Tuesday, June 18, 2013

WHAT’S FOR DINNER by Curtis Stone ★★★★


Okay let’s address the elephant in the room.  Curtis Stone is gorgeous isn’t he?  He is the image of the Australian male I would like us Aussies to be known for around the world.  This is opposed to the long-haired, flip-flop wearing, beer guzzler larrikin that is held up on a regular basis. 
He’s a charming, enthusiastic guy who cooks, and any girl would be pleased to take him home to their Mum.  A Swiss guest in my house picked up the book the day it arrived and with a big smile on her face, asked, “Who is this Curtis Stone?”  Hear the emphasis on “this” and you will understand why she asked.  “And he’s Australian?” she said after I answered her.  “Hmmm.”
Calm down now ladies because, sadly, he married in June 2013.  If the pictures in his latest cookbook, “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” are anything to go by, actress Lindsay Price, his wife, is just as gorgeous and lovable as him. 
They have a beautiful son Hudson, born on November 6, 2011 and photos of the family feature throughout the book.  The photos are delightful and several friends oohed an ahhed over the family shots at a recent dinner.
Curtis knows we are busy.  Personally, my feet rarely touch the ground between running the taxi-driver service after school, writing commitments and catching up with friends and family.  Is anyone else’s diary, whether you have kids or not, any different these days?   So we want good easy-to-make food to fuel us.

“Dinners at my house were all about being together,” says Curtis in the book’s introduction and I agree.   We’re not a fast-food family either.  So, we cook most nights and really try to vary our menu.
There are more than one hundred and thirty delicious recipes in “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” and having trialed quite a few we (my husband loves to cook too) found them very easy to follow.  Publishers send cookbooks to non-chefs like me because if I can use them anyone can.
Each sections is separated into days of the week: Motivating Mondays, Time-Saving Tuesdays, One Pot Wednesdays, Thrifty Thursdays, Five-Ingredient Fridays, Dinner-Party Saturdays, Family Supper Sundays and finally Something Sweet.

On each recipe page Curtis has added his own little story on the meal; where he first came upon it, why he chose it and ‘Curtis’s Kitchen Notes’ with hints and tips. It’s almost like having him in the kitchen with you. The meal pictures are beautiful and mouth-watering and he’s created some new takes on classic recipes.
If you can’t have Curtis Stone in your home (I know I am only just coming to terms with that) this book is a lovely stand-in. Who knows, with such easy recipes, maybe the man of your house may become inspired. Then you, too, will have your own version of Curtis in no time.

P.S. Would make a lovely gift for Mum or a friend. Next time you are invited to dinner, don’t bring wine or chocolates, bring ‘Curtis’.

My review copy of Curtis Stone’s What’s For Dinner? thanks to the gorgeous people at RANDOM HOUSE Australia.
Release Dates: Australia and New Zealand: May 2013

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For purchasing details and more information:   click here
Useful Links

Visit Curtis Stones' official website
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Curtis Stone is a chef, author and TV personality. His philosophy is to cook as Mother Nature intended—buy local, seasonal and organic ingredients, keep recipes simple and allow the food to speak for itself.
It’s a world Curtis already knows well. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Curtis’s passion for food was inspired as a boy by his mother’s baking and his grandmother’s famous fudge. Mid-way through business school he left to don his first apron at the Savoy Hotel in Melbourne and later honed his skills in London under legendary three-star Michelin genius Marco Pierre White at CafĂ© Royal, Mirabelle and the revered Quo Vadis.
Curtis appeared in a number of cooking programs in the UK before hosting three seasons of Surfing the Menu in Australia—an instant international hit which caught the eye of US producers. This led to his own US series Take Home Chef on TLC in 2006, which has since been enjoyed in more than 70 countries.
Inspiring home cooks is Curtis’ vision as he works selectively with grocery stores to improve fresh produce offerings, devise recipe cards and help families think seasonally, shaping the nation and their shopping habits. As he loves to point out: "when you walk down the street and someone comes up and says, ‘You know what? We never used to cook fish in our house. Since we’ve tried that salmon recipe we have it once a week.’ The feeling that gives you is worth a million other things."

Curtis lives in Los Angeles with partner Lindsay Price and their son Hudson, born in November 2011.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell ★★★★

Reviewed by Mel Hearse   Meet Mel

I went into this book with no expectations, so finding myself up into the wee small hours, completely gripped by the story and unable to put it down until I finished was a pleasant surprise.
The basics? Five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside on a hot summer’s day in the eighties. Having just graduated college, they decide to take something of a gap year, moving into the cottage, living off the land and dropping out of mainstream society. All is initially well, but as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise. An unexpected stranger brings further tension and intrigue to the tale, and things hit a peak shortly thereafter.
In a parallel story, thirty years on from the lost year by the lake, Lila is given a key to the cottage by a mysterious stranger. Her life, filled with sadness after a recent tragedy, sees her deciding to take a break from life as she knows it to renovate the cottage. By the books’ climax, it becomes clear just how the previous tenant’s time at the cottage has implications for her future.
The Shadow Year draws you in slowly at first – it even came off a little too dark and depressing for the first few chapters. Within 20 pages, however, I was firmly gripped in the story and didn’t put it down from there until I had finished (I have the gravy smudges on a few pages to prove it.) The writing is skillful and taut, and Richell gives you just enough information at a time to keep you intrigued and thoroughly hooked.
Having read a lot of books in this genre over the years, it was a testament to Richell’s story telling skills that I didn’t start to suspect the final twist in the tale until very close to the page it was revealed.

RELEASED:  May 2013

My review copy of 'The Shadow Year' supplied by Hachette Australia.
For more information about this book, click  HERE.  

About the Author:

          British-Australian, Hannah currently lives in Sydney with her husband and two young children. Her debut novel, Secrets of the Tides was published in 2012, translated into fourteen languages and selected for the autumn Richard & Judy Book Club.
          Visit Hannah Richell’s website: 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

NO WAY BACK by Matthew Klein ★ ★ ★★


You know those theme-park rides that hurl you up and around at breakneck speed until you don’t know which way is up or down, and all you can do is hang on, enjoy the ride and pray that in the end you keep your lunch? 
Reading ‘No Way Back’ by Matthew Klein evokes a similar feel. Where most books hint at an ending, Klein manages to deceive the reader until the big reveal.  You won’t know who to trust or what is going on. It is a superb pleasure to turn each page, ‘guessing’, in this very smart mind-bender.
Jimmy Thane is flawed.  He is an alcoholic, a drug addict and has problems remaining loyal to his wife.  Despite these barriers to success he has managed to land himself a job as CEO to a technology start-up that seems strife with its own problems.  The former CEO has disappeared and Thane has seven weeks to turn it around in any way he can.  Pretty standard procedure until he discovers an embezzlement of millions.  
Not only that, the company appears to have a faulty product, staff with dubious, unprofessional behaviour and the police keep turning up to question him.   The neighbour is spying on him and his wife is not her usual self, some of which he can put down to the years-prior accidental drowning of his son.  On some occasions, though, she seems to be terrified of him. 
Jimmy begins to realise that nothing is what it seems and that his life is in danger. Are the company investors simply businessmen or do they have an ulterior motive?  Is he paranoid or does everyone around him know a secret and he’s the only one clueless?  When you discover the answers they will haunt you for days after.
Matthew Klein writes a brilliant corporate thriller reminiscent of the 1997 film, “The Game”   It is a ride and a half and, after this trip, Matthew Klein is now on my list of authors who are worth every penny of the entry price. 

Thank you to Allen and Unwin Australia for my review copy
VISIT ALLEN AND UNWIN for purchasing details and more information.

Matthew Klein graduated from Yale University in 1990. He attended Stanford Graduate School of Business, in Palo Alto, during the Internet boom years, but he dropped out of school a quarter shy of graduating, to help run a technology company he founded.
He lived in Silicon Valley for almost a decade, and started several technology firms.
Today he lives near New York City, with his wife Laura. He writes novels and runs a financial-services technology company.
VISIT http://www.matthewklein.org/index.html FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS AUTHOR

Friday, June 14, 2013

THE HIT by David Baldacci ★★★ ½

Reviewed by Tracy Harris

The Hit     Will Robie is a killer. A professional killer, but a killer nonetheless. One  of the US Government’s top assassins, Robie is the man you call to eliminate threats, existing and potential, to national and international security with no questions asked.
     Until it comes to this mission. When ordered to take down one of his fellow assassins, Agent Jessica Reel, who supposedly has gone rogue and killed her handler and is targeting members of their agency and the US Government, Robie finds himself questioning his task. Nothing, and no one, is as they seem. Fighting a battle against misinformation, false trails and double-crosses, Will Robie does the one thing no one ever expects.  He starts to think for himself.

     David Baldacci fans will love this novel. Complex, intriguing, well written, it ticks every box when it comes to a novel with a powerful story and action filled ending which lures the reader in and leaves them wanting more.
     I, personally, found the start to this novel a little slow. Whilst the characters themselves are exceptionally well crafted, it wasn’t until the last third of the novel that I found the pace rapidly quickened, as did the action and my heart rate.
     David Baldacci has created two amazingly sympathetic characters, especially considering their career choice, in Will Robie and Jessica Reel. It is these two characters that drive the plot and, regardless of any shortfalls I might have found, will bring me back for more.

     Thank you to the wonderful people at Pan Macmillan for providing our preview copy.
     For more information and purchasing details for THE HIT, please visit the publisher's page here.

David’s first novel, Absolute Power, was published in 1996 beginning a writing career which has seen his books published in over 43 different languages and in more than 80 countries. David was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1960. He received his Bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1982 and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1986, after which he practiced law for nine years in Washington, D.C.A
A lifelong resident of his native Virginia, David and his family are involved in several organisations which support family and adult literacy programs, including the  Wish You Well Foundation established by David and his wife Michelle.
David and his wife are the very proud parents of two terrific teenagers and the generally proud owners of two not-so-well-behaved dogs. They live in Northern Virginia.

More on David Baldacci: http://davidbaldacci.com/

Sunday, June 9, 2013

TAKE OUT by Felicity Young ★★★★

Reviewed by Tracy Harris

         As soon as Detective Senior Sergeant Stevie Hooper steps into the deserted Pavel house in the wealthy Peppermint Grove suburb of Perth, Western Australia, she knows she’s stepped into trouble. Trespassing on another copper’s territory as a favour for her friend Skye Williams, a Silver Chain nurse who regularly visits the invalid Lilly Hardegan who lives next door. Stevie discovers half-eaten meals, a burning stovetop and, worst of all, an abandoned baby.
        When the local police take the case over, Stevie finds herself  pushed to the side. Urged on by Skye and her own gut-instincts, she is determined to investigate the matter further. As Stevie pushes for the truth, she eventually unearths dark and sordid secrets leading her to a human trafficking ring with international links and a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life.
        Set in the most isolated city in the world, Felicity Young has managed to capture the charm and beauty of Perth whilst  revealing its darker, seedier side. She has brought to life a likable and charismatic character in Stevie Hooper, whose determination to get to the truth balances well with her concern for her family and friends.
        I found this to be a novel with a complex and intriguing plot, sympathetic and lifelike characters which is sure to be enjoyed by fans of crime fiction.  
        As this is the third novel to feature Stevie Hooper, I shall certainly be ensuring that I visit Felicity Young's previous books, Harum Scarum and An Easeful Death.
         Many thanks to the kind people at Fremantle Press for providing our review copy.
          To discover more about this book and where to purchase, please visit   Take Out Information Page

Others in this Series


Felicity Young was born in Hanover, Germany, in 1960 and went to boarding school in the United Kingdom while her parents were posted around the world with the British Army. She took up writing after moving to rural Western Australia in 1990. Having a brother-in-law who is a retired police superintendent, it was almost inevitable she would turn to crime writing. Her first novel, A Certain Malice, was published in Britain by Creme de la Crime in 2005.
Visit Felicity's website to learn more: http://felicityyoung.com/