Recipe | Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies

Chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies: for when one type of chocolate in your brownie just isn’t enough!

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I haven’t made brownies for ages. I found this recipe in one of my cookbooks: Chocolate (Australian Gourmet Traveller). I followed their recipe pretty much to the letter, but have given the quantities in different measurements to make things easier for those not using the metric system.

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Ingredients (36 small servings… or fewer larger ones!)

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Review | The Mystery of the Painted Dragon (The Sinclair’s Mysteries 3) by Katherine Woodfine

The best kind of children’s book: one big and little kids can enjoy! 4/5.

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The blurb: When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead…

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

My take:

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is the third of Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s Mysteries and is every bit as enjoyable as the first two installments in the series. And beautiful… look!

Katherine Woodfine Sinclair Mysteries book covers

I love these books. They are fun mysteries set in London at the start of the twentieth century. Our amateur sleuths are two independent young ladies – Lil and Sophie – who are smart, resourceful and tenacious. For me, how they take care of themselves and each other is the best thing about these stories. This book has added girl power with the appearance of the Suffragette movement, making the feminist message all the more obvious.

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(Spoiler-free) Review | A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V. E. Schwab

A terrific conclusion to a stellar series. 5/5 stars.

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The blurb: No blurb for book 3 here because I don’t want to spoil the first two books! If you want to know more about what’s gone before, check out my review for book 1 – A Darker Shade of Magic (5 stars) – and book 2: A Gathering of Shadows (4.5 stars).

My take:

This review will be spoiler-free. Please forgive the disjointed and brief nature of what follows: turns out reviewing the final installment of a trilogy while giving absolutely nothing away is rather tricky!

Every time I took an unwilling break from reading A Conjuring of Light I had to blink and re-orientate myself in reality, like a swimmer surfacing. This has been a hallmark of the quality of this series: Schwab draws the reader into the pages and spins words into worlds around them until they are completely immersed in her fiction. This is no mean feat and to pull it off so consistently is beyond impressive.

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Recipe | Blueberry muffin cake

The fluffy goodness of a blueberry muffin, large enough to share!

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I found the original recipe for this blueberry muffin cake over at Fine Cooking. I made a couple of small changes to the recipe and converted the weights so hopefully you’ll all be able to use them whatever measurement system you use. I also added a step if you want to make sure you get a crunchy, genuine muffin top on the cake.

Ingredients

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Review | Making Faces by Amy Harmon

YA Nick Sparks – take that as you will! 3.5/5 stars.

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Thank you to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The UK paperback of Making Faces will be published on 21st February. If you can’t wait that long it’s already available to buy as an e-book.

The blurb: Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My take:

Making Faces is a simple story containing a sweet, predictable romance. The strength of the tale is its characters who are pretty-much all likeable. However, I give particular praise to Harmon for making Bailey the stealth star of her book, his personality easily outshining those of the romantic leads. If Making Faces were refocussed so it was all about Bailey with everyone else as supporting cast, this could easily become a 5-star book. His character alone has earned this book an extra half star.

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Review (spoiler-free) | The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

An epic sci-fi adventure best enjoyed without any large breaks between volumes.

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Reviewing a series is tricky. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want to give you an idea what this series is about. So here’s the blurb for book 1 only. If you want to read those for the others, click on the cover images below to go to their Goodreads pages.

Red Rising (Book 1) blurb: Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

My take:

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Recipe | Easy chocolate biscuits – a Valentine’s Day baking idea!

Cute Valentine’s Day chocolate biscuits from only four ingredients!

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A quick search for easy chocolate biscuit recipes turned up this one over at allrecipes. The original recipe suggested rolling the dough into small balls and pressing them down with a fork before baking. I went a little fancier in my decoration in honour of Valentine’s Day. But whether you make your chocolate biscuits heart-shaped or not, you’ll only need four ingredients.

Ingredients (makes approx. 12 biscuits – double up if you have hordes to feed!)

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ARC Review | The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

A quick, entertaining read. If you love gossip, this is one for you! 3.5/5 stars.

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Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The paperback of The Fifth Letter will be published in the UK two weeks today on Thursday 23rd February. But if you can’t wait, the good news is that the Kindle Edition is already available for download.

The blurb: Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden. Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever. But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect. Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers. Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit. And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

My take:

The premise for this book is solid and intriguing. When reading the blurb, the mention of Joni’s “great” idea to get the friends to share huge secrets anonymously already had me thinking, “Well, that’s not going to go well, is it?!” So I was surprised that The Fifth Letter turned out to be a lighter book than I’d expected, although the dark undertones are certainly there. Moriarty could easily have taken this story into thriller territory if she had wanted, and the narrative walks a fine line between domestic melodrama, mystery and psychological thriller.

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ARC Review | The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Adam Sharp’s best = just ok for me. 3/5 stars.

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Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The Best of Adam Sharp will be published in the UK this Thursday, 9th February.

The blurb: Can you define your life by a single song? Adam Sharp – former pianist in a hip Melbourne bar, now a respectable IT consultant in Norwich – can. And it’s ‘You’re Going to Lose that Girl’…

On the cusp of fifty and a happy introvert, Adam is content. He’s the music expert at his local pub-quiz and he and his partner Claire rumble along. Life may not be rock n’ roll, but neither is it easy listening. Yet something has always felt off-key.

And that’s his nostalgia for what might have been, his blazing affair – more than twenty years ago, on the other side of the world – with Angelina Brown, a smart and sexy, strong-willed actress who taught him for the first time, as he played piano and she sang, what it meant to find – and then lose – love. How different might his life be if he hadn’t let her walk away?

Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. Adam has sung about second chances, but does he have the courage to believe in them?

My take:

I was delighted to get approved for an ARC of The Best of Adam Sharp as I’ve only heard good things about Graeme Simsion’s other books: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. Unfortunately, although it’s well-written, I didn’t like this book as much as I’d hoped I would.

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Recipe | Chocolate and vanilla marble loaf cake

This marble cake is a tasty mixture of chocolate and vanilla with the bonus of a pretty swirl.

Materials for uppers, lining and insocks. Determination of heavy metals content extractable by acid perspiration solution

I found this recipe for chocolate and vanilla marble cake here, on Pretty. Simple. Sweet (thank you!). The pictures over there are a heck of a lot better than mine! It’s been dark and gloomy round these parts recently, which doesn’t make for good photos.

I used a loaf tin, but there’s no reason you couldn’t use another shape of baking tin.

Ingredients: Continue reading