Recipe | Raspberry and coconut cupcakes

A bright swirl of raspberry buttercream is a great finishing touch to these raspberry and coconut cupcakes.

How to make raspberry and coconut cupcakes with raspberry buttercream frosting simple recipe uk

The last recipe I’ll post for a while featuring raspberries (promise!). One bonus of this one is that it allows you to use fresh or frozen raspberries. The original recipe for these raspberry and coconut cupcakes comes from the BBC goodfood website.

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Review | Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Don’t be fooled by that shiny cover. Darkness lies within! 3/5.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

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

The blurb: Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the ‘BookFrogs’—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.

My take:

My experience of this book suffered because I went into it expecting one thing, but got something else entirely. I think the cover and the blurb somehow made me think this was going to be more magical and mysterious than it was. And that there’d be more about books and the bookshop. Books about books are always a lure.

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Recipe | Raspberry cupcakes with orange sugar drizzle

The orange sugar drizzle is the perfect topping for these simple raspberry cupcakes.

Easy fresh raspberry cupcakes with orange drizzle recipe

My parents grow raspberries and had a huge crop this year. This is my excuse for featuring a raspberry cupcake recipe this week and next. Apologies to those who don’t like the flavour or cakes with any “bits” in them! The original recipe for these raspberry and orange sugar drizzles cupcakes comes from the BBC goodfood website.

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Review | The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

 True Grit meets The Road, directed by Quentin Tarantino. That may or may not help you get an idea of what this is like! 4/5 stars.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The blurb: Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

My take:

I put this on my TBR after reading several positive review on other blogs (sorry I can’t remember which ones now… but thank you!). And there is a lot to like about The Wolf Road. From the first sentence Elka’s narrative voice is vibrant and compelling. Indeed, at the heart of the story are three excellent female characters: women who are pragmatic, resourceful and able to put aside their differences to reach common goals. The post-apocalytic setting is almost beside the point: Elka’s story takes place a good while after the nuclear war which set civilization back and it’s our heroine’s specific experiences which are centre-stage; the wider context is only of interest to the extent that it affects her and her choices. The narrative moves at a good pace, as Elka’s physical journey driving the story forward.

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Recipe | Snickers no bake cheesecake

Inspired by Snickers bars (still “Marathon” to some of us!), this no bake cheesecake is a a decadent combination of chocolate, caramel and peanut.

Snickers no bake cheesecake peanut chocolate caramel uk

All credit for this recipe goes to the lovely Jane over at Jane’s Patisserie. She is a cheesecake genius and her website features over forty cheesecake recipes. Make sure you check it out!

Following some suggestions from Jane, I made a couple of changes to her recipe. She has all sorts of helpful ideas as to how to make the recipe even more peanutty, so take a look at her original recipe if that’s what you’re after.

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Recipe | Orange sweetie cake

Soft sponge cake with a subtle orange colour and flavour, covered with white icing and all your favourite sweets!

Orange sweetie tray bake cake easy uk recipe with white icing and haribo

This is a simple sponge tray bake recipe with orange zest and colour to give it some extra zing. The best bit is obviously the topping. Use whatever sweets you like. If you’re not a fan of Haribo or dolly mixtures, you could stick to chocolate, hundreds and thousands or other sugar sprinkles. A very easy tray bake which will go over well with kids of all ages.

I found the original recipe – Sweetie Tray Bake – at GoodtoKnow, where the cake is topped with melted white chocolate instead of water icing: another good option!

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Review | Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

A bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s stormy tale of vengeance, forgiveness and the power of theatre. 4/5 stars.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

The blurb: Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion — starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever…

My take:

As part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, Atwood is one of several authors invited to reimagine one of Shakespeare’s stories. Hag-Seed is Atwood’s take on one of the Bard’s last plays, The Tempest. If you’d like to know more about the other authors involved in the project and the stories they were asked to tackle (for example, Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello), you can find out more here.

I studied The Tempest for 2 years at school and so it’s probably the Shakespeare play I know the best. This definitely influenced my enjoyment of Hag-Seed, which I’m not convinced you’d get a lot out of if you know nothing about the original play.

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Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers 1) by Becky Chambers

Excellent sci-fi for readers looking for characters to love. 4.5/5.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The blurb: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

My take:

This has been sitting on my TBR for quite a while and I’m delighted I finally managed to get the chance to read it (thank you to my local library). I’ve been experiencing a bit of a reading slump recently, but this book was terrific and I looked forward to every second I had the opportunity to pick it up.

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Recipe | Chewy chocolate oat squares

Chewy chocolate oat squares: a tasty mix of flapjack and cake

Chewy chocolate oat square flapjack white and milk chocolate cake recipe uk

This week’s recipe comes from GoodtoKnow. I’ve haven’t tried a mixture of flapjack and cake before, but this recipe produces a chocolatey treat with an incredibly moreish texture. I made one significant change to the original recipe: I put all the chocolate on top rather than inside the oat squares.

Ingredients (makes 16 to 32 chewy chocolate oat squares)

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Review | The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Good historical fiction and a reminder to follow your dreams 3.5/5 stars.

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

My take:

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The characters are mostly likeable, although it did take me a while to warm to the protagonist, Della. The historical research behind this story is meticulous and the (often surprising) details regarding the early days of aviation, the First World War and other small period touches all serve to give a vivid sense of the era and the male-dominated field Della chooses to navigate.

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