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review 2018-12-12 14:15
24 Festive Tasks: Door 6 - International Day for Tolerance, Book
A Very French Christmas: The Greatest French Holiday Stories of All Time - Jean-Philippe Blondel,Dominique Fabre,Alphonse Daudet,Irène Némirovsky,Guy de Maupassant,Jean Brassard

 

An anthology of French Christmas short stories, from 19th century classics to contemporary, up to and including stories published in 2017.  "Nobody does Christmas like the French" is, of course, monumental sales hyperbole (and that's not even taking into account the ubiquitous non-French usual suspects like Dickens's Christmas Carol and E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker), but the stories included are enjoyable enough, even if (on balance) a bit on the preachy side.

 

Since several of these stories are set in Paris, I'm using this as my book for the 24 Festive Tasks - International Day for Tolerance square.  Since one of the anthologized stories is by Irène Némirovsky, I'm also using it for the "N" square of the Women Writers Bingo.

 

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review 2018-11-12 16:37
Francis I - The Maker of Modern France by Leonie Frieda
King Francis I Of France - Leonie Frieda King Francis I Of France - Leonie Frieda

I will admit to being a huge Tudor enthusiast. I can name all of Henry's wives, Mary's priests, and Elizabeth's potential husbands. It seems odd that I know so little of Francis I whose own rule intersected with Henry VIII's in so many ways. With that in mind, I was immediately intrigued when I saw this book featured on my library's new release shelf. 

 

While, I found this book to be an interesting read, describing as a biography of how Francis created modern France is a little misleading. The author spends most of the time focusing on the relationship between Francis and Charles V of Spain. A lot of time is devoted to their various campaigns against each other in attempts to control portions of Italy and southern France. Henry VIII comes to play once in a while but he is by no means the major player most Tudor biographers would have you believe him to be. 

 

The author spends very little time on any kind of policy or trends Francis created in France. She does take time to name names regarding the various artists (including DaVinci), Francis patronized. However, there is not much time spent on describing any kind of influence those artists had on Francis or France as a whole. That is something I would have like to have been given more information about. 

 

Overall, if you are looking for an introduction to Francis I, this book works. I'm currently taking suggestions if anyone has any good books that delve a little deeper into how he ran France and/or his family life (specifically his own children). 

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review 2018-11-11 13:38
Initiates, The: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs - Étienne Davodeau 
Initiates, The: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs - Étienne Davodeau

No surprises: two friends who know nothing about one another's fields spend a year learning and then appreciating their two fields, and the reader learns alongside. There's no drama,  just a slowly developing knowledge and discernment. Because it is a story about middle-aged white French men primarily, it can be hard to grasp the references. It was good, but I remained at a distance and never really felt any emotional attachment.

 

Library copy 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-08 20:24
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Rules of Magic: A Novel - Alice Hoffman

Find your magic.

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

A prequel novel, The Rules of Magic explores the early years of Francis (redheaded "Franny") and Bridget (nicknamed "Jet" for her long black hair) Owens, eccentric aunts to Sally and Gillian whom we first met in Practical Magic. Here we read of Franny and Jet's experiences growing up in the 1950s - 60s. Along with their brother Vincent -- the youngest of the family -- the sisters are raised in New York by their mother, Susanna Owens (who tries her hardest to closet her magic roots) and psychiatrist father, Dr. Burke-Owens. You read that right, he took his wife's name! 

 

Having suffered a tragic loss thanks to the Owens curse, Susanna, the second time around, chooses a relationship of comfort and stability rather than love. She does her best to keep her children sheltered from their magical heritage, setting up a laundry list of rules and restrictions regarding their powers, but it's of no use. Curiosity gets the best of them, particularly in the case of Jet and Vincent once their powers begin to surface: Jet learns she can read minds while Vincent begins to get prophetic, though sometimes confusing or murky flashes of the future. Franny is gifted as well, but being the most logical, scientifically minded of the siblings, she is also the most hesitant to acknowledge the truth, instead focusing on trying to figure out how to rationally explain the magic out of her reality.

 

 

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The year Franny turns seventeen, the siblings are invited for a summer stay at the Owens ancestral home in Massachusetts with Susanna's aunt Isabelle. This summer proves to be a monumental one for the Owens kids, as they learn lessons about life that will affect, maybe even alter, their personalities and life paths forever after. Themes / messages Hoffman weaves into these lessons include: embracing who you are at your core, pushing through fear and going for a chance at real love (regardless of consequences), finding yourself strongly nostalgic for home after a time of wanting so badly to leave it, dauntlessly pursuing what you truly want in life, and learning not to waste the finite time of your lifespan being petty or fearful. Instead, live in a space of love, joy and kindness.

 

 

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It is also during this important summer that the Owens siblings meet April. Not only do they later learn that she is a distant cousin, but it is during this summer that April conceives a child. That child is Regina Owens, the mother of Sally and Gillian, the stars of Practical Magic. If you remember from Practical Magic, it was also mentioned that in the story of Maria Owens, the originator of the curse, the father of her child was left unknown. Hoffman names the father in The Rules of Magic, and I gotta say, I was surprised to read that she chose a real life historical figure! Thinking about it though, WHO she chooses DOES play in well to the whole witch theme threaded throughout the two books. 

 

"Maria Owens did what she did for a reason. She was young and she thought damning anyone who loved us would protect us. But what she had with that terrible man wasn't love. She didn't understand that when you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together. That is not a curse, it's what life is, my girl. We all come to ruin, we turn to dust, but whom we love is the thing that lasts."

 

 

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Wow, did I like this installment of the Owens Ladies ever so much more than Practical Magic! Just all around, the plot is richer, the characters more entertaining and more developed, secrets or elements from the other book revealed, better explained, or just tied together in an impressive way.... Loved it all! Honestly maybe even one of my favorite reads of the year!

 

Anyone else get at least a tinge of Branwell Bronte vibes from Vincent? At least in the early portions of the story? I just couldn't shake that image ... what with Vincent's moodiness, mysterious outings all night, the heavy drinking. Even something about Vincent's early interest in the occult and the Magus book gave me that imagery of what I've read of Branwell (he always struck me as the most emo of the Bronte siblings lol).

 

The girl was carrying a backpack. A blue journal peeking out caught Franny's attention. It was one of the notebooks she {Franny} had left in the library. "Are you writing?" she asked. 

 

"Trying to," the girl said. 

 

"Don't try, do." She realized she sounded exactly like Aunt Isabelle when she was irritated. She hadn't meant to be a wet blanket and had no wish to discourage this clever little girl, so she changed her tone. "But trying is a start. What is your story?"

 

"My life."

 

"Ah."

 

"If you write it down, it doesn't hurt as much."

 

"Yes, I can imagine."

 

The girl scampered onto the rocks to join her friends. She waved and Franny waved back.

 

As she walked home, Franny thought that the girl at the lake had been perfectly right. It helped to write things down. It ordered your thoughts and if you were lucky revealed feelings you didn't know you had. That same afternoon Franny wrote a long letter to Haylin. She had never told anyone what her aunt had whispered with her last breath. But now she wrote it down, and when she did she realized it was what she believed, despite the curse.

 

Love more, her aunt had said. Not less.

 

If you, like me, struggled with Practical Magic, I urge you to give this one a go. Maybe the time gap is just what Hoffman needed to get this family's story just right, considering Practical Magic came out in the mid 90s, while The Rules of Magic was released just last year. 

 

 

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text 2018-11-01 19:38
COYER Winter Edition 2018 Participation Post
You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain - Phoebe Robinson,Jessica Williams
Cheer Up Love: Adventures in depression with the Crab of Hate - Susan Calman
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women - Kate Moore
Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And all the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic - Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford
Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War - Jennifer Robson
Ellis Island - Kate Kerrigan
London Belles - Annie Groves

Sign up at http://coyerchallenge.com/2018/11/01/coyer-winter-is-here-going-back-to-basics-again/.

 

Considering I only buy ebooks on sale, the restrictions this go around seems really easy. There are only a few books I have on my 2019 reading that don't fit the restrictions. My problem will be library borrows, as the winter editions don't allow library reading to count. 

 

My COYER TBR is just 15 books, which will allow for non-challenge reading.

 

1. You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson (memoir)

2. Cheer Up Love by Susan Calman  (memoir)

3. Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt (women's history)

4. Radium Girls by Kate Moore (women's history)

5. Mary and Lou and Ted and Rhoda by Jennifer Armstrong (pop culture)

6. The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin (historical romance)

7. A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin (historical romance)

8. North to You by Tif Marcelo (contemporary romance)

9. Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford (historical fiction)

10. Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner (historical romance)

11. Deliver Me by Farrah Rochon (contemporary romance)

12. Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson (historical fiction)

13. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan (historical fiction)

14. Star Dust by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner (historical romance)

15. London Belles by Annie Groves (women's fiction)

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