Pages

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Book review The Last Day in Paris by Suzanne Kelman

French Village Diaries book review The Last Day in Paris Suzanne Kelman
The Last Day in Paris by Suzanne Kelman


The Last Day in Paris by Suzanne Kelman

 

“No, Mama, please don’t make me leave!” Sophie cries, clutching her teddy bear as her blue eyes fill with tears. “I’d rather be here in Paris with you, than far away somewhere safe…”

Paris, 1940: All over Paris, families are being pulled from their beds in the middle of the night. And ever since her husband was shot in cold blood, Brigitte Goldstein has known she is running out of time. She and her daughter Sophie are Jewish, so it won’t be long until the Nazis bang on their door.

But before she leaves, Brigitte must find her beloved husband’s painting, which was seized by the Nazis. She desperately hopes that if she saves it from destruction, then a piece of him will live on forever. And perhaps one day her daughter will uncover her father’s legacy, and the secret hidden inside…

Working in a museum under a false identity is Brigitte’s only hope. Until she meets Isabelle Valette, who confides in hushed tones that she is part of the Resistance. And when her new friend tells her of a train leaving Paris that can take children to safety, Brigitte knows her daughter must be on it, even if it breaks her heart.

But getting Sophie onto the train is dangerous. If they are caught smuggling a Jewish child out of Paris, they will be killed. And with the enemy closing in, can Brigitte get her beloved daughter to safety before it is too late?

The first utterly gripping novel in the Paris Sisters series, this is the story of two brave women and a secret that will tie them together forever, as the Second World War rages around them. Perfect for fans of Roberta Kagan, Kristin Hannah, and Fiona Valpy. 


French Village Diaries book review The Last Day in Paris Suzanne Kelman
The Last Day in Paris by Suzanne Kelman


My Review

This is an engaging dual timeline book following three women coping with life during the Occupation in Paris, as well as Esther, a struggling single mother in 2010. 

 

It was Esther and her story that I was immediately drawn to. Her mother, Sophie, was so traumatised by her early years in Paris, she never shared her family’s story with her daughter. Now suffering from dementia, Esther feared it was too late to get her mother’s help in piecing together the mystery that is suddenly thrown to her from Paris. With every trip to Paris filling her with positivity, her ex-husband’s negative behaviour threatened to engulf her once more, but the more she learned about her grandmother Brigitte’s strength and courage during the Occupation the stronger she became. It was a real pleasure seeing her evolve and flourish.



French Village Diaries book review The Last Day in Paris Suzanne Kelman
The Last Day in Paris by Suzanne Kelman

 

The Louvre, under Nazi rule, ceased to be the haven Isabelle Valette had come to love. Forced to catalogue artworks acquired by the Germans, she was determined to do all she could to save the art they were looting and destroying. Working alongside Isabelle were Brigitte and Marina. Brigitte, Esther’s grandmother, was driven to do whatever was necessary to save her husband’s greatest work of art and persevere his memory for her young daughter Sophie. A Jewish woman working among the Nazi’s, she risked her life for her mission and her story was an incredibly emotional one. Marina was used to hard knocks and had developed her own way of surviving life. She was far more mysterious than the other two, but her calculated risks posed a real danger to Isabelle and Brigitte. It was a tense and secretive atmosphere, as all three women had their own agendas and hidden pasts. All of them aware that trust in times of war was something that must be guarded and could cost you dearly. 

 

As we followed Isabelle, we got little introductions to her family life and her other sisters. We gained insights to their lives during the war and I’m looking forward to reading about the challenges faced by one of the other girls in the next book in the Paris Sisters series. I am also hoping that Esther’s story too might continue as this series plays out.

 

This is one for all of you who enjoy emotional, gritty novels set during the Occupation.


Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

 

Amazon UK purchase link 


 

French Village Diaries book review The Last Day in Paris Suzanne Kelman
Suzanne Kelman

 

About the author

Suzanne Kelman is a 2015 Academy of Motion Pictures Nicholl Finalist, Multi-Award-Winning Screenwriter and a Film Producer. As well as working in film she is also an International Amazon Bestselling Fiction Author of the Southlea Bay Series – The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, Rejected Writers Take the Stage and The Rejected Writers’ Christmas Wedding. Born in the United Kingdom, she now resides in Washington State.

 

Social media

Website 

Facebook 

Instagram 

X Twitter 

 

Sign up here to be the first to hear about new releases from Suzanne Kelman 

 

You can sign up here for all the best Bookouture deals you'll love 

 

There is also a short story from Suzanne Kelman, The Paris Orphans, that is currently available for FREE on Kindle. This prequel to The Paris Sisters series of novels, introduces us to the characters and sets the scene nicely. I started my adventure with this book, which is an incredibly moving and emotional read that stayed with me throughout The Last Day in Paris.


French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. This book nicely ticks off “A book set in Paris”.


 

French Village Diaries French-themed reading bingo challenge 2024
French themed reading bingo challenge


Thursday, February 22, 2024

Book review A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet

French Village Diaries book review A French Adventure Jennifer Bohnet
A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet


A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet 

When your old life ceases to exist, it’s time to build a new one…

 

It’s early summer on the French Riviera when Vivienne Wilson arrives for a one-woman writers’ retreat after learning that her philandering husband of 30 years, wants a divorce. There to collect the shell-shocked Vivienne is recently widowed Maxine Zonszain, who is struggling to come to terms with her empty life. To add insult to injury she receives another knockout punch with a letter from her very estranged first husband…. Florist extraordinaire, Olivia Murray, shares the Villa that Vivienne is renting. She’s content with life - but sad to add another failed relationship to her growing list and longs to meet 'The One'. Life under the summer sun in Antibes becomes a challenging time for all three women as secrets are shared, problems halved as they forge unexpected friendships and embark on new adventures. Sometimes life’s surprises turn out to be unwanted but just sometimes the ‘new normal’makes for a happier life than the one lost.



French Village Diaries book review A French Adventure Jennifer Bohnet
A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet


 

My review 

When it’s winter, and life seems a little dreary, having a brand-new Jennifer Bohnet novel in my hands was such a pick-me-up, I started this book with a huge grin on my face. 

 

It’s early summer in Antibes and I warmed to Vivienne, Maxime and Olivia instantly, and was soon drawn into their different backstories as challenges and traumas threw major life changes at them.

 

Vivienne, hit with shocking news just before she arrived in Antibes, is left reeling. I was so cross on her behalf, I began plotting my own revenge for her loathsome ex as soon as I put the book down each night. I admit this probably isn’t healthy, but it just shows you how Jennifer’s characters get under your skin. Happiness for Vivienne was all I wanted for her new chapter in life.



French Village Diaries book review A French Adventure Jennifer Bohnet
A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet


 

Maxime, still grieving for Pierre, is given the opportunity to tackle the darkest moment from her past. This might have been something she’d dreamed of for thirty years, but as it became within her grasp, it held the risk of breaking her fragile heart once more. I felt for her so much, it was a real emotional shocker as the truth revealed itself. 

 

Olivia, about to have the offer of an exciting new business project, wonders if it will be enough for her. Much as she hates her overbearing mother’s interference, and would never admit she is right, a special someone to share her life shouldn’t be too much to ask. As her story gently played out, there were so many times I was willing her to have the strength to do what her heart knew was right.

 

I loved every minute spent in this book and as their journey’s unfolded it almost felt like I was there with them. They had each other to look out for one another, but I’d have hopped into the book in a heartbeat, poured them a chilled rosé and given them all a hug. 

 

This is another uplifting book about strong women taking control of their futures, and for Vivienne, falling under the spell of a bit of south of France magic. As usual, Jennifer’s knowledge of the south of France, French culture and living here as an expat, not only brought the story and location to life, but ensured the plot was plausible as well as great entertainment.

 

It was Valentine’s Day last week, so it’s still not too late to treat yourself to A French Adventure and a mini book break in Antibes.

 

Purchase links

French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.

 

Amazon UK link 

 


French Village Diaries book review A French Adventure Jennifer Bohnet
Jennifer Bohnet



About the author

Jennifer Bohnet is the bestselling author of over 12 women’s fiction titles, including Villa of Sun and Secrets and A Riviera Retreat. She is originally from the West Country but now lives in the wilds of rural Brittany, France.

 

Social media

Facebook 

Twitter 

Instagram

Newsletter Sign Up

Bookbub profile 



French Village Diaries book review A French Adventure Jennifer Bohnet
A French Adventure by Jennifer Bohnet


 

French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. Set in Antibes, this book nicely ticks off “A book set on the Côte d’Azur”. 


French Village Diaries French themed reading bingo challenge 2024
French themed reading bingo challenge


Monday, February 19, 2024

Book review Saving Sophia by Caro Feely


French Village Diaries book review Saving Sophia Caro Feely
Saving Sophia by Caro Feely




Saving Sophia by Caro Feely


Wow, what a read! This is a beautifully written memoir about an incredibly difficult time for Caro and husband Sean, that will stay with me for a while. This international, career-focussed couple decided in their thirties that parenthood was something they wanted, despite it not having been the focus of their five-year plan. Their life was in Dublin, their families in South Africa and Canada, but with a network of good friends with young children, Caro had support during her pregnancy. 

 

Following her journey from no bump to maternity leave, and then their arrival at the hospital, brought back so many vivid memories of my pregnancy, Ed’s birth and those early days of breastfeeding and motherhood. We had our dramas and tears, but nothing to compare to the devastating news Caro and Sean received that saw their baby daughter being whisked off to the special care baby unit with her future uncertain. 

 

Caro bravely shares this emotional and heart stopping time openly and honestly. The wait between diagnosis and operation, the long road towards recovery, even when reading it, time seemed to slow down, but I couldn’t put this book down. With so much to take in it must have terrifying – was there anything that could be done, would it be successful, what would her outcome be? So many questions, so much at stake and so much trust that had to be given to the incredible medical team they found themselves surrounded by. Everything compounded by pregnancy hormones. I was heartbroken for them, at the trauma and pain they had to go through at what should have been such a happy time for the family.



French Village Diaries book review Saving Sophia Caro Feely
Saving Sophia by Caro Feely


 

Having ‘met’ the Feely family through reading Caro’s previous memoirs about their life on an organic vineyard in France, it is no surprise that a lot of this book is dedicated to their learning curve in this area. Caro questions her old lifestyle decisions, diet, and anything else she can think of to understand what could have caused baby Sophia’s problems. She shares her reasons for ditching the ready meals and going organic, backed up by her now vast knowledge in this field. She also shares her struggles with breastfeeding, giving a real account of how testing and painful something so natural can be.

It was certainly more complicated for her when Sophia was in intensive care, but the benefits to both mother and baby soon become obvious, even in these difficult and unusual circumstances.

 

Any parent will feel the tug of emotions as they read this book. I also came away with a stronger appreciation for the miracle that is life and a greater understanding of how precious it is and how every day must be treasured and lived to the full. 


Thank you, Caro for sharing yours and Sophia’s incredible story.

 

You can read my reviews of Caro’s previous memoirs here:

Grape Expectations

Saving Our Skins

Vineyard Confessions (previously known as Glass Half Full)

Cultivating Change 

My France et Moi interview


Amazon purchase links for Caro’s memoirs can be found here:

Grape Expectations

Saving Our Skins

Vineyard Confessions 

Cultivating Change

Saving Sophia 


French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no extra cost to you.


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Book review The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas

French Village Diaries book review The Summer of Lies Louise Douglas
The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas


The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas

The summer is the hottest yet in the Brittany coastal town of Morranez, but when a new case lands on the desk of the Toussaints detective agency, there can be no time to relax. As wild fires bear down on the town, the alert goes out for a missing girl.

 

Nineteen-year-old Briony Moorcroft has seemingly been taken from her sleepy Welsh village and brought to France. Her parents are baffled and scared – Briony needs her life-saving medicine or this case will become even more sinister, and with the police dragging their heels, the Moorcrofts are relying on Mila Shephard and Carter Jackson’s sleuthing skills.

 

Meanwhile there are mysteries troubling Mila’s life too. Two years after the accident that swept her sister Sophie and brother-in-law Charlie away and left their daughter Ani in Mila’s care, new evidence resurfaces that makes Mila doubt everything.

 

Can Carter and Mila find Briony before it’s too late? And is the truth about Sophie and Charlie finally about to be revealed…



French Village Diaries book review The Summer of Lies Louise Douglas
The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas

 

My review 

Having devoured The Lost Notebook by Louise Douglas, I was delighted to find myself reading the resume for a sequel and couldn’t wait to get back to Brittany with Mila, Carter and Ani. 

 

This book has a tricky multi-storyline plot which gave lots of fuel to feed my inquisitive mind. Starting in the UK, we discover a bit more about Mila and the life she left when she moved to France to look after her orphaned niece Ani. Much as she has fallen under the spell of Brittany, her confusion around her split life between France and the UK, as well as the shadow of what happened the day her stepsister Sophie and brother-in-law Charlie set out to sea in a storm three years ago, weighs her down. Mila’s sensitive way with Ani touched my heart as did her emotional, silent conversations in her mind with Sophie, who often seems to be the only person Mila opens up to. 


French Village Diaries book review The Summer of Lies Louise Douglas
The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas

Alongside this, Mila and Carter are involved in the agency’s search for a vulnerable nineteen-year-old, who is believed to be in the Brittany area. Time is critical in this search that is hampered by the wildfires that are ravaging inland from the coast. The more they discover, the more questions are raised, and although I had an inkling about the circumstances around her disappearance, I was still surprised when the truth was revealed.  

 

From the beginning I was hooked, from the middle I was gripped, and even if I only had a few snatched minutes, waiting for the kettle to boil, my nose was back in this book. I’d have been sad to get to the end if it wasn’t for the fact it included a huge hint that there would be a third book – yippee!


As well as the mysteries to solve and the emotional situations the characters find themselves dealing with, the authors love for Brittany is evident and an integral part to this book. I can recommend The Summer of Lies if you are looking to get drawn into a good mystery, and if you haven’t read The Lost Notebook, grab yourself both books and have a real Breton adventure.  


Purchase links

 

Amazon UK link 


French Village Diaries is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk at no cost to you.





French Village Diaries book review The Summer of Lies Louise Douglas
Louise Douglas

 

About the author

Louise Douglas is the bestselling and brilliantly reviewed author and an RNA award winner. The Secrets Between Us was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. She lives in the West Country.

 

Social media

Facebook 

Twitter 

Instagram

Newsletter Sign Up

Bookbub profile


 

French Village Diaries book review The Summer of Lies Louise Douglas
The Summer of Lies by Louise Douglas



You can read my review of the first book in this series, The Lost Notebook, here.


Lost Notebook Amazon link

 

French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. This book nicely ticks off “A book set in Brittany”.

 

French Village Diaries 2024 French themed reading bingo challenge
French themed reading bingo challenge



Monday, January 22, 2024

Book review The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton

French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton
The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton


The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton

 

Sisters. Traitors. Spies.

 

When a British RAF Whitley plane comes under fire over the French coast and is forced to drop their cargo, a spy messenger pigeon finds its way into unlikely hands…

 

The occupation has taken much from the Cotillard sisters, and as the Germans increase their forces in the seaside town of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Gabriella, Martine and Simone can’t escape the feeling that the walls are closing in.

 

Yet, just as they should be trying to stay under the radar, Martine’s discovery of a British messenger pigeon leads them down a new and dangerous path. Gaby would do anything to protect her sisters but when the pianist is forced to teach the step-daughter of a German Commandant, and the town accuses the Cotillards of becoming ‘Bad French’ and in allegiance with the enemy, she realizes they have to take the opportunity to fight back that has been handed to them.

 

Now, as the sisters’ secrets wing their way to an unknown contact in London, Gaby, Martine and Simone have to wonder – have they opened a lifeline, or sealed their fate?

 

Readers can’t get enough of USA Today bestselling author Andie Newton:

‘A brilliant tale of resistance, sisterhood and dangerous secrets. Andie Newton is a master storyteller!’ Sara Ackerman, USA Today bestselling author of The Codebreaker's Secret

 

‘If you believe every WW2 story has already been told, think again. This one is special.’ Paulette Kennedy, bestselling author of The Witch of Tin Mountain


 

French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton
The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton

My review 

The three Cotillard sisters were forced back from Paris to Boulogne-sur-Mer, where they did their best not to be noticed as they ran their seamstress shop in a town under strict German control. The desperation and fatigue that Gaby felt at their situation under the Occupied forces came across clear and strong from the opening chapters. There was an air of sadness about her, having left her musical life behind in Paris, but as the sisters made plans to resist, she found a new strength and purpose to life, despite everything she had lost.



French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton
The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton


The role the pigeons played as messengers, drawing information not from trained agents, but ordinary residents, was an unusual and different take on other historical novels I’ve read set during this period. The risks were high, but the sister’s determination and courage to fight, while at every turn the Germans seemed to be closing in on them, made for compelling reading. 

 

Gaby’s piano music was the catalyst and driving force in this book and the connections and communication she made through her music were powerful, even those that caused distress and trouble for the sisters. Shunned by their friends when they had little choice but to obey the demands the Germans made on them, brought to life the pressures and conflicts that tore communities apart during the Occupation.

 

As the sisters were dragged into more and more dangerous situations, the twists and turns and ‘oh no’ moments came thick and fast. There were many occasions when it seemed their time was up, only for someone or something to step in unexpectedly, and suddenly who they thought they could trust, changed track once again.

 

This book has a different take on the risks and challenges ordinary people took to survive, and is one for those of you who enjoy historical fiction set during the Occupation.


Purchase links

Amazon UK link 

 

Amazon US

Amazon CA



French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton
Andie Newton

 

About the author

Author Bio: Andie Newton is the USA Today bestselling author of A Child for the Reich, The Girls from the BeachThe Girl from Vichy, and The Girl I Left Behind. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her family. When she’s not writing gritty war stories about women, you can usually find her trail-running in the desert and stopping to pet every Yellow Lab or Golden Retriever that crosses her path. Andie is actively involved with the reading and writing community on social media. You can follow her on:

 

Twitter   

Instagram 

Facebook



French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton
The Secret Pianist by Andie Newton


Publisher social media

 

One More Chapter

TwitterX

Instagram

 

HarperCollinsUK

Twitter

Instagram

 

HarperCollins360 US

TwitterX

Instagram

 

French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. Having already ticked off “A book set during The Occupation”, this book, set in Boulogne-sur-Mer, will be perfect for “A book set on the coast”. 


French Village Diaries book review The Secret Pianist Andie Newton reading bingo challenge
Reading bingo challenge 2024