Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan

I'm trying my best to be positive in all reviews, and I normally don't give less than three "stars" - but I'm sorry...this one has trumped my "rule." 🍷🍷

It's so bland. So. So. So. Bland.

The original premise and cover (my fault - I judged a book by its cover) presents it as a story about Paris, and a book shop, and a family living there. I found this book on NPR when I was reading about another novel I loved and just had to learn more about. It drew me in with this false premise and I immediately suggested my library order it. They did - I was reading and now I'm done.

I started this book three days ago and have found every excuse in the world to NOT read it. That is a screaming red flag for me. The characters are poorly drawn, the writing is rather choppy, and the fascination with "Madeline" and "The Red Balloon" is aggravating at best. I think it was meant to be a timeless reference, but it becomes a "time-suck" unfortunately. I don't even care where Leah's husband is or if and when he's ever coming back. 

It's been a very long time since I wrote a review that was this "negative" and I'm loathe to do it - but I must warn my fellow readers to avoid this book if your looking a novel featuring Paris and a quaint bookshop - this isn't it. 

The novel's current summary from Goodreads (NOT what I read originally on NPR): 

A missing person, a grieving family, a curious clue: a half-finished manuscript set in Paris. Heading off in search of its author, a mother and her daughters find themselves in France, rescuing a failing bookstore and drawing closer to unexpected truths.

Once a week, I chase men who are not my husband….

When eccentric novelist Robert Eady abruptly vanishes, he leaves behind his wife, Leah, their daughters, and, hidden in an unexpected spot, plane tickets to Paris.Hoping to uncover clues—and her husband—Leah sets off for France with her girls. Upon their arrival, she discovers an unfinished manuscript, one Robert had been writing without her knowledge…and that he had set in Paris.

The Eady women follow the path of the manuscript to a small, floundering English-language bookstore whose weary proprietor is eager to sell. The whole store? Today? Yes, but Leah’s biggest surprise comes when she hears herself accepting the offer on the spot. As the family settles into their new Parisian life, they can’t help but trace the literary paths of some beloved Parisian classics, including Madeline and The Red Balloon, hoping more clues arise.

But a series of startling discoveries forces Leah to consider that she may not be ready for what solving this mystery might do to her family—and the Paris she thought she knew.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley

The Clandestine Proposal by Alice Chetwynd Ley is a regency romance featuring a strong female protagonist. 

A pretty young heiress finds her quick temper may land her in a bit of trouble.

1796, London

At twenty-seven, the Honourable Hugh Eversley is still a bachelor, and eagerly pursued by every match-making mama who ever brought a daughter up to London for the season. But Hugh "Beau" Eversley is a notorious rake and every effort to catch his attention so far has been wasted. That is why Susan Fyfield’s family are shocked when she announces she is engaged to him. They aren’t the only ones stunned by the news. The Beau himself isn’t aware he has made a proposal…

THE CLANDESTINE BETROTHAL is the first book in The Eversley Saga: Traditional British, pre-Regency romance novels with outspoken, feisty heroines set in Georgian England.

“The Clandestine Betrothal: A Charming Georgian Romance by Alice Chetwynd Ley.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 25 Apr. 2018, www.goodreads.com/book/show/39967855-the-clandestine-betrothal.

My review: The Clandestine Betrothal has everything you are looking for in a Regency Romance. Strong protagonist - check. Cheeky, but handsome man - Check. Balls and Masquerade parties - Check. I really enjoyed being pulled into the world created by Ley - the clothes, the language, the manners! I felt like both the protagonist, Susan Fyfield, and her love interest Beau Eversley, were well-drawn and interesting. And I loved that Horace Walpole was a reference in the novel and that his family played are role in the mystery of Miss Fyfield's lineage Ley sets up for the reader. For those that don't know, Walpole is considered to have written the first true Gothic novel The Castle of Onranto. 

If Regency Romance is a genre you enjoy you will NOT be disappointed by The Clandestine Proposal. She expertly invokes the style of Jane Austen while drawing a modern flare to the characterizations. I appreciated the love story that remained innocent rather than tawdry, which is a huge flaw in those writing Regency Romance today. This book was written in 1960 and it maintains a true British stiff upper-lip and 1700s English ambeiance.

I give this novel a solid 🍷🍷🍷🍷 as I truly enjoyed it. My fifth glass is reserved because the reveal of the orphaned parentage was a bit obvious (although I think it was supposed to be a shocker,) but that's really the only "flaw" I found in the book. The dialogue and interactions are authentic and true. 

The Clandestine Betrothal is book one in the Eversley series.

About the author:

Born Alice Mary Chetwynd Humphrey on 12 October 1913 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England, UK, she studied at King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham. On 3 February 1945, she married Kenneth James Ley. They had two sons; Richard James Humphrey Ley and Graham Kenneth Hugh Ley.

She was a teacher at Harrow College of Higher Education. In 1962, she obtained a diploma in Sociology at London University, and was awarded the Gilchrist Award of 1962. She was a lecturer in Sociology and Social History, from 1968 to 1971.

Under her married name, Alice Chetwynd Ley, she published romance novels from 1959 to 1986. She was also tutor in Creative Writing, from 1962 to 1984. She was elected the sixth Chairman (1971-1973) of the Romantic Novelists' Association and was named an honoured Life Member.

Alice Chetwynd passed away in 2004.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Paris by Edward Rutherford

Paris, the novel from Edward Rutherfurd, the grand master of the historical novel, comes a dazzling epic about the magnificent city of Paris. 

Moving back and forth in time, the story unfolds through intimate and thrilling tales of self-discovery, divided loyalty, and long-kept secrets. As various characters come of age, seek their fortunes, and fall in and out of love, the novel follows nobles who claim descent from the hero of the celebrated poem The Song of Roland; a humble family that embodies the ideals of the French Revolution; a pair of brothers from the slums behind Montmartre, one of whom works on the Eiffel Tower as the other joins the underworld near the Moulin Rouge; and merchants who lose everything during the reign of Louis XV, rise again in the age of Napoleon, and help establish Paris as the great center of art and culture that it is today. 

With Rutherfurd’s unrivaled blend of impeccable research and narrative verve, this bold novel brings the sights, scents, and tastes of the City of Light to brilliant life.

Rutherford, Edward. “Paris by Edward Rutherfurd.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 1 Apr. 2014, www.goodreads.com/book/show/18730321-paris.

My Review: Frankly, I don't even know how to review this novel. It is so dense and so detailed and there are so many characters that a review just isn't possible...for me, anyway. But I will say this - if you love historical fiction, Rutherford is your man. He was able to keep me connected to each family and how they intertwined from the 1300s to the 1960s - and that is an impressive stretch of history to cover. While the characters are fictional, they events and many of the streets, places, and involvement in world affairs is so accurate I cannot even begin to imagine the research involved in creating this masterpiece. And I hear this isn't even his best one! (of course, that's just Goodreads opinions). 

I give this hefty tome a solid 🍷🍷🍷🍷 because it truly is a work of art. The only reason it didn't receive that fifth glass is that there were times the details were too much and this caused the plot and sometimes the characterization to drag a bit. 

Certainly not a quick read, but I feel like I've been immersed in Paris for quite some time now, and that's okay with me. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Author Spotlight: Kari Holloway

Meet Kari Holloway folks, an author that has released two series and a plethora of short stories.

Kari Holloway is an American writer who grew up in Leesburg, Georgia. She dabbles in southern romances filled with iconic components of sexy cowboys and firefighters, explored the unexplained in her paranormal series, found her way to the battlefields of the Civil War, and to love's first kiss under the weeping willow through various anthologies.

Unsure of what her future holds, Kari enjoys writing what captures her attention in the evenings. During the day, she chases her kids around, laughing at their sassy ways and the depths of their curiosity.

Her motto in life: Show the world the best version of you, for our actions of today make tomorrow.

I recently asked Kari, "What is your writing process - how do the ideas go from your mind to the page?" This is what she shared with me:

I'm "pants my works." For those unfamiliar with the term, I sit down and write without an outline. Sometimes I know the characters and sometimes I'm creating them on the fly. With my AlphaNeo2, I can write anywhere, and that makes taking the kids outside to play on the swing set enjoyable, or if we're going to visit family and friends, I can write in the car while worrying about editing when I upload it to the computer.

After I do the rough draft. I generally read through it one time, fixing inconsistencies and bringing the beginning of the story inline with how it ends. I let it rest and most of the time write the next book before revisiting it a final time before sending it to editors. The separation of when I finish it and when I revisit it helps me make sure that the idea I had translates well onto the page. After edits are back, I read through it one more time, adjusting anything that I thought of while doing the edits and pick a release date. 

Her Laughing P series currently has three books. Book one is Cracked, but Never Broken. This novel follows Damien and his return from war. He returns from duty as a Marine, thinking he would slip right back in on the Laughing P and fill the shoes that Granddaddy once did. His family and the small town he calls home have moved on without him though, and there's no easy position for him to fill, not even Granddaddy's. 

Lexi, the quiet girl next door, has held his heart since high school. Stepping in and taking the burden that was once Granddaddy's, she's now the ranch manager with rustlers and secrets of her own, leaving little time to entertain a high-school romance. 

When secrets Damien thought were safely buried rear up, he can no longer tell friend from foe. 
A stranger in a town that should be home, with no one on his side, can love save him, or will he be consumed by his demons? 

Her other series, Devil's Playground, delves into the supernatural.

For more about this talented author and her stories visit her website at: https://www.kariholloway.com/ where she blogs, offers a new writer's guide (check this out!), and gives advice for formatting, editing, and proofing with suggestions for contacts. A writer supporting other writers!

Her books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and Nook.

Happy Reading folks! Cheers! 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

I am the first one to say that I'm not a "ringing my bell feminist" - but I am a feminist in that I believe ALL people should be a feminist for the nature of equality between the sexes. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer tackles this lack of equality within a marriage and how that bleeds into the professional world and vice versa. 

"The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage." So opens Meg Wolitzer's compelling and provocative novel The Wife, as Joan Castleman sits beside her husband on their flight to Helsinki. Joan's husband, Joseph Castleman, is "one of those men who own the world...who has no idea how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derives much of his style from the Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette." He is also one of America's preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award to honor his accomplishments, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.

From this gripping opening, Wolitzer flashes back fifty years to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village -- the beginning of the Castleman relationship -- and follows the course of the famous marriage that has brought them to this breaking point, culminating in a shocking ending that outs a carefully kept secret.

Wolitzer's most important and ambitious book to date, The Wife is a wise, sharp-eyed, compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she's made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. But it's also an unusually candid look at the choices all men and women make for themselves, in marriage, work, and life. With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer invites intriguing questions about the nature of partnership and the precarious position of an ambitious woman in a man's world.

Wolitzer, Meg. “The Wife by Meg Wolitzer.” Goodreads, Goodreads, 13 Apr. 2004, www.goodreads.com/book/show/394255.The_Wife.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this novel - it's definitely a literary read and the language and writing structure steals the show; BUT, it doesn't lack characterization or development. Wolitzer deftly weaves the struggles of women being submissive in a marriage through the story of Joe and and Joan Castleman. Sadly, the marriage begins with an affair, and that becomes a thread throughout. I'm not sure if Wolitzer was making this a direct point, but for me reading this as a marriage beginning painted women AND men in an unfavorable light. It showed not only the weakness of men motivated by sexual favors, but also the disrespectful nature of women towards other women as Joe Castleman is a married man when Joan sets her sights on him. Throughout their marriage and rise to fame as a writer, he engages in several elicit affairs and she is hurt by this - why? This is how you got him and what's the old adage about that??? It made my sympathy for Joan lack as a character when she violated the sanctity of marriage just as much as Joe, she was a willing participant in the deal.

Now, the other element developed by Wolitzer is the "battle of the sexes" in the professional field. Joe Castleman is a writer, but is he really? It's Joan that sparks the fire of his works, it's Joan that serves as his "muse," and in the end, it's Joan who really deserves the accolades. However, in the publishing industry, especially during the pivotal 1950s and forward as women entered a "man's world," women struggled to be taken seriously in the publishing industry. Of course this has been going on for decades...the famous Fitzgeralds come to mine because we all know Zelda was a writer, too but certainly not recognized. Wolitzer certainly captures the hardships women faced to be taken seriously and for their writing to be considered "on par" with the men being published at the time.

This novel receives an enthusiastic 🍷🍷🍷🍷from me. The fifth wine glass is held back because I found myself so frustrated with Joan's character. She allows herself to be used and discarded and while I know this happened, it seems that in some ways, by being a mistress first, she invited this into her life. I couldn't elicit sympathy for a self-imposed situation.

The Wife is being made into a film - it's how I learned about the novel - starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones the High Sparrow). It takes some liberties with the plot such as in the film he wins the Nobel Prize and they are off to Stockholm while in the book they are off to Helsiniki to claim a Finnish literary prize. But nevertheless, I'm excited to view the film. It premiers 3 August 2018.

Meg Wolizter's writing is phenomenal and I will certainly be reading more of her work in the future. Books I'm particularly interested in are: The Ten Year Nap, Belhzar, and Sleepwalking. 

For more about this talented author, visit her at: http://megwolitzer.com/