Tag Archives: France

Review and Giveaway: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Today I welcome France Book Tours back to my blog with an interesting historical fiction novel about the iconic figure Coco Chanel.  I invite you to read my review and enter to win your own copy of the book.

My Review:

mademoiselle-chanelThere are certain names in the fashion industry that are synonymous with high end, quality and timeless clothing.  Chanel is one such name.  This historical fiction novel captures the struggle that this fierce women went through at a time when it was unheard of for any woman to work for a living and own her own business.

Coco Chanel grows up as an orphan after her mother dies and her father abandons their family. Forced to live in a convent that cares for and educates orphans, Coco is always striving to make her own place in the world and not depend on anyone.

Much of the book takes places in early 20th century Paris, where Coco works tirelessly to make a name for herself amongst men who dominate the fashion industry.  What I found fascinating about this book is that it is not only a personal history of Chanel, but also a history of fashion and the dramatic changes in women’s clothing between the 19th and 20th centuries.  No more are women required to wear tight-fitting corsets and their hair tied back in buns.  Coco is heavily influenced by men’s fashions and oftentimes raids the closets of her male lovers for fabrics and old clothes to rework and make suitable for women.

Coco Chanel is a person for whom we wish the greatest success.  Despite many setbacks throughout her career, she always picks herself back up and reinvents herself.  C.W. Gortner has done a spectacular job of bringing to life the fashion icon that is Coco Chanel.

About The Author:
CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date. His new novel, “Mademoiselle Chanel”, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel. In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, “Vatican Princess”, about Lucrezia Borgia. Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters.

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You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.


Visit each blogger on the tour. Tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! (Just follow the directions on the entry-form.)

There will be a total of 6 winners. Five printed copies will be given away as well as one beautiful handcrafted beaded bracelet which is inspired by Coco’s black and white signature colors and camellia design (pictured below). This giveaway is open to US residents only.

Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet

Mademoiselle Chanel banner


Filed under France, Historical Fiction

Review: Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre

I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss.

My Review:
Guys Like MeWhat surprised me most about this brief novel is how emotionally invested I became in the unnamed narrator.  Fabre creates a man who describes for us his everyday existence as a fifty-four year old man, living in Paris, divorced for 15 years, with a grown son.  He works a lot to pass the time and spends most nights alone in his small apartment.  He has two close friends he sees on a regular basis and has had a few casual relationships with women he has met on dating websites.  He continually and sadly says to himself throughout the first part of the narrative, “There are no second acts.”

He likes to reminisce about his past life and speaks about the anger he had for his ex-wife after she divorces him; their separation is so nasty that they haven’t stepped foot in the same room or spoken for 5 years.  But now that so much time has passed, he begins to wonder why he was ever so angry.  The best thing in his life that has come out of his marriage is his son Benjamin with whom he has a close, supportive and touching relationship.

The narrator’s two close friends serve as an interesting contrast to his own life.  His friend Jean, with whom he has just reconnected after many years, has been out of work and on welfare for years and he suffers from long bouts of depression.  Although the narrator is oftentimes lonely, his life is never as sad or miserable as Jean’s.  Marc Andre is the narrator’s other friend who is also divorced, but is happily remarried and has a large blended family.  The narrator’s relationship with Marco proves that as we get older, it is not the number of friends that becomes so important to us, but the depth of the relationships with the few people we keep close.

About halfway through the book, the narrator meets a woman online named Marie and it is hard to tell if he really cares about her or if she just fills up some of his lonely hours.  But as the story goes on, he subtly stops saying “There is no second act.”  He seems to really turn a corner in his life and be able to declare that good things still can happen to “guys like me.”

GUYS LIKE ME is a fast and emotional must-read; it will keep you wondering if F. Scott Fitzgerald was wrong and that second acts are possible for all of us.

About The Author:
Dominique-Fabre-Dominique Fabre, born in 1960, writes about people living on society’s margins. He is a lifelong resident of Paris. His previous novel, The Waitress Was New, has also been translated into English.

I love to support small presses that provide us with wonderful books like Guys Like Me.  Please support New Vessel Press and visit their website for more titles: newvesselpress.com.

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Filed under France, Literary Fiction, Literature in Translation

Review and Giveaway: The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour by David Ebsworth

Today I welcome France Book Tours back to the blog with a historical fiction novel set during the last campaign of Napoleon at Waterloo.  I invite you to read my review, learn a bit about the author, and enter to win your own copy (open internationally).

My Review:
The Last CampaignThe historical novels that I seem to enjoy the most are the ones that provide the most rich detail about the period in which they are set.  David Ebsworth’s novel about The Battle of Waterloo is one such novel.  It is the story of Marianne Tambour who is the canteen mistress to Napoleon and his troops.  She rides around camp with a barrel on her hip, doling out brandy to the Emperor and his men.  The camp is a dangerous place and an especially harsh environment for a woman.  Marianne must stay alive, carry out her duties as canteen mistress, and also try to keep her daughter safe.

Ebsworth makes the camp and the battlefield come alive for the reader.  The scenes are bloody, and raw and realistic; we feel the awful circumstances of soldiers marching, living in camp and dying in battle.  This period in French history is also very complex and the author is able to sort out the various sides of this conflict for us.  Napoleon has been in exile after being deposed and the Bourbon king, whom the characters in the book call “Fat Louis” has been on the throne for about a year.  But when Napoleon manages to call up a few hundred thousand troops, Louis immediately flees and the country is once again divided along various political alliances.

It is also worth mentioning that the author includes several detailed maps of the battlefield and troop movements at the end of the book.  Once again, this is a detail that is not only impressive, but will be very much appreciated by readers who like a visual outline of the routes that are mentioned in the narrative.  Ebsworth also gives us a glossary of French terms which I found most helpful in deciphering some of the vocabulary that he uses throughout the text.

Ebsworth provides us with strong female characters that we want to see survive amid a horrible and futile battle.  If you are in search of a historical fiction novel that brings to life Napoleon’s last battle and the volatile political scene of 19th century France, then I highly recommend THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF MARIANNE TAMBOUR.

About The Author:
EbsworthDavid Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for Britain’s Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool (UK) but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham, North Wales, with his wife, Ann.  Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009, and The Last Campaign of Marianne Tambour is his fourth novel.

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The author is generously giving away 5 copies of the book.  Winners will be able to choose print or kindle versions.  The giveaway is open internationally.  Please click on this Entry-Form to participate in the giveaway.

Click on the France Book Tour banner below to see the full list of blogs participating in the tour!




Filed under France, Historical Fiction

Review and Giveaway: Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb

My Review:
02_Rodin's LoverThis novel moves back and forth between the points of view of the famous French artist Auguste Rodin and his lover Camille Claudel.  They meet when Rodin becomes Camille’s teacher; she eventually is taken on as his apprentice and as a result they spend hours together working side by side.

The aspects of this book I like the most are the details about art, sculpture and the creative process.  One only sees the beautiful finished works of great artists in museums, but what one doesn’t see is the hard work, sacrifice and dedication behind these works.  Rodin and Camille are dedicated to their craft to the point where they no time for anything else and alienate other people in their lives.  The reason they are drawn together is that no one understands them like they understand each other.

There are a couple of issues that I did have with the book; some of the dialogue became monotonous, especially when Camille was arguing with her mother.  There is no affection or love between mother and daughter and they are constantly bickering.  Also, I would categorize the book as a light romance and the two lovers spend a lot of time thinking about and longing for each other but not actually together.  This is the case especially in the first half of the book which I found to lag more than the second part of the book.

Overall, RODIN’S LOVER is an interesting look at this famous artist and his process and inspiration.  Scroll down to the end of the post to win your own copy of the book!

About The Author:
01_Heather WebbHeather Webb grew up a military brat and naturally became obsessed with travel, culture, and languages. She put her degrees to good use teaching high school French for nearly a decade before turning to full time novel writing and freelance editing. Her debut, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, released January 2014 from Plume/Penguin. Her forthcoming novel, RODIN’S LOVER, will release in winter of 2015.

When not writing, Heather flexes her foodie skills or looks for excuses to head to the other side of the world.

This giveaway is for one paperback and open to US & Canadian residents only. Giveaway ends 2/13. Please leave a comment below and let me know you want to win!
– Must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
-Winner will be notified via e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond.

Click on the tour banner below to see all of the stops on the book tour.  There are other chances to win the book and interviews with the author!

03_Rodin's Love_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL


Filed under Historical Fiction

Review: The Awakening by Allen Johnson

I received a review copy of this novel from the author.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a beautiful novel about the power of redemption.  The story reminded me quite a bit of the same message that is conveyed by Dickens in A Christmas Carol: it is never too late in life to make amends and become a better person.

Lupita is a successful doctor who works at a local clinic in her hometown of Espejo, Spain.  She lives with her elderly, yet feisty, grandfather, Diego.  One night Diego finds a severely wounded man on the street and brings him home for Lupita to care for.  After a few days, the stranger whom they call Antonio, is recovering from his wounds but is still in a coma.  His sleep is fitful and tormented and Lupita and Diego wonder with what demons this wounded man is wrestling.

This story is also a bit of an historical fiction as Diego reminisces about his younger years and meeting the greatest love of his life, Lupe.  Diego and his wife move to Granada after they are married and experience the turmoil of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s.  The two time periods in which the story takes places, both the 1930’s and the 1990’s are intertwined nicely in the narrative.

The most interesting aspect of the story deals with Antonio and his awakening and subsequent amnesia.  For 4 months he cannot remember who he is or why he was attacked.  As he his healing, he finds peace with Lupita and Diego and truly becomes a part of their family.  But when he does regain his memory, will his previous life threaten the happiest home he has ever known?  I highly recommend reading THE AWAKENING so that you can find out!


About The Author:
Allen Johnson has been called a modern Renaissance man. Yes, he is a popular author, but that’s just the beginning. He is also a Ph.D. psychologist, keynote speaker, leadership consultant,cyclist, painter, actor, jazz pianist and vocalist, photographer, and videographer.

Allen has a voracious appetite for life. He has cavorted with giant turtles in the Caribbean, climbed the glacier peaks of the Pacific Northwest, and flown a single-prop plane across the country. He is fluent in French and calls a small village in the south of France his second home. That lust for life is always present in his writing: His characters are multidimensional and brimming with ambition and desire.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction