Post Script: Understory: A Life With Trees – Inga Simpson

A unique and special memoir.Understory

Understory

A Life with Trees

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733635960

 

Description:

A journey of staying in once place, told through trees.

 

Each chapter of this nature-writing memoir explores a particular species of tree, layering description, anecdote, and natural history to tell the story of a scrap of forest in the Sunshine Coast hinterland – how the author came to be there and the ways it has shaped her life.

 

In many ways, it’s the story of a tree change, of escaping suburban Brisbane for a cottage on ten acres in search of a quiet life. Of establishing a writers retreat shortly before the Global Financial Crisis, and losing just about everything.

It is also the story of what the author found there: the literature of nature and her own path as a writer.

 

“I see the world through trees. Every window and doorway frames trunks, limbs, and leaves. My light is their light, filtered green. My air is their exhalation.”

 

 

My View:

I am a fan of the Inga Simpson’s previous works – Nest and Where the Trees Were (I have yet to read Mr Wigg – a book which has garnered much praise). I now have a little understanding of where those narratives came from, yet I was surprised to discover the depth of passion that Inga Simpson has for the environment. I don’t think I have ever met anyone with such passionate views, with such determination, with such a strong bond with the landscape they live in, a landscape that has determined so much of Inga Simpson’s life and lifestyle; quite amazing!

 

Every chapter of this engaging memoir connects the reader to a particular species of tree, the memories it evokes, personal anecdotes shared, the chaotic life of a writer juxtaposed against the solidness, the strength and longevity of the tree… what a unique way of looking at and presenting, Inga’s world to her readers.

 

A unique and special memoir.

 

Guest Review: Forgotten – Nicole Trope

Forgotten

Forgotten

Nicole Trope

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760296773

 

Description:

A gripping domestic noir thriller from the author of Blame

In a single day, a simple mistake will have life-altering consequences for everyone involved.

A moment of distraction, an unlocked car and a missing baby. How on earth could this happen?

All Malia needed was a single litre of milk and now she’s surrounded by police and Zach has disappeared.

Detective Ali Greenberg knows that this is not the best case for her, not with her history – but she of all people knows what Malia is going through and what is at stake.

Edna is worried about the new residents at the boarding house. She knows Mary would turn in her grave if she knew the kinds of people her son was letting in.

And then there is someone else. Someone whose heart is broken. Someone who feels she has been unfairly punished for her mistakes. Someone who wants what she can’t have.

What follows is a heart-stopping game of cat-and-mouse and a race against the clock. As the hours pass and the day heats up, all hope begins to fade.

A gripping, haunting family drama shot through with emotion and suspense.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Malia was completely stressed but trying not to show it – Aaron, her five year old son was demanding milk with his cereal, but they didn’t have any. Her three year old daughter, Rhiannon was echoing her brother. Finally in despair she bundled the children – five month old Zach still sleeping –into her car for the quick trip to the service station for the litre of milk. She was going to be late to work, the kids to childcare and school – but what could she do? And when she arrived, Zach was still sleeping; she knew she’d be quick – that decision was to change everything…

Detective Ali Greenberg had only been back at work a month, but she wanted this case. She and her partner Mike were at the service station, along with what seemed like every police team in Sydney. A missing child, especially a baby, tugged on the heartstrings of everyone and brought the police out in full force every time. Ali and Mike needed to move the investigation forward quickly – the weather was scorching; Zach had to be found soon.

With Malia’s parents rushing from Melbourne to be by her side, and everyone trying to help find Zach, Malia wondered if she’d ever feel “normal” again. She was desperately missing her little boy – he was overdue for a feed; was he hungry and thirsty? Was he crying for her? Would someone please just FIND HIM!

Forgotten by Aussie author Nicole Trope is an explosive, fast-paced and emotional race against time. The suspense is breathtaking, the narration is extremely well done – I needed to race through the pages to find out what happened. The author has written another dramatic psychological thriller which shows how one small mistake can have devastating consequences. I loved Hush, Little Bird and Forgotten is up there with it. Another 5 star read which I highly recommend.

 

 

Post Script: The Many Ways of Seeing – Nick Gleeson with Peter Bishop

The Many Ways of Seeing

Nick Gleeson with Peter Bishop

Ventura Press

ISBN: 9781925384963

 

Description:

In desperation, I look up into mum’s face. A small face – a loving face —

                                   

And the lights go out. Her face is the last image I will ever see in my lifetime.

 

Blind since the age of seven, Nick Gleeson has spent his life learning to ‘see’ without seeing.

 

Growing up in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, Nick’s young life was defined by touch and smell: learning the shape of each shoe so he knew left from right. Holding the huge, rough hand of his father. Smelling the well-worn vinyl in the family car. Gently feeling the smooth top and soft underbelly of a mushroom he has picked.

 

When Nick meets Peter Bishop, Creative Director of Varuna, the Writers’ House, many years later, he has led an amazing life of physical adventuring. He’s scaled basecamp at Everest and the top of Kilimanjaro; he’s been a Paralympic athlete, a marathon runner, a skydiver. And, most recently, he’s been on an expedition to the Simpson Desert.

 

In a unique blend of memoir, conversation and insights into the writing process, together Peter and Nick have collaborated to share Nick’s compelling life journey with its many challenges, loves and losses.

 

The Many Ways of Seeing is an inspiring true story about determination in the face of hardship, the importance of trust and friendship and the wonderful relationship between a mentor and writer.

 

My View:

If you are seeking a read that will inspire you, will motivate you, that will, at times, bring tears to your eyes and will encourage you to see the world from a different perspective, then this book will meet your criteria – and then some.

 

Poignant, honest and open, Gleeson takes us on a journey of incredible fortitude, everyday courage.  Nick Gleeson is a remarkable role model… page after page of incredible accomplishments yet they are shrugged off as if ordinary.

 

Such lyrical writing – descriptive, poignant, engaging.

 

All the characters in this book, including the writers, demonstrate that warmth, love and trust is freeing, is enabling and promotes personal growth and happiness. Isn’t that what we all want?  I look forward to reading more of your work Nick Gleeson – and if ever we chance to meet – a hug will come your way 🙂

 

Post Script: The Right Side – Spencer Quinn

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

The Right Side

The Right Side

Spencer Quinn

Atria Books

ISBN: 9781501118401

 

Description:

 In this riveting new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, a deeply damaged female soldier home from the war in Afghanistan becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl, gains an unlikely ally in a stray dog, and encounters new perils beyond the combat zone.

 

LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.

 

Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington State that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.

 

Enthralling, suspenseful, and psychologically nuanced, The Right Side introduces one of the most unforgettable protagonists in modern fiction: isolated, broken, disillusioned—yet still seeking redemption and purpose—LeAnne takes hold of the reader and never lets go.

 

 

My View:

This is an outstanding read – it goes straight onto my “Best Reads of 2017 “list.

 

If you are expecting another narrative in the style of the Chet and Bernie series – think again. I strongly suggest that you begin this book as if you have just discovered a new to you author – just expect this to be a brilliant read – and then you will not be disappointed.

 

For me this is a book that demands to be read in one sitting. The characters are complex – the psychological revelations are insightful and useful.  You will navigate heartbreaking traumas to reveal the small ray of sunshine, of optimism that prevents this book from being morose and sullen.  The mysteries here will keep the pages turning and you will gain a few perspectives that might surprise you and make you think.

 

This is an outstanding read and I imagine one that will soon be transformed onto the big screen – I wish I had the $$ to produce this one. It will be a winner – guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Birdwatcher – William Shaw

the-birdwatcher

The Birdwatcher

William Shaw

Mulholland Books

ISBN: 9780316316248

 

Description:

Police Sergeant William South has a good reason to shy away from murder investigations: he is a murderer himself.

A methodical, diligent, and exceptionally bright detective, South is an avid birdwatcher and trusted figure in his small town on the rugged Kentish coast. He also lives with the deeply buried secret that, as a child in Northern Ireland, he may have killed a man. When a fellow birdwatcher is found murdered in his remote home, South’s world flips.

 

The culprit seems to be a drifter from South’s childhood; the victim was the only person connecting South to his early crime; and a troubled, vivacious new female sergeant has been relocated from London and assigned to work with South. As our hero investigates, he must work ever-harder to keep his own connections to the victim, and his past, a secret.

The Birdwatcher is British crime fiction at its finest; a stirring portrait of flawed, vulnerable investigators; a meticulously constructed mystery; and a primal story of fear, loyalty and vengeance.

 

My View:

What a fantastic narrative. This already has a place in my top reads of 2017!  

Without spoilers – we start with a fantastic hook, a confession, that colours our expectation and perception of what we might read next in this intriguing and mesmerising narrative; South’s secret is mind blowing and the circumstances surrounding this event will fill your heart with sadness, such is the strength of the character development here that you will mourn the tragedies that are slowly revealed.

What can I add? Fantastic relatable characters – minor and main, life stories that will resonate and/ or move the reader, locations that shape the dual narratives, a brooding sense of foreboding and a poignancy that is bitter sweet. Despite the bloody crimes – in the past and the present spaces, there is an underlying optimism that permeates the narrative, tightly grasp hold of this emotion as you stagger bloodied, battered and emotionally drained towards the resolution of this narrative.

 

 

 

No-Bake Poached Pear Flan with Lime Cream: The Good Carbs Cookbook by Dr. Alan Barclay, Kate McGhie & Philippa Sandall

Good Carbs Cookbook

Images and recipes from The Good Carbs Cookbook by Dr. Alan Barclay, Kate McGhie & Philippa Sandall Murdoch Books RRP $$39.99 Photography by Alan Benson

 

No-bake Poached Pear Flan with Lime Cream

“Sometimes a traditional pastry crust just doesn’t do justice to a spectacular filling. This is one of those times. This no-need-to-cook food processor pastry is chock full of flavour, and is refrigerated so it can be prepared the day before. So too can the ‘creamy’ cheese filling. Each pear variety has its own personality in texture and flavour. Choose a mild and sweet variety with subtle, fragrant citrus notes – bartlett pear comes to mind.” p.224

 

No Bake Poached Pear Flan With Lime Cream

PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes | COOKING TIME: 15 minutes | SERVES: 8

 

1 cup (65 g/2¼ oz) shredded coconut

100 g (3½ oz) hazelnuts or almonds

12 pitted soft dates, chopped

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger, plus
2 cm (¾ in) piece ginger, peeled

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 medium pears

½ cup (110 g/3¾ oz) caster (superfine) sugar

2 whole star anise

1 small lime, thinly sliced

2 cups (500 ml/17 fl oz) soda water (club soda)

 

Lime cream 

¾ cup (200 g/7 oz) ricotta

½ cup (100 g/3½ oz) reduced-fat cream cheese

½ cup (130 g/4½ oz) natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

2 tablespoons warmed honey

 

Line a 23 cm (9 in) flan (tart) pan with baking paper with overhanging sides to make it easy to lift the flan out. Put the coconut in a food processor and blitz until fine. Add the hazelnuts, dates, finely grated ginger and cinnamon and pulse to a fine-crumb texture. Don’t worry if it is a bit more coarse than fine.

Tip the mixture into a bowl and, using your hands, clump it together and press it evenly into the base and sides of the prepared tin.  Refrigerate for about 20 minutes, until firm.

Peel the pears, cut into thick wedges and remove the core (leave the stalk on for decoration if you like). Put the sugar, peeled ginger, star anise, lime and soda water in a large pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat to low and drop in the pears.

Cover the pan and gently simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the pears are just tender. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the pears to cool in the liquor. Lift the pears out with a slotted spoon and drain well.

Whisk together the ricotta, cream cheese, yoghurt, lime zest and 1½ tablespoons of the honey until smooth and creamy. Spoon the mixture into the flan and arrange the pears on top. Brush the pears with the remaining honey.