Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: New to Me Authors I Discovered in 2023


I read 38 new to me authors last year. Now, I could do a Top Ten Tuesday post with 38 different books, but I decided to narrow it down a bit by only including the new to me authors who I graded as either 4.5 or 5 out of 5 reads.

Here we go:

Erin Littekin - The Lost Daughters of Ukraine was so good. I am definitely intending to go back and read her debut novel! (my review)

Pip Williams - The Book Binder of Jericho - I haven't read Dictionary of Lost Words yet but I need to get onto it as we are going to go and see the play at the end of February.

Anthea Hodgson
- My first book by this author was The War Nurses. I also listened to The Drifter which was great too. 

Jane Lovering - I read The Recipe for Happiness. Lucky for me there is quite a backlist available from this author (my review)

Durian Sukegawa
- Sweet Bean Paste was so good! (my review)

Lauren Westwood - I loved The Little Paris Toyshop so much. (my review)

Bonnie Garmus - I was a bit late to the party when it comes to reading Lessons in Chemistry. I am supposed to be going to hear her talk soon too. Must check when that is. (review)

Rebecca Yarros - I really enjoyed Fourth Wing, and have since read Iron Flame. I am curious to read more but all of the other books she has written look completely different from these two books.

Kim Fay
- Really enjoyed Love and Saffron by this author (my review)

Juliet Greenwood - The Last Train from Paris was really good and I will be trying to read more from this author's backlist as well. (my review)

Have you read any of these authors?

Monday, January 29, 2024

This Week....

I'm reading

Some weeks I make a lot of progress in reading, and other weeks not so much! This week I am happy to report that it was the former.

I finished reading The Secrets of Crestwell Hall by Alexandra Walsh which I reviewed last week, and I also finished reading Iron Flame by Rebecca Yarros which I started earlier this month..

I then read Shout Out to My Ex by Sandy Barker and now I have started reading Happy Ever After in Bellbird Bay by Maggie Christensen. I already know that finishing this book is going to be a bit bittersweet as this is going to be the last book in the Bellbird Bay series. I do know that there is going to be another series in a new town, but still.

I did have a bit of a funny experience this week. As I mentioned above I started reading Iron Flame earlier this month but I had to put it aside so that I could read some review books. I was reading The Secrets of Crestwell Hall and there was a quasi-terrorist group that formed part of the contemporary storyline and they called themselves Empyrean. When I finished the book I picked Iron Flame up again, and I was reading along when the word Empyrean jumped out again as it is the name of the dragon group in the book! It's not like it is a common word and yet it was in two completely different books, genres, etc.

I'm watching

We started the second series of Reacher this week. So far, so good!

We also watched the end of the second series of Muster Dogs. It's such a lovely show. 

On Saturday I spent the whole day watching Grand Designs Australia and being blown away by how creative and ambitious people can be when they decide to build out of the ordinary houses.


Unfortunately I was struck down by the dreaded lurgy last week. I ended up having a couple of days off work and even when I went back to work today there were people who were saying should you be here?

We did feel recovered enough to go and visit the Titanic exhibition which is currently visiting Melbourne.  When you enter the exhibition you are given the identity of someone who was on the ship. I did see this last time it visited and luckily I would have survived the sinking again. This time I was the wife of John Jacob Astor! We also had high tea which was a lovely treat.

On Sunday we went for a drive in the country. We visited a small town called Woodend which is one of our favourite destination for a vanilla slice. What we didn't expect was to purchase a painting....but we did!


When I mentioned above that we were watching Muster Dogs, the word we was inclusive of Max. Here he is watching Muster Dogs with us. He was watching intently. I don't think he learned anything about being a working dog though.

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

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Weekend Cooking: The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai

Do you have memories of a dish that was just so delicious that it lives on in your memory, and whenever you try to recreate that same dish it just isn't quite the same? It just never quite lives up to the memory no matter how often you try? I do. One of my own examples is a garlic prawns dish that I had in the early 1990s in Perth, or more precisely Fremantle. From memory it didn't look flash but it was the perfect ratio of prawns, garlic and rice. Now, I have tried garlic prawns in restaurants many times but it has never quite reached the same level of enjoyment as that one dish. Who knows if it was really that good, but it is in my memory.

Welcome to the Kamogawa Diner. There is no sign over the door, and the only advertising is a vague one line ad in a gourmet magazine. But this is no ordinary diner. Whilst they do serve food and have some regular customers, they also have a side business as food detectives. 

What you may ask is a food detective? In this case, it is a former police detective, Nagare Kamogawa, and his daughter Koishi. If their potential clients can find them, they share their story of that one dish with Koishi. Her father does whatever it takes to be able to recreate the dish when the client returns two weeks later, and hope that the dish illicits the correct memories.

This book has has a similar structure to other books like Before the Coffee Gets Cold. There are episodes where we meet each new client, learn their story and then hear the outcomes. Another comparison would be the TV show Midnight Diner, which has a similar structure with the clients coming and telling their story and going again. It seems that these styles of stories are the Japanese books that are coming across my radar because I have read a couple of others this month which have a similar structure

Because food, like music, can be such a trigger for memories, a lot of the stories in this book are about the people who we have lost.The first story is about a man called Hideji, who is a former colleague of Nagare. They had worked together as police officers. He is now trying to track down exactly what made his deceased wife's version of nabeyaki- udon so special. He has moved on and now has a new relationship but her nabeyaki-udon just isn't the same!

Other stories include woman looking to recreate a beef stew that she was eating when she received quite a shock, a man looking to recreate a mackerel sushi he ate 50 years ago, a woman looking to recreate a Napolitan Spaghetti dish she shared with her grandfather, a woman looking for a tonkatsu and a man looking for the recipe for nikujaga which his mother used to make.

There is so much food in this book! So much! One of the enjoyable things is that often Nagare has to travel to different areas in order to learn more of each client's origins and as a result we get to see food from those various areas.  But we also get glimpses of life in Kyoto which is where the diner is. We also get some insights into some food culture. For example, there is a particular character who has a very strong opinion on the use of the word dessert.

"There's also dessert - sorry, I mean the mizugashi course. So please take your time," said Koishi, shrugging her shoulders.

"That's right, Koishi. There's no such thing as "dessert" in Japanese cuisine. The fruit served at the end of the meal is called mizugashi. We're not in France, after all!" said Tae, her nostrils flaring.

"Really, Tae, you never change, do you? Always fussing over the strangest things.....I'm not sure it really matters," said Nobuku, setting down her bowl.

"No, it does matter. If you mess around with language like that, it's culture that suffers. Traditional Japanese sweet dishes are in decline precisely because people insist on calling them English words like "dessert"!"

I really enjoyed this book, and yes, the cat on the cover plays a role!

We have recently booked a trip to Japan next year, and we will be stopping by Kyoto for a day. Maybe I could stop in at the Kamogawa Diner and see if they can figure out the secret to my garlic prawn dilemna and try some mizugashi?

I am sharing this review with the Books in Translation challenge, the Japanese Literature challenge, and  Foodies Read.

Weekly meals

Saturday -  
Sunday -  
Monday - chicken thingy
Tuesday - Smash burger
Wednesday - bacon pasta
Thursday - takeaway
Friday - Pork chop and salad

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 25, 2024

Blog Tour: The Secrets of Crestwell Hall by Alexandra Walsh

The Gunpowder Plot is a very famous event in British history, mostly thanks to the famous refrain of "Remember, remember the Fifth of November", and is still commemorated at bonfire nights each year in the UK. When I was young (as in back in the 70s- yes, I am that old) we still had Fireworks Night on 5 November each year, but I don't think it really happens here in Australia anymore.

The book opens with Isabella Lacey and her young daughter arriving for a new life at the stately home known as Crestwell Hall. Isabella's uncle previously owned the home, but now Isabella and Emily need a new start, and helping her aunt Thaiya resurrect the home feels like the perfect opportunity. She can put her ugly divorce behind her and hopefully provide a stable home for Emily.

Her Uncle Phillip was a collector of many historical items, and had always maintained that Crestwell Hall was connected to the failed Gunpowder Plot but no one knows why he was so adamant. What they do know is that there are a lot of historical artifacts that need to be sorted, catalogued and appraised. In order to start restoring the home, Isabella and her aunt really need an injection of funds, but they don't know exactly where that is going to come from. Could there be some hidden treasures in the house?

This is a dual time line novel and the historical plot derives from a very simple question. Did the wives of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot know what was going on? Did they know that the plan was to blow up parliament on the 5th of November 1605 with the aim of killing the king with the aim of then replacing him with a Catholic ruler. The most well known name is probably Guy Fawkes but there were many other people involved in the plot. That's a very over simplified summary, but still.

Our main character is Bess Throckmorton, also known Elizabeth, Lady Raleigh, wife to the imprisoned Sir Walter Raleigh, whose name resonates through history as explorer, privateer and favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. Now that the Queen has passed and King James is on the throne, Raleigh has been imprisoned as a traitor and Bess has to do what she needs to do to protect her young sons. 

Bess is related to most of the English aristocracy. Most of her family is Catholic but she and her immediate family are staunchly Protestant. That doesn't mean that she and her family are above suspicion when it comes to conspiracies, so when she starts hearing stories about yet another Catholic conspiracy, this time involving several of her male cousins, Bess knows that she could easily be implicated. She therefore starts reaching out to her female cousins (whether by blood or by marriage) to see what she can find out. After all, women are often invisible in the backgrounds and can quite often find out what their husbands, brothers and families are up to. What she learns horrifies her and she knows that she needs to do something to thwart the plan.

Bess is very resourceful, using her family connections to her advantage, and also in taking the necessary steps to ensure that her family is protected, especially if her husband remains in disgrace. An example of that is her ownership of Crestwell Hall, which has been carefully hidden so that no one can trace it back to her. There is a cast of characters at the beginning of the book to help see where all the family connections are, but there was still a lot of names to keep track of while you are reading.

I do love a book where the house has a key role to play and Crestwell Hall sounds like it would be absolutely fabulous to visit if it was real. There are hidden passageways, secrets hidden in plain sight and many previously undiscovered treasures which means that Isabella, her auntie, the mysterious Oliver and her friends who just happen to have very relevant and handy skills have their work cut out for them. I did enjoy the way that Isabella was able to slowly unveil the secrets that have been held by the house for centuries.

When I was thinking about what I was going to say, I realised that I haven't read many dual timelines recently. I know that a lot of people feel like they have been overdone but for the most part I like them, when they are done well that is. I thought that the author made some interesting choices, particularly as she was trying have some elements of the modern story line echo those from the historical time line. The reasons for conspiracies may be different, but there are still people who are sufficiently disenfranchised to feel that radical action required even today.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I read this author's previous book as well which had another interesting setting (an archeological dig in Crete) so I will be very interested to see what's coming next. Check out my review of The Forgotten Palace here.

I am sharing this review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host. You can find out more about the challenge here. You can check out other participants in the tour below.

Rating 4.5/5

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, the author, publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. 

About the Book

The Secrets of Crestwell Hall

‘A king adorns the throne… He has no subtlety, no grace but he does not deserve to die in the way that has been planned and this is why we shall stop them, our men, our kin and save us all.’


Bess Throckmorton is well used to cunning plots and intrigues. With her husband Sir Walter Raleigh imprisoned in the Tower of London, and she and her family in a constant battle to outwit Robert Cecil, the most powerful man in the country who is determined to ruin her, Bess decides to retreat to her beloved home, Crestwell Hall. But there she is shocked to hear talk of a new plot to murder the king. So, unbeknownst to their menfolk, the wives of the plotters begin to work together to try to stop the impending disaster.

Present Day

Isabella Lacey and her daughter, Emily, are excited to be starting a new life at her aunt’s home, Crestwell Hall in Wiltshire. During renovations, Isabella discovers an ancient bible that once belonged to Bess Throckmorton, and to her astonishment finds that it doubled as a diary. As Isabella reads Bess’s story, a new version of the Gunpowder Plot begins to emerge - told by the women.

When Emily’s life is suddenly in terrible danger, Isabella understands the relentless fear felt by Bess, hundreds of years ago. And as the fateful date of 5th November draws ever closer, Bess and the plotters’ wives beg their husbands to stop before a chain of events is set into action that can only end one way…

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

About the author

Alexandra Walsh is the bestselling author of dual timeline historical mysteries, previously published by Sapere. Her books range from the fifteenth century to the Victorian era and are inspired by the hidden voices of women that have been lost over the centuries. Formerly a journalist, writing for national newspapers, magazines and TV, her first book for Boldwood will be published in Spring 2023.

Social Media Links –

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/purplemermaid25

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/purplemermaid25/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/AlexandraWalshNews

Bookbub profile: Alexandra Walsh Books - BookBub

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Didn't Get to in 2023






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 Didn't Get to in 2023.  In order to find these books, I looked at previous posts of books that I was looking forward to. I did just have a thought that I should have just looked at this post form last year and see if i read any of those books! Next time!

So here are ten books I meant to read in 2023 but I never got to it!

Daisy and Kate by Meredith Appleyard - I have wanted to read this since I first saw the cover at the reader's retreat I went to last year.

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See - I can't believe I haven't read this year. I usually love Lisa See's books.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy
- I was given this beautiful hardcover book at a work event, but I haven't actually read it yet.

The Missing Sister by Lucinda Riley - Last year Pa Salt's book was released but I didn't read it as I still haven't read this book.

Inheritance by Nora Roberts
- This is the first book in the The Lost Bride trilogy, and came out in November. I bought the audio straight away but haven't listened to it yet.

Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - I actually started listening to this over the weekend but when I started writing this post I had not so I am leaving it in!

A Woman's Work by Victoria Purman - I had a proper plan to read this before I went to the Australian Women Weekly exhibition in rural Victoria. However, one of these things happened and the other did not!

Days at the Morisaki Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa - I intend to read this in the next couple of weeks.

Codename Charming by Lucy Parker - I was very excited when this book came out. Still haven't read it.

Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati  - I even got to meet this author when I was in the US last year, but still haven't managed to read this book.

Have you read any of these books? Which book would you recommend I prioritise?

Monday, January 22, 2024

This week....

I'm reading

This week has been a good reading week. I finished listening to At the Foot of the Cherry Tree by Alli Parker, which I really enjoyed.  

I then started listening to Before the Memory Fades which is the third book in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi.

I also finished The Austrian Bride by Helen Parusel, which I reviewed last week.

Now I am reading The Secrets of Creswell  Hall by Alexandra Walsh. I read a book by her last year which is called The Forgotten Palace which I really enjoyed so I eagerly volunteered for this blog tour. this book is about The Gunpowder Plot and so far is really interesting!

I'm watching

Nothing in particular


On the weekend, my husband and I journeyed  to a small coastal town called Apollo Bay. We drove down on Friday night, and then he was going on a deep sea fishing trip on the Saturday morning. I had quite a few different options that I could have done, including sleeping in and doing not much, but I decided to drive about an hour away and visit The Twelve Apostles which is an iconic Australian location, which gave me some quality audiobook listening time. I had to drop Robert at the port before 7am which meant that I got to the Twelve Apostles just after 8am which was amazing because there were literally six other people there when I arrived. When you arrive later in the day there are often hundreds of people crowded around trying to get the perfect picture!

I spent ages trying to get a photo where you can see the spray on the top of the waves

And then this is Lochard Gorge which is very close by

I am going to be doing a day trip back to the Apostles in a couple of weeks, but that's okay because it's a view that never gets old!!

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

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Sunday Salon: 2023 in review

Welcome to my annual year in review post. I would classify 2023 as a pretty good reading year. Let's see if the stats reflect this!

My Goodreads challenge target for 2023 was 60 books, which I met with ease. I actually completed 71 books which was approximately 22256 pages. This year I have made my challenge total 75 books so that might be a little more challenging. 

Let's take a closer look at the stats

I do tend to read a lot of new books so no surprise to me to see the vast majority of books I read were published in 2023. The oldest book I read was Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Once again fiction was the genre that I read the most of, although that is a bit of a catch all for every novel that isn't exactly a romance, could be women's fiction or foodie fiction or whatever. It is also not a surprise to see Historical Fiction right up there either!

As a rule, I don't reread a lot. The only books I reread last year were Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (which has become a bit of a Christmas tradition for me now) and The Secret History of Christmas by Bill Bryson which I listened to, and then listened to again when my husband was in the car with me. Interesting that they were both Christmas related and both audiobooks!

The fact that I read so many new to me authors was a bit of a surprise for me. I think it reflects the blog tours that I participate in more than anything. There were a number of authors who I read more than one book. I read 3 books by Gillian Harvey, Maggie Christensen, Sandy Barker and Siobhan Daiko and then there were 6 authors I read two books from. This is the second year in a row that Maggie Christensen has been one of the authors I have read the most books from. Actually, scrap that. It's actually the third year in a row!!

I mentioned last year that my reading has completely swung around from being predominantly paper based to now being most E-book and I don't see that changing any time soon really

No surprises with this stat either. My reading has long been skewed towards female authors

This is another stat that did surprise me for this year. Last year around 40% of my reads were by Australian authors but this year, I read quite a few more British authors. I think this is being influenced a lot by the blog tours I am participating in.

Back in the day, I would have sourced most of my books from the library but these days I am more likely to either buy books or get them for review.

I am always pretty stingy when it comes to giving out 5/5 grades. The four books I gave top marks to in 2023 were:

The Lost Daughters of Ukraine by Erin Littekin - I hadn't read any WWII fiction set in the Ukraine before (my review)

The Book Binders of Jericho by Pip Williams - I went to hear Pip Williams speak at Melbourne Writers Festival this year which prompted me to read this book. I still need to read Dictionary of Lost Words, hopefully before I go see the play in a couple of months.

Dreaming in French by Vanessa McCausland - I loved this book so much! Haunting and evocative. (my review)

The Little Paris Toyshop by Lauren Westwood - I read this as part of a blog tour and I was blown away by it! (my review)

So there is it is....my 2023 reading year in review!

Previous year in review posts