Review: Wreck and Order

WreckandOrder

REVIEW: 2 STARS

Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore is about Elsie, a twenty-something who wants to change her life, but must first deal with her inner problems. Courtesy of her father, he gives her money to flit around the world, from Paris to Sri Lanka and New York City. I struggled to continue reading because of her angst, constant careless sex and extended periods of navel-gazing.

The writing is excellent, but it’s not enough to keep the reader interested if the story is depressing and disturbing. When good things come her way, she dismisses them and throws away the opportunity. Her low self-esteem contributes to her self-sabotage behavior by having sex with abusive strangers. The story is told in a flight of ideas style of prose that captures Elsie’s confused state of mind. When her problems become too hard to handle emotionally, she travels to a different country, in hopes that the new setting will solve her problems. Her problems follow her wherever she lands since it’s easier to change her outside life rather than her inner life. I couldn’t connect to Elsie because of her angst and self-sabotage behavior. Plus, her “job” consisted of the translation of a vintage book from French to English, which leads her nowhere. Elsie will not change until she works on her inner problems.

Despite beautiful writing, the story depressed me. Elsie is a self-centered hopeless woman who won’t change her life for the better because it takes courage and strength to change your inner self. The only takeaway from this book is to change your inner problems first, instead of physically running away from them in hopes that will solve your problems.

 

I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: French Illusions – 4 stars

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RATING: 4 STARS

Linda Kovic-Skow’s dream is to become an international stewardess. Yet, one of the requirements of this job is that she must be bi-lingual – fluent English and at least one another language – preferably Spanish, French or German. Linda is determined to learn French and concocts a plan to make it happen. She applies for a job as an Au-Pair in France and learn French along the way. She lies on her application by stating she speaks French. She is hired and doesn’t reveal she isn’t fluent in French until she meets her future employers in person. Her future employers are a wealthy French family who live in a castle in the Loire Valley and aren’t amused to discover she isn’t fluent in French. Since no other Au-Pairs are available, they decide to let her stay, only if she attends French language courses in nearby Tours.

The story was interesting up until the end, when it ended abruptly,leaving many questions about her love interests. In order to find out what happens next,  you need to buy her next book. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in book publishing lately. The author should resolve the end of story, but leave some parts unresolved for a future book, not end the book in the middle of the ending.  I deducted one star for this reason. Overall, French Illusions: My Story as an Au-Pair in the Loire Valley is an entertaining book.

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: My Paris Dream

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My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts

Published by Penguin Random House Company

RATING: 4 STARS

Kate Betts is an award-winning magazine editor and author who has held top positions at  Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. In 2003 she was named editor at large at Time magazine where she created the first globally published style supplement, Time Style & Design.

In her memoir and coming of age story, My Paris Dream, Betts recounts her experiences of living in Paris during the late eighties. After being brought up in Manhattan, and graduating from Princeton, she is anxious to escape the traditional expectations of her parents. While her friends are entering law school or working on Wall Street, Betts is determined to follow her dream and explore Paris, as she did during her boarding school summers. Betts is part of the 1% who is lucky enough to secure an internship at a Paris magazine through her godmother’s well-connected husband. She is content, but bored with her minimum wage earning job, yearning to fit into French culture while trying to find work as a fashion journalist.

During her stay with a wealthy Parisian family, she meets her boyfriend, Herve, who is from Brittany, takes her to see a costumed band of wild boar hunters tear through the forests of Brittany. After her boar-hunting article is published, John Fairchild, the publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, (who is also attended Princeton) notices it, et voilà – he hires Betts for the Paris bureau. She begins covering American “It” girls and becomes rewarded for her efforts and is initiated into the elite ranks of Mr. Fairchild ‘s influential trusted few and sat next to him in the front rows of fashion shows of top designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Claude Montana.

Betts is enamored with Paris, it’s hard for her to discern if she loves the beauty of France and the French lifestyle, or is this  clouding her thinking towards her true feelings for Herves. She admires the French focus on family and the traditional August vacation over career, yet she realizes she’ll always be an outsider. Unfortunately, Herves friends are only too happy to point out her faux pas when she doesn’t follow certain “rules” of French culture. She doubts her acceptance into French culture. Homesick for New York, she decides to return home.

I can relate to her cultural experiences because I nearly moved to France in my early twenties, after being engaged to a Frenchman. I had a similar experiences of feeling like an outsider. The French will accept you as friends forever, but not as family. The French tend to make the majority of their friends when they’re young and continue the friendship into adulthood. They prefer staying with their established group of friends, over accepting new ones. .

My Paris Dream was an interesting memoir. Highly recommended for Fashionistas, or those who want an inside look into the life of a French fashion journalist.

I deducted one star due to Betts’ constant name dropping and of mentions of connections, as it took away from the focus of the coming of age theme of her memoir.

This book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

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The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose    Published by Atria Books

RATING: 4 STARS

In her signature lush prose, M.J. Rose paints an intriguing gothic tale set during the 1890s Belle Époque Paris. Sandrine Salome, fleeing from her dangerous husband in New York, seeks refuge in her grandmother’s grand mansion in hopes of creating  a new life for herself. Upon arrival, she discovers her (courtesan) grandmother’s mansion is boarded up. When questioned, her grandmother’s evasive answer piques Sandrine’s curiosity to discover her secrets. Along with a charming young architect, she begins to explore the forbidden and dangerous night world of Paris. 

Sandrine becomes fascinated with the Maison de la Lune, a mansion which has been in the Verlaine family for centuries. As Sandrine becomes more involved in the secrets surrounding Maison de la Lune, she becomes prey to the life draining force of La Lune, a long-suffering ancestor of the Verlaine family.

M.J. Rose captures Sandrine’s sadness and obsessive desire to find her own identity. The Witch of Painted Sorrows blends a haunted Parisian mansion, a 16th century courtesan, and witchcraft, giving the reader a thrilling ride to the end. I’m looking forward to M.J. Rose’s second installment of The Daughters of La Lune.

A copy of the book was provided to me by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Man Who Risked It All

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Perched on the Eiffel Tower and ready to jump to his death, Alan hears a cough, which knocks him out of his trance. Irritated and fighting the vertigo from the height, he spots s a man. Little does he know that this man is going to challenge him and talk him down from the ledge, albeit in a peculiar way. Not only will he save Alan’s life, but he will change the entire direction of his lonely and monotonous existence.

The theme of this book is fear and demonstrates how it can hold us back from reaching happiness.  If we learn to overcome them, we can escape the shackled chains of our self-imposed doubts.  An enjoying read with a wonderful surprise ending. I’m looking forward to M. Gounelle’s next novel. Bravo!

RATING: 4 STARS

 

* I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Book Review: The Paris Lawyer

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“The Paris Lawyer” by Sylvie Granotier is about Catherine, a young Parisian lawyer who delves into the murder of her mother while preparing to defend a rural woman accused of murdering her husband. Written from a third person’s point of view, mostly in thoughts and flashbacks of Catherine and other characters, confused me. Several times I needed to re-read a section to decide if the author was writing about the present or the past and which character was the focus of the story. Considering the book was originally written in French, along with Granotier writing a “story within a story” with multiple POV’s, didn’t add to my reading experience.

“The Paris Lawyer” won the 2011 Grand Prix Sang d’ecre. Perhaps the subtleties of language became lost in translation, because I didn’t enjoy this book. If you liked the alternating POV’s used in “Gone Girl”, then you’ll appreciate this book.

An ARC was provided to me through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

RATING: 3 STARS

A to Z Challenge -“D” for Thriller Book Review: The Day Of The Jackal

The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsythe is one of my top ten favorite thriller novels. This is one of the rare moments in film where the movie is equally, if not better than the novel.

The Day Of The Jackal is a brilliant and exciting historical fiction thriller. The premise is plausible – a recounting of actual assassination attempts on French President Charles De Gaulle by the French terrorist group,the OAS. Government officials discover that the OAS hired a foreigner (The Jackal) to assassinate De Gaulle.

Using the third-person omniscient form, Forsyth takes us into the minds and actions of the plotters, the police, and the Jackal. What makes this novel a shining star is Forsyth’s vivid descriptions of typically routine daily police work: checking records, passport photos, questioning hotel clerks, setting up road blocks, etc.

The reader follows the Jackal step by step as he arranges the creation of false identities, the design and production of the perfect weapon, extensively studies de Gaulle, selects the perfect time and place for the kill, and identifies his escape route. Forsythe keeps the reader entertained with his intricate details and clever plotting. The end result is a novel that is suspenseful, engaging and exciting.

Book Review: Stuff Parisians Like

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STUFF PARISIANS LIKE: DISCOVERING THE QUOI IN THE JE NE SAIS QUOI BY OLIVIER MAGNY

RATING: 4 STARS

Stuff Parisians Like is a tongue-in-cheek look at Parisians and their idiosyncracies. Specifically, Magny makes fun of “BCBG”, “Bon Chic Bon Genre”, the upper middle class Parisians. Similar satirical books have been written mocking upper crust societies. For upper middle class white Americans, we have the book Stuff White People Like. The British have The Sloane Ranger, poking fun at the British upper crust.

Stuff Parisians Like is a light and entertaining read geared towards an American audience. If you’re easily insulted, this book isn’t for you. Magny discusses how Parisians react when discussing Americans:

“Parisians have a bit of a different physiology. Things like a certain inability to smile are quite well-known expressions of this phenomenon…When hearing the phrase “Les Américains”, the Parisian will implacably lose track of his previous ideas to just be taken over by one overpowering thought…”Oui, mais les Américains, ils sont cons.” It would be impolite at that point to bring to the Parisian’s attention that he starts to sound like the stupid American he despises so much…Plus, despite his obvious in-depth knowledge of America, chances are he might not get the joke…”

I’d recommend this to a Francophile, someone who has lived in Paris or going on vacation to Paris.  Keep in mind, Stuff Parisian Like should be taken with “un grain de sel.”

 

 

Memorable Monday Book Review: The Crimes of Paris

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It’s Monday, so it’s time for MEMORABLE MONDAY BOOK REVIEW, where I review one of my favorite books. Today’s book is “The Crimes of Paris” written by husband and wife writing team, Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

I love books allowing me to travel back in time. Add detective stories, art and Paris and I’m swooning. The Crimes of Paris is about the crimes that took place in Paris from the late 1800’s to the beginning of World War I. An intriguing tale of the darker side of a city, hums with a cast of characters, from artists, anarchists and aristocrats to street thieves and the foremost crime detection pioneers. The theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911 initially draws you in, but the remaining part of the book deals with several murders, detectives and street gangs. Along with the several French revolutions during the 19th century, came changes to its urban landscape. Changes in technology and scientific thinking enabled the police to solve crimes that had previous remained unsolved.

The book’s strength lies in its descriptions of other famous and not so famous crimes. We’re introduced to a host of historical figures: Vidocq, France’s first real detective; Bertillon, who developed the science of anthropometry; Picasso, who was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa, (although he wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the crime); the Bonnot gang, anarchists who were the first to escape the scenes of their crimes via car and more.
A minor negative of the book is the vaguely linked connections between the Mona Lisa theft and the other described crimes.
The book is so mesmerizing that I read it in three evenings. I couldn’t sleep until I finished it. Hopefully, it will have the same effect on you.

The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection

Fun Fact: In 2001, Tom Hoobler (who co-authored the book with his wife) appeared on the TV show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and with help from his wife (who was his phone-a-friend) he won $500,000. The Hooblers used part of the money to spend a month traveling in Italy and decided to use the rest to try to write a book for adults.