Thursday, 5 March 2020

Cook Book Review: Now For Something Sweet - Monday Morning Cooking Club

In 2006, a group of four women got together to form the Monday Morning Cooking Club to collect recipes and stories from some of Sydney's best Jewish cooks. 
Since then, the women have culminated three cook books, and Now For Something Sweet is the fourth that the group has put together.

This book features a number of cakes, biscuits, bars, tarts, and some savoury recipes also.
The recipes all have a little story about their origin, which I adored reading about, and the recipes themselves are delicious and simple to follow.
I absolutely love the photos in this cook book; they are so appealing and totally drool worthy!!

Interspersed throughout the book are special step by step instructions on how to perfect certain things such as making custard and chiffons, how to dissolve sugar, and how to work with yeast. 

I have been poring over this book for the past couple of weeks, reading the women's stories and admiring the recipes.
It is a beautiful book that celebrates family, food and friendships.
I have already made one recipe from this cookbook (Salty Sticks), and look forward to making many more, including the Romany Creams pictured below (with complete recipe).

Romany Creams

3 teaspoons unsweetened Dutch
cocoa powder
60 ml (¼ cup/2 fl oz) boiling water
250 g (9 oz) unsalted butter, at room
temperature, chopped
230 g (1 cup/8 oz) caster
(superfine) sugar
185 g (2¼ cups/6½ oz) desiccated
300 g (2 cups/10½ oz) plain
(all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 g (5⅓ oz) milk chocolate,
roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Line 2 large baking trays.
Combine the cocoa powder and boiling water and set aside. Beat the
butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the cocoa mixture and beat
to combine. Fold in the coconut, then sift together the flour and baking
powder, and fold into the mixture until well combined.
Roll large teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and arrange on the prepared
trays. You should end up with around 60 biscuits. Lightly press the tines
of a fork on to the top of each ball. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden, then
allow to cool.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler until just melted
and still thick. Use the melted chocolate to sandwich the flat sides of the
cookies together.
Makes 30

Recipes extracted from Now For Something Sweet by Monday Morning Cooking Club (Harper Collins Australia) RRP $49.99, out now.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Book Review: You Are No Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This is the third novel that Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have written together. I have read their other two novels, The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl, and thoroughly enjoyed both.
After reading You Are Not Alone, it is safe to say that this is another winner in my opinion.

The main character is Shay Miller, a 31 year-old woman with few friends, no job, and no significant other.
One Sunday morning as she is waiting at the subway, she sees a woman of similar age and appearance waiting on the platform.
In a matter of seconds, the woman leaps to her death in front of an oncoming train. Shay is left shocked and traumatised by the woman's death and tries to uncover more about the mystery woman.
She finds out that the woman's name was Amanda, and then goes on to attend her memorial service.
It is there that she meets a group of women who seem to have their act together, including sisters Jane and Cassandra Moore.
Shay is drawn to these women, in particular the two sisters.
When Cassandra and Jane start to take her under their wing and offer to help her out, Shay is thrilled.
But it isn't long before she realises that getting the life she wants comes at a price. 
What do the sisters really want from her? And just how well did they know Amanda? What secrets are they keeping?

This book had so many twists that kept me guessing until the end!
The story is told in alternating chapters, and as there are quite a few characters, it can be a teeny bit confusing to get your head around them all and the roles they play, so it's a book you need to give your full attention.
It is very well written, and the characters are described in a lot of detail, which I liked.

It wasn't at all predictable. It is a great thriller that will have you turning the pages!

Available now through Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $29.99

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Book Review: Big Lies In A Small Town by Diane Chamberlain 

Morgan Christopher is twenty-two years old and in jail for a crime that she is not guilty of. 
She had dreams to escape the confines of her alcoholic parents home and persue a career in art, but that was put on hold on one tragic night when her life would change forever.
Serving a year into her sentence, she one day gets a visitor; a woman by the name  of Lisa Williams, whose father was artist Jesse Jameson, who passed away recently.
Lisa tells Morgan that her father's will specified that Morgan would be able to be released from jail early on the proviso that she restores an old post office mural in the small Southern town of Edenton. 
Morgan is hesitant initially, but it isn't long before she agrees, as Jesse was one of her favourite artists, and she is soon released from jail.
But the job she must complete is difficult, given the mural's age and condition, not to mention the deadline as it must be ready before the opening of an art gallery.
When Morgan begins cleaning off the layers of grime, she soon discovers that the painting has a story of its own - one of madness, violence and secrets...

Anna Dale is a young artist, originally from New Jersey, who moves to Edenton when she wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton.
Her mother has just recently passed away, and she is desperate for work, so accepts the position.
However, it isn't long before she finds out that the residents of Edenton have a lot of secrets to hide, and not everyone is happy about having Anna in their town, particularly the males.
Prejudice and accusations soon appear in Anna's world, and one day both she and the mural disappear...

So what ever happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues to her fate trapped in the layers of the mural? You will need to read the book to find out!

The story is told in alternating chapters, and flows beautifully between the two timelines.
I loved how it unraveled slowly to build up the characters development, and Diane does a great job of handling the heavy issues in the story in a gentle and sensitive manner.
I would definitely recommend this as I enjoyed the elements of mystery and both of the two main female characters. 

Big Lies In A Small Town has an RRP of $29.99 and is available through PanMacmillan Australia.
Thanks to PanMacmillan for an ARC.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I have recently read The Bride Test by Helen Hoang and wanted to share my thoughts on it.
This is a sweet and fun story that is told with a lot of heart, and I adored the two main characters (for different reasons that I will elaborate on later in the review).

Khai Diep is the main male character. He is 26 years old, lives in California, is a successful businessman and is autistic.
Khai thinks that he is defective, and so he tries to avoid situations that he is uncomfortable in. He doesn't cope well with big emotions like sadness, grief, and love. 
His family (including his brother Quan, and his mother), are supportive and understand that Khai processes emotions differently than others.
But when he adamantly avoids relationships, his mother decides to take matters into her own hands and heads to Vietnam with the hopes of finding a bride for Khai.

Esme Tran is a young woman living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City with her mother, grandmother, and young daughter. She is a cleaner in a hotel and makes an hour long journey on foot twice a day to get to and from her job.
She is of mixed-race, and doesn't know much about her father - only that he was from America, and had green eyes that Esme inherited. 

After a chance meeting when Khai's mum arrives at the hotel where Esme works, Esme is offered the opportunity to go to America to meet Khai, and spend the summer living with him.
Esme knows that this could be the chance that her family needs in order to live a better life, so she agrees to go to California. She also hopes that while sh is in the USA, she can uncover some more information on her father. 

But things don't go to plan after she meets Khai and discovers that he will do whatever it takes to keep himself from falling in love.
Whilst she is instantly attracted to Khai, Esme knows that it certainly won't be easy to win his heart. 
But she won't give up easily!

Esme is such a great character; she is determined to provide a good life for her family, especially her young daughter. (I did find it a bit odd that she didn't communicate much with her daughter when she went to the USA; and whilst I know the story focused more on the relationship between Esme and Khai, I felt that the story would've benefited from some more contact between Esme and her family back home). 
Esme is headstrong and hard-working. Even when she arrives in California, she works as a waitress in Khai's mum's restaurant  and enrols in night school. 
She is passionate and kind, and empathetic towards Khai, refusing to give up on him even when he chooses to give up on himself. 

Khai is also a character I adored. His idiosyncrasies weren't stereotypical, they just added to his personality. 
I felt for him as he struggled with expressing his emotions, particularly love, and was hard on himself in many instances throughout the novel. 

In conclusion, this is a really sweet story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The Bride Test is available now through Allen & Unwin Australia, RRP $29.99

For further info on this title, head here

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Beauty & Lace Book Club Book Review: The Land Girls by Victoria Purman 

I've heard a lot of good things about Victoria Purman but have only managed to read one of her novels so far, so when I was given the opportunity to read Victoria's latest novel, The Land Girls, I was more than happy to get on board.

The story is set in Australia, in the 1940's during the war, with Australians fighting for their future.
There are three women who decide to become members of the Australian Women's Land Army - Flora, Betty, and Lily.

Flora is a spinster in her thirties and works in an office in Melbourne. She is the only female in her family; having lost her mother years ago. She lives with her beloved father John, and brother Jack. Her other brother Frank is away at war. 

Betty is 17 years old and lives in Sydney. Her next door neighbour Michael is her best friend, and also her first love. When he joins the army, she decides to leave her job at Woolworths and become a Land Girl.

Lily is from Adelaide and her love interest is a man named David, who is away in the air force. She wants a break away from her overbearing family.

The story is told in alternating sections, but the majority of it is told from Flora's perspective. 
As it unfolds, we discover the reasons behind the women wanting to join the Land Girls. 
Each of them embrace their new roles, even though the work is hard and tiring. 
They also get to make some fantastic friendships with other members as they travel over Australia to contribute towards combating labour shortages on rural properties.

Whilst the three women don't work together until towards the end of the story, there are chance meetings throughout the story where they cross paths. 
By becoming Land Girls, these three women get to grow into the women they hope to be, and work towards living the life they want.

I adored this story. The females all showed a lot of bravery and resilience. They were hard working and dedicated to helping farmers with their crops, even in stifling weather conditions. 
They each had their fair share of heartbreak and their courage is something that I admired.
Flora in particular really grew from the start to the end of the story; she managed to fulfill a lot of things for herself that she thought would never be more than wishful thinking. 
I enjoyed reading about her time on the Nettlefolds farm at Two Rivers in Mildura. Owner Charles Nettlefold is widowed and lives at the property with his two adorable young daughters and his mother. 
She forms a strong relationship with Charles and is welcomed and respected by the family.

I learnt a lot about what that period of time must have been like for Australians. I have read many wartime novels but they have mainly been set in European countries, so this made for a different reading experience. 

I would gladly recommend The Land Girls.
Thank you to Beauty & Lace and Harlequin Books Australia for the opportunity to read and review The Land Girls. (You can read my original review on The Beauty & Lace post here: 

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Book Review: Little One by Peter Papathanasiou 

It's been a while since I've read a memoir, so when I was given the opportunity to read Little One, I was happy to get involved.

Peter Papathanasiou grew up in Australia as an only child to two loving parents, Elizabeth and Bill.

His parents migrated from Greece in the mid 1950's, and they tried for a number of years without success to have a baby. 
The couple had always envisioned having a big family, but sadly, after three miscarriages, it didn't look as though they would even be blessed with one child, let alone many.
It bought shame and sadness for them among their family and the Australian Greek community. 
They were desperate to become parents; they even tried to adopt a child but sadly, it wasn't a success.

Finally in 1973, Elizabeth's brother Savvas and his wife Anna, who lived in Greece, offered to have a baby and then give it to Elizabeth and Bill to raise as their own in Australia. 

The couple was so grateful to them; they had waited so long to become parents. 
Anna and Savvas already had two boys of their own, Georgios and Billy, and they reassured Elizabeth and Bill that they had finished their family and wanted to do this for them.
Fortunately, Anna and Savvas were true to their word, and when baby Peter was born, they handed him over so that finally Elizabeth and Bill could be the parents they had always dreamed of.

Peter was in his  mid 20's when his mum told him the truth about his parentage. 

It was 1999, and Peter was about to embark on PhD in genetics, after completing 6 years of university. 
Sadly, his biological mother Anna had passed away by then, but Peter was happy to discover that he had two brothers alive and well in Greece.

The story spans over the years, tracing back to his parents struggles as migrants, the dedication for a better life, and an act of kindness and love.

It also looks at Peter's career as a geneticist, and his wish of meeting his brothers.

I thought that this was a very well told story. There were moments of sadness, but also happiness and hope.

I really enjoyed reading about Peter and his family. The family photos included helped form a visual connection to the story.
I am married to a man of Greek heritage, and so the traditions and culture surrounding the Greek nationality discussed in the story felt familiar to me. 

I felt that the book may have benefited from a glossary included for the Greek phrases and/or words that are mentioned throughout the story (I personally had no issue at all with it as I can understand Greek, but those that are unfamiliar with the language may have found it handy).

I would recommend Little One to those who enjoy memoirs, and stories about families, heredity and love.

Little One is available now through Allen & Unwin Australia

RRP $29.99
For further information on this title, head here

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Book Review: How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox 

Please note: Trigger warnings - potential distressing content, mental health, suicide

How It Feels To Float is a novel that I was sent recently to read and review. I didn't know much about it (but that is how I like it).  :)
I was immediately drawn in when I read the attached author letter that was sent along with the book. Helena Fox explains how a few short years ago, she lost someone close to her, and wanted to give up on everything.
Thankfully, she is still here and penned this story, drawing from her experience of that time.

Elizabeth, or Biz as she is better known, is a teenage girl who lives with her mum and her younger twin siblings.
When Biz was 7 years-old, her father passed away, and she has been grieving and dissociating since.
She misses her dad immensely, and she feels his presence around her a lot of the time, but she doesn't tell anyone, not her mum, or even her best friend Grace.
She is also trying to find her place in the world, not knowing if she is attracted to males or females. When she spontaneously kisses Grace one day, it is awkward and Biz is embarrassed and confused.
Then a new kid, Jasper, starts school and Biz finds that she wants to know more about him.

As the story unfolds, Biz struggles with managing her runaway thoughts; her mental health issues increase, and she is on the verge of a breakdown.
She experiences suicidal thoughts, and the reader discovers that Biz has never fully dealt with her father's death, and carries a lot of sadness and pain within herself. 
I really felt for her, and I could relate to some of her experiences.
As someone who has had mental health issues myself, I felt that I wasn't just reading this book, but connecting. 

There isn't a whole heap of action throughout the story, it is more of an unraveling of who Biz is, and a journey of her struggles. 
I loved all of the characters in the novel - Sylvia, (an elderly lady that Biz befriends in a photography class) is such a sweetheart, and Biz's mum is also kind, caring, and desperate to help in any way she can. 
Helena Fox has used her own experiences with mental illness and she portrays such an accurate picture of it in this novel in a sensitive and beautiful way, and that is just one of the reasons that I would gladly recommend this book.

How It Feels To Float is available now through Pan Macmillan Australia and has an RRP of $17.99