Recipe | Mini Nutella croissants

These mini Nutella croissants are a quick way to use up any puff pastry you may have hanging about!

mini nutella croissants easy quick recipe for using up puff pastry

If you have any frozen or chilled puff pastry you need to use up, or just want to make something fast using shop-bought puff pastry, these mini Nutella croissants are an incredibly easy option.

Apologies to any French readers as I’m pretty sure these don’t strictly qualify as “croissants”.

My chocolate spread wasn’t Nutella – it was a white and milk chocolate mixture. Any chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread will work fine.

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

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Review | The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

This story has impressive elements but failed to grab me. 3/5 stars.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king’s three daughters – battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia – know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war – but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.

My take:

When I saw the description of this book on NetGalley, it sounded like everything I could possibly want in a book. A fantasy retelling of King Lear which refocusses the story to follow Lear’s daughters? Yes, please!

(Side note: you may have noticed that everything I’m reading lately has a Shakespeare connection – this wasn’t a conscious move on my part but clearly shows my preferences!)

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Recipe | Salted caramel beach cupcakes

Yummy cupcakes with salted caramel centres, decorated for a day at the beach with jelly baby sunbathers. Perfect for a summer party!

Salted caramel and jelly baby sunbathers beach cupcakes uk recipe with cocktail umbrellas

I found this recipe for salted caramel cupcakes with cute jelly baby sunbathers and cocktail umbrellas in an issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine last summer and have been waiting to give it a try. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe which calls for cream cheese frosting, but if you’d like to look at it, it’s available online here.

Ingredients (makes 12-16 cupcakes)

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Review | Mad Blood Stirring by Simon Mayo

Forgotten history revived. 4/5 stars.

Mad Blood Stirring

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

The blurb:

1815: The war is over but for the inmates at Dartmoor Prison, peace – like home – is still a long way away.

On the eve of the year 1815, the American sailors of the Eagle finally arrive at Dartmoor prison; bedraggled, exhausted but burning with hope. They’ve only had one thing to sustain them – a snatched whisper overheard along the way.

The war is over.

Joe Hill thought he’d left the war outside these walls but it’s quickly clear that there’s a different type of fight to be had within. The seven prison blocks surrounding him have been segregated; six white and one black. As his voice rings out across the courtyard, announcing the peace, the redcoat guards bristle and the inmates stir. The powder keg was already fixed to blow and Joe has just lit the fuse.

Elizabeth Shortland, wife of the Governor looks down at the swirling crowd from the window of her own personal prison. The peace means the end is near, that she needn’t be here for ever. But suddenly, she cannot bear the thought of leaving.

Inspired by a true story, Mad Blood Stirring tells of a few frantic months in the suffocating atmosphere of a prison awaiting liberation. It is a story of hope and freedom, of loss and suffering. It is a story about how sometimes, in our darkest hour, it can be the most unlikely of things that see us through.

My take:

Mad Blood Stirring is an example of what I love most about historical fiction: an entertaining and immersive way to learn more about a past event, place and people. The story picks up on a bit of “forgotten” history, or not forgotten in my case as the War of 1812 and the associated events at Dartmouth prison were all completely new to me!

The novel is incredibly well-researched and brings the past to life with vivid descriptions, conveying the horrors of confinement, particularly when disease and violence spreads throughout the jail. And, as is often the way with books “based on true events”, the most unbelievable details are precisely those which are true: the racial segregation of the prisoners, the smallpox outbreak, King Dick himself, and the prisoners putting on productions of Shakespeare.

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Recipe | Microwave sponge jam pudding

Microwave sponge jam pudding: a childhood favourite of mine still just as good today!

Quick Microwave sponge jam pudding recipe uk

I’ve been meaning to make one of these for AGES. I have fond memories of Mum making these microwave puddings for us, burning my mouth on the jam because I could never wait for the pudding to cool down before trying it! I wouldn’t be surprised if this sponge pudding brought back (hopefully pleasant) memories of school dinners for some.

This microwave sponge pudding is quick and easy to make. You can use jam or golden syrup as your topping. I got this recipe at allrecipes.

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

Review | Macbeth by Jo Nesbø

A brave, if not entirely successful adaptation. 3/5 stars.

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo

Thank you to Random House UK and Netgalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: He’s the best cop they’ve got.

When a drug bust turns into a bloodbath it’s up to Inspector Macbeth and his team to clean up the mess.

He’s also an ex-drug addict with a troubled past.

He’s rewarded for his success. Power. Money. Respect. They’re all within reach.

But a man like him won’t get to the top.

Plagued by hallucinations and paranoia, Macbeth starts to unravel. He’s convinced he won’t get what is rightfully his.

Unless he kills for it.

My take:

Last year I read Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, a reimagining of The Tempest. This was my introduction to the Hogarth Shakespeare project for which several well-known authors have been invited to write adaptations of some of  Shakespeare’s stories. When I saw Nesbø had written a version of Macbeth I thought it was a brilliant choice. He’s enjoyed great success writing dark stories and only an author good at wrangling darkness could successfully take on the Scottish play.

Like The Tempest, I also studied Macbeth at school, so I went into Nesbø’s adaption with fore-knowledge of what was going to happen. I’ll come back to whether this was a good thing or not later in my review.

There is a lot in Nesbø’s reimagining which is ingenious. How the characters and events of Shakepeare’s play are transposed into a 1970s’ police noir is clever and well thought-out. I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to incorporate the supernatural elements of the play into a realistic genre.

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Review | Love in La La Land by Lynn Forth

 Oozing Hollywood drama. 4/5 stars.

Love in La La Land by Lynn Forth

The blurb: Excited to be in glitzy, glamorous Hollywood, English author, Jane Jones, is thrilled by the prospect of seeing a scene from her novel being filmed. And not just any scene. It’s a bedroom one, starring screen heartthrob, Scott Flynn.

Too bad she is accompanied by the cynical Jack Clancy, the screenwriter who has – in her opinion – ruined her story, and seems totally unrepentant.

Dazzled by Scott’s film-star presence, Jane swoons at his feet. At least, that’s according to Scott, who immediately comes to her rescue. And so does Jack.

But do they both have ulterior motives? Is Jane a mere pawn in a game between two fierce rivals?

In the bubble of La La Land’s glittering parties, hovering paparazzi, and powerful movie tycoons, Jane begins to feel adrift. She must quickly learn who can be trusted…and who can’t.

My take:

From the title, readers of Love in La La Land will probably be hoping for a tale with plenty of glitz and glamour, oodles of drama, attractive people and beautiful locations… and they won’t be disappointed! This story is a getaway, a rare chance for us “normals” to mingle with the rich and famous, just as it is for the female main character, Jane, who is an earthy Yorkshire lass out of her element in the luxurious but shark-infested waters of Hollywood.

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Review | Circe by Madeline Miller

Utterly enchanting. 5 stars.

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

The blurb: 

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds. Named after a hawk for her yellow eyes and strange voice, she is mocked by her siblings – until her beloved brother Aeëtes is born. 

Yet after her sister Pasiphae marries King Midas of Crete, Aeëtes is whisked away to rule his own island. More isolated than ever, Circe, who has never been divine enough for her family, becomes increasingly drawn to mortals – and when she meets Glaucus, a handsome young fisherman, she is captivated. Yet gods mingle with humans, and meddle with fate, at their peril. 

In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.

My take:

I give very few books 5 stars. For me, a 4-star book is very very good, but a 5-star book has an indescribable something extra and I want to rave about it to everyone.

Back in 2016, Miller’s previous book, The Song of Achilles, was one of 3 books I gave a top rating. So you could say I was the ideal customer for this book. But I also went in with very high expectations which could easily have been disappointed. So I’m thrilled to say that Miller has done it again: Circe is sublime.

The world Miller creates is so captivating if I’d had the chance I’d have read Circe straight through without taking my eyes from the page. I suspect this is largely due to the wonderful first-person voice of Circe. Her tone is clear and direct but also contains a convincing tint of other-worldiness appropriate to a goddess, although her story is more human than you might imagine.

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Review | The Fire Court (Ashes of London 2) by Andrew Taylor

More slow-moving intrigue in Restoration London. 3.5/5 stars.

The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor (Ashes of London 2)

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

The blurb: 

Somewhere in the soot-stained ruins of Restoration London, a killer has gone to ground…

The Great Fire has ravaged London, wreaking destruction and devastation wherever its flames spread. Now, guided by the incorruptible Fire Court, the city is slowly rebuilding, but times are volatile and danger is only ever a heartbeat away.

James Marwood, son of a traitor, is thrust into this treacherous environment when his ailing father claims to have stumbled upon a murdered woman in the very place where the Fire Court sits. Then his father is run down and killed. Accident? Or another murder…?

Determined to uncover the truth, Marwood turns to the one person he can trust – Cat Lovett, the daughter of a despised regicide. Marwood has helped her in the past. Now it’s her turn to help him. But then comes a third death… and Marwood and Cat are forced to confront a vicious and increasingly desperate killer whose actions threaten the future of the city itself.

My take:

I read the first installment in this historical mystery series – The Ashes of London – right before moving onto this book. And while I’m sure you could read and enjoy The Fire Court without having to read book 1 – it is a new mystery which introduces a group of new characters – I would recommend seeking out The Ashes of London first. A lot of my enjoyment in reading book 2 came from seeing how established characters and their relationships developed under the pressures of this plot, and in this regard there certainly is a great deal going on. I can only praise the author for giving us high stakes: he isn’t afraid to put his main characters in true peril and let them get hurt. I lost count of the number of times Cat had call to use or threaten to use her knife in self-defence!

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Review | Eureka! by Peter Jones

Does what it says on the cover! 4/5 stars.

Eureka Everything you ever wanted to know about the ancient greeks but were afraid to ask

The blurb: The Ancient Greeks gave us our alphabet and much of our scientific, medical and cultural language; they invented democracy, atomic theory and the rules of logic and geometry; established artistic and architectural canons visible to this day on all our high streets; laid the foundations of philosophy, history, tragedy and comedy and debated everything from the good life and the role of women, to making sense of foreigners and the best form of government, all in the most sophisticated terms.

In Eureka! Peter Jones, author of Veni, Vedi, Vici, tackles the gamut of Ancient Greece from the Trojan War to the advent of the Romans. Along the way he introduces the major figures of the age, including Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Euclid and Archimedes. Exploring Greek myths he provides a glimpse of everyday life in ancient times and shows us the very foundations of Western culture.

My take:

This post may be more about me and my relationship with non-fiction than this specific book and for that I can only apologise.

I try to read at least 2 non-fiction books a year. I’m aware that 2 is a low number, but I tend to struggle with non-fiction. I find my attention wanders, mostly because I read far slower than I read fiction.

Firstly, all credit for me having found and read this book must go to my local library. Their display stands of interesting non-fiction books are the main reason I ever pick up non-fiction.

In a nutshell, my review of Eureka! would be: if you have any interest in knowing about the Ancient Greeks, and would like the information in an easy-to-digest format, then I can’t recommend this book enough.

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