Saturday, 23 March 2019

Fab freebies of the week 23/3

It's the weekend ... and it's sunny ... and the flowers are springing into bloom. That all sounds like great news to me. Hope things are just as bright wherever you are. Here's this week's fab freebie roundup to start off the weekend in a good mood !


Complete the form below to get your free T-shirt and learn what’s important in technology and innovation, delivered right to your inbox. Pick out the one you want, and Mouser will send it straight to your bench.

Apply to be one of 650 lucky hosts to get their hands on a HUGE haul of goodies from SPAR, including food, drink and a license to grill! Every host's SPARbecue Kit will include £150 worth of food and drink, plus fun games and chances to win BIG prizes. Chosen hosts will need to pick up their SPARbecue Kit from a local SPAR store.

Caboodle are giving 100 Caboodlers the chance to read Melanie Golding's riveting and addictive Little Darlings, before it's out in May.

Take the Tempur challenge and receive a free Tempur Comfort Travel Pillow, available at participating Tempur stores.

Join Nick Jr's Fan Club today and you could grab yourself one of 1,000 welcome packs just for signing up.

PREFUNC is a herbal tea shot that lets you function like normal the day after a big night out.
Love the sound of PREFUNC but want to try it out to make sure it works for you? No problem. Buy our trial pack – a convenient pack of 2 bottles which will cover you for one night. Just take 1 shot at the beginning of your night, and a 2nd after 4 hours or before the end of your night.
Great night. Better tomorrow. (Use code "500FREE" for free product with free delivery.)

From McDonald's : Enter for a chance to win 1 of 150 Fun Football Training Packs, each Fun Football Training Pack comprised of 2 x size 3 Footballs & 1 x set of 10 cones.

Looking to try a free sample of Underdog coffee? Just leave your contact details below and let us know if you want ground or whole beans and we’ll send it out to you.

GET A FREE PERSONALISED KEYRING when you subscribe to our email list! (Wait for the pop-up when you go to enter their giveaway)

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 22 March 2019

Book review : Love's Long Road - G.D. Harper

Last month, I reviewed A Friend In Deed by J.D. Harper, which is the second book in a three-part series, but which works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel. The author kindly offered to send me a copy of the first book, Love's Long Road, so I've recently been catching up on what went before.

While the second novel - A Friend In Deed - is set in the near future, Love's Long Road takes place in the 1970's, mainly in Scotland and partly in London. The key character in this novel, Bobbie Sinclair, pops up in the second episode, and the main character in the second part, Duncan Jones, is Bobbie's friend in this opening tome. The two novels are very different though and Duncan has evolved a lot.

The story opens with young Bobbie at her boyfriend's funeral, following his suicide after she broke things off with him. Bobby blames herself and her way of dealing with things is to throw herself into a string of meaningless sex encounters. This is the 1970's after all ! She soon crosses paths with the charismatic Michael Mitchell and embarks on a relationship with him. She gets some fun, a job, a few doors opened ... then the shock of her life when she realises that he is a gangster and she is in way too deep. Her dreams of being an actress are thrown away as she runs away and starts a new life, desperate to keep him and everything he stands for at bay.

Bobbie is basically a decent human being with a good heart, but many of her life choices had me rolling my eyes at her. Whether in terms of sex, drugs or other rock 'n' roll style choices, we do have to remember, though, that the novel is set in the 1970's, a time when women, in particular, 
were getting lots more opportunities both in the workplace and also for having fun. The novel shows the tragic and far-reaching negative consequences that can spiral out of a few dodgy decisions, but Bobbie eventually sets out to make things right.

I loved the 1970's backdrop and found that Bobbie was an interesting character to follow. I'm looking forward to the third part now, which will presumably feature Michael and his crime lord lifestyle.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Matador; UK ed. edition (28 April 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785890948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785890949

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Giveaway #714 : Win Ultimate Minecraft Master Builder book - closing 4/4

If you are a parent of a tween-aged child, I think it's a pretty safe bet that you'll have heard of the Minecraft game. If your child is a fan, they'll love the Ultimate Minecraft Master Builder book from Carlton Kids, which offers top tips and step-by-step guides to completing 30 awesome builds within the game.

Each project is rated a Quick, Intermediate or Master Build and a list of materials is provided for each construction, along with guidance on how long each build will take.

You can find tutorials on all sorts of builds, including forest camp, palace, underwater base, rollercoaster, castle, treehouse, sky fortress, mountain village, ice hotel, aircraft carrier, diner, mushroom house, igloo, beach hut and more !

The book is also full of fascinating Minecraft facts, figures and trivia, as well as hints and tips on how to master the game, plus inspirational profiles of the game's most amazing construction masterpieces. Get ready to stretch your imagination to the limit !

RRP : £14.99

320 pages
229 x 153mm
Published Mar 2019
ISBN 9781783124398

for more information :

Fancy getting your hands on a copy? Carlton Kids have kindly offered to send a copy of the book to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 4/4/19

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize.

You may also like to enter my other giveaways :

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #12

As predicted, last week was a killer, but we made it ! This week and next have lots of after-school meetings, but the main bulk of the work is already done, so we're getting there - phew ! I'll need lots of easy meals for late nights home though, when the kids are already starving when I get home from work. 

Well, we're now Wednesday and I've just realised this post didn't go live on Monday morning. After school on Monday, I had a meeting that started at 4.30pm. It's the end of term meetings to fill in the reports together and usually lasts an hour. This one went on until 8.30pm ! Then all night, Pierre was being sick so I had to take a day off work to look after him. This week can only get better !


dinner - chicken gyros (spiced chicken breast), already seasoned and chopped so it's nice and quick to cook ! ... served with rice and sweetcorn


dinner - spaghetti carbonara (with extra leeks in the cream & bacon sauce - nobody will even notice !)


lunch - sausage bake with mash and beans

dinner - chicken and/or prawn stir-fry with noodles and loads of veg


dinner - something with a pack of mince but not sure what yet ... could be chilli, spag bol or shepherd's pie (they all start out the same anyway !)


 dinner - chicken & veg curry & rice ... it'll have to be something like a korma for the kids not to turn up their noses though


lunch - McDonald's, I'm guessing ... although Sophie is off out with her friends so this might change

dinner - sandwiches/fridge clearout


lunch - roast chicken, roast spuds & veg

dinner - sandwiches or leftovers

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Saturday, 16 March 2019

Fab freebies of the week 16/3

Well, this week has been hectic, to say the least. The Norwegian teachers have been and gone and now it's time for a weekend of quality time with the kids before all the after-school meetings kick off next week. Only three weeks and it's the holidays again - I feel like I need them right now ! To kick things off in style, here's another round-up of the week's freshest freebies. Have a great weekend, whatever you're up to !


Enter Coca Cola's latest giveaway - hundreds of instant win prizes including 240 pairs of Premier League tickets plus £50 pp for travel, 640 official club shirts and 1280 Coca-Cola & Premier League branded footballs. Good luck ! (Daily entry until 21st April)

Claim your Free Sample Plus £1 OFF any pack of DryNites nappies

Grab some free Purina dog chews or free pork puffs on Shopmium

There are still a couple of weeks left to try to win a can of corned beef

Write at least one review on Psydro to be in with a chance of winning a voucher - 100 winners will be picked at random on Friday 29th March 2019 - the more reviews you leave, the greater your chance of winning!


Sign up to our email database, and as well as receiving amazing deals and discounts, you'll get a FREE SensatioNail Peel Off Polish worth £6.

Guess the twenty films/TV titles and go in the draw to win one of thousands of prizes with Hask Hair (Erm, I've only got four right so far ! lol)

Do you want to receive a complimentary edit of 111SKIN products? Simply fill in this quick questionnaire before the 31st March 2019 to be in with a chance. The first 1,000 people to complete the survey will be sent an envelope filled with travel-sized skincare luxuries.

Become a taste tester for Eat Natural bars

Select some free scent samples from Valentte

Sign up below and you could be 1 of 50 lucky entrants to receive a free sample of Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler Night Peeling & Serum.

If you wear waterproof footwear as part of your outdoor gear and would like to take part in a Nikwax product performance trial, please complete your details below by Thursday 28th March 2019. If you are selected you will be sent a trial pack. You will be required to trial the product between Monday 15th April and Monday 29th April 2019. Prizes up for grabs.

Request a 15ml sample of Aesop's In Two Minds Facial Hydrator

First 5,000 to enter - WIN A SURPRISE NAIL STRIP SET

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 15 March 2019

Kids' book review : Captain Cat and the Treasure Map - Sue Mongredien

Captain Cat and the Treasure Map is the first book in a brand new series of highly illustrated piratical adventures that will delight newly confident readers and their families. The author, Sue Mongredien, has already had over a hundred children's books published, including the Oliver Moon and Secret Mermaid series for Usborne and the Prince Jake books for Orchard. She is also one of the authors behind the internationally best-selling Rainbow Magic series, Daisy Meadows. The illustrator Kate Pankhurst also has some great successes under her belt, including the Fantastically Great Women and Mariella Mystery Investigates series.

Captain Cat, also known as Patch, is a clever ship's cat who lives aboard The Golden Earring pirate ship, along with her friends Cutlass the parrot and Monty the monkey. She is frequently the one to get the pirate crew out of trouble, although they never actually realise the half of what she does to save their skins !

In this first adventure, the pirate crew discover a treasure map and set out to find what is waiting where X marks the spot. Little do they know, the treasure is cursed and it's up to Captain Cat to keep them out of trouble ! 

The texts are short enough for beginner readers to read and each page is illustrated with humorous drawings, to help break up the text into manageable sections. There are also lots of jokes, courtesy of Cutlass the parrot, which Pierre thought were very funny !

It's an enjoyable new series with lots going on on each page, which is a great way of motivating new or reluctant readers. The second book, Captain Cat and the Great Pirate Race, will be out in July.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £5.99

Publishing 7th Feb 2019

Disclusure : We received the book in order to write an honest review.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Book review : Children of the Cave - Virve Sammalkorpi

Children of the Cave is the translation of a Finnish book, which won both the 2017 Savonia Literature Prize and the Kuvastaja Prize for the best Finnish Fantasy Novel. After reading the first few pages, I had to flick to the back and reread the blurb, to check that I wasn't actually reading a factual work presenting the findings of an olde-worlde research trip !

The book is set in 1819 and the writer of the research notes, Iax Agolasky, who is a young Russian assistant to a French scientific explorer, is employed to accompany a research trip to the isolated Russian wilderness. He is a young, educated man who finds it quite hard to fit in with and be respected by the rowdy, hard-drinking and frequently uncouth group of researchers.

When they stumble across a group of strange creatures living in a cave, they are unsure how to react. They resemble a strange cross-breed of children and animals, making it hard to know how to treat them. Is it OK to kill them and bottle up various specimens to experiment on or should they be respected and looked after? Tensions mount in the camp and Agolasky finds himself getting secretly closer to the children, in spite of the risks.

Despite the writing being recorded in a series of notes - frequently incomplete or weather-damaged, with pages missing, so you need to read between the lines and imagine what was going on and how things were developing in the camp - you get an intense and moving glimpse into the young man's thoughts and experiences. He is the only member of the team to respect the children and care about their safety, something which - in much vaster terms - makes you think about how we react when faced with our own "others", be that through different nationalities, religions or sexual orientations. With a very Neo-Victorian, Gothic feel, I was frequently reminded of the atmosphere of Frankenstein's Monster, with the ethics of science, faith and choosing where the limits of "right" and "wrong" are set constantly at the back of my mind.

It's a very interesting and thought-provoking read, with moments of real emotion. I could really feel for Agolasky, who seems to me to be the only morally-intact member of the research team, but maybe all the great scientific discoveries and cures for past illnesses would never have been found with such high moral standards. It would be a great title for a book club to discover, as there are so many different viewpoints that could be offered and argued over.

Children of the Cave sets the tone for the rest of the exciting 'There Be Monsters' series. If you need another reason to buy a copy, remember that 50p from each book sold goes to charity.

star rating : 4/5

Children of the Cave
172pp, paperback with flaps, £12
Published February 2019
ISBN 978-1-908670-50-2

for more information :

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 11 March 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #11

Well, the weekend was extremely busy but it's only going to get worse for the next couple of weeks - breathe deeply ! I picked up loads of meat that was reduced for quick sale in Lidl so it's been dumped in the freezer and will be used up throughout the week hopefully. Sophie will probably get dragged into cooking duties this week, if she's still up for it !


dinner - chicken drumsticks baked with tomatoes and onions, served with rice


dinner - pancakes, because I forgot to make them last week - oops ! Not sure what the filling will be - probably ham and egg, with optional cheese, but I'm open to whatever the kids want


lunch - fricadelles (spicy sausages) with spaghetti & ratatouille

dinner - I'm off out for a meal with the Norwegian teachers, so either leftovers or frozen pizza for the kids


dinner - pork paupiettes (little balls of sausage meat wrapped in a thin pork fillet) with ebly and carrots


 dinner - chicken casserole with boiled potatoes and green beans


lunch - I think we're off to a concert by train, if I remember correctly, so something quick from the station probably !

dinner - McDonald's? Not sure what time we get back - if not, sandwiches/fridge clearout


lunch - roast chicken, roast spuds & veg (and loads of gravy !) with the Madhouse grandparents :)

dinner - sandwiches

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***


Saturday, 9 March 2019

Fab freebies of the week 9/3

Here's this weekend's roundup of the best new UK freebies - enjoy :)


Quick reminder : Know a child who loves Barbie? At Smyths Toys, they can be anything! Celebrate 60 years of Barbie with a FREE in-store 'You Can Be Anything' event on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of March. We’ve got a dress up box of Barbie careers just waiting to be explored. Strike a pose for your photo in the Career Barbie Box and pick up an amazing Barbie goody bag.

Calling all Debenhams Beauty Club Members! Claim your FREE mascara & perfume from Carolina Herrera.

Fill in the form for a Vegan Protein Powder Free Sample

Soothing & Moisturizing All Natural COCONUT OIL for Face & Skin - Subscribe to get a free sample!

The Insiders are looking for 100 owners and their cats to try PURINA® PRO PLAN® with OPTISENSES™, a scientific and nutritious cat food.

A great offer from Sopost ... Discover M·A·C Powder Kiss: our Lipstick with a blotted, moisture-matte finish. Sign up below to claim your free swatch sample of ‘Devoted to Chili’ Powder Kiss Lipstick; a warm brick red. Sample size 0.05g. #MeetYourMatte

Anker have a great giveaway with 101 prizes up for grabs - Prizes:
1st Prize: Samsung Galaxy S10
2nd Prize: Anker Wireless Charger (40 Available)
3nd Prize: PowerLine II 3-in-1 Cable (60 Available)

Grab yourselves a voucher for a FREE glass of Jameson's whiskey, ginger & lime

For your chance to win a bottle of Zoflora EVERY DAY, try your luck at the Wheel of Paw-tune game (250 prizes up for grabs)

There are 2,000 free tickets to the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show at NEC, Birmingham

You can see previous weeks' freebie roundups by clicking here but be warned, many of the offers are only valid for a short time. Let me know if any have expired and I'll remove them from the roundup.

You may also like to enter my current giveaways :

Friday, 8 March 2019

Book review : Into The River - Mark Brandi

I'm not sure who picked the cover picture for Mark Brandi's Into The River, but it's brilliant - fiery red and troubling, moody, dark skies, leading down to the intriguing, inviting, mesmerising waves that seem to want to drag you down to see what lies below ... or at least what lies beneath the cover !

Into The River was first published in 2018 in the author's native Australia under the title Wimmera and this original title - the name of a region in the state of Victoria - gives an idea of the Australian setting. Think flour mills and grain storage silos, sheep and national parks ... err, that's about as good as it gets !

Ben and Fab, two childhood friends, spend their days playing cricket, fishing for yabbies (like lobsters), riding their BMX bikes and lusting after a pair of Nike Air Maxes. They're just typical eleven-year-old kids, drifting towards high school and their teenage years. They don't talk about Fab getting hit by his father or Ben being unnerved by his next door neighbour's sudden death. When a burly newcomer, Ronnie, arrives in town, the boys stake him out, convinced he's a secret agent, or at least some guy who's bigger than Fab's dad. He offers Ben his first job around his house ... and a whole lot more.

Time moves on and Ben moves away. Twenty years later, Fab picks up the narration. Two local boys spot a strange wheelie bin in the river and, pulling it out, discover that its lid has been painstakingly bolted shut. This will be the event that unlocks the truth about what went on in the past.

As a child of the same generation, I loved the portrayal of the boys back in the eighties. Modern readers, used to mobile phones, internet and endless child safety campaigns, probably won't really understand how kids could end up in these kinds of situations, but back then, it definitely happened. I can remember heading off for the day with my friends with no way that my parents could get in touch with me, unless I decided to call home from a phone box. I can also remember hearing the odd tale at school that would certainly raise a few shocked looks now, and much bigger stories involving famous people, such as Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville and Michael Jackson, to name but a few, are finally making their way into the headlines.

I loved the way the story was told, with lots left to the reader's imagination. It's only a short book - about 240 pages - but certainly packs a punch.

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
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