Wednesday, May 14, 2014

{Book Review} Queen of Babble Gets Hitched

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched

by Meg Cabot

First Published: 2009

Pages: 336 (I listened to audio version)

ISBN:  978-0060852030

Dates Read: May 7-14, 2014

Reading Challenges this book is part of: 

- 2014 Audiobook Challenge

- 2014 I Love Library Books Challenge

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Big Mouth, Big Heart, Big City . . . Big Problems
Things are looking up at last for Lizzie Nichols. She has a career she loves in the field of her choice (wedding gown restoration), and the love of her life, Jean-Luc, has finally proposed. Life's become a dizzying whirl of wedding gown fittings—not necessarily her own—as Lizzie prepares for her dream wedding at her fiancé's château in the south of France.

But the dream soon becomes a nightmare when the best man—whom Lizzie might once have accidentally slept, really, just slept—announces his total lack of support for the couple, a sentiment seconded by the maid of honor; Lizzie's Midwestern family can't understand why she doesn't want to have her wedding in the family backyard; her future French in-laws are trying to lure the groom back into investment banking; and Lizzie finds herself wondering if her Prince Charming really is as charming as she once believed..

Other works by this author:

  • The Princess Diaries
  • Size 12 is Not Fat
  • The Boy Next Door
  Further Information:

    My thoughts on the book:

    Oh boy where do I start on this one? While I certainly wouldn't say I hated it as I did finish it and it passed the time back and forth to work, there were several times I wondered why I was still hanging in there.

    The biggest pro for this book was I enjoyed the narrator so it was an easy audio book to listen to. That might actually be the only pro the more I think about it. There were, however, so many cons.

    I got annoyed fairly quickly with the main character, Lizzy,  especially whenever she talked about why she "loved" her fiancé Luke- it was all superficial things like his eyes or muscles and things like that. She did like that he was going to be a doctor and talked about his rich family which, to me, made her seem like a bit of a gold digger. I don't think I can remember one example of something her and Luke enjoyed doing together (out of bed) which doesn't bode well for an impeding marriage. And then she went and slept with his best friend (Chaz) to boot! The real kicker came when she accepted Luke's proposal while Chaz was STILL upstairs in her bed and then kicked the poor guy out because her (now) fiancé was going to be back shortly after making a Diet Coke run for her. Who does that???

    The rest of the story is pretty much just a repetitive loop of her friends telling her she really loves Chaz to which Lizzy denies, denies, denies and continually says "but I'm engaged!" (well you sure aren't acting like it Lizzy!) and then her NOT breaking up with her fiancé multiple times when she should have although always worrying she was going to get caught (I was almost hoping she would!).

    I probably could go on a while longer about her friends and both of these guys but I won't. They didn't have any more substance than Lizzy did really. My favorite character might have been her poor old grumpy French boss who insisted on playing pétanque (much to his wife's frustration) all day long after his surgery. At least he was somewhat amusing in his stubborn grouchiness.

    Oh well they can't all be great books. On to the next one! :-)
    Saturday, May 3, 2014

    {Book Review} The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    source: Goodreads

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

    by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

    First Published: 2008

    Pages: 274 (I listened to audio version)

    ISBN:  978-0385340991

    Dates Read: April 28- May 3, 2014

    Reading Challenges this book is part of: 

    - 2014 Audiobook Challenge
    - 2014 British History Challenge
    - 2014 European Reading Challenge 
    - 2014 I Love Library Books Challenge

    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    “ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

    As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

    Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

    Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

    Other works by this author:

    This is Mary Ann Shaffer's first and only novel. She worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops and her dream was to write a book and publish it. Before she could finish this book she became very ill with cancer so she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish it. She died just a few months before her book was published.
      Further Information:

    My thoughts on the book:

    The synopsis really tells all you need to know about the basic plot line of the book so I won't rewrite that, besides if I talk about it too much I'll only give away things that will spoil the book if you haven't read it yet. But I could, I could talk about this book all day long with anyone that would like to because I loved it that much. I could talk about it and read it all over again.

    I'm always hesitant with audiobooks but decided to give another one a try and I'm so glad I did. As it written in a series of letters between many different folks it was read by several different people and they did a fantastic job. I would even dare to say the book was made even better by listening to the letters being read to me than if I had read it myself (though I do want to go back and reread it myself too). The characters really came to life through the letters and I found myself wanting to go with Juliet to Guernsey to meet them myself.

    There was something almost soothing as I listened to this book each day on the way back and forth to work. I looked forward to it every day after work even though there were parts that made me cry (several parts in fact) but there were also many that made me burst out with laughter. And I found myself torn at times between wanting them to describe more of their life during the Occupation (even though those were many times the parts that made me cry) or having them describe the things going on in the present. It also made me wish for a simpler time when people really did write letters like that to each other.

    There were many passages I would have highlighted had I been reading this instead of listening to it so I'll finish off with a couple of those that I would have-

    “That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

    This book itself sparked many 'tiny things' that I will now go on to explore in other books- forced slave workers during the Occupation, more about life during the Occupation for people in other countries, and Guernsey itself. I also have added Guernsey to my ever growing list of places to visit and I must arrive by the ferry from Weymouth. It's the best way to arrive in Guernsey as Juliet was told.

    “Think of it! We could have gone on longing for one another and pretending not to notice forever. This obsession with dignity can ruin your life if you let it.” 

    Oh so true and glad I finally decided to heck with dignity and took a chance just like Juliet did.

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

    Reading Wrap-Up: April 2014

    Is it really the end of April already? Where has the month gone? I didn't get quite as much reading done as I'd hoped mostly because I've been trying to get this blog and my travel blog underway. Since reading and traveling for me go hand-in-hand I thought I should really have a blog devoted to each to keep the topics separate for readers who might only be interested in on or the other, but still give me the pleasure of enjoying both!

    The two really do overlap each other for me though all the time as most of my travels are inspired by books I have read or the books I read are inspired by my travels. You'll find I tend to pick books set in different countries or with themes (like WWI and II lately) that tie in to a trip. I love how these types of books let me travel and explore these new places without leaving home. I also really enjoy learning about different cultures and historical events tied to the places I'm going to visit. I find I appreciate everything so much more and am a little more observant when I know a little bit about what I'm going to see. I also get a little thrill when I've read a book in a certain location (like Julia Child's "My Life in France" when I was in France) and then every time I see that book I'm instantly taken back to that time and place. And then I just love reliving great memories of the places I've been when I read about one of those cities in a new novel. Especially London and Paris. I just can't get enough of either city.  

    At the end of each month I think I'll do a wrap-up post of what I've been reading, progress on my reading challenges, and what I have on the TBR (To Be Read) pile.

    So let's see what I have been up to for the month of April shall we?

    Books I've Read 
    (Click on the title if you'd like to read my review of the book) 

    source: Goodreads

    Books In Progress
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
    • The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomans (audiobook but I'm struggling to finish because I don't really care for the narrator)  
    • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (audiobook for the car...wish I could stay in my car all the time. This is SO good)
    • The New York Times. 36 Hours. 125 Weekends in Europe by Barbara Ireland (LOVE this book!)

    Reading Challenge Progress 

    • Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson
    • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    • The Norman Conquest of England by Janice Hamilton
    • Park Lane by Frances Osborne 
    • Mr Darcy's Guide to Courtship: The Secrets of Seduction from Jane Austen's Most Eligible Bachelor by Emily Brand
    • ...something about the Mayan ruins we'll be visiting in June

    "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."
    ~ Augustine of Hippo

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    Sunday, April 27, 2014

    {Book Review} Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

    source: Goodreads

    Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

    by Elizabeth Gilbert

    First Published: 2009

    Pages: 7 CD's

    ISBN:  978-0670021659

    Dates Read: April 14-21, 2014

    Reading Challenges this book is part of: 

    - 2014 Audiobook Challenge
    - 2014 Non-Fiction Challenge

    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who'd been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which-after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing-gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert's trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to "turn on all the lights" when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert's memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.

    Other works by this author:
    • Eat, Pray, Love
    • The Signature of All Things

    Further Information:

    My thoughts on the book:

    Boys it seems like this book just can't catch a break, well at least on the Goodreads website. Review after review talked about how much people disliked the book, but I quite liked it, and MUCH better than 'Eat, Pray, Love' I must say.

    I picked it up because it was basically bargain priced at my local Half Price Bookstore and it was an audiobook at that. I've been looking for some audiobooks to pass the time on my commute but have had a terrible time finding ones that I don't mind listening to. This was one I actually enjoyed listening to and couldn't wait to get back in the car at the end of the work day to hear what other tidbits the author would tell me about. On that merit alone the book gets a couple of stars.

    The basic premise of the book is all the research Elizabeth Gilbert does about marriage while she is waiting for the Visa that will allow her Brazilian boyfriend to enter the United States so they can get married. Neither want to get married (both having come through bad divorces) but in order for them to live together in the US they'll have to. So while out of the country she starts to research the history and culture of marriage in an effort to pretty much convince herself it'll be OK. Funny thing is while she's convincing herself of marriage she's turned me more against marriage!

    One of the things I liked the best about this was that instead of portraying marriage as some fantasy, romantic, end all and be all, she brought it back down to earth for what it is and has been over the centuries. And it hasn't always been about love. Nor is it all about love even today in some cultures. I also liked that she was honest and real about the faults of individuals that make up a couple- her boyfriend's and her own. We all have them. None of us are as wonderful and perfect as most romance novels would have us believe, yet we still find great people to spend our time with that make our lives so much richer and enjoyable than they would have been without them.

    All in all this was a very enjoyable read, well listen, and so good that I'll probably listen to it again in fact.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    {Book Review} The Art of French Kissing


    The Art of French Kissing

    by Kristin Harmel

    First Published: 2008
    Pages: 338

    ISBN: 978-0-446-58143-1

    Dates Read: April 10-14, 2014

    Reading Challenges this book is part of: 
    - 2014 Books on France

    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    How do you say, 'So many men, so little time,' in French?

    Well, Emma Sullivan can always figure that out later. The point is -- she's in Paris! Which would be great, except that she's stuck doing public relations for one of the hottest -- and craziest -- rock stars on the planet. Making things worse is Gabriel Francoeur, the sexy and stubborn reporter who refuses to believe her when she tells him that her client was just playing Go Fish in that hotel room with all those scantily-clad girls....

    But Emma will always have Paris. The City of Light, of romance, of high fashion and of unfathomable varieties of cheese. If a girl can't reinvent herself here, there's no hope! It's time to leave the old Emma Sullivan behind and become someone courageous, exciting, successful. The type of girl who, when faced with a reporter who won't stop asking questions, knows just what to do. After all, they don't call it French kissing for nothing!

    Other works by this author:
    • The Sweetness of Forgetting
    • Italian for Beginners
    • The Blonde Theory

    Further Information:

    My thoughts on the book:

    This was such a fun book to read. Predictable? Oh for sure. But aren't all "chick lit" books predictable in that "girl gets her heart broken but then meets a guy that is SO much better anyway" kind of way? True to form Emma's fiancé was the one who broke her heart but she will be much better off without him.

    After her break-up she takes off to Paris to join a friend to help her manage the public relations of a rock star. We are then treated to an imaginary visit to Paris (which I will happily take any day) as Emma tries to keep up with the antics of the rock star and dating.

    While there weren't any profound moments or words of wisdom in this book I'd still recommend it as a great quick read for that long flight or before bed when you just want to relax and enjoy a sweet story.

    Sunday, April 13, 2014

    {Book Review} Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)

    source: Goodreads

    Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate)

    by Amy Thomas

    First Published: February 1, 2012
    Pages: 304

    ISBN: 978-1402264115

    Dates Read: March 15-April 9, 2014

    Reading Challenges this book is part of: 
    - 2014 Books on France
    - 2014 Foodies Read
    - 2014 Non-Fiction

    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    Part love letter to New York, part love letter to Paris, and total devotion to all things sweet. Paris, My Sweet is a personal and moveable feast that’s a treasure map for anyone who loves fresh cupcakes and fine chocolate, New York and Paris, and life in general. It’s about how the search for happiness can be as fleeting as a sliver of cheesecake and about how the life you’re meant to live doesn’t always taste like the one you envisioned. Organized into a baker’s dozen of delicacies (and the adventures they inspired) that will tempt readers’ appetites, Paris, My Sweet is something to savor.

    Other works by this author:
    • The Detective and the Woman
    • The Detective, the Woman, and the Winking Tree

    Further Information:

    My thoughts on the book:

    This was a book that I really wanted to love but at best I can say I only really liked it, and only some of the parts.

    I just love all things French, especially Parisian, and really enjoy books that remind me of the times I have spent in Paris by mentioning particular places or streets. This book did all that for me so definitely a plus for the book in this regard.

    Each chapter was basically divided into one part being the author's personal story of being an American working in France, trying to learn and fit in with the culture, and searching for a little love along the way. I really liked this half of each chapter, especially since I've always wanted to do as this author has done and spend a year or two in Paris. It gave me a great peek into that world.

    The other half of the chapter was descriptions of all the pastries, macarons, cupcakes, and all other manner of French and New York sweets and treats that she discovered in her time abroad. She did a really good job of relating particular deserts or cookies to the things she was going through in her life but, admittedly, I really started just skimming through these bits of the chapters about midway through the book. Not to say they weren't written well but reading about pastries just isn't my cup of tea I guess.

    I did find myself highlighting several passages that struck me as I went along, either because I saw myself in them, or I just liked her honesty or positive attitude.

    "And if I learned anything in that long, dark winter in Paris it's that sometimes if you change your attitude, life follows your lead" ~pg 184

    How true. Sometimes we can all use that reminder if life seems to be kicking us while we're down.

    "The curse of being an expat, I realized, is that you belong to two cities and, as a result, neither entirely. I had been asking myself either-or questions, but the answers were not black and white but a million shades of Parisian gray." ~ pg 254

    As an expat myself and one that plans to move to a third country in a few years I have definitely thought about this myself. Am I still Canadian? I certainly call myself one but have I lived so long in the United States now that I'm seen as American to some people? I have spent most of my adult life in the US so if I moved back to Canada I would have to learn many "adult" things (e.g. getting a mortgage etc.) all over again and would be almost like a foreigner in that regard. So which place do I really belong? Not that these questions keep me up at night but have certainly gone through my mind a time or two.

    So while I can't give glowing reviews to this book, as I did skim through many bits of it, I can say the parts that interested me were enjoyable to read. If you like reading about food and which patisseries have the best sweets or croissants you'd probably enjoy the whole book.