Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

About the book, The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector

About The Perfume Collector

• Paperback: 464 pages
• Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (February 4, 2014)

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance from a mysterious benefactor, Eva d’Orsey, whom she’s never met.

So begins a search that takes Grace to a long-abandoned perfume shop on Paris’s Left Bank, where she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d’Orsey’s story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect, Grace must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

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About the author, Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.

Find out more about Kathleen at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

My Thoughts:

Kathleen Tessaro knows how to hook readers. With both description and dialogue, she had me invested in Eva d’Orsey from almost the first page of The Perfume Collector and when I ‘met’ Grace several pages later, I was instantly invested in her as well.

As someone who has a love/hate relationship with ‘period’ pieces, I really appreciated the level of detail Tessaro put into this novel. Paris in the 20s felt distinctly different from Paris and London in the 50s and so on. As well, Paris and London were distinct from each other, set apart, not just by fashion and street names, but with subtle changes in language choice and tone.

These things, as much as plot, are what make novels work for me.

But The Perfume Collector did not suffer any plot-related shortcomings. It was gripping, compelling me to read it straight through, skipping at least one meal, and causing at least one tub of bathwater to grow cold while I was in it (my ultimate measure of a great novel is ‘does it keep me in the tub?’).

I haven’t read Tessaro’s other work, but if they’re half as good as The Perfume Collector I simply must.

Goes well with Croque monsieur and fizzy lemonade.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a book tour from TLC BookTours. For more information, click here.

Review: The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick

About the book, The Good Luck of Right Now

The Good Luck of Right Now

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper (February 11, 2014)

Call it fate
Call it synchronicity
Call it an act of God
Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday Mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, Mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life by writing Richard Gere a series of letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women, are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foulmouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the Cat Parliament and find Bartholomew’s biological father . . . and discover so much more.

Buy a copy

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About the author, Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick is the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into an Academy Award-winning film, and the young adult novels Sorta Like a Rock Star, Boy21, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. He is married to the novelist-pianist Alicia Bessette.

Connect with Matthew:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

This review is really late, not because I wasn’t finished with the book (I was!) but because as I sat down to write it this morning, canine chaos erupted in my back yard. (My foster-dog had pinned my year-old rottie mix to the ground and was chewing on his flank, then my pointer mix tried to pull her off of him by biting her face. Blood and fur and yelping animals everywhere. NOT an auspicious start to the morning.) So, if this seems a bit disjointed, well, I’m sorry.

I haven’t read (or seen) The Silver Linings Playbook, so I don’t know if The Good Luck of Right Now is written in Matthew Quick’s typical style or not, but I liked the convention of an epistolary novel formed by letters to Richard Gere. It was quirky and innovative and when the book addressed some darker issues, that convention kept things from becoming unrelentingly grim.

I also really liked the characters – Bartholomew seems basically affable and sweet, if obviously not-quite-neurotypical. Father McNamee was a solid presence and the “Girlbrarian” was just amazing (as was her brother).

Having lived through my grandmother’s dementia, I could relate, especially, to those moments when Bartholomew’s mother forgot who he was, or insisted he was Richard Gere. In fact, those scenes played nicely against the eventual road trip to Canada, and the very sweet developing relationship between Bartholomew and Elizabeth.

Bottom line? This novel defies convention, but it’s all the more compelling for doing so, and I’m really glad I read it.

Goes well with Enchilada pie and a tossed salad..

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Spotlight on: Til I Find You, by Greta Bondieumaitre

Til I Find You

About the book, Til I Find You

Til I Find You

No one knows how bumpy the road to love is more than Tisha Cole. After years of excruciatingly embarrassing dates, the 25-year-old receptionist is ready to hand in her dating license, but her cynical cousin, Drew, will not let her. She knows that finding Mr. Right has always been Tisha’s ultimate goal in life and short of joining the search herself, Drew plans on doing whatever it is in her power to help Tisha find him. When they cross paths with two best friends and a very sexy entrepreneur, there’s a slight change in plans.

Drew who has always been adamant about keeping her single status begins to doubt her immunity to Tisha’s lovesickness.

Tisha has hit the jackpot with not one but two perfect dates! Where next will her quest for love take her when she decides to upgrade her relationship—with both men!

Two not-so-sweet cousins, three not-so-honest men. With the many potholes and crossroads along the way, will Tisha ever reach her destination?

Buy a copy!

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About the author, Greta Bondieumaitre

Greta Bondieumaitre

Greta Bondieumaitre is from St. Lucia, a small but lively island in the Caribbean. She started writing love stories between classes in high school to amuse her friends at lunch time. Ten years later, she published her first novel, Her Heart’s Desire. She later published, Play Me A Love Song and recently, ‘Til I Find You. She describes writing during her post-high school years as “self therapy.”

Connect with Greta

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Til I Find You

Review: The Kept Girl, by Kim Cooper

The Kept Girl - tour

About the book, The Kept Girl

The Kept Girl - Cover

Los Angeles, 1929: a glittering metropolis on the crest of an epic crash. A mysterious prophetess and her alluring daughter have relieved an oil tycoon’s nephew of his fortune. But the kid won’t talk. To find the money, the old man calls on a trusted executive, Raymond Chandler, who in turn enlists the aid of his devoted secretary/mistress, Muriel Fischer, and their idealistic patrolman friend Tom James.

Soon the nephew is revealed as a high-ranking member of a murderous cult of angel worshippers, and the trio plunges into an investigation that sends them careening across Southern California, from sinister sanitariums to roadside burger stands, decaying Bunker Hill mansions to sparkling cocktail parties, taxi dance halls to the morgue, all in search of the secretive Great Eleven. But when Muriel goes undercover to infiltrate the group’s rural lair, she comes face to face with disturbing truths that threaten to spoil everything, not just for the cult’s members, but for herself as well.

A work of fiction inspired by actual events and featuring the real-life cop who is a likely model for the mature Chandler’s greatest creation, private eye Philip Marlowe, Kim Cooper’s The Kept Girl exposes a mystery so horrifying, it could only be true.

Buy a copy

Esotouric | Amazon

About the author, Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including Pasadena Confidential, the Real Black Dahlia and Weird West Adams. Her collaborative L.A. history blogs include On Bunker Hill and In SRO Land. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons of LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life: Inspiration from a 73-Year Marriage, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of the cult band Neutral Milk Hotel. The Kept Girl is her first novel.

Connect with Kim


My Thoughts

The first thing that struck me about The Kept Girl was, “Wow, this woman can WRITE.” Why? Because from the very first page we are not just glimpsing, but immersed in Los Angeles in the late 20’s. It’s glitz and glamour, oil money and noir detectives, and it’s all mixed together in a way that feels only fresh, never derivative.

Cooper’s main character, Muriel, is smart and tenacious, and I’d happily follow in her footsteps on an investigation. Tying in real history – this novel is based on the real Raymond Chandler’s boss – only adds depth to the story.

This novel isn’t at all fluffy, and yet, it’s a very quick read because the writing just sings and the plot is so well-paced. Support independent booksellers by buying a copy from Esotouric (link above) or grab the kindle version from Amazon. You won’t regret it.

Goes well with Chinese food and beer.

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Review: The Taste of Apple Seeds, by Katharina Hagena

About the book, The Taste of Apple Seeds

The Taste of Apple Seeds

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 4, 2014)

The internationally bestselling tale of love, loss, and memories that run deep

When Iris unexpectedly inherits her grandmother’s house in the country, she also inherits the painful memories that live there. Iris gives herself a one-week stay at the old house, after which she’ll make a decision: keep it or sell it. The choice is not so simple, though, for her grandmother’s cottage is an enchanting place, where currant jam tastes of tears, sparks fly from fingertips, love’s embrace makes apple trees blossom, and the darkest family secrets never stay buried. . .

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About the Author, Katharina Hagena

Katharina Hagena

Katharina Hagena is the author of On Sleep and Disappearing. She lives in Hamburg, Germany.

My Thoughts

If I were asked to describe this book, I’d say it’s a blend of Like Water for Chocolate and Tales of Hoffmann, which latter is a collection of classic fairy tales with a decidedly Teutonic sensibility. I use this description with affection, because from the first page, I was completely entranced.

I’m not certain whether Hagena writes in English, or if this is a translation, but either way, the language puts the reader into a sort of dreamlike state, where everything is soft-focus and just a little bit off-kilter. Not disconnected, just not quite plumb.

I liked, especially, the character of Iris, from whose perspective we experience this book, but I also liked her Buddhist monk aunt, and the rest of her extended family.

As someone who has always loved rambling old houses, and who absolutely believes that houses (and all buildings) retain a bit of the essence of their inhabitants, I also fell in love with Iris’s inherited house. Sure, there was bitterness and sadness there, but there was also love, hope, and not a little magic, and without the darkness, what is light?

The Taste of Apple Seeds is not a fairy tale. It’s a contemporary novel laced with just enough magical realism to make you smell the fruit, and feel the breeze, and taste the buttercake.

In short, it’s wonderful, and I loved it.

Goes well with Earl Grey tea and a slice of lemon pound cake.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. For more information, visit the tour page by clicking here.

Review: At the River’s Edge by Mariah Stewart

About the book, At the River’s Edge

At the River's Edge

After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.

But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?

Buy a copy:

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About the author, Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and their dogs amid the rolling hills and Amish farms of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she gardens, reads, and enjoys country life.

My Thoughts

I was first introduced to Mariah Stewart’s series of novels The Chesapeake Diaries, when I received a box containing the first six books in the series late last year. It was cold and wet, and they were great books for that kind of weather, because they fall into a favorite category of mine: small town, beach novels.

At the River’s Edge is the most recent addition to the series, and like it’s predecessors, it takes place in the same continuity, the same version of life on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, in a small town with cute shops and colorful characters. Having lived in not one, but two, such towns (though not on the Chesapeake), I can assure you that Stewart’s depiction of those two elements, and of small town life in general, is dead-on.

This particular novel was a bit weird for me, only because the man who dumps protagonist Sophie in the beginning (well, actually she dumps him after catching him cheating on her) shares my husband’s first name. Once I got beyond that, and into the meat of the story, I was happily entranced by Sophie’s desire to restore a diner. In fact, in many ways this book could have been about me, because I grew up visiting a family diner owned by my cousins, and when it closed, I would happily have bought it, if I’d had the cash.

I was equally enamored with landscaper and love-interest Jason, and I liked the way their relationship began as one of antagonism before passion turned on both characters and things got warm and cozy between them. Was this a bit predictable? Yes. Does that mean the story isn’t enjoyable? No.

Some people might consider Stewart’s books, and others like them, to be fluff. I disagree. I think that at a time when our science fiction and fantasy are dominated by zombies and post-apocalyptic futures, it’s nice to have books that aren’t afraid of sweetness or sentimentality. Stewart writes fantastic characters in ‘normal’ lives, and she does it in a well that makes her books not merely compelling, but downright addictive. Not to mention, the vast majority of the women in her novels are smart, savvy, and own their own businesses. How empowering!

Goes well with hot pastrami on rye with a side of cole slaw and a vanilla cream soda.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. For more information, click here.

Review: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

About the book, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

The Gods of Heavenly Punishment

One summer night in prewar Japan, eleven-year-old Billy Reynolds takes snapshots at his parent’s dinner party. That same evening his father Anton–a prominent American architect–begins a torrid affair with the wife of his master carpenter. A world away in New York, Cameron Richards rides a Ferris Wheel with his sweetheart and dreams about flying a plane. Though seemingly disparate moments, they will all draw together to shape the fate of a young girl caught in the midst of one of WWII’s most horrific events–the 1945 firebombing of Tokyo.

Exquisitely-rendered, The Gods of Heavenly Punishment tells the stories of families on both sides of the Pacific: their loves and infidelities, their dreams and losses–and their shared connection to one of the most devastating acts of war in human history.

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About the author, Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand.

Jennifer lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

Connect with Jennifer

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My Thoughts

While I’m not typically a fan of historical fiction, I make exceptions for recent history. The recent acquisition of a scrapbook my grandfather made when he was stationed in Hawaii in the 1930s had sparked my interest in the period just before and during World War II, and when I was offered The Gods of Heavenly Punishment to read and review, it seemed like a sign, especially since so much of the literature about that period is so Eurocentric.

This book, however, is a refreshing change from the usual, both because of the subject, and because it tells such an earthy, gritty, human story. We meet three boys in different parts of the world, and we revisit them during their lives, as tragedy occurs, finally saying goodbye to the last of them as a grown man.

We meet the girls and women who dance in and out of the boys’ lives, and they are as dimensional, as fully-realized as any lead characters in any work, despite not being on ‘center stage.

Even though we know the bare facts of history, there are thousands of stories, some separate, some interconnected, and Epstein weaves her fiction into the historical context with deftness and grace. From the opening chapters – a boy kissing a girl on a Ferris wheel, another boy snapping pictures with his brand new camera – to the closing ones – a man confronting the truth of his fathers actions toward another, a woman seeing treasured photos of her parents – we are treated to beautiful human moments that pull us away from the brutal atrocities of war.

I won’t pretend that some aspects of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment aren’t difficult. They are, and they should be. War isn’t clean and pretty. War stories shouldn’t be either.

But the book is still hauntingly beautiful and achingly poignant, and I found myself emerging from it with a deeper sense of history.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. For more information, visit the tour page by clicking here.

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

About the book, Ripper


The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Though their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.

While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature—as is her father, the SF PD’s deputy chief of homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior Amanda is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and to Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.

When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, probing hints and deductions that elude the police department. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance have something to do with the series of deaths? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, Amanda must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.

Purchase a copy:

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About the author, Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is the bestselling author of twelve works of fiction, four memoirs, and three young adult novels, which have been translated into more than twenty-seven languages, with more than 57 million copies sold. In 2004, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award in 2012. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she lives in California.

Connect with Isabel:

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My Thoughts:

More than twenty years ago, I met my husband online. Specifically, I met him on a MUSH (it stands for “multi-user shared hallucination” and it refers to an online, real-time, text-based role-playing environment), which is a sort of online game. It is this experience, with the way our online and offline lives bleed into each other that made me really, really want to read the latest offering from Isabel Allende: Ripper.

If you’ve ever read Allende’s work, you know that she has this amazing way of using language that is both descriptive and immersive and amazingly lyrical, even when she’s talking about a man who was skewered by a baseball bat (which is a sight we’re treated to in the opening chapters). Ripper is no different than her other work in that respect.

But here’s where it is different: It rides the line between Young Adult/New Adult and Contemporary fiction. It’s a mystery/thriller but it’s also a family drama, a love story, and a coming of age tale. And did I mention there’s role-playing.

Of course, no matter what we’re reading, we read it through the veil of our own experiences. While my history with gaming drew me to the story, what kept me intrigued was the relationship between Amanda and her grandfather, Blake. Why? Because I was the favorite of my own grandfather, and the relationship Allende drew in Ripper resonated with me very strongly.

There are many reasons to pick up this novel. Pick it up because you like free-spirited women who care about their daughters despite having virtually nothing in common with them. Pick it up because you or someone you know has been involved in a computer game – even if it’s one of those tacky first-person shooter MMORPGs that all the kids are playing. Pick it up because you know Allende’s work and want to have the comprehensive Allende experience. You can even pick it up because you’re intrigued by the title over a picture of the Golden Gate bridge. It really doesn’t matter why you read it.

What matters is that you do, because it’s a wonderful story, and you will not be disappointed.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. For the tour page, click here.