Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Author C.W. Gortner

on Tour March 20-April 8, 2015 with

Mademoiselle Chanel 

Mademoiselle Chanel

(historical fiction) Release date: March 17, 2015 at William-Morrow/HarperCollins 384 pages ISBN: 978-0062356406


For readers of “The Paris Wife” and “Z” comes this vivid novel full of drama, passion, tragedy, and beauty that stunningly imagines the life of iconic fashion designer Coco Chanel—the ambitious, gifted laundrywoman’s daughter who revolutionized fashion, built an international empire, and became one of the most influential and controversial figures of the twentieth century. Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to an orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood. Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny. Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her. An enthralling novel of an extraordinary designer who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark. 


"My life didn't please me, so I created my life" (Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel).  This epigraph sets the perfect tone for Mademoiselle Chanel.  

The book begins with Gabrielle Chanel's childhood.  Her family is poor, and after the death of her mother, Gabrielle and her sisters are sent to a convent school.  From her early years, Gabrielle has a gift for sewing, and she has ambition to make something of her life.

As Gabrielle works as a seamstress and sometime chanteuse, she takes on the nickname Coco and attracts the attention of a wealthy man ... and then her fortune begins to change.

It is fascinating to read of Coco's early work as a milliner and then the beginnings of her sleek, modern fashions.  I loved the descriptions in the book of her early shops and her meticulous attention to detail (not just with her clothes but also with the stores that showcased them).

I knew only the most basic details of Coco Chanel's life before reading Mademoiselle Chanel, and did not realize how much she changed fashion for women, moving away from corsets and the very busy Edwardian look to simple, elegant clothes that were designed for wearability as well as beauty.

The period details in this book are exceptional.   For instance, during World War I, "The shattering of the windows sent everyone racing for cover across the Place Vendome to the basements of the Ritz, which were equipped with a fully stocked bar, gas masks, and Hermes sleeping bags."

I found the details and descriptions of 1920's Paris particularly interesting.  The author, C.W. Gortner, has a gift for rich descriptions that are a joy to read.

Coco Chanel was a fascinating, complicated woman.  Mademoiselle Chanel captures her life in a way that readers are sure to enjoy, especially if they like historical fiction and novels about strong women.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other readers as well.


CW GortnerC.W. Gortner is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, translated in over twenty-five languages to date. His new novel, “Mademoiselle Chanel”, traces the tumultuous rise to fame of iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel. In 2016, Random House will publish his eighth novel, “Vatican Princess”, about Lucrezia Borgia. Raised in Spain and a long-time resident of the Bay Area, C.W. is also dedicated to companion animal rescue from overcrowded shelters. Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter Subscribe to his newsletter Buy the book: HarperCollins | IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

You can enter the giveaway here or on the book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.


Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] 6 winners Open to US only: 5 printed copies + 1 beautiful, handcrafted beaded bracelet inspired by Coco’s black-and-white signature colors and camellia design Mademoiselle Chanel bracelet


Mademoiselle Chanel banner

 I received a copy of this book from France Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Friday Faves: Spring and Mysteries

Happy Friday!  Happy First Day of Spring!  Welcome back to Friday Faves.

My first fave this week is SPRING.  It's the first day of Spring, and I couldn't be happier about it.

I always think of this silly poem from childhood on the first day of Spring:

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris.
I wonders where the birdies is.
They say the birds is on the wing.
Ain't that absurd?
I always thought the wing was on the bird.  (Anonymous)

My other fave this week is the Cormoran Strike mysteries by Robert Galbraith (a/k/a J.K. Rowling).  I read The Cuckoo's Calling last year for my book discussion group, and we just discussed The Silkworm last week.  I was a huge Harry Potter fan, so I assumed I would enjoy these mysteries too.  I was absolutely right about that.  They are wonderful classic detective novels.  They are set in London.  The protagonist is an Army vet named Cormoran Strike.  He is tough, kind hearted, and very smart.  He is assisted by a clever, pretty young woman named Robin who wants to become a detective as well.  The first book, The Cuckoo's Calling, involves the mysterious suicide of a supermodel.  The second book, The Silkworm, is about a troubled and difficult fiction writer who goes missing.  The Silkworm had more violent imagery than I like, but I would still recommend it based on the great characters of Cormoran and Robin, and the wonderful writing by Galbraith/Rowling.   I'm already looking forward to the next book in this series, and I would love to see these made into a series for PBS Mystery!  If you've read these books, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

That's it for this week, but I wanted to wish you a happy first day of Spring!  I hope you have a great weekend. 


Book Blitz and Giveaway: Key to Lawrence: Special Edition

by the Cargills
Water rushed into the four, great smoke stacks of the ship as they, too, hit the waves. Tremendous, churning whirlpools sucked victims inside. A few were ejected, blackened with soot. Propellers rose above the maelstrom. The rudder lifted higher than the smoke stacks. The ship's prow pointed down toward the deep. It looked as if the ship's nose would hit the sea bed hundreds of feet below. The Lusitania sank in only 18 minutes after being torpedoed on May 7, 1915. Dora Benley vowed revenge on the enemy. Key to Lawrence tracks the beginning of her quest for justice in this special edition of the first volume of the Edward Ware Thriller Series. It commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Great War.

ManhattanSaturday, May 1, 1915
The stranger stared at Dora’s package. A wide-brimmed hat shaded his face, revealing only a dark beard and mustache. Smoking a small, cheap, stubby cigar, dressed in a nondescript, ill-fitting dark suit, the man strutted towards her in a menacing fashion. Blueish-white cigar smoke curled upward in a lazy corkscrew. It vanished into the air several yards above his head. 
Twenty-year-old Dora Benley quickly stuffed the surprise birthday gift for her father into her satchel. Holding a green parasol edged with black fringe over her head she skirted crowds of well-dressed, gossiping passengers waiting to board the Lusitania. Dressed in a full-length, aquamarine dress with white lace around the sleeves, Dora moved as far away from the intruder as she could without falling off the edge of the pier. 
She searched impatiently for her parents. They were supposed to rendezvous with her at 11:00 AM. By now it was almost noon
A man and woman reporting team burst upon the crowd at Cunard’s Pier 54. They were trailed by a photographer and his assistants carrying a large folding camera and a tripod. The reporters hurled themselves at the passengers. 
“What do you think of the German announcement?” The male reporter thrust a copy of The New York Times at Dora. He pointed to the advertisement prominently displayed on the front page:
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
The Cargills docked at Southampton and explored the South of England in preparation for this thriller, Key to Lawrence. They also sailed the North Atlantic just like Dora Benley. But their transatlantic voyages were on the Queen Mary 2 instead of the Lusitania. They made use of the American Southwest where they live to depict the Syrian Desert that was home to Lawrence of Arabia. Visit their website. Read their blog. Linda also has a Facebook Fan Page.

 The authors are giving away a 100 year old postcard of the Lusitania - a valuable collector's item.
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