Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Return to Provence and Venice in Books

While I love hard copies of books as demonstrated by my stash from the Centenary College Book Bazaar described here, I've enjoyed my Kindle far more than I thought I would, and BookBub has made it easy to view titles and download them free or inexpensively.  I try to focus on my personal challenge to read the books from my library shelves, but I often succumb to temptation and download e-books.  I've read two e-books this week.

The Promise of Provence
Patricia Sands
Kindle e-book

Katherine Price’s husband leaves her for another woman in the most cowardly way possible—he leaves her a note in the roses he traditionally gives her each year on their anniversary.  Katherine is devastated even as she admits their marriage hasn’t been satisfactory for her either.  Phillip was controlling and had monopolized her time.  Her best friend, her cousin and her widowed mother help her pick up the pieces and move forward. 
As other life changing transitions occur in her life, Katherine needs to make a dramatic change, so she participates in a “home exchange” program.  A couple wants to spend a couple of weeks in Toronto, Katherine’s place of residence, and Katherine can live in their house in Provence, France.

And it is the descriptions of her accommodations and the places she visits that were my reason for downloading this book from BookBub.  My husband and I traveled to many of the same places in Provence. Patricia Sands has photos on her website here that show places that inspired her book.  I included a few pictures of Provence below from our trip a years ago.
"Hipstamatic" view from the garden of our friend who lives in Cadenet
Ricky and I at Lourmarin Market
 Bread and tapenades at the Lourmarin Market
I don’t read a lot of women’s fiction, but this was an enjoyable evening’s visit to France.  I learned new facts about Provence while reading this novel and discovered places to add to my “To See List” for our next trip.  I also appreciate Sands’ recurring themes of women, aging and travel.  Patricia Sands has an attractive and comprehensive website, which is worth a visit.

In the epilogue to The Promise of Provence, Sands informs readers that Katherine’s journey isn’t over at the end of this novel.  There will be a sequel.  While I enjoyed this book for its setting, I’m not sure I need to know the rest of the story, but you never know.

Sara Rosett
Kindle e-book
Zoe Hunter and Jack Andrews are divorced but the collapse of the housing market has forced them to continue to share a residence.  For convenience they have divided the house into his and her areas and see each other only if they meet on the stairs or in the front hall.  Zoe works from home editing travel guides.  Jack has a start-up eco-waste disposal business.  Their unorthodox living arrangement seems to work until the police come to Zoe with the news that Jack has disappeared and is presumed to have drowned.  When Zoe goes to Jack’s office to tell his business partner the distressing news, she finds the partner dead.

The police and FBI descend on the scene and seem to think Zoe is working with Jack to fake his death in order to cover up fraudulent business practices.  They suspect Jack killed his partner, then faked his own drowning.  Zoe doesn’t know what to think.  The more she learns about her ex-husband, the more he is a stranger to her.

Someone in a brown car starts tailing Zoe, which is both annoying and alarming.  Zoe wants to solve the mystery so she will no longer be a person of interest. She follows clues to Las Vegas where she finds she is in more danger than she realized.  The key to the puzzle seems to lie in Venice so Zoe soon finds herself overseas, but there is no safety there either.

Elusive was another BookBub e-book selection, and with part of the mystery set in Venice, I was interested in reading the book.  I enjoy books with overseas settings, especially places I’ve visited.  It’s a way to return briefly to that locale.  Because the action picks up in Venice, Zoe doesn’t do much sightseeing, but the backdrop of Venice and the canals are an essential component of the story's climax.
So I decided to include some photos of Venetian canals taken when my mother and I visited Venice.  (You may click on photos to enlarge them for better viewing.)

Gondolas ready to take people on tour of Venice waterways. 
Water taxis take guests to the islands.
A police boat patrols the canals.

Venetian canal with Bridge of Sighs
Back alley waterway in Venice

Weathered walls of buildings on canal side

Once you accept the premise of Rosett’s series, it’s enjoyable escapist fare, but don’t analyze it too closely. I liked the characters and kept reading to see what happens to them.  Elusive is the first in the “On the Run International Mystery” series written by Rosett.  Other books in the series are Secretive, Deceptive and Suspicious.  This isn’t the most nuanced mystery you will read, but Elusive held my attention.  If you grew up watching “The Fugitive” on TV, you will probably like this series.

Click here to visit Rosett's website.  She writes another popular cozy mystery series featuring Ellie Queen, but Elusive is the only book I've read by this author. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Book Bargains: Centenary College Book Bazaar

It seems like temperatures in September should be cooler as my husband and I join the queue that snakes down the sidewalk and around the Gold Dome at Centenary College, the small liberal arts school in our neighborhood.  The sun beats down on all the early birds who are waiting for the doors to open for the 28th annual Centenary College Book Bazaar.  Over 70,000 books are donated for this two-day event, and prices for most books range from 25 cents to $5.00.  The gym is lined with tables of books, all generally organized according to type of book and price, e.g., hard back fiction, paperbacks under $1.00, non-fiction, Louisiana books, nature, children’s books, etc.  An upstairs area holds vintage record albums and CDs. 

Gym filled with tables of books before a previous book sale.

As soon as the doors open, book lovers cluster around and slowly circle the tables of books.  Some people have rolling suitcases or carts with them, almost everyone carries bags of some description to carry their bargains as they shop.  It is orderly, although crowded at many tables.  Bargain hunters may have a plan or specific books they are looking for.  I shop randomly, looking for books that seem interesting (and one has to make that decision rather quickly as there are always people near you wanting to be where you are).  I pick up books by familiar authors and topics that I want to read about. 

To me the book bazaar always has a festive air, and it isn’t as crowded now that they open at 4:00, instead of 5:00 on Friday evenings.  We retirees can get in early!

 People shopping at book sale.
(Centenary College file photo)
Ricky and I each came away with purchases that pleased us.  I decided to play with the new Ollo fisheye lens for our iphones so I could admire all our bargains!

I laid out all the books & records on the dining room table so we could see what we purchased!
The book sale actually continues on Saturday with books going to half price after 1:00, but I'm going to show restraint and read some of these books I already own.
Books Purchased 2014 Centenary College Book Bazaar
1.  Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, by Douglas Adams. (Pocket Books, 1988)
2.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery. (Europe Editions, 2008)
3.  A Royal Pain, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime, 2008)
4.  Evans to Betsy, by Rhys Bowen (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2002)
5.  Royal Blood, by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime, 2010)
6.  A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson (Broadway Books, 1999)
7.  Must Love Dogs, by Claire Cook (New American Library, 2002)
8.  Breath, Eyes, Memory, by Edwidge Danticat (Vintage Books, 1994)
9.  A Country Herbal, by Lesley Gordon (Gallery Books, 1980)
10.  A Bone to Pick, by Charlaine Harris (Berkley Prime Crime, 1992)
11.  Last Scene Alive, by Charlaine Harris (Berkley Prime Crime, 2002)
12.  Shopaholic Ties the Knot, by Sophie Kinsella (Delta Fiction, 2003)
13.  Telex from Cuba, by Rachel Kushner (Scribner, 2008)
14.  A Monk Swimming, by Malachy McCourt (Hyperion, 1998)
15.  Cesar's Way, by Cesar Millan (Three Rivers Press, 2006)
16.  New York Days, by Willie Morris (Little, Brown & Co., 1993)
17.  One Foot in the Gravy, by Delia Rosen (Kensington Press, 2011)
18.  The Amateur Marriage, by Anne Tyler (Ballantine Books, 2004)
19.  A Killer Collection, by J. B. Stanley (Berkley Prime Crime, 2006)
20.  I Married Adventure, by Luci Swindoll (W Publishing Group, 2002
No doubt some of the above will be mistakes, but I got them all for the price of one new hardcover, so I'm not worried.
Other Media Purchased at Book Sale
Movie: Chocolat DVD
1.  Poco, Pickin' Up the Pieces
2.  Poco, Legend
3.  The Complete Lionel Hampton, 1937-1941 (6 record set)
4Ethel Water's Greatest Hits (2 record set)
5.  Louis Prima, The Wildest Show at Tahoe
Ricky is happy adding to his vintage vinyl collection at bargain prices. 
Tens of thousands of inexpensive books for vinyls available for collectors...what a perfect way to start a weekend!  Energized by our bargain hunting, Ricky and I headed to our local microbrewery for a cold one and tacos prepared on-site by K'Mexico! 
It doesn't get much better than this, but next weekend will find us heading to New Orleans, and we'll see what the Big Easy dishes up for us.