Monday, August 28, 2017

The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell

A Key to the City of Light (Starting Over)

Paris is a magical place.  It’s a place of good food, art, fashion, love, and history. Known for the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Arc de Triumph, and more, it’s one of the most beautiful and one of the most visited cities in the world. It has an undeniable draw, an allure that keeps tourists coming in droves.

For Genevieve, going to Paris is more than a vacation, in The Paris Key. After her marriage crumbles in California, Genevieve moves to Paris and takes over her late uncle’s locksmith shop in an attempt to start a new life for herself. Having spent time in Paris in 1997 after her mother’s death, she has a special connection to this city.  But just as it brings back memories of her mother, it also unlocks unexpected secrets. 
Medici Fountain in Luxembourg Gardens.
By Francis Bourgouin - originally posted to Flickr as DSCN0141, CC BY 2.0,
I really liked this book.  I enjoyed reading about a woman who finds herself, who starts over, and takes control of her life. Mostly, I liked getting immersed in Paris.  I loved how Juliet Blackwell describes the streets, the culture, the foods. Oh, how I wish I could sample all those cheeses and coldcuts while sipping wine and eating good bread!  I can imagine myself walking up the many steps of Montmartre, strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens, or touching the locks at Love Locks Bridge. This book makes me want to have ice cream at Berthillon, find a book at Shakespeare and Company, and roam through the famous Père Lechaise cemetery.
View of Montmartre with Basilica of the Sacre Coeur.
By Christophe Meneboeuf - Own workMore of his work on my photoblog:, CC BY-SA 3.0,
When I was eighteen, I was lucky enough to go to Paris with my aunt and uncle for a couple of days. It was a whirlwind trip where we spent hours and hours in a car driving in circles in crazy French traffic trying to get to the Eiffel Tower. We made it right before it rained and I was in awe looking over the great city from way up high, even as the clouds closed in the view.  One day I hope to go back and spend more time there. And if I do go, I’ll think of Genevieve in her small, crowded locksmith shop and how she brought Paris to life for me. 

Me in the Eiffel Tower, 1983.
Can’t get enough of books set in the City of Light?  Click below to read reviews about other Paris-related books.

I don’t usually recommend movies, but in this case I just can’t help myself. If you want to get lost in Paris, both past and present, check out Midnight In Paris— one of my favorite movies that takes a modern-day author, Gil Pender, back to Paris in the 1920s where he stumbles into the art/intellectual scene meeting Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald and many more celebrated personalities who end up giving him perspective on his own life in the twenty-first century.

Happy Reading,


Questions or comments?  Email

Saturday, August 19, 2017

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Innocent Enemies (WWII)

In a terse, effective prose that is truly gripping, this lean novel, delivers the story of a Japanese-American family’s ordeal in an internment camp during WWII.  After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese-Americans and immigrants living in the U.S. became enemy aliens.  They were ordered to leave their homes and lives behind as they were rounded up to live as prisoners in internment camps.  It didn’t matter that these people were innocent American citizens; their crime was being of Japanese descent during an ugly war.

In this novel, the lives of a Berkeley, California family is turned upside down.  The father is incarcerated on the evening of December 7, 1941.  Soon his wife and two kids are sent to the Topaz War Relocation Center with thousands of others in Utah.  There they are held captive in barracks for three and a half years. Their rights are stripped and their loyalty is tested.  After the war, evacuees are sent home to rebuild their existence in a hostile environment where they are no longer trusted or wanted as neighbors, employees, or friends.  But rebuilding the spirit is not always easy or even possible.

What a good book this was—a staggering reality check of the harsh effects of war, even on our own people, our fellow citizens.

For other perspectives of people’s lives during World War II, click on the following titles:


Night by Elie Wiesel

In Our Hearts We Were Giants by Yehuda Koren and Eliat Negev

Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor  (based on a true story)

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley with Ron Powers


Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

City of Thieves by David Benioff

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows