Tag Archives: Book reviews

The problem with working in a library

Is that I am constantly reminded of all of the books that I won’t ever get to read. As quickly as I try to read through books now, my to-read list on Goodreads is a bottomless pit. 424 books and counting.

This has been a decent year of reading for me though. 18 books in 5 months. I always start strong in the first couple months of the year, and then by summer I’m struggling to finish a book in two months.

Here are some of the books I read in the recent months:

The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs

 

I just finished this one last week. It was…so-so. I really enjoyed the history of the street. Rue des Martyrs is tucked away by Montmontre. It seems like a quiet and simple little street in such a big and bustling city.

 

The Baker's Secret

This one was one of the better historical fiction novels set in Paris that I’ve read. Set during WWII, it focuses on a small little village in France that is under Nazi occupation. The characters were varied and engrossing. I particularly enjoyed the protagonists’s glum nature, although based on the reviews I’ve read, others didn’t feel the same.

 

The Little French Bistro

The only thing I enjoyed about this book is the setting in Brittany. Its an area in France I know virtually nothing about and it was wonderful to learn about some of the unique traits of that region. That said…the story and characters were forced, trite and unrealistic. There were too many characters of similar natures to keep track of and I felt like the protagonist had a habit of always having the magic touch. I hate that in novels. Its one of my biggest pet peeves.
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia This is apparently the only book I’ve read in the recent months that isn’t set in France. Its a look at the Nordic region of the world, Scandinavia. Its very glib, sarcastic, and offers a unique look at life underneath the happiest-people-in-the-world banner that these countries often find themselves waving. I’ve concluded that there really is no perfect place in the world. Everywhere has its ups and downs. Its really what we do with those ups and downs that determines our own happiness. I do wish I had a print copy of this book. I listened to the audiobook and there are a lot of things I want to go back and re-read.

January Reading – Week 3 recap

I’m a few days late on this recap, but I also didn’t really get very far with reading either. My library had a Friend’s of the Library Booksale on Saturday and I picked up a wonderful selection of books all for $6. Seriously, I live off of book sales like these.

IMG_1352

I also picked up a copy of these two books, but they didn’t make it into the group photo shoot.

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France

What I finished:

The Ingredients of LoveThe Ingredients of Love by Nicolas Barreau
Format: book

The summary and the cover are what attracted me to this book. As well as a sneak peek into the author’s newest book coming out in March Paris is Always a Good Idea. Ingredients of Love is a cute little love story based on a massive, self-serving deception of a naïve restaurant chef, Aurelie, by a book publisher, Andre. One sad and lonely day after being dumped by her boyfriend Claude, Aurelie goes for a long and thoughtful walk and finds herself in a charming little bookstore. Unsure of what to do, the bookseller directs her to table covered with novels. The first one she picks up is somehow about her and her restaurant. After that, her search for the author leads her to Andre and madcap hijinks ensue.

Its kind of nice reading a contemporary love story set in Paris that is not a memoir with biting or thoughtful social philosophy and observation. Its just a story of a guy and a girl and how they “fell in love.” Its very cheesy, but I liked the author’s writing style. He’s no Antoine Laurain, he’s still my number 1 for French fiction. But I did enjoy this book, despite the lackluster heroine (she’s quite dull). Andre was very entertaining in his determination to keep the ruse of his double personality. Its very reminiscent of a 1990s Meg Ryan Rom-Com.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1)Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: eAudio

I went back to the audiobook version of Casino Royale. Although I liked the book, it just didn’t live up to the hype and the myth that surrounds the theatrical version of James Bond. This book is our first introduction to Bond. Like the book itself, or maybe the book is like Bond, both are very dry and matter-of-fact. Bond is more sexist than charming, and not very clever despite being a good gambler. I wasn’t very impressed, but it was a quick read at only 187 pages, so I might give the follow-up novels a try to see if he gets more exciting. I kept waiting to see if Vesper would do something besides being kidnapped and looking pretty. I think my modern feminist view clashed with the sexism of the 1960s. As Bond put it, women were only good for cooking and sex. They had no role in espionage. How he became a 007 agent was someone disappointing too. It was revealed during a quick mention of him having killed a couple of people. That’s it. A quick two sentences and viola. The book was a nice step away from the hard-boiled crime novels I was reading. Now I’m ready for something more exciting, like books about espionage, and government level conspiracies.

What I’m Reading Now

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2)The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

It’s an 87 page story, but because it’s on my bedside table, I only read 2-3 pages before I go to bed. I hope to finish it this week though. It’s quite a juicy story and I’m loving watching Watson and Mary fall in love with each other.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Format: Audiobook / Read by Jim Broadbent

Unassuming and mild manner Harold wakes up one morning with a letter from a former co-worker informing him of her battle with cancer. After spending some time thinking of a reply to her letter, Harold finally puts the pen to paper. But when he walks to the post to deliver it, he has an overwhelming sense that a letter is not enough. So he walks to the next post box, and then keeps going. He makes a decision that if he walks the 500 miles to Berwick upon Tweed, then he can save Queenie Hennessy from her cancer.

This book is amazing. The narrator is amazing and I never want it to it. Harold is one of those super flawed characters that you cheer for anyway. He’s a coward, a bad father (detached, not cruel), but he’s sensitive, vulnerable and his travel is more of a philosophical look into his life than it is about saving Queenie. It’s wonderfully introspective and I love being on this journey with Harold.

This quote is from The Ingredients of Love, but I feel it applies very well to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

“Sometimes you go out in order to get somewhere. And sometimes you just go out to walk and walk and go farther and farther until the clouds clear, despair calms down, or you have thought a thought through to the very end”

January Reading – Week 2 recap

I like this little weekly summary of what I’m reading. If you’re really curious as to what books are going through my revolving door of interest, follow me on Goodreads.

What I finished:

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (Daisy Dalyrmple Book #1)
Format: e-audiobook

I’m not sure why, but I’ve fallen into a historical murder mystery fiction mode. I really enjoyed Death at Wentwater Court, at least I did until the ending. Daisy Darlymple is a new journalist, writing columns about the homes of the England’s wealthiest and finest aristocracy. During a stay at a friend’s estate, Daisy and her companions stumble upon the corpse of one of the house guests. Now Daisy is entangled in solving the mystery with the local detective. The book was fun, although the author was very heavy-handed with the slang of the era towards the beginning of the novel. I enjoyed the mystery, the twists and the guesses as to who-dunnit. The only bell that really rang false for me was how the eventual murder was solved and Daisy’s attempts to convince the murderer to escape to Brazil.

Moonlight over ParisMoonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Format: Print

Near death due to the influenza, Helena Parr promised herself that if she survived, she would make sure to really live her life. After a miraculous recovery, she decides to leave her gossip-riddled life in England and go to France for a year to live with her eccentric aunt Agnes, studying art. Along the way, Helena makes a motley cru assortment of friends and meets and greets the various literary and artistic elite of this jazz age of Paris’s past. This book was fairly boring from start to end. I still don’t understand the concept or reasoning for the character of Louisette. She’s meant to be a chaperone for Daisy Fields, one of Helena’s classmates, but she’s never actively a part of the story and then she’s quickly swept away at the end. Although, the story and romance is very predictable and there is little to no plot in the story. Just Helena going to school and being chummy. I think the only thing that kept me engaged with the story was Robson’s writing style and the ease of which I felt transposed back to Paris of the 1920s. She has a great talent with description and setting. I just wish her book had some more depth and character development to it. All the characters were flat, minus the tropes of the eccentric aunt and flamboyant artist friends.

What I’m Reading Now

Return of the Thin Man Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
Format: e-Audiobook

Although this is penned as two novellas covered the tale of Nick and Nora Charles following the hit novel The Thin Man, this comes across more as a screenplay than a novella. Which is fine, but I think what I loved most about The Thin Man was Hammett’s setting and use of descriptive writing to really bring the characters alive. And Nick and Nora are possibly by favorite literacy couple. The story is definitely dated though, with blatant racism and sexism in its depictions of certain characters. It does take away from the story. Although the audio is still fairly entertaining as its read by a full ensemble cast of narrators.

Casino Royale (James Bond, #1) Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (James Bond Book #1)
Format: Print

I have yet to venture in the James Bond world. I’ve seen a couple of the newer movies, but I thought I should give the books a try as they fit in quite perfectly with my murder mystery theme of the month. I did start on the audiobook, but I couldn’t concentrate on the narration, so I’m giving the print version a try.

The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes, #2) The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock book #2)
Format: Print

Fresh off the tails of the Sherlock Christmas special, I’m back into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did read A Study in Scarlet a while ago, but have stagnated on reading the rest of the Sherlock books because I honestly have no clue in what order they need to be read. There are the 4 novels and various essays and short stories and mini novels. A co-worker recommend I spilt the works into groups, pre-death Sherlock and post-revival Sherlock. In either case, it doesn’t matter too much in which order I read the stories in those two groups.

All the books I did not review

You might start seeing a deluge of book reviews here. Although I told myself I’d take a hiatus from this blog, I just can’t seem to quit it. But, because of my reviewing break, I’m now behind on 9 book reviews from this year. So you’ll see more in the next couple of months that you have all year. Just to help me keep track of it all, these are the titles I need to review:

Unplug Every Day: A Journal Unplug Everyday: A Journal by Chronicle Books

Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips and Recipes by Peter Mayle

A Town Like Paris: Falling in Love in the City of Light A Town Like Paris: Falling in Love In the City of Light by Bryce Corbett

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Eleanor & Park Elanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

The President's Hat The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, #3) Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society #3) by Ally Carter (reviewed 9/11/14)

The Fault in Our Stars The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reviewed 9/9/14)

The Sweet Life in Paris (David Lebovitz) – Review

The sweet life in Paris : delicious adventures in the world's most glorious--and perplexing--cityThe Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir / Food
Source: My copy
Publisher: Broadway Books, 2009
ISBN: 9780767928892 / 282 pages
Find this book at your local library
 

After working for nearly 20 years as a pastry chef for Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse & cookbook author, David Lebovitz decided it time to hang up his apron in the US and head off to the culinary capital of the world, Paris.

In regards to expats in Paris memoirs, this one was not one of my favorites. I found Lebovitz’ tone to be snobby many times throughout the book. I don’t think he could have left the US fast enough, his disdain for this country growing each day he spent in Paris. Luckily, the chapters were short and more than half of each chapter is devoted to various recipes concocted by Lebovitz. Although I did appreciate and enjoy the chapter about his experiences at the grocery store. The visual of him swinging his cart around as a moat against line-cutters was hilarious.

Maybe I’ve read too many memoirs of lives in Paris, but there wasn’t much in this book made it different from other memoirs. It seems like anybody who goes to France ends up with the same frustrations of: dog poop, rude vendors, yummy food, an insane bureaucratic infrastructure, crazy bus drivers, and a much easier medical procedure/insurance system than the US. 

The recipes are really the saving grace. The recipes range from desserts, to meals and snacks. There are even a few pages at the end of the book devoted to US sources of French foodstuff as well as a lengthy list of notable restaurants and chocolatiers in Paris. Each entry includes the relevant contact information along with a sentence summarizing the contents of the location. A nifty guide to have on hand when wandering the streets of Paris. It’s hard to figure out where to start food-wise in that city, so any starter point is always a necessity.

A funny bit of trivia. The building on the back cover of this book is the same building on the front cover of French Milk.

 

August Recap

I honestly cannot believe that August is over already. This just floated by in the blink of an eye. I didn’t do too much reading this month. I spent a good deal of my focus on children’s picture books and easy readers for my other blog Library Crossing. I was also quite oddly music obsessed this month, cycling through the same three cds over and over again. I find it an interesting overlap of how some of the most ardent music fans are avid readers, and vice versa. Music and literature are not exclusive as one would think.

My August:

READ & REVIEWED

1. French Lessons by Ellen Sussman 

Parisians : an adventure history of Paris 2. Parisians by Grahan Robb

The lantern : a novel 3. The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

Ms. Hempel chronicles 4. Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

The help 5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

READ & UNREVIEWED
Sin in the Second City : madams, ministers, playboys, and the battle for America's soul Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott
First kill The Slayer Chronicles: First Kill by Heather Brewer
Maman's homesick pie : a Persian heart in an American kitchen Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan
French women for all seasons : a year of secrets, recipes & pleasure French Women for All Seasons: Mirelle Guiliano
MUSIC

 Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix 

 Walk The Moon: I Want! I Want! 

July Reading Recap

July has been an interesting book month for me. Although I tried to focus on books set in Paris or France, I did stray a little bit with other reads inbetween. This month was mostly dedicated to the Paris in July celebration run by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea. I had a lot of fun participating in this event, and I think the French overkill has left me a lot less homesick for my honeymoon moments in Paris from this past May.

Books Read/Reviewed in July

1. 13 Rue Thérèse : a novel by Elena Mauli Shapiro  2. Season to taste : how I lost my sense of smell... by Molly Birnbaum  3. Fire in the blood by Irène Némirovsky
4. Entre nous : a woman  5. Little brother by Cory Doctorow  6. Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipes by Elizabeth Bard
7. Reading with the stars : why they love libraries by Leonard Kniffel  8. French impressions : the adventures of an American... by John S Littell  9.  No and me by Delphine de Vigan 10. The autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
 
  1. 13 Rue Therese: Elena Mauli Shapiro
  2. Season to Taste: Molly Birnbaum
  3. Fire in Blood: Irene Nemirovsky
  4. Entre Nous: Debra Ollivier
  5. Little Brother: Cory Doctorow
  6. Lunch in Paris: Elizabeth Bard
  7. Reading with the Stars: Leonard Kniffel
  8. French Impressions: John Littel
  9. No and Me by Delphine de Vigan
  10. The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: Melanie Benjamin (Read in June)
 
Pick of the month:
Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipes
  1.  

April Recap

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****The reviews for the children’s books can now be found at http://librarycrossing.wordpress.com/****

April has been incredibly slow reading month for me. Can you blame me though, I did get married in the middle of the month. Quite happily married at that. =)

I did manage to sneak in a new feature to the blog, Sunday Storytime. This is my opportunity to discuss different picture books, and how they can be incorporated into library storytimes along with fingerplays, feltboard stories and other similarly themed books.

Although pretty much  all of the book reviews for this month are picture books, I did spend a good portion of my time reading Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde.

Books:

1. Copy me, Copycub

2. book jacket

3. book jacket

4. Lost in a Good Book.

  1. Copy Me, Copycub by Richard Edwards
  2. Wake Up Kisses by Pamela Duncan Edwards
  3. Zookeeper Sue by Chris Demarest
  4. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Catching Fire – Review

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Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Age: YA

******SPOILERS*******SPOILERS*******SPOILERS*******

In the stunning sequel to The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins picks up exactly where the first book ended. Against all odds, as well as against the Capitol’s wishes, Katniss is the victor of the Hunger Games, along with her fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. Although, she should be feeling relieved at having survived the deadly arena, she will soon return to her family and friends and never have to worry about stepping foot in the arena ever again. That was the idea, until President Snow paid Katniss a visit shortly after her return home. Only then did Katniss realize the full extent of her actions in the arena and the rumble she and Peeta unknowingly started throughout the 12 districts in the Capital. Now its up to Katniss to try to quell the anxieties of the districts by proving her love to Peeta beyond a shadow of a doubt, otherwise the consequences will be terrifying.

I couldn’t wait to jump right into Catching Fire, so I grabbed the audiobook because it was the only format available at my library. I did really enjoy this book. It carried the same quick pace as Hunger Games, the same themes of tyranny, censorship and instinctual human behaviors come into play.

I did have a problem with Katniss though. Throughout most of the book, I found her to be more naive than her character was originally set up to be in the first book. I found her fake love for Peeta to be somewhat alarming at how easily she could slip into the lovey-girlfriend role. Her impulses are emotionally driven, and not very accurate most of the time. She is overly suspicious of everyone around her, quick to cast accusations if anyone says or does something she doesn’t like. She and Peeta form a strong bond with their time in the arena, and then again on tour across the districts as the star-cross lovers, the Victors of the Hunger Games. Another thing that didn’t sit well with me is that Catching Fire seemed repetitive. It was a lot like Hunger Games, pretty much the same book, but with a few minor tweaks and twists at the end.

It did end on a powerful, although expected, cliffhanger. I feel fully vested in this series, even though I had higher hopes for Catching Fire. It does serve its purpose as the middle title in any trilogy. It forms the bridge that carries the story from its troublesome beginning, to the most likely violent and dramatic ending.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Audiobooks
10 discs, 11 hours and 37 minutes

**************************************

Find this book at your local library

Dewey Decimal Jan & Feb Review Round-up

Here is a collection of reviews for books for the Dewey Decimal Challenge out in the blogosphere. Lots of good selections. Thanks everyone for participating. I’ll keep updating with review links as I keep finding them!

@ Rebecca Reads

The Book that Changed My Life by edited by Roxanne J. Coady and Joy Johannesson.

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

@ A Striped Armchair

Rereadings, ed. by Anne Fadiman & The Library at Nightby Alberto Manguel

The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

@ Urban Honking

Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children by Michael Newton

@ Book Kitten

@ How Will It End

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Thinking by Amy Wall

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

@ Ready When You Are C.B.

Aliens Among Us by Ruth Montgomery

@ Enough to Read

A Natural History of Senses By Diane Ackerman

Book By Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda

Lucky Man by Michale J. Fox

@ Books and Musings from Downunder

A Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

Enough Rope by Andrew Denton

Dewey The Small Town Library Cat by Vicki Myron

@ An Adventure in Reading

The Darwin Awards by Wendy Northcutt

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell 

Dewey the Small Town Library Cat by Vicki Myron

Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby

@ Nothing of Importance (aka Reading Challenged Obsessed)

Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule

That’s Life: Finding Scrapbook Inspiration in the Everyday by Nic Howard

The Crucible by Arthur Miller