Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 3rd February 2015
Pages: 448
Book Source: St Martin's Press & NetGalley

Synopsis: In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

My Thoughts: 
I left a piece of my heart on the pages of The Nightingale. I could quite honestly leave it at that as I'm not sure I have the words to convey how much this book affected me. 

I read quite a bit of WWII fiction and nonfiction but at the risk of sounding cliched The Nightingale was different. I was incapable of putting it down, sleep paled into insignificance as Vianne and Isabelle's story took hold and I finished it at 3am, emotionally wrung out. 

Kristin Hannah captures the horror, the hunger, the heart, the biting contrast between humanity and inhumanity with an eloquence that left me breathless and ugly crying. Alongside the atrocities there are moments of great tenderness, love and always hope. This story is one big 'feel' and that's what makes it unforgettable.

Andrée de Jongh, the young Belgium woman who established an escape network over the Pyrenees which later became known as the Comet Line was Hannah's inspiration for Isabelle. It doesn't seem to matter how much I read of the holocaust the unimaginable horror never lessens in intensity. But The Nightingale recognises the quiet courage, strength and determination of women, those who protected friends, saved Jewish children, sacrificed and survived, made gut wrenching choices, worked in the Resistance, risked their lives for strangers, endured the unthinkable, died fighting evil. Those like Isabelle and Vianne ... 

I've read many of Kristin Hannah's books, I love her writing. Winter Garden is a favourite but The Nightingale is exceptional. I'll go out on a limb and say it's one of the best books I've read ... the kind of best that lands a novel on my books-to-be-buried-with list. I can't stop thinking about it, my heart hurts ... 

Connect with Kristin Hannah

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday & Australia Day! What Are You Reading?

A weekly event hosted by Sheila from Book Journey to discuss your reading week ~ the books you've read and those you plan on reading in the coming week. I love this meme, it helps me stay on track ... well, most of the time. Thanks Sheila! 

On the home front: 
Wonderful week ... Anthony, Christine and Mia ended up staying almost a week, until the hot weather broke with a deluge of rain. My birthday Thursday and I had a lovely time with family and I got my very first drawing from Mia ...  a little treasure.

beautiful flowers from dear friends

Right now I'm on Lady Elliot Island (southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef) for a 2 night birthday getaway hopefully giving my camera a workout. Lady Elliot is a highly protected "Green Zone"  sanctuary for marine and other wildlife ... won't be blog visiting til Tuesday. 

Happy Australia Day :)



AUSTRALIA DAY BOOK GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP - International. 3 winners. You have until midnight Tue 27th to enter AEST. Awesome Aussie titles! 


Reviews & Posts: (click on title)


2015 AUSTRALIA DAY BOOK GIVEAWAY BLOG HOP ~ International. 3 winners. You have until midnight Tue 27th to enter. Head on over to Book'd Out for the other participants in the blog hop. 

FIRST FROST by Sarah Addison Allen ~ slowish start but then the magic kicked in and I was swept away. Weekend Cooking post. 

OUR KIND OF LOVE by Victoria Purman (Boys of Summer #3) ~ really enjoyed this one! 


Finished last week:

THE MAXWELL SISTERS by Loretta Hill ~ enjoyable

KEEP QUIET by Lisa Scottoline (audiobook) ~ heartbreaking mess but I really enjoyed my first Lisa Scottoline read. 


This Week's Reading List: 

THE MIME ORDER by Samantha Shannon (Bone Season #2) 

THE VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio ~ this one was a win from Stacy @Stacy's Books quite a few years ago. I'm not sure why I haven't read it already when I love Sarah Jio. 


THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (audiobook)


Reviews Coming:

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah ~ I left a piece of my heart on the pages of this book!! 

LEAVING TIME by Jodi Picoult ~ loved the elephants and the mystery. 

THE TUDOR VENDETTA by C.W. Gortner (The Spymaster Chronicles #3) ~ enjoyed it and surreal to be visiting Westminster, walking London and Southwalk while reading this one. 

THE WINTER CROWN by Elizabeth Chadwick (Eleanor of Aquitaine #2) ~ (audiobook) finally finished. I know it took me a while but that's not a reflection on how good it was ... excellent!! 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

#FitReaders Weekly Check-In: 4/52

#FitReaders co-hosted by Felicia @ Geeky Bloggers Book Blog and Jen @ That’s What I’m Talking About.

FitReaders is a great way to stay motivated, accountable and it's more fun having bloggy friends to check in with. If you also have a fitbit and want to add me, let me know :) 

We are on Lady Elliot Island (southern end  of the Great Barrier Reef) from Sunday to Tuesday so I'm sure there will be lots of walks on the beach and snorkelling, which will make up for the lack of during the week.

We have the dodgiest of internet connections but it was so exciting snorkelling and seeing turtles (up close and personal) and getting photos ... just had to share :)

Did you get your move on this week? 

Fitbit Steps: 
Mon: 4675 steps ~ swim with Mia
Tue:  7202 steps ~ short walk  
Wed: 7305 steps ~ swim
Thurs: 8045 steps ~ walk 
Fri: 5193 steps 
Sat: 5161 steps
Sun: 18,030 beach/bush walking 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

2015 Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop ~ International 3 winners

To celebrate Australia Day (26th Jan) Oi Oi Oi! and my birthday I'm participating in the Australia Day Book Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by Shelleyrae @ BOOK'D OUT

What a fantabulous way to promote Australian literature and our talented Aussie authors. So to share my Love an Aussie Author love I'm offering giveaways for books from these wonderful Australian authors ~ 3 winners 

2 winners receive their choice from the list below via Amazon Kindle gift. 1 winner will receive a print copy of Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell

Genre: Historical/Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: 1st September 2014

Synopsis: Ruby Cardel has the semblance of a normal life – a loving boyfriend, a fulfilling career – but in one terrible moment, her life unravels. The discovery that the death of her sister, Jamie, was not an accident makes her question all she’s known about herself and her past.

Travelling back home to Lyrebird Hill, Ruby begins to remember the year that has been forever blocked in her memory . . . Snatches of her childhood with beautiful Jamie, and Ruby’s only friendship with the boy from the next property, a troubled foster kid.

Then Ruby uncovers a cache of ancient letters from a long-lost relative, Brenna Magavin, written from her cell in a Tasmanian gaol where she is imprisoned for murder. As she reads, Ruby discovers that her family line is littered with tragedy and violence.

Slowly, the gaps in Ruby’s memory come to her. And as she pieces together the shards of truth, what she finally discovers will shock her to the core – about what happened to Jamie that fateful day, and how she died.

A thrilling tale about family secrets and trusting yourself...

Connect with Anna Romer

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

BILLABONG BEND by Jennifer Scoullar
Genre: Contemporary Rural Fiction
Publication Date: 28th May 2014

Synopsis: For Nina Moore, the rare marshland flanking the beautiful Bunyip River is the most precious place on earth. Her dream is to buy Billabong Bend and protect it forever, but she's not the only one with designs on the land. When her childhood sweetheart Ric returns home, old feelings are rekindled, and Nina dares to dream of a future for both of them on the river. But a tragic death divides loyalties and threatens to tear apart their fledgling romance.

This star-crossed rural romance sets Nina, a floodplains grazier, and Ric, a traditional cotton farmer, on a heart-rending collision course, amid the beauty of northern NSW. 

Connect with Jennifer Scoullar

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 4.5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

SAFE HARBOUR by Helene Young
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publication Date: 26th March 2014

Synopsis: When Darcy Fletcher drags a handsome sailor from a stricken yacht, she finds herself drawn into his mysterious world. Having saved his life, can she now rescue him from his dark past? Or will that endanger all she holds most dear? 

Noah, keeper of the peace and guardian of the Banksia Cove secrets, can’t tell Darcy the real reason this stranger has washed up on their shores. If she understood the links between him and her own dysfunctional family, he’d lose her love for good. 

As they take refuge in an old whaling station for the night, only one thing is certain – by morning, no one will be the same again. Lies will surface. Hearts will break, and not all will find safe harbour. 

Connect with Helene Young

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 4.5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

SELDOM COME BY by Sherryl Caulfield 
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 10th December 2013

Synopsis: Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, fifteen year-old Rebeca Crowe’s fascination with icebergs leads her to save a shipwrecked survivor, Samuel Dalton, the nineteen-year old son of a Toronto medical family. 

Love sparks in the crystal cave of an iceberg but is thwarted by an unreasonable father and the Great War that drags Samuel and his brother, Matthew, to the Western Front as medical officers. Knowing Rebecca is home safe in Newfoundland brings Samuel great comfort. But as the war moves towards its final harrowing days, they both discover that tragedy and terror can strike anywhere, setting their love on an unforeseen path.

Only when Samuel and Rebecca can fully come to terms with such devastating loss and their impossible choices can their love soar. With an emotional intensity reminiscent of The Bronze Horseman, Seldom Come By, named after an actual place in Newfoundland, is an unforgettable journey across waves and time and the full spectrum of human emotions.

Connect with Sherryl Caulfield

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

COME WHAT MAY by Sherryl Caulfield
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 19th September 2014

Synopsis: The second instalment of The Iceberg Trilogy, Come What May, continues the story of Samuel and Rebecca Dalton through the lives of their children, most notably, their beautiful, troubled daughter, Evangeline — Gene to all who knew and loved her.

In 1951, the summer of her eighteenth year, Gene embarks on a northern odyssey with her eldest brother, Jonathan. Under the northern lights they travel as part of a medical expedition to remote Cree settlements across the grand Canadian wilderness. There, she encounters people and events that will influence her life forever, including the unflappable Sonny Marlow, a young pilot not long returned from Europe where he served as part of the Allied forces in the Berlin Airlift operation.

Drawn together by love but kept apart by her fears, theirs is a tumultuous relationship that is as unpredictable as the woman Gene becomes. From the Saskatchewan prairies to the Rocky Mountains, from James Bay to Vancouver, life and love hold many surprises and trials for Gene and Sonny. Only when Gene can walk away from the devastating shadows towards the light can she and Sonny live the life that held such promise when they were young and on the edge of love.

Connect with Sherryl Caulfield

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 4.5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

DARK HORSE by Honey Brown
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: 24th April 2013

Synopsis: It's Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted trail-riding business.

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman's Hut.

She settles in to wait out Christmas.

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome. But his story doesn't ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What's driving his resistance towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger's dangerous game of intimacy.

Connect with Honey Brown 

If you'd like to know more check out my review ~ 5 stars
comment and I'll give you an extra entry in the draw

CAPTIVE OF SIN by Anna Campbell - print copy
Genre: Historical Romance
International Giveaway
Australian winner signed, International winner unsigned
(you must be in a Book Depository delivery area)

Synopsis: He pledged his honor to keep her safe.

Returning home to Cornwall after an unspeakable tragedy, Sir Gideon Trevithick comes upon a defiant beauty in danger and vows to protect her whatever the cost. He's dismayed to discover that she's none other than Lady Charis Weston, England's wealthiest heiress—and that the only way to save her from the violent stepbrothers determined to steal her fortune is to wed her himself! Now Gideon must hide the dark secrets of his life from the bride he desires more with every heartbeat. 

She promised to show him how to love—and desire—again.

Charis has heard all about Gideon, the dangerously handsome hero with the mysterious past. She's grateful for his help but utterly unwilling to endure a marriage of convenience—especially to a man whose touch leaves her breathless. Desperate to drive him mad with passion, she would do anything to make Gideon lose control—and fall captive to irresistible, undeniable sin.

Connect with Anna Campbell

Easy Peasy ... just leave a comment telling me which book is calling your name! If you aren't easily contactable via blog, website etc please leave an email address.

+2 tweet giveaway and leave a link

Entries close midnight Tuesday 27th January (AEST) and winners will be announced on my blog. Good luck everyone. 

Don't forget to head on over to Book'd Out to visit the rest of the participants on the hop and enter their giveaways. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

Title: First Frost
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Magical Realism
Series: Waverley Family #2
Publication Date: 20th January 2015
Pages: 304
Book Source: St Martin's Press & NetGalley

Synopsis: It's October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree... and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Though her handcrafted confections—rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds—are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby— a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

My Thoughts:
First Frost started slowly. I panicked a little ... where's the magic, where's the magic? But before I knew it I'd been swept away. 

I read Garden Spells 6 years ago but 10 years on revisiting the Waverley family ... sisters Claire & Sydney, Sydney's husband Henry and now 15 year old daughter Bay, Claire and Tyler's daughter Mariah, and quirky Aunt Evanelle and Fred, was like having a cup of tea with dear old friends you haven't seen for years but you pick up right where you left off ... comfortable, familiar and just plain good. 

Each member of the Waverley family has a special gift, gifts that tie them to their family name. Bay knows where things belong, Sydney understands the language of hair, Claire uses her catering turned candy business to share the magic of flowers and herbs and Mariah ... well you'll just have to read First Frost to see if she has a gift. And who'd dare forget the mischievous Queen Anne home or the feisty apple tree. 

In First Frost the Waverleys' are feeling a little out of sorts; unsettled and anxious ... it's that period of unrest before first frost when the apple tree blossoms signalling new beginnings.

It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Autumn felt like the whole world was browned and roasted until it was so tender it was about to fall away from the bone.

Sarah Addison Allen has a beautiful way with words and there's just something about her writing that takes me back to childhood ... looks of wonder, fairy dust and magical wonderful things.

First Frost is the type of read that makes me believe anything's possible ... like waking in the garden to fairies kissing your nose xx

Recommend: everyone needs a little magic in their life :)

Food is just something you grow and recipes are just words written in notebooks. They are nothing until the right person comes along. 
And that's when the real magic happens.

on that note here's two recipes from First Frost I'd love to try. 

Fig and Pepper Bread

2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped figs
2 tsp coarse black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 dry yeast packet
1 1/2 cups of warm water

Whisk flour, salt, pepper and yeast until blended, by hand or with whisk attachment of mixer. 

Add Olive oil and warm water. Knead for 10 minutes or use dough hook attachment of mixer for 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and springy. 

Oil a large bowl, place dough inside and cover bowl with a damp hand towel. Let sit in a warm place for approx 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Softly knead in the chopped figs and evenly distribute throughout the dough, (lightly flouring your hands can make handling the dough easier) shape into an oval then place on a baking sheet. 

Snip three shallow lines into top of the dough with scissors, then lightly dust the dough with flour.

Let rise, uncovered, until dough swells a little more, 10 - 15 mins, or longer if the kitchen isn't warm.

Place tray in 350 (180 C) oven for 40-45 mins until crust is slight brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the underside. 

Cool on wire wrack. 

Connect with Sarah Addison Allen

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs.