Sunday, July 14, 2024

Sunday Salon: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - June stats and the year so far!

For the last couple of years I have been sharing statistics each month for the Historical challenge, and my plan is to continue to do this again this year. I find it interesting to see what are the books that people are reading and reviewing! I think I have visited almost all the reviews submitted during June and have added a couple of books to my never ending TBR list. Given that we are now in July, I thought I would also do a summary of the challenge so far!

But first....let's talk about June's statistics

In terms of the books, there were 48 reviews linked up for the challenge, shared by 18 participants. This is a bit less than we have been tracking over the last couple of months. There were 46 individual titles reviewed, written by 46 different authors. There were 4 reviewers who reviewed more than 5 books each. Thank you to everyone who shared their links whether it be 6 or just 1.

So which books were reviewed more than once in June?  There were two books that were reviewed twice but there were no other authors who had more than one of their books reviewed.

The first was The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson. I read and loved her book Major Pettigrew's Last Stand years ago, so I am definitely interested in reading this one too! I would have been anyway given the title, but still. This book was reviewed by Susan at Reading World and CLM at Staircase Wit.

The other book that was reviewed twice this month was the final book in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The title is The Comfort of Ghosts and it was reviewed by Cathy at What Cathy Read Next  and  Laura at Reading Books Again.

So let's talk about the first six months of the challenge in 2024

In terms of the books, there have been 328 reviews linked up for the challenge, shared by 31 participants. If I compare this last year, this is less than we had at this point last year, but that's okay! There were 305 individual titles reviewed, written by 283 different authors. There were 13 reviewers who have reviewed more than 10 books each. Thank you to everyone who has shared their links throughout the last 6 months.

There were 19 books that were reviewed twice in the first six months, but only one which has been reviewed three times which was The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson which I mentioned above.

I look forward to seeing what everyone reviews over the next 6 months and we will see which books end up at the top of the list later in the year!

I am sharing this post with Sunday Salon hosted at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Weekend Cooking/Paris in July: The Paris Cooking School by Sophie Beaumont

When we were in Paris at the beginning of last year, we had quite a few things on our list to do, and not enough time to do them in. One of those things was to do a cooking class. In the end we decided to do a foodie walking tour through the Marais which I thoroughly enjoyed, but the idea of going back to Paris and doing a cooking class is still in the back of mind.

This book takes the idea of doing a cooking class and takes it to the next level!! I mean how amazing would 4 weeks in Paris at a cooking school be?

Sylvie runs a very popular cooking school in Paris. She regularly welcomes groups of new students and each group brings their own challenges and rewards. This time,  among the students there are Australians Gabi and Kate, along with other characters from Japan, USA and Germany

Kate and Gabi are both running away to Paris but for different reasons. Kate's long term marriage has just broken down irrevocably, and led to Kate leaving the family business that has been her life for years. Four weeks in Paris, being basically incommunicado from people in her life, in particular her soon to be ex husband, sounds like bliss. She is looking forward to getting to experience the real Paris, not just the three day rush from one place to another that she experienced the first time she visited the city.

Gabi is an artist, who hit the big time but now the pressure is on to to come up with her next big piece, and she's got nothing left in her. Artist's block has definitely taken hold big time, and she has no self belief at all in her ability to create art, let alone once again be successful!

When you bring together an eclectic group of people for such a long time, there are bound to be times when not everyone gets along, but at least they all have 

Whilst I quite liked the Kate and Gabi storylines, the most interesting aspect for me was the story of what was happening with Sylvie. She has worked really hard to build her business over the years whilst also singlehandedly raising her son. So, it is very perplexing when it becomes apparent that her business is being targeted and she has no idea why. Someone is writing anonymous bad reviews, and spreading misinformation to the media, and it is impacting her business. She has worked too hard to let everything come crashing down now.

The other issue that she is facing is that her relationship with Claude seems to be coming to a natural end. The red flags are waving. He's jealous of the time that her business takes up, and yet he won't do what needs to be done in order to take their relationship to the next level. Thank goodness that Sylvie's neighbour and best friend is willing to help her to try and work out why someone is targeting her business.

Of course, Paris is known for its sights and sounds, for its food and culture and so much more. It is also known as the city of love, and so it probably isn't unexpected that there is some romance in the book as well.

So many delicious passages about food, and describing Paris. I could quote whole passages about cheese, and desserts and so much more!

I thought I would share a passage from the book for you all to get a small taste of the book. The problem I had is that there were so many options to choose from. Should I share something about amazing sounding food  like cheese or gateaux, or beautiful sights (including a visit to Giverny) or something else. In the ended I decided to share a passage from the very beginning of the book, where the students have first come together in the class.

Sylvie told them the Paris Cooking School was not about teaching cordon bleu cooking, but about helping people discover and apply the French way of home cooking to their own lives. "The French way of home cooking is not fancy, or difficult," she said, "or even necessarily time-consuming. In this school you will find what may seem like an unusual way of learning, and which may not always seem serious. But it's designed to immerse you immediately, and help you understand what underlies the French approach to food. Understanding needs to come not only through the mind, but also the heart and the imagination. And the hands, of course!"

Kate wasn't the only one smiling at that, as Sylvie went on, "I know you all already love to cook, and a couple of you -" nodding at Misaki, who was a retired chef from Japan, and Ethan, who ran a gastropub in England - "are actually professionals. You already have a good understanding of cooking. And you have your own ways of doing things. We don't ask you to forget any of those things. But we encourage you to go beyond. To start with an open mind and be willing to be surprised." She gestured to Damian, who disappeared into the pantry. "And that is why we're starting this first session with a bit of a game. Humble and simple this food item might be, but without it, French cooking could hardly exist. Can you guess what it is?"

Everyone stared at her, then a chorus of voices threw out ideas. "Garlic!" "Cream!" "Herbs!" "Wine!" "Butter!" "Bouillon!"

"Snails," said Ethan, in his posh drawl.

"Frogs' legs," put in Mike, the burly American who had introduced himself earlier with a twinkle in his eye as Ethan's partner or kept man - take your pick.

Chuckling, Pete, the fiftyish Canadian who already reminded Kate irresistibly of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, contributed, "Je ne sais quoi," making everyone laugh.

"All right," Sylvie said, breaking into the hilarity, "then, as we say in French, will you give your tongue the cat? It means to give up," she explained, smiling.

"But in English we say, if the cat's got your tongue that means you have to keep quiet," said Kate, cheekily.

Everyone laughed, including Sylvie. "Very true," she said, giving Kate an appreciative look. "Okay Damien, show them." Her assistant came out from the pantry, arms full of egg cartons. The room erupted in exclamations and cheers.

"This is my contention: that the humble egg is a cornerstone of French cooking," Sylvie said, when the noise had died down. "Let's talk, then, about the egg and its many stories."

I could keep going as from this point the class learned to make ouefs mimosa and eggs en cocette, an then to cook their own recipes.

Now, who wants to help me convince my husband that we should spend a month in France? I've planted the seeds.

Sophie Beaumont is a pen name for prolific Australian author Sophie Masson, who is herself half French. I will definitely be reading her next book which is out in November which is called A Secret Garden in Paris. Can't wait!

I am sharing this review with my fellow participants in Paris in July, hosted by Emma at Words and Peace, and also with Foodies Read, hosted at Based on a True Story.

Weekly meals

Saturday - Roast Beef, potato, carrots, peas, mushroom gravy
Sunday - One Pot Pastistsio (new)
Monday - out for dinner
Tuesday - Honey/char siu chicken, rice, broccoli
Wednesday -out for dinner
Thursday -Pizza
Friday - Takeaway

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Blog Tour: A Love Letter to Paris by Rebecca Raisin


Have you ever written a love letter?  One where you have to sit down and try to convey who you are, what you feel and what it is that you hope for?

Lilou loves reading love letters and old journals, so much so that she sells them at her market stall in the St Ouen market in Paris. Whilst Lilou tells herself that she isn't interested in love for herself, she still believes in love, and if she can help her friends find it then she will. And so Paris Cupid is born, but this isn't any ordinary dating website. Lilou carefully matches each couple who have agreed that they will only communicate via letter until they both agree that it is time to meet.  Lilou is determined to remain anonymous though. Who would trust someone with as many dating disasters as she has had to help them find love?

It isn't long before Paris Cupid is making news headlines when a famous actor announces that he has found love through the website. Suddenly everyone is speculating who could the mastermind behind the website could be. 

When Lilou starts receiving love notes, letters and gifts, she isn't really sure who could be sending them to her. It could be any one of the three men who have recently been allocated stall spaces next to her in the market. Scratch that. It could be two of the three men. It couldn't possibly be the third one.

Soon Lilou has her hands full trying to work out who her mysterious admirer might by, running her market stall and trying to keep her Paris Cupid business going, as well as keep her identity secret. 

I have read quite a few Rebecca Raisin books now. I love the way that she writes about food, books and the locations, especially Paris! And this book is no exception. The reader is very cleverly taken to a number of sites around Paris in the course of Lilou's activities. Some of the sites are well known, but others not quite so famous. I now need to visit Paris again to visit some of the places mentioned. I mean, I needed to go already, but even more so now. I am already looking forward to her next book

This most definitely is a love letter to Paris, but it is also a love letter to love letters, to the lost art of letter writing, and to falling in love slowly. 

I was contemplating when I last wrote a love letter. When I first started seeing my now husband, I wrote him a letter almost like a performance appraisal where I gave him a promotion from dating to being a boyfriend, and again to partner, and then again when we got married. I don't think I can promote him any higher than husband? Maybe I need to write him another one soon.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for the review copy. I am sharing this review with the New Release Challenge hosted at The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog and as part of Paris in July, hosted by Emma and Words And Peace.

Check out other stops on the blog tour below.

About the book

A Love Letter to Paris

Late at night when I wander the streets of Paris, my thoughts turn to her… How do I tell her how I feel? Perhaps, I need to show her…

The pretty little streets of Montmartre are abuzz with a rumour. Apparently a mystery matchmaker, known only as ‘Paris Cupid’, has somehow helped the city’s most famous bachelor find love.

But old-fashioned romantic Lilou is staying very quiet. She’d just wanted to set up her best friend, and to get on with her life selling whimsical old love letters, in Paris’s famous St. Ouen market.

She hadn’t imagined her little Paris Cupid project could ever have attracted so many people looking for true, heartfelt romance. Though the truth is that Lilou adores helping people find the right person. Even if her own love life is nothing short of disastrous.

But then a message arrives. And it’s just for her. Someone is in love with her. Someone who knows her secret. But they’re keeping their own identity secret too… Could it be from cheerful, talkative, flame-haired Felix? Or quiet, beautifully handsome Benoit? Or even Pascale – who drives Lilou mad every day?

After so long of helping others find their soulmate, is it time for Lilou to find love of her own in Paris herself?

Purchase Link -

About the Author 

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.

Social Media Links –  .




TikTok: @rebeccaraisinwrites

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Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Blog Tour: Daughters of Tuscany by Siobhan Daiko


Yes, it is Paris in July time, but I am taking a quick detour to Italy for this post. Never fear, I will be back in France again tomorrow.

I have read a number of Siobhan Daiko's books, and so when I saw that there was an upcoming blog tour, of course I am going to volunteer. My first book by this author was set in the Pacific theatre of WWII, but the rest have been set in Italy, which is where she lives, although she is British originally.

What I like about her books is that she takes lesser known stories from WWII and fictionalises them to share with her readers. With a title like Daughters of Tuscany, it will be no surprise that this story is set in Tuscany, but it is in a small valley called. Initially, the war is not that near to Emma and Rosa, our two main characters. The main impact is in the loss of the men who help run the estate owned by Emma's father, Marchese Ginori. Rosa's family are tenants of the Marchese. 

The Marchese is able to get some POWs to help with the farm, which brings Rosa into contact with a Scottish soldier named Tom. Rosa is determined that she is going to stay away from Tom. She has already suffered great loss thanks to the war, which has left her to raise her daughter alone, and she is determined not to risk heartbreak again. 

Meanwhile, Emma and her father walk a fine line in trying to navigate dealing with the German's, helping their people to survive, and helping the resistance fighters who hide in the nearby forests and mountains.

However, with the Allies advancing from the south of Italy and the Germans moving northwards, the fighting gets closer and closer, bring different types of danger for each of them with it.

Recently, I was at an author event where a publisher speaking about the fact that we seem to be moving away from WWII fiction. I still love WWII fiction, but it has to be something different, something exceptional. I liked this book, although I do feel like the premise is kind of safe, by which I mean it isn't anything I haven't really read before. I do also feel like there were times when I could see the editor, particularly in the early parts of the book. That aside, the story was engaging, there were strong female characters, and it does tell an interesting story.

Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and Rachel's Random Resources for the review copy. I am sharing this review with the New Release Challenge hosted at The Chocolate Lady's Book Review Blog and with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host.

About the Book

Daughters of Tuscany

Two women, one community, everyone’s war…

With the arrival of English prisoners of war on Marchese Ginori’s farmhouse estate, Rosa is immediately wary. Her husband was killed by the Allies and she will not trust any inglesi around her daughter.

The marchese’s daughter, Emma, is thankful for the extra help. Especially when Italian soldiers are forced into hiding, fleeing the Nazis. Emma vows to protect her childhood best friend, Marco, at any cost.

It’s a dangerous time to be harbouring fugitives, and as the POWs prove their allegiance in helping the Italian men, Rosa begins to become close to one in particular – an alluring Scotsman named Tom.

Both women will do what it takes to protect their loved ones, but daring to hope for a better future in wartime is a dangerous dream. And what starts as a quest to keep their men safe soon turns into a mission to save their whole community…

A sweeping tale of love, loss and hope in times of strife, perfect for fans of Fiona Valpy, Rhys Bowen and Kristin Hannah


Purchase Link -

About the author:

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a Siberian cat. Siobhan was born of English parents in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in Australia, and then moved to the UK — where she taught modern foreign languages in a Welsh high school. She now spends her time writing page-turners and living the dolce vita sweet life near Venice. Her novels are compelling, poignant, and deeply moving, with strong characters and evocative settings, but always with romance at their heart. You can find more about her books on her website

Social Media Links –  




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Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Paris books!

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Throwback Freebie (Pick a TTT topic that has been previously done. Maybe you missed it, weren’t blogging then, or you’d like to update an old list you made. All previous topics are listed below.)

We are part way through Paris in July (hosted by Emma at Words and Peace), so rather than do a throwback, I am going to choose the last ten books I have read with Paris in the title

A Love Letter to Paris by Rebecca Raisin - My review of this one will be up in the next couple of days! It was good though!

The Last Train from Paris by Juliet Greenwood - WWII, dual timeline and a really good read! (my review)

The Paris Agent by Kelly Rimmer - I have enjoyed all the Kelly Rimmer books that I have read so far

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico - I fell in love with the movie and then read the book. Here's my review of both

Twenty One Nights In Paris by Leonie Mack - This was my first Leonie Mack but I have read everything she has put out since. (my review)

The Girl from Paris by Ella Carey - Ella Carey has a few books set in Paris (my review)

The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Swan - This is a WWII novel but it is more of a thriller than I would normally read.

An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham - Another WWII novel (my review)

Saint-Germain-des-Pres: Paris's Rebel Quarter by John Baxter - I really enjoyed this short non-fiction look at a specific area of Paris

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George - Books and Paris. Yes please.

Have you read any of these, or have any other Paris suggestions for me?

Monday, July 08, 2024

This Week....

I'm reading

Last week I shared that I was feeling a little unsettled reading wise, mainly because I couldn't decide what I wanted to read. This week I fixed that by finishing all the books that I had started recently, plus getting ahead on my review reading! It's been a busy reading week

I finished both Daughters of Tuscany by Siobhan Daiko and Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum. My review for Daughters of Tuscany will be up in the next couple of days. I also finished The Readers Room by Antoine Laurain

I also started and finished A Love Letter to Paris by Rebecca Raisin, which I will also have a review of in the next few days.

Amazon Prime Reads included The Bookstore Wedding by Alice Hoffman this month, so I picked that up and read it very quickly. It really is a short story, coming in at around 30-40 pages. There was a lot in that short story though!

Finally, I decided to start read The Stolen Hours, which is the second book in the Wild Isle Trilogy by Karen Swan. I have decided that this is going to be my Scottish book for my read on a theme book club.

That feels like a lot this week!

I'm watching

We are now into the second week of Tour de France, and we tend to watch around an hour or so each night! Every night there is a 5 minute cooking show which features the food of the region that the bike race is visiting, called Plat du Tour which I really enjoy!

It's hard to believe that before I met my husband I had only ever seen one Star Wars movie, and that that was on a date. Now I end up watching everything as it comes out. This week we started watching The Acolyte which is the latest series.

This was the last weekend of the Spanish Film Festival, so I convince hubby to come and see a movie called The Teacher Who Promised the Sea, which was a really movie film. It's the story of a woman who is looking for her great-grandfather who went missing in the 1930s. Along the way she learns about her grandfather's childhood, and the role a teacher played in it. This teacher really existed which makes the story even more moving. I definitely recommend both this movie, and the one that I talked about last week as well.

Here's the trailer:

I have had another Spanish film called Lemon and Poppyseed Cake on my to be watched list for a couple of years but I hadn't been able too find where I could stream it. I was looking for something else when I stumbled across it so I had  to watch it. This was very different to the other movie, feels a bit more soapie, but I liked the story and now I need to make someting lemony and poppyseedy!


Other than what I mentioned above not a lot to tell life wise. We are counting down to our holidays which will be here before we know it. I think all the main things are booked

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: Purple!
Six Degrees of Separation: Kairos to A Nurses Life

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, July 07, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation: Kairos to A Nurses Life

Welcome to this month's edition of Six Degrees of Separation, which is a monthly meme hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best. The idea is to start with a specific book and make a series of links from one book to the next using whatever link you can find and see where you end up after six links. I am also linking this post up with The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

This month's starting point is Kairos by Jenny Eckenberg. This book was recently announced as the winner of International Book Prize for 2024. The book was translated from German.

The last book I read that was translated from German was Carsten Henn's The Door-to-Door Bookstore which I read last year. (my review)

Another translated book about bookstores is Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum who is a Korean author. I am reading this at the moment.

A couple of years ago I read Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, which is set on the Korean island of Jeju. We are doing a cruise next year which will take us to Jeju which we are very excited about.

Recently I have been listening to Song of the Sun God by Shankari Chandran. What is the connection? Well, this book is set in the island nation of Sri Lanka so they are both set on islands.. We know that we will visit Sri Lanka in the next couple of years. We know who we are going with, we just have to find the date! So the other connection is Jeju and Sri Lanka are both places we intend to visit.

For the next connection, I am using the sun connection as my link and choosing Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson, which is partially set in Nigeria.

For my last choice, I am selecting a book I just learned about the day I was writing this post, so I haven't actually read it yet. The book is A Nurses Tale by Ola Awonubi and it feaatures a Nigerian nurse in WWII London. Christie Watson used to be a nurse, so that's another connection between these two books.

I need to stop here which is a shame as I straight away thought of another book about WWII nurses.

Next month the starting point is with The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

Where did your chain take you this month?