Posts tagged ‘Paris’

Sometimes a Good Book just falls in your Lap

I know it has been 9 months since my last book review and I am sure you have frequently, if not daily, thought “how can I know what to read? How can I go on?” So never fear. I am back.

I have still been reading, I just seem to not have gotten around to blogging about it.  But let’s ease back into it with a list – phew, I don’t want to dig too deep this time around.  I have read some good things and some not so good but here are some fun reads I fell into:

  1. 26192646.jpg“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler: This book is getting a lot of press and for good reason. This lady can write.  It is beautifully done.  The story of Tess leaving behind small-town Ohio, landing in New York City, and getting a job at a high-end restaurant is all consuming for both her and the reader.  The description of tastes, the world of dining behind the scenes, hot kitchens, and copious amounts of drug-use are all spot on.  I didn’t as much find the over-arching story as interesting as everything else, but that really is not the most important thing about this book. It is that good.
  2. “Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld: Let me say I hate reimagined books. This retelling of “Pride and Prejudice” made me cringe but it was Sittenfeld so I had to try.  And honestly, it was really fun.  The Bennetts are living in Cincinnati, Ohio (Ohio is so popular). They are overextended and double mortgaged.  There are Bingley and Darcy, rich surgeons, who have just relocated from LA to work in the Cincinnati region.  Lydia and Kitty are cross-fit fanatics.  All of the Austen characters fall right into our current culture and it is a great fit.
  3. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George: The story of Monsieur Perdu w23278537ho is the apothecary of books to heal is so wonderful and made me smile (and tear up) often.  I have also decided that surely it is reasonable to believe that someday I too will own a barge of books that I can travel with from Paris to Provence.  This will happen…probably.
  4. “Triptych” by Karin Slaughter: I have no idea how I am just stumbling onto this author but her suspense writing is so, so good. She is coming to speak at my local library next week so I started reading her books and all of them are fun.  Her writing is very, very graphic so it is not for the faint of heart but for suspense novels these are some of my favorites I have read.  “Triptych” has been my favorite so far out of all of them. I also loved “All the Pretty Girls” and “Cowtown.”

Someday  I will get up the courage to post about “Hillbilly Elegy” which made me yell at the author when I finished.  Although the author was not in the room, and likely could not care less about my opinion, I wished he had been in the room hearing my strongly worded opinions because great gravy, that book was so frustrating.   As an aside, feel free to use “great gravy “as you see fit. An aside to the aside, if you are under the age of 70 you probably should never see fit to use that phrase.

Okay, keep on reading.  And most importantly, happy autumn!!!!!

 

 

 

September 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

Cider, Crepes and Street Dancing – “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, Published in 2014

In the Summer of 2003, my husband and I took a trip to France.  Somehow, we ended up in the beautiful, walled city of St. Malo.  It was touristy – there were a lot of fat, shirtless Frenchimages-1 men, sticky children, street vendors and sunburns.  We also got to see some very bad, but terribly amusing, street ballet.  I am really using the term “ballet” loosely here.  But the streets, the city walls, the beach, all of it is beautiful.  And I had the best mushroom crepe and bottle of cider of my life in that city – something I have tried multiple times to replicate but have failed miserably.  So this book, which opens with a scene in St. Malo, made me so happy to remember that crepe and bottle of cider that I was instantly in love with it – I guess I am just that simple really.

At the outset of WWII, Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History.  At the age of six, Marie-Laure becomes blind and finds herself having to experience her world through her hands, her feet, her sense of distance – everything is a tactile experience.  At the same time in Germany, young Werner is growing up in an orphanage with an amazing propensity to understand the interworkings of radios.  He quickly finds himself swept up by the Hilter youth and the propaganda, yet always with that feeling that something is just not quite right.   As the Germans begin to invade France, Marie-Laure and her father must flee Paris and they find themselves on the doorstep of Marie-Laure’s eccentric great-uncle in St. Malo.  Werner eventually finds himself in St. Malo as well and the two stories intertwine.

This story didn’t grab me when I read what this book was about on the back cover of the jacket.  And when I read what I wrote above it still doesn’t. But don’t let that fool you, this book is a piece of art.  Doerr is able to take the reader into the world of blindness and somehow make everything seem brighter.  He can describe Marie-Laure’s world of touch, and all her senses, in such a way that it makes the reader feel like they are missing out on too much beauty by relying on their eyes.

To really touch something, she is learning—the bark of a sycamore tree in the gardens; a pinned stag beetle in the Department of Etymology; the exquisitely polished interior of a scallop shell in Dr. Geffard’s workshop—is to love it.

On the other side of the story, Doerr has taken a very complicated situation like Nazism and the baffling question of how it swept nations in its cruelty and evil and with Werner  has shown how maybe, just maybe, when all of the circumstances are just so, it is scarily easy to get wrapped up in something.  Doerr also astutely writes about the consequences of Germany and being German, both during and after the war, in a way that I found enlightening and thoughtful but without making excuses or defending the indefensible.  It is done with gentle story-telling and simple detail, something that, in my humble opinion, makes a writer truly great.

It is inspiring that Doerr has taken one of the darkest times in modern history, and uses the characters of a blind girl and a powerless orphan soldier, perhaps the seemingly least important people, to show how bright and intricate and important our world and our lives are.  Even without a crepe and a bottle of cider or even really awful street performing, I am so happy to be reminded of that.

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

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March 7, 2015 at 6:43 pm 2 comments

Hello February and other reading news

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There is something painful about February for me. It is just cold and dark.  It is the last push from winter and the snow is no longer novel and fun.  And yes, I am whining.   But it does mean I hunker down and read a lot – because it is cold and dark and the snow is no longer fun.   Alas, I have neglected to share what I have been reading for over a month so here is another multi-book post.

I was all over the place this last month in my reading but I feel like with a lot of the books I read I was somehow missing key elements in the story.  Which for me makes for a frustrating reading experience.  Sometimes I do think this poor connection is my fault but sometimes I think the author just missed the boat.  So anyway this is where my reading has traveled over the last few weeks:

1. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi: Good grief, I found this book to be extremely dysfunctional.  Boy Novak is a girl (yep that is a fun twist) who is raised by her abusive father.  She runs away and tries to piece together a new life for herself.  She ends up marrying a man who has a beautiful, charming but seemingly vapid daughter named Snow.  When Boy gives birth to her own daughter, Bird, it becomes apparent that her husband has been hiding his African-American lineage.  And so the book becomes about our reflections of ourselves, our distorted views of others, our need for classifications.  I know, this sounds like a good idea right? But Oyeyemi just has no solid footing in her storytelling. It is an attempt to recreate and then deconstruct, or something artisan like that, the Snow White fairy tale. But all of the magical elements just seem bizarre and forced. The characters are unlikeable and the story is just, well, lacking.

2. Euphoria by Lily King:  I love this writer. I think she is brilliant and Father of the Rain is one of the best fiction books about alcoholism I have ever read.  Luckily, King is still in top form with Euphoria, which is very loosely based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead and her work with the indigenous tribes in New Guinea.  I always find this desire of the Western Caucasian World to assert itself into other cultures fascinating – it is so harmful and self-indulgent but is so frequently seen as a form of philanthropy.  This book was interesting and the relationship between the three anthropologists makes for good story-telling.  I will admit to finding the end abrupt and unsatisfying (which I think means I missed something important) but I still loved the book.

3. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer: This book is snarky, irreverent fun.  It is Shafer’s first book so I can’t imagine how great his next books will be.  The book has three key characters: Leila Majnoun, the beautiful, disillusioned NGO employee working in Burma/Myanmar; Leo Crane, the trust-fund baby whose conspiracy theories may have taken him over the edge into mental illness; and Mark Deveraux, a ridiculous parody of a self-help guru.  I know this doesn’t explain the story but I promise the way their lives intertwine is some strange combination of ludicrous, comical and compelling. How can that be? I don’t know but please read it.

4. The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson: This was the kind of book I needed to read. It is suspenseful and set in Paris (two very good things).  Maud is a young British who has moved to Paris on a very tight budget to become an artist.  in fact, she is the literal interpretation of the starving artist.  In order to make ends meet, Maud finds herself in the employ of a young brother and sister, Christian and Sylvie Morel.  Christian confides in Maud that he needs her as a care taker for Sylvie who is addicted to opium.  Of course there are twists and the Morels are not what they seem.  And of course Maud rises to the occasion, righting wrongs, etc.  It is not entirely original, this novel, but it is terribly fun.  And Robertson sets the stage beautifully.

ceb38a46b41857065256efbab7ba1414I am not sure what the rest of my February reading will bring but I do know at some point I need to tackle “All the Light We Cannot See.” But until then my reading friends, stay warm, eat well, drink lots of hot chocolate and know that Spring is around the corner.

February 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm 5 comments

Me and Hemingway go way back – “A Moveable Feast”

A Moveable Feast

Image via Wikipedia

A Moveable Feastby Ernest Hemingway, Published in 1964

I am going to admit here and now that I have always struggled with Hemingway. I know, I know this is like admitting that you are illiterate and ignorant and possibly crazy all at the same time.  If I could explain this problem of mine I feel like it would be the first step to recovering but alas, I don’t know what my problem is.  Summary: Hemingway is dry, he writes without nuance and yet with his straight forward style sometimes he spends a lot of time dancing around the point.  But I have continued to try because I have always thought that I am going to one day just wake up and get Hemingway. “A Moveable Feast” finally worked its magic.

As everyone knows this is Hemingway’s memoirs about his years in Paris in the 1920s.  What I love about these memoirs most is what they made me do.  Because of his descriptions of sitting in cafes and just writing, I started taking a lunch, once a week, out of the office, alone.  Hemingway’s reflective lifestyle (at least during this part of his life) made me want to stop a bit and just have a little time to just be – no toddler, no clients, no guilt.  And that is how I read this book, over a sandwich and a coffee for thirty minutes at a time. It was a great experience.  It was also fun to get Hemingway’s take on Hadley (his first wife). Though she makes a limited appearance, after reading “The Paris Wife” it was interesting to get his prospective. It was also amazing to hear about Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.  Hemingway throughout seems dutifully unimpressed and yet, less arrogant than I had supposed. And as always happens to me, this book made me wish I lived in Paris. But that, my friends, is a whole other problem.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest 

October 23, 2011 at 9:31 pm 7 comments


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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