Books

Friday, March 19, 2021

Books 1-6

 The little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer-after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris?  Sarah is sure she's in for the experience of a lifetime-days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch snow fall over the Eiffel Tower.  Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.
But her expectations cool faster than her caf√© au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light-she's a fish out of water in Paris.  The customers are rude, her new coworkers are suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he'll ever put her first over his busy career.  As the holidays draw near, Sarah's determined to get the shop-and her life-back in order and make her dreams of a fairy-tale Christmas in the city of love a reality-no matter what.
I did enjoy this book for a light, fluff read. It's definitely 'chick-lit' close to the level of a Harlequin romance. It was interesting to read about parts of Paris as a local instead of a tourist. A book about a bookstore is always a great pick for a book lover. Sarah finds out very quickly that the daily running of a bookstore in Paris is very different from small town Connecticut.  I have to say that for a lot of the book Sarah does come across as pretty clueless and naive.  There is a prequel at the end of the book which, I feel, would have been better at the beginning of the book.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

France, 1916. Sophie Lefevre must keep her family safe while her adored husband, Edouard, fights at the front. When their town falls to the Germans in the midst of World War I, she is forced to serve them every evening at her hotel.  From the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie's portrait-painted by her artist husband-a dangerous obsession is born, one that will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision.
Almost a century later, Sophie's portrait hangs in the home of Liv Halston, a wedding gift from her young husband before his sudden death.  After a chance encounter reveals the portrait's true worth, a battle begins over its troubled history.  As the layers of the painting's shadowy past are revealed, Liv's world is turned upside down all over again, and her belief in what is right is put to the ultimate test. 
The Girl You Left Behind is the story of Sophie Lefevre who is living in occupied France 1916, and Liv Halston who lives in modern day London 2006. These two women are connected by a painting, a portrait of Sophie painted by her husband Edouard, called "The Girl You Left Behind"
I loved the historical story of Sophie and her husband Edouard. The modern day story of Liv and Paul  seemed to have lost its focus for such a large amount of time that it almost took the focus away from the girl in the painting who was  the star of the book and the reason why everything was set in motion.
From the beginning I wasn't sure what Liv was fighting for or why. Her need to hold on to this painting felt selfish and silly, especially when giving it up could have solved many, if not all, of her financial concerns.
I would suggest reading Honeymoon in Paris first since it sets the scene for this book, although it did change my opinion of both Liv and Paul.
Having said all that I did enjoy the book.

A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
Boadicea battled the Romans, Nancy Astor fought in Parliament, Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned for female suffrage. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became a pioneering physician in a man's profession. Mary Quant revolutionised the fashion industry.
Britain has traditionally been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men and its monarchs.  It's high time that it was defined by its women. In this unique history, Jenni Murray tells the stories of twenty-one women who refused to succumb to the established laws of society, whose lives embodied laws of society, whose lives embodied hope and change. Famous queens, forgotten visionaries, great artists and trailblazing politicians-all pushed back boundaries and revolutionised our world.  In Murry's hands their stories are enthralling and beguiling; they have the power to inspire us once again.
I received this book as a gift, it's not one I would have bought myself. It reads like a cross between condensed Wikipedia entries and personal admiration from the author.  There was quite a range, from queens to suffragettes to fashion icons.  I have to say there were several women I had never heard of and found my eyes glazing over at times.  It would be a good read for girls in British (for the most part) high schools to read.  One thing that can be taken away from this book is that we should appreciate the freedoms women now enjoy, thanks in part to some of these women and that shouldn't be forgotten.

The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

On a hot summer night, a scientist from the Centre for Disease Control is grabbed by unknown assailants in a shopping center parking lot.  The authorities are desperate to save the doctor who's vanished into thin air.
One month later, the serenity of a sunny Sunday afternoon is shattered by the boom of a ground-shaking blast-followed by another seconds later.  One of Atlanta's busiest and most important neighborhoods has been bombed-the location of Emory University, two major hospitals, the FBI headquarters, and the CDC.
Medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner, Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, rush to the scene-and into the heart of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to destroy thousands of innocent lives.  When the assailants abduct Sara, Will goes undercover to save her and prevent a massacre-putting his own life on the line for the woman and the country he loves.
Apparently this is book 9 in a series but it easily reads as a stand alone.
To say this book is action packed is an understatement. 
After Sara is abducted we are introduced into a world of evil where a seemingly charismatic leader shows his true self as being a racist, pedophile, extremist and domestic terrorist. The story also covers biological warfare, white supremacy, rape, antisemitism and child murder.  
The story is basically about Sara trying to sabotage what is going on at the camp and Will trying to rescue her.
I did like this book and would definitely read more of this series and others by this author.

The Monuments Men by Robert M Edsel

At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe.  The Fuhrer had begun cataloging the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: the "degenerate" works he despised.
In a race against time, a group of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others-called the Monument Men-risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.  Focusing on the period between D-Day and V-E Day, this acclaimed book follows six Monument Men on their impossible mission to save the world's great art from the Nazis.
Though this is a fascinating, largely overlooked, part of history this book felt like a chore to get through it. The work of the Monument men, and others, to find and return these treasures, at least to the country of its origin, is huge.  I think it's safe to say that before this book and the movie based on it, very little of this work was known. It was difficult to keep all the Monument men clear in your mind as to where they were and who was helping them.  For the history alone it is a good read but I think watching the movie might help to keep things more clear and organized in your mind.

Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope


Susan Moran is a success.  She founded and runs her own pottery company, and now her three daughters are all involved in what has become a highly profitable family business.  Susie is justly proud of her family and her achievement-and has no intention of letting things change.
But nothing can stay the same for ever. Susie's daughters find themselves increasingly at odds with their wonderful, creative, determined mother.  And when Susie's estranged father arrives to build bridges with a family he has never known, their lives are turned upside-down.
Everything is changing and Susie's world will never be the same again.  In wanting to preserve her business, will she lose something much more precious?
This was a nice light read after The Monument Men. I thought that Susie was a very selfish, self centered person and the epitome of an absentee mother.  It's quite amazing that the 3 daughters and her husband put up with her as long as they did, especially as it was supposed to be a 'family' business.  Big changes afoot, especially when Susie's father shows up.  The ending was quite predictable.  On a review site someone said that this book could be the beginning of a series where there were different books featuring individual daughter and the long lost father.  I thong that would be a good idea as the book seemed to end with very little being resolved.