Friday, July 29, 2011

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World - John Baxter

Title: The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
Author: John Baxter
Paperback: 298 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published Date: June 2011
FTC: I asked Harper Perennial to read and review

Short and sweet - go read now, then re-read, then book a flight to Paris and read on the plane.

My goodness I loved this book.  Thank you John Baxter.

Back of the book:

In this enchanting memoir, acclaimed author and long- time Paris resident John Baxter remembers his yearlong experience of giving "literary walking tours" through the city. Baxter sets off with unsuspecting tourists in tow on the trail of Paris's legendary artists and writers of the past. Along the way, he tells the history of Paris through a brilliant cast of characters: the favorite café of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce; Pablo Picasso's underground Montmartre haunts; the bustling boulevards of the late-nineteenth-century flÂneurs; the secluded "Little Luxembourg" gardens beloved by Gertrude Stein; the alleys where revolutionaries plotted; and finally Baxter's own favorite walk near his home in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Paris, by custom and design, is a pedestrian's city—each block a revelation, every neighborhood a new feast for the senses, a place rich with history and romance at every turn. The Most Beautiful Walk in the World is your guide, par excellence, to the true, off-the-beaten-path heart of the City of Lights.

My thoughts:

I had asked Harper to read and review this book because, well look at the cover with the beautiful art nouveau swirls.  When I saw that Carl V. also has this on his wish list, I even thought of sending him my copy.  Sorry Carl, I'm totally in love with this book and am keeping it.  It's so worth $14.99.

I had thought that this would be a list of the most beautiful places in Paris to take a stroll.  I was so wrong and it's so much better than that.

John Baxter is an amazing writer.  From the get go, he makes you realize that finding the most beautiful walk in Paris is different for everyone because everyone has their own perspective.  Is it strolling down St Germain or sitting at a café in the Luxembourg Gardens?  Peppered with his own stories, historical anecdotes, and black and white pictures scattered throughout the book -- sigh.  THIS is what I wanted my Paris in July read to be all about.  Talk about an armchair travel book.

Sit back, pick up this book and just enjoy the ride.  There were so many notes I wanted to take - passages to jot down and places I wanted to remember so I could visit whenever I next go to Paris.  But I decided to just savor this first read.  I'm planning on re-reading this lovely little book and take notes...books I should read, places I want to visit, food (THE FOOD!) and drinks I want to goes on an on.

John Baxter is available for giving literary walking tours - or whatever kind of tour you want.  One of the funny personal anecdotes he writes about it giving a trio of ladies from Texas not a literary tour but a culinary tour of Paris.  I would love to go on a tour with John Baxter - or just meet him in a café over café creme or a rum St James and just listen to his stories.

He's an obvious fan of Hemingway.  John Baxter even wrote a book that I'm dying to read called Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas.  I actually ran (well drove) to the library and checked out and read A Moveable Feast.  I love when books inspire you to read, eat, drink, and learn more about something. 

Check out John Baxter's website for more information about his tours and his Paris. 

Check out Harper Perennial for more information about John Baxter.

Also Reviewed by:

The Novel World
Starting Fresh

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Lot of Books

While I don't get an insane amount of books in the mail, I do keep adding to my collection.  Every Monday I keep meaning to do a Mailbox Monday post but I have a little guy who keeps taking up all my attention (I'll do a longer post on him in a few):

So here's some of my new additions...

From the mailbox, I received not one, but TWO copies of The Map of Time.  That's right...when I review I'll be giving away one of these beautiful copies.  Isn't the end paper just gorgeous!?!?

Books I won:

I got the first stack from Bibliophile by the Sea and I won the autographed copy of The Cleveland Creep from Stacy's Books (isn't Gage adorable?).

The Heart Specialist
The Little Women Letters
The Dressmaker

Books from the library book sale.  Yeah, I know it's a crazy should have seen the look on my husband's face.  I told him we all have our addictions and to not judge (I mean it could be designer handbags or shoes...)

The Devil's Company by David Liss - My husband and I listened to The Whiskey Rebels and loved it.  I'm going to be collecting his books now.

American Rust - On the 1001 Books List so I thought why not.

The Invisible Mountain - I thought I read something good about this one..and it's historical fiction.

The Kingdom of Ohio - Sounded good and I thought I read something about it too.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver - LOVED Poisonwood Bible so I'm collecting some of her stuff too.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton - Really enjoyed The House at Riverton (my review) and I have The Distant Hours to review as well.

His Dark Materials Trilogy - I read the first one, The Golden Compass (my review) and have been meaning to read the rest.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos - How awesome is it that I found a copy of this book right after I read his memoir? Definitely going to read this one soon.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell - I have three of his books now and need to get on reading him.

Behind the Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott - I've been wanting to do a LMA challenge for awhile now.  It may be a Fall or Winter thing though. 

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende - My favorite Allende book so far and I'm collecting her works.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Heard some good things I think.

Beside a Burning Sea - Think I heard good things...or it could have been bad. Not sure.

Foreign Tongue - Adding to my Paris in July reads.  Woohoo!

The God of Small Things - Think I've heard bad and good things.  Thought I'd try it out myself.

Naked by David Sedaris - Collecting his stuff too because I get such a kick out of his writing.

That's it for now!  Have you read any of these?  Or are they on your TBR list?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gatsby Movie

From my post yesterday, I love learning that you either love The Great Gatsby or you hate it.  I think there's a lot of people on the hate side.  BUT I was so excited to read today that they are making a movie!!  OK.  Yeah, it's been done before.  I absolutely adore the 2000 version with Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino:

From this website, it looks like Baz Luhrmann is directing with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy (two of my favorite actors as well).  What do you think?  Even if you did not like the book would you go see this movie? 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Greatness of Great Gatsby

The other day (yesterday?) I was telling my husband that he should read The Great Gatsby.  You know, F. Scott Fitzgerald's amazing classic doomed tale.  I was explaining to him about F. Scott, his wife Zelda, and the roaring twenties.  For some reason my husband thought it was a Dickens book (don't laugh too much, I've made similar mistakes). 

So it was awesome when I came across this article today on the Chicago Sun Times.  Wow.  You can't abbreviate The Great Gatsby.

I read The Great Gatsby the first time in high school and loved it.  I still love it after multiple re-readings.  What do you think?  Is this classic too adult for the typical high schooler? Or are we cheating the next generation by letting them miss out on amazing classic?

I'm Over at Books Distilled

One of the best things about blogging is meeting new people.  I recently found a great new book blog called Books Distilled.  Brooke has a wonderful idea of asking people their 5 Books They Can't Live Without.  I'm over there today so go check out my top 5!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

French Lessons - Ellen Sussman

Title: French Lessons
Author: Ellen Sussman
Paperback: 236 pages (ARE version)
Publisher: Ballantine/Random House
Published Date: June 2011
FTC: won from Random House Reader's Circle

I was so excited when I won Ellen Sussman's new novel French Lessons from Random House Reader's Circle.  Go over there and check out their website - it's pretty good!  I thought this would be the perfect book to start out my Paris in July reads.  A wonderful blogger, Bree, told me I should start with French Lessons so I jumped right in.  She was's the perfect start to a Parisian July.  That said, there's many things I did not like about this book and many things I did.  So here we go...

Back of the Book:

A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely expat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet; Riley with Philippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse Paris’s grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.

My Thoughts:

Let's start off with what I didn't like.  Books that have a lot (or any) martial infidelity always make me feel icky.  I'm not sure why.  It just bothers me.  Also be forewarned that's there's a lot of sex.  Not making love but S.E.X.

Josie - the first American is grieving over the loss of her, well let's just say it, married lover who recently died and she's pregnant with his child.  Ok.  So first, her married guy was happily married.  What?  Second, she got off birth control and they forgot to use a condom.  What?  Are people stupid?  So while I actually kind of liked Josie - I just don't get it.  Ew.  Moving on. 

Riley - the second American is a frustrated housewife with two children who is not in love with her husband, The Victor, anymore.  I just didn't relate to her.  She was frustrated that she is stuck with oozing breasts and can't go anywhere.  Her youngest is over a year old and she's still breast feeding??  If it was bothering her so much, then stop!  She also hates Paris and doesn't go anywhere and hates trying to learn the language.  Hmm.  So what does she do?  She sleeps with her tutor.  Yeah, because that solves things.

The lessons - mostly pointless.  Of the three students, Josie and Jeremy both speak fluently and don't need lessons.  Riley just doesn't want to learn.  A minor point but it still bothered me.

The men - Josie's married guy and Phillipe, the tutor Riley sleeps with.  Wow.  If I was going to risk my marriage or someone else's, I think I'd pick different types of guys.  They are both very self centered and not attractive to me at all.  Just because a guy thought I was attractive, doesn't mean I'd jump in bed with him and do his bidding.  These women seem to have no standards at all.  This bothered me.

Ok. So that seems like it's a lot and I'd really hate this book.  But there were aspects I really enjoyed.  I loved the Parisian setting.  If you want a short book to sweep you away to Paris for a day or two, grab this one.  Just look at a couple of the chapter headings:

Or this one - I loved these art nouveau signs when I was there:

Each chapter starts with a map of the city where the tutor and student spend their day.  I loved the sights and sounds of Paris.  She did an amazing job.  I also love that the whole book takes place in one day and with each account there's this thunder storm that plays a part.  Very clever.  I wanted to throw the book down in the middle with Riley and Phillipe's story, but then the book redeemed itself with the third story of Jeremy and Chantal.  Finally, I thought she had a realistic story.  (Oddly enough, how Ellen Sussman came about writing this book (watch the video here), the third story of Jeremy and Chantal, closely resembles her real life account.  While working in Paris, Ms. Sussman bought her husband French lessons and his tutor ended up being a real beauty.  It was, by far, my favorite story.) 

It's during Jeremy's story that it really comes out what this book is about.  Chantal tells Jeremy, "But sometimes we have to run away from ourselves in order to find ourselves." (pg 188)  Jeremy also asks the question, "What happens to your identity when you take it away from everything familiar?" (pg 189)  What do you think?

I really enjoyed the cover to my ARE but here is the one you'll find in the store:

Also Reviewed By:

The Things We Read
TLC Tours

Monday, July 11, 2011

Paris in July - French Kiss


I'm currently reading Ellen Sussman's completely adorable novel French Lessons and I am so jealous of people who can speak French. I can not. It reminded me that my friend here majored in French in college and I am dying to go to France with her.  She is afraid to fly though, which reminded me of one of my favorite movies, French Kiss

Have any of you seen this oldie but goodie?  Meg Ryan is afraid to fly but heads off to Paris after learning that her fiance has left her for a French "goddess."  Apart from the scenery and Kevin Kline's awesome performance (and the fact that Jean Reno is also in love him) is the soundtrack.  You can't have a French or Parisian themed anything without music. 

Check out Paris in July over at BookBath.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thoughts Without Cigarettes - Oscar Hijuelos

Title: Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir
Author: Oscar Hijuelos
Hardcover: 367 pages
Publisher: Gotham Books/Penguin
Publication Date: June 2011
FTC: free for TLC Book Tours

You may be thinking that I'm a bit crazy reading a memoir about an author I've never read before.  Oscar Hijuelos is the first Latino recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his book The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.  Now, I had heard of this book and the movie based on it The Mambo Kings (haven't seen that either but really want to now).  But just read the synopsis and see if you can figure out why I chose to read it - and why I'm so very very glad I did.

From TLC Book Tours:

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos has won multiple awards for his novels that feature locales as exotic as beautiful Havana and subjects as universal as family, dreams, love, and music.  For his latest project, he writes from the heart about the people and places that have inspired his internationally bestselling novels.  Thoughts Without Cigarettes will detail those developmental years of his life, immigrant life in New York in the 50s and 60s, his relationship with his father, an eye-opening return visit to Cuba later in life, influential time spent in Europe, and much more.  A comprehensive look at the development of an unlikely writer, Thoughts Without Cigarettes will offer a guide through Hijuelos’s innermost thoughts and experiences.

 About Oscar Hijuelos:

Oscar Hijuelos is the first Latino to have ever been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, which he won in 1990 for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.  He is also a recipient of the Rome Prize and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, among others.  His eight novels have been translated into over twenty-five languages.  Hijuelos was born in New York City and spent a very small part of his early years in Cuba.  He currently spends part of the year in Durham, North Carolina, where he teaches at Duke University.

My Thoughts:

Amazing.  I LOVE this memoir.  I would spend my mornings with a cup of coffee (wishing I has some fried plantains, muy delicioso) and sit and read.  His retelling of his life is so intimate and chock full of description and detail that I can't wait to read his novels.  There's this story of when he was little and he went to Cuba with his mother and brother and wow, I just loved the imagery.  There's a part where they are digging a hole to put a smoked pig when an iguana accidentally crawls inside.  To get the iguana out, they tie it up under a tree with a fire to smoke it out...but it accidentally smokes out a bunch of tarantulas from the tree instead.  I am left with this image of raining tarantulas.

I enjoyed his honesty with his childhood as a child of Cuban parents, a blond Irish looking one at that, who after a severe childhood illness and separation from his family, wasn't comfortable with speaking Spanish and really being Cuban.  It was a long life journey that finally took him back to his roots.

I'll have to say a big part of my enjoyment of this novel was simply the New York City different the city was back then.  He lived in Morningside Heights (118th street, now across from Columbia University).  He actually goes into the drug scene of the time (although never a big participant) and mentions the obvious resentment of Columbia taking over people's apartments and land (something I saw even today when living there).  I have to say I started tabbing the book like mad when Oscar Hijuelos starts going to college and what teachers he managed to snag!  He mentions a few handfuls of authors and books he loved and who influenced his writing. 

While I'm sure are thousands of people with stories just like Oscar Hijuelos, it is his obvious talent of telling the tale, set in the 60's and 70's of New York that made it a page turner.  I'll be honest here and say that I'm not quite finished with the book.  I have about seventy pages left but I am so engrossed that I can definitely recommend it.  I'll also be reading his novels in the very near future.  I actually have a copy of his book Beautiful Maria of My Soul sitting on my shelf.  If you like memoirs, books set in New York City, or just plain good writing, pick this one up.

Oscar Hijuelos’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Thursday, June 2nd:  Lit and Life
Friday, June 3rd:  The Brain Lair
Monday, June 6th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Wednesday, June 8th:  Suko’s Notebook
Thursday, June 9th:  Rundpinne
Friday, June 10th:  Regular Rumination
Monday, June 13th:  Bookstack
Wednesday, June 15th: A Fanatic’s Book Blog
Thursday, June 16th:  Life is a Patchwork Quilt
Monday, June 20th:  Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, June 21st:  Silver and Grace
Thursday, June 23rd:  Bonjour, Cass!
Monday, June 27th:  Dolce Bellezza
Tuesday, June 28th:  In the Next Room
Friday, July 8th:  A Library of My Own
Date TBD:  Colloquium – reschedule

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Down From Cascom Mountain - Ann Joslin Williams

Title: Down from Cascom Mountain
Author: Ann Joslin Williams
Paperback: 324 pages (ARC version)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
FTC: free for TLC Book Tours

Isn't the cover of this book gorgeous?  I'll be honest here and say that it's one of the main reasons why I decided to read and review Down from Cascom Mountain for TLC Book Tours.  I was born in the Colorado mountains so I will always have an affinity towards that type of landscape. I also thought it was interesting that Ann Joslin Williams' father was a National Book Award winner so I thought she'd probably be an interesting writer.  I was not disapointed.  Her writing is beautiful and the setting of Cascom Mountain in New Hampshire just gorgeous. 

The Back of the Book:

In Down From Cascom Mountain, newlywed Mary Hall brings her husband to settle in the rural New Hampshire of her youth to fix up the house she grew up in and to reconnect to the land that defined her, with all its beauty and danger. But on a mountain day hike, she watches helplessly as her husband falls to his death. As she struggles with her sudden grief, in the days and months that follow, Mary finds new friendships–with Callie and Tobin, teenagers who live and work on the mountain, and with Ben, the gentle fire watchman. All are haunted by their own losses, but they find ways to restore hope in one another, holding firmly as they navigate the rugged terrain of the unknown and the unknowable, and loves lost and found. 

My Thoughts:

Right here I'll warn you that this book has such a sad center story - Mary's husband falls off Cascom Mountian and dies just days after the couple arrive.  Mary's only been with Michael for nine months but her grief is profound.  This is one of those situations and stories that scare me a lot because my husband and I go hiking and what if that happened?  So yeah, this story is sad and terrifying for me.

What made this book a page turner though was the writing.  It's definitely a character driven story and Ann Joslin Williams is a beautiful writer.  She made Cascom Mountain come alive and the characters were so realistic.  While Mary was the main character, the reader also gets to know some of the local kids.  Cascom Mountain has a tourist lodge where the local teens work during the summer.  Callie was one of the kids and she's written so well.  Tobin, a local teen who seems OCD or borderline autistic, helps Mary as she settles into living without her husband.

The back of my book has a blurb where it states "this assured debut novel wrestles with grief and desire" and I really couldn't describe this book themes better.  Mary spends the summer overcoming her grief and finding how Cascom Mountain can heal.  For Callie, at sixteen, this is the summer of her sexual awakening.  Bsaically it's a wonderful character driven story set on Cascom Mountain one summer.  Beautiful.

Ann Joslin William’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 13th:  Along the Way
Thursday, June 16th:  Caribousmom – review
Thursday, June 16th:  Caribousmom – author guest post
Monday, June 20th:  Nomad Reader
Wednesday, June 22nd:  Debbie’s Book Bag
Thursday, June 23rd:  A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Monday, June 27th:  BookNAround
Wednesday, June 29th:  Life in the Thumb
Thursday, June 30th:  Colloquium
Friday, July 1st:  Rundpinne
Tuesday, July 5th:  In the Next Room
Wednesday, July 6th:  A Library of My Own
Thursday, July 7th:  Simply Stacie

isit Ann Joslin William’s website at

Friday, July 1, 2011

Paris in July

I love that BookBath and Thyme for Tea are hosting Paris in July.  I absolutely adore this idea.  Here's what it entails:

There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of Paris in July - just blog about anything French and you can join in. Some ideas for the month might include:

- Reading a French book - fiction or non-fiction

- Watching a French movie

- Listening to French music

- Cooking French food

- Experiencing French art, architecture or travel (lucky Tamara!)

- Or anything else French inspired you can think of...
So I think I'm going to join in.  I have no clue how I'm going to fit in Parisian reads amongst my other reads but hopefully I'll find the time.  I'm sure my July will stretch into August and September but really, who cares.  I attempted to join in last year and did not read a single thing...but check out my post for some of my photos of when I went to Paris a long time ago.

Here's some of my review copies I hope to read:

1. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
2. French Lessons - Ellen Sussman
3. The Most Beautiful Walk in the World - John Baxter

Maybe I'll even try watching a French film or try a French dish.  Who knows?