Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Having just finished reading my first book The White Cottage Mystery from NetGalley, I received an email from them detailing a new psychological thriller, Dear Amy. It sounded very intriguing, so without further ado, I downloaded a copy to read.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Here is the book blurb.

Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for The Cambridge Examiner. Her advice column, Dear Amy, gets all kinds of letters – but none like the one she’s just received: 

‘Dear Amy, 
I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me. 
Please help me soon, 
Bethan Avery’

Bethan Avery has been missing for years. This is surely some cruel hoax. But, as more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. How is this happening? Answering this question will cost Margot everything . . .

This book was a real page turner. Initially the police don’t seem to take much notice when Margot shows them the first letter she has received from Bethan Avery, even though another young girl Katie has recently disappeared. But then they want to involve Margot in a Crimewatch style reconstruction of the cold case. There were so many revelations that kept me wanting to read more pages and before I knew it, I had finished the book in just a few days. The story also swaps between Margot’s current life and her history, which builds up a fascinating picture of her life.

Dear Amy will be published on 16th June and is available to pre-order on Amazon, either in hardback currently priced at £12.08, compared to RRP of £12.99 or on Kindle. I highly recommend this book.

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

Happily by Sophie Tanner

I have received a free PDF copy of the book “Happily” by Sophie Tanner to review. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

Happily by Sophie Tanner

Here is the book blurb.

How far will you go for your Happily Ever After?

Chloe Usher’s had enough of being asked why she’s ‘still single’; people can’t seem to understand why she’s not freaking out about the slippery slope to spinsterhood. But, as far as Chloe’s concerned, life is sweet; she’s happy, she loves her job, her friends and her flat share next to Brighton beach. One summer evening, after being told that she will never know what love is until she has children, she decides to say ‘actually, I do!’ and announces to her friends that she’s going to marry herself. She’s not quite prepared for the huge reaction to her news on social media and finds herself thrust firmly into the public eye; suddenly she’s a spokesperson for every crazy cat lady out there. With the warm support of her colourful extended family, Chloe attempts to justify her self wedding and the events that unfold take her on a bumpy journey of self-discovery – making exciting new connections and settling old ghosts.

Well this is a story line that I have never come across before. Fairly near the beginning of the book, the main character Chloe decides to marry herself. She has the support of her friends and most of her family, although her dad thinks it is a crazy idea. Her news soon goes viral on social media and both TV and Woman’s Life magazine want a piece of her story. Everyone wants an invite to the wedding which she is holding at her uncle and aunt’s private beach in Devon, with her uncle doing the catering himself. However she gets very differing reactions from two of her ex-boyfriends, one negative and one positive. Chloe also ensures that the press give coverage to both the wild animal charity that she works for and to her uncle’s catering business. And not only is the wedding unusual, but the hen night is very different too.

Happily is available on Amazon, currently priced at 99p in Kindle format. I loved this book, especially as it is such an unusual unique storyline and highly recommend it. And I liked how all the other characters besides Chloe become so real for the reader.

Also I was interested and intrigued to find out that Sophie Tanner, the author has indeed married herself too, just like Chloe in the story.

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

Dressing up fun plus giveaway

Some of my regular followers will be aware that I enjoy comping as well as blogging. I recently won a £30 voucher on Melanie’s Fab Finds blog to spend at Tickled Pink Fancy Dress.

Great timing as both the boys need a costume after half-term. Son1 has an Egyptian day and son2 has an Invaders day. So I took a look at the Tickled Pink website to see what I could find for these themes. I quickly found a Viking Helmet for son2 but sadly there were no Egyptian costumes at all. Perhaps they will consider adding a Pharoah to their range, once they read this, as it comes up on the school curriculum every year. I’m sure the head-dress is probably beyond my crafting skills, although I did enjoy making a laurel wreath for son1 a year ago. You can see that here and I’ll probably re-use the rest of that outfit to complete son2’s viking look.

Tickled Pink Viking Helmet

The Viking Helmet is a very reasonable £2.99, which left most of my prize still to spend. So I had a browse round the costumes. There is plenty to choose from – onesies, Star Wars, Superheroes, Disney to name but a few. And not just kids costumes. There are a wide range of adult costumes too.

However in the end I decided that I would get the boys a couple of new Halloween outfits, as our existing ones are either really too small or secondhand. Particularly as son1’s chemo is due to finish in the summer, so this will be the first year that they get to go out Trick and Treating. I let the boys pick what they preferred, although we did experience some frustration over the inconsistent sizing guides. For some outfits, a kids medium is age 7-9 and a large is age 10-12 whilst for others, a medium is age 5-6 and a large 7-8. Therefore it was pointless trying to filter by size.

Tickled Pink Sinister Clown

In the end son1 chose the Sinister Clown at £9.99 whilst son2 chose the Skull and Bones Morphsuit at £21.99. Checkout process was very easy.

Tickled Pink Skull and Bones Morphsuit

And then a surprise happened. Alex from Tickled Pink, had spotted I was a blogger and liked my blogging style. I was sent a surprise extra free costume to review, a kids black Morphsuit for son1. This item currently retails at £11.99 compared to an RRP of £16.99 and is available in both kids and adult sizes plus a range of colours.

Tickled Pink Black Morphsuit

Wow, looks really effective and is well-made too. Although I wasn’t too sure about the prominent “Morphsuits” branding across the bottom. You can see through the material although your vision is impaired. And apparently you can drink through the material, but we didn’t test this out.

Tickled Pink morphsuit

Tickled Pink Black Morphsuit

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a £15 voucher for one lucky winner to spend at Tickled Pink. A great prize. What would you choose to spend it on?

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

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite fancy dress costumes.

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

Draw With Me – Favourite Books

My boys are very pleased to see that Draw With Me is back on “This Mummy Loves” blog after over a year’s gap. Draw With Me is a monthly linky for children and this month the theme is favourite books.

Both the boys love drawing. They tend to mostly draw characters from their favourite games, books, movies and tv programmes and then cut them out and role play with them. So favourite books is right up their street. And surprise, surprise, they both chose Minecraft books this time.

So Son1 has drawn Steve, complete with a diamond sword, which he tells me is the best. His favourite Minecraft books are the handbooks. He has Beginners, Combat and Redstone.

Steve from minecraft

Meanwhile son2 has drawn a Minecraft Bear. His favourite book is Stampy’s Lovely Book.

minecraft bear

All ready for him to cut out and join the rest of his Minecraft gang for some fun.

minecraft characters

I’d love to hear what your children love drawing or their favourite books.

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This post is an entry to Draw With Me.

A duo of Honeycomb desserts

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I sampled a Dark Chocolate Honeycomb Bar last month but there wasn’t enough to try out any recipes. Well Mighty Fine Honeycomb have now sent me a free bag of Salted Caramel Honeycomb Dips, so I was able to put my cooking hat on after all.

Mighty fine salted caramel honeycomb

My immediate thought was to make a chocolate honeycomb mousse, but of course I couldn’t do a traditional raw egg mousse recipe, as son1 isn’t even permitted to eat a runny boiled egg, let alone raw. So I decided to adapt and use mascapone cheese instead and then I increased my base recipe in order to make a cheesecake at the same time as well as the mousses.

Chocolate honeycomb mousse

Honeycomb Cheesecake

Honeycomb Cheesecake and Chocolate Honeycomb Mousses

Ingredients (both serve 4)

70g salted caramel honeycomb dips
250g mascapone cheese
300ml double cream
100g milk chocolate
6 digestive biscuits
40g margarine

Method

Line a 6 inch springform tin with greaseproof paper.
Put the digestives in a plastic food bag and crush into crumbs with a rolling pin.
Melt the margarine in a saucepan.
Mix in the crushed digestives.
Tip mixture into the tin and press down well.
Place in refrigerator for at least an hour before continuing with recipe.
Remove the base from the tin and place on serving plate.
Reposition just the side piece of the springform tin around the base.
Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt in a basin over a pan of boiling water.
Whip the cream in a large bowl.
Fold the mascapone cheese into the cream.
Use a blender to crush the honeycomb into shards.
Reserve some of the larger honeycomb shards and then mix the rest into the cream cheese mixture.
Remove the basin of melted chocolate from the heat.
Spread about 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture onto the base.
Mix the rest of the cream cheese mixture into the melted chocolate.
Spoon into 4 ramekin dishes.
Place cheesecake and mousses into refrigerator for at least several hours or overnight.
Just before serving, sprinkle reserved honeycomb shards over top of cheesecake and mousses.
Serve and enjoy.

honeycomb cheesecake and mousse

Both desserts were delicious, although we all agreed the mousses were best. However with hindsight I think the cheesecake could be improved with a few drops of vanilla essence.

And I did save a couple of salted caramel honeycomb dips for a larger neat taste. Just as excellent as the dark chocolate covered bar. Yummy.

Salted Caramel Mighty Fine Caramel

This product currently retails at £3.50 for a 90g pack and is also available in 50g bars and 220g gift packs. I highly recommend it. Do take a look at the range to see the other flavours.

As mentioned last time, I am also pleased to see that they donate 5% of profits to Friends of the Honey Bee, a campaign organised by the British Beekeepers Association to halt the decreasing number of Britain’s honey bees and other pollinators and build a better future for them.

The range is available to buy in-store at Harvey Nichols and at various local shops and delis, as well as online at www.mightyfine.co and www.notonthehighstreet.com.

I’d love to hear your favourite sweet treat.

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

The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham

Regular visitors to my blog will know I love relaxing with a good book, and then sharing a review here on my blog. Well I recently came across the website NetGalley whose purpose is to deliver digital advance reading copies (ARCs) to professional readers to help promote new and upcoming titles. I had a browse around the site before deciding to register.

Thinking about advance reading copies brought back happy memories of my introduction to adult fiction in my teens when I started reading Agatha Christie novels belonging to my Great Aunt. She had been a librarian and her shelves were stacked with plainly bound books that I discovered were advance copies. From Agatha Christie, I soon moved onto other murder mystery authors of the same period like Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham, borrowing them from my local library.

So when I spotted a Margery Allingham title on NetGalley that I hadn’t read, I knew this was what I wished to request first. It is The White Cottage Mystery which was Margery Allingham’s first detective story, originally written as a serial for the Daily Express in 1927 and published as a book a year later.

I downloaded the book from NetGalley to Kindle and settled down for a trip back in time.

The White Cottage Mystery

Here is the book blurb.

Eric Crowther collected secrets and used them as weapons. Delighting in nothing more than torturing those around him with what he knew, there is no shortage of suspects when he is found dead in the White Cottage. Chief Inspector Challenor and his son Jerry will have to look deep into everyone’s past – including the victim’s – before they can be sure who has pulled the trigger. The fact that Jerry is in love with one of the suspects, however, might complicate things.

This book followed the traditional detective story approach with the death occurring in the first chapter. With the help of his son Jerry, Chief Inspector W.T. Challenor commences interviewing the suspects who all seem to have a reason to hate the victim and no alibis. Jerry is quick to jump to conclusions, but they gradually discover the secrets and eliminate the suspects. So who killed Eric Crowther? I have to say I actually correctly guessed in just chapter 3, but still loved reading the rest of the story, as I was expecting to be proved wrong.

The White Cottage Mystery is available to pre-order a paperback copy on Amazon, currently priced at £5.99, compared to RRP of £7.99 or if you can’t wait it is already available on Kindle. I do recommend this book.

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

Guest post: What to Get for Father’s Day

What to Get for Father’s Day

Understated, underrated – wholeheartedly Dad.

Father’s day is fast approaching, as usual it’s crept up on us amidst the chaos of school term time. Don’t fret, there is still plenty of time for you and the kids to get something meaningful for Dad this time round. For those of you still wondering – it’s Sunday, June 19th.

Dads, universally – never seem to ask for anything, on any occasion. This makes them particularly difficult to buy for! Even if you know you’ve got him something truly awful, he’ll still smile wide and thank you lovingly for it. But not this year, we’re going to get him something he’ll really love. If you’re already stuck for ideas, have a look at some of the giveaways that have taken place on the blog, they always go down really well!

Boys will be boys, and there is no better example of this than seeing your son refuse to wear his coat on some of the rainiest days of the year. It’s no wonder where they get it from. Dads are effortlessly, infuriatingly cool. They’re the only person you know that could look that great in sandals, an otherwise eye-watering Hawaiian shirt and shorts. However, this often means that they underdress inappropriately for the muddy, rainy and snowy occasions – that’s where the kids learn it from. They want to be like Dad! (Understated, underrated – wholeheartedly Dad?)

If he had a brand new comfortable sailing jacket it would mean no more damp car seats. He’d look fantastic when he meets his mother in law and there is always a chance the kids would follow suit and wear their coats at school. It would also free up the time we’d usually spend putting another wash on to get the damp out – leaving us to enjoy an extra glass of rose.

baby-child-cute-dad-daddy-family

Image – https://pixabay.com/en/baby-child-cute-dad-daddy-family-22194/

Take him out for dinner. My other half is always so polite about where we go out to eat. As mums we’re always thinking about the kids. What time will we get back? How far away is it? Will they need a coat? Do they have any homework to do? He insists he “doesn’t mind what we eat” as he orders a goat’s cheese salad. Bearing in mind, this is the man that took you out for burgers on your first date!

Don’t be so quick to offload the children on your own parents though, remember its Father’s day for granddad too! Maybe there is a local restaurant that the whole family could enjoy. But remember, it has to be his choice this time. Even if the kids are there, express why we’re taking Dad out for dinner and how it’s respectful for them to behave on someone else’s special day.

They can still go wild on Father’s day cakes when you get home – if they’re not fast asleep in the back of the car that is!

We mums know better than anyone else how even the most meticulously planned days go horribly wrong. In which case, the above scenarios simply aren’t realistic. It might be best to spend the day inside and let him enjoy some gifts instead.

You know your other half best, of course. But here are a number of gifts that they might enjoy – depending on their personality.

Sporty

New football boots
Their favourite team’s football shirt – the new kits will be released soon!
A signed piece of memorabilia
Match day tickets for an upcoming game
A redeemable coupon that they can cash in for one free day at the pub with friends.

Musical

Put together a mixtape of his favourite tunes, throw a few sentimental ones in there too!
An iTunes gift card
Two tickets to a gig (you might have to offload the kids for this one)
A photo album of their favourite band.

Foodies

New carving cutlery
An iron cast pan – they last forever and are honestly incredible
A personalised apron
A selection of butchers cuts
A hamper of assorted craft beers and wines
An engraved hip flask

Geeky

A remote controlled quadcopter
Star Wars Blu-ray box set
A Game of Thrones bobble head for his desk at work
The Avengers Cufflinks
A great new book – I’ve done dozens of book reviews myself to help you out!

Fashionable

A new watch or watch winder
A gift card for the latest Nike shoes
A day for suit fitting at the local tailor.
Levi Jeans

That should be enough for the time being, we still have a month to prepare and we won’t forget, will we! Amongst the stress of daily life, bills, taxes and school runs it’s easy to forget the little things. But this is the man you want to spend the rest of your life with and whose experiences will shape the future of your children. I’m sure the children will remember how far a well thought out gift goes when it comes to them buying Father’s day gifts on their own.

Guest post by Will Chivers of ThoughtShift.

Apple & Blackcurrant Granola

I’ve just received a breakfast cereal with a difference free to review. This is Apple & Blackcurrant Granola from Sown & Grown. And what is different is that it comes in a tube rather than a box or bag. This has the advantage of a resealable lid to help retain freshness. A big bonus in my opinion, as although I have loads of bag clips, they all seem to be in use whenever I need one.

Sown & Grown Apple & Blackcurrant Granola

Sown & Grown is a new range of mueslis and granolas, gently baked or blended in small batches and made from 100% British grains. The whole range is high fibre, wholegrain, low salt, low fat and the mueslis are all low saturated fat.

Sown & Grown Apple & Blackcurrant Granola

Now I don’t usually weigh my cereal but for the purpose of this review, I measured out a 40g portion, as stated on the tube. It looked a lot less than I would usually eat, but I’ve experienced similar on previous cereal reviews. Perhaps small portion sizes quoted on packaging expect you to eat something else as well for breakfast like toast. But I prefer to just have a cereal, so in future I will stick to larger portion size.

Sown & Grown Apple & Blackcurrant Granola

I served it with milk but I think it would work well with yoghurt either. I loved the taste and texture and have no hesitation in highly recommending this product. However I also offered it to the boys, neither of whom would normally eat granola. Son2 refused to even try it, but son1 gave it a try. He only scored it a grudging okay though. I think he spotted the seeds, which are a no-no in his book. So stick to your kids’ usual cereal and save this yummy one for yourself.

Sown & Grown Apple & Blackcurrant Granola

Sown & Grown is available exclusively at Sainsburys and currently retails at £3.95 for a 450g tube. That is equivalent to about 36p for a 40g portion. There are two other flavours of granola – Three Grain and Nuts & Seeds. Plus three flavours of muesli in the range – Apple & Raspberry, Four Grain and Mixed Berry & Nut. I certainly plan to buy this one and try the rest of the range too.

Sown & Grown cereal range

Got this just at the right time, as with the lovely weather this week, it is time to relegate porridge until next winter.

I’d love to hear what you enjoy best for breakfast.

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

Bahlsen chocolate biscuits plus giveaway

There were huge smiles on the boys’ faces when they watched me open this parcel. It contained nine packets of Bahlsen biscuits free to review.

Bahlsen biscuits

I received a packet of each of the following Bahlsen products.
Choco Leibniz Caramel
Choco Leibniz Chocolate Orange
Choco Leibniz Dark Chocolate
Choco Leibniz Milk Chocolate
Choco Leibniz White Chocolate
PiCK UP! Black ‘N White
PiCK UP! Choco & Caramel
PiCK UP! Dark Chocolate
PiCK UP! Milk Chocolate

I’ve previously purchased Choco Leibniz Milk Chocolate several times but all the other varieties are new to me and I see from the packaging that the PiCK UP! Black ‘N White and PiCK UP! Dark Chocolate are new to the range too.

The PiCK UP! range contain 5 individually wrapped bars, which comprise a real bar of chocolate sandwiched between 2 biscuits. Ideal for a snack to give the boys when I pick them up from school. Meanwhile the Choco Leibniz range contain 9 unwrapped biscuits, which comprise a biscuit set against a bigger bar of real chocolate, to store in the cookie jar at home. And both the Choco Caramel varieties have that extra yummy caramel filling too.

We’ve been trying them out over the last couple of weeks and we have differing opinions as to our favourites, but consensus that we love them all. My personal favourite is the PiCK UP! Milk Chocolate.

Bahlsen biscuits

However there were a couple of breakages and the chocolate on a few biscuits was a little melted plus the caramel ones were oozing, but I assume this may have happened in transit as I always find the sorting office very hot whenever I go to collect mail. So hopefully shouldn’t experience this issue when you purchase in store. Certainly I haven’t in the past when I’ve bought Choco Leibniz Milk Chocolate.

Here is a larger photo of the worst affected packet.

Bahlsen biscuits

Bahlsen biscuits are stocked in most major supermarkets. My local branch of Sainsburys is currently retailing the Choco Leibniz at £1, normally £1.50 and the PiCK UP! at £1.60. They will certainly be going on my shopping list.

Win Bahlsen Choco Leibniz biscuits

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 5 packets of biscuits courtesy of Bahlsen to one lucky winner. That is one each of the Choco Leibniz flavours. A yummy prize.

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

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite biscuit.

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

Guest Post: Inspiration for the Andre Warner series

Guest post by Lex Lander, author of “End As An Assassin”.

End as an Assassin

I lived in France when I was young and wanted to write a story set in that country. The idea for a professional killer as the protagonist came from a French film entitled Le Samouri, starring Alain Delon, which I saw on TV a few years back, and partly I wanted my principal character to be an anti-hero, having read some old thrillers of my father’s written by James Hadley Chase whose protagonists were often on the wrong side of the law.

My father also wrote at an early age and his stories were always being discussed around the table with my mother and my brother. He didn’t take much notice of our input unfortunately, but when he was first published, in 1985, his delight new no bounds. Some of what motivates me must be genetic, plus the ideas garnered from the 2000-plus books we had in the house, over half of which were fiction, and most of those crime or suspense thrillers covering a period from the early 1930s to the present day as was. I read a fair proportion of them, and suppose I must have inculcated themes and ideas from what I read, though I can barely remember today.

When I wrote Another Day Another Jackal, the inspiration clearly came from Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal. I greatly admired this book, and some of the others that followed from his pen, and have to confess that the subject and the title I chose were a deliberate (some might say cynical) decision to exploit the market that Forsyth had created.

With the new series of thrillers – Andre Warner, Manhunter – there was no such guiding spirit. I sought to create a credible hero, with worries, insecurities, self-doubt, regrets, etc. I wanted to make him flawed through his profession and his relationships with women, which are mostly superficial and lead nowhere. In this I was following in the footsteps of writers such as Robert B Parker and Michael Connelly, but more so, notwithstanding that Warner is an outlaw, whereas Parker’s and Connelly’s protagonists are firmly on the side of the good guys. I have tried to make Warner unique – he kills for money, yes, but only villains. He despises himself, but when he tries to jump off the assassination treadmill his life becomes an empty void, meaningless and soul-destroying. Compensating with placebos such as drink, drugs, and sexual liaisons, doesn’t work, and he is forced back into killing just to give his life some sort of meaning.

In many ways he is a an older version of the mixed-up character played by James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause.

End As An Assassin Blog Tour

And you may read my review of Lex’s new book End As An Assassin here.