Novel Gossip: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Novel Gossip

The bloggers behind Chachic’s Book Nook and See Michelle Read chatting about books, thousands of miles apart.

Novel Gossip is a new feature that my good friend Michelle and I started a few months ago. Our inaugural post was The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand. We both loved Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (my review, Michelle’s review) last year so Rose Under Fire was one of our most anticipated reads this year. Since it’s a book set in a concentration camp, we were pretty sure that it would be heartbreaking and that it would be a good idea to read this together so we can provide moral support as we go along. Click here to read our thoughts about this historical fiction novel. While we did our best to refrain from putting in spoilers, it’s pretty hard to have an in depth discussion without going into some of the things that happened within the book. If you’d rather go into Rose Under Fire without prior knowledge of its contents, then feel free to skip our discussion (although we hope you’d drop by after finishing the book).

Rose Under Fire UK and US

The UK and US editions, side by side

As always, we had so much fun doing this. It was an interesting conversation since I’m not familiar with concentration camp novels while Michelle has read a lot of them. Plus we grew up in different countries and had different history lessons concerning World War II. It’s funny how details like this affect our reading experience. Watch out for our next Novel Gossip title: Madam, Will You Talk by Mary Stewart.

Novel Gossip: The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

My good friend Michelle and I had fun doing a discussion type of review for Northlander and The King Commands by Meg Burden last year so we decided to do it again. We also thought it would be a good idea to make it a regular feature, alternating the posts in my blog and hers. Ladies and gentlemen, we now present you with our shiny, new feature called Novel Gossip.

Novel Gossip

The bloggers behind Chachic’s Book Nook and See Michelle Read chatting about books, thousands of miles apart.

We both love Laura Florand’s writing so for our first Novel Gossip discussion, we decided to read The Chocolate Rose together. This conversation happened in the span of a few days and some spoilery bits have been deleted.

The Chocolate RoseChachic: I really enjoyed the first few chapters. I wanted to start reading it right away because I curious but I only meant to read maybe a chapter or two and then for our readalong to continue. I read until chapter 8 and it’s a good thing I was able to stop myself from continuing. I like how we dove right into the story and we got to meet the two main characters right away. I found their first meeting hilarious. It’s funny how Gabriel is pretty clueless about women and has no idea how to react around Jolie. I’m really curious how the issue of Jolie’s father copying recipes will be resolved.

Michelle: So far, so good here as well. I agree, I like how the action immediately starts up and that we get into their ‘drama’ from the get go. I’m interested to see how Ms. Florand will handle Gabriel’s overt response to Jolie. If Ms. Florand pushes that too much, I feel like Gabriel might wind up just as another boring alpha male pounding his chest every time Jolie is near. But honestly, I really can’t see the author not giving him some softer parts (he is the one who created that lovely chocolate rose, you know). She always does such a great job making her male heroes multi-layered. And boy, do I ever WANT TO TRY SOME OF HIS FOOD.

Chachic: Yes, exactly. I love how all of Laura Florand’s male characters have softer sides and that aspect of their personality comes out in their creations. Can’t wait to see Gabriel cook for Jolie. I really don’t think we have to worry about Gabriel being and alpha male with no dimensions, I like that some background about him has already been shown – how he worked his butt off for Jolie’s dad but never get any recognition for all his hard work.

Michelle: I’m not really a fan of Jolie’s family at all. Her sisters seem selfish and her father, he doesn’t seem like a nice man either. I wonder too how she’s going to play out their relationship where the lawsuit is concerned.

Chachic: I’m not a fan of Jolie’s family either. Her dad seems like a jerk who only cares about himself and his work. And her sisters aren’t any better. I hope we get to see them in a better light but we’ll see.

Michelle: The back-n-forth dialog between Gabriel and Jolie is definitely my favorite part so far, especially how they keep mistaking each other’s meanings. The double entendres, they are a-plentiful.

Chachic: As always, I’m enjoying the tension between the two characters. It will be fun to see it all play out. I agree that it’s funny how they keep misunderstanding each other.

Michelle: And gee, can we talk about setting?! I feel like I’m walking along the streets of South France and seeing all those lovely flowers in bloom while the old ladies take their evening walk.

Chachic: The setting is lovely too! I love how the town (or city?) has been described so far, with its fountains and flowers. Seems like such a good place to take a vacation and relax. I think it’s great that Laura is highlighting various places in France for her novels. If I can’t go to France, at least I can read about it.

Michelle: I know! One of my favorite parts so far is actually from Chapter One where it is describing the different stages of love.

“In the fresh hope of new lovers clinging to each other, in the easy comfort of lovers of longer standing who lounged in chairs by each other reading, in the old, worn happiness of a white-haired couple walking hand in hand, whose love for each other had been used and worked like fifty-year-old shoes into something so exactly fitted to them that those bright new lovers wouldn’t recognize it in their high-heeled love. But oh, how they would be grateful for it, fifty years on, if they reached that perfect fit, too.”

Michelle: Let’s just say I gave a major le sigh after I read that chapter. I just love her way with words, don’t you?

Chachic: Haha we are such good friends, I highlighted that exact same passage in my Kindle because it stood out for me. I wanted to hug that section of the book. I hope we get more sections like it!

Michelle: I love it that you highlighted it too! I read that and thought “Man, THAT is the type of love I want after 50 years.” She just gets love and relationships and I really like her storytelling abilities.

Chachic: I want that kind of love too! She really just has a way with words. I’m so glad we discovered a new author to love. And that we feel the same way about her writing.

The Chocolate Rose ebook

Chachic: Let’s talk about Jolie’s work, I’m glad we’re reading about a character who writes cookbooks for a living. I’ve always seen cookbooks featuring celebrity chefs in bookstores but never realized that a product like that involves collaboration between a chef and a writer. If I was any good at writing recipes, that would be an amazing job. As always, I love how passionate Laura’s characters are about what they do. I find passionate people fascinating, even more so when they’ve found their calling in life.

Michelle: I could totally see you as a cookbook writer! You are always posting great meals and treats you’ve gotten. I too like that Jolie wants to keep that part of her life separate and just for herself because she truly loves it. I find that most of the women in Ms. Florand’s books are quite driven and I appreciate it that they don’t totally freeze their lives for a relationship. Although they do eventually learn to make sacrifices when it counts.

Chachic: Aww seriously, you think I can be a cookbook writer? But I think you have to be a good cook in order to do that, because you’d have to have an idea of how easy or difficult the recipes would be. I’m hopeless in the kitchen. I like that Jolie is independent enough and secure in herself that she can spend time on her own, it fits in perfectly with Gabriel’s busy schedule. Although you’re right, both of them make sacrifices to make things work.

Michelle: I honestly didn’t even think that being a cookbook writer was a ‘thing’ until reading this book and you saying that it would be a cool job. Goes to show how clueless I am! I guess I figured the chefs just wrote down their recipes and that was it but it makes sense that food bloggers/writers would do a great job of making them more accessible to the general public. As for me, I love to cook – especially bake. I’m still waiting for Ms. Florand to write a book about a bakery and all that delicious bread cause that is my weakness. In fact, in between writing you tonight I made four loaves of French bread (this is my kryptonite and why I will never diet)!

Michelle's bread

Chachic: I found this passage really sweet:

“She might have to revisit her conviction that all the best textures and tastes and scents in the world were in food. His textures – the hard resilience of muscle, the soft cotton of his T-shirt, the smoothness of his skin, the silk of his hair, the whisper of roughness of a jaw shaved that morning – were incredible.”

Michelle: I remember the quote you mentioned and really liked it too. Here are a few I found.

“Maybe no one rose to greatness of any kind without being a narcissist. And no one rose to become a great chef without knowing how to make other people hungry. For more of them.”

Michelle: I think Ms. Florand really gets what it takes for someone to dedicate themselves so totally to something that it completely overshadows the rest of their life. And then conversely, the letdown that occurs when that talent or career is over and the depression that follows. It’s got to be awful. Which leads into this other section I liked, it’s really the only bit of sympathy I feel for her dad.

“Jolie tried to hide the profound sadness that winced through her whenever someone refereed to her father in the past tense, as if he was either no longer alive at all or, at best, he no longer deserved to call himself by his own name. No wonder her father believed the same thing.”

Chachic: I highlighted that quote as well – it’s a good one. I think you’re right, Laura does know what it’s like for a job or career or passion to take up so much space in a person’s life to the point where everything else – including family and friends – get pushed back. I admire people who are passionate but there really is a balance to it.


Michelle: I just finished it — but it’s late here so the only thing I can say before I go crash is — she made a The Lord of the Rings joke!! I knew I loved this woman’s books!! Ha!

Chachic: Loved the LOTR reference as well. I knew you would notice that! That’s the beauty of doing a read along, there’s someone else who will be able to relate to details that you notice.

Michelle: I was a bit curious about the name choice of Jolie — which in French means ‘pretty or attractive’. Most of her books have been pretty accurate but I wonder if that is a common name in France cause it just seemed a funny choice to me — even though I liked it.

Chachic: Really? I had no idea that’s what Jolie meant. What were the meanings of the names of her other heroines? Have you noticed that all of her heroines so far have partly come from the States? I think that’s so the books won’t be too French, if that makes sense.

Michelle: As for the names: Malagie (from The Chocolate Kiss) is pretty French but Cade Corey (The Chocolate Thief) is obviously a play on the Hershey chocolate family (there is an actual town called Hershey, Pennsylvania where that family lives and has their factory), so I think hers is pretty Americanized and even a bit of a joke. Honestly, I’m glad all of Ms. Florand’s females have a bit American in them because the French really are so very different (especially at relationships) so I think it helps people relate to the characters more than when they are so completely foreign. Although it would be a nice change of pace to have the hero American and the heroine French.

Chachic: I figured that Corey was a play on Hershey. I knew there was a place in the US named after the family. Oh really? I had no idea that French dating would be very different compared to American ways. So maybe that’s why Laura makes her female characters grow up in the States. I would love to see a French female and American male as well, that would be a nice change.

Michelle: I don’t know if I ever told you but I studied French all through college and even spent a few weeks there on a study abroad (Paris, Nice and Dijon) so I absolutely love reading about all the varying touristy sites I went to. One place I never got to was Provence so I would love to one day go there as well. Although I do have a confession to make: I’ve never tried a French macaron and I am *dying* to! This book made me think of it again when Jolie talks about using Phillipe’s macaron recipe for her cookbook. I don’t know why I didn’t try one in France (I was prolly too busy eating all the chocolate and bread I could) but I so want to go back just for that almost. I know you like macarons – I should find a good bakery in LA that serves them sometime 🙂

Chachic: I never knew that about you! That must have been so cool, studying French and then going abroad to soak up the culture for a couple of weeks. I would have loved to do that. So does that mean you have a special place in your heart for French-themed books? I like reading about them because I’ve always wanted to visit Paris. I can’t believe you’ve never tried a macaron! I love macarons. Several restaurants here in Singapore sell them but not all of them are good. I hope you get to try one soon. Pretty sure macarons are available in LA.

TWG macarons

Michelle: One thing that bugged me about this one was the formatting! Did you have issues with the fact that there were no spaces or marks to indicate that it was a new narrator? Sometimes I had to go back just to figure out who was speaking. It’s totally minor but I wish they would have done something to mark the flow for readers so it wasn’t always such an abrupt change. But maybe that’s just me 🙂

Chachic: Yes, the formatting bugged me as well! I ignored it the first time it happened and then I kept noticing that there aren’t any breaks in between sections, even when the POV changes. It got a bit confusing. I think it’s just a formatting issue – the extra spaces probably aren’t showing up in the Kindle edition.

Michelle: I’m glad I wasn’t the only one bugged with the formatting. I wasn’t sure if it was due to the fact that it was self-published that there were quirks that would normally have been ironed out by the publisher or what.

Michelle: So did you read the first chapter of The Chocolate Touch at the end of The Chocolate Rose? I’m all aflutter.

Chachic: I’ve read the first chapter of The Chocolate Touch when Laura posted it on her website. I really can’t wait to read it. I hope it goes up in NetGalley soon!


There you have it, folks, our first Novel Gossip post! In conclusion, it’s pretty obvious that we enjoyed reading The Chocolate Rose, which isn’t surprising since we both loved the other novels in the Amour Et Chocolat series. Can’t wait to read more of Laura Florand’s writing. Stand by for more Novel Gossip discussions, the next one will be posted over at Michelle’s blog. Feel free to let us know what you think of this new feature.

with Michelle of See Michelle Read

Chachic and Michelle, March 2013 in Los Angeles

Reading order of the Amour et Chocolat books:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Rose

Read-along Review: The King Commands by Meg Burden

My good friend Michelle (See Michelle Read) and I decided to do a readalong of Meg Burden’s The Tales of the Borderlands duology. We kept exchanging messages back and forth, updating each other on our progress and our thoughts. We thought it would be a good idea to post conversation-type of reviews for both books. Drop by her blog to see what we have to say about Northlander. While this is a spoiler-free discussion of The King Commands, we discuss specific details about the books so if you’d rather not know anything about the story before reading it, you might skip this and just read the last paragraph.

Ellin never wanted to go to the Northlands but she didn’t have a choice when the Northlander king’s physicians requested for her father’s help. So much has happened in her life and surprisingly, she’s learned to like living in the Northlands just as much as the Southlands. Sure, people are still wary of her red hair and her healing abilities but she thinks that’s a small price to pay for being with her friends – the Northlander princes. Just when she thinks peace has settled in the kingdom, a series of unexpected events force Ellin to travel back to her homeland to find answers.


Chachic: Yes, let’s go on and read book two! I read the first few pages last night but I didn’t want to continue because I wanted to wait for you so we can discuss the first book. Have you read the synopsis for book two? The love interest is mentioned right away. I wish they hadn’t done that.

Michelle: So I’m so very glad that you mentioned that the synopsis gives away Ellin’s love interest! I usually don’t read the back cover anyways once I decide to start a book but I appreciate the warning. Still, the temptation is GREAT to peek! And the hubby keeps taunting me cause he read the back when I told him what you said 🙂 I started it tonight, but I’m only a few pages in so I’m looking forward to see where it goes.

Chachic: So I’m a couple of chapters in and I’m still confused regarding Ellin’s love interest! Haha I’m not even sure if the guy mentioned in the synopsis is really the romantic lead because I can see the story going in other directions. So funny that your husband keeps taunting you though. Don’t worry, you’ll probably go through the chapters quickly and you’ll reach the place where I currently am (end of chapter 12) in no time.

Michelle: So I’m up to page 100 or so now and once again Meg Burden is astounding! So much happens and it always catches me completely off guard!

Also, how fun that we are getting a greater insight into Finn’s character! If possible I am loving him more than ever now due to those chapters from his perspective. Seriously! I just want gather that boy up and hug him tight.

Chachic: We’re at about the same page so that’s good. 🙂 Yes, I was so surprised at how quickly things unfolded in the first few chapters of the The King Commands! I haven’t been able to predict any of the events that have happened so far – and that’s a good thing, right?

I love the chapters from Finn’s POV! I did a bit of searching and found this interview that Meg Burden did on bookshelves of doom and she talks about how she wanted to write from a different POV in the second book but didn’t want it to feel disconnected with the first one.

Sorry, I just had to share this – Meg Burden replied to a conversation that Angie and I had on Twitter.

Michelle: How crazy is it that Meg Burden chatted with you on Twitter! Maybe she gets alert emails (like me) when someone happens to mention me there. Pretty cool tho. It is sad that she didn’t get to write a 3rd book for the series, but I am secretly thrilled that it does all get wrapped up in TKC since there isn’t another one for us to read. Nothing worse than being left hanging during the middle of a truly awesome series.

Chachic: I know, I was amazed when Meg Burden replied on Twitter! It is sad that there wouldn’t be a third book in this series but at least things are nicely wrapped up in TKC and we don’t have to wait for the next installment. So glad I decided to buy a copy of TKC when I ordered Northlander. I wouldn’t have minded waiting a bit to read the sequel because Northlander stands well enough on its own. It’s just that I enjoyed it so much so I wanted to start on TKC right away.

Michelle: I should start this out with an apology! I got reading tonight and couldn’t help but finish! I think you will too once you get going 🙂 And wow, what a ride it takes you on! Back and forth from the Northland to the Southland and everywhere in between. I do feel like this one was a bit more grown-up if you will. Ellin had seen and been through so much that I really feel like she changed buckets. Really all the characters, but I think that’s to be expected.

Chachic: No need to apologize! I understand that you wanted to keep on going until you finished the whole thing, I felt the same way. So much action was packed in TKC, I wanted to reach the end just to find out how everything will unfold. I agree that this book feels a bit older than Northlander, which is a good thing because it’s like the story grows with Ellin. That also means there’s excellent character development in the novel.

Michelle: Also, how lovely to see a YA book where there are true friendships developed between men and women without it ever getting weird. Ellin and Coll’s interactions throughout the book had to be some of my favorite moments. And seeing the teasing that went on with the other brothers never failed to bring a smile to my face either.

Chachic: I agree, it’s always nice when books focus on friendships or healthy relationships between family members (like the brothers in this duology – you can really feel how fond they are of each other). I also love how Ellin and Coll act like their siblings even though they haven’t known each other that long.

Michelle: Can I just say how much I adore Coll? His character has evolved so very much and he has become this amazingly strong and stalwart person that I never would have foreseen. I love his ability to speak from the heart and find comfort in his horses.

Chachic: I love Coll as well, he’s such a great character! Steadfast and strong in his own quiet way. Coll Horse Master is the perfect title for him and I love that he bonded with Ellin over his favorite mare.

Michelle: But really?!? That’s how Meg Burden ended the book? She just drops this little tidbit onto us in the last 10 pages? I guess it’s mostly due to the fact that originally it was planned out for 3 books so the story had to be condensed, but still! So many details were thrown out there at the last that I was so not expecting!

Chachic: I KNOW! So I know that Meg Burden said on Twitter that there wouldn’t be a third book so she wrapped things up in TKC. But even if I liked where it ended, I still felt like it was incomplete. I get the feeling that the story could have continued. I agree that the last few pages nicely sets up the rest of the story and it makes me sad that there wouldn’t be more set in this world.

But I really enjoyed reading these books! Yay us for picking winners for our readalong. I like how most characters from the first book changed (for the better) in the second book. It seemed like all of the characters did their fair share of growing up – enemies became friends and vice versa. So many changes in how things were!

Michelle: Yes! Everyone was able to put aside differences and see that working together was for the benefit of the group at large.

Chachic: Can we talk about the cover for a bit? I think the cover for Northlander looks okay but I feel like TKC could have a much better cover design. Is it just me or it looks like a picture straight out of an online game? And I can’t even figure out who is supposed to be on the cover. The blond guy is probably Alaric but who’s the red-headed one? I wish they just used a picture of Ellin (or maybe the brothers).

Michelle: Oh my, yes! We never did discuss that tragedy did we? And you’re right, Northlander is pretty good — sorta brooding, forbidding castle but TKC? Horrible. Every time I picked it up I just would cringe in disbelief that someone would actually choose to PRINT that. And I have no idea who those two are supposed to be either. Finn? Alaric? I wish they had just gone with another generic castle or something — anything would have been better than that photoshopping disaster.

Chachic: Maybe they used a stock photo instead of having someone specifically design a cover for the book? I agree, it would have been better if they had gone with a generic cover design – maybe a landscape of the Southlands or the Northlands? LOL but I’m glad we agree about the cover.

So excited to post our reviews of these two. I’m hoping we get to encourage more readers to pick up the books.

Michelle: And yep! I can’t wait to post these either. I really hope it spurs someone else to pick them up cause they were a lot of fun. I actually originally looked at getting my copies from the Book Depository but saw that they were $8 or 9 apiece so I actually got mine used off Amazon for around $8 for both. Super cheap. I know that wasn’t an option for you (very sad) but we could let people know that you CAN find them cheaply if not at libraries or something.

There you have it, folks. I think we pretty much covered everything that we wanted to say about the sequel. I was telling Michelle that our thread for The King Commands is a bit longer than the one that we had for Northlander. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both of these books. I was reminded of how much I enjoy reading epic fantasy novels while I was going through Meg Burden’s books. There are so many things to like in this series – a strong female character (inner strength instead of physical strength), political intrigue stemming from the uneasy situation between the Northlands and the Southlands, friendships that you can root for and even a bit of romance. It’s sad that there aren’t a lot of readers who have picked up these books because they’re really good reads and both Michelle and I are hoping to encourage more people to pay attention to them with our reviews. Recommended for fans of Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale and Sherwood Smith.

Other reviews:
Charlotte’s Library
wands and worlds
A Jane of all Reads