An American in Provence

An American in Provence: Art, Life and Photography by Jamie Beck

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Beautiful, feel-good book with absolutely stunning photos.

The moment I began to read this book, it unleashed the memories of my own desire to leave NY and move across the ocean to a beautiful Frances. Jamie Beck’s story is simply satisfying. I could not help but burst with joy at her new life in Provence. The struggles with the new culture and language made her love for wonderful France even stronger.

An inspiring book, filled not only with great and happy experiences but includes amazing recipes that I have tried and it came out delicious (taking into consideration this was my first time making it), cant wait to try the rest.

And the photos are simply remarkable. Jamie Beck is a successful professional photographer, and all photos that are included in this wonderful book are taken by her. She also gives a number of tips on how to take beautiful shots.

Now I am going to stop bragging about this book so you can go ahead and get a copy of it for yourself. This will also make a phenomenal gift.

Thank you, NetGalley for a free and advanced copy of the book and Jamie Beck for a an astonishing story.



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My Life In France

My Life in France by Julia Child

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I met Julia Child for the first time in the movie “Julie and Julia”. It took me a while to get to this wonderful book, but I am so glad I’ve waited this long as I’ve appreciated it so much more.
First, Julia is a firecracker. So much fire in one character, I was simply amazed! But we have bonded on our mutual love for the delicious French cuisine.

Julia’s life in France is simply spectacular. I could feel her character shine thru the words of the book. She was able to adapt to post war Paris and fall in love with the magnificent city within the days of her arrival. But this book is not about Paris, or France. It’s about the French cuisine. Julia was the first person who taught the world, not just the Americans, how to master the French cooking. The work that went into the first cook book was tremendous, and I was amazed at how much thought was put into each recipe. I was so impressed, I’ve ordered the cook book and going to try the famous recipes myself. Wish me luck!

My second favorite part of the book is Julia and Paul’s relationship. Their love, support and patience for each other is simply inspiring.

This was an undeniably enjoyable read.



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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Anything that works against you can also work for you once you understand the Principle of Reverse.

Maya and Bailey’s travel journey began with their first move to a small Southern town to live with their parental grandmother after their parents’ divorce. But as two siblings settled down in their new home, their parents made yet another decision of relocating their children. This time, Maya and Bailey moved into their mother’s hometown. While Bailey was beyond happy to be reunited with their mother, Maya felt a sting of loss. And when her mother’s admirer showed Maya a little affection, the little girl fell into the arms of a very malicious man. After the traumatic event, Maya and Bailey are moved to their grandmother’s house, where the young girl discovers her calling for studying. But the duo’s adventure is only beginning. The following move is back to their beloved mother. This time, Maya strikes a deep connection with her mother, whose support teaches her valuable life lessons.

The novel ends on a sweet note. But it left me with so many questions and a longing to know more of Maya’s story. From her rough upbringing, Maya brought into her adulthood love, self-worth, and strength to overcome any obstacles played on her road to this beautiful thing we call life. Such an inspiring novel. Throughout the book, reading about subjects such as rape and racism, I felt no notion of resentment. Maya’s novel bursts with joy for life, willingness for change, and longing for equality. She teaches the readers that it’s ok to go thru abuse, survive and be happy. You are not alone.



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The People’s Princess

The People’s Princess by Flora Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Diana’s tragic story as a princess of Wells is well known. And the more I read about her, the more I begin to understand the person behind the title. Said that – I am always happy to get my hands on any additional material evolving the People’s Princess.

Shortly after her engagement, in the hallways of the grand Buckingham Palace, Diana’s attention is caught by the portrait of a beautiful girl with a free spirit in her eyes. The portrait is of another princess of Wales, the Queen that never was. After developing an unusual interest in Princess Charlotte, Diana receives the best surprise of all, Charlotte’s diary full of all her secrets, domestic, love, and political affairs.

Although I’ve enjoyed this book, it was mainly focused on Princess Charlotte instead of Diana. I did learn numerous interesting historical details about the mysterious princess, whose premature death has changed the English monarchy.



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The House at Tyneford

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Photographs are so strange; they are always in the present tense, everyone captured in a moment that will never come again.

In this intriguing historical novel, a young Jewish woman is sent from her glamorous upper-class life in Vienna to an English manor and placed in service. She finds herself in a place, where her kind no longer has a place in the world. As a human race, it is being erased. Not an enemy, but not an ally, young Elise tries to find her place in the new world. Her status at the Tyneford manor changes with time, and so is her character.

A devastating story of a lost life. But where there is sorrow, one can find hope to move forward, survive and live, and continue the circle we call life. A beautiful ending to a novel. Although Elise didn’t physically struggle with her escape from Nazi-occupied Austria, the despair to help her parents, the ability to stand up to the oppressor, and in a midst of grief to move forward make her an inspiring character.



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Heiresses

Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Heiresses and us, regular mortals, are two different types of humankind. The first, who was born into money, look at the world in a completely different way. One of the many differences is the danger money brings. Laura Thompson takes the reader way back into the seventeenth century when women were nothing more but property in a hands of their husbands. They were forced into unwanted marriages, some kidnapped, and some ended up in an asylum. But with each century they improved their positions and equality in the world.

My favorite part of the book was the end of nineteen and the beginning of the twentieth century. That’s the beginning of feminism and drastic change in the world of “old” and “new” money. The book combines many interesting stories of the heiresses. Many of which are referenced in multiple classical novels by Jane Austin, Edith Wharton, etc. This is a very relaxing and entertaining read with short “biographies” of the world’s wealthiest women. Thank you, NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a free and advanced copy of the book.



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The Christie Affair

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Hi, my name is Alina and I am Hercule Poirot and Agatha Christie’s biggest fan. Throughout the years I have read many articles talking about Christie’s peculiar disappearance. And like many other people – I found the disappearance fascinating and quite intriguing. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed Nina de Gramont’s version of the events that took place over the mysterious eleven days.

The day Agatha has disappeared was a day when her beloved husband has informed her of his wish for the divorce. Shocked and hurt, Agatha packed her adored little car and went on her mysterious adventure. But this story is not about Agatha, this story is about Nan, the second Mrs. Christie.

At first, I disliked Nan’s character. Who wouldn’t? A promiscuous young woman who broke the marriage and family. But it takes two to tango, isn’t it? As the novel continued, I began to admire the girl. Her strong and bold character, patience, and her fierce love for her child gave me goosebumps. Her backstory was so tragic, I can’t imagine the heartbreak she went thru… alone. One question still remains unanswered. Did Agatha tell Nan the truth about the little girl? Or did she want to give Nan closure? Nevertheless, I admire both women and the bond they have shared for the rest of their lives.



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The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel

The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel by Kati Marton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


“A woman in power has more urgent business to attend to than her ego.”

Prior to reading the biography, I knew of the remarkable work Angela Merkel has done during her time in office. And of course, during this biography, I was blown away by the change she has applied to the EU. But mostly, I was fascinated by Mrs. Merkel’s charisma. It was interesting to learn of the Chancellor’s childhood and upbringing behind the wall. Her life before the fall of the Wall. It explains Mrs. Merkel’s fight for the refugees’ rights. And her war with the world’s biggest dictator – Putin. The book covered her partnership with Xi Jinping, Obama, and Emmanuel Macron. I was impressed with the way the Chancellor has handled the situation with China and the deal that was signed at the end of 2020. And don’t get me started with the global pandemic and the way Mrs. Merkel’s strategy resulted in the lowest GDP drop in the world.

Being the Chancellor of Germany is not an easy task. Even over 75 years after the horrors of WWII, people skeptically look at Germany and its power over the UN. Mrs. Merkel has been taking steps to make amends with the Jewish society and gain their trust and respect. Her outlook on human rights and equality is impeccable. Her strategies are outstanding, well thought thru and prepared. This is a world leader who is not afraid to face the challenges of the political world. During her years in the office, Germany’s economy has improved, and the world is “speaking German” now. When the Chancellor has inherited the office, she had big goals to achieve, and she has reached it all and more. She was able to put Germany back on the map with all its glory.

Angel Merkel is an inspiring role model. This was my first biography about Mrs. Merkel, and I absolutely enjoyed it. This is an easy read, it was not written in chronological order, instead, each chapter highlighted a specific subject of the Chancellor’s leadership period.



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Bringing Up Bebe

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I came upon this book by multiple recommendations and it was way better than I expected it to be.

First of all, the book is created in two parts. In the first part, the author describes her life as a mother in France and her parental shock on the difference of bringing up the baby in a completely different baby culture. As she outlines french baby care and compares it to the American one that she has experienced herself, we see a drastic difference. When American parents are pushing their kids into the educating world and trying to raise their IQ at an early age, french parents taking a step back, letting their kids “discover” the world, and take their time to simply be a child.

The book concentrates not only on how to raise the child but also on how to keep the relationship between the parents.

The author does not praise one set of cultural parenting, but simply compares the two. Lists explanations and examples. While there are multiple differences not only in the culture between the two countries, the author also sheds the light on the French government and the help it offers for the parents and kids, which must have been taken into consideration while comparing the parenting techniques and styles between the countries.

I’ve read a few books on parenting and must admit that this book was the best. It’s easy to read, very simply explained and I love the examples. And cant wait to use many of the listed tips when the time comes.



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Roxelana

Роксолана: Полная версия легендарной книги by Павло Загребельный

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“An intelligent, kind, understanding, openhearted, candid, talented, generous, emotional and grateful woman who cares about the soul rather than the body; who is not carried away with ordinary glimmers such as money, prone to science and art; in short, a perfect woman.” Pavlo Zahrebelny

Tatars’ attack on Ukrainian villages was a typical incident back in the 1500s. During one of the attacks on Rohatyn, Nasty among other young men and women was taken into slavery. On the day of the attack, Nastya was on her way to the church, to wed. Young Nastya’s beauty was immediately noted by Tatars, which resulted in better treatment. Once in Istambul, instead of giving up hope for the future, Nasty decides to learn the language and new tradition in order to be sold into a better home as a maid. As the luck shined on the Ukrainian slave, she was purchased by the highest house in the whole Ottoman Empire and joined Sultans Harem.

It took a very short time for Nastya to meet Suleiman. And even less time for the Ottoman Emperor to fall for a beautiful and smart Ukrainian girl. Nastya used Suleiman’s affection to become the Haseki Sultan, and eventually filled the space in his heart. After converting to Islam, she became the chief consort and legal (and ONLY) wife of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She has become one of the most powerful and influential women in Ottoman history.

Her road to power was not easy. But determination, strong will, intelligence rewarded her with the power she never hoped to achieve. She was cruel and stony-hearted and would execute anyone who stood in her way. But she opened her heart and arms to the poor and less fortunate. Her legacy keeps thriving.

Phenomenal story of a simple Slovak girl who made a huge impact on the Ottoman Empire. Great and fast read full of many interesting facts of Slovak and Ottoman history.



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Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other CloseBig Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Big Friendship” is a story of Aminatou and Ann’s friendship. I found the description misleading, as I was expecting more “tips” on how to maintain friendship thru the years.

This book is basically is self biography of Aminatou and Ann. It starts with their lives after college and follows two friends thru their personal relationships and careers. Authors cover their happy and joyless moments and how they worked thru the hard times. It’s a great friendship that survived many difficulties thru the years.

I was disappointed as I expected some kind of guide, examples of how to keep the friendship versatile. And instead, I found myself reading thru a biography.

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The First Actress

The First ActressThe First Actress by C.W. Gortner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sarah Bernhardt – an actress, theater star, courtesan, humanitarian, single mother, sister, friend. She is one of a kind. A person who played so many different roles on and off the stage.

Sarah has lived a very full life. A daughter of a famous courtesan and wealthy french nobleman, Jewish by birth, Christian by choice. Her adamant and bold attitude lured me into the pages of her life story. From a very early age, young Sarah showed her strong willpower and determination, she set goals and achieved it, and stood up to her oppressors. Sarah was never afraid to take on serious responsibilities, help friends and family in need.

Sarah Bernard built her name using her talent and ambition. Sarah’s story is fascinating. A bastard who not only became a famous actress but was able to portray both male and female roles, started in theater proceeded into the film world, and became the highest paying actress of her time. I am very happy that I came across this wonderful novel, thank you NetGalley and Ballentine Books Publisher for a free and advanced copy of the novel and an author for a wonderful life story of Sarah Bernard.

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