Prime Deception by Carys Jones

primedeceptionJohn Quinn, an investigative journalist on England’s biggest-selling and most notorious tabloid newspaper, is about to write the story of his life — a scandalous exposé of one of the country’s most powerful men. But the story dies when Lorna Thomas, the kiss in his kiss-and-tell, kills herself on a quiet country road.

For six months Laurie Thomas’ twin sister had been the Deputy Prime Minister’s secret mistress — and following [her] sister’s footsteps to London, and to the heart of the government, Laurie grows more convinced that Lorna did not take her own life.

But if Lorna didn’t kill herself, who did? There’s only one person who can help Laurie — the very man who’s bed her sister had illicitly been sharing.

Publisher: Carina UK

Year: 2014

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author to read and review. This has not influenced this review in any way, as I will always give my honest opinion of any book I read.

I went into reading Prime Deception completely unbiased, as I hadn’t read anything about it yet. The blurb sounded a bit dramatic and sensational, but I figured that wasn’t much to go by since blurbs are rarely representative of the novel they are trying to sell.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like this novel. I was hoping for an exciting and suspenseful crime novel, but this didn’t get exciting until the final 30 pages (of 199), when a strange climax ended the story very abruptly.

It’s hard to give a good review without giving too much away of the plot, but suffice it to say that this isn’t really a crime novel (except for those last pages). The majority of this story consists of the Deputy Prime Minister being heartbroken by the loss of his former mistress, and of Laurie mourning her sister and repeating that she couldn’t have killed herself. It left me feeling like I was reading the same thing over and over again, without there being any progress to the story. This resulted in me not being able to connect with any of the characters, since they didn’t really grow and felt like flat characters to me.

Besides that, very few characters were actually likeable. Especially Charles, the Deputy Prime Minister, really managed to get on my nerves through his irresponsible and, frankly, quite stupid and infuriating behaviour. Let’s just say the ick factor was quite high at times, and his role as Deputy Prime Minister wasn’t always quite believable either. I still don’t know what exactly his responsibility is within the government, as the author made it seem as if he was the country’s leader. Where does that leave the actual Prime Minister then?

While the story and the characters didn’t do too much for me, I did enjoy Jones’ writing style. She certainly has a way with words, which was what made the novel readable to me.

What wasn’t acceptable, however, and what made me give this novel only 1 star instead of the 2 I was going for at first (on Goodreads) was the huge amount of spelling errors. This novel is riddled with typos, forgotten words (such as the “her” in the blurb — see above) and general spelling mistakes. The one thing that really pissed me off and that was more or less the last straw for me, was the fact that at one point the novel mentions Laurie’s name when it clearly means Lorna (the dead sister):

Ever since he had received the call stating that Laurie had died, something felt odd.

That’s just… I don’t even have words for it. This book definitely needed another look from an editor before being published.

I think Prime Deception had the potential of being a really enjoyable novel, but right now I’m sad to say that wasn’t the case for me.

Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cookies

A couple of months ago I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies as part of my Cookie Rookie project (which I never really finished). They tasted okay, but I wasn’t entirely happy with them. Not with the way they tasted and also not with the way they looked. So that meant I still didn’t have my own delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I think every baker has (or should have) one of those. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most loved cookies there is, you know.

When my parents came back from their holiday they brought me a few packets of chocolate chips, and on Friday the time was finally there for me to once more try and find the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I based this recipe on the hazelnut coconut cookies I made a few weeks back because I thought their texture was really nice. I also added hazelnuts to the chocolate chip mix, because hazelnuts make everything better. That’s just a fact of life. Except if you’ve got a nut allergy. Then hazelnuts really suck.

Anyway. These cookies turned out really delicious, and I’ve finally got a good chocolate chip cookie recipe! Yay!

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

P1010192Love isn’t an exact science — but no one told Don Tillman. A handsome thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises The Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie — ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ — throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. Just what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

Publisher: Penguin Books

Year: 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was high on my to read list for a very long time, and a few weeks ago I finally got around to reading it! I went in with high expectations, and it did not disappoint. At all. I absolutely loved it!

The story is told through the eyes of Don, and I think there’s no other way this story would have worked. At least not on the same level as it does now. It’s clear from the start that Don probably has some form of Asperger Syndrome, even though he isn’t aware of that himself. He knows perfectly well that he does things differently than most people, but attributes this to the fact that his brain just works differently. Which is basically true, of course. It also makes for an extremely interesting main character.

A friend of mine, who also read the book and has experience with people with Asperger’s, said she found this to be a romanticised representation of what is a very difficult disorder to live with. That’s probably very true, but it didn’t bother me while reading the book. It was very clear that while Don is quite content with his life, he has also known some very dark times and has always had great difficulty fitting in and understanding other people throughout his life. He just doesn’t get why people are so emotional all the time, and thinks his own way of handling situations is much better.

I’m a sucker for a good love story, but it has to have something different and original to it, and The Rosie Project definitely has that. Not only is there Don, who is not by any measure a typical male lead, but you’ve also got Rosie, who is his polar opposite, and pretty darn amazing. She’s not just another love interest to a main character, but actually a very well-rounded character. One of the most round characters I’ve read about in a while, even, I think. She’s extremely kickass and has this fierce feminist side to her, but she’s also deeply insecure and has this need and desire to be loved. And then there’s the chemistry between her and Don. The dynamic between those two is just perfect. I laughed a lot while reading this novel, and the most hilarious scenes involved interactions between Don and Rosie.

While there were plenty of (really) funny scenes, there was some heartbreak as well, which Simsion pulls of just as well as all the funny bits. It’s really sad to see that Don’s differences might end up standing between him and happiness. He thinks he is incapable of feeling love because of the way he is “wired”, and most people around him seem to think the same thing. It was really wonderful to see Don grow in his perceptions of other people as well as himself. He really changes throughout the story, mostly in the way he looks at life and people (including himself).

The Rosie Project is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I really recommend reading it to those of you who haven’t yet. Seeing everything through the eyes of Don makes this a very interesting story on many different levels.

New Design!

booksbakingandbloggingIf you’re reading this on my blog, and not in some fancy reader you must have already noticed: Books Baking and Blogging has a new layout!

I’ve been wanting to change things up for a while now, but always postponed actually doing it. Re-doing your entire layout is quite the job and takes a lot of preparation. I wanted it to be (mostly) right in one go, so I had to make up my mind before implementing all the changes. That was the difficult part, really… Making decisions is harrrd, man.

But when I found out earlier this week that in my old layout the “Older Posts” button had gone missing completely when looking through the categories, I decided it was time to finally do it!

So, I spent most of today working on this layout, and especially the header. I’m pretty proud of it, if I do say so myself! I think the new look fits me and the feel of my blog way better, so I’m quite content.

Of course, I’m curious to hear what you think!

Some minor things might still change throughout the next couple of days (or weeks…). For instance, I’m not sure yet if I’m happy with my current social media icons, and I’ve been wanting to add a complete list of both my book reviews and my recipes for aaages, so now seems a pretty good time to do that, too.

I’m also thinking about adding some kind of rating system to my book reviews, so the structure of those might change a little in the future as well.

Sooo, what do you guys think? Any tips or suggestions? They’re more than welcome!

Top Ten Books I Really Want To Read But Don’t Own Yet

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

When I saw this week’s topic the first thing I thought was “oh, don’t get me started!”. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only book blogger out there thinking that! My TBR list is huge (I don’t have a physical list, but the one in my head is humongous) and most of the books I want to read are still out there waiting for me to buy them. So finding ten books to put on this list wasn’t very hard. It was a lot of fun to do though!

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1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I’ve read so many good things about this book, although I still don’t know what it’s about. Definitely want to read this one!

2. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

I loved the first book in the Cormoran Strike series, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and am planning on reading every book in this series. Should really go and buy this one…

3. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell seems to be everywhere and I still haven’t read a single one of her novels… Time to change that!

4. Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

I read a few very good reviews about this novel (and author), and have gotten curious.

5. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I’ve only just finished The Rosie Project (review to come) and absolutely adored it, so I need to read this one as well.

6. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

I’m just so curious when it comes to this book! Lauren Graham was amazing in Gilmore Girls, and I really want to know if she’s as good a writer as she is an actress.

7. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Again, I’ve read so many good things about this novel and about Gayle Forman in general.

8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

What with Isla and the Happily Ever After just being out my bloglovin’ feed is overflowing with posts about Anna, Lola and Isla. I want to know what all the fuss is about!

9. Every Day by David Levithan

The premise of this book just sounds really interesting, and (again) I’ve read some good reviews.

10. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I’ve almost bought this one so many times, but for some reason always decided not to do it. Still want to read it though. I really loved Extremely Loud & Incredibly Closeand the few pages I’ve read of this novel had me interested.

So, that’s my top ten for this week! Any books that should’ve made my list? Let me know!

(Also, this is my 100th post on Books Baking and Blogging! Wow!)

The Food I Ate in Barcelona

While being on my holiday in Barcelona, I thought it would be fun to write a blogpost about all the food I ate in that magnificent city. I took pictures of every dish I had, and carefully noted down what I ate and where I ate it in my little notebook. Now, I’ve been back for almost a month and this post is still waiting to be written! Let’s finally do this!

day 1 masqmenosDay 1: We arrived in Barcelona at the end of the afternoon, and we still had very Dutch timing when it came to being hungry: at around half past six we started to walk past all the terraces on the lovely Rambla de Catalunya in search of food. It had such a nice atmosphere, with all the lime trees lining the street and all these nice terraces full of people. We eventually stopped at MasQMenos‘ terrace to have a bite to eat. While we definitely needed something to eat, we weren’t that hungry so we both went for a salad consisting of tuna, fresh tomato, onion and a little bit of dressing. That was all there was to it, and it was so tasty! It came at exactly the right moment as well: right then it felt like the most delicious thing I’d ever had! My mother also ordered gazpacho, which tasted really good as well. Definitely a positive first experience with food in Barcelona! Continue reading

100 Happy Days – Week 14 (and final days)

I haven’t been around here much in the past week because for some reason I felt like I really needed to take a little break. Especially after the emotional and personal post I wrote a week ago (on which I got a lot of positive response, thanks everyone!). But now I’m back again, and I hope to get back to my regular schedule soon. First on the list is wrapping up my 100 Happy Days challenge!

Today was the 100th day of my challenge! It’s kind of a weird feeling, being done and all, and I still haven’t decided if I want to continue posting these happy days photographs or not. It’s been a lot of fun, and certainly made me appreciate the little things of every day more, but it was also one extra thing to have to worry (or think) about each day. So I think I’m just going to let the 100th day be the final day, and see if I’ll miss it or not.

You can still follow me on Instagram, though.

Anyway, here are the last 10 days of the challenge! I hope you have enjoyed me sharing these happy moments for fourteen weeks. Tell me, would you like to see me continue this? I’d appreciate the feedback!

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Day 91: Mmm, Mexican food!

Day 92: Joined literary student association Flanor today and got this book for free!

Day 93: Had a fun night out at Night of the Songs tonight! I’m covered in beer now, though, but that’s what showers are for.

Day 94: Friends who make the perfect mojito are the best. (love you, Lou!)

Day 95: Ben & Jerry’s is the best way to make me happy.

Day 96: I love the beach! Will be spending the weekend here on Texel with my dad.

Day 97: Still loving Texel! The beach is definitely my favourite place in the world.

Day 98: Texel was a lot of fun! It’s good to be able to sleep in my own bed again though.

Day 99: Spontaneous trip to the cinema with a friend! Saw a wonderful French film of which I’ve already forgotten the name.

Day 100: I love walking around markets! There’s always so much to see and smell and people are always friendly.

And that’s it! This challenge was so much fun to do. If you want to join in the fun as well, here’s the link to the website of the challenge!

Robin Williams and Mental Illness

I was going to write a fun and upbeat blogpost today about the food I had in Barcelona, but then I found out about Robin Williams’ death this morning, and that hit me quite hard. It’s not like I was a massive fan of his work or anything. I think he was an amazing actor and comedian, and really one of a kind, but that’s not why I’m so sad right now. At first I couldn’t really figure it out, but then I talked to my mother and we talked about how he suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. Just like a lot of people in my family. My mother then said: “People like that somehow always feel a bit like family.”

And that was exactly it. It hit close to home.

Not only did the death of this amazingly talented and heartwarming person shock me enormously, it also brought to the surface my own confrontations with depression, both direct and indirect. I’ve been afraid of having bipolar disorder since I was a young teenager and first learned about it and the effect this illness has had on my family. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life in any way, but every once in a while I have these days when I feel this surge of fear in my stomach. “What if I have it too?” Today is such a day. It frightens me to think about it, so I usually don’t, but I couldn’t ignore it today. I know firsthand what this illness (and mental illness in general) can do to people, and it makes me so sad to think we’ve lost another great person to it yesterday.

I’ve been crying on and off during the day, and at first that felt silly, since I didn’t know Mr Williams myself, but I realised it’s about much more than that. I cried for my family, I cried for all the people I know that are or have been battling with mental illness (and sadly I know a lot of them), and I cried for the many people out there who feel like they’re alone. There is still this huge stigma, and we desperately need to get rid of it.

You’re not alone. No one is. There was a time I felt like I was all alone, but I now know I’m not. There are so many people out there who are suffering from depression, but are too scared or embarrassed to put that lable on it, thinking people will judge them or won’t understand. It’s not about other people, though. Fuck them. It’s about you, and about you getting better. I realised this after a while, and made the decision to tell my parents I thought I might be sick and I felt I needed to talk to a psychologist. So I did. I told my parents — they were proud of me. Then I visited a psychologist, and it helped me. I feel more confident and better about myself than ever before. Yes, I still have my bad days, but so does everyone else.

This got a lot more personal than I thought it was going to be, but that’s okay. I’m not ashamed of my sadness or fears or anything else. Neither should anyone else be. Please get help if you think you need it. It helps. Honestly.

RIP Robin Williams.

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100 Happy Days – Week 13

Wow, only ten days left to go! It’s going to be weird to not post a happy days picture every day anymore… Although I could just keep going of course, but I don’t think I will. This week had its ups and downs, but there were definitely some very happy moments!

week 13

Day 84: Really looking forward to starting this one tonight!

Day 85: Look at them gorgeous strawbs!

Day 86: Had a nice time with my friend Fooke today, just getting a quick drink together.

Day 87: Had a great time at my cousin’s birthday party but forgot to take a picture, oops! Now doing a bit of reading before bed.

Day 88: Pizza and tv shows and YouTube videos with my friend Yvonne! Good times!

Day 89: Mmm, risotto a la mama!

Day 90: Cards against humanity and wine!

Those were my happy days! How was your week?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

catcherintherye

Usually when writing book reviews, I give you guys the summary from the back of (my edition of) the book. That won’t really work for The Catcher in the Rye though, as the back of my edition is the same as the front. Quite empty. I went to look what Goodreads has to say about the novel, but didn’t find its description very suitable for this review. I think that’s because I went into this novel knowing very little about it, except that it’s a classic and it’s about a troubled teenage boy (Holden) who says “goddam” a lot. Knowing so little about it worked out very well for my reading experience, so I don’t want to give too much away for the few people who don’t know much about it yet but do want to read it.

So what am I going to talk about? Well, the usual: some ramblings about what I liked and/or disliked.

I did really like The Catcher in the Rye. I don’t think it’s a new favourite of mine, but I can definitely see why it is a classic and why so many people find this novel life-changing and amazing. It definitely gives you something to think about, although I can’t pinpoint what exactly are the features that are so thought provoking. It is just so honest and raw, while at the same time being told by a somewhat unreliable narrator. There’s something about that combination that hits a certain spot. While reading, I felt very sorry for Holden but was also quite annoyed with him at certain points during the story. In any case, I felt quite close to him as a narrator, as if he was telling his story to me personally, and I was concerned about what was going to happen to him. That’s the sign of a great novel, right there.

Then there’s also the fact that the writing style of this novel is just something else entirely, in a good way. As I said, the story is told through the eyes of Holden, and through the manner in which he relays everything that happened to him it’s just as if you’re listening to him speak. No fancy words, a lot of curse words and a very nonchalant and seemingly spontaneous way of telling/writing. Even though this novel was written over sixty years ago, it still feels relevant today. There’s no sign of the archaic language you find in many other classics, although the constant use of the word “old” without it referring to age made me chuckle quite a bit.

I’m not sure if this review was entirely coherent, but I decided to keep the just-say-what-you-feel kind of style of the novel in mind while writing, as it seemed fitting.

Anyway, it was good to finally read The Catcher in the Rye and I was thoroughly impressed by its one of a kind-ness. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d really recommend putting it on your to read list. You might not love it (or you might be passionate about it, who knows), but I feel it’s definitely a must-read for book lovers.