Review | The Family by Louise Jensen

Another suspense-packed page turner from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Family by Louise Jensen book cover

Thank you to HQ for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

My take:

I’ve read and reviewed all of Louise’s previous books (The Sister, The Surrogate, The Gift and The Date) and I’m very pleased to say that in The Family she has produced yet another page-turner. In fact, trying to find something original to say has proved almost impossible as this book is more of her winning formula. Safe to say: if you have enjoyed all/any of her previous psychological thrillers, you should put The Family on your Christmas list!

Continue reading…

Recipe | Halloween chocolate brownie and colourful sponge layer cake

A decadent mix of chocolate brownie and layers of colourful sponge perfect for any Halloween party

Halloween chocolate brownie and sponge layer cake orange and green with chocolate recipe uk party ideas

This was my attempt to make a large version of my Halloween brownie cupcakes. It’s a bit more effort than a straightforward cake, but still quite easy to bake and assemble.

Ingredients (serves about 10 – 12)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Recipe | Cappuccino swirl layer cake with caramel buttercream

A beautiful swirl of coffee and vanilla sandwiched together with caramel buttercream.

Cappuccino swirl layer cake with caramel buttercream and chocolate shaving

I’m planning to publish my debut novel in April 2020. You can find out more about that at Art and Soul.

As part of the prep for publication, I’ve recently re-read the whole manuscript and was dismayed to find mentions of cakes I haven’t made yet! I wanted to correct this serious oversight as quickly as I could. You can find all the recipes for the other cakes mentioned in the novel in Sweet’s Cakes.

One of those cakes was a cappuccino swirl cake. When I wrote that, I just made it up. However, I’m pleased to say the recipe I came up with to make it real turned out fantastically well.

I got the original recipe for the cappuccino / coffee element of the sponge from the BBC Good Food site.

I am not the greatest fan of coffee or coffee cake, but this one is absolutely delicious. Probably because the sweeter elements take the edge off the bitterness of the coffee.

Ingredients (serves 10 – 12 or more or less, depending on how big you cut your slices!)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Review | Bone China by Laura Purcell

Another creepy dose of gothic madness and melancholia. 4/5 stars.

Bone China by Laura Purcell book cover image

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…

My take:

I’ve read and enjoyed Purcell’s previous two books. The Silent Companions is a masterclass in creating an oppressive atmosphere and a big spooky house for characters to rattle around in. I didn’t feel The Corset was quite as successful, but it was another entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns. Continue reading…

Recipe | Rainbow sponge layer cake with white buttercream icing

This rainbow sponge layer cake looks good before you slice it, but wait til you see inside!

I’ve wanted to make a rainbow layer sponge cake for ages. My birthday gave me a reason to make the effort, and it was a trial run for the one I want to make my son later in the year. I was really pleased with how it turned out.

The recipe is just basic sponge cake mix. The difficulty is in all the dividing out, colouring, etc. This certainly isn’t low on the washing up: you’ll probably use most of your bowls. But I think the finished product is worth the effort.

Ingredients (serves 10 – 12 or more or less, depending on how big you cut your slices!)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Review | The Girl Who Used To Be Me by Lynn Forth

Another dose of literary sunshine. 4/5 stars.

The Girl Who Used to Be Me by Lynn Forth book cover

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of her book.

The blurb:

After a passionate fun-filled affair, Kate is abandoned by Rob, her first love.

Six years later, she is stuck in a dead-end job and trapped in a toxic relationship.

She escapes to the Costa del Sol where she meets flamboyant Reen with her bright clothes, her sparkling eyes and a penchant for pink plastic flamingos.

Kate falls for Troy, Reen’s sexy son, and embarks upon a new phase of self-discovery. Is she finally becoming the girl she longs to be?

But when Rob comes back into her life unexpectedly, what will she do?

My take:

I enjoyed Lynn Forth’s first two novels – Love in La La Land and Love, Lies and Café au Lait – very much and so was delighted to be asked to read and review her latest book: The Girl Who Used to Be Me.

Her first two books whisked us away to Los Angeles and Nice, and this time we’re given more sunshine as the main character, Kate, escapes to the south coast of Spain. In fact, this is a great example of the cover of a book setting the tone perfectly for what you will find inside, and who doesn’t want to be with that girl overlooking a beautiful beach, arms outstretched to the sun?

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Review | The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

An entertaining thriller if you let it take you along for the ride. 3/5 stars.

Thank you to Quercus for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

My take:

This is a page-turning thriller which would be an ideal book to take with you on holiday. If you read it quickly, focussing on the plot and seeking to know what will happen next, I’m sure you’ll find it an entertaining mystery with sci-fi elements and a great way to pass a few hours. Each short chapter attempts to set up a cliffhanger to carry you across to the next and most of the time these are entirely successful.

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Review | Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A well-constructed thriller/mystery with a relevant message. 3/5 stars.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker book cover

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked in the same legal office for years. The sudden death of the firm’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this latest promotion for Ames differently.

This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand set in motion something catastrophic and unstoppable: lies will be uncovered, secrets will be exposed and not everyone will survive. All their lives – as women, colleagues, mothers, adversaries – will be changed for ever.

My take:

Whisper Network is a well-constructed mystery/thriller which feels very ‘now’ in that the plot revolves around issues of sexual harrassment in the workplace most recently brought to greater public attention by the #metoo and #timesup movements.

In this vein I thought the profession of the characters was a particularly canny choice: you’d think that if anyone would know how to deal with workplace harrassment it would be a group of highly-qualified lawyers. That these women face much the same barriers and ‘crap’ (conscious decision to use a fairly polite word there) upon entering and then once established in their profession makes you realise just how much the system is rigged against women no matter how high they manage to climb within it.

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Review | The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr book cover

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

The blurb:

Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a small settlement in the forests of south India.

But their happy life, hidden from the rest of the world, is shattered by a terrible accident. For the first time in her sixteen years, Arty must leave the only place she’s ever known, into the outside world she’s been taught to fear.

Her only goal is to get help from a woman called Tania, who used to live in the forest, and the Uncle she knows is out there, somewhere. As she embarks on the terrifying journey, pursued by an enemy she can’t fathom, Arty soon realises that not everyone is to be trusted.

She’s looking for answers, but what she’ll learn from Tania and Uncle Matthew is a shocking truth about her past.

Everything is changing too fast for this girl who came out of the woods, and is she running into a trap…?

My take:

Following The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Emily Barr is back with The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods and another tale about a girl on the cusp of womanhood who finds herself out on her own in an extraordionary situation.

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Recipe | Caramel cupcakes with caramel buttercream

Delicious caramel cupcakes with a swirl of caramel buttercream. A perfect sweet treat!

Sorry that all my recipes lately seem to start with, “So I made X and had Y ingredient left over so I made Z,” but I’m afraid this week it’s more of the same!

I made peanut butter and caramel fudge recently and had most of a tin of caramel left over. I searched for a cupcake recipe which included caramel in the mixture ingredients and found this one at Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen. It worked brilliantly and I was delighted with the delicious results!

Ingredients (makes 12-15 cupcakes)

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