That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris

That's Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris Book Cover That's Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in Paris
Vicki Lesage
Travel
218

If you've ever traveled to Paris, lived in the City of Light or dreamed of setting foot on its cobblestoned streets, you'll enjoy escaping into this collection of short stories about France's famed capital.

From culinary treats (and catastrophes) to swoon-worthy romantic encounters (and heartbreaking mishaps), this anthology takes you on a journey through one of the most famous cities in the world.

View this cosmopolitan metropolis through the chic eyes of Parisians, francophiles and travellers who fell in love with the city and haven't quite gotten around to leaving yet...

I received a copy of That’s Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm from the lovely Vicki Lesage. You might remember her name from a review I wrote last year, of her book Confessions of a Paris Party Girl

That’s Paris is a collection of tales, both fictional and biographical, that beautifully describe the details of a city that everyone thinks they know. Diving deeper than the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa, baguettes and snooty women, each story is very short, a mere soundbite really, and shines a light on a new aspect of the city.

The stories cover all sorts – from the advertising in the metro stations, to the recovery of a widow; from the musings of a mother missing her expat daughter, to the dark side of the love locks adorning Parisian bridges. Some of the authors call the city home, others have never even read a book about the place. But each contributed to painting a detailed picture of a city that holds so many secrets that one could never hope to discover them all. Even the foreword, by notable author Stephen Clarke (himself an expat living in Paris), was a love letter to the city.

I really enjoyed each glimpse into the city, from such varied perspectives. One of my favourite stories was early on in the book, and described the five tests that Parisians like to put foreigners through when it comes to their particular brand of fine dining. I think I’ve personally made it to level 3, but plan on working my way up to the harder ones!

My only qualms with the book were how very short some of the stories were – I wanted more to sink my teeth into! Also, I sometimes felt a tad discombobulated by the switch between fiction and non-fiction – I might have preferred either one or the other. That said, I did love the diversity of the stories. Lesage herself contributed several, and her mother also wrote one (which was oh so sweet).

For anyone who thinks they know Paris well, or wants to know her a little better, I would definitely recommend picking up That’s Paris. It’s a delightful, easy read that transported me back to a place that I love to explore, and I’m certain that it could do the same for any one of you.

Amazon

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REVIEW: London Eyes by Frances Thompson

London Eyes Book Cover London Eyes
Frances Thompson
Travel Fiction
451

London Eyes is a collection of short stories set in London.

Written by Guardian Top London Blogger Frances M. Thompson, London Eyes is a compilation of thought provoking contemporary fiction inspired by the sights, sounds and souls of the world's most popular, and some say greatest, city.

Meet the Wizard of Elephant & Castle who stirs a secret ingredient into the cocktails he serves in his bar, follow newly-divorced Georgina in The Tourist as she goes on a bus tour of the city... after twenty-one years of living in London, and find out how and why one young woman uses the busy streets of the City of London to disappear in An Invisible Girl. In A to Zed two truanting teenagers find out more about a Shepherd's Bush gangster than they expect, and in Angel you begin to understand the lengths some people go to to avoid loneliness in London. Travel across the capital's vast metropolis as you learn the reasons why Mick is London's most flirtatious cabbie in Keep the Change, and discover what it is that keep The Ghosts of London Underground trapped in the abandoned Tube stations below us.

London Eyes is a collection of short stories for the Londoner, the London-obsessed, or the one time visitor who dreams of arriving or returning.

I received a copy of London Eyes by Frances Thompson from the author, in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

London Eyes was a collection of short stories that exposed the real London, and it’s quirky inhabitants; magic bartenders, eccentric single women, the elderly, taxi drivers, and even a cat. Each story showed a different angle to one of the many aspects of the bustling city, be it a new neighbourhood, the iconic red bus tours, or an out of the way pub.

Rather than writing about a tourist’s London, I feel Thompson deliberately avoided any clichés, and stuck to slightly more obscure stories – perhaps at times too obscure – the finer details of which hinged on things unique to London, like the cyclists battling the congested traffic, or it’s signature public transport. I think locals would enjoy reading about the neighbourhoods that don’t usually feature in London stories.

I liked the wide variety of perspectives covered in the stories. The characters covered such a huge range – including that of a cat, which I enjoyed! The use of such different characters clearly reflected the bustle of London. Personally, I loved the sweet story of an elderly couple who regularly leave their nursing home to attend the weddings of strangers in churches that they admire – and check them off their bucket list of wedding churches to experience.

My problem with short stories is often that I’m left wanting more information about the people I’m reading about. In this case, I was usually happy with the little snapshots that I was receiving – however, there were a few stories that I felt need another tiny bit of information, just to complete them. That said. I feel that they were written to be ambiguous on purpose, perhaps to illustrate that not everything is as it seems in London, but it was still a little frustrating.

On the whole, I enjoyed Thompson’s take on a collection of short stories celebrating London. Each story was so different, and at times even bizzare, that I never knew what to expect. The creativity in coming up with so many different vignettes was great, and I really appreciated the different perspectives on London. It was a collection that I think avid travellers would appreciate as much as London locals would.

Amazon

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REVIEW: ‘Life is Swede’ by Claire Duffy

Life is Swede Book Cover Life is Swede
Claire Duffy
Travel Fiction / Thriller
234

Regan moves halfway across the world to start a new life with holiday fling Anders, and blogs daily about her ups and downs settling into Stockholm and struggles to connect with Anders' tight knit group of friends. 

When one of them is found dead during a weekend away in a remote cabin, the police quickly zero in on Anders as the killer. Regan sets out to clear his name, and details her investigation for her fascinated readers - unaware that the killer is reading her blog, and watching her every move. 

I received a copy of Life is Swede by Claire Duffy in exchange for a review, and my honest opinion.

If readers picked this book up without reading the blurb, they could be forgiven for thinking that Life is Swede was expat-fiction. In fact, it isn’t until halfway through the novel that the psychological thriller aspect came into play. However, weirdly, it worked!

Written in blog post form, and in part (the non-murder part!) derived from Duffy’s own experiences as an American expat living in Sweden, the reader gets an immediate insight into Regan’s thoughts. Her blog also evolves with her as the story progresses; gradually the anonymity she initially tried for falls away and nicknames give way to real ones. I found Regan’s introspection very interesting; she often looks back over what she has blogged, and considers how her view of a situation at the time influenced her perceptions of people she met.

Having experienced Sweden myself, I found myself smiling as I recognised the thought that the Swedish people are insanely beautiful – there really are a huge number of tall, blue-eyed, blonde people.

Just as Regan begins to settle into Swedish life, people start dying, and her boyfriend is arrested. Suddenly everyone is under suspicion.

Duffy kept me guessing until the very end; I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was (although I had my suspicions), and I definitely didn’t expect the twist that she threw in at the very end – Duffy kept it fresh!

This was a great first novel. I’m excited to see what Duffy comes up with next (she’s currently releasing another psychological thriller in parts, called Identity). In the meantime, she can be found blogging over at The Grass is Dancing!

Amazon

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REVIEW: Chasing Athens – Marissa Tejada

Chasing Athens Book Cover Chasing Athens
Marissa Tejada
Chick Lit
261

Suddenly dumped, a heartbroken American ex-pat stays on in Greece, confronting culture shock, crisis, and the charm of Mediterranean men as she redefines the true meaning of home. 

When Ava Martin’s new husband unexpectedly ditches her months after they’ve relocated across the world to Greece, the heartbroken American ex-pat isn’t sure where home is anymore. On the verge of flying back to the States with her tail between her legs, she makes an abrupt decision to follow her gut instead and stay on in Greece. She soon discovers that the tumultuous, culture-rich Mediterranean country is coloring her life in a way no place else can, changing her forever. But is it where she belongs? 

Ava’s newfound independence throws her into the thick of Athenian reality, where she has brushes with violent police riots and gets a taste of both the alluring islands and the city nightlife. Despite pressure from her mother, uncertainty over her impending divorce, and unresolved issues with her long-estranged father weighing on her, she’s determined to make it on her own. With the help of two very colourful Greek friends, she laughs and learns while facing culture shock, language barriers and the charm of Mediterranean men, until a life-threatening medical emergency back home in sleepy Ithaca, N.Y., forces her to decide where she truly belongs – and what truly matters.

I received a copy of Chasing Athens – Marissa Tejada in exchange for an honest review.

Ava is a woman that I think most readers would recognise; she’s at an age where she’s supposed to have everything figured out – but she really doesn’t. Freshly heartbroken, unemployed, and in a foreign country, Ava has two choices. She can return to her small hometown, full of the easy and familiar, or she can take a risk and stay in Athens, learning the language and enjoying her newfound friendships.

Tejada wrote characters that were instantly loveable. Ava’s new Greek friends were so caring, and their individual quirks were instantly recognisable as ‘Greek’. Ava herself is easy to feel sympathetic towards, but she’s not pitiable, so she never gets annoying. The experiences she has in Athens are recognisable too; the handsome rebound stranger who disappears after one night, the adorably sweet but too young boy who won’t stop calling… and then the romantic older man who sweeps you off your feet (after rescuing you in a skinny dipping incident… oh wait, thankfully that’s not so recognisable!).

I was in Athens two years ago, and I thought that Tejada captured it perfectly – the wild nightlife, the protests on the streets at night, the delicious food and good company… It’s an amazing place, so I could easily understand why Ava was torn about whether to stay or go. I liked that Tejada didn’t shy away from discussing the political situation in Greece, and how it effects the people. I feel like many readers probably aren’t aware of the reality of the situation. While I was there, there were protests every Friday night, and I’ll admit that my first experience of them was pretty nerve-wracking; Uniformed men with riot shields blocked off all of the local streets, and I couldn’t get back to my hostel. Men with firecrackers crowded the streets. I quickly learned to either stay inside, or stay close to home. When in doubt, McDonald’s always proved a safe hiding spot! I spent a long friday night in one, overlooking Syntagma Square and the protesters, eating donuts until it was safe to leave. I have also found myself in an Athenian Police Station on one occasion, and can tell you that Ava’s experience sounds just about right! Including these details in the story, that could easily have been left out, really added a depth to the novel that chick lit can often overlook.

I thought that this book felt very real. The writing and plot weren’t forced or unbelievable. Tejada’s own experience living in Athens clearly helped bring the city to life in her novel. I’d definitely recommend it to those who are feeling a little wanderlust, or want to travel vicariously around Athens. You can find it on Amazon for $5, which is another pretty good reason to check it out!!
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REVIEW: “Confessions of a Paris Party Girl” Vicki Lesage

Confessions of a Paris Party Girl Book Cover Confessions of a Paris Party Girl
Vicki Lesage
Chick Lit
238

Drinking too much bubbly. Meeting sappy Frenchmen who have girlfriends or are creeps or both. Encountering problème after problème with French bureaucracy. When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to taste wine, stuff her face with croissants, and maybe fall in love.

In her first book, this long-time blogger and semi-professional drinker recounts the ups and downs of her life in Paris. Full of sass, shamefully honest admissions, and situations that seem too absurd to be true, Vicki makes you feel as if you're stumbling along the cobblestones with her.

Will she find love? Will she learn to consume reasonable amounts of alcohol? Will the French administration ever cut her a break?

I received a copy of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage in exchange for my honest opinion. 

For the travellers out there, I would definitely recommend giving this one a go. Lesage’s memoirs about her time in Paris, beginning as a young twenty-something, are written as a string of amusing anecdotes. Anybody who’d ever ventured into the unknown alone is sure to recognise some of the situations she’s found herself in; standing in a building with a room key but no idea which room is yours, walking home barefoot from a night out because you know they’d rip you off because you’re not a local, the pain of lugging heavy suitcases up and down stairs when you’re lost, the excitement of hearing a familiar accent in a room full of people…

Less familiar, and more educational, were the stories about French bureaucracy and the red tape that expats face. Should I ever move to France, I’ll be well prepared with every receipt and pay slip I’ve ever received!

This book certainly lived up to it’s name. Twenty-something Vicki’s love for partying is well documented in this expat memoir. Somewhere along the line, her (sometimes excessive, in a way that all travellers have experienced) hard partying ways lead to all sorts of amusing stories. Later, as her Frenchie boyfriend – who reads like quite the catch – tempers her wild habits, and leads her to question whether she’s become old and boring. I know that feeling!

As Vicki grows up, her stories change, and this provides for readers of all ages to take something from her memoir. Personally, I think the book would resonate well with travellers, but perhaps hold less interest for those who are without wanderlust. Luckily for me, I have a healthy dose of travel bug, and gladly read anything that reminds me of the exciting life adventures to be had overseas. Lesage’s story is inspirational in that it shows that all it takes is one brave leap – or one expensive plane ticket – to change your life. It’s an excellent reminder of all the wonderful things that can come of such a leap. Travellers out there: get on it!! Check it out here. Let me know what you think!

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REVIEW: ‘Expat Diaries: Single in the City’ Michele Gorman

Expat Diaries: Single in the City Book Cover Expat Diaries: Single in the City
Expat Diaries
Michele Gorman
Chick Lit
288

Take one twenty-six-year-old American, add to a two thousand year old city, add a big dose of culture clash and stir.

To think Hannah ever believed that Americans differed from Brits mainly in pronunciation, sophistication and dentistry. That's been the understatement of a lifetime. She lands upon England's gentle shores with no job, no friends and no idea how she's supposed to build the life she's dreaming of. Armed with little more than her enthusiasm, she charges headlong into London, baffling the locals in her pursuit of a new life, new love and sense of herself.

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

I started this book at 11.30pm, with the intention of having a little read. Then, lo and behold, it was 2am, and I’d finished the entire thing.

To me, this is the sign of a great book – when you just can’t put it down. Gorman’s Expat Diaries: Single in the City is the perfect piece of chick lit! Hannah’s adventures settling into London life are both hilarious and recognisable. We’ve all been there; maybe not in London, but somewhere. And falling for the ‘perfect’ guy only to find out that he’s actually Satan’s evil twin? Yup, we’ve all been there too.

Gorman managed to write a character who was interesting and survived her many disasters without being whingey. I was completely invested in Hannah finding her feet, and recognised the emotions she felt as she tried to find her place in a strange new place.

The writing flowed in the easy style that is essential for good chick lit, and the plot has numerous facets that didn’t feel crammed in but instead each added a layer of depth to the story. Gorman also had fun with the lingo differences between America and the UK, which was a laugh, and the stereotypical Aussie backpackers who made an appearance were bang on!

I was pleased to discover that there are two sequels already written for me to devour as soon as I have some downtime!No torturous waiting game to play. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing Hannah in a new place, and with a whole new string of disasters to manage!

If you want to discover the magic of expat life for yourself (from the comfort of your own home), you can find it here. If anyone has read it, let me know what you thought! I feel like this is a short review, but sometimes all you need to know is that it’s good!

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REVIEW: Bangkok Transit – Eva Fejos

Bangkok Transit Book Cover Bangkok Transit
Eva Fejos
Travel Fiction
272

Bangkok: a sizzling, all-embracing, exotic city where the past and the present intertwine. It’s a place where anything can happen… and anything really does happen. The paths of seven people cross in this metropolis. Seven seekers, for whom this city might be a final destination. Or perhaps it is only the start of a new journey?

A successful businessman; a celebrated supermodel; a man who is forever the outsider; a young mother who suddenly loses everything; a talented surgeon, who could not give the woman he loved all that she desired; a brothel’s madam; and a charming young woman adopted at birth. Why these seven? Why did they come to Bangkok now, at the same time? Do chance encounters truly exist?

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Bangkok Transit by Hungarian blonde bombshell Eva Fejos is the Love Actually of travel fiction. Seven strangers find themselves in Bangkok, searching for something they’re missing; family, happiness, freedom… Fate intervenes, and the paths of these strangers cross amid the humidity and crowds of Bangkok.

I found this book fascinating. It took awhile to get into the swing of the story, as the narrative jumps rapidly between the perspectives of different characters, and they aren’t always identified by name. However, once you have a grasp of the different storylines, everything became much more comprehensible and I was drawn in.

Each character’s story had a missing element, which wasn’t revealed into late in the book, and cleverly kept me hooked. Admittedly, I picked the threads connecting the characters earlier than perhaps the author intended, but this didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. Despite each story being based on sadness and emotion, Fejos didn’t write a miserable book; she managed to write an uplifting novel of discovery instead.

Fejos truly shines in her illustrative depiction of Bangkok culture. What could have been a shallow and predictable story full of ladyboys and prostitutes instead respectfully identified the deeper issues of poverty and gender identity that lie beneath the bright light of the big city. The culture is seamlessly woven into the story, enhancing the journeys that each character was undertaking.

My one gripe would be that each storyline came to a head and ended very abruptly. After unravelling each narrative so slowly and precisely, the sudden resolution of each was a little off-putting, and I would have liked just a smidge more information.

That said, the sudden ending was not enough to spoil the book, and I was left feeling quite tranquil, as if I myself had undertaken a journey of discovery alongside the other characters. I would definitely recommend reading this book, and will be tracking down some of the other books written by Fejos to see if they live up to the high standard set by her first novel.

This book is a perfect 3.5 stars. If you’d like to ignite your interest in the enigma that is Bangkok, you can get a copy from Amazon here. I’d love to hear what you thought!
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