Paris in July – George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

George's Grand Tour

George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
Source: Publisher
Gallic Books
ISBN:  9781908313737
Find this book at your local library

When his doting and over-protective daughter decides to go on a trek through the wilderness of Peru for a couple of months, George, with the help of best friend Charles, decide to plan a long trek of their own. Their trip consists of following the Tour de France in their car. Plans almost go awry when George’s granddaughter Adele calls to check in on her grandfather. This book is unique in that it manages to incorporate modern-day use of technology without it being clunky or trite. Adele encourages her grandfather to text her everyday with a simple status of his trip. The initial brief texts eventually evolve in short journal messages of his voyage. Who he’s with, where he is, what he’s experiencing. He and his long-lost granddaughter reunite through these messages.

This is a wonderful book about two friends setting off on a last great adventure in their lives, following the Tour de France. Fans of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand will really take a liking to this novella by Caroline Vermalle. The characters are well-developed and the story has a wonderful flow to it. I wish I was travelling with George and Charles, seeing all the wonderful sights and tasting all the delicious food around France. It’s a story about family, about being true to yourself, challenging and valuing yourself and your worth. There’s a budding romance, self-discovery and personally challenges throughout the novel. It was basically the perfect length to tell such a short story. The entire book covers the nearly two months of the trip, with each chapter finding George and Charles in a new city, making new friends. All the characters manage to grow in some way in this short story. The chapters are very brief, usually 1 to 3 pages. The translation is done with England English, so there is some terminology that might confuse American readers (trainers = sneakers, jumper = sweater, etc). I just wonder how the chapter on pig-Latin must have been like in the original French text. I didn’t even know pig-Latin was a thing outside of the US.

Paris in July – Week 3 Recap

Week 3 is at an end, and I didn’t do as much as I did during Week 2, but that’s okay. What I did do was quite fun.

Where I went

photo 3I went to the annual Bastille Day French Festival in Santa Barbara this year, using it as a totally valid excuse to take my family on vacation for the weekend. The festival itself was incredibly fun. There were 3 stages for music, one dedicated to accordions all day long. There was singing, dancing, and cabaret and can-can style dancing on the other two stages. The food was delicious, although the vendor booths were a bit underwhelming.

photo 1Although the entire event was justified by the purpose of this wonderful little herb mill. When I was in Arles a few years ago, I brought back two of these back with me. One went to a friend as a house-warming gift, and the other went to my in-laws. I’d regretted not buying a third for myself ever since we got back. I was absolutely thrilled to see it in a small little booth selling goods imported from Provence. It was hiding amongst tablecloths and other linens. I immediately snatched it up with glee and handed over my credit card. I’ve been using it everyday since. It goes well with salads and mozzarella cheese. We also picked up a bouquet of lavender. That has been well dispersed around the apartment, exuding the most calming fragrance in each room of the house.

The Festival itself was fun. There were so many people talking in French, it was amazing. A small part of me felt like maybe I was in France. Boys running around, horse-playing and taunting each other in French. Vendors and customers sharing jokes in French, French music, pastries and crepes. We were only there for a couple of hours, but it was an experience. I’m not sure we’ll make the trek back down again in the future, at least not specifically for the festival. I’ll always make room on my calendar to go back to Santa Barbara though.

What I started reading

Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American TasteProvence 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr.

I’m about halfway through, but am debating abandoning it for another book. Its about all of the big names in the food industry at the time gathering in the south of France to talk about and influence the future of food in America. Its very gossipy and since the author is M.F.K. Fisher’s nephew…well, that adds an unsavory bias to the story towards certain people. I dunno. I may finish it through, because anything involving Julia Child is wonderful.

What I watched

4cefded50fad53ce7ac1f2bfa8209c7a Populaire. Written and directed by Regis Roinsard.  

Set during the 1960’s, Populaire tells the story of a small-town girl with a gift for typing and her type-A personality boss with a heart of gold. Its a romantic-comedy, its witty and its quirky. Romain Duris has perfected the smug French smirk of disdain in this film. Deborah Francoise is absolutely charming in this movie. Seeing her skill and speed at typing, Rose’s boss Louis has her sign up for a regional typing competition. Although she doesn’t win the first round, he has her move into his house for 24-hour training sessions to perfect her typing skills, entering in competitions going to the nationals and then to the international competition held in New York. The movie is quite like My Fair Lady.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/23/2015

Paris in July – Week 2 Recap

Week 2 is at an end, and I’ve been on quite a roll. Although Week 1 had a few bumps in the road in regards to book and movie selections, I’ve done a better job this week.

What I reviewed

& Dimanche and Other Stories by Irène… & The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain  The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested…

What I started reading

World War II Women Journalists

What I watched

The Dinner Game (1998)

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/14/2015

The Dinner Game – Paris in July Movie Review

Usually I’ll watch Amelie or Julie and Julia during Paris in July, but lately, I’ve been finding myself drawn to other comedic French films. I’m not quite sure what it is, but the plots tends to be more streamlined, the characters are more layered and developed. Plus, there is such a shortage of fluff and unnecessary drama, that you can really enjoy the story and characters. One recent film I watched was The Dinner Game, written and directed by Francis Verber. He’s also the mastermind behind La Cage Aux Folles (the Birdcage).

The Dinner Game (1998)This is the basic plot summary for The Dinner Game:

Every Wednesday night, wealthy editor Pierre Brochant and his friends host what they call their “un dîner de cons”, the Idiot Dinner Party. Meaning, each person brings a guest that they have deemed to be a real idiot, and they sit and make fun of these unsuspecting guests for the night, naming a winner at the end. Pierre is tipped to François Pignon who he invites as his guest. After a strange of turn of events, Pierre gets a healthy dose of karma as a series of unfortunate mishaps prevent the two from attending the dinner. First, Brochant throws out his back, then his wife leaves him. When Pignon tries to intervene and help…well, that’s where things get hilariously messy.

My review

I had the movie on in French with English subtitles. For the most part, the movie took place entirely in Monsieur Brochant’s apartment living room (and what a view of the Eiffel Tower you could spy from the windows!). My husband was half paying attention, but the movie kept distracting him from his work and he’d crack up laughing with me. I felt so bad for how badly Pierre would make fun or insult Monsieur Pignon, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel some sympathy for Pierre as well. Although he’s by far the jerk of the movie, things just slip out of his control so quickly one can’t help but feel bad for the guy who just wants to find his wife. Even though the movie is from 1998, it’s a timeless film. To be honest, I thought it took place in this decade, despite the glimpses of the rather outdated cell phones and car phones. Every actor in this movie was unknown to me, and I really liked that. No expectation, just pure enjoyment. I hope someone else takes a chance on this movie as well and can tell me what they think of it.

Paris in July #6

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/14/2015

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Gallic Press

What is it about French authors and brevity? Antoine Laurain managed to do in 150 pages what The Storied Life of AJ Fikry failed to do in double the amount. The Red Notebook has intrigue, mystery and some romance. I can’t really say much else without giving away spoilers.

Laure is on her way home from the Metro one night when she is mugged and her purse is stolen out of her hands. Without keys, wallet or phone, she makes her way to the hotel across the street to recoup for the night.

A few days later, Laurent, a quiet and mild-mannered bookseller, finds an abandoned purse on top of a trash bin. After a failed attempt to drop it off at the police station, Laurent finds his world altered almost overnight as a result. Using only the random assortment of items in her purse, he attempts to track her down to return what she had lost. Its actually a pretty decent mix of luck and cleverness on his part as he goes through the steps of finding Laure. It makes me wonder what people would discover about me just by rifling through the contents of my purse?

This book is a wonderful little story about two people whose lives are crossed by mere chance. It reminded me of The President’s Hat in a way. Especially how an inanimate object can change the lives of those it touches. Now if only I could read in French to see what was altered/lost in translation. There are so many references to notable French authors that I really feel like I missed out on something special in the book. One of more notable cameos is by author Patrick Modiano, who just won The 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature. Everything about The Red Notebook is so wonderfully French, from the bookstores, to cafes, to the romances. It’s definitely in my top 5 books of the year.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/13/2015

Dimanche by Irène Némirovsky

Dimanche and Other Stories by Irène…

Dimanche & Other Stories by Irène Némirovsky
Source: My Copy
Publisher: Persphone books

Written and set in the years prior to and during WWII, Irène Némirovsky takes us into the lives of a cast of dysfunctional relationships in France. Through this novel, she examines the lives and relationships between lovers, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives and anyone in between. Through a series of quick snippets into different lives, we see different styles of self-reflection, of selfishness and of stagnant relationships, floundering but not quite sinking. Many of these stories have stayed with, long after I have finished the book. Although this collection has only 10 stories, I feel like each story has more than enough materials, depth and variety of characters to be its own standalone novel.

The collection begins with Dimanche, a story about an unhappy marriage and youthful naiveté as the characters spend their perfect Sunday in Spring, although mother and daughter have different experiences when it comes to love. I love the intergenerational mingling in this story. How the life and choices of the mother are reflected in the daughter who thinks she knows better. So much is left unspoken by everyone in this story. It’s a powerful message about how we view ourselves in the world.

Flesh and Blood is another well-thought out story about how the lives of one family are brought together for their weekly dinner with their somewhat cold and distant mother. When the matriarch comes down with a dangerous flu, her sons and daughter stay nearby to weather the storm, leaning on each other and bonding in a way they never had before. This was one of the more insightful and poignant of the stories, I felt. It touched on so many fears, untruths and traps family members set up for each other. Broken promises, growing apart, broken families, bonding in times of distress but then abandoning those emotions once in the clear. This story really touched at the heart of interpersonal relationships and how we fool ourselves in regards to the people in our lives.

None of the chapters felt rushed or prolonged. It felt like Némirovsky was able to succinctly capture so much of human nature in such a short span of time. Each story had its full components, conflicts, protagonists and antagonists. I really should read short stories more. I love the brevity of it, the diversity of it, the ability to tell the same story through so many different eyes and experiences. Each of these 10 stories is filled with lost souls looking for something to complete their lives. Whether they find it or not remains the mystery.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/7/2015

Paris in July – 1 Week Update

Week 1 of Paris in July has already come and gone. I’ve finished one book, started another, and tried and gave up on many more.

What I read

Dimanche and Other Stories by Irène… This book is a wonderful collection of short stories from the famed novelist Irene Nemirovsky. Her stories are melancholic, reflections of our true selves that we choose to continually hide away from. The stories are short, with lively characters. Each story I would have loved to see expanded into its own novel. But I’m also glad they were short little glimpses into other people’s lives.

What I started reading

The Red Notebook by Antoine LaurainI loved his previous book, The President’s Hat. I’ve been waiting months to get my hands on a copy of this title from the library. I’m only 15 pages into it so far, but I’m already loving the story.

*Update* I’ve finished the book. It was wonderful through and through. A full review is coming soon!

What I started and stopped

At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a… This book had all the right ideas: how to live and decorate your home in a French fashion. But the writing was sloppy, the author’s only vain of authority is that she lived with a French family in France at one point in her life. Her advice was minimal and the tips were completely devoid of any functional purpose. She even admits that her memory was foggy on the day to day routines of the French family, so its a wonder how she managed to squeeze it out into this book. I think it would have fared better as a short article.

  This PBS documentary talks about the art scene of Paris from 1905 to the 1930s. Although I checked it out with high hopes, I found the documentary to be on the dry side. I think I went into it looking for the all the exciting art and literary life taking place in Paris, but the documentary didn’t really focus on anyone that I knew of. In fairness, I should give it another chance, but there wasn’t anything for me to attach to.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/7/2015

The French Beauty Solution

The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested…The French Beauty Solution by Mathilde Thomas
Source: Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Publisher: Gotham Books
Publication Date: July 14th, 2015

Owner of Claudalie beauty products and spas, author Mathilde Thomas reveals the secret and not-so-secret beauty habits of French women. I found much of her information to be useful, although almost all of it has been revealed in not one, not two, but all three of the Mireille Guiliano French Women Don’t Get Fat/Facelifts books. What I like about the French Beauty Solution is that Thomas neatly and concisely sums everything up without being pretentious or acting like the methods practiced in the US are abhorrent. She really cares about her industry and the quality of the products that she produces. The tone is very friendly and encouraging. She goes out of her way to highlight the various aspects of American life that Frenchwomen are actually jealous of. I’m not quite sure how sincere these sentiments are, but after reading so many America-bashing books, it was a nice change to pace to read something complimentary about us. At some points, the book felt like a commercial for Thomas’ company Claudalie, but it didn’t take away from the message of the book. And really, how could she discuss beauty and beauty products without discussing her company?

The French beauty solution is broken down into 5 parts:

  • Part One: Beauty the French way (what to eat, French make-up traditions)
  • Parts 2 & 3 Skincare (sunblock and water)
  • Part 4: Hair & Makeup (conditioner over shampoo, don’t wash hair daily to keep the natural oils from drying out, use hardly any makeup)
  •  Grape Cleanse (cleanses aren’t my thing, so I skipped this chapter).

As an owner of the Claudalie beauty products and day spas, Thomas is well versed in the science behind beauty products and does a good job of listing the must-have and don’t-need beauty products. She also includes a LOT of DIY beauty creams, masks, etc that have very simple ingredients found in the pantry. I’m eager to try a few of those once I find the free time. I found this book to be a really great resource for someone who is as cosmetically-lazy as me. I guess I already practice the French way regarding make-up since I usually don’t wear anything other than sunblock and some blush. I also like red wine. Wine is another element that she absolutely insists must be in one’s daily routine. I can’t argue there. I just wish I had a better nose for distinguishing mediocre wines from stellar wines. She also highly encourages purchasing quality products, like organic food for the DIY skincare products. It may be more expensive, but she does bring up the good point of not putting something full of pesticides directly onto your skin. She actively encourages making your own products and buying what makes you happy. I read this book in one go, but I think its really meant to be a book to be referred back to for information as the need arises.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld This was originally posted on The Novel World on 7/6/2015

Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The…

Title: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 9781607747307

This book has been flying off the shelves at my library system. It’s hard to find a copy in stock and when you place you hold, you’re in the triple digits on a wait list. My first introduction to this book was through a YouTube video highlighting the magical powers of neatly folded clothes in the dresser drawer to maximize space. I should note that the clothes are folded and stacked vertically, so that you can see each and every shirt. They aren’t stacked on top of each other, hiding the ones at the bottom.

After a long, long, long wait, I finally got my hands on a copy of this book and it’s really one of the best books on home organization and decluttering methodologies. Like the author, I too spent a great deal of my life, from early childhood, decluttering, donating and constantly reshuffling objects around my home in an effort to create a tidy space. To be honest, I never really realized why it wasn’t working until I came across this book. What I like best about the KonMari method, as the author calls it, is that unlike magazine and other books, she doesn’t structure her advice around specific layouts. Most tips you find show visuals of people’s homes, but those spaces and sizes are not always appropriate for my approach. I like that she left the home size vague. She talked more about the objects than space. Much of the book was spent on decluttering. Her method is time intensive but sound. You do it all at once. You break it down into categories, but then you declutter everything through that category. Start with clothes. Grab every single piece of clothing item in the house from every room possible. Then sort. If it brings you joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it. It’s a very simple approach. But the bottom line is to keep only objects that bring you joy. My difficulty is with getting rid of paper and certain clothes. Some clothes I paid too much for and only wore a few times, or clothes that are now too big or too small. It feels like a waste of money to get rid of them, but all they do is gather dust and take up space in my closet. My other big obstacle is paperwork. This is where I just shuffle them around from box to box from room to room. I wish I had better knowledge of how to properly dispose of documents since I don’t have ready access to a shredder. But I did proceed with a big purge while reading this book. Its hard not to!

But I cheated. I didn’t really follow her method of working through individual categories. I just went from room to room based on my time availability in the evenings. Doing a major purge like this is so much more different from what I had been doing before. I always have a box in the bedroom for Goodwill donations. I’m always tossing stuff in there. But the box sits in my room for a month or two at a time. While the box fills up, the space I had cleared is filled with something new. Therefore, I was never really decreasing my cluttering. Just moving it around. Going through a major purse as book recommended created some major white spaces in my closets and in my rooms. In fact, it had me nervous that I had lost something important even though I couldn’t really remember what was there in the first place.

She also had a small section on storage. I like that she doesn’t recommend or push for any particular storage device besides that of a basic shoe box. Personally, I’ve gotten very obsessed with these photo boxes from Michael’s over the last five years. I have in almost every cabinet or every shelf in my kitchen and pantry. They are wonderful for storing like items; sauces, pastas, etc. But storage is the absolute last step. The first is to get rid of everything unwanted or unneeded, then find a way to make-do with what is left behind.

In the end, I’ve decreased my extraneous paperwork by more than half, trimmed my wardrobe and updated certain elements to give myself a happier space. There’s less clutter in general around the house, although still more than what I want. I just haven’t had the time to sit down for an intensive purge and organization as the book recommends. You’d really need to devote an entire weekend to get through all the different categories. Although if you work from least sentimental to the really sentimental objects, you’ll have honed in on your criteria for what to keep and what to toss.

There really is a lot of great advice in this tiny little book. The author’s approach is friendly and encouraging but also firm. I could feel her in the room with me when I deciding what to get rid of and what to keep. This book is really more about the psychology of the process of tidying than anything else. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone looking for a way to make their lives a little more streamlined.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

Title: Bring Up the Bodies
Author: Hilary Mantel
Series: Thomas Cromwell Trilogy (book 2)
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co

Book two of the Thomas Cromwell series picks up not to long where book 1 left us. Click the link to read my review of book one, Wolf Hall. Both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies have been the recipients of the Booker Prize the year of their publications.

By the time Bring Up the Bodies begins, Henry VIII has been rather unhappily married to Anne Boleyn. Unhappy with her, unhappy with her inability to give him a son, thus finding his eyes wandering towards the young and unassuming Jane Seymour. Book two begins and ends with the quick suspicion, trial and death of Anne Boleyn. Although it took me a good three months to finally finish this book, I enjoyed it and am still incredibly enamored with Mantel’s descriptive prose. I think the biggest draw to this book is that it’s not a romance and it’s not told through the eyes of either Boleyn or Henry VIII. I knew that Anne was sentenced to death due to treason and her suspected affairs on the side. Mantel’s second book put Anne in a more vulnerable place than Wolf Hall. In Wolf Hall, Anne was vicious, cunning and used (or rather didn’t use) her womanly wiles to find her way to king’s side as his Queen. In this book, she’s discussed and gossiped about more than directly perceived by the reader. I believe the author did that intentionally to ruffle the feathers against Anne’s case. Who was she to defend herself against horrible rumors of incest, affairs and treason against a king well-known for having an eye on a younger maiden. Many of her stalwarts and defenders went by the wayside as Cromwell interrogated everyone to find evidence against her. One can’t help but feel like these charged all trumped-up out of spite for her and just to clear a pathway for Henry’s next marriage.

Despite my lag in reading this book, I enjoyed it more than Wolf Hall. The pacing was much faster than Wolf Hall. Whereas Wolf Hall spanned almost seven years, Bring Up The Bodies quickly went through the three years of their marriage. I do wish there was more mention of the children Mary and Elizabeth, but maybe that’s for another book altogether. I didn’t realize how young Elizabeth was when her mother was executed. For some reason, I thought she was much older. I do wonder what will happen to her and how she does eventually become Queen as Henry had his marriage to Anne Boleyn annulled shortly before her death.

I’m not sure how quickly I’ll jump into book three, although as far as I know, that does not even have a publication date. I presume that it will end with Cromwell’s execution. I do wonder how he got on the wrong side of the king when he had been a running favorite for so long.

© 2015 by Nari of The Novel World. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @TheNovelWorld