The Best Preschooler Book of 2018: Animalphabet – Julia Donaldson with Illustrations by Sharon King-Chai

Animalphabet

The Animalphabet

Julia Donaldson

Illustrations by Sharon King-Chai

Two Hoots

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781509801633

RRP $24.99

 

Description:

A wondrous and beautiful A-to-Z guessing game from the bestselling author of Room on the Broom

 

From ant to butterfly to caterpillar . . . to zebra and then back again, Animalphabet is an entertaining puzzle as well as a gorgeous alphabet book to treasure.

 

Who can slither better than a rabbit? A snake! Who can growl better than a snake? A tiger! There are clever hints and peekaboo holes within the artwork that will amaze and delight young children as they learn to use the alphabet. This is a preschool must-have.

 

 

My View:

This book is visually stunning! The illustrations are fun and colourful, the cutaways/cut outs/flip pages are fun and entertaining. This is a quality children’s book that will give many hours of reading pleasure to both the adult and the child reading this book.

 

This is the perfect gift – for any time of the year.

 

Brenda’s Top Ten Books of the Year 2018

This has been a bumper year for 5 star reads, trying to narrow the list to just ten is very difficult but Brenda has managed to whittle her list to these  ten exciting reads (in no particular order) :

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Queen's Colonial

The Queen’s Colonial by Peter Watt

The Nature of the Lion

Nature of the Lion by T.M. Clark

Wundersmith

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

Disguising Demons

Disguising Demons by Brigid George

The Dream Daughter

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

The Great Alone

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

The Lost Pearl

The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden

The Lost Valley

The Lost Valley by Jennifer Scoullar

Whitsunday Dawn

Whitsunday Dawn by Annie Seaton

Guest Review: The Wrong Callahan – Karly Lane

The Wrong Callahan

The Wrong Callahan
Karly Lane
Allen & Unwin AU
ISBN: 9781760632656

Description:
It had been two long years since Lincoln Callahan had found himself in front of the gates to Stringybark Creek. He was in the army then – a lifetime ago. Linc had always been the unsettled Callahan, looking for danger, the one who couldn’t wait to leave the family farm.
This time he was back for his little sister, Hadley’s, wedding. From far and wide, the Callahan relatives were streaming toward Stringybark Creek.
Linc’s little brother, Griffin, was the steady son, the one who stayed at home, the one who did the right things. And now, the one who had feelings for city-girl, Cash Sullivan.
For Cash, the offer to manage her best friend’s luxury beauty spa tucked away in the country had come at the right time. She knew she needed to make smarter choices in her life, starting with the men she dated, and an enforced break in the country seemed the right way to consider her options.
When Linc sets eyes on Cash at a family dinner, their swift attraction floors him. But Cash is his brother’s girlfriend…what was he thinking?
As Linc, Griff and Cash form an uneasy triangle, each of them have personal demons to face before they can open their hearts.

Brenda’s Review:
It was the first time in two years since Linc Callahan had returned home to Stringybark Creek – he’d since left the army after his final tour of Afghanistan and the business he and two mates had started was doing well. But the peace he knew he would find at home with his mother Lavinia and father Bob, plus his siblings was something he was looking forward to. Christmas was only a few weeks away, then it would be his sister, Hadley’s wedding. Much would be happening, hence his earlier arrival.
Cash Sullivan had arrived to take over the operation of her best friend, Savannah’s health and wellness centre, while she and her husband were travelling. It included such treatments as massages and spas, and she would be helping prepare bridesmaids and bride for the upcoming wedding. Linc’s younger brother, Griff was on Cash’s radar – he was a gentle man and seemed shy. But she liked him. That was until she caught sight of Linc across the room at a Callahan family dinner. Sparks flew – but Cash was determined to stay right away from him. Apart from anything else, she couldn’t cause trouble between the brothers…

The Wrong Callahan is the first in a new series by Aussie author Karly Lane and is set in the rural countryside not far from Griffith in NSW. A familiar setting for me, and I could easily visualize the farm and the surrounding bushland. The Callahan family, especially Lavinia and Bob, were delightful; while there is mystery surrounding a couple of the others. An enjoyable rural romance which I have no trouble recommending. 4 stars.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Just Desserts: Raspberry and Chocolate Tart – Fruit – Bernadette Worndl,

fruit-9781925418446

Edited extract from Fruit by Bernadette Worndl, published by Smith Street Books, $55. Photography © Gunda Dittrich. Out November 2018

 

RASPBERRY AND CHOCOLATE TART

 Chocolate and raspberries really, really like each other!

 

Raspberry and chocolate tart

Pastry

100 g (3½ oz) cold butter

200 g (7 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

1 tablespoon icing (confectioners’) sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

splash of milk, as needed

 

Chocolate filling

300 g (10½ oz) bitter dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

pinch of salt

pinch of ground cinnamon

pinch of finely grated orange zest

125 g (4½ oz) thickened (whipping) cream

½ teaspoon orange-flavoured liqueur

 

Topping

1–2 tablespoons raspberry jam (jelly)

250 g (9 oz) raspberries

1–2 teaspoons honey

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) (conventional). For the pastry, chop the butter into cubes. Place the butter in a large bowl, along with the flour, icing sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the egg and knead into a smooth dough, adding milk if the dough is too dry. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to 3 mm (⅛ in) thick. Line a large pie dish or 4–6 small flan (tart) tins with the pastry and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

 

Cover the pastry with baking paper, fill with dried beans or baking beads and blind bake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 10–15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake the pastry for a further 10–12 minutes, until the edge begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

For the chocolate filling, chop the chocolate and place in a bowl with the salt, cinnamon and orange zest. Heat the cream in a small saucepan, then pour it over the chocolate mixture and allow everything to melt together for 2–3 minutes. Stir until smooth, then stir through the liqueur.

 

Spread the jam over the pie base. Pour over the chocolate cream and leave at room temperature until set. Top with the raspberries and serve drizzled with the honey.

 

Review: In A House of Lies – Ian Rankin

In a House of Lies

In A House of Lies

(Inspector Rebus #22)

Ian Rankin

Hachette Australia

Orion

ISBN: 9781409176893

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Everyone has something to hide. A missing private investigator is found, locked in a car hidden deep in the woods. Worse still – both for his family and the police – is that his body was in an area that had already been searched.

Everyone has secrets. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is part of a new inquiry, combing through the mistakes of the original case. There were always suspicions over how the investigation was handled and now – after a decade without answers – it’s time for the truth.

Nobody is innocent. Every officer involved must be questioned, and it seems everyone on the case has something to hide, and everything to lose. But there is one man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him: John Rebus

 

My View:

By the twenty second book in a series I would have expected my engagement to have waned, I have read a few series over the past many years and rarely does an author still manage to capture my attention, still keep me up late reading, still make me question “can this writer get any better?” at this stage of the series.  Ian Rankin and his Rebus series shines on.

 

This is stand out crime fiction with the characters you know and love.

 

Personally I think this series is getting better and better.  I can’t wait for next year’s instalment.

Review: The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries

The Stranger Diaries

Elly Griffiths

Hachette Australia

Quercus

ISBN: 9781786487407

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

 

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

 

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

 

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

 

 

My View:

Why is it when I read this my brain keeps shouting Agatha Christie? Is it because of the emphasis on great writing skills rather than gratuitous violence? Is it because like Christie, Elly Griffiths sprinkles little gems of hidden clues throughout the narrative yet at the end you still don’t know who did it? (Well I didn’t J )  Intelligently and succinctly written, I am again reminded of “Golden Age” type mysteries.

 

This is a great read that will keep you guessing to the very end – once you know the ending, maybe like me, you will look back and discover the clues that are gently hidden in plain sight. I hope you enjoy working out this puzzle – I did.

 

 

 

#MeatFreeMonday – Watermelon Salad

 

 

 

 

 

Edited extract from Fruit by Bernadette Worndl, published by Smith Street Books, $55. Photography © Gunda Dittrich. Out November 2018

 

WATERMELON SALAD WITH FETA, TOMATO, MINT AND CUCUMBER

” On hot summer days, I can eat this salad constantly. The sweet, juicy watermelon in combination with the fleshy oxheart tomatoes could not go better with the crisp, thickly sliced cucumbers and salty feta.” p. 136

 

 

Watermelon salad

1 small seedless watermelon

1 Lebanese (short) cucumber

3–4 oxheart tomatoes

3–4 mint sprigs

200 g (7 oz) feta

**fleur de sel, to taste

olive oil, for drizzling

juice of ½ lemon

 

Halve the watermelon, remove pieces of the flesh using a spoon and arrange on a large plate. Peel the cucumber and cut into thick slices. Cut the tomatoes into chunks and arrange on the watermelon, along with the cucumber. Pick the mint leaves and tear into smaller pieces.

 

Crumble the feta over the salad, scatter over the mint and fleur de sel, and drizzle with olive oil and the lemon juice.

 

Fleur de sel – is a finishing salt to flavor and garnish food. It is added just before serving to boost the flavor of eggs, fish, meat, vegetables, chocolate, and caramel.