Saturday, October 31, 2020

Weekend Cooking: What I Baked in October.

 I did have a moment of panic when I first sat down to write this post because I thought for a minute that I had only made one thing, but then I had a closer look and realised that I had made a couple of different things. There is no question though that the amount of things that I have made has reduced over the last couple of months, which might be an indication of COVID fatigue, or just needing some new ideas.

Our restrictions have lifted a bit over the last week, and one of the things that we are really looking forward to is beign able to go out for brunch, or for coffee and cake. Currently we are allowed to go no further than 25kms from our house. There are some suburbs that are quite famous for their cake shops, and they are just outside of our range, so it will be a bit longer before we can go for coffee and cake! So, I guess I am just going to have to make some different things.

One of the things I have to figure out how to find some recipes to challenge myself, but that's a challenge for November!

One of the unusual things about all the things that I have made in October is that I have shared all of the recipes on this blog! As you can see I was trying out a few different things when I was taking the photos. I am never going to be a food photographer really.

Lemon Syrup Cakes - This has been one of my go to recipes for years. Quick and easy and super tasty. When I make these I do warn people that they are very lemony! And yet more than one person has taken a bite and said "oh, they are very lemony aren't they!"

Banana bread - I think we have some bananas that are almost ready to be turned into cake! So we might need to makes this again this week. Yes, the recipe is so good that it is going to become one of my go to recipes for the future!

Sticky Ginger and Apple Self Saucing Pudding - Last week I shared this recipe and made this pudding. it was so good. It is probably the end of the pudding season now but I am already looking forward to when we can make it again.

Weekly Dinners

Saturday: Tuna Nicoise Salad
Sunday: Beef Stew with Dumplings
Monday: Maple Mustard Chicken Tray Bake
Thursday: Italian Sausage Tray Bake
Friday: Packet of chips and a biscuit (dinner of champions!)

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, October 30, 2020

Blog Tour: The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Evangeline is the daughter of a vicar who finds herself employed as a governess with a well to do family, and soon after being seduced by the son. Unfortunately he promises the world, but what Evangelines ends up with is a conviction for theft, a sentence of transportation to Van Diemen's Land and a baby on the way.

From the crowded cells in Newgate to her transportation on the prison ship Medea, Evangeline quickly loses her naivety, helped along by the women she meets who help her navigate life on board the ship, including Olive and Hazel.  Life on board a prison ship is not easy with the journey to the other side of the world being long and perilous.

Hazel is the daughter of a midwife, and has skills in healing and midwifery, who has been convicted of stealing a spoon. Whilst the ship's doctor is initially wary of Hazel, it isn't long before she is being sought out for her healing skills, trading her skills for bits and bobs.  Being able to help the doctor soon gives Hazel some additional comforts, which doesn't always sit well with her fellow prisoners, who see it as being given special treatment. 

When the prison ship arrives in Hobart, the convicts are transferred into the female prison, known as the Cascades Female Factory. From there, they either worked within the prison, or were hired out to the free folk of the city as housemaids, and other manual labourers, until their prison sentences were completed and they were free to start a new life.

Hazel finds herself assigned to the home of Lady Franklin, the wife of governor of the colony.  There she meets Mathinna, a  young indigenous girl who has been bought from her home on Flinder Island, and treated as a curiosity to be shown off at social events. But when the novelty wears off, she is left alone, with no family, no support. 

Seeing Mathinna's story was important, not least because Mathinna and the Franklins are historical figures. Mathinna's actual story is heartbreaking. I did think that more could have been made of this aspect of the story.

I thought it was interesting to see the brave choices that the author made, particularly in relation to Evangeline. 

I chose to read this book to see what a non Australian author would make of Australian history. I am not quite sure why I thought that was an interesting thing to look at. I mean, it isn't unusual for American or Australian authors to write European history, so there is no reason why an American author couldn't write our history. There are also plenty of similarities in the colonisation stories of other countries such as the effect of on indigenous peoples. Some aspects of that story are unique to Australia but others are repeated time and time again all over the world.

I do think that the author did get the history right. It was interesting to read the author's note where she talked about how Australian's feel when they find out they have a convict in their past. Certainly when I was growing up I don't remember anyone proudly announcing that was the case, but I do think that has changed a bit over the last 20 years or so. Certainly when you watch TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are? people are always keen to have a convict ancestor but there is definitely a preference for not a "bad" convict - a political prisoner, or someone who stole a spoon or something.

I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I could have been, but I do wonder if part of that is that this is history that I am familiar with, so I was looking for more depth in the characters. For someone who isn't as familiar with the history that might help keep you glued to the book.  It was interesting and I am glad to have taken the chance to read it.

I will say that reading the book did make me want to go to Hobart and visit the Female Factory. Maybe when the borders open again, whenever that might be.

Thanks to Random Things Tours, Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book

About the book

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. 

Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child.

Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

'Master storyteller Christina Baker Kline is at her best in this epic tale of Australia’s complex history – a vivid and rewarding feat of both empathy and imagination. I loved this book.’

Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

'Filled with surprising twists, empathetic prose, and revealing historical details, Kline’s resonant, powerful story will please any historical fiction fan.'

Publishers Weekly

About the author

CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Blog Tour: Serena Fairfax on Why I Love the Rani of Jhansi

Today I am very excited to welcome Serena Fairfax to my blog with a guest post as part of the blog tour for her new book Mango Bay

I found this post totally fascinating and wanted to know more after reading the post, and I hope you do too!


Her name was Manikarnika and, often called Cchabili (playful), she was born in 1827 in Varanasi, a city on the banks of the Ganges River. Her mother died when she was a toddler whereupon her father moved to Jhansi, some 500 km away in northern India, where he was employed in the service of the Maharajah of Jhansi. This gave her access to a good education, something that many girls in those days lacked; she had a head for figures and excelled at horsemanship, swordsmanship and shooting.

Attractive, intelligent and good-humoured, she caught the eye of the Ruler, Maharajah Gangadar Rao Newalkar, a cultured, statesmanlike, but lonely, man who, despite the age difference of thirty years, determined to make her his queen. On her wedding day in 1843, she changed her first name to Lakshmi, in honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, fortune and power who enables one to achieve one’s goals.

The Rani shunned the practice of purdah; worked tirelessly to improve the lot of the destitute, regardless of caste; immersed herself in affairs of state; took action to grow Jhansi’s economy; was outspoken at meetings with courtiers and foreign officials, endlessly quizzing the latter about life in their homeland, and liked nothing better than being a hands-on gardener.

The flipside to her otherwise happy marriage was the sudden cot death of their first-born infant son. The couple had no more children but, as was then usual, they adopted a five- year- old boy, a son of the Rajah’s cousin. The adoption ceremony, witnessed and endorsed by a British Political Officer of the notorious East India Company, ratified the child as the lawful heir and the Rajah’s designation of Lakshmi as Regent and Ruler of Jhansi for life, in the event of the Rajah’s death.

The Rajah, whose health had been rocky for some time, succumbed in November 1853. The widowed Rani took up the reins of power and, with women as her close aides, ruled in a no-nonsense, business-like yet compassionate manner managing, every morning before breakfast, to exercise by wrestling, weightlifting or riding.

In March 1854 the Company reneged on its deal and sought to annul Lakshmi’s government. Applying the Doctrine of Lapse it rejected the adopted child as the rightful heir, unlawfully annexed Jhansi to its territories and offered Lakshmi a generous pension on condition she ceded control and departed from Jhansi and the palace. ‘Main apni Jhansi nahi doongi’ (I won’t surrender my Jhansi) she declared, flatly refusing to budge.

When the Rani’s negotiations with the Company broke down three years later, Company troops, under General Hugh Rose (a life-long bachelor), who found her to be ‘personable, clever, accomplished and beautiful and the most dangerous of all Indian leaders,’ besieged Jhansi. Thousands of Lakshmi’s subjects were gunned down and the city was set ablaze. Men, with their wives clutching children, threw themselves down wells in a bid to escape.

At dead of night the Rani saddled up and leapt astride her favourite 15 hands, black Arabian stallion, Baadal (meaning Cloud), and galloped out of Jhansi, taking a secret route only she was privy to, with her young son strapped to her back.

Meanwhile, a serious rebellion had erupted against the Company in other parts of India. This is the uprising that’s known as the First War of Independence (formerly called the Indian Mutiny). Lakshmi threw in her lot with the protestors. Women and men flocked to her call to arms and she raised and trained a disciplined battalion of warriors of both genders.

Donning a turban and uniform and accompanied by loyalists commanding their own forces, the Rani charged into combat in Gwalior to confront the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars. A fierce battle ensued. She was thrown from her horse, badly wounded by a hussar’s curved-blade sabre. As she lay on the ground in blood stained clothing, she drew a pistol, took aim and fired it at the soldier. He later reported to his Colonel: ‘I despatched the young lady with my carbine.’ She was twenty-nine.

‘The Indian Mutiny had produced but one man,’ General Rose said when fighting ceased, ‘and that man was a woman.’

The Company’s widespread corruption and tyrannical policies led to its downfall and abolition in 1858 when, by Act of Parliament, its powers were transferred to the Crown who assumed direct control of India until Independence in 1947.

And what had become of the young prince? Rescuers had fled into the jungle with him and it was several years before the British authorities stumbled across them. They treated the boy well, awarded him a lifetime allowance, provided him with seven retainers and placed him in the care of a kind-hearted guardian. He never returned to Jhansi.

Lakshmi — unconventional queen, wife and mother — left an indelible mark on history. She’s commemorated in statues throughout India and on postage stamps. Celebrated in films, TV series, novels, poetry and song, parks, thoroughfares and institutions are named after her.

An icon of emancipation, she blazed a trail for future generations of women.


About the Book

  • Paperback : 299 pages 
  • ISBN-10 : 0957040563 
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0957040564 
  • Product Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.91 x 21.59 cm 
  • Publisher : Ironberry Books (26 Sept. 2020) 


Jazz clubs, yacht clubs, aunty bars and a Bollywood beauty shadowed by her pet panther. This is glamorous Bombay in the late 1950s. 

Love has blossomed in London between vivacious Scottish Presbyterian, Audrey, and clever Indian lawyer, Nat Zachariah. 

When the happy newlyweds move to Nat’s exotic homeland and the striking family villa, Audrey must deftly navigate the rituals, secrets, intrigues and desires of his Bene Israel Jewish community, and adjust to perplexing new relatives. 

In time, the past unlocks, old family ties unravel, lies are exposed and passions run high as different generations fall out. Then something shocking happens that undoes everything. Will this marriage that has crossed boundaries survive? 


Serena spent her childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England, and worked in a London law firm. 

Some of her novels have a strong romantic arc although she burst the romance bubble with one quirky departure. Other novels pull the reader into the dark corners of family life and relationships. She enjoys the challenge of experimenting and writing in different genres. 

Her short stories and a medley of articles, including her reviews of thrillers and crime fiction, feature on her blog. 

Fast forward to a sabbatical from the day job when Serena traded in bricks and mortar for a houseboat that, for a hardened land lubber like her, turned out to be a big adventure. A few of her favourite things are collecting old masks, singing and exploring off the beaten track. 

Serena and her golden retriever, Inspector Morse, who can’t wait to unleash his own Facebook page, live in London. 

Twitter @Sefairfax

Monday, October 26, 2020

This week....

 I'm reading...

This week I tried to sneak in some for fun reads. I think that I should have done required reading as now I feel a bit behind, but oh well. Part of the reason was to read something that came from the library.  They have just advised that we can now order library books to be delivered, and I have received a notification that there are some waiting for me. That's good news right? Well, it would be if I had actually read any of the books that I already have out, so I decided to pick one of those.

I decided to read Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop. I have read a number of her books over the years. She writes historical fiction set in Greece and this book was no exception. This time the author tells the story of a family that is torn apart by the political instability in Greece from the last 1930s through until the 1980s. Like so much of Europe, Greece was invaded by the Nazis, but after that they also had a civil war between communists and government forces.  Within the family, two of the siblings are on one side and the other two on the other. The history is very interesting, but I felt curiously disconnected from the characters.

I also started read The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline for a blog tour later this week. The Exiles tells the story of four women in colonial Australia. Thereason why I accepted this book is because I was curious to see what an American author would do with Australian history.

Finally I also started reading Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linell over the weekend. I am not sure when I will finish it, but I will. 

I'm watching....

We actually watched a fair bit this weekend. 

I mentioned last week that I had watched the first episode of Emily in Paris. I did think it would take me weeks to watch because it would be something that I needed to watch by myself, but I put an episode on and next thing we knew we had both watched the whole series, and he really enjoyed it too.

We also started and finished watching Staged, which stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen...or should that be Michael Sheen and David Tennant. It is a show that has been completed filmed during lockdown and is them trying to start working on a play together. I had seen clips of them which made me laugh but I didn't realise it was a show. It was lots of fun, and has apparently has just been renewed for a second season.

We also watched Rebecca on Saturday night. Robert had never seen any version of the movie and so thestory was all new to him.. I don't think he was convinced that I had told him about the right movie at the beginning, but in the end it was creepy enough. I thought it was an okay version. Kristin Scott Thomas was really good as Mrs Danvers. The rest of the movie looked good without being great. It also counts as viewing towards RIPXV


We took advantage of the restrictions that have been removed a little by going to the beach today. It was cold and windy, but it was so nice to be able to go and do that after so long of being stuck at home.

We had a four day weekend this week. There was a public holiday on Friday to celebrate the fact that it was the football grand final yesterday. Remarkable right? And not even the silliest reaso to have public holiday. That comes in a couple of weeks time but I am not really complaining about having a day off.

We used the long weekend to bring in a skip and managed to fill it in a about 2 hours. My husband, aka Bob the Builder, removed an old air conditioner ready for the installation of a new split system in the coming weeks. We also have a plan in relation to the next steps in our renovations. We spent time talking about 3 or 4 different projects that are on the agenda. Guess we are on the home reno kick again!

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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Sunday Salon: Bestsellers around the World

Welcome back to another post in my series, Bestsellers Around the World, where I pick a country and have a look at the bestseller lists and compared it to the Australian list.

As I was trying to decide which country to have a look at this month, I did contemplate trying to lookat the bestseller list from Greece, but I couldn't get very far with it so instead I am looking at the bestseller list from America. First though, here is the current Austalian bestseller fiction list from

  1. All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton 
  2. The Survivors by Jane Harper 
  3. The Godmothers by Monica McInerney 
  4. Honeybee by Craig Silvey 
  5. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult 
  6. The Coast-to-Coast Murders by James Patterson 
  7. A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin 
  8. The Return by Nicholas Sparks 
  9. Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith 
  10. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan 
And here is the New YorkTimes combined print and ebook list

  1. A Time for Mercy by John Grisham
  2. The Return by Nicholas Sparks
  3. The Searcher by Tana French
  4. The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
  5. Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand
  6. The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult
  7. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab
  8. Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr
  9. Jingle All the Way by Debbie Macomber
  10. Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Let's have a look at the similarites. There are two big name authors that appear on both lists - fNicholas Sparks and Jodi Piccoult. I must confess I have never read a Nicholas Sparks book, although I have watched quite a few of the movies based on them. I did read Jodi Piccoult years ago, but I think I felt a bit betrayed by one of the books I read so haven't gone back again since. There was a really interesting story to read and then the ending, well, let's just say that wallbanger is a good description for that ending.

On the US list, I was curious to see genre authors like Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr on the list. I am really looking forward to reading Return to Virgin River, and clearly lots of other people were too. I do intend to read Elin Hildebrand at some point too. VE Schwab is an author who gets a lot of love but I haven't read her. I do think that this book might be the one that I do read.

Turning my attention to the Australian list, I mentioned last month that there were some big name Australian authors who were about to have books released, and this has born out on this month's list with new releases from Trent Dalton, Jane Harvey, Monica McInerney and Craig Silvey filling out the first four place on the list, and then another Australian author, Richard Flanagan, rounding out the list.

I was curious to see that there was no Where the Crawdads Sing on either list. It is at number 15 on the NY times list, having been on the list for 109  weeks. No other book in the top 20 comes close to that duration. I do expect that we will see it rise again as we get closer to the release the movie. There was news this week that Daisy Edgar-Jones from Normal People has been signed to play Kya, which I do think is a pretty good casting.

I am interested to see that the Debbie Macomber on the US list is a Christmas book. I don't really buy Christmas themed books. so I will be interested to see whether we end up seeing more Christmas books on the lists over next couple of months.

Is there anything on these lists that catches your attention?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Spicy Ginger and Apple Self Saucing Pudding

A few weeks ago I shared one of the recipes that we discovered this winter, and today I am going to share another. Last time was a dinner and this time a dessert.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that this has not been a normal winter - almost the winter that never was. I mean that there was no queuing in the rain waiting for a tram. No getting poked in the eye by umbrellas as you cross the road at peak hour. None of that!

What we did do this winter is eat! And one of the things that we ate several times were self saucing puddings. The first one that we tried was a chocolate and raspberry self saucing pudding. That recipe was so good, I could have imagined making that over and over again until.....we then tried making this version of a self saucing pudding. This recipe originally came from the Queen website although we do cheat a bit and used canned apples instead of fresh ones.

Now, this is the one that we make over and over again, and we now always have the ingredients for this one in the cupboard now! In fact, maybe I should make it again tonight.

Spicy Ginger and Apple Self Saucing Pudding

800g (approx. 4) granny smith apples
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
150g butter, melted
1 ¼ cups (190g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (55g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon or Queen Cinnamon Baking Paste
1 tsp ground ginger
60g crystallised ginger, finely sliced
½ cup (125ml) milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 cup (150g) lightly packed brown sugar
1 tsp corn flour
20g butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 3/4 cups (435ml) boiling water


Peel and core the apples, cutting each apple into 8 wedges. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, cook apples, caster sugar and 50 grams of the butter, turning occasionally, until caramelised (approximately 7-8 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 180C (fan forced). Grease a 2 litre ovenproof dish and spoon in apple mixture.

Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground ginger and crystallised ginger in a bowl. Add milk, egg, golden syrup and remaining butter (100g) and stir until smooth. Spoon batter over apples, spreading to cover.


In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar and corn flour. Add butter, Vanilla Bean Paste, salt and boiling water. Stir until butter has melted and mixture is combined. Gently pour over pudding batter, being sure to leave at least 2cm of room at the top of the baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes and serve warm with ice cream.

Saturday: Baked potatotes with whatever we could find for a topping

Monday: Spaghettie Bolognaise
Tuesday: Pork Nachos
Wednesday: Thyme Roasted Chicked, lentils and goats cheese salad
Thursday: Steak and Frites, Cafe de Paris butter, Asparagus
Friday: Pizza

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, October 23, 2020

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

When I was offered this book to read, I thought that I was reading outside my comfort zone. I mean, I don't read horror which is the genre that I pigeonholed this one into. I thought, though, that this would make a great book to read specifically for RIPXV which is why I said yes. I had also read some good reviews when it originally came out, and the cover caught my eye from when I first saw it.

But let's examine this idea of being adventurous a bit before I talk about the story.

Do I like a good mystery? Check.

Do I like a dual time line novel? Check.

Do I like buildings that hold their secrets close and then gradually reveal them? Check

So it would appear that I was not reading that adventurously after all. Having said that, this isn't my normal historical fiction dual time line story. There were, of course, things that were outside my norm. But let's talk about the book first.

When the book opens we meet a young woman named Viv Delaney who has ended up in a small town called Fell, New York almost by accident. She ends up at The Sun Down Motel and is offered the job working the night shift. Needing somewhere to sleep and a way to earn money, Viv says yes, setting in place a series of events which ultimately leads to her disappearance.

More than thirty years later her niece Carly turns up in Fell looking for answers. Her mother, Viv's younger sister, has recently died, never having had the answer to the question of what happened to Viv all those years before.

The book alternates between 1982 and 2017 when Carly's life begins to mirror that of her aunt. She gets a job working the night shift at the motel and uses her time during the day to try and solve the mystery of what happened to Viv. This in itself echoes Viv's own life.

Fell is a strange place. Despite being only a small town, it has had more than it's fair share of murders in recent years. Working the night shift, Viv is often the only person awake, except for the ghosts that haunt the hotel. There's a young boy and an unhappy woman and she can often smell cigarette smoke when there is no one else there. And one or all of these ghosts is not happy. Viv often finds locked doors flung open, and there are times when the neon sign at the front of the motel just stops working. The thing about these ghosts is that no one in town will talk about any of the bad things that happen in town. Viv therefore starts investigating who they might be, how they died and how they are linked to the motel. Along the way we meet Alma, the only woman cop in town who has to work the nightshift and Marnie, a local photographer who sometimes works on surveillance. 

Carly sees the same ghosts. While she is really looking for more information about what happened to her aunt, she is also drawn to try and find out who they are and how they died. As she starts to put the stories together, she also meet Alma and Marnie, but they deny knowing Viv very well, and even deny knowing each other.

I have to say that the way that the two stories echo each other definitely helped build the suspense. There were multiple occasions where I found myself holding my breath as I waited to see what would happen next and how the story would be bought to an end.

I mentioned at the beginning that the structure of this book ticks my boxes. It wasn't all familiar though. In my normal reads, the buildings that are hiding secrets are generally older. The Sun Down Motel was relatively new when Viv started working there, but ended up being stuck in time, barely changing between that time and when Carly started, to the point that they had never been able to get a computer to work in the office.

Another difference is that the ghosts are generally less hostile in my normal reads, but I do think that these ghosts had good reason for their hostility! 

It was also interesting to read the dual timeline where both threads were during my life time. Every now and again there were small glimpses of early 80s pop culture which was also fun.

I had never read Simone St James before but on the basis of this book, I will definitely be looking to read more from her. So while this step wasn't as far out of my normal reading patterns as I originally thought, it was worthwhile!

Rating 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy through Netgalley.

Goodreads Summary

Something hasn't been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Blog Tour: The House by the Lake by Ella Carey

A few weeks ago I read my first Ella Carey book, and today, I bring you my review of the second book in the Paris Time Capsule series as part of the blog tour celebrating the book's rerelease through Bookouture.

Anna Young runs a successful cafe in San Francisco. Her life is busy enough. When she isn't working she is spending time with her beloved grandfather, Max. She certainly doesn't have time for a relationship, despite his insistence that she should try. Part of the reason why she isn't all that fussed about the idea of marriage is having observed her grandparents cold and distant relationship over the years.

Whilst Anna is close to Max, she knows very little of his life before he came to America. He has always been a closed book when it comes to that time. It is therefore very surprising when he reveals to Anna that he left something behind in his childhood home, and that he wants her to go back to Germany to fetch it.

Finding out that she is descended from an aristocratic German family is the first of many surprises in store for Anna when she returns to the family schloss. Not all the surprises are good though. The people in the small town near the schloss have no interest in talking to her at all once she mentions Max to the point of being resentful. As for the family estate, that is locked tight, and no one is saying who the current owner is.

Anna join forces with a lawyer named Wil to and gain access to the schloss and retrieve the item, all the while not knowing why it is so important to her grandfather right now. And she can't ask him because he has fallen ill back in San Francisco.

Like Anna, the reader finds out more about Max's life as a member of a well to do family in the mid-1930s. When he is on vacation at Lake Geneva Max meets a young French woman, Isabelle, and the couple fall in love. Isabelle is the granddaughter of a former courtesan. Back in Paris, Isabelle is frowned upon by the upper echelon of society, but this doesn't matter to Max. 

Whilst he leads a seemingly carefree existence, things are changing in Germany. The Nazi party has come to power and Max's family is pressuring him to join the party in order to protect the family's interests. How does he choose between his family's wishes and the woman he loves. And what would make him walk away from everything he knows to choose a new life in America.

I have read at least three books this year that are set in WWII Germany and telling the story of German characters. While we have had all sorts of other perspectives over the years, it hasn't been as common to read from the perspective of ordinary Germans. As much as I love reading about Paris and France, it was also nice to read about Germany. I found myself googling pictures of schlosses, which of course then leads to dreams of holidays taking in lots of German countryside. One day!

I mentioned in my review for Paris Time Capsule that the structure for that book was all set in the present but looking back to the past. This book has the more common structure of telling both stories alternating between the past and present. As Anna follows the clues to unveil her family's past, maybe she can also unlock a different future for herself. 

When I first started reading this, I did find myself wondering how it was going to link in with the first book in the series, but it all became clear pretty quickly, and in the end, I really enjoyed how this book filled in the gaps in the story from Paris Time Capsule. And now, I am reallly looking forward to reading the third book in the trilogy, From a Paris Balcony.

Thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of this book

Book Description:

The cobbled streets were dark as Isabelle hurried through the shadows, dodging in and out of doorways, constantly looking back. She worried the sound of her loudly thumping heart would give her away, as she peered around a corner. Suddenly, Isabelle was surrounded by Nazi soldiers, their black boots pounding on the pavement, barring her way…

1939, Berlin. Max Albrecht is the young and handsome heir to a beautiful house on a lake where he spent his happy childhood. As war approaches, his parents tell him he must join the Nazi party or the whole family will be killed. But when his beloved French fiancé Isabelle shows him the horrifying truth, Max faces an impossible choice: protect his family or save the girl he loves?

2010, San Francisco. Anna Young is content with her life, running a bustling deli and taking care of her adored grandfather Max, who raised her. Max has never spoken of his past until he hands over an old map, the plans to a grand house just north of Berlin. With a shaking finger, he points to it and says, “I left something behind under the floorboards. Please bring it home before I die.”

When Anna arrives at the crumbling manor in Germany, she discovers a hidden engagement ring in a velvet box. She is desperate to find the woman her grandfather hoped to marry, but the local villagers look away when she mentions Max’s name, and back in San Francisco he is now in hospital, too unwell to speak to her. What did Max do so many years ago? Is Anna ready for the terrible secret that her family’s past may hold?

From bestselling author Ella Carey comes an unforgettable novel, weaving together past and present. Gripping and heartbreaking, The House by the Lake uncovers the secrets and devastating choices that people were forced to make during history’s darkest time.

Author Bio:

Ella Carey is the international bestselling author of The Things We Don’t Say, Secret Shores, From a Paris Balcony, The House by the Lake, and Paris Time Capsule. Her books have been published in over fourteen languages, in twelve countries, and have been shortlisted for ARRA awards. A Francophile who has long been fascinated by secret histories set in Europe’s entrancing past, Ella has degrees in music, nineteenth-century women’s fiction, and modern European history. She lives in Melbourne with her two children and two Italian greyhounds who are constantly mistaken for whippets.

Ella loves to connect with her readers regularly through her facebook page and on her website.

Buy Links:


Monday, October 19, 2020

This week...

I'm reading....

I got a bit distracted this week in my reading. I had a plan. I was part way through the book I was reading when someone (I'm looking at you Bree from All the Books I Can Read) says I have just finished listening to an audio book that I loved. I didn't want to listen, but I did still like the sound of the book which is why I started reading Beach Read on Thursday, and then finished it on Friday!

I did also finish the book that I was reading last week, and I absolutely loved it. It also inspired me to post a very flower heavy post last week. I will definitely be reading more from this author!

The book that I am therefore still reading is The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James, and I have to finish it within a couple of days as I think I am participating in a blog tour for it. I say think, because I signed up for it, but I haven't heard anything more about it.

I'm watching....

We spent Friday night watching My Octopus Teacher, which is a nature documentary on Netflix. It is about a man who lives on the coast of South Africa, and who goes diving in the same place every day. He starts observing an octopus, and gradually she begins to trust him. It was a lovely show to watch. Have you watched it?

We finished the second series of Schitts Creek on Saturday. I think my husband is a bit over light and fluffy because the next thing we started was something called Next, which has a very different feel to what we have been watching for the last couple of months. Next is about a computer program that goes rogue.

I did also watch the first episode of Emily in Paris which is a bit light and fluffy. I might watch that on a Monday night when my husband is out. Oh wait...that's when I am supposed to be studying.


We finished the puzzle that we had started last week. As I have mentioned before, my husband can't have an unfinished puzzle sitting on the table without putting a few pieces in every time he walks past it, so I pretty much help do the edges, and then he does most of the rest. He did very generously leave one section for me. Any guesses on which bit he let me do?

We have a public holiday this Friday and so we decided to take Thursday off as well, so long weekend here we come. It does sound like it is going to be a busy weekend around the house though as we are planning to get a skip bin in to clean up all the rubbish from when we did the bathroom reno and a few other things.

It's going to be a very interesting week at work because my new boss starts tomorrow. My best boss ever used to work with her and says that I will get along fine with her but it is still a little bit nervy. I have also been told that I have to be careful not to scare her off in the first couple of weeks. I am not sure what that means, other than that I have a long list of projects that we need to do over the next year or so.

The big news for us here in Melbourne is that some of the restrictions have been lifted. As of this week we can now go up to 25km from our home (it was previously 5kms),  meet up with others outdoors, and stores can start to reopen. Restaurants etc don't open until 1 November at this stage, but it might reopen a bit earlier depending on if the numbers stay low.

And the best news....I have a hairdresser's appointment already. I will no longer have to see what colour my hair really is in a couple of weeks.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Weekend Cooking: Round the World with Atlas Masterclass

A couple of months ago I shared our experience of Atlas Masterclasses. We have continued to do masterclasses everyy second week and the plan is to continue to do that for a while yet.

I am not going to go through the details of how the masterclass works because I already did that here.   I would say though that one of the things that I enjoy is that although the recipes are not necessarily normal, they are very accessible. Every week, we ask my son to cook at least one meal a week, even in the weeks that we are doing these boxes, and he seems to enjoy being the cook on these nights.

This week,  I am sharing the last three countries that we visited.


Satay Chicken Skewers with Rice and Pineapple Sambal

Beef Rendang, Roti and Cucumber Salad  - enjoyed this one a lot!

Mei Goreng, Tofu, Crispy Egg - not our favourite I am afraid


Grilled pork chops, black bean sauce and singapore noodles -This was our favourite from Singapore week

Hainanese chicken rice, chinese broccoli, ginger and spring onion sauce

Forgot to take a picture of Cauliflower, potato biryani, almond, mint, tomato


Chicken schnitzel, mustard mash, zucchini, asparagus and dill salad

Cheese kransky, warm cabbage and apple salad with pretzel and curry wurst sauce - I really enjoyed the warm cabbage and apple salad and the pretzel

Smoked pork hock, rosti and apple slaw

Next week we are doing France, and I can't wait!

This week

Saturday: Rib eye steak, baked potato and green salad
Sunday: Lasagne
Monday: Singapore noodles with chicken
Tuesday: Pork chops, mash potato, sweetcorn and green beans
Wednesday: Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice
Thursday: Chicken Schnitzel Burgers
Friday: Pizza (takeaway)

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, October 16, 2020

Blog tour : The Paris Affair by Susanne Dunlap

I am very pleased to welcome author Susanne Dunlap to my blog today with a guest post as part of the blog tour for her new book The Paris Affair, which is the third book in the Theresa Schurmann series.


Hooray! It’s a Series!

This may not seem so exciting to many people, but I grew up reading Nancy Drew, the all-time-most-popular middle-grade mystery series. I think ever since then I’ve wanted to write a series of my own. But the world had other plans for me for a while.

When I was being published by the big 5 publishers back when the publishing world was a different place (2005–2012), it seemed my editors only wanted stand-alone historical novels. Even though I’d written the sequel to The Musician’s Daughter as my option book for Bloomsbury Children’s, my editor asked for something different. That’s when I wrote Anastasia’s Secret.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m extremely grateful for the six contracts I had for my adult and young-adult historical novels. But I’d written that first YA mystery with the intention of continuing a series, and readers asked me about it all the time.

A year ago, in a much-changed publishing landscape, I decided it was time to relaunch Theresa properly into the world. I dusted off, revised, and edited the manuscript of The Mozart Conspiracy and self-published it. All I wanted was for her to have a chance at being out there for readers.

I’d forgotten how much fun it was to be in feisty Theresa’s head. I poured my young musician self into her and relived the experiences of practicing and performing—piano, not violin. And I didn’t want to let her go. I wanted to stay in that world, and I hoped readers would too.

That led me to the idea for the next mystery in the series, and The Paris Affair came into being. OK, so it didn’t just appear like magic: I spent months writing and editing and crafting this book.

The result: I can now claim to have a series! That makes me ridiculously happy. I have no intention of leaving Theresa now. I already have an idea for her next adventure. The only difficulty is that she’s really almost an adult now, so I may have to hope my audience is willing to follow her into that new phase of life. I’m gratified that The Paris Affair has already had some wonderful reviews. I’m looking forward to hearing more from readers—and getting stuck in to writing the next book in the series!



Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Paperback & eBook; 244 pages

Series: Theresa Schurmann Mystery, Book 3
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction

Apparently, false rumors about Marie Antoinette are all the fashion in 1783.

Marie Antoinette is facing hostility from the populace, inflamed by rumors circulated in pamphlets throughout Paris. The rumors claim that she has dozens of lovers, drinks the blood of poor people, holds satanic masses at Versailles, and more, when nothing could be further from the truth. On the advice of the handsome, enigmatic Captain von Bauer, Joseph II–emperor of Austria and Marie Antoinette’s brother–decides that mystery-solving violinist Theresa Schurman is the ideal candidate for a spy to discover the source of these vile slanders.

Theresa is only too glad to get away from Vienna for a while, unwilling to commit herself yet to marrying Zoltan–a Hungarian baron she met when she was fifteen–and running out of reasons to postpone her decision. She is eager, too, to explore a new musical scene and broaden her artistic education. But when the captain confounds her expectations and places her as a bookkeeper in the establishment of Rose Bertin, milliner to the queen, she begins to lose hope that she will ever achieve her musical aims–or the emperor’s goal of exposing the pamphleteers.

A chance encounter with the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an extraordinary black violinist and expert swordsman, sets Theresa on the path to unraveling the mystery. But will the chevalier’s patron, the powerful duc de Chartres, confound her efforts and put her–and the captain’s–lives in danger?

Be prepared for music, mystery, love, and murder in this riveting tale of pre-revolutionary Paris.

“The settings and situations are enchanting and varied; Dunlap is adept at on-the-fly description and at lacing intrigue with romance…Dunlap proves an arresting tour guide through this rich milieu, summoning up the past without slowing down the storytelling. Author and protagonist alike boast an epigrammatic wit. The touch is light, but the scenery and chatter are sumptuous…Theresa stands as a fascinating protagonist, a woman whose nimble navigation of society’s expectations and several burgeoning romances are exciting and inspiring, even more so than the sleuthing that drives the novel’s plot. The people she encounters are likewise memorable, complex, and surprising, especially the chevalier…This sparkling historical mystery conjures up the salons, fashion, and gossip of Marie Antoinette’s Paris, with a winning emphasis on the power of music and the roles that society allowed women.” – The BookLife Prize


About the Author

Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine works of historical fiction. A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, five step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and eleven grandchildren!

In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.

For more information, please visit Susanne Dunlap’s website. You can follow author Susanne Dunlap on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and BookBub.

Blog Tour Schedule

Wednesday, September 30
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
Review at Little But Fierce Book Diary

Thursday, October 1
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Friday, October 2
Feature at I’m Into Books
Review at Gwendalyn’s Books

Monday, October 5
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals

Tuesday, October 6
Review at YA, It’s Lit

Wednesday, October 7
Review at Books and Zebras

Thursday, October 8
Excerpt at Turn The Page

Friday, October 9

Review & Excerpt at Bookworlder

Sunday, October 11
Review at Bitch Bookshelf

Monday, October 12
Review at Nursebookie

Tuesday, October 13
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews

Wednesday, October 14
Review at Book Bustle

Thursday, October 15
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Friday, October 16

Review at Passages to the Past
Guest post at The Intrepid Reader

Saturday, October 17

Review at Reading is My Remedy


During the Blog Tour, one lucky reader will win signed copies of all 3 books in the Theresa Schurmann Mystery series! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Paris Affair

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