Friday, 15 November 2019

Book review : The Last 10 Seconds - Simon Kernick

I have so many books still waiting to be read on my bookshelf that I'm desperately trying not to buy any more. Review copies are OK, but new books ? Nope, not happening ! Well, the last time I went to a charity shop, I spotted a copy of Simon Kernick's The Last 10 Seconds on the bookshelf and I just couldn't resist, despite all my good intentions. It was only 50p after all and it was helping a good cause, if nothing else. Well, I've just spent the last three nights reading it non stop so I have no regrets whatsoever !

The opening chapters are fairly confusing as there is so much going on that you have to try to get your head around. The book starts with a chapter labelled "Today 8.05am" and introduces two characters, Sean and Tina, in a highly tense situation. Sean has been shot and has his gun pointing at Tina, they greet each other, then all hell breaks loose. Who are they and how did they get here?

The next chapter goes back 37 hours and sees a brutal serial killer, called The Night Creeper, being arrested by police. As he is scooped off the London streets, everyone can sleep a little easier, as he is guilty of the brutal deaths of five young women. Or is he? He proclaims his innocence.

We're down to 24 hours ago, where we catch up with Sean from the first chapter, an undercover cop who has infiltrated a notorious criminal gang and has just been called out on a job. On a bid to find a personal sense of justice, he hasn't really cleared all this with his boss and things rapidly get complicated. Has he bitten off more than he can chew?

12 hours ago, DI Tina Boyd (also from the first chapter) realises that the Night Creeper can't have been the murderer in all of the cases, but as she follows her new leads, she finds herself being led into a very dangerous place.

As all the threads start to combine, spinning a complicated and addictive web of double-crossing and danger, who will eventually come out on top ?

It's an exciting read, with short chapters that keep you coming back for one (or two or ten !) more. Each of the heroes has a complex character, with personal faults and dodgy motivations that make them seem very human. I could see this being made into a cracking Hollywood movie, with fast-paced action and heart-stopping gun-fights aplenty !

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £6.99

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (11 Nov. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780552158817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552158817
  • ASIN: 055215881X
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3 x 19.8 cm

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Buttermilk Mince Pie Fudge review

Can you believe that in just six weeks time, Father Christmas will be paying us all a visit ? Where on earth is the time going?! I need to start getting into a festive frame of mind, digging out my Christmas CD and making a serious start on the Christmas shopping ! Buttermilk have just helped give my mindset a nudge in the right direction by sending through a fabulously festive nibble to try out: Mince Pie Fudge. Ho-ho-hmmmm ! 

The fudge has a rich, buttery taste that comes through as soon as you pop a square into your mouth, then the Christmassy flavours start to develop : the rich sweetness of golden syrup, the juiciness of plump raisins, the tartness of mixed peel, the richness of brandy and mixed spice ... It's very rich so you only need a square or two at a time. It is dairy free so is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Each 100g box contains about eight cubes of fudge and retails for £2.99, so it is perfect for adding to a secret Santa gift or stuffing into a stocking. You could even add it to a homemade Christmas hamper, in which case you might like to know that Buttermilk also have Gingerbread fudge, Cranberry and Orange fudge and Irish cream fudge available.

Disclosure : I received the product in order to write an honest review.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Book review : Grace's Table - Sally Piper

Earlier in the year, I read The Geography Of Friendship by Sally Piper (click through to read my review), a book which follows three old schoolfriends, recreating the childhood trek that marked their lives in so many ways twenty years before. Grace's Table, released by Legend Press UK back in the summer, was Sally Piper's debut novel and in some ways, it reminded me of The Geography of Friendship, with the same look back at past moments, intertwined with the current events, for a gradual release of important information from the past.

Grace's Table is not a book that is big on action, but it takes the time to delve into the relationships between various family members and looks at how they came to be where they are today. The story takes place on the day of Grace's 70th birthday, when she has invited eleven members of her family and friends - three generations of her family - for a day of celebration. As we watch Grace preparing the meal along with her daughter, the currents of tension and awkwardness soon become evident, but what is their cause?

Grace repeatedly looks back over her life, detailing various feelings and events that she remembers as the day progresses, which gradually start to explain the undercurrents of resentment and hostility within her family. Her husband passed away years before and her two children find it hard to accept that she has a new "companion", as she calls him, to avoid the jealousy and anger that another choice of word (partner ? lover ?) may provoke. But Grace still harbours feelings of bitterness and resentment herself too. Memories from her past will provide the key to understanding them, with anecdotes from her life as a teenager, a young nurse then a wife and mother revealing layer upon layer of Grace's personality and personal history. 

It's easy to look at the elderly people in our own families and social circles and to forget that they had their own rich and varied lives. While we remember in clear detail those events which caused us great pain or happiness, we can easily overlook their own experiences. Grace's Table reminds us that some of those events and the feelings that they caused may still have long-lasting effects to this day.

It's an enjoyable book, which will undoubtedly appeal to mothers and grandmothers or any women of a certain age, who have their own emotion-filled pasts to contemplate. As a widow in my late forties myself, I couldn't help but smile wistfully when Grace talked of her new-found love and companionship, alongside the complicated feelings of her now grown-up children. I think we can all recognise ourselves at some point in Grace's story !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99 (currently only £3.99 on amazon - see below)

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789550203
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789550207
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Fortnite Battle Royale Collection review

Hands up if you have a tween or a teen in your midst ... OK, well, next question. Do they like Fortnite? Yep, thought so ! Pierre, now aged 10, has been obsessed with it for a while, just like his friends, buying Fortnite branded pyjamas and sweatshirts and watching videos on Youtube, even if he doesn't actually have access to the game itself. The pupils where I teach, aged 11-15, are all pretty much obsessed with it too. There was much collective wailing and gnashing of teeth when it went offline for a couple of days last month, before coming back in a brand new sequel, and everyone thought it was all over !

Well, I have some good news for you, especially if you're currently browsing the shops, looking for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. There are a whole range of collectible characters and playsets available, with 100 figures to collect, that are perfect for bringing Fortnite to life this Christmas. Pierre was very impressed when the postie dropped them off. Forget #Fortnite, bring on #FortniteIRL ! (That's Fortnite In Real Life, if you're out of date with new jargon and looking for gifts for the grandkids !)

I quickly grabbed some snaps of the figures in the boxes, as Pierre was excitedly unpacking everything. There was one box containing two figures, Sergeant Jonesy and Carbide, along with their various weapons.

Each of the other boxes contained one figure plus accessories. We discovered Cuddle Team Leader (awwww a cute teddy bear) and Rabbit Raider (awwww a cute bunny rabbit ... er no, OK, maybe not then !). Each 2-inch figure has two accessories - one weapon and one other item, such as a backpack, or other tool.

Next were Moisty Merman and Sledgehammer.

 And finally in our selection, Brite Gunner and Wukong. The characters are available in solo packs (1 figure, £4.99), duo packs (2 figures, £7.99) and squad packs (4 figures, £14.99).

As Pierre was excitedly unpacking everything and piling up the weapons, I was getting slightly concerned that we'd never remember which accessories went with which character, but he happily told me that this doesn't matter in the slightest as they all swap them around anyway.

The weapons are highly detailed and all very different - there are huge guns, warhammers, pickaxes, battleaxes ... Each of the characters is intricately designed too, with great attention to detail on their clothing and bodily features. Any fan of Fortnite is sure to recognise them all and pick out their favourites.

They are great to collect and look very cool set out on a shelf, but they can also be played with, swapping over their weapons, accessories and back bling. There are also playsets available, featuring Port-a-Fort (£14.99), Mega Fort (£29.99), Battle Bus (£39.99), X-4 Stormwing (£29.99) and ATK-All Terrain Kart (£14.99).

They are guaranteed to put a smile on any Fortnite fan's face this Christmas and the character solo packs are also a great pocket money buy. If you want to add them to your Christmas shopping list, they are available at Smyths Toys, Very and Amazon.

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

Monday, 11 November 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #46

Wind, rain, cold weather ... autumn is definitely here now, with a definite taste of winter too. Brrrr ! Definitely a time for winter warmers - I don't feel like eating salads any more ! This week we have a visit on Wednesday from the gas board (the whole region is changing gas suppliers so they have to check everything is OK for the conversions) so I'm not sure if I'll be able to cook in the morning - we'll see. Apart from that, we all fancy lots of hearty casseroles and slow cooked dishes so I picked up some stewing meat at the supermarket again. The good news when making a casserole is that there's enough for two days - win-win !


lunch - Today is a bank holiday for the armistice so we'll all be at home. Perfect time to use up yesterday's leftover roast gammon with rice, veg & gravy ... plus a dollop of apple sauce, hmmm !

dinner - something in the slow cooker - I bought some stewing beef so probably beef bourguignon or beef & ale stew or beef & tomato stew, you get the idea ! - with lovely buttery mash and whatever veg went in the dish (probably carrots, mushrooms & onions)


dinner - leftovers from yesterday - if there's not much left, I'll transform it into a pie, with boiled potatoes & extra veg


lunch - beefburgers and chips with beans (that'll use up the end of the bag of chips and the burgers that have been taking up space in the freezer, as I'm down to the one at the top of the fridge - it all needs a bit more organisation !)

dinner - chilli con carne with rice (and extra veg added to the chilli - carrots, mushrooms, onions, peppers, maybe sweetcorn too)


dinner - leftover chilli & cheese with baked potatoes


dinner - sausage casserole (with peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes) and rice


lunch - our regular Saturday lunchtime fast food trip ! I'll leave it up to the kids again - probably McDonalds, tied in with a shopping trip. I really should start Christmas shopping !

dinner - there will probably be some leftovers to keep us going - if not, I'll make the chicken casserole and we'll have leftovers tomorrow lunchtime


lunch - chicken casserole with boiled potatoes & veg

dinner - pepperoni pizza (Pierre's choice !)

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


Saturday, 9 November 2019

Fab freebies of the week 9/11

It's the weekend - woohoo ! Time to chill out and grab yourself some new freebies ! :)


Still available if you haven't got one yet (we received ours) - grab a free Bear Pure Fruit Yoyo snack

Get recycling ! If you can bring in five, clean Body Shop items to selected in-store recycling facilities, you’ll receive a £5 voucher off your next purchase

Various freebies available with CheckoutSmart, including Maltsmiths bottle and pint, Snaffling Pig Co. Pork Scratchings, McCain Goose Fat Gastro Roasts

Play the Find Eddy mobile game in a One Stop shop and win thousands of prizes, including chocolate, cash and a family holiday to Lapland !

Keep trying your luck on Walkers crisps daily entry giveaway - loads of lovely prizes up for grabs

Sign up for your FREE trial, including three pouches of ROYAL CANIN® Kitten food posted to you, and a voucher for a FREE 400g bag of dry ROYAL CANIN® Kitten

Until 15/11, you can buy a pack of Kelloggs No Added Sugar Granola and claim your money back

300 winners will be picked by end of 30 Nov and by 10 December winners will sent a Biocell Sheet Mask by post.

We've wrapped up everything you need for your perfect evening in with £100 worth of Crew loungewear up for grabs. Hundreds to be won. Simply enter your name and email. You've got three spins. Make them count.

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 November 2019

Giveaway #732 : Win a copy of Hedgehog Christmas - closing date 22/11

We're into November, which means Christmas is well and truly on the way - eeeek ! Have you started shopping for your Christmas gifts yet? Well, this looks like a lovely festive-themed book that would be perfect for children of both sexes. It follows on from Hedgehog Queen and Hedgehog Magic, if you fancy catching up with more animal adventures or maybe offering all three as a special gift for young bookworms ?


Discover the magic of Christmas with Hamish the hedgehog and Alistair

Set in the days before Christmas, young Alistair comes home to find a strange sparkling box on the dining room table, sent by his friend Hamish. In the box is Oscar, a tiny rabbit who is lots of fun. When Christmas Eve finally arrives, snow is falling heavily but Oscar insists that they go out and play. He leads him down a rabbit hole in his back garden that takes them to a giant ice door.

Hamish and his rat friend, Mr. Tilly, greet Alistair and Oscar at the door. Before they know it, they are all off on an amazing Christmas adventure. Not only do they take part in the great hedgehog sledding race and attend the hedgehog Christmas party, but they also have the opportunity to meet the Hedgehog Queen in her sparkly palace!

Before he knows it, Alistair wakes up in bed at home. It’s the early hours of Christmas morning. It couldn’t have been a dream, could it? Heading downstairs, he discovers a magical surprise under the Christmas tree...

David Hills lives in Sittingbourne, Kent. He says : “For many years, I have been lucky enough to have hedgehogs visit my garden. I have spent many an evening observing, feeding and housing them. As we know they are an endangered species, so it is of interest to us all and hopefully this book will bring awareness of hedgehogs to children and adults alike”.

Suggested age range : 5-7 years

  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Book Guild Publishing Ltd (28 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1912881810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1912881819
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 0.2 x 12.6 cm

I'm delighted to have a copy of Hedgehog Christmas to give away to one lucky Madhouse Family Reviews reader. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 22/11/19

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.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Heck Chickfurters review

Whether they're cooked on the grill, in the oven or in a frying pan, served with chips, beans, baked potatoes or in a sandwich, for dinner, tea or even, admittedly very rarely, for breakfast, the Madhouse kids are always going to get excited about sausages putting in an appearance on our weekly menu plan. They love everything from pork sausages, Cumberland sausages, pork and apple sausages to chipolatas, but what would they think of the latest offering from Heck, Chickfurters ?

My initial reaction was hmmm chicken sausages, that sounds good, but we've eaten them before. Well, a closer look revealed that we have and we haven't - these new Chickfurters are made of 97% chopped chicken breast and a hint of “magic smoke”. That may not sound particularly impressive until you realise that the Heck Chickfurter is the only chicken frankfurter made of chicken breast, rather than the mechanically reclaimed meat that goes into other chicken frankfurters on the market. Hmmm, I don't think I want to think about that too closely - ewww !

When I plopped the sausages out of the pack and into a frying pan, I could instantly tell that they had a paler colour than regular pork sausages, which does indeed resemble chicken breast. So far, so good.

The on-pack instructions said that for best results, they should be pan-fried for 15-17 minutes, turning regularly. My one criticism is that it's quite hard to tell when they're cooked through, as they don't release loads of fat like most other types of sausage, so I think I over-cooked mine very slightly. I found it quite hard to get an even colouring on them too, but this didn't affect their taste.

Served with Ebly, peas and carrots (and a dollop of BBQ sauce), there were lots of "mmmmms" and scraping knives and forks, swiftly followed by clean plates all round. The kids declared that they were lovely, with a smoky flavour, and tasted like they'd come off the barbecue.

This was judging from taste alone, but the nutritional info is pretty impressive too. Each sausage contains 130 calories, 7.5g of fat (of which 2g saturates), 2.2g of carbs (of which 0.1g sugars), 13.4g of protein and 1.2g of salt. Heck are targetting the fitness and slimming audience, but they were a big hit with the whole family in our house. For this reason, I would have preferred a bigger pack size, as a four-pack isn't really enough for us - six would have been better. 

The Chickfurters are currently available at Morrisons with an RRP of £3.15 for a pack of four. Let us know what you think if you try them out !

Disclosure : We received the product in order to share our honest review.

Monday, 4 November 2019

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 2019 week #45

We made it through the half term and now we're back home and back to school, slightly delayed as Monday morning will see us heading to hospital to have Pierre's plaster cut off. I'm hating the fact that it's all got so dark now, both for going to work in the morning and for getting home at night - boo ! I'm definitely using the slow cooker from now on as temperatures have dropped big time, so I love the idea of coming home and having a lovely hot meal waiting to serve up. All that's left is to shut the curtains and jump into my pyjamas ! Here's what we're eating this week.


lunch - It may end up being a mad dash after the hospital visit, but in theory, chicken & bacon bakes with rice & veg

dinner - slow cooker beef & ale casserole with potatoes and carrots


dinner - possibly leftovers if the kids didn't finish them at lunchtime - if not, cheese & tomato pasta bake with some sweetcorn added in


lunch - baked potatoes with cheese & beans and maybe some bacon and onions too, if I'm feeling nice !

dinner - chicken & veggies with noodles & chow mein sauce


dinner - something else in the slow cooker - hmmmm, how about chicken chasseur (with carrots, onions, mushrooms) and rice ?


dinner - possibly leftovers, if not beefburgers, mash & beans


lunch - I'll leave it up to the kids - probably a trip to McDonalds, if I know their way of thinking !

dinner - cheese on toast


lunch - roast dinner - probably chicken, roast potatoes and veg, all topped off with lashings of gravy

dinner - sandwiches or chicken soup with the leftovers from lunch

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


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Getting ready for winter with the #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

Turning over the calendar to the month of November seemed to definitively mark the end of the summer/start of autumn. There is no doubt about it - we are definitely into full-on autumn and, dare I say it, even the start of winter now. While we've been looking for conkers for the past few weeks and watching the leaves turn brown, yellow and red on all the nearby trees, this weekend has seen major wind that has pretty much blown all of the leaves, whatever their colour, straight off the branches. Wherever we look now, there are bare branches, big piles of soggy leaves underfoot and big fat raindrops running down the windows.

For the recent half-term holiday, we didn't do much at all. Besides the cold and the rain, we also had Pierre's plaster cast to deal with, so my usually energetic, outdoorsy son was stuck inside, making cakes, watching TV and catching up with his friends on his phone. This did give me a chance to catch up on the housework and random jobs though, so it was the perfect time to receive some brand-new ACE for Colours Powder to put through its paces. Just by adding a couple of spoonfuls to the machine for your normal wash, it promises to reinvigorate clothes, using stain-removing powers, and bring coloured garments back to life. Sounds perfect for freshening up the autumn and winter clothes that have been tucked away throughout the summer months.

Well, this half-term marked a point where I finally felt able to go through the cupboards - in particular those belonging to Madhouse Daddy, but also mine and those in the kids' rooms - and bag up all the clothes that we didn't want or need any more. It's been eighteen months since he died and somehow, it just seemed like the right time. I gathered the kids together and we went through everything - his T-shirts, jumpers, shirts, ... - and the kids each collected up a pile of things they wanted to keep, to wear or just to remember him by. Seeing all his side of the wardrobe empty just looked wrong, so I moved half of my clothes over to his side. Mentally, this was quite a hard thing to do, but we ended up with about twenty big binbags full of clothes that we donated to a local charity shop. They will be sorted out and resold cheaply or donated to homeless shelters, which makes me feel good about all our hard work sorting through everything.

Here's my favourite find - a totally snuggly, warm Washington Redskins jacket that he brought back from a trip to the USA where he was an au pair for a year straight after university. It's not something that I would have bought personally but I love it. It needed a wash though, as it was often worn when we were out and about, so the Ace for Colours Powder was perfect for this. It freshened it up up beautifully, gently removing stains and helping to keep the colours bright and fresh. It's like getting a hug from Madhouse Daddy every time I wear it and the bright flash of red is great for lifting spirits on grey, rainy days (which we have been having a lot of lately !).

Disclosure : This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge, sponsored by ACE for Colours Powder. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper and pick up the range at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Fab freebies of the week 2/11

And we're into November - before we know it, Christmas will be upon us ! Now is a great time to start requesting freebies for stuffing in stockings for the kids. Fingers crossed there will be some fabulous freebies on offer this year. Here's this week's selection of offers - I hope you find something you like the look of :)


Receive a voucher for £1 off a Dr Oetker product (which means you can get a Mug Cake mix for free)

Get your free Cif Ecorefill at Sainsbury's and reuse your spray bottle for life

Enter Walkers Christmassy competition once a day - there are thousands of prizes including crisps and socks so good odds of winning.

Trnd have 100 Kippy Evo GPS Collars available for review

Love Fruittella? Try our 30% Less Sugar Strawberry or Summer Fruits chews for FREE! ❤️️

Now available at Boots, we have 500 of the amazing IT Cosmetics Superhero Mascara (5ml), to give away to lucky readers!

THE NEW MOVIE - daily entry with Nestlé (You can use code ref8ct to enter)

Order your free Staydry bladder weakness samples from Boots

Nitty Gritty are looking for 60 Mumsnet users with at least one child who currently has head lice to test their new nit comb before launch, alongside the current version.

Another new freebie for those with a free Debenhams Beauty Card : From Friday 1st November, pick up your sample of Filorga Time Filler. Developed by experts in aesthetic medicine, this cream is specially designed to care for mature 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 :

Friday, 1 November 2019

Giveaway #731 : Win 1 of 3 DVDs of new family animation The Ice Princess - closing date 16/11

FROZEN meets HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON in the thrilling animated adventure The Ice Princess, coming to Digital HD and DVD in November. 

THE ICE PRINCESS is the story of a fun winter wonderland that’s perfect for the whole family. It’s about the power of friendship and the victory of love over hate. When the brave fire dragon Tabaluga meets beautiful ice princess Lilli, they become instant friends. To save their world from a tyrannical snowman, they have to stick together and embark on an exciting journey.

Signature Entertainment presents The Ice Princess on DVD 4th November and Digital HD from 11th November.

I have three copies of The Ice Princess to give away on DVD. Fill in your entries in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UK only. Closing date : 16/11/19

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 :

coming soon !
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...