Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Summer of France: Review and Giveaway

J'étais excité!  I looked forward to reading The Summer of France by Paulita Kincer.  Although I've never traveled to France, I hope to someday.  The lovely, impressionistic cover of this book caught my eye, and the idea of starting my summertime reading with a book set in France during the summer was very appealing to me. 

Published in 2012, The Summer of France is the story of Fia Randolph and her family.  Unemployed and wanting to improve her life,  Fia moves from Ohio to Provence with her husband, Grayson, and their teenage twins, Kasey and West, to take over her uncle's bed and breakfast.  She goes to France with romantic notions, and pictures herself wearing long skirts and walking to the market for fresh baguettes.  She wants to help Uncle Martin, and wishes to have a wonderful summer with her family in Provence.  However, Uncle Martin's burdensome secret, the heavy workload of the bed and breakfast, and new family problems, conspire against Fia's vision of an idyllic summer in France.

The Summer of France is short (about 220 pages), and I read it quickly.  It's funny, light, and sexy.  It's what I'd call a fun book. 

The book is told in two perspectives, that of Fia and Uncle Martin.  Fia is the protagonist and her chapters are written in the first person, whereas Uncle Martin's are presented in the third person.  Some of the chapters are extremely short--just a couple of pages.  This isn't necessarily bad, but as the chapters do not always alternate, I wondered if some of the chapters could have been combined.  As far as content goes, some of it seemed implausible to me, such as the chase scenes, while other aspects were too hackneyed.  (For example, the idea that having extramarital affairs in France is the norm; maybe it is, but it just seemed a bit too clichéd.)  Furthermore, the book felt unfinished to me.  I had to check to see if I was reading an ARC (advance reading copy), or the finished product; it could have been more polished; it seemed more like a series of sketches, rather than a complete novel.  Lastly and perhaps most importantly, I did not connect deeply enough with any of the characters, not even the main character, Fia.

That being said, though, I enjoyed reading the book, largely because of the setting and the references to food and art.  I found The Summer of France entertaining, in spite of the issues I had with it.

France Book Tours is offering an international giveaway for an ebook of The Summer of France.

  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For another chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this giveaway on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, July 8.  One winner will be selected randomly and announced on Tuesday, June 9.  Bonne chance!



Thanks to Emma from France Book Tours for sending me a copy of this novel.  For more reviews of this book, please visit the other stops on The Summer of France Book Tour.

Commentaires bienvenus.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mailbox Monday: Summertime


No scarcity here!  I have plenty of books to keep me entertained all summer long.  Few things are as enjoyable as sitting outside to read in the summertime (unless it's unbearably hot).  Pictured are the books I've received in the mail over the last few months.  Many of these I won on various book blogs, as noted below:







Thank you all for these wonderful giveaways!


Other books also arrived in the mail, including The Rebels Of Cordovia by Linda Weaver Clarke, Last Train to Omaha by Ann Whitely-Gillen, and The Summer of France by Paulita Kincer, which will be my next review.



Created by Marcia, who has set up several book blogs as well as a Mailbox Monday blog, this meme has been "on tour" for the past few years.  This month, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza. What new books have you discovered in your mailbox recently?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Flight Behavior

"Unearthly beauty had appeared to her, a vision of glory to stop her in the road."
~Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

Sometimes, seeing is not believing.

Published in 2012, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is the story of Dellarobia Turnbow, a farm wife who lives in Appalachia with her husband, Cub, and their two small children, Cordelia and Preston.  Dellarobia married young--at the age of seventeen--because she got pregnant, which marked the end of her formal education.  One day, as Dellarobia hikes up a mountain to meet someone, she encounters a "forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire".  Dazzled by this vision, and not sure what she's seeing, this remarkable sight affects Dellarobia in a profound way, and marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in her life.

Male Monarch, courtesy of Wikipedia
There is a lot I could say about Flight Behavior--certainly more than I could ever articulate in a short review on my blog.  It's a book about complex subjects, including marriage and family, and the "magic" of science and nature.  Quite simply, though, I relished every page in this exquisite book.  The author has a background in biology, and the science surrounding the monarch butterflies presented in this story, through the work Dr. Ovid Byron and other characters, adds a realistic and fascinating dimension to it.  I learned many things about monarch butterflies in Flight Behavior.  For example, male monarchs have two black spots on their hind wings (click on photo to enlarge).

Flight Behavior is suffused with humanity, humor, and grace.  I love the way that Barbara Kingsolver writes, the way she thinks. She brought me to a place I knew little about, rural Appalachia.  Through her descriptions, I was in the mountains and wet woods, which burst to life through the people, butterflies, and farm animals.  The protagonist, Dellarobia, is real and flawed, but also very likable.    Both sharp and feisty, Dellarobia and her mother-in-law, Hester, are competitive with each other and butt heads quite often.  I wanted Dellarobia to be happier and to reach (at least some of) the potential she relinquished when she got married (I also wanted to extinguish her cigarette cravings).  Dellarobia and her husband shop at second-hand shops not because it's fashionable but because that's all they can afford; they're struggling to make ends meet, and have few possessions (they do not even own Christmas tree ornaments).  But Dellarobia's life is rich in a different sense.  She's a dedicated and caring mother, who awakens the budding scientist in her son, Preston (and will hopefully do the same for her daughter, Cordie, when she's a bit older).
 
Female Monarch, courtesy of Wikipedia
Although this beautifully written novel centers around a family, it focuses as well on larger, controversial, and contemporary issues, the impact of global warming and climate change on the environment.  I do think we need to think more about the long-term effects of our choices and actions, and care for the earth today.  Flight Behavior is a thought-provoking book that I enjoyed very much, one that I'll continue to think about for a long time.  Interestingly, while I was reading this novel, my sister-in-law, Kristine, was posting on Facebook about monarch butterflies and her milkweed plants.  I want some of these plants for my own garden--I adore monarchs!

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me this book.  For more reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's book tour for Flight Behavior.  This was my first book by Barbara Kingsolver, and I'm now very interested in reading The Lacuna, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and other works by this no-longer-new-to-me author.

Your comments are welcomed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Really Random Tuesday #67: Quotes about Books and Reading

The Reader by Fragonard, courtesy of Wikipedia

"The world was hers for the reading.”
 ~Betty Smith
"You could never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."
~C.S. Lewis
"Books are a uniquely portable magic."
~Stephen King
"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!  How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book!"
~Jane Austen
~~~~~~~
“Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.”
~Jane Smiley
“Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.”
~Napoleon Bonaparte

“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading has opened to me; I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life.  As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.”
~Malcolm X
“I am a part of everything that I have read.”
~Theodore Roosevelt
~~~~~~~
“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
 ~Henry David Thoreau
“I am reading six books at once, the only way of reading; since, as you will agree, one book is only a single unaccompanied note, and to get the full sound, one needs ten others at the same time."
~Virginia Woolf
“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”
~Maya Angelou
“There is creative reading as well as creative writing.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
 ~~~~~~~
“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.”
~Angela Carter
“A good book is an event in my life.”
~Stendhal (Marie-Henri Beyle)
“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries.”
~René Descartes
“I intend to put up with nothing that I can put down.”
~Edgar Allan Poe
~~~~~~~
“While we pay lip service to the virtues of reading, the truth is that there is still in our culture something that suspects those who read too much, whatever reading too much means, of being lazy, aimless dreamers, people who need to grow up and come outside to where real life is, who think themselves superior in their separateness.”
 ~Anna Quindlen
“I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot.”
~Bill Gates
“Oh! It is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't.  More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.”
~Oscar Wilde
“All I have learned, I learned from books.”
 ~Abraham Lincoln

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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related matters you can think of.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page

I hope you've enjoyed these quotes about reading and books. Your comments are welcomed.  If you have a favorite quote about books or reading, please feel free to include it in your comment.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Really Random Tuesday #66: A Good Dinner and a Book Winner

Was Virginia Woolf a foodie?  Ahead of her time in many ways, she wrote about the importance of giving women more equality, and was one of the first modern writers to write about food. Virginia Woolf defied the conventions of the time, and described the "soles and partridges and potatoes", the food served at a luncheon, in A Room of One's Own.  At the very least, she appreciated the benefits of eating well, of "a good dinner".

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
~Virginia Woolf

Do you think Virginia Woolf would be a vegetarian, or even a vegan, if she lived in the present day? I  think maybe she would be.


Even if you're not vegetarian, the dish below is quick and easy to make.  I think it would've pleased discerning Virginia Woolf.


~ Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes ~

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.   - See more at: http://quotationsbook.com/quote/15338/#sthash.d80REBHP.dpuf
It's been ages since I last cooked with sun-dried tomatoes!  I used to buy them quite often.  When my friend, Diane, mentioned them to me recently, I recalled their intense flavor, and decided to make them the focus in a vegetarian pasta dish.  Diane combined sun-dried tomatoes with cappellini, or angel hair pasta, which sounded very good to me.  Since I didn't have much cappellini on hand, I decided to use vegetable radiatore from Trader Joe's, as I had a full package.  Created in the 1960s by an industrial designer, radiatori are little pasta shapes that resemble radiators. (They do remind me of the hissing radiators from my childhood, whose sounds at night were oddly reassuring.)



Ingredients:
8 ounces of pasta, such as cappellini or radiatore
1 - 2  tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes
4 or 5 white mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup of water (or red wine)
Oregano or basil to taste
Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions: 
In a small pan, cook two cloves of minced garlic in about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the sliced mushrooms, an ounce or so of sun-dried tomatoes (which need to soak beforehand in warm water for 15 minutes), about 1/4 cup of water (or red wine), and generous sprinkles of oregano.  Of course, you could also use basil instead of or in addition to the oregano, and add pepper, too, if desired.  (I have a lot of organic oregano right now from my garden so I used that.)  Cook for about 25 minutes over a low flame on the stovetop, stirring occasionally.  While this mixture is cooking, cook the pasta according to directions on package, for about 10 minutes, then drain in a colander.  I used about 2/3 of a 12 ounce package of pasta to make two generous servings. This recipe can be easily adjusted to make more servings.

Toss the pasta with the sun-dried tomato mixture, and top with shredded and/or grated Parmesan cheese (unless you are vegan).  A fresh garden salad goes well with this dish.

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes

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The randomly chosen winner of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall is Carol N. Wong.  Congratulations, Carol!   I think you'll enjoy this biography about Margaret Fuller, who influenced and inspired others, including Virginia Woolf.  

Thanks to everyone who participated in this book giveaway.  I have other giveaways listed on the right side of my blog for those of you interested in winning other books.  Please take a look!




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Appearing on random Tuesdays, Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related matters you can think of.  If you have miscellaneous book news to gather up and are inspired by this idea, "grab" the button for use on your own blog, then add your link to the "master" Mister Linky on the Really Random Tuesday page

Happy Tuesday!  I welcome your participation in this meme, and your comments.

(Portrait of Virginia Woolf by Roger Fry, c. 1917, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

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Some of the books reviewed here have been provided
to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents,
in exchange for my honest reviews.