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Pulpo, Pig and Peppers by Lisa Rose Wright

I received this book as an ARC copy and enjoyed it so much I’ve ordered a paperback to keep for future visits to Galicia. Lisa Rose Wright’s affection for her adopted region shines through her writing and I loved travelling with her, S and her mother to the many and diverse beauty spots of Galicia. Sometimes, she takes her readers on road trips and other times on hikes, but in every case, we are treated to a wealth of glorious scenery, rich history and interesting comment. We also get to sample the local cuisine when sharing their many delicious menus of the day.

I especially enjoyed the pithy dialogue between Lisa and S, and really felt I was walking with them on their hikes, or sitting in the car as they drove the stunning country roads. This is the perfect travel companion for those who want to visit Galicia and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I do hope there’ll be another travel book from Lisa soon.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here but it is available on all Amazon marketplaces.

Lucky Jack by Sue Bavey

What a delightful character Jack was. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his personal anecdotes about his long and varied life. Spanning a complete century and experiencing two world wars as an adult, this book is both a remarkable collection of memoirs and a valuable historical document. Jack’s world was as one of the people, and this is real history as it was lived.

However, what makes it even more special was his charming, cheerful and positive personality. His experiences during WW1 were horrific enough to have scarred him for life, but Jack rose above the deprivation and harshness of a POW’s existence and focused on keeping his fellow prisoners’ spirits high, a talent he continued to use for the rest of his very long life.

Lovely. I’m so glad I’ve read this. I feel as if I’ve been sitting with him enjoying his tales first hand.

Nine Weeks on a Shaky Bus by Robyn Boswell

What a wonderful adventure! I was lucky to be a beta reader for this book, which tells the travel tales of four close friends who set off on the greatest trip of their lives in the worst of vehicles possible. Their trial run in a scrapyard reject followed by their European tour had me laughing and gasping simultaneously. I loved it for the carefree enthusiasm of youth it conveys, the astonishing disregard for ‘health and safety’ displayed by the tour operator and all the information about places I have never been seen through the author’s 1970s lens.

It is a book that celebrates a love of travel that rises above all the discomfort and mishaps thrown at the four girls and made me quite nostalgic about those carefree days of the 70s. Fabulous. I do hope Robyn Boswell writes more books.

The link to the book on Kindle US is here.

Tails of the Unexpected: Digressions, a Dog and Project X by John Donoghue

John Donoghue’s memoir about buying a puppy and various other entertaining digressions is an enjoyable read with lots of fun, wit and good humour.

I especially liked the parts about Barney, who was a typically adorable Labrador pup, an incorrigible chewer, but endlessly good natured. I laughed till I cried at some of John’s early learning experiences with his little dog (I’ve been there myself, so could relate totally) and only wished there had been still more about him and maybe a little less of the digressions in the overall balance of the book.

The cover captured me completely, and it’s an endearing memoir that I’m sure all dog lovers will enjoy, as well as those who like British humour and know something of the country.

The link to the book on the Amazon US store is here. To find it on other Amazom sites, simply replace the dot com in the address bar with your own country’s extension.

Beyond Imagination by Craig Briggs

I read the first of Craig Briggs’ books a couple of years ago, and have long meant to read the sequel. It seems I now have to read several sequels and I will, because I enjoyed this one very much. This is another memoir I finished and reviewed on Goodreads in March, so my post here is a bit late.

Anyway, having moved into the house they renovated in book one, Craig and his wife, Melanie, are now set to live the dream. However, still too young and energetic to retire, the pair cannot sit still for long. This book is full of their adventures including establishing their garden, working with Spanish builders, social interaction with neighbours, learning to make wine and embarking on yet another renovation project.

This is exactly the kind of memoir I like best as it is imbued with local colour and characters, as well as plenty of wry humour. A thoroughly enjoyable and lively read. Thank you, Craig and Melanie. I shall have to buy the rest of the series now.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here, but it is available on all the other Amazon marketplaces.

Life Beyond the Castanets by Jean Roberts

I enjoyed Jean Roberts’ first book very much, but I really loved this one, which kept me turning the pages when I really should have been doing something else. Actually, I read and reviewed it first a month ago in March, but I’ve only just got round to posting it here on my review blog.

In Life Beyond the Castanets, Jean and her husband, Adrian, explore more of Spain from their home in Andalucia. There are chapters about several trips they make that take us to regions and places I knew little to nothing about before. I loved all the descriptions of the scenery, the history, the local specialities and events.

Between these trips, life continues in their village home, where they have to deal with many a problem due to extreme weather events in their absence. As always, the local characters who help them are colourful and charming. This book was a perfect mix of living and travelling in Spain, and the author’s love of the country shines through her writing. Highly recommended.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here, but it is available on all Amazon marketplaces

Butting heads in Spain by Diane Elliott

Oh what a lovely book this is! I was totally immersed in it from the first page and adored the stories, which are essentially anecdotes recalled while the author, Diane Elliott, is on a long and taxing trek. Not exactly a ‘moving abroad’ memoir, this book is very much about Diane’s transition from beginner goat mum to lady goatherder of experience and skill.

The animals are the heroes of the action driven largely by goatherder maestro, Antonio. There are magical moments, frightening accidents, uplifting scenes, nail-biting situations and downright terrifying events. And all the while, there is Diane’s wonderful husband, Pete, in the wings, working hard and supporting Diane’s progress, the animals’ wellbeing and, quite often, Antonio’s madcap schemes.

I loved the conversations Diane has with her marvellous matriarch, Chinni (the queen of all goats) and her beautiful, brave Carmen (the ewe), as well as her knights in shining armour, Monty and Paz (her dogs). I laughed at the selfish, sulky Alice (wannabe matriarch), whose fondness for fruit overcomes any manners she might ever have had. I cried at inevitable losses and cheered Diane on through her most nerve-wracking escapades. Now I’m sad and bereft to have finished it. Thank heavens there will be a second book to come! Very highly recommended indeed!

The link to the book on Amazon US is here, but it’s available on all other Amazon stores.

Scatterling of Africa: my early years by Johnny Clegg

It’s hard to know how to sum up this amazing book. Johnny Clegg’s music with Sipho Mchunu in Juluka became an important part of my daily life in South Africa. I adored their vibrant mix of Western and Zulu songs and whenever I think of the years I spent in KwaZulu Natal, I cannot do so without hearing their albums in my head.

However, I didn’t know much about Johnny Clegg the man at that time. It was all about the music. I knew he was known as the White Zulu; I knew he’d courageously crossed the racial boundaries forbidden by law and I knew that Sipho Mchunu had done the same. They were a remarkable, creative act and fantastic musicians to boot. However, that was all I knew … then.

Over the years, I’ve been able to fill in some of the gaps, but it is only reading his posthumous memoir of his early years that I have gained a much deeper and broader knowledge of who he was and what drove him. Scatterling of Africa (derived from perhaps Juluka’s best known song) is a fascinating account of how Johnny came to cross the race divide and learn to play the music of the Zulu migrants in Johannesburg. He also learnt to dance with the Zulus and was accepted as a group member, performing at numerous migrant hostels and township locations as the only white dancer. No wonder the people loved him so.

What struck me most in reading this incredibly moving account was how open the young Johnny was to all new experiences and how lacking in any kind of prejudice, a gift probably inherited from his equally open and non-judgemental mother. Having turned her back on a conservative and traditional Jewish background herself, she never attempted to stop him or influence his direction or social life, so he was free to form friendships among the Zulu migrants without censure – at least, not from her. The social and cultural path he trod did, of course, get him into trouble with the authorities quite often, but it never stopped him. Johnny Clegg was not a political activist; he was just who he was following his own passions and friendships.

This book has made a huge impression on me and I know for sure I will read it again. I never saw Juluka perform, but my love of their music endures and takes me back to South Africa every time I listen to it. It was the soundtrack of my life on the farm. I am so pleased Johnny Clegg left this legacy in writing. I shall treasure it always.

For anyone interested in reading this marvellous memoir, the link to the book is here.

Wish You Were Here – holiday memories: an anthology of travel stories curated by Alyson Sheldrake

This is the third of Alyson Sheldrakes travel book series, and I am admitting up front to a clear bias because I not only have a story included in it, I was also involved in its pre-production. But, my chapter is just one of twenty, and I can say without hesitation the other nineteen are an absolute feast of wonderful experiences and writing.

Like everyone else, I’ve missed my opportunities to travel over the past two years, which naturally makes me nostalgic about the good times pre-Covid. What these chapters give you are the extra special memories the authors have of unique holidays or trips they’ve taken in the past. From a beautiful love story in Paris to a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos islands; from the innocence of childhood holidays in the UK to a confrontational and emotional trip to Kenya as a money mule; from dodging the security police behind the Iron Curtain in Ukraine to an impulsive weekend trip to Hong Kong. And there are more. The range and diversity of these memorable holidays is phenomenal and each one is a captivating, engaging and well-written story in which the authors share the delights or the downsides of their chosen trip. In some, the joy is inspiring and uplifting; in others, the emotions are raw and heartrending. This anthology will take you through a rainbow of feelings as well as locations.

Alyson Sheldrake, who has curated the book, has done a wonderful job of collating, editing and organising the chapters into the best possible sequence. She has also ensured the book is a pleasure to read with its photos of each contributor, and their background and books at the end of their chapter. Altogether it’s a real treasure to read and to behold.

I can definitely recommend treating yourselves and enjoying twenty different holidays from the comfort of your chair.

The link to the book on Amazon is here

Are we French yet? by Keith Van Sickle

This book is the follow up to Keith Van Sickle’s One Sip at a Time, and I am pleased to say I enjoyed it even more than the first. In ‘Are We French Yet?’, we learn more about the author’s further immersion in Provence life which he undertakes with his wife Val. I loved reading all the vignettes about the couple’s experiences with the language, culture, food and people. They are courageous in their efforts to learn French and some of their linguistic adventures make very entertaining reading.

As a lover of France and its people myself, I found each chapter full of interesting titbits, but above all, his accounts of the friendships they made and the kindness of their French neighbours and acquaintances were heartwarming. The book is light in tone and easy to read, and I can recommend it to anyone who loves France or who would like to spend time in the country, especially in Provence.

The link to the book on Amazon US is here, but it is available on all Amazon marketplaces.