Review | Mystery at Maplemead Castle (The Chapelwick Mysteries 2) by Kitty French

Another sparkling story from Kitty French. 4/5 stars.

Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

My take:

I recently caught up with book 1 of the Chapelwick Mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t want to repeat the review for that book here, but safe to say that book 2 is another funny ghostbusting adventure with Melody and friends. If you enjoyed book 1, you’ll love book 2.

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Recipe | Raspberry and white chocolate blondies

If you’re looking for a sugar rush, these raspberry and white chocolate blondies are for you!

how long will blondies keep freshly baked

I got this recipe from the latest edition (March 2017) of Tesco Magazine. These blondies have a long cooking time, but if you’re looking for the ultimate sweet treat, it’s worth it!

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

Review | At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Chevalier continues to be a master of historical fiction. 4/5.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

My take:

I’ve enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier’s books. I leapt at the chance to request her latest without even reading the blurb, so confident was I that it would be good. And she hasn’t disappointed me.

Chevalier excels at capturing the atmosphere of a time and place. At the Edge of the Orchard transports the reader to mid-nineteenth-century America, where we struggle through the mud of the Black Swamps of Ohio before being whisked away to the hills of California to marvel at the redwoods and giant sequoias.

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Recipe | Double chocolate nest cupcakes with chocolate eggs

Spring is officially here. Why not celebrate with chocolate nest cupcakes with chocolate buttercream and chocolate eggs? (Unless you’ve given up chocolate for Lent, in which case I apologise. Perhaps save this recipe to use in a few weeks’ time?)

How to make Chocolate nest cupcakes Easter recipe UK

In my family this recipe is known as “THE” chocolate cake recipe. I think my Mum found it ages ago in a copy of Good Housekeeping. The oil and golden syrup in the recipe makes the chocolate cake dense, moist and close to a fudge cake.

I made a large sandwich cake version of this recipe last year with Cadbury’s mini eggs – you can check that out here.

As these chocolate cupcakes are smaller, I used “micro” chocolate eggs this time (yes, that’s what they were called on the packet).

This is a great recipe if you don’t have the luxury of an electric mixer to help you. As long as you sift the dry ingredients, it’ll all very easy to stir by hand without having to worry about lumps.

Ingredients (makes 18-24 chocolate cupcakes)

Continue reading for the recipe and more lovely pics!

Review | Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

A confident debut. Gillian McAllister is a talent to watch. 4/5.

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

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

The blurb: It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

My take:

In her well-written debut, McAllister gives us a realistic portrayal of a romantic relationship tainted by secrets and suspicion. All the characters, even those who only appear for a few moments, are fully-fleshed out. The author also creates a pervasive atmosphere of doubt and distrust which gradually creeps into every corner of the story and has the reader questioning everything, turning the pages just as the main character trawls the internet, hoping to get to the elusive truth.

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Recipe | Chocolate and hazelnut snaps

Crunchy hazelnut brittle, dipped in rich dark chocolate.

recipe-for-chocolate-hazelnut-brittle-snaps-uk

After making chocolate, almond and white chocolate brownies last week, I’m staying with the same cookbook this week for these chocolate hazelnut snaps – Chocolate (Australian Gourmet Traveller).

I’m not going to lie to you, these aren’t the easiest things to make. Putting together the ingredients is simple, it’s the baking stage where things get tricky. Make sure you have plenty of greaseproof baking paper ready, cut into sheets the size of your baking trays.

That said, the end result it worth the effort. The lattice structure looks impressive, but it develops in the oven. All you have to do is drop balls of the mixture onto a baking tray… chemistry does the rest!

Ingredients (makes approx. 40 chocolate hazelnut snaps): Continue reading

Review | A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

A story to pack for your holidays. 3/5 stars.

a-secret-garden-by-katie-fforde

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds. They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends. But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner. But do they? Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

My take:

It’s been quite a while since I read anything by Katie Fforde, so I jumped at the chance to request an ARC of her latest book from NetGalley.

A Secret Garden is a pleasant, predictable, light romance. It made me laugh out loud twice, and that’s impressive as most books just earn the occasional smile or snort.

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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!

easy-recipe-for-chocolate-almond-and-white-chocolate-chunk-brownies-uk

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.

quick-recipe-for-chocolate-almond-and-white-chocolate-brownies-uk

 

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.

the-mystery-of-the-painted-dragon-by-katherine-woodfine

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.

a-conjuring-of-light-shades-of-magic-3-by-v-e-schwab

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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