Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday Salon: June Reading Reflections

It's hard to believe but we are at the end of June. That means a busy week coming up for me because end of financial year has a big impact in my role, but from a blogging perspective it seems like a good time to do a half yearly summary which I will do next weekend. First though, let's talk about June. Like last month, my reading was down a bit compared to the rest of the year as I am still firmly sucked into stupid Facebook games world!

You might notice that I had a rare 5/5 read this month which is always a nice bonus!

Here's the books I read during June:

Own the Wind by Kristen Ashley 3.5/5
Undercover by Keith Bulfin 4/5
Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara 4.5/5
The Book of Lost Fragrances by M J Rose 4/5 (Audiobook)
Taking a Chance by Deborah Burrows 4/5
Play with Me by Alisha Rai 4/5
Fire Inside by Kristen Ashley 4/5
Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman 5/5
Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman 4/5
Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts 4.5/5 (Audiobook)
The Newcomer by Robyn Carr 3.5/5
The Autumn Bride by Anne Gracie 4/5
Making it Last by Ruthie Knox 4.5/5
Captivation by Nicola Moriarty 3/5
Flirting with Disaster by Ruthie Knox 4/5
Lick by Kylie Scott 4.5/5

Challenge Update

Australian Women Writers Challenge

Taking A Chance, Lighthouse Bay, The Autumn Bride, Captivation, Lick

Historical Fiction

Taking a Chance and Lighthouse Bay

What's in a Name


(I think this means that I have finished my reading for this challenge. Will have to double check though)

Reading Update

Currently Reading

She Rises by Kate Worsley and listening to Duet by Kimberley Freeman

Up Next

Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (reread) and Looking for Alaska (audio)

Weekend Cooking: Lemon Thins

Today I am sharing a recipe for lemon flavoured biscuits (cookies) that I haven't actually made myself yet but I do like the sound of. I have bought the lemons several times since I found the recipe but every time I think that this weekend I am going to make these, the boy wants to make Lemon Syrup Cakes (which I shared the recipe for previously). Maybe next weekend?

I found this recipe in a book called A Life on Pittwater by Susan Duncan. It is a coffee table style book about living in the Pittwater community in Sydney - a place where the only way to get home is by boat, where the sense of community is strong and where good food and good company is strongly values. I have previously featured a passage from one of Susan Duncan's other books, which also includes a lemony recipe!

Just before I was taking this book back to the library I realised that there were a couple of recipes that I wanted to save (this being one of them) so I took a photo of them. It was convenient at the time but it is not necessarily the easiest recipe to read, especially on the phone and given the font that is used, so I am saving it here instead. At some point I will need to find the pictures of the other recipes too!

Jeanne's Lemon Thins

260g plain flour
250g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
1 large fresh egg
1 tspn vanilla essence
zest of one lemon
1 tspn salt

Whizz sugar with the zest in a food processor. Add butter and whizz until combined. Add egg and vanilla essence. Add salt and flour until just combined - a really quick whizz.

Divide dough in half, roll into a 4cm log and wrap in plastic cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Heat over to 180C. Cut logs into 1cm thick slices and bake on a baking sheet for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Weekend Cooking 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, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Library Loot: June 26 to July 2

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!
After a light load from the library last week, this week is more my normal load.

Here's what I got:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - I recently watched the movie of this book and then coincidentally a couple of days later it was revealed as our next book club choice. It has taken the best part of three weeks to come in at the library so I don't have that much time to reread it now!

Duet by Kimberley Freeman - The quote on the front of this book compares the book to one of my old favourite authors, Paullina Simons. On that basis alone I had borrowed this book from the library years ago but never read it. Now I am listening to it on audiobook so I will finally actually going to see if the comparison fits.

The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein - I recently read Jennifer Cody Epstein's second book and really, really enjoyed it. Now it's time to go back and read her debut novel.

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear - The next Maisie Dobbs book!

Bon Jovi: greatest hits - I recently read a review of the latest Bon Jovi album. My library doesn't have that yet but I did borrow this one to supplement the Cross Roads album which I listen to all the time still!

What loot did you get this week? Share your link in Mr Linky below:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Rowan Tripp is a Missoula based smoke jumper, following in the footsteps of her legendary smoke jumper father, Lucas "Ironman" Tripp. Each summer, Rowan puts her ‘normal’ life aside and lives on base, waiting for the siren to sound heralding the next chance for her to put her life on the line, along with those of her friends and colleagues who share her passion for smoke jumping. And it is no exaggeration to say that the job that these men and women do is dangerous. Just last year, her jump partner Jim had been killed while jumping to fight a fire. Rowan is still haunted by his death, even though an investigation has ascertained that there was nothing that anyone could have done to save Jim.

When we meet Rowan, she is involved in training a new group of recruits. The training is vigorous, draining and designed to weed out all but the best of them. It doesn’t take her long to notice one of the recruits. Gulliver Curry is a former hotshot firefighter who now wants to move to smoke jumping, and he has made quite an impression already during the training, breaking records for running and more. In addition, he is confident and easy on the eyes. For Rowan, he is off limits. She never mixes business with pleasure and in all the years she has been jumping she has never hooked up with another jumper during the season. To be honest, Rowan is kind of emotionally closed off to any kind of relationship other than the occasional one night stand in the off season.

Gull - as an aside what kind of name is Gull Curry - was quick to notice Rowan too, and he is determined to charm her into breaking her rules just this once. I am pretty sure that Gull could talk me into just about anything. He is charming, funny, quick thinking and intelligent and he knows just how to push Rowan when she needs to be pushed and when to give her space. I thought he was a great hero, especially seeing as he had so many layers. For example, while he is a firefighter during the summer months, during the winter months he and his extended family run a games arcade. I would gladly read more about him, maybe if he was a secondary character in another book! His friend, Dobie, would be an interesting challenge to write a romance for!

What is already a difficult season for Rowan, given the events of the previous summer, becomes more difficult when Jim’s former girlfriend Dolly returns to the base with a baby in tow – Jim’s baby. Dolly blames Rowan for the fact that her baby is now going to grow up without a father and she is determined to make Rowan’s life a misery. It is a terrible shock to everyone in the close knit community that makes up the base when Dolly turns up dead, especially when the police spend so much time at the base investigating them all. It all gets even more sinister when there is another body found, and then later when it seems that the jumpers are being targeted. Is someone trying to deliberately hurt Rowan and the other jumpers and if so why?

I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense, but I do read Nora Roberts’ standalone titles. While I found the story suspenseful in terms of the events that happened to the characters, I didn’t find the whodunit aspect particularly strong. From the moment the bad guy was introduced I thought he would turn out to be the culprit. Towards the end, I maybe considered switching suspects for a few pages but for the most part it didn’t matter where the investigation was trying to lead the reader – I was pretty certain of who it was going to be.

One of the strong aspects of this story was the secondary romance between Lucas Tripp and school principal Ella. It was delightful to get to see this older couple find each other and act on their initial attraction and let it build into something more. I loved how nervous Lucas was despite the fact in other areas of his life he was totally a take charge kind of guy. I did wonder if Rowan’s insecurities around the fact that her dad had met someone were a bit over the top, but I guess when you have been the only woman in your dad’s life for years you might struggle a little to adjust to these new developments. There were times when Rowan’s attitude got a little wearing about a few things but Gull soon pulled her into line!

As far as I know, we don't have smoke jumpers here in Australia, so I found the details surrounding the risks that these brave men and women take absolutely fascinating. Imagine being prepared to jump out of a plane fully loaded down with fire fighting and safety equipment, having to run or hike miles, cut down trees, burn fire breaks and so much more. It is dangerous work in so many ways and my mind was blown that there were groups of people who are prepared to do this every summer for the sake of preserving the wilderness and presumably to save lives and homes should it get too close to civilization.

I listened to this on MP-3 and I have to say that it was a fantastic listening experience. The narrator, Rebecca Lowman, did such an amazing job with the different voices and especially with imbuing the text with the right degree of emotion to match the story. There was the perfect degree of tension as the smoke jumper's rushed to fight the wild fires, of fear as the characters faced various threats against them, of humour amongst a group of good friends and colleagues, of emotion in the relationships, of everything. While I really enjoyed the story itself, I must confess that I don't think I can imagine wanting to actually read the book rather than repeating the listening experience.

Rating 4.5/5


Little else in life is as dangerous as fire jumping. Flying past towering pillars of smoke, parachuting down to the edge of an all-consuming blaze, shoveling and sawing for hours upon hours, days at a time, all to hold the line and push back against the raw power of Mother Nature.

But there’s also little else as thrilling — at least to Rowan Tripp. The Missoula smoke jumpers are one of the most exclusive firefighting squads in the nation, and the job is in Rowan’s blood: her father is a legend in the field. She’s been fighting fires since her eighteenth birthday. At this point, returning to the wilds of Montana for the season feels like coming home — even with reminders of the partner she lost last season still lingering in the air.

Fortunately, this year’s rookie crop is among the strongest ever — and Gulliver Curry’s one of the best. He’s also a walking contradiction, a hotshot firefighter with a big vocabulary and a winter job at a kids’ arcade. He came to Missoula to follow in the footsteps of Lucas “Iron Man” Tripp, yet he’s instantly more fascinated by his hero’s daughter. Rowan, as a rule, doesn’t hook up with other smoke jumpers, but Gull is convinced he can change her mind. And damn if he doesn’t make a good case to be an exception to the rule.

Everything is thrown off balance, though, when a dark presence lashes out against Rowan, looking to blame someone for last year’s tragedy. Rowan knows she can’t complicate things with Gull — any distractions in the air or on the ground could be lethal. But if she doesn’t find someone she can lean on when the heat gets intense, her life may go down in flames.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Library Loot: June 19 to 26

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!
Our financial year ends on 30 June and so we are busy, busy, busy at work! The most shocking thing about that statement is not so much the busyness but rather the fact that it is so close to the end of June! The year is just passing so quickly!

While I am getting to the library to pick up my requests, I am not doing so well at actually reading the books I have borrowed.

Here are the books that I will be attempting to read over the coming weeks:

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym - there were quite a few of the blogs I regularly read participating in Barbara Pym week recently. The books sound interesting to me so I thought I woudl see what my library had. There were only two to choose from so I picked this one first!

A Gentleman Never Tells by Juliana Gray - reloot! Second book in the series. Really liked the voice in the first one!

Claire has Mr Linky this week so head on over to her blog to share your link!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

Libby Slater is in mourning. Her lover of 12 years has died but she can't really openly mourn because she was the other woman, his mistress. Realising that she needed to make some changes to her life, she decides to return to the small town that she grew up in. Her lover, Mark Winterbourne, had bought a home in the town years before but Libby had always been reluctant to visit, mainly due to her fractured family relationships. Now there is just her sister left but after Libby left the small town 20 years before to live in France following a terrible tragedy and only minimal contact during that time, the two women barely have a relationship to speak of.

On returning to the small coastal town, Libby needs to establish a new life but she is also initially keen to hold onto her links with Mark, even if that means working closely with his widow on the new season's catalogue for Mark's family jewellery company. The company has been around for generations, and there is a mystery in the family's past. Back in the early 1900's Arthur Winterbourne travelled to Australia along with his wife Isabel. In his possession was a jewel encrusted mace which had been commissioned by Queen Victoria in honour of the federation of Australia as an independent country.

Isabel, like Libby, is in deep mourning, but in her case she is mourning the death of her baby after just a few days. In her very tight laced Victorian family she has not been allowed the respect of being able to openly mourn her little boy and she is now a very unhappily married woman. When the ship that Isabel and her domineering husband are travelling on sinks, it is believe that all on board are lost but after many searches over the years, there has never been any sign of the mace.

When Libby is given access to the diaries of the lighthouse keeper at the time, she begins to read them and starts to find references to a mysterious woman. Could it be that someone did survive the shipwreck? And if so, was the mace saved and what could have happened to it? Some stories suggest that it is buried near the lighthouse and there is more than one party that is looking forward to it.

The story follows Libby as she tries to navigate her new life with focus on reestablishing her relationships with her sister and others from the past and as she decides if she wants to stay in the town or if she should sell the cottage and return to her more familiar world in Paris.

We also meet Isabel as she is making the journey to the other side of the world, see her unhappiness, and see what fate has in store for her after she miraculously survives the shipwreck. Alone in the world, she must forge a new life for herself - one that is very different to the high class pampered life that she has left behind.

I know that the dual storyline is something that is very popular in historical fiction at the moment. When done poorly, you can find yourself only interested in one of the stories, or not quite getting the connection between the two timelines. There are no such issues here. I was totally engrossed in this book, staying up way too late at night to try and find out what happened to all the characters as they faced challenges in their respective contemporary societies.

One of the interesting things about this author is that she doesn’t seem to get that much recognition in the Australian blogosphere (or at least not the ones that I read) and I am not sure why that is. Before I saw it mentioned on Kate Forsyth’s blog back in February I didn’t even realise that Kimberley Freeman had a new book out so I requested it from the library straight away. After it had been sitting on my bookshelf for several weeks I began to see it mentioned on overseas blogs, especially those with a historical fiction focus.

Whilst Wildflower Hill was a good book and was well reviewed (again predominantly on overseas blogs), I thought that Lighthouse Bay was a much better read and I couldn’t wait to turn the page and see what happened next! It is a shame that Freeman isn’t getting that same notice here. I am not sure if she fares better in the spec fic blogosphere as she also writes under the name Kim Wilkins. One of these days I will try one of her spec fic titles and find out for myself.

I will definitely be paying more attention next time there is a new Kimberley Freeman book out! I am always a bit stingy with my 5/5 grades but I closed this book with a contented smile, and now I am also determined to read Freeman's two earlier books!

Rating 5/5


Trapped in a lovely marriage, Isabella Winterbourne struggles with a grief from which she doubts she will ever recover.


Alone and heavy-hearted, Libby Slater has finally come home from her Paris life, not sure what she will find.

On the wild and isolated east coast of Australia, Isabella and Libby have to wrestle with the choices they have made and the cards fate has dealt them. A mystery that stretches from one to the other leads Libby to the old diaries of the local lighthouse keeper. The dusty pages help her to unearth Isabella's legacy and rediscover the importance of family and forgiveness. Both women will find that no matter how dark things seem there is always light somewhere ahead.
This book counts for the following challenges

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday Salon: Taking a Chance by Deborah Burrows

Last year I read and reviewed Deborah Burrows' debut novel A Stranger in My Street. There were numerous things that I enjoyed about the book, not the least of which was the fact that it was set in my home town of Perth during WWII. Once again Burrows has turned to this time frame and setting to give us a story that is a strong combination of history, mystery and romance.

Nell Fitzgerald is a journalist who works for one of the more sensationalist of the newspapers in Perth. Whilst she worked hard to become a journalist, she is quite content in her current role where she writes the fashion column, the highlight of which is a weekly column advising how to rework hats in this time of austerity. It's not that Nell isn't ambitious - deep down inside she is - but more that she feels that she is helping to raise spirits and she knows what her own future holds namely marriage to a good man, her lawyer fiance, who is currently on duty in Melbourne.

It is only a matter of chance that she ends up being sent to cover a more serious story. Lena Mitrovic has been accused of murdering her lover who lived with her in an artists commune in the hills just outside of Perth. If found guilty, the judge has no choice but to sentence her to death. Whilst she is at the court she meets another journalist who has a personal interest in the case. Captain Johnny Horvath is a much lauded war American war correspondent who is recuperating in Perth after having been injured whilst reporting from the battle field. Johnny is good looking, charming and suave, and has a reputation with the ladies - a very different man to Nell's solid fiance Rob. Johnny knows Lena very well as they are former lovers. He doesn't believe for a minute that Lena would have killed Rick Henzell using rat poison and he is determined to prove her innocence

Johnny soons draws Nell into his quest, firstly because he is attracted to her, but also because he believes that Nell can do more, be more. He believes in her talent and he wants to push her so that she writes her own features, not only about Lena but also about some of the other big issues that are going unreported on in Perth.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book for me was the plight of the so called lost girls of Perth. With the influx of American servicemen, many of the young women of the city were swept off their feet into a world of glamour and excitement. After all, the Americans were seen as glamourous, could get access to goods that have long been unavailable to ordinary citizens and they had plenty of money. Many of the girls just wanted to have some fun. Some ended up married to men they barely knew, but there were still more young women who ended up with damaged reputations, unwanted pregnancies, incarcerated in juvenile detention for being wild, or worse.

When Nell and Johnny meet 14 year old Evie after saving her from an unsavoury situation with some drunken soldiers they both feel the need to do something. For Nell, this means taking Evie home to her aunt who has a history of taking in young girls. After all, she took in and raised orphan Nell. When their investigation impels Nell and Johnny to search for two other underage girls who have gone missing from the same artists commune that Lena lived in, Nell decides that she needs to write an investigative piece highlighting the issue.

Whilst Nell is attracted to Johnny and feels that attraction growing the more time they spend time together, she is also determined not to succumb to his charms. As she hears more stories about his past, she knows that there can be no future in a more personal relationship with him, so why can't she stop thinking about him, wanting to be with him.

I loved the development of the relationship between Nell and Johnny. He lets his feelings show but it is Nell who is reluctant to pursue more. Initially he doesn't push her emotionally, but he does constantly push her to be the best journalist she can be, encouraging her to believe in her abilities and to challenge herself in her career. Whilst the actual time frame of the story is relatively short, the way that the relationship develops feels organic even with the knowledge that Johnny's time in Perth is coming to an end, and the author does a great job in showing the relationship developing from colleagues to friends to more.

I also enjoy the historical details that Burrows manages to include in her books, from fashion to the gas conversion cars that I don't remember hearing about before, there is plenty of historical detail included in the pages of the book.

I once again enjoyed visiting WWII Perth through the pages of a Deborah Burrows book. All that is left to say now is bring on the next one!

Rating 4/5

Perth, 1943. A time for taking chances.

Eleanor 'Nell' Fitzgerald is smart – inside and out. For now, she writes helpful fashion advice for a local rag, but is bursting with ambition and plans to marry her lawyer beau as soon as he returns from wartime service. When she meets the handsome, famous and oh-so-charming Johnny Horvath of the American Press Corps, she finds herself dragged into a murder mystery.

Convicted of the murder of her artist lover, Lena Mitrovic is languishing in Fremantle Gaol. Johnny is sure of Lena's innocence and ropes in Nell to help him find the truth. During their investigation, they uncover some seedy secrets of wartime Perth: the other side of the "American Occupation". Girls and young women have been throwing caution to the wind, entering into romances and liaisons with the visiting servicemen.

And Nell soon discovers that not everybody has good intentions...

This book counts for the following challenges

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Red Wine and Garlic Lamb Shanks

I have actually been making this dish for a few years now. It is one of our favourite meals! After a day out in the cold watching my footy team lose, it was a pleasure to come home and smell this wafting through the house, and even more of a pleasure to eat it!

My main reason for posting this on my blog today is so that I can find it in future. The other day I went into the online account I have at and couldn't find the recipe in my saved cookbooks! Panic!!! This is one of my standard weekend dishes during winter, and I have also been known to dress it up a little with the parsley mixture shown below if I have visitors come around for dinner! I tend not to do the topping if it is just the boy and I!

Here is the original recipe which I originally found here:

2 tsp olive oil
2 tbs plain flour
Salt & freshly ground pepper
4 lamb shanks, trimmed
1 brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2/3 cup (160ml) red wine
700ml bottle Italian cooking sauce
600g Sebago (brushed) potatoes, peeled, chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) low-fat milk, warmed
250g green beans
1/3 cup chopped fresh continental parsley
1 lemon, rind finely grated
1 garlic clove, extra, crushed

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium-high heat. Season flour with salt and pepper then coat lamb in flour, shaking off excess. Add to pan and cook, turning often, for 5-6 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened slightly.

Increase heat to high and add wine to pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cooking sauce and bring to a simmer. Add lamb shanks to pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 1-1 1/2 hours or until lamb is very tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender. Drain well, mash and beat in milk. Steam beans. Combine parsley, lemon and extra garlic.

Divide lamb shanks and sauce among serving bowls. Top with parsley mixture. Serve with mashed potato and beans.

To be honest, I have never actually cooked shanks like this. I always cook them in the slow cooker. Some days I brown the meat in the flour mixture as outlined in step 1, but other days, like today, I just throw everything in the bowl and turn it on! 

One day I will play around with the liquid proportions as cooking it in the slow cooker does result in the sauce being quite thin (and lots of it) but it still tastes good, and the mashed potatoes soaks the juices up nicely anyway!

The bonus for this recipe is that it always cooks more than enough and so this quantity of meat and sauce will actually do for at least two days. So Monday night's dinner should be nice and easy really!

Weekend Cooking 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, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Library Loot: June 12 to 18

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!
Welcome to this week's Library Loot post! Another mixed bag for me this week. There is a graphic novel, an audiobook, literature and a romance! All over the place in my reading as usual!

Here's what I got:

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid - Our book club book for July is Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist. That fact, coupled with the fact that I saw the movie of The Reluctant Fundamentalist the other week, reminded me that I really needed to read another book by him!

Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts - I have borrowed this in book form several times, but with my newly rediscovered enjoyment of audiobooks I thought I would try it on audio. So far I am really enjoying it!

French Milk by Lucy Kinsley - I can't remember where I heard about French Milk, or at least where specifically I heard about it again and thought I must try this book. I did borrow it in anticipation of Paris in July being announced, which it now has! Yippee - or perhaps I should find a French word to express my joy at that?

Welcome to Rosie Hopkin's Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan - I don't remember hearing much about this book before it won the Romantic Novelist Association prize for best book this year. I do love a good romantic novel so this should be right up my alley!

What loot did you get this week? Share your link below:

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday Salon: May Reading Reflections

Whilst I have been struggling on the blogging front over the last couple of months, I was taking some comfort that my reading was still going strongly. May was the month where that no longer the case. So what have I been doing instead of reading and blogging? Playing stupid Facebook games! After months of playing only Songpop, this month I got totally addicted to playing Candy Crush and Farmhouse Heroes Saga. I also played another game for a few weeks but I have since stopped that one!

Now I realise that 14 books for a month is a pretty respectable total, but over the last 6 months or so I have been reading more than 20 a month so this is quite a significant reduction for me.

Here's what I read:

A Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare 4/5
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion 4.5/5
A Taste for it by Monica McInerney 4/5 (audiobook)
On Rue Tatin by Susan Loomis 4/5
Venetia by Georgette Heyer 4/5 (audiobook - 3rd listen this year)
Like No Other Lover by Julie Anne Long 3.5/5
Seduction by M J Rose 3/5
Life on Pittwater by Susan Duncan 4/5
Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany 4/5
Paper Towns by John Green 3.5/5 (Audiobook)
A Trail of Fire by Diana Gabaldon 4/5
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto 4/5
The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein 4.5/5
Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham 4/5
The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey 4 (audiobook)

Challenge Update

Aussie Author Challenge - The Rosie Project, The Amber Amulet

Australian Women Writers Challenge - A Taster for It, Mateship with Birds

Currently Reading

Taking a Chance by Deborah Burrows, The Newcomer by Robyn Carr and listening to Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts

Up Next

Kitty's War by Janet Butler.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Weekend Cooking: White Bean and Chorizo soup

I have owned a couple of Bill Granger's books for years now, but I have actually ever cooked one recipe out of them - Choc Banana Bread. I have made that so many times, and it was one of the first recipes I shared for Weekend Cooking. I am not really sure why I haven't cooked more as so many of his recipes look relatively easy and tasty. 

After borrowing Best of Bill from the library I actually sat down and bookmarked a few recipes, and I also looked back through the books that I already owned and found several more recipes to try too. 

Given that it is now soup weather here, this recipe was one of the first that I tried and it will be on regular rotation through this winter and probably next winter too! I have also made the chocolate brownie recipe out of this book, and I think it now is my favourite chocolate brownie recipe...until I find another good one!

White Bean and Chorizo soup

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 chorizo sausage, diced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
2 diced tomatoes
1 l chicken stock
800g tinned cannellini beans, rinsed
Sea salt
Ground black pepper


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat and cook the chorizo for 3–4 minutes until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion and celery to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6–7 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, thyme and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute.

3. Return the chorizo to the pan with the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Easy, quick and tasty!

Weekend Cooking 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, quotations, photographs. 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. For more information, see the welcome post.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Library Loot: June 5 to 11

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!
A bit of a mix in my library loot this week. I have a movie, an audiobook and a reloot! Here's what I got:

Butter - I saw this movie mentioned on a blog somewhere, possibly on a Weekend Cooking post, and it sounded like fun. If I can wrest control of the remote I will watch it at some point this weekend!

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser - reloot.

The Book of Lost Fragrances by M J Rose - The main reason I borrowed this audiobook is that I have heard great things about the narrator, Phil Gigante, and having finished listening to it today I can definitely see why!

Claire has Mr Linky this week, so head over to her blog to share your loot links!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

It is always a real pleasure to discover a debut author who delivers a great story with strong characters and captivating writing. Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara is one of those debuts.

On a superficial level this book is about a young woman who lives in a small town called Cascade in 1930's America. The depression is affecting her friends and family, and the world is starting to head toward World War II. In Cascade though, there is a much more immediate threat. The Massachusetts Water Board has decided that they need a new reservoir to supply drinking water to Boston, and they therefore want to flood a valley to create it. There is one town that will be lost as part of this project - either Cascade or another smaller town nearby.

Desdemona Hart Spaulding grew up in Cascade and she has now returned to the town after travelling through Europe studying art. Her father owned a theatre which put on Shakespearean plays but with the Depression biting hard, he was in danger of losing the theatre. When he loses his battle and then becomes ill Dez chooses to marry the local pharmacist, Asa Spaulding. From Desdemona's initial perspective this is a good marriage. Asa is a good man, but he is a man of his time. He wants a wife to be at home, raising the children he desperately wants and when Dez's father dies and leaves him the theatre, he is the owner of the theatre that Asa is driven to reopen in grand style. In contrast, Dez wants to paint, to explore her art. What this marriage doesn't have is passion, something that Dez doesn't really realise is missing until she meets a Jewish man, Jacob Solomon, who shares her passion for art and feels an instant chemistry.

As the whole town battles to try and save itself from imminent destruction, Asa and Dez's marriage begins to fall apart, victim to Asa's misplaced faith in Dez, to Dez's growing attraction to Jacob and her artistic ambitions, as well gossip, rumour, death, anti-Semitism and more. At a time when divorce was scandalous, Dez must decide whether to follow her own way and court scandal or to stay in a life where her art will suffer as much as she will.

At it's heart this book is about Dez's choices and their consequences. Dez is an interesting character. There are lots of times when as a reader you read about a character who doesn't necessarily make the 'right' decisions and you either don't like them or at the very least you can't relate to who they are and why they do what they do. O'Hara has managed to create a character who may not behave how I like to think that I would, but I was able to empathise with her moral struggles, with her desires and her ambitions.

With the destruction of the town to create a damn such a major part of the book, I found myself thinking about a reservoir up in the Adelaide Hills where there were townships flooded in order to create the reservoir. The drive is twisting and windy, carved out of tree covered hillsides. As you approach the reservoir you begin to see glimpses of the water. I remember being told that if the water levels were low enough that you could sometimes see some of the ruins of the town that was destroyed in order to create the mass of water. I never saw the ruins, and now I doubt that you ever could, but as a kid I remember looking for them every time were drove that road.

I feel as though there are so many more things that I still haven't said about this book. I haven't talked about the gorgeous cover, how good the portrayal of the art was plus the descriptions of the art scene in New York in the 1930s or the sliding doors nature of some of the key relationships. So much more to talk about, but I am also conscious of hoping that other readers will share the pleasure of reading this fantastic book, of getting to know Dez and the small town of Cascade. I can only hope that others are as captivated by this book as I was!

When I started the book, I found myself thinking that it was a slow read, and yet I was up until 1am last night finishing it, unable to put it down until I knew how it ended. I certainly hope to read more from Maryanne O'Hara in the future!

Rating 4.5/5

Tour Details

Link to Tour Schedule:
Twitter Hashtag: #CascadeVirtualTour
Maryanne O'Hara's website.
Maryanne O'Hara on Facebook
Maryanne O'Hara on Twitter.

About the Book

During the 1930s in a small town fighting for its survival, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her artistic ambitions with the binding promises she has made

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set during in New York City and New England during the Depression and New Deal eras.

It’s 1935, and Desdemona Hart Spaulding has sacrificed her plans to work as an artist in New York to care for her bankrupt, ailing father in Cascade, Massachusetts. When he dies, Dez finds herself caught in a marriage of convenience, bound to the promise she made to save her father’s Shakespeare Theater, even as her town may be flooded to create a reservoir for Boston. When she falls for artist Jacob Solomon, she sees a chance to escape and realize her New York ambitions, but is it morally possible to set herself free?