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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Home Field: A Novel by Hannah Gersen

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

The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football.

As the high school football coach in his small, rural Maryland town, Dean is a hero who reorganized the athletic program and brought the state championship to the community. When he married Nicole, the beloved town sweetheart, he seemed to have it all—until his troubled wife committed suicide. Now, everything Dean thought he knew is thrown off kilter as Nicole’s death forces him to re-evaluate all of his relationships, including those with his team and his three children.

Dean’s eleven-year old son, Robbie, is withdrawing at home and running away from school. Bry, who is only eight, is struggling to understand his mother’s untimely death and his place in the family. Eighteen-year-old Stephanie, a freshman at Swarthmore, is torn between her new identity as a rebellious and sophisticated college student, her responsibility towards her brothers, and reeling from missing her mother. As Dean struggles to continue to lead his team to victory in light of his overwhelming personal loss, he must fix his fractured family—and himself. When a new family emergency arises, Dean discovers that he’ll never view the world in the same way again.

Transporting readers to the heart of small town America, Home Field is an unforgettable, poignant story about the pull of the past and the power of forgiveness.

my thoughts:

DNF for Home Field. This book was just not for me. As much as I wanted to like a book described as "The heart of Friday Night Lights meets the emotional resonance and nostalgia of My So-Called Life in this moving debut novel about tradition, family, love, and football.", I just couldn't jive with it. The few chapters I read were too predictable and felt similar to a Lifetime movie.  And I felt the tone was too detached for the narrative of the story - it lacked a connection to what was happening.  Of course, I'm in the minority.  From what I've read, everyone seems to really enjoy Home Field.  So, I would definitely recommend reading what other bloggers have to say about this book. You never know, you may just love it.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

(Thank you to Blogging for Books for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Back in print for the first time in decadesand featuring a new interview with the author, in celebration of her centennial birthdaythe delectable escapades of Hollywood legend Olivia de Havilland, who fell in love with a Frenchmanand then became a Parisian

In 1953, Olivia de Havilland—already an Academy Award-winning actress for her roles in To Each His Own and The Heiress—became the heroine of her own real-life love affair. She married a Frenchman, moved to Paris, and planted her standard on the Left Bank of the River Seine. It has been fluttering on both Left and Right Banks with considerable joy and gaiety from that moment on.

Still, her transition from Hollywood celebrity to parisienne was anything but easy. And in Every Frenchman Has One, her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language, are here set forth in a delightful and amusing memoir of her early years in the “City of Light.”

Paraphrasing Caesar, Ms. de Havilland says, “I came. I saw. I was conquered.”

my thoughts:

Olivia de Havilland turns 100 years old this month - how exciting!  To celebrate, her memoir, Every Frenchman Has One, has been reprinted.  Talk about a terrific birthday present!

Short, sweet, and utterly delightful this little book is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Just settle down with a cuppa, some macarons, and Every Frenchman Has One and your are in for quite a treat.  I certainly enjoyed getting to know Olivia and her life in Paris during the 1950s - it cheered me up reading about her encounters with French doctors, French customs, and French laws. Told in a conversational tone, each chapter provides charming anecdotes that will leave you in stitches from laughing so hard or grinning from ear to ear at Olivia's mishaps and miscommunications.  She's funny and self-deprecating when recalling these memories from her life in Paris.  I loved her honesty and openness with sharing her experiences. Talk about a charming and refreshing book!  I would definitely recommend it to fans of Olivia, fans of books set in Paris, and fans of memoirs - you will LOVE this book to bits!!

I have to admit that this book makes me want to travel to Paris, watch Olivia's films, and read more books set in Paris.  It may have been short and sweet, but it definitely inspired me. And, I think its the perfect way to end Paris in July 2016.  Au revoir!

Thank you to Blogging for Books for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Swan Thieves: A Novel by Elizabeth Kostova

Wow! What a story! I absolutely LOVED The Swan Thieves!

Robert Oliver is a famous artist, who can make a landscape leap off the canvas.  He is extremely talented.  So, its a shock to find out that he took a knife to a painting at the National Gallery of Art.  WTF!? Why would he do such a thing? What drove him to it? What had Leda (the painting) done to him? So many questions to be answered.  Thankfully, Robert's therapist is determined to find out who Robert Oliver is and what happened to him.  Yep, Robert is now residing in a psychiatric facility since his arrest over the painting stabbing. His new doctor is also an artist who can appreciate Robert's talent, but is confounded by his silence.  Robert refuses to talk with anyone.  So, Marlow (Robert's shrink) sets out to figure out what happened to Robert.  He brings him some art supplies so that he can continue drawing and painting - hopefully this will open him up.  Instead, the subject of his paintings catches Marlow's eye - its the same woman over and over.  Who is she? Why is Robert obsessed with her? Determined to make some progress on his patient's condition, Marlow contacts Robert's ex-wife, Kate.  He travels to her home and learns about a man who is talented, was loved, is selfish, and has suffered from bouts of depression and manic behavior for quite some time. He learns about a man who did not seem to even care about his wife or children enough to remember them - he was too consumed by his desire to paint the mystery woman.  In the end, his lack of presence (mentally and physically) led to the dissolution of his marriage. However, Robert was not alone for long.  He cheated on his wife with a student of his named Mary.  Upon leaving Kate, he moves in with Mary and the two begin a passionate affair that soon fizzles.  Mary learns that Robert is completely self-absorbed and she finds herself questioning how much he truly cares for her.  Marlow learns about all of this through Mary, who he soon finds himself falling in love with.  Yes, the therapist goes there.  Talk about crossing the line!  Anyhow, the more Marlow learns (basically, the more involved he gets in Robert's life), the more he realizes that there is a story behind the woman in Robert's paintings.  So, he travels to Acapulco and Paris to get his answers - turns out that  that the painting, Leda, was not Robert's intended target.  Say what?!

Talk about a mystery with such a fascinating history.  I loved the way Kostova brought the past into the present through art, letters, and obsession - it was fantastic! She wrote with such descriptive detail, that provided a deep richness to the story.  I found myself easily imagining the characters, the cities, and the artwork. There was color, passion, and such vibrancy radiating from the pages.  Learning about the art and its artist was so interesting - their dedication to their work was inspiring. I really enjoyed reading this book so much - in fact, its still haunting me days later. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Currently reading....

and absolutely loving it!

I am beyond smitten with this brilliant book! I don't want to stop reading. I just want to ignore life for a minute (or three hours) and dive into Doerr's words. I want to be swept away into this bleak world where Marie-Laure and Werner reside and will hopefully survive.  I've only just begun the story, but already I am convinced of  Doerr's literary talent - his writing is filled with emotion and power (I am in awe) .  His attention to detail is sharp and precise.  His characters are strong, smart, and unique.  I am intrigued by where his story will take us.  I can already foresee heartbreak, death, fear, brutality, and so much of the raw ugliness of a war.  However, I can also see love, endurance, courage, and hope shining through all the darkness.

And now, I'm off to pick up where I last left Werner and his radio.  Happy reading!!

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Light of Paris: A Novel by Eleanor Brown

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book: (On Sale July 12th!)

Madeleine is trapped - by her family's expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears - in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted.  From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine's memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been - elegant, reserved, perfect.  But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie's bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafes, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

When Madeleine's marriage comes apart, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother.  In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother's bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer - reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Through Margie's and Madeleine's stories, New York Times-bestselling author Eleanor Brown explores the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

my thoughts:

Love, love, love! The Light of Paris is a delightful read that brings the city and spirit of Paris to life.  I absolutely enjoyed getting lost in Margie's story during her summer in 1920s Paris - it was simply captivating!  As for Madeleine's modern day story set in 1999, I found it to be a tad too predictable.  Not that Margie's isn't - believe me, it is.  Its just that Margie's story provided the backdrop of Paris, which made reading about it so much more interesting.  Who wouldn't want the opportunity to escape to Paris for a summer?  And then to find yourself set up with a job at a library where writers and bookworms stop by rather frequently - finally giving you the opportunity to chat with fellow book lovers? Plus, you meet a handsome artist who sweeps you off your feet, allowing you to experience the deliciousness of romance and young love.  Talk about a terrific story!

Madeleine is unhappy in her marriage, life, lack of career, etc.  She's a volunteer docent at an art museum; its her only connection to her one true love - art.  Yep, Madeleine is an artist, or at least she used to be.  Of course, her parents never approved and considered it more of a hobby than an actual vocation.  So, she did as was expected - went to college, joined a sorority (the one her mom was in), married an appropriate man, became a housewife, and lived unhappily ever after.  Except, she's tired of it all - the big house, not being able to eat what she wants, living side by side with a man who barely tolerates her, etc.  So, after an ugly argument with her husband, she leaves to visit her mother - a woman, who is not thrilled to see her.  Apparently, mommy dearest is selling her house and is beyond busy with getting the house ready for sale.  Plus, she doesn't like that her daughter just up and left her husband - makes her worry that all is not right in their household.  Madeleine insists that things are fine and that she just wants to help her mom.  Soon, she's making new friends, painting in the basement, and rediscovering what it is she really wants from life - all thanks to her grandmother Margie's old journals.  Turns out Margie was not so reserved and classy after all.

Margie loved to write and wanted to become a writer.  She read all the time and longed to discuss novels with friends.  Except, all her friends were married and having babies.  She was the single one, living at home with her parents.  They tried setting her up with eligible bachelors, but Margie didn't like any of them. After one disastrous marriage proposal, Margie is told she will be chaperoning her eighteen-year-old cousin on a European trip.  Say what?! Margie is shocked, but thrilled at the prospect of exploring Europe - how exciting! The only downside, her cousin Evelyn - who was a major jerk! Oh well, Margie hoped for the best and set sail with her cousin.  Except, she didn't see her cousin the whole time they cruised to France.  In fact, once in Paris, Evelyn demanded her share of spending money and told Margie that she was leaving her for the whole trip.  Aghast, Margie freaked out and told Evelyn that she was spoiled and cruel and that she would not be covering for her.  Evelyn was shocked into silence, but in the end she took all of their money and left.  Distraught, Margie didn't know what to do.  She knew she had to tell her parents what happened, but she didn't want to.  However, a chance meeting led her to find new accommodation, a job, and the courage to tell her parents she was not leaving Paris to come home.  It was the 1920s and the City of Light was in full swing - Margie didn't want to miss out on anything!  She made new friends, went dancing, ate delicious food, and engaged in a romance with a man named Sebastian.  She enjoyed her time in Paris and found happiness.  And then she lost her job and Sebastian in one fell swoop.  Forced to return home after getting sick, Margie once again found herself in her parents' clutches.  This time round she was pregnant.  Talk about scandal! Fortunately, Margie's secret was kept in the dark thanks to an old friend who proposed marriage.  He had helped Margie come home from Paris and kept an eye on her while she was sick. He found that he couldn't stop thinking about her and decided to ask for her hand - she agreed.  No one knew about her daughter's real father until Madeleine found out from her journals.  Finding out this truth made her understand her mother just a little bit more.

Madeleine agrees to return home with her husband - he shows up to bring her back home.  Once there, she tries to embrace the life of a dutiful wife and forget about her passion for art.  Except she can't.  After another ugly fight with her husband, she packs up and leaves him for good.  This time she goes home to start over.  She rents a place of her own, starts painting again, gets a job at an art store, hangs out with the friends she had made, and enjoys her living back in her hometown.  She even decides to go on a trip to Paris - she figures its the right thing to do after reading her grandmother's journals.  Madeleine is going to follow the The Light of Paris in this new path of self-discovery.  How exciting, eh?  I only wish we could have read about Madeleine in Paris and seen the city through her eyes.

The Light of Paris is a wonderful story about two women struggling to figure out what they want from life.  They let fear dictate what they should and shouldn't do, along with allowing the people who love them rule.  Its fascinating, heartbreaking, and utterly addicting to read. I could not put the book down! I absolutely loved Eleanor Brown's writing and storytelling prowess.  Her characters were realistic and flawed.  And the two story lines were filled with hope and heart. I just loved the book to bits!  Plus, I'm a sucker for anything to do with Paris.