Review: Tiny Uncertain Miracles – Michelle Johnston

Tiny Uncertain Miracles: the most uplifting gift of a novel you’ll read this Christmas 2022

Michelle Johnston

4th Estate AU

Harper Collins Australia

ISBN: 9781460762714

RRP $32.99

Description:

Miracles are notoriously unreliable. But sometimes, just when they’re needed, they turn up – although not always in the form that we expect…

‘A novel luminous with love and hope that will change the way you see the world.’ Kathryn Heyman

Awkward, hapless Marick is still struggling with the loss of his wife, his child and his faith when he is reluctantly thrust into the position of chaplain at a large public hospital. Shortly after arriving, he meets Hugo, a hospital scientist and a man almost as lost as Marick himself, who is working in a forgotten lab, deep in the subterranean realms of the hospital. Hugo is convinced that the bacteria he uses for protein production have – unbelievably – begun to produce gold. Is it alchemy, evolution, a hoax or even … possibly … a miracle?

In the meantime, Christmas is approaching, the number of homeless outside the hospital is increasing, the Director of Operational Services is pressing Marick about his weekly KPIs, you can’t buy chocolate in the hospital shop anymore, and Marick keeps waking with nightmares at 4 am every night. If ever a miracle was needed, it’s now.

A tender, sweet, sad, gritty, slyly funny and unexpectedly uplifting novel about family, friendship, faith, love – and alchemy – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a hopeful and luminous gift to all readers.

PRAISE FOR TINY UNCERTAIN MIRACLES

‘Johnston captures the brutal reality of life with a lyricism and gentleness that will touch many. Readers of Elizabeth Strout, Mitch Albom and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will find similarities and enjoyment in Tiny Uncertain Miracles.’ Books+Publishing

‘Johnston articulates the biggest questions and the smallest human moments with rare beauty and precision. A stunning act of imagination and storytelling’ – Robert Lukins, Loveland

‘Emotionally rich, profoundly absorbing and entrancingly unique, this is a book you won’t be able to put down. Johnston’s sentences dance, her wit sparkles and her power arises from her authority and audacity. Intellectually rigorous and achingly poignant; Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a virtuoso performance by a writer at the height of her powers. I have not read anything as satisfying and stimulating for a very long time.’ Alice Nelson, The Children’s House

Tiny Uncertain Miracles is witty, profound and a joy to read. Johnston posits that believing in something is better than nothing, and that redemption can come from the least likely places. Invisible gods, alchemy, medical science – all have their place but none tops the marvel of people, in their own weird ways and often despite themselves, being pretty bloody marvellous’ – Paul Dalgarno, A Country of Eternal Light

‘Original, enchanting and ultimately hopeful – Tiny Uncertain Miracles is a dazzling tale that will get under your skin and into your heart, in the best way possible’ – Ewa Ramsey, The Morbid

My View:

Let me start with the cover – I love this cover, the tiny gold dots, it is perfect for this read, perfect.

This is a tender, sublime, character driven story, ultimately of hope. Until I read this I have never really considered what the “first responders”, our ambulance officers, fireman. women, priests, chaplains, emergency room doctors and nurses “do” with all the pain, grief and despair that encounter on a day to day basis. It must be heavy, it must be hard. Thank you all for what you selflessly do for humanity.

The narrative – is a slow and deliberate expose of the lives of a few who inhabit the space of the hospital – whether they be the cleaner, the volunteers in the kiosk, the food attendants, the chaplain, the homeless who seek shelter in the hospital grounds, the medical and allied staff and last but not least, the patients and their families. Johnston gently, subtly reveals their inner thinking’s, their personalities, their aspirations and sometimes their failures. The characters are all very credible.

The ending is one of hope and cant we all use a little of that these days?

Read, enjoy, reflect.

PS Did the author make a cameo appearance in this read? If you have read this book let me know if you considered that possibility?

Prawn Curry with Cauliflower Rice – The CSIRO Low Carb Diet Easy 100 – Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

The CSIRO Low- Carb Diet Easy 100

Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

Photography by Jeremy Simons and Rob Palmer.

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN:9781760988456

RRP $39.99


UNITS PER SERVE:

Breads, Cereals, Legumes, Starchy Veg 0 Dairy 1 Lean Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs, Tofu 1.5 Low–Moderate Carbohydrate Veg 3.5 Healthy Fats 2

SERVES: 4 | PREPARATION: 10 MINUTES | COOKING: 25 MINUTES

Ingredients:
2 heads broccoli, stems and florets chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
400 g tinned diced tomatoes
600 g cooked prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact (see notes, and also note on page 174 regarding sodium)
1 cup (260 g) natural yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon

TO SERVE
450 g cauliflower rice, heated according to the packet instructions (see notes)
2 tablespoons chopped roasted unsalted cashews
½ cup coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the broccoli for 5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6–7 minutes until very so ened. Add the chilli, garlic, ginger, curry powder, mustard seeds, turmeric and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and cook, stirring, for a further 1–2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons water and the prawns, tossing everything together. (There won’t be a lot of sauce here, so place a lid on the frying pan to help the prawns steam to cook through.) Cook, covered, for 2–3 minutes until the prawns are cooked through, then stir the yoghurt and lemon juice through. Divide the cauliflower rice four between bowls, spoon the prawn curry over and add the cooked broccoli. Garnish with the cashews and coriander leaves and serve.


    Notes: You can use frozen raw prawns if you prefer. But don’t add the water to the frying pan as the frozen prawns will release quite a bit of moisture. You may need to simmer the sauce for an extra 2 minutes to reduce any excess liquid in your curry before serving. You can find cauliflower rice in the fresh produce section at your local supermarket. If unavailable, use the frozen variety instead.
    18 g CARBS P E R S E R V E


Review: Novelist as A Vocation – Haruki Murakami

Novelist as A Vacation

Haruki Murakami

Philip Gabriel (Translator),

Ted Goossen (Translator)

Penguin Randon House

Harvill Secker

ISBN:9781911215387

RRP $35.00

Description;

Thoughts and advice on the creative writing process from an international master of literature.

In this book Haruki Murakami explores his craft. He muses upon the qualities a novelist needs such as endurance and delight in the process as well as laying out his own methods. He covers topics such as originality, finding your own style, creating characters and links between literature, music and art. He also talks about his own life experiences and how they have influenced his work and his relationship with the Japanese literary establishment. He discusses education, the importance of reading, his literary influences and his path to success and the way he balances physical and intellectual work in his life. Wise and enlightening, this is a window into the world of an unique writer.

My View:

Imagine you sitting in big cosy armchair, opposite you in the famous writer, Haruki Murakami. Perhaps it is after dinner, you are both feeling comfortable and relaxed, you have, after all spent some time that evening around the table getting to know one another during a superb four course meal. Relaxed, you sit opposite one another and conversation begins or maybe continues. This is the book you now have in front of you – conversations, musings, reflections.

I found it entertaining, engaging and surprising, unpretentious.

A stand out reflection for me was ” I have a standard answer when interviewers ask me about literary prizes – this question invariably comes up, whether in Japan or abroad. ‘The most important thing,’ I tell them, ‘is good readers. Nothing means as much as much as the people who dip into their pockets to buy my books – not prizes or medals or critical praise.’ I repeat this answer over and over ad nauseum, yet it doesn’t seem to sink in. Most often it is completely ignored.” pps 44-45. Did I mention humility?

I enjoyed this conversation with Murakami.

Salmon Nori Rolls – The CSIRO Low Carb Diet Easy 100 – Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

The CSIRO Low- Carb Diet Easy 100

Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

Photography by Jeremy Simons and Rob Palmer.

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN:9781760988456

RRP $39.99

LUNCH
UNITS PER SERVE:
Breads, Cereals, Legumes, Starchy Veg 1 Dairy 0 Lean Meat, Fish, Poultry, Eggs, Tofu 1.5 Low–Moderate Carbohydrate Veg 3 Healthy Fats 3

SERVES: 4 | PREPARATION: 20 MINUTES | COOKING: NIL

Ingredients:
6 sheets nori
3 Lebanese cucumbers, very thinly sliced (use a mandoline if you have one), patted dry with paper towel
6 cups rocket leaves, baby spinach leaves or shredded kale. Stalks removed
¾ cup (140 g) cooked basmati rice


SALMON FILLING
600 g tinned salmon in spring water (no added salt), drained well
2 teaspoons salt-reduced tamari (see note)
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2½ tablespoons whole-egg mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot chilli sauce
4 spring onions, thinly sliced

  1. To make the salmon filling, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mash well with a fork to combine.
  2. Place a nori sheet flat on a workbench and top it with one-quarter of the cucumber, rocket, spinach or kale and rice, smoothing over the surface.
  3. Add one-quarter of the salmon filling, roll up the nori sheet tightly, running water along the far edge to seal. Slice in half, then set aside and repeat with the remaining nori rolls and filling.


Note
Tamari is a higher-salt product, so ideally use low-salt or no-added-salt
alternatives. If you are following a low-sodium diet, omit this ingredient. 20 g CARBS P E R S E R V E

The CSIRO Low Carb Diet Easy 100 – Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

The CSIRO Low- Carb Diet Easy 100

Professor Grant Brinkworth & Dr Pennie Taylor

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN:9781760988456

RRP $39.99

Descritpion:

The CSIRO Low-carb Diet is proven to be highly effective in achieving sustained long-term weight loss, reducing risk factors for heart disease and improving metabolic health. Now, with book #6 of the bestselling CSIRO Low-carb Diet series, eating low-carb has never been easier or more delicious.

Here are 100 brand-new everyday recipes, featuring plenty of vegetarian options, meals for one and two, and low-carb alternatives to high-carb staples, such as bread, pizza bases and smoothies. Plus there are shopping tips, handy lists and easy-to-follow guidelines, with solid, dependable advice from Australia’s foremost nutritional scientists.

My View:

Easy to follow, recipes for one or two people, lots hints and tips including how to set up your low carb kitchen, this book is sure to be a big hit.

Stay tuned I will publish a few recipes from this book over the next few days.

Review: Japan- Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Japan: A curated guide to the best sights, food, culture & art

Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh

Pan Macmillan Australia

Plum

ISBN:9781760787646

RRP $44.99

Description;

There is something about Japan that works its way into every fibre of your being. No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always uncover new experiences and life-altering adventures.

Pack your bags and travel with us to a country rich in cultural history and full of fascinating contrasts, from the frantic pace of Tokyo and Osaka, to the wintry soul of Hokkaido in the north and the natural wonders of Kyushu in the south. Navigate the dynamic cities, walk the roads of old Japan in Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and Nikko, or go off-grid to smaller, far-flung towns, each with their own unique traditions, crafts, sights, food and art.

Packed with cultural insights and stunning photography, this experiential and eclectic guide takes you on a deeper journey into Japan. Read up on history and local knowledge before you go, learn how to navigate the Shinkansen (bullet train), contemplate modern art and architecture, lose yourself in gardens, shrines and temples, and indulge in the best food tourism of your life. This tightly curated list of must-see places and experiences is for people who want to get an up close and personal look at the real Japan.

My View:

When I opened this book and started to examine some of the wonderful images ( presented more like a coffee travel book than a travel book) I felt an immediate urge to travel – something I have not felt at all during these years of COVID 19 uncertainty and restrictions.

This book has it all; glorious scenery, arts, history, food, beer, culture….I want to visit Japan 🙂

Guest Review: A Royal Visit To Victory Street – Pam Howes

A Royal Visit to Victory Street

(The Bryant Sisters #5)

Pam Howes

 Bookouture

ISBN:9781800197930

Description;

From Amazon charts bestseller Pam Howes comes an emotional and uplifting saga about the power of family and a community trying to rebuild their lives after the terrible war that nearly destroyed everything…

1956, Liverpool. With the shadow of the war looming over them and bomb craters littering the surrounding streets, hope feels far away for the residents of Victory Street. When they learn that the Queen has chosen to visit them on a tour of Liverpool, the delighted neighbours bring back the wartime spirit. Can they possibly get the street ready in time?

Even a royal visit cannot take away Bella Harrison’s worries. Her son, fourteen-year-old Levi, has just told her he wants to move to America to join the rest of his father’s family. The news has so shocked Bella that she’s not sure she’ll be able to sing for the Queen, jeopardising all their plans for the big day.

Life has been hard for Levi, growing up as a mixed-race boy in Liverpool, but he’s the light of Bella’s life. The thought of losing him brings back the terrible memories of losing her father and sister during the war. If everyone pulls together make the Queen’s visit an unforgettable celebration, perhaps she can persuade Levi that Victory Street is where he belongs.

But when Levi receives heartbreaking news from America and his move becomes uncertain, Bella starts to wonder if all her efforts to keep him in Liverpool have been for the right reasons. Can Bella find it in herself to sing for the big celebration, and make the right choice for her beloved son?

A totally unputdownable, heart-wrenching historical novel, packed with family secrets, perfect for fans of Dilly Court, Diney Costeloe and Nancy Revell.

Brenda’s View:
It was 1956 in Liverpool when Mary learned the plans of Queen Elizabeth II, and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, when they were going to visit Victory Street, during their tour of Liverpool. Mary took charge of the organisation to have Victory Street tidied up, making it fit for the royal visit. Lizzie, Mary’s small granddaughter, was going to present a bouquet of flowers to the Queen, and rehearsal for her was going well. Lizzie was deaf but she and all those around her knew signing, so she communicated well.

Bella and the other two Bryant Sisters would perform, as they had during the war, as well as her eldest son, Levi, and his two friends. Levi was keen to become a singer and his small band was having success with the concerts they joined in. The admiration Levi held for the new bands from the US as well as locally, with John Lennon doing well saw him anxious not to go on with schooling. He wanted to work to earn money and make his dreams come true. Would they manage to get Victory Street ready in the short time they had? Would their plans be successful?

A Royal Visit to Victory Street is the 5th in The Bryant Sisters series by Pam Howes (and perfect timing after current events) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was wonderful to catch up with Bella and the girls, learn more about Levi, Earl, Bobby and their integrated family, as well as the strong, determined and stalwart Mary, matriarch of the family. I love this author’s work and I have no hesitation in highly recommending A Royal Visit to Victory Street (along with the series).

Note: The blurb is misleading, as from the second paragraph down, it’s pretty much all wrong.

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

A 5 star read!

Quinoa and Black bean Patties; Meal Plan Your Way to Weight Loss – Rebecca Burnicle and Wendy Van Staden

Meal-Plan Your Way to Weight Loss by Rebecca Burnicle and Wendy Van Staden, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $39.99, photography by Jeremy Simons

Packed with flavour and seriously satisfying, add these tasty, fibre-filled patties to your weekly rotation if you’re keen to include some meat-free meals.”p144

Makes 4 / Prep 10 minutes / Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients:
¼ cup (45 g) quinoa
400 g can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (35 g) dried breadcrumbs ( I use Gluten Free)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1–4 Personal Points range per patty
.
Method:
1 Combine quinoa and ½ cup (125 ml) water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about
15 minutes or until water has been absorbed.

2 Meanwhile, mash beans in a bowl with a fork. Add cooked quinoa and remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined. Divide mixture into 4 even portions. Shape into patties.

3 Lightly spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil (or line with a WW non-stick liner) and heat over medium heat. Cook patties for about 3 minutes each side or until evenly browned.

· TO REFRIGERATE: Prepare patties up to 2 days ahead. Store in
a reusable container and cook as required. Cooked patties will keep
in a reusable container for up to 5 days.
· TO FREEZE: Store cooked patties as above, with baking paper between each patty.



Choc Nut Energy Bliss Bites; Meal Plan Your Way to Weight Loss – Rebecca Burnicle and Wendy Van Staden

Meal-Plan Your Way to Weight Loss by Rebecca Burnicle and Wendy Van Staden, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $39.99, photography by Jeremy Simons

Ingredients, Serves 32 / Prep 15 minutes + soaking

½ cup (80 g) almonds
½ cup (50 g) walnuts
½ cup (75 g) unsalted cashews
¼ cup (25 g) cocoa powder
1 cup (230 g) medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1–2 Personal Points range per serve
I love the idea of bliss balls, but it’s the thought of rolling the mixture that I just can’t be bothered with. Instead, I make up the mixture and pop it into a tray to set, then simply cut it into bite-sized pieces. All the deliciousness of a bliss ball, without the fuss of rolling – winning! p172




1 Place nuts in a bowl and cover with cold water. Soak overnight. Drain.

2 Lightly spray a 16 cm x 26 cm slice tin with oil and line base
and sides with baking paper.

3 Transfer drained nuts to a food processor. Add cocoa and dates and process until well combined (add a little water if necessary to help the mixture come together). Spread mixture evenly into prepared tin. Cover and place in freezer for at least 2 hours, until firm.

4 Lift slice from tin using baking paper. Stand for about 10 minutes to soften slightly, then cut into 32 pieces. Transfer pieces to a reusable container and store in freezer. Thaw pieces for a few minutes to soften slightly before eating. ·

TO FREEZE: Store bliss bites in a reusable container for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.