2016 Book #121 – The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

5154lvfkqgl-_sx320_bo1204203200_Title: The Enemies of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Date finished: 12/27/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Pages in book: 399
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy
Where I got the book from: Author/Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.
“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”
After decades of suffering the King’s endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.
Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about France and its history really, told through two separate points of view. The chapters alternate between the point of view of Jeanne, the Comtesse du Barry and King Louis XV’s most recent mistress, and Adelaide, King Louis XV’s eldest daughter (unmarried). Jeanne’s story begins in her childhood and tells of her rise in status from the streets of Paris to being the King’s formal mistress. Jeanne is not what I would call an ambitious woman, and her good fortune comes mainly from her good looks, pure luck and the greed of those that surround her. Things seem to work out ok for her in the end though and she does genuinely care for the King. The King’s daughter Adelaide though, is genuinely shocked that her father would even consider bringing Jeanne (to be fair she was actually a prostitute) to Versailles and having her presented at Court. Adelaide’s chapters are heart-wrenching, as she so desperately wants her father’s approval and love, but unfortunately she is very judgmental due to her upbringing and so her interactions with her father never seem to go well. After King Louis XV’s death though, the political unrest in France falls into a downward spiral. And as the French Revolution begins, neither Adelaide (a princess) nor Jeanne (a prostitute) are safe from the Reign of Terror.
Overall I really liked this book. I love this whole series really, because while not everything that happens is factual there is a lot based on real fact, and to be honest a lot of this I haven’t learned about before. So I’m learning as I read and it is just riveting stuff. The ending of this one especially was captivating since I could tell that the whole Revolution business was not going to end well for any of the main characters. I found this novel to be really thought provoking as well. There were a lot of subtopics to this story that I could delve deeper into and think about, especially ones that would apply to this day and age as well as the time period discussed in the book. I thought it was especially interesting to see the characters’ progressions through the novel. This book covers a time period ranging from 1750 to 1800, so many of the characters grow old within the span of this one novel, and there are many changes to each characters’ personality. I liked this novel a lot, it probably ended up being my favorite in the series. I can’t wait to see what this author writes in the future, I really enjoyed the Mistresses of Versailles series!

The bottom line: This was a great conclusion to the trilogy! I thought the different points of view in this novel were especially interesting and I really enjoyed the author’s take on a bloody time in history, the Reign of Terror. Great read though, I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #109 – Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

51tmfgrj45l-_sx332_bo1204203200_Title: Sarah’s Key
Author: Tatiana de Rosnay
Date finished: 11/17/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 2008
Pages in book: 293
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d’Hiv’, to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah’s past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (November). This book alternates between telling two stories, that of Sarah from her viewpoint in July of 1942 when she and her parents are arrested by the French police for being Jews, and that of Julia from her viewpoint in the same city in 2002 when she is assigned by her editor to write an article about the tragic events of July 1942. While we hear about Sarah’s story, we also learn of what Julia is uncovering in her research. Julia actually ends up having a fairly close connection in her life to Sarah and it was really interesting to see how the stories were interwoven. This was a tough read as it deals with some horrible subjects and delves deep into some very dark periods of time for humanity as a whole. It was terrible to read about what Sarah had experienced at “the camp” because even though she’s a fictional character, those kinds of things happened to real people. And not just a handful but so, so many. I think it is something that is important for people to realize truly happened though and I would encourage people to read it even if it is difficult. Event with the tough subject matter, I really liked this one and it was an engaging read. I would definitely recommend!

The bottom line: This was a tough book for me, subject matter like this is painful and really gets under your skin. I think that makes it doubly important though for us to experience it and realize that while this is a fiction novel, this actually happened to so many people. I think this is an important book for everyone to read, I would definitely recommend reading it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #31 – The Rivals of Versailles by Sally Christie

91BED26SP2LTitle: The Rivals of Versailles
Author: Sally Christie
Date finished: 4/8/16
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Pages in book: 448
Stand alone or series: #2 in Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE:I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

And you thought sisters were a thing to fear. In this captivating follow-up to Sally Christie’s clever and absorbing debut, we meet none other than the Marquise de Pompadour, one of the greatest beauties of her generation and the first bourgeois mistress ever to grace the hallowed halls of Versailles.
The year is 1745 and King Louis XV’s bed is once again empty. Enter Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, a beautiful girl from the middle classes. As a child, a fortune teller had told young Jeanne’s destiny: she would become the lover of a king and the most powerful woman in the land. Eventually connections, luck, and a little scheming pave her way to Versailles and into the King’s arms.
All too soon, conniving politicians and hopeful beauties seek to replace the bourgeois interloper with a more suitable mistress. As Jeanne, now the Marquise de Pompadour, takes on her many rivals—including a lustful lady-in-waiting, a precocious fourteen-year-old prostitute, and even a cousin of the notorious Nesle sisters—she helps the king give himself over to a life of luxury and depravity. Around them, war rages, discontent grows, and France inches ever closer to the Revolution.
Told in Christie’s celebrated witty and modern style, The Rivals of Versailles will delight and entrance fans as it brings to life the court of Louis XV in all its pride, pestilence, and glory.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read the first book in this trilogy last year (also through NetGalley) and you can see my review of that one here. I really enjoyed reading the first book so I was excited when I saw the second book available recently on NetGalley! Also, this book will count towards my Book Riot 2016 Read Harder reading challenge, marking off the “read a book of historical fiction set before 1900″ since this book is set in the mid 1700’s. This book continues where The Sisters of Versailles left off, following Marie-Ann’s death. This book focuses around Jeanne -Antoinette Poisson, a commoner who is told by a fortune teller when she is young that she will someday be mistress to the king. Ever since that fateful day, her mother has focused on preparing Jeanne for one day meeting the king and becoming ensconced in his world. This means learning about this above their station, some of which Jeanne learns from her tutor Bernis after the king invites her to live at Versailles.
Unfortunately, Jeanne’s miscarriages make her sick and after 4 years of being King Louis XV’s mistress she is advised against getting pregnant again because it might kill her. Every one thinks that this means the end of Jeanne’s reign over the king’s heart but she somehow manages to stay the center of his life for the next 15 years, arranging ways for the king to exercise his lust (with others) without her losing her importance in his life. And while there are a number of threats over the years and no shortage of plotting on manipulation that must occur on her part, in the end she is the victor every time and maintains her friendship with the king. She becomes one of the most powerful women in the history of France because even though she isn’t physically intimate with the king he continues to use her as his most trusted adviser throughout their friendship.
Overall I really liked this book. I think that it is especially interesting because these books are based on real events. And I just love that the author’s site has pages talking about each of the characters in the book that reference where the information on their character came from and what historical basis exists for the events that happen in the book. Same as with the first novel, I didn’t want to put this book down. Everything that you could want in a book is in this story: sex, betrayal, intrigue, war, love, sickness, and death. The author did a great job in this novel of switching between points of view and she really brought the characters to life. I felt bad for Jeanne for most of the book, she spent her whole childhood with this idea that she would be mistress to the king and she loved him so much but she wasn’t able to be close to him in all the ways she wanted. Her character evolves in an interesting way through the course of the novel, she definitely changes and hardens over her life and the reader can see that clearly. Towards the end Louis’ tastes in girls become embarrassingly young and Jeanne is understandingly uncomfortable with the things she has to do to keep her position in Louis’ life secured but she does it anyways. I thought that was a strong example of how changed she is by her life at Versailles. Just overall an engrossing read.

The bottom line: Just an awesome read with everything a reader could want from a novel. I didn’t want to stop reading this one for even a minute, can’t wait for the third book in the trilogy to be released! Great read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #102 – The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George


Title: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Date finished: 9/26/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Pages in book: 400
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.
After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.
Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

My rating: 2.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I’ve seen this book around a lot the past couple months, it was a very popular summer read and I have seen many positive reviews on it so I thought I should give it a try. To be honest I probably could have passed on by and been perfectly. While this book has been widely praised, I just could not get into the story myself. I found the book to be extremely wordy and the main character is a 50 year old man who has lived in self-induce purgatory for the past twenty years. I could not connect with him at all, I just found his character to be so martyr-ish. And the story line was hard to follow for me in some way. There were just a lot fo random things that happened that didn’t necessarily seem connected at all and in some cases didn’t even really make sense to me. There were some parts of the book that made me tear up, there were many emotions that came alive in the story and the reader can sense love in each page of the book, love between friends, that first love that is ever-consuming, and even love that lives only in one’s imagination. The books speaks eloquently of France along Jean Perdu’s journey south, of the food, the scenery, and the people. For anyone who would like to experience the beauty of France, this would be a great book to read!

The bottom line: I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to hear of the beauty of France. This book wasn’t a great one for me but is very popular with the general population.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #15 – I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe


Title: I Married the Duke
Author: Katharine Ashe
Date finished: 2/27/15
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Pages in book: 363
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Price Catchers series

Blurb from the cover:

On the way to marry a prince in a castle, a lady should never: 1. Bribe an infuriatingly arrogant and undeniably irresistible ship captain, 2. Let him kiss her senseless on a beach, 3. Battle thieves at his side, and 4. Exchange wedding vows with him, even under the direst circumstances.
But daring, determined Arabella Caulfield isn’t just any lady. And Luc Westfall is no typical ship captain. He’s the new Duke of Lycombe, and to defeat a plot that could destroy his family he must have an heir. Now he knows just the woman for the job…and he’s not above seduction to turn this would-be princess into a duchess.

My rating: 2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will count towards my “Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “Start a New Series” square. This book had an awful lot going on. A scarred, pirate, soon-to-be duke who needs to help a governess crsos to France for a new job where she’ll meet a prince that maybe she’ll marry and instead she almost gets raped (that part was pretty awful and scary) and then the pirate dies (or not really) and then he appears at the duke’s chateau in France where the governess just happens to be. And then the pirate ends up being blind and she leaves him at the altar and oh my goodness. I could barely keep up at some points, but was pretty bored at other points. It actually made for an emotionally confusing read. I think that the plot line of this book had real promise but there was just too much thrown in there for plot twists.
And to be honest, I couldn’t stand the heroine for most of the book. During the day she keeps pushing the hero away and rejecting him, thinking he doesn’t really love her and they shouldn’t have gotten married while he was dying on a beach, but then as soon as he comes in her room at night she’s like “take me,” Ugh it was so aggravating. I know that men and women have communication issues but the hero and heroine in this book had maybe 2 meaningful conversations. They couldn’t ever seem to actually talk to each other about how they were feeling. I don’t know where the relationship was but I missed it. There were parts of the book that I liked but overall I think it was frustrating. Hopefully the next book in the series is a little less frustrating.

The bottom line:  This was far from my favorite. I’m going to stick with the series though, I want to find out who marries the prince.

Link to author website
Link to Amazon

2014 – Book #56


The thirty-sixth book I read in 2014 was The Little Prince (originally Le Petit Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I finished this book on 6/25/14. I rated this book 4.75 stars out of a scale of 5. This is the “unique and universal” book on Goodread’s/Amazon’s “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” listing. Also, one of my mini-goals this year was to read a book that was published before 1950 and this one (published in 1943) fits the bill. This book is about a man who becomes stranded in the desert when his plane crashes. While in the desert fixing his plane he encounters what seems to be a young boy who asks him to draw him a sheep. What follows is a fantastical tale about the young boy who turns out to be an alien traveling from his small planet where he has left his beloved flower behind.

I found this book extremely interesting. I love so many of the lines, which seem to teach more meaningful lessons through a playful tale to children/young adults about an alien boy. From page 15, “Sometimes there’s no harm in postponing your work until later. But with baobabs, its always a catastrophe.” The little prince at the time was talking about the bushes on his planet and that if he let them grow and didn’t pay attention to them then they could destroy his planet. But the message is a deeper life lesson that young people could learn from this book. I found that to be the case with many quotes from this book, including the story of the flower from page 19 in the book, the little prince is talking about the flower he left behind on his planet and what the thorns on the flower signify. The “adult” in the story (the man whose plane crashed) says that its not important, he’s trying to fix his plane which is important so he doesn’t want to discuss the thorns on flowers and their purpose. The little prince bursts into tears, and he makes an excellent point about the fact that on his planet, there is only one flower and that makes the topic important to him. “If someone loves a flower of just one example exists among all the millions and millions of stars, that’s enough to make him happy when he looks at the stars. He tells himself, ‘My flower’s up there somewhere…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, then for him its as if, suddenly, all the stars went out. And that isn’t important?” What may seem insignificant to one person could mean the world to someone else. Everyone in the world has things and people that we care for and mankind as a whole should be considerate of those cares.

And yet later on in the book the little prince sees a whole bush full of the same single flower he left behind on his planet. “And then he said to himself, I thought I was rich because I had just one flower, and all I own is an ordinary rose… It doesn’t make me much of a prince. And he laid down in the grass and wept.” There are times in everyone’s life that we are truly humbled. That we realize that we are not the richest nor the most important people. And while these times may seem depressing as we experience them, they teach us our place in the grand scheme of the world.

One of the things that kept coming up as a question to me in this book was whether the flower being referenced was meant to be an analogy to a woman. The flower is discussed many times in a tone of reverence but also frustration. “You must never listen to flowers. You must look at them and smell them. Mine perfumed my planet and I didn’t know how to enjoy that… In those days, I didn’t know anything. I should have judged her according to her actions, not her words. She perfumed my planet and lit up my life.” I can’t help but think that the writer is hinting at a man’s relationship with a woman by discussing the prince’s relationship with the flower. I can’t be quite sure though. The article on Wikipedia does state that the author wrote the rose in reference to his wife Consuelo. From the Wikipedia article, “Despite a raucous marriage, Antoine kept Consuelo close to heart and portrayed her as the prince’s Rose whom he tenderly protects with a wind screen and under a glass dome on his tiny planet. Saint-Exupéry’s infidelity and the doubts of his marriage are symbolized by the vast field of roses the prince encounters during his visit to Earth.” While I can’t be 100% sure as to the accuracy of the Wikipedia article, I can definitely see the connection.

Other wisdom gained from this book includes a number of lines from page 31. “One must command from each what each can perform.” Otherwise, a ruler can not command anything from its subjects that they can not reasonably perform for him.” Another bit of wisdom “It is much harder to judge yourself that to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, its because you are truly a wise man.”

Overall this is just such a fantastic read. Not only is it short (a mere 83 pages) but it is also profound in its own way. I guess it is possible that I am reading more into it than I ought but many of the situations presented in the book I found myself looking deeper into the story. Like the real significance of the flower on the little prince’s planet and the discussion in the book of the meaning of “tamed.” It wasn’t so complicated though that it was a difficult read, it was just very interesting the way it was presented by the author. I would highly recommend to all!

Goodread’s/Amazon’s “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” listing: http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=bhp_brws_100bks?ie=UTF8&node=8192263011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-leftnav&pf_rd_r=15NGNHHEHC9AP9YBWM40&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1779646742&pf_rd_i=283155#

Link to Wikipedia site on The Little Prince: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0547978847/ref=amb_link_397448882_417?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-5&pf_rd_r=0TGFN93T2Z2YM13DWBCA&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1815568282&pf_rd_i=8192263011

Digital books vs. Physical books


I recently ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing digital and physical book sales. This has been a much discussed topic with me and my loved ones in the past couple years. I am one of those people who love the feel of a physical book- the touch, the smell, being able to turn the pages, everything. I also am a devoted fan of libraries and cringe to think what would happen to my beloved libraries if e-books were to take precedence over physical books. My family has discussed purchasing a kindle for me since I love reading so much and I am vehemently opposed to this. I included a photo above of some of the pros and cons of e-books vs. real books. I’m not stupid, obviously I realize there are some definite benefits to e-books. Especially at 2am when you’re arm just can’t physically hold up your book any longer. But there is something so special to me about holding a book in my hand, there’s a connection that you just can’t feel with an electronic copy I think.

The Wall Street Journal article reveals that physical books are now proving to be holding their own in sales longer than anyone expected. One reason listed was that most people use their electronic devices to play games or watch movies. Even if those devices are specifically purchased for e-book reading they don’t end up being used for that very much. I know this is not always the case but I’m sure it does happen. Also, one person quoted in the article says that people read to get away from electronic devices. I agree with that wholeheartedly, I think this is one of the reason’s I love reading physical books- I can escape from reality. Its not much of an escape though if you’re battery starts running low (score for real books!)

Another thing I found interesting about the Wall Street Journal article was something I actually found in the comments. Someone left a comment that in France the e-book costs the same as the physical book. They did this to “keep their book-loving culture intact.” I did a little research and found another article that confirmed book discounting has been banned in France. Even further than just e-books, France regulates the prices of books so that a book in a small bookshop will cost you the same as a book from a “high-street giant.” This has allowed independent book stores to survive amid all the discount sellers.

While I was doing some reading on the e-book vs. real book debate I came across a study that was done recently. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted an in-depth survey of people ages 16 and up on their reading habits. It was really a quite interesting article (the link to the article and the study’s findings is below) detailing various kinds of topics, such as reasons for reading, book readers by age, and library use in the past year among many other things. Some of the facts I found interesting from this article included:

  • 83% of Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year
  • 60% of Americans under age 30 used the library in the past year
  • About half (48%) of readers said they had purchased their most recently read book, 24% said they had borrowed it from a friend or family member, and 14% said they borrowed it from a library (see chart below)
  • Almost half (45%) of high schoolers—and 37% of college-aged adults—say that the library is not important or “not too important” to them and their family

Below is a chart that I found particularly interesting which shows the format of books read by people ages 16 and up in the past 12 months:

05-book-sourcesLet me know your thoughts!


Link to the Wall Street Journal article: http://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2014/04/18/reports-of-the-bookstores-death-were-greatly-exaggerated/?Ref=Email_B2C_Authors_May20145/8/2014

Link to article on France’s book pricing policies: http://www.theguardian.com/books/shortcuts/2012/jun/24/why-is-france-shunning-ebooks

Link to article on America’s reading habits: http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2012/10/23/younger-americans-reading-and-library-habits/