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)

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

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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Recipe | Jammy Shortcake Biscuit Bites

Jammy Shortcake Biscuit Bites – another no-bake tray bake which is super sweet and simple to make.

Jammy Dodgers jammy shortbread biscuit bites tray bake recipe no baking uk

I think I’m on a no-bake roll. Last week it was Mars Bar and Rice Krispies cake bites, this week I’ve been making tray bake using one of my favourite biscuits: Jammy Dodgers.

My mum passed on the original recipe to me from one of Nadiya Hussain’s baking columns in The Times Magazine. I made a couple of changes to the recipe quantities and method, fortunately without any negative repercussions!

A note on Jammy Dodgers

If you’re not familiar with Jammy Dodgers, each biscuit is made up of two circles of shortbread, wedged together with a sticky layer of strawberry jam. The original biscuit is made here in the UK by Burtons, but a lot of supermarkets make their own cheaper versions. I used Aldi’s own version of the classic biscuit, which you can see in the picture below.

Jammy Dodgers jammy shortbread biscuits for tray bake recipe

Ingredients (makes 16 to 25 Jammy Shortcake Biscuit Bites depending on how big you cut them)

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

Recipe | Mars Bar and Rice Krispies cake bites

Mars Bar and Rice Krispies cake bites: just 5 basic ingredients make this easy, sweet treat!

Quick Mars bar and rice krispie cake bars uk recipe chocolate and puffed rice cereal tray bake

After last week’s brownies, this week I was looking for another tray bake, although what I’ve found doesn’t actually require any baking.

These Mars Bar and Rice Krispies cake bites are quick and simple to make. As there’s no oven involved and you can do all the melting using a microwave, they’re also a good option if you want to “bake” with the help of little people. I got the original recipe here at GoodtoKnow. I made a couple of small changes, mostly to the decorative final layer.

A note on Mars Bars and Rice Krispies

If you can only get your hands on the original brands, that’s fine. But most supermarkets do their own, far cheaper versions of both these ingredients. I used Tesco’s own version of Mars Bars (any bar containing nougat and caramel coated in milk chocolate will be fine) and Rice Krispies because they were half the price of the original brands (see pics below).

Tesco's own brand rice krispies, puffed rice cereal and mars bars crazy caramels

Ingredients (makes 16 to 32 Mars Bar and Rice Krispies cake bites depending on how big you cut them)

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

Recipe | Salted caramel chocolate brownies

I need to find more words for “delicious”!

how to bake salted caramel brownies quick recipe uk

I’ve never baked with salted caramel before, but the experiment was incredibly successful. I got the original recipe from the BBC Good Food website. It’s very popular and, having read the helpful comments of other testers, I made a couple of changes to the recipe following their recommendations. I’m glad I did!

Ingredients (makes 16 to 32 brownies depending on how big you cut them)

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

ARC Review | Final Girls by Riley Sager

A slow-burning thriller with a decent final pay-off. 3.5/5.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. Final Girls will be published on 13th July.

The blurb: Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…

They were the victims of separate massacres. Grouped together by the press, and dubbed the Final Girls, they are treated like something fresh out of a slasher movie.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same…

My take

The premise here is terrific. The question “what happens to the lone survivor once the credits of a horror movie end”? makes for a great set up and interesting story. However, I felt the overall pacing of the narrative was slightly off.

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Recipe | White chocolate and strawberry heart truffles

White chocolate and strawberry heart truffles: small bites of deliciousness.

UK white chocolate strawberry heart shaped truffles easy recipe

After a long break from baking, I’m back with something a little different: white chocolate and strawberry heart truffles. This recipe comes from a recent Tesco’s magazine (I didn’t take a note of which month, but I suspect it was February 2017).

Making the white chocolate truffle mixture is easy, although cutting out the hearts can be fiddly. But all-in-all it’s worth the effort because the final result are small bits of deliciousness!

Ingredients (makes 20 – 40 heart truffles depending on how thick you pour the slab): Continue reading

ARC Review | One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The Breakfast Club with a murder. What’s not to like? 4/5.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. M. McManus

Thank you to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. One Of Us Is Lying is published tomorrow, June 1st.

The blurb:  Five students go to detention. Only four leave alive.

My take:

I can imagine the pitch for this book: “The Breakfast Club set in 2016, but the nerd dies and the other 4 are suspects”. As high-concept pitches go, that’s a cracker.

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