Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books that were reviewed three times for the 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week there is no set theme so I am going to focus on books that were reviewed three  times for the 2022 Historical Fiction reading challenge. 

On Sunday I shared the statistics for the 2022 challenge and highlighted five books that were the most reviewed during the year. You can see that post here.

There were, however, 16 books that were reviewed three times each and these are the books that I am going to focus on today. The question was how to get from 16 to 10. I didn't quite manage it, but here are 10 11 books that were reviewed three times for the 2022 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which also begin with the word "The".

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews - This is the second book in the Belles of London series. The first book, The Sirens of Sussex was also reviewed 4 times.

The Brightest Star by Emma Harcourt - If you are looking for a change from WWII fiction, this book is set in Renaissance Italy.

The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont - I wonder if we will ever know what happened to Agatha Christie when she disappeared for 11 days back in 1926.

The Dance Tree by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - This book is set in 1518 and talks about the strange phenomenon of dancing women.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn - It's not really a surprise to see Kate Quinn at the top of the list of books reviewed.

The Fugitive Colours by Nancy Bilyeau - This is the second book in Genevieve Planche series, set in 1700s London. 

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan - I am reading this one at the moment.

 The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews - Set in 1600's England during the Civil War

The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements - This is the 6th book in the Tom Wilde series of historical thrillers set in WWII

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell - Maggie O'Farrell turns her attention to medieval Italy 

The Night Ship by Jess Kidd - This is the bonus book for this list. In theory, I am reading this at the moment.

It's not too late to sign up for this year's challenge. All the details can be found here. Whether you already love historical fiction or if you want to begin to explore the genre, you are most welcome to join us!

Monday, January 30, 2023

This week....

It's been a few weeks, or more likely a couple of months,  since I participated wrote a Monday post as I have been gallivanting around the world! Time to get back into routine!

I'm reading....

Last week I finished reading the fifth book in the Bellbird Bay series by Maggie Christensen, Finding Refuge in Bellbird Bay. My review for this book will be up soon. Note to self: check what date that actually is!

I also started reading The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan, which is the next selection for . I intended to read the last selection, and I will most likely still read it, but I was always being ambitious in thinking I would have time to cook for it after I spent more than 5 weeks away. 

I'm watching....

Last year I went and saw a movie at the British Film Festival. I saw the trailer for What's Love Got To Do With It and I knew that I wanted to see it. In the end, I couldn't see it at the film festival, but it has just been released in normal cinemas. My husband and our sons went to see the new Avatar and I chose to see this movie. I liked it, but it did leave me feeling a bit melancholy which was a bit odd.


We've been back from holidays for a week now, so we are well and truly back to work now. 

We also had our Christmas lunch with our kids today, and I made something for the first time in over two months. Thank goodness! Otherwise I wouldn't have had anything for my Weekend Cooking post this weekend!!

Posts from the last week

Top Ten Tuesday: New to me Authors in 2022
Weekend Cooking: Julia

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Sunday Salon: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge - 2022 stats



This year, as part of the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, I have been providing some stats after each month. Today I am sharing a few stats about December, and then I will do the overall stats for the whole year!

During December there were 49 reviews shared by 16 participants. There were lots of people who shared multiple reviews, including 3 people who shared 5 or more reviews. Thank you to everyone who has shared! As I have been away for most of January, I won't necessarily get around to everyone's posts for December, but I will be back to commenting in January!

In terms of the books, there were 47 individual titles reviewed, written by 43 different authors, although three books were co-authored and I am never quite sure whether to count those more than once! 

There were two books that were reviewed multiple times. The first book was The Darllings of the Asylum by Noel O'Reilly which was reviewed at both She Reads Novels and What Cathy Read Next.

The other book that was reviewed twice this month was The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen which was reviewed at Laura's Reviews and A Darn Good Read.

In additon, there were four other authors who were reviewed multiple times. They were Elizabeth Peters, Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, Michael P Spradlin and Verity Bright. This is the second month in a row that Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch has been reviewed multiple times!

Now that I have shared the December stats, lets move onto the statistics for the whole year! Are you ready?

During 2022 there were a total 841 reviews added to the challenge. This compares to 775 reviews during 2021. The 841 reviews were for 735 individual titles written by 594 authors and submitted by 48 different reviewers.

Let's start with the month by month numbers:

November was the month with the highest number of reviews submitted.

In terms of the books, there was one book that was reviewed more than any other during 2022, with 6 reviews submitted. That book was .....

There were 3 books that were each reviewed 5 times. They were:

The final book I will mention today is a book that was reviewed 4 times.

In terms of the authors, the one with the most reviews linked up to the challenge were Agatha Christie with 13 reviews, followed by Mimi Matthews with 11 reviews, Verity Bright with 8 and both Gill Hornby and Natalie Jenner with 7 reviews

I wanted to give a shout out to everyone who reviewed for the challenge in 2022 whether you reviewed more than 70 books (which is more books than I read for the year) or just one. Also thanks to everyone who took time to go around on comment on other participants posts and to those who ssharred their link up posts.

It's not too late to sign up for this year's challenge. All the details can be found here. Whether you already love historical fiction or if you want to begin to explore the genre, you are most welcome to join us!

I am linking this post up at Sunday Salon, hosted at Readerbuzz

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Weekend Cooking: Julia

It has been a while since I had to do a long haul flight so I had forgotten how tedious they can be. Sitting in one place, limited space, trying and failing to sleep, airplane food. But there is one bonus in that you can watch movies and TV shows that you have been meaning to watch for a while. As long as the entertainment system is working that is (yes, I’m looking at you Qantas!)


On the way back from Europe, we had two 8 hour flights to get to Singapore, and I decided to watch the TV series Julia, which came out last year. I have had it saved on my TV to watch at some point for months, but just hadn’t gotten to it yet. I watched the first 5 episodes on the first flight and then the final 3 on the second flight. Originally I was planning on sleeping on the second flight but I am rubbish at sleeping on planes at the best of times. I was glad I didn't save it for the flight from Singapore to Melbourne as we didn't have an entertainment system at all on that flight. I really missed the maps that show you where you are!!


Julia, which stars British actress Sarah Lancashire as Julia Child, tells the story of how her iconic TV show came to be on air. I was aware of Lancashire as an actress way back to her early years in Coronation Street and more recently in the movie Yesterday. She excels in this role! 


When we meet Julia, she has already had success with her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She has been living in Europe with her diplomat husband Paul, played by David Hyde Pierce (who will always be Niles from Frasier to me) where she has been introduced to French food, going on to study at Cordon Bleu cooking school.

She appeared on a book review show called I've Been Reading, where she surprised everyone by cooking a French omelet. This sparked the idea of a cooking show. At first, the station wasn't keen because they didn't see a cooking show as a valuable addition to public television but Julia was passionate about her vision and fought hard. And eating her food no doubt helped convinced the powers that be and the crew.


Gradually, the show begins to garner viewers, and the rest is, as they say is history. Julia Child became an American TV cooking trailblazer, beloved by many, and in many ways she pioneered many of the features that we still see in cooking shows today. She is ably supported by her husband and her best friend Avis, played by Bebe Nieuwerth (Lilith from Frasier). There are also several other big names in the cast including Isabella Rosselini and Judith Light.

This is a very enjoyable series. There is drama, humour, friendship, love and of course food! I found myself laughing out loud several times, and watching this series definitely helped the flights pass by quicker.

I don't know why, but I haven't really spent any time looking at Julia Child's recipes or TV shows until this week, and I also haven't watched any of the shows about her. Maybe she wasn't shown here?  I know there is the Julie & Julia movie but there are others. For example, did you know that there is a reality TV show called The Julia Child Challenge where 8 home cooks compete to win a prize to Paris by cooking various recipes in a replica of Julia's kitchen. And, of course, there are plenty of videos on Youtube where you can watch Julia herself cook, whether it be on her own shows or even on shows like The Late Show with David Letterman.



One of the interesting things for me was to see what was true and what was made up for the story. One of the major characters in the story is Alison, a young African American producer who plays a pivital role in both bringing the show to the attention of the station owners and then in getting the show onto other channels across the country. However, this is one of the made up characters. There are some other key scenes that are also fictionalised and there are some plot points that I have no idea if they are true or not. I guess that means that they fit into the story well. What I do know is that there is at least one recipe that I am keen to try at some point, maybe more! We'll see.

Apparently a second series has been authorised so I will be keen to watch it, and I will probably even watch it when it comes out!

Have you watched this series yet? Did you enjoy it?

Weekly meals

Saturday - Plane food
Sunday -  Roast pork with mash and vegies
Monday - Chicken and vegie stir fry
Tuesday - Chicken skewers, baked potato and salad
Wednesday - Hamburger
Thursday - Nasi Goreng
Friday - 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

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Blog Tour: The Flame Tree by Siobhan Daiko (includes international giveaway)

Many, many years ago (because I am older than I look) I read a book called Tanamera by Noel Barber which was all about Singapore from just before the start of WWII to the 1950s encompassing the Japanese invasion in WWII and then through the Malayan war. It is this book I credit with my interest in WWII stories set in the Asian theatre of war. 

Despite the proliferation of WWII books being published now, there are still relatively few stories that are set in Asia, and so, when I was offered this book, which is set in Hong Kong, I jumped at the opportunity.

William Burton and Constance Han meet on board a ship heading to Hong Kong, He is just beginning his career working in the Colonial Service. She is returning home after studying in Britain. Will is excited about his new life in the exotic city, knowing that he has to work hard to learn the language quickly.

Connie is pleased to be going home, although she does know that, as the daughter of a very wealthy and influential Eurasian businessman, her life is all planned out. She will marry a suitable Chinese man, and begin having children, just like her sisters. 

William and Connie are immediately attracted to each other, but Connie knows it will be foolhardy to begin a romance with a man who will definitely be unacceptable to her family who have strong Chinese traditions. They agree to be friends and she will help him learn the language. But when the attraction is strong, it's easy to forget that there's no future as they dance the night away on board and spend time together.

Once they arrive in Hong Kong, they go their separate ways, but they agree to meet regularly beneath the flame trees so that they can continue their lessons, but it has to be a secret.

However, war is imminent and everyone is worried about a possible Japanese invasion, and the very traditions that Connie knows will dictate her future are also under threat. She manages to convince her father that it is a good idea for her to have a job and ends up working for a Chinese general who has some very interesting connections. In the meantime Will goes into training as part of a secret military group whose job it is to stop the Japanese invasion by any means necessary..

As the Japanese invasion comes, both Connie and Will find themselves in danger and doing things that would otherwise never have been something they would have contemplated. Can they both survive and find each other?

I really enjoyed this book, in particular the details in relation to the Japanese invasion and the aftermath. The island was woefully under defended for the invasion, unprepared to face the might and experience of the Japanese army. The details of the work that both Will and Connie undertook at that time were really interesting, and all the more so as it was based on a true story.

I hadn't even finished reading this book before I bought the previous book by this author, The Orchid Tree, which is also set in Hong Kong. Then maybe I will look at her books set in Italy!

Rating 4/5

About the book:

The Flame Tree

Based on a little-known true story, from award-winning author Siobhan Daiko comes a tale of love and survival against all the odds set in Hong Kong at the start of the Pacific War.

In the spring of 1939, dashing young William Burton and the beautiful Constance Han set sail from London on the same ocean liner to Hong Kong.

Romance blossoms while they enjoy games of deck quoits and spend sultry tropical evenings dancing under the stars. Connie is intrigued by Will’s talent for writing poetry, and she offers to give him Cantonese lessons to help him with his new job— a cadet in the colonial service.

But once in Hong Kong, Connie is constrained by filial duty towards her Eurasian parents, and their wish for her to marry someone from her own background. She can't forget Will however and arranges to meet him in secret under the magnificent canopy of a flame of the forest tree—where she fulfils her promise to teach him to speak Chinese.

Before too long, trouble looms as Japanese forces gather on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. Will joins a commando group tasked with operating behind enemy lines, and Connie becomes involved in the fight against local fifth columnists.

When war breaks out, they find themselves drawn into a wider conflict than their battle against prejudice. Can they survive and achieve a future together? Or do forces beyond their control keep them forever apart?

Perfect for readers of Dinah Jefferies, Ann Bennett and Victoria Hislop.

Purchase Link - https://mybook.to/TFTHK

About the Author  –

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. Siobhan was born of English parents in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in Australia, and then moved to the UK—where she taught modern foreign languages in a Welsh comprehensive school. She now spends her time writing page-turners and enjoying her life near Venice. Her novels are compelling, poignant, and deeply moving, with strong characters and evocative settings, but always with romance at their heart.

Social Media Links –

Website: https://siobhandaiko.org

Twitter: https://twitter.com/siobhandaiko

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AsolandoBooks


LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-daiko-74993651/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/siobhandaiko_asolandobooks/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.it/SiobhanDaiko/_saved/

Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/siobhan-daiko

Amazon Author Page: author.to/SiobhanDaiko

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7091256.Siobhan_Daiko

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@siobhandaiko_asolo


Giveaway to Win a signed copy of The Flame Tree (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: New to me authors in 2022



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the theme is New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022

I have no idea how this happened but in 2022 more than half of the books I read were by new to me authors! There were 34 of them! Crazy!

Below are just ten of them, chosen for various reasons:

Toshikazu Kawaguchi - I listened to two of his audiobooks in 2022, and I have another one to listen to (review)

Sarah Winman- Not only did I read the book, i also attended a session at Mebourne Writer's Festival which she was appearing at. 

Elif Shafak - I have to mention this one because The Island of Missing Trees was one of only two 5/5 reads for the year. I really need to read one of her other books soon!

Stanley Tucci - Early last year I got a little obsessed with him really. I listened to the audiobook (highly recommend) (review), borrowed the book from the library, watched his TV series, Taste of Italy, twice (review) and watched his movie Big Night (review)

Vanessa McCausland - This is the other 5/5 read from last year.

Jo Thomas - I read two of her books last year, and I will definitely be reading more this year.

Angela Petch - Her book inspired us to go to Puglia on our recent trip.

TJ Klune - Finally! I feel like I should have read this book before now.

Maggie O'Farrell  - about time right?

I have already read a couple of new authors this year!

Have you read any of these authors?

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Weekend Cooking: Street Food Tour of Naples

If you've read my last two Weekend Cooking posts, you could have been misled into thinking that we have been dining five star all the way. While we have had several of those experiences, we haven't eaten like that the whole time.

Today, I am going to talk about a walking tour we did in Naples at the other end of the spectrum - street food! I am pretty sure if I was to ask you to name one food that Naples is famous for, it wouldn't take long to come up with one, but before we get to pizza lets start before the beginning of the tour.

One of the things I didn't know much about before we arrived in Naples was what their typical breakfast is. Behold, the cornetto! Whilst it looks similar to a croissant it is made using different ingredients and techniques. The cornetto can also be filled with different flavours. We had a few of these during our time in our time in Southern Italy. Some, like this one, are filled with pastry cream, but I also had some filled with other flavours such as pistachio cream. We ate this sitting in a piazza just watching the world go by!

We met up with our guide, Mario, at some Greek ruins near the centre of the old town. As an Australian, I am fascinated with the fact that we think that something that happened 200 years ago is history, but a city like Naples can trace it's history back more than 2000 years. There was a small group of us. One couple was Italian (which came in very handy when we were approached by beggars, vagrants and scammers). The other couple was a man from Poland and a woman from Kyrgyzstan (I had never met anyone from there before) and the other lady was from Scotland.

Our first stop was for a selection of morsels including bread with an Italian broccoli. I believe it is called rabe and that you might be able to get it in the US but we can't. We  also had bread with sun dried tomatoes and olive, savoury cookies called tarallo which were tasty but dry. We learnt that normally you would have this with a beer which made so much more sense. And, finally, fresh buffalo mozzarella. Mario was keen to stress two things about buffalo mozzarella. Firstly, it should never be put in the fridge and secondly, it should always be eaten within two days of being made. You can get away with cooking with it on the third day, but never eaten like below. The mozzarella was so good!

Naples is world famous for it's pizza, especially when it comes to Margarita Pizza, created in honourr of Queen Margarita who was queen when the republic of Italy was created out of the prevously separate collection of city states. There are only three toppings on a Margarita Pizza - tomato, mozzarella and basil, which represent the red, green and white of the Italian flag

We tried two types. The first was pizza a portofoglio - folded pizza. It is folded up and served in paper so that you can easily walk along and eat the same time - food for when you are on the go. The other type of pizza was pizza fritto - deep fried pizza. Sounds strange but it was very tasty. By this point w already felt like we had eaten a lot!

Our next stop was for the Naples version of arancini balls. They weren't called arancini though. They were, however, very tasty. They include a tomato sauce and the occasional pea!

Next we moved onto sweet treats - rum baba and sfogliatelle - Confession time. I love sfogliatelle and I have it every time I can. I was expecting the more familiar crispy type so I was a little disappointed when we got the soft pastry version. The filling, which is usually a mixture of ricotta and lemon, was the same, so it was nice to eat, but I missed the crunch. Don't feel too bad for me though. I did find plenty of other opportunities to eat the crispy ones whilst I was in Italy.

Next up limoncello!

The final stop was for either coffee or ice cream. I like an occasional coffee and even found myself drinking coffee macchiatos at one point, but on this occasion I chose the ice cream. The flavours were chocolate and cherry! Yum!


Along the way we learnt more about Naples history and some of the places you could visit. For ezample, there is a subterranean area of Naples where you can walk amongst Greek ruins. He also took us down a street called Via San Gregorio Armeno where it is Christmas all year round! They make miniature characters and animals so that you can build up a whole scene around your nativity. Want a baker in your nativity scene, or a ferris wheel or a famous footballer - this is the place to go!

We went straight from Paris to Naples and it was a bit of a culture shock when we arrived. Yes, Paris is noisy and the drivers are a bit crazy, but Naples was a whole other level of chaos. What Mario did was showed us the old town of Naples and it really helped us to understand the city as well. After the tour ended we  decided to follow his advice to catch the funicular up the hill and look out over the city. And then we went to the waterfront. I don't think that we went to the part of the waterfront that he suggested to us, but it was still nice to sit at the water and contemplate life for a while

We also did another foodie walking tour in Paris, but I am planning on talking about that experience at a later time!

Have you ever done a foodie walking tour?

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Places I visited which reminded me of books I have read



Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week the theme is Bookish Goals for 2023, I really only have two of those (and I am already behind on one of those) so instead I am twisting the topic to have the opportunity to share some photos from my trp!

My theme for this week is places I have visited which reminded me of books I had read. Obviously, I need to work on the title to make it a bit snappier, but it is what it is right now.

For context, I am currently in Italy, having visited The Netherlands, France and Italy. We will be travelling home via Singapore so there will be more, but for now, these are just some of the places where I found myself thinking about books I had read while I was away

Bayeux - There is so much history in Normandy, whether it be medieval or WWII or somewhere in between. I found my self thinking about Elizabeth Chadwick's books as well as Sharon Kay Penman's books. However, for the purpose of today, I am choosing to match with The Needle in the Blood by Sarah Bower

Saint Chappelle - Amy Plum introduced me to this place and it has been on my bucket list ever since.

St Malo - When we were planning our route we were looking for somewhere to stay between Normandy and the Loire Valley and I chose this place purely and simply because of Anthony Doerr's wonderful book All the Light We Cannot See.

Chennonceau - I first blogged about wantiing to visit Chennonceaux back in 2011! This book tells the story of Catherine de Medici who left her mark on this chateau.

Louvre - I have read a number of books now which talk about the saving of art from The Louvre. One passage which came to mind was from The Riviera House by Natasha Lester where they talked about the processs of getting The Winged Victory of Thamocrace out of the Louvre. Interestingly, at Chambord in the Loire Valley there is a new permanent exhibition which talked about saving the art from The Louvre during WWII.

Musee D'Orsay - We loved visiting Musee D'Orsay - we definitely did not have enought time thher. Whilst Renoir's painting Luncheon of the Boating Party is not one of the ones we saw, I did find myself thinking of this book while I was there.

Musee D'Orsay - I really wanted to get a photo of the clocks at Musee D'Orsay. They are on a number of covers but this it the one that comes to mind.

Naples - The obvious choice for Naples would be Elena Ferrante but instead I am choosing The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

Puglia - As I started this post I was staying in a trullo in Alberobello. I was inspired to want to visit Puglia thanks to this book. We did a walking tour of the town and the guide asked why we chose to stay here and I shared the title!

Rome - We arrived in Rome late on Monday so our main tourist day is tomorrow so no pictures yet!


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