Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

Anna Trent in a supervisor at a chocolate factory in England before a terrible accident puts her in the hospital and off kilter with her life.  At the hospital, Anna reunites with her old French teacher, Claire.  Claire inspires Anna to take a new job in Paris at the gourmet chocolate shop, Le Chapeau Chocolat.  Claire herself left her restrictive home for Paris as a 17-year old in 1972.  She was the nanny for her mother’s friend’s children and met Thierry Girard the young owner of Le Chapeau Chocolat.  In present day Anna meets Thierry and learns the difference between gourmet chocolate and the chocolate that she once produced at her factory.  Thierry has a unique personality and Anna wonders what was once between Thierry and Claire.  Anna also has an exuberant roommate, Sami, who is determined that Anna have a fun time while she is in Paris.  While out on the town, she meets and instantaneously dislikes and is fascinated by the mysterious chef Laurent, who also happens to be Thierry’s son.  

The novel bounces back and forth between 1972 and present day.  I felt intrigued by both storylines as I wanted to know if each woman would be able to find herself in Paris.  I also LOVE chocolate so the behind the scenes narrative of making chocolate at a gourmet shop in France was intriguing to me.  A bonus was all of the chocolate recipes at the end of the book that I need to check out now.  I thought the characters were interesting as well.  The only downside to this book was that there was a bit in the middle that seemed to go slow for me.  It did pick up though and I sped through to the end.

Overall, this novel is a great romance and coming of age story that involves chocolate.  What more  can you ask for?

Book Source:   Review copy from Sourcebooks.  Thank-you!

Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House (Jane Austen Mystery #6) by Stephanie Barron

Title: Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House (Jane Austen Mystery #6)
Author: Stephanie Barron
Read by: Kate Reading
Books on Tape
10 hours and 9 minutes
Source: MP3 Audio through Wisconsin Public Library Consortium – Overdrive on my Droid

In the winter of 1807, Jane Austen, her sister Cassandra, and her mother are living in Southampton with Jane’s brother Frank and his new bride Mary.  Mary is expecting and so Frank has agreed to stay ashore, although he wants to be out fighting the French.  Frank longs for his own ship, and he is about to get one, but at the peril of one of his friends.  Tom Seagrave is accused of murdering a French captain after he had already surrendered his ship. It looks likely that Tom will be hanged for this crime and that Frank will become Captain of Tom’s ship.  This is not how Frank would like to obtain a ship and he is sure his old friend is innocent.

Jane volunteers as a nurse at the infamous Wool House, a place where sick French soldiers are housed.  Once there, Jane hopes to uncover information that will help to free Tom Seagrave.  What she finds is a plot that goes to the heart of Tom Seagrave and his family.  

Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen Mysteries are perfection.  I love how she takes the real history of Jane Austen and her time period and blends it with an intriguing mystery to make a fascinating novel.  I first discovered Barron’s novels about 11 years ago.  I had just started working at Tetra Tech in downtown Milwaukee the year before.  One of the best parts of my new job is that it was across the street from the Milwaukee Public Library.  In the new book section, I picked up mystery #7, Jane and the Ghosts of Netley.  I was hooked and picked up the previous novels when I could.  Somehow I missed #6 along the way.

Kate Reading did a marvelous job narrating this audiobook.  I enjoyed listening to it immensely.  Reading has the perfect voice and embodies what I think Jane Austen should sound like.

Overall, Jane and the Prisoner of Wool House is a must read for all Jane Austen fans and any fan of a good historical mystery.  I have read the series as stand-alone novels and it has worked out fine for me.

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott

Title: Stitches:  A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Author: Anne Lamott
Read by: Anne Lamott
Penguin Audio
Length: 1 hour and 47 minutes (2 CDs)
Source:  Review Copy from Penguin Audio – Thanks!

Stiches was unfortunately, an audiobook I could not finish.  I did listen to one CD, but could not compel myself to listen to the second CD.  I think it was because I was hoping for a book on meaning and hope, but instead found the audiobook to be rather depressing.  Driving back and forth to work during endless cold and snowy days, listening to Anne Lamott tonelessly discuss her friend’s untimely death from cancer, and her own inability to let go did not really inspire me.  I’m not sure if I needed to listen or read some of her other work first to feel inspired, but this audiobook did not catch me or make me want to listen to more.  What are your thoughts?  What am I missing with Anne Lamott?

Friday, March 7, 2014

We by Michael Landweber

We is a novel with a unique premise.    Ben Arnold awakes from an accident in the body of his childhood self.  He quickly realizes he is at the point of time in his childhood just before his family fell apart, the week that his teenage sister was raped by her boyfriend’s brother and his two thuggish friends.  Ben knows that he must somehow warn his sister and change the fate of his family, but how?  Ben exists in the mind of his childhood self together with the consciousness of this young self.  Together they are “we.”  How can he make his young self-understand what is at stake and how exactly can he help his sister?

I really liked the unique premise and felt engaged with the story, family, and Ben.  I really wanted to know how this would end.  The only part I didn’t like was that Ben would sometimes go off into psychiatry with various terms for parts of the brain that I know nothing about and frankly bored me.  Luckily those sections were quite brief and it was back to Ben’s remembrances of his childhood self and future regrets.  Overall, I enjoyed this quick and intriguing read.

I read this book as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Unfortunately due to my hectic schedule this semester, I missed my postdate.  I apologize!

Book Source:  TLC Book Tours

After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

I love Laura Lippman.  Her novels intrigue me and leave me pondering the story long after I have read the last page.  I discovered her as an author a couple of years ago.  I look forward to her new novels and I need to catch up on her previous works as well.

In After I’m Gone, Felix Brewer is a con artist with a magic touch that makes money.  Unfortunately it also lands him in trouble and he takes off to parts unknown to avoid arrest.  He leaves behind his beloved wife Bambi and three daughters, Linda, Rachel, and Michelle with no means of support.  He also leaves behind his mistress, Julie. When Julie goes missing ten years to the date after Felix, most people assume she has gone to join him.   Until her remains are discovered in a park and the mystery deepened.

Sandy Sanchez, a retired Baltimore Detective, picks up the cold case of Julie’s murder in hopes of not only solving the case, but also of making some money.  Sandy soon finds himself obsessed with the case and closer to the answer than anyone has ever been.  

The novel switches back and forth between Sandy’s investigation in current day to the past and how Felix and Bambi met and the lives that his ladies lead once he is gone.  His disappearance affects the future for how they all live.  And they are always hindered with the question of, where is Felix?  Is he still alive?  I found myself riveted by this mystery and really wanting to know the answer.  I also loved the story of the women and how they moved on without Felix.  I thought the ending of the novel was masterful.  I highly recommend this novel.  Not only is it a great mystery, but it was a good character study and also a good study on what family truly means.

Source:  Review copy from William Morrow.  Thank-you!