Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Library Loot: October 30 to November 5

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!
Can you believe that date that I have just put up there in the title of this post! November for goodness sake! There is no way that I am ready for it to be this close to the end of year!

Here's the loot that I got this week:

It Had to be You by Jill Shalvis - The next Lucky Harbor book

One Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams - It has taken a while for this book to come in to the library. I originally requested that it be bought when it first came out, but I got a message back saying that it was not available through the library's suppliers. A couple of months later I got the idea to check to see if it was available in other library systems, which it was, so I requested it via interlibrary loan. That request was declined, but suddenly the book was on my account showing as on order and now it is here.

One Sweet Ride by Jaci Burton - The next book in the Play-by-play series.

In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener - I have read a few books by Michelle Diener now so it is time to go back and read her Tudor set novel.

10 Years of Hits by Ronan Keating - A couple of Saturday nights ago now I was talking about Notting Hill, and in particular the song When You Say Nothing At All. I always said that this would be my first dance song if I was to get married (not that that is going to happen now) - the only detail of a wedding I had ever planned! I ws reminded that at some point I owned this album but I don't know what happened to it, so time to revisit. I also watched Notting Hill a few days ago so that song is fresh in my mind!

What loot did you get this week?

And just's my wedding waltz song as seen in the movie

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Library Loot: October 23 to 29

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 seem to be returning a lot more books to the library than I am borrowing at the moment. This is possibly a good thing seeing as most of the books I am returning are being returned unread! Expect lots of reloots in the coming weeks!

Here's what I got last week:

Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman - A number of weeks ago we decided to try out the concept of doing a bookclub as part of the regular Twitter chat that I coordinate (#spbkchat) and for our first choice we said that we would choose Neil Gaiman and the chat would be in the first week in October. The idea was that you could choose any Neil Gaiman book you desired and we could all talk about it. I duly requested two Gaiman books from the library, and then waited, waited and waited some more. This one finally came in but no sign of the other one yet!

The Swan Book by Alexis Wright - Aarti is once again running her More Diverse Universe event this year which challenges readers to read spec fic books that are written by people of colour. Like last year, I wanted to choose an Australian indigenous writer. I am waiting for Ambelin Kwaymullina's newest book which would qualify (I read the first book in the series last year and really enjoyed it) but in case I don't get that in time, this was the only other suggestion I could find. I attempted to read Alexis Wright's last book without much success so we will see how we go with this one!

A Storm of Swords by George R R Martin - the third book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Once again I am listening to this one on audiobook - a mere 39 CDs long! After this I will have to actually read the next couple of books as this is the last one my library has on audio.

Fables Vol 12: The Dark Ages - The next Fables book.

Claire has Mr Linky this week so head over to share your library loot links.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener

Giselle "Gigi" Barrington is quite an unusual young lady for her time. She travels around Europe as her father's companion, taking her to many places and meeting many people that she normally wouldn't meet. Whilst he collects fairy tales and folk stories, and acts as a British spy, she collects the recipes from the places they visit with the hope of eventually being able collate them into a book. Not only does she like to collect the recipes, she also likes to cook them herself - very unusual behaviour for a young lady of her class.

Whilst in Stockholm, Giselle's father is handed a very important document to take back to England that will change the course of history dramatically. When he is murdered for that document, Giselle knows that the killer will soon be after her too. She doesn't know who the murderer is, but she could identify him from a distance, but she knows that she needs to get away as it is very likely that he knows who she is. Where does a young woman who is alone go to hide in a foreign country though? Then again, the same problem faces her in England as well. She can't go to her family home, as that would be the most obvious place for the killer to look for her.

There is only one person that she can go to, which is her family friend Georges Bisset, a chef in the Duke of Whittaker's house. He is able to recommend her for a position as cook in the house of Lord Aldridge. No one would think of looking for a young lady in the kitchens of a nobleman's kitchen and this position has the added bonus of being quite close to her own home so Giselle can see if anything is happening there. Whilst whipping up fantastic dinners, Gigi gets a glimpse into the lives the servants live as well, battles against the butler who clearly dislikes her, find herself on the wrong side of the law and so much more. She knows that she is still a target for the assassin so she needs to work out who the person is who should have received the dangerous missive, get it to them and stay alive!

Lord Aldridge is a former soldier who gained a taste for continental food during his years serving his country. A younger son who inherited a title, Aldridge fills his day managing his estates, attending parliament and involving himself every now and again in some intrigue for his country. He can't quite understand why his cook has him all twisted up. His reaction to her is incredibly strong which is difficult for him as he is a fundamentally good man who has never engaged in trysts with his staff and he doesn't intend to start now. If only he could stay away from her.

Over the last 12 months or so I have been fortunate to read three of Michelle Diener's books and each one of them has been a delight! This book, which was recently released was the third, and once again I was treated to a fun story with good characters that is an easy book to read and get lost in. The reader is treated to a mix of romance, history, mystery and adventure that the author balances really well.

It is worth mentioning that the characters from The Emperor's Conspiracy do make an appearance in this book. I am a stickler for reading in order and as such get really upset if I don't know this kind of thing in advance. Having said that, you could easily read this book first without missing out on too much. Hopefully you would be intrigued enough to go back and read their story if you hadn't previously read it. I am already hoping that Michelle's next book will feature these same sets of characters. The Duke of Whittaker in particular seems to be an ideal candidate to have his story told, particularly if it means that he gets to meet an unusual woman to shake up his life.

I should mention the food too. Oh my goodness, the food in this book sounds so good! I was left salivating as Gigi served up course after course of delicious sounding food. On her website, Diener has shared a number of recipes that were mentioned in this book, and I have to say...I would be happy for her to come and cook for me anytime!

Rating 4/5

About the tour

Link to Tour Schedule:
Twitter Hashtag: #BanquetOfLiesTour
Michelle Diener's website
Michelle Diener on Twitter
Michelle Diener on Facebook

About the book

A Secret Treaty and a Secret Life

LONDON, 1812: Giselle Barrington is living a double life, juggling the duties of chef with those of spy catcher. She must identify her father’s savage killer before the shadowy man finds her and uncovers the explosive political document her father entrusted to her safekeeping.

Posing as a French cook in the home of Lord Aldridge, Giselle is surrounded by unlikely allies and vicious enemies. In the streets where she once walked freely among polite society, she now hides in plain sight, learning the hard lessons of class distinction and negotiating the delicate balance between servant and master.

Lord Aldridge’s insatiable curiosity about his mysterious new chef blurs the line between civic duty and outright desire. Carefully watching Giselle’s every move, he undertakes a mission to figure out who she really is—and, in the process, plunges her straight into the heart of danger when her only hope for survival is to remain invisible.

This book counts for the following challenges:


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Library Loot: October 16 to 22

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 haven't actually been to my library for a couple of weeks now, so no loot for me this week! Actually, that's not technically true because I have been to the library, just not the branch where I have books waiting for me.

Tonight I went to the main branch to listen to author Paul Ham talk about his book, 1914: The Year the World Ended. Paul Ham is a historian who has written about a number of key events of the 20th century including the Vietnam War, the dropping of the atomic bombs to end WWII and the Kokoda trail. Now, he has turned his attention to the events that came together to cause the beginning of WWI. His talk was very interesting and thought provoking!

Does your local library host author events?

Have you been to the library recently? Share your library loot links in Mr Linky below:

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Library Loot: October 9 to 14

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 couple of weeks ago I contemplated the idea of not requesting any books for the month of October so that I could catch up on my reading a little bit but it seems that my library is not cooperating as lots of books are coming through at one time. Having said that I have signed up for an online course and only realised after the event that the library doesn't have any of the books I need! Whoops!

Claire has Mr Linky this week. Head over to her blog to share your library loot links.

Here's what I got:

 The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - Or better know these days as being by JK Rowling. I had no interest in reading Casual Vacancy when it came out last year but the story of this one sounds like something I would enjoy more.

The Food of Love Cookery School by Nicky Pellegrino - I now have two books out from the library by this author but I can't even remember where heard of her!

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta - This is the follow up book to Saving Francesca which I listened to a few weeks ago. Once again I am listening to the audio version and thoroughly enjoying it. I am seriously tempted to just go and sit in the car and listen to it.

Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington - I just reviewed Caroline Overington's latest book and thoroughly enjoyed it so now I am planning to work my way through her back list!

In Her Blood by Annie Hauxwell - Our next book club book.

Take the Crown by Robbie Williams - I have been a long time Robbie Williams fan but I had heard basically nothing about this album here is Australia! I have listened to it today and was a bit underwhelmed but I will listen to it a few more times before making my final judgement on it.

In the mean time though I thought I would share one of my favourite Robbie Williams songs ever!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

No Place Like Home by Caroline Overington

I hadn't actually read any of author Caroline Overington's books before I read No Place Like Home. What I knew of her was that she had a journalistic background, that she likes to write about current topics, and that I know several people that really like her books. You can now add me to the list of her admirers.

In the case of No Place Like Home the topic that Overington has chosen to explore is the fate of refugees when they come to a developing country like Australia - a country that prides itself on multiculturalism. Like many other countries around the world, Australia has been grappling with the issues of how to protect our borders, whilst still allowing genuine refugees the chance of a new life. It is a highly emotive and divisive issue that has been manipulated by politicians for political gain for a long time now often with a great deal of misinformation to the public. Currently our Prime Minister is trying to implement a plan to send all refugees to Papua New Guinea with the effect that even if they are found to be genuine refugees that they will not be allowed to come here. I am not sure that as a wealthy country we do enough for those who are in genuine need.

The central character in the book is Ali Khan. He is a young man from a village in Tanzania who has been shunned by his own people because he is albino and therefore is seen as evil. In the refugee camp that he is in, he is kept locked up in a cage. There an Australian aid worker finds him and goes through the process of getting him the necessary documentation so he can make a new life for himself in his new home country as a legal citizen.

The story begins when Ali Khan enters a Sydney shopping centre early one weekday morning. He begins behaving erratically and soon draws attention of security. In a moment of confusion, a young girl pulls him in to the lingerie shop that she works in thinking that she is helping him escape from another person who is causing all the fuss. Security use the opportunity to isolate him by locking him in the shop with the young girl and the three other people who also ended up in the store. They are the shop assistant who goes by the name Mouse, a young boy named Mitchell who comes from a poor family but has won a scholarship to a nearby prestigious college, a slimy real estate agent by the name of Roger and a young woman named Kimmi who works in a nearby store.

The police are quickly on the scene, working to identify who each of the people in the store are, but also most importantly, to identify what exactly the threat is. Who exactly is Ali Khan? What are his demands? Why does he look as scared as the hostages? Why hasn't he said a single word since this whole drama began? Does he really have a bomb strapped around his neck? Is this a potential terrorist attack?

One of the people that the police call in to assist is police chaplain Paul Doherty, who acts as our narrator both of the story as it unfolds, but also in the months after the events as there is media scrutiny around the case and the inquest into what exactly happened in the shopping centre that fateful day. He tells us what he has learned about each of the four hostages, why they were there that day, what the lasting impact has been on their lives and also on his own life which has undergone fundamental changes since the day of the siege.

From what I understand, Overington often uses this premise of a external and yet involved narrator telling the reader the story as it unfolds, but Paul was also able to connect with most of the other characters in a meaningful way given his role as a priest which enabled the reader to connect with them too. It is a clever way of telling the story.

Whilst the action part of the story is the events of the siege, it is really when the author casts her gaze towards the thorny issue of refugees and what happens to them once they arrive in this very different country that I was fully engaged in the story. Ali Khan's story is tragic from beginning to end. He was shunned by his community because of his skin colour both in his home country and when he came here. Through his story, we see what it might be like for a new arrival when they are placed in a community that just doesn't know how to deal with the newcomers, especially when they don't necessarily look like what they might be expected to look like. He endured a home stay with a woman who might have had some semblance of right motivation for opening her home up to those in need, but who was moralistic, judgemental, unwelcoming and mean spirited. We see what life in the detention centres might be like and how the system fails to support those who need help, usually despite the best efforts of those who are trying to work within the system.

Where can someone like Ali Khan turn to when they need help? Ali didn't know how to do the basics that we take for granted every day like having a shower or preparing food, let alone anything more complicated. And what happens when a person like Ali Khan gets lost in the system?

This is a very moving book on many, many levels. It would be great if some of those people who are sceptical of the rights of refugees could read it, but in some ways I think that there will be a self selecting audience for this book because many of the people who could be enlightened by reading it will choose not to do so. That possibly sounds a little judgemental on my part, but I know people who I would normally classify as intelligent, moral people who have no tolerance for refugees or their plights or for learning the facts about this highly emotive, highly political issue.

I am so glad to have finally read Caroline Overington. I have been meaning to do so for a while now, and now that I have I am determined to read more. I have already requested one of her earlier books from the library!

Rating 4/5

From bestselling author and award-winning journalist Caroline Overington comes another thought-provoking and heart-rending story, that reaches from the heart of Bondi to a small village in Tanzania.

Shortly after 9.30 in the morning, a young man walks into Surf City, Bondi's newest shopping complex. He's wearing a dark grey hoodie and a bomb around his neck. Just a few minutes later he is locked in a shop on the upper floor. And trapped with him are four innocent bystanders.

For police chaplain Paul Doherty, called to the scene by Senior Sergeant Boehm, it's a story that will end as tragically as it began. For this is clearly no ordinary siege. The boy, known as Ali Khan, seems as frightened as his hostages and has yet to utter a single word.

The seconds tick by for the five in the shop: Mitchell, the talented schoolboy; Mouse, the shop assistant; Kimmi, the nail-bar technician; and Roger Callaghan, the real estate agent whose reason for being in Bondi that day is far from innocent.

And of course there's Ali Khan. Is he the embodiment of evil, as the villagers in his Tanzanian birthplace believe? Or just an innocent boy, betrayed at every turn, who just wants a place to call home?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel

It's no great secret that I am a sucker for any books set in France. Other than Laura Florand's usually excellent books, there are remarkably few romances set there so when I was offered this book for review as part of the current blog tour it was really that fact that won me over.

I am going to put it our there right from the start that I actually quite enjoyed the reading experience of this one. It was an easy read that took me just a couple of hours to get through. There were, however, some fundamental flaws.

The main female character is Danni Lewis. She leads a very safe existence. She lives with her boyfriend Hugo in a lovely flat (mainly because he is a successful young lawyer who earns pot loads of money) and she has been with him for the best part of 11 years, even though he doesn't really set her world on fire, if you get my meaning. In all that time, he has never made her feel weak at the knees, which directly goes against her grandmother's advice to only marry a man who does makes you feel that way. Luckily for Danni, because Hugo is well off, she doesn't have to worry too much about working. In her words "I haven't really made it on the career front. I've dabbled here and there" .

Danni's best friend since childhood is Amber, and it is her sudden death that is the catalyst for Danni to change her life, mostly thanks to a death bed conversation (which to be honest was my first huh? moment). Amber's childhood was shaped by the fact that her father had had an affair and ended up moving to another country with his new love, devastating Amber and her mother. As young women, Danni and Amber had promised each other that they would never get involved with a married man. On her deathbed, Amber tells Danni two things. The first is that she wants Danni to be happy, and that she thinks that Hugo is not the man who will bring her happiness. The final thing was "you won't forget that pact we've always had about neither of us getting involved with or ending up with a married man, will you?" The first thing absolutely felt like a genuine thing to be said in a sick bed conversation, but the second felt too contrived.

Anyway, after Amber's death, the very supportive Hugo is given the flick and Danni moves home with her parents. Danni's mum thinks Hugo is quite the catch so she doesn't really understand why Danni has dumped him, and she understands even less when Danni decides to take a job in the ski fields of France, despite the fact that she can't ski. Within weeks Danni is in a car with handsome Aussie ski instructor Rod (which is my brother's name, and is not a sexy name to me at all), travelling to a quintessential French ski village, next thing she is in bed with him, and then he is gone to his own job as a ski instructor in Austria.

When she meets handsome Olivier though, there is an instant attraction between them, despite the fact that he is from all accounts very happily married (at one point he is named as the most happily married man in the whole town) and it doesn't take long for that attraction to be acted on. Of course, there are instant fireworks between them, and he makes her weak at the knees, weak everywhere, so based on grandma's advice, he must be the one. Never mind his wife, the deathbed promise or the fact that Danni can hear Amber's voice warning her off.

I mentioned earlier that there were a couple of fundamental flaws. The first for me was Danni. I just didn't get her at all. She basically sponged off Hugo, had no motivation to get herself a job, and mooched back to her parents place not once but twice in the course of the novel. I just didn't get why all these men found her so interesting.

The second fundamental flaw comes down to the believability of a romance novel where one of the character's is married, allegedly happily. There aren't that many cheating romances around, or perhaps I should say I haven't read many and there is good reason for that.

If Olivier had already been separated and in the course of getting divorced this would have been far less of an issue for me. There was no discussion of him being unhappy in his marriage at all, apart from the fact that he bumped into Danni (literally) when they met and from that point on he only had eyes for her. Maybe if I understood what made Danni so interesting I could have understood this more.

In terms of the writing, I didn't think it was too bad. I am always a bit wary with self published books because sometimes the quality is terrible, but I have read other books that have been good. There is definitely promise in the writing, it was more the story that didn't work as well for me as it could have. I did enjoy the French setting, and I thought that the sexual tension between Danni and Olivier was evident, especially when they start spending time together. There were a couple of editing issues, one around repetitiveness that really stood out in a couple of sections, but mostly the writing flowed well.

There was also an awkward scene towards the beginning of Danni and Olivier's relationship. They had been to a party and originally we were just told that they had spent time coming home together. Later Danni is remembering that they spent time talking, lying in the snow gazing at the starry sky in comfortable silence and making snow angels. In a romantic comedy movie it would have been the flashback montage scene! I am not sure why the reader wasn't there for the scene though, why it was told the way it was. As I looked at the scene for this review, I guess it was because it was to highlight the absentness of his wife, but it seems like one of the key moments in the build up to the relationship and we were only told of it, not shown.

In the marketing blurb for this book it mentions that it is the author's "debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre". I am not sure that it does fit in the new adult genre because I think the characters are too old and I am not sure that the central issue to the book necessarily fits the definition either.

If I was to summarise I would say that this was a readable book that does show some promise but the author has chosen a difficult story to try to tell.

Rating 3.5/5

About the tour

Link to Tour Schedule:
Jo Kessel's website.
Jo Kessel on Facebook
Jo Kessel on Twitter.

To celebrate the release of Weak at the Knees and the blog tour, there is a tour-wide giveaway for a bottle of Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape! Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape is a gloriously rich (and expensive) red wine produced in the Rhone wine region in southeastern France. It is a wine that should be drunk to celebrate a special occasion. It's velvety, full-bodied and divine and features very strongly in Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel. Must be a resident of the US or Canada and be 21 yrs of age or older to enter. One entry per household. Winner will be randomly selected on Monday, Oct. 26, 2013 and will be notified by email.

About the book

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”

Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.

But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?

Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Salon: July to September Reading Reflections

I am not quite sure how this has happened, but I haven't actually done a monthly reading wrap up since June! I know why I didn't at the end of August (because I was busy recapping my Melbourne Writers Festival sessions) but have no clue as to why I didn't post one in July. I am relieved to see that my blogging seems to be working a lot better than it was at the moment although there is still room for improvement. At least it doesn't feel as much like a chore as it was a few months ago!

Three months of reading wrap ups means that this post is going to be a bumper list of books read, so I best get on with it!

July reads

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid 4
Duet by Kimberley Freeman 4 (audiobook) ***
Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt 4
The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal 4
Zoe's Baby by Alison Roberts 3 ***
Looking for Alaska by John Green 4.5 (audiobook)
Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole 4
A Gentleman Never Tells by Juliana Gray 4
Written in Red by Anne Bishop 4.5
The Provence Cure for the Broken Hearted by Bridget Asher 4.5
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull 4 ***
Anybody But Him by Claire Baxter 3.5 ***
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan 4
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan 4
A Kiss Before Midwinter by Courtney Milan 4
The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan 4
Persuasion by Jane Austen 4 (audiobook)
India Black an the Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K Carr 4

August Reads

The Cowboy, the Cheat, His Ex-Wife and Her Vibrator by C C Coburn 3 ***
The Tudor Secret by C W Gortner 3.5
Fables 10: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham 4
Taking Chase by Lauren Dane 4
The Tudor Conspiracy by C W Gortner 4.5
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green 3
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 5
Cake by Lauren Dane 3.5
Game of Thrones by George R R Martin 4.5 (audiobook)
The Sum of all Kisses by Julia Quinn 4
Must Love Kids by Jackie Braun 4
Gold Dust by Kimberley Freeman 4 ***
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid 4
The Returned by Jason Mott 4

September Reads 

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal 3
Deranged Marriage: A Memoir by Sushi Das 3.5
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 4.5 (audiobook) ***
His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich 3.5
Since the Surrender by Julie Anne Long 3
On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta 5 (audiobook/reread) ***
Saving Francesca by Marchetta 4 (audiobook) ***
Lilla's Feast by Frances Osborne 4
French Milk by Lucy Knisley 3.5
The Arrangement by Mary Balogh 4
Fables: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham 4
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford 3.5

All grades are out of 5 and all books marked with asterisks *** count for my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Currently reading

The Longing by Candice Bruce, Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert

Up Next

Colussus: Stone and Steel by David Blixt and The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Weekend Cooking: It's all about the gravy!

All-Purpose GravyIs there anything better than a really good gravy as an accompaniment to a roast dinner, or even to a big fluffy pile of mashed potato where you can mix the gravy through! Yum!!!

I thought I would post about a couple of the different gravies that I have made over the last few years that have made even the most simple of meals like lamb chops into something a little bit special. Once upon a time I would never have even contemplated making gravy from scratch but these days there is only one flavour of gravy powder that I use. The rest is from scratch.

The first is from a recipe that I posted a couple of years ago for Lamb Chops with Red Wine and Garlic Gravy. This sauce tasted so good that the little chef wanted to just drink it out of a cup!  Rosemary and garlic are pretty common tastes to have with lamb and this gravy uses this as an element by using them to cook the meat. When the meat is cooked it is removed from the pan to rest and then the following ingredients are added to the pan juices

1 tablespoon plain flour
150 mls red wine
200 mls vegetable stock
1 teaspoon blackcurrant jam or plum jam

The flour is added to the pan juices and then the red wine, stock and jam is added gradually. Boil until thickened and then add the chops back in and the juices from where the chops were resting. Delicious!

Whilst the next recipe is again for lamb, it is slightly different in composition. A couple of weeks ago I had to cook a lamb leg, something that I don't normally do because it is too much for just the two of us but as I was cooking for 8 people it was suitable this time. That meant searching for a recipe, so I turned to my go to recipe website and found this recipe for Classic Roast Lamb.

The lamb leg is rubbed with a combination of garlic, rosemary, sweet paprika and olive oil and then roasted. The gravy ingredients are

2 tablespoons plain flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup white wine

Skim fat from pan, leaving 1 tablespoon in pan. Place pan over high heat. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbling. Combine stock, wine (if using) and lamb juices in a jug. Slowly add mixture to pan, stirring. Cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until thickened.

Part of what made this gravy so delicious (even if it didn't look overly pretty) is that you end up with quite a bit of rosemary being incorporated into the sauce.

The other gravy I wanted to talk about was an apple cider gravy for roast pork which was amazing, but it looks like the recipe has been removed from the site where I originally found it!  Normally I post recipes that I have tried and liked here on the blog so that I can find it without too much effort at any time but this time I obviously didn't! Lesson learned!

As far as I can recall the idea was to cook roast pork along with some apples, remove those from the pan and then add a couple of tablespoons of flour to the pan juices and then add apple cider and cook until thickened. From memory, it was about half of a 375ml bottle of cider. All of the adults at the table that night loved the gravy on this roast pork!

I really need to find a really good recipes for gravy to go with roast chicken, but for now I stick with Gravox Chicken Supreme gravy powder, which is also awesome with chicken schnitzel or chicken sausages and mash with vegies!!

Maybe I should cook a roast or something for dinner tomorrow night just so that I can have some good gravy again!

Do you have a favourite delicious gravy recipe?

I have shared this video before a while ago, but it would be a crime not to include a song called How to Make Gravy in a post all about gravy!

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, October 02, 2013

Library Loot: October 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!

After a loot free week last week, I am back with just a few books but a couple of them are quite big books so I think it should count as at least one more!

Here's the books I got this week:

660 Curries: the gateway to the world of Indian cooking by Raghavan Iyer - A couple of weeks ago Bethfishreads reviewed Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer. It had a pretty cool concept but unfortunately my library doesn't have it yet, but they did have this book so  I thought I would give it a go!

Thornwood House by Anna Romer - I do love a good WWII story and a good dual storyline book, and this one is both!

Delicious by Nicky Pellegrino - I actually don't remember where I heard of this book but I requested both this and another Nicky Pellegrino book as well.

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater - I requested this after the Melbourne Writers Festival I went to a few weeks ago. It will be my introduction to Nigel Slater's writing, which I am looking forward to!

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