Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Au revoir 2019

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
2019 cycling challenge with #KTTinyTourer

As 2019 draws to a close my word for the year is challenge.

This Christmas, likely our last as EU citizens and therefore not something we felt like celebrating, was a simple day and perfectly ‘us’. A 63km bike ride with a posh picnic and a bottle of fizzy, was timed to perfection for me to complete my 2019 cycling challenge and to benefit from a sunny afternoon.

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
Christmas Day picnic

Having smashed my original goal of 2019kms in August, I upped my game to 2019 miles (or 3230kms) and although the weather has been against me these last few months, the sun came out on Christmas Day to help me celebrate. 

Living with the uncertainty of Brexit for the last three and a half years has also been a challenge, especially on my mental health. Thankfully buying my Brompton bike, Katie #KTTinyTourer, last December and having the focus of working towards a goal has really helped, and I am proud of my achievement. There is nothing quite like a bike ride on the quiet back roads of France for clearing the mind and calming the body.

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
#KTTinyTourer in Bordeaux

With Adrian by my side (or more accurately out in front) I’ve used Katie locally instead of taking the car, but I’ve also had great fun further afield revisiting favourite places and discovering new parts of France. I’ve explored the lovely Ile de Ré and the cities of Limoges, La Rochelle, Poitiers, Bordeaux, Toulouse and London. 

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
Climbing mountains with #KTTinyTourer

I’ve climbed mountain cols and crossed the Pyrenees into Spain.

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
Sunset in France #KTTinyTourer

I’ve been out on the bike in the 40º heatwave of summer and the frosty mornings of winter. I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets and cycled into 40km headwinds as we reached the end of our Bordeaux to Toulouse adventure. 
For the 5th year running I’ve celebrated my birthday with my 100km in a day ride and I’m fitter than I’ve been in years. Without Katie things would look a lot gloomier.
I know there will be challenges ahead as the reality of Brexit works itself out. I know we will lose our right to vote in the March local elections in France and I will also lose my right to stand as a local councillor. I hope some agreement on cross border service provider work will be found, as currently this is not something included in the withdrawal agreement but is critical for Adrian to remain working.

French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
A dry and sad looking potager

The weather has also thrown us a challenge or two this year, with a summer hotter and drier than we’ve ever experienced, followed by the wettest autumn in years, with more than our fair share of wild windy nights this winter too. The combination of which has challenged the waterproofness of our old roofs and then Big Bertha, the central heating boiler (and general prima donna), sprang an internal leak and died. Keeping warm while we waited for Tiny Tina, her replacement, to be installed was a challenge I could have done without, but onwards and upwards as a new year and a new decade await.


French Village Diaries au revoir 2019 a challenging year #KTTinyTourer
#KTTinyTourer at home in France

My new challenge with Katie is a 20 20 challenge split into parts, as I felt I needed more than just kilometres to focus on and tick off this year.

The first 20 is to cycle in twenty different departments (counties) in France, and with 96 to choose from, that will certainly give Adrian a challenge in terms of route planning.

The second 20 is split into four challenges of five:

5 consecutive days on the bike, cycling a minimum of 50kms each day. 

5 trips to the supermarket using the bike instead of the car. 

5 mountain cols or passes climbed by bike. 

5 days cycling 100kms in a day, as opposed to once a year for my birthday.

This might seem a lot, but I’m positive that tackled in small parts and with some careful planning (like most challenges in life) I can succeed. 

Whatever your goals or dreams are for the coming year, I wish you well and hope 2020 is good to you.

Happy New Year!



Saturday, December 14, 2019

Book review of High Heels & Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley

French Village Diaries book review High Heels & Beetle Crusher Jackie Skingley
High Heels & Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley


High Heels & Beetle Crushers


A compelling memoir of post-war Britain. Jackie Skingley grew up with limited career choices but joining the Women’s Royal Army Corps offered her a different life, living and working in a military world, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Packed full of stories reflecting the changing sexual attitudes prior to the arrival of the pill and the sexual revolution of the mid 60s, Skingley’s memoir denotes a shift in the political and social fabric of the era. Follow her relationships with the men in her life from finding her first true love, which through a cruel act of fate was denied her, to embarking on a path of recovery.

French Village Diaries book review High Heels & Beetle Crusher Jackie Skingley
High Heels & Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley


My review 

Whilst this book is not set in France, the author is, and as well as sharing first names, we also live in the same part of France and have attended writing workshops and events together over the years. I was delighted to be asked if I’d like to review her first memoir and interestingly enough, as I read it, I discovered many of the places mentioned in the book, were places from my earlier years too. It is a small world!

This memoir takes us from Jackie’s early childhood recollections of the war, to happy times spent with her great aunt and uncle, not so happy times with her stepdad, and then onto her new life in the Womens Royal Army Corps in the 1960’s. Growing up surrounded by military towns, Jackie’s life had plenty of military connections before she decided that this direction might be her chance to gain independence and adventure. 

Jackie certainly has a story to tell of a fascinating era where women were making their mark, but as we follow her journey, this book becomes a heartfelt memoir of personal loss too. It was a privilege to witness the ups and downs of her time at officer cadet training, her visits to military bases in Germany and the roles she went on to have as an officer, even if some of the military terms and references were a little lost on me. She also shares her blossoming romances along the way and not surprisingly, her young men were all in the military too and her descriptions of the balls and her dresses, lovingly made by her mother, were vibrantly brought to life. She paints a great picture of the camaraderie of military life, the socialising and the rule breaking too, giving a great insight to what it felt like to belong to the extended military family.

This is a beautifully written, honest memoir, where hard work, heartache and happiness all play a part, and it left me keen to read more.

Purchase Links 







French Village Diaries book review High Heels & Beetle Crusher Jackie Skingley
Jackie Skingley


Author Bio 


For Jackie Skingley, adventure has been her quest since childhood. Life with the British army allowed Jackie to live all over the world and gain huge appreciation for different cultures and customs. Since 1999, Jackie and her husband have lived in the Charente region of South West France where Reiki, jewellery making, painting and mosaics, as well as writing keep her fully occupied. Member of the Charente Creative Writing Group, mother and grandmother.

Social Media Links 

Twitter
Facebook 
                         

Giveaway to Win 2 x Paperback copies of High Heels & Beetle Crushers (Open UK / US Only)


*Terms and Conditions –UK & USA entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.



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Friday, December 13, 2019

Book review of A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg

French Village Diaries book review A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg
A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg


A Christmas Hamster

Cam’s career and romantic prospects take a nose dive once she becomes guardian to her young nephew. She leaves a bustling Dutch city to move to a small, dull country town in England, and where once she restored magnificent old paintings to their former glory, now she operates the paint-mixing machine at a soulless hardware store. As much as she adores little Rowan, life has lost some of its sparkle. 
However, a handsome and charming customer causes her heart to flutter once more. Fate, alas, seems determined to hamper any possibility of them getting together. So what chance does a tiny, naughty hamster have of bringing happiness this Christmas?
This is a festive, light-hearted and uplifting romcom novella.

French Village Diaries book review A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg
A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg


My Review

Having not yet read a bad book from Stephanie, I couldn’t miss out on this one. It might not be set in France, unlike most of her other books, but my Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a humorous, seasonal novella from Stephanie. 

After a chance meeting at the paint department of the local DIY store, events conspire against Cam and Declan ever crossing paths again, despite many possible opportunities. Life certainly isn’t short on excitement for Cam, but in terms of romance it seems she just might need a little Christmas magic to lead her in the right direction, maybe that is where the antics of an escaping hamster could help?

A Christmas Hamster might only be a quick read, but there is a lot packed into it. We have family issues, fun and games in the retail sector, pets with attitude and the odd disaster thrown in for good measure, plus a lovely will-they-won’t-they romance. As always Stephanie has worked in an element of fun, something a bit different and a great use of words and attention to detail. I loved it!

This book is a thoroughly readable, festive giggle that will leave you with a smile on your face.

To read my reviews of her previous books of festive fabulousness, Fa La Llama La and Deck the Halles just click on their titles.

Purchase Links 

Amazon UK   



French Village Diaries book review A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg
Stephanie Dagg author of A Christmas Hamster


Author Bio

I'm an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie, makes for exciting times. The current array of animals ranges from alpacas to zebra finches, with most letters of the alphabet represented. And of course there are hamsters! 
I'm a traditionally-published author of many children's books, and have been self-publishing fiction and non-fiction for adults for the last seven years. I combine freelance work as an editor with running carp fishing lakes with husband Chris. When time allows I enjoy cycling, geocaching, knitting and gardening.

Social Media Links

Twitter Llama mum 
Twitter Pen and Finch 

French Village Diaries book review A Christmas Hamster by Stephanie Dagg
Giveaway Hamster Christmas tree decoration


Giveaway to Win a Hamster Christmas Tree Decoration (Open INT)


*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.



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Monday, December 9, 2019

My little Christmas bookshop

French Village Diaries little Christmas bookshop
My little Christmas bookshop (librairie)

Welcome to my little Christmas bookshop. Here you will find lots of ideas for French themed reads to get you into the Christmas spirit, from romances and memoirs, to short story compilations and cookbooks, I hope I have included something for everyone. 

In these books you will find delicious French meals, mulled wine, sprinklings of snow and plenty of Christmas magic from Paris to the Pyrenees, and the vineyards of Bordeaux to the ski resort of Chamonix. Or maybe you’d prefer the hilltop villages and coastal towns of Provence, or a stay on a farm or chateau in rural France? These books can give you all that without having to pack a bag.

Don’t forget that Amazon now let you gift a kindle book, which just makes Christmas shopping that little bit easier for the Francophile in your life. Some of these links are to the kindle books, some the hardback books and I’ve also added in some of the cookery show DVDs of journeys in France that accompanied the cookbooks.

Grab a homemade mincepie and a glass of mulled wine and have a browse. 

French Village Diaries little Christmas bookshop mulled wine mincepies
Mulled wine and mincepies


If you know of any Christmas themed books in France I've not included, please let me know.

As part of the Amazon Associates program, buying through these links earns me a few pennies at NO extra charge to you.

2019 New releases


The Christmas Holiday by Sophie Claire, a romance set partly in Provence. This book is like a hug, full of emotion, warmth and love. Despite the characters doing their best to ignore the festivities, getting into the Christmas spirit was easy within the pages of this book and I didn’t want it to end. Book two in the series, A Forget-me-not Summer is available for pre-order now. Read my full review here.




I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Karen Clarke, a romance set on the Atlantic island of Ile de Ré. This is the third and final book in the Little French Café series and I have quickly become a big fan of Karen’s novels since starting this trilogy. She has the ability to set the scene so you feel like you are there, fill it with characters who are alive, quirky and feel like friends, and also trap you in a story you don’t want to put down. If you are looking for a bit of cosy comfort and romance to escape the mad run up to Christmas, you can’t go far wrong here. Read my full review here.



Christmas in Chamonix by Sasha Wagstaff, a romance set partly in the ski resort of Chamonix. This book is a lovely Christmas getaway with tears, laughter, Christmas cheer and French mountain comfort food to make your stomach rumble as you read. Read my full review here.



Christmas at the Chateau by Lorraine Wilson, a mini romance set in rural south west France that is currently FREE. This novella is a delicious Christmas treat that perfectly complements book one, Poppy's Place in the Sun, and left me wanting more (book three, Jojo's French Escape is available to pre-order now).  Read my full review here.



Christmas books set in Paris


One Christmas in Paris by Mandy Baggot where Ava meets Julien; two complex characters, hurting in their own way, unwilling to let love in, but unable to ignore the feelings they have for each other. Don't miss out on this heartwarming festive treat, complete with snowflakes, romance and Paris.



Lovers in Paris by Andy Conway, a collection of short stories set on New Year’s Eve giving a lovely seasonal mini-break in Paris. The great thing about short stories is the ability to pop in and out when time allows, although I had no trouble in turning the pages. Read my full review here.



Christmas Confessions and Cocktails by Vicki Lesage, twenty-five fun snippets of Vicki’s life, loosely centred on the Christmas theme; both before and after she moved to France and many when her family is together and celebrating. As usual in her funny memoirs, she includes the bad as well as the good, but all are told in a way that made me smile. Read my full review here.



The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver, a good fun read, packed full of French patisserie delights, Paris Christmas sparkle and even a sprinkling of romance. After all we can’t have the single heroine of a chick-lit set in Paris at Christmas time without a little Paris love and magic, can we. If you want a winter break in Paris, this book is the perfect get away. Read my full review here.



The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin, a great escape to Paris with bookshop owner Sarah, who loves books with a passion and agrees to a bookshop swap with her Parisian friend Sophie. There are snippets of hidden Paris, typically Parisian characters and tasty patisseries on every corner. Read my full review here.



From Paris With Love this Christmas by Jules Wake. Enter Siena, bubbly, well mannered, perfectly groomed, but rather clueless. She is the girl who seems to have it all, a monthly allowance, friends in the right places, a chateau in France, an eligible fiancé and a dysfunctional family. There is just one thing missing - happiness, so she has packed a few essentials in her Louis Vuitton carry-on and run away from Paris to see her sister Laurie in the UK, but will she find what she is looking for this Christmas? Read my full review here.



Other Christmas books set in France


Fa La Llama La by Stephanie Dagg. Noelle arrives in rural France, in a snowstorm, a few days before Christmas, hoping the last minute pet-sitting project will help her struggling finances. However, although the llamas waiting for her are just as lovely as her quick Internet research led her to believe they would be, nothing else is quite what she was expecting. This book maybe set in sub-zero temperatures, but it left me feeling warm on the inside. Read my full review here.



Deck the Halles by Stephanie Dagg. Having thoroughly enjoyed Fa-La-Llama-La, I was delighted to be back with Nick and Noelle and couldn’t wait to see how their relationship was going. This book is great fun; full of energy, humour and romance all sprinkled with quirky rural French magic and lots of festive jingle. Read my full review here.



Toby’s Tails - the Christmas Kittens by Susan Keefe, a very sweet short story for children about Toby the Border Collie who lives on Fantasy Farm, a smallholding in France. In this book Toby tells us about the three little kittens who join his family, their antics as they explore their new world and their first Christmas, where they enjoy playing hide and seek in the decorated tree. Read my full review here.



French Holidays and Traditions by Margo Lestz an informative and a witty book that taught me a lot, as despite knowing about most of the traditions behind various holidays, I didn’t always know where they had come from and why, and now I do. Read my full review here.



The First Noel and the Villa des Violettes by Patricia Sands, a festive novella that does so much. It not only takes us back to Kat and Philippe (from Patricia’s Love in Provence series of books) and their villa in Provence, it also shares many of the delightful Provencal Christmas foods and traditions as well as taking us to the Christmas markets of Alsace. Read my full review here.



A Christmas Wedding by Julia Stagg a novella that is small but perfectly formed and takes us back to Fogas, a Pyrenean mountain village, where a simple wedding to be held on Christmas Eve turns out to be anything but simple. With only six days to go there are last minute problems with almost everything including the caterers, the venue and the groom. Thankfully the community is ready to pull together and help in any way they can, and the village soon becomes a hive of festive activity. Read my full review here.



The French for Christmas by Fiona Valpy. In this book we follow Evie at a difficult time; her marriage is failing, her husband is plastered all over the media as his TV career takes off and with Christmas and the first anniversary of the loss of their baby fast approaching, she takes refuge in a small hamlet in France, set among the Bordeaux vineyards. Her plan is to avoid Christmas at all costs, but through the extended hands of friendship and a shared love of good food, hearts begin to heal and anger and depression to disappear. Read my full review here.



A Very French Christmas is a collection of traditional French Christmas stories from authors including Guy de Maupassant, Alphonse Daudet ad Jean-Philippe Blondel, translated into English. Read my full review here.



Cookbooks that I think would make great Christmas gifts


Rick Stein has been back in France with a new BBC tv series and cookbook to accompany it, Rick Stein’s Secret France which I have enjoyed just as much as his French Odyssey series from (quite) a few years back.



Monet’s Palate Cookbook and Everyday Monet, a gardening and lifestyle book, both by Aileen Boardman. I have both of these books and they are beautiful and would make great gifts. Read my full review of Monet’s Palate here and Everyday Monet here.



In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels, as you are never too young to learn all about French food. Read my full review here.



Rachel Khoo who has some beautifully illustrated French cookbooks.



The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, a book that would be perfect if you are looking for fresh, tasty ideas as you make the move away from eating too much meat and try to cook with the seasons. Read my full review here.




Happy Christmas from French Village Diaries


French Village Diaries little Christmas bookshop

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Book review of Christmas at the Chateau by Lorraine Wilson

French Village Diaries book review Christmas at the Chateau Lorraine Wilson
Christmas at the Chateau by Lorraine Wilson


Christmas at the Château

A Christmas she’ll remember forever…
Poppy is looking forward to spending her first Christmas in France at her boyfriend, Leo’s, Château. And as the snow falls softly around the dramatic castle, Poppy can’t think of anything more magical.
There are new traditions to discover, a cosy Christmas market to explore and best of all, a promise of secret treasure hunt from gorgeous Leo. Only family pressure and uncertainty about her future in France can threaten to cast a shadow over the holiday.

When the treasure hunt takes an unexpected turn Poppy knows for sure this is one Christmas she’ll remember forever.

French Village Diaries book review Christmas at the Chateau Lorraine Wilson
Christmas at the Chateau blog blitz banner

My Review

Having enjoyed Lorraine Wilson’s novel Poppy's Place in the Sun, I couldn’t wait to read Christmas at the Chateau that takes us back to Poppy's life in France for a seasonal catch up. 

I loved this quick read that perfectly complements the first book and gives us a 'pocket' version of Poppy, complete with her insecurities, quirky arty ways and overbearing mother. Poppy and Leo’s romance is on fire, in fact things are not normally that steamy in the first chapter of my usual reads, but Leo’s Christmas treasure hunt was pure romance and full of Christmas magic. Poppy’s beloved dogs and their antics made me laugh and there is lots of Christmas sparkle between the pages too. 

This novella was a delicious Christmas treat (that is currently FREE on Amazon) and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

You can read my review of book one here and book three, Jojo’s French Escape can be pre-ordered on Amazon now. Scroll down to enter a French themed Giveaway.

Purchase Links 





French Village Diaries book review Christmas at the Chateau Lorraine Wilson
Lorraine Wilson

Biography

Lorraine Wilson writes flirty, feel-good fiction for One More Chapter - a Harper Collins imprint - and is unashamedly fond of happy endings. She loves hearing from readers and feels incredibly grateful to be doing the job she always dreamt of.

She splits her time between the South of France and Cambridgeshire and is usually either writing or reading while being sat on, walked over or barked at by one of her growing band of rescue dogs.

French Village Diaries book review Christmas at the Chateau Lorraine Wilson
Lorraine Wilson and her dogs

Social Media Links





French Village Diaries book review Christmas at the Chateau Lorraine Wilson
Christmas at the Chateau Giveaway

Giveaway


Win a Signed paperback copy of ‘Poppy’s Place in the Sun’ (1st book in the ‘A French Escape‘ series), hand embroidered makeup bag (made by the author) and some artisanal French chocolates (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.




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