The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

the_loveliest_chocolate_shop_in_paris_colganThe Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan, published in 2013 by Sphere.

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: chick-lit.

As dawn breaks over the Pont Neuf, and the cobbled alleyways of Paris come to life, Anna Trent is already awake and at work; mixing and stirring the finest, smoothest, richest chocolate; made entirely by hand, it is sold to the grandes dames of Paris. 

It’s a huge shift from the chocolate factory she worked in at home in the north of England. But when an accident changed everything, Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offered her the chance of a lifetime – to work in Paris with her former sweetheart, Thierry, a master chocolatier. 

With old wounds about to be uncovered and healed, Anna is set to discover more about real chocolate – and herself – than she ever dreamed. (Goodreads)

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My rating: 4/5.

This book was a total impulse-buy on a day when our baby was five days over-due, we’d just seen Guardians of the Galaxy (read my review) and I was craving something comforting, but not dumb, to take my mind off the fact that I’ll be a parent soon (as this publishes I already am, oh, my). So I chose Jenny Colgan, whose Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and The Little Beach Street Bakery (my review) I’d read and loved, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Colgan’s combination of slightly troubled, but very strong women, delectable food and very pretty locations is an all-time winner for me. Here, Anna, a 30-year-old from a small, uninteresting town in England, recuperates from a small but almost-tragical injury and a subsequent illness that nearly killed her. She meets her former French teacher, Claire, in the hospital. Claire is going through her last chemo session and starts teaching Anna French again, more from boredom than anything else, but the two women connect despite the miserable circumstances they’re in.

As Anna no longer has a job at her chocolate factory, Claire proposes she go and work at a chocolate atelier in Paris, owned by Claire’s old acquaintance, Thierry. Anna’s not sure she’s up for it but is sick of being the freak show and main gossip of the town, so she pack her bags and leaves for Paris.

The story moves from Anne’s narration and POV to another storyline set in the early 1970s in Paris, where Claire went as an au-pair for a summer and fell in love for the first time. While Anna’s path of recovery and her adventures in Paris would have made a good novel in itself, it’s actually Claire’s flash-backs that I loved the most. The young, sheltered, overly shy girl whose strict upbringing did a serious number on her is suddenly put into the wonderful, colourful world of Paris, food, and summer. In these sections, I found the most sensual descriptions of chocolate and romance ever (and I can tell you I’ve read a lot of romance lately).

I also loved the descriptions of Paris. I’ve been to Paris twice, once when I was a kid and then later with my husband (then boyfriend). Paris was one of the first trips we made together, before we even started living together, and those vacations were always extra-special because we got to spend entire days in each other’s company. It was spring, the chestnut trees hadn’t even bloomed yet, and it rained quite a lot, but we loved every single bit of it, despite the fact that we had next to no money (we were both students at the time).

notre_dame_paris

We saw the Notre Dame, of course, which is why I was so delighted to read about it in the book. And we saw La Tour Eiffel, where magnolias were in bloom, and made awkward selfies with wind-blown hair.

Tour_eiffel_paris

All in all, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris was a perfect read for me. It wasn’t as fluffy and fuzzy as I’d expected, though, and held a more sombre note as well. I really recommend Jenny Colgan’s books to anyone wishing to read quality chick-lit!

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Have you read any good chick-lit lately? I’d love to hear some recommendations.

Do you like books better if you know the setting?

Thursday Thoughts: Where Do You Read?

thursday-thoughts-bannerThursday Thoughts is a weekly meme hosted by Ashley of Ok, Let’s Read and it has become something of a regular feature here on Of Dragons and Hearts. The prompts are always cool and I love reading other bloggers’ responses.

This week, we’re focusing on where we read. Do I mostly read in one designated place? Do In fall asleep reading in bed? Do I read in public? What would be my fantasy reading location?

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Hm, well… I think I covered quite a lot of these questions when I did a Thursday Thoughts post on reading conditions a while back. Also, my reading habits are changing rapidly because we now have a tiny new person in our little family, so I decided to focus on the fantasy part of the prompt and create a moodboard for what I think would be my dream reading experience. Unfortunately, this means that this post isn’t so much about thinking as it is about looking at pretty stuff. :) I’m a cheater. So here goes:moodboard

Images found on (from top to bottom): 123456.

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I love collecting pictures of books, lovely reading spaces and libraries. If you wish to see more, you can follow my board, Books, on Pinterest.

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Do you have a preferred reading space? What would your fantasy reading nook look like?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so don’t hesitate to share! :)

A Non-Bookish Announcement

I have news, dear readers, and it’s of the most happy kind.

We’ve got a baby!!!

(I’m sorry, this totally deserves three exclamation marks!)

He’s a healthy boy who has already claimed a space in our hearts and home and we’re super busy taking care of him. He was born on September 1 in the evening and we’ve now been home for almost two weeks.

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So, what does this mean for the blog? I will probably be posting less frequently. I have some posts scheduled so I won’t be totally absent, never fear. I’ll also be reading less, I’m sure, at least until we get used to each other.

Writing posts is sort of relaxing, though, as is interacting with you lovely people, so I’ll definitely be around. Not so much on Twitter (that’s *way* too time-consuming), but I’ll be here, so don’t hesitate to comment and all.

Have a great time!

Kaja

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Art_of_Lainey_Paula_StokesThe Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes, published in May 2014 by Harper Teen.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: contemporary YA romance.

Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game. 

What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3.5/5

I don’t usually read YA contemporaries. I’ve got nothing against them, I just really like fantasy so my choices tend to veer in that direction. With the exception of The Fault in Our Stars and Ketchup Clouds (which I worked on as a translator), I don’t think I’ve read a single one in the last couple of years. I chose to order The Art of Lainey, however, because I read so many favourable reviews on the blogs that I like, and felt like reading a cute story.

In this regard, The Art of Lainey did not disappoint. It’s a fun, upbeat story about high school romance and popularity. Lainey’s been dumped by her beloved boyfriend, apparently for no reason, and decides, like a fighter that she is, to get him back.

The story is fast-paced, the dialogue fun and bantery and the supporting characters (Lainey’s best friend, especially) are well rounded. I also liked Micah, the boy Lainey asks to help her in her mad scheme of fake dates and jealousy. He’s got his own agenda, so he isn’t some poor, lovesick fool that Lainey uses for her own purposes.

But I had a problem with this book, and as much as I liked the story and everything, there’s one thing I just can’t get past: I didn’t really like Lainey! *hides under covers*

It’s not even the fact that we – as people (let’s pretend she’s real for a moment) – have nothing in common. She’s a soccer player (it’s called football, people, football), a popular (mean) girl, really cute, doesn’t read, is almost universally adored (or so she thinks) and is actually really rude to people she thinks are below her notice. Well, I guess that last part is what bothered me.

I’m sorry, but being popular and beautiful doesn’t make it ok if you’re being a b*tch. There. I said it. And I know we can argue that she changes, that she sees what she’s been doing wrong all this time and all that, but does she ever say she’s sorry about how she’s behaved? Nope, not really.

So. You might love this book. I know that. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, the relationships develop in a natural, not-at-all-instantaneous manner, but I think you’d have to at least like Lainey to love this story. So I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I’m not sorry I’ve read it, but I won’t go shouting about it from the rooftops (I don’t even know if I can get to the roof of my appartment building…).

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Have you read The Art of Lainey? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Can you like a book if you dislike the main character? 

Thursday Thoughts: Cover Changes

thursday-thoughts-bannerThursday Thoughts is a weekly meme hosted by Ashley at Ok, Let’s read! She chooses really good prompts and I like participating. Go and check out other bloggers’ links as well, it’s always worth it!

This week’s topic is cover changes. Am I particular about having all the books in a series look the same? What do I think about movie tie- in covers? Which book covers are my favourite?

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Well. I’ve read a lot of complaints across the blogosphere about having lovely, matching covers and formats of books on the shelves. And I understand, especially if a person’s bookshelves are a focal point in a room. But I’m not too particular about this. I’m sort of ashamed to say, but I mostly go for the cheapest paperback issue of the book when I can get it. I buy so many books I’d go bankrupt if I bought all the lovely hardcovers of the world…

twilight-movie-coverMy bookshelves are filled with mismatched series. The worst, I think, is The Twilight Saga, where I bought the first book when the movie tie-in version was already out (it’s not too pretty but it was the cheapest, oops – and while I’m on the topic of movie tie-ins, I don’t really like them and usually prefer the original design), then I bought the second and third books as mass market paperbacks and then the last one also in paperback, but it’s in a significantly larger format.

The other mismatches series include A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, Gentleman Bastard Sequence by Scott Lynch and The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, where my husband and I bought the first books as mass-market paperbacks and then couldn’t wait for the same format for the following books.

assassins-apprentice-horribleBut sometimes some novels have such atrocious covers that I eye-of-the-world-horriblesimply cannot make myself buy them, even if they’re cheaper than others. I don’t know why, but fantasy is particularly bad in this regard (to be honest, romance covers can be the worst, but it’s sort of expected there). I mean, just look at these: Robin Hobb’s and Robert Jordan’s books are terrible in some editions, so we always buy the more neutral covers.

That said, I’m really bummed thet my Kindle doesn’t display covers. I like a pretty cover and just looking at and feeling the book in my hands, and it’s sometimes a bit boring to just have a plain wall of uniform electronic text without the graphic design that accompanies the “real” version.

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So, am I a cover snob? I wouldn’t say so. Money is a significant factor for me when I’m buying books, I’m sad to say, but some covers cross that line from bad to horrible and even I can’t abide buying them. 

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How about you? Are you particular about your books’ looks? :)

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so go ahead and share!