Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult ★ ★★ ½

I have never read Jodi Picoult but I did listen to a fabulous interview with her and her daughter Samantha Van Leer at the Australian Wheeler's Centre on their collaborative YA fiction book, ‘Between The Lines’.   
That book sounded light, fun and fluffy.  So, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the latest release THE STORYTELLER.  First up, I will say this author can write and considering she’s been writing for over twenty years and has a slew of best selling books it is not surprising.
However, it is not the type of book I would normally read and I didn't love this book even though I know many of her fans are saying it is her best book yet.   It is a tough read as much of the story is of a teenage girl’s experience in Nazi Germany and the concentration camps of World War II. 
There were several times where I considered putting it down.  It was just a little too horrifically detailed for me. 
My one criticism is the story felt a touch cliché.  Now, I am also a film critic and I’ve seen many Nazi films (mostly foreign language) and, for me, it had a real feel of déjà vu.  In saying that, perhaps the average non-obsessive film goer and book reader wouldn’t feel this way.
THE STORYTELLER is the tale of Sage a young, disfigured woman, who chooses the nocturnal life of a baker as it allows her to hide away from mainstream life.  Instead, she puts all her energy into creating, beautiful and popular artisan bread. 
She befriends Joseph Weber who imparts to her that he served in the SS-Panzergrenadier-Division Totenkopf and was once the camp supervisor at Auschwitz.  Joseph asks Sage to help him end his life and at the same time forgive him his crimes. Sage must decide whether this man who had become a valuable part of their community is telling the truth and, if he is, does he deserve redemption.
The Nazi invasion part of the story is told via Minka, who had once aspired to be a writer.  Her story-telling is so compelling it kept her alive throughout the war.  There is also a story within her story which is her book she was writing during the war.
Sage also enlists the help of a Nazi War Crimes hunter and he too has a voice in the story, although, it is Minka’s horrific tale which is the page-turning chapters.
This book is thought provoking but not for the faint-hearted and in handling this subject matter Picoult demonstrates she is an accomplished writer.  Whether you are a fan of hers or not, prepare yourself for a disturbing journey from which you will not alight for a long time after you finish reading. 
Are you a Jodie Picoult fan? Do share some of your favourite books of hers.

Thank you to the lovely publicity folk at Allen & Unwin Book Publishers Australia for my review copy.

For more information on THE STORYTELLER and where to purchase, please visit the publisher’s page here.


Visit for more about Jodi Picoult.

Jodi Picoult, 43,is the bestselling author of seventeen novels.  Picoult studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism - and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent - led Picoult to a series of different jobs following her graduation: as a technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, as a copywriter at an ad agency, as an editor at a textbook publisher, and as an 8th grade English teacher - before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education. She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.
In 2003 she was awarded the New England Bookseller Award for Fiction. She has also been the recipient an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association, sponsored by the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust and Booklist, one of ten books written for adults that have special appeal for young adults; the Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year; a lifetime achievement award for mainstream fiction from the Romance Writers of America; Cosmopolitan magazine's 'Fearless Fiction' Award 2007; Waterstone's Author of the Year in the UK, a Vermont Green Mountain Book Award, a Virginia Reader's Choice Award, the Abraham Lincoln Illinois High School Book Award, and a Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award. She wrote five issues of the Wonder Woman comic book series for DC Comics. Her books are translated into thirty four languages in thirty five countries. Three – The Pact, Plain Truth, and The Tenth Circle, have been made into television movies. My Sister's Keeper was a big-screen release from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring, which is now available on DVD.
She and Tim and their three children live in Hanover, New Hampshire with three Springer spaniels, two donkeys, two geese, eight ducks, five chickens, and the occasional Holstein.

Monday, May 6, 2013



 I am an Aussie but I married an Italian. He’s the youngest of four brothers.
The day I walked down the aisle was the equivalent of immigrating.  There is an Italian lifestyle and most of it is wonderful. It is the Dolmio ad most of the time. They’re a rowdy lot.  Put all the relatives in a room together celebrating a birthday or a special day and I can barely hear myself think.
My children have a Nonna and a Nonno and I have spent the past thirteen years only half understanding what is said around me.  Besides inheriting masses of relatives, I did inherit one of the greatest benefits of all…the Italian food. 
All the relatives gather at Nonna’s once a year to make the sauce and I assure you very little tastes as good as Nonna’s sauce. There is the sausage making day and there’s even olive picking day and if work needs to be done, the sons and family arrive en masse. The kids love all the get togethers and pitch in with the cousins and Uncles with any of the hard labour.
Before my Father-in-Law passed away a few years ago, our visits to the in-laws would always end with us towing home bagfuls of fresh produce picked straight from the garden.  Jealous yet?
          So, although not a food blogger, I’m the perfect choice to judge The Australian Women’s Weekly Great Italian Cookbook
But this is a trial with a twist here, my husband did the cooking.He fancies himself a chef these days.  (Yes, I am the luckiest girl on Earth; he even makes the school lunches.)  So, when we were designated Easter hosts out came the shiny, brand new Women’s Weekly Great Italian Cookbook.

We began with Antipasto inspired by the picture on the very first page and next came the wonderful ‘tomato and rocket Bruschetta’.  Then we were onto the Chicken Ravioli with Tarragon Sauce.  That’s three courses and by then everyone was complaining, ‘It’s too wonderful and we’re too full.’
 Mains were the most beautiful peppered steak (barbecued) with Grilled Polenta Cakes and a side dish of Garlic Marinated Prawns.  Finally, when there was no room left for anything more, the hubby presents the Sicilian Cheesecake. Everyone dug deep and still managed to devour it.You don’t need a party though or to be Italian to appreciate this book.  The recipes are simple and beautifully presented. There are special sections on how to cook perfect pasta, bread, Italian essentials and Italian classics and a wonderful section containing gourmet pizza ideas plus much more in over 240 pages.

Since Easter we’ve trialled even more recipes and can report every single one turned out beautifully. Thanks to this book, our Italian cooking is more than meatballs and pasta sauce.  Now the downfall of this book, I’m renewing my membership at the local gym but it is worth every gram. Bon Appetito 

P.S. The picture on the right is Nonna's score for her son's Easter meal.  Three judges all awarded a Master Chef 10.

Review copy thanks to my friends at Random House 
Please click here for purchasing info and further details.

More Women’s Weekly Cookbooks to check out HERE

Published: 01/02/2013
Imprint: ACP Miscellaneous
Extent: 248 pages

Friday, May 3, 2013

Down and Out in Beverly Heels by Kathryn Leigh Scott ★★★★

Reviewed by Tracy Harris

        A year ago, actress Meg Barnes had it all—fame, fortune, the house in Beverley Hills and a gorgeous man in her bed.
12 months later and Meg is scraping to find a job, living out of her Volvo and wondering about the fate of her gorgeous husband. Meg still believes Paul was kidnapped despite all evidence that he has simply abandoned her. Her friends, the media and the FBI are of the opinion that Paul has orchestrated his disappearance, taking the ransom that Meg paid to save him and the investments from almost everyone around her.
Life however is starting to look up with Meg being offered a guest role in the pilot for a new TV series. She’s also managed to be invited to stay with an acquaintance and enjoy the perks of a bed that’s not located in the back seat of a motor vehicle. However, reminders of Paul and his shady dealings are everywhere and Meg finds herself in the most important role of her life as she begins an investigation that not only leads to answers but great danger.
Kathryn Leigh Scott has spun a refreshing and quirky tale with a mature heroine who is not your stereotypical blonde bombshell. She  capably draws you into Meg's world.  An easy writing style compliments the story-line and creates a believable backdrop of the lifestyle of a homeless person living and working in Beverly Hills. Kathryn Leigh Scott has written a novel that fans of romance and “light” crime will enjoy.


Purchase links on Amazon (US): Amazon USA
Amazon (UK): Amazon UK
Booktopia: Booktopia


            Kathryn Leigh Scott starred as the doomed fiancée of vampire Barnabas Collins in the original Gothic daytime drama series “Dark Shadows,” and in the 1971 film House of Dark Shadows. She also made a cameo appearance in the 2012 feature Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins and directed by Tim Burton. She is the author of several books about the series, including Dark Shadows Memories and Return to Collinwood.
       Kathryn is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and launched Pomegranate Press, which publishes books about the entertainment industry. She is the author of The Bunny Years: The Surprising Inside Story of the Playboy Clubs and the novel Dark Passages. Kathryn lives in Los Angeles, California.

More about the book and Kathryn Leigh Scott CLICK HERE