Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paris In Love

by Eloisa James

Have you ever wanted to read the inner thoughts of an author? To peek inside the normally private life of the person who writes stories that you read over and over again? Eloisa James is a phenomenal romance novelist who has written several of my favorites (e.g. When Beauty Tamed the Beast, This Duchess of Mine). I'm sure I always thought that her life was as romantic as the books she puts on the shelves. And in some ways it may be. After all, the premise of the book is snippets of her life taken from her year spent in Paris with her family while on sabbatical. But it also begins after her mother's death, and her own battle with cancer. In the calm after the storm, her family packs up and moves across the world. While this was her dream, the journey proves challenging to all the members of her family, especially her children. There are some funny anecdotes, some whimsical accounts of Paris & food (specifically chocolate), and some moments that truly touch you. The stories of her children's struggle with homework or her arguments with her husband are all too familiar for the average reader.... while her moments spent staring out her window onto the French boulevard transport the reader to a far off place. Each snippet, however, rings with the simple truth that the life of the ever glamorous Eloisa James, is really not all that different from yours or mine... Well, except for all the jet setting.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Seating Arrangements

by Maggie Shipstead

I have been M.I.A. Sorry. In fact, I've missed reviewing four different books... So in an effort to bring this blog back up to speed, I'm jumping backwards a little ways. See below.

Seating Arrangements is Shipstead's highly acclaimed first novel, which follows the Van Meter family through three days of a New England family wedding. The story shifts between different characters' point of view. There's the husband/father Winn who is the primary character, always striving to climb up the social ladder, lusting for youth and for his daughter's friend.... the wife who keeps up appearances.... the drunk sister in law...and the daughter who won't fit into any molds. Having just gone through a family wedding, I recognize the stress and emotions that the author relies upon to drive this novel. However, some of the characters seem too remote and unrelatable. Winn is a middle aged man who finds himself regretting some of the choices he's made in life, including the fact that he only had daughters... and no sons to carry on the family line. As the third daughter in my family, this did not sit well with me. He also spends about half the book considering adultery with the obviously sexy, but ultimately empty, Agatha. Ugh. Livia, sister of the bride, is over-the-top dramatic and searching for someone to accept her for who she is. The dark mistakes that all the characters have made in their lives are brought into the light during this wedding weekend. Well, isn't that how it seems to go in real life as well? The only character who we don't "hear" from in this tale is the bride herself, Daphne, who seems to, surprisingly in this family, be very well adjusted. Shipstead's writing is lyrical at times, and very thoughtful, but ultimately Seating Arrangements is not a  "can't put down" book. It will, however, make you reflect on family, the bonds that hold us together, and what we strive for in life.