Mandy Wrangles_2_tnFor this month’s cook club, Mandy shows us how to make CARAMEL POPCORN CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES (for cheats!)



popcorn 4WHAT YOU NEED:

* As all good Kitchen-Cheats understand, keeping the odd box of instant cake mix in the pantry is a must. For this recipe, I used a Chocolate Fudge Cake mix, but you could use any chocolate or chocolate mud cake mixture. Find one that suits YOU.

*Butter / oil. eggs and milk or water – depending on what your Cheat-mix requires.

*Instant chocolate frosting. I prefer the Betty Crocker range.

*400g of Jersey Caramels.

*1/4 cup of full cream.

* One 175g pack of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. Or caramel popcorn. Or plain popcorn…depends how sweet your tooth is!

*Cupcake wrappers. I used gold foil wrappers for this recipe, because pretty. And it matches the caramel.


popcorn 3HOW IT’S DONE:

Bake your cupcakes according to the packet directions, but be wary of over-filling each cupcake (fill to 2/3 maximum) My mix was only supposed to be enough for 12 cupcakes, but in fact it made 18.

Allow cakes to cool completely, then, using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out a well from the centre of each one.

Chop Jersey Caramels and add to a medium sized pot along with cream. Over a medium heat, stirring constantly, melt caramels and cream together. This takes a little while, and will give your arms a good workout before it all comes together. Try not to allow the mixture to boil. Once combined, spoon aprox a teaspoon full of melted caramel into the well you made in each cupcake. Work quickly here, before the mixture begins to stiffen. Also – HOT. Be careful. Follow with a quick smothering of pre-prepared chocolate frosting over the whole lot. I just used a knife to smooth it over rather than a piping bag this time.

POPCORN 1Add the packet of Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs to your caramel mixture, carefully spooning through so the entire packet is coated with caramel. A metal tablespoon is easier to work with here rather than a wooden one. Once combined, spoon a large tablespoon of popcorn on to the top of each cupcake and allow to set.

You could follow this up with a drizzling of melted chocolate, but the verdict from my family was that these are pretty full-on in the sweet department already and wouldn’t need it. The surprise dollop of caramel inside the cupcake will set to a gooey consistency, lots of fun for small people and adults alike.




and now… Belinda tries it out!


randall_dreams300Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?
Kara’s mother has just died and her father takes a post in Japan as an English teacher. She is fluent enough in Japanese, that the language is not much of a barrier, but the understandings of their local legends becomes one. Upon arriving to her new school Kara discovers a girl has been murdered, and nobody has been captured. She is referred to as “Bonsai‘- Loosely translated as being cut away and moved from her home, no roots to grow on.  She is not laving luck making a lot of new friends, but there are some that feel that she belongs and she begins to settle in. There is still some taunting and rudeness from the other kids, and then the bad dreams come. And she is not the only one experiencing them. Then students begin to die. Is there a killer loose at the Monju-no-chie School and will the nightmares stop?

Every time I had to set it down, I thought ‘What is going to happen next?’ I was very happy to find that there were no slow parts in the story. It moves along at a great pace and there are plenty of scary happenings. The dream scenes will give you goose bumps and make your heart beat a little faster. Kara is an intelligent character and does not back away from her other schoolmates when she needs to. She is also curious, which brings an element of detective work and problem solving.

The author spells out the Japanese words to help readers pronounce them. This book includes great supporting characters, but my favourite character is the main one, Kara. She is so down-to-earth and easy to relate to, but I also found Sakura very entertaining. Most of the kids at the school are having the same bad dreams, and seeing or hearing the same cat, and then the cherry blossom smell appears. These are awesome scene set-ups that make you ask, ‘Is it time for somebody else to die? Are these the signs of death?’

This story will keep you on the edge of your seat. I was ecstatic to see that there will be two more books for The Waking series. I loved this book. I recommend it to those who like the movie The Ring or The Grudge. It’s a fantastic read for when you want something creepy, as well as a new international setting.

Text prize logoThis is such a great opportunity for YA fiction writers in Australia and NZ!

The entry form for 2015 applications can be found at the Text Publishing website.

The prize is open to writers of all ages based in Australia and New Zealand; only hard copy submissions delivered by post are accepted. Further terms and conditions can be found on the entry form.

Previous winners of prize have gone on to become best-sellers, award-winners and international rights successes. This year Text will publish more YA/Children’s than ever before as we continue to grow this part of our publishing repertoire. The Text Prize is a headline act of that repertoire and we look forward to growing it further in 2015.


winnacker-DefectorImposter bk 1

Tessa can touch people and absorb their DNA, and then she can change her appearance to whoever she has just ‘downloaded’. She’s been in training for two years to become a part of the FEA (Forces with Extraordinary Abilities), a secret branch of the FBI…and she’s just been given her first mission.

Her moral compass is screaming out, trying to tell her that what she’s being asked to do is wrong. But this is what she’s been trained to do, and getting on with it throws Tessa in the deep end and reveals her personal hell to the reader.


winnacker-imposterDefector bk 2

After surviving her first mission, Tessa is selected to be flung back into the insanity that is the life of an FEA agent. The kicker is that her best friend has been abducted and getting her back isn’t going simple.

Skeletons are being discovered in closets and things that were mostly black and white have become a disastrous muddle of grey.

This series is extremely addictive and there is something in it for everyone: suspense, romance, betrayal, political intrigue and action, action and more action… oh, and explosions. Woohoo!

Susanne’s characters feel extremely real, even though they may come with fictional added extras. Many of them have tragic back-stories and you can forgive them for the most part because they’re just working for people who gave them a better life. I love the self-realisation that occurs over these two books. The character arcs allow questions to be asked and answers to not be pretty.

If I were put in the same position as Tessa, there is no question that I wouldn’t handle it as well as she does.

Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, has given this book high praise. I agree that if fun and suspense is your thing, you should pick these books up and give them a go.



Paperback, 320 pages

Published January 2nd 2014 by Hodder Children’s Books (first published May 28th 2013)

ISBN 1444916173 (ISBN13: 9781444916171)



Paperback, 312 pages

Published August 7th 2014 by Hodder Children’s Books (first published November 13th 2013)

ISBN 1444916181 (ISBN13: 9781444916188)

You can now purchase a virtual boxed set of the Night Creatures trilogy on Amazon UK for a reduced price: Burn  Bright, Angel Arias, and Shine Light all in one download.

NC_Burn Bright Boxed Set_600

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