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FrenchVillageDiaries "Enjoying the quiet life in rural France" (France)

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On Foot Across France - Dunkerque To The Pyrenees
On Foot Across France - Dunkerque To The Pyrenees
Price: £2.52

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the thinking armchair traveller who wants to see France and talk to her people, 5 Feb. 2014
This book had me hooked from the beginning; anyone who starts a book talking about weighing his underwear must have a great story to tell, and he does. Tim’s story is about his walk from Dunkerque in the north of France to the Pyrenees, following La Méridienne Verte, the line that neatly bisects France straight down the middle. In 62 walking days he covered approximately 1315km on foot, but unfortunately it was not as straightforward as locating the track in Dunkerque and following clearly marked signs all the way down. It was a true navigational adventure.

Throughout the book there is as much rambling of his thoughts as there is of his feet, however with an intelligent eye and interesting take on France, the UK and the changes in Europe this was OK with me. I have read more light-hearted books about long distance walking in France, but I know myself how my mind wanders on our daily dog walks, so I felt a real honesty came out of his thoughts as he was on the road. He is certainly not afraid to voice his opinions honestly, although I’m sure not everyone will agree with them. Some of his thoughts paint quite a depressing picture of his view of what the future holds for us, but if I’m honest I have to say he made a lot of sense to me. Sometimes it was a shock when he suddenly switched back to talking about his route or those he had met that day, as I was so away with his thoughts I’d forgotten we were walking through France. I loved that he took the time to talk to those he meets; the old farmer sat on his favourite plank, those he stays or dines with and recounts the tales they share with him. I also can’t ignore the fact there is as much description of the many ladies he meets and visually appraises as there is of the villages and countryside. Not every day was as idyllic as this description, but this was one of my favourites from the book:

“It was to be a day of hamlets and hay meadows, oak wood and deep descents to rivers, few houses and scarcely any people.”

This book would be perfect for the thinking armchair traveller who wants to see France and talk to her people.

Many thanks to the publisher Blackbird Digital Books who sent me a copy to read and review.

Paris Letters
Paris Letters
Price: £7.63

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly inspiring book that shows how little steps can lead to big life changes, 4 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Paris Letters (Kindle Edition)
In this book Janice takes us with her on a journey, but it is not just her physical journey from Canada/US to Europe, but also her journey of discovering what is important in life. Do possessions and money really make you happy or is it love, friendship and freedom? Janice is a firm believer in it being the latter and I have to agree with her. She isn’t happy with her life, but rather than stick with routine she sets about organising herself to save the funds to travel and paint in Europe. She had a dream and worked hard on a plan to achieve it and by following her ideas you too can take easy steps to changes for the better. It was a truly inspiring read and the first time a ‘life in France memoir’ has had me rummaging through my undies drawer, clearing out my cupboards and dabbing my eyes at the romance she found whilst sitting in a Parisian café. Janice now lives in Paris and has established herself as an artist, sending out beautifully painted Paris Letters to subscribers all over the world every month.

This book not only entertained me by indulging my inquisitiveness into reading about other people’s lives in France, I also fell in love with Janice’s beautiful art and she inspired me into clearing out five bags of old clothes from my bedroom. As a minimalist trapped in the body of a hoarder, clearing out isn’t easy for me, but does give me great satisfaction when I am able to achieve it. Thank you, thank you and thank you, Janice.

Rick Stein's French Odyssey
Rick Stein's French Odyssey
by Rick Stein
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than just a recipe book., 3 Feb. 2014
Having really enjoyed Rick's French Odyssey TV series and being a total Francophile who loves my food I was delighted to receive this book as a gift and it didn't disappoint.

When I first opened it and read the narrative from the canal barge trip he took from Bordeaux to The Mediterranean and saw the beautiful photos of places and food in France I discovered it was so much more than just a recipe book, although with over 100 recipes it is certainly not lacking in ideas for menu planning. I have especially enjoyed reading the snippets from his travels in France that accompany each of the recipes.

This book has pride of place in my kitchen, gets used regularly and often makes me want to hop on a barge and visit some of the places he did. Many of the recipes have become regular family favourites, especially the Cherry Pithiviers, the Crunchy Walnut Tart and the Pissaladiere.

The Viva Mayr Diet
The Viva Mayr Diet
by Dr Harald Stossier
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideas that make sense, 24 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Viva Mayr Diet (Paperback)
I wasn't really shopping for any diet book when I found this, but after a quick look I was interested enough buy it. To say I devoured every word of it as I read it from cover to cover on a long car journey is no exaggeration. Like all good diets Viva Mayr isn't a diet but a change of lifestyle. The main thing that struck me was how much of it made sense and that with a little effort on my part I should be able to loose the few kilos that had begun to bug me.

My weight has been a big issue most of my life, but I have never been a yo-yo dieter as food is more important to me than a fad diet. I was tubby kid who became a short fat teen and stayed that way until my mid thirties. Following no strict rules except eat less, move more and eat from the garden as much as possible I lost 15kg and was a much healthier weight, but with the fluctuate effect many women suffer from when I read this book there were a few kilos to re-lose.

The Viva Mayr way aims to improve the way our bodies digest our food ensuring we function efficiently and stay healthy (and slim). There is a lot more emphasis on how and when you eat than what you eat, to promote good digestion and therefore good overall health. Without wishing to give too much away here are my good and bad points from my two weeks.

Once I remembered to chew my food properly (usually after the first 3 or 4 mouthfuls) I was amazed at how much fuller I felt than I usually do. This meant cutting my portion sizes wasn't just easy but essential. I also felt no need to snack between meals at all, honestly!

The bloating feeling in my stomach disappeared almost overnight.

The recipes that I've tried from this book have become regular favourites.

My family were irritated with the time I spent chewing each mouthful of food.

I struggled to remember to drink enough during the day between meals.

Coffee is something to be avoided with Viva Mayr, however, I only have one or two small coffees a day but I was not prepared to give them up.

Overall, at the end of the two weeks I was really happy with my progress, I feel healthier on the inside and slimmer, plus I lost 2 kilos.

There is so much more to Viva Mayr than what I have put here so if you think it sounds interesting I really do recommend getting a copy of the book and having a proper read.

The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight
The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight
Price: £2.75

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some great ideas and tips to change the way you eat for the better, 24 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was intrigued by this book but to be honest, I didn't think there was anything I could learn from it. The cake I eat every day is homemade and low in fat, the soups I make with the ingredients from our garden are healthy and hearty and having lost over 15 kilos and kept them off for over five years, I was expecting to nod along in agreement, enjoy the snippets she shares of her life in France and benefit from some of her recipes.

It just goes to show that you are never too old to learn something new. Whilst it was reassuring to read that the expert dietician Dr Mabel Blades BSC RD, who helped Karen with this book, agrees with most of my ideas there are definite improvements I can make to my diet.

I was always a soup for lunch girl, having my main meal in the evening as I struggle to be organized to serve a full meal at lunchtime, but having read this book I have had to rethink my day. Karen and Dr Mabel say serving my soup in the evening will really benefit my digestive system. This is in agreement with another diet book I read last year, so with two experts telling me similar things I've been given the kick I needed to make positive changes.

This book is clear, easy to read and with lots of ideas for changes you can make without too much hassle. It is not always what you eat, although that does have to be taken into account, but also when you eat and how you cook, especially what fat you use. It goes without saying homemade will always be better than processed foods. Karen also includes some great soup suggestions and delicious cake recipes as well as her tips as to how she fitted the changes into her life.

If you are looking to shed some kilos, but don't want to feel you are on a diet; this is the book for you.

The Foundling Boy
The Foundling Boy
by Michel Déon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The adventure begins with a baby in a basket on a doorstep, 22 Jan. 2014
This review is from: The Foundling Boy (Paperback)
The Foundling Boy by Michél Déon (brilliantly translated by Julian Evans) has been brought to the English language by Gallic Books, who sent me a copy to read and review.

It is set in France, in the years between the wars and has a really engaging storyline. In the summer of 1919 a newborn baby is left in a basket outside the home of a childless couple in Normandy. They take him in, call him Jean and raise him as their own in their simple but honest ways. The Foundling Boy is the story of Jean's life, that is both ordinary and fascinating, up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

There is a great cast of very different characters whose lives are intricately linked, lots of secrets and a story that twists, moves and turns in circles as lives are lived in Normandy, the South of France and London. I had my suspicions about Jean's mother from the start, but the more the story moved the less important her identity seemed. A few times we seem to get close to knowing, then off we go again in another direction satisfying Jean's thirst for adventure, so that finding out the truth doesn't seem to be as important as it was at the beginning.

This book is different to what I usually read, but I really enjoyed it, especially the passages where the author breaks off the narration to talk directly to the reader. This was different, amusing and perfect for filling in information and adding a bit extra to the extra-ordinary story of Jean's life. It is a bigger than average paperback book but I got to the end and desperately wanted to continue reading the next part of Jean's life.

Reflections of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 3)
Reflections of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 3)
Price: £4.68

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully written book to close the trilogy, 22 Jan. 2014
Reflections of Sunflowers is the final book in the Sunflowers Trilogy set in the Lot-et-Garonne, France and despite many years having elapsed since the start of their adventure Ruth still writes beautifully about their love of France and their French friends. Life has changed a lot since they arrived at Bel-Air in the 1970's and there are more changes on the way. There are now grandchildren around to enjoy holidays in France and all that village life there has to offer, but this book also has a certain amount of sadness to it.

I felt very privileged to have shared in Ruth's life from the pages of these books and appreciate how difficult it must have been to write about some of the things she shares. I will always have a great affection for the Sunflowers Trilogy and I'm so pleased to see they are now all available on Kindle as having passed on my paperbacks I can now easily re-read them. If you haven't yet read these books and enjoy life in France memoirs do give them a try as I'm certain you won't be disappointed; I think they are among the best.

See also A House in the Sunflowers: An English Family's Search for Their Dream House in France (The Sunflowers Trilogy) and A Harvest of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy)

A Harvest of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 2)
A Harvest of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 2)
Price: £4.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Another great read from Ruth that didn't disappoint, 22 Jan. 2014
Having enjoyed every minute spent reading A House in the Sunflowers: An English Family's Search for Their Dream House in France (The Sunflowers Trilogy) I couldn't wait to read more in book two. A Harvest of Sunflowers carries on the story of Ruth and her family, twenty years after buying their dream holiday house in rural France.

All the characters from book one are back, older and wiser, and the family are now entwined in their local community. Ruth writes about weddings, new arrivals and talks of great friendships as well as changes they have seen in the farming community, especially the way the harvests are now dealt with by the new generation. Food, family and community are still an important part of this book as they are in rural French life. Ruth's writing style makes a very readable book and it was lovely to follow their story and feel included in their French adventure as well as learning so much about rural French life. This book will take you to the heart of rural France.

See also A House in the Sunflowers: An English Family's Search for Their Dream House in France (The Sunflowers Trilogy)and Reflections of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy)

A House in the Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 1)
A House in the Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy Series Book 1)
Price: £2.29

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you will want to read again, 22 Jan. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I read the paperback version of this book many years ago and was so pleased to see it brought to kindle that I had to buy it and read it again. Second time around it didn't disappoint and I have read many similar books (some good, some not so) since my first read of A House in the Sunflowers.

This is the first book in The Sunflower Trilogy and tells the story of Ruth and her family finding Bel-Air de Grèzelongue in the Lot-et-Garonne and despite it being unloved and uninhabited for ten years, to them it was the perfect house in France. Their story is very different to many similar memoirs, mainly because they bought their holiday home in the 1970's. A time when there was no local expat network offering help and advice, just them and their French neighbours and the special friendship that grew over the years.

Ruth writes with fondness about the way their neighbours at the working farm down the lane did their best to welcome the strange newcomers and became good friends, including them in family celebrations, local events and inviting them to help with the harvests, all of which helped integrate them into the community. There was lots of work to do on the house, so their time spent on holidays in France was busy and sometimes stressful, but they were always happy to be back in their new French community.

Ruth generously shares their many new experiences and insights into the French culture in an engaging way. I read this book shortly after our move to France and I can't tell you how comforting it was to read it during our `settling in years'. I have read many move to France memoirs, before and after moving, but these three books by Ruth will always be very special to me. See also A Harvest of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy) and Reflections of Sunflowers (The Sunflowers Trilogy).

My Grape Escape
My Grape Escape
Price: £2.82

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is stepping back from your plans sometimes the best plan?, 20 Jan. 2014
This review is from: My Grape Escape (Kindle Edition)
This is a book with a beautiful cover that really invites you in to experience a slice of Burgundian life.

French Franck and Canadian Laura were newlywed's on a short break with Franck's family in the village he grew up in when life threw them an opportunity that they embraced with gusto. This book tells the first part of the story of their life and renovations in Burgundy, France.

Laura is a planner and had meticulously planned her life out, worked hard for a law degree at Oxford and was preparing to continue studying for her MA. Franck is her support, having followed her from France to Oxford and Canada, he was happy if she was happy. However, the plans she had set for herself were making her very stressed and she had forgotten what happiness felt like. They needed an escape plan, somewhere to put down roots, a project they could invest in and hopefully make money from in the future. When they find a dream property close to Franck's family giving them the perfect investment project and a potential rental business, what could possibly go wrong?

Laura writes a very readable, honest account of their renovation project with great character descriptions of their friends and family members, little snippets of Burgundian life including impromptu aperos, celebrations and delicious descriptions of the local food. I also loved the chemistry between Laura and Franck, she could be anxious, panicky and full of worry, but he was calm, strong and always had great faith in the Virgin Mary who watches over his family and now their new house. Despite being local to the area they still had major issues with unscrupulous people they met along the way and administrative cock-ups that were seriously off the scale. Laura's writing was open and really made me feel included in what was going on, so much so I felt myself crossing my fingers whilst reading in the hope it would help them meet the deadlines they set themselves.

Thank you Laura for sending me a copy of your book to read and review.

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