Book series I love: Amour et Chocolat by Laura Florand

There are a couple of book blogs that I follow. Every now and then, they share special offers – when a book is off at Amazon, for example. I buy wayyyy too many of these recommendations. The majority of them just end up hanging around on my Kindle app, in the event that I will read them. (I have a very full Kindle app.)

But I do read them, eventually.

One of those offers ended up with me buying the first book in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat, The Chocolate Thief

Every now and then I read a series that I think – more people should know about this. Amour et chocolat (don’t worry, the books are originally in English) is one of those series. I bought the first book in October last year, and by the time Christmas came around, I had read all the books in the series twice. Granted, I read fast, but that is still a very quick re-reading of a series, even for me.
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Review: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
Mrs Queen Takes the Train
by William Kuhn

This book in the same genre as  The Uncommon Reader is, and enjoyable for many of the same reasons. It is fictional, but with enough facts mixed in to make it fun to read. (Not a book if you’re taking everything deadly serious.)

The Queen becomes a character with traits that you think you recognize from the newspapers, and some invented, and the rest of the cast of characters are fictional. The storyline is fictional – the Queen is suffering from depression, and wants to go to visit Britannia where she remembers being happy, and takes to the train to Edinburgh. The courtiers scramble to follow her and find her before the news that she has disappeared becomes public.

It’s not the perfect book, but it is a fun summer read.

Review: 10% Happier

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True StoryI can’t remember where I first saw the review for this, and when I picked it up, though I know it is recent, and I might have seen it on one of the many book blogs I skim through Feedly. (Amazon tells me I bought it 9 days ago.)

I’d like to say I picked it up because of the catchy first part of the title, but I think it might be the “reducing stress” part of the title that caught my eye first. Though I certainly wouldn’t mind being 10% happier either.

The book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris

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“You don’t look like the librarians I remember,” he told her.

“We’ve changed. There was a whole press release issued about it, but we didn’t get much media coverage.”
Almost Summer by Susan Mallery

I really think it is fun to play with the whole librarian stereotype at times. Basically because, of all the librarians I know, very few actually conform to it. I can’t say I know any Irma Pince. I know more librarians who are like Batgirl, or like the punker in the illustration below.

Image from "Should a Library Have a Dress Code?" (Anderson, 1992).
Image from “Should a Library Have a Dress Code?” (Anderson, 1992).

My boss did tell me, at one point, that when I’m doing presentations to the public, to either go for the bun, the glasses, the tea or the cardigan – not all four of them. I shouldn’t live up to the stereotype.

But I like tea, damn it.

Also, the power a “shush” has is kind of cool.


Authors, coming books… pre-ordering

Dear authors,

Usually, when I finish the most recent book in a series, I want to read more. A lot of the time, you tell me the name of the coming book in the end of the book.

If you have the name of the book and when it will be published – please make either an entry of it on Amazon (or a similar site) or on GoodReads. Amazon (or similar site) so I can pre-order it, or GoodReads so I can add it to list of books I want to buy.

By the time the next book comes up on either site for ordering or adding, I might have moved on and forgot all about that interesting book I wanted to read. After all, there are so many books out there, and so little time.

If you have it listed for pre-order, I will order it once I’m finished with the last book. I might not remember it by the time it actually is published, but it is then a very nice surprise to get it in the mail or on automatic download to the reading device.

It’s all about marketing savvy, isn’t it?


PS. I have been informed that it is possible to subscribe to updates from Authors at their author profile at Amazon. A good first step.

Review: Ingrid: prinsesse af Sverige, dronning af Danmark

Book cover: Queen Ingrid by Lundgren
Ingrid: prinsesse af Sverige, dronning af Danmark by Roger Lundgren

This is actually a rather decent book on Queen Ingrid of Denmark. I read  Sibylla: En biografi by the same author a while back, and didn’t care for the writing style at all, which I why I am surprised that this one worked for me.

The reason for why this works is mainly that Lundgren has used, liberally, quotes from interviews and other books on the subject. His own writing voice has also seemed to mature in the three years between the two books, and it doesn’t feel so fawning and childlike.

With the overflow of the quotes, it feels like a television documentary with Lundgren as the narrator, and the royals as the subjects.

Some of the things that come up are new information, and some isn’t. We learn that both Queen Margrethe and her son Crown Prince Frederik learned Swedish from Ingrid, at their own request, to speak with their Scandinavian relatives and friends. I knew from before that Queen Margrethe spoke Swedish well, but I had never heard the tidbit about Frederik. And now it came from his own “mouth.”

At the same time, the quotes can be a bit duplicating in their information – why is it necessary to have quotes from Queen Margrethe and Princess Benedikte iterating almost word for word the same information, for example? (And this happens a lot throughout the book.)

There is a literature list in the back, but I wish that he would have made it clear throughout the book when he was quoting from another piece of royal biography or when it was in direct interviews with the royals.

For example, the story from Ex-King Constantine of Greece that his father-in-law locked Constantine into a bathroom when he came to ask for Anne-Marie’s hand in marriage, first came to my light with the DR television series about King Christian’s descendants (or other biographies, for all I know). If Lundgren did not get his information from there, but from an interview with Constantine, it would have been good to have that cited in the material.

When there is not quotes to liven the material, from Ingrid’s younger years, or when her parents met each other, the story falls a bit flat because everything is so sugar glossy and nice.

Overall, I don’t regret reading (or buying) the book, but there are some definite room for improvement. And while I, after reading the Sibylla book, had not planned on reading Lundgren’s newest book on Queen Silvia, I am now planning to do it.


Review: The Chocolate Kiss

The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just reread this book, and completely had a chocolate craving. Especially since the hot chocolate played such an essential role in the book – almost like a character of its own.

And then it snowed today. So I felt like I had the perfect excuse.

I made the chocolate chaud recipe in the back of the book. It was a perfect cup on a cold day.

hot chocolate

The next time I make it, I might skip the cinnamon and nutmeg infusion though. I think the chocolate could stand on its own well enough.

Review: Nasjonal klassereise : Mette-Marit og politikkens abdikasjon

Nasjonal klassereise : Mette-Marit og politikkens abdikasjon by Hedvig Skonhoft Johannesen

The book, or leaflet (considering the amount of pages, was written for the centenary of the Norwegian female vote. It’s part of a series of 12 publications from various women on what happens in Norway today.

This particular one covers the Norwegian Crown Princess, and how she is portrayed in the media, how she has “travelled through the classes” and why the Norwegian media aren’t asking more critical questions of the royal house when they have the chance to do interviews.

The latter was very clear both last year, with the interview that sparked the whole dress-discussion, but also with the 10 year anniversary documentaries that were made a couple of years ago.

We’re shown a glossy image of the royal family, as much as possible.

It’s a good and valid debate to ponder about – I do question why it is just Mette-Marit who is coming up for the debate here, and why she hasn’t included Queen Sonja in the discussion. The two of them combined have done a much greater journey through the class-system of Norway than just Mette-Marit alone.

If it hadn’t been for Sonja coming first, I’m not sure Mette-Marit, or someone similar to her, could have come along as “easily.” The Norwegian monarchy would have looked vastly different in 2000/2001 if it hadn’t been for the Queen paving the road first.

Review: The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America’s Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant

The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant
The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America’s Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant by Allison Arevalo

All the recipes in the book looked like they’d taste amazing. (Especially at this time of year, when all you want is something nice and warm and gooey and cheesy… I’m sorry, what was the topic again?)

I tried out the classic Mac & Cheese recipe from this book, and was generally very happy with the result. I felt that it would have been much easier for me as a home cook, who generally isn’t making béchamel sauce by the vat all the time, or making Mac & Cheese for dinner every day – if they would have included the recipe for the béchamel (or as they call it Mac Sauce) – in each of the recipes instead of having it stand alone. As it were, it ended up being a whole lot of turning the pages back and forth for me, and it would have been easier to make the recipe if all the parts were on the same page.

Furthermore, it is rather hellish on dishes as the amount of pots used is rather high. I actually ended up reusing my pasta pot (left the pasta in the sieve I used to drain it) for part of it, since I was doing the dishes by hand.

But the result was amazing, and I might end up trying out some of the other recipes from the book as well.

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Review: My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir

My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir
My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock

The premise of this book is a little bit crazy, but I appreciated it in the end. The author lost her job during the 2008 crash and is flailing over what to do. She decides to live a year with Eleanor Roosevelt for inspiration, facing her fears all the time.

She swims with sharks, does comedy stand-up, flies a plane, sky dives and a lot of other things.

I rather liked the concept of facing one fear each day. Interspersed with quotes and Eleanor Roosevelt’s history, it makes for an interesting and dynamic book.

The writing is easy and fun to read along to. (Must confess I skipped ahead on some pages – turns out that reading about certain aspects set my own fears fluttering.)

Review: The Chocolate Heart

The Chocolate Heart
The Chocolate Heart by Laura Florand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laura Florand is a recent discovery of mine. It’s only last month that I picked up the first book in this series, and then ended up devouring all her backlist like a madwoman. Paris, chocolate and cultural misunderstandings… – what’s not to love?

The Chocolate Heart is one of those books that, if it was less well written, would be annoying as hell. It is about the heiress Summer Corey and the pastry chef Luc Leroi. Summer’s dad buys her the hotel where Luc works at the 3 star restaurant. From the minute they meet, there is misunderstandings.

These go on for almost the whole book – and could maybe partly have been solved in half the time if the two of them were less neurotic, and less inclined to misunderstand everything the other one is saying.

It is only Florand’s excellent writing which carries the story so well to the end. As it is, it is delicious and sweet and wistful…

It’s actually a book that I am sad to see end. The first book in this series was good, but I feel like the stories and the writing is improving book by book, and it will be a pleasure to read the next one, and re-read them again and again.

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Review: Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris

Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris
Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah

I’m currently working my way through the Julia Child memoir of living in Paris. I seem to be on a Paris book-kick at the moment. (Julia Child, David Lebovitz, Laura Florand and Lauren Willig, to name a few.) This memoir seemed to tie nicely into it, and looked like a fun read.

Ann Mah and her husband moved to Paris for her husband’s diplomatic job. Only when they got there, he was stationed in Iraq for a year. She took to exploring the country and its food history, and trying to manage on her own.

On the way, there are recipes, and stories of trying to make friends. The best story was inviting total strangers home to cook together, just because you happen to like the same restaurant. I would love to eat those dumplings.

To be honest, there is a bit too much jumping around in this book for my taste. The chapters lack a certain fluidity between them, and feel like articles stuck together in a book. I actually ended up reading it that way, which I found worked much better for me.

In the end it all comes together, and I am definitely going to try to make boeuf bourguignon, and maybe some of the other recipes from it.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is about Don, a professor of genetics, who is socially awkward and limited in his circle of friends. He likes things as they are, but he has decided that it is time to get married. He starts a project, with a questionnaire for the potential candidates. Then Rosie comes onto the scene. She is wondering who her real father is, and wants Don’s help. They start the Father Project together – DNA testing possible candidates. Rosie is as far from the right replies to the questionnaire as possible.

For the first half of the book, I wasn’t really sure if I liked it. It read like Big Bang theory alternate universe fan fiction – with the names and certain other aspects changed. When I read, I imagined Sheldon Cooper, and for Don’s apartment – the apartment from the show.

I am also not a huge fan of first person point of view; it takes a bit more time to get into.

And then it picked up, and came into its own. Where I had to take breaks from it in the beginning – I read the second half in one go. It was definitely worth reading for the ending alone, and I suspect the last part might be a candidate for frequent rereading.

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Review: Sibylla : En biografi

Sibylla : En biografi by Roger Lundgren

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I had huge expectations for this book, as the author is renowned as a royal expert in Sweden, and Princess Sibylla is something I expect that he would have known quite a bit about.

I’m left with a conundrum, because the parts where he did cover Sibylla were okay enough. It is just a pity that there were so little of it.

The major problem with the book is that it is touted as a biography about Princess Sibylla of Sweden – and out of the 319 pages, over a third of it is used to describe various members of the Swedish royal family, the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family, and almost everyone but Sibylla. In addition, the author jumps back and forth in history to the point where it ends up being annoying.

There is also a superficial aspect to the book where he focuses on everybody but Sibylla – she ends up being a supporting character in her own biography. He spends more time talking about the weddings of Sibylla’s children than he did with Sibylla’s own wedding, for example, and even then he barely mentions Sibylla in that context.

It is very clear to me that despite being a royal watcher, I am not the person this book is angled towards. It is written in a very chatty tone, where the author presumes to know what the cast of characters thought during various events, without supporting the thoughts with proper references.

Not at all a very impressive biography.

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Review: Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch

Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch
Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch by Barbara A. Perry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I actually rather liked this. My first foray into reading about the Kennedy clan (as an adult) had to be about Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. I’ve had both the Jackie and Teddy biographies lying about for a while, but decided to start with the matriarch.

I realize that it is very different what we prefer in biographies, but for me, this was a good read. It did go into the details around things, though not to the nitty gritty on everything. Also, it didn’t spend ages looking at what the individual Kennedys were doing; the children and husband were almost only mentioned as they pertained to Rose and her reactions to their antics.

But apart from that, with this method of doing it, it also means that when I read the next Kennedy biography, I won’t have heard everything before.

At the same time, it was rather neutral, not painting anyone with an overly rosy picture – not even Rose.

I could have done without the emphasis on all her traveling, though, as at one point it just got to be enough to read about even if she did do all the traveling.

I feel I got a good read through of the book, and it whet my appetite for reading more about the rest of them.

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Review: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors
Behind Closed Doors by Hugo Vickers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have some major issues with this book. I think the writing itself is quite good – but I fail to grasp the concept of having “the ending” first, and then go on to the early lives of the Duchess and Duke of Windsor.

If the two had been reversed, I think I would be left with a lot more positive feelings about the book – because Hugo Vickers writes well. But a lot of the minutiae that covers the first half of the book would (in my opinion) have been less tedious if we had read the last part of the book before we went on to read the first part of the book.

All through my reading of the first chapters I kept wishing that I’d known a bit more about the Duchess of Windsor before starting the read – as all the details of who is who, and footnotes felt excessive.

Vickers met with several of the staff of the couple throughout the years, and is clearly a bit biased towards the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, explained with a long fascination, but it does not feel like he is overly subjective in his writing. Although considerably more positive than a lot of other biographies covering the subject in their time.

There were some revelations that I thought were interesting, especially in the view that the Duchess of Windsor has been painted in her time – that she stole the King away. Whereas, it turns out, through his letters when he was the Prince of Wales – long before he met Wallis Simpson – that he really wished he could throw it all away, and was not all that keen on being the PoW or the King.

Also the fact that Wallis Simpson herself did not necessarily want to be married to him, or that he should give away the throne for her. It was much more interesting for her to have an affair with him, and be in the social circle of the Prince of Wales and later the King than to be married and in exile.

It’s also rather telling that he wished that he could live in the States or Canada and had hoped for that after they married, but she was an American who would much rather live in France than at home.

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Review: Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch

Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The ultimate biography on the Queen will probably not come until after her death. But if we combine the plethora of existing ones, a decent enough picture comes out of it.

This biography adds to that picture to a certain degree. It’s not perfect, but it is easy to read and does not go too deep into the political side of things. I also appreciated that certain areas where I have read much coverage before, childhood, Margaret’s romantic affairs, etc. was not covered too much in detail.

At the same time, the book goes into more details on the latter aspects of The Queen’s life up to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

If you follow the British royal family with any sort of regularity, I think this can easily be skipped as there are few new and interesting things revealed. If you don’t, then it can be a useful and interesting read.

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Review: Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide
Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide by Doug Mack
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a fun little read. How does the Europe on 5 dollars a day travel guide from way back translate to traveling in Europe today?

Some of us (the author of the book included) have become so accustomed to looking things up on Tripadvisor, blogs, Wikipedia, etc. when we travel – but one of my best finds in Rome came through an old guidebook. (Ice cream. Never underestimate the power of ice cream in Rome in July.)

It is interesting to hear the contrasts between then and now, and how the writer works in the letters from when his mother traveled using the original version of the guide book.

Some of the tips from back then works, and some are miserable failures.

And I can definitely recognize myself in the ennui at the end – sometimes the things you *must* see become too much and it is simply more fun to experience everyday life in the place you are than the tourist side. And other times, it is more fun to be the ultimate tourist.

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Review: The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just finished reading this book. I did not think I was going to like it, and I’ve had it in my “to be read” queue for almost a year just because I could not muster up the interest in it – long live procrastination…

But I’ve been feeling a bit down lately, so last night when I looked through my Kindle app for something to read this caught my eye. From the first couple of pages, I could tell this would be a book for me.

It is all about how you have so many things you want to do that makes you happy, but they sometimes get viewed as insignificant and hidden behind the day-to-day activities instead of being a core part of them.

The experiment of trying different things throughout the year and being the best person you can be to focus your own happiness (which in turn should make those around you happier) is told in an interesting way and I kept coming back to it to read a few pages. I think I bookmarked the whole January chapter…

I love that she draws in other literature but relates it to her own life. The later chapters also make the book feel more relevant to me, as she is definitely not a super-human who have found the one right way, but lots of little things that work for her life.

I will definitely try to apply some of the techniques Rubin mentions – first the January resolutions of going to bed earlier, just cleaning up for a minute and put things in their proper place… and then there is the closet…

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Important books in your life?

I was at a book talk tonight. The journalist who talked about “books that had been important in his life” was funny and made most of the books sound interesting.

The problem was that I have read some of the books he talked about. And I did not like them at all. The first one he talked about was Catcher in the rye. Back when we read this in English class in high school the class was almost 50-50 divided on it – the girls couldn’t stand it, and the boys loved it.

But trying to think what books have been important in my life is not easy.

I read a ton of books. My living room is full of books. I’ve taken to buying books electronically that I think I won’t share with the sisters, just because of space issues. I read quickly, and I have always done this. Back in middle school and high school I did the classics voluntarily (and some for class.) Ibsen and Shakespeare. I also had a period where I read even more super-serious books about WWII, which, in retrospect, was not a good thing for someone with an over-active imagination.

These days I’m sticking to my pulpy, comedy, romance and fantasy and the happy ever after. Much better for my state of mind.

If I want depressing reality, I can read the news.