Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Left Paris Hungry

I am re-posting this from another blog that I started, but do not keep up.  Going to keep all of my good tidbits here... Hope you enjoy.  When my daughter talks about Paris and all of the wonderful food, I think back to this article I wrote and I still feel the same way... I left Paris Hungry.... 

I had the wonderful opportunity to take a mini-break in Paris, during the middle of the week.  A friend of mine had taken her sons to Paris for their Spring Break and asked if I would like to join them for a few days.  What girl wouldn’t want to take up such an opportunity?  So, my daughter and I boarded the EuroStar and took the train from London to Paris.  (Gotta love modern technology...only 2.5 hours UNDER the English Chanel).

It was a very, VERY quick trip with lots of walking.  Two days isn’t nearly enough time to Paris.  Even though I had recently been, there were still places I wanted to see and more experiences were to be had.  Currently living in England, I understand how expensive it is to live in Western Europe...when you convert pounds to dollars, the £7.95 burger you just ate at the pub actually cost you $ adds up.  Though England has nothing on prices compared to Paris.  Little cafes in the back streets of gay Paris will charge you 8.95 Euros for Croque Monsieur – two pieces of white bread with a slice of ham and cheese that had been placed under the broiler for about 3 minutes (The one we had actually cost 14.95 Euro).  Outrageous! 

The Violets of March

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
Series (if applicable)None
Publisher:  Plume
Page Count: 304
Source:  Won this one from a contest at Chick Lit Is Not Dead blog (
A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.
In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.
Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.
A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.


Emily Wilson’s perfect husband turned out to be not so perfect…he left her for another woman.  Emily wrote a best-selling novel several years prior to the opening of the story, but has been living with writer’s block ever since and cannot seem to find a story.  Somehow, Emily’s great-aunt Bee learns of Emily’s woes, and invites her to visit her on Bainbridge Island, in the Puget Sound.  This is one reason I was so excited for this book, as I have been to Bainbridge Island and fell in love with the island.

Emily says that she will stay for a month, and leaves New York City the day after her divorce is final.  While staying in her Aunt Bee’s house, Emily reminisces on the countless summers she spent there as a young girl.  She had been away from Bainbridge Island for ten years, because her husband never wanted to visit.  Aunt Bee’s home is rather large with several rooms that Emily had never really been able to discover, as Aunt Bee kept them locked.  This time, instead of having her usual room (the one she remembered from her childhood), she is placed in a room where she discovers a diary in the nightstand drawer.  While Emily is reading the diary, she actually thinks it is her aunt’s writing of a fictional story, and not an actual diary from 1943.  But Emily starts to uncover facts that support her thoughts that this might be an actual diary, and not a work of fiction.  The story in the diary progresses as Emily is courted by two different men on the island…one from her past and another whom her Aunt Bee warns her against.

I have to admit that I had high hopes for this story, but had a difficult time with the flow of the language.  It seemed rather stilted, especially the conversations.  Everyone talked the same way, and Ms. Jio seemed to have a thing against contractions.  I did enjoy the diary parts, as the language flowed a little more smoothly.  Also, having been to Bainbridge Island, from the writing I did not get a very good sense of the island itself.  The ferry ride was well-described, with the smells, but you didn’t have a sense of the people on the ferry… I always found that a great place to people watch.

I found myself confused quite frequently as to the relationship between some of the characters.  Aunt Bee was very strict on who she socialized with, or with whom Emily should see.  The characters in the diary were some of the same in ‘present day;’ however, the author changed every single name, so you had no sense of which person was who…and that made it a little difficult to piece the story between the past and the present.  Ms. Jio had good intentions in making this a mystery, but having to have it all wrap up in the last fifty pages because the correct information was not given along the way, makes it a little difficult to accept.  I had a hunch of what was going on, but it was so convoluted that I found myself flipping back and forth throughout the story, trying to piece it together…I stopped myself from making charts and diagrams, though.

Emily’s character was rather flat.  I really had no empathy for her and I found myself wondering several times if the main character was based on her, as she was a writer and could only write a paragraph or two at a time.  I sometimes wondered if Ms. Jio did the same thing, as there were several inconsistent facts throughout the story.  The two different love interests of Emily were also rather shallow.  The story really doesn’t go into why she chose one guy over the other.  I sometimes wonder how books get published with seemingly little editing.  Wouldn’t an editor ask for more detail or more emotion? 

I did give this book 3 stars, as I found I was more invested in the diary portions of the story, and wanted to see how it tied together with the present story (which was still a little confusing when all was said and done).  I wish I could have gotten to know the characters better, as I am sure they all had great stories to tell.  However, I don’t know if I could recommend this book.  I know that several others have fallen in love with this story…I am just not one of them.

Favorite Quote (optional)“We’re two old women who haven’t had a date in several decades, Emily,” said Evelyn.  “Give us a little nugget.”

Rating: 3 Stars

Tag Suggestions: Contemporary, Diary, Historical, Clean Romance

Sunday, June 19, 2011

13 Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

This was a neat little YA book.  Virginia Blackstone, ‘Ginny,’ is sent on a quest from her recently deceased Aunt Peg.  Ginny is a seventeen year old girl who doesn’t get out much and is rather shy.  Only when Ginny was with her Aunt Peg did she get out and do many things that she normally wouldn’t do on her own.  About three months after receiving news that her aunt died, she received a letter telling her to pack a backpack with no maps or guide books.  She was given enough money to get a passport and a plane ticket to London, but first she had stop in New York City for a package which has 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

These little letters sent her all across Europe to meet various people or just to experience an area.  The description that Maureen Johnson gives on the various cities was fascinating.  The first European city that Ginny flies to is London, and having recently been there, Ms. Johnson did a fabulous job of showing how the city appears to someone who has never been there before.  From figuring out the currency to trying to get into the Underground (Tube), it was very amusing to read these incidents.

First of all, I found it incredible that a seventeen year-old girl would go and do all of these things on her own...especially one who is a professed shy person who didn’t leave her home-town, normally.  Then, the aunt demanding that she have no contact with family.  As a parent, that would NOT fly!  When reading this novel, one has to suspend reality.  It was a fun read, but somewhat unrealistic.

Next, some of the characters were a bit overdone or not drawn well enough.  I should have felt more for what Ginny was feeling and going through, but thought that she was just acting like a normal teenager, regardless of the fact that she has been given an opportunity of a lifetime - that to travel around Europe and see different places and experience different cultures.  Instead of reveling in this experience, she seemed bored and annoyed to be sent to all of these places, but did so because she was told to in a letter.  Keith was just plain weird, if you ask me, but leave it to a teenage girl who hasn't been kissed before to fall for the first guy who does kiss her!  I wanted to learn more about Richard, as he seemed to be a very interesting character, and I thought that he would be more 'wounded'.

After finishing this story, I would have thought that Ginny would have come up with more epiphanies than she did.  It was an amazing journey that her aunt sent her on, but it was somewhat aimless, it seemed, as Ginny did not obviously experience the same things that her Aunt Peg did when she took that journey, as a much older lady. 

The story was a neat concept, and some of the descriptions of locations was wonderful, but I thought it was a bit far-fetched.  I would have liked to see Ginny ‘grow’ more as the story progressed.  I would have liked to have seen Ginny experience places better, have her ‘understand’ the significance of the various places that her aunt sent her to.  However, as I mentioned earlier, Ginny was so much younger than her aunt when Peg went to these places, and Ginny was not like her Aunt Peg in many ways... the first being how Peg was running away from a disease that took her life.  I felt that Ginny was too young to take such a trip and understand what her aunt wanted her to learn. 

There is a follow-on book and I have to say that I really don’t have a desire to continue this story.  It might be a great book for younger people to read, but hopefully it will NOT give them the idea to travel across Europe with very little money and completely on their own with NO form of communication with their family.  There were a few ‘cautionary’ experiences along the way...and, yes, I do know that this was fiction...very much so!  I just wish that this 'quest' story had more growth of the main character and more tips for young adults if they do decide to travel abroad (safety and really ENJOYING the experiences that they have, not just running from one place to another, because someone told you to see these places).

3 Stars

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Top Ten - Favorite Places

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and theBookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists.

Favorite literary places, be there real or imagined!  
There is no particular order for my places...What are your favorite literary places?

Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Something about a large English manor home with extensive grounds.  Walking around Chatsworth House in Derbyshire was a dream come true!

New Orleans seen in Midnight Bayou by Nora Roberts.  The old homes, the Latin Quarter and the people of that world just seemed inviting.  

London, at various times, even with all of its muck and putrescence, of Elizabethan era in books by Fiona Buckley and her Ursula Blanchard series, or Sharon Kay Penman’s Justin de Quincy’s series.

Bath in NorthangerAbbey by Jane Austen.  Reading about the Pump Room and the Assembly Rooms, with the concerts and balls, the thought of thousands of candles illumining these various aspects.

Medieval Paris in The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley – the court of Louis XIV and Versailles, Hotel Dieu, just to name a few...

Napa Valley and the Italian vineyard seen in The Villa by Nora Roberts.  I have always wanted to travel to Napa Valley, better yet...own a vineyard and have a B&B there...wouldn’t that be ideal? 

Guernsey Island of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.  It’s a small Channel island off the coast of France (but English) that was brought to life in this gem of a book, populated with quirky people that makes you want to go and discover them for yourself!

New Zealand from The Trespass by Barbara Ewing.  The wild and rugged coastlines, the windswept lands, the coves... this book was rich in description.

The world of East by Eidth Pattou.  This fantasy novel in a far away castle – I guess it’s more of the feeling of the story than actual places...

The Elves world in Once a Hero by Michael Stackpole.  The Elves lived up in an elaborate Treeworld, and I found myself swinging between the trees with the characters.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Practically Perfect

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Here is my Teaser:

They regarded each other, both aware that they were just putting of the evil moment.  Mrs. Gordon had to be faced. 

Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde (pg 173)

This is the first time that I took from where I haven't read yet (just started the book).  Now I am intrigued!

Quick note on a Monday Musing....same website - "Where is your favorite place to read?"

Quick answer...a BIG comfy chair by a picturesque window, if I can manage.  Throw in a crackling fire and a soft afghan, and the picture is complete.

Unfortunately, the only time I do get to read is at night before falling asleep, so it's usually in bed.

Would love to hear about your favorite place to read!  Thanks for stopping by!
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