One Italian Summer: Pip Williams

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Author: Pip Williams
Category: Memoir
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 9781925344981
RRP: $29.99

Publisher: Affirm Press

Publishers Summary
Pip Williams wasn’t the first to suspect she might be happier ditching her career for a simple life of farming, baking and knitting hideous woollen beanies for her kids, but she is one who risked everything to follow that possibility across the world.
Over one life changing summer, Pip got down and dirty *WWOOFing on the farms of Italy, having her expectations doused in cold water and getting a clear head about what a “good” really means. After a trip with more twists than a Neapolitan gelato, she returned to Australia with her dreams shattered - and reformed into something new.

*WWOOF - Willing Workers On Organic Farms, a worldwide organisation for volunteers who work on organic farms in return for meals and accommodation

Pip and her partner Shannon wanted a better life for themselves and their two young sons, so they bought a few acres of farming land and left the city life behind. The dream was to grow their own food, bake bread and have more time to spend together as a family.

In reality, their lives became more even more stressful, their attempts to manage their little farm whilst still working resulted in failure. They decided that to realise the dream they would have to learn ways to make the land profitable. They came to the decision that they must go to Italy on the WWOOF scheme and so they packed up and off they went

They spent a few weeks with each host family, working for a few hours a day in return for food and accommodation. Shannon, a capable chap, seemed to get along well with all the hosts, even teaching one how to make and use compost which I thought that was pretty odd - an organic farmer not knowing about compost!

Though Pip spent time working on the land she also spent time helping the women with their work. She seemed desperate to find some common  ground with them, to be looking to them for some sort of validation of herself or of her dream.
Maybe it was in those kitchens that she suspected that perhaps she didn’t have what it takes to sustain the life that she thought she had wanted.

This book might be useful for those who are thinking of undertaking a similar experience, it exemplifies the differences between hosts, their expectations of workers and, importantly, the types of accommodation offered. Also, what to expect if you take children along.

Review copy provided by Affirm Press

Dregs: Jørn Lier Horst

Monday, 10 July 2017

Author: Jørn Lier Horst
Series: William Wisting Mystery
Publisher: Affirm Press
March 2017 (Australia)
Edition: Paperback
ISBN: 9781925475500
Translated by Anne Bruce

Publishers Summary
Chief Inspector William Wisting is an experienced policeman familiar with the dark side of human nature. He lives in challenging times for the Norwegian police force, meeting them with integrity and humanity, and a fragile belief that he can play a part in creating a better world. Dregs begins with a police report giving the place and time of the discovery of a training shoe washed up on the sand, containing a severed foot. Soon a second shoe is washed up, but it is another left foot. What is the explanation for this? Has there been some kind of terrible accident at sea? Does it indicate the killing and dismembering of two victims? Is there a link with the unsolved mystery of a number of disappearances in the Larvik area in recent months? In this gripping police procedural, Wisting gradually gets to the bottom of the mystery with the help of his all too human colleagues and his journalist daughter, Line.

I’m always excited at the prospect of finding a new crime mystery series and was happy to come across the William Wisting books by Jørn Lier Horst.
However, it was not until I had this book in my hand that I realised that this is not, in fact, the first in the series but the sixth, it is though the first to be translated from the Norwegian.
I’m not sure of the logic behind that decision but I’m happy to say that I didn’t feel too short changed, nevertheless, a brief account of the back story would have been much appreciated.

William Wisting is middle aged Police Inspector, he has an adult daughter who works as a journalist, and he has a girlfriend. He neglects his health so is not as fit as he ought to be, he has a few quirks, but not so many as to make him one of those deeply flawed police officers that we come across in some types of crime fiction.

William Wisting and his team are investigating the mystery surrounding the discovery of a second severed foot washed up on a beach, it doesn’t match the first foot so accident is ruled out. To deepen the mystery further, more severed feet get washed up.
As four people have gone missing from the area, the team must investigate the possibility of these two incidents being related. Their investigation leads them to some very unexpected places and to some very interesting characters.

This is a police procedural at its best, it is intriguing, credible, well plotted and flows beautifully and I loved the way the author meshed the parallel stories of Wisting and his daughter Line.
There’s plenty here to keep the reader turning those pages in anticipation, and if you love a good British police procedural then I highly recommend the William Wisting series.

Review copy supplied by Affirm Press

About The Author

Jørn Lier Horst (born in Bamble, Telemark 1970) is a former Senior Investigating Officer at the Norwegian police force. He made his literary debut as a crime writer in 2004 and is now considered one of the foremost Nordic crime writers. His William Wisting series of crime novels has been extremely successful, having sold more than 500,000 copies world wide. Dregs is the first book translated into English in this addictive series. The next book, Closed for Winter, won Norway’s Booksellers’ Prize in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Riverton Prize. His latest novel, The Hunting Dogs, won both the prestigious Golden Revolver, for best Norwegian crime, and The Glass Key, which widened the scope to best crime fiction in all the Nordic countries, in 2013. (source: Affirm Press)

Match Up: Edited by Lee Child

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Match Up
Editor: Lee Child
Multiple Authors
Genre: Crime Fiction
Paperback RRP $29.99
ISBN 9780751569025
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Published by Hachette Australia

Publishers Summary
MATCH UP pairs up twenty-two of your favourite crime writers and their iconic characters in this unique short-story collection.Match Up - a brand new collaboration between the world's famous crime writers. Edited be international bestseller Lee Child, this exclusive page-turning anthology promises the same thrills and chills brought to you by the previous collection, Face Off

In the introduction Lee Child explains the reason for writing and producing these collections. The International Thriller Writers association (ITA) charges no fee for membership, instead, income is generated by the members producing anthologies of short crime stories. Beginning with Thriller (2006) edited by James Patterson, since then several more have been produced over the years.
Face Off (2014)  was the first to pair off authors, and now Match Up pairs up a male and a female author.

What makes this book even more interesting is that each story is preceded by the editors notes on the writing processes of each pair of authors.

I dove straight in and chose to read the Kathy Reichs and Lee Child story “Faking a Murderer” featuring Temperance Brennan and Jack Reacher.
 I don’t usually read short stories, for some reason thinking that they might be less satisfying than a full length novel, but, happily, I was wrong as each story is engrossing and very enjoyable.

This is a collection of well written short stories, and provides a wonderful way to discover both new authors and new crime fighters!
Highly recommended.

Review copy provided by Hachette Australia

Her Mothers Secret: Natasha Lester

Friday, 9 June 2017

Author: Natasha Lester
ISBN: 9780733634659
Publication Date: April 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genre: Historical Fiction

Publishers Summary
A sweeping story of love and ambition from England to the Manhattan of the 1920s and 1940s by the author of A Kiss From Mr. Fitzgerald.
1918, England. Armistice Day should bring peace into Leonora's life. Rather than secretly making cosmetics in her father's chemist shop to sell to army nurses such as Joan, her adventurous Australian friend, Leo hopes to now display her wares openly. Instead, Spanish flu arrives in the village, claiming her father's life. Determined to start over, she boards a ship to New York City. On the way she meets debonair department store heir Everett Forsyth . . . In Manhattan, Leo works hard to make her cosmetics dream come true, but she's a woman alone with a small salary and a society that deems make-up scandalous.

1939, New York City. Everett's daughter, Alice, a promising ballerina, receives a mysterious letter inviting her to star in a series of advertisements for a cosmetics line. If she accepts she will be immortalised like dancers such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Ginger Rogers. Why, then, are her parents so quick to forbid it?

At first, I thought this was going to be a predictable read, but as the chapters flew by, the plot turned this way and that, and every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next, a clever little twist popped up to fool me.

I really started to enjoy the book from the moment that Leo landed in New York and found lodgings and work in China Town. 
This is where Leo's strong character shines through, by choosing to live in a cheap rent area and by working at menial jobs, Leo flew in the face of social norms, but running the risk of social ostracism did not deter her.

Known for her diligent research, author Natasha Lester really comes in to her own when describing historical settings: the street vendors, the stores and their wares, and, notably, the wonderful descriptions of the fashions, each dress so beautifully described that the reader can all but see them.

I loved reading about how things were made and how things were done, how the cosmetic packagings were designed and manufactured, and who knew what it took to dress the window of a big store!

For me, it is all the wonderful historical detail that elevates this book above and beyond others of this genre. It is lovely to escape to this wonderful world that Natasha Lester builds for her readers.
At one point though, the book does take a significant leap forward in time where the storyline changes to another character. This did interrupt the flow for me, it sort of jolted me out of the story and it took time to settle back into it. 

I highly recommend “Her Mothers Secret” to those who love a well written, well researched and heartwarming story.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books Australia

The Widower's Wife: Cate Holahan 4stars

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Widower's Wife
Author Cate Holahan
Narrated by Teri Schnaubelt
Publication date Feb 28, 2017
Running time 10 hrs
Publisher: Tantor Media

Short Synopsis
In this compelling thriller from the author of Dark Turns, Ana Bacon is gone—leaving behind her wealthy husband and adorable daughter—but not everything about her disappearance adds up.

This is quite an intriguing multi layered and complex story which is quite hard to review without revealing too much of the plot.

Tom and Ana Bacon wanted for nothing, they had a beautiful home, expensive habits and a lovely child named Sophia. Now their world had imploded because Tom, a high flying banker had lost his job, he had taken big risks with other peoples money and had lost it all for them. Now, he was unemployable.
They scraped up some money and, leaving their daughter behind, took a cruise. 
Ana never returned.
Ana had disappeared, all the evidence pointed to the fact that she had gone overboard.

Ryan Monahan worked as an insurance claim investigator, he liked liars, real liars, he enjoyed the challenge of uncovering the truth.
He believed that Tom Bacon was one of those liars, a man who was intent on claiming the ten million dollar payout on the death of his wife.
Ryan had no proof, all he had was his ex cop instinct and his determination to uncover the truth.

The story is told from both Ana’s and Ryan’s point of view, it is complex and compelling with an ever present feel of impending threat which builds slowly to the conclusion.
I thought this was a very entertaining story but I did find that it stretched my credulity at times, nevertheless, it is certainly well worth a listen

The audiobook is narrated by the very talented Teri Schnaubelt who truly knows how to tell a story. She gives each character a distinct and believable voice, quite a challenge in this particular book. She has the awesome ability to create an atmosphere of chilling creepiness which fully immerses the listener in to the story.
I found no technical issues with this high quality recording 

Copy provided by Tantor Media for an unbiased review

Available here from Tantor Media

Julie Goodwin's Essential Cookbook

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook
Author: Julie Goodwin
Publication date: APR 11, 2017 |
ISBN: Paperback 9780733637117
ISBN: e-Book 9780733637124
Publisher: Hachette Australia

Publishers Summary
Australia's best-loved home cook and original MASTERCHEF, Julie Goodwin is back with the accessible and practical cookbook every family needs.
Looking for the perfect meal for your family?
All you need to make delicious food to feed your hungry loved ones is contained here in one place. Collected here for the first time you can find Julie's essential go-to recipes: from making a great omelette, to roasting the perfect chicken, preparing simple and satisfying soups and salads and baking classic cakes, muffins and desserts that will become family favourites. Whatever ingredients you have in the house, no matter the season or occasion, you can put together a tasty feast that will please everyone, every time.
I do love cookbooks and really looked forward to browsing through Julie Goodwin’s well titled Essential Cookbook.
The book is in paperback form with a glossy wipeable cover, at the back are a  few plain pages to use for jotting down notes, and the front and back covers have sturdy flaps to use as bookmarks.

According to the introduction, Julie wrote this with her sons in mind, by gathering all the recipes she has accumulated from family and other sources over the years and bringing them together, along with "little bits of kitchen wisdom”, she has ensured that her boys will always have mum’s recipes close by.

In the Cooks note Julie includes a (blessedly short) list of  kitchen equipment that would be helpful to own, comfortingly adding that not to worry if you don't own it all because "there's not much that can't be achieved if you have a good pan, a good knife, a whisk and a wooden spoon".
Heck, she even clarifies that eternal spring onion/eschallot/shallot debate!
What I call "spring onions" Julie calls "shallots", and somebody somewhere calls "eschallots" so now we are clear.

The recipes are, of course, divided in to the usual sections and are well laid out, not every recipe has a photograph of the finished product, probably because there are so many of them!
Where necessary, a recipe will have a footnote with helpful suggestions and a bit of guidance on substitutions or where to buy certain ingredients.

The guide to the various methods of cooking meat is useful, especially as recommendations for the most suitable cuts for each method is included and, importantly, the reasons for why we should use them.
This sets the tone for all of the recipes, if there is a little tidbit of advice she thinks will help then Julie provides it.

I like that the meat section includes not only the cheaper family style recipes, such as cottage pie, meatballs and the like, but dishes for those special occasions, Beef Wellington for instance, a little too technical for me, but on reading the clear instructions I am tempted to give it a go one day.

If, like me, you are a sucker for a good sauce, you will love the Sauce, Soups and Dips section which includes a gorgeous and very tasty pepper sauce recipe, I didn’t have a steak handy but it certainly bucked up the snags!

I couldn't resist trying out the cheese stuffed meatballs in sauce, I didn't have enough Mozzarella to fill them all so for some I used Colby, these were OK  but I preferred Julie's mozzarella stuffed ones.
I also tried the foolproof No-bake lemon cheesecake, this was so easy to make and absolutely tangy and delicious. 

If parents are looking to send their kids out in to the world armed with the knowledge to feed themselves, then this book is entirely fit for purpose.

In fact I can’t think of anyone who would not appreciate this book, it is full of tasty family recipes that have been well tried and tested. Many are of the straightforward home cooking type, others are a little more challenging and others are a little exotic. There is definitely something for everyone.

If nobody buys this lovely book for you then buy it for yourself

Highly recommended

Review copy provided by Hachette Australia 

Dead Like Me: Kelly Miller

Monday, 17 April 2017

Dead Like Me: A Detective Kate Springer Mystery, Book 1
Written by: Kelly Miller
Narrated by: Angel Clark
Length: 7 hrs and 34 mins 
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:02-13-17
Publisher: Kelly Miller

On edge after a two-week mandatory leave, Homicide Detective Kate Springer is blindsided when she discovers she shares a link with Tampa's newest murder victim. A troubled teen is found strangled and dumped in a remote part of town. The bond between them threatens to expose Detective Springer's past, a past she's been hell-bent on keeping secret. When the killer finally emerges from the shadows, Kate's secrets aren't the only thing on the line. So is her life.

Content warning: this story deals with child abuse which may distress some readers.

Detective Kate Springer is seeing a police psychologist, ostensibly because of her involvement in a shooting incident. However, as time goes by, Kates childhood secrets, so carefully hidden in deep her mind, begin to emerge. 

When called to a crime scene Kate gets a real shock when she first looks at the body of the young girl because she bears such a strong resemblance to herself at that age.

The investigating team pull in several men to assist with their murder inquiries and when Kate, by chance, sees one of them being interviewed, she is horrified, he is like a ghost risen from her secret past. 
How will she cope? Can she maintain her outward composure when all the time her mind is trying to make sense of this awful situation?

This story contains some interesting characters, Kates work partner Patrick Jessop is the perfect foil for Kate with her funny little ways. They get along quite well but that doesn’t prevent Kate from hiding her secrets from him. Her relationship with her therapist is interesting too, I can see this being built upon in future books.

Though quite gripping and fast moving for the most part, it did seem as if certain parts were being read straight from a text book, particularly the information regarding alcoholism, for me, this somewhat intruded on the flow of the story.

I’m not usually too keen on the psychologically damaged, kick ass type of character in books, but must say, that Kate, despite her flaws, comes off as far more interesting than most.
I have made a couple of negative comments but I really did enjoy the story and would happily read more about Kate Springer, I’m sure this will be a successful series.
Ah yes, just one more thing, I’m sure all us frumpier RNs didn’t take too much offence!

Narrated by Angel Clarke who is a seasoned performer with several audiobooks under her belt. Her experience shines through, I loved her as Kelly in particular. 
Angel brings a vitality to the characters, but a little too much at times I thought as couple of female voices were just a tad over animated for my taste. 
Audiobook provided by the author in return for an unbiased review

© Audiobook and Book Reviews by Audiothing • THEME BY Maira Gall