Jul 21, 2024

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII


Empresses of Seventh Avenue

World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion


Fashion historian and journalist Nancy MacDonell chronicles the untold story of how the Nazi invasion of France gave rise to the American fashion industry.

The fall of Paris to the Nazis in WWII had a profound effect on the French Legend, the belief that all women in Europe and America wanted only French couture and fashion. With Paris shut down and shut off during the war, American designers came into their own. 

My comments:

When Paris was taken over by the Nazis in WWII, that famous capital of high fashion began a decline that was filled by American couturiers who had previously relied on the French to lead the way in fashion, no longer only copying their styles and looking to Paris for their inspiration, Starting September 1940, American designers began to shine on their own and by 1945 American fashion began to rival that of France, and New York began to challenge Paris as the capital of high fashion.

This amazing historical novel on the growth and emergence of American fashion shows the rise of "democratic" principles in the fashion world - American designers began creating couture for all types of women. Sportswear, ready-to-wear clothes, and mix and match outfits became the new styles for America and signaled a new era of fashion.

This book tells the story of how the Americans could move forward without Paris, for once disregarding the French Legend as the one and only source of haute couture. The first American designers of note are the "empresses of Seventh Avenue." These included Eleanor Lambert, first superstar fashion publicist; Claire McCardell, creator  of American sportswear; designer Elizabeth Hawes, among several others. 

An important book for fashion lovers and for those interested in this aspect of American history, the book details the lives and stories of little remembered designers and couturiers in America who were important to American fashion. A fascinating book that is well worth reading

Memes: Paris in July 2024,  The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves

Jul 13, 2024

Sunday Salon: Short Stories and a Love Story

 I have read and liked many of Elly Griffiths' mystery novels set in the north of England, so NetGalley offered me this read. Looking forward to it. 

The Man in Black: Stories by Elly Griffiths

June 18, 2024; Mariner Books, NetGalley


An eclectic, thrilling collection of short stories, featuring many characters that readers have come to know and love from her mystery books featuring her main character, forensic archaeologist and university lecturer, Ruth Galloway.

I liked the clear lines of this book cover and the simple yet intriguing title, Lines, a novel by a young Asian American writer, Sung J. Woo, to be published October 29, 2024. The book is described as a "star-crossed" love story set in New York City. It promises to be tragic. I'm curious. 

Another of his books, Everything Asian is an earlier book about a 12-year-old Korean boy moving with his mother and teenage sister to the U.S. to join his father, and adapting to life in New Jersey. 


Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves 

Jul 6, 2024

Essays, Short Stories, and a Fantasy: Sunday Salon

 In my mailbox

I requested this book because of its use of Japanese mythology in its storytelling.

Soho Press, Soho Teen, Sci Fi and Fantasy, Teens and YA, OwnVoices


This heartfelt and quirky young adult fantasy debut follows a young outcast on a journey of transformation . . . into a robot vacuum cleaner.

A fresh twist on Japanese mythology that doubles as a deep, honest dive into mental health.

“I wish to become one of those round vacuum cleaner robots.” That’s what Machi prays for at the altar of Japanese goddess Benzaiten. Ever since her two best friends decided they want nothing to do with her, Machi hasn’t been able to speak. After months of online school and a carousel of therapists, she can no longer see the point of being human. She doesn’t expect Benzaiten to hear her prayer, much less offer a different prayer on Machi’s behalf—that Machi  discover the beauty of humanity, ultimately restoring her to her previous self.

From an author to watch, The Lost Souls of Benzaiten is a highly original debut about the nature of happiness and the potential for healing.

Thanks to Soho Press for a review copy of this book.

Ebook Downloads

The cover and the title grabbed me. Besides, I wanted to read more short stories from a woman's point of view.

Miss Kim Knows

And Other Stories

October 29, 2024; Liveright, NetGalley


From the international best-selling author of Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, a collection exploring the intimacies of contemporary Korean womanhood.

A woman is born. A woman is filmed in public without consent. A woman suffers domestic violence. A woman is gaslit. A woman is discriminated against at work. A woman grows old. A woman becomes famous. A woman is hated, and loved, and then hated again.

Miss Kim Knows follows eight women, ranging from preteens to octogenarians, as they confront how gender shapes and orders their lives. “Despite her characters’ hardship and disappointments, there is mischief and glee to be found in these pages” (Hephzibah Anderson, Observer), resulting in another riveting read from an essential voice in world literature.

Collection of Essays

Dancing on My Own

Essays on Art, Collectivity, and Joy

Published June 25, 2024; Harper

An essay collection on the aesthetics of class aspiration, creating art and fashion, and the limits of identity politics by emerging art critic and curator Simon Wu

Some interesting and revealing quotes from the essays about being artistic, and being an immigrant:
"...we had chosen to follow our passions into precarious creative professions where few others looked like us and our parents could offer little help. Children of immigrants who pursue creative careers often contend with the perceived opportunity cost of endangering the economic foothold their parents carved out for them." (from "For Everyone")

Simon Wu is a curator and writer involved in collaborative art production and research, and is currently in the PhD program in history of art at Yale University. His family immigrated to the U.S. from Myanmar. 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves 

Jul 1, 2024

Paris in July 2024: Four Books and a Recipe for a French Omelette


Paris in July 2024

During this month,
 various activities
like reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking,
and indulging in all things French!

Hosted by France Book Tours/ Words and Peace.

Click on Paris in July 2024: French Bingo to join in reading/watching/listening and other Paris/French activities in July, using the bingo card. 


Books/ARCs I have chosen for this challenge:

               August 20, 2024; William Morrow, NetGalley,                                                            French fashion

                     July 8, 2024; Boldwood Books, NetGalley
                                       Paris in the Title

                             July 21, 2020; Berkley, NetGalley
                                     Eiffel Tower on cover

                         August 8, 2024; Lake Union Publishing
                                                    French history                                                          
I hope to finish these books in July! 

French Food

I am adding a French omelette for the challenge, but I have to watch how much butter I use in this dish! Doesn't it look creamy and delicious, though? I made this using a video of Julia Child's recipe and method, which is very similar.

close up view of Chef John's French Omelette on a plate with toast and spinach

                       Chef John's French Omelette
                                              Photo by Chef John


  • 3 large fresh eggs

  • ½ teaspoon cold water

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 

  • 1 pinch cayenne or white pepper to taste (Optional)


  1. Whisk eggs, water, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Whisk until mixture is very liquid and whites are completely blended in, 1 or 2 minutes.

  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as butter melts and before it starts to sizzle, pour in whisked eggs. Stir in a circular pattern with a heat-proof spatula, lifting and scrambling eggs, shaking the pan to keep leveling out the mixture, and scraping down the sides. Continue stirring until shaking the pan no longer levels the eggs.

  3. Reduce heat to low. Using the spatula, smooth the surface to move runny eggs to less runny spots, working toward an even thickness. As soon as the surface is wet but not runny, remove from heat.

  4. Starting at the handle side of the pan, use the spatula to begin rolling omelette into a cylinder shape, about 3 rolls until omelette is about 2 inches from opposite side of the pan. Use the spatula to fold the last flap of egg over the top of the cylinder leaving the seam-side up. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the pan. Gently push the butter as it melts under the omelette.

  5. Slide omelette to edge of the pan. Flip onto a plate with the seam-side down. Even out the shape, if necessary. You can tuck in the ends, if you like. Brush surface with a bit more butter. Dust with cayenne pepper.                            

What are you planning to read/watch/make/eat for Paris in July?

A Love Letter to Paris by Rebecca Raisin: Paris in July 2024

 Paris in July 2024

 A Love Letter to Paris by Rebecca Raisin, July 8, 2024; Boldwood Books, NetGalley

Genre: romance, Paris, contemporary fiction

Reviewed for Paris in July 2024


My comments: Half-French Lilou has lived in Paris since her 20s, selling old letter and personal diaries and ephemera from the past at her stall at the San Ouen flea market. Inspired by her friend Emilienne, who wants to find the right boyfriend, and convinced that writing letters would better introduce two people to each other than sending pictures or having sudden impromptu dates, Lilou opens a letter writing matchmaking site online and calls herself the Paris Cupid.

Becoming a flourishing matchmaker, the Paris Cupid that advocates "slow-burn romance" through the written word, Lilou also finds herself the target of romance, wondering about the love talismans she finds among her things at her stall. There are three men who have stalls close by hers at the flea market who might be trying to convey their romantic feelings to Lilou, or court her in this way.

This cute romance novel tells a lot about Paris, its huge and famous flea markets, antique shops, the booksellers along the Seine, the parks and gardens and places to get the best views of Paris, sites for lovers, even the French love of cats as pets. Readers will want to see this aspect of Paris. I found the book an enjoyable and easy read that showed me other sides of this intriguing city.

Jun 29, 2024

New ARCs I'm Willing to Try: Sunday Salon

 Why read these new books? A hit or miss selection.

July 16, 2024; Atria Books, NetGalley


A group of wealthy Manhattanites escape to an astrology-themed retreat, where simmering resentments and long-held secrets lead to a shocking death in this fresh, twisty, and suspenseful debut.

Why I'll read: I'd like to see if the author is supportive of astrologists or not, as the astrologer host of the retreat in this book has a secret plan for her guests.

May 14, 2024; Harper, NetGalley

Description: A grand English country house, one American divorcee, three rich wives, two tycoons, a pair of miniature sausage dogs and one (bereaved) butler; in this impossibly funny novel.

Setting: the rose-strewn Cotswold villages of Little Bottom, Middle Bottom, Great Bottom, and Monkton Bottom, recently annexed by a glittering new breed of female: the Country Princess.

The wives have a falling out and chaos in the villages ensues. 

Why I'll read: I'm willing to give this humorous novel a try, as the Cotswold setting can be picturesque and the "country princess" wives have piqued my curiousity.

October 29, 2024; Mariner Books, NetGalley

A new mystery novel of ambition, legacy, and betrayal from the author of The Girl on the Train. A web of secrets and lies and a present-day discovery that connects three people. 

Setting: An isolated Scottish island, accessible to the mainland only twelve hours a day

Why I'll read: in the mood for a mystery thriller, plus I like the Scottish island setting and love the cover of the book. 

August 13, 2024; Red Hen Press, NetGalley


Don't look back. Did Eurydice want to return from the underworld? Did anybody ask?

In this portrait of rage and resilience, a Korean woman tries to connect with her younger brother and grapple with family tragedy through bedtime stories that weave together Greek mythology, neuroscience, and tales from their grandmother’s slipping memory.

Why I'll read: a literary novel to add to other genres of books. Besides, I love Greek myths and am interested in seeing how it's mixed in with neuroscience and how the brain functions.

What are you reading/watching this week?  

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves 

Jun 21, 2024

Cat Lovers, Coffee Shop, and Other Novels in International Settings

 There's a full moon this weekend - the Strawberry Moon, coffee lovers! 

The Full Moon Coffee Shop by Mai Mochizuki, translated from the Japanese, August 20, 2024; Ballantine Books
Genre: fantasy, astrology, Japanese fiction

This special coffee shop appears only to those who seem to need the guidance of a tortoise shell tabby cat to get their messy lives back on track. The cat gives astrological advice depending on the individual's circumstances and the time, date, and place of their birth. 

Many Japanese authors love their cats and coffee shops and use these themes and settings to reveal a larger truth about life in their stories. How the individuals benefit from the tabby's astrology advice is the interesting part of the book. I also liked the explanations about an astrology term I've always heard but never fully understood - Mercury in retrograde. It seems things can go wacky for about three weeks when Mercury is in this mode. 

An interesting and entertaining book, whether or not you believe in astrology, the pull of the full moon, fortune telling cats, or magical coffee shops. 

I'm reading this book partly for the setting - Indonesia and its capital, Jakarta

Darkness Falls in Jakarta by Louise Soraya Black
July 4, 2024; Muswell Press
Genre: mystery/thriller, women's fiction

Description: The death of Claire’s parents triggers traumatic memories of her past life in Jakarta, a time that Claire has been running away from ever since.

Haunted by guilt and the terrible misunderstanding that forced her to leave the city she loved as a teenager; she embarks on a journey back in the hope of finding answers and perhaps a path to forgiveness.

Louise Soraya Black perfectly captures the heartache of lost chances and the fragile hope of making amends.

My review on goodreads.

Crime, Croissants, and Lots of Humor on this Bike Tour in the Eastern Pyrenees of France

A Cyclist's Guide to Crime and Croissants by Ann Claire, May 21, 2024; Kensington CoziesGenre: cycling, travel, cozy mystery, Southern France

Setting: Pyrénées-Orientales in France, along the Mediterranean Coast near the Spanish border

I love the humor in the main character's telling of her story. Sadie's observations and descriptions along the bike route are original and clever and you want to meet her in person. An example: Her description of imminent and unwanted downpour starting on their bike tour goes: " a raindrop the size of a grape fell on my nose."  Ha, ha, I say. 

The crimes, vandalism, and subsequent murders along the tour route may be due to at least two persons. I like that this mystery storyline does not prevent the reader from armchair travel of a very good kind through the Pyrenees mountains and villages and sights. 

The visit to a giant grocery store with a whole section devoted to multiple varieties of French yogurt, custards, and puddings was new and appealing. French pastries also play a large part in the routine of the tour group.

I loved taking this nine-day cycling tour through hills, mountains, and very scenic villages and towns. Not only for the travel, but the food and the humorous and interesting characters, plus a mystery with a surprise culpritOf course, there is also a handsome gendarme to spice up Sadie's bike tour.

What are you reading/watching this week?  

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves 

Jun 15, 2024

Travel Can Be Fun or Not: Sunday Salon

Books read and to-be-read

The Trip by Phoebe Morgan, May 25, 2024; HQ, NetGalley
Genre: mystery, adventure, travel fiction, adult fiction

Braving it in Thailand. Four friends enjoy their vacation, until one of them commits a crime, and they all keep it a secret. I read this mainly for the details of a trip to Thailand, but enjoyed the straightforward plot of trouble found not in that country, but trouble that follows one of the travelers from the U.S. The last half of the book was suspenseful even though most of the plot was somewhat predictable. The very end of the book was a plot twist I didn't see coming, however.

A rom com set in Vietnam
Adam and Evie's Matchmaking Tour by Nora Nguyen, September 24, 2024; Avon, NetGalley
Description: A rollicking romance about two strangers finding love as they embark on a matchmaking tour through Việt Nam - from the bustling streets of Hồ Chí Minh City to the soaring waterfalls in Đà Lạt.

The Main Character by Jaclyn Goldis
May 21, 2024; Atria, NetGalley
Genre: travel, thriller, suspense

Description: A thriller author arranges a luxury train trip along Italy’s Mediterranean coast on the famed, newly renovated Orient Express, traveling from Cinque Terre to Rome to Positano. All who are invited by the author are hiding secrets. And there might be a murder or two.

Hurricane season

Storm Warning by David Bell, June 25, 2024; Berkley. Genre: suspense, thriller

It's hurricane season in Florida! Here is a book that might make you think twice about going south during the storm season. 

The setting during a strong hurricane on a barrier island in Florida is new, but the mystery thriller situation is familiar. There is a killer (among the residents who are sitting out the storm in their delapidated building), and the residents are isolated from the mainland and from help. They must fend for themselves and each other the best they can.

There is some supense when the first building resident is found murdered, and more suspense from the relentless storm that threatens to destroy the building in which they live. Who the murderer is and why, and how and if they survive is the crux of the story.

Not extremely original in plot, but a good read nevertheless. 

Immigration and the American Dream

Love Can't Feed You by Cherry Lou Sy, October 8, 2024; Dutton, NetGalley

Description: a heartbreaking look at coming of age, shifting notions of home, and the disintegration of the American dream. It asks us: What does it mean to be of multiple cultures without a road map for how to belong?        

Queenie, her younger brother, and their elderly Chinese father arrive in the United States from the Philippines to finally reunite with Queenie’s Filipina mother, a nurse. But her mother is not the same woman she was in the Philippines: Something in her face is different, almost hardened, and she seems so American already.

What are you reading/watching this week?  

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated BookreviewerAlso, It's Monday: What Are You Reading, Sunday Salon, and Stacking the Shelves 

Empresses of Seventh Avenue by Nancy MacDonell: Historical Novel

 Fashion in Paris and New York City during WWII   Empresses of Seventh Avenue World War II, New York City, and the Birth of American Fashion...