Cookbooks: December 2016 – January 2017


Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, although the weather here in the UK has been milder than expected, it has generally been cold and miserable. So I have definitely still be in the mood for hearty, comforting food. First up, soup:

Red Lentil and Bacon Soup
Hairy Dieters 4 – Soups and Starters – Page 47

A hearty, comforting soup of bacon and red lentils with a good, healthy portion of onion, pepper and ‘super food’ sweet potato in too. Really easy to make and one bowl filled me up nicely which left 4 portions to freeze, so yummy work lunches too!


I also re-made the  Hairy Bikers’ Golden Vegetable Soup (twice!) and Jamie Oliver’s Happy Frumpy Minestrone, which made for wonderfully warming lunches.

Then I find there is nothing more comforting and warming than a hot and spicy one-pot of goodness, so I tried these new recipes:

Vegetable Curry
Hairy Dieters 3 – Friday Night Suppers – Page 60

A super simple dish to make with a lovely blend of onions, aubergine, courgette, mushrooms and green beans cooked in a simple, tomato curry sauce. Which is tasty, full of fibre and very good for the waistline. Could be served as a main with rice, as I did for me and my vegetarian friend, or as a side to a meat dish.


Chilli Con Carne
Hairy Dieters 1 – Pasta & Rice – Page 163

A rich, meaty dish with a delicious mixture of herbs and spices: chilli powder, cumin, coriander, oregano and bay. This recipe helpfully had the option to make this hot or mild; I went hot! A simple recipe with great results – I will definitely be making chilli this way again.


Coconut Prawn Curry
Hairy Dieters 1 – Fakeaways – Page 143

A lighter version of a Keralan curry, which is a Hairy Biker favourite. I have never eaten one before so wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out it is yummy with a creamy, tangy, sweet flavour and super simple to make. The recipe calls for medium curry paste – I am tempted to go hotter next time I make it!


(Keralan Chicken Curry – I edited the above prawn curry, with the help of a recipe out of the Co-op magazine, to make a hotter chicken version. ***)

Mushroom Rice
Hairy Dieters 2 – Along Sides – Page 179

When I have a naughty take-away curry I love to have mushroom pilau rice with it, so I was thrilled to find a lighter version from the Hairy Bikers. Super simple to make and absolutely scrumptious – I served it alongside the Keralan Chicken Curry above.


So pleased with all the recipes I have tried over the last two months and I look forward to many more. I am also excited about reading my new cookbook: Jamie’s 30-minute Meals By Jamie Oliver.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated/Hidden Gems


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So

It is left up to us if we want it to be those published in the past year or just any underrated book we’ve read recently – I am going for the latter as I rarely read books the year they were published. Here is my list of ten underrated/hidden gems I read last year (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

A House Divided by Margaret Skea


Historical fiction set during the reign of the young James VI in Scotland, that I doubt I would have heard of if the author hadn’t contacted me. This is the sequel to Turn of the Tide.

~ 2 ~

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Reaper of Stone

The first novella in a fantasy thread of the Echo of the Ascended series which was newly released last year. I also read the sequel Broken Banners.

~ 3 ~

Barton-in-the-Dale series by Gervase Phinn

The School Inspector Calls!

A charming series of books based around a small village school, which I was recommended by a family friend and I have seen passed on to my mum. I have read 3 of the 4 books so far.

~ 4 ~

Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Best Left in the Shadows

The first novella in a crime noir thread of the Echo of the Ascended series which was newly released last year. I also read the sequel Civil Blood.

~ 5 ~

Blood on the Bayou by D. J. Donaldson


A bloody mystery with a supernatural set in the Deep South of America, that  I doubt I would have heard of if the publisher hadn’t contacted me.

~ 6 ~

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson


An inspiring Christian non-fiction which I read for my church’s first book club meeting.

~ 7 ~

Innocence by Dean Koontz


A gripping thriller with a touch of the supernatural that I was lent by my dad., although by a famous author not a book I heard people talk about before.

~ 8 ~

Master of Shadows by Neil Oliver

Master of Shadows

Historical fiction and debut novel of historian and TV presenter Neil Oliver. Who knew he could write novels too?!

~ 9 ~

The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

The Romanovs

Non-fiction which chronicles the Romanov royal dynasty (1613 to 1917), that could have been forgotten if it hadn’t been republished by Endeavour Press in 2015.

~ 10 ~

The Villa in Italy by Elizabeth Edmondson

The Villa in Italy

A sweeping, romantic mystery set on the beautiful Italian coast, that I may never have read if it was not for an sale.

What underrated/hidden gems have you read recently? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas


Last year, I read Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of Oakes’ new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s ‘Neverland’, and I didn’t have to wait long to read this, Volume 2: Seas, released later the same year. I actually finished reading this at the very end of last year but I have only just got round to sharing my full thoughts on it.

In the last book, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan through their nursery window, past the stars and on to Neverland! A fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. However, Wendy discovered all was not at all as it appeared which forced her to flee with her youngest brother, Michael, in tow. Only to discover, at the beginning of this book, that they have fallen straight into the clutches of the dreaded Captain Hook aboard his fearsome pirate ship, Sudden Night. Now Wendy must negotiate pirate feuds, mermaids and spies whilst also hiding from Peter, who will stop at nothing to get her back.

As a female myself, it is nice to see Oakes choosing to tell her re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who in the first book, I found to be naïve and emotional weak – I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake – yet she was also kind and had the potential for more. I am thrilled to say Wendy did grow as a character in this second book. Although her old faults were still there she did also show more strength, intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when trying to protect her adorable little brother Michael. Whilst thankfully her other brother, the thoroughly dislikeable John, stays with Peter so we don’t have to see him much.

While I can’t always say I ‘like’ Oakes re-imagined characters, I can say they are more realistic and much better fleshed out than the originals. And, none is a better example of this than the infamous Captain Hook, who we meet for the first time in this book. I was expecting something different as Oakes has already given us a twisted, maniacal Peter, which to be fair if you were stuck as a boy forever you would probably become pretty crazy too! Yet Oakes hasn’t chosen to give us a completely good, hidden hero in Hook. Instead she has given us a well-balanced and interesting character with nuances of light and dark – who I think is my new favourite.

Previously I have read and loved another of Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s ‘Wonderland’. While I have not loved this new series quite as much as the previous these are still very enjoyable books. With the beautiful description I have come to expect from Oakes. I really could imagine the roaring seas, gleaming beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, the intoxicating Mermaid Cove and Hook’s awe-inspiring Fallen Night with its macabre bone staircase.

Overall, Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas was another enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of ‘Neverland’. I hope volume 3 of this and the Queen of Hearts series come out soon! Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books inspired by ‘Neverland’?

Adaptations: December & Christmas 2016


Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I’ve watched on the big and small screen through December and over the festive period:

Shadowlands (1993)
Film     Television

A beautiful biopic of C S Lewis’ passionate but doomed love affair with American poet Joy Gresham. Directed by the late, great Richard Attenborough and starring the equally great Anthony Hopkins. Not technically an adaptation, however I thought it a worthy mention as these events heavily influenced Lewis’ later writing. Warning: tear jerker!


Poldark (Series 2)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

A BBC costume drama which follows Captain Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) and his family; based on the books by Winston Graham. A harrowing and stark tale of mining, smuggling, love, death and war in 1700’s Cornwall. Brought to life by a strong ensemble cast, with stunning scenery and beautiful costumes.


Doctor Strange (2016)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

This is the 14th film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which introduces us to acclaimed surgeon Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). Who after losing the use of his hands in an accident travels across the world to learn the mystic arts. Another fun, action-packed superhero blockbuster with stunning visuals and a touch of surrealism.


Black Sails (Series 2)
Read     TV Series     Television

The exciting second series of this swashbuckling prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which follows the fearsome Captain Flint and newcomer John Silver as they try to get their hands on the gold of the Urca de Lima, a Spanish treasure galleon. A rip-roaring adventure with some beautiful settings, bloody battles and some adult content.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)
Not Read     Film     Digital Copy

Superhero comedy sequel to the 2014 film; inspired by the characters from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series. Shredder and his new sidekicks, Bebop and Rocksteady, are causing havoc and mayhem all over town, and only our ‘heroes in a half-shelf’ can stop them! Not a ground breaking film but it is a fun, spectacular CGI bonanza.


The Jungle Book (2016)
Read     Film     Television

Visually stunning live action/CGI film based on Rudyard Kipling’s short-story collection and inspired by Disney’s 1967 film. That follows the young, man-cub Mowgli in his adventures with his animal friends, but not everything in the jungle is friendly! Utterly charming and simply beautiful.


Then on the lead up to Christmas I enjoyed re-watches of Alfred Hitchcock’s atmospheric classic Rebecca (1940) and childhood favourite Hook (1991). Then over the festive holiday I enjoyed re-watches of Christmas favourites The Grinch (2000) and all of the Harry Potter films. So altogether that’s 16 adaptations and 1 honorary mention watched!

As for non-adaptations, I watched ITV’s sumptuous period drama Tutankhamun (2016), HBO’s amazing new science-fiction series, Westworld (2016) and the BBC’s super gripping The Missing (Series 2). I also went to the cinema to see the absolutely awesome Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).

Have you watched any of these? What did you watch over Christmas?

New Books: December & Christmas 2016


Hello my fellow bookworms, the number of acquisitions has gone up a fair bit from my saintly three review copies in November, however it was Christmas! If you can’t treat yourself then, when can you?! Here’s what I added to my Kindle and bookshelf over the festive period:

Runemarks by Joanne M Harris

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

Six Tudor Queens: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

First up, I was lucky enough to be approved on Netgalley for these three novels from three female authors I have read and enjoyed before. Which are also from two of my favourite genres: fantasy and historical fiction. Happy days!

The Sacred Scarred by Joanna Alonzo

I also accepted a review copy, from the author, of this novel, which was described as a modern-day, Christian retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Sounds like it should be just up my street.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

Next, I won a copy of this from the lovely Lynn from Lynn’s Book Blog. It arrived just before Christmas – an early Christmas present if you like.

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

Then, I ordered a copy of this Christian non-fiction from the Book Depository via Amazon, which is the January read for my church’s book club. I’ve never read this author before, but I am a few chapters in now and I am enjoying it so far.

The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Jamie’s 30-minute Meals By Jamie Oliver

Finally, I treated myself to these in the WH Smith’s sale that started just after Christmas. I love Jamie Oliver however his cookbooks tend to keep their value, usually retailing for £20+, so I was thrilled to find 30-minute Meals for £6! I have also previously enjoyed Elizabeth Fremantle.

Now you may well be thinking ‘but Jessica what books did you get for Christmas?’. Well, while I did receive some book related gifts, like a Harry Potter tote bag, I actually received no actually books! Let’s not be down-hearted though, I did use my Christmas money to buy the last two books and my birthday is coming up soon too.

Do you fancy any of these? Did you receive any books this Christmas?

The Classics Club: The Man in the Iron Mask


In 2014 I was swept away by the sweeping, romantic French classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Skipping the lesser known D’Artagnan romances, I decided to continue my journey with D’Artagnan, and his friends Aramis, Porthos and Athos in the later and better known The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas.

Our new tale opens some three or four decades after the adventures of the Three Musketeers, who have now all retired leaving only D’Artagnan, as Captain of the King’s Musketeers, in loyal service to the corrupt King Louis XIV. However unbeknownst to D’Artagnan his old friend Aramis, with the help of trusting Porthos, is the instigator of a treasonous plot to bring about the replacement of the inept king and an audacious break out from the Bastille of a mysterious young man; who has been secretly imprisoned most of his life with no known charge or reason.

The plot is both complicated and thrilling, and yet the actually mystery of ‘the Man in the Iron Mask’ is resolved within the first half of the novel. But it is to have long reaching consequences that ripple out through the rest of the novel. Which will send D’Artagnan out first in hot pursuit of former financier Fouquet and finally against his own friends, Aramis and Porthos, who are held out at the heavily fortified Belle Isle. Now at this point you may be wondering where is Athos?! Athos’ part in this story is a sad and lonely one, as he faces the departure and longs for the return of his only son, Raoul, who has journeyed to North Africa with the Duc de Beaufort. Which leaves him separated from his old friends and sorely missing from the action.

As with The Three Musketeers, this is a highly detailed tale with wordy, eloquent speeches and many interesting characters and threads which again swept me back to 17th century France for more adventures and intrigue. I did feel though there was less of the romance about these adventures and more of the cold, hard realities, such as: death, disgrace, ruin and heartache. This is a powerful, gripping read but the sadder tone and the fact I missed my favourite character, Athos, made this not quite as an enjoyable read as The Three Musketeers.

Overall, The Man in the Iron Mask is a gripping historical adventure full of political intrigue, betrayal and loyalty. There are other D’Artagnan romances by Dumas, which I am seriously tempted to go back to now. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of the other D’Artagnan tales?

The Classics Club – 48/50
What’s in a Name 2016 – An item of clothing (4/6)

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017


Hello my fellow bookworms, it is time to say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016, and what better way to do that than with a few reading stats:

Books Read: 55           New Reads: 51              Re-Reads: 4

Fiction: 43                Non-Fiction: 12

In 2015 I finished 62 books so I am down this year. This might be because while my fiction reading is pretty much like for like my non-fiction reading has almost halved. However, I am still very pleased with the amount and the quality of books I read. Now for some fun meme categories to help me reflect on what I’ve been reading in 2016:

  • Best Fiction A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
  • Best Non-Fiction The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles
  • Best Classic Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Best Re-ReadThe Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis
  • Best Series You Discovered Psammead by Edith Nesbit, Echo of the Ascended by Mark Gelineau and Joe King and Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes.
  • Favourite New-To-Me Authors – Margaret Skea and Elizabeth Gaskell.
  • Most Memorable Character – The clever and hilarious Mark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir.
  • Most Read Genre – Fantasy (18), Classics (12), Mystery (10) and Historical Fiction (6)
  • Multiple Reads of an Author – M. C. Beaton (2), Elizabeth Gaskell (2), Mark Gelineau & Joe King (4), Deborah Harkness (2), Edith Nesbit (3), Colleen Oakes (2), Stormie Omartian (2), Gervase Phinn (2), Margaret Skea (2)
  • Ambitions for 2017 – I would really like to make more time for re-reading old favourites and reading new books by favourite authors.

What did you read in 2016? Any ambitions for 2017?