Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club
By Michele Gorman
Published by Avon Books UK
ISBN: 978-0007585625

Goodreads description
When the pounds start falling off Katie, founder and president of London's most popular social club for the calorie-challenged, it seems like a dream come true. But as the overweight stigma recedes and her life starts to change, she faces losing more than the inches around her waist. Everything that's important to her - her closest friends, boyfriend, and acceptance into the club itself - are at stake in a world where thin is the new fat.

A funny, heart-warming story about overcoming the prejudices we hold, no matter where we tip the scales.

My verdict
Being no stranger to dieting, I could relate to this group of women who realise that their lives are being consumed by a relentless desire to lose weight, as a means of fitting in with the modern 'skinny' society, rather than having any fun and living life to the full. The book is well written and made me laugh from the start, with its descriptions of the slimming club and its members.

During the course of her book, Michele Gorman covers fad diets, from cabbage soup to Special K cereal, licensed diet aids from pharmacies and illegal diet pills bought online. She isn't afraid to highlight the emotional distress experienced by overweight people: the loss of self-esteem and the social stigma attached to being a plus size figure. I enjoyed it when the tables are turned towards the end, and one overweight character reveals her prejudice of thin people, showing that prejudice can be directed towards anyone if they don't fit the accepted 'norm'.

Many chick lit books can be rather negative about weight, taking the attitude that a character's weight loss during the course of the story is a positive step to finding romance. In The Curvy Girls Club, however, being overweight isn't a barrier to a relationship. Jane has a lovely caring husband, who loves her for who she is, rather than her size, while Katie's romantic interest fancies her before she loses a lot of weight.

It was great to see a focus on a chronic treatable health problem. I rarely see conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes or, in this case, an overactive thyroid discussed in a novel. As a health journalist, I'm a firm believer in raising awareness, and getting people to talk about, these long-term conditions.

Although written as chick lit, The Curvy Girls Club covers a wide range of more serious social and moral topics - domestic abuse, internet drug purchases, sexual discrimination in the workplace and bullying. However, due to the genre of the book, I felt that these are skimmed over and rushed rather than dealt with in any great depth. I also found that the book switches from being a story of celebrating your size, whatever it may be, to one of four friends falling out. The actual outings, which are the whole point of The Curvy Girls Club, seem to disappear from around halfway through the book.

Overall though, this was an enjoyable read tackling some serious social and emotional issues surrounding weight.

I won a copy of The Curvy Girls Club through a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice Twins
By S.K. Tremayne
Published by Harper Collins UK (29 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-0007459247

Publisher's description
One of Sarah's daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that will chill you to the bone.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity - that she, in fact, is Lydia - their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past - what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

My verdict
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley.

This is a haunting tale of mistaken identity (or it is?).

The Ice Twins is a chilling, sad story of a family torn apart (and haunted) by tragedy, with many mysteries to solve. Is this just a confused little girl or something more sinister? What is the secret that Angus is so desperate to hide? And why is Sarah so fragile and confused about the events that fateful night?

I couldn't put the book down and actually read it in around two hours. This ghostly psychological thriller reminded me of Diane Setterfield's The Thirteen Tale. It is beautifully written, keeping you guessing and wanting more, and I could picture the remote Scottish island and its surroundings. The intrigue began on the first page and continued non-stop until the last. Even the final chapter came as a surprise, to provide a satisfying conclusion.

I could see this being turned into a film or TV one-off drama.

I am intrigued to discover more about the author, as all of the available information about him/her seems to be shrouded in mystery.

One of my favourite books of the year so far.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

When We Were Sisters by Beth Miller

When We Were Sisters
By Beth Miller
Published by Random House UK, Ebury Publishing (15 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-0091956318

Publisher's description

'I never think of Laura as my step-sister, but that's what she is.'

Once they were the best of friends, inseparable as only teenage girls can be.

That is until Miffy's Jewish father runs off with Laura's Catholic mother and both of their families imploded - as well as Laura's intense relationship with Miffy's brother…

Twenty years on, they're all about to meet again…ever think of Laura as my step-sister, but that's what she is.'

My verdict
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley.

This is a story of how extra-marital affairs and divorce can break up families and leave children's lives in tatters. When We Were Sisters follows the paths of two girls in North West London in 1979, as they turn into teenagers. The girls' lives change when two of their parents run off together to make a new life in Norfolk. When the women meet again as adults, over two decades on (in 2003), they (and their families) begin to address the past.

The story of When We Were Sisters is complicated by the fact that one family is Jewish and the other is Catholic. I took an instant dislike to Laura, as she was very disrespectful of her step-family's religious observance and was intent on causing mischief, although her character did improve slightly towards the end of the book. I enjoyed the references to Edgware, where I grew up in the 1970/80s. However, I felt that the way some of the more observant Jewish characters were portrayed was a bit unrealistic.

Overall, however, this was an enjoyable, quick and easy read.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

The Zig Zag Girl
By Elly Griffiths
Published by Quercus Books (30 October 2014)
ISBN: 978-1848669857

Publisher's description
Brighton, 1950. When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar's. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another 'trick', the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in the killer's sights...

My verdict
I received this as an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley.

I have read the first book in Elly Griffith's Ruth Galloway series, but this standalone novel is completely different in its subject and approach.

The Zig Zag Girl is set in the 1950s, focusing on a group of magicians and illusionists who tour seaside towns. This particular group served together in the war. The book reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel, with its well-written prose and gentle murder mystery approach. Around halfway through the book, I guessed the identity of the killer and what the twist would be. But this didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Overall, The Zig Zag Girl was an enjoyable read. There was some humour and romance thrown in, although I would have liked more action. I felt that some characters (e.g. Edgar) didn't seem to have enough depth to them and came across as a little dull. I also couldn't understand why Edgar appeared to investigating such major crimes on his own (with the help of his magician friend), rather than with a whole cohort of other policemen.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Dandelion Years by Erica James

The Dandelion Years
By Erica James
Published by Orion Publishing Group (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409146117

Publisher's description
Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had every seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now as an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible - and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love...

My verdict
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What an amazing heart-wrenching story and beautifully written book. Over the last few days, I have cried at, laughed through and shared the memories of Saskia and her family.

The Dandelion Years had me in tears from the first page, with its tragic underlying story and vivid descriptions of Suffolk life. The book follows the story of Saskia, her father and two grandfathers who share a home after a terrible accident strikes their family, and Matthew, a young man who has recently experienced the loss of Jacob, his mentor and father figure.

Following Saskia's discovery of hidden wartime diaries, The Dandelion Years weaves these modern day relationships with the story of a young man at Bletchley Park, and Kitty, the love of his life. This is a story of missed opportunities, the importance of taking risks and living life with no regrets.

The Dandelion Years gets a five star rating from me.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Never Smile at Strangers by Jennifer Jaynes

Never Smile at Strangers
By Jennifer Jaynes
Published by Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer (27 January 2015 revised Kindle version)
ISBN: 978-1477821916

Publisher's description
When nineteen-year-old Tiffany Perron vanishes without a trace, the residents of rural Grand Trespass, Louisiana, launch a desperate search to find her. But few clues are unearthed, and before long another young woman disappears.

As locals continue to vanish, residents begin to discover that they might not know those closest to them as well as they had thought. Lies and insecurities quickly surface, leading everyone to question one another... and their involvement in the disappearances.

Meanwhile, an unstable, twisted killer is hiding quietly in their midst. Ever since his mother's murder four years earlier, he's been forced to raise his disturbed teenage sister. He's terrified of her - and of women in general - and his world revolves around his fear of and obsession over them.

In this USA Today bestselling thriller, debut novelist Jennifer Jaynes delivers a psychologically riveting page-turner that is packed with surprises and will have readers guessing to the very last page.

My verdict
I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I reviewed the revised Kindle version, which will be available on 27th January 2015. The paperback was published in November 2011.

The fact that I enjoyed Never Smile at Strangers so much was a surprise, as I had heard nothing about the book until the author followed me on Twitter and I then noticed that the book was available for review on NetGalley. I am an active member of a large book club on Facebook (with over 1300 members, majority UK based) and no one has mentioned this book to date.

Never Smile at Strangers is quite dark - it's set in a miserable town that, on the whole, is full of despondent characters. No one seems to have a particularly happy life. Then a girl goes missing and people start to question those around them...

Virtually all of the main characters have secrets, which are revealed as the book goes on. My advice is: don't read this for light relief!

The book focuses on several characters. At first, it felt disjointed but gradually all of the characters' lives came together. The killer is well disguised and his identity (and that of his sister) was a surprise to me at the end. Great twist.

Never Smile at Strangers is well written and flows well. There are good descriptions, but nothing that I felt was excessively graphic.

Very impressed that this is a debut novel. I will look out for more from Jennifer Jaynes in the future. And I will be recommending Never Smile at Strangers to like-minded readers.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Criminal Confections by Collette London

Criminal Confections
By Collette London
Published by Kensington Books (27 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-1617733451

Publisher's description
Hayden Mundy Moore is an expert on everything chocolate, helping clients develop new products and revamp recipes until they're irresistible. But sometimes, a dash of murder finds it way into the mix…
Hayden Mundy Moore has bushwhacked through African jungles and haggled in exotic markets to find the finest cacao beans and the most flavourful blends. It's thrilling work but rarely dangerous - until a colleague turns up dead at the exclusive chocolate-themed Lemaotre resort spa in San Francisco.
Adrienne Dowling's heart attack is blamed on an accidental overdose of the secret ingredient used in Lemaotre Chocolate's new line. Hayden can't believe that conscientious Adrienne would make that mistake. And between chocolate body scrubs, cocoa mud baths, and a non-stop frenzy of chocolate-based treats, Hayden starts to suspect that she, not Adrienne, was the intended target. Finding a killer among the rival chocolatiers and potential suspects won't just be satisfying - it might save her life...

My verdict
I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy through NetGalley. As a chocoholic, I wasn't going to turn down the chance to read a novel with chocolate at the heart of the storyline.

This book is a combination of chick lit and a whodunnit. It reminded me of the Murder She Wrote TV series and Agatha Raisin's books, as well as being a lighter version of an Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novel. I was relieved that it wasn't a 'happily every after' and 'girl gets boy' ending, although the book came to a satisfying conclusion. The ending suggests that there will be another book in the series to follow this one.

I am not sure how realistic the story is in terms of the criminal investigation. I was surprised that the police didn't conduct a full investigation, even if they suspected that the first death was accidental poisoning. And they also weren't interested when a second supposedly accidental death occurred.

However, it's an enjoyable story and on the whole well written, although I felt in places stricter editing would have cut out some unnecessary waffle.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Venus Trap by Louise Voss

The Venus Trap
By Louise Voss
Published by Amazon Publishing/Thomas and Mercer (24 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1477822159

Publisher's description
Jo Atkins' sixteenth year was disastrous: she lost her dad, was assaulted by a stranger, and then had her heart broken. For the last twenty-five years, she's believed that nothing could ever be as bad again.

She was wrong.

Now, still smarting from her recent divorce, pretty, self-effacing Jo finally gathers the courage to enter the dating scene. She meets Claudio, whom she vaguely remembers from her youth, but after a few dates decides he's creepy and politely tells him 'thanks but no thanks'.

But Claudio has no intention of letting her go.

Instead of never seeing him again, Jo wakes up sick and terrified, handcuffed to her own bed. She is given a week to prove her love for Claudio - or he will kill her.

Claudio, it turns out, is a man with nothing left to lose.

The Venus Trap tackles the emotional impact of divorce, the perils of modern dating and the age-old powers of lust and obsession.

My verdict
Being locked in your own home by a maniac is a terrifying prospect, as your own safe house becomes your prison. In this book, it's compounded by the fact that Jo knows her jailer from her past and, most worryingly, she has let him back into her life after all these years.

The book has a promising start from the outset, setting the scene, when Jo wakes up handcuffed to her bedpost, with her bedroom in complete lockdown, shut off from the rest of the world. Claudio is a frightening character; you could pass him in the street without even a second glance, with no idea about the monster lurking underneath his seemingly normal exterior.

Jo has seven days to prove her love for Claudio - or as he phrases it: 'You have seven days to tell me you love me, in a way that I believe you really mean it. No bullshitting… If you don't convince me that you love me within seven days, I will kill you.'

It's a frightening but well-written story. Claudio feeds Jo and looks after her (in his own demented way). But it doesn't take Jo long to discover his nasty side and for the situation to descend into violence.

There are some great lines, such as: 'I will try to get inside his head. I just pray he won't take it as encouragement and try to get inside me.'

Louise Voss made me realise - and think carefully - about how much we all carry around with us on our phones, tablets, laptops etc. Our contacts, diaries and social media are 'hidden' with just a few buttons and a passcode. With careful planning and timely observation, Claudio found it easy to learn Jo's secrets and gain access to her life. He forces Jo to read her diary, so that she can look back at particular incidents in her past. This triggers a whole host of emotions - love, fear, excitement and panic - and reveals some disturbing revelations (one of which I did guess!).

This is my first Louise Voss book, although I have read some of her collaborations with Mark Edwards. I look forward to reading more of these soon.

I received this as an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley and from the author herself, in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Cold Cold Heart by Tami Hoag

Cold Cold Heart
By Tami Hoag
Published by Orion Publishing Group (15 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409151944

Publisher's description
Surviving the nightmare is only the beginning…

Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until she was kidnapped by a notorious serial killer. A year has passed since she survived the ordeal, but Dana is still physically, emotional, and psychologically scarred, racked with bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder and memory loss. In an attempt to put herself back together after surviving the unthinkable, Dana returns to her hometown. But it doesn't provide the comfort she expects: she struggles to recognise family and childhood friends and begins experiencing dark flashbacks. But she's not sure if they're truly memories or side effects of her brain injury.

Dana decides to use her investigative skills to piece together her past and learns of the events that made her become a reporter in the first place: the disappearance of her best friend, Casey Grant, the summer after high school graduation. Looking at her past and the unsolved mystery through the dark filter of her shattered psyche, old friends seem to be suspects, authority figures part of a cover-up. Dana begins to question everything she knows. What is real? What is imagined? Are we defined by what happens to us? And is the truth really something too terrible to be believed?

My verdict
I received an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The book starts off with an account of a violent act: a severe attack by a serial killer that results in the victim's disfigurement and brain damage. Unlike many other thrillers, this book concentrates on the aftermath of the tragedy and how the victim copes with getting her life back.

After the attack, Dana was left with her memory in tatters. Now a year on, she begins looking into a cold case - the disappearance of her best friend 10 years ago- in order to give her own life meaning and her days purpose. As she comes into contact with people from her past, it's as if she is meeting them for the first time. So she doesn't know who to trust and has no idea that her own life may be in danger. As she pieces together the past, snapshots of her memory slowly return, leading her closer to the truth.

The book was an easy read and came to a satisfying conclusion with revelations about the past. It provided an insight into post-traumatic stress disorder due to brain injuries caused by both criminal and military acts of violence; in particular, how the post-brain injury person is often not - and never will be - the same as the pre-brain injury person remembered by friends and family.

I have read a few Tami Hoag novels and look forward to reading more in the future.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Visitors by Sally Beauman

The Visitors
By Sally Beauman
Published by Little, Brown Book Group (15 January 2015 Paperback)
ISBN: 978-0751551679

Publisher's description
Under the tablecloth, Frances's hand reached for mine and clasped it. I knew what it meant, that clasp and the mischievous grateful glance that accompanied it: it meant I was thanked, that there were secrets here. I could accept that. I too had secrets - who doesn't? 
Sent abroad to Egypt in 1922 to recover from the typhoid that killed her mother, eleven-year-old Lucy is caught up in the intrigue and excitement that surrounds the obsessive hunt for Tutankhamun's tomb. As she struggles to comprehend an adult world in which those closest to her are often cold and unpredictable, Lucy longs for a friend she can love. When she meets Frances, the daughter of an American archaeologist, her life is transformed. As the two girls spy on the grown-ups and try to understand the truth behind their evasions, a lifelong bond is formed.
Haunted by the ghosts of her past, the mistakes she made and the secrets she kept, Lucy disinters her past, trying to make sense of what happened all those years ago in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings. And for the first time in her life, she comes to terms with what happened after Egypt, when Frances needed Lucy most.
My verdict
I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I loved the story and setting of this book, with its vivid descriptions of 1920s Egypt and the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. I was transported back in time, able to picture the sights, smell the aromas and hear the sounds, as an elderly Lucy reminisced about her experiences in Egypt as a young girl.

The book touches on the 1920s politics of archaeology in Egypt and the ownership of the contents of the tombs. But ultimately it is a love story - between several of the main characters and Egypt's history and treasures. There were also some complex relationships, particularly that between Lucy and her governess/step-mother Nicola Dunsire, which was hard to fathom.  

While I give the book four out of five stars for its historical content and storyline, I did feel that, on occasion, reading the book felt like a chore, with unnecessary detail and a need for stricter editing. At 544 pages, it was a very long read. And at times, it seemed to go off on a tangent, with long passages about shopping expeditions, for example. Descriptions of Egypt gave the book its charm, but some long descriptions about other locations, especially in England, did become tedious and unnecessary. A couple of times I thought about giving up, yet I found myself wanting to finish the book simply to find out what happened to some of the key characters.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting and emotional read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, as long as they are prepared for a long journey to get to the end.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Follow The Leader by Mel Sherratt

Follow the Leader
By Mel Sherratt
Published by Amazon Publishing/Thomas & Mercer (10 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1477821855

Publisher's description

A man's body is found on the canal towpath. In his pocket, a magnetic letter in the shape of an E. Days later, a second victim is found, this time with the letter V tucked into her clothing.
As the body count rises, the eerie, childlike clues point to a pattern that sends DS Allie Shenton and her colleagues into full alert.
The race is on. Allie and the team must work quickly to determine where the killer will strike next. The rules are simple but deadly - to catch the killer, they must follow the leader.
From the acclaimed author of Taunting the Dead comes a flesh-creeping tale of a child's game with a terrifying, grown-up twist. This is the second book in the DS Allie Shenton series, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story.

My verdict
I received this book as an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second novel in the DS Allie Shenton series. But as the publisher's description states, I didn't need to read the first book to understand what was going on and it can be read as a standalone novel.

In this book, you are introduced to the killer early on. So unlike many of the crime novels I read, this wasn't a whodunnit mystery or a psychological thriller with twists and turns. Instead, it was a police procedural story, following a series of murders and the search for the killer. 

As the book progresses, you learn more about the motivation behind the killing spree. This is a story about revenge on old classmates. It made me think back to my own school days and how cruel children can be. As Mel Sherratt highlights in Follow the Leader, bullying can have a lasting impact on the victim, long after the perpetrators have moved on and forgotten their actions.

Mel Sherratt writes well, with a mix of gritty crime and murder and gentle humour. I liked the main characters in the book and look forward to meeting them again. This book left several questions unanswered in relation to events in DS Allie Shenton's past, setting the scene for the next book. This is my first Mel Sherratt book and I will be checking out her other novels.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Hunger Type Diet by Lowri Turner

The Hunger Type Diet
By Lowri Turner
Published by Duncan Baird (30 December 2014)
ISBN: 978-1848992689

Publisher's description
What do most diets tell you to do? Eat only when you are hungry. Simple, right? NO! The trouble for many of us is that hunger comes in many forms, not just physical hunger, but boredom, stress, emotions and habit. The result: you gain weight. The Hunger Type Diet draws on the latest scientific research to help you identify exactly what is driving your over-eating. Then, by offering cutting-edge eating plans based around the role of hormones, it shows you how to lose and correct any hormone imbalances. To begin, there is a questionnaire that will help you to identify which Hunger Type you are. Once you have identified your weak spots, the 48-hour Hunger Rehab Plan puts you on track and highlights unhealthy eating patterns. This is followed by a 14-day Hunger Rehab Diet that will help you to kick those bad habits and may also se you losing up to 10 pounds in the process. After this, a maintenance stage offers delicious recipes that will help you to keep your hormones in balance and keep the weight off for good.

My verdict
I received this as a free e-book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Like many people, I'm always on the search for an ideal way to lose weight. In reality, the only true way to lose weight, and keep it off, is to eat less and exercise more. But this is easier said than done when you crave food all the time. This book focuses on how hormones affect hunger levels, what's driving your eating habits and why do you always feel hungry...

In her book, Lowri Turner discusses that there are three phases of eating - hunger, eating and satiation. For some people, the hunger never actually switches off. This all sounds very familiar to me as I could eat all day long.

First of all the book discusses how different hormones impact on hunger. This section was very easy to understand and well written. It established that cravings and hunger pangs could be due to sub-optimal levels of key brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, and hormones in the body, such as insulin and leptin.

According to the questionnaire I completed, I am a mixture of three hunger types - Anxious, Never-full and PMS. Although I would actually consider myself to be the Bored hunger type too. The book then provides advice on rebalancing my hormone levels, depending on my hunger type, with tips on what and what not to eat and meal plans. This was followed by the 48-hour Hunger Rehab to follow, to rebalance my hunger levels and learn how to recognise true physical hunger, rather than hunger driven by other factors.

There is a recipe section at the back of the book, split into breakfast, lunch, snacks and main meals. I will certainly be trying some of these recipes out, alongside the other recommendations (e.g. increasing my magnesium intake, cutting down on sugary foods, drinking green tea).

An interesting read for someone who knows how to eat healthily but is struggling to lose weight because they simply can't stop eating!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go
By Clare Mackintosh
Published by Little Brown (6 November 2014; paperback on 7 May 2015)
ISBN: 978-0751554168

Goodreads description
A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?
In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life forever.
DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.
As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating...

My verdict
Wow, what a rollercoaster read.

The book starts as a combination of police procedure and the start of a 'chick lit'-style romance. A child is run over and the distraught single mother, who is overcome with grief, runs away to remote Wales.

But then the whole story shifted. I can't remember ever doing this while reading a novel, but I actually had to flick (or click) back to the beginning to check I hadn't missed something - maybe there had been a sign of what was to come. But I found nothing - this is an incredibly cleverly written story.

From that moment on, I was glued to the book and couldn't put it down. There were so many twists and turns that I felt exhausted. Certainly a book to remember.

If you haven't already read I let You Go, what are you waiting for… BUY IT NOW!

A Flame in the Wind of Death by Jen J Danna

A Flame in the Wind of Death
by Jen J Danna with Ann Vanderlaan
Published by Five Star Publishing (18 April 2014)

Goodreads description
At Halloween, Salem, Massachusetts is a hot spot for Witch and tourist alike. But when a murder spree begins, a cop and scientist must team up to find the killer before a media circus unleashes, panic ensues, and more victims are killed.Forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh Abbott are called in to investigate burned remains following a fire in a historic antique shop. As Matt, Leigh and their team of graduate students investigate the death, clues point to Salem’s traditional Witchcraft community. However, having dabbled in the Craft as a teenager, Leigh is skeptical that someone who has sworn an oath of good to all and harm to none would commit premeditative murder, let alone kill in such a vicious way.A second body is found in a similar fire and the team begins to suspect that coven members are being framed. Now they must solve the murders before 100,000 tourists overrun Salem for what could be the deadliest Halloween of their lives.

My verdict
The prologue sucked me into the story straight away with its vivid description of a fire set by an arsonist.

As the third book in the series, A Flame in the Wind of Death provided me with more background into the existing characters and an insight into what makes them tick. It also took the relationship between Leigh and Matt to a new level. Even the sex scene was beautifully written, neither smutty nor cliched.

By reading the book, I learnt a lot about the forensics of fire damage and also a rare medical condition that was a key part of the plot. Again, as with the previous books, all of the science was well explained in lay terms but as part of the story so it didn't feel like a textbook.

I enjoyed the ending and - as expected - it left me wanting more. This has become a new series for me to follow, and I look forward to the fourth book, which is being published next month (18 February 2015).

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes by Christine Bailey

Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes
By Christine Bailey
Published by Nourish (30 December 2014)
ISBN: 978-1848992269

Publisher's description
Looking for a simple way to boost your energy levels, improve your health, lose weight and feel fantastic? Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes is an amazing collection of feel-good drinks using the latest range of superfoods to nourish and revitalize your body. Taking juicing to a whole new level with nutrient-packed health-boosting ingredients, Bailey uses an array of ingredients including sea vegetables, herbs, teas, and tinctures to help you supercharge your juice regimen. Using extra boosters in juices and smoothies is a simple, effective way to get your body into shape fast, providing fuel and nutrients for a transformed body and mind. Bailey (author of The Juice Diet) also provides a handy reference section at the back to help you quickly find recipes to lose weight, maximize energy levels, boost your immunity, combat ageing and look amazing. There is even a 3-day power-charged Superfood Juice Diet Plan to se you on your way to looking fabulous as well as feel great.

My verdict
I have to admit first of all that I haven't yet taken the plunge into juicing/smoothing. Not because I don't want to, just through lack of time. But having read this book, I realise that actually juicing isn't a time-consuming process, as long as you are organised enough to have the right ingredients and equipment to hand. Supercharged Juice & Smoothie Recipes is well-written and easy to browse through. The first part of the book discusses 'supercharging your life' with ingredients to reboot your health and the benefits of juices and smoothies. There is also a section on the basics - equipment, how much to drink etc - and another on your supercharged food pantry essentials, including algae, bee products, berries and fruit, herbs, seeds and medicinal mushrooms. The recipes are clear to read and well set out. I particularly like the Quick Look section at the back, to help you find juices/smoothies for specific needs: weight loss, energy, cleansing, immune boosting, radiance and brain health. Some of the extra supercharged ingredients may be difficult to source, although they may be available from some grocery stores, health food stores or online. As a juicing novice, I may improvise or cut out certain supercharged ingredients, sticking with the more basic recipes for convenience. However, I can see this book appealing to someone who is committed to juicing and improving their health and is prepared to put in the time, money and effort into the finding the right ingredients.

NOTE: I received this through NetGalley as an e-book in exchange for an honest review.