Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Au Revoir Paris in July, and Welcome August!

I wasn't in the mood to blog the last week updates on my #ParisInJuly, so this post will cover my activities for the last 2 weeks, which was mainly reading, with only one movie watched. It will also serve as my July reading wrap-up.

BOOKS:

📕 The Girl, The Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


The girl is Freja Peachtree, a ten year little shy but intelligent and unique girl who spends more time growing up in the nature, and makes friends better with animals than with human.

The dog is Finnegan, an always hungry big dog. It belongs to Tobias Appleby, the writer, a clumsy absent-minded, but kindhearted man, in whose care, Freja was left by her ill mom.

The trio moved to a Provençal hilltop village called Claviers, where an imaginative spirited little boy lives next door, a retired famous pastry chef opens a patisserie, and a charming young woman, Vivi, who steals Tobias' heart, is staying to work as apprentice at the patisserie. (actually..ahem.. that's the main reason of the trio's move to Provence!)

Long story short, it's a charming adventure novel about love, family, and friendship, with Provençal vibes, and a little mystery. A perfect mix for a delicious reading, non?



📕 Toujours La France! : Living The Dream in Rural France by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐


After finishing the first two book of the series, I was thinking about ending #ParisInJuly with the 3rd book. Wrong idea. This one is less fun than the predecessors. Maybe I should've just stopped at no. 2, and kept this one for next year. I don't know... it's a bit boring. I felt that Janine Marsh has poured out her impressions on this small rural village in northern France in the first two, so that there's almost nothing more to be told, except for some facts or bits and pieces just popped into her mind after the first two've been published.



MOVIES/TV:

🎬 Nothing to Hide (Le Jeu) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Total lunar eclipse. Legend says that when the moon is totally hidden, your sins were washed away. Some old friends are meeting up for dinner with their spouses. To spice things up, they are playing a game where they must put their cell phones on the table, and reveal every call/message they receive during dinner. Awkward things happen when each of their hidden secrets (infidelity 🤫) are out in the open. An intense drama with intriguing topic: "secrets in relationship, hide or no hide?", and a surprising end-twist.


For Tamara and Deb, our two lovely hosts: Merci beaucoup! for hosting #ParisInJuly. It has been a blissful month for me. But for now I must say, au revoir!


📚 What I've Read for Paris in July

📕 My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh
📕 My Four Seasons in France by Janine Marsh
📕 Toujours la France! by Janine Marsh
📕 The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad


🎬 Movies/TV Series Watched for Paris in July

📽 Midnight in Paris (re-watch)
📽 Stuck Together (8, Rue de l'Humanité)
📽 Nothing to Hide (Le Jeu)
📺 Standing Up (Drôle)
📺 The 7 Lives of Léa (Les 7 Vies de Léa)


📚 Statistics

📊 Total books read: 19
📊 Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 7
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 8
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1


📚 What's happening in August

With no reading challenge/event to attend to this month, I've decided to pick these two I've been wanting to read:

📗 Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim
📗 Mrs. Osmond by John Banville

What are you most excited for August?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Four Seasons in France and A Walk in Paris for #ParisInJuly

The second week of #ParisInJuly, and I was celebrating (quietly) le quatorze juillet with these activities:

BOOKS:

📕 My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


Following the first memoir from Janine Marsh, The Good Life in France, this book tells Janine and Mark's experiences through the year in their old farmhouse in Seven Valleys, a rural village in northern France, in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

Far from the busy career woman Janine had been before moving to France, she is now busy with her farm life, specially with 3 dogs, 6 cats, 16 ducks, 4 geese, and 17 chickens! A lot of hilarious adventures came with these animals, not mentioning how Janine and Mark named them after celebrities. There is Mariah Carey, the high-pitched-squeal duck, for instance.. Then there are also Brad Pitt and George Clooney, the ducks, and many, many more that always trickle me to chuckles. Each of those animals has its own unique personality, just like their neighbors. After two books, I came to love Jean-Claude, Claudette, and all other kindhearted, but sometimes eccentric, people of Seven Valleys.

Not all of the stories are cheerful, though. I was heartbroken over a tremendous hailstorm that hit their tiny village, causing damages and heartbreaks. For Janine and Mark, especially, whose years of hard works of repairing the dilapidated house has just about to finish. I admired these people's caring and lovely spirits, helping each other, and still find ways to have fun through village events, or picnics, or just an outing to nearby flea markets.

Oh yes, I loved this book better than the predecessor. It's funny, sweet, and warm. It made me considering a quieter but more meaningful life after retirement, or like Janine said: "...shrugged off the cloak of detachment as form of protection to preserve some personal space in a crowded environment (in big cities)."



MOVIES/TV:

📺 The 7 Lives of Léa (Les 7 Vies de Léa)
1 season, 7 eps ⭐⭐⭐



A fantasy drama about a girl (Léa), who found the remaining body of a young man who died years ago, a school friend of her mother and father. And for seven consecutive mornings after that, Léa awakes in seven different bodies of people in year 1990, while she tries to solve the intricate mystery surrounds the man's death. A thought-provoking thriller!

🎬 Stuck Together (8, Rue de l'Humanité) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Paris. Covid-19. Lockdown. Residents of an apartment building. Stuck together. There.. you can conclude what this comedy is about. It is hilarious, but sweet and heartwarming at the same time.



OTHER FRENCH THINGS

🚶‍♀️A Walk in Paris - a YouTube channel which brings us to take a stroll around a certain area in Paris with him. No commentary, no music, just walking and absorbing the city's dynamic spirit. I picked a walk in Le Marais area (34 mins), and then another along the Seine (26 mins). Now I'm tired after an hour stroll 😛, so... à la semaine prochaine!

What about you? What've you been doing for #ParisInJuly so far?

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Memoir of Expats in France Rural Village and Other French Things for #ParisInJuly

I've been having a great time for the first week of July, "transporting" myself to France most of the time, thanks to #ParisInJuly! Here's what I've been doing so far:

BOOKS:

📕 My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream by Janine Marsh - ⭐⭐⭐⭐


It's a memoir of a Londoner couple, Janine and Mark, who once visited France, had a coup de foudre with its rural village life, and decided to emigrate. Janine had a nice career in London, promising a secured high position. But that one trip she took, one afternoon, to buy wine for his grieved-father, unexpectedly brought her to sightsee some cheap farm houses in the rural Seven Valleys area in Pas de Calais, in northern France. One dilapidated house (used to be old barn), in particular, struck a cord in her heart. Several months later, Janine and Mark bought the house, left their comfortable metropolis life in London, to live a good life in rural France. Of course, starting new life in new country with different culture and lifestyle isn't easy; let alone in a quiet nowhere, with a rundown house.

This book is the first of a series of three (so far), focusing more on Janine and Mark's struggle to make their house habitable, learning social etiquette in France, and introduction to their neighbors. For a Francophile, this book is trully delightful, because it gives you insights about many towns or even small villages near Seven Valley, such as Montreuil-sur-Mer or Hucquelieres - what treasure one would find there, and sometimes even the name of the flea market or cafe worth a visit - which otherwise you would probably not know as tourists.

I also learned some fun facts about French people. For instance, how they like to kiss on the cheek, but not hug; that they are usually friendly even towards strangers - always greet you with "bon jour"; or that one of the most famous colors for kitchen is yellow - inspired by Monet's kitchen in Giverny! And I just found out about how easy it is to dump rubbish in France (there is the déchetterie: the municipal rubbish dunp). Here in Indonesia, you must pay someone (usually the workers) to dump the rubbish for you.

All in all, this is just a perfect book about something I love dearly: France. I love the way Janine wrote it, light, cheerful, humorous, not overdramatic, and you can feel the French vibes, as if you're there yourself. Now I can't wait to read the next book!


MOVIES/TV:

📺 Standing Up (Drôle)
1 season, 6 eps ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Comedy series about young stand-up performers, struggling to start career from a comedy club called: Drôle. It's created by Fanny Herrero (who also created Call The Agent!)

🎬 Midnight in Paris (re-watch) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


SONGS:

🎶 Stacey Kent's album "Raconte Moi"
🎶 Some random Paris playlists in YouTube


OTHER FRENCH THINGS

🍽 1st time eating French Onion Soup (canned, "Baxters")



What about you? What've you been doing for #ParisInJuly so far?

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Waving June Goodbye, and What I'm Most Anticipating in July

June and July are the coolest months here where I live, so those are always my two favorite months of the year. It usually reflects on my reading mood.. no, my whole mood, too. I've had less and less "meltdown" these days, though life is still not easy yet, but one's just have to live through, right? I've had a fun reading - finishing Evelina, and then started on Flappers and Philosophers, which proved to be my most favorite short story collection. I guess the Jazz Age vibes helped a little? And of course, the anticipation of #ParisInJuly lifted up my spirits. How about you? Did your June turned out to be successful too?


📚 What I've Read in June

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald for #JazzAgeJune. Scott Fitzgerald is, indeed, the king of short story AND the writer who always explore the most fabulous Jazz Age vibes!

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, on the other hand, was a flop. I've read The Cherry Orchard years ago, and loved it. It's not cheerful, of course, but at least had a good plot. I've expected The Seagull to be similarly melancholy-nice too, but I was disappointed. It's... weird. 'Till now I still couldn't grasp what it's all about. You'll see more in my review around next week.

Statistics

📊 Total books read: 15
📊 Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 7
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 8
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 1

📚 What's happening in July

One of the most anticipated bookish events: Paris in July! And not about reading too. I plan to read these 3 books (all non classics):
📕 My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh 
📕 My Four Seasons in France by Janine Marsh
📕 The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad

Let's say I'm taking a break from reading classics, and having a vacation in Paris for the whole month.

Au revoir!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald

🔵 If you've been following my latest blog posts, you'd notice that I had shrunk before from reading this short story collection for #JazzAgeJune2022. I was daunted, at first, by my bulky Penguin Classics copy - 643 pages and, uh, so many stories (it's pictured in this post; gorgeous, isn't it? Probably the most gorgeous book I've ever owned!) However, browsing on google I realised that my copy isn't the Flappers and Philosophers originally published in 1920, which contained only eight stories, 200-ish pages only! And of those eight, only three stories appeared in my copy. So, I decided to keep reading Flappers and Philosophers as I've originally planned, but reading it from the original version - for which I reluctantly bought another e-copy from Play Books.

🔵 Readers, it's totally worth it! The eight stories are all awesome, and I think this is the first time that I enjoyed a short story collection this much! Each story is memorable and worth reading (usually there will be at least one or two 'meh' stor(ies) in a collection that throws off the whole book).

🔵 I will discuss about each story here, so be prepared, 'cos this would be a long post... The first one, The Offshore Pirate reminds me a lot of The Great Gatsby. The prominent theme is the American Dream. Just like Jay Gatsby, Carlyle started off in the world as poor nobody, but he was obsessed with aristocracy. To obtain it, he becomes a pirate. Ardita, on the other hand, is a wealthy young girl who is bored and craved for excitement. She is on board of the yacht that Carlyle is about to rob. This story is about the young generation who was lazy, careless, egostic; whose monomania is to get rich instantly without caring of morality. It's also about the fading away of a dream... Overall, it's a delicious story to start a book! I enjoyed the ragtime and the adventurous sea journey vibes. And when a story begins with "a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-sky stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children's eyes"... why, I'm sold instantly! This is actually one of my favorites, the most adventurous one.

🔵 Still on quite similar theme, The Ice Palace tells about a young girl, Sally Carol, who, bored with stagnant and lazy air of the hot Southerner, but longed to get excitement, engaged to a Northern young man, who brought her to his hometown in the cold North. They visited the Ice Palace, where Sally Carol got lost and almost frozen to death. And that experience kinda open her eyes of what she really wanted. This story is the most thrilling of all eight.

🔵 The funniest story is definitely the third one: Head and Shoulders. Horace Tarbox is a young prodigy of Princeton. However, his much predicted bright future changed 180 degree after a dancer, Marcia Meadows, comes to visit him one evening. This one is extremely entertaining and hilarious, witty and ironic. And I believe, only Fitzgerald who could bring it so perfect.

🔵 Don't laugh too much, though, because right after the last sentence of the third story, Fitzgerald plunged you to the most serious and tragic story of the book: The Cut-Glass Bowl. A newlywed couple, Harold and Evylyn Piper, received a large cut-glass bowl as wedding present. Their marriage was hit by disaster after disaster, which somehow, were always connected with the cut-glass bowl. I think Fitzgerald has wonderfully portrayed marriage in the wedding presents metaphor. The chinas, punch bowls are all beautiful at first, but sooner or later things would happen that would defect them; just as marriage. "...even the dinner glasses disappeared one by one like the ten little niggers.." - hey, did Fitzgerald just borrowed the same nursery rhymes that Agatha Christie also used for And Then There Were None?

🔵 Bernice Bobs Her Hair is the most "feminine" story of the book (I think it's also appears in Tales of the Jazz Age). It tells the story of Bernice, a mixed-race rural young girl who visited her cousin, a popular girl in the city named Marjorie. Bernice isn't popular with the boys at first, but after successful lessons from Marjorie, she begins to be center of attention; however, not without consequences. Jealous of Bernice, who attracted even Marjorie's beau, Marjorie challenged her to bob her hair. Girls' hair is considered to make a girl feminine and innocence. Bobbing hair means that the girl will lose certain qualities that attract men. Now I understand why Daisy in The Great Gatsby wanted her daughter to be a fool, "a beautiful little fool", because that's a guarantee to get a good husband, and good husband means good future. This might be one of my least favorites of the collection.

🔵 Benediction brings you yet another aspect of 1920s youths. I guess Fitzgerald's Catholic upbringing must have had influenced this story. On the way to a love tryst with a young man, Lois (not a devot Catholic) visits a seminary to meet her brother Kieth, who is to be ordained as priest. While attending a Benediction in the chapel, Lois experiences a kind of spiritual change. Not a very interesting plot for a story, perhaps, but it gives Fitzgerald opportunity to discuss the 1920s youths' views of religion.

🔵 Dalyrimple Goes Wrong is the opposite of its predecessor. It's about a war veteran, Dalyrimple, a lazy and immoral young man, who contemplated that to make ends meet, "cutting corners" or being "at the other side of the fence" is not wrong. It's just of "being hard" in order to have a better life. But is it so? This one, I think, is the most boring of the collection.

🔵 Now, I believe that to be a good short story collection, the last story must at least act as some sort of closure of the various themes presented through out. In this case, The Four Fists did a good job. Samuel Meredith comes from a wealthy family, and growing up, he always lives a comfortable life. Unconsciously, that quality can easily make a person to be arrogant and selfish - two characters that lead to evil. Samuel was nearly there too, but he's saved by the four punches he'd received during his life; in school, in college, when he's falling in love with a married woman, and the last, at work. Each of these punches wakes him up from selfishness, and steer him to be more considerate to others.

🔵 All in all, I felt that this is a beautifully written, cohesive short story collection, depicted the Flappers (careless youths) of its time, but also a reminder that youths also had choices to be "on the right side of the fence". Flappers and philosophers seems to be a yin and yang of the Jazz Age era.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, June 20, 2022

Paris in July 2022


Paris in July is back again this year! As a Francophile, it's one of my most favorite reading events of the year. This time Tamara @ Thyme for Tea will collaborate with Deb @ Readerbuzz to host the event. For you who are not familiar with it, here are what's going to happen during the month:


The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French!
There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include;

  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction,
  • watching a French movie,
  • listening to French music,
  • cooking French food,
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel
  • tasting French wine, or testing French cocktails
  • celebrating le quatorze juillet or Bastille Day

And here are what I'm planning to do:

Books

I will take a month break from classics, and will have fun with these contemporary books - fiction and non fiction:

* My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream by Janine Marsh
* The Girl, the Dog, and the Writer in Provence by Katrina Nannestad
* My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life by Janine Marsh

My plan is to read book-1 and 2, and if I really like book-1, then I'll go on to book-3. If not, I'll perhaps grab another book.


Movies/TV Series

For months I have added some French TV series into my Netflix "My List", and Paris in July 2022 would the best event to binge watch them all. Here're some from the list that I will choose from later (I might only watch 2-3 from them - any suggestion?):

TV Series
* The 7 Lives of Lea (supernatural thriller)

      * Standing Up (comedy about comedians)
* The Hook Up Plan (romance)
* A Very Secret Service (comedy)

Movies
* Midnight in Paris - of course, I have to re-watch this one every year, because I love Paris, but especially Paris in the 1920s!
* Stuck Together (comedy)

Other French Things To Do...

* Recently I love a YouTube channel: A walk in Paris. It's basically a video where a Parisian takes a walk in certain area. Watching it makes me calm, and I feel like taking the walk myself. I'd do more of it during the month!
* Listening to some French music? Maybe...

It would be full of fun, I can't wait!! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Evelina by Frances Burney

♦️ Evelina, or A Young Lady's Entrance into the World is the complete title of this epistolary novel by a 18th century female British author: Frances Burney. This is my first time reading Burney, and I guess I'd like to read more of her. Though, like any other 18th century literature, Burney's flowery sentences often overwhelmed me, I enjoyed her witty satire very much.

♦️ Evelina can be considered a "half" orphaned girl. Or what would you call a girl whose mother has been denied by her husband (Sir Bellmont), and who then died after giving birth to her (the girl); while the father has never owned her, and so she was raised and educated by a village Reverend?

♦️ This story starts when Evelina's grandmother (her mother's mother) came to claim her. She brought Evelina - until then being sequestered under the Reverend's protection - out in the society; the opera, dinner parties, and what not. You can imagine how she made foolish blunders after blunders, especially in handling young men's attentions.

♦️ There are two particular young men who would take an important influence on Evelina - and kind of shape her future. The one is Sir Clement Willoughby, a boisterous, impertinent young nobleman who pesters Evelina wherever she goes, and forces her to love him. The other is Lord Orville, a charming, polite, and a truly gentleman, whom Evelina sees as a perfect character. And of course, it is this young lord who steals Evelina's gentle and kind heart.

♦️ Most of the chapters seem to be dedicated to tell us how the smitten Evelina, a high educated young woman, is ashamed of the shallow people with whom she is forced to associate with, and tries hard to conceal it from Lord Orville. But circumstances always plunge her to the worst incidents, right when Lord Orville is around to witness it. And that's what make the story more interesting.

♦️ These series of blunders was at first felt tedious to me, but along the way I quite enjoyed the hilarious comical scenes, particularly when I have got used to the tedious sentences.

♦️ It is interesting to learn about society mechanism in 18th century. I was confused, particularly, by the letter from Lord Orville that Evelina thought is impertinent, that she feels thoroughly insulted. I read it twice, and found nothing's wrong. I thought it's over-sensitivity on Evelina, but later on the Reverend has also the same opinion. I guess written communications are more intriguing because we can't hear the "tone", and just have to "read between the lines" to measure the exact sentiment that the writer means to convey. One thing I would've loved to keep from the 18th century is the art of correspondence!

♦️ Overall this is a very enjoyable novel, but only when you read slowly, savoring every passage. Otherwise, it's be just a bunch of tedious letters.

Rating: 4 / 5