Guest Review: The House of Second Chances – Esther Campion

The House of Second Chances

Esther Campion

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733636172

 

Description:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Even though Ellen O’Shea had returned to South Australia after her visit to her home in Ireland, she knew her brother Aidan who was a builder, would continue the renovation of their grandmother’s stone cottage in West Cork. Ellen had taken her good friend, interior designer Colette Barry on board, and knew she would do an excellent job with the cottage. But Aidan didn’t want the added cost that came with Colette’s grandiose ideas.

While good friend Gerry Clancy was trying to obtain the visa he needed to join Ellen in Australia, Colette was busy at her interior designer company, Fabulous Four Walls, along with good friend and partner John. When Colette and Gerry joined Aidan at the West Cork cottage, she could see the potential and knew the house would have a second chance with all they could do. But she also wondered how she could work with the perpetually grumpy owner of the cottage. How could he be the brother of her best friend?

With troubled pasts and dark secrets, plus events with family and friends of an upsetting nature, was there a possibility of second chances and starting over? Would Aidan find happiness? Would Colette?

The House of Second Chances by Aussie author Esther Campion is the sequel to Leaving Ocean Road, and it was wonderful to catch up with Ellen, Aidan and Gerry once again. The story continues on from the ending of Leaving Ocean Road and was exceptionally well done, with the blending of known characters with new ones. The parts of Australia in the novel – Port Lincoln, Millicent, Mount Gambier, the Coorong – are places I know (I lived in Mount Gambier as a child); while Ireland is a place I haven’t been, but the descriptions of the countryside were delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and whipped through it in a matter of hours (who needs sleep?!) Highly recommended. 5 stars!

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

My Most Anticipated Release of 2019

I so loved Wimmera by Mark Brandi that I have been waiting, waiting for his next release. The Rip has already garnered some wonderful 5 star reviews and I cannot wait to read it. Brandi has a way of writing social driven issues in contemporary settings with more than a hint of mystery that is engaging and evocative.

 

Watch out for this one – released in March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MondayMunchies: Stuffed Capsicums -Yummy Easy Quick Around the World -Matt Preston

Yummy Easy Quick Around the World Cover

Yummy Easy Quick Around The World by Matt Preston. Published by Plum (through Pan Macmillan)

p182 GREECE

MAKES: 4 LARGE OR 6 MEDIUM

PREP: 20 MINS

COOKING: 2 HOURS

Stuffing vegetables and rolling stuff in vine leaves. These two techniques take on an important cultural significance
in this particular corner of the world. I didn’t know this when my mum would serve up roasted capsicums that were slightly slumped by the twin assault of roasting and stuffing; I just thought it was a tasty dinner, and the balance of the salty, meaty filling was ‘ace’ with the crimson flesh, its sweetness intensified by the oven.

I fear that the joy of the stuffed capsicum – like that of the baked potato or leeks rolled in ham and baked in a cheese sauce – has been lost to this generation. So let’s bring it back! If it’s going to be a campaign, we need a better hashtag than #getstuffed. Your inspiration is required, so make the dish, photograph it and post it on Insta tagged @mattscravat with your idea of the perfect #hashtag for the campaign.” p. 182
Stuffed capsicum

125 ml (½ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing and drizzling
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400 g lean beef mince
2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
4 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
3 teaspoons dried Greek oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
½ whole nutmeg, finely grated
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sea salt
lots of freshly ground black pepper
100 g (½ cup) long-grain white rice
1 × 400 g can crushed tomatoes
150 ml chicken or beef stock, plus extra if €needed
1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
25 large mint leaves, thinly sliced
75 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
4 large or 6 medium red capsicums (look for straight sides with stalks if possible)

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan-forced. Heat 60 ml (¼ cup) of the oil in a large frying pan over medium–low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, then add the celery and cook, stirring, for 2€minutes or until just soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes or€until aromatic. Spoon the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Increase the heat to high. Heat half the remaining oil in the same pan. Add half the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef. Return all the beef to the pan and stir in the zucchini, thyme, dried oregano and mint, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute or until well combined.

Stir in the onion mixture, then add the rice, tomatoes and stock and bring to the boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 15€minutes or until the rice has absorbed the liquid and the mixture looks moist but not saucy. You can always add a little more stock if needed. The rice will still have a little
resistance to the bite, but don’t worry as it will continue to soften in the oven. Stir the parsley, mint and pine nuts into the mince mixture. Season again if needed and€remove from the heat.

While the filling is cooking, prepare the capsicums. Use a sharp knife to slice around the top of each capsicum to create a lid. Try to do this neatly as this top will go back on. Carefully hollow out the middle, removing the seeds and membrane with a spoon. Brush the capsicums all over with oil, including the lids. Use a tablespoon to fill the capsicums with the hot mince mixture, but don’t overload them as the filling will expand during baking. Top with the capsicum lids.

Dig out a high-sided ceramic or cast-iron baking dish that will snugly fit the capsicums in€a standing position. Transfer the capsicums to the dish and drizzle with a little extra oil. Cover the dish with baking paper and then with foil (the baking paper stops the capsicums from sticking to the foil) and tightly seal. Bake for 1 hour, then uncover and bake for a further 30 minutes. The capsicums will be soft and nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool down a bit. Serve just as they are or with the Greek salad.

 

Review: The House of Second Chances – Esther Campion

The House of Second Chances (1)

The House of Second Chances

Esther Campion

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733636172

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

Can a house heal heartache? From coastal Australia to the rugged beauty of Ireland, an enchanting novel of starting over, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy and Monica McInerney.

 

Their grandmother’s stone cottage was always a welcome retreat in the childhood summers of Ellen and Aidan O’Shea. After a trip home from Australia, Ellen is keen to bring the neglected home back to its former glory and enlists the help of her dear friend and one of Ireland’s top interior designers, Colette Barry.

 

Aidan is already begrudging the work on the house he has avoided for nearly twenty years. The last thing the builder needs is an interior designer who seems to do nothing but complicate his life. With their own personal heartaches to overcome, will Aidan and Colette find the courage to give the house and themselves a second chance?

 

 

My View:

This was the perfect Valentine’s Day read – and if you haven’t had an opportunity to read it yet, sit yourself down in a comfy chair, cup of tea (or glass of wine) in hand and take some time to be in the moment, to be in Ireland, to be in the countryside – wild, romantic and picturesque. Imagine yourself with you sketch pad or easel capturing the vista, relaxed.

 

Armchair travelling at its best.

 

Everyone deserves a second chance.

 

 

For those who haven’t read the Leaving Ocean Road – the book that introduces to the main characters and background stories, check out Brenda’s review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2274627293

 

 

PS Love the cover art.

 

Review: The Scholar – Dervla McTiernan

he Scholar

The Scholar

Cormac Reilly #2

Dervla McTiernan

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460754221

 

Description:

From the author of the critically acclaimed bestseller The Ruin comes a compulsive new crime thriller featuring DS Cormac Reilly.

 

Being brilliant has never been this dangerous …

 

When Dr Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit and run outside Galway University late one evening, she calls her partner, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him.

 

A security card in the dead woman’s pocket identifies her as Carline Darcy, a gifted student and heir apparent to Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics. The multi-billion-dollar company, founded by her grandfather, has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The enquiry into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

 

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but as his running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question his own objectivity. Could his loyalty to Emma have led him to overlook evidence? Has it made him a liability?

 

 

My View:

This series continues to deliver a narrative that on the surface appears straightforward but is nuanced with contemporary issues, richly developed characters, interesting back stories with a landscape of corruption and political point scoring that is contemporary and engaging.

 

Cormac Reilly continues to outshine most contemporary protagonists I have read.

 

The only negative – it will be a long wait for book 3 in the series J

Review: Slayer – Kiersten White

Slayer

Slayer

Kiersten White

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781471178993

 

Description:

Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

 

 

My View:

Confession time, I am a die hard fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I am nearly sixty 🙂 I Loved the TV series, I have the entire DVD collection, I have watched it many, many times…I watch it with my adult daughters, I  have watched it alone…I guess you get the point, I am a big fan.

Reading Slayer by Kiersten White was like sitting in front of the TV again and watching the next exciting episode of Buffy. White has nailed the tone, the sarcasm and all things relating to Slayers and Watchers and the new characters fit perfectly into the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This narrative is pitch perfect.  Sadly the book ended way too soon.

Buffy opps Nina, I miss you already!