Friday, 18 October 2019

Book review : Bare Bones - Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is one of the big names that I opted for the last time that I picked up a trio of crime fiction books for £5 at The Works. I thought that I hadn't read any of her novels before, but I've just discovered that I have actually. While Bare Bones is the sixth novel by Kathy Reichs starring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, I had formerly read Devil Bones (click through for my review), which is the eleventh book. Having reread my review of that book, I didn't seem to enjoy it that much, which surprised me, as I really got into this one.

Temperance is about to head off on a well-deserved holiday but, just at the wrong moment, a new case pops up which drags her in. The bones of a newborn baby are discovered in a wood stove and the mother is nowhere to be found. Just as she is hopeful that she's reaching the end of her work, a Cessna flies into a rock face. The pilot and passenger are burned beyond recognition but certain modifications of the plane, plus the presence of an unidentifiable substance, have Tempe looking for explanations. The best (and apparently worst) things always come in threes and, sure enough, more bones are discovered - first, some bear bones discovered by Tempe's dog at a party, then another cache of bones in an outdoor toilet. Are they all linked ?

Temperance starts trying to piece everything together and come up with a logical story, examining the bones and revealing their secrets, but it is tough going, with so much to work on. As if that weren't enough, she also receives threatening emails, including photos of her and her daughter. Somebody is definitely not happy about the people and places that she is digging her nose (and scalpel) into. But Temperance is as brave as she is curious and she is determined to uncover the secrets of the bones, whatever the dangers.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.90 (or 3 for £5 at The Works)

  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Reissue edition (26 Sept. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1501166204
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501166204
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 2.3 x 19 cm

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Madhouse recipe : Cheesy mince-stuffed baked marrow

Our dogsitter recently gave us some veggies from her allotment - some tomatoes and a marrow. I always think of marrows as being green but this one was bright yellow. Maybe it wasn't a marrow - I remember a couple of years ago, someone gave me a marrow and when I cut into it, I discovered it was a spaghetti squash ! Slicing into it, I learned that this one was a regular marrow (or similar squash type thing). So, what to do with it ?! After a quick google search, I couldn't really find anything that sounded like it would appeal to the kids, so I went for a simple cheesy mince-stuffed marrow. At least that way, they could scrape off the filling and just eat that if the marrow didn't appeal to their taste buds !

 Cheesy mince-stuffed baked marrow

ingredients :

1 marrow
1 small glug of olive oil 
1 pack of minced beef
1 onion
3 tomatoes
salt, pepper
BBQ seasoning (or other spices)
grated cheese

Wash and wipe down the outside of the marrow. Using a sharp knife, slice it in half then use a spoon to scoop out most of the flesh. Reserve the flesh for later.

In a large pan, heat a glug of olive oil then cook the mince and onions until it is browned all the way through.

Toss in the marrow flesh (having removed the big seeds) and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

Dice the tomatoes and add to the pot. Toss in the salt, pepper and BBQ seasoning (or whatever other spices you may have). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

 Lay the two marrow halves on a baking tray lined with baking paper. (I was reusing a sheet which is why it looks a bit manky !) Fill each half with the mince mixture.

Scatter with a few handfuls of grated cheese. Bake for half an hour or so at 180°C. Pierce with a sharp knife to test when the marrow is cooked through.

Serve on it's own, or with rice, if you prefer. This is a great dish for the autumn, perfect for cold evenings when you need something to warm you up.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Book review : Faces on the Tip of My Tongue - Emmanuelle Pagano

I've just finished reading Faces on the Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano, which is the latest offering from Pereine Press, as part of the There Be Monsters series. It has been masterfully translated from the French by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, who constantly swap translations until they settle on a perfectly blended version that no longer really belongs to either of them. This obviously works as you end up reading a text that no longer even sounds like a translated work.

The book is divided into short chapters, each of which deals with a specific person and event. However, as you read on, you discover that each of the new narratives links into the previous ones, looking at the same event through a different viewpoint or following on (or looking further back from) a specific event. This experimental style, with each of the characters appearing in several stories from different stages of their lives, gives the reader great insight into their lives as a whole, helping to understand how they grew into the people they are today.

Many events seem slightly strange or mysterious ... a thick layer of snow settled on the roof of a car in the middle of summer, a wedding guest who turns out to be an unknown alcoholic rather than a distant cousin, a surprising shimmer of sequins in the pages of a borrowed library book. As a reader, you wonder if they are supposed to be symbolic and search for hidden meanings in the chapters that came before or will come after. Other tales will leave you with a sense of sadness and hopelessness, such as the suicidal driver who wants to drive off the road but ends up picking up a hitch-hiker instead.

You may never really get under the skin of each separate character, but the book delivers a compassionate, thoughtful and often surprising portrait of a rural French community, showing how the different inhabitants' lives are frequently woven together.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £12

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (22 Oct. 2019)
  • ISBN-10: 1908670541
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908670540

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Monday, 14 October 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #42

Week 42 ? How did that happen?! That means that we're into the single figures for the number of weeks left before Christmas - agggghhh ! I need to start getting organised ! Ah well, one thing at a time, starting with what's on the menu this week. It's the last week before our autumn half term - phew ! Temperatures are dropping which means I want some lovely warming things like casseroles on the menu - I still need to sort out my slow cooker. Maybe I'll find some time this afternoon.


dinner - pasta with sausages and a tomato-based sauce - I'll add in some onions, mushrooms, peppers and spices


dinner - we didn't have tartiflette on Sunday as planned as we opted for chicken paupiettes (chicken breasts stuffed with sausage meat) instead - so today sounds like a great day for tartiflette - baked potato wedges, onions, bacon and stinky reblochon cheese, all baked in the oven to perfection


lunch - spaghetti carbonara

dinner -  I fancy some fish - don't know what as it'll depend what I can grab when I go shopping. If it's oven-baked battered fillet type things, I'll probably be nice to the kids and opt for chips (or oven-baked wedges, to be precise - frozen ones from the supermarket, I'm not that organised !) and peas


dinner - Moroccan-style sausage & chickpea casserole with couscous


lunch - I've been called in to work on overtime so the kids will be fending for themselves - there should be some leftovers in the fridge hopefully

dinner - right, time to use the slow cooker ! Chicken casserole (with chicken thighs and lots of root veggies) with rice


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - leftovers or maybe pizza


lunch - there may well be loads of leftovers to use up (I'm thinking leftover chicken casserole) but if not, chicken breasts with roast potatoes & veg should hit the spot nicely

dinner - bacon sandwiches - I haven't had one for ages and they suddenly popped into my head last week, hmmmm !

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


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Fab freebies of the week 12/10

Welcome to the weekend ! It's Saturday morning, which means it's time for lazing in bed, catching up with TV, internet and the kids, right? Well, no, not this week actually, as I'll be slaving away at work instead - boo ! There's a parent-teacher morning for this year's new arrivals - I can't believe they brought the time forward to 8.30 from 9am. I bet nobody will arrive until about 10am ! Ah well, once that's over, I can slob out and catch up on my chores ! Whatever you have planned, have a great time. Here's this week's freebie round-up to start things off with a smile :)


Grab a box of Kellogg's No Added Sugar Granola then claim your money back here

Send a letter to Santa at the Royal Mail and get a reply (just come backto this one if you're not feeling Christmassy yet !)

Be in with a chance to win 1 of 3,000 Animal Adventures play packs including a toy storage tin, 16 playing cards and a play mat. Enter now and you'll receive a FREE ACTIVITY SHEET to enjoy with your child

Now available on Send Me a Sample : Whisky Ginger by Johnnie Walker & Fever-Tree
Just say to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant “Ask Send Me a Sample for a Whisky Ginger”
Get yours now!

Whether you’re trying to choose the right towel for you, or you’re just looking to switch up your daily or monthly routine, why not give Bodyform a go?

Join Friends of Krispy Kreme today and get exclusive access to all of the benefits below plus much, much more. Includes free doughnut just for joining!

Sign up below to get your hands on a free pouch of Heinz By Nature baby food

Sign up to their newsletter and request a sample of Rituals Hand Cream

With sun ripened Limonata and cool Mediterranean Aranciata, this campaign will help you discover the amazing Italian citrus fruits that make up Sanpellegrino® sparkling beverages. We are on the look-out for 1,500 Insiders to try Sanpellegrino®, then let us – and all their friends – know just how much they’ve enjoyed these great tasting and refreshing drinks! Simply register before 20th October to take part.

Over on Shopmium, don't miss out on Gourmet® Mon Petit Cat Food, Gunna Craft Soft Drink and Piccolo Organic Baby Food Pouches freebies

If you have the free Debenhams Beauty Card : From Friday 11th October, pick up your sample of Givenchy L'Interdit EDP. You'll fall head over heels for this bold and feminine scent that balances light and dark floral notes for the perfect perfume blend.

Caboodle Firsts: Be one of the first 100 to read This Lovely City

Do you have a kitten? Then make sure you sign up here ! When you sign up you will receive the following FREE:
Three pouches of ROYAL CANIN® Kitten food posted to you
A voucher for a FREE 400g bag of dry ROYAL CANIN® Kitten
A voucher for £3/€3 off a pack of 12 ROYAL CANIN® Kitten pouches

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 :

coming soon !

Friday, 11 October 2019

Book review : The Choke - Sofie Laguna

The Choke is the name of a stretch of the Murray River that runs along by the home of Justine Lee, a young Australian girl who lives with her Pop. Her Dad comes and goes, putting in the occasional visit to see his kids, and her Mum just took off one day and never came back. Things are pretty good though, as far as Justine is concerned. She's happy enough helping to look after the chickens, playing with her half-brothers in their dens and becoming friends with a boy at school. Told in Justine's narrative voice, the novel touches on a few details that - to an adult - sound slightly off, but to Justine, it's just her normal home life and she's happy enough with it.

During one of her father's visits, things take a definite turn for the worse however. After he visits a local girl, the police turn up and arrest him for rape. Her Pop is admirable and, despite his failing health and inner demons, manages to keep life on an even keel, even when things get complicated. Unfortunately for Justine though, the sins of the fathers are often visited upon the children and her life is about to get even trickier.

The book is full of so many references to things that seem to be going badly wrong beneath the surface, but these are only evident to the adult reader, not the childish narrator of the story. Sarcastic comments from the kids at school about needing a bath, the teachers' ignorance of her obvious dyslexia, her half-brothers' games full of playful violence and threat ... Justine could certainly do with a mother figure to help mould her into a resilient and fully prepared young woman. While she certainly has the moral strength to deal with whatever life can throw at her, she is sadly lacking in common sense and awareness of the world around her.

Justine is a lovely girl, with a kind heart and a great sense of self-sufficiency and resilience. She is totally gullible and unprepared for the dangers of real life though, and watching her in the scenes when she is growing up and turning into a young woman had my mum-sensors kicking off big time. I just wanted to reach into the book and hoik her out to safety, giving her a big hug and a decent meal to keep her going. It seems unbelievable that social services wouldn't step in and keep an eye on this dysfunctional family, but Australia is a big place and I'm sure the story echoes many real life situations that exist, especially on the edges of society.

While the book may seem hopeless and sad, Justine becomes the hero of her own life, taking things into her own hands and making sure she gets the future that she wants. She is pretty much the lone female figure in her surroundings, besides a few classmates and their mums, so it was heartwarming to see her come out on top, calling on her aunt to help her out when she hits rock bottom. Against all odds, I can see Justine having a happy life - in any case, it's certainly what she deserves.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Aardvark Bureau (28 Mar. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1910709573
  • ISBN-13: 978-1910709573

Disclosure : I received a review copy in order to share my honest opinion of the book.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Get More Vits the easy way ! (review)

Just a quick glance out of the window today is enough to prove that autumn, and not too far after that winter, is definitely on the way. Brrr ! The leaves on the trees opposite our house are all turning a lovely shade of yellow, the spiders' webs are all dotted in little globules of water and the sky is decidedly grey - nothing like the brilliant blues of summer. While we're all (touch wood) in perfect health here at The Madhouse at the moment, heading into my classroom at work is a different matter. I spend most of the day trying not to be coughed or sneezed on and seem to be constantly reminding the kids to put their snotty tissues in the bin. Anything that offers the slightest chance of boosting my immune system is therefore a very good thing in my eyes !

You may remember, back at the start of the summer, that we tried out the Get More Vits Orange & Mango Drink . All three of the Madhouse kids loved the flavour and the fact that it also contains a blend of extra vitamins is just an added bonus. We were delighted to receive a selection of more of the range to sample, including both kids' and adults' versions, which was extremely good news for me !

I opted to try the Sparkling Orange bottle, which contains Vitamin C and is great for helping to support your immune system - perfect to help keep those pesky winter bugs at bay. It has a lovely orange flavour that isn't overly sweet. I was actually very pleasantly surprised to see that the drinks are sugar free and contain only 5 calories per bottle.

Also in the big bottle range is Still Mango & Passionfruit, which Juliette grabbed as she doesn't like fizzy drinks, which severely limits her choices. It contains Vitamin D, which is labelled as good for helping support healthy bones. Vitamin D helps you to keep the right level of calcium in your blood, which actually helps you maintain healthy teeth and muscles, as well as bones. Above all, it tastes delicious.

In the smaller kid-friendly bottles with a sippy lid, we got to try the Raspberry & Blueberry naturally flavoured still spring water. This was much enjoyed by everyone - even I had a taste and approved of the fruity flavour so it's not just for kids. It is another sugar free option and contains multi vitamins. It is fortified with 50% of your daily allowance for vitamins B1, B3, B6, B7 and B12 to support energy levels and the immune system, plus vitamin D and calcium for growing bones.

If you want a great-tasting drink that offers a little something extra, look no further !

Get More drinks are currently available from Ocado,, Sainsburys, and Tesco.

for more information :

Disclosure : We received the products in order to share our honest opinion.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Book review : Broken - Karin Slaughter

As a crime fiction lover, Karin Slaughter is one of those names that just leapt out at me when I was browsing the bookshelves of a local charity shop recently. I'd promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more books as I was trying to clear my backlog and make some space on the shelves but, well, you know how that works ! Plus it only cost 50p - how could I say no ?! I'd heard lots of good things about Karin Slaughter but this is actually the first of her books that I've read. It's the fourth Will Trent book and the seventh Grant County book, but I totally enjoyed it as a stand-alone novel. That said, I think it would definitely be interesting to read the previous books, as I'm sure they explain a lot of the bad feeling that is evident from the very beginning of this book. It's a great story too, so I'm sure the others offer equally enjoyable reading material.

The story begins like a classic crime novel. A young student is killed as she walks along the side of a lake on a cold night. Medical examiner Sara Linton, currently back home visiting her family for Thanksgiving, is called to the police station to check on the main suspect, who is hysterically crying in his cell and won't calm down. When she arrives, he has committed suicide after making a confession.

However, where this book instantly skives off into different and original territory is that the police and other investigators aren't working together like one big happy family. There is actually an awful lot of resentment and mistrust, as Sara is the widow of the former police chief and holds the detective in charge of the case, Lena Adams, who was his partner, responsible for his death. Is she kicking up a fuss just to get some kind of revenge on the woman she hates or is it really justified ? Lena's boss, Frank Wallace, is another complex character - he seems to be hitting the booze a bit too easily these days, but is he still doing everything he should ? Special Agent Will Trent is brought in to figure it all out and make sure that everyone is doing their job properly. Unsurprisingly, he is not welcomed with open arms as he tries to take a neutral look at everything that is going on.

It's an interesting read, both in terms of the unfolding crime scenes, as Will starts to put things together and make serious headway, but also the complex relationships between the characters. As a widow, Sara deserves some sympathy, but is she really being level-headed in her criticism of the local police? I was surprised by the ending and didn't see it coming at all, which is actually quite rare for me when reading crime fiction. Karin Slaughter definitely deserves her good reputation and I'll certainly be looking out for more of her work.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (23 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099509768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099509769
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm

Monday, 7 October 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #41

Brrr there's a distinct chill in the air, so we're looking for lovely meals to warm us up this week - out with salads, in with casseroles, cheesy baked potatoes and anything else to put a smile on our faces ! I definitely need to start using my slow cooker too - I'll dig it out and give it a good clean next weekend :)


dinner - pork chops, rice and ratatouille


dinner - sausages, mash & beans


lunch - meatballs and spaghetti

dinner - chicken curry & rice


dinner - sausage & veg casserole with potato wedges (I'm thinking onions and red and yellow peppers, maybe whatever else is lingering in the veg box of the fridge !)


lunch - tacos with spicy mince, salsa, guacamole, salad, sweetcorn, grated cheese and I think there's a spicy cream sauce lurking in the fridge

dinner - cheesy veggie & potato bake


lunch - McDonald's or similar

dinner - leftovers or toasted cheese sandwiches


lunch - tartiflette - baked potatoes, onions, bacon and stinky reblochon cheese. Perfect for winter ! (Pierre's choice - and a great choice, I must admit)

dinner - leftovers or toast

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


Saturday, 5 October 2019

Fab freebies of the week 5/10

This week has been manic, so I'm very glad it's the weekend at last. Time to ignore the alarm and just chill out. For two whole days ! :) Hope you have something nice planned. Or just a weekend slobbing out on the settee would be great too ! Here's this week's freebie roundup, to kick things off in style, whatever you're doing.


Premier Inn has decided to bring the nation… Pillow Fight Club. Get free tickets - go along and get yourself a free pillow ! Details here (and there may be more dates to come)

This is your chance to exclusively try out √Čnielle's innovative skincare product before you can find it on the market. You will receive a full-size sample of √Čnielle Serum to use throughout the pretest campaign. We want to know what do you think! Answer the questionnaires throughout the campaign to let us know.

Sign up for the chance to test the new Caudalie Purifying Cleansing Gel (sachet 3ml), for skin that is clean, purified and blemish-free.

Sign up to the Pukka Collective and get a sample pack of their tea

KIND snack bars are giving out free samples - first come first served on a daily basis so good luck !

BEAR Nibbles are scrummy snacks made from the good stuff – gently baked to keep goodness in. Submit your details and we’ll post a pack to you (or your cub). Whether you tell them it’s one of their five-a-day is up to you.

Just say to your Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant “Ask Send Me a Sample for free Lidl Lupilu nappies

Try the NEW Tiffany & Love fragrance! Debenhams have 50 bottles up for grabs

Also from Debenhams, if you have their free card - From Friday 4th October, pick up your sample of the Elizabeth Arden Vitamin C Serum Ceramide Capsules, handy single dose capsules of lightweight dry oil serum that diminish dullness and perk up tired-looking skin.

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 :

coming soon !

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