Review: Fall by Candice Fox

 

Title: Fall {Archer & Bennett #3}

Author: Candice Fox

Published: Random House AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 21 to 21, 2015   – I own a copy

 

My Thoughts:

As the third book in Candice Fox’s debut trilogy, Fall offers a riveting finale to the partnership of detectives Eden Archer and Frank Bennett.

Picking up a few months after Eden, Bennett and Archer, the latter of whom is still recovering from her injuries, are back on the job. A female jogger has been found brutally murdered in a park in Sydney, and she won’t be the last. The case is interesting, with the focus on the killer’s twisted motives.

The relationship between Eden and Bennett is no less complicated in Fall, despite Frank having saved her life in Eden. Bennett’s concern for his partner’s physical and psychological wellbeing is always tempered by the threat she poses. Bennett finally learns the truth about Eden in Fall, though it’s hardly a comfort.

“It’s always very present between us, the fact that Eden could at any time, and rightfully so, decide that killing me is the best thing for her future.”

Frank is less aware of the threat his girlfriend, police psychologist Imogen Stone, poses. Imogen, who solves cold cases in her spare time with less than altruistic motives, is investigating the twenty year old abduction of the Tanner children, an inquiry that will pit her against Eden, who will do anything to protect her secrets.

And then there is Amy ‘Hooky’ Hooku, a seventeen year old computer genius, who first came to Frank’s attention when her younger sister murdered their parents. As her father was a Detective, Amy enjoys a special relationship with the police department and is now a consultant of sorts, despite her tender age. Amy is an intriguing character who has an unexpected role to play in Fall.

“And if he couldn’t save her, he’d do the best he could to patch her up. The way he did with everything that came to him in the tip. She’d be crooked. She’d be hollow. But she’d be alive again.”

Fall is a gritty, compelling novel and provides a stunning climax to an outstanding trilogy. Candice Fox has proved herself to be a writer of remarkable talent and skill.

 

Available via

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Also reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds (Nell Forrest #4)

Author: Ilsa Evans

Published: March 10th 2016, Momentum

Status: Read June 2016, courtesy Momentum

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in the Ilsa Evans cosy mystery series featuring columnist, mother, and amateur sleuth, Nell Forrest.

Having endured a busy few years, what with her twenty-five-year marriage imploding, moving house, becoming a grandmother (twice), reconnecting with her estranged father, losing her sister to England, sabotaging a fledgling relationship, and being caught up in more than one murder, Nell is looking forward to escaping it all on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. Unfortunately her mother, her ex-husband and his new partner, her ex lover, her sister, two of her five daughters, and a murderer decide to follow.

While I missed the quirky town of Majic, the exotic setting of Dastardly Deeds lends a little more colour to the story. The first death occurs in Rome, the second in Turkey, and Nell is convinced she is trapped on a cruise ship with a killer. The twists and turns of the mystery are convincing with plenty of suspects muddying up the waters. Nell really pushes her luck in this installment, very nearly becoming a victim herself. And then just when you think it’s over, there’s another surprise.

My favourite aspect of the Nell Forrest series remains the humour, from the ‘fan’ letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. I also enjoy the barely controlled chaos of her family, who are thoroughly exasperating and loving.

It’s been three years since Dastardly Deeds was released, but I still have hope that Ilsa Evans will revisit the series, I want more.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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Previous Installments

#1 Nefarious Doings I  #2 I’ll-Gotten Gains I #3 Forbidden Fruit

 

 

Review: Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Title: Viral

Author: Helen Fitzgerald

Published: 4th February 2016, Faber & Faber

Status: Read February 2016 – Courtesy Faber/Netgalley

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“I sucked twelve c*cks in Magaluf.

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me do this. They might include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth-year biology teacher and my boyfriend of six weeks, James.”

Helen Fitzgerald pulls no punches from the first line of this book, a contemporary novel that explores the consequences of a drunken indiscretion gone viral.

Su Oliphant-Brotheridge and her sister Leah, are celebrating the end of A-Level exams in Magaluf when a few too many drinks on their last evening abroad, results in Su on her knees in a nightclub. When a recording of the incident is uploaded to the internet, Su panics and goes into hiding, hoping not only to avoid, but also to protect her family from, the worst of the inevitable notoriety.

“#shagaluf is trending worldwide on Twitter. If you type the word slut into Google, I am the first news item to appear.”

It’s a nightmare scenario for any parent. To their credit, Su’s parents -Ruth and Bernie, are more concerned for their daughter’s wellbeing than shaming her for her mistake. Even as it begins to affect their own professional and personal lives, they frantically attempt to minimise the fallout which threatens to derail Su’s future. When it’s clear they losing the battle, Ruth, a court judge, grows increasingly furious that no one can be held legally accountable for the viral video that has caused such destruction, and takes matters into her own hands.

“Xano, you have been found guilty of filming the sexual assault of my daughter. You have been found guilty of sharing abusive images. You have been found guilty of sharing lewd images without consent. You have been found guilty of destroying the life of Su Brotheridge-Oliphant. Guilty of destroying her self-image, her confidence, her friendships, her past and future relationships, her sexual well-being, her career, and her entire future. In relation to destroying my career: guilty. My life, everything I’ve worked for, fought for, and loved: guilty. And last, on the count of the murder of Bernard Brotheridge: guilty.”

Meanwhile, Leah is ordered to find her sister and bring her home. Fitzgerald explores the troubled dynamic between the sisters as they wrestle with feelings of resentment, jealousy, guilt, and blame.

“I’ve spent years pussyfooting around you and all you’ve done is treat me like dirt. Did you spike my drink because your friends started liking me, Leah? Were you mad about that? You feel left out, that the order of the universe was shaken? Did you shout “go, go go” because you wanted me back in my place, because it was such a blast to watch me ruin myself?“

But this is really Su’s story as she tries to reconcile what she has done with who she is. It’s a compelling narrative which I thought Fitzgerald presented well…until the last few chapters.

“Don’t let it be the thing that defines you.”

I understood Su’s desire to search for her birth mother, but finding her was ridiculously easy, and the situation devolved from there. Similarly Su’s flight of fancy, after her return to Magaluf, was a bit silly.

Aside from those final missteps, I thought this was a well paced, thought provoking and relevant novel. Not her best, but I found it engaging.

++++++

Available to Purchase via

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Also by Helen Fitzgerald on Book’d Out

Review: Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns

 

Title: Outback Sisters {Bunyip Bay #4}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: February 2016 , MIRA

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Harlequin AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

This is Rachael Johns fourth book in her rural romance series linked by the fictional community of Bunyip Bay. Readers familiar with the town will recognise Frankie Madden, the owner of a local cafe, and her sister, widowed mother of two, Simone, as the tititular Outback Sisters.

When a tall, ruggedly handsome and desperately sexy stranger strides into Frankie’s cafe and sweeps her into his arms with a bone melting kiss, she is stunned, and then a little disappointed to learn Logan Knight has mistaken her for her sister. Unbeknownst to Simone, her teenage daughters, Harriet and Grace, have been playing online matchmaker.

What follows is a charming, if slightly unconventional, tale of romance when Logan introduces the sisters to his older brother, Angus. Each of the four main characters are wary of love, having experienced hurt and loss in the past, and then there is the complication of their sibling bonds. I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed these relationships, it’s a tricky proposition but one which Johns achieves admirably.

Johns writes with a great ear for dialogue and a wonderful sense of humour. This ensures her characters feel authentic, including the teens. The relatable characters have been one of the strengths of the series.

It is satisfying as always to revisit Bunyip Bay, in this book we learn Faith and Monty (Outback Dreams) are expecting their first child, Ruby and Drew (Outback Blaze) are happily engaged, and we attend Adam and Stella’s (Outback Ghost) wedding.

The Bunyip Bay series has been a delight, I’m sad to see it end with Outback Sisters though it’s a wonderful note to close on.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer

 

Review: The Year of the Farmer by Rosalie Ham

 

Title: The Year of the Farmer

Author: Rosalie Ham

Published: September 25th 2018, Picador Australia

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Pan Macmillan Au

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“The smell of sheep permeated the car and all around the plains were brown and grey. The air was perishingly dry and it was only eight in the bloody morning. And always, the stalking ravens on electricity wires and prehistoric eagles hanging overhead. Nothing was as it was supposed to be. Nothing exciting ever happened. The stupid drought came and everyone went broke or left town; those who remained succumbed to the drought and it just continued on and on…”

The Year of the Farmer could probably be best described as a tragicomedy. It’s set in a small Australian farming community caught in the stranglehold of drought, and is centred on a small group of the towns residents.

Mitch Bishop’s crops are failing, and his stock is half starved, but he refuses to give up on the land he loves. This could be his year- if Neralie comes back, if it rains. Mitch’s wife, Mandy, doesn’t share his optimism. She’s had it with the farm, with her business, and with the town that refuses to accept her, but she’s not quite done with her husband-yet.

“‘The farmers are appreciated and all water authorities aim to celebrate and support the farmers and the vital role they play in feeding, clothing and sheltering us all.”

So says the Water Authority, while their local representatives plot to line their own pockets at the farmers expense. Mitch isn’t fooled by the hard sell and empty promises, but the towns options, like its water supply, are dwindling fast. Ham does a commendable job of illustrating the flaws in the government scheme and its effects on a farming town at its mercy.

Neighbours bicker over land management, feral dogs run wild, sides are chosen, the sun shines and Mandy, well Mandy is just getting started.

The Year of the Farmer is a slow paced novel with a sly wit, which exaggerates and encapsulates, everyday life in a struggling farming town.

++++++

 

Read an Excerpt

Available to Purchase from

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Review: The Sparkle Pages by Meg Bignell

 

Title: The Sparkle Pages

Author: Meg Bignell

Published: April 16th Penguin AU

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Penguin 

++++++

My Thoughts:

Susannah Parks is convinced her marriage of fifteen years has lost it’s spark and, from the comfort of her wardrobe, begins to formulate a New Years Resolution. She will be interested, and be interesting, she will be stylish and have great hair, she will be relevant and useful, and she will have passionate sex with her husband.

“We certainly had passion once. Sometimes I catch a fleeting flash of it again, but for the most part, passion just seems to have fallen by the wayside….(There are lot of good things by the wayside, if only I could find where it is – somewhere near the too-hard basket, probably.)”

It’s been a while since a book has both made laugh out loud, and moved me to tears.

As a wife and mother of four myself, I perhaps related better to Susannah than it is wise to admit. From the barely controlled chaos of Susannah’s days, to the tedium of cleaning, cooking and caretaking for a young family, to the dwindling priority of intimacy (ok..yes, sex) in a marriage. Unlike her though, I have always understood that marriage, and family life, has its ups and downs as it is a constantly changing dynamic.

This too is what Susannah eventually comes to realise, with the help of her best friend, the indomitable Ria, her family, her friends and her neighbour, Valda. It is Susannah who has lost her spark, buried under piles of wet towels, baskets of insecurity, and a load of guilt so heavy, it has all but been extinguished.

Though there is plenty of humour, and moments of sheer absurdity, to be found in this novel, the story also reveals a shocking truth and heartbreaking tragedy. The author’s writing shines as she deftly steers the reader through sadness and joy.

The Sparkle Pages is witty, wise, honest and moving, a glittering debut from Australian author, Karen Bignell, it’s my favourite read so far this year.

“Sparks. Passion and sparks. And when there are no sparks, at least just a little sparkle.”

++++++

#lovebetweenthepages

Read an Excerpt

Available to Purchase from 

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Review: After The Party by Cassie Hamer

 

 

Title: After the Party

Author: Cassie Hamer

Published: March 2019, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dear Lisa,

I’m sorry. Please know this, above all else. I am truly sorry to put this responsibility on you but I have been left with little choice.”

After an exhausting morning hosting 32 kindergarten children for her daughter’s fifth birthday, Lisa Wheeldon is stunned to learn that one tiny guest won’t be collected any time soon. In amongst the gifts, is a heartfelt plea for Lisa to look after six year old Ellie for a few weeks while her mother, a complete stranger, deals with some unspecified crisis. Lisa knows she should notify the relevant authorities, but having experienced the perils of the foster system first hand, decides she will care for Ellie, at least temporarily, while making every effort to track down the absent mother.

Child abandonment seems an unlikely theme in which to find humour, but Hamer somehow does as Lisa enlists the help of her sister, Jamie, and an odd selection of school mum’s she barely knows, in an effort to find Ellie’s missing mother. Lisa’s attempts are well intentioned, but she doesn’t have the cunning, or know how, to deal with the situation she finds herself in, so she does what she can do well, which is care for Ellie.

As a mother, I could relate to several of Lisa’s experiences in the book – the chaos of children’s birthday parties, and the gossipy and competitive nature of primary school mum’s particularly, though Lisa’s naivety is a bit of a stretch.

I think the story could included less of Jamie’s relationship troubles, they were a distraction. I think the plot would have been better served by focusing more on ‘Missy’, Ellie’s mum’s, past and present.

I think Hamer just tried to include too much, not an unusual error in a debut novel, so the focus was split and in the end, the novel was a bit messy. However, I did enjoy the humour, and overall found After the Party to be a quick, easy read.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer.

Weekend Cooking: Slow Cooker Central 2 by Paulene Christie (and me!)

 

So while I was on hiatus, one of the more exciting things that happened for me was the publication of a couple of recipes I submitted in the book Slow Cooker Central 2 by Paulene Christie.

I joined the Slow Cooker Central community in the search of ways to make more use of my slowcooker. With a large family, whom have large appetites and a busy schedule, I am always on the lookout for easy, economical and satisfying meal ideas.

Slow Cooker Central 2 (HarperCollins AU I HarperCollins US) contains 270 recipes organised into 14 chapters that will help you make meals to match your appetite or what’s in the fridge. They are family friendly recipes from people who cook for their families everyday. You’ll find great ideas for casseroles, curries, soups and roasts; plus plenty of recipes you might not expect, such as those for desserts, cakes, fudge and even face paint and play dough.

The recipes I contributed to Slow Cooker Central 2 are two of my family favourites, Creamy Chicken Fajitas and Luau Chicken.

The website at Slow Cooker Central contains an archive of recipes, hints, tips and more, and the Slow Cooker Central Facebook group is busy and active group. There is even an App It’s membership is primarily Australian so metric measurements are most common, but all nationalities are welcome. Other publications available are Slow Cooker Central 1, Slow Cooker Central Family Favourites, Slow Cooker Central Kids and Slow Cooker Central Super Savers.

One of my favourite slow cooker recipes that I didn’t submit is a tasty fakeaway meal. I’ve recently had to replace my trusty 20 year old 7L Breville Banquet Maker (pictured) with a newer model after it finally gave up the ghost, so this recipe is made in a 7L Breville Flavour Maker.

Homemade Turkish Doner Kebab (Gyro)

1.5 kg lean or extra lean beef mince
500g lamb mince
2 1/2 tbsp Greek Seasoning (I used Masterfoods brand)
1 Tbsp Harissa Seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 tsp salt
Optional: 1/4 -1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (omit if you dislike heat)

Measure Greek seasoning, Harissa Seasoning, garlic powder, all purpose seasoning, salt and cayenne pepper into a small container and mix well.
Place beef and lamb mince in a large bowl and mix by hand until well combined.
Add spices to mince and mix well again.
If available add mince mix to food processor and pulse til a thick paste
Line a rectangular container (approx lunch box size) with foil and add mince, pressing firmly with knuckles to expel air and fill. Cover and refrigerate for minimum 2 hours or up to overnight.
Remove container from refrigerator, ensure meat is tightly wrapped in foil, re-wrap if necessary.
Make 6 balls of foil (or use a rack) and place in slow cooker to create a stand for the foil wrapped meat. Add 1 – 1 1/2 cups water to slow cooker, make sure water level is below the level of the stand.
Add foil wrapped meat and turn slow cooker to HIGH
Cook on HIGH for 1.5 hours. This ensures meat will keep its tight shape.
Remove foil wrapped meat from slow cooker, take out balls/rack and pour out water.
Turn slow cooker to LOW, unwrap meat and place directly into the slow cooker bowl.
Cook on LOW for a further 2-3 hours (a meat thermometer should register at least 70c (150F) when inserted into the middle of the loaf)
When cooked, remove meat, wrap in foil and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.
Slice thinly with a large very sharp knife (an electric or shaving knife would make this easier).
Serve wrapped in warmed pita or tortilla wraps with your preferred dressings
I like lots of shredded lettuce, thinly sliced onion rings, BBQ sauce and a squirt of aioli (garlic sauce). You can also add sliced tomato, shredded cheese, tabbouleh, humus etc
Leftovers still taste great heated in the microwave.

But it happens to be my birthday today..so I’m not cooking tonight YAY!

Review: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies by Kitty Flanaganh

 

Title: Bridge Burning and Other Hobbies

Author: Kitty Flanagan

Published: March 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read April 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

“Had I told my mother I was writing an autobiography, she’d quite rightly have asked, ‘Why?’ Instead, this is a book of true stories and ill-informed opinions. And I believe it was Paul Simon who once said, ‘Your opinion is not important, it is merely of interest.’ So, while this book is not important, I do hope you will find it of interest. Most of all, I hope you will find it funny because that really is my favourite thing.”

I did find it mildly interesting, Kitty, but mostly I found it funny. I smiled a lot, laughed out loud a few times, and spat out my drink at least once.

Kitty and I are of the same generation, so we share similar childhood experiences and attitudes. I enjoy her self deprecating humour, and her witty observations.

The only thing I thought the book lacked was a handful of photos from Kitty’s childhood.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer

Also coming soon by Kitty Flanagan

Review: The Lost Girls by Jennifer Spence

Title: The Lost Girls

Author: Jennifer Spence

Published: Simon & Schuster January 2019

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster Au

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

I had made some assumptions about this novel, based mostly on the cover and title. I was expecting a fairly standard novel of mystery involving a missing girl or two, but what I discovered was a compelling and unique story using one of my least favourite tropes – time travel.

It is 2017 and sixty three year old Stella Lannigan is making her way home from a night out when she realises that her surroundings seem somehow changed. Baffled, she wonders if she absentmindedly took a wrong turn, but the landmarks are familiar, just not quite… right. Stella slowly realises that she has inexplicably stepped into the past, it is 1997, and as she stands outside her former home, she watches her forty three year old self step out of the front door.

What would you do if you had the chance to change a moment from your past, to rewrite your history, and avoid inevitable tragedy? Stella knows she will do whatever she must to subvert her daughter’s fate.

The concept of time travel is, as I have said, one of my least favourite devices in film and literature. It’s either presented in a too simplistic, or convoluted, manner. In The Lost Girls, Spence uses it in a way that made sense to me. As Stella insinuates herself into her family, posing as her own long last aunt, she subtly attempts to manipulate the future, but destiny, it seems, is not as malleable as it may appear.

There is also a traditional mystery, with a missing girl at it’s heart, which is central to the story.

I’m loathe to say much more, lest I inadvertently spoil your own future reading of this novel . Suffice it to say, The Lost Girls is a poignant, intriguing ,and captivating read I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

 

+++++

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