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Read in May

Another month, another set of books to write about. I don't know why, I just tend to do book reviews in groups. I feel like a post is too small and empty when I'm just writing about one book. It also pushes me to read more so I have something to write about which is good considering the daunting pile of books I still need to read.

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - Jenny Cogan*

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. After an accident Anna was thrown back in touch with her French teacher, Claire, who offers her the chance to work at a Chocolate Shop in Paris.

As soon as I saw the title of this book I knew I would love it; Paris + Chocolate = <3. The book is somewhat split into two, it's as much as Anna's story as it is Claire's. The past and the present are intertwined and tell of the same city through the eyes of two women.

The thing I loved most about the book was the description of Paris; the alleyways, the views from Anna's balcony as well as the chocolate. I've not been yet but reading this made me fall in love with Paris even more.

I also enjoyed seeing Anna become more confident and sure of herself. I related to her in that we have the same fear of moving somewhere different, leaving everything we know behind. Reading her adventure makes me excited for mine.  4 Stars

Under Italian Skies - Nicky Pellegrino*

The pictures of Villa Rosa hadn't done it justice, not even nearly. The villa stood with its back to the mountains and glowed pale pink in the setting sun. Everywhere Stella looked there were plants, growing in pots, climbing up walls or sprouting from beds carved into the lawns. She turned to face the sea and took in the view she was going to see every day for weeks to come...

I've moved from Paris to Italy which is pretty much my dream. The book kind of has a similar story to The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in that the main character Stella has had a life altering moment and has moved to a exotic country. During the story she assesses her life and where she is, leading her to make an important decision at the end.

Along the way she makes some friends and Stella/the reader gets caught up in their dramas. I really loved the descriptions of the locations which Stella visits as well as all the food she eats. One of the friends she makes runs a restaurant so there were a number of time where I started to feel hungry while reading. I liked how the story wasn't focused on Stella trying to find love rather it being finding passion in her life. 3 Stars

Flawed - Cecelia Ahern*

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan. But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions.

The story is somewhat dystopian and elements of it remind me of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood which I studied in high school. In order to have a 'flawless' society there are rules and guidelines put in place and anyone who breaks them will by physically branded.

These rules and guidelines are kind of ridiculous and there is no leeway with them. The act in which Celestine was found guilty of is one of those, however the story itself then critically looks at them. Celestine's crime was that she helped another human being who happened to be flawed, she gets punished when in fact it should be the 'perfect' citizens who just ignored a man who needed help. This just really annoyed me.

I liked the character of development of Celestine. She starts off trying to be perfect, scared do any small action that might get her in trouble. After her branding she becomes stronger, less caring, and fighting the system in which she lives in. She goes all Katniss Everdeen on it. There is to be a sequel and I'm interested to see the rest of Celestine's journey.  3 Stars 

The Passion of Dolssa - Julie Berry*

Dolssa is young gentlewomen with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic. Botille is a wily a charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town. The year is 1241 in Provensa, a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church.

In the second year of my BA I took a paper on the history of religion and their conflicts. I'm pretty sure I recalled something about the Crusades but over all I hated that paper. I don't think it covered heretics; women who claimed to have a special connection to Jesus Christ. I would think I would of found that aspect particularly more interesting than the rest. The book is half fiction/half non-fiction, it even has a bibliography at the back. Brings back the memories.

I enjoyed the stories of these four women (Dolssa + Botille and her sisters) who each have their own special gifts. Because of these gifts their lives are disrupted and must hide from the church who think they know best.

I enjoyed how the story was told in different ways. For the most part it was first person narrative of Botille and occasionally Dolssa. There were also the conversations the friar had with people in his hunt for Dolssa, the friar's side of the conversation was omitted so the other person's responses told us what he was asking. It was like a transcribed interview. There was also instances when there was another narrator who referred to the story as something that happened in the past. I like the different narrations, it kept it interesting. The only thing I found troublesome was that Old Provencal Words were used throughout, it was cool but it was annoying to always flip to the back to see what the words meant. 

I admired Dolssa and the sisters; they were brave, strong and only wanted to find a home for themselves.  3 Stars

Hope you all enjoyed this post! If you've read any of these books I would love to know what you thought of them.

*Review copies sent from Hachette NZ & HarperCollins NZ, review is my own opinion.

Ashley xx

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