Nanny Confidential is the story of Lindsay Starwood, an elite nanny caring for the children of some of the world's most recognisable celebrities.
Lynd Nanny Confidential is the story of Lindsay Starwood, an elite nanny caring for the children of some of the world's most recognisable celebrities.
Lyndsay has cared for the offspring of film stars, presidents, oil barons, musicians and Middle East royalty. Now she is the nanny of six adorable young girls, the daughters of a famous film director, Sir Cameron Appleby, and self obsessed television star, Alysha. Lyndsay's life appears glamorous, her closets are stuffed with designer fashions, she travels in chauffeur driven cars and private planes, and all while being paid astronomical sums, but both the children she cares for, and the demands of their parents, keep her on her toes.
Nanny Confidential is a novel that reads like a memoir, and I have to admit I had to remind myself that it was fiction more than once. Though Lyndsay relates some outrageous situations and examples of ridiculous excess she has witnessed in her job, it all seems so feasible. If only half of what Christian writes is true (and she herself as worked as a nanny for the rich and famous), it's no wonder that the children of celebrities so often lead disastrous lives as adults. Lyndsay has far more patience than I would for the absurdities of her job, quite frankly I don't think anyone could pay me enough to put up with the diva behaviour of celebrities like Alysha.
A quick, light read which includes a touch of romance, Nanny Confidential is suited best I think to readers who enjoy tell-all celebrity features and gossip....more
Recently a friend, after a few drinks, confessed she and her husband were experimenting with 'swinging'. I have to admit I was pretty shocked but as s Recently a friend, after a few drinks, confessed she and her husband were experimenting with 'swinging'. I have to admit I was pretty shocked but as she shared some of what she and her husband had learned about the lifestyle, I was intrigued, not only with the logistics of it, but why and how they made the decision. I didn't want to ask too many questions though - lest they mistake my intellectual curiosity as an angling for an invitation to join them - so when I discovered A Modern Marriage I felt compelled to pick it up.
Written by Christy and Mark Kidd, A Modern Marriage is a memoir of their experiences as a couple who have embraced the swinging lifestyle. They stumbled upon the scene at a New Years Party in New York and were both titillated and curious about what they witnessed. After a lot of discussion, some googling, and the laying down of ground rules, they decided to take the plunge. Christy and Mark experienced several false starts with seedy clubs and unreliable partnerships before finally getting in the swing of things.
I think Christy and Mark are quite honest in their telling. They share a little of their backgrounds, both Texas born and raised by mother's who had multiple partners during their childhood (Christy's mother was married 5 times, Mark's mother 4 times). They met, through their work as accountants, when they were both seriously involved with other partners but couldn't resist one another, and by the time they decided to explore swinging had been married for five years. Though Christy and Mark are clearly advocates for the lifestyle they don't entirely gloss over its possible pitfalls, exploring issues such as jealousy, attachment and even the dangers of addiction. They place great emphasis on the need for a strong marriage, honest communication and sensible rules, to partake in the lifestyle without damaging the relationship.
A Modern Marriage is sometimes explicit but not really in a pornographic way. The tone is conversational, and encounters are related largely in a matter of fact manner with the focus more on what the couple was thinking rather than feeling.
I know the swinging lifestyle is not right for me, for so many reasons, but A Modern Marriage satisfied my curiosity about why some couples make the choice. I'm not convinced it will work out for my friend but it seems it is possible, Mark and Christy have now been married for 14 years and are still swinging.
Up and In by Deborah Disney begins when a distracted Maria politely declines to buy two handmade hair ties while watching her daughter's Saturday morn Up and In by Deborah Disney begins when a distracted Maria politely declines to buy two handmade hair ties while watching her daughter's Saturday morning netball match. It's an unintentional snub that makes her the target of icy disdain from Bea, the 'queen' of Maria's social circle made up of the mother's whose daughters attend the exclusive, and expensive, Riverton school. Maria is torn, she should be relieved that the pressure to fit in with Bea and her cohorts has eased, but instead she finds herself trying to regain her status, while obsessing over the subtext of group email exchanges. There is, after all, her daughter, Kate, to consider, who faces rejection from her own social circle led by Bea's spoilt daughter, Mirabella.
Up and In is told in part by flashbacks that reveal the genesis of Maria and Kate's relationship with the 'bea's' from Kindy to the present day. It reveals a litany of highs and lows as well as a pattern of passive aggressive behaviour from all parties. Many of the situations have the ring of truth, albeit slightly exaggerated for dramatic and comic effect. The interactions that place between the mothers at the girls netball games, especially the upset over positioning, are unerring though.
I can relate to Maria in some ways, it is difficult to resist the desire to fit in, and Bea can be absolutely charming when she chooses to be. Negotiating the social hierarchy can also be tricky when it affects your children's friendships, and poor Kate is caught in the crossfire between the adult power plays. Disney does a good job of exploring Maria's inner conflict though I wish Maria had developed a bit more of a backbone.
I have to admit being disappointed somewhat by the ending, the decision Maria makes to reach out to her nemesis isn't a magnanimous gesture - it's a foolish one, a woman like Bea would not be grateful and Maria would swiftly find herself trapped in the same situation she has been trying to extricate herself from for the length of the novel.
An entertaining and quick read, any mother who has had to negotiate the perils of playground politics will no doubt appreciate the characters and scenarios of Up and In....more
Set on the bank of the Murray River, Riverboat Point is the third contemporary Australian rural romance title from author Tricia Stringer.
Savannah Sm Set on the bank of the Murray River, Riverboat Point is the third contemporary Australian rural romance title from author Tricia Stringer.
Savannah Smith is furious when she realises her brother, Jaxon, has lured her to his property in the middle of nowhere and then disappeared, leaving only a note asking her to run his houseboat hire business in his absence. City girl Savannah hasn't a clue as to what's involved and hates having to rely on her brother's tall, dark and handsome neighbour, Ethan, for help, but she is left with little choice. Despite her misgivings, the charm of Riverboat Point slowly wears down Savannah's defenses, and she considers taking a chance on a building a new life with new friends and new love. But its a risk that will leave more than her heart vulnerable to danger.
There is a thread of suspense introduced into Riverboat Point when, in his letter, Jaxon warns Savannah about his neighbours, the particulars are missing however, so Savannah is not sure exactly who she should be wary of - Ethan, the reclusive Vietnam vet known as Gnasher, or weekenders, Belinda and Ashton. I enjoyed the tension this subplot brought into the story though I think it was perhaps it could have been seeded more fully into the first half of the novel.
Stringer's main protagonists, Savannah and Ethan, are well developed and likeable characters. They have both weathered tragedy, Savannah still struggles with injuries she suffered in the horrific car accident that killed her parents, Ethan has recently resigned from the military after two tours in Afghanistan and is still vulnerable to nightmares and flashbacks. Though their mutual attraction is fairly instant, their romance develops slowly. I like the way in which Stringer brings the couple together and I think they complement each other well.
An engaging read blending contemporary romance with a frisson of suspense, I enjoyed Riverboat Point. By the way, I have always wanted to holiday on a houseboat and now even more so!...more
I first discovered Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix on Leeswammes Blog where the quirky cover, designed to imitate a IKEA catalogue, caught my eye. I was f
I first discovered Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix on Leeswammes Blog where the quirky cover, designed to imitate a IKEA catalogue, caught my eye. I was further intrigued when I learned she had given it five stars and I immediately added it to my wishlist based on her recommendation.
After the staff of IKEA ORSK repeatedly find soiled furniture, broken glass ware and other damaged products each morning with no evidence of an intruder, store manager Basil recruits two of his employees, Amy, a reluctant floor leader, and Ruth-Ann, an ORSK lifer, to work an overnight shift. His plan calls for hourly sweeps of each floor and when they stumble across a homeless man hiding under a bed, and two colleagues making out on a couch, they believe they have solved the mystery. But the man vehemently denies he is responsible and Amy's colleagues, aspiring ghost busters, Trinity and Matt persuade them to take part in a seance, and suddenly the 'Bright and Shining Way' is a dark path to an unimagined hell.
Really I am surprised it has taken so long for someone to set a horror novel in a big box store like IKEA which, with its funneled walkways, empty staged rooms, and horse-meat meatballs, has a creep factor even on an ordinary day. It is easy to imagine the magnified eeriness of the echoing spaces at night, especially if you believe someone, or something, is out on the floor stalking you.
The format of Horrorstör includes chapters prefaced by the familiar innocuous blueprints and product descriptions of furniture with names like Müskk (a bed) and Liripip (a wardrobe) which grow increasingly bizarre however as the story progresses. These add a humourous touch which offsets the dawning horror. Also included is an order form, a map and even staff evaluation forms.
Horrorstör is a quick, entertaining read designed to elicit a chill or two in the same way that the store is designed to encourage you to purchase a bookshelf or two. A horror novel with a touch of the absurd, you will never look at IKEA in quite the same way again.
PS. If you need more convincing that IKEA is the perfect setting for a horror novel, check out IKEA Singapore's TV ad to promote its late night opening hours - a tribute to The Shining....more
The basic principle behind Once A Month Cooking is that you cook all your main dishes for a month in one day, freeze them, and then have an assortment The basic principle behind Once A Month Cooking is that you cook all your main dishes for a month in one day, freeze them, and then have an assortment of home made meals ready when you need them. The benefits of the plan outweigh the initial work involved in that it not only do you have more precious time during the busy week previously taken up by shopping for, preparing and cooking meals daily, but you can also save money when you purchase and cook in bulk.
Allen begins by offering advice on planning, shopping, cooking and freezing for Once a Month Cooking. Planning is an important step in the process and one that can involve the family in choosing what meals will be served during the month and take into account their schedules for the weeks ahead. Plan for a variety of meals but not so many that you end up cooking 30 different dishes, batch up favourite recipes that the family would be happy to eat once a week. Keep in mind what utensils and cookware you will need for the dishes you choose, and make sure you have plenty of storage items such as good quality ziplock bags in a variety of sizes, baking paper, plastic wrap, foil and foil/plastic containers plus a permanent or freezer marker. Make a comprehensive shopping list, be specific about amounts of food needed, and watch the budget. Source local when you can and look for bulk deals on ingredients. For the day of cooking, Allen suggests choosing a time when you won’t be distracted by young children or other commitments. Have your recipes accessible and start with prep eg dice onions, brown meat, blanch vegetables, boil eggs etc in amounts that work for all your recipes not just one. Assemble recipes that use a similar cooking method so you can have, for example, 3 different casseroles in the oven at once or so you can easily monitor foods cooking on the stove top. Clean as you go so you don’t run out of dishes and utensils. Allow foods to cool before placing in the freezer, ensure the meal is labelled with a name, the date it was frozen, a use by date and the dish size. You can also add instructions for reheating. Don’t forget to make a master list of the meals you are adding to your freezer for easy reference.
There are over 150 freezer friendly recipes in Once a Month Cooking, ideal for a busy family, and not just for dinner. Allen includes recipes for breakfast meals, like Banana Bread, Bran Muffins and Pancakes, soups such as Bacon and Potato Soup and Thai Pumpkin Soup, snacks like Pizza Scrolls, and Frozen Banana Pops, and deserts, cakes, slices and biscuits like After-dinner Mint Ice-cream Slice, Teacup Baked Cheesecakes, Lemon Lunchbox Squares and Sticky Date Caramel Slab. There are also recipes suitable for vegetarians and those with food intolerances or allergies, like Lentil and Pumpkin Lasagne and Gluten-free White Chocolate Cake. The recipes for the main meals use a variety of meats and include recipes for Coconut Curry Sausage Casserole, Beef Chow Mein and Chicken Filo Parcels. The recipes are largely unfussy, using common ingredients simply prepared, but could easily be tweaked to suit individual tastes. Though many are familiar to me, I found the details about freezing and thawing the meals very useful.
The presentation of the cookbook is a little disappointing, while the spiral bind is useful, the cardboard cover is fairly flimsy and I would have preferred a sturdier cover. There are no images accompanying the recipes, though a few pages of photo’s are included in the opening chapter. The recipes are well set out with a list of ingredients (metric measurements), and have clear instructions for prepping, cooking, freezing and thawing each meal, but they lack serving size suggestions, or advice for doubling up or ‘batching’ the recipes, and and an overall indicator of prep/cooking time.
I’ve been pre-planning weekly meals for a few years now, our busy family of six is on a tight budget and I really have to carefully manage both our time and expenditure. I’d love to be able to shop, prepare and plan a month ahead but unfortunately it’s not possible financially, and I don’t have a freezer big enough, however the same principles of Once a Month Cooking can be applied to a weekly or fortnightly (bi-weekly) schedule.
Once A Month Cooking is a good resource not only for someone interested in adopting the practice, but also for busy and budget conscious families who are simply looking for easy and tasty recipes that can be prepped ahead. I know I will be using it a lot!...more
Having enjoyed your second and third publications, Sincerely and Yours Truly, arising from the literary stage show c To the Women (and men) of Letters,
Having enjoyed your second and third publications, Sincerely and Yours Truly, arising from the literary stage show conceived by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, I was delighted for the opportunity to read this fifth curated collected, titled Between Us.
As with your previous books, I am pleased to see correspondence from such an eclectic group of female and male contributors, 55 altogether, including radio personality Chrissie Swan, news anchor Tracey Spicer, authors Hannah Kent and Peter Goldsworthy, comedian Steady Eddy, political cartoonist Andrew Marlton, and actor Jeremy Lindsay Taylor. There were a few names I didn't recognise, and though helpfully you provide a brief bio of each at the back of the book, I would still prefer the information included at the end of each letter.
What I particularly like about the Letter's collection is the way in which they make me think about how I would respond to the topics. What would I tell my eighty year old self? What is the thing I dream of? What is the thing I'd like to avoid, and which person would I credit with teaching me what I need to know? I especially enjoyed the paired letters, written 'to my other half'.
I enjoy the way in which the tone of the letters veer from the poignant and contemplative to the whimsical and droll. It ensures the collection holds my interest and makes for a comfortable read through, though it would also be easy for a reader to dip in and out of at will.
Just between us, I have enjoyed the time I spent with this celebration of the lost art of letter writing and its collection of 'wit and wisdom'.
Thank you, women (and men) of letters for sharing with me....more
Gemma's Bluff, Karly Lane's sixth novel, is a contemporary story of friendship, love and self discovery set against the backdrop of rural Australia.
Ha Gemma's Bluff, Karly Lane's sixth novel, is a contemporary story of friendship, love and self discovery set against the backdrop of rural Australia.
Having just graduated from university and in need of a break before being press ganged into the family business, Gemma Northcote reluctantly agrees to join her best friend, Jasmine, on a six week working holiday on a farming property in rural New South Wales. While carefree Jazz isn't the least bit concerned about their lack of experience - 'google' will have whatever answers they need - sensible Gemma is worried they are making a huge mistake, especially when it becomes clear that their host had no idea they were coming. Nash Whittaker doesn't have the time nor energy to indulge the 'McLeod's Daughters' fantasies of two city girls, yet he is desperate for some help and reluctantly agrees Gemma and Jasmine can stay, as long as they make themselves useful. Surprising herself, Gemma finds the challenges of the farm invigorating, and the gruff charm of its owner increasingly irresistible. She begins to imagine making a life for herself at Dunoon with Nash, but can Gemma find the courage to defy her parent's expectations and forge her own path to happiness?
Gemma's Bluff has a strong and fairly traditional romantic plot. Gemma and Nash are instantly attracted to one another but their romance develops only as they get to know one another. I enjoyed the build up to the consummation of the relationship but they have only a few short days together before it all goes wrong, and it is more than a year until they are reunited.
I liked Gemma for the most part, she is sensible, capable and kind, and I enjoyed the way she grew in confidence and self awareness during her time at Dunoon. However Gemma does make a decision three quarters of the way through the story that I have to admit soured me on her character somewhat. Though reasons are given which work for the plot and characterisation, the justification doesn't work for me personally.
A secondary plot involves Nash and local boy Ben whose long standing enmity boils over when Ben interferes in Nash and Gemma's relationship. The tragic reason for their hostility plays into the separation of the couple, and adds drama to the novel.
As always, Lane evokes Australia's farming district with vivid description and recognition of its realities, with Nash struggling with drought and the effects of recent government bans on live export. The dialogue is natural and the writing is solid.
Though not my favourite story from Karly Lane, Gemma's Bluff is still an engaging contemporary rural romance that should satisfy fans, and new readers, alike....more
When her husband of twenty years abandons her for a woman only a few years older than their son, Spanish linguistics professor, Blanca Perera is despe When her husband of twenty years abandons her for a woman only a few years older than their son, Spanish linguistics professor, Blanca Perera is desperate to get away and accepts a temporary fellowship position at a Californian university. Blanca's task is to sort through the private and professional papers of the late Andrea Fontana, a fellow Spaniard, tragically killed in a car accident decades years previously. While Blanca initially cares little for the work, she finds herself increasingly fascinated by the life of the enigmatic professor, and his living protege, Daniel Carter.
The Heart Has its Reasons is a character driven novel exploring the themes of grief, loss, recovery and starting anew. Unfortunately I thought Blanca was a fairly bland character, passive and introverted, which is uncomfortable when the story is told largely from a first person narrative. Daniel Carter was perhaps the more interesting character, and I did enjoy reading about his time in mid century Spain.
The story does contain a hint of intrigue involving Daniel Carter's motives, academic rivalry and a 'missing' Mission, and Blanca's task plays into these threads.
As I know little about Spain, or its political or social history, I did find some of the information interesting, particularly regarding the Spanish Revolution and the influence of Spanish culture in America.
Despite some lovely writing however I really struggled with The Heart Has it's Reasons. The tone was overly formal at times, possibly a fault of the translation. I also found the pace to be quite slow and was tempted to skim more than once.
Witty, charming and a little bittersweet, I really enjoyed It's Not Me, It's You, Mhairi McFarlane's third novel.
Delia Moss brushes aside the lacklust Witty, charming and a little bittersweet, I really enjoyed It's Not Me, It's You, Mhairi McFarlane's third novel.
Delia Moss brushes aside the lacklustre response from her partner of ten years when she proposes, after all he said 'yes' and that was all she wanted to hear. What she can't ignore is the text Paul erroneously sends to her minutes later; 'C...She's proposed. Don't know what to do. Meet tomorrow? Pxx' C, Delia discovers, is Celine, a twenty four year old student with whom Paul has been having sex for the last few months. Delia is devastated, and after quitting her Council job in the midst of a particularly uncomfortable team bonding seminar, flees to London to stay with her best friend, Emma.
At 33, Delia finds herself having to start again and McFarlane captures her character's initial sense of bewilderment and hurt well and I couldn't help but cheer her on as she slowly gathered strength. Delia has never been a risk taker so she is relieved when she finds a job in a small PR company but it all goes pear-shaped very quickly, her boss is an amoral lecher, and she is blackmailed by a handsome yet unscrupulous journalist, Adam. As the situation grows ever more complicated, Delia is forced into deciding what she really wants to happen next.
An eclectic cast of supporting characters including an internet troll, a Scottish roommate and Delia's fish-and-chip-frying brother add warmth to the story, a disapproving colleague, pompous politician and ridiculous restaurant critic provide the laughs. Parsnip, Delia and Paul's dog, may even bring a tear to your eye.
I was a little disappointed that my digital ARC didn't include Delia's comic strip (I'm assuming the finished copy will) but It's Not Me, It's You is a smart, funny and engaging story of taking risks in love and life.
Liz Trenow uses dual narratives to explore the themes of loss, love, war and post traumatic stress disorder in The Poppy Factory, a moving story of tw
Liz Trenow uses dual narratives to explore the themes of loss, love, war and post traumatic stress disorder in The Poppy Factory, a moving story of two women's experiences of war.
Jess has just returned to London after spending six months as an army medic in Afghanistan. Haunted by both her experiences overseas and the events that drove her to volunteer her services, she is finding it difficult to readjust to civilian life but refuses to acknowledge it. Suffering from flashbacks, drinking too much and lashing out, Jess's behaviour drives away her boyfriend and alienates her friends. It is not until her mother passes on a diary kept by Jess's great grandmother in the aftermath of World War 1 that Jess begins to find the perspective she so badly needs.
A young war bride, Rose is happy to welcome home though her childhood sweetheart, despite his having lost a leg. Alfie however is changed by his wartime experiences and struggles on his return not only with his disability and PTSD but also the depressed economic environment. Rose's written fears, frustrations and fortitude allows Jess to slowly recognise the similarities between Alfie's behaviour and her own and a twist of fate unites Jess with the same organisation, The Poppy Factory, that Rose credits with saving her great grandfather.
The Poppy Factory is written with compassion and insight. It offers a moving exploration of PTSD and I liked the way in which Trenow drew parallels between the generational experiences. I thought perhaps the historical thread was stronger than Jess's modern day narrative but the two stories are woven together seamlessly and present a cohesive narrative.
The Poppy Factory is a real organisation established over 90 years ago to help disabled ex-military men and women find meaningful, rewarding and sustainable employment. You can support the Poppy Factory by visiting www.poppyfactory.org...more
Breaking Beauty is a collection of twenty seven short stories authored by Creative Writing postgraduates from the University of Adelaide, which claims Breaking Beauty is a collection of twenty seven short stories authored by Creative Writing postgraduates from the University of Adelaide, which claims to be one of the pre-eminent creative writing programs in Australia.
Edited by Lynette Washington, this diverse literary anthology explores the theme of beauty, not to define it but to challenge our recognition of it. In most cases the stories delve beyond its familiar construct to find beauty in unexpected forms and unusual places, and often hidden deep beneath ugly truths.
Though the short story format is not a favourite of mine, I found the majority of the stories to be interesting and thought provoking. Those that resonated most strongly with me included Beautiful Girl by Gillian Britton, The Beholders by Sean Williams and A Paper Woman by Melanie Kinsman.
Ranging from the provocative to the poignant, from sexy to startling, Breaking Beauty is a fine anthology from a group of talented Australian writers.
With stories by Katherine Arguile, Lesley Beasley, Gillian Britton, Rebekah Clarkson, Jessica Clements, Katherine Doube, Annabel Evitts, Ruby Ewens, Matthew Gabriel, Corrie Hosking, Rosemary Jackson, Melanie Kinsman, Stefan Laszczuk, Jo Lennan, Gay Lynch, Mary Lynn Mather, Amy T. Matthews, Rachael Mead, Lilliana Rose, Bernadette Smith, Anna Solding, Reg Taylor, Heather Taylor Johnson, Lynette Washington, Bryan Whalen, Sean Williams and Kimberley Zeneth....more
A Nip of Murder is the second book in Carol Miller's Moonshine Mystery series. Set in rural Virginia, it features Daisy 'Ducky' McGovern, a former wai A Nip of Murder is the second book in Carol Miller's Moonshine Mystery series. Set in rural Virginia, it features Daisy 'Ducky' McGovern, a former waitress at the H&P Diner, which she now part owns and has converted into a bakery. Business is good, especially with the daily patronage of a group of geocacher's in town, but strangers also mean trouble. When three men break into Sweetie Pies, Daisy's baker, Brenda, is forced to defend herself and one of the men ends up dead while the others flee with ninety pounds of cream cheese. The motive for the robbery is inexplicable and Daisy, who doesn't have much faith in the local deputy's ability to solve the mystery, decides to do some sleuthing of her own.
There is yet another strange local theft, and murder, while Daisy follows the evidence to a local 'nip' joint (a hidden bar selling moonshine), and then deep into the Appalachian mountains, all while planning a bridal shower and creating a red velvet wedding cake on short notice for Rick's brother, Bobby and his bride to be, one of the geocacher organisers.
The well paced mystery is complex but not overly complicated and the motive of the thieves and the killer are not easily guessed. There are a number of red herrings to distract and a neat twist waiting at the end for the unwary.
I like the characters who offer a mix of eccentric southern charm. The storyline continues to highlight the complicated relationship between Daisy and Rick. A gun-toting moonshiner whose actions often put him on the wrong side of the law, Rick is an enigmatic character. He and Daisy, who have known each other all their lives, spar like enemies but there is a simmering attraction that Daisy tries hard to ignore.
It takes just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes in a microwave to make one of the 40 cakes in Mima Sinclair's Mug Cakes. These single serve t It takes just a handful of ingredients and a few minutes in a microwave to make one of the 40 cakes in Mima Sinclair's Mug Cakes. These single serve treats are ideal for a quick sugar fix or delicious dessert and
Mug Cakes is presented in a small format hardcover book with full colour photographs accompanying most recipes. The ingredients and method for each recipe are well set out, with additional tips highlighted. Both of my daughters (18 and 10 years old) easily followed the instructions to make their own mug cakes without any supervision.
Sinclair begins Mug Cakes with some useful tips about choosing ingredients, how to check a mug is appropriate for use, and some essential advice on how best to prep, cook and enjoy the recipes. One tip we can pass on is to heed Sinclair's advice about the size of the eggs. We only had extra large eggs to prepare one of the recipes (Sinclair recommends medium sized eggs only) and there was a distinctly 'eggy' taste to it.
The cookbook is divided into four sections: Classics, Occasions, Happy Hour and Treats and Puds. You need little else other than a spoon, mug and microwave and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or refrigerator. From Carrot Cake to a Chocolate Brownie, Black Forest to Mojito, Rocky Road to Lemon Curd Cheesecake, the recipes are varied and most take less than five minutes to prepare and bake. Included also are recipes for a Gluten-Free and Egg-Free cake which can be tweaked with flavour and topping to suit.
My daughters enjoyed the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake (the recipe can be found HERE), the Triple Chocolate Cake and the Red Velvet Cake. I liked the Apple & Cinnamon Cake with caramel sauce. My best friend tried both the Mocha and Baileys on the Rocks recipes and was delighted with the results.
Offering quick, easy and delicious recipes Mug Cakes is a treat of a book. I know it will be used often in my household and I think it would also make a wonderful gift, accompanied by a mug cake of course!
Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, feat Forbidden Fruit is the third fabulously entertaining book in Ilsa Evans' cozy mystery series set in the small fictional Australian town of Majic, featuring the middle aged accidental sleuth, Nell Forrest.
Forbidden Fruit picks up not long after Ill-Gotten Gains left off. Nell has moved into her newly purchased and renovated home, once the storefront for her absentee father's butcher shop, and is digging a hole to plant an apple tree in her backyard when she uncovers human remains. The body is eventually identified as a young wife and mother who once lived in the adjoining premises and disappeared in the early 1970's. The police suspect Nell's father murdered her, prompting his return from England where he has been living for over thirty years, but Nell is convinced they have it wrong and sets out to prove his innocence.
Nell has her hands full in Forbidden Fruit what with two of her five daughters about to give birth, new in-law's-to-be to entertain, her part time lover, Detective Ashley Armistead, demanding a commitment, and her ex husband parading his newborn daughter around town, yet she can't help but get involved in the investigation when her father is charged with murder. Aided by her sister, Petra, and with clues provided by the gossipy residents of Majic (including Grace June Rae - the character I won naming rights to), Nell uncovers some disturbing secrets about the early years of her parents marriage, and unmasks a killer.
The mystery is well plotted with a trail of red herrings and surprising twists. It was well over halfway before I figured out the identity of the real killer, though not their motivation until the final scenes.
I have loved the humour in this series, from the 'fan' letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. The barely restrained chaos of Nell's family life is a real feature in all three books, as is the eccentricity of the residents of Majic.
Forbidden Fruit, like the entire series, is a delightful blend of mystery, humour and domestic drama. Sadly this will be the final installment in the Nell Forrest Mystery series unless Nell finds a stronger audience. I implore readers whose interest is piqued to purchase a copy from your favourite ebook retailer.
* As of Nov 2014 the first book, Nefarious Doings is free to download from Amazon and both books 2 and 3 are just a few dollars ...more
Laurinda is Alice Pung's first fiction novel and features a teenage girl, Lucy Lam, who is awarded the inaugural 'Equal Access' scholarship to the exclusive Laurinda Ladies College.
Lucy is the daughter of Chinese/Vietnamese 'boat' immigrants who live in a 'povvo' area of suburban Australia. Her father is a shift worker in a carpet factory while her mother, who speaks almost no English, sews in their garage under sweatshop conditions while caring for Lucy's baby brother. As an Asian-Australian scholarship student without a background of wealth and privilege, Lucy is an outsider at Laurinda in more ways than one, but wants to fit in and take advantage of the opportunities the school affords her.
Initially Lucy feels confident she will be able to hold her own at Laurinda but she soon realises that there is a cultural and social divide she is at a loss as to how best negotiate. In particular, Lucy is both fascinated with and horrified by the dynamics at the school which contrast sharply with her experience at Christ Our Saviour College. Laurinda is in thrall to three young women known as the Cabinet who wield a frightening amount of influence within the school with the tacit approval of the headmistress, Mrs Grey. Amber, Chelsea and Brodie are manipulative and cruel yet have cultivated an aura of power that none of their peers, and few of their teachers, are willing to challenge. As Lucy is absorbed into the school's insular environment she is caught up in the ethos of Laurinda, and nearly loses herself, but eventually finds a way to forge her own path.
The narrative is presented in the form of a series of letters addressed to 'Linh' whom we assume is a friend of Lucy's from her previous school (view spoiler)[ but we later learn Lucy is actually writing the letters to herself, Linh being her middle name (hide spoiler)] The author's portrayal of Lucy is compassionate, sensitive and achingly real. Lucy is smart, capable and strong, but she is also a teenager and as such is beset by bouts of insecurity and vulnerability. Though I do not share the same ethnicity nor background as Lucy, I found her, and several of her experiences, easy to relate to.
Part satire, magnifying the pretensions of private school and the aspirations of immigrant families, part poignant coming of age tale, Pung draws on her own experiences which gives the story a sense of authenticity. Privilege, racism, class, identity and integrity are all themes explores in the novel. Pung also skilfully captures the almost universal experience for teenage girls negotiating high school where a small number of students often have an inexplicable cache of power and wield it without mercy. While Lucy is not the only victim of the Cabinet's bullying, she also has to negotiate the additional stress of cultural discord and the expectations of Laurinda's principal who demands Lucy is suitably grateful for, and repays, the privilege she has been given.
The writing is sharp and witty with characters and scenes that are vividly portrayed. The pace is good and the structure works well to deliver an interesting surprise. Laurinda is a clever, entertaining and insightful novel, suitable for both a young adult and adult audience and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to either.
Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Professor Dave Barclay, B Authored by A.D. Garrett, the collaborative pseudonym of award winning author Margaret Murphy and renowned forensics expert Professor Dave Barclay, Believe No One is the second gripping crime fiction installment to feature DCI Kate Simms and Professor Nick Fennimore.
UK Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms is on a six month 'method' exchange with the St Louis PD when her cold case team uncovers evidence of a serial killer dumping bodies along a 600 mile stretch of the I-44. For Professor Nick Fennimore, touring the Midwest promoting his latest book, it is a convenient coincidence that a case he has been invited to consult on in Oklahoma, concerning a murdered woman and her missing child, links with Kate's investigation. As the ad hoc task force involving Simms and the St Louis PD, Fennimore and the Williams County Sheriff's Office, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and an FBI Behavioural Analyst get closer to identifying the killer, they discover a link to a crime that happened more than two decades before, and a world away. Fennimore is stunned by the possibilities given his own tragic loss, and with another body of a young mother and her child missing, he isn't about to let this killer get away.
Part police procedural, part thriller, the third person narrative exposes the perspectives of the investigators, the killer and a young boy running scared.
I really enjoyed seeing the case come together through the hard work and persistence of the officers despite political maneuvering from a boorish local sheriff and the occasional inter-agency skirmish. I felt Kate got a little lost within the cast though I did like her colleagues, particularly the gruff Ellis. Abigail Hicks was an interesting character as well, and I was surprised to learn that deputy sheriffs receive so little training or support for their role.
The killer is suitably creepy with an interesting pathology and surprising motive. Some of the scenes involving the torture of his victims are disturbing, but thankfully are mostly light on details.
'Red' is the nine year old son of one of the victims who escapes the killer but is too afraid to go to the police. I felt both sad and afraid for him and I'm still not sure how I feel about the unusual situation he winds up in.
The personal lives of the feature protagonists, Kate and Nick, matter within the context of the story too, though it is Fennimore's history that is more relevant. Five years ago Nick's wife and daughter were abducted and while his wife's body was recovered in a marsh, his daughter has never been found. Fennimore is convinced she is still alive and the similarities between this case and his own tragedy has him on edge. Meanwhile Simms accepted the exchange in part to escape Nick and their complicated dynamic so she isn't thrilled when he involves himself in the investigation.
With a complex plot and interesting, well developed characters, Believe No One is an entertaining and exciting novel. Though it conceivably works as a stand alone I would recommend reading Everyone Lies first....more
Euphoria by Lily King is a fascinating novel about three anthropologists studying native tribes in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s. American Nell Stone
Euphoria by Lily King is a fascinating novel about three anthropologists studying native tribes in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s. American Nell Stone and her Australian husband, Fen, have decided to leave The Territory of New Guinea, abandoning their study of an uncooperative and violent tribe, when they meet Andrew Bankson the night before their planned departure. Bankson, lonely and frustrated after several isolated years studying the Kiona tribe, is desperate for Nell and Fen to remain in New Guinea and convinces them he can find a suitable tribe for them to integrate with. Eager to maintain contact with his colleagues, especially the enigmatic Nell, Bankson settles the pair with a nearby river tribe, the Tam.
The story is in part inspired by a real-life love triangle involving renowned anthropologists Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson, though it veers away from historical record. Bankson (based on Bateson) is the primary narrator looking back at the months he spent in the company of Nell and Fen, still trying to make sense of the intensely tumultuous period.
King explores the interpersonal themes of love, sex, desire, marriage and betrayal through the tense dynamics between her characters. While Nell is immediately excited by the new tribe, Fen is indifferent and ignores his responsibilities in favour of his own agenda. Nell, eager to share her findings, turns to Andrew, who is entranced by Nell's intellect and passion, but Bankson unwittingly fans longstanding jealousies and resentments, igniting intellectual and romantic competitiveness.
"Personality depends on context, just like culture....Certain people bring out certain trains in each other... You don't always see how much other people are shaping you."
The intensity of the relationship plays out against the fascinating backdrop of Nell's anthropological study of the Tam. King explores the issues related to field study, especially the unconscious, and conscious, ways in which researchers interpret what they observe, and the way in which they impact on the 'purity' of the tribe. Objectivity is a flimsy construct that shifts under the weight of even the briefest interaction, and collapses altogether with intimate contact.
The language and imagery of Euphoria is vivid, effortlessly evoking people and places. The pace and tension builds nicely to a rather understated, though shocking, end. There is a surprising subtlety to the text despite some explicit scenes of sex and violence. (view spoiler)[It is implied that Fen physically abuses Nell, that he has committed crimes in the past, and that ultimately Fen is responsible for the death of Nell. (hide spoiler)]
Euphoria is an intriguing story of personality and culture, darkly seductive and haunting.
Best known for his most recent novels, The Slap and Barracuda, Merciless Gods is Christos Tsiolkas's first published collection of short stories.
The t Best known for his most recent novels, The Slap and Barracuda, Merciless Gods is Christos Tsiolkas's first published collection of short stories.
The themes of many of the stories in this collection are strongly connected to Christos's life experiences as a gay man and as the son of (Greek) immigrant parents. Yet they also explore the universal trials of friendship, family relations, love, aging and death.
It is sometimes difficult to see past some of the cruder scenes and language in his stories, which are often unapologetically provocative, brutal and seething, yet it is important to note they are also rarely entirely devoid of tenderness, beauty or humour. I found several stories absolutely compelling including the titular 'Merciless Gods', 'Saturn Return' and 'Sticks, Stones' but 'Porn 1', 'Porn 2' and 'Porn 3' were a bit much for me.
One of the reasons I rarely read short stories is that narrative is often neglected in favour of theme, but that is not the case here. I admire the way in which Tsioklas constructs his stories, creating a complete narrative, with strong characters, in just a few pages.
Not everyone will appreciate, nor stomach, Merciless Gods, it is a collection that seems designed to challenge and shock, but for those readers willing to approach the stories with an open mind, there are rewards to be had....more
There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of There would be few women who have never picked up a copy of The Australian Womens Weekly magazine during their lifetime, I grew up reading its mix of celebrity features, hard luck stories, recipes, and regular columns, my favourite of which was always Pat McDermott's 'Family Matters'.
For thirty years McDermott chronicled the chaos of her family life as the wife of the MOTH (Man Of The House aka Dennis) and as the mother of five children, Reagan, Flynn, Patrick, Courtenay and Rowen (aka Ruff Red), and more recently also as a mother in-law and grandmother.
Family Matters is a collection of some of her columns spanning the time from which her children were rambunctious toddlers to grunting teenagers, to adults who left to make their own way in the world, and then came back. Her anecdotes, and confessions, are warm, funny, honest and so easy for me, as a mother of four, to relate to. As it happens, I have a 'Ruff Red' of my own!
Family Matters is a wonderful, laugh out loud read for any parent in the trenches or those with fond memories of raising their family. Personally I was left wanting more of Pat's charm and humour and I hope there will be more collections from her column published in the future. ...more
The sequel to Candice Fox's stunning debut, Hades, Eden is a story about monsters, not the type that hide under the bed or in your closet, but those t The sequel to Candice Fox's stunning debut, Hades, Eden is a story about monsters, not the type that hide under the bed or in your closet, but those that walk amongst us, wearing the face of humanity. Murderers, rapists, pedophiles and cannibals shrouded in the guise of well dressed gentlemen, respected police officers, and restless children.
The narrative is a bit of a surprise, I was expecting, given the novel's title, that the story would unfold more fully from Eden's perspective, instead it is the first person voice of Frank, and a series of flashbacks illuminating Hades' past that dominate.
Frank is still reeling from the events that occurred in Hades and is drowning in booze, pills and sorrow, resisting Eden's attempts to get him back to work. But Eden doesn't take no for an answer and she forces his hand, first when she asks him to do some work for her father, Hades, and then when she accepts an undercover assignment in pursuit of a serial killer.
While Eden searches for the murderer on an isolated farm housing runaways and petty criminals, Frank divides his time between watching over Eden and searching for clues to decipher the fate of a girl Hades once knew, in order to shake the attentions of her nephew who is convinced Hades killed her.
Flashbacks of Hades early years introduce the girl, Sunday, and provide insight into the formation of the man and underworld legend. Fox has developed a dark and twisted past for Hades, stained with violence and loss which is not always easy to stomach.
As dark and gritty as its predecessor, Eden is a riveting story, rippling with tension and barely leashed savagery. This is compelling reading....more
In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourte In Fiona Higgins' Wife on the Run, Paula McInnes has been married to her husband Hamish for 17 years and is the mother of two teenage children, fourteen year old Caitlin and thirteen year old, Lachie. The family lives an ordinary, comfortable life in the Australian suburbs which is irrevocably changed when first Caitlin is the victim of a Facebook 'sex' scandal, and then, when Hamish is injured in an accident, Paula discovers what her husband has really been doing during his late nights 'working' from home. Shocked and angry, Paula makes a snap decision to pull her children out of school and, along with her father Sid, embark on a three month caravanning tour around Australia, leaving Hamish behind. Freed from their structured routine, and with a ban on technology enforced, the family quickly embrace the pleasures of the journey - beautiful scenery, friendly locals, 'drinkypoo's' at sunset and for the teens, a growing sense of independence thanks to Grandpa Sid's 'life lessons'. With her guard down, Paula is surprised to find herself susceptible to the charms of a charismatic Brazilian they meet on the road. Meanwhile, after a ten day bender, Hamish decides his life is empty without his wife and children in it, and sets out to catch up with them, but ends up making a detour or two along the way. Both Paula and Hamish are on the run, but neither of them are exactly sure if it is from or to one another.
Told from the dual perspectives of Paula and Hamish, Wife on the Run unfolds at a quick, entertaining pace. Part social commentary, part 'road trip' farce, Higgins tempers the serious themes of the novel - the perils of social media, marital breakdown, aging and self discovery - with some slightly absurd plot twists including an ever obliging tour bus operator, an illicit rendezvous, a Brazilian (of both types), and a lucky bet on the Melbourne Cup.
Strong but flawed characters, and the complicated dynamics between them, should resonate in one way or another with most readers. There is no denying that Paula is a bit of a control freak but she is largely a sympathetic character despite the mistakes she makes. Hamish is often a boorish sleaze but not entirely irredeemable, Sid is a treasure, and the children are fairly typical teens. The supporting cast is rich and varied, including 'Doggo', Marcelo, 'Farken' Frank, and Lisel17, all whom offer surprises you probably won't see coming.
Natural, if often earthy, language and dialogue is spiked with 'Australian-isms' and more than one surprisingly explicit sexual scene. There is plenty of humour, both overt and sly, but also astute and serious observations. The landscape, as the characters travel through South Australia, Western Australia and up to the Northern Territory, is familiar with a hint of the exotic.
Provocative, sharply insightful and wildly entertaining, Wife On the Run is not what you may expect from the synopsis but it is an engaging journey through love, heartbreak and self discovery. ...more
In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second t In 1989, Samantha Platt, a nineteen year old American arts student, was traveling through Europe with her best friend, Tracey, when, on their second to last day in Paris they met two handsome young Frenchman, Jean-Luc and Patrick. Though their time together was brief, Samantha and Jean-Luc both admitted to feeling a strong connection, and though Samantha chose to continue their planned journey leaving Jean-Luc behind, she did so with no small amount of regret.
Twenty odd years later, Samantha has been made redundant and her marriage is disintegrating when Tracey reminds her of their summer in Paris and the seven letters full of romance and longing she received from Jean-Luc after her return home. Wondering 'what if?', Samantha gathers her courage and decides to contact Jean-Luc, awkward emails soon became more intimate, leading to long phone calls which eventually results in Samantha accepting Jean-Luc's invitation to visit him in Paris. It is a chance Samantha feels she has to take...
Seven Letters From Paris is the true tale of an extraordinary second chance love story. Twenty years after their day long romance in Paris, Samantha and Jean-Luc are reunited, and less than 12 months later are husband and wife.
Samantha's story may have a fairytale ending, but it is a life and love hard won. She has dealt with an absentee father, a difficult divorce and bankruptcy to then moving to France with only rudimentary language skills, and becoming not only a wife, but also a full time stepmother of two young children.
Written in a friendly, almost conversational tone, Seven Letters From Paris is an easy read. Romantics will swoon over the seven letters Jean-Luc sent Samantha in 1989, francophiles will enjoy reading about Samantha's new life in France.
As my own love story is entirely prosaic - he was 20 and a co-worker of a friend, I was just 16 and still in high school when we got together, we married when I was 22 and next week we will celebrate 19 years of marriage - I appreciated the romance of Samantha and Jean-Luc's relationship and their almost too-good-to-be-true reunion.
My French is very rusty but: Je vous souhaite de nombreuses années de bonheur (I wish you both many years of happiness)
*Please note: I choose not to rate memoirs*...more
A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, A sweeping saga spanning three generations, and two continents, Nicole Alexander's fifth novel, The Great Plains, is an absorbing tale of love, loss, betrayal, belonging and freedom.
The story begins in Dallas, Texas in 1886, before moving to the plains of Oklahoma, and then to the Queensland bush, nearly fifty years later. It follows the trials of three generations of beautiful and strong willed women, Philomena Wade, abducted and raised by Apache Indians, her granddaughter Serena, claimed by her wealthy uncle, successful Texan business man Aloysius Wade, and Serena's eldest daughter, Abelena, whose fates are inextricably entwined with the obsessions of three generations of Wade men.
The Great Plains is a multi-layered novel with complex characters believable for both their virtues and their flaws. The major theme of the novel is the notion of belonging with Alexander exploring the bonds created by family, and within that the debate of 'nature versus nurture', the spiritual attachment to the land felt so deeply by the indigenous peoples in both North America and Australia, and finally the idea of belonging to oneself.
The story references some of the historical events of the time including the development of the Wild West, the abolition of slavery, the Great Depression and World War 1, as well as key figures, most notably the legendary Apache Indian, Geronimo. Alexander also explores several social issues and beliefs raised by both time and place.
The Great Plains is grand and involving fiction blending history and family drama, skillfully crafted by a consummate storyteller.