Tag Archives: book reviews

When people think France they often think Paris, history, food, wine and romance.

But what inspires you to travel to far away, romantic places such as France? For me, it's simply opening a book and letting the words wash over me, encouraging me to visit the destinations written about within its pages.  I hope these three books inspire you to plan a trip to France, and to experience the history, food and romance that makes France one of the greatest places to explore.

Be inspired to travel to France with this memoir by Samantha Verant

How to Make a French Family is a memoir by Samantha Verant.

How to Make a French Family

Samantha shares her love story - both with a man and her love of France - in her memoir How to Make a French Family ($22.50, Raincoast Books, Sourcebooks). Samantha was 19 when she met her future husband, Jean-Luc, and his friend at a Paris bar while on a European tour with a friend. After a whirlwind stop, she left Jean-Luc to continue her trip but with a promise to keep in touch. She didn't, but about 20 years and a failed marriage later, she reconnected with Jean-Luc through blog posts and letters, eventually meeting with him. The pair got married in California before Samantha immigrated to France to be with Jean-Luc and his children.

Through Samantha, we get to understand - and want - the France way of life from shopping at the market to the “never-ending cycle of kissing” and hosting a dinner party, the French way. We also get to explore France as Jean-Luc and the children show Samantha around her new country.

“It was the charming medieval village of Cordes-sur-Ciel, built in the 1200s, that captured my heart. We traversed the cobbled streets, ate crepes and took in sweeping views of pristine vineyards dotted with beautiful rustic farmhouses.”

We also get to explore France from a tourist point of view as the couple shows her family France - coffee and croissants, shopping for French linens and cheese as well as locations such as the beach of Cassis, Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, Rocamadour and more.

Learn about the art of communication with The Bonjour Effect.

The Bonjour Effect is a must-read before going to France.

The Bonjour Effect

"In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language." - Mark Twain

Now that I read The Bonjour Effect The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed by Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau ($23.99, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Griffin), Mark Twain's quote makes sense.

According to the pair from Quebec, who lived in France twice including a year with their children, “the French don't communicate, they converse.”

“When (travelers) attempt to communicate with the French, they end up frustrated, confused and sometimes even hurt,” the pair wrote. “Communications between French and foreigners is rarely effortless and often unpleasant.”

In this interesting read about the art of communicating with the French, the pair talk about the importance of saying Bonjour, understanding no means yes, learning smiling suggests you have something to hide and comprehending arguing is a national pastime.

"Quarrels in France strengthen a love affair, in America they end it." ~ The Paris Diary of Ned Rorem

Learn the present and past of food in Paris with this book

A Taste of Paris

A Taste of Paris A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food

Food – and the art of enjoying it - is also important to the people of France.

“In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.” ~ Julia Child

In A Taste of Paris A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food ($31.50, Raincoast Books, St. Martin's Press), author David Downie “embarks on a quest to discover 'What is it about the history of Paris that has made it a food lover's paradise'.”

“Long ago this love affair with food and wine earned Paris the title of the world's capital of fine dining,” wrote Downie. “I had a foretaste of the fun as a young man during my first visit to the city in 1976. A decade later, in the spring of 1986, I became a full-time conspirator, taking possession of a seventh-floor, cold-water walk-up maid's room in the 17th arrondissement near the Arc de Triomphe. As soon as I unpacked I began mapping out Paris' gastronomic topography – the markets, stores, restaurants and cafes that became my second home.”

The book explores the food history of Paris as well as the people creating the tastes of Paris today. So while the vegetable garden of Marie Antoinette still exists, it provides produce to Alain Ducasse and his restaurant inside the palace of Versailles.

"Paris is always a good idea." - Audrey Hepburn in the movie Sabrina

What about France appeals to you? Tell me in the comment section below: 

Copies of these books were provided by Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.

Canada is now 150 years old,

but I will be celebrating the anniversary of Confederation all year long. In celebration of Canada150, Parks Canada has offered its Discovery Pass where you can have unlimited visits to its national sites. I hope these books inspire you to visit some of the places mentioned within its pages during Canada150.

FollowSummer reviews The Lightkeeper's Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol

The Lightkeeper's Daughters is an amazing book that shows the beauty of Lake Superior.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters

The Lightkeeper's Daughters is written by Thunder Bay resident Jean E. Pendziwol, who spent much of her childhood on her family's sailboat, exploring the islands and bays of Lake Superior. And you can tell: Pendziwol not only loves the largest of the great lakes, but she also respects it.

In her author's note about some of the liberties she takes with her story, Pendziwol writes: “Lake Superior appears in full iconic truth; temperamental, beautiful, vast, magnificent, and moody.”

The LightKeeper's Daughters ($26.99, HarperCollins) is a story about Elizabeth, whose mind is sharp, but her eyes no longer see. She fills the void with music and memories of her family, a past that becomes present when her late father's journals are found amid the ruins of an old shipwreck.

With the help of Morgan, a teenager performing community service, Elizabeth goes through the diaries. Entry by entry, the pair are drawn deep into to Porphyry Island on Lake Superior, where Elizabeth’s father manned the lighthouse 70 years before.

The Lightkeeper's Daughters pulled me in from the moment I opened the book, with each chapter telling you whose perspective you were reading including Arnie Richardson, who describes Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Thunder Bay this way: “It is a mystical place, this peninsula, jutting into Lake Superior; chiseled rocky cliffs and worn ridges, mysteriously carved by wind and rain and time, take the form of a giant slumbering in a cradle of icy gray water. Legends speak of an Ojibwe god, Nanibijou, lying down at the entrance to Thunder Bay, his magnificent form turning to stone, eternally protecting rich silver deposits.”

The characters are wonderful, even those who played small parts, and the story is amazing with a mystery I didn't solve. The descriptions, particularly of the lake, are beautiful and you come to know this part of Canada's north a little better.

FollowSummer reviews A Sea Glass Journey and the hunt for sea glass in Canada's oceans.

A Sea Glass Journey makes me want to spend the day looking for treasure.

A Sea Glass Journey Ebb and Flow

A Sea Glass Journey Ebb and Flow by Teri Hall ($24.95, Nimbus Publishing) is the book that made me want to visit the ocean and hunt for sea glass, which I did with my family last year. We spent a couple of weeks searching for sea glass.

Hunting for sea glass in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.

My favourite find - blue sea glass from the Bay of Fundy at Bay in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick.

Sea Glass Journey, with a foreword by Chef Michael Smith, offers a look what sea glass is and the life it takes on afterward. The pictures make me happy and wish I was again hunting for treasures of the sea this summer.

“Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choices as beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”

~ Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is That Travel Guide to Canada offers a different look at travel writing

This is That is not your typical travel guide.

This is That Travel Guide to Canada

This is That Travel Guide to Canada ($19.95, Raincoast Books, The Tite Group).

I didn't hear of This is That, the CBC Radio show, hosted by Pat Kelly and Peter Oldring, until I picked up the book by the same name.

“We set out to write the most thorough, comprehensive, and accurate travel guide ever published about Canada. After reading this book, we believe you'll agree – we tried,” wrote the pair in the introduction.

I then should have known This is That would offer more jokes than stories about Canada and its people, more teasing to those who don't know us than practical ideas of the best places to see.

I will give the book this, I will have to check out the destinations mentioned in the book simply to figure out if anything said is true.

Happy Canada150, everyone! Now get out and explore!


Copies of the books were provided by Raincoast Books, HarperCollins Canada, and Nimbus Publishing for honest review.