Book Review: The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson


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The Paris Winter leaves a proper chill in your soul after you finish reading it. It is the haunting story of Maud Heighton, an English painter who takes art classes in Paris, all the while struggling to get her daily meal.

Her situation doesn’t go unnoticed at the academy, especially when she starts to lose weight and ration meals. A fellow student from Russia named Tanya has sources; she takes Maud to find a job that’ll help her survive the winter.

Maud is employed as companion to the sister of wealthy, mysterious Mr. Morel. She is to teach Sylvie to draw, something she can do easily. It seems she’s finally found stability—she’s eating proper meals and sleeping in a warm room.

It was all too good to be true, however. The Morels had a sinister fate planned for her all along. They did not count on her surviving it, but she wakes with anger in her heart and a desire for revenge.

She’s been used in a scheme the Morels planned for months. When Christian Morel blames her for stealing the Countess’s tiara, she becomes a thief to society. He throws her in the river and claims she committed suicide, so she wakes up not only a thief but dead.

They could not have done more to destroy her reputation.

From childhood, Maud has learned to fight. They might have killed her in the eyes of society, but desire for revenge leaves her very much alive. With the help of her friends, she plans a comeback.

She works with the help of both Tanya and Yvette. A model from the academy, it was Yvette who noticed how thin she’d been getting. Roughened by a life on the streets, she’s courageous enough to stand by Maud to battle injustice.

Friendship is important in this novel. There’s no romance for Maud; as a main character, her strong relationships are with friends. They stand by her when she becomes the ghost of herself in pursuit of revenge.

This emphasis on friendship made the book unique. These women are there for each other in the face of horrific things. I wish more books focused on the strength one can in find a good friend.

Though Maud gets her justice, the ordeal changes her for life. She returns to England with Yvette, hard of heart and angry with life—but driven to start anew as an artist, respected and alive.

This will join my collection of Paris books as a favorite, having caught my attention from the start. Not only does it have a beautiful cover, it’s got an intense plot and strong relationships.

I recommend The Paris Winter to people who, like me, devour any book set in the City of Light. It is also great for fans of historical novels and thrillers. You will be satisfied by the ending; I am sure you’ll find a new favorite in it, as well.

Review: The Earl of Brass by Kara Jorgensen


untitledIn The Earl of Brass we enter a well-imagined, satisfyingly dark Steampunk London where airships and corsets exist simultaneously. We follow two complex characters as their eyes are opened to the possibility of a different world.

Eilian Sorrell doesn’t want to be an Earl. He wants to be an archaeologist, uncovering stories of cultures long gone. His family’s disapproval makes this difficult; when the airship he’s on crashes and he loses an arm, it seems his dream’s gone up in flames.

Now he must struggle to live life with one hand, relearning basic things such as eating or riding a bicycle. I enjoyed watching his spirits lift as he made progress, accepting the challenges and beating them.

When he gets a prosthetic arm, everything takes a more adventurous turn.

Hadley has watched her elder brother craft the arm in his final hours, wrestling with his sickness. Their family business makes things such as mechanical toys and prosthetic limbs for people like Eilian. When her brother dies before the arm’s completed, it falls on her to finish the project.

She plunges headfirst into the family business. In the scene where Hadley delivers the arm to Eilian, I smiled. She wasn’t afraid to show her disdain; after all, this was the arm her brother was working on in his final hours. She thinks the effort weakened him.

The prosthetic arm becomes more of a burden than help, especially when it falls off during a family meeting. On the verge of spiraling, Eilian resolves to wear it as little as possible.

But things are about to change: Hadley, who’s been hiding her genius because it isn’t proper in a woman, has found her older brother’s plans for an arm that could be moved at the wearer’s will, welded to the body. She needs someone to test the invention on.

Eilian agrees to be the test subject. When the operation is a success, his dreams of archaeology spring to life again. Friendship blossoms between him and Hadley despite their social differences, and he invites her to join him on an expedition, where she chooses to disguise herself as a man so they won’t treat her like glass.

Their expedition kicks up the tension and excitement. This book is rich with betrayal, and secrecy—but most of all freedom, newly discovered by two people who’ve lived their lives trapped by social stigma. Now they will return home knowing life has more magic when you break past the barriers.

The Earl of Brass was not what I expected, but I’m so glad I gave it a read! Not only did the plot keep me going, the writing was beautiful. Jorgensen has a way with words that would have kept me reading, even if I hadn’t enjoyed the story—but I did.

This book is great for lovers of Steampunk, Historical Fiction, and characters who aren’t afraid to break the rules.

Review: The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin


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The American Heiress is reminiscent of Downton Abbey, described as a book for you to read while waiting on the next season. It follows the story of Cora Cash, a wealthy American whose mother is willing to do anything to get to the top of the social ladder.

The thing is, most of what Mrs Cash does to get her daughter a place in society seem to be for Mrs Cash’s own benefit; when readers realize this, we understand Cora even though she’s spoiled and obnoxious. She didn’t have freedom as a girl, and even when she marries a Duke she’s sealed into a different kind of imprisonment.

Caught with the gossiping upper class, Cora’s looked upon as different for being an American in English society. Even though she charms people, there’s something that keeps her inferior. She’s made it to the top, but those born with titles won’t fully accept her as one of them.

After marrying the Duke, Cora starts to break down; without her mother to make decisions, she’s left alone in a world where few respect her and even her husband behaves strangely.

The relationships were compelling; I found the settings engrossed me. Daisy Goodwin’s writing style is musical! It got me through the slower scenes because I wanted to read more of her words.

This book follows an “American princess.” We see her stumble through an enormous lifestyle change and promptly get back to her feet. By the end of The American Heiress we applaud Cora’s strength as she reasserts her dignity.

It’s a book I will read again; I’m won over by lovely writing. I enjoyed watching Cora grow from an obnoxious girl into a woman fighting a battle. I’d recommend it to those who love complicated romance, and those who seek novels in historical settings.

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


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This book made me excited to be a writer. I could only dream of someday having such a gorgeous voice in my work.

Every now and then, we stumble upon the accidental read. There’s always that one book you guiltily buy because of the title–and for once, it doesn’t let you down. As this is  an adult historical book, there is some mature content. That being said, it’s a superb look into the life of Ernest Hemingway from a different perspective.

Does a writer ever really love one person more than their art?

This is the question we ask ourselves over and over throughout the book. It’s mostly written from the viewpoint of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley–though a couple of times, there are switches to his perspective, which I admit did catch me off-guard. They were all written in italics, which I suppose disoriented me.

This book is set in 1920, after the war; our world bears a scar that will never go away. Some people still try finding refuge in love, hoping to start their lives over. Ernest Hemingway’s scars run deep. Writing is clearly his one true love from the beginning. Still, he tries to be one of these brave souls. He settles with the main character, Hadley, and together they move to Paris. That’s where all the writers of the day wanted to be, according to Sherwood Anderson:

But if you want to do any serious work, Paris is the place to be. That’s where all the real writers are now.”
—Page 71

Ernest Hemingway in’t satisfied as a journalist. He feels they mock him, giving him jobs that seem ridiculous to write about. He wants to publish a novel that will make a dent in the literary world. While working to barely get by in Paris, he waits wait for the novel. He waits for the masterpiece that’ll launch him with the other greats–the “Lost Generation,” including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

In Paris, you’ve got to be bulletproof. This is impossible when love comes into the picture. We soon realize Hadley’s love is deeper than that of her husband. While he makes friends and his career grows, his wife is fading. She’s become distant to him, insignificant.

Paris has no mercy: She’s taken everything, and will continue till there’s little hope left. This novel is heartbreaking and beautiful, terrible and marvelous.

I want to share one of the most powerful excerpts to me, as a writer. All Hemingway’s work has just been lost, and this passage–I think–holds the overall feel of the story. It’s lost and hopeless, always about starting over without a clue how to begin.

“He puts his hand on the knob and pulls the door open and then he knows everything. There isn’t a page left in the cupboard. Not a note or a scrap. He looks and looks, standing there, wrenched out and hollow. As desolate as the cupboard is, that’s how he is too because the pages belong to him and are him. It’s like someone has taken a broom to his insides and swept them out until everything’s clean and bright and hard and empty.”
—Page 135

At times the writing sounds like a great poem, sweeping you away so that you’re hurting with the characters. When the book was done, I tossed it on the ground and stared at the wall miserably. Make sure you have thick skin: It’s not a light read.

This quote on the first page sums it all up:

It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
—Gertrude Stein