were beautiful, it didn’t compensate for the confusing subplots within a plot narrative and the constant shift of narrators. I rated this book as 3 out of 5 stars since I enjoyed Henshaw’s poetic prose more than the story itself. I’m sure other readers may enjoy this book for it’s lovely prose, but I found myself slogging through this obtuse read, relieved when it ended.

An advanced reader’s copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: From The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

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The Fifteenth District by Mavis Gallant

Publication date: December 16, 2014

RATING: 4 STARS

From The Fifteenth District is a collection of short stories about European émigrés struggling to find their way in the world during pre and post WW II.  The stories have a somber feeling to them, with themes of relationships, aging, displacement and longing woven throughout it.  I preferred her short stories over the longer ones as they felt drawn out. Gallant’s stark writing style has a unique combination of being nonchalant and flippant.

As an example, here are some quotes From The Fifth District:

“His smile was like a sentence uttered too soon.”

“All that prevented him from weeping in the street was the thought that he had never seen a man do that.”

“I’ve discovered something else”, she said abruptly. “It is that sex and love have nothing in common. Only a coincidence, sometimes. You think the coincidence will go on and so you get married. I suppose that is what men are born knowing and women learn by accident.”

Gallant’s writing is sad, musical and  beautiful. If you read too much of her stories in one sitting, you may feel as if you’ve finished a Thanksgiving meal. I read the book in small bites –just enough to get a sweet taste of sorbet, but longing for more.

*** I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Review: The French Executioner

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The French Executioner by C.C. Humphreys 

What do you get when you mix the six-fingered hand of a Queen, an executioner and an Italian Archbishop? An amusing Three Muskateers-esque historical fiction mashup by C.C. Humphreys, who makes the story work using his graceful prose. A galloping adventure set in 1536 Europe, The French Executioner is about the expert swordsman, Jean Rombeaud, brought over from France by Henry VIII to behead his wife, Ann Boleyn. On the eve of her execution, Ann begs Jean to take her six-figured hand, symbolizing her rumored witchery, to a sacred crossroads in the Loire Valley. Ann Boleyn’s hand is such a powerful a relic, that many will put their lives at risk to own it, including an Archbishop. Humphreys’ descriptive style transports you to sinister torture-chambers, ambushes and gory battles.

When I started to read this novel, I  expected a more historical rather than an action-adventure novel. The beginning of the story starts off at a slow pace, as the story becomes bogged down in detailed information. Half way through the story, the action begins. Although it’s enjoyable to read, historical fiction fans may be disappointed since this novel leans towards fantastical rather than historical.

RATING: 3.5 STARS

Last but not least, the winner of a signed copy of The French Executioner is…Christina from Kentucky! Congratulations!

UPCOMING REVIEWS: The Children Act by Ian McEwan, The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood & Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman.

** An advanced reader’s copy of the book was exchanged for an honest review.

Review – The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Suddenly Gave Up Sex

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The Art Of Sleeping Alone by Sophie Fontanel

Translated from French

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: August 13, 2013

** I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a Fair and honest review.


At the age of twenty-seven, after many years of being an editor at French Elle, Sophie Fontanel decides she wants to take a break. Despite having all the perks that come with being an editor at a high fashion magazine, she still doesn’t feel happy. As a way to search for more meaning in her life, she chose to give up her sex life. Her friends and colleagues are baffled over her decision to become celibate. She finds it amusing to watch her friend’s unrelenting efforts to set her up on dates and giving her advice about how to appear sexier.

As she experiences being the only single person among couples at parties and summer vacations, she muses on what it means to find happiness and fulfillment alone.

 Although Fontanel’s prose has a pleasant rhythm, the egocentric ramblings of her celibacy get old quickly. After hearing that this book was on the bestseller list for eight weeks in France, I was curious to see what made it so compelling. I’m still trying to figure it out. 

RATING: 2 out of 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating

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Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Mah

Expected publication: September 26th 2013 by Pamela Dorman Books

 

If you are Francophile, traveler, foodie or gourmet, this book is for you. I’ve been to France many times, and after reading this book, I’m reading to fly there next week.

Ann Mah’s writing is smooth and enjoyable to read. Mastering The Art of French Eating is about a diplomat’s wife who experiences the foods of France. Along the way, she makes some interesting discoveries about herself, as she is traveling alone, while her husband is on assignment in the Middle East.

Throughout the book, Mah includes pertinent history of the regions she is visiting, along with recipes of her favorite french dishes. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it.

5 stars all the way!

** I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a fair review.

Book Review – The Mouse Proof Kitchen: A Novel

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The Mouse Proof Kitchen: A Novel by Saira Shah
Published July 2, 2013 by Simon and Schuster

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

I received a ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is an intense, compelling fictional story of a family’s journey to raise their disabled child. This book took me longer time to read, compared to my usual quick pace of reading. This is due to two reasons. First, the book is written with such intense emotion, I needed to take frequent reading breaks, to digest the information, before starting to read it again. I also have two children with special needs, (not nearly as severe as Freya), so this added to the amount of heart wrenching emotion that I could tolerate in one sitting. There were several times that I wanted to stop reading, but I pushed through it in order to see the ending.

Written from the point of view of the mother, the novel begins with Anna and Tobias welcoming their daughter, Freya, into the world. Immediately,  we learn that Freya is born with severe disabilities. Although their life plans are initially derailed, they continue their plans to move from England to a run down farmhouse in rural France. Anna dreams of opening a restaurant, while her husband Tobias works on his evolving music career. The strengths of the book are succinct writing and a compelling story. I felt emotionally connected to Anna, the main protagonist. I had a difficult time warming up to the other main character, Tobias.

The grieving process of coming to terms with raising a disabled child is written with raw honesty, until the end of the novel. One of the minor weaknesses of the novel is the unrealistic expectation that a couple raising a disabled child would reach their dreams jobs so quickly. Also, Anna makes some unusual decisions towards the end of the story which seem contrived. Overall, it was an intense and interesting novel.

REVIEW: 4 STARS