Showing posts with label France. Show all posts
Showing posts with label France. Show all posts

June 9, 2012

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa T. Bergren

Cora arrives home from Normal School in the summer of 1913 expecting her parents to be waiting at the train station to pick her up. What is actually waiting for her is family, but not the family she was expecting. After learning about a dark family secret, Cora is given the chance of a lifetime if she's willing to leave the life she currently knows behind - the chance to be a part of a Grand Tour through Europe where she will be introduced to incredible fashions, food, culture, and people. Can she find her place in this new world without losing herself completely?

I loved this book. I read it while I was sitting by the pool and stayed by the pool long after the sun went down just so I could finish it. Cora is a great main character with a realistic mixture of humility, awe, and spunk. And with a great cast of supporting characters, especially her friend Will, the author really brings this story to life through their individual personalities. I also love the plot and the whole idea of doing a Grand Tour through Europe so maybe I just liked this book so much because I'm jealous of their opportunities. Or it's just a good book.

I really can only think of one thing that I didn't like about Glamorous Illusions, the fact that I didn't know it was the first in a series until the last page of the book. I was expecting the author to wrap the book up in a nice pretty package and instead, she expertly set the stage for a great series. And you better believe I will be ordering the next book in the series as soon as it's available. 5 stars

Want to know more? Check out more information and additional reviews for Glamorous Illusions. Did I convince you that it's worth reading? Lisa is doing a promotion during the blog tour and selling the ebook version for cheap through June - $2.99 from 6/9-6/15 and $4.99 from 6/16-6/22. And if you'd rather not buy it, Lisa is giving readers a chance to not only win her book but also to win a $350 Visa gift card.



One "glamorous" winner will receive a "Glam Prize Pack":

  • A $350 Visa Cash Card (Oh ... think of what you could do: treat yourself to a mani/pedi, a fabulous new dress, dinner for two, or even a two-night escape in a lovely hotel - you're only limited by your imagination!)
  • Glamorous Illusions (by Lisa Tawn Begren)

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 6/26/12. Winner will be announced at Lisa's "Glamorous Illusions" Facebook Party on  6/27 {Fun begins at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT}. Lisa will be hosting an evening of meaningful chat, fun trivia, laughter, and encouragement - bring your friends! She'll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Lisa via video or phone.)

So grab a few of your friends and your copy of Glamorous Illusions and join Lisa on the evening of June 27th for an evening of fun.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the fun. RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

**I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion of the book. 
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May 20, 2012

Baroness by Susan May Warren

A coming of age story set in the Roaring Twenties, Baroness tells the story of two daughters of fortune determined to follow their dreams no matter what happens on the way. Rosie is determined to become a star on the newly energy silver screen and all Lilly wants to do is return to Montana to live on the ranch her family left so long ago. Neither realized the pathway to their dreams would be filled with so much pain, heartache, and of course, men.

This book was just okay. I started out really liking Lilly, the sort of nerdy, head in the clouds woman who was trying to avoid the incoming flapper era her cousin Rosie was trying to force on her. But I quickly found myself feeling that both women were both extremely ignorant and spoiled, shown time after time in their actions, and I just couldn't relate as they both did things in their lives that intentionally hurt those that loved them just to chase after a guy who didn't care about them. The plus side is that the writing was good, the characters were well developed (I just didn't particularly care for them), and the story is an interesting and unpredictable one. 3 stars.

Interested in reading this book? Check out other reviews from the Baroness blog tour.

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January 30, 2012

Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

It is August 1944 and Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country, stealing countless pieces of art. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all, the Mona Lisa, as a post-war bargaining chip to get him to South America. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue DaVinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?

With nonstop action, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get readers' adrenaline pumping as they join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh country chateau, the race is on--and the runners are playing for keeps.

This book wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I was expected a fast-paced adventure story about finding the Mona Lisa and chasing it around the world to keep it safe. And that did happen, it just didn't happen until about 3/4 of the way through the book. The first 3/4 of the book was full of the character and plot development that worked its way nicely into the suspense and adventure at the end. I liked all of the characters and felt that the authors descriptions, especially of Switzerland, were right on and accurate and I really appreciated that.

So while I didn't love this book, it was still a good read. 3 stars.

Want to learn more about the book? Read an excerpt, watch a video and find out more here or check out other stops on the blog tour for other reviews. And even better, the authors are hosting a giveaway that ends on 1/31 to celebrate the release for the book. Check out the giveaway here for a chance to win:

iTouch
Starbucks Gift Card
Moleskin Notebook
Invisible Ink Pen
Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest opinion.
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December 4, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

17 year old Anna has a decent life in Atlanta.  She's got wonderful friends, a sweet 7 year old brother and a mom who just "gets her".  She's got a great job at the movie theatre, where she gets to watch all the movies she wants for free (her favorite thing ever) and work alongside the lead singer/guitar player of her dreams- Toph.  But her life quickly changes when her father, writer of cheesy sappy romance novels, makes it big and decides his daughter needs a better education.  He ships her off to the School of Americans in Paris (or SOAP) to finish off her Senior year.

But don't feel sorry for Anna yet because SOAP is pretty awesome.  Yes, the school is rigorous, but also freeing.  Students live in dorms, eat meals in a restaurant type cafe and are allowed to party on weekends.  Oh, and the drinking age in France?  16.  Yeah, pretty awesome.

Anna becomes friends with a group of veterans at the school.  They've been there since freshman year, know fluent French and show Anna the ropes.  There's Meredith, the sporty one- Josh and Rashimi, who are always making out... and then... Ettiene St. Clair.  St. Clair is "the boy".  You know the one everyone likes.  He's charming, sweet, funny, and French/British/American.  Anna immediately falls for him, but there's just one problem- he's had a girlfriend for over a year.  Will these two ever get together?

I think the answer is obvious.

I liked this book.  It was fun, silly and sweet.  But... it was whipped cream.  Tasty, sweet, light and breezy.  Everyone likes whipped cream.  But does it fill you up?  Is it substantial?  No.  Not at all.  It's incredibly obvious.  You know what the ending is before even cracking the spine.  No surprises.

But that's not to say it's not a good book, because it is.  If that's the sort of thing you're looking for.  If you need a break from the heart wrenching or the nail biting, this is your pick.  I think anyone in high school would adore this book... and it's also safe for them because they keep the PDA to a minimum and there's no sex... there's the mention of people having sex, but no details.

Perkins writing is great too.  She has a fun tone throughout and she captures you from page one.

3 Stars.



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March 6, 2011

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

When you think of the French Revolution, what do you think of - Marie Antoinette? Storming the Bastille? How about Madame Tussaud making death masks for people that were executed?

A couple of years ago I was given the chance to review Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, a book that has forever turned me onto historical fiction. So last month when I received a surprise package in the mail that was Michelle's newest book, Madame Tussaud, I couldn't wait to get started reading it. And it was worth it.

I'll admit I knew nothing about Madame Tussaud before I read this book, I'll even go so far as to say I had no idea she was a real person. All I knew was that there was a famous wax museum with the name. Michelle has a knack for finding characters in history that are mostly unknown and revealing them to the general public in an exciting fashion. She's done it many times before with women in Egypt and now she's done it with the French Revolution, somehow building an incredible story about a woman's life who I didn't even know existed.

Marie Grosholtz's (later Marie Tussaud) life revolves around the wax museum she and her uncle Curtis run and she does all she can to get the king and queen of France to come visit to boost the museum's visitors. What she doesn't know is how that one visit will lead her into leading a double-sided life during the upcoming French Revolution. One side as the tutor and friend to Princess Elizabeth, the king's own sister, and one side as the a host and enabler for some of the greatest influencers in the Revolution. Not to mention, her duty once the daily executions begin to go to the dead to create "death masks" so their death can be proven and remembered forever.

Marie is a fascinating woman that I loved and hated all at the same time. A woman who did things that I could never dream of doing and a woman that was in the end punished for her ambition and loyalty, a punishment that was yet another major turning point in her life. Michelle does a great job at telling Marie's story in a way that you forget it's actually a part of history. And that to me is what great historical fiction is all about.

Would I recommend this book? Definitely. And while you're at it, pick up the rest of Michelle's books. I've yet to find one that I didn't love. 5 stars.


October 4, 2009

The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott


If Rebecca Stott’s goal was to create a vivid feel of Paris after the Napoleonic wars, this novel is a complete success. As for the plot and characters she builds this vibrant setting around, they definitely take a backseat in her vivid re-creation. Her story starts as an intriguing mystery novel, young scientist Daniel Connor heads to Paris to study with the greats in a nexus of brilliant and important thought of the day, Paris. On the train into town, he is near hypnotized by a beautiful stranger, and ends up having some priceless fossils stolen from him. When he tries to recover his items, he meets the Police Chief, a corrupt and former master thief who has his own agenda concerning this robbery. The novel quickly morphs into a caper story with who is using whom elements. This narrative is interspersed with an imagined tale of Napoleon’s journey to exile which Stott doesn’t even bother to connect to the story in any real way beyond a few casual comments.

Its almost as if you are watching a an Oceans Elevens/Departed type movie and your spouse keeps changing the channel to an documentary on Napoleon’s exile and Post Revolutionary Paris. You don’t get bored with one program or the other, but the mixture feels somewhat bumpy at best. Daniel Connor also makes one inexpiable decision after another which doesn’t help. The writing however is great, and Stott consistently uses several phrases that light up. The Police Chief (who is based on fact in a stranger then fiction turn), and some of the scenes that describe Revolutionary violence are the story’s fabulous and moving highlights.

August 20, 2009

I'll Never be French (no matter what I do) by Mark Greenside

I must confess that I do not read a lot of travel books, but I was impressed with I’ll Never be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. Despite the lengthy title, the book is actually a rather brief literary romance between a man and his coastal French town. Against Greenside’s best efforts, he and a girlfriend plan a vacation to France. The relationship doesn’t last, but Greenside’s growing affection for Brittany and the populace does. In the rashest move of his forty some years, Greenside is coerced into the purchase of a house. Comical miscommunications, anxiety, and miraculous good fortune ensue.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the total debunking of the myth that the French hate Americans. Total. Debunking. Instead the charming and ridiculously polite strangers, neighbors and friends that Greenside meets, go above and beyond to help him out. They come across as near saints because it turns out that Greenside needs a lot of help. Self styled throughout the book as an incompetent, he spends a few chapters of the book in dirty ripped pants, repeatedly falling out of his window and buying things he has no way of paying for. Greenside effectively bumbles his way through life in France reconciling his bi-continental lifestyles. He compares himself to a three year old an apt description that endears himself to the reader and French alike.

It’s worth noting that Greenside speaks and understands very little French. And his way of communicating such frustration with the reader, is to include a lot of French dialogue that he doesn’t translate. So unless you have a working knowledge of French, Greenside leaves you as lost in the conversation as he was. While it is an effective technique and does incorporate the reader, it can also be irritating to traverse.

Injected with humor, I’ll Never be French, transports with its descriptions. For those of us who will never make it Brittany, or who have been and are interested in Greenside’s take, it is a delightful arm chair travel experience. Diane Johnson of L’Affaire, Le Mariage and Le Divorce fame calls it, “one of the nicest of the trillions of books about France.” And I’d agree with that.

August 15, 2009

The Devil's Queen by Jeanne Kalogridis

It is hard to make a Queen who shoulders the blame for a religious massacre sympathetic, so Jeanne Kalogridis doesn’t try. Instead she goes the complete opposite direction. Giving us an unsentimental Queen who would commit any atrocity to save herself or someone she loves. Even as a girl she is already murdering and dabbling in black magic. For those of you unfamiliar with Catherine de Medici, the Italian born duchess was reduced to living in a convent after her family was deposed in Florence. In a true Cinderella story she marries the second son, Henry, of King Francoise of France. She ends up the Queen of France, and though a mere figurehead during her husbands rule, she has a great influence over the reigns of her sons. Because Catherine ruled France during such a tumultuous time, (religious upheaval, civil wars, weak kings), her reign was marked with political gaffes and intrigues, the most notably, The ST. Bartholomew’s Massacre leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of Huguenots (French Protestants). Never faltering and with clear determination, Catherine meets rivals for her husbands heart and traitors seeking to claim the throne.

Kalogridis’ Catherine is decidedly evil which makes for entertaining story telling and is historically probable. The author doesn’t try to excuse any of Catherine’s behavior, but she does give us fictionalized back story to try and establish her motivations. Since Kalogridis is prone to dramatics and excessive detail, (she’s also known for a lively look into the family of Dracula) let me say that if you’re looking for historical accuracy, this probably isn’t your novel. But if you’re looking for a spirited read that enlivens history into Catherine’s time, The Devil’s Queen is an excellent choice. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I’d like to add that I was fortunate enough to pick up the audio version read by Kate Reading. Reading delivers a commanding Queen, and is pure magic to listen to. The French words are pronounced perfectly (to my English ears) and her pacing is spot on.

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