Thursday, 26 February 2015

The Ridiculously Good Gluten Free Brownie Recipe

It hasn't been that long since I posted a brownie recipe on my blog (The Healthy-ish Brownie Recipe) so you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm some sort of brownie fiend who needs my fix just like the cookie monster needs his. In actual fact it's not often any more that I get into the kitchen to bake up a batch of deliciousness but this is a recipe that needs to be shared.

Although I'm not gluten free it's always nice to have recipes on hand that have our food intolerant friends in mind and when I found this Nigella recipe (so you know it's going to be deliciously bad for you) for gluten free brownies I knew it was going to be a party-in-my-mouth situation and oh boy is it good.

You may wince at the ingredients listed as there's nothing remotely healthy about it but I'll be damned if it isn't the best dessert brownie I've ever baked. Check it out, whip it up and give it to all your gluten-free buds and prepared to become their most loved person ever.


225g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
225g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs (beaten)
150g ground almonds
100g chopped walnuts

Chocolate Sauce:
75g dark chocolate
125ml double cream
2tsp espresso powder
2tbsp hot water
1 tbsp golden syrup

To make the brownies
1. Preheat the over to 170 degrees C. Melt the chocolate and butter gently over a low heat.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the vanilla and sugar letting the mixture cool a little.
3. Beat the eggs into the pan along with the ground almonds and chopped walnuts. Pour into a 24cm baking tin.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, enough for the top to have set but the mixture to still be gooey. Once cooled cut into squares.

To make the sauce
1. Break the chocolate into a heavy based saucepan.
2. Dissolve the espresso powder into the water and add to the saucepan along with the remaining ingredients. Melt everything together on a gentle heat.
3. Stir well once everything has melted together and pour into a jug.

Serve brownie square with hot sauce and ice cream. Nom.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Excuses That Can Hold You Back From Blogging

If there is one thing I regret about blogging it would be that I didn't start doing it sooner. Today I wanted to address some of the silly excuses that I left myself be held back by from starting my own blog. If you are familiar with any of these than you know what it is like to have self doubt about starting something scary and new. If any of these excuses are holding you back, don't let them!

You are not an expert. I think the main reason I put off starting my blog was that I'm not an expert on writing about books or doing book reviews. I would see other book bloggers who would consume books within a day or two and worry that I didn't read enough to be a good book blogger. But I realised that some of my favourite bloggers aren't experts in their fields either, rather just normal people with a passion for sharing what they do know. The most important thing is that you do have an opinion on a subject. Chances are there will always be other people in the world that like and share your view on things even if its a beginners or novice view.

I don't know where to begin. Well I can't blame you for this one as in the beginning it does take a bit of time and effort in starting up a blog. I did a couple months worth of research and planning and tweaking of my blog before publishing my first post. An awesome blog I got a lot of practical advice from is Wonder Forest. Just Google anything you don't know how to do. There is bound to be a tutorial out there that can help.

My equipment isn't fancy. I would say the only things you really need to blog are a computer and a camera. They don't have to be fancy MacBooks or the best DSLR's when you first start. I blog using my iPad and my boyfriend's tough camera. Yes, it's not ideal and doesn't take the best photos in the world but I'm loathe to invest in an expensive camera before I could prove to myself that I wanted to blog for the long term. Natural lighting and a nice background or creatively posed photo can go a long way to making a great photo.

People will judge me. I read a great quote from JennyPurr's blog the other day which was 'You will be judged or you will be ignored.' Such is the nature of the internet. However, the vast majority of people reading blogs do so because they enjoy reading and sharing fabulous content. Don't let other people's opinions hold you back from doing something that could potentially be super awesome!

So, in short if you're not a blogger and want to blog what is stopping you? If you are a blogger did you have any excuses holding you back from beginning?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Authors To Note: Tracy Chevalier

When it comes to historical fiction (my favourite of genres to read) you really can't look further than Tracy Chevalier. Here are my favourite books from this much loved author:

Girl With A Pearl Earring. I mentioned in my favourites bookshelf that this is one of my most adored books of all time. The story captures the mundane and everyday life of a dutch servant girl who captures the eye of master painter Johannes Vermeer. This book whole heartedly captured my imagination and transported me fully into its 16th century surroundings.

Burning Bright. Thomas Kellaway and his family move from rural Dorset to the bustling streets of  London. Chevalier mixes history with fiction as she includes characters from real life including Philip Astley and William Blake, but it's her descriptions of London life, it's packed streets and colourful inhabitants that really bring this book to life.

Remarkable Creatures. The story of two women who make remarkable discoveries of fossils, buried beneath the earth millions of years ago. In an age where women weren't involved in the scientific community Chevalier's female characters fight to have their discoveries noticed and accredited to them.

Falling Angels. Chevalier captures the suffragette movement as women fought for the right to vote. Told from multiple points of view Falling Angels captures the difficulties in this mother-daughter relationship and the careful balance relationships are built on.

Have you read anything by Tracy Chevalier?


Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Love Story for the Non-Romantics: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Landline by Rainbow Rowell is really a book about second chances, as the tagline 'If you got a second chance at love, would you make the same call?' tells us on the front cover. This is a love story for the realists and the non-romantics which kicks off many years after most romance stories take place - after the fireworks have subsided.

Georgie McCool's marriage is in big trouble. After one too many work commitments taking precedence over their family, Georgie's husband Neal packs up their family and leaves to spend Christmas day in Omaha. In the week before Christmas, alone and fearing for the break up of her marriage Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. She has one week to not only write a full season's sitcom script (her reasons for staying behind in LA over Christmas) but to figure out how to either fix her marriage in the future or make sure it never happened.

Georgie and Neal are two people who fell in love once, long ago and have slowly drifted apart. Through conversations with Neal in the past, Georgie paints a not-so-pretty-picture of how their relationship has ground to a halt. The characters for me are what really cemented this novel as top-notch. Neither Georgie or Neal are perfect - Georgie has often neglected her family for work and has a close relationship with her male writing partner Seth which adds to the tension in her marriage while Neal has given up a career for their family but is directionless in his own life wants and needs. 

It was refreshing to read about two people who weren't the answer to each other's problems and didn't need saving. For a romance story to focus on choosing whether to stay together (or not) and to make a relationship work is a lot closer to the reality of love for many people and what made this book so relatable. 

I'd love to know if you've read this book and what you thought of it?!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Collected Works of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Within the first three pages of reading The Collected Works of AJ Fikry I knew I was going to love this book. For a reasonably short book at 243 pages, Gabrielle Zevin manages to squeeze years of life into her characters and she knows their personalities inside and out. This is a book really driven by its characters rather than its plot which makes reading it a delightful discovery of each characters story.

The first character we are introduced to is Amelia, a book rep who travels to Alice Island on a seasonal basis to sell her book list to AJ Fikry. AJ Fikry is a book store owner who never buys anything that Amelia suggests. He is both rude and a border-line alcoholic whose wife died in tragic circumstances and AJ is still mourning her death. Maya is the baby who is left in AJ Fikry's bookshop and whose mother is found in the icy waters of Alice Island a few weeks after abandoning her.

This is the type of novel that could have had no plot whatsoever and it would go unnoticed as just spending time in the presence of Amelia and AJ is enough keep me entertained. I assure you it does have a plot though as AJ soon finds there are people both new and familiar to him that work their way into his life and he soon discovers that he wants to keep them closer.

What struck me and made me love this novel was just how extraordinarily ordinary Gabrielle Zevin's characters are. Ordinary because their story is small, involving only a handful of people and the events that take place at Fikry's bookshop are neither earth shattering or action packed but extra-ordinary because it's so rare to read a book with characters whose lives are so real and stories so full.

Delve into The Collective Works of AJ Fikry because for a while at least, you will feel like you are part of their tiny world on Alice Island and by the time you close the final page you will have cried and laughed and already feel like you should start reading again.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Harper Lee Has A New Novel Coming Out...And It's Going To Be Amazing

So, in what is pretty much some of the best news to grace the book loving community, Harper Lee author of To Kill A Mockingbird is set to release a new novel and I for one am pretty excited.

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favourite and most read novels EVER so the news that Go Set A Watchman will feature characters from To Kill A Mockingbird is pretty epic to say the least. The book will feature the much adored character of Scout, twenty years on as she travels back to Maycomb to see her father Atticus.

Apparantly Lee started writing the novel decades ago but when To Kill A Mockingbird was released she abandoned the project. The fact that she started writing it not long after To Kill A Mockingbird makes me think that this sequel will have a really strong voice much like its predecessor and kind of makes me even more excited to read it.

With favourite books and authors there is always a feeling of trepidation when they start something new or a little different (in this case a sequel to one of the most classics of books in the world and also a fifty year time gap makes me a little nervous) but I for one will most definitely be pre-ordering a copy and putting To Kill A Mockingbird back onto my list of titles to re-read again this year.

Are you a fan of Harper Lee? Will you be reading Go Set A Watchman? Is this the best news ever?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Not Just For Children Bookshelf

Delightful, innocent, nostalgic, whatever your minds jumps to when you think back to your favourite childhood books I love the fact that just thinking of those simple words on a page can bring back fond memories. Whether you are reading these titles to a little person or just enjoying them for yourself here are my favourite children's books that in my opinion are just as enjoyable for adults, no matter your age.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The fact that this book is such a mind-trip lends itself well to being read by adults. Getting lost inside Carroll's bizarre world with Alice can take on an entirely new perspective when read as an adult.

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling. I love that kids are still discovering the magic of the Harry Potter series just as strongly as when it was first released. I was the same age as Harry throughout all the books and it really felt like growing up with a character. Easily the most read series of books in my collection and one that I have read more times as an adult than as a teenager.

Winnie The Pooh by A.A Milne. Before Pooh bear was Disney-fied he was a lovingly hand-drawn teddy bear who spent his days getting up to mischief in the hundred acre wood waiting for Christopher Robin to come home from boarding school. The illustrations alone are reason enough to pick up this book and get all nostalgic over these much loved characters. The drawings of piglet and pooh are some of my favourite.

The Collective Works of Roald Dahl. The Twits, The Witches (most terrifying movie of my childhood), George's Marvellous Medicine, Dahl's mix of humour and ick factor are what make them so adored by children and a total crack up for adults to read.

The Collective Works of Dr Seuss. You may be fooled into thinking that Dr Seuss' catchy rhymes are all fun and word games but there's some pretty powerful and positive messages going on here too. Like 'Oh The Places You'll Go' is a great reminder that you can do anything and go anywhere that you put your mind to or the environmental warning in The Lorax about not cutting down all the trees and totally effing up our environment for a profit. Yep, powerful stuff.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Confessions of A Book Blogger

Whether they be annoying habits that you have as a reader or just things born out of habit I thought I would explore some of my book related quirks.

Not being able to not finish a book. I have a real problem with just leaving a book midway through, even if it really sucks I feel loathe to just abandon it. I'm like this with movies too, it pains me to not know the endings to even sucky things. 

Judging books by there covers especially if they look 'old'. If we aren't supposed to judge them by their cover then why, prey tell do they even have cover art in the first instance? My habit of judging books by their covers especially when it comes to picking up anything that looks like it's historically set actually fares me pretty well. It's also the reason I hardly pick anything up that is pink or overly girly looking.

Re-reading books. I see my bookshelf as a set of old friends (okay not literally, I am not that sad and friendless) that I can invite back into my life time and again, sentimental non? Seriously though if I think a book is brilliant once it's usually just as brilliant the fourth or fifth time. 

Being picky about the books I buy. I'm actually an avid library user and don't buy every book I read. Usually through my trusty judgement skills (see point two) I can deduce which books will earn a lofty spot on my bookshelf.

I don't actually have a bookshelf. Due to renovations of our humble abode, hating to own too much furniture and the fact that half of my books live in storage in New Zealand, *breathe* my current books reside in a sad looking banana box. I know, book bloggers everywhere shed a tear. 

I will always be pro paper. (Because one day I will sort my shit out about that bookcase and my books will be on display.) But curse my boyfriends kindle every time we travel and I am lugging my books to the airport. I took three paperbacks to Borneo for the week. There is something not right about that.

So, it's time for you to come clean, what are your bad book habits?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

February New Release Books

Forget roses and chocolates this Valentines Day, what your significant other should be looking at is a really good book if they want to impress you. Take a look at these new releases for February:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. In war torn occupied France, two sisters Isabelle and Vianne are surviving as best they can through different but equally trying circumstances. Vianne's husband leaves to join the troops at the front and she is forced to take an enemy into her home. Isabelle is betrayed in love and her heartbreak compels her to fight for the resistance. An epic novel that tells the not often seen perspective of women during WW2.

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes. A short read at only 92 pages from this best selling author of Me Before You. Nell's planned mini-break to Paris doesn't quite go to plan when her boyfriend fails to show up for their trip. At 26 Nell has never been the adventurous type but her weekend away solo might just be the trip she needs to change her spirit.

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon. Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon writes a rich and compelling memoir about her journey from girl to woman during her years leading up to and during Sonic Youth. From men, marriage and music Gordon opens up about what it was like to be a woman embarking on a journey of rock and roll.

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