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Your reading for March, Reviews by Susan Keefe

In God We Trust: Morally Responsible Investing

by George P. Schwartz

How to combine investing wisely with your moral responsibilities and beliefs.

What a refreshing book, I thoroughly applaud the ethics behind the Ave Maria Funds and its policy to offer investors the opportunity to invest in a manner consistent with their faith. Sounds too good to be true? Well read on, and discover how the Ave Maria Funds came to be and the values of the people who set up and manage them.

As indicated in the Forward by Lou Holtz, this is the sequel to ‘Good Returns, which he contributed to. In this new book, ‘In God We Trust the reader discovers the ever increasing more morally conscientious investors. In 2001 Gorge Schwartz the CEO of the Schwartz Investment Council Inc. was approached by Tom Monaghan the founder of Domino’s pizza and the late Bowie Kuhn Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Dedicated Catholics, they wanted to launch a series of investment vehicles – the Ave Maria Mutual Funds, which enabled investors to invest in a manner consistent with their faith. The funds would provide Morally Responsible Investing, identifying with companies which do not participate in, contribute to, or support abortion or pornography.

There are now five different mutual funds, all pro-life, pro-family, and dedicated to investing in companies which don’t violate the core principals of the Catholic Church.

These mutual funds each have a different objective, they are:

Ave Maria Value Fund, Ave Maria Growth Fund, Ave Maria Bond Fund, Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund, Ave Maria World Equity Fund

What I loved about this book is that in it George Schwartz gives his reader a real insight into his life, upbringing, and the values he has been taught, and has lived by, in the Catholic faith. It is these things which has made him the man he is today, and the help of his wife Judi of course. It is also these strong moral principles which form the basis of the Ave Maria Funds.

However, right from the very first page this book’s subject is paramount. This is investing and principally about how to invest morally and responsibly. The authors offer a wealth of knowledge and experience in the field accumulated through many years. Throughout, sound, practical advice is freely given. In a world where greed is rife and everyone is keen to make a fast buck, wouldn’t you rather invest in a fund with strong, good moral principles?

This book’s values touched me personally, although I am not a catholic, and I found it extremely thought-provoking and interesting.

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/God-We-Trust-Responsible-Investing-ebook/dp/B07KKKM9SK/ref=sr_1_6_ku?ie=UTF8&qid=1551101584&sr=8-6&keywords=in+god+we+trust

 

The Exigent Earth: Recently Placed On The Endangered Species List: Humans

by Beverly Knauer and Murray Rosenthal

A fascinating and thought provoking passionately written science-fiction story.

This outstanding book sends out a powerful and very strong message to its readers. Woven into a fascinating science-fiction plot is the fact that we are stewards of the world, its fate, and ultimately our own is in the hands of everyone. Mother earth is a strong spirit with incredible ways of protecting herself. Everyone is accountable, and can make a difference. As it says in the book “People must understand that it isn’t up to someone else to save them. Their power is within and always has been.”

The story opens with Virginia Sutter a multilingual geologist and writer deciding to attend a conference in Zurich by Nickolai Sparsinsky a reclusive Russian scientist. Neither Virginia, nor Nickolai could have imagined that the decision would change both their lives forever!

Its love at first sight, and it isn’t long before Nicholai manages to escape Russia and relocate to America. It is in Montana that they meet a young 14 year old Indian girl called Olivia, who even so young possesses special healing powers. An instant friendship develops and Virginia invites Olivia to live with them on their ranch in the Pryor Mountains.

There Nickolai builds a laboratory set into the mountains. He is passionate about his research and the icing on the cake comes the day when Nickolai reveals proudly to his wife that there is in fact another secret lab. Taking her there he explains the full potential of his achievement in successfully turning on higher energy states at the cellular level. Although elated, both are very aware that his breakthrough can help mankind, but it also worryingly has the potential to be weaponised in the wrong hands.

Nickolai’s tragic death soon after his revelation sends government officials flocking to the ranch desperate to discover what the talented scientist has been working on, but the secret lab isn’t discovered. Unaware, the officials after ransacking the lab leave with plenty of paper, but the secret it safe.

Soon after, Virginia enters the secret lab alone and something happens. Then, it isn’t long before Virginia discovers that Nickolai will always be with her both in her dreams and also in the form of the baby growing inside her.

As soon as he is born Olivia calls him her ‘Child of Light.’ Zac is no ordinary baby, and afraid that his abilities will be noticed, the women do their best to protect him. However, not even Olivia can shield him from the cruel events of life, and it is a sad orphaned boy who finds himself travelling with Olivia to Vermont, to live with his uncle Brian.

As this amazing story progresses the bond between Brian, Olivia, and Zac grows. With Olivia’s spiritual guidance, and Brian’s enthusiasm and dedication Zac grows into an intelligent young man. Then, a meeting with his father’s oldest friend, opens doors for Zac into his father’s world. Finally understanding his research, an incredulous Zac, through it, and his mother’s guidance in visions, finally realises his role in life.

As natural disasters leave the planet desecrated and the death tolls rise, the government wants him discredited but the people love him. What will destiny hold for Zac, Olivia’s Child of Light, and the planet we all take for granted?

Murray Rosenthal one of the authors is a world-renowned, board-certified psychiatrist, researcher, and lecturer who thrives on adventure, and lives with his wife on Lake Tahoe. Whilst his multi-award-winning co-author Beverly Knauer is a retired chief of rehabilitation services, who now enjoys writing stimulating novels. Her two previous works are the visionary ‘The Line Between’ and ‘The Soul’s Hope.

This is an exciting story, passionately written. With space travel, biological weapons and incredibly thought-provoking content it really does makes compulsive reading – Highly recommended!

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exigent-Earth-Recently-Endangered-Species-ebook/dp/B07N6MRZX1/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1551101705&sr=8-1&keywords=exigent+earth

 

The Amazon Rainforest Adventure: Inform children about how important our Rainforest is (Picture book) (The Rescue Elves Book 2)

by Monty J. McClaine

As a family we are very conscious of the world around us, the environment, recycling, and animal welfare. Awareness is so much easier to teach when children are young, and so when after reading The Plastic Pollution Adventure (Picture Book) (The Rescue Elves Book 1) I discovered that there was a second book in the series The Amazon Rainforest Adventure I just had to get it to read to my little granddaughter. This was not just because it has magical elves in it, but also because the deforestation of the Amazon rainforests has such an incredible impact on our planet and its ecosystems.

For those who don’t know, The Rescue Elves, or relves, are the special elves who look after Santa’s sleigh. It is their job to ensure that if there are any problems with it, they know what to do, and if necessary can rescue Santa, and save the day. However to do this they must stay in tip top condition throughout the year, and be ready to deal with any situation in any place on the earth. Therefore Mrs. Claus sends them on special missions to test their skills, and ensure they can deal with any situation, and these missions are the topics for this series of children’s books.

Holly, Charlie, Jack and Sparkle, are the names of the elves, and they are so excited, they love exploring and visiting beautiful places. In this adventure Mrs Claus has sent them to the beautiful Amazon Rainforest.

Before they go, the elves already know how important the rainforest is to the health of our planet and all the creatures who live on it, and why it is called the “lungs of the earth.” They also know how wet it is, the clue, well it is a ‘Rainforest,’ and so they are suitably dressed. However, when they arrive they are dismayed not to hear the animal and bird sounds they are expecting, but screaming!

Who could be screaming, and why? Well, the reason is revealed when they come across a very unhappy Monkey King who has his foot trapped. When the relves discover what it is under, and how it happened, they set about helping the monkeys to free him. However, when they find out from the monkeys how much of the beautiful forest has been cut down by humans, and the damage it causes, they are very sad. At the back of the book there is a list of a variety of websites which can provide more information.

I thoroughly recommend this compelling story which is beautifully illustrated. It is a wonderful instrument to open up discussions with children about the importance of trees, why they are cut down, and what they are used for. The author very cleverly bringing environmental awareness gently to their attention at an age when they are very receptive to ideas and good habits are easily formed.

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazon-Rainforest-Adventure-children-important-ebook/dp/B07KM2NJ3Y/ref=sr_1_5_ku?ie=UTF8&qid=1551101907&sr=8-5&keywords=the+amazon+rainforest+adventure

What are your UK pension options in France today?

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks 

Pensions are often the key to long-term financial security, so it is crucial to take extreme care when deciding what to do here. Expatriates have the added complication of factoring in the tax rules of two countries, as well as the potential for Brexit to limit the range of opportunities.

So what are today’s options for Britons living in France?

Defined contribution’ or ‘money purchase’ pensions

This category includes most personal and employer pensions and Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs). Here, what you are entitled to depends on how much you have paid into the scheme alongside employer contributions, tax rebates and investment growth.

Since the pension freedoms of 2015, members of defined contribution schemes can usually do the following from age 55:

  • Take the whole fund as cash, technically called the ‘Pension Commencement Lump Sum’ (PCLS) – 25% will be tax-free in the UK.
  • Make cash withdrawals when you want – a quarter is free of UK tax each time (unless you have already taken the PCLS).
  • Take regular income through ‘flexible drawdown’, leaving the remainder invested.
  • Take a secure, regular income for life through an ‘annuity’.

As UK pension payments are usually paid in sterling, conversion fees and variable exchange rates can reduce the value of income for retirees living in Europe. A no-deal Brexit may even prevent UK pension providers from legally paying benefits to British nationals in the EU.

Expatriates have the option to transfer UK pension funds an EU-based Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS) tax-free. QROPS advantages include the flexibility to pass pension benefits to chosen heirs, take income in euros or sterling and more investment choice. Once in a QROPS, funds are protected from future UK taxation, including lifetime allowance penalties.

However, QROPS benefits and rules vary significantly between providers and jurisdictions. Also, a 25% UK tax charge applies on transfers to QROPS outside the EEA (European Economic Area). Many believe the UK government may tax EU/EEA transfers after Brexit, so if you are considering transferring, act sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary taxation. First, make sure you take specialist advice to establish if transferring is suitable for you and navigate the complex options.

‘Defined benefit’ or ‘final salary’ pensions

Here, your employer guarantees a proportion of your salary for the whole of retirement. While you cannot usually withdraw cash from this type of pension, you can transfer it to a defined contribution scheme or QROPS. Traditionally, this has been considered less beneficial than drawing a guaranteed pension for life. However, some providers have been offering higher than usual ‘transfer values’ to reduce their future pension liabilities, sometimes representing hundreds of thousands of pounds. Sensibly reinvested, a high one-off sum could potentially provide a retirement income that exceeds the original annual payment, but it is crucial to fully understand the consequences before giving up lifetime benefits.

In any case, you should consider various issues before making pension decisions.

Taxation

While 25% of cash withdrawals can be taken tax-free in the UK, if you are French resident they are usually taxable in France, as is other UK pension income.

French residents accessing UK pensions will attract French income tax rates ranging from 14% for income over €9,964 to 45% above €156,244.

For lump sums, it is possible to limit French tax to a fixed rate of just 7.5% with an uncapped 10% allowance. You will only be eligible if you have not already started drawing benefits from your pension and you take the entire fund in one go.

Pension income and lump sums are also generally subject to annual social charges of 9.1%, unless you hold EU Form S1 or do not have access to the French healthcare system. So if you are under the UK state retirement age but able to access your pension, it may be worth delaying joining the French healthcare system to prevent unnecessary social charges.

The exception here is UK government service pensions – including teachers’, local authority, army, police and civil service pensions – which remain taxable in the UK only (although the income is included when calculating your French final tax rate).

For the best results and to avoid an unexpected tax bill, take specialist, cross-border advice before making any pension decisions.

Making your pensions last

Having the freedom to withdraw or transfer your pension does not mean that you should; you may be better off taking no action at this time. If you do choose to take some or all of your benefits as cash, make sure you have a reliable plan to fund your long-term future that matches your personal circumstances and future goals.

Beware that pension scams have never been more widespread and sophisticated – generally, if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure any company you are dealing with regarding pension services is regulated with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Remember: unprotected investments risk losing your money, with no compensation if things go wrong.

Even amongst regulated providers, check for quality. The FCA found that less than half of those transferring final salary pensions received suitable advice. Make sure your adviser takes account of your needs, objectives, personal circumstances and risk appetite to find the best solution for you and your family. Getting it wrong could have serious and unexpected consequences.

Take care to explore your options now – before Brexit potentially changes the landscape – to establish your best approach for a prosperous retirement in France.

 

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; individuals should seek personalised advice.

You can find other financial advisory articles by visiting our website here

Your reading for February from Susan Keefe

In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France

 by Susie Kelly

A thoroughly entertaining read.

As a firm fan of Susie Kelly’s books about her adventures and experiences of living in rural France, I couldn’t resist downloading this, her latest book, and I am so happy that I did.

In it I discovered how it is that Susie Kelly came to live in her house in the Poitou-Charente region of France. Throughout this wonderful book she shares her incredible adventures of this time, and I found myself laughing, sighing, and sometimes nearly crying, as I read them described in truly ‘fly on the wall’ style.

Like many others before and after them, Susie and her husband Terry set off armed with practical advice, hope and lots of information and tips on house buying in a foreign land. Needless to say, despite this, we all know the draw of the Estate Agent’s window, all those amazing properties, interesting, and sometimes slightly misleading descriptions, plus the financial restrictions which we all have. Susie and Terry were just the same and settled for, as my dad would say ‘a doer-upper.’

From the moment you open this book and start reading, Susie Kelly’s frank and humorous style of writing draws you in, and, as an expat myself, I have to say it really is a very honest look at the wide range of characters of people, both English and other nationalities which you encounter here. Through her amazingly descriptive writing she paints a vivid picture of the countryside and life around her in this beautiful region of France, and recounts honestly many of the situations she finds herself in, and the antics of her menagerie.

Whether you dream of moving to France, want to know what life here is really like, or just want to be a fly on the wall enjoying someone else’s experience, then this is the book for you.

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Foreign-Fields-How-Move-France-ebook/dp/B07KN1TF1J/ref=sr_1_5_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548504046&sr=8-5&keywords=susie+kelly

Pinnacle Lust 

by Michelle Dim-St.Pierre

Secrets unfold when a mother reveals all to her daughter.

What would a girl expect to be given from her mother on her 18th birthday? A locket, or similar as a keepsake perhaps? Leigh Stone does receive something memorable on her 18th, but not quite what one would expect. Her mother Sharon decides that this is the right age for her daughter to discover secrets she has kept about her past, through necessity, until now. So bravely (or foolishly, I wonder) Sharon decides to give Leigh her own journal, which reveals the truth about her younger life.

The story begins with Leigh’s stunned acceptance of her mother’s unusual gift, and as she reads it the story unfolds through Sharon’s own words.

The journal begins in November 1990, when the young Sharon, a kosher Jew, living a secular life, is the nurse house supervisor at the Kol Israel Achim Jewish Hospital. It is there that one day she is introduced to a new physician at the hospital Dr. Sloan, and it is love at first sight.

Despite being in a relationship, with a very eligible man, the sight of the six foot, well built and ‘gorgeous’ Dr. Sloan literally takes her breath away. As their eyes meet she dares to imagine that he feels the same.

Sounds like a fairy-tale, a match made in heaven. Well it would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that Sloan is in fact a married man with a son. However, their joint attraction is so strong that neither can resist the temptation, and they embark on a passionate, and very intense love affair.

Leigh soon discovers in the pages that her mother’s young life at this time was very traumatic. She reads of Sharon’s decision to finish the relationship with boyfriend Joel, her establishment of lifelong female friendships, brief sexual encounters, and tragic loss of life. Also, she get a glimpse of what it was like to live through the terrors of the bombing of Israel by the Iraqis during Operation Desert Storm.

As adults with a few years of life behind them, many people, myself included, can relate to the core emotions of this story, from one side or the other, wife, mistress, husband, lover, either through their experiences, or those of friends. However the reader has to remember that Leigh is only 18 and her reactions to her mother’s life as they unfold are typical of someone that young.

Along with the excitement of the affair, Sharon and Sloan also have to deal with the real life issues of being together, both at work and at home. The celebratory days when the married lover is with his ‘family’, the snatched moments, these and so much more are situations which the lovers have to come to terms with. Very clearly the loneliness of Sharon, (the mistress’) life is exposed, laid bare, emotions raw.

With her body clock ticking away, like thousands of women before her, Sharon decides she wants a baby. However, how will this affect their future? Will Sloan really leave his wife for the woman he professes to love? If he does, what will the spurned wife do, and how will she react when she discovers about the affair? So many questions run through Leigh, and the readers mind in this exciting story.

As the story concludes, Leigh’s life is turned upside down by the revelations the journal contains, and she realises she doesn’t know her mother at all!

Available from Amazon  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pinnacle-Lust-Michelle-Dim-St-Pierre-ebook/dp/B00SIH3TC8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548504349&sr=8-1&keywords=pinnacle+lust

Hide and Panic Stations:  Super Speed Sam, Book 1

 by Monty J. McClaine

Will Super Sleuth Basset Hound Sam find Jack?

I first fell in love with this series of Super Speed Sam books when I downloaded book 5, just before last Christmas. My granddaughter and I so enjoyed reading of Super Speed Sam, the innocent looking Basset Hound’s adventure when he was Santa’s Rescue Dog that we just had to read the whole series.

In this, the first book we were introduced to the McClaine family, which consists of Mom, Dad whose real name is Marty, but who Mom calls Monty, Jack a typically mischievous six year old boy, and Molly (also known as moms little princess) who has just managed to start to crawl. The sworn defender of this family is their best friend and pet Super Speed Sam.

The character of Sam is adorable, my brother had as pets, and bred Basset Hounds for a number of years. Their strong characters and clever brains are cleverly hidden behind their sloppy loveable face, and they make wonderful childhood pets, as my children and nieces will attest to.

The affable Sam is the perfect companion for Jack on his adventures and in this story they are playing hide and seek, a game which every dog owner knows, dogs excel at.

Sam is very good at hiding but Jack finds him in the end. However, when it is Jack’s turn to hide he discovers the perfect place, somewhere nice and comfy, and being a boy he has his hands free flashlight and his MP3 player. Things get even better when Jack finds a hidden gem just waiting for him to look at. At this point Jack does what boys do best, he loses himself in the moment and goes off into his own world, innocently totally unaware of the bedlam he is causing.  Meanwhile poor Sam is confused, where could he be?

Sam looks in all the usual places and soon his desperate searching alerts the family to the fact that Jack is missing. Mom is panicking and even dad is getting worried. There is nothing left to do, Sam decides he must chant his special powers chant and become Super Speed Sam!

Donned in his special Sherlock Sam hat and in full sleuthing mode, as only Basset Hounds know how to, he begins his search. The question is, will Sherlock Sam find his young master safe and sound?

Well, the only way to discover the answer is to read this exciting adventure, and I am sure you will enjoy this wonderful story, which is beautifully illustrated, as much as we did!

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hide-Panic-Stations-Super-Speed-ebook/dp/B01CO4DYXY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548504811&sr=8-1&keywords=hide+and+panic+stations%3A+super+speed+sam+book+1

 

MANISH’S ZODIAC PREDICTIONS – FEBRUARY 2019

Aquarius ( 20 January – 18 February ) – This month marks a new phase in your life, when you will take your appearance much more seriously, and begin working as hard as possible. New relationships, career changes, financial revamps and health concerns are in for this month.There is certainly room for imagination and inspiration in your career.For a peaceful existence, avoid serious dating, mating and relating as the situations and people you attract around those times will bring complications.You will also plan a short break, or a working holiday, which will allow you to do much more with your life.Favorable Dates :Feb 4, 9, 13, 18, 22, 27 Favorable Colors : Red & Blue

Pisces ( 19 February – 20 March ) – You will have a very perceptive or sharp mind and may take proper decisions for your career and personal life.You would rather learn on your own through travel and experience than endure structured classroom. You would be bubbling with energy and enthusiasm. Independent and hard to pin down for long, you will be astonished at the increase of happiness in your love and married life. Get out your butterfly net and start hunting the romance in you. The period is also excellent if you want to commit to a new way of managing your mind, body and spirit.Favorable Dates :Feb 1, 3, 10, 12, 19, 21 Favorable Colors : Red & White

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April ) – You will be full of life and this will reflect in your work. Your communication skills will come into light bringing you gains.You may adopt a new style of presentation, especially for career or professional purposes bringing a shift or change in your personal life. It’s just the right time to make yourself over, so you can really enjoy close personal relations. This is the perfect time to move your love life into a new area. Unusual alternatives like speed dating, online relationships, and other rule-breaking experiments will make you glad. Favorable Dates :Feb 2, 3, 11, 12, 20, 21 Favorable Colors : Blue & White

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – You will have a good money inflow and you will spend lavishly for your comfort.This month will be very pleasing, as you will achieve victory, fame, respect and appreciation by all. Both professional and personal life will be joyful. Strong bond will be developed with loved ones and with friends and the office staff. Teamwork will bring great win-win results. For maximum fun, pursue flirtation or erotic experimentation and pick up the thread properly. Do be aware that any relationship which begins will test your patience, stamina and dedication. Favorable Dates :Feb 7, 8, 16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : Red & Grey

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June ) – You will have to skilfully use your ideas in your work and success will be yours. Those who are in any of the creative fields will get greater benefits,This month sees youyou getting more experienced and clearing all the differences of opinions to work in collaboration with colleagues.Do be wary of making decisions based on emotions, when a snap decision could create a crazy domino effect. Do look at the facts and figures.Love life will rock.You have a ready wit and will appreciate the humour in even the grimmest situations.Favorable Dates :Feb 2, 7, 11, 16, 20, 25 Favorable Colors : White & Green

Cancer( 21 June – 22 July ) –This month seems quite satisfactory. You will take out time for yourself and may become more insightful and emotions will fly high. This is on the positive side as you will become more understanding and caring and will make your close ones very happy by expressing your feelings.If you are prepared to work hard at love, then you should pass all the relationship exams ahead. For the best results, set aside the second half of the monthto co-operate on your plans.Gains from communications and unconventional sources and hobbies are possible. Favorable Dates :Feb 1, 4, 10, 13, 19, 22 Favorable Colors : White &Yellow

Leo  ( 23 July – 22 August ) – It’s the right time to travel to advance your situation, your knowledge or your experience. You may journey geographically or you may travel into the higher realms of knowledge. You are drawn to explore deeper or more significant beliefs or practices that will become a new foundation in life. Humour, lecturing, education, publishing or self-expression feature this month.You will have a happy time on the personal front. You will win hearts of all your loved ones by showing them love and affection.If you are still single expect a major revamp of your love life.Favorable Dates :Feb 3, 9, 12, 18, 21, 26 Favorable Colors : White & Grey

Virgo( 23 August – 22 September ) –This month is for gaining social strengthMatters of romance, recreation, lifestyle or children will feature, as will creative projects and speculative ventures. Some of you begin a romance, one that will take real effort or bring responsibilities. For those in a relationship, it’s time to reshape your lifestyle and your operations together to give your love or life a new form or direction. You will see a definite change in atmosphere, mood and expectations and a whole new relationship game will emerge. Favorable Dates :Feb 7, 8, 16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Blue

Libra( 23 September – 22 October ) – This month could bring greater changes than you expect. If, however, you are on track, you will be amazed at the amount of new influence you have. Expect a passionate popularity vote.You will benefit from a special talent, enthusiasm or passion which you could turn into income, or extra prestige.With spouse or love, a great time is indicated as you will get to express your deep feelings, which will bring closeness and intensity in your life.Do focus on your children, your spouse, or a special weekend hobby or interest that you share.  Favorable Dates :Feb 7, 8, 16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Blue

Scorpio( 23 October – 21 November ) – You will have unexpected gains and if you are adequately alert while working then success definitely is yours.You may deal with creative or spiritual people. New interests projects, people, hours, equipment or methods or practices may fascinate youand will point you in a different professional direction, and in some cases, a total change of lifestyle will be in the offing.You feel a call to move away from current involvements or alter your direction. Romantic or creative aspirations bring a change of direction. Be sure you’re not seduced or taken in though.Favorable Dates :Feb 1, 7, 10, 16, 19, 25 Favorable Colors : White& Blue

Sagittarius( 22 November -21 December )You may feel exhausted from your effort or disillusioned with your professional situation. Career influences or connections may be distracting, disruptive or even deceptive. If you are fatigued or disinterested, you may be searching for a new kind of fulfilment or a new kind of life. The devotional aspect of life may find new importance.if you want to progress, be down to earth, kind and caring.Expenses are likely to rise and you have to become economical. Nevertheless, you will try your best to deal with needs of your loved ones.Favorable Dates :Feb 2, 9, 11, 18, 20, 27 Favorable Colors : Red & Blue

Capricorn ( 22 December – 19 January ) – Tremendous change is on the way, and it will benefit you at every stage, even when some connections are forced to change. New friends and networks which are already on your radar will grow in importance, with wonderful end results. The change in your attitude, the sudden switch in your circumstances, or the rapid exit of a problem should be cause for celebration. Your job must allow you to have total control over your life and as much power as you can handle.Your fondness for food, may catch up with you.Favorable Dates :Feb 5, 6, 14, 15, 23, 24 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Black

 

 

 

 

France tax changes for 2019

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

A new year in France usually sees the introduction of some new tax rules or rates.  This year is no exception, although the changes are rather muted compared to last year’s big reforms to the taxation of investment income and wealth tax.

The biggest changes in 2019 are the introduction of a pay-as-you-earn system for income tax, and a reduction to social charges imposed on investment income for many retired expatriates.

This is a good time to review your tax planning, to make sure you know where you stand with your taxes and establish how you can limit your exposure to unnecessary taxes.

Income tax

There are no changes to French income tax rates for 2019 (payable on 2018 income). The income tax bands for each rate have increased very slightly to index them for inflation, so the current bands rates are:

Income Tax rate
Up to €9,964 Nil
€9,964 to €27,519 14%
€27,519 to €73,779 30%
€73,779 to €156,244 41%
Over €156,244 45%

The ‘exceptional tax’ remains in place for 2018 income. This charges an extra 3% or 4% for income over €250,000 and €500,000 respectively, with higher thresholds for families.

Income tax is payable on earnings, pensions and rental income at the above rates, and you are taxed as a household rather than an individual (which can be beneficial for some families).

Investment income is taxed at a fixed rate (the Prélèvement Forfaitaire Uniqueor PFU) of 30% which includes both income tax and social charges.   This has not changed since last year. If you do not earn much investment income you can opt to use the progressive rates of income tax instead, for all your income, plus social charges.

For non-residents, the minimum tax rate on French source income has increased from 20% to 30%.

PAYE

France has begun implementing a pay-as-you-earn system from 1stJanuary 2019.

It applies to employment income, retirement income (pensions, lifetime annuities), rental income (including French property rental income of UK residents), taxable state benefits, maintenance payments, non-French income taxable in France, business profits and consultancy fees/independent income.

Income tax will now be deducted at source for French employment income and pensions each month.  For other affected income, such as self-employment earnings, rental income and UK pensions, tax will be collected through monthly or quarterly direct debit from your bank account.

The amount payable is calculated on your last income tax return (so for 2019 it will be your 2017 return), with any balance due by the end of the year.

Investment income – interest, dividends, capital gains and gains from life insurance policies/non-French assurance-vie– is excluded from PAYE. It also does not apply to non-French income that receives a tax credit in France under a double tax treaty.

Social charges

Social charges remain at 9.7% for employment/self-employment income, 9.1% for pension income and 17.2% for investment income including rental income.

However, for individuals in receipt of pension income of less than €2,000 per month (€3,000 for a couple) the charges will be reduced back to the 2017 rate, i.e. 7.4%.

Individuals covered under the health system of another EU/EEA country are no longer subject to the contribution sociale généralisée(CSG) or contribution au remboursement de la dette sociale(CRDS) social charges on their investment income and capital gains. Instead, the new prélèvement de solidaritéwill apply at a flat rate of 7.5%.

This is good news for those holding Form S1 and non-residents, since their social charge burden on investment income reduces from 17.2% to 7.5%.

You can submit refund claims for any charges paid at the higher rate during 2018, speak to your tax accountant.

Wealth tax / real estate tax (IFI)

There are no changes from 2018, so ‘wealth tax’ is only levied on real estate assets.   The threshold for this Impôt sur la Fortune Immobilière(IFI) tax remains €1,300,000 and the scale rates of tax are the same as last year.  The 75% limitation also stays in place.

Following demonstrations in France, a committee has been set up to review whether the ‘old style’ wealth tax (which applied to most worldwide assets) should be reintroduced next year.

Other measures for 2019

The changes to the calculation of taxe d’habitation, introduced in the previous budget, mean that 65% of French households will be exempt from this tax in 2019.

There are reductions for certain components of the social security contributions for employees and employers. The main rate of corporation tax reduces to 31% (from 33 1/3%).

Tax planning

It is important to understand how French taxation affects you personally, and establish tax planning solutions based on your objectives and family circumstances. Regular reviews are essential to make sure your arrangements are up to date. For expatriates, an adviser with cross-border experience can help you make the most of opportunities offered by the French tax system.

Tax rates, scope and reliefs may change. Any statements concerning taxation are based upon our understanding of current taxation laws and practices which are subject to change. Tax information has been summarised; an individual is advised to seek personalised advice.

You can find other financial advisory articles by visiting our website here

 

Manish’s Zodiac Predictions for January

Capricorn (22 December – 19 January) – You have the chance this month to discover new or untapped resources on a financial level that can translate to a boost to your financial well-being. You are ready to put your newfound confidence “out there” for everyone to see. You feel more connected with your natural instincts which boosts your confidence in your own already uncanny intuition! Some level of introspection characterizes the period, but it is not a lonely sort of self-absorption by all means.You also embrace whatever makes you different, no matter how unusual it may be  Favorable Dates : Jan 5, 8,  14, 17, 23, 26 Favorable Colors : Blue & Green

Aquarius (20 January – 18 February)– You’re more emotionally invested in your relationships, and can take stock of which are working, which aren’t, what needs to be done, and what can’t be fixed. You’re also more concerned with maintaining peace and balance. Going over past errors, redoing projects, smoothing over differences on the job–all of these matters occupy your mind and your time this month. You’re also busy working with your physical body. Implementing and maintaining an exercise or nutrition program should be a priority. Favorable Dates : Jan 2, 8,  11, 17, 20, 26 Favorable Colors : Red & Green

Pisces ( 19thFebruary – 20thMarch )– You have a strong interest in broadening your mental experiences in general, and finding expression of your personality through them, perhaps through higher education or exploring different philosophies. Connections that further your career goals are made and come seemingly out of the blue–at exactly the right moments! Introductions to different people and new lifestyles continue to expand your mind. Casual relationships continue to mature and become more serious this month.For some a partner is more goal-oriented and is approaching your relationship from a more practical perspective. Favorable Dates : Jan 6, 7,  15, 16, 24, 25 Favorable Colors : White & Grey

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April )– You have a positive attitude and people enjoy being around you because of it. You can make the kind of progress you’ve been wanting to make if you’ve done the hard work required and made the smart decisions needed. If you haven’t done that, you can feel yourself get further away from where you want to be. This is a good time to focus on what you want from your life, and how you’re going to get there. You can be creative, but you have to force yourself to focus, otherwise the creative energy goes nowhere. Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 3, 10, 12, 21, 30 Favorable Colors : Red & Grey

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – You enjoy being around others and have mental stimulation. You want to challenge your mind, and keep yourself busy to use up your mental energy. You can take on lots of small projects, commit to many social engagements, and you share everything with everyone, not wanting to keep anything to yourself. You could experience conflict between the demands of a partnership and the demands of career this month. Finding a balance between the two, instead of pushing or rebelling against either, is the challenge now.Favorable Dates : Jan 3, 9, 12, 18, 21, 27 Favorable Colors : Red & Blue

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June )– You’re excited by what you learn, and you can come up with lots of new ideas. If you deal with clients in your work or business, you might experience increased interest in your services and more contacts in general during this period. Personal revelations serve to push you towards growth and experience. Business-related travel may enter the picture or it might increase. You are reaching more people in your career, broadening your contacts or your audience, and drawing on wonderful powers of persuasion. You may come across as more independent, unique, or intellectual. Favorable Dates : Jan 3, 4, 12, 13, 21, 22 Favorable Colors : White & Blue

Cancer ( 21 June – 22 July )– Your imagination is at an all-time high, and others find you decidedly romantic and attractive, although perhaps somewhat hard to reach. Your dreams become more vivid and intriguing, and you are more comfortable with generalizations and abstractions than with cold, hard facts. Challenges with finances can occur then, but they are ultimately pushing you towards better management of your resources. Your confidence can be shaky if you let other people’s opinions influence how you feel about yourself, so ignore them.Tame restlessness and tend to your responsibilities as best as you can. Favorable Dates : Jan 7, 8,  16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : White & Red

Leo  ( 23 July – 22 August )  – Your magnetic powers, which enable you to attract positive energies, attention, and financial rewards, are strongest in this month. You have lots to say and share, lots of ideas to explore, lots of interests to dive into, and you’re excited about all of it. You are looking for more authenticity in your associations in general, weeding out those connections that feel too superficial. You are bound to make some fortunate connections that benefit you for months to come. A close relationship can begin, blossom, or demand attention.Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 3,  10, 12, 28, 30 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Red

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September )– You feel most like yourself when you’re doing the things you enjoy most in life. You want to spend time on your hobbies, be creative, use your imagination, and let out your inner child out The details and the mundane tasks aren’t something you’re interested in. Work tends to be very available to you, and possibly too available at times, so that you may have to choose between alternatives or you could take on too much. Overall, however, work is likely to be very rewarding.Favorable Dates : Jan 2, 3,  11, 12, 29, 30 Favorable Colors : Yellow & White

Libra ( 23 September – 22 October)– You can focus on your relationships, putting them under the microscope. You begin to feel more confident about making important decisions and you convey your ideas with greater certainty. You figure out which are doing well and which aren’t, which can be fixed and which need to be released, and you can let go of one or more people. You can also work on bringing more balance into your life, and have more peace and harmony. It’s not the best month for lending money or collecting on loans. Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 4,  10, 13, 28, 31 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Grey

Scorpio (23 October – 21 November )– Your personal belief system is transforming dramatically, and you are learning from a broader set of people and experiences than you ever have. You can focus on financial matters now, and gather financial information, get financial advice, or work out a new budget. You can take your time coming up with ideas, making decisions, and don’t see the point in rushing. Once you do make a decision, you stick with it no matter what. Events and realizations this month can get the ball rolling for important changes. Love relationships can reach new depths of understanding.Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 4,  10, 13, 28, 31 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Grey

Sagittarius (22 November -21 December)– This can be a highly productive month for you. Your close attention to performance and details will not go unrewarded!  You are able to focus when it comes to creative output, and could work quite doggedly at a particular hobby or craft now, perhaps from behind the scenes. Romantic opportunities might come from people of an entirely different background or culture, or through education and travel, this month. You are especially organized in your home life, and more compassion and tolerance emerges in your relationships with family.Favorable Dates : Jan 6, 8,  15, 17, 24, 26 Favorable Colors : Blue & White

 

 

 

 

Review your finances for the new year

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

The new year is a good time to reflect on the previous 12 months and look ahead to what the coming year may bring. Make sure one new year’s resolution is to review your financial planning to check it is up-to-date and on track to protect your family’s long-term wealth.

Preparing for Brexit

Although the official Brexit date is just weeks away, there is still much uncertainty about what it will actually mean for UK nationals living in the EU and when any changes will take effect.

Whatever happens, if you are already formally resident in France, your right to remain should be secure. You can continue receiving the same access to healthcare and other benefits as you do today for as long as you are settled here.

But if you still plan to move to France or have not yet registered as tax resident, time really is running out. Even if a transition period is guaranteed, it is sensible to work towards the shortest possible cut-off date; so take urgent steps to establish your settled status before 29 March 2019.

Tax planning

Regular tax reviews are crucial to ensure your investments and wealth are arranged in the most suitable way to limit your liabilities – wherever you have financial interests – while meeting your obligations.

Today, with the ‘automatic exchange of information’ regime well underway, it is more important than ever to get it right. Over 100 countries – including France and the UK – are already sharing data on residents’ overseas income and assets, with more joining each year. This means your local tax office will receive financial information about you without having to even ask for it. Remember, in extreme cases tax evasion can result in prosecution, even if it is unintentional.

Last October, the UK government introduced tougher penalties for failing to declare offshore income, assets or activities accurately and on time. Now they can impose an unlimited fine (maximum of £5,000 in Scotland and Ireland) and up to six months in prison where undeclared tax exceeds £25,000 in any tax year.

Cross-border tax planning is complex, so take specialist advice to achieve peace of mind and potentially secure significant tax savings.

Savings and investments

The Bank of England (BoE) increased the UK interest rate to 0.75% in August – the first time in over nine years that rates reached over half a percent. While some banks eventually passed on an increase to savers, rates remain relatively low. Today’s best rates for easy access savings accounts linger at around 1.5%, with up to 2.7% on offer for locking your cash away for five years.

Keeping savings in cash can be risky if you are not earning enough to keep pace with the increased cost of living. With the current rate of inflation still hovering above the BoE’s target of 2% – reaching as high as 2.7% last August – many savers are actually earning a negative real rate of return. British expatriates have the added concern of exchange currency risk in what is currently a highly volatile time for Sterling.

Successful investing is about having a strategy specifically based around your personal circumstances, time horizon, needs, aims and risk tolerance. You should ensure you have adequate diversification to avoid over-exposure to any given country (including the UK), asset type, sector or company. Using investment structures that allow multi-currency flexibility can help minimise exchange rate risk.

In any case, remember to review your portfolio annually to take market developments into account, address any changes in your circumstances and take advantage of opportunities for residents in France.

Pensions

Today’s pension landscape offers more choices than ever, but this may change with Brexit. For example, it is possible that tax-free transfers to Qualified Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS) may be targeted once the UK sheds its EU obligations. Carefully weigh up all your options, as well as the tax implications in France and the UK, to establish the best course of action for you.

Make sure you take regulated advice to protect your retirement savings from pension scams and do what is right for your personal circumstances and aims. 

Estate planning 

It is important to review your estate planning when living in France, as both succession law and tax work very differently to the UK.

For example, France’s ‘forced heirship’ rules could automatically pass a significant proportion of your worldwide estate to your direct family, whatever your intentions. You can specify in your will for the EU regulation ‘Brussels IV’ to apply relevant British law to your estate instead, but take care to understand your options and any tax implications.

Your estate plan should be set up to achieve your wishes in the most tax-efficient way possible. Speaking of heirs, do not forget to take into account any new additions to your family this year!

Whether it is investments, tax, pensions or estate planning, take personalised advice to establish the most suitable approach for you. Spending a little time on a financial health-check now can provide peace of mind that you and your family are in the best financial position to enjoy a prosperous 2019 and beyond.

You can find other financial advisory articles by visiting our website here

 

Manish’s Zodiac Predictions for January

Capricorn (22 December – 19 January) – You have the chance this month to discover new or untapped resources on a financial level that can translate to a boost to your financial well-being. You are ready to put your newfound confidence “out there” for everyone to see. You feel more connected with your natural instincts which boosts your confidence in your own already uncanny intuition! Some level of introspection characterizes the period, but it is not a lonely sort of self-absorption by all means.You also embrace whatever makes you different, no matter how unusual it may be  Favorable Dates : Jan 5, 8,  14, 17, 23, 26 Favorable Colors : Blue & Green

Aquarius (20 January – 18 February)– You’re more emotionally invested in your relationships, and can take stock of which are working, which aren’t, what needs to be done, and what can’t be fixed. You’re also more concerned with maintaining peace and balance. Going over past errors, redoing projects, smoothing over differences on the job–all of these matters occupy your mind and your time this month. You’re also busy working with your physical body. Implementing and maintaining an exercise or nutrition program should be a priority. Favorable Dates : Jan 2, 8,  11, 17, 20, 26 Favorable Colors : Red & Green

Pisces ( 19thFebruary – 20thMarch )– You have a strong interest in broadening your mental experiences in general, and finding expression of your personality through them, perhaps through higher education or exploring different philosophies. Connections that further your career goals are made and come seemingly out of the blue–at exactly the right moments! Introductions to different people and new lifestyles continue to expand your mind. Casual relationships continue to mature and become more serious this month.For some a partner is more goal-oriented and is approaching your relationship from a more practical perspective. Favorable Dates : Jan 6, 7,  15, 16, 24, 25 Favorable Colors : White & Grey

Aries ( 21 March – 19 April )– You have a positive attitude and people enjoy being around you because of it. You can make the kind of progress you’ve been wanting to make if you’ve done the hard work required and made the smart decisions needed. If you haven’t done that, you can feel yourself get further away from where you want to be. This is a good time to focus on what you want from your life, and how you’re going to get there. You can be creative, but you have to force yourself to focus, otherwise the creative energy goes nowhere. Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 3, 10, 12, 21, 30 Favorable Colors : Red & Grey

Taurus ( 20 April – 20 May ) – You enjoy being around others and have mental stimulation. You want to challenge your mind, and keep yourself busy to use up your mental energy. You can take on lots of small projects, commit to many social engagements, and you share everything with everyone, not wanting to keep anything to yourself. You could experience conflict between the demands of a partnership and the demands of career this month. Finding a balance between the two, instead of pushing or rebelling against either, is the challenge now.Favorable Dates : Jan 3, 9, 12, 18, 21, 27 Favorable Colors : Red & Blue

Gemini ( 21 May – 20 June )– You’re excited by what you learn, and you can come up with lots of new ideas. If you deal with clients in your work or business, you might experience increased interest in your services and more contacts in general during this period. Personal revelations serve to push you towards growth and experience. Business-related travel may enter the picture or it might increase. You are reaching more people in your career, broadening your contacts or your audience, and drawing on wonderful powers of persuasion. You may come across as more independent, unique, or intellectual. Favorable Dates : Jan 3, 4, 12, 13, 21, 22 Favorable Colors : White & Blue

Cancer ( 21 June – 22 July )– Your imagination is at an all-time high, and others find you decidedly romantic and attractive, although perhaps somewhat hard to reach. Your dreams become more vivid and intriguing, and you are more comfortable with generalizations and abstractions than with cold, hard facts. Challenges with finances can occur then, but they are ultimately pushing you towards better management of your resources. Your confidence can be shaky if you let other people’s opinions influence how you feel about yourself, so ignore them.Tame restlessness and tend to your responsibilities as best as you can. Favorable Dates : Jan 7, 8,  16, 17, 25, 26 Favorable Colors : White & Red

Leo  ( 23 July – 22 August )  – Your magnetic powers, which enable you to attract positive energies, attention, and financial rewards, are strongest in this month. You have lots to say and share, lots of ideas to explore, lots of interests to dive into, and you’re excited about all of it. You are looking for more authenticity in your associations in general, weeding out those connections that feel too superficial. You are bound to make some fortunate connections that benefit you for months to come. A close relationship can begin, blossom, or demand attention.Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 3,  10, 12, 28, 30 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Red

Virgo ( 23 August – 22 September )– You feel most like yourself when you’re doing the things you enjoy most in life. You want to spend time on your hobbies, be creative, use your imagination, and let out your inner child out The details and the mundane tasks aren’t something you’re interested in. Work tends to be very available to you, and possibly too available at times, so that you may have to choose between alternatives or you could take on too much. Overall, however, work is likely to be very rewarding.Favorable Dates : Jan 2, 3,  11, 12, 29, 30 Favorable Colors : Yellow & White

Libra ( 23 September – 22 October)– You can focus on your relationships, putting them under the microscope. You begin to feel more confident about making important decisions and you convey your ideas with greater certainty. You figure out which are doing well and which aren’t, which can be fixed and which need to be released, and you can let go of one or more people. You can also work on bringing more balance into your life, and have more peace and harmony. It’s not the best month for lending money or collecting on loans. Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 4,  10, 13, 28, 31 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Grey

Scorpio (23 October – 21 November )– Your personal belief system is transforming dramatically, and you are learning from a broader set of people and experiences than you ever have. You can focus on financial matters now, and gather financial information, get financial advice, or work out a new budget. You can take your time coming up with ideas, making decisions, and don’t see the point in rushing. Once you do make a decision, you stick with it no matter what. Events and realizations this month can get the ball rolling for important changes. Love relationships can reach new depths of understanding.Favorable Dates : Jan 1, 4,  10, 13, 28, 31 Favorable Colors : Yellow & Grey

Sagittarius (22 November -21 December)– This can be a highly productive month for you. Your close attention to performance and details will not go unrewarded!  You are able to focus when it comes to creative output, and could work quite doggedly at a particular hobby or craft now, perhaps from behind the scenes. Romantic opportunities might come from people of an entirely different background or culture, or through education and travel, this month. You are especially organized in your home life, and more compassion and tolerance emerges in your relationships with family.Favorable Dates : Jan 6, 8,  15, 17, 24, 26 Favorable Colors : Blue & White

 

 

 

 

Your Reading for January by Susan Keefe

Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence

by Keith Van Sickle

 
Are We French Yet? Keith & Val's Adventures in ProvenceI absolutely loved Keith Van Sickle’s first book ‘One Sip at a Time,’ and so was delighted to discover this new release.
Keith and his wife Val’s path in life changed five years previously when Keith was offered a work assignment in Switzerland. The experience opened their eyes to new opportunities and so back in America they took the bull by the horns and became self-employed. This brave move enabled them to take their destiny in their own hands and gave them the freedom to split their time between America and France.
The story commences with a restless Keith impatiently waiting for the time to pass so they can close down their American house and spend spring in Provence. However, his wife’s suggestion that they have a relaxing bike ride backfires when a squirrel decides to join in…
Finally, back in their beloved Provence, complete with their dog of course, Keith and Val settle into their rented property and become reacquainted with the area and their French friends. They are keen to learn conversation French so they take lessons with a teacher called Geneviève who takes no prisoners where pronunciation and attention to details are concerned.
Throughout this informative story the open and helpful characters of the French people they meet and befriend shine through, and also the completely different attitudes of the French and Americans to things in life. Perhaps to everyone the most obvious is the pace of life in each country, and this is something which you immediately notice whether you are an expat or you are just on holiday. However, as you spend more time here you can’t fail to notice the French peoples attitude to work and family life are so different.
The author’s wonderfully descriptive writing brings alive the  warmth, culture, food and wine enthused life in Provence, with meals out with friends, visits to vineyards, and of course the marvellous scenery. On this visit amongst other things we find out what it is like to go gluten free in France, discover the French reaction to the Eurovision Song Contest, and experience the famous Courses de Camarguaise.
To be able to live in two totally different countries must be a wonderful experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to savour Provencal life, and meet through his writing some of its people.
However, there is one thing which anybody new to France is in peril of getting wrong and that is the kiss, or is it kisses you give and receive when greeting, and also how many? Not to mention the worry of which side of the cheek you start on. Fear not, the answer to these questions and many more are weaved within the pages of this thoroughly entertaining book which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to relax and enjoy France from the comfort of their armchair.

The Amazon Rainforest Adventure: Inform children about how important our

Rainforest is (Picture book) (The Rescue Elves Book 2)

 
by Monty J. McClaine
A wonderful story bringing the plight of the Amazon Rainforest and its inhabitants to the attention of children.
As a family we are very conscious of the world around us, the environment, recycling, and animal welfare. Awareness is so much easier to teach when children are young, and so when after reading The Plastic Pollution Adventure (Picture Book) (The Rescue Elves Book 1) I discovered that there was a second book in the series The Amazon Rainforest Adventure I just had to get it to read to my little granddaughter. This was not just because it has magical elves in it, but also because the deforestation of the Amazon rainforests has such an incredible impact on our planet and its ecosystems.
For those who don’t know, The Rescue Elves, or relves, are the special elves who look after Santa’s sleigh. It is their job to ensure that if there are any problems with it, they know what to do, and if necessary can rescue Santa, and save the day. However to do this they must stay in tip top condition throughout the year, and be ready to deal with any situation in any place on the earth. Therefore Mrs. Claus sends them on special missions to test their skills, and ensure they can deal with any situation, and these missions are the topics for this series of children’s books.
Holly, Charlie, Jack and Sparkle, are the names of the elves, and they are so excited, they love exploring and visiting beautiful places. In this adventure Mrs Claus has sent them to the beautiful Amazon Rainforest.
Before they go, the elves already know how important the rainforest is to the health of our planet and all the creatures who live on it, and why it is called the “lungs of the earth.” They also know how wet it is, the clue, well it is a ‘Rainforest,’ and so they are suitably dressed. However, when they arrive they are dismayed not to hear the animal and bird sounds they are expecting, but screaming!
Who could be screaming, and why? Well, the reason is revealed when they come across a very unhappy Monkey King who has his foot trapped. When the relves discover what it is under, and how it happened, they set about helping the monkeys to free him. However, when they find out from the monkeys how much of the beautiful forest has been cut down by humans, and the damage it causes, they are very sad. At the back of the book there is a list of a variety of websites which can provide more information.
I thoroughly recommend this compelling story which is beautifully illustrated. It is a wonderful instrument to open up discussions with children about the importance of trees, why they are cut down, and what they are used for. The author very cleverly bringing environmental awareness gently to their attention at an age when they are very receptive to ideas and good habits are easily formed.
                                                               ——————————————–

Mr. Tortoise on a Mission: A Folktale lesson on kindness and Forgiveness for kids. (Tortoise adventure Series Book 3)

by Simons Acquah
A beautiful and inspiring children’s book.
The author Simons Acquah was originally from Ghana and now lives in North Beach, Maryland. He is passionate about promoting reading, and supporting children’s literature, and works with several non-profit organisations to help achieve this. This desire to help build children’s characters through his wonderful stories shines through from the first page of this lovely story which I downloaded to read to my granddaughter.
It is the tale of a little sparrow who lives in the forest with lots of other animals. Every day she watches them as they diligently stock their larders with food, in preparation for the forthcoming drought. The other animals, and even her own family try and tell her that she needs to be prepared for the hard times ahead, but the little sparrow ignores them and thinks that she knows best – that is until the drought arrives…
Then, desperate for food she asks the other forest animals and birds for help, but only one would help her, the tortoise. Because of his kindness she survives the drought, however, despite her promise she has no intention of repaying Mr. Tortoise’s kindness, and he is very unhappy when he discovers that he has been tricked.
Luckily, when he angrily relays his unhappiness to the owl, the wise bird offers him some good advice, and after consideration Mr. Tortoise takes it and discovers that the saying ‘wise old owl’ is true (although we don’t know if this one really is old.)
What was the good advice, and what happened next? Well, to discover the answer to these questions and more you will have to read this wonderful heart-warming story yourself.
My granddaughter and I loved this enchanting yet educational story which has been beautifully illustrated by H. Likhon. The illustrator brings the authors wonderful forest creatures to life, and we are looking forward to reading more books in this lovely series.

Your reading for December

Rejuvenaging: The Art and Science of Growing Older with Enthusiasm

by Dr. Ron Kaiser

A life-changing and highly motivational book!

Embrace rejuvenaging, and let the author unlock your doors to a better future, whatever age you are!

Ronald S. Kaiser, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Licensed Psychologist in Philadelphia, successful author, and owner of The Mental Health Gym website. Now aged 80, he has used his decades of life experience as a school counselor, then in the community and health sectors, to write this life changing and highly motivational book.

He firmly believes that we can take charge of our destiny, and we have the choice as to whether we grow old or rejuvenage. The keys to rejuvenaging are explained clearly throughout the book, and although it is accepted that some elements are outside our control, he firmly believes that if you follow his “Goal-Achieving Psychology,” or GAP, it will help you bridge the gap between thinking and doing, which in turn will make you happier, more productive, and enable you to take control of your aging process in a positive manner.

So how do we do this? Well by adopting the ‘P’ personality, which is explained clearly in this book. It has to be mentioned that this is no end-of-life book. Although inspirational for the elderly, it has been written so that anyone can plan for their future in a positive way, whatever their age, through learning to become personal goal-driven, proactive, positive, persistent, passionate, and playful.

Whether you want to stay working, or retire, it will empower you to rediscover (or newly discover for some) your sense of fun, help you to understand how to set personal goals, encourage you to use the powers of positive thinking, be passionate, be persistent, and be proactive.

Planning for your future psychologically is just as important as financially, and this book shows you how. Diet, and the benefits of exercise, learning new skills, exploring new avenues and experiences, living life to the full, keeping ourselves mentally stimulated and interested in the world around us—all these are things we can do to improve our life now, and for the future.

Whether you want to remain working, or retire, you will discover how to make the most of your senior years. After all, your health and planning for your future is just as important psychologically as it is financially.
So what are you waiting for, get your copy, and start rejuvenaging now!

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rejuvenaging-Science-Growing-Older-Enthusiasm-ebook/dp/B07KQLP5T5/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543250385&sr=1-1&keywords=rejuvenaging

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Mythicals

by Dennis Meredith

Lovers of fantasy will be swept away by the story and characters in this amazing new book by Dennis Meredith, an author who has spent a lifetime working in science communication at some of the country’s leading research universities and has written many articles on science and engineering. Among his numerous achievements are a B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Texas, and a M.S. in biochemistry and science writing from the University of Wisconsin.

He has brought together in this amazing story a cornucopia of mythical creatures and fairy-tale characters, fairies, pixies and angels, ogres, werewolves and many more. Each distinct species has its own unique characteristics, and what’s more the reader really begins to understand this as they take their place in the story.

However, one of the main characters is jobless would-be journalist Jack March, who true to journalistic form just cannot let go of the promise of a good story. You see Jack, arriving home in a drunken stupor is sure he saw a fairy in his bedroom.

Undaunted by the possibility that he was hallucinating, he is resolute in his pedantic determination to seek out the truth about the fairy’s existence at whatever cost. His stubbornness leads to him discovering that all is not what it first appears. There is a world he never would have believed could have existed within his own, and his life is turned upside down when it is revealed to him and he discovers that the people he sees every day, in all walks of life, could be the strange creatures of myths and legends who have been banished to his world and wear flesh-suits to look human. These creatures are transported through wormholes which are controlled by Wardens and work in both directions as Jack discovers when he is sent through one.

He is called upon to do his bit however, when a terrible plot is discovered to eradicate the species in order to save the planet, and Jack finds himself revealing the creatures’ real forms to an unsuspecting world, and taking part in a battle to save the planet.

Fast paced, exciting, this incredible story is sure to become a firm favourite with lovers of fantasy and fairy tales.
Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mythicals-scifi-fairy-tale-thriller-ebook/dp/B07H75YG5P/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543251491&sr=1-1&keywords=mythical+by+dennis+meredith

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Santa’s Rescue Dog: Super Speed Sam, Book 5

by Monty J. McClaine

A magical Christmas story which children will love!

With Christmas coming I was excited to find this delightfully enchanting seasonal story in the Super Speed Sam series of children’s books to read to my granddaughter. Being animal lovers we were immediately drawn to the lovable character of Sam the Basset Hound, and as soon as we turned the first page we knew that we were in for a treat.

In this colourfully illustrated story we are taken back in time to the Brockman families Christmas Eve a long time ago, back through generations of Basset Hounds to the very first Super Speed Sam (and yes he was called Sam too,) and we discover why that Sam gained his super powers.

In the North Pole, after a busy year, Mother Christmas, Santa, the elves and the reindeer are ready for another Christmas Eve journey visiting all the good boys and girls.

Did you ever wonder why this magical event takes place? Well, in this enchanting book not only will you will find out, but you will also discover just what big responsibilities everybody has, both at Santa’s home base, and on the sleigh, to make sure everything runs smoothly on that special night.

That particular year, after an exciting Christmas Eve, everyone in the family including the Brockman children, Zachariah and Sophie, and their dog Sam, are safely asleep in their beds. The ground is covered in snow, when Santa’s sleigh arrives on their rooftop…

Everything until that time is going well, and Santa is on schedule. However as he goes down the Brockman chimney, something unexpected happens, which causes great dismay to Santa, a lot of worry for Mother Christmas, and danger for the reindeer. But what is it?

Well, all I can say is that the real hero of the story, is Super Speed Sam, and that night he is given a very special gift which will be passed down through all the future generations in his special Basset Hound line.

In our household this book is definitely set to be a Christmas classic for the grandchildren, to sit on the bookshelf alongside their parents, and my immortal favourite poem ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’ by Clement Clarke Moore, where for years children, and the author I suspect, originally discovered the names of all Santa’s magical reindeers.

After enjoying this captivating story, my granddaughter and I are looking forward to exploring the rest of this delightful series of children’s books.

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Santas-Rescue-Super-Speed-Book-ebook/dp/B01LY6YO3S/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543251594&sr=1-2&keywords=super+speed+sam

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Big Things Have Small Beginnings: Learn to Play the Great Game

by Wes Berry

The author of this enlightening and extremely informative book writes from a lifetime in business. His vast span of knowledge encompasses the whole spectrum, from starting out, learning the hard way, choosing your market, employing the right sort of people, and the importance of dedication and attention to detail.

It is this attention to detail which he emphasises throughout the book, highlighting that it is the little things to one person, which matter so much to someone else. This is a very important message, and this book is littered with examples of good business practice which he has excelled at, or failed in, but through the experience he learnt where he went wrong, and passes the information down to you, the reader.

A patriotic American, a husband, and father of four sons, Wes Berry was given a 10% share of his parents flower business as a young man. Ambitious, self-disciplined, and driven by a determination to succeed, he was encouraged by his father to implement his new ideas into the business, as long as they didn’t cost money…

Right from the beginning there is so much to learn from this book, and it is all there just waiting for the hungry would be businessman or woman to ingest. From mapping out your future goals, to meeting deadlines and targets, and the strategies you will need to utilise to achieve them.

He looks at what gets you up in the morning, and encourages you to determine what your motivation is, to grasping those dream and making them happen. Gives examples of famous influencers throughout history in many fields, and encourages us to embrace the messages which have become their legacy.

There can be no doubt that ‘A Message to Garcia’ by Elbert Hubbard, which is included in the book, has had a deep impact on the author, especially with regard to employing people. Before reading this I admit I had never heard of it, however, once read, it is easy to understand the importance of employing and encouraging employees with the ‘Rowan Trait’ which simply explained is a no-holds-barre commitment to getting a task done.

Jam packed with information from cover to cover, this book contains all the motivation, and advice anyone could need to succeed in their chosen business career.

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Big-Things-Have-Small-Beginnings/dp/0692181849/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543251659&sr=1-1&keywords=big+things+have+small+beginnings

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The Plastic Pollution Adventure (The Rescue Elves 1)

by Monty J. McClaine

This book must be the best way ever to get the message across to children about the dangers of plastic to wildlife, the amount of items of rubbish it accumulates, where it is dumped, and also how important recycling is.

I recently read Santa’s Rescue Dog, Super Speed Sam, Book 5, by the same author to my granddaughter and we enjoyed it so much that this story caught my eye. You see, it is in Santa’s Rescue Dog that we first meet the relves. These are special rescue elves tasked with rescuing Santa, should he have a catastrophe on Christmas Eve, and their names are Sparkle, Holly, Jack and Charlie. Of course, everyone knows to be good at rescue like Firemen you have to practice, and the relves do the same. Mrs. Claus sends them, on special missions around the world throughout the year, just to keep them on their toes.

Their mission this time is to go to the beautiful Pacific Ocean and explore it, and the creatures which live near and in it. After all, you never know, one day Santa’s sleigh could break down going over the sea and they would have to know what to do if it was stuck under the water, wouldn’t they?

Now the Pacific Ocean is so different from the North Pole that the relves didn’t know what to expect, but being relves they are well prepared for anything. However, they can’t believe their eyes when they arrive and see a mysterious grey island. As they draw nearer they realise that it is made from all things plastic.

“How strange, I wonder where all this came from,” they ask themselves as they climb over it. Then suddenly they hear cries for help, and find some very special baby creatures in real distress. Luckily for them, rescue is what the relves do. The incident makes the relves wonder how such a terrible thing could be in the middle of a lovely ocean. However, all is explained when the babies’ mommies arrive they tell them what is happening to the environment and our beautiful planet.
Something must be done, the relves decide. So they demonstrate to the reader what can be done, what a difference recycling can make, and how everyone can play their part.

This beautifully illustrated story was listened to avidly by my two grandsons and was the perfect way to explain to them that the environment is everyone’s responsibility, the dangers caused to wildlife by rubbish, and how important it is to take care of our world.

I think this book should be read to all children wherever in the world they live, the message it contains is so important and it will empower them with the knowledge that ‘they’ can make a difference!

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Plastic-Pollution-Adventure-children-pollution-ebook/dp/B07582DKN5/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543251917&sr=1-1&keywords=the+plastic+pollution+adventure

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Cucina Tipica

by Andrew Cotto

I just loved this book! In it I was transported from the first page, with American Jacoby Pines and his fiancée Claire, from my adoptive country of France into beautiful Italy. The author, Andrew Cotto, who lives in Brooklyn, is a writer whose articles have appeared in many national journals. He is also a teacher and has taught composition courses and creative writing workshops in New York City. This Italian adventure is his third novel and in it his wonderful storytelling abilities shine through.

When the story begins the disheartened Jacoby is unemployed following an unfortunate incident at work, and he finds himself soaking up the food, culture and customs of Italy with his accomplished travel writer fiancée Claire.
Arriving in France, together they travel along the French Riviera, then onto the eye-opening Italian Autostrada, enjoying the marvellous coastal views, and staying at a beautiful coastal hotel. Then the next day they head inland to the villa they have rented, in the hills above Florence, for the coming year.

However, although they are primarily in the region for Claire’s assignment for the prestigious Haxby’s Travel Guide, Jacoby has his own agenda. Having never known his mother, he discovered upon the death of his father a box containing a photograph of a woman standing on a great lawn, and written on the back is ‘Villa Floria-Zanobini 1939.’ Thoroughly intrigued, the newly orphaned Jacoby looks upon this opportunity to join Claire at this disastrous stage in his career as the hand of fate at work.

With him, we join Claire on her research trips, as she travels the countryside meeting people from all walks of life. These experiences give the reader a wonderful introduction into the food and culture of this part of Italy, and a very entertaining look into the mentality of the Italian males’ mind, regarding women.
However, this story is primarily Jacoby’s adventure, and left to his own devices, he finally tracks down a Hotel Floria-Zanobini, which he discovers is run by another expat American, the eccentric Bill.

When he shows Bill his picture, its story begins to unfold, and an excited Jacoby finds himself beginning an incredible adventure, with Bill showing him the Italy he has become part of in the previous 35 years. Together the friends set out on a mission to track down the mysterious lady in the photograph and discover the link she has with Jacoby.

Encounters with wild boar, incredible museums and artwork, wonderful buildings, and the marvellous traditional recipes, wines, and experiences, this story has it all. The author brings Florence and the countryside surrounding it to life, as with Jacoby his readers embark on a fantastic voyage of discovery of the beautiful experiences this country has to offer. Whilst throughout the story the tumultuous love story between Jacoby and Claire rides a roller coaster, helped in no mean way by Claire’s outrageous cousin Dolores.

Whether you love Italy, dream of visiting it one day (like myself) or just want to enjoy an incredibly enjoyable book set in a beautiful part of the world, I thoroughly recommend this story as the best I have ever read!

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cucina-Tipica-Adventure-Andrew-Cotto-ebook/dp/B07K32SNR5/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543252070&sr=1-1&keywords=cucina+tipica