Diversity Reading Challenge

What I’m Reading: Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I gave Between the World and Me to my son at Christmas. After the holidays I realized #1 son had left the book behind and I’ll admit I was a little glad! I had wanted to read the book but it seemed silly to buy two copies. So here was my chance to read it. I’m kind of a fast reader and the book is rather slim, so I thought I’d zip through the book in no time.

 Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Between the world and me is not a book you rush through. Even though I’m Black I figured our Black experiences would be similar and I could simply shake my head in agreement and commiserate. Not so. Coate’s experience as a Black male is vastly different from mine. And certainly one worth listening to.

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder.

I can’t say that I agree with every single point Coates makes. Partially ignorance, partially different upbringings, and partially different sexes have lead us in different directions. But yet, our experiences are far sides of the same coin. We are Black and have each learned a thing or two about how we are perceived and handled in the world. Coates’ book should really be taught in schools, as Toni Morrison says on the cover. I think open minded educators and students can learn from Coates’ thoughts. And students of color may see themselves in Coates’ struggle.

I plan to finish the book and have a chat with a girlfriend, who is White, and also reading it, when we are finished. It should be an interesting discussion. I don’t have all the answers but it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Again and again.

Sorry for being so deep this time. Every once in a while, I have to. When my littles are hurt and in pain, it bothers me and I have to speak out.

This title could definitely count toward the Diversity Challenge.

2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Adult Fiction

Book of the Month Club: The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Have you ever just wanted to kick yourself? Sometimes I do. And this week was one of those times.  I began reading The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman, which was my September Book of the Month Club pick. I chose it because it was Alice. Friggin. Hoffman.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

I thought I would skim my way through this book and be done in a day or two. But I received no such luck! Because I hadn’t read any reviews or even the synopsis (at least very well) I figured this was just a typical book about a woman getting the love she wants. That’s why I could kick myself.

Turns out, I was kinda right and kinda wrong. I was hooked after the first chapter! Turns out the heroine is the mother of famed impressionist Camille Pissaro.  I also learned that the family were French Sephardic Jews living in what is now the US Virgin Islands.

Hoffman takes you there in the story; about how the Jews were expelled from various countries and islands, the difficulty of life on the Virgin Islands, and the difficulty of life with Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro as a mother, and the general difficulty of life in the mid 1800s.

The book was dense and fulfilling and I was transported to the island to see the faces of the donkeys, feel the intense heat, and feel the anger of the slaves and the Jewish people who owned them. Who knew Jews owned slaves? I sure didn’t!

I finished the book and realized it was promoted as a historical fictionalized account of the artist Camille Pisarro. I was like, DOH!

Anyway, I enjoyed this very much! Also? It became a book I finished during the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and the impetus for my Mini Challenge Diversity Challenge.


The Marriage of Opposites is the perfect book club book. Suitable for teens and adults of all ages.




Tea Parties

Pretty Minnie In Paris by Danielle Steel

I love Danielle Steel’s new book Pretty Minnie in Paris!

Pretty Minnie

I love it so much we decided to host a tea party with Minnie. It was so FABULOUS!

pretty minnie Collage

Have you read this new book? What do you think?

Books Children

Pretty Minnie in Paris Tea Party

Danielle Steele has a new book out for kids called

Pretty Minnie in Paris

It’s so adorable and we fell in love with it so tough that we decided to host a Pretty Minnie in Paris Tea Party!

Check out the pics.

Pretty Minnie in Paris


It was the perfect event for feathers, feather boas, sassy red dresses and shoes and lots of French!

Adult Fiction So This is Paris

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay @LeFrenchBook


Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

Just how far would you go for your loved ones? It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky is back, in love and rearing to go, when he’s handed an odd case. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil?

It’s Christmas in Paris. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky returns to work after recovering from a gunshot wound. He’s in love and rearing to go. His first day back has him overseeing a jewel heist sting and taking on an odd investigation. Dental students discovered a message in the tooth of a severed head. Is it a sick joke? Sirsky and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? This is the second in the prize-winning Paris Homicide series.

You know how much I love books from Le French Book right? Who doesn’t love homicides and Paris?

“Procedural fans will appreciate the fresh take.” –Booklist

“For readers who enjoy a low-key approach with detailed descriptions, Molay is just the ticket.” – Publishers Weekly

“A highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read… unreservedly recommended.” –Thinking about Books


So This is Paris

So This is Paris: a book review of The Paris Lawyer by Sylvie Granotier

From my literary vacation to Paris, here’s my book review.

Adult Fiction

Reading A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable is Almost Like Being in Paris

You might have figured out by now that I love all things Paris. Here are my thoughts on A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable.


It’s the perfect beach read!

So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Treachery in Bordeaux



Here we are with more of the winemaker’s mystery! This is the series that starts it all.  Here’s an excerpt:

The drive was short between Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, where Grangebelle was nestled, and the pier in the small port town of Lamarque. Benjamin drove the nine miles slowly to savor the crisp morning air and make the most of the always-comic show his quivering dog put on, his impertinent snout up to take in the view. The car was quickly loaded on the Médocain, a modern functional ferry stripped of all poetry. Benjamin felt nostalgia for the old captain, Commander Lemonnier, who skillfully piloted a straight-from- the-past boat called Les Deux Rives, an ancient pot-bellied tub whose curves became graceful when, in the hands of a real sailor, they caressed the sea foam. Lemonnier, a former Cape Horner and a formidable master mariner, had started piloting this fresh-water crossing between inland Médoc and the Blaye citadel when he was well beyond seventy. He was capable of steering his boat through fog and dark nights without using any sophisticated navigational instruments. All he needed was a compass, a chronometer, and a tide schedule to avoid the mud banks and skirt the treacherous islands of Île Verte and Fort Pâté, with its headlands. It took him barely twenty minutes to reach the other bank, and it was a pleasure to watch him in the wheelhouse, examining his little black Moleskine notebook, wherehe had noted maneuvering speeds and course durations, giving orders with a authoritative voice, and landing at the pier without even lifting his eyes from his chronometer’s silver box.

The other side was a foreign land, a place that you could reach with a cannon ball, if not with the lob of a slingshot. Like the kids from the Médoc, young Benjamin had dreamed of bloody attacks, galleys in distress, pirate raids, toothless buccaneers, and wild mutinies when he had spent summers here. And after a stormy night, when the current carried knotty peat, empty containers, and puffed-up plastic bags, he could still imagine combats and skinned corpses, their bellies filled with saltwater.

As soon as Benjamin landed on the right bank of the Gironde, he had the same feeling of adventure that had captivated him when his grandfather Eugène had taken him to visit Blaye. He parked the convertible in a downtown lot and headed toward the citadel. Bacchus barked and had already gone through the king’s gate when Benjamin started over the bridge leading to the ramparts.

Their walk continued for two full hours. Dog and master explored the fortress at great length: the Minimes Convent, the barracks, the prison and the powder magazine, the Dauphine counterscarp, the Liverneuf gate, the central pavilion, and the fortified flanks. Benjamin perchedon the Cônes stronghold, pausing for a long time to watch the estuary’s slow-moving muddy water. He stared at a swirling eddy in the distance, then set his gaze on a sailboat before eyeing some lone branches washing against the foot of the cliff.

Afterward, he climbed the Eguilette tower and took out his spiral notebook. He unscrewed the top of his fountain pen and jotted down some notes in his precise, swirled writing:

Vauban, a man from Dijon (develop this idea)… the two visits from the King (check the dates)… Fort-Médoc kids… fishing for freshwater river shrimp… plaice fillets, court-bouillon (recipe with fennel)… Roland de Roncevaux (be concise)… do not forget Ferri, layout of Fort Pâté… arms factory, troop housing… the water is yellow, brown even, flowerbeds of the houses on the right… shops without giving any details, clock above the bridge, stone watchtower.

He crossed out “stone” and replaced it with “suspended.”

It was nearly noon when he turned back toward the middle of town. Bacchus was thirsty and was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Benjamin walked over to a cast-iron fountain and knelt beside the running water, cupping his hands to catch it for his dog to drink. They had enough time before the next ferry to visit an antique shop downtown.

Thanks for traveling to France with me and Le French Book!



So This is Paris: The 7th Woman

The 7th Woman


I’ve featured The 7th Woman before so I’ll keep it brief this time. I’ve managed to persuade Molay to tell us a bit about her fave (and mine!) city. I hope my Pumpkin is enjoying herself in Paris.

My Paris by Frédérique Molay

I am particularly attached to the fifth arrondissement, which is my paternal grandparents’ neighborhood. They lived Place Jussieu, in the apartment that serves as the setting of the climax in The 7th Woman. Not to be missed in the area are the Place de la Contrescarpe, the Rue Mouffetard, the Montagne-Sainte-Geneviève, and all around the Panthéon.

I love the sixth arrondissement as well and particularly the Luxembourg Gardens. When I was little, I pushed wooden boats in the water basins. I am very fond of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés, particularly the Rue Saint-André-des-Arts, the Rue de Buci, the Rue Bonaparte and its famous salon de thé Ladurée, which is known world over for its macaroons. I often stroll the Rue de Rennes and have lunch at the Trait d’Union, a brasserie that has delicious banana rolls and hot chocolate.

36quaidesOrfèvre-byLeFrenchBookI truly love the first arrondissement too, and the Ile Saint-Louis. Then there is Ile de la Cité, with Notre Dame Cathedral, but also 36 Quai des Orfèvres, which is the criminal investigation division’s headquarters, and a key setting in the entire Nico Sirsky series. On the Pont Neuf, I go to the Taverne Henri IV, which is where Inspector Maigret, and his creator Simenon, went. On the magnificent Place Dauphine is Ma Salle à Manger, which serves delicious Southwestern French cooking in a deliciously friendly atmosphere. Back to the Ile Saint-Louis, you cannot miss Bertillon’s famous ice cream, which you can taste at the outside tables at Flore de l’Ile, enjoying an exceptional view.

The first arrondissement continues into the Palais Royal neighborhood, where you find the Rue Saint-Anne, with is Japanese restaurants. I recommend Higuma, which is the most typical of them all.

Often, when I need some air, I go to Montmartre and visit Sacré Coeur, or the Place des Vosges to see its art galleries, or the Madeleine and Opera, with its large department stores. Other times, I walk along the Seine and explore the bouquinistes.

And when in Paris, do not miss Versailles.

Some of these places I’ve visited and some not.  How about you? Here’s MY fave pic, taken by my friend.

Eiffel Tower Unconventional Librarian









Adult Fiction So This is Paris

So This is Paris: Nightmare in Burgundy

Welcome! If you’re new here I’ve been featuring French books in honor of my daughter’s trip to Europe. You’re just in time to hear about Nightmare in Burgundy, part of the Winemaker Detective series.

His head nightmare_cover_480_300was spinning. For three hours now, he had been sitting at the table between the wife of the ambassador to the Netherlands and a film star whose name he dared not ask for fear of offending her. He vaguely remembered having seen her in a period piece where she played the harpsichord in a château full of mirrors and china. He had to lean in a bit to exchange a few words with the guests across from him. Bunches of red and yellow tulips cluttered the tables. People smiled at each other between the stems.

The dinner was sumptuous, as elegant as it was generous. You could read the satisfaction on the faces of the guests. As the feast continued, attitudes relaxed, looks of collusion replaced polite nods, and witty remarks cut the air with great panache. After savoring a duck pâté accompanied by a Bourgogne Aligoté des Hautes Côtes, perch supreme served with a chilled and fragrant Meursault, and crown loin of veal sprinkled with green peppercorns, along with a 1979 Côte de Beaune Villages, the guests thought the meal was finished. But this was underestimating the hos- pitality of the venerable knights of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. A cockerel and morel fricassee seasoned with Chambolle-Musigny added to the feast, and no one had trouble finishing it. Meanwhile, the Cadets of Bourgogne, decked out in black caps and wine-merchant aprons, had accompanied the arrival of each dish with a great many wine songs, comical tales, and jovial melodies. Beaming, with sparkling eyes and gleaming whiskers, they bellowed verse after verse at the top of their lungs.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They go along their way

And thumb their nose at fools who grump.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They happily proclaim

Their credo without shame.

Always drinkers, never drunk,

They go along their way!

The cheese course was announced. Platters arrived filled with creamy Epoisses washed in marc brandy and aged on rye straw, a soft farmhouse Soumaintrain cheese, mild Saint-Florentin that gave off the scent of raw milk, lightly salted and creamy Chaources, and supple La-Pierre-qui-Vire. Accompanying them were small rounds of goat’s milk cheese, including an especially full-bodied tomme du Poiset. To top it off and honor this Chapter of the Tulips, the hosts had elegantly slipped in some soft Dutch cheese with amber and orange hues. Benjamin Cooker pre-pared a nice plate for himself, enhancing it with a 1972 Latricières-Chambertin that sensuously tickled his taste buds.

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

Sowers of life and of sun;

Lovers of water are mad.

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

A bottle in each hand!

Open the door to some fun

Here come the Cadets of Burgundy,

Sowers of life and of sun!


The chamberlain stepped to the podium. The association’s slogan—Never whine! Always wine—was inscribed above it in gothic letters.

He tapped the microphone, waited for the brouhaha to subside, and greeted the assembly. He congratulated the chef for the excellent dinner and declared the meeting of the Chapter of Tulips open. Then, in a solemn voice, he briefly praised Benjamin Cooker, introducing him as the most recognized wine specialist in France and one of the most sought-after winemakers in the world. He spoke of the Cooker Guide, whose publication all vintners dreaded, and emphasized that the most recent edition had excellent evaluations of certain Vougeots. Finally, he invited the inductee to join him on the stage, next to the members of the association whose gold and red vestments shimmered in the spotlight.

There was a ripple of applause. Leaning on the edge of the table, Cooker rose slowly. He emptied his glass of water, discreetly loosened his bowtie, tugged down the jacket of his tuxedo, and made his way between the tables. He felt the weight of all the eyes turned toward him and slowed his pace a bit for fear of getting tangled in the train of an evening gown or tripping on a chair as he made his way to the dais. He was welcomed with a quotation recited with good-natured pomposity. The crudeness of its kitchen Latin made all the guests laugh.

Totus mundus trinquat cum illustro pinot Imbecili soli drink only water!

So, Brother Cellarer, fill our cup Because, as the saying goes: in vino veritas

Cooker was handed a chalice. He emptied it and proceeded to the dubbing, which fell somewhere between schoolboy farce and ritual solemnity. He swore fidelity to the wines of France and Burgundy and then bowed his head while the grand master of the order tapped his shoulder with a vine shoot.

By Noah, father of the vineBy Bacchus, god of wine

By Saint Vincent, patron of vintners

We dub you Knight of the Tastevin!

Cooker was then invited to take the microphone. He looked over the assembly, and a silence as thick as a wine coulis filled the room. One last clearing of the throat, and his voice resounded under the enormous girders of the wine warehouse.

“Grand Chamberlain of the Order of the Knights of Tastevin, Grand Constable and all of you, knights of the brotherhood, ladies and gentlemen, good evening!”


Wow. That’s some kind of party, non? Here’s the wine route in Burgundy.



The wine tasting room.


Everyone has one of those, right?

Until tomorrow.

Eiffel Tower Unconventional Librarian