Monday, January 6, 2014

Basic Book Reviews: What I Read During 2013: Part 1

I am a voracious reader. Since I love books so much, I wanted to share, and recommend, what I've read over the past year.

The following pieces of feedback are unfortunately not full, formal reviews, rather they are simply my overall thoughts on each work. I'm not sure the total list of 24 books is comprehensive; these are what came up in my research.

I am breaking this report up into two posts. I hope to finish and publish the second half at midnight next Monday, exactly one week from this first half.

I tried my best to place these in chronological order, the order they came into my life during 2013...

1. The Venice Experiment: A Year in Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane; Ben Robbins
Italy travel narrative is my favorite kind of book and this is a good one. I wish my future husband will ask me to spontaneously live in Venice for a year! Read this book to find out why the author explained away an odd conversation with "Venice just happened."

2. My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock
Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt's quote, "Do one thing every day that scares you," this chick does some crazy things over a year. It is pretty entertaining. I also love a little history about a strong woman like Eleanor Roosevelt too.

3. Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi by Olivier Magny
This is a fun quick read. The author writes a page or so on a topic, declares that all Parisians love it, they use this one word to describe it and that's final. There are zero exceptions to the rule. I'm not sure if I agree with every single thing having read a lot of French lifestyle books and blogs, but I still believe this book to be very helpful. The author opened a wine bar called O Chateau where I hope to do a tasting when I'm in Paris.

4. Hidden in Paris by Corine Gantz
This is a cute novel set in Paris. Even though the characters are a bit odd, they are so developed that you root for them. This is one of the three books I bought myself for my birthday (and the others are #3 and #5).

5. Saints and Soccer Balls: my Seasons in Italy by Clare Fleishman
This is a dense book where the author strives to uncover the truth behind Italian stereotypes. It's pretty good.

6. Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti; Ludovica Damiani, Sciascia Gambaccini
This is a coffee table book and the photography is lovely. Most of the black and white images are rather candid ones that simply show Audrey Hepburn walking around. Did you know she lived in Rome for 20 years? I even love how the book looks on my coffee table. The front cover is a single black and white photograph where she looks so cute and fun yet stylish and the title is printed in my favorite color, dark pink.

7. The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
This is a cookbook that I recommend. In fact, this is my second cookbook purchase from this author. Her mother is from Abruzzo, the region where I studied abroad. I've only made and enjoyed "Joe's Pesto" so far, but look forward to trying out many more recipes.

8. Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Everyday by Jamie Cat Callan
I actually already reviewed this important book on my blog, which you can read here. There are so many lessons to learn. ...and it's all fun; reading the book feels like chatting with a friend. I had the pleasure of communicating with the author via facebook and she kindly let me do a giveaway of an autographed copy of this book. I even gave her tips for travel in Italy! I hope to meet her in person one day.

9. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
I do love the idea of this book, placing importance on gathering around the table for a meal with those you love. I did enjoy it, but just know that she shares her life experiences too.

10. Inferno by Dan Brown
I thoroughly enjoy the Robert Langdon series. It's hard to imagine how another one can top the previous book, but it did. I love that it's set in Florence. This was so perfect to read on the car ride to and from Ocean City, MD in July.

11. The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy
Did you know that this actor is a travel writer? A good one at that. I enjoyed his travel stories. He even made it near my corner of the world, Baltimore. Plus, he is truly honest about his self discovery.

12. The Perfume Collector: A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro
I loved this novel about the stories of two linked women set at different times. It held my interest until the end.

Stay tuned for the last 12 book reviews!


  1. Michelle, you had me interested the second I saw "Paris..." There are so many books in the world I want to read, and so little time! Lately I've been on a classics streak – Les Miserable, The Master and Margarita, Lolita, The Art of Love, The Beautiful and the Damned... I read in Russian so as to not forget the language, but it's becoming increasingly more difficult... I've started several and cannot seem to finish any of them!

    Do you own all of the books you reviewed? I just got the idea to start an online book club! Wouldn't that be fun? XOXO

    1. Then stay tuned for part 2 because half of those books are Paris/France/French-inspired lifestyle related!

      A friend is going to lend me The Paris Wife. And I fee like I should read A Moveable Feast before I depart for Paris!

      I don't own all. Let's see... I own #1, borrowed #2 from the library, own #3 but a friend borrowed it, owned #4 but donated it, own #5 through #8, borrowed #9 from the library, owned #10 but donated it, borrowed #11 from the library and have #12 on my Kindle, also a 2013 purchase, I've never been part of a book club, but I think it would be fun!

  2. Hi Michelle, thank you for the great book reviews! I am especially intrigued by Inferno and The Perfume Collector. I love to read great books and look forward to hearing more of your recommendations. So excited for you that your planning a special trip to Paris, too!

    1. Hello Ginger! You're so welcome. I always wanted to review each book and finally decided to honor that commitment in a couple of large year end posts. Those two selections are the best page-turners on the list. Inferno like the other Robert Langdon books is a thriller that you simply do not want to put down. The Perfume Collector is the kind of book you read in a day. I hope you enjoy them!

      I've certainly been reading a lot about Paris and cannot wait to go!

  3. Good selection of books. I've only read 2 of the books on this list, Jamie Cat Callan and Kathleen Tessaro, but there are some interesting ones that I might add to my own reading list.