Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reading Reflections: May 2020

It's a sign of age that you get to the end of each month and can't help but think where did that month go. Of course, maybe it feels a bit like that even more than usual now.

Here's what I read this month. I am trying something new for this week and am going to write a one or two line blurb about each book.

Magic Study by Maria V Snyder 4.5/5 - Reread

This is the second book in the Chronicles of Ixia series, and was a reread for me. I don't reread very often but it was worth it! I did review this (kind of) back in 2007 when I read it the first time.

Postmistress by Alison Stuart 4.5/5 - Australian Author

I have owned books by this author for years and I finally read one! And I am going to be reading another very soon! (Review here)

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare 4/5

Tessa Dare's books are always fun and this was no exception. Now I need to wait for the next book in the series to come out.

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan 4/5 Audiobook

I was listening to The Good Turn and decided to go for something a bit lighter. I do admire the way that that Jenny Colgan gives you a lighter story but still covers off on quite difficult subjects.

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder

Book number three in the Chronicles of Ixia series. The next book moves away from focusing on Yelena and Valek so it will be interesting to see how the next book compares to this original trilogy.

The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan
4.5/5 Australian Author

This series is so good, and in this book some of the subplots that have been part of the atmosphere come to a head and so it will be very interesting to see what happens next.

The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

My first blog tour in a very long time! (Review here)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Weekend Cooking: May Bakes

It's the last Saturday of the month and that means it is time to share my baking for this month. I started doing this earlier this year because otherwise every Weekend Cooking post would be about something sweet, which might be a bit much.

The first thing I made this month was my first ever attempt at cinnamon scrolls. These were a no knead version. I actually posted the recipe for this bake a few weeks ago.

Next, these cupcakes were made using a recipe from Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo. He has been on a few baking shows in the US as well. I don't know about him as a TV chef but his cakes and pastries look amazing. So this was, in his words, a cupcake you can make with the kids. They are chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate ganache inset and a salted caramel buttercream frosting. So yes, make that with your kids!

A couple of my friends thought that these looked liked the poo emoji which wasn't very nice but they did taste absolutely delicious! I would try to make the buttercream differently because I used a premade caramel. Maybe the buttercream would look a bit better with a homemade salted caramel. Or maybe I just needed to add some sprinkes. I did buy some amazing sprinkles this month but they hadn't arrived when I made this!

There are lots of companies around the world that have been doing something special for their consumers as a result of COVID-19. One of our big brand biscuit companies (as in cookies) announced they were going to be releasing some of the recipes for their biscuits. They released three, but now they have moved to releasing recipes made using their products. The three biscuits that they released the recipes for are Scotch Finger biscuits, Iced Vovos and Monte Carlo. I do intend to try the other recipes at some point, but I did make the Monte Carlo biscuits this month and they were so good.

Working on the basis that most Weekend Cooking participants won't actually know what a Monte Carlo looks or tastes like, they are a biscuit with coconut in and a creamy filling with jam. Here is what a mass produced Monte Carlo looks like

and here is what mine looked like. Much more rustic of course but they were so good! I am definitely planning to make them again at some point, and I possibly will share the recipe soon as well.

The day that I made those biscuits we had a Zoom afternoon tea so I also made scones using this recipe that I shared a few years ago now.

It just so happened the week after that afternoon tea it was my husband's birthday and also the first week that we were allowed to have families over to visit so we had an actual afternoon tea and I made more scones! I must confess that we bought the lemon meringue pie. I was going to make it but I ran out of time.

The other thing that I did make for the afternoon tea was a Tangy Ricotta Muffin which was one of the baking club recipes this month. These were so good as well. My nephews loved them!

I do have plans to cook a couple of things over the weekend, but they will go in next month's post.

What have you been making this month?

Please note: You may have to refresh the page to see your link on Mr Linky.

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

Alphabet 2020: I is for Me! Me! Me!

You may be thinking that I have finally lost it because me begins with I does not make any sense. The isolation has finally got to her! Well, kind of but then, also, not really.

What I thought I would talk about today is what I have learned over the last few months. Even just that sentence should tell you why I is for me!

As we were coming home from the supermarket today, my husband said to me that we have basically been inside for all of autumn this year, which is a bit crazy really. Other than occasional trips to the supermarket, we, like so many others, have been at home.

When it first became apparent that we were going to go into social isolation, I must admit I was dreading it. I am someone who has a tendency to overbook my weekends with outings, get togethers, movies, dinners etc so the idea of being forced to stay at home was quite daunting. And the idea of working from home - no thank you.

So here's what I have learnt about me.

I really like working from home. There are positives and negatives of course. For example, I enjoy being able to get out of bed a bit (or a lot) later and having no commute even though it means that I have less time to read or play my stupid Facebook games. I enjoy being able to be home so that we can eat dinner at a reasonable time, instead of it sometimes being 7.30 or later by the time we get home and get dinner cooked. I enjoy being able to watch some of the early evening quiz shows including the obligatory shouting the answers at the TV.

One aspect that I really like about working from home is working with my husband. I like hearing him talking and laughing with his colleagues, how he leads his team and just generally hearing his voice. I like that we get to interact during the day, and we have lunch together fairly regularly. He went into his actual office a couple of weeks ago and I found that day where I was home by myself really hard. I am not looking forward to when we start going back to the office and we go back to just a few text messages a day.

I did get in trouble a couple of days ago though when I was cleaning up the dirty dishes from his desk ,because I was going to the kitchen anyway, and I took his chosen mug for the day. I heard him say to his colleague that his cleaning lady was a bit aggressive and had taken his mug. The next day when I came into the room there was a sticky note on his mug saying "mug for the day" so that I would know not to take it.

I do find interacting with others quite tiring, especially as a manager of a team of people where I am trying to keep checking in with on a regular basis.  I am always trying to gauge how they are doing. Is someone  a bit quiet, does that mean they are having issues, has their communication been a bit abrupt etc. And video calls, webinars etc are so draining.

Before isolation and before meeting the aforementioned husband, if I had a weekend where I didn't go out and do something or meet someone by the time Sunday night came I would be feeling quite down. I have learned that I can stay at home and enjoy myself, that I don't actually have all the things scheduled for every weekend. I am finding that we are filling our time with different TV shows from series to theatre to music, blogging, reading, cooking together and for each other and more. Now, I get to Sunday afternoon and realise that there is still so much more that I wanted to do that weekend which is exactly the same as before really, even without leaving the house.

Having said that, I am looking forward to when we can go and do things. Simple things like going for brunch with friends or going to the movies or to an art gallery! What I do need to remember is that we don't need to overschedule!

I have enjoyed coming back to blogging and I think that this period has helped solidify that. Those extra hours at home have given me time to spend visiting other blogs and in preparing my own posts. I currently have a lot of posts in draft at various degrees of completion, some of which may not ever see daylight, but I know that they are there.

I have learned that it is okay to be okay, but it is also okay to have days where we are not as okay.

Now, I'm pretty sure if I went through and counted the number of times I used the word I in this post that is all about me it would make sense that I is for me!

I think it was 49 all up in case you were wondering!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Blog Tour : The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

Welcome to today's stop on the blog tour for The Railway Girls. It just so happens that today is release day as well! So....happy release day to Maisie Thomas!

While WWII is a very popular setting for historical fiction at the moment there is a lot of variety within that setting and a lot of room for stories to be explored. One of the aspects that I enjoy is reading about women who had to take on unaccustomed roles just because of the war.  Some examples of books I have previously read which focus on this include The Ambulance Girls series by Deborah Burrows and Land Girls by Victoria Purman.  When I was offered this book for review, the title grabbed me straight away for exactly this reason.

The story begins with our characters coming together after successfully passing the aptitude tests to become railway girls. They come from all different walks of life, and all have their own reasons why they want to do their part for the war effort. Mabel wants to be out of her well to do home, to be independent and to hopefully be able to forget the traumatic events which are still taking their toll on her. Joan always feels like she can't do much right in the eyes of her domineering grandmother, especially not compared to her beautiful older sister and Dot is a salt of the earth type who wants to do her best to do her part, especially seeing as her beloved sons are fighting for the country. And if that gets her out of the house away from her miserable husband, well so much the better.

The book follows the characters as they each come together at Victoria Station in Manchester to begin their new roles. They, along with several other characters, promise to be there for each other no matter what, and they'll need that support base as they navigate the difficult new world that they have come into. Many of the men that they will now be working with don't believe that the women will be able to do the job, especially the hard, physical jobs like being a porter or making sure that the ballast beneath the rails stays in place by digging it and replacing it where necessary. It isn't easy to become friends just like that though. Each woman is very different, and there are plenty of secrets between them. Can you truly be friends if you are not willing to open yourself up?

One of the aspects that I enjoyed in this book was the exploration of social change. War is a catalyst for change in so many ways. Suddenly women whose sole role has been in the home for so long are now working in men's world, sometimes including having to deal with overt sexism, and yet, in many cases their home duties have not reduced at all. The way that women dress is changing rapidly. Joan's grandmother, for example, was adamant that Joan and her sister could under no circumstances raise their dress hems lest they be labeled as floozies and yet, we also start to see the advent of trousers. And socially we had the well to do young ladies mixing with the working class girls and becoming friends - something that would never have happened in normal life. And that's before we even think about war time romances, which seem to have an added urgency to them, or the impact of grief and loss within a community.

I did want to specifically mention one incident in the story because it is something I have never read before. One of most well known events in WWII is the evacuation of the soldiers from Dunkirk. I have read or watched plenty of accounts of those events, whether it be from the perspective of a soldier racing to get to the beach in time to be evacuated, or someone manning one of the small boats involved in the rescue. What I have never seen portrayed is the flow on effect that happened through the rest of the country. This book is set in Manchester which is a long way from the south coast of England, and yet the rescued soldiers were disbursed across the country using the railway and in these pages we got to see some of the ways that would have happened even that far away from the action.

I found it interesting that the author chose to use some Northern England style dialogue for one of the characters. I think it was used to try to show the class divide between some of the characters. It did also remind me of when I lived in Northern England for a few years.

As you can see, I have quite a lot to say about this book, so it is probably lucky that it is the first in a series, with the next book due out in September. There are plenty of other railway girls that we met in this book that we will have the opportunity to get to know more about as the series continues. I am looking forward to reading more!

Rating 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for sending me the review copy of this book.

Goodreads synopsis:
The first novel in the utterly brilliant Railway Girls series. Perfect for fans of Nancy Revell and Ellie Dean.
In February, 1922, at the western-most entrance to Victoria Station in Manchester, a massive plaque was unveiled. Beneath a vast tiled map showing the lines of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway network, a series of seven bronze panels recorded the names of the men of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway who gave their lives for King and Country in the Great War – a total of 1,460 names.
In March, 1940, a group of women of varying ages and backgrounds, stand in front of the memorial, ready to do their bit in this new World War...
Mabel is determined to make a fresh start as a railway girl where no one will know the terrible thing she did and she can put her guilt behind her... Or is she just running away?
Meanwhile Joan will never be as good as her sister, or so her Gran keeps telling her. A new job as a station clerk could be just the thing she needs to forget her troubles at home.
And Dot is further into her forties than she cares to admit. Her beloved sons are away fighting and her husband – well, the less said about him the better. Ratty old sod. She is anxious to become a railway girl just like her dear mam – anything to feel she is supporting the sons she prays for every night.
The three women start off as strangers, but soon form an unbreakable bond that will get them through the toughest of times...

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Opening Lines

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

That's right! A Top Ten Tuesday two weeks in a row! The theme this week is Opening Lines. Now, I am not the person who remembers opening lines, no matter how cool they are, with the exception of famous lines. In fact, there is only one that I can think of that isn't one of the obvious ones like Tolstoy or Jane Austen.

Given that I can't come up with many off the top of my head, I am going to bring you the opening lines of the books that I am reading at the moment, and then some of my favourite books off of my shelves.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn - This is the opening line that I can roughly paraphrase and it is a doozy as an opening to a historical mystery series. It is also an introduction to Nicholas Brisbane.....what a man.

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas - This is one of the books that I am reading at the moment. I will have a review of it up on Thursday.

I don't care what war work I do or where I do it - as long as it isn't here.

Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale - This is the other book that I am reading at the moment. And by reading I mean have read the first page, but I will be reading more.

The promise of fire was in the air that morning.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke - One of my favourite book this year, so far.  And I really like this as an opening line for this book.

The love song began it's life, not with a fanfare or a crash of cymbals, but instead with a knock  at a door.

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder - This was the last book I finished. It is the third book in the Chronicles of Ixia series which I started many years ago. I read the first two books and then recently reread them, but this was the first time I read this book. I will be reading the next book soon.

"That's pathetic, Yelena," Dax complained. " An all powerful Soulfinder who isn't all powerful. Where's the fun in that?"

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (also published as Sophia's Secret)- Oh how I love this book. One of very few books that I have reread, and that I would seriously consider rereading again.

It wasn't chance. There wasn't any part of it that happened just by chance.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati - The opening line to another long time favourite series. Last year I read the first book in the follow up series to this one and it was again excellent.

Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sightof an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth  - Another book that I love hard. I actually mentioned this one in last weeks post too so clearly it is on my mind at the moment

I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.

The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons - I don't love this book as much as the first two in this trilogy, but I do however love the way that this opening line both sets the scene for the book to come but also reflects one of the major scenes in the first book. So clever

Once upon a time, in Stonington, Maine, before sunset, at the end of a hot war and the beginning of a cold one, a young  woman dressed in white, outwardly calm but with trembling hands, sat on a bench by the harbor, eating ice cream.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams - I have given you lines from books I am reading, that are favourites, and the best book I have read this year, so I thought I would finish with the opening line from a  a book I want to read

Before the lost word, there was another. It arrived in the Scriptorium in a second-hand envelope, the old address crossed out and Dr Murray, Sunnyside, Oxford, written in its place.

So, do any of those opening lines call to you?

Monday, May 25, 2020

This week....

I'm reading....

Yesterday it was announced that more of our restrictions are going to be partially lifted with effect from 1 June. While we are still going to be working from home for a while longer, we will be able to go out to cafes and have 20 people in our homes amongst other things. We won't mention how stressful I would find it have 20 people here but the thought that we can is good I guess. One of the changes is that libraries will be able to open again. Now I have a pile of library books here to be returned but I do have two that I haven't read yet. So that is why I started reading Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale. He is a new to me Australian author who has several books out now, but unfortunately there will be no more as he recently passed away.

I am also about two thirds of the way through The Railway Girls which I talked about last week, and I am about half way through The Good Turn on audiobook as well, which I am enjoying.

I'm watching....

We started watching The Great this weekend. What a crazy bonkers show that is, but it is FUN! And the costumes are amazing! At the beginning of each episode it says "occasionally true" and that is the spirit it should be taken in. The tongue is firmly in cheek most of the time but it is a joy to watch!

The other thing that was a joy to watch this weekend was the One Night Lonely concert which was streamed on Youtube featuring Aussie music legends Powderfinger. This band came to the fore in the late 1990s when I was living overseas. A friend sent me a mix tape (remember those) which featured Powderfinger and other bands like Silverchair but I have to confess I didn't really get Powderfinger until after they had been around for a long time, but once I got them, I really got them. I used to quite regularly just start with an album and work my way through them all while I was working. I never really got Silverchair.

I was lucky enough to go to see Powderfinger perform live on their final tour and it was one of my favourite concert events ever! It was so amazing to see them live, in front of their excited fans. The atmosphere was phenomenal. The only downside to that concert was the fact that as soon as the encore had finished and the lights came up, the stadium played Just Can't Get Enough by Devo. Talk about an unwanted earworm when you just wanted to walk out of the stadium singing some of the songs you heard!! I posted about the concert here.

Anyway, the One Night Lonely thing was great. It was so good to see them performing together and you would never have thought they had been split up for 10 years. They just sounded so good. The only problem with this show - it was only 35 minutes long which was way too short. I ended up watching it on the Saturday night and then watched it again on Sunday night just because I could!

This video is Powderfinger singing These Days in their final concert before they split up.

In life...

Last week was a better week emotionally in working from home land, but it was crazy busy and I know that I am slipping into the bad habit of working later than I should just because I can. And I am also guilty of thinking about just going and doing a few hours over the weekend. I haven't yet been guilty of actually going and doing that but I can see it happening.

We did our second jigsaw this week. I bought it on a whim a few weeks ago when I saw it on Facebook. It actually was not as difficult as we thought it would be. We (and by we I mean me) have bought another 4 jigsaws. Some of them are a couple of months away as they are being sold through Kickstarter but the other one should be here any day now really. And then we still have a couple here to do. I do have to not set them up to do too regularly as my husband still can't walk past the jigsaw without stopping to put pieces in.

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: Cottage Allotment Pie (Jamie Oliver)
Alphabet 2020: H is for Heater
Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Historical Fiction

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

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Allotment Cottage Pie

    We are currently trying to do one meat free dinner every week. We are also watching Jamie Oliver's Keep Cooking and Carry On series which is on at the moment. The idea is that he gives satisfying meal recipes but also along the way gives lots of tips about how you can swap ingredients based on what is available in your pantry (or in the shops back when we were seeing shortages).  For example, in the recipe below, we swapped out dried porcini mushrooms for brown mushrooms and we used Vegemite instead of Marmite. We are, however, such bad Australians that we didn't even have any Vegemite in the cupboard (because it is horrible, horrible stuff) so we had to go and buy some just for this recipe. Oh, and we used dried lentils instead of a can. A lot of the series is actually filmed by his wife in their house rather than the usual slick production values he would have

    So this week's recipe is a meat free cottage pie (link to recipe). It has been quite cool here, so a hearty cottage pie was perfect for a Monday night dinner.

    We have also tried a cauliflower macaroni cheese recipe from the TV show but I don't think that we will make that one again. It was a bit underwhelming. I am earmarking meat free recipes all over the place, but it was only after a few weeks that we realise that one of the favourite recipes we make regularly (Baked Zucchini, Tomato and Parmesan Risotto) is already meat free!

    One of the funny things about this recipe happened a couple of weeks after we first cooked it. My sister and her family came around last weekend and we were talking about the things that we were doing differently food wise during this period of social isolation, and we mentioned making this recipe. My son pipes up and says "oooh that's why it tasted a bit different! " He never realised that there wasn't any meat in it!

    Allotment Cottage Pie

    10 g dried porcini mushrooms
    2 large leeks
    3 carrots
    500 g swede
    500 g celeriac
    olive oil
    3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
    1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    2 kg potatoes
    40 g unsalted butter
    1 splash of semi-skimmed milk
    1 onion
    1 teaspoon Marmite
    3 tablespoons tomato purée
    1 x 400 g tin of green lentils

    In a blender, cover the porcini with 600ml of boiling water.
    Trim, wash and slice the leeks 2cm thick, then scrub the carrots, swede and celeriac and chop to roughly the same size.
    Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil into a large casserole pan on a medium heat, strip in the rosemary, fry for 
    1 minute to crisp up, then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
    Add the cumin seeds and prepped veg to the flavoured oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
    Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the potatoes, cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 15 minutes, or until tender, then drain well. Mash with the butter and milk, and season to taste.
    Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
    Quarter the onion, add to the porcini in the blender along with the Marmite and tomato purée and whiz until smooth.
    Pour into the veg pan and cook for 20 minutes, or until dark and caramelised, stirring regularly and scraping up any sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.
    Tip the lentils (juices and all) into the veg pan, bring to the boil, then season to taste.
    Spoon over the mash, place on a tray, bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden and bubbling at the edges, then sprinkle over the crispy rosemary.
    Serve with simple steamed seasonal greens !

    Please note: You may have to refresh the page to see your link on Mr Linky.

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Alphabet 2020: H is for Heater

I know it's our turn to have winter and the northern hemisphere's turn for summer but brrrr! Winter has arrived with a vengeance. My feet are always freezing and my husband and I had our first ever "discussion" in the middle of the night about who was stealing all of the bed covers (he was....for the record).

I have had issues with my heating for a long time now. It kind of mostly works, except in our bedroom, but it keeps on cutting out and I have to go and reset using the remote control. I can  hear you all thinking why doesn't she just get it fixed.

I did attempt to do that a couple of years ago. I called in the heating guy and he took one look at the gas pipes and said there was an issue with them and so he couldn't fix it until that was resolved. After numerous calls to our gas company over several weeks (in late autumn with no heater) it was finally determined that we needed to replace all the gas pipes in the whole house which cost us about $3000. And the heating still wasn't fixed.

Ironically our cooling stopped working during this summer. The technician took one look at the motor and said it needs to be replaced which was going to cost about ....$3000. You can see why I am a bit reluctant to call a tradie at the moment.

I should say, I know that my idea of cold would probably make lots of you laugh and say that isn't cold but for this warm blooded Aussie it is! This week we had a day when it was only 13 degrees celsius (which is 55 degrees fahrenheit). Brrrrr! I know I wouldn't cope with winter in some other places but it is all about what you are acclimatised to.

I lived in the UK for 5 years and so I know that I can deal with slightly colder (but still not really really really cold). I had mornings where you woke up to that special kind of quietness that comes when it has snowed overnight, and worn layers and layers that you had to strip off every time you entered inside buildings.  The winter after I returned from the UK I didn't actually turn a heater on in the first winter because it just wasn't cold. The second winter after coming back, I had reacclimatised to our weather and it was cold again!

You would think that I have better things to post about than the weather but this is what is on my mind right now. Brrrrrr!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Historical Fiction

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday for a while now. I often look at the topic and think I couldn't think of ten things about that topic and then as I see the posts as I check out people's blogs and think well of course I could have!!

This week the topic is Reasons Why I Love......and we can pick our own topic, and I have chosen to post about all things historical fiction - or at least ten things historical fiction. I will admit I did struggle to limit this to just ten.

Jean Plaidy - My love of historical fiction started very early and continues on even now. In early high school I read every Jean Plaidy book that my school library had.She also wrote under a couple of other names including Victoria Holt, Eleanor Burford and more. And with covers like these, why wouldn't you!

Dual timelines - I am a sucker for a dual timelines and there are so many choices for the books. Even if I just want to limit it to Australian authors there are authors like Hannah Richell, Kate Morton but I have to include Canadian author Susanna Kearsley. One of my favourite books ever is The Winter Sea!

Brave knights and powerful men - If you want to read about handsome kings, brave knights, paupers rising through society, poor boys who turn out to be the secret son of some rich and powerful lord, then historical fiction has the stories for you.

Beautiful and powerful women - And for all those handsome brave knights, there has to be the irresistibly beautiful women! who they fall in love with. Many times those women wield huge political power. The books of Susan Holloway Scott introduced us to the mistresses of Charles II, or if you want an old school rollicking adventure try the Angelique books by Sergeann Golon

Fascinating stories based on historical figures - One of the first books I read by Australian author Kate Forsyth was the exceptional Bitter Greens. It's a fairy tale retelling of Rapunzel set in Italy but also featuring Charlotte -Rose Caumont de La Force who wrote the original story that was then adapted by the Grimm brothers. See.... just one example of a fascinating story! Sometimes we think that we know about the historical figure or some times we have never heard of them. Either way can be fascinating.

Well known stories - Sometimes it is possible to read too many books about one subject to the point of not wanting to read it again. For me, I overdosed on Tudor stories years ago, but there are still occasions when I can be tempted into the Tudor world for an exceptional story. An example of this would be Legacy by Susan Kay which was so good. I have also seen people mention that they are started to get a bit of WWII fatigue but I am not there yet, not while there are excellent books like The Nightingale coming out.

Little known stories - For all the well known stories, there are lesser known stories that can be discovered. I had read plenty of historical fiction about the Roman Empire, but I didn't know a lot about the Etruscan civilisation which was located very close to Rome. And then there are the authors who take something that we know about like a famous painting and then add colour and depth to it such as Susan Vreeland's books or a story set against Catherine Medici's reign in France which provides the context of the story in books like The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll.

Stories set against adversity in war - My love of big books set against war started early. I was a teenager when my auntie introduced me to the writing of Noel Barber and I couldn't get enough. i suspect if I was to reread them now they might be a bit problematic but they still have pride of place on my bookshelves.

That fascination continues now - I mentioned people overdosing on WWII fiction, but I can't see that happening for me any time soon. There are so many aspects still to be explored. We could be reading about people in war zones such as All the Light You Cannot See which is set in France but there is also the Pacific theatre of war and also stories about what is happening on the home front such as The Land Girls by Victoria Purman. And that's only talking about WWII. There are so many other conflicts out there where we can read about the triumph of human spirit in the face of adversity!

Big sagas - I love a big book, and there was time where that was actually how I chose which book to buy. If there was a big book and a normal size book I would reach for the big one every time. I also love a series that follows characters through time. There are classic series such as The Morland Dynasty books by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles or new series such as the excellent Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley.

As I finish this posts I am looking at the covers thinking I should have  chosen this book or that books. I haven't mentioned some of my very favourite authors or books. There are just so many great options out there!