Friday, August 12, 2022

Book review of Elodie's Library of Second Chances

French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Elodie's Library of Second Chances


Elodie’s Library of Second Chances

 

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!

 

When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

 

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

 

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

 

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?



French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Elodie's Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin

 

My Review 

It was the library setting that drew me to this book, but as soon as I ‘met’ Elodie, our shared love of books, libraries and the simple things in life was uncanny. 

 

Librarians all over the world will be nodding in agreement at this book, understanding that never-ending quest to find more members, get enough funding for more books and get people to understand that once they open the doors, a library can be so much more than a place of old books on dusty bookshelves, looked after by bespectacled librarians. Having spent a bit of time working as a librarian and trying my best to share the magic and joy to be found inside a library, I was willing her project to save the Willow Grove library to succeed from the beginning.

 

Everyone has a story to tell, but how many of us are brave enough to open up and tell it, or indeed unjudgmental enough to listen to what others have to say? Let’s face it, sometimes gossip and rumours are easier to cope with than an uncomfortable truth, especially in a small town. Elodie is on a mission to change not just the fortunes of the library, but the way the townsfolk treat each other too. Her passion and determination to succeed leapt out from the pages and the people she met at the library were real characters who made me smile, touched my heart, and felt like friends.

 

I defy anyone to read this book and not admonish themselves just a little about a situation where they may have judged a book by its cover – and been wrong.

 

I absolutely did not want this book to end. I could have stayed forever within the Willow Grove library, a place that by the end of the book felt like my happy space too.

 

If you love books and libraries and stories about people starting over, you will love Elodie’s Library of Second Chances.


Purchase Link



Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

Amazon Aust  



French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Rebecca Raisin

 

Author Bio

 

Rebecca Raisin writes heartwarming romance from her home in sunny Perth, Australia. Her heroines tend to be on the quirky side and her books are usually set in exotic locations so her readers can armchair travel any day of the week. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous heroes who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true, once in a lifetime love. Her bestselling novel Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has been optioned for film with MRC studios and Frolic Media.

 

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French Village Diaries book review Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin
Blog Tour: Elodie's Library of Second Chances Rebecca Raisin




Sunday, August 7, 2022

Poitiers summer fun

French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Place du Maréchal Leclerc, Poitiers


HoliDAYS out and about: Poitiers

This summer, rather than going away for a holiday we are making the most of our holiDAYS out and about, mostly involving the bikes. The first of these was an afternoon in Poitiers, where the relaxed groups of tourists milling around with maps, ensured there was a feel of holidays in the air.

 

There are certain things we like to do on holiday; ride our bikes, sit outside at a café, enjoy warm sunny weather, eat patisseries, drink cold beer and see the sights. I’m pleased to say, we managed all of these in just one afternoon in Poitiers.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Lunch on a terrace, Poitiers 2022

 

We lunched in the main square with the imposing Hôtel du Ville watching over us, as we people-watched the constant flow of activity around us. We might have had the intention of grabbing a quick croque monsieur, but with a menu offering steak frites, followed by a chocolate éclair and a coffee (that came with a biscuit) for less than 12€ each, our resolve crumbled. Seated outside, there was more than enough room for our bikes to join us without getting in the way and the distance between the tables was safe and reassuring. The creamy blossoms of the Japanese Pagoda tree fell like confetti on us, the table, and added a certain something to the salad that accompanied our steak frites. We then set off for a short twelve-kilometre city tour by bike.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Aliénor d'Aquitaine, Poitiers


This year Poitiers is celebrating the 900th anniversary of Aliénor d’Aquitaine, who (I believe) is the only person to hold both the title of Queen of France and Queen of England. The impressive Palais that is at the heart of the medieval city, was where the Counts of Poitou and the Duchy of Aquitaine held their courts. I haven’t had time so far this summer to book into any of the events being organised but seeing this artwork on the grand steps up to Palais reminded me to check out the calendar, as I really enjoyed the office du tourisme’s guided love-theme walk. 



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Parc du Blossac, Poitiers

 

Despite the tourists in the town centre, we had the beautiful Parc de Blossac, that dates from the eighteenth century, almost to ourselves. It’s central fountain and wide tree-lined boulevards, with a bandstand and views over the ramparts feel very Parisian to me and are perfect for enjoying on a bike, but the more intimate Jardin à l'Anglaise and small animal park are best explored on foot. If you look closely on the old stone walls there is evidence of the Nazi occupation, a swastika, and the date 1940, plus a German eagle, carved into the stone at one of the strategic viewpoints over the river. A reminder that the park was requisitioned as a parade ground for the many garrisons of soldiers stationed in the vicinity.



French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Church of St Hilaire le Grand, Poitiers


We also took advantage of the cool interiors of some of the churches in Poiters, including the church of St Hilaire le Grand (who was the first bishop of Poitiers). This impressive Romanesque church has been welcoming pilgrims on Chemins de St Jacques for hundreds of years and I’m always delighted when my path crosses this ancient pilgrimage route.


French Village Diaries Poitiers summer fun
Poitiers viewed from the cycle lane flyover

 

In more recent years, Poitiers has come on a long way in terms of being an eco-city and somewhere that is cycle and pedestrian friendly. In our early years in France, on the odd occasion we did venture into the town centre, around family airport or station drop-offs, we quickly remembered why we rarely bothered. It was difficult to access, impossible to park and noisy and unpleasant to walk anywhere because of the constant traffic. The main square becoming pedestrianised was one of the best things they have done, topped only by the fact that the best view of the city is now one that is reserved exclusively for cyclists. It is a city panorama, from the flyover, where two out of the three lanes are now car free. Cycling into town from Ed and Pearl’s flat is a joy. Poitiers took the decision a few years ago, to drastically reduce car access into the city and now the town centre is a hive of people, happily shopping and socialising in the car-free streets. More towns need to follow this example.


Vive l’active travel!


You might also like my holiDAYS out in Melle and Celles-sur-Belle post. 

  

Friday, August 5, 2022

Book review of The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne

French Village Diaries book review The Water Witch Jessica Thorne
The Water Witch by Jessica Thorne


The Water Witch: A totally gripping fantasy romance novel filled with mystery by Jessica Thorne            

 

 

Sitting side by side on the clifftop, he turns to her solemnly and says, ‘The water witch is real.’ She rolls her eyes and grins, teasing him. ‘Sure. A psycho mermaid. Got it.’ But now he’s gone forever… will she find the truth beneath the waves?

Brittany, France. Ariadne Walker’s fiancé Simon drowned in the stormy Atlantic Ocean doing what he loved: searching for the lost underwater city of Ys. Local legend says it was destroyed centuries ago when the princess of Ys became a water witch, cursing the name of the man who betrayed her.

Ari never believed these tall tales. And the letter Simon sent before he died finishing their relationship is a devastating secret she’ll take to the grave. But arriving in Brittany, Ari encounters a man emerging from the sea in a rocky cove, saltwater dripping from his dark hair. Rafael swears the legends are true: and his ancestor was cursed by the water witch. Now, his own life is in terrible danger. And the secret to breaking the curse lies hidden in the lost city.

When Ari finds a strange engraved mask on the sea bed, and a cryptic map amongst Simon’s things, she has no choice but to believe Rafael’s plea. Can they follow the trail and save Rafael’s life? Poring over the map by candlelight, the flickering flames only add to the heat between them… but will Ari’s fragile heart soon be shattered all over again? And will they ever find Ys and break the curse – or will the water witch demand another sacrifice?

An absolutely addictive romantic fantasy read filled with passion and mystery, that will sweep you away to the wild coast of northern France. Inspired by real myths and legends from this magical place, The Water Witch is perfect for fans of Luanne G. Smith, River of Shadows and Jennifer L. Armentrout.



French Village Diaries book review The Water Witch Jessica Thorne
The Water Witch Jessica Thorne books-on-tour


 

My Review 

I can’t disagree with the “absolutely addictive” claim written in the blurb, as the magic and mystery of this book captivated me from the beginning.

 

There were so many things that attracted me to this book, from the dark but colourful cover to the wild, rugged location of Brittany, and not forgetting the Celtic myths and legends the area is steeped in. This book takes you to the heart of a centuries old mystery of a lost underwater city and the lives of a family said to be cursed. As the story unfolded, I was drawn in, as if mesmerised by a hypnotic tide, never knowing which way the current would take me. 

 

As Ari and Rafael dig deep into the past, there is passion and intense emotions, dark moments and strange goings on. The things they see often blur the line between reality and something else, an underlying magic that can’t rationally be explained. They were an unlikely match, but I warmed to both Ari, for her expertise and vulnerability and Rafael, a handsome, successful Frenchman, drawn to Ari in his desperation to survive.

 

This book really inspired my imagination and gripped my mind – it was a difficult book for my head to put down, even when I was doing other things.

 

The more I read, the more I wanted to discover the Breton legends for myself, and I got to the end feeling that I would love to sit down with the author and chat all things Breton, myth and legend. I’ve certainly followed her on Instagram and was delighted to find photos of places that inspired her in Brittany and other locations in France I know and love.

 

If you are looking for a mystery with a difference this summer or enjoy a book that takes you beyond the landscapes of a location, I’m sure you will enjoy The Water Witch as much as I did.



Purchase Link

 


 

French Village Diaries book review The Water Witch Jessica Thorne
Jessica Thorne

Author Bio

 

Jessica Thorne saw Star Wars at an impressionable age and life was never the same. She’s loved fantasy, romance and science fiction ever since and spends her time looking for adventure – in the pages of her books.


Sometimes she is Ruth Frances Long and won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.

 

Social Media Links

 

Website 

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

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The tree of the year

French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
The tree of the year 2021


August 

 

As our third canicule (heatwave) of 2022 gets going with temperatures of 35º as I write this, it has struck me that not only has the beginning of August often been significant for us over the years, but its weather can be unpredictably changeable too. One year ago, we helped Ed and Pearl move into their new flat and the first photos of them on their balcony shows them in long trousers and jumpers, dodging the rain – something we got quite used to doing last August.

 

Two years ago, we were in the Pyrenees having conquered the Col d’Aubisque and the Col du Tourmalet, among other iconic mountain passes, on our Bromptons in temperatures that reached the high 30’s. Our next stop was the Pays Basques, where the cols might be lower, the mountain profiles less jagged, but the gradients of the climbs are killers – although we can’t wait to return.

 

Three years ago, we were in London celebrating all things bike, including enjoying the Brompton factory tour, the London Freecycle and completing the Ride London 46 sportive (46 miles or 80 km). In a sea of lycra and high-end road bikes, we did it on our Bromptons, with huge smiles on our faces and I was wearing a dress.

 

Four years ago, Ed had just completed the Ride London 46, raising money for the mental health charity MIND on the coldest, wettest August day you could imagine.

 

Five years ago, we were into the final preparations for our Tour de Rêves four-hundred-and-fifty-kilometre charity bike ride around the Deux-Sèvres department raising money for a children’s make a wish association.

 

Probably the most significant event was eighteen years ago, when we were just days away from packing the cars and moving our lives to France – although how has it been 18 years, I have no idea. Our arrival in France coincided with the end of a heatwave and the beginning of a wet and stormy few weeks.



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
The V93 between Melle and Celles-sur-Belle


holiDAYS out and about

 

Memories and good times are not always about the big events in life or the long-distance adventures, or even the impressive mountains we climb, sometimes it’s the simple things that put a big smile on my face. This summer, rather than going away for a holiday we are making the most of our holiDAYS out and about, mostly involving the bikes.

 

This week’s first adventure might have only been a twenty-one-kilometre bike ride from the local market town of Melle, but with some clever planning it was still a fabulous day out. We set off along the old railway line voie verte (green way) that is now part of the V93 cycle route, that crosses the southern end of the Deux-Sèvres department. It has been a favourite route for us for more years than I care to remember and comes into its own on a hot summer day.

 

We took our time to enjoy the cool, shady path, where trees and ferns line the sides of the old railway cutting, and it feels like you are in a green tunnel, before you emerge back out into sunshine and fields of sunflowers all around. It is only eight kilometres to Celles-sur-Belle, but rather than follow it all the way, we dropped down at a bridge to make an exciting detour. 



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
The tree of the year 2021


The tree of the year 

Last year, a local chestnut tree was voted l’arbre d’année (tree of the year) and cycling to see it was on my summer wish list. Sitting at a crossroads of quiet, rural lanes this chestnut tree, named "La talle à teurtons" which roughly translates from the old French dialect as the people’s tree, is thought to be at least six hundred years old. It is mostly hollow on the inside, with patterns on the gnarly bark that were mesmerising and had to be touched, traced and hugged. Over the years it has held a reputation as a meeting point, where lovers could conceal themselves within its trunk, although we saw no evidence of any secret trysts. It was difficult to drag ourselves away from such magnificence, but there were other local treasures awaiting us.



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
Lavoir de Villiers in Melle


Melle 

Back onto the V93, we stopped at a shady bench by a spring and enjoyed a homemade flapjack, before heading back to Melle, arriving via one of the most impressive lavoir (wash houses) in the area. 



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
Lavoir de Villiers Melle



The oval pool surrounded by a cobbled path, reflects the stonework of the temple-like structure with high arched windows. The traditional lavoir roof was designed to encourage air flow while allowing some protection from the elements for the women doing their weekly washing.



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
Les Rêves du Monde, Melle

 

Our first point of call in Melle was the church of St Pierre, one of three impressive Romanesque churches in the town. Every two years Melle puts on a contemporary art festival that this year has the theme of Les Rêves du Monde (the dreams of the world). Outside the church, we found our first art display, a collection of wooden bricks that children of all ages can use to build their dreams. Having built a mini tower, while Adrian looked on, we set off to the marketplace, admiring the super cycling facilities outside the office du tourisme – lockable bike parking, with power for charging batteries and a fully equipped tool station with air pump.



French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
Melle cycling facilities

 

The kiosque, or bandstand, housed another art installation, the lattice work creating some stunning light and shadow patterns. We then followed the narrow streets of the old town ramparts, passed the summer beach at the Hôtel de Ménoc, which isn’t a hotel, but was a noble family home that in parts dates to the fourteenth century and is now an exhibition space. Our final destination was the St Hilaire church where the ornate stone carvings, especially of the knight on his horse are always worth a moment of careful inspection.


 

French Village Diaries tree of the year days out Paysmellois
Eglise St Hilarie, Melle

We are incredibly lucky to have all this on our doorstep, but sometimes it is easy to forget that there is always something to see, we just have to make the time to slow down and enjoy what is around us.

 

Thank you for all your lovely comments on Ed and Pearl’s challenging week. I’m happy to report that their second week went without a hitch, and they packed in lots of days out before safely returning their first set of holiday makers to Poitiers. They are currently in a beautiful gîte situated in the middle of a forest in the Creuse. The trees are proving a cool and calm oasis from the heatwave raging outside of the forest - proof, if any were needed, that it is essential we plant more trees, everywhere.