Tuesday, December 01, 2020

About Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge has been around for many years in one form or another. 


I believe that the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge started at a blog called Reading, Writing and Ranting since at least 2008 before it was taken over by The Royal Reviews which is when I started participating!

In 2011, I started co-hosting at Historical Tapestry until Amy from Passages to the Past took over in 2015 and has been doing a stellar job ever since.

Now, I am proud to be hosting the challenge for 2021, and I can't wait to see all the books that  you read and share over the coming year.




How the challenge works



Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read. 

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

To participate, you only have to follow the rules:


Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

Sign up for the 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge here!

Don't forget to use the challenge hashtag #histficreadingchallenge



Previous challenge buttons


























Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2021 sign up post



Welcome to the new home of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge for 2021! I am super excited to be hosting this challenge this year. Amy has set a high standard for me to maintain over the last few years! You are welcome if you are have been participated before or if it is your first time!

The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge has been around for many years in one form or another and we used to host at Historical Tapestry, so it  feels like full circle to be hosting once again!

Reading Challenge details

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.


Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

To join the challenge you only need to make a post about it, add your link in Mr. Linky below or just leave a link to your blog if you are not yet ready to post about it yet. If you don't have a blog you can just leave a comment for this post saying that you are joining, and link to your Facebook, Goodreads or other social media page where you will be sharing your reviews.

Don't forget to use the challenge hashtag #histficreadingchallenge, and grab your challenge badge here:



Special thanks to Amy for creating the badge for this year's challenge.

If you have any questions or suggestions let me know!

Are you excited about joining the challenge? What level of the challenge are you aiming for?




Monday, November 30, 2020

This Week I....


What I'm Reading

See my excuse below as to why I am not reading much. In theory I am still listening to Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan but the reality is that I think that I listened to maybe 10 minutes in the last two weeks.



I did actually finish a book last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was called The Flip Side by James Bailey, an English author, but since finishing this one, I haven't actually picked up another book. It's not like I don't have things to read. Like all of us, I have a lot.




What I'm Watching



At the end of every working week I am so exhausted that just veging in front of the TV is just about all Ican do. This weekend the main thing I watched was Virgin River season 2. I have to say it feels like we are a long way from the books now, but it is still watchable. The only thing with these series is the cliffhanger ending. I know it is to grab people but when you don't know if there is even going to be a another series they are a bit irritating.





I did also watch My Christmas Love tonight. It has been a tough day at work and so this Christmassy romancey Hallmark movie hit the spot for me!


Life



I mentioned in my Weekend Cooking post that work is hammering me to the point that I have barely been able to pick up my laptop to post, let alone to read. I am hoping that changes over the next few weeks. I've gone from reading ten books in October to only reading three in November. And I haven't even looked at any of my study tutorials at all in that time. Time to get back to working on worklife balance I guess.




We are very fortunate that life is pretty much getting back to normal. We are now at a month without any new coronavirus cases here in Melbourne. We are even planning a road trip early in January. Let's hope that this trip goes to plan. This year we had five trips planned. The first one was in February and we did do that one, which feels like so long ago, but every subsequent trip since then was cancelled.




I do have big news tomorrow here on the blog, but I have to keep it quiet until then but here's a sneak peek






Posts from the last week

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes
Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in November



I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in November

Last month when I posted about what I had baked during October, I mentioned that I hadn't been cooking as much and it's fair to say that is true for November as well. One reason is lockdown fatigue but the main reason is really because work is really kicking my butt and has been for the last couple of months. Over the last month it's got to the point that I don't even pick up my laptop after work to write or read other people's blogs or even read a book because I am  working late nearly every night and then I am so tired.

The other thing I have mentioned for the last couple of months is about how to challenge myself. On this front, I think November was a good month, because, whilst I only made a couple of things, they were both things that had several different components. Don't get me wrong, the individual components weren't particulary difficult but it does take a little bit of time to put it all together.

The first thing I made was the Chocolate Caramel Flan which I shared the recipe for a couple of weeks ago.




I loved this recipe - and I am thinking that this might be our Christmas dessert because if we add strawberries, raspberries and blueberries into the middle it would be quite festive.  We could also do something with the base to add in some spices, or make  a gingerbread flavoured cake. It's a definite possibility.

The other thing that I made was an absolutely amazing, as in a-maz-ing, lemon meringue cheesecake. This wasn't the original plan but Robert a recipe for a lemon slice type thing called Lemon Lush that included ingredients like fresh whisk and lemon pudding mix which we don't get here. So I went searching until I found this recipe at Love Life and Sugar.






Making this also gave us a reason to go and buy a blowtorch so that we could do the toasty bit on the meringue. 

I will definitely be making this one again, although I have learnt that I need to start this one early in the morning rather than in the afternoon as it was torture having to wait for it to set overnight.









Weekly dinners:


Saturday: Pork schnitzel with chips
Sunday: Grilled cheese on toast
Monday: Steak egg and chiips
Tuesday: Burgers
Wednesday: Chicken skewers, baked potato and salad
Thursday: Corn cakes, baked beans, tomato peach and ricotta salad
Friday: Fish and chips (takeaway Friday)





Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Vintage Weekend Cooking: Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes


This week I have finished an Aussie rural romance book called Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. This is my first book by this author, and in fact was her debut novel, but I have been following her on Instagram for a while now. 

Like me, Maya loves baking, so it wasn't really a surprise to see baking mentioned more than once in this book, but I was surprised when I saw Marian Keyes' cookbook Saved by Cake mentioned. It has spurred me to reshare my thoughts about the book which I originally posted in 2012. The funny thing is all through this post I say that I am going to buy this book, and yet, I never actually did. Bad fan! And now, I wouldn't mind Red Velvet Cheesecake cupcakes.


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Can you remember the last time you laughed out loud when reading a cookbook? Admittedly when I am looking for a new cookbook it isn't at the top of my list of priorities, but it is an added bonus when it happens.

Irish author Marian Keyes has been a best selling fiction author for years but this book, Saved by Cake, is her first foray into writing a cookbook. As a reader, I hope that this isn't the last time she does so. As a fan, I really hope that she doesn't find herself in the same place as she was when she starting her cake making journey.

The title of this book is not just a fun title, it is a description of the role that cake played in Marian Keyes life. A couple of years ago Keyes found herself suffering with severe depression. In the introduction she talks about her depression and how baking gave her a lifeline. At one point she says "To be perfectly blunt about it, my choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes. Right so, I'll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tomorrow." Keyes acknowledges that baking may not be the thing that saves everyone, but for her it was the thing that helped her be able to face one day at time. She went from not even owning a cake tin to having a Drawer of Dreams and so many cookie cutters. If you watch either of the videos that I have linked to above you will be able to see how much joy this new hobby that is turned into something much more has given her, which can only be  a good thing right?

I know that I said that this was laugh out loud funny but so far it doesn't sound terribly cheery but if you have read any of Marian Keyes novels, you know that she is not afraid to mix up important issues into humourous situations and her voice comes through loud and clear in this collection.  Even within the recipe you can feel her excitement and pride with the comments that are scattered through the instructions. For example, in the recipe for Lemon Curd and Pistachio Pinwheels one of the paragraphs is "When you take the pinwheels out of the oven, prepare to be amazed. They will look so professional and impressive and totally different from the last time you saw them."


In another example, in the recipe for Lebkuchen Hearts, when talking about the equipment needed - "Finally, as these are Lebkuchen hearts, you'll need some sort of heart-shaped cookie cutter. If you don't have any, you could try freestyling it with a sharp knife. Or you could simply use a different shaped cutter and change the name of the cookie to - oh, just off the top of my head - Lebkuchen Shoes. or Lebkuchen Handbags." You just know that she has done this herself before!

The recipes range from quite simple classics, where Keyes has had to resist the urge to mess around too much with the tried and tested, to more unusual recipes like a Balsamic, Black Pepper and Chocolate cake that she recommends be served with mascarpone cheese, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar which she admits sounds unusual but "at least I am not advocating anchovies".

The book is divided into sections which focus on classics, cupcakes, cheesecakes, liquid cakes, pastry, meringues and macaroons, biscuits and cookies, fruit and veg and chocolate and there is a good mix of easier and more difficult recipes in each section.

I got this book from my local library, and it is obvious that others before me have actually cooked from it, as I fully intend to do. One of the previous borrowers even left a few post it notes marking the recipes that they found particularly of interest. Their choices included Three Milks Cake, Mam's Apple Tart, Sean's Rosemary Truffles and Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes. To that list, I would add my own choices of Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes and Red Velvet Swirl Cupcakes (for which I have included both the recipe and the video of Marian Keyes making them) below. I left the post it notes in the book for the next library patron to discover too. I wonder how long they will last in there until someone takes them out.

I wouldn't have necessarily said that I was more interested in sweet themed cookbooks than savoury, but when I buy this, and I will be buying it, it will be the third such cookbook this year (I have talked about the other two here and here). They are all different in tone and content but I can see myself cooking from them all quite regularly going forward.

Red Velvet Cupcake Swirls

For the red velvet layer 

110g butter
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
40g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon red food colouring
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
2 eggs
160g self raising flour

For the cream cheese layer 

200g cream cheese
1 egg
40g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Method 

Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases and pre-heat your oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3. 

First, make the cream cheese layer by beating the cream cheese with the egg, sugar and vanilla extract. Keep it standing by. 

Make the red velvet mix by melting the butter. Put into a bowl with the sugar and beat well. Next - in this exact order! Something to do with chemical jiggery-pokery that I can't explain, but must be observed - add the vanilla extract, the cocoa powder, the salt, the food colouring and the vinegar, beating between each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat your eggs in a separate bowl and then add to the butter/cocoa mix. Sieve in the flour and fold through. 

Divide most of the mix among the paper cases, reserving perhaps a fifth, then dollop a lump of cream cheese mix onto each paper case on top of the red velvet mix. Then divide the remaining red velvet mix into the paper cases, on top of the cream cheese mix. 

Now, swirl. You can use a cocktail stick, but I used a bamboo skewer - something with a bit of length is nice because you can get right down into the red velvet mix and dredge up its murky depths - and twirl until the red and white mixes are beautifully striped. this is an extremely enjoyable exercise, so enjoyable that I never want to stop, but I must because if I don't, the two mixes will become one and the whole thing will be pointless.

Bake for 17 to 20 minutes. Cool fully on a wire rack.

You can watch Marian make these delicious sounding cupcakes in the video below:



    Saturday, November 21, 2020

    Weekend Cooking: National Fairy Bread Day


    Today I am going to be posting about an Australlian culinary classic that doesn't necessarily make much sense to other nationalities (except maybe Dutch people, but more on that lately). The reason for posting about this today.....Tuesday is National Fairy Bread day.

    In my last job I was known as the queen of fairy bread, a title which came about because of a joke. One of the things that I miss about working at home is the opportunity for shared morning teas, or taking your baking treats into work, so you don't have to eat at all. It was something that we definitely loved at my old job. And it wasn't only the actual morning tea to look forward to, there was also the pre morning tea conversation where we all talk about what we might make!

    During one of these pre-event conversations, we were all talking about what we would bring, and I jokingly suggested I would bring fairy bread, which once upon a time was staple of an Australian kids party. Once we had explained to the people who didn't grow up here and then reassured them that it is actually really good, the idea took hold and I decided to actually do it.

    What I didn't expect was the reaction from people when they saw it on the table. There were several IT guys who were VERY excited that there was fairy bread on the table, and it made lots of people smile, to the point that I ended up taking it for shared morning teas several times (hence my honorary title) and then felt the need to say, you know I can actually cook right?

    So, what actually is fairy bread? Firstly let me be very clear here - there is little to no nutritional goodness in this! 

    Fairy bread is very easy to make, but you can still get it wrong.

    Firstly, you start with the freshest sliced white bread you can find. If you are making it for yourself at home it's fine to use supermarket sliced bread, but if you are taking it to a special occasion then it involves a trip to the local bakery to buy a freshly baked loaf.

    Secondly, you spread a nice even layer of margarine on those bread slices - not butter because you don't want to tear those nice soft slices of bread.

    Then you take hundreds and thousands and generously shake them all over the bread. The challenge is to get it mostly on the bread and not all over your bench tops, floor etc, because you can still be finding those suckers a week later if you aren't careful. 



    Now, for some people you can apparently put sprinkles on but for me it has to be hundreds and thousands. Also, save your fancy sprinkles for cupcakes because this is not the time for them. Just your run of the mill store bought do the job. 



    What's the difference between sprinkles and hundreds and thousands? The picture below are sprinkles, and the picture above is fairy bread with hundreds and thousands on - so the difference is one is lines and the other is balls.


    The final step is to cut the bread into quarters - triangles only. Never squares. Squares just don't look right, or taste right for that matter.

    I mentioned that the Dutch might understand fairy bread a bit more than other nationalities. This is because they have something that is kind of next level sprinkles, called vruchten hagel. Vruchten hagel are sprinkles that come in a variety of flavours including milk and dark chocolate, fruits of the forest and aniseed. There could be other flavours but those are the ones that I know of.




    My husband, who is really my Dutch boy as both of his parents emigrated to South Africa from the Netherlands, before he, in turn emigrated to Australia (luckily for me!), buys a box of these whenever he can. 

    He often has these on toast for breakfast - sacrilege - see the first step above!!

    Happy National Fairy Bread day on Tuesday!

    Weekly dinners:

    Saturday: Eggplant Moussake
    Sunday: Porchetta, Fennel, Rachicchio and Orange Salad
    Monday: Steak,mushrooms, peas, broccoli
    Tuesday: Cauliflower Fried Rice with Chicken
    Wednesday: Pasta Carbonara
    Thursday: Chicken stir fry
    Friday: Roast beef and gravy rolls









    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2020

    Blog Tour: The Lost Village by Daniella Sacerdoti

    I know if you take a look back through my blog archives you could be left thinking that I have no other aspirations other than to go back to France and to read all the books set in France, all of the time. Whilst that could be true, I am more of an equal opportunity reader and so I am happy to read books with other settings. And so it was that I jumped at the chance to read this book, set in a small Italian village. I am really glad that I did.

    Luce Nardini (pronounced Lu-chay) is suffering from empty nest syndrome. She split up from her husband Ethan several years before, and now her son Eli has moved from Seattle to New York to go to college.  Feeling adrift from family, Luce decides that now is the time to track down her Italian family, despite knowing that her mother would forbid it, if she knew. Luce's mother, Angelina, had not had any contact with her family back in Italy for many years, and would never talk about why that was. 



    When Luce finds a small clue as to where her family might have come from, she uses Facebook to connect with her younger cousin Mathilde who had no idea that Luce existed. Within a short time, Luce has made the decision to go to Italy and find out, once and for all, who she is and where she comes from.



    Whilst Mathilde is very excited to welcome Luce, the two cousins are apprehensive about the reception that she will get when she meets her elderly grandmother for the first time, not to mention her uncle. Nonna is more than pleased to meet her, but her uncle is incredibly hostile. What could possibly have happened to have completely destroyed this family so irrevocably.



    Slowly, her Nonna tells her about what happened in the small village during the war, about blackshirts and partisan rebels, about giving birth to her daughter in the woods. However, before the truth about the family secrets can be fully revealed, the village of Boscanero is hit by a massive earthquake. Now, the past doesn't matter so much as surviving. Lives are lost, others are changed irrevocably, and for Luce, the truth about what, or who, really matters becomes much clearer.



    The descriptions of the village were very good. I could feel what it must have been like to be sitting in the village on a warm summer night. It definitely made me wish I could be there, at least before the quake. I thought the scenes after the earthquake were particulary well done. The panic, the despair, the dust and the loss were superbly written. 



    The author made some different decisions from what you would nomally expect to see in a novel of this type. It is refreshing when an author surprises you! 




    The subtitle for this novel is "an emotional World War Two historical romance set in Italy" (at least it is on the Goodreads entry) but I am not sure that is 100% correct because it doesn't convey the action that the story tells, right up to the very unexpected ending. There is an undertone of romance, sure, but for me it wasn't the main element.



    What I am sure of is that I need to read more from this author as soon as possible!


    Rating 4.5/5


    Thanks to the publisher, Bookouture, for a review copy of this book.


    Book Description:
    1945, Italy. Two sisters give birth to two little girls on the same night, huddled under blankets, deep in the black woods that surround the village of Bosconero. They hold their babies close as footsteps approach. If they make even the slightest sound, the German soldiers will find them…

    2006. Luce Nardini searches the cobbled streets of a remote Italian village for a house with a faded blue door. Since her only child left home, and with her estranged husband more distant than ever, she’s been completely untethered. Discovering why her mother cut all contact with her family and the village she loved feels like Luce’s last hope at understanding who she is.

    Inside the house, she’s relieved to find the grandmother she never knew living out her final days. With a longing look at an ornate wooden box on her nightstand, her grandmother is just beginning to tell the heart-wrenching story of a little village ravaged by war, and why Luce’s mother swore never to return, when then the unthinkable happens: an earth-shattering disaster that shakes the little village of Bosconero to its core.

    Feeling more lost than ever before, Luce fears that the secrets of her past have been buried forever. Her only hope is to win back the trust of the small community and find her grandmother’s little wooden box amongst the rubble of the village.

    But will the surprise arrival of the husband she thought she’d lost help sew Luce’s family back together, or tear it apart for good? And will anything have prepared her for the devastating betrayal she finds hidden inside the box…?

    An unputdownable historical novel about the secrets we keep to protect the ones we love by the author of million-copy Amazon No 1. bestseller, Watch Over Me. Perfect for anyone who loves Fiona Valpy, Lily Graham or The Letter by Kathryn Hughes.  


    Author Bio:


    Daniela Sacerdoti is the author of the bestselling Glen Avich series which has sold over one million copies in ebook to date, Sacerdoti’s debut novel Watch Over Me was named the eighth bestselling Kindle book of all time in 2015, when she was also ranked as the eleventh top-selling Kindle author. She lives in a small village in the middle of nowhere, with her Scottish husband, two children, a Cocker spaniel and a foundling kitten (who was definitely a witch in a past life).



    https://www.danielasacerdoti.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDanielaSacerdoti/
    https://www.instagram.com/danielasacerdoti.2/



    Buy Links:
    Amazon: https://bit.ly/3mYR0tY
    Apple: https://apple.co/2EMY9gk
    Kobo: https://bit.ly/3gQNOx1
    Google: https://bit.ly/3jD9Epz

    Monday, November 16, 2020

    This week.....



    I'm reading....


    I haven't listened to much of my audiobook over the last week, but I am still determined to listen to it, because I am enjoying it when I do get to it because I do enjoy Jenny Colgan's books, and this one, Christmas at the Island Hotel, is festive to boot. Let's hope I get it finished by Christmas!


    Tomorrow I am going to be posting a review for a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, The Lost Village by Daniela Sacerdoti.



    I am currently reading an Aussie rural romance called Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell. Whilst I haven't read this author before, I do really enjoy her Instagram feed which features lots of baking as well as books! I have a few days before I have my next must read book, so I am hoping to fit this one in, and then get back to the review.



    I'm watching....



    We took Friday off, so I could have done anything. We started with a delicious breakfast, and then, well then I spent the rest of the day watching Dash and Lily on Netflix! And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Once again, it is another festive treat, but this time with the added bonus of New York! I spent the first couple of episodes saying we've been there, and we've been there. My husband then moved into the other room to do whatever he was doing. Not sure why!!



    We then watched the first episode of season 2 of American Gods. You can't really get much different but still...






    Life

    We are now up to our 17th day of having no new cases of Covid19 and no new deaths - affectionately known here as double donuts. We are gradually starting to catch up with friends we haven't seen since the beginning of the year, heading to the hardware store and IKEA, but still all while still masked up. I know we have to wear the mask but I am glad to take it off once we get back in the car.



    In bad news, there is a new outbreak in Adelaide at the moment which may impact my family's plans for Christmas but we will see how that all plays out over the coming weeks. Right now, any plans are up in the air.



    Posts from the last week

    Blog Tour: From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey
    Weekend Cooking: Chocolate Caramel Flan



    I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

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