Healthyish by Lindsay Hunt

helathyishThe full title for Healthyish is “A Cookbook with Seriously Satisfying, Truly Simple, Good-For-You (but not too Good-For-You) Recipes for Real Life”.  It’s a mouthful but it does sum up quite nicely what this recipe book is about.   It’s full of food that looks delicious, tastes delicious (from the recipes I’ve tried) and sounds delicious (from those that I haven’t).

The idea behind Healthyish is that you can eat a good, healthy, balanced diet without living on lettuce leaves and by making some simple changes.  So you swap whole grains for refined, add ingredients like olives for natural flavour, and swap processed foods for homemade alternatives (think salad dressing).

Liar Liar by M. J. Arlidge

imageDetective Helen Grace has never seen such destruction. Six fires in twenty-four hours. Two people dead. Several more injured. It’s as if someone wants to burn the city to the ground…

With the whole town on high alert, Helen and her team must sift through the rubble to find the arsonist, someone whose thirst for fire—and control—is reducing entire lives to ashes.

One misstep could mean Helen’s career—and more lives lost. And as the pressure mounts and more buildings burn, Helen’s own dark impulses threaten to consume her…

I don’t like fire, it’s one of those things that has always scared me a little and the thought of being caught in one terrifies me.  Liar Liar, then, is probably not a book I should have been reading.  However, it was next of my list of books staring DI Helen Grace and – as I’ve loved them all so far – I couldn’t say no, afraid I might be missing out on something good.

One of the reasons I don’t like the idea of being caught in a fire is that feeling that there isn’t much you can do about it once your trapped and M J Arlidge has pretty much convinced me I’m right thinking that.  He paints quite a scary picture of just what it feels like to get caught in a fire – the panic people feel when they wake up to find their houses on fire, their bodies in some cases, and the sheer battle they face against the smoke and the heat to escape.  Like I said, the idea terrifies me, and even reading about it made me more than a little uncomfortable.

Thankfully for the people of Southampton, the arsons are being investigated by DI Helen Grace who is like a dog with a bone and the force’s best detective.  Unfortunately for them, for most of the book the arsonist is one step a head and the fires continue to burn.  That’s because they are clever, leaving no clues as to who they are or what their motive is.  Helen and her team seem to be on the loosing side for once and, as they scrambled to make sense of what was happening, as a reader I could fee the tensions rise.

I also had no clue who the guilty party might be, which was great as quite often with these books it becomes pretty clear early on and then it’s just a case of understanding the why. When the big reveal came, it was a good one and – I thought – clever to.  Not your usual suspects and no one that had been on my radar.   Then there was a final twist in the tale which, if you read my reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m not always the biggest fan of but here made perfect sense and was a fitting ending to a great story.

Beyond that there isn’t much else to say other than the things I’ve said about every book in the series so far.  I love Helen, she’s a great character and her team are coming to life more and more with each story, making me care for them too.  The book is really well written, with short, punchy, chapters that keep you turning the pages and wanting to know what happens next.  The only difference with this book to the last three is that this is perhaps more of a slow burn (pun intended) with the arsonist not being revealed until close to the end and not having much of a voice bar a few blog posts throughout the story.  This is no bad thing though and didn’t leave me feeling like I was missing anything.  I liked this book a lot and would definitely recommend.

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Penguin Crime
Publication Date: 10th September, 2015
Pages: 442
Format: paperback
Genre: crime fiction

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson

32875064An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why?

As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…

The Missing is one of those books that seems to have been written just for me with the mysterious disappearance of a father and daughter and the woman who loves them desperately trying to figure out what has happened to them, at the same time as holding onto her sanity.  Because she has secrets, lots of them it turns out, which mean going to the police or calling anyone else for help doesn’t feel like an option.

It starts innocently enough, a trip across the lake to an island that locals call Malice because legend has it people disappear from it never to be seen again.  Just like Alex and Smilla.  Greta, though, isn’t from the area.  She doesn’t take it seriously.  Until she wakes up from a nap and knows instantly that they aren’t there.  Days of frantic searching lead to nothing but a run in with a gang of youths who are more than a little threatening and who seem to think Greta has stolen from them.

Left on her own in a remote cabin, Greta starts to see things in the water, in reflections in mirrors and windows, and in the eyes of the few people she comes across.  She loses track of time and what is real and what isn’t.  The past, the things she has lived through, the secrets she has kept, all seem to come flooding in.  As they do, tensions build and Greta’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic.

Along the way, I found I had great sympathy for Greta, though I didn’t necessarily warm to her.  She has had a hard life and one that seemed almost destined for her to end up where and how she was.  There was just something missing for me.  I wanted to feel more strongly about her.  Instead, I felt like an outsider looking in. It meant that, even though the book was well written and well translated with lots of twists and turns I found myself easily distracted from it. For me, it wasn’t a page-turner. Though I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t connected. A shame but this one is a like not a love review.

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 1st January, 2017
Pages: 201
Format: eBook (Kindle)

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

imageA year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft 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?

I had heard a lot about The Ice Twins before I bought it – which was quite a while ago if I’m honest – and I had also read The Fire Child, S. K. Tremayne’s second book, which I’d enjoyed.  This meant I had high expectations for this book even before I’d crack the spine, not always a good thing as it’s much easier to be disappointed.  I have to say, however, that I wasn’t. This is a good book and better than The Fire Child in many ways.

It’s better because the characters feel more solid and real, the husband a little less unrealistic in his behaviour, and because it’s spookier.  I know this isn’t a ghost story but it has elements that definitely lend itself to that, especially whether there are one or two twins living in the remote farmhouse with Sarah and Angus.  They are identical so if there were two, how would you tell?  And what about the toys that keep appearing, the way that children at school respond to Kirstie / Lydia?  It’s a great set up and S. K. Tremayne does a great job of keeping you guessing as, slowly, secrets are revealed.

This is one of those books where nothing is as it seems, no one is telling the truth and no one is quite as perfect as they may initially appear.  At the heart of it all though is a distraught little girl who can’t seem to get anyone to believe her.  But then, to do that, her parents would have to face some hard realities.  I loved all the “is she / isn’t she” Kirstie or Lydia questions and the twists and turns the book took.  I couldn’t decide if I liked Sarah or Angus or if they were right, wrong, good or bad.  Add to that the remote setting, with the harsh conditions and the not so trusting locals and it really did make it a page-turner.

I can see why so many people raved about it when it was released and think I am now one of them.  I would recommend this book, especially as the nights draw in as it’s the perfect time for something a little spooky, and liked it a lot.  Enjoy!

Emma

The Highway by C. J. Box

25586477

It was Danielle and Gracie’s secret. A teenage adventure. A 1,000 mile drive along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to visit Danielle’s boyfriend in Montana. Their parents were never to know.

But now the girls have simply vanished.

The only person who knows they’re missing is Danielle’s boyfriend. He persuades his father – a disgraced, suspended cop – to search for them.

But he too simply disappears.

Now it’s up to rookie cop, war widow and single mother Cassie Dewell to find them. Her investigation will introduce her to FBI’s Highway Serial Killer Task Force, compel her to confront a spate of roadside sexual mutilations and murders, and lure her towards a darkness greater than anything she could ever have imagined.

I love discovering a new author – or at least new to me (C. J. Box has been around a while and has quite a back catalogue) – and new characters that I immediately like and want to get to know more.  There is a feeling of real satisfaction when you do either but both is a real win in my book and it’s how I felt reading The Highway which I really enjoyed.

The story itself is pretty simple – two girls go missing and a serial killer is on the loose.  He is convinced he has a fool proof plan, picking up women in truck stops.  He just doesn’t count on a renegade cop with nothing to lose picking up his trail.  Make that two renegade cops as Cassie is almost as willing to go rogue as her mentor Cody Hoyt.  Both are like dogs with bones, willing to stop at nothing and suspicious of everyone – rightly so it turns out.

I loved Cassie’s doggedness and her need to do the right thing, even if that wasn’t always in line with the law of the land.  At the same time, she isn’t rock-hard, invulnerable.  Often in these books the female detectives don’t have a family or boyfriend and so nothing to connect them to real life.  This can make them hard and unlikeable.  Not so the case with Cassie – she has a life in the form of a little boy.  It meant Cassie was connected to the world and so it made her more human.

I also loved the setting for the story – Montana, a place I’ve always wanted to go and where the rugged and harsh landscape added to the sense of tension and dread as Cassie and Cody searched for the girls.  It also added to a sense of danger, not just for the girls but for the detectives.  It is a place, as described, where people are loners and don’t welcome outside interest, especially not from law enforcement.

It all made for a really cracking piece of crime writing, well-paced and well written and, as said at the beginning, I really enjoyed reading it. I will definitely be reading the follow-up, which I have read is even better, and am definitely recommending this book.  Liked it a lot!

Emma

 

 

Blame by Nicole Trope

image

‘I am here because they suspect me of something. I am here because I am a suspect. I know that, she knows that. Everyone knows that.’ Anna

‘It wasn’t my fault. None of this is my fault!’ Caro

Caro and Anna are best friends… they were best friends. Over a decade, Caro and Anna have bonded while raising their daughters, two little girls the same age but living two very different lives. The women have supported each other as they have shared the joys and trials of motherhood, but now everything has changed.

There’s been a terrible car accident, an unimaginable tragedy that leaves both families devastated. Over two days as Caro and Anna each detail their own versions of events, they are forced to reveal hidden truths and closely guarded secrets.

The complicated lives of wives and mothers are laid bare as both women come to realise that even best friends don’t tell each other everything. And when hearts are broken, even best friends need someone to blame.

Reading the blurb for Blame it sounded like my type of book. Two friends, a tragedy, secrets and lies. What could be better? Not much where this book is concerned, especially given how unexpectedly emotional it was too. It is well written, well plotted and has a clever way of letting the story unfold that drew me in from the first page.

It starts with Anna going to the police station. Her daughter is dead, killed by her best friend Caro in what sounds like a tragic accident. Only she and Caro were there and police want to understand what happened.  It seems simple enough – so why is Anna so nervous and why is she telling herself to stay calm and stick to her story?  It’s a story Caro, who is in the interview room next door, tells differently. Yet it’s one she is convinced no one will believe.

With each chapter alternating between their two witness statements a much more complicated story than it initially appears to be is told. For Caro and Anna life hasn’t turned out as they planned and it has all culminated here. As I came to understand this, I started to feel for them. I also started to wonder just where the truth lay. Needing to find this out kept me turning the pages. As I did I went back and forth, first blaming one character then the other as their actions were revealed, both by their friend but also by themselves as they each seemed to realise that the truth was easier to tell than the lies they had been.

The police who took their statements, the husbands who tried to support them, were catalysts and so not fully formed (though they were detailed enough that I didn’t feel something was missing).  You see them only through Anna and Caro’s eye. Both women were really well drawn though. I could picture them in my minds eye and they felt very real for me. Human, which is what this story was, and why it was more emotional than I thought. It wasn’t just about secrets it was about honesty and misunderstandings, friendship and love, fear and pain. It is why I enjoyed it so much and why I would say it’s a recommended read – loved it!

Emma

note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

(Revisiting) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

imageProud and solitary, Eel Marsh House surveys the windswept reaches of the salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway. Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the house’s sole inhabitant, unaware of the tragic secrets which lie hidden behind the shuttered windows. It is not until he glimpses a pale young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.

I first read The Woman in Black over twenty years ago, right before going to see the stage play, and loved it. I loved the stage play too and have seen it several times since, always amazed by how much it still spooks me out. I know that the play isn’t exactly the same as the book but it is really well done and the changes are more about how it is presented (with only two actors it’s very clever and if you haven’t seen it and get the chance you should). The story itself isn’t really changed.  I think that’s what I expected when I watched the movie. It’s not what I got. Though it’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen I spent most of it distracted thinking “I don’t remember this”…which is why I decided to re-read the book.

The Woman In Black is a fairly short story, which I think a lot of the best ghost stories are. To me, they need to be read in one sitting, at night with the curtains drawn and – ideally – with the rain lashing against the windows. It’s also a simple story – a young man travelling to a remote part of England to deal with the estate of a recently decayed spinster. Once he arrives he finds the locals skittish and unwilling to help him in his mission or talk to him about the mysterious woman in black he keeps seeing. As he begins to realise she isn’t what she seems and things start to go bump in the night, the tension builds and his mind starts to crack. It’s cleverly done and well written and, even though I had read it before and knew the ending, I still found it enjoyable to read and scary and spooky.

I like Susan Hill’s way of writing and how she had reflected the style of the time in which it is set (the late 1800s) in that it is written as a memoir in the first person and quite formal. It fitted the story well and drew me in. It also makes the story feel quite timeless, which I guess it is given it has remained as popular as it has on page and stage (it is apparently the second longest running in the West End after The Mousetrap). After twenty years I still liked this one a lot and am glad I found an excuse to re-read it. A recommended read.

Emma