Readathon Book Review – The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood [12 out of 22]

Book 12/22

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance

23343303

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Format: Ebook
Pages: 416

Blurb:

Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.
Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras!
When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.
The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It’s going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off…

Review:

2/5

I hate the thought of giving a review a ‘negative’ review on something a writer would have slaved over for months on end. But this book really wasn’t my cup of tea.
Let me explain first why I read it and why on earth I’m calling this a ‘readathon book review’.
I made a post about a month ago about a group of us raising money for an amazing charity. You can read that here!
The book that was voted for and chosen as our readathon read was obviously The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance. The challenge is to read and review it in 24 hours!
And I’ve done it!!
Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped to. Don’t get me wrong, by the end I was glad to have read it.
I found the character of Jess to be annoying and cheesy. Her expressions made me cringe multiple times and made me dislike her throughout.
I don’t think the book gives you much chance to like any of the characters. Except maybe Peach, who was endearing and should have been given more exposure.
As should the storyline with Jess’ father. I’d love to know who/where he is and what the reaction would be to their meeting. Which I guess shows that by the end of the book, I had grown an attachment of sorts to the characters.
If you like ‘Chick-Lit’, you’ll love this book. If not, it will pass a few hours on a rainy day.

To Donate Please Go to Our JustGiving Page: Donate

Thank you!

ReadathonLogoMasterAllredCMYKwithSTRAP

GBBO Week Seven & Eight – Gingerbread Mountains & Key Lime Pie

Hello! Long time no see!

I’ve always thought that phrase was a bit weird. It sounds like something Yoda would say.

Anyway – I’ve been incredibly busy with a new job and family etc. But I have had a chance to do some baking. I made a very popular Key Lime Pie and whipped up some Gingerbread mountains for a Charity bake sale.

Bake off is really gearing up towards the final now, and my absolute favourite is now Tamal. All his bakes look amazing and he seems like an absolute sweetheart.
Who’s your favourite?

My gingerbread mountains were made for a macmillan coffee morning and I had a little helper doing the icing which explains the jazzy patterns! They seemed to go down well and were soon all sold out.

Gingerbread Mountains


g1

Ingredients

350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

125g/4½oz butter

175g/6oz light soft brown sugar

1 free-range egg

4 tbsp golden syrup

g2

Method

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth, wrap in clingfim and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using different sized cutters, cut out round shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled, using a pea sized amount of icing, pile three biscuits and decorate with the writing icing.

My Key Lime Pie  is a firm favourite with family and friends and it’s so delicious and easy to make!

(Key) Lime Pie!

11255117_1640315562911018_1551006903_n

 Ingredients

300g  digestive biscuits

1 tsp ginger

50 g soft unsalted butter

1 can condensed milk

4 limes

300ml double cream

50g dark chocolate

Method

Using a rolling pin and a sandwich bag, crunch the biscuits to a fine, crumbly consistency.

Melt the butter in a pan and mix the crumbs and ginger in. Line a round tray with the mixture and place in the fridge.

Zest and juice the limes and set aside.

Pour the chilled condensed milk and cream into a bowl, then add the lime juice and zest.

Spread the mixture into the base. Refrigerate until the filling is set.

Grate over the chocolate and serve.

Let me know if you make any of my bakes, I’d love to know what you think!

I’ll do another two bakes next week to catch up on my challenge so keep an eye out.

Happy Baking!

IMG_1873

Book Review – Live Wire by Harlan Coben [11 out of 22]

Book 11/22

Live Wire by Harlan Coben

10801796

Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback
Pages: 375

Blurb:

When former tennis star Suzze T and her rock star husband, Lex, encounter an anonymous Facebook post questioning the paternity of their unborn child, Lex runs off, and Suzze – at eight months pregnant – asks Myron to save her marriage, and perhaps her husband’s life. But when he finds Lex, he also finds someone he wasn’t looking for: his sister-in-law, Kitty, who along with Myron’s brother abandoned the Bolitar family long ago.
As Myron races to locate his missing brother while their father clings to life, he must face the lies that led to the estrangement – including the ones told by Myron himself. If we thought we knew Myron Bolitar, Coben now proves we didn’t. An electric, stay-up-all night thriller that unfolds at a breakneck pace, Live Wire proves that Harlan Coben still has the ability to shock us anew.

Review:

4/5

During my teen years, I read a lot of Harlan Coben. He is one of my mum’s favourite authors and so we had a few of his books on the shelves. His writing is very skilful – he can make you laugh one minute and gasp in horror the next. Always full of twists and turns, his books are both a relaxing and thrilling read.
Live Wire was no exception to this.
Myron was back, and it was personal. He has to rush to figure out the truth before he loses the ones he loves.
Dark, tense and mysterious, the plot delivers a shocking reveal towards the end that you won’t see coming.
Those three words could also describe a new character to the series – Mickey Bolitar, Myron’s nephew. Coben has written new books from the point of Mickey for a YA audience. Something I’ll have to check out!
Any of these Bolitar books can be read as a standalone, so don’t let the word series put you off!

GBBO Challenge Week Six – Great British Eccles Cakes

This week we celebrated that Queen Elizabeth II has now become the longest reigning monarch. An amazing achievement for an amazing woman. In true style, she did not want to make a fuss. But of course so many people showed their support for her around the world.

This week I wanted to bake something traditionally British and perhaps something to go with pastry week. My friend and I had a brain storm and came up with Eccles cakes!
These tasty treats are from a little village in Manchester, England. They’re fruity, flaky and so moreish!
I will admit I cheated a little and bought my pastry – but if it’s good enough for Mary Berry, it’s good enough for me!

11809845_925571807479428_195726454_n(1)

Ingredients:

75g/3oz unsalted butter

150g/5oz soft brown sugar

150g/5oz currants

1 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1 orange, juice and finely grated zest

50g/2oz mixed citrus peel

2 tbsp milk

Icing sugar for dusting

Method:

For the filling, melt the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in all of the remaining filling ingredients until well combined. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Grease a baking tray with the margarine.

For the pastry, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 3mm/⅛in. Using a 6cm/2½in cutter, cut the pastry into rounds.

Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each round, then brush the edges of half the pastry with milk. Bring the other half of the pastry over and seal. Bring the corners of the pastry up into the middle and pinch to seal.

Turn thr sealed pastry parcel over, so that the seam is underneath, then gently roll out until it is about ½cm/¼in thick. Gently pat back into a round shape and place onto the greased baking tray.

Slash each cake across three times using the tip of a sharp knife. Brush the cakes with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and puffed up. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.

Dust the eccles cakes with icing sugar before serving.

I did have a little filling left over and so mixed with some oats so make a bit of flapjack.
I think these are perfect on colder days with some tea – great for the coming winter months!

GBBO Week Five – Vegan Mint Brownies

It was a bank holiday in the UK this weekend, and I went for dinner at a family friend’s house. One of them is vegan and another is contemplating it, so I thought I would bake something to take with me!

I did a quick Google, and after changing a few things, I settled on making them some Vegan Mint Brownies.

I lived with a vegan who baked a few cakes so I knew that it would be just as delicious without dairy products.

And they were!
Gooey, delicious brownies:

11259965_536958779791212_1950658169_n

Ingredients:

250g plain flour

350g demerara sugar

65g plain cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

250ml water

225ml vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp Mint extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Pour in water, vegetable oil mint and vanilla, mix until blended. Spread evenly in a 23x33cm (9×13 in) baking tin.

Bake for 40 mins in the preheated oven, until the top is no longer shiny. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

I’m sure these will go down a treat! They’re a perfect consistency, not too dry or gooey! You can add anything you like to – I think hazelnuts would be lovely!

Happy Baking!

GBBO Challenge Week Four – Cinnamon Rolls

Hello!

So this week I risked it for a biscuit (pun very much intended!) and baked some cinnamon rolls!
I’ve never used yeast before and have heard a lot about how tricky it can be to bake with.
So I did a quick Google and found an ideal recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, a blog I’ve used before for recipes so I knew that I was in good hands! As she even says her self – it’s perfect for yeast beginners.

(apologies for the image quality – I don’t have a fancy DSLR, so I did my best with what I had!)

IMG_1696

Her recipe is American, so I’ve English-ified and used a milk glaze below:

Ingredients:

Rolls-

  • 345 grams plain flour
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pack instant dried yeast (I used Sainsbury’s)
  • 120 ml water
  • 60 ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 40 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg

Filling

  • 45 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 50 grams granulated sugar

Icing

  • 120 grams icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 40 ml semi-skimmed milk

Method:

  1. Make the dough: Set aside 64g flour. In a large bowl, toss the remaining flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast together until evenly dispersed. Set aside.
  2. Heat the water, milk, and butter together in the microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is hot to touch. About 46°C. Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture. Add the egg and only enough of the reserved flour to make a soft dough. Dough will be ready when it gently pulls away from the side of the bowl and has an elastic consistency.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for about 3-4 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I used non-stick spray) and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. Make the filling: After 10 minutes, roll the dough out in a 14×8 inch rectangle. Spread the softened butter on top. Mix together the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle it all over the dough. Add more cinnamon/sugar if desired. Roll up the dough tightly. Cut into 11-12 even pieces and place in a lightly greased 9-inch round pan. I used a pie dish, lightly sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. Loosely cover the rolls with aluminium foil and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place for 60-90 minutes. Here is what I do: heat the oven to 93°C. Turn oven off. Place rolls inside oven and allow to rise.
  6. After the rolls have doubled in size, preheat the oven to 190°C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned. I covered the rolls with aluminium foil after 15 minutes to avoid heavy browning.
  7. Make the glaze: Right before serving, top your cinnamon rolls with glaze. Mix the icing sugar, vanilla and milk together until smooth and drizzle over rolls. If you prefer a thicker glaze, add more sugar and then add a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness, if desired.
  8. Rolls are best enjoyed the same day, but stay fresh and soft in a covered container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 5 days. Glaze the rolls immediately before serving. Rolls (with or without glaze) freeze well, up to about 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and heat up however you prefer.
  9. Make ahead/overnightThis dough can be made the night before through step 4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, remove from the refrigerator and allow to rise at room temperature, about 1 hour.

IMG_16672

I baked mine in a square dish, so they turned into cinnamon squares rather than rolls!
I had one for breakfast this morning with orange juice and a tea and it was lovely!
If you’ve never used yeast before or just want an easy recipe, I wholly recommend this one.

IMG_16752

I had a little trouble with rolling the dough up, so I would say that the surface needs a little more flour when you roll it out.

I reckon next time I’ll add choc chips or raisins to the filling. I’m sure there are so many combinations that would take these rolls to the next level!

IMG_16912

Happy Baking!

Readathon Hospitals Fundraising Event!!

ReadathonLogoMasterAllredCMYKwithSTRAP

In a couple of months, on October 4th, I will be taking part in a very special fundraising event for Readathon Hosptials.
They are an incredible charity who work so hard for seriously ill children in hospitals to be given the gift of a book.
Reading is so important to mental health and it’s amazing how something so simple as a book could change the lives of sick children.

The fundraising event is a little different from your usual bake sale or car wash. A group of bloggers will be reading and reviewing a book within 24 hours. Our sponsors will be choosing the book that we read by way of a poll on facebook. It will be such a rewarding challenge!

Luckily I have never had to go to hospital for anything serious. However, I do live with anxiety on a day to day basis. I’m usually very private about it, but I just wanted to share how much reading helps with my mental health every day. If I can feel myself getting overly anxious, I sit down with a book and am usually soothed by it. Connecting with those characters on the page can really help you, it’s completely different from what you’re dealing with in real life. So just imagine how much this would help a child in hospital who is scared, ill and possibly feeling alone.

If you would like to check out the Facebook event, you can do here:
Readathon Hospitals Fundraising Event

Jennifer Marston, the brains behind this wonderful event, has set up a justgiving page where you can donate to:
JustGiving Readathon


Thank you for reading! We all appreciate your support and we hope we have inspired you to join in!

Book Tour / Review: Undone by His Kiss by Anabelle Bryant [10 of 22]

Book 10/22

Undone by His Kiss by Anabelle Bryant

Undone cover FINAL

Blurb:

Experience has taught Emily Shaw that men are best avoided, so she’s determined to take her place in society alone and unrestrained by marriage. Renting a room in the heart of London, she establishes a Women’s League to promote equality between the sexes and teach women to be independent.

Jasper St David isn’t looking for distractions, but he’s fascinated by beautiful, fiercely opinionated Emily when she moves into the office above his. And when he learns of her determination never to succumb to male charms, he can’t help but see it as a challenge! After all, Jasper’s always found nothing more tantalising than the thrill of the chase…

Review:

When I was asked to take part in the book tour for this Undone by His Kiss, I was so excited! This is my first time taking part in something like this, and my first time reading a book from this genre.
While this novel is different to what I would normally read, I’m glad I took part in the tour as it was an enjoyable read.
Emily is a headstrong woman who knows what she stands for and sticks with it (even if this does make her a little stubborn!). She’s independent, strong-willed and inspiring for her peers in the League of Virtuous Equality.
I also enjoyed the character of Jasper, he’s also independent, trying to make a name for himself instead of being forever tied to his familial connections. He is immediately drawn to Emily and charmingly chases her, much to her hesitation.
The political undertones really add to the story, and allow for natural character development, which is written well.
Though I would have preferred a little more depth to the story, I still found it a pleasant read!

11737806_10152885012870933_17713958190605756_n

About the Author:

Anabelle began reading at age three and never stopped. Her passion for reading soon turned into a passion for writing and an author was born. Happy to grab a suitcase if it ensures a new adventure, Anabelle finds endless inspiration in travel, especially imaginary jaunts into Regency England, a far cry from her home in New Jersey. Instead, her clever8131174 characters live out her daydreams because really, who wouldn’t want to dance with a handsome duke or kiss a wicked earl? Though teaching keeps her grounded, photography, running and writing, counterbalance her wanderlust. Often found with her nose in a book, Anabelle earned her Master’s Degree and is completing her Doctorate Degree in education. Thrilled to be an author for Harlequin’s Carina line, Anabelle’s historical romances are character driven. She strives to provide a heartfelt connection between her hero, heroine, and the reader, believing the emotional journey on the path to true love is the most important bond. Clever secondary characters and lively conversation keep the pages turning.

Buy Undone by His Kiss:             Find Anabelle Bryant:

Amazon UK                                      Facebook

Amazon US                                      Twitter

Nook                                                 Website

GBBO Challenge Week Two & Three – Strawberry Victoria Sponge & Peanut Butter Cookies

Oops, skipped a week! Not to worry, I made a lovely victoria sponge – something I’ve never done from scratch before!
It may be a little simple but it looked and tasted so lovely! (If I say so myself)

11427377_402266376637940_1874881503_n

Ingredients:

175 grams butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
175 grams caster sugar
3 eggs
175 grams self-raising flour, sifted
85 grams unsalted butter
175 grams icing sugar
Half punnet of strawberries
Strawberry jam

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 C, butter and line two 20cm tins

Cream together the butter and sugar, gradually add the eggs and fold in the flour.

Divide mixture into the two tins and bake for 20 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool before transferring onto a wire rack.

For the filling beat the creamed butter and icing sugar together.

Spread jam onto a flat cool layer of sponge and spoon the butter icing on top, and add the second sponge.

Decorate the top how you like with strawberries and a dash of icing sugar.

Simple! Enjoy.

It’s a mighty cake fit for a Queen but it didn’t last long with people coming back for seconds!

Now, I know I’m a week late with biscuit week, but we had so much peanut butter in the cupboard and I hadn’t made PB cookies for years so it was ideal!

These moreish cookies come from a Nigella recipe and are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee.

11910461_451593801680323_690247221_n

Ingredients:

50 grams soft light brown sugar
50 grams caster sugar
50 grams unsalted butter (soft)
1 medium egg
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
200 grams peanut butter crunchy
100 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

1. Pre-Heat the oven to 170.

2. Measure out and combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside

3. Cream together the butter and sugars until mixed

4. Add in the egg, vanilla, honey and peanut butter. Blend until smooth.

5. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. The batter is quite thick, you’ll know it’s mixed well when your arm starts to hurt!

6. Using generous rounded tablespoon fulls, place into roughly circular shapes on a baking tray. (You should get 12 exactly)

7. Put into the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes. I do 10 minutes which gives you a slight crunch on the outside and a velvety smooth inside. If you prefer a crunchier cookie, do 12 minutes but no more. Any more time and they taste burnt!

There we have it, two weeks worth of delicious recipes! If you try either of them out let me know how you get on! I loved them both and already can’t wait to get on with next weeks.

Happy Baking!!

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath [9 of 22]

Book 9/22

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Blurb:

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things – grades, boyfriend, looks, career – and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality. Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath’s only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.


I’ve been wondering whether or not to review this book, as it covers such a rich and complex subject. This book had been hyped up, I was expecting it to blow me away and to really connect with the character.
While I definitely related to Esther, I felt I was missing something. I never really got into it, I found I was reading just to get to the end and finish it. That’s something you don’t want in a book.
Don’t get me wrong, Sylvia Plath’s writing is wonderful. It’s deep, poetic and revealing.
There is one line that has stayed with me. It really sums up the way many feel about some books, and the comfort that they bring.

‘I wanted to crawl in between those black line of print the way you crawl through a fence, and go to sleep under that beautiful big green fig-tree’

Have you read ‘The Bell Jar’? What did you think?