All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Gluten-free Baking Made Simple by Cherie Lyden

Today it’s my turn on the blog tour for Gluten-free Baking Made Easy by Cherie Lyden. I was attracted to this because it mentioned both gluten free and simple in the title. Becoming more of a gluten free household is tougher than I ever imagined and more expensive. There are many foods we miss so this seemed a great opportunity to explore some new recipes and hopefully find some we liked.

For me, cookbooks need to be simple. While some people are goddesses or gods in the kitchen I have the food version of the Midas touch. My only hope of appearing on the Great British Bake Off is on the Extra Slice when they show the disasters. With that in mind, here is my review.

Book Review: Gluten-free Baking Made Simple by Cherie Lyden

Gluten free baking made simple by Cherie Lyden. Bright green font over a photo of strawberry flan a large iced cake, tomato flan and cupcakes
Gluten Free Baking made simple by Cheri Lyden

Title: Gluten-free Baking Made Simple

Author: Cheri Lyden

Publisher: Murdoch books

Genre: Cookery, Gluten Free

Release date: 11th May 2023


The new go-to cookbook for gluten-free bakers, filling the void of long unanswered
cravings. Discover beautifully, accessible and simple recipes anyone can achieve at home!

Whether you’re coeliac, gluten intolerant or gluten-free by choice this is the perfect
companion. Enjoy 80-plus sweet and savoury recipes that Cherie has developed and cooked
over the years for her family, as well as at her renowned bakery. Each recipe includes the
tips and know-how that Cherie has mastered to achieve truly remarkable gluten-free results
at home. As well, she shares her best flour blends, pantry essentials and the secret to the
perfect crumb. Packed with mouthwatering bakes such as;

  • Hot-smoked salmon, Asparagus, Pea and Leek Quiche
  • Cinnamon Pull-Apart Scrolls
  • Roast Pumpkin, Parmesan and Thyme Scones
  • Pear and Hazelnut Chocolate Frangipane Tart
  • Baked Cheesecake with Honey Syrup and Gingerbread Crust
  • Raspberry, White Chocolate and Coconut Muffins
  • Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies
    If you’re ready to give gluten-free baking a go, make it easy with these simply beautiful and
    approachable recipes where everything not only looks delicious but tastes delicious, too!

My Thoughts

Before I comment on the recipes and contents of this cookery book, I must commend the designer. With vibrant green sprayed edges it calls out to be lifted off a bookshelf, be opened and used.

My copy of Gluten free baking made simple with many post it notes marking recipes to try
Many bookmarked pages

When you browse a cookery book and the post-it notes come out to flag which recipes make your mouth water you know its one that will be used and experimented with. There were many more bookmarked than the markers in the photo show but these were the ones we thought we’d try first.

Not only were the recipes gluten free but they also showed dairy alternatives. This a huge tick from us as dairy intolerance is also a factor in our cooking now. The content and format is attractive and easy to read. With gluten free baking I’ve discovered there are more ingredients involved and steps but these are explained well. We decided to try the blueberry muffins, chocolate chunk cookies and buttermilk pancakes.

First of the muffins. The blueberry, apple and lemon muffins which looked so lovely in the book didn’t go to plan but that was on me. The recipe was simple to follow but I didn’t have enough apples -eek but continued anyway, and my blueberries defrosted so the mix became a not so attractive purple. There was a note of warning that this could happen but as I said I have that dreaded disaster cook gene. While mine didn’t rise and weren’t photogenic they tasted lovely. Much better than those we’ve sourced from the supermarkets so despite their appearance they were a win.

We will attempt them again with the correct weight of ingredients and with more concentration on the instructions. And nope the photos I took will not be shared.

There are many other muffin recipes to tempt and I really want to try the raspberry, white chocolate and coconut muffins once I’ve sourced shredded or coconut flakes.

Many muffins
Lots of muffins to try

Next was the chocolate chunk cookies. These were easier to make and a huge success in taste and appearance. Mine looked like cookies! These will be made again but will double the recipe so the dough can be frozen for go to treats. There are also options to vary the recipe with different chocolate and a double chocolate variety which sounds perfect.

Encouraged by the cookie success, next were the buttermilk pancakes, something I miss since the diet change. With clear instructions, this was also an easy recipe to whizz up. Without a photo in the book to show us what they were supposed to look like, we knew the first two out of the pan weren’t up to scratch but once my daughter took over the cooking more taste success happened. They weren’t as thick as expected but with practise and me out of the equation, I think they’d work.

Using light olive oil in the pan rather than butter seemed to have better results and tasted lovely especially with lemon curd.

With the ability to prepare the batter the night before these are a good option for breakfast. These will be eaten again

On our wish list to try Raspberry and Coconut slice

Would I recommend?

Yes! One thing I’ve learnt in our gluten free journey is nice food is hard to find but these are tasty and tempting. The book’s clear presentation and comprehensive instructions with tantalising ‘eat me’ photos and recipes encourage you to browse and experiment. There are so many recipes to choose from and the notes on the ingredients in the beginning were enlightening to a newbie who assumed chia seeds were decoration not a vital part of gluten free baking.

This book is a welcome addition to the bookshelf and will be used rather than gather dust so it’s a win.

Author Biography

Photo of Cheri Lyden White woman with dark wavy bobbed hair dressed in a white shirt. Sitting behind a table of cakes
Cheri Lyden

Cherie Lyden is the owner and founder of Wholegreen Bakery. Cherie opened Wholegreen in 2014 after she
and her youngest daughter were diagnosed with coeliac disease. She is a qualified nutritionist, innovator, serial entrepreneur, and writer in the space. Her greatest joy is finding ways to create deliciousness without the magic elasticity of gluten, and watching people with food intolerances discover a wonderful world of baked goods that they believed was closed to them.

Thank you Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read and try this book so I could give my honest review.


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Book review: Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagian Blunt

Today, I’m thrilled to review Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagian Blunt. With it’s dark blurb, it was a departure from my run of supernatural and romance books but knowing it was inspired by true crimes was intriguing.

Book review: Dark Mode by Ashley Kaliagan Blunt

Dark Mode by Ashley Kalagan Blunt

Title: Dark Mode

Author: Ashley Kalgan Blunt

Publisher: Ultimo Press

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Release date: 13th April 2023


Is it paranoia – or is someone watching?

Reagan Carsen knows how to keep herself safe – keep the door bolted, stay off the internet and never, ever talk to the police. But when a serial killer starts targeting women who look exactly like her, Reagan is forced to confront the dark events in her past.
Inspired by true crimes, such as the Black Dahlia murder, Dark Mode reimagines them for the modern age, weaving the insidious nature of living in an online world into the crimes to create a creeping, suffocating sense of terror for readers.
Fascinated by the psychology behind crime – who commits them, how they’re investigated and what they tell us about society – Ashley was compelled to write a thriller that explores this in detail. Through her research, Ashley delved into the dark web and discovered how terrifyingly easy it is for our personal information to
be discovered and used against us. Combining this with the growing subculture of incels and men’s right activists on the web, Ashley has created a modern thriller that speaks to how deeply the lines
between the online world and reality have blurred.
Set over a sweltering summer, Dark Mode is a fresh, riveting thriller that highlights the price we pay for surrending our privacy one click at a time.
After all, once you’re online there’s nowhere to hide …

My Thoughts

This is the second book I’ve read this month set in Australia but had a completely different vibe to Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens but just as eye-opening. Thrown straight into the plot, with the discovery of a mutilated body, the tension only increased to terrifying heights.

Reagan was a likable, over cautious and secretive character. I adored her business, Voodoo Lily, which was a garden centre specialising in carnivorous and unusual plants and loved how the names and descriptions of the plants were dropped casually in throughout the book. Her life was anything but ordinary. As her complex past was revealed and collided with the present with a serial killer on the loose, the novel delved deep into the dark side of the internet. It was terrifying and days later, I’m still sleeping with the light on after reading the climatic conclusion.

It’s not the first novel, I’ve read recently dealing with similar themes but it was an unnerving, powerful read about obsession, stalking and extreme misogyny which has left its mark. I doubt I will trust people I meet online ever again.

Author Biography

Photo of Ashley Kalagan Blunt. White middle age woman, Shoulder length brown choppy hair wearing black leather jacket
Ashley Kalagan Blunt

Ashley Kalagian Blunt is the author of How to Be Australian and My Name Is Revenge. Her writing appears in the Sydney Morning Herald, Overland, Griffith Review, Sydney Review of Books, Australian Book Review, Kill Your Darlings and more. Ashley teaches creative writing and co-hosts James and Ashley Stay at Home, a podcast about writing, creativity and health. Originally from Canada, she has lived and worked in South Korea, Peru and Mexico.

Thank you Random Things Tours for the blog invite and advanced copy of this book to so I could give an honest and unbiased review.

Happy reading!


All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran

Today I’m excited to share my review for Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran. My love of tea drew me to the title and the beautiful cover made me want to read the story within. Scroll down to see if my high expectations were met.

Book Review: Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran

Book cover for Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran.
Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens by Shankari Chandran

Title: Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens

Author: Shankari Chandran

Publisher: Ultimo Press

Genre: Literary fiction, history

Release date: 2nd March 2023


Welcome to Cinnamon Gardens, a home for those who are lost and the stories they

Cinnamon Gardens Nursing Home is nestled in the quiet suburb of Westgrove, Sydney – populated with residents with colourful histories, each with their own secrets, triumphs and failings. This is their safe place, an oasis of familiar delights – a beautiful garden, a busy kitchen and a bountiful recreation schedule.

But this ordinary neighbourhood is not without its prejudices. The serenity of Cinnamon Gardens is threatened by malignant forces more interested in what makes this refuge different rather than embracing the calm companionship that makes this place home to so many. As those who challenge the residents’ existence make their stand against the nursing home with devastating consequences, our characters are forced to reckon with a country divided.

Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens is about family and memory, community and race, but is ultimately a love letter to storytelling and how our stories shape who we are.

My Thoughts

The story behind the cover was a complete surprise but the beautifully written narrative and character driven plot captured me and I couldn’t put in down. I expected a cosy uplifting tale but while Maya the original owner of Cinnamon Gardens, a home for the elderly worked hard to create a safe place for all, this novel was an in depth study of generational relationships, loyalty, racism, past trauma and the entwined lives of the residents.

I loved the ethos of Cinnamon Gardens and the characters living there. The efforts and attention to detail to make the care home welcoming to everyone whatever their race, religion and background was inspiring and wished it existed in reality. Hopping from the present to the past, their often heart-breaking and traumatic backstories were revealed making me relate to them more and become immersed in their wellbeing when current events took a darker turn.

I knew nothing of the recent history of Sri Lanka and how the Tamils were treated so the stories of some residents and the reasons for their migration to Australia were eye opening. I felt guilty for being so oblivious to recent history. Racism and the demonisation immigration are currently rife in the media, so the storyline covering these and its dreadful consequences hit home. While set in Australia, the events could easily have happened in the UK and America. It highlights how what is seen as small acts by the perpetrators and enabling society can snowball when unchallenged and the damage it causes to those involved.

This unexpected, powerful and emotional novel, full of strong and memorable characters whose wisdom leaps of the page is one to read and reflect on. With its uncomfortable but important multi-layered plot there is much to be discussed and would make make an ideal book club read. It’s one of my favourite reads so far this year.

Author Biography

Black and white photo of Shankari Chandran. Dark shoulder length hair, glasses and big smile

Shankari Chandran was raised in Canberra, Australia. She spent a decade in London, working as a lawyer in the social justice field. She eventually returned home to Australia, where she now lives with her husband, four children and their cavoodle puppy, Benji. In January 2017, she published her first book with Perera-Hussein, called Song of the Sun God. Her second book, The Barrier, was published in June 2017.

Thank you Random Things Tours for the blog invite and advanced copy of this book to so I could give an honest and unbiased review.

Happy reading!


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Book Review: The Silence Project by Carole Hailey

I’m excited to be on the blog tour for The Silence Project by Carole Hailey. This is a step away from my usual reads of romcoms, paranormal thrillers, family dramas and anything witchy but the striking cover, tagline and then blurb drew me in.

It promised to be impactful, and thought provoking. Scroll down to see if it delivered.

Book Review: The Silence Project by Carole Hailey

The Silence Project by Carole Hailey

Title: The Silence Project

Author: Carole Hailey

Publisher: Corvus

Genre: Dystopian, fiction

Release Date: 9th February 2023


On Emilia Morris’s thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.

In the aftermath of what comes to be known as the Event, the Community’s global influence quickly grows. As a result, the whole world has an opinion about Rachel – whether they see her as a callous monster or a heroic martyr – but Emilia has never voiced hers publicly. Until now.

When she publishes her own account of her mother’s life in a memoir called The Silence Project, Emilia also decides to reveal just how sinister the Community has become. In the process, she steps out of Rachel’s shadow once and for all, so that her own voice may finally be heard.

My Thoughts

It’s now over a week since I finished reading The Silence Project, yet my mind still keeps drifting back to it, unnerving me, especially while I read or listen to the news about the changes in protest laws and freedom of speech. The power of this book is how relatable it is making it easy to imagine something like this happening. This then leads to the uneasy realisation of how your own life would be affected if it did.

Told in Emelia’s voice with a smattering of related emails, articles and journal entries, it has two distinct parts: pre-event and post. I found myself more hooked in the run up to the event which highlighted the changing relationship between mother and daughter when Rachel made her decision and the impact this had on the family. Being a mum, I can’t imagine essentially abandoning my daughter for a cause, however important. Some scenes gave an emotional punch. The event itself was horrific and the consequences far reaching. 

The post-event chapters were more dystopian and showed how a simple idea and phrase made with goodness in mind can snowball into something colossal and horrifying. The backdrop of hatred, extremism, climate change and political upheaval were too close to comfort at times but it made it more compelling. The ending tapped into my insecurities and added to my sleepless nights.

Powerful, and disturbing, this clever novel is ideal for book clubs, as there are many topical and moral issues to debate and consider. It delivered it’s promise and is perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Author Biography

A woman with short very blonde hair, smiling in front ofa wooden door. Wearing a bright pink pattern blouse.
Carole Hailey

Carole Hailey completed the six-month Guardian/UEA novel writing course taught by Bernardine Evaristo, who imbued Carole with such a love for writing fiction that she abandoned her career in law to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, followed by a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University.
Carole was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020/21. The Silence Project is her first published novel and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award 2020 and highly commended by the judges. She lives in Wales with her husband and two rescue dogs.

Thank you Random Things Tours for the blog invite and advanced copy of this book to so I could give an honest and unbiased review.

Happy reading!


All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Suicide Thursday by Will Carver

It may be hurtling towards Christmas and my bookshelf is overflowing with cinnamon infused stories but today’s review is on the dark side. Several friends’ whose opinions I trust rave about Will Carver novels so I was excited to be invited to the tour for his new release, Suicide Thursday and share my unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Suicide Thursday by Will Carver

Book cover for Suicide Thursday by Will Carver. Dark blue cover, with title Suicide Thursday made up of typewriter keys.
Suicide Thursday by Will Carver

Title: Suicide Thursday

Author: Will Carver

Publisher: Orenda books

Genre: Thriller

Release Date: 24th November 2022


If words could kill…

Eli Hagin can’t finish anything. He hates his job, but can’t seem to quit. He doesn’t want to be with his girlfriend, but doesn’t know how end things with her, either. Eli wants to write a novel, but he’s never taken a story beyond the first chapter. Eli also has trouble separating reality from fiction. When his best friend kills himself, Eli is motivated, for the first time in his life, to finally end something himself, just as Mike did…

Except sessions with his therapist suggest that Eli’s most recent ‘first chapters’ are not as fictitious as he had intended … and a series of text messages that Mike received before his death point to something much, much darker…

My Thoughts

Being new to Will Carver’s novels I wasn’t sure what to expect but I do know I wasn’t expecting such a dark, unnerving and thought provoking read that made me chuckle one minute with the cynical humorous observations and cringe in horror the next. It may not have been a fast paced thriller but I was hooked. Seen through the eyes of the main players, Eli, Jackie and Mike, it effortlessly hopped back and forth in time to reveal the truth behind Mike’s suicide.

All characters were flawed but Eli was horrid. Usually arrogant, entitled and shallow protagonists put me off a book making them destined to the ‘did not finish’ pile, but despite feeling sullied by witnessing his cold disregard to others I was compelled to know more. The unreliability in his narration added to the mystery of Mike’s suicide as did the sinister messages sent to Mike prior to his death. I had to admire Eli for his entrepreneurism of selling his first chapters for others to use and understood his difficulties putting words down to fulfil his author goal but as a person he’d be one to avoid. As a fictional protagonist, he lodged in my imagination making it impossible to put the book down.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes, Suicide Thursday is a sinister, unique and unforgettable novel trudging through the taboo subject of suicide and wider accountability as well as a study of the monotony of life and the decisions made. Cleverly written, I felt guilty for enjoying Eli’s dark take on life but it left me with a book hangover and the need to read Will Carver’s back catalogue.

Author Biography

Black and white photo on Will Carver. White man, shaved head and close cropped beard. Standing in front of old building. wearing tshirt and jeans
Will Carver

 Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series and the critically acclaimed, mind-blowingly original Detective Pace series that includes Good Samaritans (2018), Nothing Important Happened Today (2019) and Hinton Hollow Death Trip (2020), all of which were ebook bestsellers and selected as books of the year in the mainstream international press. Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award 2020 and Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for Guardian Not the Booker Prize, and was followed by three standalone literary thrillers, The Beresford, Psychopaths Anonymous (both optioned for TV) and The Daves Next Door. He lives in Reading with his family.

Thank you Random Thing Tours and Orenda books for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.


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