Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book reviews of two memoirs by Kristin Louise Duncombe

A good memoir, in my opinion, needs an interesting and if possible exciting life and the ability to write about it openly, honestly and in a way that engages the reader. Kristisn Louise Duncombe is an author who has written two very good memoirs.

French Village Diaries book review Trailing: A Memoir by Kristin Louise Duncombe
Trailing: A Memoir

In Trailing: A Memoir Kristin tells us how passion and love led her from the US to Kenya, Uganda and then Paris as a trailing spouse prepared to put aside her dreams in pursuit of her husband’s career as a doctor with the French organisation Médecins Sans Frontières. She immediately finds herself alone in Kenya in an area with many problems that include poverty, health issues and violent crime and finds settling into her new life a challenge. She shares the great work undertaken by organisations like MSF, but she also witnesses many things that leave her in a fragile and anxious state. Camping trips with scary beasts in the night, car jackings and worms that attach themselves to drying clothes and then burrow into your skin, to name just a few. Kristin also learns a lot about herself, but at times it was an uncomfortable journey.

When things get tricky she retreats to Paris, to lick her wounds and work out where her future lies. Paris is always a good decision in my book and it proved to be very healing for Kristin and helped her to see things in a clear and calm way. It is so difficult to imagine a life so different but I do know I wouldn’t have coped as well as she did.

French Village Diaries book review Five Flights Up by Kristin Louise Duncombe
Five Flights Up, Kristin Louise Duncombe

Having enjoyed Kristin’s first memoir I couldn’t wait to start her second one Five Flights Up: Sex, Love, and Family, from Paris to Lyon as I was keen to find out what had happened to this very international family, who had settled in Paris. This was an important move for Kristin as most of her life has been spent moving from location to location, first with her Father’s work and then her husband’s. She is happy in Paris. They have an apartment, a sense of belonging and an extended family relationship with the other families that live in the apartment block. Kristin has her own practice and more importantly, financial independence and a sense of worth. The children are settled at school and happy and all is well in their relationship.

Then her husband Tano gets a job in Lyon, the money is better and he wants to relocate the family there, but Krisitin desperately wants to stay in Paris. The family becomes divided, firstly with Tano commuting each week and then, when she finally agrees to the move, Kristin returns regularly to Paris for her work.

This is the emotional, honest, amusing and very readable account of everything that goes right and wrong as they make a new life in Lyon. We discover their new city, meet the interesting new acquaintances they make and witness all their teething problems. Then there are a few other little things France throws at them, just when they thought things were settling down nicely.

I enjoyed both of these memoirs as they are well written and Kristin’s family really does have a different story to tell than most expat families. I’d also love to visit Lyon.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rocking the Café Bar

French Village Diaries cabaret night Café Boulevard Melle
Rocking the Café Bar

It is not often your 15-year-old headlines at a real gig, so I thought I’d proudly share my Saturday with you, despite it turning out to be a long nine and half hours of combined taxi-ing Ed and waiting around, all for a twenty-minute performance of heavy rock. I felt like a real groupie, albeit an old and rather tired one. Much as I love our French village life, the older Ed gets the more I realise village life with teenagers has certain drawbacks and the running around is certainly one of them. I will be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it and had resorted to bribery – I’ll make you (myself) coffee and walnut cupcakes, if you’re (I’m) brave enough to go. They helped, they really did and the bonus is that there is enough to share (with myself) this week too.

French Village Diaries fuel shortages strike action France
No fuel notices as seen in most petrol stations
The current fuel issues in France, where thousands of petrol stations have run dry due to industrial action at the fuel depots, plus the threat of a big storm, had all added to my pre-event worrying, but I’m pleased to report it actually all worked out for the best and there were even a few nice surprises. I decided that to drop Ed off, go home and then return to collect him later, which would mean an extra 50 km of driving, would be a waste of fuel. To occupy my time when he was at his first rehearsal, I went on a fuel treasure hunt and rather undramatically found fuel in the first supermarket I tried and unbelievably there were no queues and no restrictions, so I filled up the tank, with a rather smug smile on my face and scoffed a cupcake as my reward.

I have since read a lot of online criticism of people ‘panic buying’ and filling up before they would usually and I’ll admit that yes, that was me! You see I’m actually a lazy wimp. I still mourn the loss of the lady who used to fill my car up for me at our local supermarket, replaced by a machine that is happy to take my money, but offers nothing in terms of service and so we seem to have slipped into a routine. On our way to the airport Adrian fills the car with diesel, I then drive happy, easily covering about 80km a week just running Ed around plus the return trip to the airport, which could be anything from five to ten days later, without having to soil my hands filling up and Adrian sorts out the fuel on his return. So you see, filling up his mucky diesel was quite an accomplishment and unscheduled, but the last thing I want is not to be able to collect him from the airport later this week – obviously assuming the air traffic controllers will let the plane fly. Planning any form of travel in our poor troubled France (except by bike) is quite tricky at the moment.

French Village Diaries Cabaret night Boulevard Café bar Melle
Cabaret night at the Boulevard Café, Melle

After the excitement of the fuel it was a long and lonely afternoon of waiting, mostly sat alone with nothing but an empty chair, my ipad, my notebook and my cupcakes for company. Then I found a friend, a French lady I used to do yoga with but hadn’t seen for over a year. This was a lovely surprise and it was so much nicer to be sat at a table with someone to watch the much-anticipated cabaret that Ed was performing in. However, it was like no cabaret event I had ever been to before and I’m not sure TV talent show judge Simon Cowell has ever had to sit through quite what I had to sit through. 

A funny duo with outfits that really stood out kicked things off and were also the entre-act compares. She was a French Sue Perkins (British comedian), equally as funny and very talented, so long as you understand a very particular type of French humour. There were also lots of gentle folk-type music acts, humourous ballades (well, everyone else was laughing), flutes, violins and guitars. Bits I followed, bits I didn’t, but the cupcakes helped. There were French people singing in French and surprisingly in English too; political numbers with poor pronunciation that seemed a real hit with the almost totally French speaking audience. Right at the end of the night – midnight to be precise, Ed and the band he was an honoury member of for the night came on stage. This instantly shifted the night from French folk and humour to serious heavy rock, head banging, jumping, noise and some rather ripe language in one of the songs. They went down a storm with lots of cheers and whistles and at least one proud Mum in the audience. Here is a little video I took of one of their numbers:

Although the wind and rain arrived during the evening, the storm and power cuts that hit at home missed us. The drive home, with the clock ticking ever closer to 1.00am was very dark (despite the full moon), very quiet and on roads strewn with the debris of trees and hedgerows that had been bruised and battered by the storm. I was so pleased to get home, I treated myself to another cupcake and collapsed into bed.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Comforting coffee and walnut cupcakes

Coffee and walnut cupcakes

Today is going to be a busy day and with Adrian in UK, the running around will all be down to me. Ed is taking his first step to fame and fortune as a real rockstar. As well as an afternoon rehearsal for an upcoming event for the music school he is at, he has been asked to stand in as guitarist for a real band with a real gig in a real bar. 

Perfecting my Rock-Chick look!
This means another rehearsal followed by the event itself this evening, all of which he needs chauffeuring to and from. Add to this the current panic buying of fuel in France, thanks to the manifestations by anyone and everyone (or so it seems) that has affected supply at petrol stations and an orange alert for stormy and windy weather this evening, I decided that I needed a boost. Enter my coffee and walnut cupcakes - sweet, delicious and a real comforting treat. We all have those days when only comfort food will do, so here is my recipe.

115g softened butter
115g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
1 tsp of baking powder
strong black coffee
1 tbsp of walnut oil (optional)
1 tbsp of walnut flour (optional)

75g softened butter
100g icing sugar
Halved walnuts to decorate

Preheat the oven to gas 4
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and then add the walnut oil if you are using it.
Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time and add a spoonful of flour if you are worried about it splitting. Beat until smooth.
Add in the flour, walnut flour and baking powder. Mix well and then add a tablespoon of the cold coffee. If it is still a little thick add a little more coffee.
Divide equally between your cupcake cases, I made 18 small(ish) cupcakes. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden and springy to touch.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the buttercream topping, mix together the butter and icing sugar and add some coffee in small amounts until the desired consistency. Pipe onto the cold cakes and decorate each cake with a walnut half. If your piping is as haphazard as mine, the walnut disguises any mistakes. Enjoy every mouthful, if possible in a quiet and calm place with a cup of coffee on the side.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cover reveal for All That The Heart Desires by June Moonbirdge

Today I am taking part in a cover reveal (with giveaway), not something I have done before, but a great way to help authors promote their books by giving them a social media shout out. All That The Heart Desires will be available at the end of June 2016, but was previously published as Racing Heart and you can read my review here.


At twenty-five, Desire Hart has experienced enough grief for a lifetime.
Changing everything in her life - her identity, her hometown and her country of residence, Desire is determined that nothing will prevent her achieving from finding her missing son. Not even love.
On a spring evening, she meets the golden boy of F1 racing, Lorcan Shore, and finds herself falling for him. Struggling to suppress her feelings, she realises he could help her get closer to the child she believes is her long lost son.
But nothing goes according to plan. Her identity is revealed by the press, Lorcan has a terrifying accident, and the trail to her son finishes in another dead end. So Desire does what she does best - she runs away.
Set against the glamorous backdrops of Monaco, Paris and Nice, ‘All That the Heart Desires’ mixes romance and mystery as Desire struggles to come to terms with her past.
Will she allow herself to accept love into her life again?

About the Author

June was born in June and she always loved the moon. She comes from Slovenia, a country which got its independence almost three decades ago.

She studied economics, and quickly realised she hated it. Afterwards, she found herself working in a mainly male-dominated business; at first in automotive and later steel products. She can choose the best steel for your project, but don't, please don't, ask her which lipstick brand you should use.

She started to write in high school and was criticised by her teacher. Stubborn as she is, that didn't stop her. Under different pen names, she had stories published in magazines, and then went on to publish three books.

After having two children, and learning that her second child has autism, she married their father and carried on working. Work and family life left her with little free time. But the desire to write didn't die. When life somehow sorted itself out, she decided to write a novel in English and her first submissions were rejected…

For what happened then, re-read the third paragraph, second sentence above...

Rafflecopter Giveaway 

There are two ebook copies of this book to be won, just click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter, good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book review of I Promise You This by Patricia Sands

I Promise You This
I Promise You This by Patricia Sands 

Patricia Sands on Tour 17th to 26th May with

I Promise You This


Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price's midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she's in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him. But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she's helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again? Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection. With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Côte d'Azur, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible if you're willing to let your heart lead you home.

Release date: May 17, 2016 at Lake Union Publishing ISBN: 978-1503935723 365 pages Author's page | Goodreads  



Katherine, who we have already witnessed being left by her rat of a husband and then losing her mother, now finds herself back in a cold, wintry Toronto, just when she thought her life would always be in the south of France with Philippe. Her best friend Molly needs her and it is a tough and emotional time for everyone. Patricia’s books always have a traumatic sad part, before France can soothe and heal as only France knows how to and this book, the third in the series, is no exception. Being back in her Mother’s house, away from Philippe and alone, but surrounded by memories of ‘home’, she questions her decision to start a new life in France. Philippe, however, is never far from her thoughts and as she opens up about her feelings she begins to understand the importance of love, family, friendship and what it means to feel at ‘home’.

This book is very emotional with simmering passion, lots of surprises and tears, well for me at least. As with the other books in the series it is the colours and scents of Provence that stand out for me when reading it and really take you there. Patricia’s obvious love for the area is present in every page. I can’t not mention the flavours too, as you would expect from a novel with a character who is French and in the business of cheese, the food they eat plays an important role and is described to perfection.

It was lovely to be back in France with Katherine and to see how her life has changed so much in a short time, I’ve really enjoyed following her journey and I'm sure you will too. I would recommend starting with book one, The Promise of Provence and if you can, read all three together. This will save you from having to trawl through your memory to place characters and events from previous books who reappear here.

If you are looking for a virtual holiday in Provence, this series of books will give you the perfect escape along with a warm, feel-good feeling too.


I Promise You This Patricia Sands A confessed travel-addict, best-selling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn't somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home. I Promise You This, is Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence series. Find Patricia on Facebook, on Twitter on Instagram at her Amazon Author Page or her website Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases. Buy the book : Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca | Amazon.fr | available on Barnes & Noble on May 17


You can enter the global giveaway here or on any other book blogs participating in this tour. Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook, they are listed in the entry form below.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form] Global giveaway open internationally: 10 participants will each win a copy of this book, print or digital



I Promise You This Banner