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The Girl in the Red Coat
The Girl in the Red Coat
by Kate Hamer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but loses its way., 23 April 2016
I loved the first 100 pages but then this book, like the characters who are travelling across the US in their truck, loses its way.

Carmel, an 8 year old girl, supposedly very bright and perhaps a little quirky or eccentric, is abducted by a man posing as her grandfather. Suspend reality because you are asked to believe that the drugged child, presumably on a fake passport, is able to get through passport control when she's taken to the US. Suspend reality in order to accept that this man has somehow found Carmel in the UK and knows enough about her personal family history to convince her he's her grandfather. (We're never told how he knows this.) Suspend reality if you don't believe in hands-on healing because this is her power which her abductors use to make money as they travel across the deep south of the US.

I did turn the pages fast initially, but the middle section of the book becomes more and more of the same until it ends on a whimper.I'd like to know what the theme of the book is- maybe healing? Carmel heals strangers and her family mend their wounds too - her mother Beth
becomes reunited with her estranged parents, forms a new and better relationship with her ex and his new wife, and moves on with her life in the aftermath of Carmel's disappearance.

But the characters....Carmel seems too worldly wise at times for her age but also too gullible, by
going off with a stranger in the first place. Grandpa and his partner Dorothy never quite ring true. You feel you are observing them through the wrong end of a telescope - you see them playing out their actions but it never seems real. You can't connect with them as real people.

The investigation into Carmel's disappearance on an international level doesn't seem to be active because vital clues such as when she writes her name on walls, are missed. You are never quite sure if she really does have the power to heal ( if you are open to believing in this
anyway) or if it's part of her active imagination and her abductors egging her on.

The book is a bit like a fairy tale- you need to suspend belief on so many levels if you are to get to the end and my overall thoughts are I don't know what the author set out to convey with this book. What is the 'big message' - or isn't there one?

Finally, there is a recurring grammatical error throughout- the use of 'there's' for 'there are / there're'. I don't know if this is intentional when it's used in dialogue by a child ( it's how people speak even though grammatically incorrect) but it's disappointing to see language used incorrectly.


Where My Heart Used to Beat
Where My Heart Used to Beat
by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow and tedious at first., 9 Jan. 2016
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I've only read 90 pages so far but am really struggling with this.
It's about the war and very detailed accounts of battles. That's fine in theory- Bird Song is a masterpiece for example. But this is not holding my attention. Too many characters, too many places, just not engaging me.
I will press on as I'm a Faulks fan - but it's hard going.


The Children Act
The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

3.0 out of 5 stars Underdeveloped main characters, 8 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: The Children Act (Paperback)
I think of myself as a McEwan fan but increasingly prefer Faulks. This book was an easy two-day read. It bounces along at a jolly pace though the court scenes not related to the main characters were dull and irrelevant on the whole. My main problem with this book is the character of Fiona. She didn't ring true to me. Not entirely sure why but she was underdeveloped. Her behaviour towards Adam from the moment he decided to accept the transfusion seems out of kilter with her behaviour before that; unless of course we assume she has a professional hat and a personal hat and the two are never connected. If so, then she's a cold fish who gets her comeuppance at the end of the novel. I didn't find her likeable or even credible. We knew all along there'd be a stinger at the end, it was simply a case of what. I was left feeling short changed.


River Cottage Love Your Leftovers: Recipes for the resourceful cook
River Cottage Love Your Leftovers: Recipes for the resourceful cook
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.00

95 of 100 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Many recipes are not that original at all., 15 Oct. 2015
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Sorry to disagree with all the rave reviews but I found this a little disappointing. I have several of Hugh's books. I like his philosophy around food so part of me hates to be critical- but here goes.

I bought this as a Christmas present for someone but am unsure whether to give it to them; there are so many old favourites here - shepherds pie, fish cakes, Welsh rarebit, vegetable soup, fried rice, chicken soup made from the stock, fried potato cakes. These are recipes I- and many others - been making for years. They are also the same recipes that Hugh includes in some of his other books.

In each recipe, the leftover item is colour coded so you can easily pick it out. But there are some recipes where 'leftover' is stretching the
point; sometimes it is nothing more than some stock or a few leaves from some vegetables, then there are loads of other
ingredients that you have to go out and buy (if they aren't already in your cupboards.) I didn't expect this book to show how to make fruit crumbles, smoothies, or pour a white sauce over some leftover vegetables- 'au gratin' type of thing.
Maybe this is a generational thing, but I'm of an age when it was normal to use the leftovers and create a meal out of nothing - learned from previous generations who'd lived through the war.
This book might work if you are someone who likes to follow recipes and doesn't normally experiment with your own leftovers at all, but for cooks with a bit of imagination, who are used to making 'something out of nothing', then I'm not sure it's a good buy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 14, 2016 3:06 AM GMT


How to Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways to Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets and Enjoy Real Life
How to Unplug Your Child: 101 Ways to Help Your Kids Turn Off Their Gadgets and Enjoy Real Life
by Liat Hughes Joshi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great support for parents, 1 Jun. 2015
Some great ideas here if you want your child to come away from the screens and spend time with the family.
Every chapter gives ideas for activities and what you need for them and there is something for children of all ages. A really useful book for parents to buy or for grandparents to hand over without looking too critical of how their grandchildren spend their time!


New Old-Fashioned Parenting: A Guide to Help You Find the Balance between Traditional and Modern Parenting
New Old-Fashioned Parenting: A Guide to Help You Find the Balance between Traditional and Modern Parenting
by Liat Hughes Joshi
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for any parent., 6 Feb. 2015
The voice of sanity in the world of parenting guides. Common sense solutions to modern-day parenting issues, but without going back to harsh Victorian attitudes.There are so many parenting guides out there that simply add to the confusion that many parents feel, especially when we are also bombarded with advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. What I like about this book is that it's easy to read- you can dip and dip out of the chapters that are relevant to you at any given moment. I'd recommend this to anyone who is a new mum - or dad - and who is looking for some straightforward, sensible advice, or as a book for a grandparent to buy their son or daughter if they feel they need support but don't want to be seen as interfering. Buy it and make life easier!


The Modigliani Girl
The Modigliani Girl
Price: £3.28

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 31 Jan. 2015
A real page-turner. Romps along with but keeps you in suspense. A must-have for anyone with writing ambitions but works as romantic fiction equally.


The Gluten-free Baker
The Gluten-free Baker
by Hannah Miles
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely recipes and photos, 22 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Gluten-free Baker (Hardcover)
Excellent book. These are not exactly healthy recipes, being heavy on the use of sugar, but if you want a treat in the form of cakes and biscuits, this is a lovely book. My one quibble is the measurements for the ingredients- why the use of 'cups'? This is an Americanism and I don't like it because how big is a cup supposed to be? The quantity is also given in grams but grams and ounces- for us oldies- would have been better.
I also don't like the constant use of a 'stick' of butter in the ingredients list. Most of us buy butter by the 250 gm block- sticks are 125 gms and tend to be more expensive.

Apart from this, the recipes are lovely and so are the photos.


River Cottage Light & Easy: Healthy Recipes for Every Day
River Cottage Light & Easy: Healthy Recipes for Every Day
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.00

48 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 22 Sept. 2014
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I've several of Hugh's books and love his recipes and philosophy on food.
But this one disappoints - it lacks substance and sadly, the assumption that animal fats are bad for us is now out of date if you believe the latest research.

This is marketed as 'healthy eating' by not including wheat and dairy. Refined carbs have been blamed for the obesity and diabetes epidemic, but new research shows that fats such as butter and cheese are not responsible for heart disease, and the real devil on our plates is sugar. And many recipes in this book are heavy on sugar even if in the shape of honey, maple syrup and dried fruit. To give Hugh his due, these high-sugar recipes are listed as 'treats'but even the breakfast granola and the Morning Tea Slice are full of sugar in the shape of dried fruits.

If you are someone who always has 2 slices of toast for breakfast then you may find the breakfast options novel: bananas with lime juice, strawberries with almonds, scrambled eggs with kippers, porridge with dried fruit, smoothies by the bucketful - but if you ring the changes anyway there may not be much that floats your boat.

Soups aren't that special - mainly pureed vegetables without the addition of cream. The fish recipes are disappointing- 3 curries (I can't eat curry). Mackerel and sardines feature, which is fine if they are fresh and obtainable but we don't all live on the coast. The meat dishes are okay but do we need a recipe for steak tartare?
Salads and vegetable recipes are so-so: a few ingredients assembled on the plate often with an Asian/Oriental dressing or spices.

If your cooking is stuck in a meat and two veg groove, or you want to eat in a slightly healthier way avoiding refined carbs, then buy this. If you already avoid wheat, dairy, eat a healthy varied diet, and happily throw a few veg into a pan then puree into soup, then I think you might find little new here. You may prefer to buy books that are primarily gluten-free such as those by Hannah Miles.

One other point- many recipes rely on chestnut flour. I shop at a large Waitrose and they don't stock it, so this could be a problem for a lot of people.

Sorry Hugh- I'm a big fan really, but feel this collection isn't your best.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 4, 2016 11:53 AM GMT


Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay but...., 4 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
I got as far as over page 125 before becoming bored. It's slow and the plot is not moving forward.

I find her style irritating - overly dense but not especially imaginative.
One sticking point for me is that it's set in the US. I've always had a problem with some US authors from Twain to Hemingway to Steinbeck to Fitzgerald, due to the culture gap. I can't empathise with some of the locations or even the day-to -day references that I could if this was set in the UK. I feel there is a definite culture gap which prevents me really engaging with the characters. For instance when they visit the Mall looking for Amy there is a reference to the characters who are on the 'Blue Book'- I've assumed this is some sort of benefits system, but again, I don't know so feel excluded. Same goes for the constant use of the word 'cell' for mobile phone- a tiny point but it jarred each time I read it because no one calls mobiles 'cell phones' now. It's very heavy on American culture and slang and although some readers might enjoy this, I don't.

I've now fast forwarded to the final few chapters- what a disappointment. I'd guessed as much. But this is not a thriller in the true meaning of the word. It's not even crime. It's about a marriage that's hit the rocks and the games people play. It's too long by half and overrated.


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