The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Title:  The Paris Wife

Author:  Paula McLain

Audiobook narrated by: Carrington MacDuffie

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About:  (from Goodreads) No twentieth-century American writer has captured the popular imagination as much as Ernest Heminway. This novel tells his story from a unique point of view — that of his first wife, Hadley. Through her eyes and voice, we experience Paris of the Lost Generation…  In the end, Hemingway would write of his first wife, “I wish I had died before I loved anyone but her.”

My thoughts:  Full disclosure: The Old Man and the Sea is the only book I’ve read by Ernest Hemingway and that was many years ago. Despite that, I was intrigued by the idea of The Paris Wife. I found Paula McLain’s story of the author and his first wife interesting and rather addicting – I didn’t want to stop listening to the audiobook. I guess that’s also a credit to narrator Carrington MacDuffie. I thought the voice she gave the characters a bit dry but still easy to listen to.

The story  revolves around the Hemingways’ life in Paris and other European spots and includes their connection with several members of the Lost Generation – F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound to name a few. They lived and partied as if nothing else mattered but their happiness.

Since we know that Hadley was Ernest’s first wife it’s not a surprise when the marriage starts to crumble. It was difficult to listen to the demise, though. If that part of the story was based on fact, I can’t believe what Hadley put up with until she couldn’t any longer. An epilogue ties everything up and inspired me to find out more about Hadley’s life after Ernest – which I plan to do!

I’m glad I read McLain’s novel and hope to read A Moveable Feast in the near future. I’d like to read Ernest’s take on those times.

Recommend?  Yes, especially the audiobook.

Source:  Library copy

Mailbox Monday – April 25



hosted in April at Passages To The Past

I bought:

synopsis from Goodreads:

Carrie McClelland came to Scotland to research her next book. Renting a cottage in the same town where her story takes place, Carrie embarks not only on her novel, but on a romance with her landlord’s handsome son, Graham Keith. When the boundary between past and present begins to blur, Carrie finds herself channeling memories not her own. Pulled deeper and deeper into the memories of the past, Carrie realizes these visions are more than the means to another bestselling novel, but also a way to right the wrongs of the past and create a future with the man whose love is her destiny.

synopsis from Goodreads:

Divorce attorney Harper James can’t catch a break. Bad enough that she runs into her ex-hubby, Nick, at her sister’s destination wedding, but now, by a cruel twist of fate, she’s being forced to make a cross-country road trip with him. And her almost-fiancé back at home is not likely to be sympathetic. Harper can’t help that Nick has come blazing back into her life in all of his frustratingly appealing, gorgeous architect glory. But in Nick’s eyes, Harper’s always been the one. If they can only get it right this time, forever might be waiting — just around the bend.

synopsis from Goodreads:

Inspired by female architect Julia Morgan, this is the riveting tale of a race against time to rebuild two luxury hotels after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed 400 city blocks and left 250,000 homeless.

Morgan’s fictional protegee Amelia Bradshaw and client J.D. Thayer will sacrifice anything to see the city they love rise from the ashes; in the process, they can’t help but lose their hearts.

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

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A few months ago I snapped this picture of the Roosevelt Bridge in Arizona. According to information I found via a Google search it spans 1080 feet across the lake and is the longest two-lane single-span steel-arch bridge in North America.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Title: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel

Author: Helen Simonson

Audiobook narrated by:  Peter Altschuler

Genre: Fiction

About: (from the Goodreads synopsis)  Major Ernest Pettigrew, retired, of Edgecombe St. Mary, England, is more than a little dismayed by the sloppy manners, narcissism, and materialism of modern society. The decline of gentility is evident everywhere, from tea bags to designer sweaters, to racism masquerading as tolerance.

Mutual grief allies him with Mrs. Ali, a widowed local shopkeeper of Pakistani descent who has also resigned herself to dignified, if solitary, last years. The carefully suppressed passion between these two spawns twitters of disapproval in their provincial village, but Pettigrew hasn’t time for such silliness: real estate developers are plotting to carpet the fields outside his back door with mansionettes and his sister-in-law plans to auction off a prized family firearm. Meanwhile, Mrs. Ali’s late husband’s Muslim family expects her to hand over her hard-won business to her sullen, fundamentalist nephew, a notion she finds repellant and chauvinistic.

My take: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a charming novel that I think most readers would enjoy. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Peter Altschuler. The voice he gave each character seemed just right. His narration made me laugh out loud more than a few times.

Helen Simonson’s novel is entertaining in a smart and humorous way. Although there were a few over-the-top minor characters I thought most seemed believable. Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali are strong and true in their convictions. They delight in each other even though they know that to pursue any kind of friendship would be frowned upon by their respective communities. Being true to themselves they become friends despite what anyone might say. That support ultimately gives each the strength to take a stand when confronted with some important challenges.

To say any more about the novel would take away the enjoyment of discovering it on your own so I’ll just say you should put it on your TBR list.

Recommend? Yes – especially the audiobook.

Source: I bought it

Mailbox Monday – April 18


hosted in April at Passages To The Past

I bought three books that have been on my wish list for a while:

Goodreads: The war has not yet touched this city of fallen grandeur, or the lives of two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha Metanova, who share a single room in a cramped apartment with their brother and parents. Their world is turned upside down when Hitler’s armies attack Russia and begin their unstoppable blitz to Leningrad . . .

Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility has moved to Westport, Connecticut, in this enchanting modern-day homage to the classic novel.

As 28 year old New York paralegal Rebecca Strand’s widowed father lays dying, he confesses a secret: he had an affair 26 years earlier when Rebecca was just a toddler. Now he wants Rebecca to deliver the secret stash of letters he wrote, but never mailed, to the daughter he fathered.

The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

Title: The Bird Sisters

Author: Rebecca Rasmussen

Genre: Literary Fiction

About: (Back of the book) Whenever a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947, Milly and Twiss knew nothing about trying to mend what had been accidentally broken. Milly was known as a great beauty with emerald eyes and Twiss was a brazen wild child who never wore a dress or did what she was told. That was the summer their golf pro father got into an accident that cost him both his swing and his charm, and their mother, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler, finally admitted their hardscrabble lives wouldn’t change. . .

My take: Rebecca Rasmussen’s debut novel is a delicate portrait of a family who find that life doesn’t always deliver what had been promised. The family consists of a mother who married beneath her parents’ expectations, a father who aspired to be accepted by people who never would, and  the daughters who simply want their family to be the way they used to be. When cousin Bett arrives for the summer she seems intent on throwing everyone off balance – and she does.

The story is told in the present and the past. I was completely drawn into the novel and felt an ache for the sisters as they tried to fix their broken family, each other, and then the injured birds.

Rasmussen’s portrayal of the sisters in their later years is bittersweet and lovely:

Now that she was old, Twiss understood why people her age stopped speaking and started sitting on porches. Language failed to describe the simplest of phenomena; a fine sunset, for example, was more than fine. There were no words, or Twiss couldn’t find them anymore, for the way the colors made her feel. She’d say to Milly, “It’s an especially pretty one tonight,” when she meant that it reminded her of other sunsets, and years, and people who had nothing to do with sunsets: pinks and reds and blues.

“It is,” Milly would say. Or she might add a word like “lovely” or “otherworldly” and then Twiss would know that Milly, too, was thinking about something else entirely as they passed a glass of iced tea back and forth and gazed at the changing colors of the sky. (p.105)

Reading this novel was like looking at a painting and with each glance discovering something new in the deceptive simplicity of it all.  The Bird Sisters is the story of hopes, dreams, sacrifice, and the love of two sisters.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Crown

Mailbox Monday – April 11



hosted in April at Passages To The Past

For review from Harper Collins:

(Goodreads synopsis)  When Sheila McGann sets out to redeem her disgraced brother, a once-beloved Catholic priest in suburban Boston, her quest will force her to confront cataclysmic truths about her fractured Irish-American family, her beliefs, and, ultimately, herself. Award-winning author Jennifer Haigh follows her critically acclaimed novels Mrs. Kimble and The Condition with a captivating, vividly rendered portrait of fraying family ties, and the trials of belief and devotion, in Faith.

For review from Joan Schulhafer:

(Goodreads synopsis): Madeline, Avery, and Nikki are strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They each wake up one morning to discover their life savings have vanished, along with their trusted financial manager- leaving them with nothing but co-ownership of a ramshackle beachfront house.

Throwing their lots in together, they take on the challenge of restoring the historic property. But just as they begin to reinvent themselves and discover the power of friendship, secrets threaten to tear down their trust-and destroy their lives a second time.

For review from Harper via LibraryThing Early Reviewers:

(LT description):  After dating driven, self-absorbed men in New York, Krissy Gasbarre relocates to Italy to be near her new English beau and to research the roots of her lovably alpha-male, Italian-American grandpa. But just weeks into her European adventure, the Brit takes a job in the Middle East…and her grandpa, who’s been an indelible force in her life, passes away.

For the first time in a decade, Krissy moves back to her Pennsylvania hometown to mourn her grandpa’s death and help her close-knit, festive family care for her refined (but notoriously non-maternal) grandmother. That’s when Grandma Gloria reveals the untold story of her 60-year marriage and the love lessons that made her relationship so much more successful than the ones her granddaughter’s known.

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday Snapshot

Here’s my first Saturday Snapshot:

I grew up in a small Wisconsin town along the Mississippi River. I visited my parents last fall and one morning my Dad and I rode our bikes to the riverfront park. We’d heard the river was rising and wanted to see for ourselves. It was. The next day it was over the banks and covering a road or two. A week later things were back to normal. There’s flooding almost every year but some are worse than others. I’ve heard the river is on the rise again.

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Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

Automattic Worldwide WP 5K – I did it!

I read a post highlighted on my Word Press dashboard last week that interested me. It explained the Worldwide Word Press 5K. Since I’ve been concentrating on getting back in shape I decided to participate. I’m not able to walk on the actual date (April 10) but happily there’s the option of doing it any time between April 4-10.

This morning I jumped in the car and drove through the park near my home (the river in my header photo runs through the park). When the odometer read 1.6 miles (a little more than half  of a 5K) I turned around and drove home, snapped on my pedometer and waited for my walking buddy to arrive. The weather was cloudy and upper 30°s when we started.

50 minutes later we were back at my house. I checked the pedometer: 6573 steps. And since I’m on Weight Watchers Points Plus program I entered my time and pace into my tracker which calculated 5 activity points. Total win!  Weather permitting, we’ve decided to do this walk each week.

The falls at the 1 mile mark


On the path – almost 1.6 mile mark


As you can tell from the photos, Spring hasn’t reached the Milwaukee area yet.  On the bright side, the snow is gone 🙂

Thanks to the folks at Automattic for a great idea – well, I’m certain they have many good ideas – but this is one that connects people, exercise and blogging. There’s still time for others to join in the fun.  Click here for more information.

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

Title: The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel About Marriage, Motherhood, and Mayhem

Author: Sonya Sones

Genre: Fiction

My take: Holly feels like the rug of life is being pulled out from under her. She’s reached middle age, her hormones are running her life, her only child is heading to college soon, her mother is in the hospital, and just when she thinks nothing more can change, she starts to suspect her husband may be having an affair.

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is written in verse. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it because it reads like prose. It is funny, honest, poignant and spot on for women of a certain age. One minute I would laugh out loud and the next I would sigh and nod in agreement with Holly. Can you tell I related to the novel? This is one book I’ll recommend to my friends – I know they’ll love it.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Harper

Mailbox Monday – April 4



Hosted in April at Passages To The Past

From Crown:

Finished copy of The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

When a bird flies into a window in Spring Green, Wisconsin, sisters Milly and Twiss get a visit. Twiss listens to the birds’ heartbeats, assessing what she can fix and what she can’t, while Milly listens to the heartaches of the people who’ve brought them. These spinster sisters have spent their lives nursing people and birds back to health.

But back in the summer of 1947,…more

I bought:

Hungry Girl’s 300 Under 300 by Lisa Lillien

It’s MEAL-MANIA, HG STYLE! This book features THREE HUNDRED satisfying and delicious recipes for full-on meals. Breakfast, lunch & dinner dishes, plus snazzy starters and sides, that contain less than 300 calories each! In addition to CROCK-POT recipes, FOIL PACKS, and other HG favorites, this book serves up more than SEVENTY-FIVE soon-to-be-famous HG TRIOS: three-ingredient combos that take easy to a whole new level!


A Light at Winter’s End by Julia London (thank you to Mandi at Smexy Books)

Holly Fisher opens her door one day and finds her estranged sister Hannah standing there with a glassy look and her nine-month old baby on her hip. Before Holly knows what is happening, Hannah has left her baby with Holly and disappeared. Three months later, fresh out of rehab for addiction to painkillers, Hannah shows up sober, contrite, and wanting her son back. But Holl…more

Gift Cards to celebrate any special occasion

Wow! Thank you to Publishing by the Seas and Patricia Selbert for the gift card. I won The House of Six Doors book blogger contest!

What was in your mailbox?

Okra Picks Challenge Wrap-Up

The Okra Picks Challenge ended on March 31 (where did the time go?!) so I thought I’d do a wrap-up post.  I committed to the “Goober” level: read 1-3 books.  My result: I read 2.  You can read more about the challenge here and my review links here.

Thanks to Kathy at BermudaOnion’s Weblog for hosting the challenge.  I enjoyed it and will check out more of the challenge authors in the future.


Review and Giveaway: Texas Blue by Jodi Thomas

Title: Texas Blue

Author: Jodi Thomas

Genre: Historical Romance

About: Duncan McMurray found three suitable bachelors to court his cousins and then he was called away on a Texas Rangers mission. No matter. He left the bachelors train tickets to the ranch and went off on his mission fully expecting things to go smoothly on the home front. This left the door open for gambler Lewt Paterson to separate one of the tickets from it’s intended bachelor. He played cards and sent the poor inebriated soul on a train wearing Lewt’s clothes and traveling in the opposite direction of the ranch.

Duncan’s cousins welcome the visitors for a week of McMurray hospitality and time to get acquainted. The sisters are lovely but they have a secret they hope no one will discover.

My thoughts: Lewt Paterson and Emily McMurray’s story is the prime focus of the novel. I liked how Jodi Thomas developed the two characters. They each had a less than ideal childhood and thought it would be easier to pretend to be someone else for the week in order to find the life they wanted to live. Emily didn’t want to marry or leave the ranch and Lewt just wanted to leave the world of gambling and marry into a normal family.

Duncan’s mission turned out to be more than he’d expected.  It started out to be a cattle rustler round up but when things went awry Duncan found himself captured on the wrong side of the border.  He wasn’t the only one being held against his will. There was a young woman who was resigned to a dismal fate. Duncan was determined to escape and also free the girl. I wasn’t sure how Jodi Thomas would write her characters out of that situation but I knew she could!

I thought the pace was perfect. The balance of humor at the ranch and the drama of Duncan’s mission with the Rangers was just right. Texas Blue is the first of Jodi Thomas’ historical novels I’ve read and I look forward to reading more.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommend? Yes – to fans of historical romance, Jodi Thomas, and the Whispering Mountain series.

Source: Berkley Books

Berkley sent one copy of Texas Blue

for a lucky reader from the US

Click here for more details