Monthly Archives: November 2011

All You Need to be Impossibly French (Helena Frith Powell) – Review

All you need to be impossibly French : a witty investigation into the lives, lusts, and little secrets of French womenAll You Need to be Impossibly French by Helena Frith Powell
Age: Adult
Genre: Non-fiction / Memoir
Publisher: Plume (Penguin)
ISBN: 0452287782
222 pages

Find this book at your local library 

I’ll give you 1 guess as to why I picked up and read this book. One guess. Take your best shot. =)

The title is pretty self-explanatory. The book is broken down into 12 chapters. Each chapter covers a different factor of what makes up a typical French woman. The chapters cover topics from style, exercise, beauty secrets, parenting, love and love affairs.

There were many things I liked about this book, and those factors separate this book from all the other How to be French books I’ve read this past year. For one, this book focuses almost solely on French women without comparing them to women of other countries. If there were any comparisons, they were to the author’s homeland of England. It was refreshing to read a book like this that did not beat up on the American way of life (it can be taxing on the American self-esteem).

The other element I liked is that this book did not glamorize the French way of life. In fact, this book was pretty bare bones about how frivolous and superficial French women can be in regards to appearance. Told as a memoir of her years living in French, we see Helena go to a number of shops and speak with beauty and fashion experts to find out just what gives French women that je ne sais quoi. Matching underwear is a pretty key element, as is having a heavily regimented beauty routine.

The third element of the book that I liked what that Powell touched upon the differences between a Parisian woman and a French woman. I think most people like me would think they are one in the same. But that’s like comparing a New Yorker to the rest of the United States. Apples to oranges. Parisians are bred to be more fashionable and more strict in their lives than other areas of France. I noticed traces of this in France during my honeymoon. That’s why I loved the Provence region so much more than Paris. Life and style were more relaxed and easy-going. Even in Paris though, the main fashion hot-spots were by the Champs-elysees.

Reading this book somewhat dampened my desire to want to live in France. I don’t think I’d be able to keep up with the lifestyle there, not that the French make it very easy for any outsiders to live and become citizens in the country. There is lots of jumping through hoops, hoops lit on fire at that.

This book also touched upon the more taboo elements of French society, that of the expected infidelity between men and women. Most other books I’d read tended to neglect this element, focusing solely on how ardently the French love and live with passion.

Powell’s writing was endearing and funny. There were moments when I felt she was a sap for falling for the marketing ploys of “buy this and you’ll be French” in regards to the lingerie and beauty supplies. But who am I to judge? I spent far more money on beauty products than I’m proud of to look stunning for my wedding. What I liked about this book, is that Powell honestly reflects on the changes she’s made to herself to be more French, but with still keeping her British roots alive. She’s inquisitive and adventurous, but knows when to draw the line. I’d love to read other works penned by the author and she has written a plenty.

– Ciao Bella: In Search of my French Father
– More More France Please
– More France Please, We’re British: 15 Lessons on life in France
– No French Please, We’re British: 20 Lessons in Living in France
– To Hell in High Heels
– Two Lipsticks & a Lover

Falling Together (Marisa de los Santos) – Review

Falling togetherFalling Together by Marisa de los Santos
Age: Adult
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Publisher
ISBN: 9780061670879
360 pages

Find this book at your local library 

Pen, Cat and Will met on the first day of college and soon became an inseparable trio. Best friends through thick and thin through college. After parting ways in the aftermath of a major fight, Pen and Will each receive an uncharacteristically bland e-mail from Cat asking them to come to the college reunion. When Pen and Will arrive, they find out that there is more to Cat’s e-mail than they thought. Sent by Cat’s husband in hopes of finding out where Cat is, the three unlikely partners set off to find their best friend/wife all while working through the issues of the demise of their friendship.

The book is told mostly through flashbacks with Pen as the dominant focal point. Although I like the use of flashbacks to fill in gaps, I felt that this book was filled to the brim with them. The reasons that the three friends broke-up felt weak, nothing that should have sustained 6 years of silence between the three. I also felt that Pen was very emotionally unstable, but in a way easy to relate to. Having to learn to deal with the grief of her father passing away expectantly, I could readily relate to her. Granted, she is no Cornelia Brown. Maris de los Santos did a good job of creating characters that could be easily approachable by any reader. From emotional Pen, to free-wheeling Cat, and frat boy Jason. I’m not sure what 1-word descriptor to use for Will…any suggestions?

I read the book in one day, I wanted to know what was going to happen next. What was the next clue to finding Cat, would they find her, and where would they find her?

The romance set up in the beginning of the novel between two of the characters was pretty predictable, but in no way less enjoyable to see unfold. I did find that the progression of Pen and Will’s relationship to heavily mirror that of Cornelia Brown and Teo Sandoval from Love Walked In.  I found the ending of the book to be somewhat disappointing though. Mostly in regards to Cat’s character. So much of what we know about her is told through flashbacks, and nostalgic reminiscences for about 90% of the novel. Cat is made to seem larger than life (despite her physically small size). This fell flat for me towards the end of the novel. It felt as if the characters were too reliant on their own views of Cat to really see her for what she is.

There are elements in this book that make it a good read, but there are also elements of the book that make it frustrating and disappointing. Fans of Marisa de los Santos’ previous works, Love Walked In & Belong to Me, will appreciate her unique and wonderful writing style. The plot of the story was what bugged me the most, even though I kept reading to see what would happen next. The story felt unbelievable, although the characters felt real, if that makes any sense.


October Reading Recap

October has been an interesting month. My reading tastes have been incredibly sporadic, although memoirs in some form or another have dominated this month.  For the first time I don’t have any pre scheduled reviews.

I’m not really sure where I am with my initial goal of predominately reading the books from my bookshelf. I think that kind of fell to the wayside about 5 months into the year. At least I’m doing a good job of reading all the new books plopping on the bookshelf this year. I’m just not very far reading all the books that were there pre 2011. C’ est la vie.

October Books Read & Reviewed

Wildwood Under the Tuscan sun : [at home in Italy] Heist society

Evil plans : having fun on the road to world domination Blankets L'Amante Anglaise by Marguerite Duras

Franny and Zooey. The night circus : a novel Uncommon criminals

Geek girls unite : how fangirls, bookworms, indie chicks, and Other misfits are taking over the world The flaneur : a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris A year in Provence

Moneyball : the art of winning an unfair game

Reviewed in October

  1. Wildwood by Colin Meloy
  2. Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  3. Heist Society by Ally Carter
  4. Evil Plans by Hugh McLeod
  5. Blankets by Craig Thompson
  6. L’amante Anglaise by Marguerite Dumas

Read & Reviewed in October

  1. Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
  2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  3. Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
  4. Geek Girls Unite by Leslie Simon
  5. The Flaneur by Edmund White
  6. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
  7. Moneyball by Michael Lewis