Guest Review:The Kookaburra Creek Cafe – Sandie Docker

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe

The Kookaburra Creek Cafe
Sandie Docker
Penguin Random House AU
ISBN: 9780143789192

Description:
Welcome to the Kookaburra Creek Cafe.

THE PAST
For Hattie, the cafe has been her refuge for the last fifty years – her second chance at a happy ending after her dreams of being a star were shattered. But will the ghosts of her past succeed in destroying everything she’s worked so hard to build?
THE PRESENT
For Alice, the cafe is her livelihood. After Hattie took her in as a teenager, Alice has slowly forged a quiet life as the cafe’s manager (and chief cupcake baker). But with so many tragedies behind her, is it too late for Alice’s story to have a happy ending?
THE FUTURE
For Becca, a teenager in trouble, the cafe could be the new start she yearns for. That is, if she can be persuaded to stop running from her secrets. Can Becca find a way to believe in the kindness of strangers, and accept that this small town could be the place where she finally belongs?
One small town. Three lost women. And a lifetime of secrets.

Brenda’s Review:
Alice and Louise had been best friends from the age of eleven. Alice was happy when she was with Louise, and she went to school to get away from her home. When tragedy struck, Alice drove away in the old beat up car that was her Dad’s – just drove until she could go no further. She was tired, hungry and grieving when Hattie found her and took her under her wing; Alice was sure she wouldn’t stay. But gradually Hattie, the Kookaburra Creek Café, and the community became home to her. And Alice discovered she could bake cupcakes – the best cupcakes in town.
Hattie had had a similar experience fifty years prior and Kookaburra Creek had been her saviour. Now Hattie knew Alice needed a second chance, just as she had. Gently and with care, Alice blossomed. But could Alice retain her peace and happiness?

And when a frightened young teenager turned up on the Café’s doorstep, Alice felt the past come back. Was Becca’s arrival a coincidence? Alice could see Becca was fragile and held many secrets close to her chest. Would Kookaburra Creek and the café give Becca the chance she needed?

The Kookaburra Creek Café is the debut novel by Aussie author Sandie Docker, and wow! What an excellent first novel! Initially, I was drawn to the cover – absolutely love it. Then the story drew me in and captivated me. Hattie, Alice and Becca’s stories are told gradually, with an easy to follow back-and-forth narration which set the tone of the book. Three wonderful characters in Hattie, Alice and Becca, and many excellent side characters make The Kookaburra Creek Café everything I wanted and more. Well done on an excellent debut Ms Docker! Highly recommended – 5 stars.

With thanks to Penguin Random House for my ARC to read and review.

 

Post Script: All In – Lily Gardner

The third instalment in Lily Gardner’s P.I. Lennox Cooper series does not disappoint, this is compulsive reading.

.All In

All In

Lily Gardner

Diversion Books

ASIN: B07BB3QRZR

 

Description:

The third noir mystery featuring P.I. Lennox Cooper, a smart detective, a smart poker player, and one of today’s boldest heroines in the sorority of lonesome gumshoes.

 

“Gardner has created a modern P.I. in time honored tradition, and the result is both fresh and grounded. Lennox Cooper, her protagonist, is crafty, intelligent, resourceful, bold and tenacious. . . . The locale and ambiance are detailed to perfection.” —Carolyn Lane, Murder by the Book

 

Flinty ex-cop, poker-playing, private detective, Lennox Cooper stands alone in championing Tomek Jagoda, darling son of a Portland crime family, accused of murdering his high-living girlfriend.

 

The cops have proof that will send Tomek to prison for life, and prosecuting the case is a Viking goddess of a woman, as smart as she is stunning, who draws everyone’s adoration. Next to her, Lennox feels like a garden gnome. Even August Kline, Lennox’s boss and Tomek’s defense attorney, is ready to throw Tomek under the bus in a plea deal that carries a ten-year sentence just to court the prosecutor.

 

What is it about Tomek-big as a tool shed and twice as dumb-that convinces Lennox of his innocence?

 

As Lennox unwinds all the lies surrounding the case, she sees deeper into Tomek’s humanity and into her own. She realizes that she’s in love with the defense attorney who’s in lust with the prosecutor. Lennox bets her job, her love, and her own safety to find the killer.

 

She’s all in.

 

 

My View:
The third instalment in Lily Gardner’s P.I. Lennox Cooper series does not disappoint, this is compulsive reading.

 

This is a series I particularly  enjoy – I love the honesty of the characters, the camaraderie between the poker players and the angst that Cooper exudes as she tries to navigate the world as an ex -cop now private investigator desperately trying to pay her way (and find happiness) in an chaotic world.   This is compulsive reading and I do hope that that there will be a part four coming soon.

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: Widows – Lynda La Plante

Widows

Widows

Lynda La Plante

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781785763311

 

Description:

When a security van heist goes disastrously wrong, three armed robbers are burnt to death – and three women are left widows.

Then gang boss Harry Rawlins’ wife Dolly discovers his bank deposit box. It contains a gun, money – and detailed plans for the failed hijack.

Dolly has three options: she could hand over Harry’s ledgers to Detective Inspector Resnick; she could pass them to the thugs who want to take over Harry’s turf; or she and the other widows could finish the job their husbands started…

As they rehearse the raid until it is pitch perfect, the women realise Harry Rawlins’ plan required four people, not three. But only three bodies were discovered in the carnage of the original hijack. So who was the fourth man, and where is he now?

Brenda’s Review:

Harry Rawlins, Joe Pirelli and Terry Miller were part of a four-man team whose plan for the raid on the security van was foolproof. Harry was the boss; meticulous in everything he did. But something did go wrong that day – and all three men died; incinerated in their vehicle. The three widows were devastated; the funerals were well attended, especially Harry’s. But trouble was only just beginning…

Harry’s wife Dolly discovered details of all his criminal activities – it felt like Harry was talking to her from the grave. Her decision wasn’t that hard – she certainly didn’t want Detective Inspector Resnick (Harry’s nemesis) to receive Harry’s ledgers; nor did she want Harry’s rivals to get them. So why couldn’t she and the other two widows follow Harry’s detailed plan and finish the job – benefitting from the windfall themselves of course. What could possibly go wrong?

Widows by author Lynda LaPlante was a fast-paced crime thriller which kept me enthralled right the way through. The tough gangs with their stand-over men; the constant threats of death; the intense pressure on Dolly and the girls to stay one step ahead of Harry’s rivals – as well as the police. A well-crafted novel, Widows is the first in the Dolly Rawlins series, and well worth the read. Recommended – 4 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.

 

Unicorn Rice Paper Rolls: Unicorn Food – Sandra Mahut

 

Unicorn Food

 

‘Unicorn Food by Sandra Mahut (Murdoch Books RRP $19.99)

Unicorn rice paper rolls

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Makes 6 small rice paper rolls

 

 

½ packet bean thread vermicelli

1–2 drops natural blue food colouring or blue spirulina

1 carrot

1 cucumber

½ red cabbage

A few pink radishes

½ avocado

6 rice paper wrappers

A few green lettuce leaves

A few black and white sesame seeds

½ mango for decoration

 

Lemon coconut tahini sauce

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Juice of ½ lime

1 tablespoon coconut cream

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

1 drop natural blue food colouring

 

Cook the vermicelli according to the instructions on the packet, adding a little blue food colouring

to the cooking water. Once the vermicelli is coloured, set aside in a bowl of cold water. Cut the carrot and

half the cucumber into thin matchsticks. Thinly slice the red cabbage. Slice the radishes into rounds and

thinly slice the avocado.

 

Moisten a sheet of rice paper and place it on a slightly damp, clean tea towel. Cut off the top

edge of the wrapper (to give a straight side for an open-ended roll). Arrange the lettuce leaves

and vegetables in the middle, starting with the ingredients that will show through. Wrap up the roll,

using your fingertips to tightly close the lower part.

 

Place the rolls in the refrigerator. At serving time, sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds, then

decorate with stars cut out of the mango or the rest of the cucumber.

 

Blend the sauce ingredients, except the food colouring, in a food processor. Add the drop of blue food colouring and swirl once with the tip of a knife to make a pretty spiral, then sprinkle with a few sesame seeds. Serve the rolls with the sauce.

Unicorn Rice Paper Rolls

 

Rainbow Smoothies: Unicorn Food – Sandra Mahut


 

 

Unicorn Food by Sandra Mahut (Murdoch Books RRP $19.99)

Rainbow smoothies

 

Preparation time: 20 minutes

 

Makes 2 large glasses or jars

5 strawberries

3 bananas

A few raspberries

50 g other berries

50 g blueberries or blackberries
(or acai powder)

1 kiwifruit

½ mango

100 ml pineapple juice

250 g Greek-style yoghurt

½ dragon fruit

Edible decorations

 

The day before, cut up and freeze all the fruits in plastic bags (or use already frozen fruits).

 

At serving time, blend the strawberries, 2 tablespoons of banana, 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice and 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt in a blender, then pour into a large glass or jar. Repeat the process with the same quantity of banana, yoghurt and pineapple juice, each time adding, in turn, the frozen raspberries and other berries, blueberries, kiwifruit and the mango, to make several layers of colour.

 

Finish by decorating the smoothie, adding a pretty straw and a slice of dragon fruit cut into a star, or a few blueberries.

 

Serve immediately or screw on the lid of the jar to take to the office or a picnic

 

Rainbow Smoothies

Unicorn Cake: Unicorn Food – Sandra Mahut

 

Unicorn Food

Unicorn Food by Sandra Mahut (Murdoch Books RRP $19.99)

 

Unicorn Cake

 

Preparation time: 3 hours

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Resting time: 30 minutes

 

 

Serves 6 to 8

Lime sponge cake

5 eggs

155 g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

155 g plain (all-purpose) flour

Zest of 1 lime

Swiss meringue butter cream

5 egg whites

250 g caster sugar

190 g softened butter

 

Assembly

Black and white fondant icing

100 g fresh raspberries

Natural food colouring (yellow, green, blue and pink)

Glitter or gold hundreds and thousands for decoration

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour four small round cake tins, 16 cm in diameter.

 

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks in a separate bowl. Whisk some of the whites into the first mixture, then gently fold in the rest with a soft spatula. Add the flour and whisk again. Add the lime zest.

 

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins. Smooth the tops with the soft spatula. Bake the cakes for about 10 minutes. They should be lightly golden, but not brown.

 

Let them cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out the cakes while they are still quite hot. Let them cool on a rack in a single layer.

 

Make the swiss meringue. Heat the egg whites and caster sugar in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, beating with an electric beater on medium speed. Increase the speed gradually, until the mixture reaches approximately 50°C.

 

Pour the mixture into another bowl, off the saucepan, and continue to beat until completely cooled. The meringue must be smooth, supple and shiny.

 

Take 2/3 of this mixture and incorporate the softened butter while continuing to beat for 3 minutes. The texture should be firm and creamy. Set aside the swiss meringue butter cream in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Also set aside the remaining 1/3 of the swiss meringue in the refrigerator, to make the mane later.

Make the eyes, ears and the horn of the unicorn out of the fondant icing.

Start assembling the cake. Spread a layer of butter cream over a first round of cake, arrange a few raspberries on top, top with a second round of cake and press down lightly. Repeat the process and finish with the last cake round.

Next, cover the whole cake with a first layer of butter cream and set it aside in the refrigerator for about 10–15 minutes. Cover with a second layer of butter cream and smooth the surface. The cake must be very even. If needed, refrigerate for 10 minutes and cover with a final layer of butter cream.

 

Take out the remaining swiss meringue that was set aside for the mane. Divide between 5 bowls, leave one white and colour the others with yellow, green, blue and pink colouring, whisking in each colour well.

 

Make 5 strips of colour side by side on a piece of plastic wrap, roll up and place inside a piping bag with your choice of nozzle. (See more detailed instructions on page 32.) Set aside in the refrigerator.

 

Plant the horn and ears on top of the cake, then pipe the rainbow meringue all around the horn and ears, making a mane that goes down the back of the cake and comes back around the side. Arrange the eyes on the side. Sprinkle with glitter or gold hundreds and thousands.

 

Post Script: Unicorn Food – Sandra Mahut

Unicorn Food

Unicorn Food: Natural Recipes for Edible Rainbows

Sandra Mahut

Murdoch Books

ISBN: 9781760634414

 

Description:

No unicorns were harmed in the making of this food! But unicorns have magically inspired all the recipes in this book adding technicolor sparkle to your sushi and fairy tale magic to your mocktails. Why eat boring when you can enjoy a rainbow-coloured noodle bowl for dinner? And it’s all deliciously natural – no nasty e-numbers or preservatives, just beautiful food colourings made from berry juices and vegetables. From the show-stopping Unicorn Cake and Cosmic Donuts to Rainbow Veggie Sandwiches and Celestial Swirl Soup, these brightly coloured edibles can be naughty and nice. Create the most unbelievably Instagrammable dishes ever seen. Cook, post and enjoy and the likes will multiple. Move over mug cakes. This is internet explosion unites the zeitgeist for all things magical, pastel, and unicorn-esque. Brightly coloured, and not too serious, Unicorn Food is shared experience – how could you not want to share such amazing and magical delights created in your own kitchen – and all natural and vegetarian.

 

My View:

This must be the most colourful and spectacularly designed recipe book I have come across – the photography is amazing, (the writer is also a photographer and food stylist – that is evident on each and every page). You will find yourself racing to the kitchen to prepare some of these wonderful, healthy  treats–“no artificial food colourings are used in this book; they are all plant based.” P4

The colourful, joyous creations will put a smile on anyone’s face. If your best friend needs to be cheered up – a plate of Unicorn macarons will do the trick, need a unique gift for that arty friend? Unicorn white chocolate bars look divine and are easy to create in the home kitchen. (p.50)  And there are so many choices for party/birthday treats you want know where to begin. But don’t stop there – there are recipes to add sparkle and glitz to breakfasts (Mermaid toast, Rainbow smoothies, Blue latte, Starlight smoothie bowl ), lunch (Unicorn dips, Rainbow veggie sandwiches…) and dinner – Unicorn rice paper rolls, maki rolls, veggie noodle bowls….YUM I want to eat it all !

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

The Craftsman

The Craftsman

Sharon Bolton

Trapeze

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781409174127

 

Description:

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.

 

August, 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

 

June, 1969

13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

 

August, 1999

As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

 

 

 

My View:

I read this until I could not keep my eyes open and then picked up the book again when I awoke. Quite possibly the best EVER book I have read !!!!

 

You must get your hands on a copy of this – it is chilling, it will keep you up all night reading and the ending??? Well I never!!! Never guessed this outcome at all. Never realised just who was the wrong doer here, didn’t see this coming.  Didn’t see…well you will just have to read it for yourself.

 

The best part of this book – and there are so many great features – great characters, loved the relationship between Flo and her son, loved the references to the 60’s early 70’s, loved the life lessons woven in….but the best part- this is the first book in a trilogy! More greatness to come- soon I hope.

 

Margaret River Region Open Studios

colour pop exhibition anita revel

Do you need a pop of colour in your life? Does your creative energy energy need a boost? Do you need inspiration? Or want to talk to like minded creatives? Well the Margaret River Region Open Studios is for you (28 April – 13 May 2018).  The artists are generous with their time and their conversation – happy to talk creative process.

Today I visited four studios/galleries and talked about the use of leather and gold leaf in Molly Coy’s  work, talked about the inspiration a historical, photographic crime journal, provided to artist  Deanne Haddow, discussed process, acrylic pours, special ingredients, peacocks and then had a little card reading (Affirmation Goddess Oracle cards) with Anita Revel and if that wasn’t enough art and art talk for one day, I finished the tour with a browse of the  Margaret River Gallery – such a great variety of styles, modern and traditional here.  There is something for everyone to enjoy at the Margaret River Region Open Studios – one hundred and thirty artists open their doors to the public – what a great idea!

 

opening Anita in front of large dreamcatcher Dreams Come True

Tomorrow is a new day – and more studios to visit! 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Almost Love – Louise O’Neil

Almost Love

Almost Love
Louise O’Neil
riverrun
Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9781784298869

 

Description:

If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not love: the gripping new novel from the bestselling author of Asking for It. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and Jodi Picoult.

 

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

 

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

 

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

 

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

 

And love is supposed to hurt.

 

Isn’t it?

 

 

 

My View:

Raw, gutsy, evocative, provocative…what more can I say? This is brilliant!

 

I have never read a book where the unlikeable protagonist actually makes the narrative work – and believe me Sarah is not a very nice person – or is she? I actually have a fair bit of empathy for Sarah, I see the broken person trying to carry on with life, and I see situations that are hauntingly accurate. Life is portrayed in shocking realism, relationships in all their hues are displayed garishly, shockingly, provocatively; almost love, addicted to love? Addicted to being needed, to being wanted.

 

Could you like Sarah when she doesn’t even like herself?

 

A stunning look at relationships that will, at times, make you cringe at their realness.

 

I would love to read more by this author.