Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen says: ‘I’ve always stayed away from caramel slices, thinking that they were well out of my cooking ability. This recipe, however, is incredibly easy and delicious.’



caramel sliceBase

1 cup plain flour

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup desiccated coconut

125g melted butter

Pinch salt



2 tins sweetened condensed milk

4 tbs golden syrup

120g melted butter



125g dark chocolate



Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease and line a deep, 28 x 18cm pan.


Mix all base ingredients well. Press tightly into prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven. Cool.


Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 8 minutes. Pour over cooled base. Bake for 12 minutes in 180° oven. Cool completely. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.


Melt chocolate. Pour over caramel. Refrigerate to set. Cut into squares to serve


Joelene_tnJoelene Pynnonen reviews TV series Revenge and enjoys it with popcorn.



Revenge_Sezon_2The Hamptons might be a place of glitter and sunshine on the surface; but once scratched it reveals a seething mass of secrets that people would kill to protect. When Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) arrives in the sunlit piece of paradise that the affluent Graysons call home, she plans to scratch deeply.

When she was a child her father was framed by the people he had trusted most. Now, grown up and with a different name, Emily plans to break everyone who contributed to her father’s downfall, working her way up to the Graysons.

Everything in Revenge works perfectly together. It’s not frivolous, nor does it get mired down in angst. The assembled cast is amazing with Madeleine Stowe in the role of Victoria Grayson, the self-styled ‘Queen of the Hamptons’; Gabriel Mann as Nolan, Emily’s self-appointed vengeance assistant; and Nick Wechsler as Jack Porter the man that Emily knew as a child and is still in love with. All of the roles in the series are nuanced, and each character has their own secrets.

While this seems like the kind of idea that could germinate an amazing movie, I wasn’t sure that it would work well for a long-running TV series. The first season alone was enough to change my mind on that score. While Emily’s vengeance is the heart of the show, as the other characters develop, a myriad of deeper plots unfold, each of them as compelling as the main one.  Emotionally too, the series grows, the characters gaining depth as their secrets begin to unravel.

Revenge is a sumptuously indulgent series to lose yourself in. Morals and characters aside, it has a wonderful soundtrack featuring Australian folk-duo siblings Angus and Julia Stone. The filming locations are also gorgeous. From sunlit beaches to lavish parties and opulent mansions, the Hamptons of Revenge are a wonderful place to visit for an hour every week.

Everyone loves a good revenge story. There’s something about it that satisfies society’s moral conscience without breaking its rules. Revenge manages to do this in a creative and fun way. It’s the perfect show to curl up and eat popcorn to.

gordon_writing clementineIt’s her first day of Grade Nine and Clementine Darcy is struggling. Her brother, Fergus, disappeared into his room a year ago, dropping his family, job, and life behind him. Her sister, Sophie, is always angry, and her friends at school seem to moving in a different direction and leaving her behind.

The one hope she has of understanding how her previously charmed life has fallen apart so entirely is to take the philosophy class that had helped her sister so much when she was in school. Perhaps, the great thinkers of their age can make more sense of Clementine’s life than she can. However, Ms Hiller is not an average teacher. Rather than expounding upon the complexities of Foucault or discussing the ideas of Alain de Botton, she asks her class to write.

Kate Gordon’s novel starts with quite a beautiful premise. Clementine is lost. She knows herself better than most girls her age do, and better than some people ever will. Who she doesn’t know are the people around her. Sophie seemingly has it all, but she’s nowhere near as happy as Clementine. Fergus, her wonderfully irrepressible brother, doesn’t talk anymore – or do much else for that matter. Her friends are suddenly all about the boys. With Ms Hiller’s philosophy class, Clementine is hoping to change all of that. While she wants someone to explain everything to her; however, the class teaches her that she needs to reach out and search for answers herself.

For a novel made up entirely of letters to a teacher, Ms Hiller is a curiously absent character. She steps in twice at pivotal points in Clementine’s life, but doesn’t change anything on either of those times. Despite the fact that Ms Hiller is the catalyst for Clementine to really examine her life, keeping her absent from the story emphasises that the only person who can affect change is Clementine herself.

Writing Clementine tackles that difficult teenage time when everything is changing so fast that it no longer makes sense. Anyone who has been through it will recognise some part of their younger selves in this inspirational novel; anyone who is going through it will probably relate to a lot of the emotions Clementine is feeling.

While this doesn’t read as an ‘issues’ novel, it does take a good, hard look at a lot of the problems affecting Australian teens. Ranging from trying to be yourself in this increasingly media-driven world, to sexual assault, and depression, Writing Clementine doesn’t baulk at the realities of life. It does tackle those truths with careful consideration, offering plenty of hope but never going with the easy way out.

Writing Clementine is a lovely, insightful coming-of-age novel that explores some difficult teen dilemmas but manages to stay light-hearted. With an array of lovely characters and a large dose of emotional truth, this is a sweet story that’s not too fluffy.

Writing Clementine – Kate Gordon

 Allen & Unwin (July 2014)

 ISBN: 9781743316634

sullivan_ShadowboxerJade Barrera is having a bad day and it’s about to get worse. Nursing a hang-over and a black eye from the previous night’s MMA fight is nothing compared to breaking the nose of Hollywood action star Tommy Zhang. If Jade has any hope of redeeming herself, she’s going to have to pick up her training in Thailand and wait until things blow over.

Mya is used to escaping into her sanctuary, the spiritual forest, a place that she and other children alone could find. That was until her guardian, Mr Richard, discovers how to enter the mystical realm with Mya as his guide. His plans for her and the forest are becoming increasingly sinister and, when Mya is drawn into his attempt to kill a man, she knows that she has to escape.

Shadowboxer is the first young adult urban fantasy novel from acclaimed sci-fi author Tricia Sullivan. She has developed a richly layered dual world in which our reality lies alongside the mythical Himmapan forest of Thailand. Told alternately from Jade’s and Mya’s perspectives, Sullivan weaves these very different stories into one.

At first Shadowboxer has an incongruous feel to it. Jade is quick to anger and even quicker to turn that anger to violence. She’s a fighter both in and out of the ring, constantly on the defensive and looking for openings with anyone that upsets her. Mya is calm and less sure of herself. When confronted, she looks to escape, not to fight back. Rather than asserting herself in the physical world, her serenity allows her to open a doorway into a spiritual world. The differences in these stories complement one another; Jade’s world adds the action while Mya’s raises the questions that move the plot along. As the novel progresses, everything begins to balance out. Jade calms down, becoming more open to spirituality, and Mya realises that taking action is sometimes necessary.

The world building is wonderful. Not just the Himmapan forest but the atmosphere of the fights and MMA training, the oppressive heat and pollution of Bangkok, and the cultural richness of America. The story is told by those who usually stand in the margins. Jade is of Dominican Republic descent, Mya is Burmese, and both are female. They carry the story perfectly, neither conforming to any stereotype and both making decisions that push the plot forward.

Shadowboxer is a sumptuously layered novel with complexities that would appeal to fantasy aficionados. Never travelling the path most taken, Shadowboxer blazes its own trail. For a new take on a spectacular traditional myth, a wonderful set of characters, and brilliantly drawn insight into the world of MMA, this is a must-read.

simpson_Apocalypse coverThe world has ended with the coming of the Rapture and those who did not make it to Heaven wander through Earth’s wasteland, trying to survive the demon-infested nights. Sam, a half-human, half-demon, has recovered from the wounds the Archangel Michael inflicted on him but not from the loss of Aimi, the angel that he loves.

He spends his time protecting the innocents left on earth, while trying not to reveal what he is to them. It can’t last, however. The final battle looms ever closer and Yeth, Sam’s hellhound, has been missing too long. If Sam has a chance of finding his mother or joining the battle of the Apocalypse, he will need Yeth by his side.

The Rapture trilogy holds together really well. The world is built on biblical mythology and stays faithful to it throughout all three books, while weaving in its own unique legend. The characters grow, but remain true to their origins. The promise of the first book is realised in the last. Sam’s part in the war is creative in a way that I wasn’t expecting; his mother is brought into the novel finally and more of the ideas of Heaven and Hell are explored.

Like Rapture and Tribulation, the first two books in this trilogy, Apocalypse starts with a fast pace that barely lets up until the big finale. Fans of Simpson’s amazing actions sequences won’t be disappointed by the last instalment. The battles are bigger, the enemy more powerful, and the humans more desperate than ever.

Though the major scenes in Apocalypse don’t disappoint, there are several places that feel like old ground being covered. Human groups yet again don’t want Sam to play with them, Sam is still trying to toss-up between his human and demon side, and it isn’t fair that Heaven has all these cruel rules. Sometimes when an entire book centres on one character the emotions and thoughts roil in circles, not bringing anything fresh to the table. Apocalypse definitely suffers for this. Having had Sam primarily on his own in Rapture and Tribulation, he really should have had Yeth and Grace around for most of Apocalypse. Admittedly, this opinion is partly selfish. Grace and Yeth were my favourite characters and they were woefully under-utilised in the final and arguably most important novel.

Despite these issues, the big questions that everyone wanted answers to are resolved perfectly and the trilogy is tied up neatly, leaving behind few loose ends. Anyone who loved Sam and felt for his plight in the first two books will savour the last one. Apocalypse is a bitter and sweet end to an imaginative trilogy.

Apocalypse – Phillip W. Simpson

Arete Publishing (February 14, 2013)

ISBN: 9781301931378

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