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Sarah Rayner "Sarah Rayner" (Brighton)

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The 5:2 Diet Book:  Feast for 5 Days a Week and Fast for 2 to Lose Weight, Boost Your Brain and Transform Your Health
The 5:2 Diet Book: Feast for 5 Days a Week and Fast for 2 to Lose Weight, Boost Your Brain and Transform Your Health

58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the bunch in terms of content and value, 1 Dec 2012
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Like me, it seems, Kate Harrison watched Horizon in summer 2012, and was struck by how appealing an eating regime designed to help you lose weight that you only had to worry about two days a week sounded. Like me, she was impressed by the health benefits it brought, so, like me, Kate started following the diet, and like me, she lost weight.

Unlike me, she wrote a book about it.

Having been doing the diet with for several weeks, I wanted some tips on how to keep myself motivated - especially in the run-up to Christmas - so I downloaded this book yesterday. I whistled through it in a few hours, not because it was short, but because it was so easy to read. Kate's writing style is personable and chatty - she doesn't pretend to be a doctor, or a dietician, and thereby overwhelm you with science. Nonetheless, there is some medical background as to why the diet might be good for safeguarding against cancer and dementia, which I, personally, found really interesting. There are recipe suggestions (though personally I just use low cal ready meals), lots of testimonials and links to other sites for further reading. My only issue is more to do with it being an ebook than anything, I still find it frustrating not to be able to flick through and flit about like one can with good old fashioned paper! But that's just my own particular bugbear, and shouldn't put anyone off purchasing.

Overall I'm impressed by how fulsome this book is, and what great value for money, so I thought I'd share my enthusiasm. There are a few other books out there on the subject, but I'd recommend this as a good place to start. Here's to keeping the lbs off over the festive season!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 1, 2012 7:56 PM GMT

The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990 to 1990
The Diary of Edward the Hamster, 1990 to 1990
by Miriam Elia
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 5.24

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just hilarious. Perfect stocking filler, loo-side companion or to cheer up Eeyore types, 26 Oct 2012
"Saturday May 3rd: I've decided not to use the wheel again.

Sunday May 4th: I've decided to use the wheel, but only at night, when they're sleeping. I'll scratch and claw and rattle the cage, just to annoy them, to show them I will not do tricks - that if I do anything, it is for ME, not for them."


Just hilarious. If you've owned a hamster and/or are inclined to any sort of angst, this delightfully illustrated tome will lighten the burden of existence.

Highly recommended.

by Julia Crouch
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Responsible for keeping me up til 3am!, 9 Sep 2012
This review is from: Cuckoo (Paperback)
Rose has a pretty perfect life - a large country house, two children she adores, a talented husband and happy marriage - and then her recently-widowed childhood friend Polly comes to stay with her two children...

Seeds of doubt about Polly's motives are sown early and the atmosphere gets rapidly darker, so from the outset the reader is keen to know what happens. The sense of menace is compounded by Julia Crouch's vivid writing style - she makes it easy to picture Polly and Rose, husband Gareth and the domestic setting, her metaphors are interesting and her dialogue rings very true. So Cuckoo is not just a pacey page-turner, it's a very accomplished peice of storytelling.

I have two minor reservations - I found both the change in Gareth's character midway through and the ending seemed rushed - especially in comparison with the convincing psychological portraiture and careful pacing of the rest of the novel, but there's so much to applaud in Cuckoo it seems churlish to focus on these.

In short, if you're looking for a taut, well-crafted thriller, Cuckoo is a highly-recommended read.

Glass Geishas
Glass Geishas
by Susanna Quinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.32

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tautly written, well researched page turner, 25 Aug 2012
This review is from: Glass Geishas (Paperback)
For a first novel I take my hat off to Susanna Quinn; Glass Geishas is mighty accomplished. She's a consummate storyteller and therein lies her strength - from the opening chapter, she keeps the reader turning the pages, wanting to find out more. She also weaves together different viewpoints seamlessly, ditto her research, which she has clearly done, yet it sits lightly rather than weighing the novel down.

The story centres on a 24-year-old, Steph, who goes to Roppongi in Tokyo in hopes of a making money as a hostess. However on her arrival she finds one of the friends she was hoping to meet has vanished, the other is behaving very strangely. At the same time, Mama-san, who runs the hostess club 'Janes', shares her life story with an English journalist. Then there's 'Mrs Kimono', once a geisha herself, who advises Steph on the geisha way.

My only reservation was the characterisation of Steph seemed a touch thin; yes she was rude, but there could be reasons for this (plenty of 24 year olds can be!) so it might have helped to have known more of her past motivations - what drove her to Tokyo with so little money - and fleshed out the history of her friendships with Julia and Annabel. Then I'd have been gunning more for her - and wanted to find out what happened to her friends just as much as she does. That said, an editor worth his or her salt could - and should - have spotted this flaw - it really would not have been hard to rectify, but sometimes it can be hard to spot things like this in your own writing.

I've recommended this book to friends and will continue to do so. Meanwhile I look forward to more from this author. Storytelling is a rare talent, and Susanna Quinn has it in spades.

On The Island
On The Island
Price: 2.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Robinson Crusoe meets Blue Lagoon by way of Cougar Town, 3 July 2012
This review is from: On The Island (Kindle Edition)
Robinson Crusoe meets Blue Lagoon by way of Cougar Town - it's a bizarre pitch, so it's easy to see why the US publishing industry failed to see a hit coming in the shape of On The Island.

The story of Anna and TJ has been MASSIVE across the pond, having been self-published initially, and now Penguin are issuing it in the UK, Aus, NZ, SA. (I was given a copy prior to UK publication by my old editor so it's not in the shops quite yet.)

First up: I'm not a fan of Romance. Nor, I have to say, did I find the story remotely credible. That a teacher and her pupil are marooned on an island after a plane crash and soon after most of their toiletries and medicines are washed up too was almost laughable; that they have to resort to fishing with earring hooks yet seem to magic nails from nowhere to build a house - I mean, come on. Personally, my other half and I get through a tube of toothpaste every few weeks - these two make theirs last three years, and so the list goes on.


There's something about this that works. Tracey Garvis Graves is a very talented storyteller. The narrative arc is great, the characters are likeable (if not deep) and I raced through it in three days. It gives a fresh twist to the Castaway story by making Anna, the teacher, nearly - but not quite - old enough to be TJ's mother, and the author does a fine job of going inside their heads so we journey with them as their sexual attraction grows.

If you like Romance, you'll love it (hence the 5* reviews, I guess), if - as I do - you like novels to be a little less saccharin, it's still a fun enough way to pass the time.

The Making of Us
The Making of Us
by Lisa Jewell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.03

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light and entertaining, but not Jewell's best, 9 May 2012
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This review is from: The Making of Us (Paperback)
Let me start by saying I love Lisa Jewell. I read Ralph's Party the moment it was published in 1999, and have devoured her novels since. She's my favourite author in what is often termed the 'chick lit' genre (though the label is one I have reservations about) - the only one I regularly read these days. Much of what she excels at is here - the empathy for her characters, the compelling storytelling, the pacy dialogue - however, given what she's already published, her considerable talent and how long she's been at this game, I found this disappointing.

The Making of Us deals with serious subject matter - three young people tracing their parentage having discovered they were conceived as a result of sperm donation. Yet the novel seems to skate along the surface, rarely taking us as readers deeper, and often veers towards sentimentality. Of all the characters, Lydia was the only one who seemed fully fleshed out - and Robyn was very wispy indeed. The plot was too neat, (there are too many coincidences), and by the end I was left with a distinct sense that Jewell could do more, be bolder, more ground breaking, than she dares to be.

In short, if you're after a light read, go for it, but if this is your first Lisa Jewell, she's written better novels than this one, so I'd suggest you don't start here.

How to Keep a Boy as a Pet
How to Keep a Boy as a Pet
by Diane Messidoro
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just gets better and better the more you read, 29 April 2012
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I bought this as I liked the cover and title - it was supposed to be a present for my goddaughter - only it turned out to be more of a present for me. It was very wet yesterday, so thought I'd sneak a peak and soon find myself hooked on the story of Circe Shaw, a 15-year-old with giant hair living in the Nook, a teeny cottage in The Middle of Absolute Nowhere with her mum and their pets, Daniel Craig, Johnny Depp and Jude Law.

Like a lot of the best books, it's a simple story at heart - we follow Circe's mission over her school holidays to transform herself into a fabulously sophisticated journalist and find romance, all told via blog posts - and Circe is a very likeable heroine - quirky and insecure and bright - so I was keen to find out if she succeeded. But what sets the novel apart is the humour and insight. It just gets better and better the more you read, and this morning I was cockahoop to see it was pouring again so I could justify lying in bed and racing all the way to the end.

It sort of reminded me of Jilly Cooper meets Posy Simmonds (who wrote the comic strip 'Tamara Drewe') - both authors who'll probably mean little to you if you're who this book is really aimed at - and also a book I read when I was a teenager called `Fifteen' by Beverley Cleary (look it out, it's fantastic) but suffice it to say they're all funny like this author, and wise about human nature, and their books are also set the back of beyond. Although `How to Keep a Boy as a Pet' is aimed at the teen market (and will appeal especially, but not exclusively, to girls), I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been in any of the quandaries Circe has been in, which I suspect is everybody.

A Street Cat Named Bob
A Street Cat Named Bob
Price: 3.32

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Might make you buy the Big Issue from now on!, 24 April 2012
Please don't think me churlish, but I beg to differ with others about the writing style of this book - it's not terribly well crafted - it's repetitive and poorly copy edited - hence the four stars, as this is a book review, not a review of James Bowen, Bob or their achievements. Thus, if you're snobby about writing, look elsewhere. That said, it'll be your loss, as this is a heartwarming book with an important message, for reasons other than its prose.

Bowen describes how he was `invisible' when he was homeless, and the difference it made when he found Bob and took him busking with him. Suddenly people - the public - saw James, interacted with him, respected him. Having Bob humanised the man who was with him, and helped James turn his life around.

It echoes why this book matters: were it entitled `A Man Named James' I strongly suspect it would be invisible too. I doubt it would be published, let alone topping the bestseller charts, with James on TV sharing his experience. As a cat lover, it was Bob that made me gravitate to the story, and I'm sure I'm not alone (he is a particularly fine feline for all sorts of reasons) but there's so much more to this than fluff: through telling us about Bob, James is also able to share what it's like living on the streets, to busk, to sell the Big Issue and to come off drugs - all things most of us would otherwise shy away from reading about.

James Bowen isn't a writer, and he acknowledges at the end that he had some help in putting his story together anyway. But whilst A Streetcat Named Bob might not be great literature, it increases our understanding of people who often don't have a voice, and for that deserves its plaudits.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2012 11:40 AM BST

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Penguin Classics)
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Penguin Classics)
by Sloan Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.39

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful, touching and very readable story of postwar angst - for fans of Mad Men, 9 Nov 2011
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The publishers are missing a marketing trick on this book - it should be reissued subtitled 'the original Mad Men' or some such - the parallels are so marked. Even the names of the two characters, Tom and Betsy, are spookily like Don and Betty - or maybe not so spookily; apparently Mr Draper is reading a copy in one episode of the (5*) TV show. Anyway, this is the original if you like - written at the time, rather than the retrospectively - and a fascinating insight into the mores and angst of the postwar era.

It has `flaws': it's dated; the world of writing and rewriting speeches seems quaint and remote 50-Powerpoint-years later; Betsy's not a particularly rounded character and is unconvincingly forgiving; the end is too easy and neat. Yet it's more than a mere work of historic interest; with it's portrayal of angst over work/life balance and how much you should subjugate your own personality at work, and its insights into the internal conflicts experienced when returning home post war by the average Jo, it has resonance for today too. The pace is good, the structure tight, the style accessible and I devoured it in a few days.

Just one tip: if you're reading the edition with Jonathan Frantzen's introduction in it, leave it until after you've finished - it's full of spoilers and will (to my mind wrongly) lower your expectations of the second half. Certainly it would be better placed as an Afterward in terms of flow. But it's the novel I'm reviewing here, not the format or Frantzen, and whilst the book has defects, I'm going for 5*s all the same. My reasons? I don't think it's something anyone would regret picking up and couldn't learn from reading, and its appeal will be broad. In short, it's an American literary treasure, well worth rediscovering all these years on.

by Mark Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Sensitive, affectionate and surprisingly thought provoking, 21 Oct 2011
This review is from: Eleven (Paperback)
Eleven tells the story of DJ Xavier, an Australian who comes to England and changes his name - quite why takes is left a way through to reveal and comes as quite a shock - and the eleven people impacted by one random act of his unkindness at the novel's start. Enjoyable from the off, this is not High Art, it's chick lit really, only male authors never get patronised with the term, but it sits very comfortably alongside Lisa Jewell (even the cover is similar to hers of a few years back) and, I gather, One Day, which I confess I've never read.

Mark Watson is a gifted writer; he has a light touch (again, this is a compliment, whoever sets out to write a 'heavy' book?) and you'd not know from his tone of voice he was a stand-up comedian - again, I mean this as praise, books packed with big arrows saying 'Laugh!' (take note Caitlin Moran) can get tiresome. The cast of characters is large, and many have real charm (particularly Geordie cleaner, Pippa, with her 'pendulous breasts'), but the real charm of the book lies in its gentle philosophy: think not that what you do in life has no impact on the world, because even small acts of caring make a difference. Recommended.

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