The Little French Bistro by Nina George is a fictional novel about a German woman named Marianne who, while vacationing in Paris, decides to attempt suicide by jumping in the Seine.

Unhappily married to a selfish man for many years and childless, she believes her life has no value. Much like A Man Called Ove, fate and a group of spirited coastal French men and women open her heart to joy.

I liked this novel a great deal. It contains many truisms about what it means to be truly alive. The characters are wonderful and oftentimes, humorous! I recommend it!

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Three’s a Crowd

China Dolls by Lisa See is a historical fiction novel.The story begins in San Francisco just prior to World War Two where three young Asian-American women are attempting to pursue their dreams of careers in the entertainment business. The girls origins are quite different which provides contrast in their outlooks and motivations to succeed in their goals. Two of the girls are of Chinese descent and the other is Japanese pretending to be Chinese.

The novel follows the girl’s careers and personal lives through the war and into their old age. I am disappointed to report I did not enjoy this book. I came away from it feeling like See took a history timeline and using it as a guideline, padded her storyline with every historical occurrence possible. Although this is to be expected in historical fiction, I felt it was over the top in this book. Four instance, the Japanese-American girl is unmasked and sent to an internment camp for part of the war as are her parents and brother. At the same time, her two friends go on their way trying to “make it” in show business. One girl is a single mother married to a gay male dancer because the biological father of the child abandoned her and the other is taking any job she can get because it is rumored that she turned the Japanese girl in to the authorities resulting in her own reputation being sullied.

For me, the over abundance of history tie-ins distracted me from the characters and diminished my feelings for them. I welcome the input of any follower who has read this novel because I am interested in hearing your perception of it. I am about to read Lisa See’s most recent novel and have high hopes it will be more enjoyable.

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The Pigeon Tunnel: stories from my life
by John le Carré (David John Moore Cornwall) is an enlightening autobiography written by the well-known author of many popular espionage novels. During a short period in his life, the author was an actual spy which made this book all the more interesting. He rubbed elbows with many well-known dignitaries, actors, and directors. I particularly enjoyed his reminisces of Alec Guinness who happens to be a favorite actor of mine.

Because I saw the movies they became, I began this book with vague knowledge of the author’s work. However, I never read the books from which the movies originated. I was impressed with the caliber of writing in this one and came away with a desire to read his novels. Cornwall has lived an interesting life and overcome obstacles, which in many cases, might have stymied an individual with lessor fortitude and strength. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir because I learned about the author’s life and much more!

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Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig is a wonderful coming of age story about an eleven-year-old boy named Donal who lives with his grandmother on a Montana ranch. In need of an operation, Donal’s grandmother packs her old wicker suitcase with his sparse belongings and sends him alone on long bus ride to her controlling sister Kate in Wisconsin.

As soon as Donal begins his long journey the excitement begins and the tales which follow are humorous and touching. With his lucky Indian arrowhead tucked in his pocket, Donal learns it takes all kinds to make a world as he travels far from the cloistered environment of the ranch. He even meets Jack Kerouac!

I am so happy I came upon this book which takes place in 1951. How very different our country was then. Much of the novel takes place in small towns across America and it was a pleasure to read. If you’re looking for a delightful stroll through yesteryear, this is a book I tip my hat to. I wish it had never ended!

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Unfinished Business

For Isabel, a Mandala by Antonio Tabucchi and translated by Elizabeth Harris is a small novel with a big message. This is a contemplative story about a dead Polish writer named Tadeus who returns to Earth from a star. His desire to discover what became of Isabel, a former lover, fuels his quest.

Acting like a true detective, Tadeus works In connected concentric circles tracking down and interviewing people who knew Isabel. Each ring in his circle leads him to his ultimate goalIsabel.

This is a fantastic story which offers much with regard to the brevity and meaning of life. It lost me a little near the end, but overall, the writing is excellent! I recommend it.

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A Tale of Woe

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell had been lingering on my to-read list for way too long and I finally obtained a copy from our library two days ago! This popular fictional novel is the story of two high school students who “fall in love”.

The book cover bills this as a tale of two misfits who are attracted to each other, but my impression was more of the girl Eleanor being a misfit more than Park, the boy. Park is Amer-Asian and apparently feels like an outcast, but Eleanor comes from a poverty stricken home where her stepfather is an abusive creep.

The plot of Romeo and Juliet frequently came to mind while I read this story which, by the way, is a Young Adult (readers age 12-18) novel. That really threw me for a loop because the graphic nature of many parts of this text made me shudder to think this may be what passes as young adult reading nowadays. This is steamy stuff! Graphic language and sexual actions depicted in detail made me relieved there where no illustrations.

I may be a middle-age woman living in the past who, while painfully aware that contemporary kids live in a much different world than that in which I was raised, but my inner moral sense cried out “Enough”! This is not a terrible book, but it is most certainly not one I’d recommend for “young adults”. How I wish we could bring back the classics by Austin, Dickens, Shakespeare, and Bronte I read in high school. The themes were similar; the smut absent or implied. I got the drift without having it graphically depicted and that still suits me just fine!

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Monetized Motherhood

Who Gets the Drumstick by Helen Beardsley is a book written by a widow with eight children who married a widower with ten children in the early 60’s. It is possible that some of you are familiar with one or both of the movie versions of this autobiography entitled Yours, Mine, and Ours.

Helen North was happily married to a Navy pilot who tragically lost his life leaving his pregnant wife and seven children behind. Frank Beardsley, a Navy man as well, lost his wife, leaving him with ten children to raise. A twist of fate brought Helen and Frank together and they courageously married, merged their families, and added two more of their own to the mix! After reading this autobiography, Lucille Ball became interested in the family and made the first fictionalized movie about their unusual lives.

Much of the book is devoted to parenting decisions Helen and Frank made based on their faith, careful planning, and organization techniques which many times were learned by trial and error. The story as told by Helen, is uplifting and basically light in tone. What grieved me while reading it was the knowledge that many years later one of Helen’s original eight children wrote a biography of his own recounting his experiences as an abused child. Having not read that book, but knowing the original story of a picture perfect blended family made me read between the lines.

With those thoughts and many others I have with regard to the effects of celebrity on innocent children and child abuse, I came away from this book feeling sorry for the children in this story who were victimized by time, circumstance, and parents who were in way over their heads. I chose to read this book without remembering the updated version which told a much different, painful story. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t read this autobiography

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