Tag Archives: Books

Favourite Reads of January-February

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My Favourite Reads image

Welcome back to my favourite reads for 2016. With eight books to read for the Romance Writers of America RITA® Awards – none of which I can tell you about! – I didn’t manage a lot of personal reading in January and February, so it seemed more entertaining to combine the two months into one.

With all those romances to read and to keep my reading self fresh, I mainly kept away from romantic stories. A couple slipped in though. I can’t help it. The genre makes me feel warm and happy, and who doesn’t relish that?

So, of my January-February reads, title of my favourite goes to…

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Named of the Dragon by Susanna KearsleyI’m a total Kearsley fangirl. Total. The Shadowy Horses is one of my favourite reads of all time. Named of the Dragon was so gorgeous it’s challenging The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) as my second favourite Kearsley.

Set in Wales, Named of the Dragon has everything – stunning, Gothic location, creepy old house, mystery, sibling rivalry, Arthurian legend, personal tragedy, and British village life. As with all Kearsley novels it’s beautifully written. She immerses you in the atmosphere and makes you feel the characters’ anxieties and desires deeply. I love her treatment of the romance thread too. It’s subtle but very intriguing, as is her usual way.

Loved it. Go read!

I also read:

The Duchess War by Courtney MilanThe Duchess War by Courtney Milan

Milan’s books are great fun and this is no exception. The Duchess War is book 1 in the Brothers Sinister series, although the novella The Governess Affair (a hoot!) is counted as a lead-in story. I’m a sucker for a wallflower character and Minerva, the heroine, was a cracker.

Down and Dusty: Casey by Rachael JohnsDown and Dusty: Casey by Rachael Johns

A short but punchy – not to mention seriously hot – read from rural romance superstar Rachael Johns (and, I had better mention, buddy of mine). Wonderfully sexy escapism in a dusty town. Great stuff.

Kolymsky Heights by Lionel DavidsonKolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson

A thriller that takes you from England to Canada to Japan to Russia and places in between. Plenty of action and some fascinating insights into everything from anthropology to shipping to the tough lives of those who reside in Siberian outposts. Completely far-fetched but I couldn’t put it down!

The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason ArnoppThe Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

I adore horror novels, so I was delighted to score an advance copy of this book thanks to The Reading Room and Hachette Australia. This book is so far up my alley it could have been written for just for me. Creepy, fast-paced, fascinating and topical with the social media references. I also really liked the structure, with Jack’s narrative mixed with his brother’s and other’s. A page turner.

Disclaimer by Renee KnightDisclaimer by Renee Knight

Oh, this book!! My second favourite read of January-February. When a story makes you feel fretful for fictional characters, the author is doing something right. Fantastic premise – Imagine if the next thriller you opened was all about you. Scary thought. Even scarier read. I devoured this tense suspense-thriller in a couple of days. Highly recommended.

Death in the Dordogne by Martin WalkerDeath in the Dordogne by Martin Walker

AKA Bruno, Chief of Police. I’ve had author buddies nagging me for yonks to read this book, with them promising it’d be right in my zone. Was it? Yeah, baby!  France, food, village life and crime. I’m a happy girl. Loved it.

 

By the way. if you’re looking for my December Favourite Reads post, I’m sorry to advise that it was one of the posts lost during The Great Website Meltdown of early 2016. Measures have been put in place to protect against this happening again. I hope they work. That meltdown was seriously traumatic. But to recap, my favourite read was Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Amazing book, gorgeous hero, lovely heroine, wonderful set-up. Didn’t want it to end.

What were your favourite reads?

 

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Favourite Reads of October

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My Favourite Reads image

I read some pretty fab books in October, across a wide range of genres too. But the two highlights were both from Australian writers. Talented debut author Emma Viskic and well-established romance author Rachel Bailey, whose expertise in the genre shone through.

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

Resurrection Bay by Emma ViskicLoved this book. Just loved it. A great Aussie crime novel and apparently the first in a series. Rah!

When Caleb Zelic finds a friend dead, he’s determined to uncover the killer and prove his own innocence. With business partner Frankie, Caleb sets on a dangerous path, one that leads him around the city and to his home town of Resurrection Bay. But the person they’re chasing is always one step ahead and soon Caleb doesn’t know who to trust.

What makes this book so memorable – besides the clever plotting, smart and authentic dialogue and great observations – are the characters. Caleb is profoundly deaf and determined to not let it interfere in his life. His relationships with his family and love interest are tangled and sometimes uneasy, adding even more intrigue to an already layered plot. Then we have ex-cop and recovering alcoholic Frankie, the peripheral folk of Resurrection Bay, and investigating police, all of whom seem to have secrets. Even the settings have unique personalities.

This book had drama, action, plenty of twists, humour and even a touch of romance. Highly recommended.

The Finn Factor by Rachel Bailey

The Finn Factor by Rachel Bailey coverIf you love contemporary romances, in particular the friends to lovers trope, then this book is for you.

Convinced it’s her kissing skills – or lack thereof – that’s ruining her love life, Scarlett Logan cons her best friend and housemate Finn into giving her lessons. Finn is gorgeous and a babe magnet; he’s bound to know what she’s doing wrong and how to fix it. But their first “lesson” ignites something neither expected and something Finn definitely doesn’t want. With their precious friendship on the line, can these two control their passions? Find out!

This was sweet, fun and deliciously romantic. A book to make you feel wonderful.

Also on my list were:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, a young adult zombie book I’ve wanted to read for donkey’s and which is apparently going to be made into a movie. I’d definitely watch that. I thought this had some fresh takes on the zombie genre – not that I’m an officianado but I liked it a lot for its different perspective.

Way Down Dark by James P. Smythe. Another young adult but this time sci-fi and the first in a trilogy. Great premise of a heroine trying to survive in a place called Australia. Except it’s not the country but a spaceship where people took refuge to escape a dying Earth. This started out sort of Hunger Games-ish and twisted into something else. Really rolled along.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. I’m a sucker for a good crime novel and with Galbraith being a pseudonym of JK Rowling how could I resist? I enjoyed it too. Fab characters, especially the war veteran hero Cormoran Strike. I’ll be fascinated to find out how his relationship with Robin progresses.

Every Breath by Ellie Marney. Book blogger 1 Girl 2 Many Books put me on to this one. Being a Holmesian style tale (and I do love me some Sherlock), I had to give it a try. What a ride it was too. Loved the set-up with country-girl Rachel finding her way in the big smoke, and hero James Mycroft was wonderfully done, plus it was fun to read a book set in my favourite Australian city, Melbourne.

What were your favourite reads of October?

 

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FRIDAY FEAST with Louise Cusack

Brace yourself, dear readers, because this week on Friday Feast we’re entering another realm. Think romance, think fantasy, think the most gobsmacking savoury pie you’ve ever seen…

Oops. Got ahead of myself. Bit hard not to though when your guest is international award winning fantasy author Louise Cusack. Among other achievements, Louise’s best-selling Shadow Through Time trilogy with Simon & Schuster Australia was selected by the Doubleday book club as their ‘Editors Choice’.  In Feb 2012 the series was released digitally by Pan Macmillan’s ebook imprint Momentum Books. Which means you can buy these superb stories right now! On your Kindle! On your Sony, Kobo, phone, tablet, computer, you-name-it!  With just a little click! Instant booklove! Ahh, technology, we readers so love you.

Louise’s resume is incredible. Not only is she a wonderful author, she’s also a highly respected writing tutor, with her own business Writers: Working with Louise Cusack. Louise has completed 150 manuscript assessments, tutored over 80 writing workshops and mentored over 300 hours with more than 50 clients.  There’s more, but I’m feeling awed enough as it is and I’m sure you’d much prefer a peek at the first in the Shadow Through Time trilogy, Destiny of the Light.

DESTINY OF THE LIGHT

Ennae is a parallel world joined to our own world by the Sacred Pool, a portal that can only be opened by one with the Guardian blood running through their veins. It is through this watery gateway that Khatrene leaves her modern-day life behind forever, drawn into a quest that will take her into the depths of the unknown.

Khatrene must fulfil her destiny as The Light, the woman whose child will unite the four elemental worlds. At each turn are real and imagined enemies who will do everything in their power to prevent her from fulfilling the prophecy, including the ethereal and erotic shadow woman, the enigmatic tattooed man, even her beloved brother Mihale.

Talis, her appointed Guardian, must help her through the dangerous terrain of Ennae, sacrificing everything to ensure her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems.

From an exciting new voice in Australian fantasy fiction comes the first book in the Shadow Through Time trilogy. Beautifully crafted and written, Destiny of the Light combines intrigue, magic and horror to create a reality that is out of this world.

Out of this world indeed! An absolute must-buy for romance and fantasy fans alike.

And now, without further ado, here’s Louise…

Thanks for inviting me to share my signature dish King Island Pie.  It’s one I invented myself, and every time I make it I reflect on the fact that cooking is so very much like writing.  Creating a meal is like creating a story where we bring together all the ingredients we like and mix them in pleasing combinations.  Sometimes we surprise ourselves.  I’ve been a vegetarian for over thirty years, and had no idea that my eating choices would impact on my writing, not even when the sepia world of Ennae that I had created for my Shadow Through Time fantasy romance trilogy had no animals or insects in it.

Publishers who bid for the series were excited by the novelty of such a world, peopled only by humans and plants, and for my part I was happy they liked it, but I felt as if I couldn’t take credit.  As a seat-of-the-pants writer I’d simply been describing the world my heroine was entering, as seen through her eyes.  After the first novel was published a friend who knew me well pointed out the obvious, that every brawny, protective hero I’d fallen in love with while writing the series had never eaten meat.  I’d been falling in love with one gorgeous vegetarian man after another, and clearly that’s where my subconscious had been heading while it had been constructing Ennae.  I knew that worldbuilding was a component of what we call a writer’s “voice” and what makes it unique, but will readily admit I was surprised that I’d inadvertently revealed so much about myself!

Still, I was thrilled to have the books print published, and am now delighted to see this series have a new life, recently republished as eBooks by Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint Momentum Books.  I’m also excited to be sharing my recipe for King Island Pie with you!  As the name suggests, the pie is iconically  Australian, and for those non-Aussies reading, King Island is a lush jewel that sits in Bass Straight between Tasmania and mainland Australia.  It’s main claim to fame is the King Island Dairy which produces some of the most decadent and delicious dairy products in the world.

When sourcing ingredients for this recipe, try to find as many King Island brand as you can to ensure the rich flavour of the pie.  But when substituting other brands (or lower fat options) you’ll find this is still a fabulous vegetarian meal that will please even the most ardent carnivores.  Trust me, it’s Tradie tested!

LOUISE’S KING ISLAND PIE

Ingredients:

  • a 500g bag of washed baby spinach wilted in the microwave then chopped
  • half a small pumpkin cut into 2cm cubes and roasted in oil
  • a cup of roasted cashews
  • 6 eggs
  • 200-500ml of King Island cream (you can substitute sour light cream)
  • one King Island triple cream brie cut into tiny chunks (you can substitute crumbled Persian fetta and use the fetta oil to roast the pumpkin and brush over the puff pastry)
  • a cup of grated tasty cheese or, for more flavour, shredded Cracker Barrel extra sharp
  • sheets of puff pastry and oil to coat

Method:

  • Mix the eggs and cream together and season with salt and pepper
  • Line a big lasagne dish with Glad Bake and lay out the oiled puff pastry (oiled side towards the paper) to form a shell for the pie.  Seal any joins so wet ingredients won’t leak out and spoil the crusty bottom of the pie
  • Put a layer of pumpkin interspersed with cashews on the bottom, then sprinkle tiny chunks of brie (or crumbled fetta) over that.  Dust with a smattering of grated cheese.  Then layer your chopped up wilted spinach over that and carefully pour the well mixed egg & cream over the top.  Finish off with the rest of the grated cheese and pop into a moderate oven (200 degrees C) for as long as it takes to cook the puff pastry and set the filling.  A clean knife in the middle will tell you if it’s set or still mushy.
  • When cooked, take out of the oven and sit for five minutes before cutting and serving with either salad or light vegetables.  This is a very rich pie, so if you serve it without accompaniment try to have fresh fruit for desert to clean the palate.

As you’ll see from the recipe I’m a bit loose with quantities, and this ensures that every time I bake the pie it tastes different, which I love.  So don’t concern yourself overly with details.  Feel free to put in more or less cheese, to substitute mushroom for cashews or chives for spinach, or potato for pumpkin (roasted potato & well-cooked leek is a particularly delicious combination).  See what new forms you can come up with.  This also works well to make baby pies in cupcake moulds for lunchbox treats.

Enjoy experimenting!  And thanks again Cathryn for giving me the opportunity to share my books and my pie recipe!

I’d love to give the first eBook of my trilogy away to one commenter.  Please tell me the most surprising thing you’ve ever cooked/eaten in a pie, and why you loved/hated it.

Thanks, Louise, for your fascinating post and that completely drool-worthy pie recipe. I’m definitely making this baby. It sounds incredible.

Your question reminds me of an enormously popular pie shop on the Pacific Highway at Frederickton, on the NSW north coast. Fredo Pies produces the most weird and wonderful pies. Among other marvels, you can even eat our coat of arms!

If you’d like to know more about Louise please visit her website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Contest entries close midnight Australian time, Tuesday 6th March and open to all. Please remember to include a way to contact you in case you win.

Let the drooling begin!

Congratulations to Nicole H. who has won an ebook copy of Destiny of the Light, the first in Louise’s Shadow Through Time trilogy. Thanks so much to everyone who visited and commented on Friday east.