Checking Off # 2 on my bucket list

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I did not get to go to Paris. Okay, I realize I have said this several times. But I will. I have promised myself that I will walk into the Louvre someday. (Hopefully sooner than later.) I did, however, have the opportunity to mark off the second item on my bucket list. (My list is fairly short, but comprised of things I really want to do or accomplish).

What is  the item in second place? It was to see Phantom of the Opera onstage. I have seen the movie more times than I can count. (I teach a unit on it and show it to all mIMG_1641y classes.)My family does not share my obsession with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most famous endeavor (or really any of his musicals or anyone else’s for that matter.) My husband knew that I wanted to see it, but has successfully avoided making the trip to either the Fox Theater in Atlanta, where we live, or to New York. When I told him there was an opportunity to see it when wPS_20160505104139e went to London, he very quickly said “I think you should do that.” Yes, he knew what losing the trip to the Louvre meant to me. Yes he wanted me to have the opportunity. No he never wanted to see it.

I polled my students and a group up of ten was up for it. Our tour guide Emma was a real star. She managed seats on the seventh row orchestra (or stalls as they say in London) and when the chandelier fell it went right over my head.

I saw my favorite musical at Her Majesty’s Theater and I was not disappointed. The performance was brilliant, something I will always remember. The songs were beautifully executed and the costuThink_of_Me_Cover_for_Kindlemes and set were amazing.

By the way, I wrote a YA novel inspired by  Phantom. It’s called Think Of Me. You can check it out at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy or at http://www.amazon.com while I go have a cup of coffee in my Phantom mug- the one with the mask that changes color as it gets hot. (And if Think Of Me isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll find several other books there too.)

 

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Je suis presque all a Paris….

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I almost went to Paris. Or, as I said to my tour director Antonio, “April 6, 2016. The day I almost went to Paris.” And Antonio replied, as he was about to board the bus that would take the rest of our group to Paris while my group returned to England, “It will live in infamy.”

My recent trip to Europe was supposed to include the city of lights. And more specifically for me, an art teacher, the promised land, also know as Le Louvre. But then came Brussels and a moment of panic among some of our tour group and the trip was rerouted to include Normandy but not Paris. Instead, we would cross the channel (a five hour trip where most of our party got seasick) and tour the Bath region of England before returning to London for another two days. I understand why the decision was made, but I still haven’t quite gotten over not seeing Paris.

I almost went to the Louvre. I almost walked up the steps to the Winged Victory of Samothrace, almost linked eyes with La Jaconde, almost saw Liberty Leading The People. Almost walked where my favorite of all the characters I have written, Alain Darnay spent most of his waking hours. (If you haven’t read my Louvre Trilogy, stop reading this and dash over to Amazon!)

I almost viewed the Eiffel Tower. Almost had the opportunity to see Paris from a bird’s eye view from the structure built by the same man who gave us the Statue of Liberty.

I almost got to see the glories of the Garnier, Notre Dame, the T1RRuilleries Gardens. Almost had the opportunity to stroll along the Siene, to visit Versailles, to pass under the Arch de Triomphe.

I almost got to sample macarons at Lauderee, marvel at Chartres, hope to catch a glimpse of the wonders of the d’Orsay.

Almost got to explore the shelves of Shakespeare and Company,  almost got to see the city illuminated at night….

Two and a half days would not have let me see and take in all the wonders of the city I know far too much about considering that I have never seen it. And I did enjoy my trip and am glad to have seen what I saw. But still, I wish I had not lost the opportunity.

Hopefully one day soon je vais me retrover a Paris.

 

 

 

A Few Words About Macarons

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Confession: On my recent trip to Europe, I developed an obsession with macarons. Even though my trip was re-routed to exclude Paris (more on this in another blog post), I was still able to indulge in one of the things I had wanted to experience in Paris: the culinary delights of Lauderee. To my utter joy I discovered the first Lauderee store I patronized while exploring the delights of Covent Garden. There it was, shining like a beacon in the middle of the bustle of  handcrafted jewelry, art and London souveniers. That beautiful gold and green sign that whispered, no shouted: Come in and have a macaron. (Or eight).untitled-111

How to describe a macaron if you have never had one? They are delightful little wafers made of almond flour (and thus paleo-ish) with lovely flavored fillings that absolutely melt in your mouth. I had done enough research on Laudree to know what flavors I should have on my must try list. The first box of six macarons, packed in a beautiful sea foam green and gold box, included orange blossom (two of those (still my favorite), rose petal, pistachio, fruit and spice,salted caramel,  lemon and the Marie Antoinette.which is the lovely pale blue pictured in the left hand corner filled with a gorgeoues chocolate ganache. I took my time savoring them one at a time to make them last, but must confess to finding another store in Picadilly Circus when the first six were gone, taking with me my student Panache who was eager to try them. I purchased another eight…and made them last until we got to Normandy, at which time my stash had been consumed and I was going through macaron withdrawals. (When I picked up a few macrons from a bakery in San Malo, Panache gasped when he saw them on the bus. “Mrs. Murphy,” he said in mock horror. “I can’t believe you are cheating on Lauderee.”)

I did without the entire time we were in the Bath region of France, and the remainder of most of our time in London after the detour to Normandy- but managed to visit for another box while killing time in Covent Garden before a performance of Phantom, this time with my student Rhiddi in tow- who admitted, like Panache- that Laudree was by far the supreme maker of macarons. (She had sampled the sub standard ones in San Malo as well.) Why bother with a sit down restaurant when you can stroll through town looking at the sights and nibbling on Laudree?

My little green box from my first visit is ensconced in a place of honor in my office, a reminder of my trip and the promise of indulging, one day, at the original store in Paris. Vive le macaron!

 

 

Stepping Inside Shakespeare & Co.

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One of the places that I hope to visit when I finally reach Paris some thirty days from now is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore.I have been dying to read Hemingway’s  A Moveable Feast, which chronicles his years struggling to make it as a writer in Paris following WWI, but have put off purchasing it from Amazon in hopes that I can buy if there, in Paris. Why there? Because during that time, Hemingway spent a great deal of time in the original store, seeking inspiration from other great, and published, authors. It is not true, as the store’s workers have sometimes overheard passing tour guides proclaim, that James Joyce lies buried in the cellar.  The store was opened by Sylvia Beach, an American expatriate,  in the 1920s and 30s. As every English major knows, her bookshop and lending library became a hangout for Lost Generation writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Joyce, whose Ulysses was first published in its complete form by Beach because authorities in Britain and America deemed it obscene. She shut the doors during the Nazi occupation and never reopened. But  American George Whitman preserved he legacy and the stories of the famous artists who patronized Beach’s location, when he opened the present-day store in 1951. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway makes references to the shop and there have been many accounts of the times that he and other writers gathered there. The store, under Whitman’s reign, was at first called “Le Mistral”, but , some say,with Beach’s blessing, he renamed it with the original name in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of  William Shakespeare’s death.

The store was famous in its heyday- and still is today. But it is the stories of the golden age that keep aspiring writers and book lovers coming. Much of that was due to beach herself. French author and former director of Versailles, André Chamson said that Beach “did more to link England, the United States, Ireland, and France than four great ambassadors combined.” In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway wrote : “Sylvia had a lively, sharply sculptured face, brown eyes that were as alive as a small animal’s and as gay as a young girl’s . . . She was kind, cheerful and interested, and loved to make jokes and gossip. No one that I ever knew was nicer to me.”  Apparently Beach was a strong woman who stood her ground and would not be bullied, even by the Nazis. The store’s website recounts this: One day that December, a Nazi officer entered her store and demanded Beach’s last copy of Finnegans Wake. Beach declined to sell him the book. The officer said he would return in the after1sacnoon to confiscate all of Beach’s goods and to close her bookstore. After he left, Beach immediately moved all the shop’s books and belongings to an upstairs apartment. In the end, she would spend six months in an internment camp in Vittel, and her bookshop would never reopen.

The store customizes purchases. Here is what the website says: It’s a tradition in France to ink-stamp the title page of a new book with the bookseller’s hallmark. At Shakespeare and Company, the practice dates back to the shop’s opening in 1951 and, before that, to Sylvia Beach’s bookstore on rue de l’Odéon. Elect to have your book inscribed with the official Shakespeare and Company stamp, and every time you open its pages, you’ll encounter a little reminder of its Parisian origins. This is, I must admit, one of the reasons I want to browse the shelves for a little Hemingway for me, and perhaps a little Voltaire (in Englais) for my husband. For just 4 euros the shop offers the following: Before beginning its journey to you, your book lived on shelves once perused by Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, and James Baldwin. We can add a keepsake of your book’s life here with us at S&Co by inserting a vintage-feel photo taken among the shop’s tumbledown bookshelves. Each one-of-a-kind picture is shot on film provided by the Impossible Project, which gave new life to instant photography after Polaroids were discontinued in 2008. They will also spritz the book with French perfume (for free) and add a poem for another Euro. Select this option, the store promises,  and we’ll tuck a pocket-sized poem into your book. Each one is hand-typed on the shop’s clopping old typewriter by one of our Tumbleweeds.

Ah Paris, where even buying a book is an experience!

In The Blue Butterfly, Jack finds himself in the original Shakespeare and Company with Hemingway, discussing The Sun Also Rises and his relationship with his ‘Paris wife’ Hadley. Want to know what is said and how it turns out? Check out the book (and a few of my others set in Paris) at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com

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La Préparation de mon aventure européenne

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Or I could say it in Dutch instead of French:  Voorbereiding voor mijn Europese avontuur. Or maybe just using the only language that I can really speak, I am preparing for my European adventure. I am counting down the days until I board a plane for the dream trip: 12 days in London, Canturbury, Normandy, Paris and Amsterdam.

I am making this trip with sixteen students and the director of admissions at the small private school where I teach. Karen’s husband, the mother of two of the students and her mother will also be in tow.  The planning has been going on since August. Believe me, it is no easy feat. While this will be my first international trip with students (and first trip to Europe with anyone), it is not my first traveling experience with these kids. I have twice made the trek to the nation’s capital with the eighth grade. Thankfully we have a travel company ; for the DC trips I was the travel company. Some of the kids had to get passports and forty something days from departure some of them are still in process, while others discovered their passports had expired and had to do a rush re-order. I am glad that Karen is in charge and I am only going along for the ride. We have had meetings about exchanging currency and how to avoid being a target for pickpockets. And then there is the big question: What to pack?

What do you put in your suitcase to watch the changing of the guard or explore Windsor Castle? What is the proper dress for viewing the Eiffel Tower or entering the promised land (aka Le Louvre) or climbing the stairs to Anne Frank’s attic?

I have read countless blogs about this, and many of those are about the concept of packing in carry on only. I have embraced this idea; I would not relish the idea of losing my luggage abroad.  I did a test run on a new suitcase when we went skiing a couple of weeks ago. I reasoned that of I could get nearly everything I needed for five days in single digit weather on the slopes in my carry on, then I could probably do a spring trip. I ordered a set of packing cubes and grabbed what I thought I might be likely to need and tried packing it up. In the largest cube I fit two pairs of black pants and a pair of jeans, three sweaters and three jackets and had room left over. In the next smallest bag I rolled and packed nine shirts. That left a bag for underwear and pajamas. I put them in my 20 inch case, which has a pockets for my extra shoes, scarves (a must for Paris) and flat iron (dual voltage and I have European converters), and there is room to spare. Obviously I’ll be wearing another pair of jeans, a sweater and my lightweight hot pink duster coat. I have a roomy tote that will hold my camera, a small crossbody purse, my makeup and a book and snacks and still have plenty of room for souvieners. My tablet will fit in the outside pocket of  my suitcase- so yes, I think that I can manage Europe for two weeks in carry on luggage. (My students are skeptical- they have this idea they can’t wear anything twice without washing it and want to make sure that every selfie shows them in a new outfit- they can’t quite get the mix and match concept….)

Meanwhile, amidst all these plans, I am trying to market the adult coloring book that I just released with my husband, Coloring Photography, and would really like to finish the second book in my time travel trilogy, The Red Finch, and I do have to go to work five days a week until we depart.  I plan to write about my adventures, but until then, feel free to check out my writing by reading someof my books. You can find at http://www.bookbylynnmurphy.com

 

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Coloring Photography

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Yes. that’s coloring photography, not color photography. That’s the name of my twentieth book. My 20th and my husband’s first. Coloring Photography: A Coffee Table Coloring Book is the official title. Here’s how it came about, our collaboration that joins the ranks of the hottest book trend on the charts.

Like many people, presumably mostly women, I received an adult coloring book as a Christmas gift. I packed it up along with a box of colored pencils when we headed south to the family farm and had begun coloring while sitting on the screened porch and enjoying the view. I never got past the first page that I started. Not because I don’t enjoy coloring, but because my husband had a brilliant idea. Why not take some of the hundreds of photographs we have taken over the last year (since he too decided to take up photography as a hobby, but that’s another story for another post) and publish a book that included our artwork and coloring pages. I stopped coloring and we started working on our first book together.

An entire month of planning, editing, and creating we have a book. Here’s the cover:

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We included some of the stories of the origins of the photographs, some quotes that applied to the images and even some coloring tips. It’s a rapidly growing market, but we think we’ve found our own niche.

Interested to see how our book is different from the other books on the market? Here’s our buy link:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/152370876X

Here’s our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/coloringphotography/?ref=bookmarks. Give us a like or leave a comment. Grab some coloring pencils and see what you can create. Maybe one day I’ll get back to that coloring book I got for Christmas….

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Snow Days

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I live in the south. I have for most of my life, except for the four years I lived in Maryland. I know, they are technically below the Mason Dixon line but they don’t consider themselves southern. The first time it snowed after we moved there, we got four inches.  (It was the end of October.) I assumed that everything would be shut down, but no, traffic was moving fine and the roads were quickly cleared away and everything was open. Even schools stayed open if the snowfall wasn’t too bad. Being accustomed to near panic when flakes begin to fall all my life, I chose to venture out only to the video store down the street  ( I rented 1776 and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My husband was out of town) and to get some take out. I alternated between the musicals and episodes of Designing Women– I was desperate to hear someone else talk right.

In the part of Georgia where I live, in the southern almost suburbs of Atlanta, and below we joke that if someone tosses a popsicle in the street, then school shut down and the shelves at the Piggly Wiggly are immediately relieved of their milk and bread. (Exactly why people only eat milk and bread in a snow storm, I don’t know. I personally prefer something warm and more filling.) Yesterday at the school where I teach we let out early and cancelled Homecoming…for rain.

Back to Baltimore.  The storm they are describing on the news today for that region is exactly like what we experienced when we lived in Baltimore. The worst storm we lived through was when I was pregnant with my youngest son (who is now nineteen.) My oldest son, Ian, was almost two and came down with a stomach virus about the time the snow started to fall. By midnight I was also throwing up nonstop in danger of becoming dehydrated and the snow had not stopped falling. I wandered around downstairs most of the night, checking the snow in between puking. At dawn I went upstairs to try and sleep and my husband took Ian, who was doing much better, downstairs for breakfast. As they ate, Pat kept watching Ian’s Little Tikes slide- as it disappeared under the snow. By the time my stomach virus and the snow had stopped we had nearly thirty inches. We got a reprieve for a day and then it snowed ten more. We had to shovel our way out the doors. To get out of the cul-de-sac-(because it was an unfinished subdivision we didn’t get plowed) we had to back into the neigboring driveway and go out through the luge run like tunnel that was the result of shoveling ten driveways into the center of Quern Court.

People down here post on Facebook about how much they want snow and then about how they never get any snow…but I am here to tell you: YOU CAN GET TOO MUCH SNOW. And another thing. It is NOT true that the post office will deliver despite the snow. We did not have mail delivered for almost a week- and they also had rolling waves of cutting off the heat and power to conserve it.

Still, life went on. People went to work, the Giant, wherever.

In the South a snow day goes something like this: You go to bed anticipating, praying for snow. You wake up early and run to turn on the tv to see what schools have closed. It always takes forever to get to your school. You eat breakfast, spend an hour putting on your snow clothes, attempt to play in whatever has fallen and then after about thirty minutes decide its too cold and come inside, take off all your snow clothes and then watch movies all day. And I guess eat milk and bread.

I had three kids other than my own get snowed in after a superbowl party once when we lived in Memphis- and oddly,  for a whole day no one’s parents called to check on them or come get them. Finally we politely suggested that they call their parents, then went to Popeyes and got a ton of chicken to feed them while we waited on their parents. That was a huge snowfall for Memphis- six inches.

Since we moved back to the Atlanta area we have had two bouts of bad weather. One was our first year here when we had an ice event and school was out a full week. The other was what they call Snowmaggedon, a snow and ice store that left metro Atlanta looking like an eerie real life version of the opening scene from The Walking Dead with cars abandoned all along the interstate. It’s finally snowing as I write. I just came back in from a morning walk. It’s cold, no ice, just a little steady stream of snow. Not rushing over to Kroger.

It is cold, and a good day to read a good book. For those who got snow and are stuck inside, once you’ve gotten your milk and bread rations, stay in the comfort of your own home and order or download a book. You can check mine out at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com

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Vous ne voulez pas lire Le Louvre Trilogy?

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Bonjour.

Je vais le Musee du Louvre. Not for a  few more weeks, but I am excited about actually communing with the great works in la terre promise. One of my students asked if I planned to kiss the steps as we entered the building. I just might.  I spent a year at the world’s greatest art museum without ever crossing through her doors, as I wrote my three favorite of my nineteen and a half books  (The Red Finch is about 50 % complete). That is of course, my Louvre Trilogy. Hiding Mona Lisa, Finding Fritz Gerhard, and Rescuing Rembrandt.

My good friend Dave Kegel once referred to The Louvre as ‘this art museum in Paris’ that he and his wife Val visited. Since we were in Sunday School at the time I didn’t publicly correct him, but I have had  fun ragging on him about that several times since. It isn’t just an art museum, it is the art museum. Designed first as the palace to the kings and queens of France, threatened and rebuilt and evacuated, it has a long history, the most interesting, at least to me, the setting of my trilogy.

I am sure as I climb the marble steps to gaze at The Winged Victory of Samothrace that I will be looking over my shoulder for my mysterious and yes, lovable, art thief turned Louvre curator Alain Darnay. Of course he was never there, as Jacques Jaujard was during the 1939 evacuation of the Louvre, but I am not sure that as I wander past the wonders of the musuem, especially as I pass his favorite painting of all, La Jaconde (aka known as Mona Lisa) that I can separate him and the other characters, who aside from Jacques did not exist from The Louvre.

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(Here is what the covers of the trilogy might look like in the museum itself.)

Hopefully for those who have not yet read The Louvre Trilogy this is enough to pique your interest. If you have read at least one, merci beaucoup. If you haven’t, you can find them in paperback and kindle versions at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com and http://www.amazon.com.

I will blog about my European adventures, so be sure to check back and see how it went.

 

 

 

 

I Am Really Going To Europe….

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It is a reality; no longer just a board on Pinterest. I am seventy something days from my first trip to Europe. I will be marking through a few lines on the bucket list and seeing some places that until now I have only dreamed of. Before you get too jealous, it isn’t a romantic getaway with my husband or a writer’s sabbatical. Instead I will be accompanying fifteen high school students on a twelve day excursion to London, Canterbury, Normandy, St. Malo, Paris and Amsterdam. Still, it’s Europe  and I am rather fond of my traveling companions in any case.

Before I go I will have to finalize entries for two major art contests and about 100 pages for the yearbook and try to organize three or four AP portfolios. I also have the sequel to The Blue Butterfly  to finish and a joint project with my husband in progress. I am currently caught up in making lists of what to pack, helping get the students organized and fund raising.

Did I mention fundraising?

I despise asking people for monetary help. But the real truth is I have some expenses to cover and the kids could use some help. This isn’t just a vacation. It’s an educational trip for which they earn both high school and college credit. The things we will be seeing will tie into what we teach- what I teach especially. And while they are willing to work for it, the cost of the opportunity is a bit of a stretch for most of their families.

If you would like to help here’s a few practical ways:

  1. We have a go fund me account. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/gr7kzkes
  2. Buy Books. That provides me with fund to cover my expenses! (www.booksbylynnmurphy.com)
  3. Buy some art. Here’s my online gallery: http://www.artpal.com/lynnmurphy4  (You can get prints, canvases or mugs with my artwork on them.)

I would love to be able to give some travel scholarships to the students, so consider giving. (It’s tax deductible ’cause it’s for education.)

While we are in Europe I will be doing travel updates here. I can’t wait to visit Windsor Castle, cross in the promised land (aka The Louvre) and stand in Anne Frank’s secret annex- along with the other wonderful things we will get to explore.

Back to work…and just a little daydreaming….

 

 

 

 

The Best and Worst Books I Read This Year

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As the year comes to an end, I have read almost everything I had set aside on my (many) bookshelves to read this year and I am pondering what to read next, I will take a few minutes to reflect on what I read. Stephen King once said that if you don’t have time to read then you don’t have time to write. I think that he is right- how can you write if you never read? I teach creative writing and sometimes teach English and I firmly believe that the reason children cannot write well is not due just to a proliferation of electronic devices, but due also to their lack of  time spent in literary engagement. When I taught middle school English each grade (6-8) read eight novels over the course of a year. That being said, I have been a reader all of my life and plan to continue doing so. My tastes in reading material are varied, but tend to gravitate toward fiction and I like a story steeped in history but am not limited to any particular genre. I will start with the best books.

1.The  Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I absolutely loved this one. AJ is a widowed bookstore owner who has his valuable and rare book by Poe stolen (the book that was to be his ticket to retirement.) While investigating the theft, a surprise that changes his life changes the direction of the book. It is littered with references to books and stories I have read and I highly recommend it.

2. Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel. I picked this up at my school’s book fair and it was a well written YA novel that I would easily use in class. The main character has a freak accident the leaves her needing a face transplant during her senior year in high school. The novel is about how she and everyone around her deal with the changes.

3. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Using odd old photographs as the catalyst for the plot, Ransom Riggs wrote an interesting tale about a boy who discovers he has inherited some interesting powers that he must use as he travels in time to save himself and his new friends.

4. Saving Mona Lisa by Geri Chanel. A non fiction book, not to be confused with my novel Hiding Mona Lisa, which provided some historical background for my Louvre trilogy. Fascinating reading about the evacuation of the Louvre during WWII. (Read the Louvre Trilogy when you are done!)

5. The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s been around a long time but I just got around to reading it this summer. A look at the civil rights movement and the relationship between a little girl and some people from her mother’s past.

6. Paris The Novel by Edward Rutherford. A lengthy novel about three families whose lives intersect over centuries as the city of Paris grows and develops. Since I am traveling to Paris in the spring I found this one fascinating and really enjoyed it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the book.

Now for the books I read but didn’t love….

1. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Okay I know it got the Pulitzer prize and a million five star reviews.  My husband calls it “All The Book We Cannot Read” because it took me almost a year to get past the second chapter. I’m sorry, but I never got into the story or bonded with the characters and the story ended abruptly without really ending. I would have thought I was crazy, the one person who didn’t get it based on the reviews, until my friend Sara Martin concurred. ( Maybe the fact that it is written in present perfect tense that I equated it with reading term papers in MLA?) Sorry, but I won’t be thinking of this book or its characters when I actually go to St. Malo in the spring….

2.Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Let’s just say by the fifth time the main character died and was reborn it had become a little redundant.

3. Z by  Therese  Aine Draper. This one falls in a  genre I call “Books about the lives of famous men’s wives.” I loved The Paris Wife  so I tried this one, based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald. While it was well written, I ended up not liking either Zelda or F. Scott Fitzgerald and was more than a little depressed when it ended.

If you are looking for something to read before the end of the year, check out my books at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.