Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Meant to Get to in 2020....but I didn't!


Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's theme is Books I Meant to Get to in 2020....but I didn't. The reality is that this post could be a top 50 or 100 books and it might not still be enough!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo - After reading With the Fire on High early in 2020, I was super excited to read this book, even pre-ordering it, but I still haven't actually reading it.

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel - I have listened to the first two books in this trilogy and I do intend to do this one on audio too, but with substantially reduced listening time a 38 hour long book feels like too much of a commitment right now.

The Survivors by Jane Harper - I have really enjoyed Jane Harper's other books, and I really need to go to see the new movie which has been made of her first book, The Dry!

Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr- Oh the surprise when it was announced that there was going to be a new book in the Virgin River series after many years, no doubt on the back of the success of the first series of the adaptation on Netflix. And yet, haven't even looked at the first page yet.

The Lost Girls of Devon by Barbara O'Neal - I have been a fan of Barbara O'Neal for a long time now, and yet I still haven't read this one yet!

Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman and Ariana Franklin - When Ariana Franklin (who also wrote under the name Diana Norman) died more than ten years ago, I was upset to think that we wouldn't get any more of the Adelia Aguilar story. This book brings the series to it's conclusion.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams - This book came out just near the beginning of the pandemic and I heard the author talk about this in one of the first online author events I attended, which is what made me buy the book

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten - I enjoy reading a good book about Russian history, or at least I will when I get to it!

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain - This is one author I am convinced that I will really enjoy....when I actually read her!

The Paris Hours by Alex George - Recently I was scrolling through my blog and I came across a quote I have shared from a previous book by this author. It reminded me again that I want to read this book.

So there's just ten of the books that I meant to read last year, but didn't quite get to!

Monday, January 18, 2021

This week....

I'm reading....

Last week I mentioned that I was reading the first book in the Granite Springs series by Maggie Christensen. I finished that book and moved straight onto the second book, The Life She Chooses. There's every chance I will read the third book straight after this too!

I have been going into the office once or twice a week. Whilst I could catch the train, I don't think I am ready for that just yet, so I have been driving in. And the unintended bonus of that is that I have been making some progress on my current audiobook, The Sun Sister by Lucina Riley. I am glad to be listening to this as the next, and final, book in this series. Hopefully it will be out this year.

I'm watching...

I know that I am late to the party, but we started watching The Queen's Gambit last Friday night. We watched 5 episodes in a row. I think we will end up watching the rest of it this week.


We also watched the opening episode of A Discovery of Witches last week. It feels like we have been waiting a while for the second series, so I am glad it is back. 

We also have a soft spot for any series of Coast, so we are excited to be waching the new series of Coast Australia.


Over the weekend we went to a new to us place, and visited the Australia Garden which is part of our Royal Botanic Gardens. The weather wasn't great, but we enjoyed our visit and definitely will go back. It has already provided some inspiration as to what we might do in our front garden when we get around to landscaping it!

We really need to go back down there and spend several hours. There's so much that we didn't get to see other than from the tour bus that we took.

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: Anatomy of a Road Trip
Sunday Salon: 2020 in review

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

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Salon: 2020 in review

Well......what a year 2020 was hey?

I thought I should put my review post for last year together today, otherwise it is going to be June and I won't have done it yet.

Reading wise, last year was a pleasant surprise for me. I set my Goodreads goal at 50 books, thinking that was going to be quite optimistic, but by the end of the year I had revised that up to 75 books, and I exceeded that goal as well. 10 years ago I would have been horrified at reading 75 books in a year but now I think that goal feels about right. My best reading year since I started recording my reads was 243, but the worst during my prolonged reading slump was only 13 so 75 seems like a happy medium.

First off, I never got around to doing my monthly posts for November and December so I'll do that first. Things got very hectic at work at the end of the year and I only finished 3 books from mid November and one of those was an audio that it took me a couple of months to get through, so it's not even as though I read the full book in that month.

My November reads were:

From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey (3.5/5) - The third and final book in the Paris Balcony trilogy by Australian author Ella Carey. Read my review here.

The Lost Village by Danielle Sacerdoti (4.5/5) - I really enjoyed this novel set in a small Italian village. See my review here.

Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell (3.5/5) - This is the debut novel by Australian author Maya Linnell. I learnt of this author via her posts on Instagram. I need to read the follow up novel soon.

The Flip Side by James Bailey (4/5) - This was a fun premise. A man is turned down when he proposes to his long term girlfriend, and vows to make all of his life decisions based on the flip of a coin.

And in December

Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan  (4/5) - I have really enjoyed all of the books set on Mure and thsi was no exception. Unfortunately it took me a good couple of months to listen to this book because it was just too hard to listen to while I have been so busy at work!

Clean Slate by Zoe Foster Blake (2/5) - I thought I would try this book, which I guess is more of a novella, because it was a short listen. I enjoyed the narrator, Australian actor Stephen Curry, but oh, my goodness, the characters were awful. 

So let's have a look at the stats for 2020 shall we.

I gave four books the maximum rating possible of 5/5. They were 

 The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke  (review)

The Goldminer's Sister by Alison Stuart (review)

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman (review)

The Tolstoy Estate by Steven Conte (review)

The pleasing thing is that 3 out of these 4 books are by Australian authors. 

One of the ways that things did change for me a lot last year was that I read a lot more e-books than usual. I have had an e-book reader of some description for many years now, but I never really considered it my main format for reading. I was always more a paper reader, with a few e-books thrown in, but not anymore. Now, it seems, I have to make a concerted effort to pick up a paper book.

My ratio of male to female authors was at it's normal lopsided state with 8 books read by male authors. To be honest, when I was looking at my spreadsheet I had to look twice to check if that was right because it seemed kind of high! One of those was my sole non-fiction book for the year which was John Baxter's book, Saint-Germain-des-Pres: Paris's Rebel Quarter, which I read in anticipation of our trip to Paris which never actually happened!

Genre wise,  I stayed very much in my swim lane, with the vast majority of the books I read being either historical fiction, women's fiction or romance, with just occasional forays into other genres. I did have to do a double take when I was looking at my spreadsheet and saw a horror book there, but then realised it was Sun Down Motel by Simone St James, which I actually enjoyed a lot.

Of the 77 books I read, 40 were from new to me authors, which I have to say is surprising!

38 of the books I read were by Australian authors which I am pleased with. Of course, I should diversify as I know that there are a ton of great international authors, both female and male, that I am missing out on but I am also more than happy to support the local industry and authors as much as I possibly can.

Not surprisingly, most of my books were new releases, but there are a few older ones!

I have never been much of a re-reader. This year my re-reads were the first two books in the Poison Study series, Poison Study and Magic Study. I thoroughly enjoyed going back to the world of Ixia and I do intend to read more. I also read the third book, and have had the fourth book sitting on my shelf for at least 10 years so it might be time

This year, I have set my goal for 75 again. I am going to try and stay off Netgalley. I say that despite the fact that this morning I saw a post from Viola Shipman talking about his next book and someone commented that it is available on Netgalley and I was like okay, I need to log on NOW, so let's see how that goes shall we?

In blogging news, I was back with a vengeance this year after not blogging at all in 2019! And I am here to stay! I have to be now that I am hosting Weekend Cooking each week, and also hosting the Historical Fiction Reading challenge! I do have a couple of other ideas brewing, one of which is to do with music so hopefully that will come to fruition shortly.

And what have I learnt today? I need to do a crash course in doing graphs in the latest versions of Excel because I just could not work that out when I was doing this post! That will be my challenge for the coming week!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Anatomy of a road trip

Last week we were lucky enough to be able to take a week off from work and do a roadtrip in our home state of Victoria. Our original plan was to head up to Canberra and then drive back around the New South Wales south coast but unfortunately with a cluster of COVID cases in Sydney, the borders were closed which means that we had to make a plan B pretty quickly. And plan B was to stay within the state border, and it just so happened that our route meant that we were following the Great Alpine Road which was something we discovered after we booked all the last minute accomodation.

Our original plan allowed for a day to visit silo art, and I have to say it was worth the drive, but first we visited a town called Glenrowan which is famous for being the place where infamous  Australian bushranger Ned Kelly was arrested following a deadly siege back in 1880. The main reason for stopping in this town was to have scones with jam and cream. Last time I went to Canberra we stopped here and I remembered that the scones were good and the serving of cream was very generous. Given my lovely husband's penchant for cream, I thought he would enjoy it. Whilst the scones were still very good, the serving of cream was not quite as generous as I remembered, but it was sufficient. Oh, and there's a giant statue of Ned in town too! It wasn't the last time that Ned got a mention during our trip!

We then visited a town called Benalla which has an annual art festival where murals are painted on the walls. I definitely think that we will revisit the town after the next festival to spend some time exploring.  Jackie, I think this would be your kind of place

I have posted before about silo art, and once again the ones that we visited on this trip were really good, and you can see my favourites  by clicking on the link. This video is of a water tank that has been painted. This one is way off the beaten track, along dirt roads, driving through an area that used to be under water when it was a lake. Again this is part of an art trail which we really enjoyed.


On the former lake edge, we stopped at the only cafe in the area, just as the kitchen was about to shut, so the only thing we could have was some hot chips (think chunky fries), but my goodness these chips were so good. It wasn't the first really good chip that we had on the trip either. These were the ones that we had up a Mount Hotham, at the very top of the Australian Alps. We began to wonder if maybe the altitude made the chips better but that didn't work as the reason for this first bowl given that we were at the bottom of a former lake

The various great chips did prompt a conversation about what makes a really good chip - it has to be crispy on the outside, but still a bit fluffy on the inside, and definitely better if they are a bit salty, or with gravy as we had on these ones at Mount Hotham.

One of the other conversations we had was about what a really good tourist town needs. On our journey we visited several big tourist  towns - Beechworth (where we visited the jail and heard all about Ned Kelly), Bright and Lakes Entrance - and one of the big discussions we had whilst driving was what is it that a good tourist town needs. There are many things of course, but from a food perspective we agreed that you would need at least one good pub, but there also needs to be a good bakery, and a lolly (candy) shop.

Normally, we have our test of a good bakery is how good their vanilla slice was, but at one of the bakeries we visited their specialty was a beesting. This is something that I have made myself before, so it was nice to compare. I would make it again, but now that we know that we can get it from this bakery chain, and that there is one up the road about an hour or so away, we might find ourselves doing a day trip out that way.

Weekly meals

Saturday- Steak, baked potato, blue cheese sauce and broccoli

Sunday - Chicken Schnitzel with meditteranean vegies

Monday - Beef Stir Fry

Tuesday - Dinner with our family

Wednesday - Green Chicken Curry Pie

Thursday - Chicken sausages, cauliflower mash, gravy and broccoli

Friday - Pork hamburgers and chips

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.

Monday, January 11, 2021

This Week ...


I'm reading...

I finished my last book while we were travelling and so then I had the luxury of deciding what I wanted to read and wasn't constricted by hat I needed to read but rather I had the freedom to choose what to read. My only restriction was that it needed to be a book that was already downloaded as our internet access was a bit limited.


So what did I choose? I chose to start reading The Life She Deserves by Maggie Christensen, the first book in the Granite Springs series. The reason I chose this book was because I have heard that the books are good, and I liked the idea of reading a rural romance which features older characters. As someone who met their spouse in my mid forties, I love the idea of reading about more mature characters. So far, the main characters adult kids are annoying me but we will see how it goes as I read more. Given that the seventh book in the series is just about to come out, I have plenty of reading in front of me.

I'm watching....

Because we were away last week, we didn't watch too much, other than quiz shows. We watched plenty of those!


Our road trip was full of ups and downs! We ended up driving the Great Alpine Road and spent a couple of days at Falls Creek and then another couple of days at Mount Hotham. In winter both of these are snow covered playgrounds for skiers and boarders. In summer, the trails are ideal for mountain biking and walking. While we didnt do any biking, we did walk a bit. It has confirmed how unfit we are, so that's something that we should probably do something about.

After hitting the heights in the mountains, we then ended up in Lakes Entrance which is a beautiful place.

From mountains as far as the eye can see to water as far as the eye can see!

Posts from the last week

Weekend Cooking: Roadtrippin'

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

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Weekend Cooking: Roadtrippin....

 We are currently lucky enough to be roadtripping around Victoria.

I'll be back next week when I have more consistent internet access.

In the mean time, please still share your links and I will be around to visit within the next couple of days.

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.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Blog Tour: An American in Paris by Siobhan Curham

There's an old adage that is something along the lines of if you want to know the truth ask a drunk. For Sage Segal, a night out is enough to ruin a highly successful social media influencing career. If you want to keep your career then you probably should not reveal to the world that everything is fake, and that all the positive life messages you post don't reflect how you actually feel. Let's call it a career limiting move. In addition, it makes you a target for online trolls.

What Sage doesn't expect amongst all the vitriol is an email from an American man called Sam who claims to have the matching half of the locket that she was given by her late mother. She was left on a church doorstep in Paris at her birth, with only the locket and a scrap of paper saying her name. Given the toxicity at home, Sage takes the opportunity to go and visit Sam in Arkansas.

There Sage begins to learn the story of her grandmother, Dorothy. Originally from Arkansas, Dorothy went to New York and became a dancer. From there her friend Bessie invited her to come to Paris to dance, setting in motion a chain of events that she could never have dreamed of as a young girl on the farm.

On her first day in Paris, Dorothy meets an artist named Otto and they have an instant connection. Unfortunately, Otto is returning to Austria the next day so they only have that one day but they promise to meet again at the same time on the same day next year. But Europe in the late 1930's is not a safe place if you are Jewish, as Otto is.

When they are finally reunited, it as the Germans are invading Paris. As an American in Paris, Dorothy has more freedom than others and so she is asked to write a column that will give information about what is really happening in German occupied Paris, especially as there are Germans who frequent the club where she dances. At the same time, it is challenging to keep Otto out of the hands of the Germans.

I don't know about you but I find the role of influencers in modern social media kind of odd, and so I found it a bit difficult to relate to Sage. I did like that by the end there was clearly personal growth and a realisation about the way to be happy is to be true to yourself, but it took a while for me to relate to her. 

When I read dual timeline books it is normal for me to be more interrested in the historical story, and that was definitely the case here. I found Dorothy's story to be fascinating, although I did wonder if one person could take on all the different roles in the resistance that were portrayed here. Certainly made for a cracking, dramatic story though. I was glad that the author didn't make all of the most obvious story choices in telling Dorothy and Otto's story.

About the book

Paris, 1940: Walking through Montmartre that morning was like the eerie calm right before a storm. The roads were deserted. We carried on, arm in arm, and then finally, we saw them. Columns and columns of soldiers, spreading through the streets like a toxic grey vapour. ‘You must write about this,’ he whispered to me. ‘You must write about the day freedom left Paris.’

As Nazi troops occupy the City of Lights, American journalist Florence is determined to do everything she can to save her adopted home and the man she loves.

Florence had arrived in Paris in 1937 and on a beautiful summer’s day, met and fell in love with Otto, a Jewish artist from Austria, who had fled persecution in his homeland. But as swastikas are draped along the city’s wide boulevards, everything Otto was running from seems to have caught up with him.

Both Florence and Otto begin lending their talents to the Resistance, working to sabotage the Germans right under their noses. Florence’s society columns that, before the war were filled with tales of glamorous Parisian parties, now document life under occupation and hide coded messages for those fighting outside France for freedom. While Otto risks arrest in order to pin up the anti-Nazi posters he designs by candlelight in their tiny apartment.

But with every passing day, things become more dangerous for Otto to remain in Paris. If Florence risks everything by accepting a secret mission, can she ensure his survival so that they can be reunited once the war is over?

A sweeping wartime story that will capture your heart and never let it go. Fans of The Alice Network, The Lost Girls of Paris and My Name is Eva will be absolutely gripped from the very first page.

About the author

Siobhan Curham is an award-winning author, ghost writer, editor and writing coach. She has also written for many newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Guardian, Breathe magazine, Cosmopolitan, Writers’ Forum, DatingAdvice.com, and Spirit & Destiny. Siobhan has been a guest on various radio and TV shows, including Woman’s Hour, BBC News, GMTV and BBC Breakfast. And she has spoken at businesses, schools, universities and literary festivals around the world, including the BBC, Hay Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Bath Festival, Ilkley Festival, London Book Fair and Sharjah Reading Festival.




Buy Links:

Amazon: https://bit.ly/3mlNzgj
Apple: http://apple.co/2ETJ0tT
Kobo: http://bit.ly/3nm25q2
Google: http://bit.ly/2Ss6CZI


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