Mademoiselle Chanel by

Mademoiselle Chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by CW Gortner
Source: Publisher
Publisher: HarperCollins, March 15th 2015

Gortner’s historical biography of Coco Chanel spans her entire life, from her poverty-stricken youth to her return to Paris’ fashion empire. We see how she developed and grew her fashion empire, her struggles in balancing her life between two worlds. One of her past and one of the rich and famous who she adorns with her outfits.

Gortner’s novel is well-researched and his admiration for Chanel is quite evident in the text. At times, it felt as if she could do no wrong. Even when she did mess up, it was easily excused or explained. Despite that, I think the book paints an accurate portrayal of her life in France. Chanel is a hard-working person who is not easy to get along with. Starting off making hats in her lover’s house, she eventually moved into a little shop in Paris and survived two world wars, her fashions leaking throughout Europe and eventually overseas into America. Although it took nearly her entire lifetime to be appreciated in her home country, Chanel is now one of the craved-after fashion labels.

For a fun night, I’d say read the book, then watch the Audrey Tautou film “Coco Before Chanel” with some wine and cheese.

Coco Before Chanel (2009) Poster

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

The Bookseller

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Harper Collins, March 15th 2015

Set between two timelines, Kitty Miller goes to sleep from one life, and dreams of herself in another. One set in the future, the opposite of each other. In one life, she owns a struggling bookstore with her best friend in Denver 1962. In the other, she’s Katherine Andersson, married with three kids in Denver 1963. The reason for the change of life is all based on a what-if moment of Kitty’s life. What-if she had not hung up the phone when she did?

I found this to be an incredibly engrossing story about a women living 2 realities. Although there were only a few things that I didn’t like about the book. I feel like this is one of my favorite books I’ve read recently. I liked the difference of realities, how they were just set apart by a few months. I liked not knowing which reality was the real one, and seeing the transition of one to another. Although the use of going to sleep and waking up in an alternate life is pretty cliché, I felt it was appropriate for the story. I liked seeing one take over the other as Kitty/Katherine has to decide which one is her real life. What I didn’t like was that were a lot of modern-day mentalities that felt out-of-place in the 1960s/1950s setting of the book. They felt more in-line with 1970’s progressive movements regarding feminism and gay marriage. Lars, the husband, seemed much to perfect, to ideal. Although that worked in the beginning of the book while he was still a dream, I felt that giving him a few flaws and dents would have made that reality more realistic and approachable. The decision, transition from one reality to the other happened a little abruptly. I felt like there could have been more a more difficult transfer. Everything just fell into place without any real tension or struggle.

Overall, it was a wonderful read. I finished in just a couple of days, I didn’t want to put it down. I look forward to any future work Swanson will produce.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Still Reading

I’ve been so terrible with reviews lately. Then again, I’ve been reading a good chunk of ARCs, most of which aren’t meant to be published until March 15th. So there’s a good enough reason for not posting any reviews yet.

Here’s what I’ve read that needs to be reviewed:

Toujours Provence Mademoiselle Chanel The Bookseller

Here’s what I’m reading right now:

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers A wonderful book thus far. Its like a British version of The Language of Flowers.

&

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Yay! New Neil Gaiman. Never fails to please. I’m about 3/4ths of the way done with this collection of short stories. First impressions: not as eerie as Fragile Things.

So, by the middle – end of March, there will be an onslaught of book reviews. Until then … sorry for the silence. Things will pick up soon.

Book Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Source: My Copy
2015 Reading Challenge categories

  • Written by a woman
  • A book that can be read in a day
  • A book a friend recommended

Through Homer’s epic The Odyssey, what we know of Penelope is that she is the faithful and clever wife of Odysseus. She is the wife who remains loyal and devoted to her husband after a twenty-year separation. Ten years for the Trojan War, and the following ten years it takes of Odysseus to find his way back home. Throughout her time, many suitors barge into her home in the hopes of marrying her and laying claim to all of her wealth and possessions.

The Penelopiad follows the same story, but told through the eyes and voice of Penelope. The story is told by Penelope in the afterlife (Hades) centuries after her death. I”m still unsure how I feel about this. It allowed for a modern tone & colloquialisms, but it still felt out of place with when the Odyssey took place. I think I went into this book expecting is told concurrently with the Odyssey rather than a retelling many eons later. I learned that Odysseus is a charming ass, but we already knew that. But he is only one of the few people who listens to Penelope and treats her with respect. The chapters told through Penelope’s voice are separated by chapters told through the 12 maids who were murdered by Odysseus upon his return to his palace. Although they were murder under the premise of their disloyalty to Penelope, early on we find out that it was Penelope who encouraged them to mix and mingle with the suitors, to bad-mouth their mistress in order to find out their plans. Penelope didn’t reveal her plan to Odysseus before the murder, so thus, the injustice was carried out. I liked the chapters of the maid’s point of view the best I think. They varied from prose, to song, to a trial before a judge. The injustice of their deaths was very creatively done.

National Readathon Day – Saturday 1/24/2015

Readathon (image courtesy of Penguin Randon House)

Saturday January 24th has been bookmarked as the first ever National Readathon Day, organized by The National Book Foundation, GoodReads, Mashable and Penguin Random House.

You can read the full blurb by Penguin Random House on their blog here.

From the site:

You can get involved by joining readers across America in a marathon reading session on Saturday, January 24. From Noon – 4 PM in our respective time zones, we will sit and read a book in our own home, library, school or bookstore.

Get started now by creating your own Firstgiving Fundraising page, and inviting friends and family to donate, or visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

The Hobbit: Or There & Back Again (JRR Tolkien)

The hobbit, or, There and back again

The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) by JRR Tolkien

Library Copy

2015 Reading Challenge categories:

  1. A book that became a movie
  2. A book with nonhuman characters
  3. A book with magic

As a young hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds himself immersed in an adventure of unknown dangers after being mistaken for a burglar by a troupe of dwarves seeking to return to their homeland. Brought into the group as the fourteenth member by Gandalf the Grey Wizard, Bilbo finds not only adventure, but a host of new friends, experiences and levels of bravery that he didn’t think could extend past the warm comforts of his hobbit hole.

What is there to say about the Hobbit that hasn’t been said before? I will openly admit that I wasn’t 100% aware that this book was written for children by Tolkien. I’d seen it shelved in the children’s fiction shelves, but because of the year it was written, I didn’t think that children were the primary audience. That being said, the book is surprisingly and wonderfully kid-friendly, albeit a challenging read with difficult vocabulary, concepts and an intriguing menu of characters from the dragon Smaug, to the elves to the Lakemen. This book is a great bridge for those delving into the Harry Potter books, but aren’t quite ready for the scary arch it takes sometime after The Goblet of Fire. Although, I did find it odd that in the entire book, there is not one single female character. I was more than halfway through the book when I realized that. It didn’t make the book any less interesting or well written. But it is an interesting note.

Other thoughts. The book struck a fine balance between scary, suspense, humor and adventure. There were some slow parts, and parts of the Battle of Five Armies felt rushed. Smaug’s demise wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would have been, especially since the dwarves had no part of it. The chapter titled Riddles in the Dark was a good introduction to Gollum and the one ring designed to rule them all. It’s funny how easily Tolkien glossed over the powers and the weight of the ring in this book. It’s hardly worth remembering except that it helped Bilbo get out of a few scrapes and help rescue his friends along the way.

Right now, I feel very ready to tackle the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read the first a long time ago, and my memory of it is very vague. Quite possibly because I skimmed so much of it. Tolkien can be very Dickensian. The Hobbit was nicely spaced with songs, riddles, illustrations and maps (apparently all drawn by Tolkien). These bits helped break up the monotony of the story. Now that I’ve finished the Hobbit, I’m not ready to leave the world of Middle Earth. And I do believe that a trilogy is one of the items on the 2015 Reading Challenge.

New Year, New News

I hope everyone had an an amazing New Year holiday! I’ll be jump-starting this year with my category of the Cybils Shortlist titles for Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books. I won’t be posting reviews until after February though. Although I should have a review of The Hobbit up pretty soon.

The round 1 judges spent countless hours reading, reviewing and discussing the merits of these books (among others). They did a great job narrowing down the selection for my round 2 group.

View this list, along with their commentaries on the Cybils website

Easy Readers

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard (Aladdin)
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton (Blue Apple Books)
Clara and Clem Under the Sea by Ethan Long (Penguin USA)
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway (Candlewick Press)
The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley Reader by Jennifer E. Morris (Scholastic)
Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley (Simon Spotlight)
My New Friend Is So Fun! by Mo Willems (Disney-Hyperion)

Early Chapter Books

Violet Mackerel’s Possible Friend by Anna Branford (Atheneum)
The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin (Atheneum)
The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies (Candlewick Press)
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (Dial Books)
Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door by Hilary McKay (Albert Whitman & Company)
Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg (Abrams Books for Young Readers)
Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst (Atheneum)

Book Review: How Paris Became Paris by Joan DeJean

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City

How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City by Joan DeJean

Source: library copy

Genre: non-fiction

How Paris Became Paris is a wonderful book for anyone interested in a brief history to the City of Light. DeJean’s book covers a lot of ground, focusing on the 17th century developments happening in the city. However, she doesn’t go in as much depth as say a history book. Her writing style is much more casual, although you’ll be inundated with interesting facts about the structuring of the city of Paris.

She starts with the Pont Neuf bridge, and from there, the chapters discuss the ripple effects of this bridge on French social society. The invention of this bridge quite literally paved the way for modern French interactions, fashion as well as development throughout the city. The widened bridge became the first in Europe to be of such a width as to allow the public to parade through the streets. It is as a result of this bridge, that the French started leaving their homes to go for walks. These walks led to the necessity of being fashionably dressed. The need for fashion led to the invention of clothing stores and the hobby known as shopping. The availability of shopping allowed for people of all class caste systems to be able to dress and intermingle with people above and below their rank. This intermingling led to many more social developments, particularly in relation to women’s freedoms.

The chapters have a very easy flow to them, picking up where the previous one concluded. I found them to be the perfect length. Neither too long, nor too short. There are a number of illustrations, photographs and maps dotted throughout the chapters to break up the text and help highlight the author’s opinions. The author has a clear love for the city, and it strongly reflected in her writing. Paris can do no wrong and had apparently been an inspiration to other European capitals over the centuries. I’d strongly recommend this to anyone planning a trip to Paris. Having some historical insight will make the tourist stops that much more meaningful.

A Jane Austen Book Guide

I found this gem on Tumblr from the Austin Public Library. Apparently it was Jane Austen’s birthday on Dec. 16th. What a fun way to celebrate! I now have even more books to add to my to-read list.

photo

  1. Longbourn by Jo Baker
  2. Jane Austen and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron
  3. Pride & Prescience by Carrie Bebris
  4. Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James
  5. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
  6. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
  7. Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife by Linda Berdoll
  8. The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Simonsen
  9. Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Zigler
  10. Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
  11. Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard
  12. Emma adapted by Nancy Baker
  13. Sense & Sensibility adapted by Nancy Baker
  14. Pride & Prejudice adapted by Nancy Baker
  15. Northanger Abbey adapted by Nancy Baker
  16. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
  17. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
  18. Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
  19. Lost in Austen
  20. Bride & Prejudice
  21. The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Joy Fowler
  22. Austenland by Shannon Hale

2015 Reading Challenge

This 2015 Reading Challenge complied by PopSugar seems very feasible, for me at least. I’ve never been good with reading challenges, but I think I could accidently read a number of the books on this checklist. That’s another plus, is that its a checklist form. There’s nothing I love better than checking something off a list. I think I might print out a number of these to pass out at the library this month. What reading challenges are you signing up for next year?