Friday 31 July 2020

Giveaway #738 : Win 2 x The New Legends of Monkey merch pack - closing 15/8

Emmy-winning adventure series THE NEW LEGENDS OF MONKEY is back on Netflix for a second series (launching Friday August 7th) and to celebrate I'm giving you the chance to get your hands on some amazing Monkey merch! 

Series two sees fallen God, Monkey, and his band of fellow misfits, Tripitaka, Sandy and Pigsy back for more adventures, continuing their search for the sacred scrolls they need in order to overcome the chaos of demon rule in their kingdom.

Following their Emmy-winning adventures in series one, where the team escaped Jade Mountain with the Scroll of Immortality, their next step sees them looking to get their hands on the Scroll of Knowledge, hidden in the ‘Infinite Archive’, and then journey on to find five more sacred scrolls scattered across the world.

 In this season they must battle scroll guardians, wicked demons and legions of demon warlords in the hope of gathering seven scrolls to take to the distant Western Mountains in order to empower the gods’ resistance. Inspired by the victories of Monkey and his companions, humans begin to rebel against demon rule and the demons reform their ancient armies to fight the resistance.

  Action-packed fun and hand to hand combat ensues as Monkey and co travel the world, facing demons and working together to secure the scrolls and restore balance to the world. 


To be in with a chance of winning, simply watch the trailer and answer the question below: 

 What colour is Monkey’s headband? 
A) Gold
  B) Silver
 C) Purple

I have two The New Legends of Monkey merch packs including a tote bag and character colouring book to give away. Just enter your details in the Rafflecopter widget below to go in the draw. Good luck! 

UK only. Closing date : 15/8/20

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.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Book review : Intruders - E.C. Scullion

This summer, what with the lingering fears of all things Covid-19, our travel plans have been put on hold, or, at least, vastly reduced. The first thing I loved when I started reading Intruders was therefore its exotic locations. The descriptions of places in South America and dialogue in Spanish (don't worry - I don't speak Spanish but you still manage to understand it !) gave me a sense of discovery and had me imagining myself in exotic and far-flung destinations, without even moving from my own home.

Author E.C. Scullion - that's E for Emma which instantly threw me, as, for some strange reason, I assumed it was written by a male author ! - has experienced life in a number of foreign countries. After working in British Embassies in Beijing, Bangkok, Panama City and Montevideo in Uruguay, she now lives in Rome with her husband and two children. Intruders is her first published novel, but I can see many more on the way ! 

The novel focuses on Tom Holt, a disgraced security consultant who has baled out on his fiancĂ©e and his job. Initially, he comes across as a bit cold, but my impression of him soon warmed up as I realised that he's a good guy with a real sense of right and wrong. Following a mysterious job offer, he heads off to Buenos Aires to recover something from a safe. That's all he knows. The job came from a lawyer, who seems to know all about Tom's past, on behalf of a mysterious client named Capricorn, but who is hiding behind this strange moniker ? 

Whoever he or she is, they appear to have a whole host of sinister characters looking out for them, but Tom has a few people helping him out too - Anil, a safe-cracker with a dodgy past, Ray, an ex-cop who works on logistics, and Becca, a sassy red-headed thief who is as impressive on account of her attitude as her skills ! They work together well and come up with a great plan for getting into the safe, but things don't always go to plan, adding extra excitement for the reader as they switch things around to make it all work. Their antics had me reading way past my bedtime on several occasions !

As Tom starts to question what is in the safe and who he is working for, he will discover how far he will go to expose the truth, even if it means risking everything, including his own life.

The characters are interesting and well described. They are mostly believable, although they tend to fall simply into "good" or "bad" guys. The obligatory romance is in there for good measure, but it is ultimately a fast-paced, tense and exciting read that could easily be transformed into a Hollywood film. E.C. Scullion is definitely one to watch and I'm looking forward to her next book.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: RedDoor Press (18 Jun. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1913062295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1913062293
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 3 x 12.8 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Book review : The Shadow Bird - Ann Gosslin

When you hear about a psychiatrist making an important decision about someone's life, you always assume that they know exactly what they are talking about and have confidently ticked all the right boxes. Should this person be locked up in prison for evermore or released back into society? Should they get a second chance at life or are they too dangerous and unpredictable? Or ... what if things just don't add up? What if the wrong man has maybe just spent over half of his life in prison for something he didn't do?

 Erin Cartwright, fresh in her new job as a psychiatrist in a New York clinic, has to make such decisions about her latest case, Timothy Stern. At the tender age of seventeen, he apparently murdered his mother and two sisters and he is now up for release. Having been found not guilty by reason of insanity, he has just spent twenty-seven years in a maximum-security psychiatric facility. 

Erin is reluctant to take on the case. The murders took place in the same village she lived in as a child and it just doesn't feel right. She appears to have her own secrets and hidden agenda. What has gone on in her past? Why is her own personal history so full of holes? 

She ultimately starts to look into this case to find out if Stern really is a brutal murderer, visiting the crime scene, building up a picture of this fragile, damaged man's past, looking at those who surrounded him in a small town where everyone seems linked. But a startling discovery starts to bring things up from long forgotten depths - things that Erin would rather not remember. Will she be prepared to continue her search for truth?

The book takes its time looking into the character's psyche and slowly revealing what really happened on that fateful night. But Stern isn't the only one with secrets to uncover - Erin also has hidden depths just waiting to be explored. Some of the novel's twists and turns were quite predictable, while others came as a surprise. It's an intriguing, enjoyable read and I could see Erin coming back in future novels.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (15 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789551153
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789551150
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Find out what other bloggers thought on The Shadow Bird book tour ...

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

Monday 27 July 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 30

We're back, after a ten day trip to Belgium, travelling about and visiting Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Brugges. It was nice and we saw lots of interesting places, but it's good to be back home for a rest ! As we had to eat out all the time, we swapped between restaurants, fast-food places and sandwich/salad type meals from the supermarkets, so the kids are off fast food now and want to catch up on my cooking. No arguments from me ! I bet it won't last though ! 


lunch- I have some leftover cooked chicken to use up and some ebly - I think I'll chop it all up, add some mushrooms and bacon and cream and bingo !

dinner - Spicy brown sugar pork chops with mashed potatoes and grated carrots


lunch-  Chicken cordon bleu with spaghetti & baked tomatoes

dinner- Garlic & herb chicken with rice & salad


lunch- Pork burgers with baked potatoes & beans

dinner- Paprika chicken with rice & ratatouille


lunch- BBQ ribs with potato salad (or leftover rice)

dinner- Chicken & veg stir fry with noodles


lunch- Chicken burgers with cheesy potato bake & salad

dinner - pasta with bacon, onions, mushrooms and either a cream or tomato based sauce


lunch- there will probably be leftovers - if not, something from the freezer (chicken? fish? fishfingers? sausages? I'm not actually sure what's in there at the moment !)

dinner- cheese on toast or pizza


lunch- roast potatoes and veg with whatever meat I picked up when shopping yesterday

dinner- a picky salad/sandwich/leftovers/fridge-grazing kind of thing

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


Sunday 26 July 2020

Project 366 : Photo Diary weeks 29 + 30

As you may have noticed, I didn't post last week. That's because we'd headed off to Belgium on the train for our holidays. I'll probably be posting more about the places we went but here's a quick overview of our ten day trip.

Monday 13th July - Our dogsitter kindly dropped us off at the train station in La Panne, the train station just over the other side of the French border from Dunkirk. We had a few head-scratching moments as the train station didn't open until 11.30 and it was only 9am. As we didn't have a Belgian travel card, we couldn't use the original tickets we had planned, but we bought three ten-trip tickets in the machine (one adult and two children's, as the three kids could share). You just have to fill in the town of departure and arrival each time you travel for each person. This leaves us with enough trips for another Belgian adventure at some point in the future (it's valid for two years) and it wasn't that much more expensive that what we had originally planned. Our first destination : the capital city, Brussels ! After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we went to check out the Mannekenpis (who is smaller than I imagined !) and the main square, then popped into the Hard Rock Cafe for souvenirs.


Tuesday - Our first full day in Brussels. We headed to the Mannekenpis Museum, which displays all the different national costumes that this statue possesses, gifted by the different countries. As today was 14th July, the French national holiday (or Bastille Day, as British people call it), he was dressed up in the French costume, which made us laugh ! We had a good look at the Grotemark main square, did a museum, then some thrift stores and finally ate waffles. A pigeon pooped on my head, which had the kids in total hysterics ! lol


Wednesday - Our final day in Brussels and we got the tram to the Atomium, a huge atom-shaped construction that you can visit, going right up to the top (luckily in a lift). There are exhibitions, displays and viewing stations in each of the balls. This is the only time we've been so I can't compare, but there was absolutely no queue, despite a huge zig-zag queue marker like you get in theme parks. We had a joint ticket to visit Mini Europe, a model village featuring many top European landmarks, with lots of things for the kids to do, like pushing buttons to make music and sound effects start up or playing racing games, trying to be the quickest in a cycle race, for example. We finished off at the Design Museum (also included in the joint ticket). Heading back into Brussels, we went to Five Guys for dinner. Then slept. A lot !

Thursday - After packing our bags, we were back on the train to Antwerp (or Anvers in French, or Antwerpen in Dutch). Although Brussels is the capital, this is known as the biggest shopping town - it sounded like it was going to cost me a fortune, but I got away with a box of Dunkin Donuts to share back in our hotel room ! We were staying in a lovely hotel, just opposite the train station, in the Jewish district (posh jewellery shops and gold shops everywhere !). We had a wander around town then back to the hotel to chill.

Friday - Today was Pierre's birthday - eleven years old, where does the time go ?! - so we went for a trip to the zoo, which was literally 2 minutes from the hotel. As elsewhere, we felt totally safe in terms of Coronavirus as everyone was wearing a mask and was pretty much spaced out. There was a one way system in place and, if there started to be too many people in one area, we just went for a drink or an ice cream, then came back when it had calmed down. There were no crowds as you had to sign up for a time slot which vastly reduced the number of visitors. After having lunch at Pizza Hut, we headed off to see a mural that Sophie wanted to see, for a programme she's been watching called Scam.

Saturday - Our final day in Antwerp, so we used up our tram tickets, heading down to the bottom section of the town, below the main square, to check out the riverside promenade and the castle. We did some more shopping, bought some more Dunkin Donuts (sigh !) and ate in a local restaurant just opposite the cathedral. Lovely !

Sunday 19th July - We left Antwerp and Brussels, the two big towns that we had been visiting, to head to the quieter towns of Ghent and Brugges, where we had two-night instead of three-night stays planned. On arrival in Ghent, we had a long walk to our accommodation (the youth hostel, but the only people there were families and older people as far as I could see !) so we headed straight for lunch and some welcome drinks in a restaurant just opposite the castle. We looked around town and wandered up and down the canals, soaking up the atmosphere.

Monday - Our final full day in Ghent and, as breakfast was included at the youth hostel and we had to be downstairs to eat within our specified time slot (another Covid restriction, reducing the numbers of people in the big room at each time), we were at the castle just as it opened so managed to avoid having to reserve a time slot online. After a wander around town, we went on a boat trip on the canals. 

Tuesday - Our final destination - off to Brugges, a town that we had visited before, but only really for the Christmas market. Our last visit here was with Madhouse Daddy, so it seemed a little bit strange at times, but  the atmosphere was very different, as it's the summer season rather than all festive. We wandered around, letting ourselves get lost in the alleyways and canals, checking out the shops.

Wednesday - A lazy day, checking out the shops, spending some time in a nearby park and soaking up the atmosphere in the main town square. I wasn't really sure what we'd make of our trip, as it's a definite change to what was originally planned, but it worked well and the travel/hotel options were much easier than I had initially thought. The only things to think about with the coronavirus measures are making sure you have enough masks to wear (we had about twenty-odd for us four and regularly washed them but you could buy a box of disposable masks to take with you instead) and make sure you have internet/phone access to book timeslots for all the museums and attractions, otherwise you won't get in.

Thursday / Friday / Saturday - No photos for the end of the week, which involved shopping, washing and settling back into our normal routine !

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Saturday 25 July 2020

Fab freebies of the week 25/7

Hello, we're back ! Did you miss us? We've just been travelling around Belgium, discovering the four big towns of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Brugges and now, I feel like I need a holiday to recover ! It was great though and we saw loads of interesting places, like the Atomium and the Mannekenpis. It's quite scary to come back and catch up with the news that the infection rate is rising and some places are being restricted again, but it was all very civilised when we were there with everyone wearing masks and remaining fairly socially distanced. Anyway, what have you all been up to in my absence? Having fun hopefully ! Let's kick things back off on the blog with this week's roundup of the latest fab freebies.


We’re looking for 450 Mumsnet users with a child in nappies or pull up pants to test products from the Morrisons ‘Nutmeg’ range and give their feedback on Mumsnet. The products to be tested are Nutmeg New Baby Nappies, Nutmeg Ultra Dry Nappies and Nutmeg Ultra Dry Pants. You can select which product and size you’d like to receive if you’re selected in the survey below.

EMEILLEURQ Skincare is delighted to announce that effective from August 12th, we will be sending FREE samples to a select group of organisations and individuals. To request free samples of our products, please complete the form below.

We're giving 100 Caboodlers the chance to read Janice Hallett's thrilling The Appeal, before it's out in January 2021.

Complete the form and receive a complimentary sample of Angel Nova EDP delivered to your home

Receive a complimentary Flowerbomb Dew or Flowerbomb Classic 1.2ml Sample

Sign up now to be the first to know when M·A·C drops at Boots – and five lucky winners will be in with a chance to win a once in a lifetime, free virtual consultation with one of five of M·A·C's Senior MUAs and £250 of M·A·C make-up, totally tailored to you. Not been so lucky? 1000 runners-up will receive a free full size, iconic M·A·C lipstick. Your lips are about to hit cult status!

Complete your details below to become a KIND taste tester & be the first to try our best tasting KIND bar yet. We'll send you a few bars to try, all you need to do is let us know whether you agree this is our best tasting bar yet!

Free tickets to top attractions (including Legoland, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, etc) for frontline workers

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.

Tuesday 14 July 2020

Book review : To Dare - Jemma Wayne

To Dare is the tense new read from Jemma Wayne, author of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It introduces us to three families who are all very imperfect and believable. As they come into contact with each other, how will they react to each other ?

The first character is Simone, struggling to be a good mum in spite of her abusive, controlling husband. Feeling miserable and trapped in her grotty council flat, she has managed to find herself a new job, but how can she tell her husband ? He's already had a go at her about looking at the rich next-door neighbours. Or maybe, she wonders, it's all her fault for rubbing him up the wrong way.

In the next house is Veronica and her wealthy husband George. They are hoping that their smart new home will be a happy place that will help them start over and heal from a recent trauma. But when they hear a loud banging in the middle of the night, accompanied with noisy music and a baby crying, they wonder what is going on next door. Where have they set up their new home ?

Veronica soon runs into Sarah, the mother of one of the children that she teaches, who used to be her best friend when they were growing up. They decide to try to rekindle their friendship, but the balance has changed and everything seems to be adding more tension to the whole set-up.

As the three families try to get their lives on an even keel, everything seems hopelessly off-kilter. Power games and the jealousy of seeing what your neighbours have that you could never hope to achieve add momentum to the whole swirling mess of relationships as they start to spiral out of control.

It's a gripping read and one that will make you wonder about what goes on behind closed doors.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £8.99

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Legend Press (1 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1789559839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1789559835
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm

Disclosure : I received the book in order to share my honest review.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Project 366 : Photo Diary week 28

This week was the first week of the summer holidays - woohoo ! It was lovely just to chill out and stop rushing around at work. I ended up rushing around at home all week instead, but at least it was less stressful ! My plan for this week was sorting out Pierre's room. He's just about to turn 11 and the last time we had a big sort-out must have been about 6 years ago. He still had all his old toddler toys cluttering up the cupboards so it was definitely time for a dejunk ! We have got SO MANY bin bags full of stuff to get rid of now ! We took about six bin bags full of good condition toddler toys to our local toy shop charity bin and there are just as many bags of rubbish (toys with bits missing, stained clothes, old school books, ...) to get rid of again. On top of that, we've been planning an upcoming trip to Belgium. It's a bit of a comedown after our initial planned trip to the Dominican Republic, but it's the best we can do at the moment !

Sunday 5th July - It was a lovely sunny day so we all went off for a ride on the bus and headed to the beach. The whole bus network is free in Dunkirk - this was introduced a couple of years ago - and it's brilliant for us, as I don't drive. I was a bit worried about us getting a weird sun tan around our masks but never mind, we don't have a lot of choice !

Monday - We (me and Sophie and a little bit Pierre !) spent all day dejunking Pierre's room. We knew it was going to be a big job and, despite filling bags with rubbish and unwanted stuff, you couldn't really see any difference at the end of the day. There were some weird cloud formations today. Strange zigzaggy ones at the bottom and fluffy ones at the top. The one in the top right corner looked almost like an evil monster screaming at the other clouds !

Tuesday - Another day taking on Pierre's room. It started looking a lot better, as we removed all the bin bags and dropped off the toys at the local toy store, but then we emptied out the cupboard and the storage units at the end of the bed and it all started looking as bad as when we started again ! Time for the weekly shop - I usually go on Saturdays but, as we still had lots of food to use up and I wasn't working, we put it off for a couple of days. Sophie totally reorganised the fridge, which made me laugh. I'm sure she's a bit OCD at times !

Wednesday - Yep, you've guessed it ... another day clearing out Pierre's room. Having emptied out his wardrobe (which was basically full of toddler toys), this gave us more room for actually putting things away, so we could finally see a big difference. We finished off by taking Didou for a walk and I took a photo of Pierre's school as we walked past it for old time's sake. All three of the kids went here and now, that page of our lives is turning over.

Thursday - Today, I FINALLY had an appointment at the sollicitor's, to sort out Madhouse Daddy's inheritance. As discussed last time, I have to put €5000 in an account for each of the kids. (Well, for Juliette and Pierre anyway, as Sophie is over 18 so she can "fight her own corner", according to the sollicitor. I'll do the same for her though.) That was all that was arranged last time though. I don't know what I was expecting really, but I literally had about ten documents to sign and that was it. I wasn't even sure where the money for this was coming from - some people at work were absolutely 100% sure that Madhouse Daddy's money (from the bank accounts in his name) would have been blocked at his death and that this money would then be shared out between us - but there was no mention of any funds at all, so I just have to make the arrangements from the money at the bank then provide proof to the Children's Judge. It all seems to impersonal and controlling. I know some families maybe need to be forced to give money to their kids, but when you're already putting money aside for them and doing the best you can, it all seems a bit OTT. Oh well, at least the money is in my savings account. What would we have done if there was nothing there ?! We went out for a big walk with the dog again, to clear my head. The clouds seemed to be passing on a message that everything was OK and not to worry.

Friday - After a couple of hours tidying up in Pierre's room, I made lunch then felt strangely exhausted so I went to lay down for a little while. When I woke up TWO HOURS LATER (!!), Pierre had finished everything - tidied up, set up his PS4 and was happily playing Fortnite with his friends. Well, it's not totally finished - it still needs another good hoover and there is still one toy box and one cupboard to dejunk, but it is looking a lot better and has a lot more space in it, so I'll come back to it ! This week, Pierre has learnt how to make garlic bread. He watched me making it at the start of the week, to use up the end of a baguette, and couldn't believe how simple it was. He's made it almost every day since as an afternoon snack and is excited about having this as a quick lunch when he's home alone for lunch as from next year !

Saturday - We spent ages going through lists of things to visit in Belgium and looking up any special arrangements due to Coronavirus. Apart from having to book visiting times for most of the attractions, even the free ones, it all looks quite doable actually. I decided I'd rather stick with cheap hotels than go with our original plan of using Airbnb, as it should all be disinfected regularly at least. We've decided to go to Brussels, Antwerp, Gent and Brugges. I love the fact that our fridge is full of extra veggies now that Sophie is back home. For lunch, we had chicken, pasta and, for those who wanted them, olives, cherry tomatoes and marinated peppers. Hmmm !

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
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Saturday 11 July 2020

Fab freebies of the week 11/7

Hope you've had a good week. It was the first week of our summer holidays and we embarked on a big job - sorting out Pierre's bedroom. He's about to turn eleven and I don't think we've had a big clearout and redesign since he was about five, so it was long overdue. We've been pulling out bags and bags of toddler toys and dropping them off at a local toy store who gives them away to charity. It's pretty much operational now but still needs a good hoover (another one !) and there are a few cupboards and boxes that still need dejunking. We've all had enough for now though ! So, on to this week's freebies. Hope you find something that appeals !


Get a free bottle of Jubel lager at Sainsbury’s

Trnd have a new project to sign up for :  If you’re interested, then submit your application now for our new #LaundryDreamTeam project, and you’ll be sorted into one of the fab teams to receive everything you need for your personalised dream wash.

One for the family historians ! On  Fold3 : Discover your own American history. This Independence Day, find the patriots in your family who helped give birth to a new nation with FREE ACCESS to our Revolutionary War Records - free until July 15th.

Complete the form and receive a complimentary sample of Thierry Mugler Angel Nova EDP delivered to your home.

On BzzAgent : Apply now for 2 FREE L.A. Girl Break Free 16-Color Eyeshadow Palettes in exchange for a public review

Request free stickers from PETA Kids

Try Pura Baby Wipes for Free (24 pack x 1). Try our baby wipes before you buy! We’ll deliver your free trial pack completely free of charge, in a pack that fits straight through your letterbox.

The Power of Aromatherapy, Reinvented...coming soon. Join our Review Panel. Try our latest launch before anyone else. We'll choose testers at random and will send a full-size product to try and test, in exchange for a customer review. To join the review panel, register your details.

Bodyform have some new sanitary towel sampling packs available for you to try out

Costa gives free food and drink to all customers to welcome them back after lockdown - £3 credit on your Costa Coffee Club mobile app to spend on food or drink of your choice

#WIN 1 of 10 JBL Go 2 Speakers or 1 of 100 packs of Peppersmith mints or gums in the #SummerSmile competition!

Amazon Music Unlimited has a special offer: 3 months Amazon Music Unlimited for free. This promotional offer is valid for new subscribers until 21 July, 2020.

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.

Wednesday 8 July 2020

Book review : Lost Girls - Angela Marsons

As it says on the front cover, Lost Girls by Angela Marsons is one of the series of D.I. Kim Stone novels. According to Goodreads, it is book number 3, following on from Silent Scream and Evil Games. However, there is also a listing for a book number 0.5, First Blood. The series continues up to book number 12, released just a few months ago, so there are plenty of novels to get your teeth into. I was a complete newcomer to the series however and I didn't feel that I was at a disadvantage.

The book follows two families whose lives are thrown into complete disarray when their nine-year-old daughters are kidnapped. The girls and their parents are all good friends and the kidnapper has a heart-chilling message : only one girl will be released. It's up to the families to make the best offer to save their child. As a parent, this is a horrific situation to imagine yourself in. While you'd do anything to save your own daughter, you obviously wouldn't want to sign the death warrant on the other child. A previous case with many similarities had led to the release of just one girl, so everyone - particularly the parents - realises just how serious this is.

The relationship between the parents - at first supportive, but gradually turning sour - is interesting, but the dynamics between the different members of the police team are equally so. Kim is a realistic leading lady and one that we can all relate to. She will take more and more pressure on to her own shoulders, determined to put in more than her fair share of hours of work, until one of her friends and colleagues tells her to take a step back. This obviously goes down as well as expected, until he brings around her beloved dog - apparently the only "person" that she will open up to and reveal her doubts and inner struggle.

The ending came as a bit of a surprise - I had absolutely no inkling of who was involved in the kidnapping - but ultimately, it didn't really matter. The reader's tension and compassion are provoked by putting yourself in the parents' position and imagining their pain and absolute sense of powerlessness, so anything else pales into insignificance.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Zaffre (1 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781785762178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785762178
  • ASIN: 1785762176

Tuesday 7 July 2020

Madhouse recipe : Chinese Chicken with Cashews

This was a dish that I threw together during confinement with whatever was in the fridge, which explains the complete lack of vegetables, as we'd run out. You could definitely add some strips of carrot and maybe some onions, red peppers and broccoli to the recipe, or even just throw some frozen peas into the rice when you cook it. A side salad would be another option. It is a lovely, sweet, slightly exotic and totally kid-friendly dish though that the Madhouse kids gobbled up.

Chinese Chicken with Cashews


2tbsp maple syrup (or runny honey)
2tsp sesame oil
4tbsp sweet soy sauce (or hoisin sauce)
1/2tsp garlic granules (or 1 garlic clove, crushed)
1/2tsp ginger (or fresh ginger, grated)
1tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
5 chicken thighs
a good handful of cashew nuts

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put all of the ingredients except for the chicken and cashews in a bowl or a cup and stir to combine. Go easy on the maple syrup and have a little taste before adding more, as you may find it too sweet otherwise.

Put the chicken in a roasting tray (I put in some foil first for easier cleaning) and pour over the mixture. You could slash the skin two or three times to enable to marinade to soak in deeper, but this isn't essential. You could also leave the chicken to marinade for a few hours, if you have time. Cook it in the oven for about 35 minutes, basting during the cooking time.

Add the cashew nuts to the dish, stir through and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve the chicken with rice then drizzle over the remaining cooking sauce. Enjoy !

It's a really simple but tasty dish and used up lots of ends of bottles from the kitchen cupboard.

Check out the #KitchenClearout roundups for ideas on how to use up random ingredients from the back of the cupboard.

Monday 6 July 2020

What's Cooking At The Madhouse ? menu plan week 28

And we're into the holidays - woohoo ! That means my menu planning becomes less fixed, as we can dash across the road to Lidl when we need anything last minute (like ... let me guess ... ice creams !), the kids tend to help out more in the kitchen with their unexpected ideas (like Juliette making pancakes last week) and we'll probably often end up grabbing something out and about when we go on adventures. Well, that's what usually happens but this year, it's all a bit unknown - we'll see ! As it's the holidays, I fancy trying out some of my bookmarked recipes too, so I need a sort out.


lunch- I have a pack of mince that needs using up - for a change, I'll go for a mince & veg bolognese type sauce topped with mash (a kind of bolognese cottage pie !)

dinner - pizza and/or spinach filo parcels & salad/carrot sticks/cucumber slices, etc


lunch-  Breaded chicken with rice & Mexican veggies

dinner- leftovers and/or fresh pasta


lunch- steak, chips & salad

dinner- chicken burgers with Ebly & leftover Mexican veggies


lunch- We have a meeting at the sollicitor's to finally sort out Madhouse Daddy's inheritance so probably something in town

dinner- Paprika chicken thighs with spaghetti


lunch- homemade chicken nuggets with rice & veggies

dinner - pork chops with herby potato chunks & ratatouille


lunch- sausage sandwiches

dinner- big mixed salad (to clear out the fridge !)


lunch- chicken skewers with roast potatoes

dinner- leftovers or toast

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

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