Guest Review: Something in the Wine – Tricia Stringer

Something in the Wine

Tricia Stringer

Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781489261502

Description:

A warm-hearted rural romance set among the scenic vineyards of the Margaret River from bestselling author Tricia Stringer, the authentic voice of Australian storytelling. Reserved high school teacher Keely Mitchell is more than ready for her holiday on the west coast of Australia, so when a medical emergency turns over all her plans and an intervention by a kind stranger finds her recovering in a Margaret River vineyard, she is at first downcast.

Keely had wanted to put recent traumatic events out of her mind, and recuperating alone in a stranger’s house won’t help that. But slowly the lovely food, spectacular wine and beautiful landscape of the area begin to work their spell. As Keely makes friends with the locals and adapts to the rhythms of the vintner’s year, she starts to feel part of the scenery too, particularly when her artwork and jewellery-making somehow find a home at Levallier Dell Wines.

But clouds are on the horizon in the shape of a warring father and son, interfering family friends and a rival in love. Keely didn’t mean to fall for anyone, but she can’t help her feelings for clever, passionate wine-maker Flynn Levallier. Sadly, it seems he only has eyes for the beautiful Kat, daughter of a rival wine-maker. Can what Keely feels be real? Or is it just something in the wine?

Brenda’s Review:

Keely Mitchell was looking forward to her holiday in WA; to following her dreams and going where she wanted. But the day of her arrival in Perth, she had an unexpected medical emergency and it was only luck that had her remembering the note with the phone number in her jeans pocket. Heading to Margaret River was the last thing she thought she’d be doing, but recuperation was paramount and her respite at Levallier Dell Wines seemed fortuitous.

As Keely slowly regained her strength, her discomfort at the situation in the face of the father and son who quite obviously didn’t see eye to eye was enough to make her want to leave. But gradually, the beauty of the vineyard; the wine and food; the friendliness of the locals – all made Keely realise she loved the area. But of course she couldn’t stay. Her sketches and jewellery making kept her occupied, but she wasn’t sure it was enough.

Would Keely leave Levallier Dell with just her memories to add to her holiday experiences? Or was there more, much more that she could experience?

Another fabulous read from the pen of Aussie author Tricia Stringer! I thoroughly enjoyed Something in the Wine, as I have all this author’s work. Her descriptions are so well painted, even though I’ve never been to the area, I could visualize it all. I could see the volatile and passionate neighbour Theo; the gossiping café owner; the frustrations of both father and son – all written in an easy-to-read way. An excellent novel which I have no trouble recommending. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

#MeatFreeMonday: Samosas – A Pinch of Nom – Kate Allinson & Kay Feathestone

When I first picked up this book and started flicking through the recipes to see what might catch my eye, I failed to notice “100 slimming home style recipes” noted on the front cover. The fact that these are calorie reduced meals did not detract me from exploring this book; the types of meals here are things I might make everyday – healthy home cooking choices. What a great book! I hope you find some, new favourites here too.

Pinch of Nom by Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone is published by Bluebird, RRP $39.99 and is available in all good bookstores.

 

Samosas

Prep time: 10 mins | Cooking time: 15 mins | 151 KCAL per serving

 

Yes, you read correctly: samosas! Making a simple swap from pastry to tortilla wrap instantly brings down the calories. Filled with fresh ingredient, you’ll be reaching for these time and time again for fakeaway nights (served with our Super Simple Chicken Curry on page 58), or just as a snack.” p. 224

V F GF (use GF wraps)

Makes 6

 

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 cm (½ in) dice

75g frozen peas

Low-calorie cooking spray

½ onion, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp grated root ginger

Generous pinch of chilli powder

½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp garam masala

30g spinach

Juice of ½ lemon

Sea salt

3 low-calorie tortilla wraps, cut in half

1 egg, beaten

Fresh coriander, to serve (optional)

Cook the diced potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain. Cook the peas in boiling salted water and drain.

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C/gas mark 6) and line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper or baking parchment.

 

Spray a pan with some low-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until softened but not browned, then add the spices and cook for another minute. Stir in the cooked potato and mash it slightly with a fork or the back of a spoon before adding the uncooked spinach, lemon juice and peas. Add a pinch of salt and stir.

 

Brush the edges of the halved wraps with the beaten egg. Fold each half into a cone shape and seal the edge, leaving the top open to add the filling.

 

Divide the filling equally between the wraps, being careful not to over-fill them. If you do, you will not be able to seal them properly.

 

Brush the open end of the wraps with some more beaten egg, leave for 30–40 seconds, until it becomes tacky, then press the edges together firmly. You can use a fork to do this, but be careful not to rip the wrap. Arrange the samosas on the tray.

 

Brush each samosa with plenty of beaten egg, make sure the edges are sealed, then place in the oven for 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

 

Remove from the oven and serve warm. You can also allow to cool, wrap in baking parchment and freeze for another day.

 

Review: Under the Midnight Sky – Anna Romer

Under the Midnight Sky

Anna Romer

Simon and Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781925184457

 

Description:

Chilling secrets buried deep in wild bushland drive this thrilling new novel from bestseller Anna Romer

 

When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.

 

But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.

 

As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.

 

But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

 

My View

I really enjoyed this darker, haunting, contemporary read from this author who never disappoints. On the surface this is a gritty mystery, dig a little deeper and you will find it is a contemporary exploration of the cycle of violence/trauma and how it can affect the individual and generations.  I loved how this theme was discussed via the dual time line incidents: mysteries in both generations.

Typical of Anna Romer there is her trade mark use of old documents (in this case a diary), an old building with a  Gothic charm- with secrets of its own, mystery and a little romance. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I hope you will too.

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: A Single Woman – Maggie Christensen

A Single Woman

Maggie Christensen

Cala Publishing

ASIN: B07PMV51JF

Description:

Isla Cameron. headmistress at an elite girl’s school in Glasgow, is determinedly single, adroitly avoiding all attempts at matchmaking by a close friend.

Widower Alasdair MacLeod is grieving for the wife he lost two years earlier, struggling as the single father of two teenagers, and frustrated by the well-meaning interference of his in-laws.

When a proposed school trip to France brings Isla and Alasdair together, they find a connection in the discovery that each is suffering the loss of a loved one, but neither is interested in forming a relationship,

As their friendship grows, Alasdair struggles with his increasing attraction to the elegant schoolmistress, while Isla harbours concerns about the complications a relationship with him would bring.

Can Alasdair overcome his natural reserve, and can Isla open her heart to love again?

Readers of Christensen’s earlier books, The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, will love reconnecting with Bel and Matt while enjoying Isla Cameron’s unique story.

Brenda’s Review:

Alasdair MacLeod’s grief over the death of his wife two years earlier felt all encompassing. His two teenage children, Fiona and Robbie coped with the loss of their mother in their own way, while Alasdair’s father-in-law Matt and his wife Bel helped the best they could. Fi belonged to an all girl’s school in Glasgow and idolized the headmistress, Isla Cameron who’d been in that position for the past ten years. Isla was happily single, living in a small flat with her cat Sooty, catching up with her best friend Shona now and then.

With a school trip to France on the agenda for a select few pupils, Fi was desperate to go along. Alasdair met with Isla to discuss the logistics – Fi was wheelchair bound, but if the French au pair accompanied them, Fi could join the trip. As Isla and Alasdair got to know one another, they both realized they had much in common. They both wanted companionship and friendship – but was Alasdair ready for a relationship? And did Isla want to give up her hard-won independence?

A Single Woman by Aussie author Maggie Christensen is loosely linked to The Good Sister and Isobel’s Promise, and it was wonderful to catch up with Bel and Matt, Alasdair’s children’s grandparents, again. This author’s characters are always so real; people who live next door; people we know and love. I thoroughly enjoyed A Single Woman and love the way Maggie writes about the older generation, with ease and aplomb. I’m already looking forward to this author’s next. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to the author for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Review: The Land Girls – Victoria Purman

 

The Land Girls

Victoria Purman

Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781489273970

Description:

A moving story of love, loss and survival against the odds by bestselling author of The Last of the Bonegilla Girls, Victoria Purman.

It was never just a man’s war…

Melbourne,1942

War has engulfed Europe and now the Pacific, and Australia is fighting for its future. For spinster Flora Thomas, however, nothing much has changed. Tending her dull office job and beloved brother and father, as well as knitting socks for the troops, leaves her relatively content. Then one day a stranger gives her brother a white feather and Flora’s anger propels her out of her safe life and into the vineyards of the idyllic Mildura countryside, a member of the Australian Women’s Land Army.

There she meets Betty, a 17-year-old former shopgirl keen to do her bit for the war effort and support her beloved, and the unlikely Lilian, a well-to-do Adelaide girl fleeing her overbearing family and theworld’s expectations for her. As the Land Girls embrace their new world of close-knit community and backbreaking work, they begin to find pride in their roles. More than that, they start to find a kind of liberation. For Flora, new friendships and the singular joy derived from working the land offer new meaning to her life, and even the possibility of love.

But as the clouds of war darken the horizon, and their fears for loved ones – brothers, husbands, lovers – fighting at the front grow, the Land Girls’ hold on their world and their new-found freedoms is fragile. Even if they make it through unscathed, they will not come through unchanged…

Brenda’s Review:

With war across Europe, Australia’s men and women were joining the cause in droves. Flora’s younger brother Frank was fighting overseas and in Melbourne, she, her father and brother Jack worried constantly. Betty from Sydney worked in Woolworths and her next door neighbour and best friend, Michael joined up, heading overseas. And Lily from Adelaide was being courted by David so when he joined the air force to fight overseas, she wanted to do her bit for the war effort.

The Australian Women’s Land Army were calling for women to help out with the jobs men had always done. Shearing, picking grapes, apples, working on farms with the animals. All three young women – Flora, Betty and Lily – separately decided to become Land Army girls for the duration of the war. And as they worked their various roles in different parts of Australia, they met other women doing the same thing; making dear friends. Along the way, there was heartache and loss, sadness and tragedy – the relentless arrival of the dreaded telegram – but there was also growing maturity, pride in their work and independence among the women.

When Flora was once again at Two Rivers near Mildura, she learned two other Land Girls were arriving to help this season with the grapes. And so she met Betty and Lily. The three girls worked hard – the work was backbreaking, and the heat was never ending – all the while wondering if the war would ever end. And whether their loved ones would come home…

The Land Girls is a poignant story filled with heartache and hope, love and loss, as well as courage, grit and determination. Aussie author Victoria Purman has once again written a well-researched historical novel which I thoroughly enjoyed. I wasn’t aware of the Australian Women’s Land Army and the role the women played during the war. Many of the farms and properties simply wouldn’t have survived without the help of those wonderful women. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Boxed – Richard Anderson

Boxed

Richard Anderson

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713657

 

Description:

When life delivers you gifts you don’t want.

 

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

 

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

 

 

My View:

Last year I read Richard Anderson’s debut Retribution – it was a stunning read – tension filled, evocative…with some thought provoking social commentary set in rural Australia, I loved it. When I was offered an opportunity to read Richard’s latest book “Boxed” I leapt at the chance and I was not disappointed.

 

Boxed is set in another rural small town – mysteries abound and personal tragedies /grief inform the mood of the narrative. (No spoilers here).  I love that contemporary issues are woven into this mystery, that there is hope and a wonderful sense of community, that the characters are richly drawn and empathetic and that the mystery element shines brightly. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.

 

Richard Anderson has a talent for storytelling that is mesmerising. I cannot wait to read what he writes next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#MondayMunchies: Dirty Chocolate Cake – The Dirty Dishes – Isaac Carew


‘The Dirty Dishes: 100 Fast and Delicious Recipes by Isaac Carew, Published by Bluebird, RRP $39.99’ 

 

Dirty chocolate cake
This is one of my signature dishes: a really basic chocolate cake recipe that’s extra indulgent thanks to
all of the chocolate sauce and delicious walnuts. It also looks really elegant with raspberry dust. This is
a special take on a chocolate cake I’ve had on every single birthday since I was born – although this
one hasn’t got Smarties dotted on the top highlighting my age!” p208

serves 8
100g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
3 tbsp cocoa powder
65g plain flour
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
80g milled walnuts
big handful of fresh raspberries
15g freeze-dried raspberry dust or whole freeze-dried raspberries

For the icing
70g unsalted butter, softened
200g milk chocolate
100g icing sugar
100ml double cream

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
20cm (8in) cake tin
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan 160℃/gas mark 4). Grease the cake tin and line with baking
parchment, then grease the parchment on the sides of the tin.

Put a small saucepan of water on to boil. Set a heatproof bowl on top, then add the butter and allow to
melt. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and eggs, then whisk together.

Add the cocoa powder, flour, vanilla and milled walnuts. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 15–20 minutes. Once the cake has baked and
cooled, make the icing.

To make the icing, set another heatproof bowl over the boiling water in the pan and add the butter
and chocolate. Let them melt together, then add the icing sugar and double cream. Whisk until
smooth.

Spread the icing over the cake and top with the fresh raspberries and raspberry dust or freeze-dried
raspberries.