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This weekend for a Roman extravaganza in Nîmes

From May 3rd Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 500 re-enactors from France, Italy, Croatia and Germany meet in the exceptional setting of the Arènes de Nîmes to take part in the ‘Great Roman Games’, a unique event which has established itself as the greatest historical reconstruction of antiquity in Europe, in the best preserved amphitheatre in the world.

For three days, the Nîmes coliseum offers to relive the legendary ludi as occured 2000 years ago. This will include the Imperial Court, a parade of Roman legionnaires, chariot races and gladiatorial combat.

This edition honours the Barbarian Kings and the invasion of the Cimbri, Teutonic and Ambron that the Romans had to face between 113 and 101 BC. The Barbarian Kings recounts the epic of the barbarians following their victory over the Romans in Arausio,  which is the French city of Orange, and the triumph of General Marius during the famous battle of Aix-en-Provence in 101 BC.

From the 1st to 5th passionate reenactors will live as in the Roman era, 24h / 24h for 5 days, setting up a Roman camp exactly as it was. There is the opportunity to interact with historians and archaeologists in period dress and to participate in several workshops and demonstrations.

About forty AERA specialists will offer a series of workshops, presentations, demonstrations and military trainingon Camp Romain.You can learn how to make Roman military bread and discover military tents decorated by the objects used at the time. The reenactors, in military uniform of different ranks, will present the packages owned by the Roman soldiers of the time. A centurion, a specialized historian, will present the different strategies put in place by the Roman army during their conquests.

The whole town of Nîmes turn out and it becomes taken over by Roman themed events and promotions.Enjoy “Cimbrious Wars and the Battle of Orange”by Alain Deyber, archaeologist and doctor of history and civilization of Antiquity with free conference on registration at info@arenes-nimes.com.

Conference “Marius, imperator of the Roman Republic”by Éric Teyssier, professor of Roman history at the University of Nîmes free registration at info@arenes-nimes.com.

  • Throughout the town there will be marching legionaries and Roman civilians, Celts and dancers
  • Saturday May 4th from 11h to 12h6 different courses in downtown streets.
  • Torchlight Night Paradeon Saturday May 4th from 11h from 21h to 21h30
  • Emperor’s triumphal parade
  • Ceremony of the imperial cult
  • The navy in antiquity
  • Antique marketthat takes up residence on the Esplanade in front of the arena and exposes during the 3 days of festivities, on about twenty stands showing faithfully reproduced helmets, textiles, pottery, antique jewels, belts, coins and other handicrafts.

And of course this year is the 60th, and so the diamond, anniversary of Astérix the wonderfully French protagonist of the Romans. Supported by Dogamatrix, Unhygenix,, Obélix, Vitalstatistix and others – Astérix holds out against the Roman overlords. Watch out as this anniversary promises to be one for the history books with a flurry of exhibitions and celebrations everywhere. For more information visit www.asterix.com.

But if you really want the truth . . . Head down to Nîmes this coming weekend and see how it really happened (well almost!)

Louvre pyramid art was a sorry mess a few hours after installation

from Languedoc Living

Just one day after it was opened to the public the anamorphosisart installation by the artist JR, to celebrate 30 years of the famous Louvre pyramid, had already become “unstuck” and damaged.

The piece, which was due to be exhibited at the famous art gallery from Friday March 29 to Sunday March 31, began to show signs of wear and tear within hours of being created. The artwork had been created by JR and a team of volunteers using a series of long digitally printed “stickers”, which were laid on to the ground piece by piece to create the anamorphosisdesign.Watching this video on www.youtube.com</a>, or enable JavaScript if it is disabled in your browser.</div></div>

“Anamorphosis”art is a style in which the artwork only makes sense from one single perspective.

Some areas of this design appear to have been damaged within hours of being placed, with reports suggesting that the adhesive did not hold in some cases, and that areas with heavy pedestrian traffic began to become damaged more quickly.

Others suggested that some visitors had torn off some of the work, to take home as a “souvenir”. Screens have been set up at the museum entrance, to show the artwork from the correct position, and also demonstrate the behind-the-scenes of its creation.

The artwork was created as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of the famous glass pyramid designed and installed by architect I.M.Pei and officially inaugurated on March 29th1989.

The photos illustrate what it should have looked like . . . and what it looked like after a few hours.

 

 

Llama Trekking and Glamping in the beautiful Pays de la Loire

By Susan Keefe

Where ever you live in the world news travels fast in small communities. Here in France the same is true, so when I heard that there were llamas in our little village owned by UK expats I just had to meet them and discover their story, and this is it…

On a cold December day in 2017 Sarah & Nigel Young set off from West Sussex in the UK embarking on their French adventure, the adventure being to find and purchase a farm or smallholding with enough land to keep their llamas and chickens as well as future plans for goats, sheep and pigs. Their dream being to run a Glamping Farm stay where guests could come and savour the peace and tranquillity, soak up the Vallee du Loir sunshine, splash in the pool, whilst also benefitting from learning about, handling and trekking with the llamas.

Sarah has a background in hospitality and catering, Nigel worked for Lotus cars for the majority of his career, so it made sense to head to Sarthe, Pays de la Loire… Home of Les 24 Heures du Mans, and steeped in History with Medieval Tours and The Loire River, lined with its awe-inspiring Chateaus, within 30 minutes. They knew this area would offer beautiful rural countryside, lakes, forests, plus lots of activities, whilst remaining one of the least expat populated areas in France. It had the added benefit that it is just over 7 hours door to door from their family and friends in West Sussex.

Whereas many people take an age to find their dream home, not so Sarah & Nigel, on the 4th day, having only viewed about 10 properties, they found it. The farm named La Vente is just on the outskirts of a tiny village called Lavernat. It is approached down a long country track lined on one side with the woodland ofLa forêt de Bercéand on theother, fields, where beautiful white cows graze. As they pulled into the farm’s courtyard, Sarah, being an emotional person, had tears in her eyes and they knew before looking inside that they were home!

Loire Valley Llama Farm Stay is 17 acres of mixed meadows, woodland and a lake. Opening to guests in August 2018 it already has quite a following on social media and many 5* reviews. The beautiful and unusual Lotus Belle Tents are luxuriously kitted out with “proper” beds, a double and 2 singles in each tent, and have eye catching Egyptian cotton bedding, also provided are lamps, USB points and chargers powered by solar ~ no expense is spared to ensure your comfort. Loire Valley Llama Farm Stay opens early in spring each year and continues hosting guests until late into autumn, the tents have wood burners installed and Nigel & Sarah make no additional charge for as much wood as you need to keep snug.

The tents are thoughtfully located within the farm, one being secluded at the end of the fruit tree orchard, named the Tente Peche, as it has an abundantly fruiting peach tree in grabbing distance of the tents decking. All bedding, towels, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils are included to make this self-catering holiday simple. The outdoor kitchen, under a spectacular flowering pergola, is equipped with fridges for each tent, gas and wood fired barbecues and a microwave and plenty of work surfaces. Shower facilities are plentiful with an outdoor solar heated private shower for each tent or an indoor plumbed-in shared shower.

Sarah & Nigel are happy and proud to share the produce from the potager; carrots, garlic, melons and aubergines to name just a few and encourage guests to pick the fruit on offer, apples, plums, peaches, pears, lemons and figs.

In such a short time, this original Llama Glamping Farm in Loire, is becoming not such a well-kept secret for semi off grid holidays and Llama Trekking excursions.

My daughter and her partner have stayed with them and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. If you would like to contact them information can be found on their website https://www.loirevalleyllamas.com/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/loirevalleyllamas   Instagram @portiathellama   Twitter @llamasloire

Your reading for May – by Susan Keefe

Your Body’s Environmental Chemical Burden: A Resource Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Toxins

by Cindy Klement

The title of this book caught my attention as a health conscious, environmental aware mother and grandmother.

Reading the preface I discovered that its content, and publishing was as a result of the author attending a lecture in the fall of 2013, where the presenter used the term ‘body burden.’ This choice of phrase piqued her interest and being a professor, with good access to the university online library she discovered that the body’s environmental chemical burden was something she needed to know more about.

Considering herself a ‘healthy and health conscious eater having been virtually organic since the late 1970’s, in March 2014 she asked her friend and personal physician Dr. Lev (Ed) Linker to run a toxicant profile on her. The results of these tests both surprised and horrified her. Determined to discover more she read countless studies and her findings made her increasingly concerned for the health of future generations, as a result of worldwide environmental chemical contamination.

As I read on, I discovered at the turn of every page interesting and quite frankly extremely worrying facts about the chemical contaminants found in our food, products, and environment. This chemical exposure is present quite simply every moment of our being, dare I say it, even before we are born. What’s more, despite all the ‘agencies’ and ‘labelling’ in place to ‘protect’ us, many of these chemicals simply don’t have to be declared.

This book is very well structured. The information within is easily assimilated by non-academic readers,  and it is presented in such a way that they are not only given thorough information about the chemical contaminants the author features in the book, but also much more, by highlighting pertinent subjects under subheadings such as human exposure, dietary exposure, and occupational exposure. Throughout, warnings are given on occupations and where exposure to contaminants can be excessive. Throughout the book there is advice on how we can empower ourselves, and the author suggests other resources if the reader wishes to pursue a particular subject in more detail. At the back of the book there is a comprehensive Appendix and Glossary.

I found this book extremely interesting and one which I strongly feel should be read by all. Our environment, how we live and what we put in our bodies is in our control. In this modern world well researched and factual reference books like this should be read, and available on the bookshelf of every home.

Available from Amazon        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Bodys-Environmental-Chemical-Burden-ebook/dp/B07QB9G97G/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1556273371&sr=1-1-spell

 

Reach for the Sky (Super Speed Sam Book 2)

by Monty J McClaine

Can Super Speed Sam save the day?

Yet again my granddaughter was captivated by the wonderful adventures of Super Speed Sam, or Sam, as the loveable Basset Hound hero of this delightful story is called.

The self-appointed guardian of the whole family, Sam’s quiet demeanour and big brown eyes hold a secret, Sam has hidden powers. My granddaughter and I discovered how, and why he got his secret powers in the Christmas Super Speed Sam book, Santa’s Rescue Dog. However in this, the second book in the series we discovered how he used these powers to protect his young master Jack, save the day, and all without revealing them to his loving family.

You see, mysteriously Molly’s favourite rag doll Ted has disappeared, normally it never leaves her side, and Molly always sleeps with it. Where it had gone was a mystery which her mum really wanted solved.

Playing in his bedroom with his train set was Jack, Molly’s six year old brother. He is in trouble, he is being punished because of naughtiness a few days before, and of course he thinks it is quite unfair. As his frustration rises at his inability to complete a task without the things he needs, his desperation leads him into a dangerous situation. Luckily Sam, who appears to be slumbering in his bedroom notices, and saves the day. However, the big question is, will Molly’s rag doll reappear, or will it be lost forever? To discover the answer you must read the book.

This series of books are wonderful for young children. Each one is beautifully illustrated, and they are a perfect length to capture a child’s imagination and attention.

Available from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reach-Sky-Super-Speed-Book-ebook/dp/B01ECP5UXA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Should you transfer a final salary pension? Six questions to help you decide

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks

Transfer values for UK final salary pensions may be high, but would you really benefit from giving up a lifetime retirement income for a one-off payment?

If you were offered £235,000 now or an inflation-proofed £10,000 a year for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

This is a similar dilemma faced by many Britons with ‘final salary’ or ‘defined benefit’ employer pensions, as those figures represent today’s average pay-out for members who forfeit their pension benefits for a one-off sum.

Final salary pensions pay a minimum income throughout retirement, usually with yearly cost-of-living increases, until the member dies. Benefits then usually pass on to the spouse at a reduced rate for their lifetime. As such, they are considered highly valuable, even ‘gold-plated’ pensions.

Although the high transfer values offered in exchange for giving up future benefits can be tempting, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority stresses that most people are better off staying where they are.

While there is no right or wrong approach here, it is essential to take extreme care before making major pension decisions. Start by considering six key questions.

  1. What is your pension worth?

The £10,000-a-year example sounds low but could well be enough to provide for a modest retirement, especially when combined with other savings and income. But a one-off sum of £235,000+ could also provide an adequate retirement income if properly managed over time, with potentially more flexibility around withdrawals and currency options.

If you are considering a transfer, be mindful of the UK lifetime pension allowance (LTA). If combined UK pension benefits (excluding the State Pension)breach the 2019/2020 limit of £1.055 million (previously £1.03 million), charges of 55% on lump sums or 25% on income applies on the excess, even for non-UK residents.

The default transfer value for final salary pensions is 20 times the annual retirement income, which means LTA penalties are usually triggered when transferring pensions worth £52,750+ a year. However, this does not factor in other pension benefits and will obviously decrease with more generous transfer values.

  1. Do you have other resources for retirement?

The UK State Pension currently pays a maximum of around £8,700 a year, so most people need something extra to see them through. Is your pension transfer value high enough to outweigh the benefits of drawing a guaranteed income for life? Or will your other pensions, savings and investments provide for your future? If so, you may be more inclined to forfeit a final salary pension for a one-off reward.

However, if your final salary pension is a large part of your retirement wealth, the certainty of a regular lifetime income will hold more value.

  1. How long do you need it to last?

Final salary pensions provide income for as long as you live – with today’s increased life expectancy, that could be 30 years or more from retirement age. Those in good health may benefit more from a guaranteed lifetime income; the opposite may be true for those who do not expect to outlive their resources.

  1. How stable is your pension scheme?

Many final salary employers are struggling to meet their obligations. Benefits are usually financed through investments in UK bonds, which have generally under-performed through years of low interest rates. With higher-than-ever life expectancy – meaning benefits must be paid for longer – plus Brexit uncertainty, many are facing significant shortfalls.

The government’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) found that 3,117 schemes were in deficit at the end of February, with a combined shortfall of £8.6 billion.

While the PPF offers a safety net, it currently only compensates up to £40,020 a year at age 65. If your pension is high value and your scheme is vulnerable, take regulated advice on whether transferring may be in your best interests.

  1. What will happen when you die?

Most final salary pensions will transfer half the value of the pension to your spouse on death – then go no further. Transferring funds could unlock more estate planning flexibility, such as the option to pass pension funds to other heirs, even across generations, and potentially even reduce inheritance tax liability.

  1. What do you want to do with your funds?

Clearly, anyone transferring their pension for extravagant purchases, like a sports car or luxury property, may leave little left for retirement expenses. However, any kind of investment comes with risks.

Benefits in a final salary pension are protected – even if the value of funds goes down, the scheme provider is obliged to make the guaranteed payments.

Once transferred, you gain more control over how you invest and access your funds, and can take advantage of tax-efficient opportunities for France. However, your money is no longer safeguarded and becomes vulnerable to unpredictable markets. Even money in the bank can be eaten away as inflation outpaces returns in this low interest rate climate. While investments can obviously go up as well as down, without proper guidance you risk losing everything to unregulated investments or pension scams.

Whether you should transfer a final salary pension depends on numerous factors and your unique set of circumstances and goals. Taking regulated advice is compulsory if you have benefits worth over £30,000, but it is an important step for anyone considering their pension options.

 

Remember: once you transfer your pension, you cannot reverse your decision. Take locally-based, UK-regulated advice to fully understand the long-term implications and establish what is best for your financial future 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

 

Why you should consider an LPA

By Alice Williams

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) – what are they?

An LPA is a legal document where you appoint someone to look after your affairs. The chosen person(s) can then make decisions such as dealing with your bills and bank accounts or deciding on your medical care.

There are two types:

1.Property and financial affairs LP

  • This gives a person powers to make decisions for you relating to money and property.
  • This type of LPA can be used either when you have lost capacity to make your own decisions, or when you give consent.
  • It could include giving someone power to pay your mortgage, pay your bills,buy and sell property for you, manageyour bank account or make investments for you.
  • You can choose what decisions can be made on your behalf.
  1. Health and welfare LPA
  • This gives a person powers to make decisions for you about your health and welfare.
  • This type of LPAcan only be used once you have lost capacity to make your own decisions.
  • It typically includes giving someone powers to make decisions about your daily routine, your medical care and what hospital treatment you are given.
  • It is a good idea to put this in place now in case you lose capacity in the future.

LPAs – not just for the elderly

  • LPAs can be useful to allow someone else to manage something on your behalf such as selling your property.
  • At any age, something could happen you which causes you to lose capacity, so it important to consider putting an LPA in place even if you are young, fit and healthy.

LPAs and spouses

  • You should not assume that just because you are married or live with someone that they will be able to deal with your financial and property affairs or make healthcare decisions for you.
  • Without an LPA they are unlikely to have the authority to do this.
  • Spouses should consider LPAs so if need be, they can deal with each other’s affairs.

No capacity and no LPA

  • If you do lose capacity to make your own decisions and you do not have an LPA, it is likely there will be a lengthy and expensive process to put a Deputyship in place. This involves applying to the court.

It is a good idea to think of all eventualities and make plans well in advance. Putting an LPA in place covers the ‘what if’ scenario and means your affairs can be looked after either with your consent or if you loose capacity and can no longer do it yourself.

Alice Williams is a trainee Solicitor at Sykes Anderson Perry Limited, Solicitors, Advocates and Chartered Tax Advisers in London, England

 This information has been prepared by Sykes Anderson Perry Limited as a general guide only and does not constitute advice on any specific matter. We strongly recommend that you seek professional advice before taking action. No liability can be accepted by us for any action taken or not taken as a result of any information or advice given or omitted.

Where did BA actually come from?

A potted history of BA:

On August 25, 1919, British Airways’ forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris.

In 1924, Britain’s four main fledgling airlines, which had by then evolved into Instone, Handley Page, Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T), and British Air Marine Navigation Company Limited, merged to form Imperial Airways Limited.

By 1925, Imperial Airways was providing services to Paris, Brussels, Basle, Cologne and Zurich.  Meanwhile, a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights and in 1935, they merged to form the original privately-owned British Airways Limited, which became Imperial Airways’ principal UK competitor on European routes.

Following a Government review, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA) from 1946. BOAC introduced services to New York in 1946, Japan in 1948, Chicago in 1954 and the west coast of the United States in 1957. BEA developed a domestic network to various points in the United Kingdom, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.

From 1946 until 1960, BOAC and BEA were the principal British operators of scheduled international passenger and cargo services – and they preserved Britain’s pioneering role in the industry. The 1950s saw the world enter the passenger jet era – led by BOAC, with the Comet flying to Johannesburg in 1952, halving the previous flight time.

Additional airlines began to pass into BEA’s ownership and in 1967, the Government recommended a holding board be responsible for BOAC and BEA, with the establishment of a second force airline, resulting in British Caledonian being born in 1970.

Two years later, the businesses of BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974.

In July 1979, the Government announced its intention to sell shares in British Airways and in February 1987 British Airways was privatised.

In January 2011 the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) was formed when British Airways and Iberia merged. IAG has since also become the parent company of Aer Lingus, and Vueling and in 2017, IAG launched LEVEL a new low-cost airline brand that operates from Barcelona, Paris and Vienna.

 

One size does not fit all when it comes to investments

By Rob Kay, Senior Partner, Blevins Franks 

There is no single investment solution that suits everyone; what will work for you depends on your own objectives, time-frame and risk appetite. The same applies to any financial planning – whether you are looking at investments, tax planning, pensions or estate planning, your approach should be tailored for your specific set of circumstances.

The price you pay for an ill-fitting investment portfolio could be costly. You could find that your money is not working as hard as you would like it to, or it is difficult to access when you need it. Even worse, it could be eaten away.

The good news is that with professional guidance you can find the perfect fit for you.

Identifying your risk appetite

First, you must be clear about how much risk you are willing to take with your money. Low risk means settling for low returns, but take on more risk and you could potentially face bigger rewards – and losses.

In the current low-interest rate climate – where rates hover near zero while the cost of living continues to creep upward – some risk is necessary to achieve returns that will outpace inflation. But your investment decisions shouldn’t keep you awake at night, so it is essential to pinpoint the right risk/reward balance for you.

It is extremely difficult to effectively assess your own tolerance for risk. An experienced financial professional is best placed to ask the right questions and use the appropriate tools to create a clear and objective risk profile for you.

Remember: without some element of risk, your returns could be eroded by inflation over the longer term. An adviser can present options to help control risk within your defined boundaries, such as through a carefully structured and diversified portfolio. You could also choose to stagger the timing of investments in riskier assets to reduce exposure to market volatility.

Defining your time horizon

Experts say ‘investing is a marathon, not a sprint’ for a good reason. The longer you have to invest, the more risk you can generally afford to take. With time, you can ride out market turbulence and also benefit from compound returns – interest made on interest. So if you have the means and the patience to invest in the long-term, you are more likely to enjoy better returns.

Understanding your time horizon is also the key to future-proofing your investments so you can get hold of them when you need to. If you are planning to retire soon, for example, you may want to ensure your capital can be converted into a retirement income at the right time.

In any case, you never know when your plans may change unexpectedly, so it is important to hold some liquid assets that can be sold to release capital if needed.

Reducing risk through diversification

The higher your concentration in one particular area, the higher the risk. This is an especially important point to note for expatriates whose investments are skewed towards UK-based assets and therefore more vulnerable to downturns in the British market.

A good portfolio minimises risk by spreading investments across multiple, unrelated areas through diversification. You can limit exposure to any single sector of the market by diversifying by asset type – cash, fixed income (government and corporate bonds), shares and ‘real assets’ such as property – as well as by geographic region and market sector.

Be mindful that many private banks and wealth managers often allocate a significant part of their investment portfolios to their own in-house funds. You can achieve greater diversification by choosing an adviser who uses a ‘multi-manager’ approach to spread investments out among several different fund managers, each selected for their expertise in specific market sectors.

The impact of taxation

Finally, you should never underestimate the effect of tax on your investments. Without suitable tax planning in place, you could find your returns are slashed by taxes that could have been avoided or at least significantly reduced.

British expatriates can make the most of tax advantages in both France and the UK with personalised advice from a regulated adviser whospecialises in both tax regimes. They can recommend tax-efficient structures that legitimately protect you – and your heirs – from paying more tax than necessary.

Remember that your circumstances and objectives change over time – as can tax rules – so what works for you now may not be suitable in years to come. It is crucial to regularly review how you manage your wealth to make sure it keeps up with your situation, especially at different life stages, such as retirement or when relocating.

As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is sensible to consider a financial ‘health check’ now to protect your wealth from Brexit uncertainty and take advantage of today’s opportunities while you can.

All advice received from Blevins Franks is personalised and provided in writing. This article, however, should not be construed as providing any personalised taxation or investment advice.

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

 

Susan Keefe’s reading for April

You Can’t Drive Your Car to Your Own Funeral 

by Ann Marie Hancock

Ann Marie Hancock, the author of this book is a retired television personality, talk show host and model, but she is also a wife, mother, grandmother and daughter. In this, her third book she shares with her readers how she had a life changing experience in 1981, when she visited the Medjugorji in Yugoslavia.

Her experiences at Medjugorji led her to travelling the world, and carrying out healing services with a Benedictine Abbot.

Then in 2012 her strong, independent, and very private mother was diagnosed with cancer. Stoic and determined that it wouldn’t change her the ‘c’ word was not even spoken, let alone discussed. This was how she coped, if she didn’t say it, it didn’t exist. However, tragically not long after she started undergoing treatment, her husband died expectantly.

Everyone copes with grief in their own way, and now alone after many years of marriage, the author’s mother remained strong and controlling. In this honest and sometimes heart rending book the author, through her recollections of this terribly sad period of her life gives her reader a real insight into the strong character her mother was. Forthright, not suffering fools lightly, and certainly not being told what to do, or when to do it. I have a mother much of the same ilk and I am full of admiration for the way the author handled the multitude of events which occurred, and yet stayed loving and caring.

It was Ann Marie’s belief in God which was her strength, and this enabled this wound healer to face her greatest challenge yet. Because in caring for her mother and coming to terms with tragic events in her own life she embarked on a different journey, a journey of the spirit.

Through God and the teaching of the bible Ann Marie learnt to accept who she was, and come to the realisation that finding spiritual happiness is a life’s journey. That knowledge she imparts in this book, teaching the reader that the paths which they travel along in life are their own uniquely special journey. Along the route of life they will be tested, and will gain strength in accepting God’s will, even if they don’t understand it at the time. This epic spiritual journey is one which must be travelled alone. It is not about what others think you should do, or impressions you are given, your unique life events make you who you are, and the repercussions on your life evolve and change as you do. Depending on what life throws at you, these challenges empowers you to develop strengths, understanding, and happiness. It is easy in life to blame others when things don’t go as expected, get angry, put up a guard, however once you learn to listen to God, and take time to pray and talk to him, amazing things will be revealed, and you will realise that it is in your power to find true happiness, and inner peacefulness.

In conclusion, Ann Marie has in this beautiful story shared a hard, yet very special time of her life with her readers. Within its pages is a very clear insight into the strength needed emotionally to care for someone with a terminal illness.
                                                           

Billy Gogan Gone Fer Soldier 

by Roger Higgins
This book is the sequel to the author’s first book, Billy Gogan: American, in which orphan Billy is sent from Ireland to America on the eve of the 1844 Irish Famine. Living by his wits, and doing what he has to, to survive, Billy quickly learns to grow up, establishes a life in Gotham, and eventually becomes an American citizen. However, after the tragic death of his good friend and companion Mary Skiddy, and the Great Fire of New York, it is a reflective Billy who, aged 16 decides to join Uncle Sam’s army, and this is where the second book really begins.

For anyone with an interest in this period of history this book will, I am sure be compulsive reading. The author uses a blend of real and fictional characters to make this an excellent history book, with clear maps and outstanding information on the movements of American army as they fought against the Mexicans in the American – Mexican war. However this book has one very important element which makes it stand out against other similar history books, and that is Billy Gogan himself.

Through his eyes, as a member of the Fourth Infantry we see a soldier’s life in the raw, no holds barred. We are with him as he watches his friends die, sometimes terrible deaths, feel his pain as he clears away the bodies, picks up their letters to loved ones and wipes their blood of his clothes. We read throughout this book numerous examples of his and other soldiers loyalty to their adopted country as they carry out unspeakable acts in order to win battles, on the commandments of their leaders.

Because of the way this book is written the social history of the time is an integral part of the story. It is fascinating to discover what life was like for those civilians who travelled with the soldiers, and as a result, whose lives became interlaced.

The author has, in this outstanding book, through the character of Billy Gogan, chronicled the battles which took place during this period of American history in a very human way. The very real hope on both sides from the soldiers and common people, that war would not occur, then the horrors which resulted when it did.

In summary, in writing this book, the author Roger Higgins has produced an excellent story, well researched, wonderfully detailed, and totally compelling reading.

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Billy-Gogan-Gone-fer-Soldier-ebook/dp/B07DB3R5MT/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1553519107&sr=8-1&keywords=billy+gogan+gone+fer+soldier

 

I Wish I Were a Fairy Tale: A Story Illustrated With Cakes 

by Crystal Walters

This wonderful children’s book captivated my three year old granddaughter’s imagination straight away.

As soon as you see the front cover you just know that this book is going to be something different, but it isn’t until you start turning the pages and entering the magical world of fairy tales that you realise just how wonderful it is.

Enchantingly, it is written in rhyme and very uniquely illustrated. The author’s passion behind the book is evident, not only in its content, but also by the fact that the story is illustrated in cakes, icing and frosting! On the front cover and throughout every page, all the settings and figurines for the different parts of the story were hand made by her, and were real, delicious cakes.

Haven’t we all wished we were in a fairy tale, having adventures in a magical place, and that we could be a princess, meet a unicorn, fly in a hot air balloon, or sail the seas with pirates?

Well in this story a little girl and her puppy travel into fairy tales. There they meets mythical creatures like mermaids and dragons, and visit classic immortal characters like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Then as the moon rises they travel with the Sandman into other children’s dreams, bringing them to life as well.

The fairy tales we hear as children stay with us throughout lives and deep down we never forget the magic of them, and the people who have read them to us. I really liked the size of the font, for children learning to read it is clear and encouraging, and also thought it is a wonderful introduction into the joy of poetry.

The authors loving childhood shines through in the writing and love she has put into creating incredible book. I am sure it will grace bookshelves, and be held by many little hands for years to come.

Available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wish-Were-Fairy-Tale-Illustrated/dp/1546273581/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1553519225&sr=8-

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