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review 2017-03-28 22:36
France's Foodie Road Map
The Food and Wine of France: Eating and Drinking from Champagne to Provence - Edward Samuel Behr

If you love France, their food, their flavors, their wines and their zest for enjoying these things, this is the book for you. This is a foodie's roadmap to heaven via French delights. The author travels across the country meeting the famous makers of greatness, baking, cheese making, candies, wines all the delicacies and more. He visits the historical food landmarks, meets with the greats and discusses their philosophies on the specialty item they are famous for. It is a fascinating read for a traveler, foodie, or chef.
I have gift a few copies to friends, and mapped out the must stops for a trip to France. If I follow it I'm sure to gain excess pounds but I will enjoy everyone.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-03-24 03:58
The Lais of Marie de France - Marie de France,Glyn S. Burgess,Keith Busby

This is my first experience with lais, brief romances written in verse. I've been a fan of medieval literature chiefly for its outlandish plots and the obscene imagery that consistently seems to contradict the Christian standards of the period. In this particular collection I noticed a popular theme of the "sexual test" where most commonly a man is given the option to refuse the advances of a mystical creature or give into temptation. In almost every account the man fails, giving way to lust. It's interesting that the moral framework of the day does not apply to its literature. In the romantic genre a knight can prove his faithfulness to the Lord AND copulate with a fairy. Really, the best of both worlds. There were so many instances while reading that I questioned the general logic of the characters' actions. For example, two women in two separate tales were detained in a castle, but after years of imprisonment one day they jump to escape, never having realized the whole time that that was a possibility? Or perhaps the strangest is the random appearance of a weasel with a magical flower that revives a princess who later decides that instead of reuniting with her long lost love, she'll become a nun instead. How can it be called the Dark Ages when we're given so much...interesting...material?

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review 2017-03-10 20:56
A light-hearted story, recommended for the icy days of winter (meteorological or emotional) and a good substitute for chocolate and/or a holiday.
Rosie's Little Cafe on the Riviera - Jennifer Bohnet

I was provided with an ARC copy of this novel by the publisher through NetGalley and voluntarily decided to review it.

The French Riviera is the setting of this story that follows a few months in the lives of several British women who’ve adopted France as their home. Rosie, a chef who had worked in yachts for a few years, finally takes the plunge and opens her own café. She dreams of making a go of the business although people tell her she’s going to fail (trying to convince French people they should eat British food is not going to be easy). She has quite a few difficulties to conquer (the hotel next door opening soon, and owned by a chef with not one but two Michelin stars, Seb, a complaint of food poisoning, an ex-boyfriend who never gives up, her mother and her younger boyfriend, and other family issues). Erica, a widow with a young daughter, finds it difficult to move on and make sense of life without her husband. GeeGee, an estate agent whose boyfriend upped and left cannot make ends meet and has to get inventive.

Most of the characters in the novel face personal losses and changes in circumstances they have to deal with as best they can.  They are very different and face their problems in different ways, some by taking time and reflecting, going slowly, others by asking for advice and help and others still by jumping into action and never stopping to think. Apart from two very minor characters (both exes, a male and a female), all the rest are sympathetic (or eventually they become so) and are people most of us wouldn’t mind meeting and spending time with. There are family secrets revealed, happy moments and sad ones, dogs, wonderful food and scenery, a beautiful setting, amazing properties we’d all like to live in, and of course, romance, plenty of it.

All of the characters learn that you must let go (of your preconceived ideas, of the past, of the fear of having to be independent, and also of the fear of being in a relationship…) and that sometimes you have to reinvent yourself and re-evaluate what’s really important. We all make mistakes but it’s important to try and learn from them and make amends when the opportunity presents itself.

The book is written in the third person, from the alternating points of view of the three women, and it flows well, moving with ease from one character to another, with engaging descriptions of locations, objects and food. There are no psychological depths to explore and although there are obstacles to be overcome, there is no excess of drama and the characters’ emotions and reactions feel natural, credible and not forced.

The story is a feel-good read, with some sad and darker moments and with many stories intertwined (that means not all the characters are fully developed but it’s easy to find somebody to root and care for). A light-hearted story, recommended for the icy days of winter (meteorological or emotional) and a good substitute for chocolate and/or a holiday. (Also a good holiday read.)

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review 2017-03-10 06:40
Losing The Light by Andrea Dunlop
Losing the Light: A Novel - Andrea Dunlop

When thirty-year-old Brooke Thompson unexpectedly runs into a man from her past, she’s plunged headlong into memories she’s long tried to forget about the year she spent in France following a disastrous affair with a professor. As a newly arrived exchange student in the picturesque city of Nantes, young Brooke develops a deep and complicated friendship with Sophie, a fellow American and stunning blonde, whose golden girl façade hides a precarious emotional fragility. Sophie and Brooke soon become inseparable and find themselves intoxicated by their new surroundings—and each other. But their lives are forever changed when they meet a sly, stylish French student, Veronique, and her impossibly sexy older cousin, Alex. The cousins draw Sophie and Brooke into an irresistible world of art, money, decadence, and ultimately, a disastrous love triangle that consumes them both. And of the two of them, only one will make it home.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

Brooke Thompson is a copy editor living in NYC when a friend invites her to attend an event which brings Brooke's past rushing back to her in an instant. It turns out another attendee at this party is none other than Alex, a Frenchman with whom Brooke once had a heady but fleeting romance. A romance it's taken her years to let go of.

 

While the novel starts out in present day, the bulk of Losing The Light lays out what happens that fateful year when college-aged Brooke was encouraged to take a study-abroad course in Nantes, France. The final chapters bring us back to present day as Brooke tries to bring closure to the most painful story of her life. 

 

In her debut novel, author Andrea Dunlop gives readers a complex story of friendship, lust and luxury that ultimately runs off the rails. While Brooke is in college, she, along with one of her professors, gets caught up in a school scandal. While the professor chooses to resign his position, the college dean encourages Brooke to take a study abroad course in France temporarily, while everyone waits for the heat of the situation to die down. Brooke agrees and soon even has schoolmate Sophie tagging along on her trip. Shortly after starting up classes in Nantes, Sophie and Brooke meet local Veronique, who invites them to a gathering at her apartment to meet the other local 20-somethings. It's at this party that Sophie and Brooke first meet Veronique's gorgeous cousin, Alex -- the man who will prove to be their ruination. Having fallen under the spell of Veronique and Alex (and the whole de Persaud family for that matter, what with their proverbial closets seemingly chock full of mysteries and skeletons!), Brooke and Sophie get caught up in a whirlwind of culture, money, love and decadence. Only too late do they realize they are in a tailspin towards a painful reality! 

 

Brooke is written as the more shy one, while Sophie is your fun-loving, social butterfly... at least on the outside. Little hints here and there suggest that Sophie is struggling with some sort of mental disorder or hardship -- manic depression, perhaps? -- which she has had to be temporarily committed for, as well as being on medications which she is reluctant to take / stay on. The scenes where Brooke and Sophie first arrive in Nantes reminded me a bit of the scenes in the first Taken movie, where the girls first arrive in Paris (I think it was Paris, been a minute since I watched those films...). This novel, once you know the synopsis, gives you that same sort of unease as that film. You know things are going to start out nice and lovely but you're just waiting for the fake backdrop to fall to expose what's really in store for the girls. 

 

As far as the setting of the novel, I was all set to settle into a story with heavy doses of -- what would you call it... "French-ness"? -- I didn't want things to go full-bore Pepe LePew obviously, but with any novel set in a place you know to be steeped in culture, you want to have that armchair traveling vibe firmly established. I can't say I completely felt that in the Nantes portions of the story (though there is a little bit with moments of shopping, cafe lunches and meeting with Alex / Veronique's grandmother at her grand estate... otherwise, it often seemed like the Nantes portions of the story really could have been set anywhere) but the feel I was hoping for does kick in when the ladies go on excursions to Paris and the French Rivera. 

 

Paris didn't feel like a place you could just go to the way you could move to any American city. Its money and glamour were ancient and inherited, as inaccessible as the stars. 

 

This novel had a bit of a slow burn for me. It didn't seem like too much was going on for the first 100 pages or so. But I was curious to stick with it. The author herself contacted me after having read my review for Abroad by Katie Crouch, which has a somewhat similar storyline to this book (Crouch even provides a blurb on the cover of Losing the Light). I had read enough into the novel to find I had developed solid interest in the characters and was definitely invested enough to see how everyone's story panned out. 

 

Alex gave me mixed feelings. Sometimes he comes off as the stereotypical, overly suave Frenchman. He'll push boundaries, sometimes get a little too handsy without permission from the ladies, sometimes say a truly cringe-worthy line (that you would probably fall for, at least once, if it was directed at you, let's be honest)... other times you gotta give it to the guy, he can be damn smooth with his technique. But then when you're almost ready to like him, he'll go and say / do something to perfectly ruin every good impression you almost had. I know this guy. I ashamedly admit I dated this guy -- more than once! -- during my early college years, so I felt for Brooke. Just a part of life ladies have to do the walk of shame through and ride out so they know what the deal breakers are on their way to the true Mr. Right. ;-)

 

I'd say my favorite character was Sophie. I liked her complicated blend of "social butterfly with the perfect life" exterior + dumpster fire of emotions on the inside. Yes, she could be selfish and bratty at times, but other moments you see her vulnerable, her insights on the world around her offering important social commentary on the struggle so many have with the "us vs them" mentality that bounces between "the beautiful people" who seem to have it all and the blue collar folk who feel like they have to endlessly struggle to hold on to even a few crumbs of good fortune. Sophie ponders on the lengths people go to aspire to BE the beautiful people while never understanding that problems -- serious, dark problems --  exist on that side too, problems that are never taken seriously because of the shiny glow around all that reside in that world. The only trouble I had with Sophie was that I didn't feel that her character was developed quite enough to have the full, high-intensity impact needed to really make that ending knock the wind out of the reader. While I wanted to gasp, I was left more with a quiet "well, that's a shame..." followed by a "wait, what now?!" (but again, not in a jaw-dropping shock kind of way, but more like a hazy confusion).

 

Note to sensitive readers: This novel does use some crude language at times within the dialogue of the characters, and some characters do have some sexy-times scenes that do include descriptions of fellacio / cunnilingus. Just a heads up if you prefer to avoid such subject matter in your reading. 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Author Andrea Dunlop kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book & requested that I check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 

 

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review 2017-02-03 00:02
THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
  I loved it. I liked the characters. I enjoyed trying to figure out who was telling the story. The story captivated me. There were heroes and villains. How people survived the occupation amazes me. Each does what they can to survive and fight. I don't want to say much because I don't want to ruin the story but this is a keeper.
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