Exercise is Murder by Carolyn Arnold

I have received a free e-copy of the book Exercise is Murder by bestselling author Carolyn Arnold to review. I’ve enjoyed several of Carolyn’s books, so I was looking forward to reading this one too. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

Exercise is Murder by Carolyn Arnold

Here is the book blurb.

Getting in shape isn’t an easy walk in the park…

Running junkie Katie Carpenter takes a tumble down a ravine and ends up facedown in the Hudson River. The police conclude her death was an accident, but those who were close to Katie aren’t buying that she just tripped and fell—including her pro-athlete boyfriend. But it’s Katie’s fitness trainer and friend who hires the McKinleys to investigate.

Anything but an easy case to solve, Sean and Sara will break a sweat trying to figure out who had the most to gain from the young woman’s death. Sadly for Sean most of the evidence seems stacked against Katie’s boyfriend—a man Sean idolizes. Can he put aside being starstruck long enough to view things objectively? If Katie’s killer is going to be caught, he and Sara will need to remain flexible and it might require bending the rules a bit.

This is book 12 in the McKinley Mysteries: Short & Sweet Cozies, but I found it worked very well as a stand-alone read. Also a different genre to the other titles I’ve read by Carolyn, as they have mostly been thrillers.

Married couple Sean and Sara McKinley used to work for the police but are now private investigators, with a small team. Sara’s personal trainer Mirela asks them to investigate the death of Katie Carpenter, another of her fitness clients and friend. Katie was out running and ended up in the Hudson River. Police say it was an accident but Mirela believes Katie, a keen runner, was pushed.

They start the case by getting Jimmy to visit the morgue and Adam, their tech wizard to check out Katie’s social media. Is it murder? Suspects, motives, clues.

I was particularly drawn to this story as I enjoy running myself. And I love the classification of short & sweet cozies. It sums the book up brilliantly. A real page turner of a mystery that I didn’t want to put down. And although thoroughly modern, made me think back to the days of the golden greats. I would certainly like to read some of the other titles in this series.

Exercise is Murder is available on Amazon, currently priced at £11.99 in paperback or £2.76 in Kindle format. Another gripping story as per usual from best-selling author Carolyn Arnold. I can highly recommend you grab a cup of tea and put your feet up to read this book.

Here are the links to my reviews of other books by Carolyn Arnold.
Remnants
Power Struggle
The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh
On the Count of Three
Shades of Justice

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

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The new way to drink Coffee plus giveaway

I’ve always thought that are basically two ways to make coffee at home, either using ground or instant. Of course there is a lot more choices to the ground method. Are you going to grind your own beans? Do you have a coffee machine, a percolator or a cafetière? We’ve always kept it simple by just having a cafetière, but it broke last year. I’ve been trying to see if we can get by without replacing it, since we usually only got it out when we had guests. And I certainly wouldn’t wish to upgrade to a coffee machine, as I imagine there must be a lot of waste with all those pods.

Therefore I was very interested to find out more when I heard via the Ethical Influencers network that there was such a thing as coffee bags. These passed my deal-breaker test with no plastic in the bags, so I put my name forward to review New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags. I had been putting teabags in the food waste bin for years when I first heard that most brands of teabags contain plastic. Now I either buy loose tea or better still, cut a sprig of fresh mint from my garden, and then compost the waste.

New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags

I didn’t even know coffee bags existed, but they definitely sound the way forward, being biodegradable. I was pleased to receive 3 free boxes of New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags to review, each containing 10 bags. These currently retail at £6.99 for a box of 10. There was a dark roast from Indonesia, a medium roast from Guatemala and a light roast from Ethiopia. They also do a decaffeinated roast from Peru, which unfortunately I didn’t get to try. Slightly ironic since my coffee of choice whenever I’m in a coffee shop would be a decaf skinny latte.

Plus points for the packaging they used to post me the coffee. The box had been sealed with paper tape. No sellotape in sight. I think this is the first time I’ve received a delivery using paper tape. So no need to remove the tape for recycling. Ideal since it can be so frustrating trying to pull plastic tape off parcels before the boxes can be recycled.

New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags

Their coffee is organic and fair-trade, two more ticks. The coffee bags are made from Bioweb, which is a 100% biodegradable product made from a totally renewable and sustainable source of corn starch. These can go in your food waste bin. Or home composting is possible for the bags but the temperature required to fully decompose them is not always sustained in home composters, especially as we enter the colder months.

But they are currently using individual sachets made from a mixed foil and plastic laminate to help keep the coffee fresh for longer. I’m not so happy whenever I hear about mixed materials like this. However they have taken the initiative to team up with TerraCycle, so that these can be recycled by sending them back. As they are a fairly new start-up company, I don’t believe there are any local drop-off points yet, like the way I take my old pens to our library. Plus the outer boxes are made of 75% recycled cardboard. And since they are currently working with their suppliers to find a more environmentally friendly alternative to the foil sachets,  I’d say that still adds upto 9.5/10 on the environmentally friendly front. So well done.

Hopefully they will come up with an alternative idea to the foil sachets soon, which doesn’t compromise on freshness. Perhaps the bags could be sold loose in a jar, as there is always plenty of reuse options for jars.

New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags

Simple to make. Pop a bag in your cup. Add hot water, stir, leave for 3-5 minutes, stir again, squeeze and remove bag, add milk if desired. And of course, you have been waiting for a verdict on the taste test. I enjoyed all three varieties, but I’m not a connoisseur of coffee, so although each pack describes what notes the flavour comprises, I personally couldn’t pick those out. I’m similar when it comes to wine.

However I experimented and came up with a variant that I absolutely loved. I tried adding one of the light roast bags to a cup of very hot milk instead of water. For me this was perfection, a real comfort drink. I’m also planning to try the same with both the medium roast and dark roast for comparison.

New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags

You can purchase the bags in varying quantities from 4-100, either on a one-off basis or with 10% off via a monthly subscription. The boxes I received have varying best before dates ranging between June 2020 to October 2020, so again thinking about those pesky foil sachets, even if they are needed for keeping the larger quantity boxes fresh, a box of 10 is going to be drunk relatively quickly. Even one foil inner packet containing all the bags which the consumer clips shut after opening would be a step in the right direction, rather than individual sachets.

New Kings Coffee gourmet coffee bags

Also I was very pleased to read that New Kings Coffee support the people and communities in the coffee growing regions, by making a donation to the charity, Grounds for Health, who provide screening, treatment and training to support cervical cancer patients in developing countries.

And I have an offer to pass on to my readers – 20% off any order at New Kings Coffee with discount code: YABM20.

Plus I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 3 boxes of coffee courtesy of New Kings Coffee to one lucky winner. That is one each of dark roast, medium roast and light roast, each box containing 10 bags.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

Now to enjoy my next cup of coffee whilst I browse online to find some environmental projects which I could consider contributing towards to help offset the carbon footprint of coffee being flown halfway across the world for my consumption. Coffee is not a plant that can be grown here in the UK.

I’d love to hear about your favourite cup of coffee.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Taming an Unrepentant Earl by Tammy Andresen

I have received a free e-copy of the book Taming an Unrepentant Earl by Tammy Andresen to review.

Taming an Unrepentant Earl by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

A scarred lord and a ruined lady…

Thanks to his bravery, and subsequent injury on the battlefield, Harold Maddox has been given an earldom and a leave of absence as commander in order to heal. While he doesn’t give a bullocks about the title, he’ll take the leave to settle a personal matter. After the loss of his best friend, he’s promised to care for Chesterfield’s sister, Miss Sophia Chesterfield. And he’s promised himself once he’s healed, he’ll avenge his friend’s death. The problem is that Sophie is far too beautiful for him to remain indifferent and her sharp tongue riles him in all sorts of interesting ways. He needs to return to the war and he can’t afford distractions now.

Sophie Chesterfield wouldn’t marry at all except that she can’t very well have a baby without a husband. What she needs is a nice quiet man who causes little interruption in her orderly life. And that man is definitely not Lord Ridgeby. From the moment the man enters her house is a force of destruction on her quiet life. What’s more, he heats her blood and sets fire to everything she thought she wanted. Not that it matters. He’s made it clear he’s leaving and she doesn’t want an overbearing beast like him anyway. Does she?

This is book 10 in the Taming a Duke’s Heart series. These stories are all suitable as stand-alone reads. I’ve previously read and enjoyed book 5 – Taming a Savage Gentleman and book 8 – Taming a Defiant Duke.

The story starts with army Captain Harry Maddox recovering from a hip injury sustained on the battlefield when his best friend Alfred Chesterfield died saving Harry. He is keen to return to the field to avenge his friend’s death, but in the meantime he is travelling to Alfred’s former home to fulfil Alfred’s request to make provision for his only living family member, his sister Sophie. He plans  to take her to a home for destitute women, run by his own sister.

On arrival, he finds not one, but two women in need of assistance, Sophie and her cousin Miss Danielle Frazier. Sophie thinks he has come to be their guardian, so that suitors can then call. So she is not happy when she hears his plan. And what about the sparks of attraction that have been sizzling since they met?

Meanwhile Harry visits Alfred’s barrister and discovers that Alfred has actually requested him to be Sophie’s guardian until she is 25, to manage her funds and house and to introduce her into society. He returns to tell her, but she is still not pleased, finding him overbearing. She does not want to be told what to do. She just wanted a puppet guardian.

The sooner this is all sorted and he can return to the army the better isn’t it? So the introductions to suitors begin.

Taming an Unrepentant Earl is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.28 in Kindle format. Another nice light romantic story from Tammy.


About the author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Going Back Cold by Kelley Rose Waller

I have received a free e-copy of the book Going Back Cold by Kelley Rose Waller to review. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

Going Back Cold by Kelley Rose Waller

Here is the book blurb.

After the unexpected stillbirth loss of her daughter, physicist Dr. Jane Whyse feels as empty and lifeless as the landscape that surrounds her on the remote Antarctic base where she and her husband work. As the geniuses of PROJECT SPLIT HORIZON pursue faster-than-light travel, Jane begins to secretly wonder if there is an opportunity to use the piezoelectronic technology she’s created to time travel. What if she could somehow undo the loss of her daughter? Jane’s honest, ugly struggles to understand God’s sovereign plan for all of time and space in the midst of raw pain leave her questioning everything. The more success she finds in her scientific career—and the closer she may be to a chance to fix the worst day of her life, the more conflict she finds in her marriage and in her own heart. Can she seek healing from this devastating loss while she tries to play god? Jane must choose between faith in a God whose mercies are new every morning, or coldly turning away with the challenge, “If God doesn’t like this, He’d better stop me.”

I’ve previously read and enjoyed The Senator’s Youngest Daughter, a political thriller by this author, so when Kelley asked me if I would like to review her latest novel, I immediately said yes without even having seen the blurb. Turned out this was an entirely different genre.

The story is set at the Semotus Base in Antartica and starts in December 2022. The small team return for a 4 month season over the course of the next 4 years. They are working on a project to achieve Faster than light travel. I do dislike abbreviations in books and not having seen the blurb before reading, it did take me a while to work out that FTL stood for Faster than light.

The main character is Dr Jane Whyse, a physicist. Her husband Lucas, a chemist and crystallographer is also on the team and they are accompanied by their 3 year old son Sebastian. During the first season, Jane discovers she is pregnant but sadly her daughter Emily is stillborn at 7 months, before they return the next winter. Jane and Lucas are active Christians and this does give them cause to question their faith in God.

Jane secretly uses her son’s laptop, the only unrecorded electronic device on the base to try to develop time travel. She wants to bring her daughter back. Is time travel viable? Is she putting the multi-million project at risk? What is the impact on her marriage and on the other characters at the base?

I have to say that I did struggle with this book, but mainly because both Christianity and Science-Fiction are turn-offs for me personally. However I have huge respect for the author being able to write on such a wide range of subject matter.

Going Back Cold published today is available on Amazon, currently priced at £2.48 in Kindle format. If you enjoy sci-fi or Christian fiction, then this is a book for you.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Caitlin’s Song by John A Heldt

I was delighted to receive an email from author John Heldt asking me if I would like to review his latest book Caitlin’s Song. This is the fourth title in The Carson Chronicles series, which is a series  that I just can’t get enough of. I’ve really enjoyed the previous three titles and you may see my reviews of those here.
River Rising
The Memory Tree
Indian Paintbrush

To find out more about the author you may visit his website.

Caitlin's Song by John A Heldt

Here is the book blurb.

Love, courage, and commitment take center stage as the Carsons, a family of time travelers, continue their saga in the great American West.

For the Carson children, ages 19 to 29, an unplanned stop in 1962 is a chance to grow. Adam, Greg, and Natalie begin lives with new spouses in Boulder, Colorado, while twins Cody and Caitlin get their first taste of college. All plan to resume the search for their missing parents as soon as they can.

For Tim and Caroline Carson, a planned stop in the rendezvous year of 1972 is a nightmare. While reading about their children’s lives in 1962, they learn that one has crossed paths with a killer. Faced with limited options, they race back to the past to reroute history and prevent a series of murders.

In CAITLIN’S SONG, the fourth novel in the Carson Chronicles series, members of a modern family find romance, adventure, and terror as they seek answers and each other in four memorable eras of American history.

To put you in the picture, the time-travelling Carson family have been unsuccessfully trying to reunite with their parents Tim and Caroline in the previous books in 1889, 1918 and 1943. But they have picked up a few significant others en-route from different eras, who are adjusting remarkably well.

But due to a car chase under gunfire at the end of Indian Paintbrush, they entered the portal six hours early and have now ended up in 1962 instead of their planned destination of 1972. They know that they have no chance of finding their parents in 1962, so instead of doing a scattered search like in earlier books, they travel to Boulder, Colorado to settle for a 6 month stay until the winter solstice with Nick’s relatives.

Twins Caitlin and Cody enrol at the college in Boulder, where they both have a ball of a time with new friends and dating, helping Caitlin to come to terms with her bereavement back in 1943. Although why does the Cuban missile crisis not pan out like they all know from history. Has the timeline wobbled? And if so, why?

Meanwhile Tim and Caroline are searching the records and have spotted a news snippet on the car chase and worked out that their children have ended up in 1962 although they have no idea whereabouts. They hire a researcher to do a nationwide search and as they browse the results, first delighting in the news of Natalie’s marriage and Greg’s baby, but then shock, horror at the dreadful news article from December 1962 of a murder in Boulder.

Tim and Caroline’s new plans to hop to 1962 themselves are thwarted by loss of documents. Instead they travel back at the September solstice to 1941, where they hope to prevent a murderer being conceived. Will they be successful? How will things pan out?

Another fantastic story in this great series, which had me on the edge of my seat at times. I just couldn’t put it down. I’m always amazed by the level of detail that John manages to weave into these stories. He is painstaking in his research.

Caitlin’s Song is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.01 in Kindle format. I was also pleased to see that all four titles are now available in paperback too, as that makes them accessible to a wider audience. Although I love it as part of a series, it also works well as a stand-alone read. I highly recommend this book and can’t wait for the next instalment to be published.

And you may be interested to see my reviews of some of John Heldt’s other titles.
The Mine
Indiana Belle
Hannah’s Moon

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Guest post: How did I research for my book? by Robert Lyons

Guest post by Robert Lyons: author of “The Shell Collector”.

The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons

How did I research for my book?

I decided on the subject of my book when I read the report of an official investigation into a financial cause célèbre that had scandalised the City of London in the 1970s.  I had not been conscious of the affair at the time, even though I had known some of the people involved in it socially.  Twenty years on I was reminded of it and was curious to know more.  I asked someone who had been close to the affair if he knew where I could get a copy of the report.  He told me it wasn’t worth bothering with, and anyway no criticism had been made of any of the parties concerned.  His reply only served to increase my curiosity.  Eventually I managed to lay hands on a photocopy of the report.  As read it, I realised why he had not wanted me to do so.  I saw instantly that the story it set out would make a great novel.  So the report, all five hundred pages of it, became the primary source of my book.

As the report was organised by topic rather than by chronology, I had spend a good deal of time compiling a diary of events.  This helped enormously in understanding what had taken place.  Once I had done so, I spent many days in the basement of the London Library trawling through back issues of The Times to set the contemporary background.  Interestingly, the period for my researches coincided partly with the period when Rupert Murdoch closed down The Times before he made the move to Wapping, so the Library had substituted The Daily Telegraph in its archive.  I also spent several hours at the Private Eye offices, going through its In the City “Slicker” columns of the time for background and specific information. These researches brought back fond memories of the post-Lady Chatterley era, such as the jailing of the Oz editors for obscenity, the Burton-Taylor £1,000,000 diamond, “the unacceptable face of capitalism”.  I hope my book is the richer for their inclusion.

I could not, and had no desire to, write the story as reported history.  As with many works of fiction there is a fine line between what is firmly rooted in fact and what is imaginary.  So while some of the events may have happened in reality, others are the figment of my overactive imagination; and while some characters may bring real people to mind, others are purely fictitious.  I tried to imagine what might have taken place, using the information contained in the report and what I discovered from further research.  During my time as a director of a major public company I had met a number of well-known names from the world of business, and my recollections helped me to create some of the characters in my book.  I managed to make contact with one of the people who had been closely involved in the affair, and who was almost alone in having nothing to hide of his role in it. He described one or two of the more amusing incidents and helped me to picture some of the participants, both physically and in character.

A story is a story is a story, and I hope mine is one worth reading.  To succeed in flavouring a story with the fruit of genuine research can make it more special and more fun, perhaps even more for the writer than for the reader. I hope my researches have helped me not only to tell a tale, but also to bring it to life.

The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons

Robert Lyons

Information about the Book
Title:The Shell Collector
Author:Robert Lyons
Release Date:26thSeptember 2019
Genre:Literary Fiction
Page Count:340
Publisher:Clink Street Publishing
Goodreads Link:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48196036-the-shell-collector
Amazon Link:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shell-Collector-Robert-Lyons/dp/1912850907
Twitter: http://twitter.com/rlyonsauthor

The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons to review. This is A Tale of the City of London.

The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons

Here is the book blurb.

1973: the year of the oil crisis, the secondary banking collapse, the three day working week and the collapse of the stock market. In a riotous ride through the City of London we meet the characters and events that filled the social and City pages of the press in that roller-coaster year.

Guy Magnus, an ambitious young share dealer, makes a daring takeover bid in the face of opposition from the City Establishment. Will he follow their rules, or his own: never to fall in love with a deal? Will he come to repent his challenge to the powers-that-be? Is Guy’s story fiction or fact? Was a Norfolk Broads canal boat really moored in the marina of Monte Carlo? Did a Henry Moore sculpture really become the most expensive work of art in the world? And did a bet for a lunch at Maxim’s for the first to make a million, Guy or his friend and rival Harry Griffin, bring a merchant bank to the verge of collapse?

THE SHELL COLLECTOR tells a cautionary tale of the City when its buccaneering spirit was at a peak. Whether true or false, it is never less than entertaining.

The blurb for this story sounded really promising, when I was offered a selection of titles to choose between. However in contrast, I struggled reading this book. I persevered and it got slightly better towards the end, but not by much and as it was a lengthy book, it certainly took me a while to read.

It swaps between the viewpoints of two city traders Guy Magnus and Harry Griffin and involves their associates too. But sorry all I can say is yawn, boring, boring, boring. Trading stocks and shares, wheeling and dealing, fingers in pies should have grabbed the reader’s attention, but no this story did nothing for me. However it has been well researched.

Also I couldn’t work out the relevance of the title. However it is referenced in a Roman snippet at the beginning of Part 2.

This book will be published later this week and is on Amazon currently priced for pre-order at £10.99 in paperback and also available in Kindle format. Sorry but it is not a read I can recommend.

About the author

Born in Leeds and educated at Rugby School and Oxford University, Robert Lyons spent seventeen years working for retailing conglomerate UDS Group plc., starting as a door-to door credit salesman in Glasgow before rising to run the parent company’s property management and development operations at its London head office. In 1974, he spent three months at the Harvard Business School on its Program for Management Development. On returning to London, he was appointed to the Group board, and to the board of Allders Department Stores, of which he became chairman in 1979. In 1983 the UDS Group was taken over by Hanson Trust plc, and Lyons left corporate life behind to move into property investment. Married with two children and six grandchildren, Robert Lyons has lived in Highgate, north London, since 1968.


I’m participating in the book tour and you may like to check out some of the other blog stops on the tour. Hopefully they enjoyed it more than me.

The Shell Collector by Robert Lyons

And look out this afternoon for an interesting guest post on my blog by Robert.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran by K T Dady

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran by K T Dady for son2 to review. To find out more about the author, you may see her website here.

The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran by Karen Dady

Here is the book blurb.

Your world isn’t the only one that exists. There is another, a magical place called Bar-Ran, and it’s about to be destroyed unless the Morgan children can find the royal dragon and replace its heart. They are five siblings who are magically transported to a strange land during the night. All they want to do is go home, but a wizard sends them on a journey to rescue the powerful Jewel, and it is a journey that changes their lives forever. This book is suitable for Harry Potter fans and those who enjoy discovering new places like Neverland, Wonderland, and Narnia. This is the first book in the series.

The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran by Karen Dady

This is what son2 had to say about the book.

I liked this book, it was very interesting, with twist and turns all around and ending on a cliffhanger.

Short and to the point. As I also read the book, I’ll give you a bit more. The five orphaned Morgan children aged 7 to 13 were on holiday visiting their grandmother Nana Hats who lives in a castle, near the town of Peasmore. Unfortunately they can’t live there, as they are in the custody of their horrible mean uncles who make them do all the chores on their pig farm.

But there are some very odd things going on like floating upto the ceiling and glowing red rain. When the children investigate further in the castles’s South Tower in the middle of the night, they end up being transported to the magical land of Bar-Ran in their pyjamas. They want to go home but discover they have first have to complete a mission to save Bar-Ran by recovering the Jewel and returning it to the dragon.

Their mission takes them on journey through many lands, meeting all sorts of magical characters, some good and some bad. We get to see the different personalities of each of the siblings. And son2 is correct about it ending on a cliffhanger, all ready for a new adventure in the second book – The Morgans and the Legend of Blood-Beard.

The Morgans and the Jewel of Bar-Ran is available on Amazon, currently priced at £6.99 in paperback and is also available in kindle format. A great children’s chapter book which son2 really enjoyed. Highly recommended.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are mine and my son’s own.

Organic Cacao Butter Buttons recipes plus giveaway

Cocoa butter (also known as cacao butter) is well known in skincare for its moisturising properties but did you know that it can also be used in the kitchen. I didn’t so I was intrigued when I saw it listed as one of the products that Indigo Herbs were looking for bloggers to review.

Once I realised that it is a raw by-product in the cocoa Industry which can be used to make my own sugar-free chocolate, I immediately applied. I’ve always loved chocolate and I have tried to convince myself that it is good for me, due to the iron content, as I easily get anaemic. However over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to reduce my processed sugar intake, but chocolate is one of the areas I’ve particularly failed to reduce. Nearly every visit to my local Co-op, I still come back with a bar, patting myself on the back because it is fair-trade and wrapped in foil and paper, ignoring the high sugar content.

Cacao butter buttons

So I was very pleased to receive a 500g packet of Indigo Herbs Organic Cacao Butter Buttons free to review.

Cacao has been harvested from the bean for centuries and dates back at least to the days of the Mayan, Inca and Aztec cultures. It has many health benefits. Cacao is the highest wholefood source of the mineral magnesium, an important mineral for heart health, which is rather lacking in most modern diets. It is also a valuable source of iron and an extremely antioxidant-rich superfood. Plus raw cacao is a great mood enhancer due to the abundance of feel good phytonutrients it contains.

The packet states that these organic buttons are 100% vegan, a natural source of healthy fats and an excellent source of essential fatty acids. On opening the packet, the aroma was absolutely divine, like a rich dark chocolate. And here is a birds-eye view into the packet. You can see that they look very similar in appearance to white chocolate chips, but that is where the similarity ends as these buttons are sugar-free. They are smooth to the touch, and melt easily over hot water.

organic cacao butter buttons


I currently have lots of apples and blackberries to put to good use, so I decided to come up with a recipe using these.

Apple and Blackberry Traybake

Apple and Blackberry Traybake

Ingredients (makes 16 slices)

100g cacao butter buttons
300g cooking apples
100g blackberries
250g almond flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
25g date sugar
200ml oat milk

Method

Preheat fan oven to 160 degrees C.
Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Boil a saucepan of water and then turn off.
Melt the cacao butter buttons in a bowl placed in the pan of hot water.
Meanwhile peel, core and dice the apples.
Stir the almond flour, baking powder and date sugar into the melted cacao butter.
Mix in the oat milk.
Stir in the blackberries and chopped apples.
Spoon the mixture into the baking tin.
Cook on middle shelf of oven for about 40 minutes, (until a skewer comes out clean).
Cool on cooling rack.
Cut into 16 pieces.
Serve and enjoy.

This was very tasty and shows how cacao butter can be used in a non-chocolate recipe. However the texture was rather soft, so it would probably have been better to serve this as a pudding rather than as cake. I’ve deliberately kept the recipe vegan and gluten-free, but you could easily adapt it.

Apple and Blackberry Traybake


And of course, I wanted to try my hand at making my own homemade chocolates. Having been tempted to taste one of the buttons straight from the packet, I knew I was going to have to sweeten the cacao somewhat, but to keep it reasonably healthy, I wanted to add as little of the date syrup as possible, so I gradually added 5g at a time, until discovering that 20g was optimal.

Homemade Chocolates

Homemade Chocolates

Ingredients

50g cacao butter buttons
35g cacao powder
20g date syrup

Method

Boil a saucepan of water and then turn off.
Melt the cacao butter buttons in a bowl placed in the pan of hot water.
Mix in the cacao powder.
Stir in the date syrup.
Spoon the mixture into moulds.
Place moulds in fridge for an hour.
Gently press chocolates out of moulds.
Serve and enjoy.

Homemade Chocolates

Wow. Thumbs up. These yummy treats both tasted and looked amazing. A nice slightly bitter dark chocolate flavour. I shall definitely be making these on a regular basis. I used moulds which I had repurposed from advent calendars and Easter, but you could alternatively make a bar.

A 500g packet of Indigo Herbs Organic Cacao Butter Buttons currently retails at £12.99 and is also available in 250g or 1kg sizes. They have a long shelf life being dated best before December 2020, although mine will be long gone before then. Unfortunately there is no mention of the cacao being fairtrade. Perhaps that is something that could be looked into.

I also want to talk about the packaging. Regular followers of my blog will know that I began this year with the aim of reducing my household waste, in particular plastic. I’ve gradually broadened this to think of the whole carbon footprint in terms of my purchases and trying to buy more organic and more local products with low food miles. So the buttons get a big tick for being organic. I know the cocoa bean doesn’t grow in the UK, so can’t do much about the fact of the cacao coming from Peru. Just got to accept that. It is the same with other products that I intend to continue purchasing like bananas. One of the things I plan to look into going forwards is how I personally can offset my carbon footprint of these products having been flown halfway across the world for my consumption, with a view to contributing to some environmental projects.

So back to the packaging. Unfortunately there is no mention on the packet of how to dispose of it, which is information I would like to see all food packaging display. I think it looks like either a plastic or a mixed material, probably not easily recycled. It seems reasonably robust, so I will probably be able to repurpose it temporarily as a freezer bag. But what about after that? How about selling them in glass jars instead, or even better loose though refill stores.

I couldn’t actually work out where my nearest stockist is as there seems to be a glitch with that page. Every store on the map seems to currently be listed with a Bristol address.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a 500g pack of cacao buttons courtesy of Indigo Herbs to one lucky winner. Think of all the tempting treats you could make with this.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

Right I’m off to browse the Indigo Herbs website to see what other products they sell. It is thanks to them that I previously discovered my love of chia seeds, something that I now use almost daily. You may check out my chia seed review here.

I’d love to hear your recipes using cacao.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

The Fate of a Highland Rake by Tammy Andresen

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Fate of a Highland Rake by Tammy Andresen to review.

The Fate of a Highland Rake by Tammy Andresen

Here is the book blurb.

Reginald Sinclair’s family had thought him dead. He may as well have been. When an accident swept him out to sea and wiped his memory clean, he began a new life. Actually, new wasn’t the correct word, it implied better. His second existence was full of filth and ruin. It made him a lesser man. And now that he had his memory back, how could he resume that old life? He was no longer worthy. When he meets the beautiful gypsy, Rihanna, he is certain he doesn’t deserve her either. He’ll deny the temptation she poses, even as he helps her. But he isn’t all good anymore and she is far too beautiful to be ignored.

Rihanna is certain that Reginald Sinclair is either a wolf in disguise or an angel sent from Heaven. When the cards encourage her to travel to Scotland with him, she listens. Is she traveling with a handsome devil or an angel? Will he be her savior or her ruin?

The Fate of a Highland Rake is the final story in the Brethren of Stone series which I have been enjoying reading. It is set in the Scottish highlands in the late 1700’s.

The story starts with Rihanna, a gypsy fortune-teller racing through the docks, being accused of theft. Not looking where she is going, she runs slap bang into Reginald Sinclair. She is trying to scrape enough pennies together to feed herself and her 5 year old sister Rosella.

Reginald has recently regained his past memories from before a near drowning incident 13 years ago. Before then he was a kind generous caring person, but he has been a changed man since, leading a bad life. He now wishes to become good again, but how?

He starts by helping her away from the man who was chasing her, having not been satisfied with the fortune she told, and then providing food. He follows that up with an offer for Rihanna and Rosella to sail on his ship to Scotland for a new start. Rihanna doesn’t know if he is an angel or a devil who will later demand payment.

She reads her own tarot cards. They indicate a compass, a woman and child, a ship. Sounds pretty clear guidance from the cards. What will she decide and what will ensue?

The Fate of a Highland Rake is available on Amazon, currently priced at 99p in Kindle format. Another nice short romantic story from Tammy, drawing this series to a satisfying conclusion.

And apparently this title is also book 8 in the Fortunes of Fate series. I’ve never come across one book being part of two series before. Clever idea, although I haven’t read any other titles from the Fortunes of Fate series yet.

Here are the links to my reviews of the previous titles in this series.
The Duke’s Scottish Lass
Scottish Devil
Wicked Laird
Kilted Sin
Rogue Scot


About the author

USA Today Bestselling Author, Tammy Andresen lives with her husband and three children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up on the Seacoast of Maine, where she spent countless days dreaming up stories in blueberry fields and among the scrub pines that line the coast. Her mother loved to spin a yarn and Tammy filled many hours listening to her mother retell the classics. It was inevitable that at the age of 18, she headed off to Simmons College, where she studied English literature and education. She never left Massachusetts but some of her heart still resides in Maine and her family visits often.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.