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
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
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!
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 Profess *unfinished draft*
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 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 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 links with Kate's investigation. The details though are a difficult reminder of his own tragedy - the women are found submerged in water having being bound and tortured, and in each case their child is missing. As the ad hoc task force involving Simms and the St Louis PD, Fennimore and the Williams County Sheriff's Office, Team Adam from 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 but then another body of a young mother is found in a nearby lake and the race is on to save her son.
The plot of Believe No One is complex and the investigation takes several twists and turns...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
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.
Jo Wheatley was the 2011 winner of The Great British Bake Off, a television series pitting amateur bakers against one another to win the title of BritJo Wheatley was the 2011 winner of The Great British Bake Off, a television series pitting amateur bakers against one another to win the title of Britain’s best home baker. Home Baking is her second cookbook and includes 100 recipes.
The recipes range from the simple to the sublime and the sweet to the savoury. Home Baking includes recipes for classic treats such as Shortbread, Pretzels, Cornish pastries, Chicken and Leek pie, Salmon En Croute, Rocky Road and Rasberry Red Velvet Cake as well as those a little more exotic like Parmesan and Pesto Fantail Loaf, Apple, Gooseberry and Elderflower Crumble, Goat’s Cheese and Fig Gougeres, and a Toffee Apple Croquembouche. There is a section devoted to cooking with kids which includes tasty recipes like Lemon and White Chocolate Muffins, Cheesy Mini Ketchup Scones and a Sweetie Spectacular Tray Bake.
This is a large format hardback with matte pages with full page colour photo’s of the dishes. The recipes are well presented with a short comment to introduce the dish, often offering a tip or two, a bolded list of ingredients and clear prep and cooking instructions. Missing from most recipes however is a an indicator of serving size.
I have marked several recipes I would like to try including the Lemon, White Chocolate and Macadamia Bombs, Easy Italian Soda Bread, Chicken, Chorizo and Potato Frittata, and Portuguese Tarts. During the week I was in need of something to share at a committee meeting and didn’t have a lot of time, so I decided to try Wheatley’s Chutney and Cheddar Palmiers. They were quick to prepare, baked in 15 minutes and were absolutely delicious. Recipe HERE You can find more recipes from Jo Wheatley on her blog: Jo’s Blue Aga...more