Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: The Paris Hours

The Paris HoursThe Paris Hours by Alex George

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

I am torn over my rating of Alex George’s upcoming novel, The Paris Hours: A Novel, an ARC I received through Goodreads.com. The historical drama is set in 1927 in interwar Paris, a time and place that saw much creative innovation and was populated with many cultural icons but was also filled with the struggles, hidden pain, and cautious hope of those that had endured WWI and were still dealing with its consequences. While many of the famous faces that could be seen and heard in Paris during those years appear and often take part in the narrative of The Paris Hours, the focus is on the lives of four seemingly unconnected French citizens each with their secret post-war struggles – Guillaume, a penniless artist surrounded by this historical gathering of genius but unable to make a name for himself; Camille, an innkeeper, and mother haunted by the loss of her employer and friend, Marcel Proust; Jean-Paul, a journalist who longs to leave Paris and the memories it holds of those he’s lost but hope chains him to the city, and Souren, an Armenian refugee who has seen unspeakable horrors and carries with him a guilt over having survived.
These characters are richly drawn and the reader quickly comes to care for them even as each alludes to unforgivable transgressions. The reader is left wondering what these secrets and betrayals are until the climactic scene at the nightclub, Le Chat Blanc. The journey to this scene with its descriptions of 1920s Paris is also beautifully written even when describing the less beautiful areas of the city. With each mention of a street name or a bridge, a park or a cafe, I felt as if I were traversing the city along with the lonely characters.
The novel and its secrets stealthily inhabit your mind until you find yourself trying to figure out how the characters fit together and learn their terrible secrets before the author reveals them instead of sleeping or working as you should be. The reason I find myself torn comes from all of the questions the novel leaves unanswered at the end. The reader is left to imagine how the characters’ stories end, ending at what could have been the most dramatic scene of all. I can imagine many things but after spending so much time getting to know the characters, I want to know what happens to them.

Note:  My favorite celebrity cameo in the novel is the composer Maurice Ravel.  I kept wondering what the heartbreaking piece he kept playing was so I thank Alex George for telling us in his notes at the end of the book.  I’ve since listened to the piece and plan to download it as soon as possible.  Gorgeous.

If you enjoy novels with lots of secrets, unexpected connections, and surprising twists at the end like The Paris Hours, then you may also enjoy M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans, Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper, or Elizabeth Joy Arnold’s The Book of Secrets.  And I definitely recommend (again) Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty.

View all my reviews

Historical Fiction, Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters #5)

Kopp Sisters on the March (Kopp Sisters, #5)Kopp Sisters on the March by Amy Stewart

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Amy Stewart’s series about the lives of the real-life Kopp sisters but this fifth book is, while quite different from the first four – if you’ve been reading the series you’ll understand why – one of the best.

As with the rest of the series, Stewart covers the quest for women’s rights and fair treatment in a way that never preaches, instead entertains and educates.
One main difference is that the focus is less on Constance alone and while I do love Constance, it was wonderful to get more of Norma and Fleurette’s characters.

But as Stewart states in the historical notes, this part of the Kopp sisters’ story draws largely from Stewart’s own imagination but we meet many new and interesting characters from the footnotes of history. In fact, even though the Kopps are in the title and their individual characters are as boldly drawn as ever, they act mainly as a framework for the story, which is really the story of Beulah Binford and her undeserved(?) infamy. Kopp Sisters on the March is also about the general experiences and emotions of the women in the months leading up to the United States entering World War I. It was truly fascinating, often infuriating, and I cannot wait to see where the Kopps go next.

I usually write an if-you-liked-this recommendation right here but there are only so many times I can say read this series instead I’ll say, check out Amy Stewart’s website for more historical information about Constance, Norma, and Fleurette as well as the other real-life characters they encounter.
View all my reviews

Adventure, Fantasy, Reviews, Science Fiction

Review: The Philosopher’s War (The Philosopher Series #2)

The Philosopher's WarThe Philosopher’s War by Tom Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read the second book of Tom Miller’s Philosophers series, The Philosopher’s War in which Robert Weekes, after having proven many doubters wrong by showing the female-dominated world of Philosophy that males could, in fact, fly fast and well has joined R&E and is sent to Europe to rescue the injured on the battlefields of World War I.
I had some issues with the first novel, The Philosopher’s Flight pertaining to the characterization of the female philosophers and, I’ll admit, I had the same issues with this book but that has more to do with my personal experience than with the writing. Despite this being the second of the series, a lot of explanation is still required of the rules of this world especially of the missions and the special equipment that the flyers and other branches of philosophy use and those passages tended to get tedious to me. Also, I’m not much of a war story fan and, as it is set in France at the end of WWI, there are several passages with detailed descriptions of casualties and dangerous missions. However, the action sequences did read more quickly than most of the rest of the book. What Miller does especially well is to delve into Robert’s evolution from excited/nervous young man ready to prove himself in the war to the battle-tested and battle-scarred man torn between two loyalties.
The Philosopher’s War is yet another book with an interesting and unique concept that explores pertinent ideas it just wasn’t necessarily for me.

If The Philosopher’s War is for you, definitely read The Philosopher’s Flight first to get a better understanding of the rules and branches of philosophy.

View all my reviews