Friday, 30 November 2012

Saved By Cake Challenge - November

 
I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.
 
Chocolate Fudge Pudding
 
When I saw the photo of the Chocolate Fudge Pudding in the Saved By Cake book, I thought it looked delicious and, even better, the recipe made it seem so simple. And it was simple. You just make up the sponge, then the sauce and 'fling' (Marian's words, not mine) them both into an ovenproof dish and pop it into the oven.
 
 
Like magic, the sponge bakes in the middle of the dish, surrounded by fudge sauce.
 
 
The cake was lovely, the pudding soft and light and the sauce thick and gooey. I served it warm with vanilla ice cream and it was a big hit with all the family. It really was delicious and it was so easy to make.
 
 

For more Saved by Cake Challenges click here

 
 
 
 

In November...

... I read:



... went to see my town's Reindeer Parade

... made a Christmas bookmark

... Compiled a Christmas Reading List

... Hosted a giveaway and a guest post by Nancy Scrofano

... Made a Chocolate Fudge Pudding as part of my Saved By Cake Challenge

... Celebrated my youngest's fourth birthday

 
 
The most popular posts at the end of the month are:

Monday, 26 November 2012

A Winter Flame by Milly Johnson

 
 
Christmas has never been a time of joy for Eve and the festive season was made worse when her fiance was killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Day five years ago. Before he left, Jonathan lit a candle and told Eve that as long as the flame is alive, so is their love for one another. It was the last time Eve saw her fiance alive and she has kept the flame going ever since.

Eve wants nothing to do with Christmas but it seems her great aunt Evelyn has other ideas. Eve was close to her great aunt but had no idea Evelyn had not only amassed a secret fortune but had drawn up plans and begun the building of a winter theme park. Winterworld will contain everything Eve dreads - Santa, Christmas trees, elves and real reindeer. And just when Eve thinks she's heard the worse, her great aunt's lawyer informs her she isn't the only beneficiary. Jacques Glace is a stranger to Eve but he has jointly inherited Winterworld and the 'many millions' involved in the theme park.

Eve takes an instant dislike to Jacques, believing he somehow charmed his way into her great aunt's will. She is determined to catch him out and unmask him as the conman she knows he is.

A Winter Flame is a lovely festive read full of the sparkle and magic of the Christmas season. I adore the idea of Winterworld with its enchanted Christmas tree forest, cosy cabins, snow ponies and falling snow. There was such attention to detail when describing the theme park and its attractions that I felt like I was there, experiencing it all. If only! Winterworld is such a wonderful, magical place that I would love to go there and allow it to bring out my inner child.

Eve is far from impressed with the plans when she first sees them and is keen to tone down the Christmas theme but slowly she begins to thaw and feel the joy of the season again, helped along by Jacques' enthusiasm and determination to follow through with Evelyn's original plans, and seeing the love of those around her and realising she could be as happy as them if only she would allow herself to be. Eve hasn't been happy since she lost Jonathan but her sadness is offset by the humour in the book, from the local newspaper's printed apologies to Effin Williams, the Welshman overseeing Winterworld's construction, whose put downs are both inventive and highly amusing. My favourite character was definitely Jacques, who was like a giant teddy bear who had scoffed a ton of blue Smarties with his enthusiasm for the project. He charms everybody but Eve and can't help rubbing her up the wrong way.

A Winter Flame is both heartfelt and humorous, jam packed with Christmas cheer as Eve learns to start enjoying not only the season but the whole life she has ahead of her.


Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy to review.

Friday, 23 November 2012

#Amreading Bad Angels

 
 
I read Killer Heels by Rebecca Chance recently and absolutely loved it. Since then I've been waiting very patiently to read Bad Angels and have finally got round round to it and am hoping it will be just as good.
 
What will you be reading this weekend?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Giveaway Winner

 

The winner of a copy of The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan is
Suzanne F.

Congratulations Suzanne and thank you to everyone who entered and those who tweeted about the giveaway.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Music To Write To

 

It's supposed to be spring in my book at the moment but I'm listening to Christmas music (Smooth Christmas radio today - it's fab) and I was wondering if it would affect the way I write. Would my poor characters' spring be wintry and bleak? Would they have snow?

I usually have music in the background while I write. I can't have the tv on as it's too distracting but music is fine and it doesn't even have to be on low. If a good song comes on the radio, I'll turn it up and it either spurs me on to write or I stop completely to 'sing'* along.

I'll either listen to the radio or I'll put a CD on - Scissor Sisters or T Rex are my favourite when writing.

How about you? Do you have to have silence? Or do you prefer some sort of noise (tv, songs or even family)?

*I can't sing for toffee

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Christmas Bookmark



Earlier in the year I made a Hello Kitty bookmark using paint colour charts and a Hello Kitty punch. I really liked how it turned out so decided to make a Christmas one using red and greens and a christmas tree punch.

Now I can read my festive books with a festive bookmark to match (any excuse for a bit of crafting).

Monday, 19 November 2012

My Christmas (Reading) List 2012

 
 
 
 
So many festive reads have been released this year but unfortunately I don't have time to read them all. I do, however, have a nice little list of novels and short stories. A couple of the short stories (Tinseltown and Six Geese A-Laying) were released as free ebooks last year but I didn't get my Kindle until Christmas Day and so I've waited until now to read them.
 
 
What will you be reading this Christmas?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Guest Post - Nancy Scrofano

British Chick Lit & American Chick Lit: Which Do You Prefer?

When I think of my favorite chick lit books, the majority of them are written by British authors. Chick lit became the “it” genre when British novel Bridget Jones’s Diary burst onto the scene, followed by other hugely successful novels like Confessions of a Shopaholic, another British series. British authors launched the genre, but it quickly caught on in America with the popularity of Sex and the City. Everyone has a personal preference, but I tend to gravitate toward British chick lit. It’s more lighthearted, funnier, wittier, and more amusing overall. American women’s fiction delves into very serious topics now. But I’m looking for entertainment, and British chick lit always delivers. I hope that American chick lit can get back to the roots of the genre and have some fun!

It’s possible that I find British chick lit so enchanting because I’m American and I’ve never been to the UK. I love reading about it and would love to visit someday. I often wonder if people living outside the US read American chick lit and are enamored with it because it’s something different from what they know. I like learning British expressions and slang. For example, while reading I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, it took a few pages for me to realize that a“stag do” is a bachelor party.

While I was writing and editing my debut novel, True Love Way, I re-read British author Hester Browne’s book The Little Lady Agency three times and Swept Off Her Feet twice. They were like guides on how to write great chick lit. I have studied Browne’s books and her writing style because I think they are the best in the genre. I will continue to hone my craft and try to write chick lit that is as good as or better than the British chick lit I’ve put on such a high pedestal.

What do you think? Do you prefer American chick lit or British chick lit?

Here are 7 British chick lit novels you have to read:
1) The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne
2) Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne
3) The Little Lady Agency and the Prince by Hester Browne
4) Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
5) Swept Off Her Feet by Hester Browne
6) A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess
7) I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
 
 
Nancy Scrofano is the author of True Love Way. She is a freelance writer, and she is the founder and managing editor of The Chick Lit Bee, a book blog that promotes and celebrates women’s fiction. Nancy is at work on her next novel. For more information, please visit http://www.nancyscrofano.com.
 
 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Giveaway - The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

 
Disfigured by the blow of an abusive husband, the widow Mary McAllister has spent almost sixty years secluded in a white marble mansion overlooking the town of Mill River, Vermont. Her links to the outside world are few: the mail, an elderly priest, and a bedroom window with a view of the town below.

Most longtime residents of Mill River consider the marble house and its occupant peculiar, and few of them have ever seen Mary. But three newcomers - a police officer and his daughter and a new schoolteacher - are curious about the reclusive old woman. Only the town priest truly knows the Mill River recluse, and the secret she keeps . . . a secret that, once revealed, will change the town, and the lives of its residents, forever.

In the old-fashioned tradition of Kim Edwards (The Memory Keeper's Daughter, The Lake of Dreams), The Mill River Recluse is a story of triumph over tragedy, one that reminds us of the value of friendship and the mysterious ways that love can come from the most unexpected places.






I recently reviewed The Mill River Recluse by Darcie and have one paperback copy to give away. All you have to do is enter below. There a few things you can do to gain extra entries in the giveaway but they're not mandatory so don't feel you have to.

The giveaway will end at 6pm on Wednesday 21st November and the winner announced the following day.

UK entries only please.

You can read my review of the book here or read my interview with the author here

Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

50%

 
 
I've reached 50% of the first draft of Book 3 - woo!
 
I'm hoping to have the first draft finished by Christmas so I'm well on my way. It felt great when I reached 40,000 words because sometimes it feels like I'm not getting anyway at all. I've planned the book out so that I know what is supposed to happen in each chapter but it doesn't stop me sitting there trying to think of how to write it so it doesn't sound crap. And having a plan doesn't stop me distracting myself with twitter and google and anything other than writing and it doesn't stop me wanting to slob in front of the tv. Sometimes it's a fight to get the words on the screen but they are getting there. I have 40,000 words to prove it.
 
All I have to do now is write the other 40,000...

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Reindeer Parade 2012


One of my favourite things about Christmas is the Reindeer Parade that's held in my town. There are marching bands, people dressed as festive characters as well as people from that year's panto (which will be Cinderella this year) and, most of important of all, Santa and his reindeer. The weather was brilliant - clear and dry and not too cold - and the parade was a brilliant way to kick off the Christmas season.
 
 




Monday, 12 November 2012

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Abby Clements

 
 
Laurie and Rachel were best friends at school and throughout their teenage years. They spent the summer together in Greece after their A Levels and Laurie was with Rachel when she took a pregnancy test at 19. But over the years the pair have drifted apart, living completely different lives. Laurie lives alone in London in a minimalist flat while working as a fashion designer whereas Rachel lives in a cluttered cottage in a small Yorkshire village with her husband, Aiden and is a stay at home mum to their 15 year old daughter, Milly and 6 year old son, Zak. The pair have kept in sporadic contact over the years so when Aiden's mother takes ill, Rachel asks Laurie a favour.
 
Things haven't been going well for Laurie. Confused over her feelings for her friend and neighbour, Jay, especially when she keeps seeing his new girlfriend in their building, Laurie hasn't been able to concentrate at work. When she makes a major mistake on their latest line, Laurie is asked to take a two month break to sort herself out. When Rachel emails explaining that her mother in law needs to see a specialist in London and asks if she and her family can stay with Laurie for a few days, Laurie comes up with the perfect solution. She needs a break away from work and Jay so she suggests they swap houses. Rachel can experience Laurie's life in hectic London while Laurie chills out in sleepy Skipley.
 
I'd been looking forward to reading Meet Me Under The Mistletoe ever since I saw an image of the gorgeous cover, which is even more beautiful and sparkly in real life. I love Christmas and Meet Me Under The Mistletoe has lots of festive charm, from Bea's Countdown To Christmas (which I long to own) to the Reindeer Wonderland (which I long to go to). There is a diverse range of characters in the book; Lily, Laurie's downstairs neighbour who is warm and loving but misses her own family and Siobhan and Jay, Laurie's best friends and neighbours and in Skipley there is Rachel's grumpy, snobby neighbour, Diana and gorgeous charity worker, Patrick, who helps Laurie take her mind off Jay.
 
The chapters take place over the course of a day, counting down to Christmas Day and alternate between Rachel and Laurie. Usually when a story is told from different perspectives, I warm to one storyline more than the other but I enjoyed Laurie and Rachel's stories equally. I liked how Rachel broke free from her tiny village and began to live more and made new friends while Laurie learned how to take life at a slower pace and shifted her focus away from work. I would have liked to have seen a bit more interaction between Rachel and Laurie apart from the odd email and phone call, to really cement their friendship but other than that I thought Meet Me Under The Mistletoe was a lovely festive read and I'm looking forward to reading Abby Clements' free short story, The Christmas Bake Off, which will be available on 1st December.
 
 
Thank you to Quercus for sending me a copy to review.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Christmas Creche

 
As I'm sure you've all heard, some of your favourite writers including Scarlett Bailey, Abby Clements, Victoria Connelly, Miranda Dickinson, Michele Gorman, Belinda Jones, Carole Matthews, Talli Roland and Julia Williams have all given birth to festive little bundles of joy. It's wonderful when so many friends have book babies around the same time, because that means they can grow up together and be best friends too.

 
 
To help the tots cement their friendships (and to get a bit of peace and quiet - those deadlines aren't getting any easier!), the authors have enrolled them in the Christmas Creche*, where the ultra-capable Miss Dewey will look after them for a few hours a day until the Christmas holidays. And to keep the mothers from pestering her, she has kindly agreed to document what her charges get up to.
Poor Miss Dewey! She doesn't know what she's in for - these little ones already know their minds, that's for sure.
Readers can follow the Christmas Creche short stories over the next six weeks by popping over to the creche now, where Miss Dewey has posted the first story, or by following any of the writers on twitter or Facebook.

Follow the writers to keep up with all the fun...

Scarlett Bailey
Twitter: @ScarlettBailey
Facebook: ScarlettBailey 
 
Abby Clements
Twitter: @AbbyCBooks
 
Victoria Connelly
Twitter: @VictoriaDarcy
Facebook: VictoriaConnelly
 
Miranda Dickinson
Twitter: @wurdsmyth
 
Michele Gorman
Twitter: @expatdiaries 
 
Belinda Jones
Twitter: @vidabelinda
 
Carole Matthews
Twitter: @carolematthews
 Facebook: CaroleMatthews
 
Talli Roland
Twitter: @TalliRoland
 Facebook: Author TalliRoland
 
Julia Williams
Twitter: @JCCWilliams
Facebook: JuliaWilliams
 
*That's nursery in North American!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Sluggish Writing



It was half term last week, which meant I wasn't able to write during the day. I did make up for it by writing in the evenings. Evenings used to be my writing time before my youngest started nursery but it was so hard to get back into it. I wanted to read a book or watch telly so it was hard work convincing myself to give up that time to write instead.

Half term is over now and I'm trying to get back into my new routine of writing during the morning until I have to pick my daughter up from nursery but this week has been tough. I seem to be using any excuse not to write - checking emails and twitter, tinkering with my blog, making cups of tea after a few hundred words. I must snap out of it. Tea breaks won't write a book.

Please tell me other people have these kinds of slump! It's not like I don't know what to write as I have all the scenes noted down in front of me...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group - November

 
 
The idea of the InsecureWriters Support Group is for writers to blog on the first Wednesday of the month about their fears, struggles and triumphs they have experienced with their writing.

Last month, I wrote about being ready to start submitting my book to agents, which I have done - even if it's only two so far. Both submissions have been rejected and after the first I went through my usual what's-the-point sulk for five to ten minutes. For those five to ten minutes I wanted to just give up. It didn't matter that I've wanted to be a published writer since I was in primary school, that I've given up my evenings, writing even when I was knackered after looking after my kids all day. An agent had said no so what was the point?

I'm sure I'm not the only one to feel like this at times (please let there be others!) and it soon passed and I stopped sulking and got on with it. Being published might not happen straight away but if I just give up it'll never happen at all. And if it still doesn't, at least I tried. And tried again and again.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

 
 
Jenny is planning her wedding to Dan and is hoping to serve their guests tea in vintage teacups at the reception. While on the hunt for vintage cups at a local car boot sale, Jenny spots the perfect tea set and sets her heart on it. Unfortunately, she isn't the only one who has their eye on the set.
 
Florist Maggie is helping to organise a client's wedding and is also trying to track down vintage teacups as part of her floral display. She spots the tea set at the same time as Jenny and Alison.
 
Alison has always been good at sewing and crafts and has set up her own business, selling her handcrafted items. She's on the lookout for vintage teacups to make into candles so when she spots the tea set at the car boot sale, she wants it as much as the other women.
 
With three women and only one tea set, they make a compromise. They will buy the set together and take turns using it - first Jenny for her wedding, then Maggie for her floral displays and finally Alison for her candles.
 
Through the vintage tea set, Jenny, Maggie and Alison strike up a friendship and help each other through some difficult times in their lives. Jenny is looking forward to marrying Dan but, having been abandoned by her mother 20 years ago, feels she is missing out. She doesn't usually miss having a mother around but is feeling the loss as she plans her wedding.
 
Maggie has been hurt in the past but she thinks she's finally over her ex so she is confused when Dylan gets in touch after a four year absence.
 
Alison's husband has been made redundant and is finding it difficult to secure a new job and the longer it takes, the less motivated Pete feels to get up and search for employment opportunities. Not only does Alison have to deal with Pete, her teenage children are a constant worry, causing problems such as stealing, sneaking off to parties and older boyfriends.
 
The Vintage Teacup Club is a lovely tale of friendship, bringing together the three women who become closer as they join forces to hunt down more teacups. My favourite storyline was Maggie's and while I enjoyed the whole book, I found myself looking forward to her chapters the most.
 
I loved the setting of The Vintage Teacup Club  and would love to visit the cafe, Blitz Spirit, for tea and cake. I also loved a particular scene with Ruby and Derek Spencer. While it is only quite a short scene, I enjoyed their tale and their memories of the war.
 
 
Thank you to Sphere for sending me a copy to review.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Happy Bonfire Night!



Happy Bonfire Night everybody! I hope you all have a fab (safe) evening. We've already been to one fireworks display at the weekend and we've got another at our local park on Friday. I enjoy bonfire night much more now that I'm no longer scared of fireworks (I used to be terrified of them - the noise and the fear of them falling down on me). I love them now as long as they're part of an organised event!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Halloween Crafts & Baking

I hope you all had a fun Halloween. I spent most of the day baking and for the past few weeks we've been crafting. We made masks, ghost lanterns made of out of plastic milk bottles and Halloween figures out of good old loo rolls but my favourite craft was making Halloween place mats.


 
 
 
 
 
I also made my daughters bat treat bags, which I filled with Halloween sweets and a couple of jokes each.
 

 
 
And on the day we baked iced gingerbread bats and full moons and spider cupcakes made from melted chocolate and chocolate buttons.