Review on “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

I’m not a huge reader of gothic horror texts but I read this book in one day, I was completely hooked! The Netflix adaptation of this doesn’t follow the plot of the novel at all, so if you have seen the series don’t worry, I happen to think the book is far better! Jackson’s text is thrilling and haunting and it’s a book that makes you want to carry on reading, if I were to use one word to summarise this book it would be gripping’!

If you’re new to this genre, this is a rather short book so I feel like it’s one that can be used as an introduction to horror texts! Some other horror texts, such as the Stephen King novels, are equally as gripping but can be a bit of a challenging read if you’re not a huge fan of the gothic genre!

From the very beginning of the book, Jackson creates an eerie atmosphere through the use of plot and characters alike. The setting and histography of ‘Hill House’ forms the perfect backdrop for the ghost story that takes place. Jackson forms the basis of the novel by incorporating psychological mysteries to its plot, leaving the reader to gauge whether the hauntings are psychical or are a result of Eleanor being emotionally disturbed. The use of the house alongside the experiences of the characters really allows Jackson to add a sense of terror to her writing.

This review is just a short one as the novel itself is short and I don’t want to give too much away. This book relies on suspense and psychological plot lines to really draw its readers in, no wonder it has been considered as one of the best ghost stories of the 20th century!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Recipe for Chinese chicken curry

The image I’ve used for this is the curry sauce from this recipe but using a crispy fried chicken rather than chicken breast. To make this you just need to fry your chicken pieces in oil after coating in egg and cornflour.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 2 large white onions (one for the curry and one to put into the sauce)
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts cut into chunks
  • 3tbsp ground ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tbsp of curry powder
  • 3tbsp plain flour
  • 1tbsp turmeric
  • 800ml chicken stock
  • An apple that has been peeled and grated
  • 5tbsp coconut milk
  • 2tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • White rice to serve
  • Chopped spring onion to serve (optional)
  • Chopped red chillis to serve (optional)

Method

  • Chop one of the onions into large slices and fry in some oil until soft.
  • Add the chicken to the onions and fry until cooked through (keep on a low heat to keep warm whilst you make the sauce, add a little water if it starts to stick to the pan)
  • Blitz the second onion (dice it first) with the ginger and garlic. You can grate these if you don’t have a food processor).
  • In a separate pan from the chicken, fry the onion mixture for a few minutes in a little oil.
  • Add the flour and curry powder to the onion mixture and cook out for around 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the turmeric.
  • Add the chicken stock to the roux a little at a time, continually mixing until it’s all incorporated.
  • Add the grated apple to the curry sauce and cook on a low simmer until it’s thickened.
  • If you’d like the sauce thicker you can always add some cornflour mixed with a little bit of water.
  • Add the coconut milk, soy sauce and honey.
  • Pour the curry sauce over the chicken and onions and stir so that everything mixes together well, simmer for a few minutes.
  • Serve the curry on top of some white rice with some spring onion and chopped chillis as a garnish!

Review of ‘milk and honey’ by Rupi Kaur

This is a text that was all over social media a couple of years ago, it’s a collection of poems written under four themes from ‘the hurting’ through to ‘the healing’.

Some of the poems in this may be uncomfortable to read for some, but I think that’s exactly why they need to be written and read. Rupi Kaur discusses a range of topics that encompass experiences and difficulties that different women face in their everyday lives, as well as taboo topics that others may be frightened to discuss. The topics that are discussed are both brutal and wonderful, and a range of different women are included throughout.

The poetry in this book is beautifully written, and some of the illustrations perfectly match their poetic counterparts. It’s a book that can be flipped through and still appreciated for the way in which the author conveys pure emotion in very few words.

I’ll include a few of my favourite poems just below but anyone interested in feminist pieces should definitely look into buying this. It includes so many raw, emotional and inspiring poems and is so easy and quick to read if long novels aren’t your cup of tea!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee

I read this during my second year at University (can you see the theme appearing, I promise I do read outside of education!) as a part of the American South module that I studied. Now, whilst the themes that are studied are very prominent both in the time it was written and in today’s society, I did find this book hard to get in to during the first read. It is a brilliantly well written book but I found it a little bit slow to begin with. Saying this, I did find the ending of the novel very interesting and it’s well worth pursuing the book for its ending/lesson.

Although this wasn’t my favourite book, I know that some students in my class absolutely loved reading it. I suppose it is dependent upon what genre of book you’re most interested in reading as to whether you’ll enjoy it or not! However, I would suggest reading this as it’s a classic and does discuss some hard hitting issues that are prominent during the Black Lives Matter movement that is occurring today. The themes that are explored within the text are done so powerfully, and Harper Lee really explores how society has and can still judge people for their differences. By incorporating a child’s point of view within the text, the author allows the reader to observe the world from a more innocent and less warped perspective.

It’s a relatively short novel and is easy to read and understand, unlike some other texts of the period so I did like that about the book! It’s probably not a text that I’d pick up time and time again but Lee’s writing is timeless and a book with such prestige should definitely be on any literature lovers reading list!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Recipe for lasagne

*I never use a recipe for lasagne, it’s something I learnt whilst taking GCSE cooking and it’s what I did for my year 11 cooking exam that I got an A* in! I usually just guess the ingredients by eye and how the sauces look but I’ve tried to figure out the measurements for a recipe!*

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • One large red onion
  • 3/4 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and taste preference)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 500h mince beef
  • 1x tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp of high quality tomato paste
  • lasagne sheets
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml milk
  • Grated cheese to sprinkle on top, (+extra to put in the white sauce if you love cheese as much as I do!)
  • Mixed Italian herbs/oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • mixed salad and/or garlic bread to serve

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200degrees
  • Chop the onion and garlic into small pieces and fry in a little olive oil on a medium heat until browned.
  • Drain the excess oil from the pan and add the minced beef, fry until browned all over.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and 2tbsp of tomato paste and stir. Season with either Italian herbs or some oregano (my personal favourite is oregano) and salt and pepper. Keep tasting the meat sauce as you add the seasonings, it’s very hard to over season this so don’t be scared of putting lots of herbs in!
  • Whilst the meat sauce simmers melt the butter in a separate sauce pan over a low heat.
  • Add the flour and combine, cook for around 2 mins to cook out the flour. The mixture shouldn’t change colour.
  • Take the butter and flour mixture (roux) off the heat.
  • Add a splash of milk and combine using either a whisk or a fork until smooth, keep doing this a bit at a time until fully combined.
  • Put the white sauce back on the heat (low to medium) and continually mix until it thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon.
  • Once the sauce is ready, season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can add some grated cheese to the sauce if you wish, I normally add a couple of handfuls and mix until it’s melted into the sauce.
  • Layer the lasagne by placing a layer of the meat sauce, followed by lasagne sheets, followed by white sauce. Repeat until full, the final layer should be white sauce.
  • Top with grated cheese and bake in the oven for around 25 minutes until the cheese has browned.
  • Serve with a salad and/or garlic bread!

My favourite childhood author : Roald Dahl

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Roald Dahl is my favourite childhood author so I thought I’d write a full post all about him and the books that I love! I’ve got the majority of his books (a few have been misplaced) and I’ve loved every single one that I’ve read. My favourite book of the collection is ‘The Twits’ but my other favourites include ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

Although children’s books, the Roald Dahl books can definitely be read and enjoyed by adults and all have interesting and whimsical plot lines. The first book I remember reading out loud in school was ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’! I’ve also read his autobiography called; ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood’ which is definitely worth a read if you want to gather a wider understanding of the author. Saying this, the autobiography is still ‘child friendly’ and includes short stories about the experiences of the author as a child. My favourite tale from this book is ‘The Great Mouse Plot’!

The film adaptations of Roald Dahl’s work have bought his imagination to life, and a lot of them are great accompaniments to the books. My favourite adaptations are the ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ films, the Gene Wilder one in particular! I’m also really excited to see the new ‘Witches’ movie that is coming out soon!

Writing this has definitely reminded me about how much I love the work of Roald Dahl and how many amazing pieces of work he has written! I’d love to hear about which Roald Dahl books are your favourites!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Trip to Sherwood Pines

Last week (28/09/20) I went to Sherwood Pines and stayed in a log cabin, complete with a hot tub. It was such a lovely break and the forest setting was so relaxing, it really felt like the rest of the world didn’t matter for a while. I’d really recommend a stay in a log cabin for anyone who needs to unwind, it also made a really relaxing place to have a good read!

There are miles and miles of forest to explore and Sherwood Forest itself is very close by. There are many different quaint villages to explore around the area, but we spent most of our time walking and relaxing in the cabin.

We did have a visit to Sherwood Forest and had a walk up to the ‘Major Oak’ which is between 800 and 1000 years old and is rumoured to be where Robin Hood took shelter. It’s the biggest oak tree in Britain and is definitely worth a look at if you ever happen to visit Sherwood Forest!

I would definitely do one of these sorts of breaks again, there are cabins like this across the country that really make use of the beautiful settings that the UK has to offer.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients (makes around 20)

  • 150g salted butter
  • 75g light brown muscovado sugar (I’ve also used Demerara sugar as it’s all I had in the cupboard at the time)
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 220g plain flour
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g of chocolate chips (or 200g of a bar of chopped chocolate), whichever type you prefer, I use plain.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180degrees and line two baking trays with some grease proof paper (don’t worry if you only have one tray!)
  • Soften the butter by leaving it on the side for a little while or microwaving it for 10 seconds at a time (in a microwaveable dish) until softened.
  • Beat the butter with both sugars until smooth and creamy (this is made easier using an electric whisk).
  • Add the vanilla extract and egg and beat until incorporated.
  • Sift in the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  • Add the chocolate and mix until evenly incorporated into your cookie dough.
  • Using a teaspoon, gather even portions of the dough into your hands and roll into balls.
  • Evenly space the cookie dough balls onto your baking tray as they will spread when baked!
  • If you don’t have two trays you can put the remaining mixture into the fridge until ready to bake! I baked mine in two batches with 9 on each tray (3 rows of 3)
  • Bake for between 8-10 minutes until golden in colour around the edges. They will still be soft to touch but don’t panic, they will harden when cooled! This recipe makes softer cookies rather than hard ones!

Review on ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F.Scott Fitzgerald

This is a novel that I’m sure many people have read, and in my opinion (if you haven’t already) it’s definitely a must read. I studied this text as a part of my English Literature A Level course. The class that I was in studied this text as a part of the genre of tragedy, however this could be classified in numerous genres. A story of the futility of the American Dream, a tragic love story, however you interpret the book, there are so many powerful messages that F.Scott Fitzgerald portrays through his writing. Of course, the film adaptation staring Leonardo DiCaprio is also worth a watch to gauge how different readers have interpreted the text.

The text is narrated not by the title character, but his neighbour Nick Carraway. Throughout the novel, Gatsby is portrayed as a mysterious character, who doesn’t quite ‘fit’ in with the upper class citizens of West Egg. By offering descriptions of Gatsby through the eyes of the narrator, the reader never fully understands Gatsby as they might if he were to offer his own responses to events. This style of writing adds to the tragic nature of the book, how can Gatsby be fully accepted into the Upper class world of America when he is unable to be understood in his own novel?

Rather than having an antagonist or ‘villain’, I’d suggest that the hierarchal system that exists within the texts setting, linking to that of 1920’s America, is what causes the catastrophic events within the texts. Many of the Upper class characters are unlikable because of the ways in which they act and the values that they hold. I’d argue that Fitzgerald could have included hundreds of different characters and Gatsby would still fail within the system that he is placed. I don’t want to give too much away if you haven’t read the book for yourself, but I’d love to hear your opinions about what/who you think the villain(s) are!

There are many points of action within the text, there was always something to analyse when reading this. I’ve only read the text myself for studying purposes, but I’d definitely re-read it in my own time. It’s not my ‘go-to’ style of book but it’s easy to follow and exciting at the same time. For such a short text, Fitzgerald is able to explore numerous events and create a narrative that is both gripping and powerful.

“And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past“

F.Scott Fitzgerald (1925) The Great Gatsby

Happy reading!

Meg x

Lime curd blondies

Lime curd ingredients (makes a small jar)

  • 6 limes (zest and juice of)
  • 100g butter (cut into cubes)
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200g caster sugar

Method (to make lime curd)

  • Grate the 6 limes (making sure not to use any of the white pith under the green of the skin). Then squeeze all of the juice of the limes into a jug/container (being careful to avoid any pips).
  • Lightly beat the four eggs, then add to a saucepan with the lime juice/zest and caster sugar.
  • Heat the mixture on a low heat and whisk continuously to combine.
  • Once thickened (it should coat the back of a metal spoon), take off the heat.
  • Add the butter to the pan and whisk until the butter has melted and combined into the curd.
  • Place the curd into a sterilised jar, it should last a week or so in the fridge as long as the jar has been sterilised properly. Before doing this you can pass the curd through a sieve to remove any larger pieces of zest for a smoother texture.

Ingredients for blondies (makes around 12)

  • 320g white chocolate
  • 260g butter
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 380g plain flour
  • 4 medium eggs

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Break the chocolate into chunks and melt, with the butter, in a bowl over a simmering pan of water on a low heat.
  • Once melted, take off the heat and transfer into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and flour and fold.
  • Once mixed thoroughly, add the four eggs and mix until combined.
  • Transfer the mixture into a rectangular baking tin.
  • Add spoonfuls of the lime curd into different areas of the blondie and swirl (I find it easier to swirl the curd around the blondie using the end of a teaspoon)
  • Bake for around 30-40 minutes. The blondie should be set but still a little soft in the middle (a gooey brownie like texture).
  • Leave to set in the fridge.
  • You can eat these cold or warm them up and serve with some ice cream!