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Title: Murder in Belgravia

Author: Lynn Brittney

Genre: Historical Mystery

Opens: I refuse to speak to a man” Lady Harriet sat before him –composed and pale.

Blurb: Set against the backdrop of WW1, Mayfair 100 is the telephone number for a small specially-formed crime busting team based in a house in Mayfair. London, 1915. Just 10 months into the First World War, the City is flooded with women taking over the work vacated by men in the Armed Services. Chief Inspector Peter Beech, a young man invalided out of the war in one of the first battles, is faced with investigating the murder of an aristocrat and the man’s wife, a key witness and suspect, will only speak to a woman about the unpleasant details of the case. After persuading the Chief Commissioner to allow him to set up a clandestine team to deal with such situations, Beech puts together a small motley crew of well-educated women and professional policemen. As the team work secretly to investigate the murder, they delve into the seedier parts of WWI London, taking them from criminal gangs to brothels and on to underground drug rings. Will the Mayfair 100 team solve the murder? And if they do, will they be allowed to continue working as a team?

My thoughts: MURDER IN BELGRAVIA has to be the best Historical Mystery I’ve read in a long time; and I learned so much! I mean who knew that London was bombed by airships – in WWI? OK – so my husband did – but he’s odd – I found myself surfing the net for many happy hours delving into this part of history that I didn’t know about once I had finished reading the book. I love it when I am entertained and educated.

The story starts with the murder of Lord Murcheson. His wife, Lady Harriet, is the prime suspect, she refuses to talk to Chief Inspector Peter Beech, the assigned investigator, because he is a man. She tells him she will only speak to a lady. He doesn’t push the issue as he sees that she is seriously injured. He very quickly gets her to hospital where a female friend of his, Caroline Allardyce, is a doctor. Caroline tries to talk to Lady Harriet but it turns out she won’t talk to just any woman – she will only talk to someone who is her equal in society. Peter asks a close friend the widowed Lady Victoria Ellingham to travel to London to talk to Lady Harriet.

At this point Peter notes a huge gap in police investigation capabilities, he needs women recruited. Peter gets permission to create a small, secret and very much unofficial investigative team. He recruits Caroline, and as Victoria is legally trained Lady Victoria he adds her to the group. To these ladies he adds PC Billy Rigsby, a wounded war veteran and very popular with ladies even though unaware he is, and Detective Arthur Tollman – father of 4 girls, so well able to work with women.

Caroline quickly assesses that with the injuries that Lady Harriet sustained there is no way that she could have been in any condition to kill her husband. So the chase is on to find out who did kill him. Harriet’s husband, Lord Murcheson, had returned seriously injured from the war, and the treatment had turned him into a rampaging brutal drug addict. The team set to work on finding out what the drugs were, who supplied them and where have the missing Butler and Lady Harriet’s maid gone.

Lynn Brittney takes us deep into WWI London, we meet Gang leaders, prostitution rings, white slavers, drug dealers, Molly houses (another new term for me), and gambling dens. Suspects, and witnesses, range from the elite of society to gutter rats, and the team grows as different leads are followed. Lady Victoria’s mother supplies her Belgravia home as a base in Mayfair, Billy’s mother and aunt are set up in Lady Harriet’s house when their home is bombed, and through Caroline a female chemist comes on board to help with the crime investigation.

The setting is war torn London, with the men off to war, and coming home physically and mental shattered. Women are moving into jobs that they have never had a chance to do before. Society is changing but there is a lot of resistance to women working as their roles shift from housewives to workers.

As a group I loved all the main characters, they worked together, taught each other and lent a hand to assist those in need. They seemed real, and all had empathy as each of them were carrying baggage. One of the minor characters, who had major impact on me, was a young lad named George, I shed a tear over what he had to go through. The dialogue was good, the information was interesting and not superfluous at any time to the story and as for the portrayal of everyday life, I was blown away by the fact that heroin, morphine and opium could be purchased at any pharmacy for minor complaints such as toothaches, infant colic, and as nerve tonics.

Rating: Excellent Stuff– a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

Want to know more about author Lynne Brittney? Click Here

With thanks to the author Lynn Brittney for my copy to read and review.

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Title: Starry Eyes

Author: Jenn Bennett

Genre: Young Adult/Romance

Opens: Spontaneity is overrated.

Blurb: Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets. But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together. What could go wrong? With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

My thoughts: I really, really enjoyed STARRY EYES. Teen angst in the wilderness along with bears, snakes, mountain lions, and no mobile phone service! Zorie is obsessed with planning – everything has to be planned in advance so when her mother arranges for her to go glamping with a school friend she is all of a tizz as she cannot plan for the unknown. What she doesn’t know until the day of departure, is that her ex-boyfriend, Lennon, son of a lesbian couple next door who run a sex shop, is also part of the group. Six underage teens, two of which are bent on making whoopee. As you would expect things turn bad for various reasons and Zorie and Lennon find themselves alone in the wilderness when the other four kids run out on them in the middle of the night. Luckily, it turns out that Lennon is quite the hiking expert and he talks Zorie into hiking out of the park.

This is the gist of the main story, however, there are quite a few sub plots going on in the background which all get woven into the main story as the events in these sub plots impact on the two hikers. The fights between several of the characters for various reasons, secrets that become known, and misunderstandings between people are eventually sorted were each totally realistic. I have to confess that when Zorie headed off on a camping trip with a group of school friends that included the boy she lusts after and the one who annoys her – blind Harry could figure out who she was going to end up with – I enjoyed seeing if (a) I was right, and (b) if I was, then seeing how it happened.

Overall STARRY EYES was fast-paced, easy to read and dealt with some serious issues in a non-confrontational way. There is sex but it is not in your face or graphic, the reader is just aware it happened. Even the scenes set in the sex shop is dealt with well – and had me howling with laughter. This is the first book I have read that was written by Jenn Bennett, and I have another one on my ‘To Read’ shelf so looking forwards to reading that one.

Rating: Excellent Stuff– a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

Want to know more about author Jenn Bennett? Click Here

With thanks to Simon & Schuster – Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

Title: Anzac Biscuits by Allison Reynolds

Author: Anzac Biscuits by Allison Reynolds

Genre: Non-fiction

Opens: I was just five years old when I started school in Sutton Veny"

Blurb: Anzac biscuits, baked in Australia and New Zealand for over a century, have a powerful connection to the national identity and culture of both countries. But what is the story of this national icon? Were they eaten by troops during the First World War? When did coconut make an appearance? And where do you stand on the crispy versus chewy debate? Culinary detective Allison Reynolds has travelled Australia, New Zealand and England delving into war files and family cookbooks to investigate the provenance of this extraordinary everyday biscuit.

My thoughts: ANZAC BISCUITS maybe a small book – but there is SO much information packed into the eleven chapters. Of course, while I was reading, I had to do research – purely for review reasons you understand – and hubby and I both decided we are crispy fans not chewy fans. A recipe for crispy biscuits can be found below.

So why were Anzac Biscuits made at all? Mothers, daughters, wives and sweethearts all wanted to send packets to their men serving in the front lines – something from home. Unlike today though, mail from home could take months to arrive as everything travelled by ship. Because of this time factor, home cooked products needed to last. The original Anzac Biscuits were made from oats, butter, flour and golden syrup – all cheap products found in the pantries of the day. They couldn’t use eggs – as the biscuit would go bad –Golden Syrup was what bound the ingredients together. Because of the easily accessible ingredients, easy cooking method, and the fact that the recipe didn’t use eggs that meant the biscuits would last the long trip to Europe. The original biscuits, did not have coconut in them and were only made from rolled oats and golden syrup which resulted in a very hard biscuit – in fact they were known to break teeth. The coconut was added in the 1920s making the biscuit less of a jaw breaker.

The first version of a rolled oats based biscuit appeared around 1823 in the cook books of women in Australia and New Zealand. Over the 100 years they had a variety of names such as ‘Surprise Biscuits’ and ‘Crispies’. However, when WWI started the recipe name changed to ‘Red Cross Biscuits’ and ‘Soldiers Biscuits.’ From this point it was just a hop, skip and a jump to naming them Anzac biscuits, as they were sold on the home front to raise funds and after Gallipoli the word ANZAC was very patriotic and guaranteed a sale.

Even today, the modern version of the Anzac biscuit is used to help out in hard times, recently Australian emergency workers were given them when they were helping out in recent floods – and the biscuits were sent to drought stricken areas of Australia in care packages.

“…Anzac biscuits embody Australianness, conveying the ANZAC spirit of courage, endurance, survival and mateship and what’s more, they taste bloody good too…”

There are all sorts of useful snippets in ANZAC BISCUITS excerpts from original letters and pictures of containers used to transport goods from Australia over to the troops to give the reader and idea of the conditions the men were living in – and how much the biscuits lifted morale. I really enjoyed my time spent in this book – and if you like social history and knowing why things exist then I thoroughly recommend it.

So which country was first? Author Allison Reynolds very diplomatically says we both were.

Crispy ANZAC Biscuits (Coconut version)

Pre heat oven to 170C / 150C Fan Forced

Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper

Ingredients

· 1 cup plain flour

· 1 cup Rolled Oats (not instant)

· 1 Cup Desiccated Coconut (I used ½ a cup as hubby and I don’t like coconut)

· 1 cup Sugar

· 125g butter

· 2 tablespoons Golden Syrup

· 1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda

· 2 Tablespoons Boiling Water

Method

· Mix flour, oats, desiccated coconut and sugar in a large bowl

· Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a large pan over medium heat, then remove pan from heat – Combine boiling water and bicarbonate of soda; add to butter mixture and mix well until it froths up.

· Stir into dry ingredients until combined

· Take teaspoons of the mixture and roll into a ball – put on trays allowing room for spreading

· Press the biscuits down firmly to flatten using the back of a dessertspoon

· Bake for 15 -20 minutes until nicely golden

· Remove trays from oven and leave biscuits on the baking tray to firm up, leave until completely cool about 10 minutes

Author Information: Allison Reynolds, MA (Gastronomy), is a culinary historian and a regular commentator on many aspects of food history. As gastronomer in residence at several South Australian establishments she researched the social and food history of early Adelaide. Allison’s passion for tea, marmalade, food history and old cookery books continues unabated.

With thanks to Wakefield Press for my copy to read and review.

This book is? Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

This is my occasional roundup of the books I have read, the books I’m currently reading, one or two Internet places I’ve visited and quotes that have taken my eye.

Books I have recently finished:

Book: The Reaper Rescues the Genie by Kristen Painter

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Thoughts: The 9th book in the Nocturne Falls series – a series that I pre-order as soon as I know a new one is out. Nocturne Falls is a town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year. The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, and the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky are all make believe and there for their entertainment. But all the super natural folk who live there know this is far from the truth. In this book a Grim Reaper with a wonky gift and a Genie who is being hunted by a wish merchant get together.

Book: Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Historical Romance

Thoughts: Book 3 in the Ravenel series, Lady Pandora Ravenel is not interested in getting married, she wants to run her own business. Something it is generally frowned upon in Victorian England. However through a comedy of errors she is compromised and quickly finds herself married to Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent. He gives her freedom to continue her business but she very quickly finds herself caught up in a dangerous conspiracy. She is so impulsive her poor husband has a real battle to keep her safe.

Book: Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Historical Romance

Thoughts: From one independent woman, Pandora, to the next. Book 4 in the Ravenel series brings us Dr. Garrett Gibson who is the only female physician in England, and decides that as she is fighting to exist in a man’s world she will act like one – and starts an affair with Ethan Ransom, a brooding man who is a rumored assassin and whose true loyalties are a mystery. A night of passion leads to facing a treacherous government plot which is a continuation of danger faced in ‘Devil in Spring.’

Book: Winter in Sweetwater County by Ciara Knight

Genre: Romance

Thoughts: Lisa has fled to Sweetwater Creek with her unborn child to escape her abusive fiancé and start a new life. She meets Eric the son of her business partner and gradually they realise that they can each heal each other from the hurts of their respective pasts.

Book: Rosemary’s Retribution by Nandita Chakraborty

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg

Genre: Chick Lit

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries by Barbara Santich

Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

Thoughts: Separate review here

Book: Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold

Genre: Contemporary YA

Thoughts: Separate review here

What I am currently reading:

The Art of Friendship by Lisa Ireland (Women’s Fiction)

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (YA Romance)

Anzac Biscuits by Allison Reynolds (Non-Fiction)

Quote/s and links for the week

Links: Here are a couple of online articles I found recently:

A good article on how real books are not allowing themselves to be ‘written off.’ I’ve always maintained there is room for both in the market.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/14/how-real-books-trumped-ebooks-publishing-revival

These next two links are recommendations for books written by, or about, Moslem women

https://nylon.com/articles/best-books-muslim-women

http://www.signature-reads.com/2018/06/novels-memoirs-muslim-women-authors/

Quotes: That haverecently caught my eye

“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

By Martin Luther King Jr.

These are both from Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas:

#6 Lord St. Vincent reportedly has a mistress.

#7The word ‘mistress’ sounds like a cross between mistake and mattress.

“The first time you went out, you became mixed up with a group of radical political terrorists.”

“That could have happened to anyone!”

And this quote is from The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus:

‘Seb just needs to add these herbs to his little potion and then rub it gently behind her ears without her knowing,’ Putu smiled knowingly.

‘Without her knowing? Mum, that’s terrible advice! If Seb starts rubbing oil behind somebody’s ears he’ll get is a restraining order,’ Frankie snapped.

Title: Mallee Boys

Author: Charlie Archbold

Genre: Young Adult

Opens: You know, when you walk into a murky river you could step on anything.

Blurb: Sandy Douglas knows that life at fifteen is hard, but it’s even harder when your mother died a year ago and nothing’s gone right since. Sandy’s brother Red, on the other hand, is eighteen now and working the farm. He’s amped up on rage and always looking for a fight. And then there’s their dad Tom. He does his best, but – really – he doesn’t have a clue. As Sandy and Red deal with girls, dirt biking, footy and friendship, both boys have to work out who they want to be, without their mum around. The Mallee, where they live, may seem like the middle of nowhere, but it turns out this is going to be one hell of a year.

My thoughts: A coming of age story is a story featuring a teen who makes the scary step from child to adult. MALLEE BOYS is just such a story. Sandy and Red both go through tremendous growth by the time the story ends. For those who don’t know, the Mallee region it is located in the north west of the State of Victoria in Australia. It is semi-arid and flat with mostly sandy soil. Wheat, Barley and sheep are the main produce – but the wild flowers in spring are an amazing sight. This is the back drop to the story which picks up a year after the death of the boy’s mother.

Sandy is a bit of a sook, but is very smart and as he starts year 10 he is urged to apply for scholarships at Boarding School so he can continue his education. Red has finished with school and is helping out his father on the family farm. Red is fast becoming a bad boy, constantly angry, getting into fights and generally misbehaving.

The two brothers take it in turns to tell their stories, both different voices, both grieving in their own way. Very early on the reader learns that Red blames himself for his mother’s death and the reasoning behind this is gradually revealed. Although he doesn’t contribute to the story telling their father is a large figure in the story. Dealing with his own grief he supports his boys as best he can.

MALLEE BOYS is not an edge of the seat thriller. It is a gentle story of the day to day activities of the two boys and their father. There are poignant moments, brawls, girl trouble and laughter – the ongoing battle with the snake had me in fits of laughter. During the course of the next year Sandy and Red make decisions that will affect each of their futures. A wonderful debut book from author Charlie Archbold she has captured Teen angst perfectly and I am not surprised that it has been nominated for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers Award.

For more about author Charlie Archbold – Click Here

Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

With thanks to Wakefield Press for my copy to read and review.

Title: Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries

Author: Barbara Santich

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Opens: It’s the most exciting thing that has happened in Nizas since the massive thunderstorm during the vintage the year before last, which ruined 10 truckloads of grapes on their way to the winery.

Great – I really enjoyed reading it and it is a book I will be recommending to all my friends who like this genre.

Blurb: I drank Normandy farmhouse cider, ate strawberries dipped in red wine then sugar, and tasted truffles and soft goat cheeses for the first time. I returned to Australia inspired to become a food writer. France bewitched Barbara Santich as a student in the early 1970s. She vowed to return, and soon enough she did – with husband and infant twins in tow. Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries tells the story of the magical two years that followed. Barbara and her husband launched themselves into French village life, a world of winemaking, rabbit raising, cherry picking and exuberant 14 July celebrations. Here we see the awakening of Barbara Santich’s lifelong love affair with food history. And also a lost France, ‘when the 19th century almost touched hands with the 21st’. Shepherds still led their flocks to pasture each day and, even near the bustling towns, wild strawberries hid at the forest’s edge.

My thoughts: I was sucked into Barbara Santich’s French experience from page one. As she first took me with her from their arrival in France, then described what she sees, the people they meet and, oh my goodness, the food she eats. I was entranced.

Beautifully written, describing meticulously what it going on, without falling into the trap of being wordy. The scenes just flowed into each other as they move around France and blend their lives into the seasons. Chock-a-block with amazing characters, and recipes, I have cooked her Tomates farcies (stuffed tomatoes) recipe and it was pronounced a hit by my fussy husband, next up to try is Madame Mourichon’s gateu aux poires (Madam Mourichon’s pear cake) when I mentioned serve with cream he liked the idea!

Overall this is a memoir that kept me riveted until the last page.

With thanks to Wakefield Press for my copy to read and review.

Author Information: Barbara Santich is a highly respected food writer, culinary historian and academic, with an abiding interest in French food, cooking and eating, currently focused on eighteenth-century Provence. Her book on Australian food history, Bold Palates: Australia’s Gastronomic Heritage, was shortlisted in the non-fiction category of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

Title: The Book Ninja

Author: Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

Genre: Chic Lit

Opens: If Frankie’s life were a book, she would title it Disappointment, named aptly after the disaster that was her career, her family and, of course, her love life.

Blurb: Sometimes love means having to broaden your literary horizons. Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person will do. It’s not that she hasn’t tried. She’s the queen of online dating. But enough is enough. Inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Street Bookshop, Frankie decides to take fate into her own hands and embarks on the ultimate love experiment. Her plan? Plant her favourite books on trains inscribed with her contact details in a bid to lure the sophisticated, charming and well-read man of her dreams. Enter Sunny, and one spontaneous kiss later, Frankie begins to fall for him. But there’s just one problem – Frankie is strictly a classics kind of gal, and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Like really.

My thoughts: THE BOOK NINJA by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus is a fun Romance/Comedy and just great for sitting in waiting rooms in hospital while waiting for medical people to push and prod your bored husband. Said bored husband was not impressed with me cackling with laughter on the odd occasion when he felt he needed love and devotion – or at the very least a little sympathy.

However, this personal insight does not tell you much about the book! Frankie has a life that many booklovers aspire to, she works in a bookstore – the Little Brunswick Street Bookshop. However, she is not just any old book lover – she is a classics booklover, to the point of being a book snob. The closest she would get to reading romance would be to read Pride and Prejudice. When Sunny, a gorgeous, intelligent man, came into the shop to buy a book she went weak at the knees – until he purchased a popular YA Science Fiction book. She felt his life was wasted and this misguided like of non-classic books was a flaw in an otherwise perfect persona. So dismissing Sunny – despite his keen interest in her, Frankie hatches a plan to find a man who would read classic novels – such an individual would be her perfect match surely? A fan of online dating Frankie decides to leave a letter and her email address on a slip of paper in some of her favourite books and leave a book on a train. The idea being the well-read person would contact her for a date and she could find her perfect match. Of course this wouldn’t be Chick lit if things went to plan – and she finds that just because maybe they read classics – they may not be normal. Frankie starts to blog her experiences and her followers urge her to reconsider YA lover – he may be worth a second look after all – I mean to say she can always train him to like the classics!

THE BOOK NINJA is a quick and quirky read. All of the characters, well maybe Sunny was normal, were out of left-field crazy; but all delightful and I would love to catch up with them in real life if I could. Well actually, I probably wouldn’t – I think it would be exhausting to have these people for friends if they lived outside this book – they are all very out there. As you would expect from a book with a classic loving main character and set in a book shop there are a heap of literary references as books from all genre are discussed. Overall the story is all about looking for love in the wrong places. As well as Frankie’s search for love, there is a sub story of her best friend Cat who owns the bookstore along with her husband. Cat has her own problems, she is very pregnant and very much in a pickle. And then there is Frankie’s alternative lifestyle mother, Putu – who honestly would drive me batty – and a High Schooler, Seb, who is a regular in the book shop. Cat, Putu and Seb all offer Frankie advice – mostly unwanted advice, which adds to her perfect match hunting.

…‘Seb just needs to add these herbs to his little potion and then rub it gently behind her ears without her knowing,’ Putu smiled knowingly.

‘Without her knowing? Mum, that’s terrible advice! If Seb starts rubbing oil behind somebody’s ears he’ll get is a restraining order,’ Frankie snapped…

Authors Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus are the founders of ‘Books on the rail’ based on a British idea called ‘Books on the Underground.’ Michelle met the creator of Books on the Underground, which I have been following on twitter for a while, and when she returned to Australia she and Ali set up a version in Melbourne. I understand today its Melbourne and tomorrow the world, well the rest of Australia anyway. So it made sense to have Frankie use the trains of Melbourne to conduct her search for a life partner.

For more about authors Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it, but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia and the authors via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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