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Friday, July 31, 2015

My Birthday Book Wish List..

Yep, all I want are books.  Of course, I wouldn't say no to a Saint Laurent handbag, but that's not very likely.  So, books it is.  I'm hoping to get some of these lovelies:






What do you think?  Not a bad bunch,eh?  As you can tell, I'm on a Miriam Toews kick - I am in love with her writing.  Her novel, All My Puny Sorrows, was absolutely BRILLIANT!!!  I need to read more of her work ASAP.  Yoshimoto will soothe my craving for more Japanese Literature and the Coates book is most definitely a must read (especially after watching him discuss his book on a morning show recently).  And the anthology by Moraga and Anzaldua is a blast from my past - a book that I've read countless time, but never actually owned (its about time!). 
I have so many other titles on my wish list, but I chose the ones that I can see myself settling down with sooner, rather than later. Do you have any suggestions about what I should add to the list?

And now, I'm off to read Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. So far, I'm not so sure if I'll be sticking with it - I'm feeling rather underwhelmed by it.  Has anyone read it?  What did you think?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Madeleines: Elegant French Tea Cakes to Bake and Share by Barbara Feldman Morse

Yummy! Talk about the perfect treat to have with a nice cup of tea.  Luckily, my mother won a copy of this amazing cookbook - thank you, Quirk Books!!  So, I've added the book to my own collection of cookbooks and have decided to give it a read for this Paris in July.  I wanted to bake something sweet and thought that this delicious  treat would be the perfect dessert to make.  What do you think?  I know that macarons are THE sweet to eat right now, but I thought I would go old school and try something that has been around for some time and has stood the test of time - madeleines!

Filled with easy-to-follow recipes for both sweet and savory treats, this lovely book is the perfect fit for fans of French tea cakes.  There are so many great recipes to choose from, fantastic photos of some mouth-watering treats, and tips on which baking tools and techniques to use.  I absolutely loved flipping through this book and reading up on new recipes.  I had no clue there were so many great recipes for madeleines - plain, chocolate, fruit and nut, dipped in white chocolate, etc.  Plus, you can add sauces to dip them in or eat them with ice cream - a madeleine ice cream sandwich!  So many ways to enjoy such a delectable treat!

And now I'm off to bake some madeleines to share with my sister.  Adieu!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Wonder of All Things: A Novel by Jason Mott

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

On the heels of his critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Returned, Jason Mott delivers a spellbinding tale of love and sacrifice.

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators. After the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds disappear.

Ava has an unusual gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. Now the whole world knows, and suddenly people from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to catch a glimpse of The Miracle Child. But Ava’s unique ability comes at a great cost, and as she grows weaker with each healing, she soon finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to give up in order to save the ones she loves most.

Elegantly written, deeply intimate and emotionally astute, The Wonder of All Things is an unforgettable story and a poignant reminder of life’s extraordinary gifts.

my thoughts:

As a fan of Mott's debut novel, The Returned, I could not wait to dive into his latest creation, The Wonder of All Things.  I just knew it would be as addictive, thought-provoking, and emotional as his first book - and I was right (to a degree).  It was all of those things, but it was also predictable and rather relenting in its message regarding obligation/responsibility - if you are blessed with the power to heal people, do you have to heal people (even if it means that doing so will harm you?)  Such is the question at the heart of this story.  We have Ava, a thirteen year old girl who saved her best friend, Wash, by placing her hands over his wound.  Of course, everyone finds out and wants to know how she healed Wash.  Has she always had this gift?  Why did she keep it a secret?  Can she heal others?  Soon, the tiny town of Stone Temple is taken over by religious zealots and people from all over, who have come to see Ava and ask for her help.  Meanwhile, Ava is in hospital.  After healing Wash, she fell ill and has been recovering ever since.  Also, the doctors are curious about her, so they've been running tests on her and her father, Macon (healing could be genetic).  However, Macon is getting fed up of his daughter getting poked and prodded, so he takes her home.  On the way, Ava learns about all of the craziness that has ensued since the incident with Wash.  It terrifies her to think that these people are here for her and knowing what they want from her.  Her father, who happens to be the town's sheriff, tries to comfort her and promise that all the hysteria will eventually die down.  Ava, knows that it won't.  And so the drama ensues - people breaking into Ava's bedroom, her own stepmother asking for Ava's gift, the noise and cameras of the press surrounding her, her father's belief that she should help if she can, etc.  So much is going on, and all Ava can think about is her mother.  She committed suicide years ago and Ava was the one who found her.  Ever since she healed Wash, she's been wondering if she could have saved her mother.  Confounded with such deep emotions and questions, Ava retreats into herself. She can only bear to have Wash around.   As things get more terrifying for Ava, she decides to run away and brings Wash with her.  She realizes what she needs to do to end all of this drama surrounding her and her family. 

Now, I won't go into specific details as to what happens with Ava, Wash, and Macon - suffice it to say, its one emotional read.  The Wonder of All Things explores themes of faith, religion, medicine, obligation, responsibility, family, love, loss, etc.  It questions whether we owe it to one another to help those in need, regardless of the consequences.  Ava can heal, but in return she grows ill.  Should she have to heal people and die for it?  Why does Ava owe anyone anything?  She's just a kid, who happens to have this gift - why should she be forced into such a huge undertaking?  I couldn't help but grow frustrated with her father, Macon.  He obviously didn't know how to handle the situation, but I felt he should have listened to his wife, Carmen (Ava's stepmom).  She seemed to have Ava's best interests at heart (usually) - at least she noticed how sick Ava was getting.  For Macon to agree to work with Reverend Brown, that was just disheartening and disconcerting.  I felt that her father was a weak man, who didn't consider his daughter's health overall - until the very end, when he finally took a good look at her.  In the end, this story captured the fever pitch of mania, danger, and uncertainty enshrouding Ava, her family and friends, and her town.  It showed us the ways in which people can ignore the obvious and trudge on, hoping for the best.  It described the greedy and selfish manner in which people wanted to control Ava.  And, it highlighted a mother-daughter relationship that was happy and sweet, but fraught with underlying emotions of sadness and anger.  The Wonder of All Things is truly a great read.  In spite of any negatives I may have felt towards the editing or plot lines, I found myself utterly mesmerized and unable to put it down - I stayed up til the wee hours finishing it and loving every minute of it.  This is definitely one book that I would recommend to fans of Mott and fans of contemporary fiction with a supernatural twist.  I look forward to Mott's next book!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Wonder of All Things
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain

Remember how I said I loved The Red Notebook?  Well, I still do, but now I love The President's Hat even more.  Yep, this bestselling novel by Antoine Laurain is simply the BEST.  It is chock full of interesting and unforgettable characters, a special black felt hat, a man on a mission, and the magic of faith in one's self.

Its Paris in the 1980s.  Daniel is out dining alone.  His wife and son are out of town.  He's craving a reminder of what it was like before he was married - a bachelor evening.  So he winds up in a posh restaurant ordering a delicious seafood platter and a bottle of wine.  He's enjoying his meal when he notices that President Francois Mitterrand and two other men have been seated at the table next to his - oh, what luck!  To have such a powerful man within close proximity of him - talk about a thrilling experience!  So, for the next two hours, Daniel drags out his meal, while he listens in on Mitterrand's dinner conversation.  He even imagines that he is the fourth diner in their group.  And then the President of the Republic is gone.  Poof! Just like that, the magic of the evening is over.  Daniel muses over the excitement he felt and the realization that he will never be able to eat oysters again without thinking of the sentence, "As I was saying to Helmut Kohl last week."  As he looks around the restaurant and gets ready to leave he spots a black, felt hat.  The President's hat!  Quick as cat, he grabs the hat and walks out wearing it.  From that moment on, his life is forever changed!  And so begins, the whimsical and delightful tale, The President's Hat.  A story about a special hat that will affect its owner in the BEST ways possible. 

Now, I don't want to give away what happens to Daniel and the hat, because that would ruin the story.  Suffice it to say, the hat finds itself sitting atop a number of people.  Yep, Daniel loses it!  The horror, the horror!!  Of course, the lucky few (a woman, a nose, and an art collector) who find themselves owning the hat wind up enjoying life just a bit more than usual.  I'm serious.  Lives are changed because of a black Homburg.  I'm talking, relationships are broken and mended, political allegiances are changed, a master of scent is reawakened from his dark fugue state, and so much more.  The power of this hat is magical and mythical - it is truly amazing!  I must tell you that Daniel didn't give up on finding his hat - nope, he's determined to wear it once more.  Then again, he's not the only one searching for it...hmm...I wonder who else might want that hat? 

Talk about a wonderful story!  A hat that somehow provides people with the strength, inspiration, and courage to go after what they truly want in life (and they get it, too!).  I love how an accessory can make someone feel like a new person.  Like, Mitterrand's "power" somehow seeped into the hat and these lucky strangers were able to feel it and use it to their advantage.  And the story Laurain weaves about this hat's journey and the lives of the people it affects make for quite an unforgettable read.  Such a truly great story!  I absolutely loved getting to know each and every one of these characters and the ways in which the President's hat changed them - it was awesome.  Plus, it was set in Paris and the beauty, richness, and vibrancy of the city leaped off the pages. The people, the culture, the politics, and art - it all screamed France.  And, I loved it!!

I would happily recommend this book to fans of Laurain's other novels (yes, he has more, but only The Red Notebook and The President's Hat are translated into English) and fans of French literature - you will fall in love with Laurain's writing and storytelling.

And now, I'm off to read blog posts from my fellow Francophiles who are participating in Paris in July.  Adieu!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Necessary End: A Novel by Holly Brown

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

How far would you go to get what you wanted? The author of Don’t Try to Find Me returns with a taut, riveting novel of psychological suspense—a domestic drama full of secrets and twists—about a woman determined to have a child, her ambivalent husband, and a pregnant teenager with a secret agenda of her own.

“I know now that there was no other way things could have turned out. Tragedies are inevitable, just like the great love stories, like us.”

Thirty-nine-year-old Adrienne is desperate to be a mother. And this time, nothing is going to get in her way.

Sure, her husband, Gabe, is ambivalent about fatherhood. But she knows that once he holds their baby, he’ll come around. He’s just feeling a little threatened, that’s all. Because once upon a time, it was Gabe that Adrienne wanted more than anything; she was willing to do anything. . . . But that was half a lifetime ago. She’s a different person now, and so is Gabe. There are lines she wouldn’t cross, not without extreme provocation.

And sure, she was bitten once before by another birth mother—clear to the bone—and for most people, it’s once bitten, twice shy. But Adrienne isn’t exactly the retiring type.

At nineteen, Leah bears a remarkable resemblance to the young woman Adrienne once was. Which is why Adrienne knows the baby Leah is carrying is meant to be hers. But Leah’s got ideas of her own: Her baby’s going to get a life in California; why shouldn’t she? All she wants is to live in Adrienne’s house for a year after the baby’s born, and get a fresh start.

It seems like a small price for Adrienne to pay to get their baby. And with Gabe suddenly on board, what could possibly go wrong?

my thoughts:

A dark and suspense-filled psychological thriller that will have you staying up til the wee hours of the morning just to get to the end of the story.  I absolutely LOVED Holly Brown's novel, A Necessary End.  And, I would happily recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers and suspense novels - you will most definitely enjoy this book!

Told via alternating chapters, we get the story of married couple Adrienne and Gabe.  Adrienne is obsessed with having a baby - to the point that Gabe is no longer sure he wants a kid.  And then they meet Leah.  She's young and pregnant.  She tells the couple that she wants to start a new life after having her baby.  If they help her get set up, she will give them her kid.  Eager for the baby, Adrienne and Gabe sign papers that stipulate Leah's wishes.  Talk about baby fever blinding a couple!  Why would you agree to someone's wishes and not your own?  How can you even trust them?  Well, Adrienne doesn't trust Leah.  She's convinced that Leah will do a runner once the baby is born - so she will just have to make sure that doesn't happen.  As for Gabe, he likes Leah and wants to make Adrienne happy, so he goes along with everything.  Of course, everyone has hidden agendas and as the story unfolds, little bombshells get revealed.  The kind that make you go, "WTF!" and "OMFG!".  Yep, its that kind of drama - which I LOVE!! The story is terrific with all of twists and turns - made for quite a great read.  As for the characters, as much as I disliked them (they are the epitome of unlikeable), I still wanted to find out what would happen to them.  Brown's writing just make you want to keep reading.  And, that is all I will say.  Just know that you are in for quite a ride with A Necessary End.

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: A Necessary End
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!