Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book review of Are We French Yet by Keith Van Sickle

French Village Diaries book review Are We French Yet Keith Van Sickle France Book Tours
Are We French Yet by Keith Van Sickle

Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures In Provence

(travel memoir) Release date: December 15, 2018 at Dresher Publishing ASIN: B07L6N3JK7 157 pages Author’s page | Goodreads  


SYNOPSIS

Can Two Americans Really Become French? Val and Keith turned their lives upside down when they quit their jobs and moved to Provence. But they wondered: Can we fit in? And maybe become French ourselves? Follow their adventures as they slowly unlock the mysteries of France… – Is it true that French people are like coconuts? – Can you learn to argue like a French person? – What books have changed French lives? – Most important of all, how do you keep your soup from exploding? There’s more to becoming French than just learning the language. If you want the inside scoop on la belle France, you won’t want to miss this delightful book!

MY REVIEW

I enjoyed the first memoir from Keith, One Sip at a Time, and even mentioned in my review how it left me wanting more, so I was keen to step back into Keith and Val’s part-time Provençal life in Are We French Yet? 

Keith and Val are doers not just dreamers. They wanted to experience more than just regular holidays in France, so they changed their work life to give them the flexibility to spend three months each year in Provence. They wanted to ensure they learned French and had French friends, so they got out and found language partners, who over time became friends. This ‘we can do it’ attitude is to be commended. They now enjoy the richness that mixing regularly with French friends gives you, even when back at home in the US. They have learned about the culture, politics, food and more, often around a table, where leisurely meals with wine ensure their learning method is enjoyable too. But they are not afraid of hard work and even their method takes plenty of effort. They avidly read the French newspapers every day, put their all into their homework assignments and are not afraid to pick up a French novel in one hand and a dictionary in the other. There are many of us Anglophones living in France who could take a leaf out of their book.

In this second book Keith takes us with him on vineyard picnics, theatre soirees, medical appointments and more. Each little window on their French life is written with his obvious love of France, lots of humour and every now and then a little frustration at the French way too. I enjoyed this book, a bit more than the first, and I’m sure that memoir lovers of all things French will also love it and hopefully learn something too. From places to visit in Provence, food to try and top tips for learning French, this book has it all.


French Village Diaries book review Are We French Yet Keith Van Sickle France Book Tours
Keith Van Sickle

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Keith Van Sickle is the author of the Amazon best-seller One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence. A lifelong traveler who got his first taste of overseas life as a university student in England, Keith later backpacked around the world on his own. But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland that made him fall in love with Europe. With his wife Val and their trusty dog Mica, he now splits his time between California and Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating. Find the author on Facebook and Twitter Visit his website Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases.


Buy The Book On Amazon.Com or see below for links to Amazon UK

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GIVEAWAY

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 to all 5 winners

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You can read my review of One Sip at a Time here and my France et Moi interview with Keith here.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Lazy Sunday in France, 2019 cycling challenge

French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Katie the Tiny Tourer Brompton in France
Welcome to my first Lazy Sunday in France post for 2019. I still enjoy lazy days in France, but this year I have set myself a not-so-lazy challenge; to cycle 2019kms on Katie The Tiny Tourer, my new Brompton bicycle.
 
French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Out and about with Delilah 
Our Brompton journey started with a practical commuting bike for Adrian when in the UK, but quickly became so much more. As well as commuting, he took ‘Delilah’ for coffee (and posted pics), he took her out at weekends (and posted pics) and he even shared hotel rooms with her (and sadly shared these pics too). I can’t say I blame him, as having hired a Brompton in UK over Christmas 2017, it was fun, comfortable and a bit quirky, just like me. While I am not the jealous sort, the time had come for me to have my own slice of the Brompton action. 
 
French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Brompton bicycles in France
Why Brompton?
Here are the top five reasons I now prefer Brompton cycling to road bike cycling: 
1)   The Brompton is small and compact, a little like me, so it is a good fit for my small frame. 
2)   It is a comfortable ride, especially with the Brooks leather saddle, and despite the small wheels, the gearing and geometry is so good it isn’t more effort than the road bike with its big wheels and long stretch to the handlebars.
3)   The design. I may not be stylish, but I do like a well-designed object (which it is) and I also love the quirky, individuality you get with a Brompton. On a recent club ride in UK, with around 30 others, no two bikes were the same.
4)   Although an ideal commuting bike, the great luggage options mean the Brompton is good for cycle touring too. We have rear racks and front mounts, and bags of various sizes, giving us options for full tours as well as days out with a picnic.
5)   They certainly turn heads, especially when you are out with more than one, so we’ve already had plenty of admiring glances here in France.
 
French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Daisy in London
Do you choose your Brompton or does your Brompton choose you?
Initially, I thought I was heading to the UK for Christmas, and to meet ‘Daisy’, a white Brompton S6R that Adrian had bought second hand in October. She wasn’t a surprise, but the two day break he planned for us between Christmas and New Year, certainly was. Day one saw us touring the Regents Canal from West London to the Thames at Limehouse, before overnighting in Greenwich, then following the Thames path back west, covering 90kms in total. We had a blast; the weather was great and being out on the bikes together was bliss, but although Adrian gets on well with the flat, sporty S type handlebars, for me the more traditional M type (that I had on my hired Brompton in 2017) was more comfortable.

Which is where ‘Katie the Tiny Tourer’ came in. Sitting on a shelf in a west London bike shop, our paths mysteriously crossed on day one of our London adventure. Fate definitely had a hand as she was a perfect, stylish colour combination, had the M type handlebars I knew I needed, a Brooks leather saddle and to top it off, a promotional price tag. In a moment of madness, we paid for her, carried on to Greenwich as planned and then returned to collect her the following day.
 
French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Cycling the Marais Poitevin, Brompton bicycles in France
Adrian will continue to commute with Delilah in the UK but now also has Daisy to use when we are cycling together in France. This opens up the possibility for Brompton touring over here, especially as both Daisy and Katie have the additional luggage racks fitted, and Daisy came with a set of front and rear luggage. Everything seemed to be fitting into place perfectly, however, Daisy wasn’t very happy with Katie’s arrival. Having cycled over 3000kms in a year on Delilah and suffered no punctures, Adrian has now had to deal with 3 Daisy punctures in quick succession.

Then we then stumbled across this blog post here; a fun looks at what your choice of Brompton colour says about you, that I found to be spookily accurate. It would seem that Daisy and I were never meant to be together, as a white Brompton is for clean, neat people who are meticulous in their appearance and personality. I may strive for an orderly and uncluttered lifestyle, but it’s never going to happen. Katie is part Ivory, for honest and trustworthy people, who are good listeners, and part Tempest Blue for those of us with deep and brooding thoughts who spend a lot of time within our own minds. Well, what can I say except sometimes being inside my head is not the best place to be, but I do hope I am a good friend to those who need one.
 
French Village Diaries Brompton bicycles in France #KTTinyTourer 2019 cycling challenge
Katie the Tiny Tourer, Brompton in France
Back to my 2019 challenge
There is nothing quite like a good bike ride to clear your head and calm your mind, and with 2019 being the year of the Brexit, I know that this year I will need cycling to be my head-clearing focus. This led to the crazy idea of cycling 2019kms in 2019, which is quite a jump from the 700kms I cycled last year, gulp. While we would love to set off touring once more, a lot will depend on what happens in the murky world of politics, as planning anything with the uncertainty we are living with isn’t easy. To meet my target, being more bike focussed is certainly the way forward: if the weather is good – get out for a quick blast on the bike, if we need a few bits from the shops – take the bike.

One day back in France, however, and my great plan of fitness for 2019 was in jeopardy. Dodging the patchy fog, we took the bikes out to test my quick and easy 6kms village loop. Planned to ensure I’m never too far from home when cycling without Adrian, keeping to tarmac surfaces, rather than gravel paths, and easy to complete within 20 mins, I was hoping to do it at least five times a week. I just hadn’t planned on the mud. Every surface in and around the village is used by farmers in tractors as they drive from one field to another. The mud flicked up from the wheels onto the frame, blocked the gap between the tyre and the mud guards and splattered itself everywhere. Adrian doesn’t do muddy bikes, in fact he has far more lotions and sprays, plus applicators, cloths and buffing rags for bike cleaning than he does for personal care. He says if I’m out by myself I’ll need to learn to clean the mud from Katie’s delicate areas, to prevent damage and rust. Eek, I thought he’d have realised by now, after more than 20 years of marriage, a cleaning fairy I am not.


Luckily by stretching my legs just a little further, we now have an 18kms route, where I’m never more than 10kms from home, that can be done within an hour and is on much clearer roads. 18kms twice a week, for 52 weeks, sees me well on the way to my 2019kms cycling challenge. With a few kms under my belt before we even returned to France and a fair effort since getting home, I am delighted to report that I have already cycled 166kms, so only another 1853kms to go. 

This increased off-season cycling is already working its magic and I’m feeling much better than I usually would in January. This has resulted in the house having had a good clean, clear out and reorganise; so onwards and upwards Katie, together you and I can conquer anything.


Friday, January 25, 2019

France et Moi with author Keith Van Sickle


French Village Diaries #FranceEtMoi Keith Van Sickle
Keith Van Sickle and wife Val
Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I am talking to author Keith Van Sickle about what France means to him.

Ten years ago, Keith and his wife Val turned their lives upside down when they quit their American jobs to live part-time in Provence. Without speaking French. They had previously been expats in Switzerland and had tried but failed to find another expat assignment. So they decided to invent their own, becoming consultants to have the flexibility to travel more. Now they split their time between California and Provence, enjoying what each has to offer.

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it, strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Keith: Because my wife and I live in both Provence and California’s “Silicon Valley,” we really notice the difference between the two places. Silicon Valley is very go go go while Provence moves at the pace of the seasons rather than the speed of the Internet. This allows us to slow down and spend hours around the dinner table or over a glass of wine when we are in France. And that’s what is especially “French” to me—the emphasis on the pleasure of small things. 

2) What is your fondest memory of time spent in France?

Keith: We’ve made a circle of wonderful French friends in Provence and we spend a lot of time together. We don’t do anything extraordinary—a picnic, a bike ride, a visit to a winery—but we have a lot of fun. We often talk about the differences between our two countries, which is always fascinating. It’s really broadened my view of the world, helping me see things through French eyes. I guess you could say those are my fondest memories, spending time with our French friends.

3) You and your wife regularly spend three months a year immersing yourselves into life in France, what is the best thing about this, and the scariest thing?

Keith: Spending time with our French friends is by far the best thing about my French life.

As for the scariest thing…probably the scariest thing in any foreign country, France or otherwise, is if you need medical care. Can you communicate properly? Will you get good care? Will it be expensive? Unfortunately, I’ve had to see doctors in France not once but twice and happily both times everything turned out fine. 

In one case, the doctor was very formal and rather aggressive, bombarding me with questions that I struggled to answer in French. Eventually he softened up and started chatting with me about California. When we got to the subject of wine (he was French, after all) he found out that I love wine, too, and the next thing I knew we were invited to a private tasting at his friend’s famous winery! That was a memorable day, indeed.

4) Do you have any top tips for learning French?

Keith: Yes—language partners! The best way to improve in any language is to engage in conversation. But who wants to chat with someone like you who is just learning the language? The answer is: someone in the same position, a French person who is learning English. You meet and talk, with you stumbling along in French for a while and then switching so the other person can stumble along in English. You are both patient with the other because you are each going through the same thing. Language partners, both in France and via Skype, have really helped my learning and as a bonus I’ve become friends with many of them.

5) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?

Keith: More than I can count! Here’s a funny one: we once invited a couple and their two young daughters to dinner at our house. When I brought out the cheese course, one of the fromages was a goat cheese covered in edible ash. The father of the family asked me what it was and I knew how to say “goat cheese” but not “ash.” So I faked it by using the English word with a French accent, which often works. But not this time. “C’est chevre avec ash,” I replied, which drew shocked looks from the little girls and bemused smiles from their parents. Uh, oh. I learned that “ash” means “hashish.” Oops!

6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Keith: I love so many things about eating and drinking in France— the fruits and vegetables, the meats and cheeses, the breads and pastries, the glorious wine, and so much more! And then there’s the coffee, which is terrible. I like a good espresso, Italian style, and the French version is too weak and acidic. So I’ll order a café serré (serré means “tight” or “use less water” and it makes it a bit stronger). That’s for 10:00am.  If this were the afternoon I’d order a glass of wine or maybe a pastis, which is very popular in Provence.

7) Every region in France has its own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish? 

Keith: I love a good grand aïoli. You may know aioli—a kind of garlicky mayonnaise—and a grand aïoli is much more. Of course you start with aïoli, making sure to use plenty of garlic, then you surround it with mounds of different steamed vegetables, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and fish. It’s served on Friday as a Catholic tradition, when meat used to be forbidden and people ate fish instead. In Provence they still eat the fish but accompany it with what my friends call “the gifts of the land.”

8) France has many different cheeses, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?

Keith: I asked my wife what cheese she thought represented me and she said, “A well-aged one!” Um, thanks dear.

I’ll say Saint-Marcellin, my favorite cheese from the Dauphiné region just north of Provence. It’s rather plain on the outside but delicious and complex on the inside. And yes, it benefits from a bit of age. 

9) With plenty of space and lovely scenery France is a great place to explore. If you were to pack a picnic and take a day off where would you go?

Keith: My favorite picnic spot is the Cedar Forest above Bonnieux. To be above Bonnieux is quite a statement because it’s a high hilltop village that looks down on the Luberon Valley. But the Cedar Forest is higher still, and we picnic in a shady spot that looks out over the entire valley floor, a patchwork of small farms in different colors—bright green vineyards, darker green olive groves, brilliant yellow patches of rapeseed, and purple lavender fields. It’s marvellous.

10) Best French tipple, and yes, I know there are many to choose from? Also, do you prefer French or New World wine?

Keith: The French say that American wines “jump out of the glass,” with lots of fruit and oak, reflecting the exuberance of the country. I prefer my wines more restrained and balanced and so I’ll go with French wines. As for my favorite, a good Châteauneuf-du-Pape is usually out of my budget so it is a real treat when I have a bottle.

Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you. 
 
French Village Diaries #FranceEtMoi Keith Van Sickle
Are We French Yet by Keith Van Sickle
I will be reviewing Keith’s latest memoir Are We French Yet on the blog next Wednesday and you can read my review of his first book, One Sip At A Time, here.

You can read more from Keith on his website and find him on the following social media sites.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Book review of In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly

French Village Diaries book review In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly
In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly

My review today is for In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France by Susie Kelly.

The New Year is often a time for changes and challenges, so it is reassuringly comforting to balance this with slipping into something familiar, something that you just know from the outset will be a good fit and a great read. Susie Kelly’s latest, In Foreign Fields, was my cozy comfort blanket and perfect antidote to beat the winter blues.

Written from the heart this is an honest account of the difficult times and situations she and husband Terry first encountered when they arrived in France over twenty years ago. However, it is perfectly balanced with plenty of humourous stories and love of France too. Susie, it seems, has a knack for attracting the sort of people most of us would shy away from, but at least this means we can be entertained when she recounts her many adventures. The comings and goings of her British neighbours, their menagerie of animals, the mad French woman she befriended at the vets, the students who arrived to work on her house – but seemed only to work their way through her hospitality; I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Susie has made some brave, but bonkers decisions, but I’m so glad she has, and has had the balls to share them with her readers. Keep writing Susie, please. This book is a must read for anyone who thinks moving to rural France will mean enjoying a relaxing and quiet life.

In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France is available in ebook and paperback formats and links to Amazon can be found below.

You might also like my reviews of Susie’s other great books:
La Vie En Rose



Monday, January 21, 2019

The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff, excerpt

French Village Diaries excerpt The Lost Girls of Paris Pam Jenoff TLC Tours
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

As part of the TLC tour for The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff, a book that takes the reader into the secret world of SOE sabotage missions in Occupied France, and that I will be reviewing on 6thFebruary, I am delighted to be able to whet your appetite with this excerpt: 

“Sir,” the army officer at the far end of the table interjected. “I, too, find Miss Trigg a most unlikely choice. With her background…” Heads nodded around the table, their skeptical looks accompanied by a few murmurs. Eleanor could feel them studying her, wondering about her loyalties. Not one of us, the men’s expressions seemed to say, and not to be trusted. For all that she did for SOE, they still regarded her as an enemy. Alien, foreign. It was not for lack of trying. She had worked to fit in, to mute all traces of her accent. And she had applied for British citizenship. Her naturalization application had been denied once, on grounds that even the Director, for all of his power and clearances, had not been able to ascertain. She had resubmitted it a second time a few months earlier with a note of recommendation from him, hoping this might make the difference. Thus far, she had not received a response.
Eleanor cleared her throat, prepared to withdraw from consideration. But the Director spoke first. “Eleanor, set up your office,” he ordered. “Begin recruiting and training the girls with all due haste.” He raised his hand, foreclosing further discussion.
“Yes, sir.” She kept her head up, unwilling to look away from the eyes now trained upon her.
After the meeting, Eleanor waited until the others had left before approaching the Director. “Sir, I hardly think…”
“Nonsense, Trigg. We all know you are the man for the job, if you’ll pardon the expression. Even the military chaps, though they may not want to admit it or quite understand why.”
“But sir, even if that is true, I’m an outsider. I don’t have the clout.”
“You’re an outsider, and that is just one of the things that makes you perfect for the position.” He lowered his voice. “I’m tired of it all getting mired by politics. You won’t let personal loyalties or other concerns affect your judgment.” She nodded, knowing that was true. She had no husband or children, no outside distractions. The mission was the only thing that mattered—and always had been.
“Are you sure I can’t go?” she asked, already knowing the answer. Though flattered that he wanted her to run the women’s operation, it would still be a distant second-best to actually deploying as one of the agents in the field.
“Without the paperwork, you couldn’t possibly.” He was right, of course. In London, she might be able to hide her background. But to get papers to send her over, especially now, while her citizenship application was pending, was another matter entirely. “Anyway, this is much more important. You’re the head of a department now. We need you to recruit the girls. Train them. It has to be someone they trust.”
“Me?” Eleanor knew the other women who worked at SOE saw her as cold and distant, not the type they would invite to lunch or tea, much less confide in.
“Eleanor,” the Director continued, his voice low and stern, eyes piercing. “Few of us are finding ourselves where we expected at the start of the war.”
That, she reflected, was more true than he possibly could have known. She thought about what he was asking. A chance to take the helm, to try and fix all of the mistakes that she’d been forced to watch from the sidelines these many months, powerless to do anything. Though one step short of actual deployment, this would be an opportunity to do so much more.
“We need you to figure out where the girls belong and get them there,” the Director continued on, as though it had all been settled and she’d said yes. Inwardly, Eleanor felt conflicted. The prospect of taking this on was appealing. At the same time, she saw the enormity of the task splayed before her on the table like a deck of cards. The men already faced so much, and while in her heart she knew that the women were the answer, getting them ready would be Herculean. It was too much, the kind of involvement—and exposure—that she could hardly afford.
Then she looked up at the photos on the wall of fallen SOE agents, young men who had given everything for the war. She imagined the German security intelligence, the Sicherheitsdienst, at their French headquarters on the Avenue Foch in Paris. The SD was headed by the infamous Sturmbannführer Hans Krueger, a former concentration camp commandant who Eleanor knew from the files to be as cunning as he was cruel. There were reports of his using the children of locals to coerce confessions, of hanging prisoners alive from meat hooks to withdraw information before leaving them there to die. He was undoubtedly planning the downfall of more agents even as they spoke.
Eleanor knew then that she had no choice but to take on the task. “Fine. I’ll need complete control,” she added. It was always important to go first when setting the terms.
“You shall have it.”
“And I report only to you.” Special sectors would, in other circumstances, report through one of the Director’s deputies. Eleanor peered out of the corner of her eye at Michaels, who lingered in the hallway. He and the other men would not be happy about her having the Director’s ear, even more so than she already had. “To you,” she repeated for emphasis, letting her words sink in.
“No bureaucratic meddling,” the Director promised. “You report only to me.” She could hear then the desperation in his voice, how very much he needed her to make this work.

French Village Diaries excerpt The Lost Girls of Paris Pam Jenoff TLC Tours
Pam Jenoff

Don’t forget to join me back here on 6thFebruary to read my review and for more information on the TLC tour see here.

The Lost Girls of Paris will be available in ebook and paperback format and links to Amazon can be found below.

  





Saturday, January 19, 2019

Nuit de la lecture (Reading Night) 2019


French Village Diaries la nuit de la lecture 2019
Nuit de la Lecture 2019

This evening libraries and book shops all over France will be holding events for the 3rd annual book fest that is Nuit de la Lecture or Reading Night.

The idea is to bring together those who work with books and those who read them; not just librarians and bookshops, but also authors, publishers and academic associations. From this afternoon and all through the night, doors will be opened for readers to discover new books, ask questions, exchange ideas and have fun joining in activities.
 
French Village Diaries la nuit de la lecture 2019
Et Patati et Patata et Pause Café - Chit Chat Café
Sadly, there is nothing going on close enough to home to encourage me to leave the comfort of my favourite reading chair, but I don’t feel I’m missing out as this week I returned to the library where I worked last year, for their monthly book event and that fitted the Nuit de la Lecture theme perfectly. At “Et Patati et Patata et Pause Café”, or Chit Chat Café, a small group of us enjoy an afternoon of book talk, with the added bonus of tea, coffee and biscuits. Everyone is free to talk about any book they have enjoyed and once someone starts on a topic, conversation flows. Although we are mixed Franco/Anglais group, and books and poetry in English have been discussed alongside French ones, the language is all French. This means that it’s not only a fun social event that gives me ideas about what to read, it is also great for my brain to follow the discussions in French, that sometimes have quite complex themes.

If you are looking for some ideas of French themed books to read, here is a list of the most popular books I shared on the blog and on Facebook last year. Amazon kindly let me know how many books have been bought via my associate links – don’t panic, this doesn’t cost you any extra, but they do give me 4p for every £1 spent. I naturally use this money to buy myself more books set in France, that I can then share with you.

In no particular order, here are the French Village Diaries Top Ten most popular books from 2018.

Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy. I consumed every page of this book, always hungry for more and when I finished it, I could have started again. It is so beautifully written you will cry. You can read my full review here.

A Year of Taking Chances by Jennifer Bohnet. A lovely read following a year with two best friends, both determined to change their lives for the better. Sometimes all we need is a little help in getting started and the faith to put our trust in others. You can read my full review here.

In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly. You know you are going to get a good read from a Susie Kelly book and this one, released in December 2018, is no exception. It is honest, funny and a must read for anyone who thinks moving to rural France will mean enjoying a quiet life. My full review will be on the blog next week.

Death in Provence by Serena Kent. A great fun read that contained all the best bits of life in France, plenty of humour and a mystery to be solved too, all set against the landscape of Provence. You can read my full review here.

The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman. Easy to get into, difficult to put down, with a good mix of characters all adding something to the plot. A perfect summer read, I could have stayed with them long after the sunflowers had faded. You can read my full review here.

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands. A book that beautifully describes Provence; the colours and scents of the markets, the history, the wild Camargue and the food. I felt I was there too. You can read my full review here.

Poppy’s Place in the Sun by Lorraine Wilson. I loved this book. There are mysteries to be solved, from unexpected finds in the local chateau to strange behaviour from some of the villagers, but Poppy's dogs prove to be great listeners when she’s not sure who else to turn to. You can read my full review here.

The Beekeepers Promise by Fiona Valpy. Having enjoyed Sea of Memories by Fiona, I was delighted she released a second novel in 2018. Sadly, I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I will!

A Beer in the Loire by Tommy Barnes. This book caught my eye when it was released in September 2018, but it too is still sitting on my kindle patiently waiting its turn to be read.

The Hairy Bikers Mediterranean Adventure. Having enjoyed the TV series that saw Si and Dave biking and cooking around the Mediterranean, I snapped up the kindle version of the cookbook when it was on a price promo. I do still prefer a cookbook in traditional paper format, as flicking through is much easier, but opened on my ipad, I get lovely colourful images as well as some tasty Mediterranean recipes, many of them vegetable focussed, just like our new diet regime. I especially enjoyed their little introductions to each area they visited and recipe they cook.

I hope this has inspired you open a book tonight. Happy reading.