Books in the wild: Sicily!

The other thing that happens when I go on holiday, is that I have a look in the bookshops there to see what I can spot in translation – so for an extra treat this week, here are my Sicilian spots!

Super easy to start with – here’s former BotW The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood and Netflix sensation (that I’m currently working my way through) Heartstopper. I haven’t read the Elena Armas – but she’s another of the TikTok/BookTok authors – this one is The Spanish Love Deception.

Next up we have a string of former Books of the Week – starting with T J Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea, which I recommended to someone only last week. I also spotted the newest Klune adult novel as well – which reminded me that I really need to get hold of that at some point. I must keep an eye open next time I’m in Foyles/a big Waterstones.

Then we have Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston which a friend messaged me about the other day to say how much he was enjoying it – which meant I was able to recommend a whole bunch of other books to him on an if you like… then this basis. And you can also see One Last Stop nestled next to it – which as I mentioned on Wednesday is 99p this month.

Then we have Christina Lauren’s The Unhoneymooners, which I think is the first time I’ve spotted one of their books on holiday, but you know me, I forget things. I’ve written a lot about Christina Lauren – but this one is in their sweet spot for me – a fake relationship romance that doesn’t have the pranks/meanness issues that I have with say Dating You/Hating you.

And finally this is the one that I keep seeing but haven’t read yet – What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda) and Adam Silvera. The second book in this series is in the Kindle offers this month, but you know me and reading sequels before the original. I don’t like it and I won’t do it and I won’t suggest you do it either. Anyway, this is suddenly everywhere – I saw both of them in Foyles when I was in there the other month, but ended up buying Piglettes instead – and now it’s coming up in my suggestions on goodreads and amazon. It must be a sign right?

Anyway the big thing I noticed this holiday was how many of the english translation books are now keeping their English cover art in their translated editions – this might be an italian thing that’s been going on a while, but it definitely wasn’t how it’s been in Spain when I’ve been looking there both before and after the pandemic – or in France last time I was there (which was pre-pandemic times). So I will keep an eye next time we go anywhere to see if this is now A Thing.

Adventure, Book of the Week, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Piglettes

We’re rocketing towards the end of the month, and after a delightful week of reading last week, I’m finishing the BotW selections off with a YA novel which I picked up on my buying spree at Foyles at the start of the month.

Piglettes tells the story of Mireille, Astrid and Hakima who are voted the ugliest girls in their school by their fellow students. None of them are happy about it – but for Mireille it’s not her first time on the list – which was started by a boy she used to be friends with – so she decides to befriend her fellow Piglettes rather than sit around and be miserable. What ends up happening is an epic summer cycle trip from their town to Paris to try and go to the French President’s garden party on Bastille Day. Each of the three girls has their own reason for going, but what they don’t expect is to become the centre of media attention as the country starts to follow the three girls as they cycle towards Paris selling sausages on the way.

This is a modern twist on the adventure-without-adults sort of books (see Swallows and Amazons etc) that I really loved when I was younger (and still do to be honest). Ok, Hakima’s brother comes along with them and he’s an adult, but he never really seems like an intruding adult presence restricting the girls, he becomes more like part of the gang. The idea of cycling across France selling sausages sounds a little bit bonkers – but it’s actually perfect – the girls have a goal, they get to meet loads of people and they get to find out new things about themselves and each other. But as well as being about friendship and self discovery, this is also quite a foodie novel. The pork sausages they’re selling are made by a local butcher. Mireille’s grandparents own a restaurant and they make their vegetarian sausages there themselves – as well as their special apple sauce to go with it. At the places they stop at on the way there’s often local food – including when Mireille detours them to go through the town where her favourite cheese is made (Crottin de Chavignol if you’re interested).

Clementine Beauvais has translated this herself from the original French, and if you can get past the envy of being good enough to write novels in two languages (and it did give me a touch of the green-eyed monsters), she’s given it a whole load of humour but it also still feels distinctly French. I would love to see the original for comparison to see what the jokes and references were in the original and what if anything she’s changed for a non-French audience. It’s clever and funny and I really enjoyed it. Also it made me want to go on holiday to France and eat some regional produce. Maybe I’ll have to settle for buying some speciality cheese to keep me going until we can get over there again.

I bought my copy of Piglettes on a trip to Foyles but it’s also available on Kindle and Kobo. As I found it in store, I’m hoping that you could be similarly lucky if you look in a bookstore, even if Foyles’ website isn’t currently showing any click and collect copies…

Happy Reading!

fiction, reviews

Review: The Secret Paris Cinema Club

When I replied to this intriguing tweet from Quercus at the start of the month, I didn’t know what to expect.

I did try and work out what the book in question might be (and failed spectacularly) and settled down to wait for the package, which duly arrived bearing a copy of The Secret Paris Cinema Club by Nicolas Barreau – which is out today in its shiny English language edition.  With the author name and the subject matter, I was surprised to find that this is a novel in translation from the German – not from French.  I went looking because I would have loved to have read this in French back in my university days when I had to review a French language book a term (my choices back in those pre-e book days tended to involve dry French classics which I struggled through and did not enjoy).

So, a plot summary:  Alain owns and runs Cinema Paradis – an arthouse cinema in Paris.  He is a man after Mark Kermode’s heart – his cinema doesn’t sell popcorn and he has strict rules about the sort of films that he’ll show.  He’ll also do anything for his customers – particularly one of his regulars – a woman in a red coat. But just after he eventually plucks up the courage to ask her out, she unexpectedly vanishes just as his cinema gets a new lease of life…

This book reminded me in some ways of one of my favourite French films – Amelie.  It’s fun, it’s quirky, it’s almost ridiculous in places and the city of Paris is practically a character in its own right.  Despite Quercus’ tweet, I’d say it’s more about films and acting than it is about theatre – and it’s about secrets and coincidences as well.  The Secret Paris Cinema Club is a little gem of a romantic comedy, which will bring a smile to your face as autumn arrives.  It’s also chock full of film references and quotes – I’m sure I didn’t spot them all – and it’s given me some really good ideas for French films to watch.

This book wasn’t on my radar until I won a copy from Quercus – but it brightened up my commute during nightshift week and I’m hoping that it’ll find an audience beyond sleep-deprived Francophile chick flick fans.  You can find the Secret Paris Cinema Club here and on Kindle here – and if you’re in the US be aware it was published as One Evening In Paris in the States.