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Sydney Delicious: the memoir of a Spanish rescue dog by Helen Stephenson

What a charming memoir this is! I wasn’t sure how being written from Sidney’s perspective was going to work, but it is so well written and Sidney is such a wonderful personality that I was soon immersed in his free-ranging world. 

As a Spanish rescue dog of indeterminate origin, Sidney has lived the life of a roamer until one day, Helen and Jo find him. From that day on, his life changes and he becomes their constant, and very endearing, companion. However, Sidney has had a hard life and has picked up some unsavoury survival habits, which stay with him no matter how much luxury he lives in. The results are so funny, I found myself weeping with laughter, particularly because Sidney doesn’t quite see the problem with his behaviour much of the time. 

This is a heartwarming, uplifting story about a dog of great character and his relationship with his saviour humans. It is also the author’s memoir about her and her husband’s life in their new home on a campo in a remote part of rural Spain. It is clear from Helen Stephenson’s writing that Sid Delicious was very much loved despite his idiosyncracies and independent nature. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the scenery, the seasons and the lifestyle they lead in Almeria. In fact, I absolutely loved the book and can recommend it very highly.

The link to the Amazon US page is here. The book is available on all Amazon stores.

Dear Fran, Love Dulcie: Life and death in hills and hollows of bygone Australia by Victoria Twead

This is one of the most moving books I have read in years. In an astonishing turn of events, Victoria Twead has been able to research the story behind this young Australian woman’s letters to her penpal in America, and to publish them with the full support of the family. Dulcie’s letters to Fran are unique in their depiction of Australian rural life from the 1950s to the 1970s. They reveal the harshness of the land and its merciless demands on those who live and farm it. The weather, the crop failures, the tough conditions for Dulcie and her family are all described with a matter of fact acceptance that is somehow shocking and deeply touching.

However, although there is heartbreak and loss, there is lightness and humour too, as well as a closeness between the two penpals that develops gradually over the years. And it is this closeness that makes the ending all the more heartrending. I feel privileged to have been able to Beta read Dulcie’s letters; it was a truly profound and unforgettable experience and my thanks go to Victoria Twead for transcribing the originals and explaining the background and context of how they came to be published.

This is an important historical document as well as being a fascinating book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The link to the Amazon US site is here

40 Inspirational True Stories: 2021 edited by Robert Fear

This is a fantastic collection of stories by 26 different authors, some of whom have more than one story published. It’s an anthology to lift your spirits, especially during these difficult times. From inspiring travel tales to heartwarming accounts of good deeds and special relationships, there’s something for every occasion. A marvellous addition to anyone’s reading library.

What I enjoyed about it was the variety of different types of stories. They covered every possible aspect of life but with the common theme of being uplifting and encouraging. It is a book that can be dipped into, picked up and put down and also returned to. I am happy to have a paperback copy that sits on my bedside table for whenever I feel the need.

Robert Fear gives authors, both novice and experienced, an opportunity to showcase their talents. He publishes a new collection at the end of each year. Up until this edition, the anthologies have been travel stories, so this theme is new and as such it is a lovely development.

The link to the book is here

Chasing the Dream – A new life abroad: An anthology of travel stories curated by Alyson Sheldrake

A slightly different post on my review blog this time. This book, Chasing the Dream is one I am privileged to have a chapter in, but I’m not trying to review it on my own behalf; I am, after all, just one contributor. There are twenty chapters altogether and each one is by a different author, so I am writing here about the rest of the book, which is a truly terrific anthology of stories by writers who have all moved abroad to live for one reason or another.

For many, they really were chasing a dream, but others (like me) landed up living in other countries through circumstance, work or a simple desire to explore the world. I was lucky enough to read the early drafts of the book and have also read the finished product, and I can honestly say that each reading was a delight. The diversity of the stories and writing styles makes the collection an absorbing and rich read. The authors have been given free rein to write with their own voice and without a script, so there is everything from humorous, dialogue-driven accounts to chapters of descriptive and even poetic beauty. There are travel adventures, moving house nightmares, cultural lessons and linguistic challenges. Some are introspective, some are lively, many are funny and all of them are fascinating.

Even better, the range of countries covered makes world travellers of the reader. From Chile to Japan; from Ireland to Slovenia, Greece and Italy; from the Netherlands through France, Spain and Portugal; from Africa (both northern and southern) to the Middle East, the incredible diversity gives a truly global perspective to the book.

This is a fantastic collection, beautifully produced, edited and presented by Alyson Sheldrake and I can recommend it very highly. I was delighted to be part of it.

The link to the book is here

Donkey on the Catwalk by Marjory McGinn

What a delight this book has been to read. I’ve devoured all Marjory McGinn’s previous Greek memoirs, and this collection of stories from both her more recent travels there as well as the visits she made to the country in her youth is a marvellous addition. There are many wonderful accounts that fill in the gaps and explain why she kept going back to the country until, with her husband, she spent four years in the Peloponnese starting in 2010.

I particularly enjoyed the chapters about her experiences in Athens and Crete from the 1970s to the 90s. They portray a simpler, yet richer country and despite the political traumas of the 70s, it is easy to see what drew Marjory to Greece and the Greeks. There are beautiful chapters of nostalgia too, some of which moved me deeply. And then of course, there is a liberal sprinkling of humour in the chapters where Wallace, Jim and Marjory’s delightful Jack Russel, features as well as those that include the famous Foteini.

All in all, this is a wonderful mix that will give the reader more insights into Greece and Marjory McGinn’s ongoing love affair with the country. Highly recommended!

For those interested in buying the book, the link is here

I also did an interview with Majory on this blog a few weeks back, which you can read here.

Hideaway Hotel by Louise Davis

This is a very interesting and detailed account of Louise Davis’s 22 years working as a translator, PA and PR manager at a luxury hotel in Mallorca. I’ve never stayed in any kind of exclusive hotel, but La Residencia sounds like a very special kind of place and one where many celebrities enjoyed a quiet and relaxing time being graciously pampered by discreet staff.

Far from being an exposé of the rich and shameless, this book is much more about the staff and management and how they dealt with changes of ownership as well as the challenges of a changing market. Louise Davis describes the behind-the-scenes successes as well as all the stresses and strains of working under different managers with different styles. Something that impressed me is that I think she must be very adaptable to adjust so seamlessly to the variety of personalities and yet still retain her own way of working and her integrity.

This was an absorbing, fascinating and very well-written memoir that covers the author’s entire career at the hotel. Highly recommended.

The link to the book is here

Amy Bovaird – Interview

I’m adding this interview with Amy Bovaird to this blog because I’ve reviewed Amy’s books here too. This gives a lovely insight into her motivation for writing.

T. R. Robinson Publications

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Welcome Amy Bovaird

Author of memoir and devotional memoir under the full name of Amy L. Bovaird.

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

A small-town girl from northwest Pennsylvania, I’m the third of four siblings. My father had his own tree removal business, and was the hub of our family. My mother served as disciplinarian and kept us in line. We grew up with a faith basis, serving as the cornerstone of my life. Always quiet and studious, when I taught and traveled overseas, I released the ‘adventurer’ in me. In 1988, I was diagnosed with an incurable eye condition. I’m now legally blind. Nevertheless, I’ve had a fascinating life—having traveled to thirty-three countries and lived in seven! I fell in love and married an Egyptian Army Captain, and dealt with child loss, miscarriage and divorce. I inherited my sense of humor and fun from…

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Blown Out of Proportion: misadventures of a glassblower in France by Rachel Caldecott

When I started reading this book, I wondered if it would be the same as many other stories of Brits moving to France, buying a ruin and renovating it. Not that I would have minded. I love books about renovating old properties, especially in France. However, what I wasn’t expecting was the almost anti-French-dream story that Rachel Caldecott tells with her wry, often very pithy, humour. This really is a book that tells the family’s experiences as they were, completely unmitigated by rose-tinted specs. In fact, I think their specs showed everything in its truest and most honest detail. 

Some of the stories of their life in the southern French town of Lodève were horrific and hard to absorb at times. Others were funny, and others, such as the warm-hearted treatment they received from some of their local friends, were really lovely.

However, I found the whole family’s gutsy attitude to their relentless series of misfortunes admirable and I take my hat off to them all for their courage in staying and surviving. From the first page to the last, I gasped, laughed, cried and ultimately cheered as I read about their wonderful refugee work. I also loved the descriptions of the glass-making. Fascinating!

Rachel Caldecott and her family deserve medals for several reasons but their sheer will to prevail in whatever they do would win them one alone. Chapeaux to them all! Highly recommended.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here. It is, of course, available on all the other Amazon sites, so use this link to find it on your own market page.

Don’t Eat the Puffin by Jules Brown

What a fabulous book! Jules Brown, born in Ghana and brought up in England’s north, inherited his love of travel from his father and spent thirty years exploring the world as a writer for Rough Guides. These stories are his recollections of some of his many adventures. They are fascinating, often funny and very well written.

As a lover of the ‘did you know that?’ odd facts about places, I especially enjoyed the quirkier corners he leads the reader into. In quest of the less obvious sites and attractions, Jules takes us on all sorts of unusual adventures, hikes and train trips, as well as down mostly-missed alleys to restaurants and bars with a difference.

The selection is incredibly diverse and we travel with him from Canada to New Zealand via China and beyond. But, at the beginning of each chapter, we are always reminded of where he comes from, which is a lovely cohesive device and the glue that holds this anecdotal memoir together. It even had me calculating how far I live from Ghana and Yorkshire.

My favourite chapter, though? Just for the sheer humour, I LOVED the one about Ontario and his Husky ride across the frozen wastes; I laughed till I cried. Brilliant! Altogether, a highly recommended book for anyone, but especially travel lovers.

The link to the book on Amazon (US) is here – sorry, the US site is where I buy from and I’m too lazy to make a universal link, but just change the ‘dot com’ in the address bar to your own site and you’ll find it easily.

Valerie Poore – Interview

I’m very honoured to have been featured here on Tanya’s wonderful website.

T. R. Robinson Publications

Welcome Valerie Poore

Prolific author of multiple memoirs and some novels.

(Links to where books may be found are provided at the end of this interview.)

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me here, Tanya. I was born in London, UK, and lived there until I was thirteen, after which my family moved to Dorset in the West Country where I finished my school and university education. My first job was restoring furniture, which I later did on a freelance basis. During this time, I tried my hand at smallholding and have many happy memories of keeping sheep and all manner of other animals. This was also when I met my husband. By 1981, though, we were both fed up with being broke and cold and so we took ourselves off to South Africa with our two little…

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