Lost in Translation #3 - Eye of the Wolf by Daniel Pennac

Hello wonderful readers !

Welcome to yet another article of the Lost in Translation meme ! Ok so it's the third, but still... :-D
And YES, I have invested in Photoshop to make a new logo! Admit it, you're already in love with it, right ?

This meme, hosted here, is organised to appeal to the curious international reader in you to discover foreign authors and even encourage you to read some books in their original language ! How exciting !

For a presentation of the meme, you can go here or email me here (I am very nice and though I have a slight infatuation with werewolves, I don't bite. Much.)

The meme has a few rules:
- Check if the book is translated in English and available (country and online/bookstores) and specify it in your post
- It would be nice to follow the "Language Corner" where you say to which level the book is suitable for the people who want to read the book in its original language
- And finally: Enjoy and Spread the love !

Are my eyes deceiving me? Could this be a wolf ? YAY !

So I will be writing a post on French Young Adult writer superstar Daniel Pennac. He has written many books for the 8+ and 12+ age range. He is massively studied in French schools. He has also written a few essays on school and how subjects are teached there. He is a very well known and praised personality in children literature in France.

Eye of the Wolf 
by Daniel Pennac

I don't usually review books in this age range, but I still like how those writers describe very profound issues with the simplest words. I am sure you've already had a conversation with a child about important issues and have been wondering how that freckled kid could understand some things way better than you do and don't understand why you have to be so complicated about everything ?
Sometimes, you just learn listening to those kids and their vision of the world (and other times, after watching a Dora episode for the 50th time, you might not). Eye of the Wolf was published in 1984 in France but was only translated and published in English in 2003.

Born worlds apart, a wolf from Alaska and a boy from Africa share their extraordinary stories in this magical tale from master storyteller Daniel Pennac, translated by award-winning translator Sarah Adams. The wolf has lost nearly everything on his journey to the zoo - including his eye and his beloved pack. The boy has lost nearly everything too, and seen many terrible things. As they face each other on either side of the wolf's enclosure they share their stories in this captivating, mysterious and utterly unforgettable tale. Summary from Amazon.

This story has reminded me a lot of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In the shortest book, you discover worlds you never thought existed and get to see animals in a different light. It is the type of book where children read one thing and adults read the same thing on another level and they can exchange ideas on the book. As a philosophical tale, the book can be read by anyone, from 8 to 88 years old (I mean, people above 88 can read it too, it's just an expression), and still be appreciated.

I like how the wolf and the boy both suffer from the cruelty of men. I find it to be an interesting twist that a harsh life would be thrust upon a strong animal and a harmless baby in more or less the same way.

I also like how the issue of industrialisation and its consequences on nature are hinted from the perspective of the animals. And each animal portrayed in the book is very well developed and interesting, from the fun personalities of the Alaskan wolves to the rich personalities of the African animals.

I find that there is a message of hope given in the book where friendship is possible between two different species who can hunt/eat each other. This friendship is reached through knowledge and communication. The wolf and the boy come from different worlds, but they can lean on each other. Yes, I love this song (Lean on me) and secretly want you to love it too. I find it very sweet that the boy chooses to close one eye to be on equal grounds with the wolf.

The French edition I read had very cute illustrations every few pages, the British and American editions don't have exactly the same (the illustrator differs), but hopefully, they are just as beautiful !

It is a very easy read and it is such a beautiful and touching story that anyone can read the book and fall in love for all its amazing characters. It is also the type of book that both a child and a parent can read and where they can talk about it together (which would be quite the whole point of the book, you know, friendship, family, love, all that).

Language Corner:
This book, being meant for a young audience, is a very easy read. If you haven't practiced your French in a while, it is a good way to start again with a simple yet entertaining story.

Where to find the book:
UK: Waterstones, Amazon
USA: Barnes and Nobles, Amazon

To take part in the meme :
- Write your name
- The name of your blog
- In parenthesis if it is the first, second time or more you participate
- In parenthesis which language it is
- Link to the LiT post, not your blog !

Exemple: Caroline @ Portrait of a Woman (3, French)

If what you post doesn't look like that, I will retaliate. Live in fear.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

Happy Friday everyone !

Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. Summary from Amazon


What a beautiful book !
I read it mainly in the tube and I couldn't stop crying, which really doesn't help my social life by the way. The book is at times incredibly funny, and at others very touching (crying your heart out kind of touching). Charlie is one of a kind and his story is about growing out of one's shell rather than growing up and about finding people who would be the kind of people to like and accept one person no matter how strange and alien they are.

The book is composed of letters that Charlie writes to a stranger. Stranger to the reader, but most certainly stranger to Charlie too. It is very well written and you get taken by surprise by Charlie's way of seeing things and you grow so fond of him you just wish he could exist so that you could take him in your arms which doesn't help my social life either.

Charlie is a sweet, innocent and clueless teenager. At the beginning of the story, one of Charlie's friends has committed suicide and it is clear throughout the story that it had a very deep effect on him, as well as his Aunt Helen's death. All of these tragedies seem to be too much for Charlie's little shoulder, but the he reveals throughout the book to be more courageous than you would think.

I like the relationship between Charlie and his friends, as well as Charlie and Sam in particular (who are you calling hopeless romantic?!). Charlie's relation with his family is very sweetly portrayed, and I found it very touching.
I also like how the theme of homosexuality in high school is presented through the character of Patrick, Charlie's friend. It is interesting to read about the pressure that is put on young boys about "being a man" and where being gay isn't accepted. 

I also like the small parenthesis on how girls are treated by guys in relationships in high school: being raped, ending up pregnant and getting dumped for it, being cheated on etc. and how they are put in contrast with other characters and situation that show the complete opposite: Charlie and Sam, Bill and his girlfriend, Charlie's parents etc.

As a passionate fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, I would have loved to be with Charlie, Sam and Patrick every Friday night to sing along and dress up as characters of the film !! I didn't really say that, did I ?! On a more serious note, I like the literary references made in the book, not only because I have read and liked most of these books, but because they are important books that need to be read and reflected upon. Charlie's teacher, Bill, is an amazing character and I like how teaching Charlie has changed things for him as well as for Charlie.

I know that the book has several references to sex and drugs, but I think that the message isn't "take drugs" or "have sex young is great", it is more about friendship, family, love and growing up. The situations faced by all the characters are faced by millions of teenagers every day, and it is interesting to see how the characters went on with their lives after these.

This book reminded me of a few other things so if you liked this book, you might want to check out:

The novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005) which is a heartbreaking and very original novel about a young boy who lost his father in the World Trade Centre and goes on a quest in New York, learning more about his family and himself on the way. A must read.

The film Rocket Science with the very talented Anna Kendrick about a 15 years old boy who stutters but decides to join the debate club in high school after having a crush on one of the members.

The film Charlie Bartlett with Robert Downey Jr and Kat Dennings on a teenager who starts giving therapeutic advice and prescription drugs to his fellow classmates in order to become popular.

The song Lean on me by Bill Withers, I have no idea why in particular, just because it's the feeling I had after reading the book.

Did you think that the drugs and sex make it a bad book for Young Adult or do you think it's essential for kids to know this sort of things ?

Don't forget to check out my Werewolf Giveaway, ends May 31st !!

Kissing Kate - Lauren Myracle

Good morrow people !

I had been waiting to read this book forever and when I - finally - received it, I read it in one evening ! 

Kate and Lissa were best friends. Then one night last summer at a drunken party, Kate leaned in to kiss Lissa, and Lissa kissed her back. Now Kate is pretending Lissa doesn't exist. Confused and alone, Lissa's left questioning everything she thought she knew about herself, and about life. But with the help of a new friend, Lissa is beginning to realize that sometimes falling in love with the wrong person is the only way to find your footing.


This book is very simple and short, but it is so beautifully written that its meaning is very powerful and feels just right. It happens often that in the moment you need your friends the most because of how much you struggle with your identity, they reject you or don't know how to talk to you, and you end up feeling more alone than you could ever feel. And often, help and advice comes in the most unexpected manner from a most unexpected person. Even though the subject is very serious, I found that the story gave hope. 

Lissa struggles with her sexuality after she and Kate kissed at a drunken party, and it hurts her even more that Kate ignores her whereas she is the only one whom Lissa could talk to about these things. Kate, after the kiss, seems very concerned about what people could think, how they could find out. As if they did something wrong. And she prefers denying those feelings rather than trying to understand them. 

One of the main things I liked in Lauren Myracle's book was the doubts and interrogation Lissa felt after what happened between Kate and herself. I found it very touching and it was very well brought up in the book. 
Lissa says at one point that she can't possibly tell people in high school: they would either laugh at what a freak she was, avoid her, or make nasty comments about two girls going with a guy "if they were hot enough". That is what many people usually get when they mention their sexuality. Being a teenage girl is already very hard on Lissa, because she never felt like she belonged before, and now it feels like she is doing something bad. I found that the relation between Lissa and Kate before and after the kiss was incredible. Because no matter how people are "ok with homosexuality", it is still a very "not in my backyard" kind of ok. I also found it interesting how Lissa interacts with her sister about issues of growing up, and how she takes the place of her Mom to help her little sister throughout her teenage years.

I like the character of Ariel *weird people rock*. And I love how Lauren Myracle writes about different people. As in people who are different. I am not saying this to say that it's good to have those characters as a "diversity quota", it is just that in many YA books that I read, I find that diversity is practically inexistent. People are white, healthy, have no important physical and intellectual issues, and reading Kissing Kate felt like a breeze of cool air on a very sunny day (not that we would know what this feels like in the UK). Lauren Myracle invents and describes characters that exist everywhere and yet are highly overlooked in fictions. They might be seen as boring, too loud, not funny, hardly pretty, have a lazy eye and wobbly knees but they are way more common than the flawless-perfect-hair-perfect-body-perfect-bank-account girl types you read in other books. And they're the only characters worth reading, but that's just my point of view !
I also found that the adult characters were very sweet and well described, especially the singles' club. 

It is such a wonderful book ! I think that even if you are not questioning yourself about what you like, or having a tough time at school, you should read this book, it is fascinating and makes you look at things from a different perspective. But more than that, the book is an ode to people in general with all their little habits and flaws which make them irresistibly human.

What do you guys think ?

Split by a Kiss - Luisa Plaja

Hey everyone !

I have *finally* read this book and I am now officially a Luisa Plaja fan ! YAY !

Jo has never been one of the popular kids... until she moves to the USA. Suddenly, the coolest girls at her high school adopt her, and the hottest boy, Jake Matthews, notices her.  But when Jake picks her as his partner in the kissing game Seven Minutes in Heaven, it's not half as heavenly as she imagined!
Jo has a choice: should she carry on with Jake for guaranteed popularity - or should she tell him where to get off and risk losing her new friends ... ? 
At this moment, Jo splits. She's Josie the cool - girlfriend of Jake, member of the in-crowd. But she's also Jo the Nerd - rejected by the It girls, single... ordinary. Will her two halves ever come together again ?


I have to admit that I was at first not very convinced by the cover which looked waaay too girly for comfort. And I thought - silly me - that it would be a book about high school relationships and cheerleaders being mean and jocks being jocks and all that. But this book is so much more than that. The plot contains the very essence of what goes down in schools such as the importance of peer pressure, and issues of rape or homosexuality etc. 

I really enjoyed the characters and how they are described. I prefer Jo the Nerd and how she doesn't let herself touched by a random guy. You go, girl ! Whereas Josie seems way too concerned by popularity to care for her real friends anymore. 
I think the character of Tori, Josie's/Jo's friend when she's with the It girls, is very sweet and it shows that you shouldn't judge someone from their look or for who they hang out with.
I love how her father is so fascinated with the Queen. I find, in general, that the adult characters are very truthful and full of those little habits that make them funny and adorable (and utterly annoying if they're your parents). Geeky moms rule!  As for Rachel, the goth rebel friend of Jo, she is a very interesting character, I like how she defends the woman cause by insulting jocks in the bathroom. I don't know if it is, but it looks like a reference to Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Melinda warns the other girls of a certain guy getting too friendly by writing it in the girls bathroom). I definitely can't wait to read Swapped by a Kiss to learn more about her !

There are two sides to peer pressure which are very well described in the book. The first one is the influence Chelsea and co. have on Josie and other girls in their high school. These chicks, who are a complete minority by the way and very stupid also, autoproclaim themselves cool and force everyone into their vision of what is acceptable and what is not. Earth would be quite the boring hot spot if they had their way, but when you look at women magazines and websites nowadays, you realise that they still exist, you just learn not to pay attention to it anymore.

The second one is the pressure from the boys to have sex. This is, for me, very well described in the book. Maybe it's just an American thing: the "first base", "second base" etc. but I find it hilarious as in ridiculous the way everything is broken down in steps, like in a self-help book. Through the story of Kendis, we learn that when a girl isn't ready and chooses to say how she was forced by the boy, her friends treat her like a pariah and no one believes her. Again, it reminds me of the Laurie Halse Anderson book Speak which you should read if you haven't, and how difficult it was for Melinda to say what happened to her. I like how Luisa Plaja cleverly hints at those subject without making the book entirely serious. 

The story is told alternatively from Josie the Cool to Jo the Nerd, and I like how, from that one different choice she made in the closet, they are different on the outside, but still the same person inside. It is very well written.

This is such a beautiful book, I laughed for half of it and cried for the other half, and I learned plenty (like on how to differentiate British from American). I would advise it to any girl, even if you don't read Chick Lit, because you'll see that most of what is written will hit home.

What did you think of the book ?

Remember, it is the last week for the Werewolf Giveaway ! (to participate: here)

Ash - Malinda Lo

I have been bumping into this book for several months before I decided to pick it up. I found the cover absolutely charming and the typo really interesting.

Ash is a retelling of the Fairy tale of Cinderella. It tells the story of young Aisling - Ash - who after her mother and father's death has to live with her stepmother and her two daughters. Quickly, Ash isn't considered as part of the family but is instead employed as the maid and servant of the three women and is treated as lower than low by them. 
Driven by her unhappiness, Aisling goes into the woods to meet the fairies, which are much more than fantasies and live in the woods and people's minds. Aisling, as her mother did before her, can see fairies. She meets the beautiful Sidhean who grants her wishes but at some cost for Aisling. 
Aisling finds a reason to love again but her debt to Sidhean might prevent her from happiness.


I whole-heartedly love this book. If you haven't read it, don't read my review and go buy it. I hadn't read anything about this book when I bought it and I think it made a difference when I did because I had no idea how the retelling part would work out and what would change from the original story. I will divide this review in two parts, one for the people who haven't read it, and a second part with spoilers. Don't read the spoilers if you want to read this book. Seriously. By the way don't you love my Spoiler Alert Bat ? *I LOVE it !*

I like all the characters, they are all very well described and faithful to the spirit of the original tale. And I say spirit because they are not entirely similar to the original story. Ash is much tougher than in the original version for instance, she is much more linked to the fairy world and that is very interesting. 
I find the stepmother very mean but - not that I excuse her attitude towards Ash - has her reasons to and it looks much more credible. It is the same for the two daughters.

I love Malinda Lo's take on fairies in the story. In the original version, there is a fairy godmother, but nothing much is said about that. Whereas in Ash, the whole fairy theme is fully explored and used in this story. I also like the part where Ash doesn't receive the magic, she trades it and I find it to be very interesting to see her make that choice. I also like the fairy tales and legends that are told in the book. 
I really loved how it was linked to nature and tradition. I grew up in a small village, and everyone knows the old sayings and beliefs. And I also like how the story is centred around nature, and I feel that Malinda Lo really gave the book this feeling of nature being more than just leaves and eath and something which ought to be respected.  

Now for the romance, I absolutely love Malinda Lo's take on the fairy tale. The love story doesn't come as the poor girl falling in love with the rich and handsome prince. In this version Ash has a real active part in the relation and the love comes from mutual respect and admiration. You see Ash grow up because of the situations in her life, but also when she realises her feelings. 

The writing is absolutely beautiful and you fall in this story right at the beginning. 

FYI: why the name 'Ash'
I don't know if people actually wonder why on earth Malinda Lo called the book Ash but I will explain anyway: Cinderella is a fairy tale that has many origins, but has been made famous by the 1600s version of French writer Charles Perrault. The original name in French is Cendrillon, of which Cinderella is a simplistic translation. In the German version though, the Grimm brothers called the character Aschenputtel or Aschenbrödel which contains the word Ash. 
The first part of the word (Cendre) means ash and the second comes from souillon which means dirty/soiled. There are at least two reason why the character has a name related to ash. First because in the original tale, when Cinderella has finished her chores, she goes to sleep on ash (so she is always full of ash herself and was nicknamed Cendrillon). And second, ash has always been a symbol of humiliation and punishment. 

I am advising this book to everyone really, this is such a beautiful story. *awww look at me getting all sentimental*

Do not read further if you don't want to be spoiled !

Yeah, I can see you still reading here ! Last chance not to.

I couldn't bring myself not to talk about this subject, but I still wanted people who don't like spoilers to discover the interesting twist to Cinderella in Ash. And this is actually the same reason why I have labelled this post "LGBT" and linking it to my LGBT Challenge 2010.

Intrigued, are you ?

I personally didn't know about Ash being "the retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist" when I started reading the book, and I am so happy I didn't because I was so pleasantly surprised by what followed.

Ash, after so many horrible years spent serving her cruel stepmother, finds a reason to love again. This reason is Kaisa, the King's huntress. Their love starts as a mutual profound respect and admiration for each other, which evolves in something more. I cannot possibly express how much this is a very important twist and how beautifully written it is. Some newspaper critics were harsh on Malinda Lo for that but I disagree.

I personally believe that the essence of Cinderella is for a girl, who lives in the most despicable conditions, to be looked at for who she is and not what she was made to become. And that her kindness of heart and qualities are so powerful that they are seen by whom has his/her eyes open. It made me remember this classic sentence from Jane Eyre "Beauty is in the eye of the gazer". The character of Kaisa is such a good person that she sees beauty where it doesn't seem to be. And this is for me the most important quality for someone ever deserving of Ash's love.

Cinderella isn't about a poor girl being married to a prince. And no matter what people say, I was thrilled, while reading, that Ash wouldn't fall in love for a person who had the most power, respect and wealth, but rather to the person who could see and understand her.

Lost in Translation #2 - The Mystery of the Black Jungle by Emilio Salgari

Hello everyone !

Welcome to the second edition of the Lost in Translation meme !

This meme, hosted here, is organised to appeal to the curious international reader in you to discover foreign authors and even encourage you to read some books in their original language !

For a presentation of the meme, go here

The meme has a few rules:
- Check if the book is translated in English and available (country and online/bookstores) and specify it in your post
- It would be nice to follow the "Language Corner" where you say to which level the book is suitable for the people who want to read the book in its original language
- And finally: Enjoy and Spread the love !

Since it is the second half of the month *pheww no one has noticed I'm actually several days late*, I will be presenting a cool Italian author. He happens to write incredible adventure stories and to be the most famous Italian writer in this genre. He is the Italian version of Jules Verne (you know, the guy behind Twenty Thousand Leagues under The Sea). He lived between 1862 and 1911 and most of his books were translated in many languages and subsequently adapted on the big screen.

The Mystery of the Black Jungle
by Emilio Salgari

Now, I know what you're thinking. The dude lived in a century so far away, what on Earth could he possibly write that you can't read somewhere else, like written by someone who knows what a microwave is. And whatever the incredible countries on which he wrote, you can google map these countries a-ny-time. Plus in the 18th century, people clearly had issues with hygiene, and that's just eww.
And you would be entirely right. 

Except that. Writing about wild foreign and mysterious countries from the point of view of an 18th century Indian hunter in the Black Jungle, hardly compares to anything you have read before. What is interesting is how this book is written and what people thought at this period about those foreign countries. This book is beautifully written and you dream of being part of this adventure, and you discover these exotic (for us) cultures that characterised India in the 1800. 

The story is set in India in 1851, in the surroundings of the Black Jungle. Tremal-Naik is a renowned and feared hunter, being one of the few daring to live in the terrifying Black Jungle where tigers, rhinoceros and pythons hide. One of his men is found dead, and with the help of his faithful servant Kammamuri, he sets on a quest in the Black Jungle to find who is responsible for the murder and save the beautiful woman, Ada, he keeps seeing in his dreams. He is fearless and has tamed a tiger that helps him through his quest. Tremal-Naik will have to fight a strange cult that has enslaved his Ada.

The book is divided in two parts, and the second part sees the appearance of new characters and new situations which put Tremal-Naik always further away from his beloved and makes him despair over their future.

This book is the first one of the Pirates of Malaysia Series (11 books).

"Three hours crept by like three centuries for the hunter who desired nothing more than to see his beloved Ada" 

The style of writing is very similar to other adventure books of the same period like The Three Musketeers where the dialogues and general reactions are quite over the top, some people are always overcome by emotion, talk or whisper what they think out loud and finally where others interject each other with "scoundrel" and "wrench" every 5 pages. I find it highly amusing and entertaining.

I would qualify this book as a page turner. The plot is full of exciting events which are very well described and which take place in a very fast-paced rhythm that makes you want to know immediately what will happen next.

About that, it is not a good idea to read this book in public, you get so excited from the story that you want to brandish your sword with a barbarian scream and go defend the poor and hopeless from the ruthless evil hands of mean people. 
Yeah very bad idea at 8am in the tube, I can guarantee...

One of the best things of this book is the description of Indian and Hindu traditions. It feels as much an adventure story as a book on India in the 1800 during the British colonisation. It's very interesting.

As a lot of books written in this period, the characters have very definite personalities and roles in the story. I don't want to spoil the plot too much, but each character has a very interesting role to play, and since the story is told from a third person point of view, you get glimpses of everybody and it really is a plus.


This is a picture I took last year in Verona (Yup, Romeo and Juliet Verona, I'll show you their houses' pictures if you're interested) of Emilio Salgari's commemorative plaque, it says (my translation):

In this house was born
On the 21st of August 1862
Novelist and poet of adventure
He inspired the younger generations to generosity
And knowledge of all lands and all people

Verona perpetuates the memory of his work - 25th of April 1959

I found the plaque very moving and after reading his book, I totally understand the last two sentences and I thought I'd share it with you.

Language corner:
Even though the book is very well written, I would personally advise reading it in original language only to those with an advanced level in Italian.

Getting the book:
- UK: Amazon, Waterstones
- US: Amazon, Barnes and Nobles

To take part in the meme :
- Write your name
- The name of your blog
- In parenthesis if it is the first or second time you participate
- In parenthesis which language it is
- Link to the LiT post, not your blog !

Exemple: Caroline @ Portrait of a Woman (1, French)

If what you post doesn't look like that, I will retaliate. Live in fear.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith

How can you resist the temptation to read a book that is half (ok way more than half) Jane Austen and half zombie ?

The plot is very similar to the one in the original Pride and Prejudice, since Seth Graham-Smith used the Austen book and added to it zombie fiction. In a parallel period as Regency-era England, a plague has made life completely ruled by the existence of the undead. They roam the countryside and people in villages and cities live secluded. Men know how to fight but women are expected to stay at home. Mr Bennet, having had only daughters, disagrees with this vision and teaches his daughters martial arts. 


This book is entirely awesome !

I understand if some people feel uneasy thinking that books like these (since others have arisen ever since like Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) are ruining the original masterpieces. And since you simply don't touch Jane Austen. 

But this book doesn't ruin the original story as much as it emphasizes it. Seriously. I feel that Elizabeth's badass attitude in the zombie version gives justice to her character in a way that Jane Austen could have never written in the 1800.
And I will say something for which all Jane Austen fans will instantly behead me as part of an atrocious ceremony: it totally makes sense ! And if you have read a few of my reviews you'll know that no matter how crazy a plot is, as long as it makes sense, I'm a fan. Seth Graham-Smith has taken Pride and Prejudice and added the zombies and it makes sense. It is as if the book was made to receive the zombie treatment (ok I'm officially on the Jane Austen fan club hitlist now). Or maybe I just have a very personal sense of humor...

There are so many hilarious sentences in this book, twisted from their original sense, that I can't even quote anything, you'll just discover it while reading. Plus there are some very cool illustrations in the book. But that's just because I think zombie is the new trendy.

So I would definitely advise this book to people with a sense of humour (zombie in particular), with a zombie passion and with a liking for strong heroines. But also to the fans of Jane Austen since  it gives you the opportunity to reread the book in a new light. *dodging a bullet* No seriously, you'll love it ! *dodging a hammer* Okay okay, Jane Austen can choose not to read it !

Funny Fact: at the end of my edition, there is a Reader's Discussion Guide, and I feel obliged to share with you the last question because it made me laugh so much:
Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?

*grinning* I LOVE this book !

Cheers guys, have a good Friday !

No and Me - Delphine de Vigan

I've been wanting to read this book for a while and it never seemed like a good time. I have been feeling quite down last week (unemployment is not really my friend) and haven't been able to read anything at all, even werewolves stories didn't appeal to me *blasphemy*. Anyways, Sunday I picked up this book and I just fell in love with the story and its characters.

No and Me is the story of 13 years old Lou Bertignac who has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to train stations to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris's street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.


Do you know this feeling when you unexpectedly hear a song you love, when you smell your favorite cake from when you were a kid, or when the person that makes your heart beat looks at you ? This is the feeling you'll get reading this book. This is the story you never thought you would read and yet you'll just be falling for it.

The writing is so heart-breakingly pure, full of silent emotions, that you find yourself having feelings for all the characters from the very beginning. 
Delphine de Vigan explained (here) that in the first version of the book, she only talked about No and her life, and didn't go in depth with the character of Lou. In this second version of the book, Lou becomes the main character and gains a real personality and consistency. It is fascinating to read her relationship with her family, or rather, what is left of it after a tragedy that happened when Lou was 8. Lou grows up without her mother, too broken by grief, and her father, doing what he can to save the family. Lou is very young but very mature at the same time, and I think that Delphine de Vigan describes this ambiguity very well.

Lou likes Lucas, her complete opposite (older than his classmates and not very good at school), who seems to like her back. Even though it first appeared to me as a strange relationship, their differences grew on me and I realised it was the very reason why they were attracted to each other. They weren't like any other high school student in their class. And, according to Lou, they both knew the power of words.

The plot is simple, without superfluous and random characters and events. Every character has a place in the plot and evolves through the story. And what a beautiful and touching story it is.

The meaning is important as well, too many people are living in the streets and are not shown enough compassion. "It's their fault, if they were nicer and cleaner, everyone would help them" says Lou at one point without thinking it. This book works also as a sociological study of people living in the streets, women in particular through the character of No, and what it is like: the fear, the wait, the lack of trust etc. No is an incredible character and the bond she has with Lou is very well written.

I would advise this book to everyone. It is too easy nowadays to forget how lucky most of us are. We have everything we need, and even a lot of things we don't need. A little humility can't hurt anyone... especially when it is written with such talent. 
And I'm not saying that because she's French ;-)

Being Nikki - Meg Cabot

Greetings everyone !

Since I just reviewed Airhead (here), I might as well review the second book in the Airhead trilogy by Meg Cabot today ! After reading the first book, I was so in love with the story that I immediately bought the second one. Which tells you how much I liked the story. Unlike the Immortals series for example.

The book sees geeky tomboy Em Watts get progressively used to her new life as teen-supermodel Nikki Howard. She discovers that being a supermodel isn't that easy, especially since she decided to go back to high school to keep an eye on her love interest Christopher to pursue her studies and spend time with her little sister Frida. She is still best friends with Lulu and has so many boys turning around her that she hardly manages to do her supermodel photoshoots and fashion shows right. Many unexpected characters appear in Em/Nikki's life and she will learn many scary things, especially on Stark entreprises, that will make her take decisions which will have a strong effect on her future.


Quite unsurprisingly, I loved this book just as much, if not better than Airhead !

I still love the characters. And I find Meg Cabot's style incredibly insightful and funny. I would praise her even more for putting at the centre of the book the theme of education vs. fame etc. It is such an important theme, and it is such a crucial matter when it comes to young ladies, who are constantly appealed in the medias to be beautiful (as if it were important compared to an education) and famous and rich. If I had a teenage daughter, and if she were to tell me that the only thing she wants to be when she grows up is Miley Cyrus, I would make her read this book. After grounding her for life.

There is also some rommaaaance. No swooning behing the screen, ladies. Will Em get to see her beloved Christopher at school? Will she risk making contact? Is he still the same after her death? Will he like her in Nikki's body, the same body they were making fun of before?  
Awww plenty things happening! But since I'm incredibly cruel, you'll have to read the book to know the answers. 

Aside from everything I said yesterday about Airhead. I would like to add that Being Nikki is turning, from a YA Chick Lit story, to a wicked thriller with the whole Em vs. Stark. Call me a conspiracy theory nutcase, but I love how the plot is turning out. This is so much more than a geek body-swapping with a model.

I believe that people owning entertainment/communications company are half ruling the world. And they're probably watching you read this blog at the moment, you better put some disguise or something. No, seriously, they rule the world in the sense that they create needs we never had and then make us buy things we never wanted in the first place (and this is said by Em in the book, that's not just me saying) and then become super rich and do it all over again. And again.
Actually, if you ever wanted to conquer the world, that's exactly how you should do it. Yeah, I've given world domination a thought or two back in the day, that's definitely the best plan.
I really like actually how this company and it's boss Robert Stark look so much like a graphic novel villain. It's just awesome !

So I really like the way Meg Cabot is putting these ideas in the book, and how, in the end, she shows that friendship and family are more important than anything else, especially the newly released Stark computer or a several million dollar bra.

I sooooo can't wait for the last book of the trilogy, Runaway, to be published (in September in the UK but is already out in the US with a much less prettier cover). Because that's where (hopefully) Em is going to bring those people down and restore a little humanity in this world. Finally. Go geeks !

Anyways, I'm sure people who liked the first book will love the second book, because the story is taken one step further by the marvelously talented Meg Cabot who develops some very interesting themes.

A must read !

What did you think people, do you like the whole story Em vs. Stark entreprises ?

Good night !!

Airhead - Meg Cabot

Good afternoon !

It is with utmost shame that I confess never having read a Meg Cabot book before last week. I know, I know, stop looking at me like that !
Anyways, I didn't know which one to choose so I browsed the few titles in my bookshop and ended up with Airhead on which I had read a few good reviews.
Ok, so I have a thing for pink shiny covers too, it's hardly a crime ;-)

Airhead is the incredible story of Emerson Watts, high school tomboy-geek, who finds herself in the body of Nikki Howard, the superhotmodel of the moment, after a freaky accident *nooo I would have dared a play-on-word with Freaky Friday?!! Shame on me!*.
Emerson discovers that celebrity isn't what you read in the magazines, that some friendships are real and others not and that a busy love-life is hardly fun when you are the object of all the attentions. Em has to play the part of Nikki, being friend with socialite Lulu and going to photoshoots, to save her parents and little sister Frida from enormous bad consequences *now you can be scared* after they made a pact with the Stark company to save their daughter. At any cost. Even if that would mean putting her in someone else's body.


I loved this book !

When I read the back cover and saw the whole body swap thing, I thought it would be something slightly unbelievable like Freaky Friday. I was more than pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be some conspiracy thing from super rich people who have the power. Because, let's face it, everything is true.

I liked that the book takes many many stereotypes and just turns them around. I am not surprised that geeky Em has a sister who wants to try out for cheerleading. I am not surprised that Nikki Howard has a busier love-life than Elizabeth Taylor and Paris Hilton put together. Nor that Brandon, Nikki's ex and son of the Boss of Stark Enterprise, hates his dad. But it is written in a way that you actually discover things. I'm sure all the Meg Cabot fans here will tell me that it's no surprise, but she is clearly a talented writer to write purposefully about stereotypes and create an interesting and amazing plot.

I think the characters are great. I absolutely adore Em Watts. I can totally relate to her. If you're interested, you can read the poem Portrait of a Woman by Wislawa Szymborska that gave its name to this blog (which is here), where the poet draws a portrait of a woman (of every woman) which is full of contradictions but which, in a way, makes complete sense. Part of those contradictions is the line "Reads Jaspers and ladies' magazines" (Jaspers being a German philosopher). And during the entire book I laughed so much when Em, the super geek, says she has read her little sister Frida's CosmoGirl, Romance Novels and others, "just because they were lying around". I mean I can talk to you about Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (which is only useful if you study political sciences) as much as the biography of Kristen Stewart, so I totally relate to that, and I thought it was hilarious ! And I'm sure all the geeks like me found it fun that the name of the company is Stark, like Tony Stark Iron Man ?!! Or maybe I'm the only one !!

I also like the fact that Nikki Howard's life isn't as glamorous and fun as people might think. I would personally hate to be paraded around as a half-naked piece of meat and taken for stupidity personified, but that's just me. It is important to show that no matter how money, fame and beauty can be attractive, it's not entirely fun and fulfilling, and I think the book does just that.

I love the secondary characters. I am a huge fan of Lulu who erm... might not be the brightest tool in the shed but has ideas of her own and is extremely loyal and kind-hearted. Frida is such a sweetheart that even though she thinks Cheerleading is an acceptable activity which it isn't, I would have loved to have her as a sister. I found it funny and cool that Em's mother is a Uni teacher and a real feminist and that Em is so into school, I was starting to get mad at YA literature because of the two last YA books I read....

The style is actually pretty simple, you get into the story and never get out. It is not entirely centred on romance and boys, which is a big plus because these aspects in YA books are slightly tiresome at times. Why are you frowning at the screen?! They are at times !

I really really like the whole conspiracy-hidden-medical-facilities thing. It's awesome ! And it gets even better in the second volume of the Airhead trilogy, Being Nikki, that I will probably review tomorrow.

Anyways, reading this book made me go back to the 1990s where I was a devoted Spice Girls fan (not that I ever was a fan per se, I happened to listen to the songs quite by accident actually) and girl power was the only acceptable behaviour there was !

So I would strongly advise it to the Chick Lit and YA afficionados because, you know, Meg Cabot and all that, and to the hidden Chick Lit and YA fans among you (yeah you, hiding behind your philosophical essay and your New York Times, we all know you just finished reading Elle and Cosmo in secret), this book is extremely fun to read and is made just for you !

What did you guys think of the book ?


Lost in Translation #1 - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Hello everyone !

I am going to start the Lost in Translation meme today (actually, this is the second time I'm starting it since my first article erased itself mysteriously yesterday, the little bugger).

The LiT meme, hosted here, will appeal to the international reader in you to discover foreign books and even encourage you to read some books in their original language !

I will be presenting French and Italian authors and books since I speak those two languages. The whole thing is rather more sophisticated than I first imagined: the three first books on which I wanted to write an article were translated but not available in bookshops or online. Which is a bummer really, because the books were awesome.

Anyways! Since I like living dangerously (hey, I drink up to 5 cups of tea a day, clearly I know no fear), I will be writing a French LiT post during the first 15 days of the month and an Italian LiT post in the second half of the month. Other bloggers can join in whenever they want and adapt the meme to any other languages.

The meme has a few (logical) rules :
-Check the translation of the book and specify it in the article
-Check the availability of the book depending on territories and bookstores/libraries/online and specify it in the article
-It would also be nice to make a parenthesis on the level required to read the book in its original language
-And finally, Enjoy and Spread the love ! 

I am starting the meme with a French LiT post on one of the most talented and original graphic novel artist France has known and my personal favorite

by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born French artist that has published (in French) a 4 volume autobiographical graphic novel called Persepolis. I won't be telling you her biography, because, clearly, that would be a spoiler for the autobiographical graphic novels ! Persepolis was adapted on the big screen by Marjane herself and Vincent Parronnaud. The film got the Special Jury Prize in 2007 from the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated in 2008 for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

Even if you are not a graphic novel fan, I can guarantee you will love Persepolis. This book tells you the cool and rebellious story you always wished you had. This book is about growing up in the most difficult setting there is: Iran in the 1980s. I would give you a little history of the events, but I think Marjane teaches you about the history and the politics of Iran way better than anyone ever will !

This book not only makes you learn what happened in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, but it also shows you how people reacted to the new regime.
One of the most important aspect of the book is for me the various strong female figures. There is obviously the funny and unique Marjane who wants to become a Prophet when she grows up. There is her mother who is, with her father, very politicised against the Islamist regime. And finally Marjane's incredible grandmother, who wears jasmine flowers in her shirts and gives Marjane advices she will live up to. You will see, that being a woman in one of the hardest societies in the world isn't about giving up.

The book is not only incredibly interesting, it is thoroughly entertaining because there is always humour, even in the darkest parts of the story. Reading these books, you will see the story of one of the most ancient civilisations unfold beneath your eyes, you will see this society evolve from one of the most modern societies of the regions to one of the most traditional in a few years, you will see people fighting for their very right to live. 

As you can see, the entire book is in black and white (though the animation film is in color), and even though the style is very sober, it is an actual choice: the graphic novel is mainly centred on the story and the characters rather than on the drawing in itself. Don't get me wrong, you do feel the lyrical aspect some pages take. It echoes in the meaning of the story where Marjane is caught between the Iranian tradition and her attraction towards modernity, and where she is an Iranian in Europe and a European in Iran.

On a more general note, this style (including the black and white graphics) is typical of the Alternative comics/graphic novels movement which has started worldwide in the 1980s. Marjane Satrapi, together with a new wave of French graphic novel artists, are published from the 1990s by L'Association (literally, the Association) who is renowned worldwide for the originality and diversity of its authors. L'Association has a rigorously artist-centred approach in terms of its productions: they are against the fanzines and create various types of graphic novels which tend to look more like novels than comics. They have different collections which have themselves their own characteristics. L'Association gained momentum in mainstream literature in France and worldwide through commercial and critical success of, among others, Persepolis.

Language corner:
For the adventurous part of you *especially those wearing the Indiana Jones hat*, this is the ideal type of book to read in its original version. If you have studied French for a few years and would like to improve your level, graphic novels are the best way, since the language is generally quite simple and goes straight to the point without getting lost in never-ending descriptions, and the images can help you interpret some words you don't understand.

Did I mention I love this book ? Since you obviously fell in love with this book too and can't wait to read it (and since I am, all in all, a very nice person), I'll give you some tips on where to find it:

Getting the book:
- Online: Amazon (.com and .co.uk)
- Bookstores UK: I saw it in Waterstones
- Bookstores US: Barnes and Nobles
- Online: French Amazon (in French), the megastore Fnac (in French)
- Bookstores UK: list and info here
- Bookstores US: list and info here
Note: The UK and US version have 2 volumes or one, not 4.

All the illustrations present in this post were made by Marjane Satrapi and are part of Persepolis.

To take part in the meme :
- Write your name
- The name of your blog
- In parenthesis if it is the first or second time you participate
- In parenthesis which language it is
- Link to the LiT post, not your blog !

Exemple: Caroline @ Portrait of a Woman (1, French)

If what you post doesn't look like that, I will retaliate. Live in fear.