Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review -- The Enemies of Versailles

I read the first two books by Sally Christie in the Mistresses of Versailles series and enjoyed them, but my favorite might be this final book The Enemies of Versailles. The books stand alone, but it's intriguing to read them in order to see how King Louis XV evolved from a religious, devoted husband to a man who resisted the efforts of his family to force him back to the church as his guilt ate away at him.
But the books are not told through the viewpoint of the king, instead, for this final book, we see the world of Versailles through one of his daughters, Adelaide, and his last mistress Jeanne du Barry. Perhaps there were never two women more different. Adelaide was born as a princess of France. She avoided marrying so she could stay in the luxury of Versailles, and although she tried to do good works, she always followed etiquette and thought the poor should stay in their place. She never had any sympathy for the plight of those outside the chateau.
Jeanne, however, was born into a poor family and went to school at a convent. Her beauty propelled her into the wealth of Versailles and the arms of the King, but she always had a kind heart, even for those who hated her.
This book is full of rich details that help the readers feel as if they are at Versailles, sharing the gossip and the intrigue, but also the emotions of the historical characters. Good historical fiction is a great way to get a grasp on the times the characters lived through, and this one does that. It has stuck with me through the end when (spoiler alert/not really) the French Revolution sees the next king Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette beheaded.
The actions of the king and all of the people in Versailles feel so real as I finished the book last week and saw the health care plan and the budget put out by  the Congress and President of the United States. It makes me realize that the people in power, again, have no idea what middle class and working people are going through.
This book is a fast read and whimsical escape into the past, at least until the end when the reality of repeating history might jar the reader.
I highly recommend it.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can win a copy of The Enemies of Versailles by leaving a comment on my blog and letting me know you'd like a copy.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- French Rhapsody


Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

I had some extra points on my Amazon account, so I ordered a paperback that I can take with me to France. I'm always looking for something good to read as I travel, and books set in France are
perfect.
I found this book, French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain and didn't even read the summary before I ordered it. I truly enjoyed his novel The Red Notebook, and his other novel The President's Hat was also a fun read.
Laurain is French and sets his books in France with real French people, unlike many of us who write novels about Americans or Brits reacting to travels in France.
This novel tells the story of Alain, who had a band in the 1980s but gave up his music dream and became a doctor. Then he receives a letter that went awry and should have reached him in 1983 that offers him and his band a music contract. Should he track down his band members and try at music again? What could have been if only the letter hadn't gotten lost?
I'll have to resist opening this book until we leave for France. Maybe I should stow it in my suitcase now.
I ordered this book on Friday and it appeared on my front porch today, Sunday. So weird. I have Amazon prime, but I didn't expect it on a Sunday.
How about you? Have you read a book set in France that you love? Please share.
And, if not, I encourage you to try Paris Runaway, It's fast-paced and will definitely put you smack dab in France, at least the way I experience it.
Here's a blurb to tempt you further:
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris, all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with food, books, movies, stories and pictures. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review -- Abby's Journey

In the novel Abby's Journey by Steena Holmes, the author tells the story of Abby, a 20-year-old girl who has battled illness all of her life, suddenly healthy for a year.

Her grandmother swoops in with a surprise trip to Europe, especially the Christmas markets in Germany that her mother always dreamed of visiting. Her father, who raised her alone after Abby's mother died in childbirth, resists allowing her to go, fearing for her health and for what his life might be without her at home. This story changes perspective so the story is told through Abby's eyes, through the grandmother, Millie's, viewpoint, and through the father's voice.
What I liked about this book: This was a sweet book with some lovely descriptions. Anyone who enjoys travel will be carried away to Europe in the author's descriptive passages, like this one about the Christmas market in Salzburg from the grandmother's viewpoint:
Author Steena Holmes
Abby grabbed her hand to pull her close, and together they walked arm in arm, down the street. The roads were cobbled, and streetlights in the shape of stars were strung along the lanes, casting a soft glow onto the shops and people as they walked. 

The music, the setting, the large Christmas trees, the illuminated castle up on the hill -- it was all perfect. Everything she'd thought a Christmas market would be and should be. 
 The characters were well developed with many side twists so that Abby's Journey was not the only complication going on. The support of family and of a charming Canadian village added to the overall positive feel of the book.

What could have improved: The tension and drama in the book could have been intensified so that the reader got caught up more, wondering what would occur. I also had a hard time with the basic premise, which was carried out in the first book Saving Abby. In that book, Abby's mother became pregnant with her and realized she had a brain tumor. She refused treatment so that Abby could be born, thus leading to her own death and Abby growing up ill and without a mother. If it were my daughter, no chance that I would let her wait for treatment if she was pregnant. The life we have is more precious than the potential life, in my opinion, plus the sacrifices that the father had to make in order to raise his baby alone. So those controversies played in my mind while I read this novel.

This is definitely a novel that I enjoyed reading, in spite of, or maybe because of, some of the controversies that went with it.

The publisher has offered one free copy of this book to someone in the United States or Canada, so let me know if you're interested and I'll enter you in the giveaway. Make sure I can get in touch with you to get your address if you win.


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- 55 Days


Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

In 55 days, I'll be in France again.
Can't wait!

Here I am in the French countryside in 1985 as an au pair.


In 1991, I dragged my husband along for the first time.


Bicycling around Provence and across the Pont du Gard. 


Eating ice cream in Aix en Provence.


And just a few years ago in Isle sur la Sorgue in the south of France. 
Do you see a pattern? I'm pretty much always smiling and happy. Well, it's vacation, what's not to like?
I'm looking forward to our vacation in France, in preparation for our move to France in the fall.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.