Friday, 27 February 2015

Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage

I have just visited Paris for the second time through Vicki Lesage’s writing. Vicki offered Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer following my review of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl and I couldn’t wait to receive it. Both books were provided in return for an honest review.

In Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer my friend Vicki is a new Mum (I say friend because that’s how her writing style makes you feel). She has matured, the partying is restricted due to two pregnancies but she is still lots of fun.

Because Vicki is a nerd and a bit of a perfectionist who prides herself on making detailed lists and being organised you’d think she would be able to sail through the difficulties of motherhood. Not so for Vicki.

When it all goes amiss the result is a very funny book book. Fortunately Vicki has the ability to laugh at herself and the mishaps that go on around her.

As with the first book her view of life in Paris as an American expat begins with typical Vicki Lesage humour describing her five month pregnancy check by a French midwife and carrying on from where her first book Confessions of a Paris Party Girl leaves off.  

In this book she links to tales she told in her first book; just enough for readers who have not read it but without over doing it for those who are familiar with her party and romantic escapades.

Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer is fun, witty, honest, with a dash of sarcasm, and very readable. Vicki laughs at herself, French bureaucracy, the medical system, Paris apartments, strange people travelling the metro, watching people through her window, the French day care system and much more as she tells us about her marriage, her children and the two difficult pregnancies.

While she can laugh at life she has a softer side. It shows in her love for her husband and children and in these situations her stories are charming and delightful.

One of the things I always find interesting in Vicki’s writing is her amusing, often tongue in cheek, comparisons between France and other countries especially America. As an Australian I find these comparisons doubly interesting. Sometimes we side with the French (date is written day, month, year in Australia) sometimes with the Americans on the range of quirky differences.

She is a skilled writer; in fact, in her blog she gives tips for writing. If you are a budding author check out her “Behind the Scenes: Editing” post.

This was the first time I carried my Kindle with me so I could read ‘just a bit more’ at every possible moment. I hope this series of life in Paris will continue as the children grow.

My rating 4*

Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Weaver’s Web by Chris Pearce

A Weaver’s Web has a simple, basic story line: poor family, husband makes good, wealth has impact on all family members. And that’s where simplicity ends. Chris Pearce has done some very skilful ‘weaving’ himself.

From the first paragraph the reader is immersed in England at the time of the Industrial Revolution with hand craftsmen losing their livelihood to mechanisation.

Many writers of historic novels either write their history without checking facts or include long and boring passages to explain the relevant history. This is definitely not the case with this book. The historic story line is well researched and flawless and with Pearce’s creative writing skills it becomes intriguing and fascinating. You will relive the sights and sounds of Manchester – its people, factories, poverty, grime, injustices and attempts at revolution.

The believable characters have appropriate attitudes of the day; like it or not that’s the way it was. You will love or hate them, cheer them on or want to throttle them. However, you feel about each individual they will draw some emotion from you.

This is historical fiction at its best.

If you don’t like reading about injustices, cruelty, male dominance and class discrimination then keep away from good historic novels that accurately depict the past and the attitudes of the day. We can’t change history but we can learn from it.

I would also recommend the book to anyone researching their family history. If you have found ancestors during this period A Weaver’s Web will give you a very clear understanding of what life was like for your forebears, rich or poor.

It is a shame that Chris Pearce experienced so much difficulty in getting A Weavers’s Web published because it is an excellent literary work. I would even go so far to say that it is worthy of inclusion in the curriculum for students of literature as an example of prose that educates and entertains.

I got to the end and kept flicking my finger on the Kindle. It finished all too soon. Next book please Chris!

This book was provided to me for free for an honest and unbiased review.

My rating 5* (wish I could give it a lot more)

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Yesterday’s Sandhills by Rita Baltutt Kyle.

Subtitle: Wolf Children in Germany at the End of World War II 

The story of Rita Baltutt and her sisters had me totally engrossed and fascinated from beginning to end. It is plainly yet beautifully written even though it must have been an emotional undertaking. The author gives a clear insight into life of the time and country and the changes in government rule and domination during World War II.

 The story begins with delightful childhood memories. Memories of the author’s childhood home in East Prussia with a loving family and the sand hills where she played.
It continues into the uncertainty of war, change in countries that govern and dominate their homeland then flight from their home with the arrival of the Russian soldiers.

Separated from their parents when they are taken as forced labour by the Russians the four little girls use all their courage just to survive; living like wild animals scrounging food and shelter wherever they can. 

Finally the war ends and the girls live briefly in an orphanage until they are separately fostered out; each experiencing very different lives in war torn East Berlin.

Rita bravely recalls all the horrible things she and her sisters experienced – murder, rape, forced labour of prisoners at a time when no one, no government, no nation cared about four little girls battling to survive on their own.

As the daughter of a British airman who served in WWII, I learnt very little about how people lived and survived life “on other side of the war”.  This book is a reminder that war has a terrible impact on innocent citizens regardless of whether we consider them our allies or our enemies at that point in time. A reminder that for the average citizen life was difficult on both sides.

This is not only one of the few books that tell the other side of living through war it is probably even more special being from a child’s perspective.

In addition to the beautiful yet simple authorship there are several things that make this book very readable. 

The historic details in the book demonstrate she has also done additional research putting her experiences into the context of the war being fought around her. She takes time to explain words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the reader and even does conversions to add relevance for the reader eg 10,000 German Marks would be the equivalent of $66,000 in 2013 . 

I look forward to reading the companion book Bones of My People.

This book was provided to me for free for an honest and unbiased review.

My rating 5*