A Stranger in Paris: 1 (A French Life)
by Karen Webb
It’s amazing what we will do for love. Its magnetism draws like nothing else, as the readers of this fast paced and exciting memoir will discover.
It is possible to break free from your traditionally expected path in life and live a totally different one. The author, Karen Webb, discovered this when one day when she suddenly realised with certain clarity that she didn’t want to just get her degree, and the settle down with her fiancé Steve to a lifetime of beer and rugby in Neath.
Instead in 1989 this story begins at Aberystwyth train station, where she is saying goodbye to her university life and friends, who all think she is mad. Why, well because running headlong out of one relationship has led to her falling hopelessly in love with David Azoulay, a naturally charismatic French Orthodox Jew. Charming and caring he quickly takes her heart, and then heartlessly tells her that she must let him go. Hurt, rejected, and sure she can change his mind, what does she do, she follows him back home to Paris.
Reckless, impetuous perhaps, however this decision is the first of many she is destined to make. I for one, having become an expat English living in France 16 years ago understand totally the draw of adventure, the wonder of Paris and the wonderful experiences living in France has to offer.
Encouraged by her friend, or perhaps as we discover devil on her shoulder, Jessica, Karen, like many girls before her finds a job as an au pair to a French couple with three children. Settled in their bourgeoise house in Paris she quickly discovers what is expected of her, and to her surprise some amazing insights into the French attitudes to sex, married life, and relationships.
Karen also very quickly discovers how totally lost you can feel when everyone around you speaks French at double time, and expects you to understand them. Her experiences provide entertaining and interesting reading, and gives her readers a real feel for French family life.
However, the appearance of her friend Jessica at her employer’s house one night is destined to change everything, her relationships, career, home, indeed her whole life.
There is so much of everything packed into this story, her life is truly a rollercoaster of an adventure, yet, throughout Karen has the amazing ability to adapt to whatever life throws at her, however the question is, did she get her man?
This is the first of a three part memoir by this talented author and I for one cannot wait to read more of her loves, experiences, and adventures.
Highly recommended – whether you love a great memoir which enables you to peeping into other people’s lives, adore Paris or France, or just want an excellent story you can get totally absorbed into, this is the book for you!
Inconvenient Memories: A Personal Account of the Tiananmen Square Incident and the China Before and After
by Anna Wang
In writing this fascinatingly informative book, the author Anna Wang has fulfilled a promise she made to herself long after the terrible massacre at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, a promise to tell her story about the events at that time.
Born in China in 1966, a few years later than myself in England, Anna has really opened my eyes through her memoir to how different life is in East Asia.
The author was abandoned by her mother into the care of her grandmother who lived in Beijing. It is through Anna’s recollections of her childhood and youth, that we discover how strict the upbringing of Chinese children is, and also what living conditions were like in the capital city during her youth. Perhaps the most eye-opening part of this whole book for me was to discover the different ‘regimes’ which Chinese people have to, and still do adhere to, and the class distinctions and restrictions imposed on its people by the government, and their policies.
It wasn’t until she was accepted into Peking University in Beijing as a microelectronics major that Anna experienced protests for the first time. The death on the 15th April 1989 of a former Communist Leader Hu Yaobang, who had worked hard to move China toward a more open political system, and had become a symbol of democratic reform caused the initial uprising in Tiananmen Square. This commenced with the students marching through the capital to Tiananmen Square. From that beginning the uprising grew, hunger strikes, and rally’s caused Premier Li Peng to impose martial law on 19th May.
Anna’s memories of these times are full of fear, with troupes roaming the street, innocent citizens shot, families decimated, and a city in lockdown. On the 4th June, 1989 the demonstration ended when Chinese troops fired on civilians and students. The true death toll has never been released…
At the time of the incident, and after, she worked as a secretary at Canon Beijing, and then went on to have a successful writing career. She has had published other books about her life and experiences, and is married to Lao Xin who she met when he was a student of literature in college. The couple have two children, and with her own vivid childhood memories, their future is paramount to her.
Throughout her extremely interesting life this determined woman, with strength and fortitude, has intermittently lived in Beijing, and also in America, New Zealand and Canada. Through her vividly detailed accounts the author gives her reader a real insight into life in China, and being Chinese. For me, an added bonus was that her recollections of her grandmother’s stories to her during childhood, gives a fascinating glimpse into early 20th century life, including the custom of foot binding.
I would highly recommend this fascinating book to anyone interested in history, memoirs, and life in China through the 20th, and into the 21st century.
Cries of Mercy (Cries Series)
by Angela Beach Silverthorne
Can Bren and Joseph’s love for each other and faith in God overcome all?
Cries of Mercy is the third in the Cries Series written by Angela Beach Silverthorne, a Christian woman whose faith and character shine through in this incredible series.
The story is set in the small town of Silverton, a close nit Christian community, and the chief protagonist is Bren, a young woman whose life the readers have watched evolve in this series. She suffered a traumatic childhood, however found sanctuary at The Haven, where, through the teachings of her grandmother ‘GG’ she discovered her faith in God, and realised that she was a Lighten, which means a warrior of God, and to signify this she carries a crescent-moon birth mark. As a young woman Bren graduate as a nurse, and returns to The Haven to be the village midwife, and then eventually marries Pastor Joseph.
The scene is set at the beginning of this book with Bren reflecting on her marriage, honeymoon and deep endearing love for her husband Joseph. However, their past has also been tinged with great sadness as she has been pregnant three times, and each of her sons have died before or just after birth. These tragedies, although heart-breaking for the couple have united them through Christ and their deep faith in God.
Silverton is thriving and wonderful things are happening in their church and at the New Beginnings Empowerment Center. Some people believe that a jail should be built for troubled souls but Joseph strongly believes that the way through to these people is through rehabilitation. Empowered by His Spirit Joseph wants to increase his ministry teachings, however Bren is afraid initially. For her, memories of past incidents emerge, however, knowing her husband’s resolute faith in his path in life, she relents and Joseph starts doing tours.
As is usual in such a caring community, the residents each have their own stories, and have overcome demons and troubles. However, some of these have re-emerged from the past, and even Joseph discovers some buried family secrets which are set to shake the lives of those he loves. Birth and death are a part of life as we are reminded every day, and when a much loved member of the community and friend is diagnosed with terminal cancer there is much sorrow, yet even amidst the sadness there is joy when Bren discovers that she is with child again, and together the couple pray for a safe delivery of their baby.
As Joseph’s ministry to his flock and tours are increasing, there is unrest and faces from the past arrive in Silverton, bent on causing mayhem. Yet resolute, Joseph finds strength and values the advice of his good friend Dominique a Franciscan Priest, and together they fortify and strengthen the villagers in their fight against the demons of Satan.
As family secrets are revealed, and puzzles from the past are solved, the mysteries unfold, leaving Bren and Joseph looking forward to overcoming everything and being a family unit, but will their dreams come true?
This captivating story, although part of a trilogy can happily be enjoyed alone. It is a wonderful story in which the community of Silverton comes alive, and its characters, their lives, loves and experiences are richly described by the author, making it a truly outstanding read.
A Better You in Later Life
by John Molyneux
Like millions of other people I accepted aches and pains as a normal part of getting older, but wow, has this book proven otherwise.
With over 20 years of experience as an accredited sports therapist behind him, the author, John Molyneux has proven to me that aching joints and stiffness are not necessarily an automatic part of growing older.
A Better You in Later Life provided me with all the information I needed to re-educate myself and break my bad habits which have developed over time. I found the way the book is set out perfect as it makes you think about and adjust your posture, and then teaches you how to strengthen your core, by engaging the many muscles involved in it, and this in turn protects your back.
From there the author taught me through clear explanations and photographs, how to start exercising all the different parts of the body. For me, very importantly when to stop, and what not to do, including explaining which exercises and stretches should not be attempted if you have had hip/knee replacements.
This is not a book to glimpse at and do occasionally, it is set out as an exercise programme to be carried out one step at a time, ensuring that each part is successfully accomplished to the readers’ ability and flexibility before moving on.
Near the end of the book there are strengthening and compound exercises, and also some routine programmes which vary in length, however enable you in as little as 5 minutes a day to keep supple and have a better quality of life.
I learnt so much from this book, ranging from my ability to decrease the aches and pains I had taken for granted, to how to belly breath, which noticeably strengthens the diaphragm, helps me to relax, and is good for my blood pressure.
I highly recommend this book to everyone interested in improving their health and well-being. Reading it I have learnt invaluable lessons most importantly how to listen to my body, but also that I can incorporate exercise easily into my daily life, and through doing so increase my quality of life beyond measure.