Monday, July 31, 2023

Paris in July: A l'année prochaine


And so, we come to the end of another fabulous Paris in July. My sincere thanks to Emma at Words and Peace who volunteered to host the event this year. She has done a fabulous job! Thanks also to all my fellow participants who shared about books, movies, history, food and more! 

I have really enjoyed this year, especially sharing some of my holiday memories. Unless something dramatic happens next year I won't have memories to call on, although never say never, as I have lots of holiday memories from Normandy and the Loire valley which I haven't even touched on. Needless to say I am already looking forward to when I can once again visit Paris.

Emma shared a bingo board for us as part of Paris in July. I think I covered off quite a few of the categories

I have claimed a Bingo diagonally as I have read a book with a very small Eiffel Tower on the cover, I have talked about my travels in France, posted about French music and posted about a couple of French films.

I have already got a couple of posts lined up for next year!

Here is a list of all of my posts from both this year, and previous years

The French Chateau Dream by Julie Caplin (book review)

Lunch at a Michelin star restaurant in Paris (food, holidays memories)

TTT- Books that caught my eye in Shakespeare and Company (books, holiday memories)

A Month in Provence by Gillian Harvey (book review)

Driving Madeline (movie review)

Foodie Walking Tour of Le Marais (food, holiday memories)

Party Music 

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico (movie and book review)

Dinner at Le Souffle (food, holiday memories)

Dreaming in French by Vanessa McCausland (book review)

The Flower Market (holiday memories)

Top Ten Tuesday: Last 10 Books I Have Read Which Were Set in France

Chasing the Stars by Virginie Grimaldi (book review)

Sugar and Stars (movie review)

Happy Snaps (holiday memories)

Marques, prêts, partez!

Visiting The Marche aux Puces de Saint Ouen (Quote, Paris landmarks)

The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue by Ella Carey (book review)

Paris Songs (music)
Vintage Weekend Cooking: Romantics Anonymous (movie review)
Weeking Cooking: French Onion Casserole (food)
Bestsellers Around the World (books)

Paris in July (music)

Wrap up post (music)


Everyone Loves Paris (quote)

Cassoulet (food)

French Bookstores (quote, books)

Midnight in Paris (movie review)

Bestsellers Around the World (books)

TTT  - Books set in Paris (books)

Cheese and books (food, books, quote)

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Sunday Salon/Paris in July: Bestsellers Around the World - France


Over the last few years I have had a infrequent feature called Bestsellers Around the World. The idea was that I would take a look at the bestsellers list for that week and compare it to the Australian bestsellers list. It turned out it could be quite challenging and so despite my best intentions I haven't kept it going, although I do roll it out every now and again.  For one of my final posts in this year's Paris in July, I thought I would revive it and share a list of the books the readers of Paris are reading at the moment based on the bestseller list at Sens Critique!

Il nous restera ça by Virginie Grimaldi (We Will Have This) - I reviewed another of Grimaldie's books earlier this week. I will read her again. She has appeared on this list everytime I have done this type of post

Sur La Dalle by Fred Vargas (On the Slab) - Book number 12 in the Commissaire Adamsberg mystery seriesJamais plus by Colleen Hoover (Never Again) - This is the first book in the It Ends With Us series. I remember looking in a books shop in The Netherlands and her books were at the top of the list there too!

Jamais Plus by Colleen Hoover (Never Again) - I guess Tik Tok is all over the world! I remember seeing some of Colleen Hoover's books on the bestsellers shelf in The Netherlands when I was there earlier this year too! This is the first book in the It Ends With Us series

La Faiseuse d'étoiles: Unicef by Melissa Da Costa (The Star Maker) - This is another author who has appeared on this list over the last couple of years. Maybe I will see if I can find her to read for next year's Paris in July. The proceeds of this book all go to Unicef

Mon mari by Maud Ventura (My Husband) 
- This book won France's First Prize Novel in 2021

Tout le bleu du ciel by Mélissa Da Costa (All the Blue of the Sky)  - When Emile is diagnosed with early onset alzheimers at the age of 36, he decides that he wants to take one last trip.

Labyrinthes by Franck Thilliez (Labyrinths) - This author was in last years list too but with a different book!

Kilomètre zéro Le Chemin du bonheur by Maud Ankaoua (Kilometre Zero: The Way to Happiness) - Maelle joins her friend on a healing journey to Nepal. This was on last years list too!

Les Douleurs fantômes by Melissa Da Costa (The Phantom Pains) -

Une Belle Vie by Virginie Grimaldi (A Beautiful Life) - Yes, another Virginie Grimaldi book in the top 10.

In some ways it looks like the lists are pretty stable but when I started this post last week Toshikazu Kawaguchi had a book in the list but now it isn't even in the top 30. Having said that, two of these books were on last years list so it doesn't change that much! This is my third year of doing this feature and there are several names which have come up multiple times now including Melissa Da Costa, Virginie Grimaldi and Franck Thilliez. 

You can see my previous posts here:

July 2022

July 2020

I always find these posts interesting

I am also sharing this post with Sunday Salon hosted at Readerbuzz.

Paris in July: Happy snaps!

 Just sharing a few holiday memories as part of Paris in July, hosted by Emma from Words and Peace.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Weekend Cooking/Paris in July: Sugar and Stars (À la belle étoile)

I have mentioned a few times now about how I am trying to see at least one film from the various foreign film festivals that are held in Melbourne each year. Earlier this year, there were so many films at the French Film Festival that I would have liked to have seen, but I didn't have enough time. I am therefore very glad that they have had a wider release and I have been able to see a couple more. A couple of weeks ago I went off to see Driving Madeline and last weekend I went to the movies by myself to see Sugar and Stars. There were only a 4 people in the cinema, but the theatre complex was busy with most people opting to see the Barbie movie! Lots of people dressed in pink!!

So many times we hear about how sport has lifted someone out of poverty. In this case, it was food, in particular pastry, that was the mechanism. Our story begins with a small boy who we meet as he is helping himself to the ingredients that he needs to make a cake for his mum. We watch Yazid grows up. His childhood is tough. His mother is neglectful and he spends a number of years being cared for by a foster family who encourage his love of cooking but he ends up in what looks like a reform school. The one passion that keeps him going is his love of pastry and he is going to do everything he can, even if it means having to catch  a train 180km to get to a job every day.

Yazid is obsessed. In order to keep a job he has to create an amazing looking black forest dessert that's created by a master pastry chef. He doesn't get it exactly right the first time but the chef sees enough there to keep him on the job. Yazid then practices and practices until he has it perfect in every way. This attention to detail holds him in good stead, but there are times when he experiences racism and bullying in the kitchens he works in. His economic situation doesn't help. At one stage he is working in a top restaurant in the south of France and yet he is sleeping on the beach.

This is the story of a man who chased his dream, all the way to the top, culminating in participating in the International Pastry Championships. Once you work out who is who in the movie, it is an uplifting and inspiring story, made even better by the fact that it is based on a true story. The movie is based on the autobiography by Yazid Ichemrahen, and at the end we get to see the pictures of the actual chef whose story we have just seen. Any movie that you see that has a part where you get to find out what happens next to the real people involved is always better in my mind.

For all that the story is good, the food porn in this film is pretty amazing. From eggs being dropped into flour, to melting chocolate, gorgeous fruit, and amazingly beautiful creations that look so extravagant and beautiful it is a visual delight!

I am sharing this post for Weekend Cooking but also for Paris in July hosted by Emma at Words and Peace.

Weekly meals

Saturday -  Baked Ratatouille and Beans
Sunday -  Smoky Sausage and Rice
Monday - Chicken Shwarma
Tuesday - Pork chops, mash, beans and gravy
Wednesday - Pressure cooker spag bol
Thursday - Cheese on toast
Friday - Takeaway

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Paris in July: Chasing the Stars by Virginie Grimaldi (Il est grand temps de rallumer les étoiles)

Over the last few years I have had an infrequent feature which I call Bestsellers Around the World where I have a look at the bestsellers lists of other countries. One country I have done several times now is France, and there are some names that are appearing on the lists each time. One of those authors is Virginie Grimaldi, so I decided to read one of her books.

Anna is struggling to make ends meet. Her boss has just advised her that he is ending her employment and she has debt collectors chasing her. She's been the sole breadwinner ever since she split up with her ex husband. Her older daughter Chloe has never forgiven her for the break up of the family and is acting out, wanting to drop out of school and engaging in sexual activities with young men who treat her badly.  Anna's youngest daughter Lily is being bullied at school and wants absolutely nothing to do with her absent father. 

With the debt collectors closing in the least sensible thing for Anna to do is to borrow her parents camper van, accept some money from her grandmother and go on a roadtrip through Scandinavia in search of the Northern Lights. Whilst it isn't sensible, it is what Anna believes she and her girls need if they have any chance of repairing their little family. The girls aren't necessarily pleased and there will also be many arguments and challenges along the way.

On their travels, they meet up with a group of other travellers from a young couple just starting our, two elderly men who are completing the journey they thought they would be doing with their late wives, a wealthy family who are going back to basics, and their leader, a man who is taking his autistic son on an adventure. 

We see the emotional dynamics between all three of our characters, as they all deal with their own issues and with each other. I loved that we got to hear the voices of Chloe and Lily. Chloe is keeping a blog and Lily writes in her diary which she has named Marcel.

I often think about what authors from other countries are writing about. For example, there is a lot of WWII historical fiction that is set in France but written by English or American authors. So are French historical fiction authors writing about France or about somewhere else completely!

I was interested to see how different this kind of book would be. After all, over the last few years I have read many books where someone heads somewhere for a new start. So many times, it is an English person moving to France. So it makes sense that a French family would head somewhere else. There were many familiar ideas, but I will say that this book is grittier than a lot of the English authors I have read. There are sensitive issues explored for all three of our main characters.

There was a twist in the tail of this story that I was surprised by and I wasn't sure if it worked for me or if I felt manipulated by it. Despite this, I am really glad that I read this book, and I will read more of Grimaldi's books if I can get them in English.

And..spoiler alert...I am doing another Bestsellers Around the World post this weekend. Will Virginie Grimaldi make another appearance?

This post is part of Paris in July, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday - Last 10 Books I Have Read Which Were Set in France




Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week is the theme is 

Ten Most Recent Books I Did Not Finish with the additional proviso of feel free to tell us why if you want, but if you do please be nice to the authors and don’t tag them when you mention your post on social media!). However, I have decided to do my own thing this week. As I am participating in Paris in July (hosted by Emma at Words and Peace), my topic is going to be the last ten books I have read set either partially or fully in France.

To be fair, I did start this post over the weekend, and I have just finished another book which was set in France!

Dreaming in French by Vanessa McCausland - loved this book! - (Review)

Chasing the Stars by Virginie Grimaldi - Planning to review this book later this week. It starts in France but then the characters head north!

A Month in Provence by Gillian Harvey - Have read a couple of books by this author (Review)

The French Chateau Dream by Julie Caplin
- Read this a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it (Review)

One French Summer by Gillian Harvey - Another book by this author (review)

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico - one of those rare occurrences where the movie is better than the book. I did enjoy the book but I loved the movie (review)

Twenty One Nights in Paris by Leonie Mack - Paris at Christmas. Yes please! (review)
A Year at the French Farmhouse by Gillian Harvey  - This is the last of the Gillian Harvey books...for now! (review)

Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas - I started reading this one by accident but really loved it!

The Lost Sister of Fifth Avenue by Ella Carey - Somewhat surprised to see this is the last historical fiction book I read set in France. My more recent ones have all been set in Italy or elsewhere. (review)

I am super impressed that I have written a post about most of these! How unusual!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Paris in July: The Flower Market

Last week I posted about reading Mrs Harris goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. I originally listened to this on audio, but when I came across this passage I knew that I wanted to share it, so I then borrowed the book.

I loved the way that Mrs Harris accidentally"stumbled upon a certain paradise" as it kind of feels as though we did the same thing.  We were staying on Ile St Louis so each day we had to pick which way we were heading for the day. One day we were visiting Sainte Chappelle so we walked past Notre Dame and were wandering through the streets when we too stumbled across the Flower Market. Now, bear in mind we were visiting in early January so a lot of the stalls were closed, but it was still a lovely place!

Free to wander where she would during the day in Paris except for her fittings, Mrs Harris never quite knew where her footsteps would lead her. It was not the glittering shopping sections of the Champs Eleysses, the Faubourg St Honore, and the Place Vendome that interested her, for there were equally shimmering and expensive shopping sections in London which she never visited. But she loved people and odd quartiers, the beautiful parks, the river, and the manner in which life was lived in the poorer section by the inhabitants of the city.

She thus explored the Left Bank and the Right and eventually through accident stumbled upon a certain paradise in the Middle, the Flower Market located by the Quai de la Corse on the Ile de la Cite.

Often back home Mrs Harris had peered longingly into the windows of flower shops, at the display of hot-house blooms, orchids, roses, gardenias, etc., on her way to and from her labours, but never in her life had she found herself in the midst of such an intoxicating profusion of blossoms of every kind, colour, and shape, ranged upon the footpaths and filling stalls and stands of the Flower Market withiin sight of the twin towers of Notre-Dame.

Here were streets that were nothing but a mass of azaleas in pots, plants in pink, white, red, purple mingling with huge bunches of cream, crimson, and yellow carnations. There seemed to be acres of boxes of pansies smiling up into the sun, blue irises, red roses, and huge fronds of gladioli forced into early bud in hot-houses.

There were many plants and flowers Mrs Harris did not even know the name of, small rubbery-looking pink blooms, or flowers with yellow centres and deep blue petals, every conceivable kind of daisy and marguerite, bushy-headed peonies and, of course, row upon row of Mrs Harris's own very dearest potted geraniums.


But not only were her visual senses enthralled and overwhelmed by the masses of shapes and colours, but on the soft breeze that blew from the Seine came as well the intoxication of scent to transport the true lover of flowers into his or her particular heaven, and such a one was Mrs Harris. All the beauty that she had ever really known in her life until she saw the Dior dress had been flowers. Now, her nostrils were filled with the scent of lilies and tuberoses. From every quarter came beautiful scents, and through this profusion of colour and scent Mrs Harris wandered as if in a dream.

And then we headed on to our destination! Sainte Chappelle was one of my favourite things that we did in Paris. What a place.

I am sharing this quote and memory as part of Paris in July, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Paris in July: Dreaming in French by Vanessa McCausland

Last year, one of my two five star reads was The Beautiful Words by Vanessa McCausland, so when I saw that she had a new book out, I knew I was going to read it. Given that the theme for my read on a theme bookclub this month was Australian authors and that I am currently participating in Paris in July, it seemed like I needed to read Dreaming in French right now!

Years ago Saskia Wyle spent a summer on Île de Ré, an island off the west coast of France. That summer has shaped Saskia's subsequent life, not necessarily in a good way. It is a time in her life that she has put behind her, never talking about her time on the island at all. She especially has not talked about the event that happened which still continues to impact her mental health to this day.

When Saskia was a young woman, she left her home in Australia, travelling to the island to work as a nanny for a wealthy family. There she meets Simone Durant, a wealthy heiress and Felix Allard, who currently works on the salt pans, but dreams of being an actor. There they form an intense and deep friendship which is only jeopardised by the romantic feelings that grow between each of the two girls and Felix. It a summer filled with friendship and joy, until something happens that causes Saskia to leave and never speak to either Simone or Felix again.

Saskia's secrets begin to be exposed when she receives a letter from a lawyer in France advising her that she has inherited half of Simone's mansion, and that Felix has inherited the other half. In order to claim her inheritance she must travel to France. And so, Saskia is forced to face all of the emotions that she has been keeping suppressed for all these years, and to face the impact that suppression has had in her own life, in her marriage and in the lives of her two daughters.

Saskia needs to track down the elusive Felix, sign the papers and get back to Australia, but that isn't as simple as it could be. The longer she stays on the island the more memories come back, and the more that she wonders why it is that Simone has left her this inheritance, and why she insisted on bringing her back to this place that she left behind years ago. When she finds a manuscript hidden in the villa, she must decide if she wants to revisit the events of that summer.

There are so many themes covered in this book and not all of them are easy to read about. Saskia's mental health issues and the role of prescription drugs in that,  domestic violence, and eating disorders are just some of the issues that are explored in the pages of this book.

Having read Vanessa McCausland's previous book  last year I knew that I enjoyed this authors work. I was once again mesmerised by her beautiful and atmospheric writing, and the way that she drew me into this story. I read this book in a day, and I am still thinking about it a week later. As I was reading the book, I alternated between needing to keep reading so that I could find out exactly what happened a year ago and not wanting to keep reading because I was dreading finding out what the event was. There are not many authors who do that so skillfully.

This was an absorbing read, and one which I highly recommend.

It's another 5/5 read for me from Vanessa McCausland.


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