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

Review | The Skeletons of Scarborough House (The Chapelwick Mysteries 1) by Kitty French

A fun, funny, sparkling book! An absolute treat from start to finish. 4/5 stars.

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

The blurb:

** This book was previously published as Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency **

Scarborough House is haunted, and it’s not doing much for Donovan Scarborough’s investment portfolio. No one wants to buy a place with levitating crockery, or (the wrong kind of) rhythmic pounding throughout the night.

Luckily, Melody “I-See-Dead-People” Bittersweet has just launched her own ghostbusting agency with best friend Marina, geeky, keen Arthur, and a one-eared pug called Lestat. They’re quick to take the case, even if it has already sort of (definitely) been given to Leo Dark, Melody’s rakish, despicable ex.

Melody soon discovers the resident phantoms are three brothers, one who was murdered at twenty, while the others lived to old age. But did the family exile the right person, or did the true killer get away with it?

Donovan Scarborough doesn’t care who solves the case. Whoever gets rid of the ghosts gets paid. Can Melody and her new crew untangle the mystery, and bring the brothers peace, before Leo? Or will his distracting sexiness and Melody’s bonkers family cause the agency to fall at its first hurdle?

My take:

After a week of literary fiction and psychological thrillers, this book was a much-needed breath of fresh air. The characters are terrific, as long as you don’t mind quirky. If quirky sets you teeth on edge, this definitely isn’t one for you.

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Review | The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Highly entertaining and creepy. 3.5/5 stars.

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Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC.

The blurb: “Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.”

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

My take:

This book will do very well. The premise is great, if rather batty (who would honestly agree to live in a house with so many restrictive rules. You’re not allowed books! Come on!). The story is entertaining with an impressive number of twists to keep you guessing. When it comes to uncovering who was responsible for Emma’s death, there are enough plausible suspects to keep you intrigued.

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Recipe | Nutella cookie cups – soft chewy biscuits with a chocolate hazelnut centre

Soft, chewy biscuit with a soft heart of chocolate hazelnut cream. Delicious!

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I found the recipe for these delicious treats at Sweetest Menu, which has loads of great recipes and is well-worth checking out. However, while the original recipe is to make 12 cookie cups using a muffin tin, I decided to use a mini muffin tin and so get 24 cookie cups from the same amount of ingredients.

So the size of your cookie cups is up to you!

Ingredients (makes 24 mini Nutella cookie cups or 12 large cookie cups)

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