That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris

That's Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris Book Cover That's Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris
Vicki Lesage
Travel
218

If you've ever traveled to Paris, lived in the City of Light or dreamed of setting foot on its cobblestoned streets, you'll enjoy escaping into this collection of short stories about France's famed capital.

From culinary treats (and catastrophes) to swoon-worthy romantic encounters (and heartbreaking mishaps), this anthology takes you on a journey through one of the most famous cities in the world.

View this cosmopolitan metropolis through the chic eyes of Parisians, francophiles and travellers who fell in love with the city and haven't quite gotten around to leaving yet...

I received a copy of That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm from the lovely Vicki Lesage. You might remember her name from a review I wrote last year, of her book Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

That’s Paris is a collection of tales, both fictional and biographical, that beautifully describe the details of a city that everyone thinks they know. Diving deeper than the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, baguettes and snooty women, each story is very short, a mere soundbite really, and shines a light on a new aspect of the city.

The stories cover all sorts – from the advertising in the metro stations, to the recovery of a widow; from the musings of a mother missing her expat daughter, to the dark side of the love locks adorning Parisian bridges. Some of the authors call the city home, others have never even read a book about the place. But each contributed to painting a detailed picture of a city that holds so many secrets that one could never hope to discover them all. Even the foreword, by notable author Stephen Clarke (himself an expat living in Paris), was a love letter to the city.

I really enjoyed each glimpse into the city, from such varied perspectives. One of my favourite stories was early on in the book, and described the five tests that Parisians like to put foreigners through when it comes to their particular brand of fine dining. I think I’ve personally made it to level 3, but plan on working my way up to the harder ones!

My only qualms with the book were how very short some of the stories were – I wanted more to sink my teeth into! Also, I sometimes felt a tad discombobulated by the switch between fiction and non-fiction – I might have preferred either one or the other. That said, I did love the diversity of the stories. Lesage herself contributed several, and her mother also wrote one (which was oh so sweet).

For anyone who thinks they know Paris well, or wants to know her a little better, I would definitely recommend picking up That’s Paris. It’s a delightful, easy read that transported me back to a place that I love to explore, and I’m certain that it could do the same for any one of you.

Amazon

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Review: The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman

The Reluctant Elf Book Cover The Reluctant Elf
Michele Gorman
Chick Lit
129

Meet Britain's Worst Innkeeper

Single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie, has five days to become the ultimate B&B hostess to save her beloved Aunt Kate’s livelihood.

When Aunt Kate ends up in the hospital, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter are called to rural Wales to stand in at the B&B. Without the faintest idea how to run a hotel (she can barely run her own life), Lottie must impress the picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

But will Danny, the local taxi driver who she hires to help her, really be Santa’s little helper, or the Grinch who stole Christmas?

I received a copy of The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

I love a little bit of Christmas reading to imbue me with the holiday spirit! In fact, I think I like the lead up to Christmas day, filled with pretty decorations, good will, and holiday traditions, better than Christmas Day itself! Gorman sent me a copy of her latest short story, and it was super quaint – a great holiday read, and in a perfect, one-sitting size!

When Lottie’s beloved Aunt ends up in a coma just before Christmas, Lottie is left to rescue her dilapidated bed and breakfast from foreclosure. With just a few days, no helpers, and no DIY expertise, Lottie is in a Christmas pickle. Luckily, she and her daughter manage to enlist the help of their taxi driver, and together they plug holes in plaster with toothpaste, improvise a Victorian era Christmas, and manage to please their important guests – thus saving Christmas! There’s an added little sprinkle of romance, for good measure.

This brief story was vert well executed. Sometimes short stories don’t have enough time to satisfy my curiosity. Gorman, however, managed to give the main character enough backstory to make her actions more understandable, and successfully began and wound up the entire story, with no loose ends. There was humour and love, the most important elements in a happy Christmas season. It definitely fulfilled my desire for a little Christmas cheer in word-form!

I’ve still got a few more Christmas reads I’d like to get to; such as It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley, Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson, and The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown. I’ll let you know if they’re good! Otherwise, if you need a recommendation RIGHT NOW to kick of your Christmas, check out my review of the Merry and Bright Christmas Anthology.

Amazon | Book Depository

Christmas Books 2015

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REVIEW: London Eyes by Frances Thompson

London Eyes Book Cover London Eyes
Frances Thompson
Travel Fiction
451

London Eyes is a collection of short stories set in London.

Written by Guardian Top London Blogger Frances M. Thompson, London Eyes is a compilation of thought provoking contemporary fiction inspired by the sights, sounds and souls of the world's most popular, and some say greatest, city.

Meet the Wizard of Elephant & Castle who stirs a secret ingredient into the cocktails he serves in his bar, follow newly-divorced Georgina in The Tourist as she goes on a bus tour of the city... after twenty-one years of living in London, and find out how and why one young woman uses the busy streets of the City of London to disappear in An Invisible Girl. In A to Zed two truanting teenagers find out more about a Shepherd's Bush gangster than they expect, and in Angel you begin to understand the lengths some people go to to avoid loneliness in London. Travel across the capital's vast metropolis as you learn the reasons why Mick is London's most flirtatious cabbie in Keep the Change, and discover what it is that keep The Ghosts of London Underground trapped in the abandoned Tube stations below us.

London Eyes is a collection of short stories for the Londoner, the London-obsessed, or the one time visitor who dreams of arriving or returning.

I received a copy of London Eyes by Frances Thompson from the author, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

London Eyes was a collection of short stories that exposed the real London, and it’s quirky inhabitants; magic bartenders, eccentric single women, the elderly, taxi drivers, and even a cat. Each story showed a different angle to one of the many aspects of the bustling city, be it a new neighbourhood, the iconic red bus tours, or an out of the way pub.

Rather than writing about a tourist’s London, I feel Thompson deliberately avoided any clichés, and stuck to slightly more obscure stories – perhaps at times too obscure – the finer details of which hinged on things unique to London, like the cyclists battling the congested traffic, or it’s signature public transport. I think locals would enjoy reading about the neighbourhoods that don’t usually feature in London stories.

I liked the wide variety of perspectives covered in the stories. The characters covered such a huge range – including that of a cat, which I enjoyed! The use of such different characters clearly reflected the bustle of London. Personally, I loved the sweet story of an elderly couple who regularly leave their nursing home to attend the weddings of strangers in churches that they admire – and check them off their bucket list of wedding churches to experience.

My problem with short stories is often that I’m left wanting more information about the people I’m reading about. In this case, I was usually happy with the little snapshots that I was receiving – however, there were a few stories that I felt need another tiny bit of information, just to complete them. That said. I feel that they were written to be ambiguous on purpose, perhaps to illustrate that not everything is as it seems in London, but it was still a little frustrating.

On the whole, I enjoyed Thompson’s take on a collection of short stories celebrating London. Each story was so different, and at times even bizzare, that I never knew what to expect. The creativity in coming up with so many different vignettes was great, and I really appreciated the different perspectives on London. It was a collection that I think avid travellers would appreciate as much as London locals would.

Amazon

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REVIEW: “Woman in Bed” Jessica Keener

Women in Bed Book Cover Women in Bed
Jessica Keener
Short Stories
162

Jessica Keener returns with this collection of nine stories that thematically address variations of love -- love of self, family, and sexual relationships -- from loneliness and isolation, desperation and rejection -- to need and passion, forgiveness and, finally, to love found.

"Secrets" follows a young woman that gets involved with a female friend who pushes her boundaries around sex, love, and intimacy. In "Papier Mache," a college student who loses brother to suicide is grieving and gets entangled with a professor who is a critic and over-intellectualizes everything. The student challenges the professor and vice versa in a strange power dance with emotional fallout. "Boarders" tells the story of a young college student who drops out to be with her narcissistic lover. She lives in grim boarding house with desolate, lonely men until she realizes that she must flee to find something better, healthier, more nurturing and loving. "Woman with Birds in her Chest" involves a woman who leaves her social worker job and realizes she has never truly nurtured herself. Her ensuing breakdown puts her loving marriage to the test. "Recovery" tells of a young woman in a hospital room who witnesses death, escapes her own, and comes to terms with life's uncertainties and the unexpected power of sibling love. In "Shoreline," a woman leaves her husband, goes to a cottage on the beach, and has a flirtation with a client. She soon discovers that she must end her marriage before she can move on to find a new love. In "Bird of Grief," a grad student recovering from a broken relationship projects her anger and grief onto a new man, eventually coming to terms with letting go. "Forgiveness" is a spare, stark story of two sisters, family violence, and the quest for forgiveness. In "Heart," a woman meets her lover in a Paris hotel room and goes through a cycle of anxiety, worry, and the expectation that things will not work out, only to be surprised by the goodness that emerges.

Poignant, surprising, funny and profound, and always perceptive and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

I never quite know whether I like short stories or not. In some ways, I appreciate the snapshot-like aspect of the condensed story. On the other hand, I miss the extension, the detail, the closure of a longer, more resolved novel.

Jessica Keener’s Women in Bed contains nine stories about women and the relationships they have; with other women, with their families, with their peers and their superiors. Keener’s writing style is distinctive throughout; much of the time the writing is almost disjointed, and gives the impression that the reader is floating through life alongside the protagonists. It’s a strange experience, much like I imagine being inside the head of a character might be like, all broken thought patterns and emotion. However, the broken exposition could be frustrating, as it often wasn’t clear exactly what was happening – although, perhaps that was what was intended, as a nod to how we often don’t know how to make sense of our thoughts and actions.

Sometimes I wonder if there are two kinds of writers; the storytellers and the photographers. Equally talented, but both writing a different story. Storytellers are masters of expanding a narrative and giving it a life of it’s own. Photographers have the ability to capture a moment, or a period, in time; describing it in detail or with such truth that it is clear in the mind of the reader. A storyteller and a photographer could tell the same story in two completely different ways. Keener definitely seems more like the photographer-type.

While I still like my short stories a little more fleshed out, so as to get to know my characters more broadly, Keener’s collection was an interesting read; not just in topic but in writing style. A tribute to women, Women in Bed is a more a more existential, emotional read – if that sound like your cup of tea, definitely try it! You can find it here or here. I’d be interested to know what you think!

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