ARC Review | Holding by Graham Norton

A touching tale of broken dreams and promises. 4/5 stars.

holding-by-graham-norton

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Holding will be published on October 6th.

The blurb: Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

My take:

I always think you can’t go wrong by starting a book with the discovery of a body in an otherwise quiet, crime-free setting. Holding hits the ground running when a skeleton is unearthed in the small village of Duneen; the mystery is handled well as it unravels and wrapped up satisfactorily as we follow the investigations of the local Guard, PJ, and the Detective Superintendent assigned to the case.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Split tin loaf

Yes! I finally made bread. And it turned out OK!

wholemeal-split-tin-easy-bread-recipe-sliced

So it only took me nine months after swearing that I would, but I finally made bread! I went for one of the easiest recipes I could find in The Big Book of Bread: the recipe for a split tin loaf.

Apologies for the photos. The bread is the same colour as my kitchen counters and the light was really weird the day I made these!

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves and you can get 12-14 slices out of each one)

Continue reading…

Review | Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Overlong and lacking in humanity. 3/5 stars.

empire-of-storms-by-sarah-j-maas

For more background and blurbs, check out my reviews of Throne of Glass (Book 1), Crown of Midnight (Book 2) and Heir of Fire (Book 3), and Queen of Shadows (Book 4).

For those of you who don’t know, the Throne of Glass series is a 6-book saga following the adventures of a bad-ass female assassin in a fantasy realm which features fairies, witches and all sorts of magical shenanigans. While the first two books in the series felt solidly YA, I’m guessing the author feels her readers are growing up as the series goes on and certainly book 5 is more NA territory with some undoubtedly “adult” content.

Now, before I get into what will possibly become a bit of a rant, I want to make it clear that this was fine. Just fine. Not great, not bad. Just OK.

However.

Wait! There’s more. Click for the rest of my review!

WWW Wednesday 21st September 2016

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This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Wait! There’s more. Click to find out what I’ve been reading!

Review | Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré

I finally understand! 4 stars.

tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-by-john-le-carre

The blurb: It is now beyond a doubt that a mole, implanted decades ago by Moscow Centre, has burrowed his way into the highest echelons of British Intelligence. His treachery has already blown some of its most vital operations and its best networks. It is clear that the double agent is one of its own kind. But which one? George Smiley is assigned to identify him. And once identified, the traitor must be destroyed.

My take:

If you read my recent review of The Night Manager, you might remember that having seen the recent BBC TV adaptation ruined my experience of the book. Not because of spoilers, but because I enjoyed the TV version a great deal more. Fortunately, I had the opposite experience with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: having already watched the 2011 film version enhanced my enjoyment of the book.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Double chocolate muffins

Because single chocolate muffins just don’t sound as good!

recipe-double-chocolate-muffins-in-colourful-cases

I got the original recipe from an old copy of Sainsbury’s magazine. I used dark chocolate chunks, but you can use a mixture of dark and milk or just milk if you prefer. I also simplified the recipe slightly, just mixing all the chocolate into the other ingredients in one go, rather than adding pieces in an additional final step before putting the mixture in the oven – anything to make things easier!

Wait! There’s more. Click for the recipe and more lovely pics!

Review | The Hive by Gill Hornby

Mean Girls if you aged the cast 20 years, gave them kids and set the action in the English home counties. 4 stars.

The Hive by Gill Hornby book cover

The blurb: It’s the start of another school year at St. Ambrose. While the children are busy in the classroom, their mothers are learning sharper lessons. Lessons in friendship. Lessons in betrayal. Lessons in the laws of community, the transience of power… and how to get invited to lunch.

Beatrice — undisputed queen bee. Ruler, by Divine Right, of all school fundraising, this year, last year, and, surely, for many to come.

Heather — desperate to volunteer, desperate to be noticed, desperate to belong.

Georgie — desperate for a cigarette.

And Rachel — watching them all, keeping her distance. But soon to discover that the line between amused observer and miserable outcast is a thin one.

My take:

The Hive is funny, well-observed and strikes a good balance between its comic and more serious moments. The story is told in close third person through several characters’ POVs. These are well differentiated and so the viewpoint switching is never confusing. It also gives the author the chance to present several different experiences of motherhood, and readers with kids will recognise and/or empathise with several of the women’s thoughts.

The narrative moves along at a good pace with the school year providing a strong chronological framework for events. My edition (the hardback) had 300 pages and that felt a good length, any more and I think it would have stretched itself too thin.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Raspberry and walnut loaf cake

A delicious loaf cake with a moist raspberry centre.

Raspberry and walnut loaf cake quick cake recipe using raspberries

Yet another recipe from my Mum’s folder of clippings from various magazines. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the cutting to say which magazine this came from – sorry! I made a couple of changes to the given method and was pleased with the results🙂

Raspberry and walnut loaf cake

Wait! There’s more. Click for the recipe and more lovely pics!

I won’t be posting for a couple of weeks…

It’s finally holiday time!🙂

Hooray

I won’t be posting anything new here for a little while, but I will try to keep up with all your posts.

I’ll also be quiet on Twitter and Facebook.

Take care, “see” you all soon, and I leave you with the eternal wisdom of Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin and hobbes summer vacation holidays


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

 

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Recipe | Chocolate hazelnut pastry twists

Crunchy, flaky puff pastry with a smooth chocolate hazelnut filling.

Chocolate hazelnut pastry twists baking with frozen puff pastry 2

I was looking for easy thing to bake with the assistance of a toddler. I think I Googled “easy baking with kids” or something similar, and I came across this recipe at Kidspot.

This recipe uses shop-bought frozen puff pastry (defrosted prior to baking). Of course, if you want to make your own puff pastry, you can and I take my hat off to you!

I made the mistake of cutting my pastry strips too thick (more of that later), but the results were still very tasty.

Chocolate hazelnut pastry twists 2

Wait! There’s more. Click for the recipe and more pics!