Friday, 16 May 2014

Book Snacks! Homemade Cereal Bars

So recently I've picked up a love of baking. When I can't sit still long enough to read, I find channeling my energy into baking very therapeutic. I've decided to share a few of my favourite recipes here on the blog, because books and food go pretty darn well together!

Today I'm going to share my recipe for homemade cereal bars. This is by far the thing I make the most often. I was looking for a healthier alternative to the shop bought ones which are filled with all kinds of junk. I take these to work to keep me fuelled up, but they're perfect as a mid-morning snack with a cup of tea and a good book!

I adapted the recipe from this one I discovered online (I'll link back to the original one when I can find it again!). I had to make some tweaks to get the ingredients into grams and have also tweaked the amounts and ingredients to my taste.

150g porridge oats
160g wholemeal flour
150g dried fruit*
3/4 tsp cinnamon
170g honey
50g olive oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Margarine (for greasing)

* I find plump sultanas work best (as opposed to rasisins) as they stay soft, but this part of the recipe can be adapted to whatever you have lying around! I've used chopped up dried apricots which work well too. For a sweet treat you can add glace cherries.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees (fan oven).
Grease a 8inch x 8inch square tin.
Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly.
Pour mixture into the tin, spread out and press down with the back of the spoon or a spatula.
Bake for 15 minutes approx.
Leave to cool for five minutes then cut into bars or squares.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

"Recently Read" Round Up! Reviews of Wintergirls, The Elites, Independent Study

I've been a bit behind with reviews lately, despite having finished a few books, so to catch up I've given you three reviews for the price of one! Here are three of the books I've read recently with a mini-review of each one. I hope you enjoy!

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: 19th March 2009 (Marion Lloyd)
Pages: 278
Rating: 5*

My thoughts: I was both excited and nervous to read this book. I'd heard amazing things about the author but had never read any of her books. I've also known a few people close to me with eating disorders so reading a book about a girl battling an ED was something I wanted to do but was also hesistant of. Would it be accurate? Would it be emotional? With this book it was both.

Halse Anderson has written an incredibly honest book which I could instantly recognise as something that has been well researched and beautifully executed. The book is written from main character Lia's POV and you get to read some of her deepest and darkest thoughts as she battles against anorexia. I was relieved to find it wasn't sugar coated or sensationalised or made to be anything that it's not, it was just one very honest and open account of a girl's fight to stay alive.

I loved the relationships between the characters and I think a lot of people will relate to Lia's family situation. There were a fantastic range of personalities that stirred up every emotion, from rage, to making your heart melt! It wasn't always an easy read but it's one that comes highly recommended, and I can't wait to read more by this author.

The Elites by Natasha Ngan
Published: 5th September 2013 (Hot Key Books)
Pages: 368
Rating: 4*

My thoughts: I'd been dying to read this book and it had been sitting on my wishlist for a while, so when I spotted it for a bargain price I just had to snatch it up. The Elites follows Silver - an Elite working to protect the council. Set in a futuristic city cut off from the outside, residents are fitted with birthchips that can used to be track activity.

A lot of my love for this book comes from my love of Silver, who is a wonderful main character. The author has managed to make you really root for her. She's a bit of an underdog for a few reasons. She makes a few mistakes which made her instantly relatable - I like it when characters mess up and aren't perfect all the time! She's also victimised for being a  "Red" - someone of Chinese ethnicity. The Elites does a great job at tackling racism and portraying discrimination in Silver's society.

There's a fantastic range of characters, both good and bad (and some you're not sure about!). I really liked Butterly, although he was the one character I wished I knew more about. The book jumps around so you get to see lots of people's points of view which I liked. It gave you a chance to see all sides of what was happening which really ramped up the tension. Each chapter has a title which gave you a hint of what was to come. I liked this little touch most of the time, but there were maybe a few instances where it gave away something that could have been a surprise.

The writing in The Elites was beautiful and atmospheric. It was the perfect novel to escape into. It's one of those books where the descriptions of the food leave you salivating! I'd definitely read more by this author. A must for dystopian fans.

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
Published: 1st January 2014 (Templar)
Pages: 383
Rating: 4*

This is the second book in The Testing series so I'd shy away from this mini-review if you haven't read book one!

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed The Testing so I was excited to start on the sequel, which sees Malencia Vale face the new challenges of university, as well as the gruelling tests that come with it.

Firstly, it was great to be reunited with Cia. I loved her in book one because she's so incredibly smart, and once again she gets a chance to shine in Independent Study. The book is set after the Testing as she moves on to university with the hope of gaining an internship in her preferred specialty. As with all sequels, I was worried it would feel a bit repetitive. But with Independent Study, it really felt like a progression. The challenges Cia must face are bigger and you see her under pressure. She also has to face more moral dilemmas as well which was interesting to see.

I loved the growing sense of unease and rebellion throughout the book. It's not in your face like it is in some other dystopian novels I've read. It's very subtle and leaves Cia having to figure a lot out for herself. The pacing was spot on as the book gradually builds up the tension. You know something is coming but you don't know what. There were several twists that took me completely by surprise, so the pay off for waiting was well worth it. Those who read the previous book will know there are things Cia needs to rediscover, so that really helped ramp up the tension as she tries to figure out just what has happened to her in the past.

Once again there are a great bunch of characters, with Cia meeting new people at university. Trying to figure out who was trustworthy was just as hard for me as it was for Cia! In fact one of my favourite things about Cia is that she doesn't really care about what other people think, she goes with her own judgment and relies on herself a lot rather than other people. I think Charbonneau has done a great job at making Cia likable and warm, despite the fact she focuses on herself a lot. It's never a bad thing. I enjoyed the continued relationship with Tomas and her interactions with new characters such as Ian.

The writing in this book was just as impressive as the first. I love how smart and clever everything is. I've only marked it down a star compared to the first book due to the fact I loved that one so much, but this comes a very close second. I think the only thing I could mention that brought the rating down was maybe the pacing as it took a little while for the action to get underway. Overall this is a series I've loved being part of.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Book Haul! 14th May

Instead of having regularly weekly posts discussing what books I've bought, I thought I'd just do a little round up as and when I have something to talk about. I've picked up a few books this week so I thought I'd share them!

Firstly, I won an advance proof copy of James Dawson's new thriller Say Her Name from Luna's Little Library (thank you!). I'm a huge fan of James Dawson having loved his previous books Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer. I also met him at Leakycon last year and had the chance to chat with him and get books signed. I was delighted that this copy I won was signed as well as it means I have a full set! I can't wait to read the book.

I also got two awesome bookmarks signed by Erin Lange. I'd been looking at Butter in a bookshop recently so I might have to sneak back and get it!

I also picked up Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy from a charity shop this week. I read Northern Lights when I was quite young and didn't enjoy it, but when I picked up the next two books in my teens I adored them. Unfortunately my copies got thrown out years ago so I've been meaning to replace them! I've been wanting to re-read the first book now I'm a bit older as I think I was just too young to enjoy it first time round, and I haven't read the whole trilogy together before so I'm excited to do that.

Plus how gorgeous are these covers?! I love them! I couldn't resist a matching set.

Have you picked up any books lately? I'd love to hear if you have!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (#26): Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and gives bloggers the chance to highlight upcoming releases we're excited about.

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
Published: 1 June 2014 (Templar)
Buy the book: Amazon|Hive|Waterstones

Why I'm Waiting: I just finished Independent Study so I'm dying to get my hands on the next installment! This has been one of my favourite dystopian series because I adore the incredibly smart writing and brilliant twists. I love Cia as a character and can't wait to see what happens next. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Teaser Tuesdays (6th May): The Elites by Natasha Ngan

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: • Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Something about what he'd just said felt wrong to Silver. She felt her heart twist."

- page 257, The Elites by Natasha Ngan

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