Monday, February 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday: February edition

After a bumper month in January, the number of books that I own that I have read this month has outstripped the number of books that I acquired which in theory means that my TBR pile is going down! Here are the books that I got during February:

Mailbox Monday is on tour and for February it is being hosted at Library of Clean Reads. Head over there to share your links, or to see what everyone else has posted about this week.

Love at First Flight by Marie Force  - Got this as an ebook freebie

The Vampire Dimitri by Colleen Gleason - Last month I got the first book in this new series from Colleen Gleason, so when I saw the second book on offer at Netgalley I had to request it.

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell J Kaplan - Received from the author for review

The Princess and the Penis and The Ballerina, The Gymnast and The Yoga Master both by R J Silver - I saw a review of Princess and the Penis over at Babbling About Books. It was free from Smashwords so I thought I would give it a go. I ended up reading it a couple of times and thought it was a really fun read, and then I downloaded the other RJ Silver book that was available too.

Going All In by Jess Dee - A couple of years ago at the first Australian Romance Readers Convention I shared a table with Jess Dee and Lexie Couper on the Saturday night. I am not really sure why but I decided I needed something a little erotic the other day to read and so I decided to try one of Jess's books. It's my first menage a trois erotica read and I am not 100% sure how I feel about what I have read so far.

Shaun Tan at the Oscars

This morning on the news there is a lot of talk about the Oscars that are starting in a few hours. Lots of of talk about The King's Speech (amazing movie), about the chances of the Australian nominations in the big categories and what their chances are of winning (Nicole Kidman, Geoffrey Rush and Jackie Weaver), but so far there hasn't been a lot of talk about the category that I really have my finger's crossed for.

I have been a big fan of Shaun Tan for a few years now, so when it was announced that his adaptation of his book, The Lost Thing, had been nominated for an Oscar, it was a very exciting moment! While I am interested in those categories I will cheer very loudly if the names that are called out for the Short Film (Animated) Oscar are Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann.


Woo-hoo! Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann won their category! So exciting!

Here's the trailer for The Lost Thing. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: January/February Reads

I was very slack last month and never actually got around to doing my reading round up for January! There is still another day in February but I don't think I will be finishing either of the two books that I am currently reading at the moment.

Here are the books that I have read over the last two months


The Distant Hours by Kate Morton 4/5
Promise Canyon by Robyn Carr 3.5/5
Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr 4/5
Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland 4.5/5
Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts 4.5/5
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson 4.5/5
Tangled Up in Love by Heidi Betts 4/5
Anna by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles 4/5
Walk About by Aaron Fletcher 4/5
The Reunion by L J Smith 4/5
The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig 4.5/5
Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik 2.5/5
Inside Out by Maria V Snyder 4/5
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness 4.5/5
A Little Friendy Advcie by Siobhan Vivian 4/5
The Search by Nora Roberts 4/5
A Hellion in her Bed by Sabrina Jeffries 4/5
Troublemaker - Book 1 by Janet Evanovich and Alex Evanovich 2.5/5
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner 4/5


Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham 3.5/5
The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick 4/5
Outside In by Maria V Snyder 4.5/5
His Favorite Mistress by Tracy Anne Warren 4/5
The Measure of the Man by Sidney Poitier 3.5/5
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett 4/5
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong 4/5
The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall 4/5
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett 4/5
Provocative in Pearls by Madeline Hunter 4/5
Staying at Daisy's by Jill Mansell 4/5
Brown Skin Blue by Belinda Jeffrey 4.5/5
The Princess and the Penis by R J Silver 4/5
A Creed in Stone Creek by Linda Lael Miller 3.5/5
Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away  by Christie Watson 4/5

It's been a pretty good start to the reading challenge year as well. Here's my progress in the challenges that I am participating in:

What's in a Name Challenge - 3 out of 6 books read.

So far I have read three categories - Provocative in Pearls has Jewelery or Gem in the title, A Little Friendly Advice has Size in the Title and Walk About features Travel or Movement in the title. The categories that I still need to read are Number in the Title, Evil in the Title and Life Stage.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - 5 out of 20 books read.

A quarter of the way through the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge already! The books that I have read so far that qualify for this challenge are Walk About, Anna, Queen of Last Hopes, The Marsh King's Daughter and The Jewel of St Petersburg.

Aussie Author Challenge - 3 out of 10 books read.

Kate Morton who wrote Distant Hours, Adrian Hyland (Gunshot Road) and Belinda Jeffrey (Brown Skin Blue) are all Australian authors.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Jollof rice

Grandma served the food. The amount she put on plates would have broken if people had not kept on hand underneath the whole time. There was jollof rice, fried fish, fresh fish, pepper soup, smoked fish, spicy stewed snails, barbecued plantain, banga soup, efo riro, roasted bush meat, cow tail, egusi and ogbono soup with eba.

This week I have been reading Christie Watson's Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, which is a soon to be released novel set in Nigeria. The above paragraph is talking about all the food that is being served up as a wedding feast.**

When I reviewed Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie a few years ago, I mentioned that I feel something of a connection to the country due to the fact that my ex is Nigerian, and therefore my son has some Nigerian heritage. This feeling of connection is still there even though I havenever been to Nigeria and not being able to imagine a situation where I will be visiting there in the future, and also despite the fact that my ex has even less to do with his son than ever.

One thing that I never really did get my head around all that well was the food but as I read through Christie Watson's books I found myself feeling like I might want to eat some Nigerian food, or at least just have a little taste, for the first time in years.

Normally I don't have any real sense of nostalgia around this particular aspect of my life with the ex (or many other aspects either but that is a whole other post). I actually blame that on the quality of the cooks (the ex and all his mates who were all men of a certain age and I am not convinced that any of them were particularly good cooks) rather than the actual food that they were cooking. On one occasion when I ate a similar stew cooked by someone else it was actually really nice, and the last time I went to an international food market I did have some west African food and it was delicious, although a touch too spicy for me.

Another factor for not being really fond of the food was the way they used much more of an animal when they were cooking a stew than I ever would. I was never really sure what it was they were trying to make me eat and he knew that and would often try to give me bits that he knew would squick me out a bit. Apart from tomatoes in the stew there were very few vegetables at all except for okra which I found incredibly slimy, and then finally the fact that I wasn't really all that keen on the eba (powdered cassava) that was such a staple of the food. It kind of looked like mashed potato but was much stickier and much starchier. Often it was eaten with stew by scooping some of the eba into the fingers and then into the stew.

I didn't mind fried plantain, but the main dish that the ex did cook sometimes that I liked, and is mentioned in the above passage, was Jollof Rice and so I thought I would share a recipe for this for today's Weekend Cooking post. The hard thing was finding just one recipe because Jollof Rice does seem to be a pretty common dish through all of West African cuisine, not just in Nigeria.

I thought instead of adding a recipe, I would include a video of someone cooking Jollof Rice, but if you are interested in a recipe, then the recipe that accompanies the video can be found here. One thing that I should mention is that when we used to eat it, we often had it with chicken or some other kind of meat, or with boiled eggs chopped up and stirred through it, or both.

Who knows, maybe I will get brave and try and make some Jollof Rice myself at some point over the next few months.

 Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

** This quote was taken from an e-galley and so may have changed when the final book is produced.**

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Library Loot: February 23 to March 1

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

I was a bit slack last week and I didn't do a Library Loot post. As a result I have two weeks worth of loot. This is important to note because otherwise it looks like I have a LOT of loot! The scary thing is, I just checked my account and there are already four more items waiting to be picked up.

Please share your loot with us by leaving your link in Mr Linky:

Here is my loot:

Tempted by his Kiss by Tracy Anne Warren - This is the first book in her current Byrons of Braebourne series.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami - We were talking about Japanese lit during #spbkchat a few weeks ago, and this was mentioned along with the comment that it is a more grown up version of The Hunger Games so I thought I might try it out.

The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong - the third book in Armstrong's YA trilogy series which is set in the same world as her Otherworld series but features different characters.

I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson - I read this author's first book and didn't see what the fuss was all about, but I have heard lots of good things about this one so I am going to give her another chance. I don't know why, but I really like books that echo song titles and so come with their own mental soundtrack.

The Empress of Ice Cream by Anthony Capella - this is reloot. I have mostly liked Capella's books so hopefully I will get a chance to read it this time.

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall - I just finished reading The Jewel of St Petersburg which is the prequel to this book. That finished quite dramatically and made me want to reread this book pretty much straight away.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett - the next book in the Discworld YA series feature Tiffany Aching.

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning - Final book in the Fever series.

Gale Force by Rachel Caine - I have borrowed this a few times. I really need to read it so that I can finish the series.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - Yes, more Pratchett!

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins  - Lots of excitement about this one, so I am looking forward to reading it.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - I have wanted to read this one for ages. I have heard that there is a follow up so it prompted me to request it again.

Cardiology by Good Charlotte - I never really realised I was a Good Charlotte fan until recently or maybe it is just that I like their newer stuff. I loved Like It's Your Birthday, and so I thought I might borrow and album to see if I like whole albums or not. And just because, here is the video for that song.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson

Before I get to today's post, I just want  to send my thoughts and prayers to the people of Christchurch and surrounds in New Zealand. 

I visited Christchurch a number of years ago, and it is a beautiful city. To see the pictures of the cathedral collapsing, for example, knowing that you have walked the steps that used to go up to a viewing area where you could look across the city of Christchurch seems somewhat unfathomable.

It has been a very strange few months in terms of natural disasters in the Southern Hemisphere when you consider floods, cyclones, fires and now earthquakes. Here's hoping this is the end of it now.

I missed last week's Teaser Tuesday because even the thought of doing a Teaser Tuesday post last week was a blog post too far, but I am back this week with a teaser from an e-galley that I am currently reading. The book is called Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson and is set in modern day Nigeria. I always have a bit of a fondness for books set there.

The teaser comes from page 134:

We wanted to make play-dough models of ourselves and Mama; it held together well enough for us to make two figures holding hands, but then it became too gloopy to make any more. I watched the two stick men for a long time until one of them melted to nothing but the hand, which seemed to be reaching up from the earth.
Please note that this quote does come from a galley copy and as such may change in the final copy of the book.

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: Anyone seen my blogging mojo?

I went out to hang my washing out tonight and boy it was a little chilly. In the mornings it is now dark when I get up which is another reminder that summer is starting to fade away into autumn and yet it has been such a strange season weather wise. In some ways it doesn't even feel like summer has arrived yet. I am however pretty sure that I would upset a few Northern Hemisphere peeps if I suggested that I would like summer to be extended for a few months more this year.

It is a bit strange for me to be having a blogging slump at a time other than the middle of winter, but that is what has been happening. Even the thought of doing a Teaser Tuesday post or my Library Loot post on Wednesday was all just too hard and as a consequence I ended up not posting for more than a week. I am really not even sure what had prompted this lull in blogging activity. I have however decided that I am going to push right through it and make it to the other side.

Last time I did a Sunday Salon post I mentioned that I was going to a new book club for the first time, and I haven't yet posted about the experience, despite a few people asking in the comments how it went. The short answer to that question is okay, but the jury is still out as to whether this is the right group for me.

It didn't start all that well given that I arrived a few minutes early, knocked on the door only to be told that there was no bookclub meeting there. The address was incorrect on the information sheet that we had been sent. At least I wasn't the only one to make that mistake as there was another group member also loitering with intent outside the address that I went too.

The group itself is a mix of old members who have been part of the group for more than 10 years, three new members (including me) and a couple in between. All up, there was 11 of us meeting. They all seem nice which goes along with the fact that they mostly seemed to be women of a certain age and a certain socio-economic group. I think that most of them are more serious readers of literature rather than genre fiction as well.

I am not sure if it is partly because it was the first meeting of the new year and there was lots of focus on choosing the books for the rest of the year but there seemed to be a lot of earnestness (if that's a word). I find the fact that the books are pretty much chosen for the year a little ... trying to think of the right word ... maybe inflexible. I wouldn't have minded three or four months in advance but for the whole year means that if there is a super book that we read and want to share there isn't a lot of scope for that. The book choices were also mostly limited to the bookclub kits that are held in the local library system which also leads to only certain types of books being available to be chosen. Of the list there are a couple of book that I have wanted to read previously and who knows I may find a new must read book from the other selections.

We were all asked to bring some suggestions for the group to discuss other options, and both another girl and myself suggested The Help by Katherine Stockett so the chances are that they will ask the library system to put together a book club kit and so we may get to read that later on. I also suggested Major Pettigrew's Last Stand as an option too, because it would be a fun read still with plenty to discuss in a book group setting. There seemed to be a bit of reluctance to read anything not already available as a kit, due to cost factors, but I think the majority are willing to maybe once or twice during the year.

There was one thing that I found a little surprising. I think we spent maybe a total of 10 minutes discussing the book that we had read for book club which for February was The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier. I had read it before so I just skimmed through it before the meeting to refresh my memory but I really don't think I needed to worry about that for this book at least. I am assured that normally there would be more discussion. I guess I was looking forward to more book chat, both about the book that was up for discussion and general chat about what people had read over the holiday, best books and that kind of thing.

So in a nutshell, the jury is still out on my book club experience. My intention is to go a few more times at least so I can be sure that I have given the group a fair go, and I guess a lot will depend on how the next couple of books go. The next book is by an Australian author, so if nothing else reading Sold by Brendan Gullifer will at least count for this year's Aussie Authors challenge.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Anatomy of a Cocktail Party

One of my friends got married last week. A couple of weeks ago we went to the official hens night which was an okay night, but for her last weekend of freedom the week before her wedding we had a cocktail party. Originally it was going to be in her honour with a few of her friends we don't normally hang out with, but in the end it was more just our group of friends getting together for drinks! It was a lot of fun, and for the most part everyone had a good time, but there was at least one very sore head in the morning! I am going to say that was because they were drinking cosmos but I don't have a lot to back that up.

We forgot to take the cameras out until a bit late, and then there are some photos that most likely won't be seeing the light of day for a while now! Or maybe they will show up on Facebook some time soon depending on how mean I am feeling!

In order to limit the cost we agreed to only buy a few bottles and then have cocktails that used those agreements. Here were the main drinks:


Butterscotch Schnapps
Bailey's Irish Cream

Pour Schnapps into the shot glass, and then float the Baileys on top. You can usually achieve this by pouring the Baileys over the back of a teaspoon into the glass.

White Russian

1.5 oz Vodka
0.75 oz Kahlua

A lot of recipes say to use cream but we were using milk. Serve with lots of ice in a tumbler.


Bailey's Irish Cream

Put plenty of ice into a glass and then mix together equal parts vodka, Kahlua and Irish Cream and pour over the ice.

We were also drinking champagne, beer and something else but goodness only knows what exactly it was! Something that a couple of the girls had a lot of one time they went away! There was actually lots more food than just fruit, but that was all away before I got the camera out. The fruit was nice for breakfast though.

Don't ask me what the foot thing was about. Apparently that is something that just had to be done!

And the soundtrack that had us dancing around the lounge room, and for some of us jumping up and down on the couch:

OH, and some Prince, but it hard to get his music on Youtube, so I will just have to let you know that the most raucous singalong was to Raspberry Beret! Love that song.

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sydney, here I come!

I have finally filled in my Australian Romance Readers Convention registration, and made the payment! Hotel room is booked, just have to book the flights, and work out where I am going to start the night before ARRC starts and I will be all done!

Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Library Loot: February 9 to 15

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Heaven and Earth by Nora Roberts - It's been a while since I read the first book in this trilogy, but now that I have a while to wait before the next new book comes out, so it is time to hit the backlist again.

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler- We were talking about China for #spbkchat on Twitter last week, and this was one book that was suggested. it sounded like fun so I requested it. Tomorrow night we are talking about Japan so it will be interesting to see what recs come out of that chat!

India Black by Carol K Carr - I know that this is a historical mystery and the synopsis sounds interesting so I thought I would give it a go.

Fleur by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles -  Had to get this second book in the Kirov Saga through inter library

The Lord of the White Castle by Elizabeth Chadwick - the next book in Elizabeth Chadwick's backlist!

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig - the next Pink Carnation book.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - Melina Marchetta is one of those authors that people rave about, but I haven't tried to read her books yet. This is the one that I have chosen to start with.

Sold by Brendan Gullifer - this is my next book club book.

What loot did you get this week. Share your Library Loot link in Mr Linky below:

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

This week my teaser comes from The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, the first of his YA books featuring Tiffany Aching. I have cheated a bit this week and taken a few sentences, but the quote wouldn't have made sense if I didn't!

The teaser comes from page 51:

Miss Tick sniffed. "You could say this advice is priceless," she said. "Are you listening?"

"Yes," said Tiffany.

"Good. Now ... if you trust in yourself ..."


" ... and believe in your dreams ..."


" ... and follow your star ..." Miss Tick went on.


" ... you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Goodbye."

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading. Head on over to find out all about it, and how to join in!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sunday Salon: Book Club!

I am feeling slightly apprehensive today. You see, after being asked numerous times over the years to join an acquaintance's book club I have finally agreed to do so and my first meeting is tomorrow night.

I only know the person who has invited me a little bit. She first asked me about four years ago if I wanted to join, but I couldn't fit it in because my son was too young and it would have meant trying to find babysitters etc. Now he is that much older and alternative arrangements can be made, so when she asked me again late last year I agreed.

Why I am apprehensive? There are a number of reasons. The first is to do with joining into an established group of friends and feeling like the outsider. Yes, we will have the already common bond of books and reading which will be an ice breaker, but there are questions like what if they don't like to read the same types of books I like to read. We are also supposed to take two or three suggestions of books to read for book club this year. I don't have a problem with giving suggestions as such, but how do I know which books they have already read? Do they read genre fiction? Do they have a particular focus in terms of the types of books they read? So many questions! The first book is a memoir/autobiography, so does that mean they read a lot of non fiction?

I have been in a face to face book club before about 8 or so years ago when I first moved to Melbourne. That was held in a Borders store, didn't really have a stable core group, and as a result didn't run very long,  but as I understand it this group has been going for more than 10 years.

Most of my interactions about books and reading have been online for the last five years. I do have friends that I talk books too, but this will be my first semi-formal discussions for years.

There is also the fact that I haven't read the book that they are discussing tomorrow for nearly 4 years. I did reborrow it from the library and will skim through it tonight just to refresh my memory, but I don't know if they are an in depth discussion group or a casual chat kind of group!

I guess it will all become clear tomorrow, as long as I don' t get lost trying to find the hosts house!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Library Loot: February 2 to 8

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Before I start my Library Loot post for this week, I want to just send my best wishes to the people of Far North Queensland as they deal with Cyclone Yasi. The images that we have been seeing of the size of this storm, and the pictures that we are seeing now showing the strength of the wind are very, very scary.

Now for my post.

I am going through withdrawals this week. My main library branch is closed for three days this week while they refurbish. I think that they are putting in self check outs, but I am not 100% sure of that.Of course, now that it isn't open I need to go now!

Again, I know that I am lucky that my library system is growing and improving, but it isn't that way everywhere. If you are in the UK, did you know that February 5 is Save Our Libraries Day. There are a number of ways to get involved so if you value libraries be sure to lend your voice.

Luckily I managed to find time to go to the library before it closed and picked up the following loot:

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness - The third and final book in the Chaos Walking trilogy.

The Homecoming by JoAnn Ross - I have been reading quite a lot of contemporary romance this year and I was looking for a new author to try and someone recommended this one.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - Over at Historical Tapestry we are all challenging each other to read one book this year. Kelly chose this book for me.

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier - I actually read this book a few years ago, but it a bookclub selection so I need to refresh my memory before Monday.

Wallaby Track by Aaron Fletcher - the next book in the Walkabout series.

Head over to Clare's blog to share your Library Loot for this week.


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