I’ve been reading a lot of books recently and a couple have really stood out. Like this one.

Want to give a quick shout-out to Pigeonhole. I tried to download the book after it had finished it’s serialisation.  But the app was letting me download it but it never appeared in my bookshelf. I shouldn’t have been able to get hold of it, but Pigeonhole let me because they are wonderful. This is what I thought of Lies by T.M Logan.

Blurb

 When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .

My Review

Sometimes, secrets are best kept that way.

T M Logan’s debut novel ‘Lies revolves around the decisive moment where everything changes, when you find out something you didn’t want to know. The YES or NO choice that seems harmless but causes your life to dissolve into hell. Well maybe.

Joe Lynch is pretty normal. He has a lovely wife and an adorable son, and a normal job as a teacher. He spends his days pottering around doing all-together adult things. Until one day his son spots his mum’s car, somewhere where it shouldn’t really be. Following his wife Mel he finds her with their friend Ben at a hotel. From this moment everything begins to collapse. It looks like Joe is going to be arrested on suspicion of murder and he quickly realises he doesn’t know his wife, Mel, at all.

Character wise I loved Joe. Yes, he’s very naive, yes it takes him a long time to catch on but that’s why he’s so great. The trial by social media that he is forced to withstand is excruciating. Ben, (as described in the blurb,) dissapears but not for long. He taunts Joe, leading him deeper into the hell hole that’s been created. I wanted Joe to succeed, especially as he gets more and more desperate.

The writing is exceptional. It’s not gritty, but it is very engaging and clean writing with bite. The demise of Joe is wonderfully done. I felt like throwing the book on the floor a number of times. It’s not often that a book manages to make me desperate to read and piss me off at the same time. The writing is very cat and mouse, back and forth.

Final Thoughts

Overall, a super good read. I would say the ending was a brilliant twist but a little over the top. Saying that I didn’t guess it at all and was very, very shocked. If you love a thriller definitely get a copy. Thumbs up.

It’s been mentioned recently that book reviews are a little low.  Or maybe just book related bits and bobs. Apologies; I’ve been getting really into my Friday/Saturday posts. However, expect a lot of bookish bits because I’ve read some really bloody good books recently. Like this one – Death Message by Kate London.

Blurb

October 1987: the morning after the Great Storm. Fifteen-year-old Tania Mills walks out her front door and disappears. Twenty-seven years later her mother still prays for her return. DS Sarah Collins in the Met’s Homicide Command is determined to find out what happened, but is soon pulled into a shocking new case and must once again work with a troubled young police officer from her past, Lizzie Griffiths.

PC Lizzie Griffiths, now a training detective, is working in the Domestic Violence Unit, known by cops as the ‘murder prevention squad’. Called to an incident of domestic violence, she encounters a vicious, volatile man – and a woman too frightened to ask for help. Soon Lizzie finds herself drawn into the centre of the investigation as she fights to protect a mother and daughter in peril.

As both cases unfold, Sarah and Lizzie must survive the dangerous territory where love and violence meet.

My Review

As the blurb suggests the novel centres on two Met Police Officers DS Sarah Collins and PC Lizzy Griffiths. Sarah is tasked with solving the dissapearance of Tania Mills, Lizzy is returning to work at her new posting within the Domestic Violence Unit. The case Sarah has taken on is a complex case; Did Tania run away/have an accident? Or is it something more sinister? PC Griffiths is working with a young mother in dire need of help but refusing all attempts. How far will Lizzie go to protect the victim?

I really enjoyed this novel and it definitely throws up some conversations about the use of social media, texts, CCTV etc. I liked the discussion of the way the justice system operates. This would definitely be a brilliant book to debate and discuss at a reading group maybe. The writing is tough, gritty and edgy. It really throws the reader back and forth and gets you involved.

The characters are brilliant. Sarah is this cold, quite difficult character to get to know but that only makes the search for Tania more interesting. Sarah has to emphathise with Tania’s parents/friends/acquaintances and it’s fun to engage with that. I liked Lizzie less (despite sharing her name.) I found her confusing as she was both very weak and at times putting herself in terrible situations. However the constrast with Sarah was brill.

The writing is punchy and emotional with moments of great tension, it’s set in London after the great storm of 1987 and there are excellent twists and turns. I do love gritty female detectives!

Final Thoughts

I think something to note is that the stories don’t really interfere with one another that much which is a little frustrating. More correlation might have helped but both stories are brilliant stood alone. The author of the novel is an ex-met detective and it really really shows. The writing definitely questions and tries to understand what makes people commit crimes and what makes certain people more vulnerable to abuse.

Death Message is a banging novel – well worth a read.

I love slow-cooking. Throw a load of ingredients in a pot and leave for 7 hours – end up with a very good meal.

However, not EVERYTHING works in slow cooker form. I’ve made soups that haven’t been quite flavoursome enough and a pasta dish that tasted like mush. (I ended up getting stuck in London and it over-cooked.) So, having a book to come back to is very helpful. What did I think of The Slow Cooker Solution? Read on to find out.

The Slow Cooker Solution (Go slow and eat well.)

Blurb

The great advantage of a slow cooker is that you can set it and forget it. Throw the ingredients in, leave them to cook and then return home to a delicious meal.

Slow cookers are also economical to run, can be packed with vegetables and also suit less expensive cuts of meat. The deep-flavoured dishes can be created with your favourite vegetables. From carrots and turnips to kale and cauliflower. As well as healthy beans and grains. What is more, when you just don’t want to cook you won’t have to resort to a fast-food fix because they’ll be a tasty meal waiting for you at home.

My Review

I was actually bought this book and a slow cooker when I moved to London. Since then I have used it weekly and the book almost as much. First thing – the book has both English and American measurements. So helpful. Cup sizes are easy to google but it’s nice to have both. All the ingredients have been easy to find which is a plus.

The book has 6 sections. The introduction (full of really helpful tips) nourish, load and leave, comfort, global and wow factor. I love that the sections are so diverse. The wow factor section is a lot more complicated but perfect for dinner parties. The wild mushroom lasagne (in the slow-cooker) is a revelation. I’ve used the load and leave section a lot more – but there’s something for every cook.

Many of the recipes I tend to create just require the slow cooker. With this book even the load and leave recipes sometimes require a little more. For example the boston beans need to be boiled first and onions fried. It’s to produce the best results and flavor but it’s something to note. The book does include calorie counts. Some are very reasonable but I know there are corners that could be cut if you wanted to make the recipes more low-cal. (Which I have done.)

What I really like, is how this book has stretched my knowledge of what you can cook in a slow-cooker. The cavolo nero, goats cheese and sun dried tomato frittata for example. Or the strawberry cheese-cake, it’s quite exciting to be able to use the slow cooker for more that soups/stews.

Favourite recipes include pork with stuffed apples and new clam chowder. Both are wonderful.

Final Thoughts

This book is fantastic for newbie slow-cooker chefs or more experienced home-cooks. I loved how this book stretched my repertoire. It’s made me a better cook and helped me get more out of my slow-cooker.

The Slow Cooker Solution (Go slow and eat well.)

The Slow Cooker Solution (Go slow and eat well.)

The Slow Cooker Solution (Go slow and eat well.)

 

Sport. It’s a minefield isn’t it?

I love watching sport. Well, some sports. Tennis, the Olympics, especially curling. I regularly attend the gym and at times run. (when my knees aren’t being a bugger.) But I haven’t played a sport since I left high-school. I was never top of the class at netball/hockey/800m but I enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it.

Recently I signed up for a staff netball team and saw that this book was being advertised by the Pigeon Hole App. Being a competitive person who’s never R E A L L Y been encouraged to enjoy sport through work/university I wanted to find out more. I wanted to feel inspired because I don’t want to give up on sport. This book (Eat, Sweat, Play,) is a life-line to those who want to re-kindle or inspire a love of sport.

Blurb

What does it mean to be a sporty woman in the 21st century? From the launch of Net-A-Sporter, serving up sports clothing for fashionistas, to the introduction of #plankie as the new Instagram selfie for yoga bunnies; exercise for women has finally gone mainstream.

But if sweating has never been so hot for female celebrities, then why are there still so many obstacles for girls and women when it comes to sport? Why do girls still hate school sports lessons? Why is sport consistently defined as male territory, with TV cameras replicating the male gaze as they search out the most beautiful women in the crowd? Will women ever flock to watch football, rugby and boxing in their millions? Or turn up to the park with friends for a Sunday morning kickabout? How long do we have to wait to see the first multi-millionaire female footballer or basketball player?

My Review

 Eat, Sweat, Play, is written by sport’s journalist Anna Kessel. It’s a bunch of essays/chapters that look at women in sport. Not just the professionals, but you and me too. Anna discusses why women have lost interest in sport and how we can encourage women, especially teenagers. Not only for their health but help increase interest to continue through to adulthood. Anna encourages us not to worry about how we look but to move, and enjoy it

The book focuses on lots of different themes;

1)     Talk of how pregnancy (before and after) affects mum’s. Should you exercise at X many weeks. How much can you do. By using scientific theory Anna helps to dispel confusion.

2)     Role Models are a big part of the book. Kessel discusses how different professional athletes have delt with coming back to their sport while giving their bodies time to recover.

3)     PERIODS. This theme was so refreshing to read. Throughout my time at school periods were a bloody bug bare especially during sport. Yes it helped but I always thought – shouldn’t my body be in recovery right now. The book discusses the struggles of competing whilst your body is painting the town red. When to excercie, how it can fuck up your performance and how to overcome it. Bloody brilliant.

4)     Women in sport: Kessel being a sports journalist has heard the worst of it. I found her discussion of being a woman in a man’s world very insightful. From sportswomen being perceived to how we move forward and encourage women to take part in everyday sport and ENJOY IT.

Final Thoughts

This review is already long but quick discussion of the writing style. I thought this was going to be a lot more story-like but it reads a little like an essay or dissertation. But that’s no bad thing. It’s easily digestible in chunks which I read on my commute. It also has a lot of a lot of facts and I found myself really discussing the books with others. T had an earful a couple of times as I got frustrated with the ways women are ostracised from sport.

In short this is a fantastic book about women in sport. Written with guts, power and knowledge it’s a stunner. I’m off to find a football.

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I’ve been reading from the Pigeonhole App again.

This time it’s the intense You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. Abbot has been on my list to watch for a while now. I’ve read a lot of good reviews but never quite got round to it. Today I finally did. Onto the review!

Blurb

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon. A gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But then a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community weeks before an all-important competition. Everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries to hold her family together. But she finds herself drawn, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.
 
You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

My Review

You get a jist from the blurb, this is a murder mystery. BUT, it revolves around family and the anchor that is Devon. Devon is a gymnastics prodigy. Her family have given everything to make her dream come true. When a supposed hit-and-run rears it’s ugly head, rumours begin to swirl. The novel details the hows, the whys, the confusion, melted into the intense mania of elite gymnastics.

The characters are intensely written. Katie is a mother overwhelmed and terrified by her daughter who is changing in ways she can’t control. Eric, the father, is obsessed with Devon’s dream – he’ll do anything to make her success a probability. Drew, the little brother notices the smallest details. He’s often forgotten and left in Devon’s shadow. He’s written wonderfully. Finally Devon – she’s a whirlwind that keeps her feelings close to her chest. She’s described regularly as a hard, perfectly smooth nut. It’s a perfect description of a teenage girl caught up in the stressful world of elite gymnastics.

The writing is sublime. Abbot is brilliant at writing about the psychotic world of teenage girls. The pain, the hurt, the secrets. Abbot has a way of manipulating the reader so you never quite know where to point the finger. I like the fact that the secret could be given away and you would still read on. The execution of the writing is spot on. The death brings a lot of secrets to the light and Abbot perfectly understands how to manage each character as it slowly unravels.

Final Thoughts

I loved the exploration of claustrophobia, secrecy and female adolescence. The story is full of suspense, and I liked the perspective of transition between girl and woman. Watching Katie try and control her daughter, whilst trying to push away multiple characters that wear on Devon. It’s exhausting and exciting. I like the theme of greatness and sacrifice and how to two mix, and how it affects little Drew. It creates a destructive but very exciting narrative, which I loved.

Abbott also manages to capture tiny moments (with a lot of meaning) in perfect clarity. Here’s an example.

He’d never woken up, and the only sound now was his breathing, hoarse and ragged. For a second she thought she saw his lashes lift, the white of one eye looking at her, but she was wrong.

It’s a brilliant story that had me hanging onto every word. Read it.

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