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Seriously Mum, How Many Cats? by Alan Parks

I read the first book in this series a few years ago, so it was lovely to rejoin Alan Parks and his wife Lorna on their Alpaca farm in Andalucia. I very much enjoyed the author’s accounts of their off-grid life in a remote part of the Spanish province and chuckled at the escapades of the Alpacas. They seem to be quite difficult creatures to breed, and it’s almost a surprise they’ve survived given the help they need…ahem. Enough said and no spoilers, but reading about what it takes to bring a healthy Alpaca baby into the world was a real eye-opener for me.

As for the cats that grace the title of this book, I take my hat off to Alan and Lorna for their compassion and kindness to these feral but enchanting creatures. Alan and Lorna live their life far from the madding crowd and I can well understand how difficult it must be to go to the city and be part of the normal throngs of people after living in such an isolated place. It sounds like heaven to me! I shall now look forward to the next book.

The link to the book is here

Fat Dogs and French Estates 5 by Beth Haslam

What I love most about Beth Haslam’s lovely series of books is that I always feel I’ve been on a visit to France and have spent time with her, Jack and their wonderful collection of animals. This fifth book in the series is another delightful sojourn on their estate in south-west France. I’ve walked the woods, ridden the quad bike, played with the puppies and helped rear baby pheasants, and all from the comfort of my sofa at home. I’ve also joined them at the local auberge, met all their delightful quirky neighbours and enjoyed the beautiful French sun and scenery.

This was a lovely descriptive book, but it’s the rich and lively dialogue that moves the story along. I can just hear their gorgeous vet speaking as well as grumpy Jack’s diatribes that hide a heart of gold, far from the cantankerous impression he likes to give.

Altogether, this was a fabulous, beautifully written memoir that brought a smile to my face with every page. Thank you, Beth Haslam for inviting me into your life and home. I hope I can come again soon!

The link to the book is here

Sat Nav Diaries 2.0 by Adrian Sturrock

This is a fantastic read. Like all of Adrian Sturrock’s books, the stories are moved along by the witty banter between him and his wife Nat, and in Sat Nav Diaries 2.0, the banter reaches new levels of speed and sparkle. There were many occasions when I thought (through my tears of laughter) ‘I wish I’d written that line.’

But apart from that, this is a terrific and informative travelogue that not only takes the reader through several countries in Europe, but teaches us something of the history and background of each of the places the couple visit. There are numerous deeply touching moments when Adrian reflects on what certain nations have endured in the not so distant past and in expressing these thoughts, his writing is lyrically beautiful. I loved this book. I wondered it if might just be more of the same when I started reading it, but there is so much extra depth to this one. Well worth reading!

The link to the book is here

The Dutch Puzzle by Duke de Baena

Among the several books I always seem to have on the go was this one, The Dutch Puzzle by Duke de Baena, which I’ve just finished. It’s part memoir, part commentary and is an interesting, if out-dated look at the Dutch culture from this former Spanish Ambassador’s perspective based on his own experiences in the Netherlands.

It was published in 1966, and I must say that at times I found his remarks unfair to my adopted country and he had me bristling on my Dutch friends’ behalf. He describes the Dutch as ‘large, heavy, dull and lacking in imagination,’ following which he tries to say how fond he was of them. I’m not sure which is worse: the insult or the backtracking. Even so, some of his commentary remains valid today and I had a good chuckle at those of his observations which have matched mine. His whole premise is that the Netherlands (or Holland, as he calls it) is a country of paradoxes, and there I would agree with him. In any event, there are some great anecdotes because he mixed with so many interesting people. That said, it is definitely a book of its time but that is also a good part of its value.

The link to the book is here

Review of ‘Fur Babies in France’ by Marvellous Memoirs — World Wide Walkies

Well written, full of bounce and fun, and a great book for wannabe caravaners or full time travellers. valerie poore A good review is always a source of cheer, but I was particularly thrilled to receive a five-star review of the first book in my Adventure Caravanning with Dogs series from award-winning author, blogger, bargee […]

Review of ‘Fur Babies in France’ by Marvellous Memoirs — World Wide Walkies

Adventure Caravanning with Dogs: Fur Babies in France by Jacqueline Lambert

This is the second of Jackie Lambert’s books I have read although it is the first one in the series. The last one I read was Dogs n Dracula about Jackie and her husband’s travels in Romania, which I loved, so I was pleased to win this book in a draw.

Like Dogs n Dracula, this account is of the couple’s caravanning adventures, but because they were very new to the whole lifestyle, it is full of the many learning curves they underwent which were often incredibly funny. Starting off in the UK, they make an almost spontaneous decision to take off to France for several months and their travels around the country’s lovely departments are the subject of some wonderful descriptions, numerous ups, several downs and a number of crises, all of which Jackie recounts with great humour and much witticism. I am quite a Francophile myself, but I can relate very well to some of their experiences, including the mystery of hospitality businesses that close in the summer because the proprietors want to go on holiday. A very French quirk indeed.

Well written, full of bounce and fun, and a great book for wannabe caravaners or full time travellers. One thing both books have taught me, though, is never ever buy a large caravan. It sounds far too complicated and fraught with difficulties, but then again, it provides the subject matter for some great anecdotes.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will almost certainly read others in the series.

The link to the Fur Babies in France on Amazon US is here. It is available worldwide, so you can just change the country in the URL to fit your own store.

Interview with memoir author, Lisa Rose Wright

It’s a long time since I’ve done a weberview, but since this blog is devoted to memoirs, which are about the real lives of real people, I thought it might be fun to invite a few of the authors here to find out what made them start writing their stories and, because I’m nosy, what else makes them tick. To kick off, then, I’ve asked Lisa Rose Wright to join me here. Lisa has written some really lovely, engaging books about her move to Galicia in Spain with her partner (known in the books as S) and about the old country ruin they renovated into a beautiful home. I read and loved Plum, Courgette and Green Been Tart last year and as chance would have it, the sequel, Tomato, Fig and Pumpkin Jelly will be released tomorrow on Valentine’s Day, a book I Beta read and enjoyed hugely. So, as they say, on with the show, or in this case, the questions!

The new book Lisa will be releasing on 14 February

Me: Lisa, could you tell us something of your background and how you came to be living in Galicia?

Lisa: Oo, how long do you have? I’ll give you abbreviated version or we will be here all night. In 2001, I was working as a sales rep and fed up. One fateful night I decided to jack it in and go back to college to get an ecology degree so I could work with animals as I had always wanted. Not long after graduating I met S, my husband, in a pond, as you do, and together we set off to walk the Camino de Santiago through northern Spain. And we fell in love with Galicia at first sight. The rest, as they say, is history!

Me: For those who don’t know, Lisa’s former job was counting newts (as one does), but back to Spain. It really does sound like a lovely place. What do you find most inspiring as a writer about living in Galicia? 

Lisa: I find Galicia totally inspiring. There is a big cultural tradition of poetry and prose here. We even have a Writer’s Day Bank Holiday (17th May, el dia das letras Galegas). The peace and tranquillity are perfect for a writer and there is countryside right outside my door where I can take myself off to wander and contemplate. It really is paradise.

Lisa’s front door

Me: Well, that definitely sounds like the best environment for a writer, and it looks gorgeous there, but you didn’t set out to write memoirs, I know, so what prompted you to start writing? How long have you been writing?

Lisa: I have always ‘scribbled’, since I first learned to write. I recently found some of my very early poems which are suitably dire and a whole notebook of stories based on other planets. I had piles of notebooks and diary entries from our early life here and plenty of half-completed stories lying about but it was the discovery that Mum had kept all the letters I sent home to her in England that got me thinking that I could maybe use them as a basis for a book. I joined a writers’ group here in 2018 and haven’t looked back!

Me: This is just wonderful serendipity, isn’t it? Do you write anything other than memoir?

Lisa: I have only published non-fiction, travelogue memoir, so far… but I really admire those authors who can create whole worlds in their heads. I have had an idea for a couple of fictional books rattling around my head and in notebooks for years which I hope I will get round to writing up one of these days. One is a psychological thriller, the other a memoir/time slip story set in Colney Hatch mental hospital where I used to work.

Me: Wow, that sounds interesting. I hope you decide to write it! If you had to give the readers here a tip about how to get started on a book, what would it be?

Lisa: A tip? I would say to just write. Get ideas onto paper. You get always edit later but if you don’t get them down those ideas may just slip away. My best ideas often come at 3am and have then gone by morning! Also, the more you write, the more you want to or need to write. I’m a writing addict now!

Me: Funny how that happens, isn’t it? So what do you see as your greatest strength in life? And then (of course) what do you see as your weakest point?

Lisa: Dogged determination! I remember my ‘O’ level maths teacher telling me I had little aptitude but a dogged determination. I rather liked that idea! My hubby tells me I have no weaknesses that I will admit to… so maybe that is my weakness, though I think I just have too many to name!

Me: Oh Lisa, that did make me laugh. Okay, here’s a difficult one. If you had to live for a year with only one book, what would it be? And do you have any favourite authors? If so, why do you admire their work?

Lisa: Oo that is sooo difficult. I’m guessing my one kindle with all its 1000s of books on is out? The book I have reread most often is Colleen McCullough’s Thornbirds. I love her descriptions of the Australian outback and I could test myself on what dialogue is on which page if I got bored. If this were a desert island thingy though I’d have to swap my choice to Jean Auel’s fabulous Clan of the Cave Bear series as there is so much useful survival information in there as well as it being brilliantly written.  I have so many favourite authors that to choose one is almost impossible but in my own genre the one I really admire at the moment is Beth Haslam and her Fat Dogs series. She really does write so well and so engagingly. Her stories never seem to stall or become boring and that is quite a feat. 

Me: Ah yes, I love Beth’s books too. By the way, are you writing anything at the moment? Can you tell us what it is?

Lisa: I have just got my second travelogue memoir out there, Tomato, Fig & Pumpkin Jelly launches on Valentine’s Day, so now I am busy with the first draft of my third book, Chestnut, Cherry & Kiwi Fruit Sponge. (At least the cover recipe will be easier on this one!) I’m also adding to my notes for a couple more travelogue memoirs when inspiration hits!

Me: Ooh, that’s great to hear. I’ll look forward to those! Okay, one last question. If you had a bucket list, what would be in the top three positions?

Lisa: Oh! That one has floored me. In fact I’ll admit I had to Google ‘bucket list’. So, things to do before I die? You know I don’t think I’ve ever made a bucket list. Although I’m a big list maker in general (shopping, books etc) I have never really planned the big things in my life. For instance, moving to Galicia and renovating a ruin wouldn’t have been on my bucket list as I’d never even heard of Galicia until we walked the Camino de Santiago and then we just decided to move and that was that! Publishing a book, never mind two, was never on a bucket list either as I thought it was as likely as flying to the moon (now there’s one for my bucket list if Elon Musk is listening). I guess I’m more of a taking the unexpected side turnings to an alternative future type of girl! It’s worked out pretty well so far. I couldn’t be happier than I am here in Galicia. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a bucket list!

Thank you so much, Lisa. I’ve loved your answers and I’m thrilled you’re going to be writing some more lovely memoirs. For all the readers here, I reviewed Lisa’s new book on my review page, so you can find out a bit more about it here in the previous post, but if you click on the titles in the first paragraph, it will take you to the Amazon.com marketing page. I should say her books are available world wide, so if you’re not a dot com customer, go to your own Amazon page to find them. I can recommend them both very highly! If you love the country, self-sufficiency, foreign travel, gardening, food and just about anything else, you’ll love these delightful memoirs. Lisa’s warmth and humour positively bounce off the pages. It’s no wonder her neighbours in Spain love her!

You can also find Lisa on her website at: http://lisarosewright.wixsite.com
She is also a regular contributor on the We Love Memoirs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/welovememoirs
As well as on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/lisarosewright.author
And on Twitter at : https://twitter.com/Galauthor_lisa

Charming house, charming setting, paradise indeed!
Both of Lisa’s books against the background of her lovely Galician home

A Dream of Paris by Neal Atherton

This is the third book I’ve read by Neal Atherton and once again, I loved his refreshing enthusiasm for France and all things French.

This memoir/travelogue is dedicated to Paris and is really a kind of love letter to the author’s favourite city. It is a very personal account and devotes time to the specific places he and his wife love, as well as detailing favourite restaurants, meals and wines.

There is also attention to history, in particular WWII, as well as some extra description of some of special places the couple love to return to. I learned several things I didn’t know about Paris too, which is always a bonus for me and the book made me want to return, which is what I think Neal Atherton hopes readers will do.

Altogether, a charming read from someone who has immersed himself in France and clearly adores the many moods and views of its beautiful capital.

The link to the book is here

Tomato, Fig and Pumpkin Jelly by Lisa Rose Wright

This is the sequel to Lisa Rose Wright’s first memoir, Plum, Courgette and Green Bean Tart, which I read and reviewed last year. It was about her move to an old farmhouse in Galicia with her boyfriend, S, and the restoration and self-sufficiency project they embarked on. I enjoyed it so much I was very pleased when I was asked to Beta read this one, and what a lovely book it is.

The ongoing theme throughout Tomato, Fig and Pumpkin Jelly is Lisa and her S’ plans to get married in Galicia. What they didn’t anticipate when they decided to tie the knot was the bureaucratic shenanigans they would have to go through to make it to the alter. The story of their efforts to fulfil the seemingly impossible requirements is the thread that sews this lovely memoir together.

The chapters are a mix of Lisa’s letters home to her beloved mother, diary entries and a narrative that provides the glue as well as the links between the sections. Apart from the wedding plans, we learn more about their noble restoration of their lovely Spanish home as well as stories about their chickens, rabbits and other furry friends (or not) and also their delightful neighbours. And of course, the letters to mum are full of news interspersed with teasing daughterly humour.

It’s a gorgeous mix, bound by Lisa’s vivacious personality, which bounces off every page. I loved it; hers is the life I would so love to live and it was wonderful to immerse myself in her world with S for a while. All in all, this is a charming book that will leave you dreaming of going to Galicia and living there in a ramshackle house with lots of chickens. Just a delight altogether.

The link to pre-order or order the book is here

The Kilt Behind the Curtain by Ronald Mackay

Having visited Romania in recent years myself and after feeling the ghosts of Ceausescu’s cruel regime in conversations I had with people there, I was excited to win this memoir in a draw. I’ve read Ronald Mackay’s first book Fortunate Isle and loved it, so I knew I would have a treat with this book and I wasn’t disappointed at all. In fact, I was completely riveted. It’s the most interesting book I’ve read in a long time and I was completely absorbed in the author’s account of his two years as a university lecturer in Bucharest in the late 1960s.

My impression is that Ronald Mackay was a courageous, very open young man, and he made many friends in the country as a result. He travelled far and wide across this beautiful land and in it he found people of grace, learning and dignity in spite of the rigours of the regime they lived under.

I would recommend this memoir to everyone interested in communist Eastern Europe and especially in Romania. I would also recommend it to travellers to the country as it explains so much about the attitudes, feelings and character of what we can find there today. A wonderful book which I’m sure I’ll read again.

The link to the book is here