The English Agent: the real-life inspiration behind the story + my review

The English Agent

Title: The English Agent
Author: Clare Harvey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for Clare Harvey’s The English Agent, which is available to buy now!

Read on for a brilliant guest post by Clare, all about how a fascinating real-life story inspired the novel, and also my review!


[Synopsis]

How far will two women go to survive a war?

Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. Who can she trust?

Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn.

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[Clare Harvey – The story-behind the story: what inspired The English Agent]

Author Clare HarveyThere were two things that led to the creation of The English Agent. The initial seed was planted more than six years ago, in the autumn of 2010, before I had even begun writing my debut, The Gunner Girl. Back then we were living in Kathmandu, Nepal (my husband was posted there with the British Army to support the Ghurkha recruitment). Sometimes, when I felt a little homesick, I’d have a look online for news local to Devon, which is where I grew up, and where my parents still live. There was one story that particularly captured my interest: a cat-loving old woman who’d died alone in a Torquay flat was discovered to have been one of the heroines of WW2. Perhaps it was because of her codename, ‘Rose’, the same as my youngest daughter, but more likely it was because of the details of her exploits (parachuted into France aged 22, captured whilst transmitting secret messages, escaping from prison camp), but Eileen Nearne’s story lodged itself at the back of my mind. There was something fascinating about this brave young woman who’d worked undercover behind enemy lines at the height of the Second World War.

In 2011 we were posted back to the UK, and I wrote The Gunner Girl – inspired by my mother-in-law’s time on the ack-ack guns in WW2 – when my husband was away on an operational tour of duty in Afghanistan with the army in 2012. By the time The Gunner Girl was accepted for publication in 2014, my husband was undertaking his final army posting, supporting the Special Forces (SAS & SBS). Now, just to make it clear, my husband wasn’t, and never has been, a member of the Special Forces himself. He was a major in the Royal Engineers at the time; however for his last two years of army service he acted as the Special Forces’ ‘tame’ engineer, advising them on building projects in the UK and overseas. What this meant in practice was that, because he’d signed the Official Secrets Act, we never knew where he was. For a whole two years he never wore his army uniform; he was always in civilian clothes. He’d come home on Fridays (sometimes suspiciously suntanned and with a sandy passport), we’d have a regular family weekend, and then on a Sunday night, he’d pack up his bags and prepare to set off again. If he were working in the UK, I’d have an idea where he’d be, and would know how to contact him. But quite often he’d say, “I’m overseas this week.” And I’d know I could not ask where in the world he was going to be, or who with, because if he told me, even by making an inadvertent slip of the tongue, he risked imprisonment. So all this was going on in the background, whilst I was thinking what book to write next.

I began to wonder: did the Special Forces exist in WW2? If so, what did they do? I’d been surprised when I discovered that there were women soldiers on active service in the Second World War, and this revelation was what had spurred me on to write The Gunner Girl. Could there have been women recruited into special forces-type roles, too? Then I remembered the news piece I’d seen about Eileen Nearne, and I knew there was a story just waiting to be written.

The forerunner to today’s Special Forces was the Secret Operations Executive (SOE). Originally an offshoot of the Foreign Office, it was set up by Winston Churchill with the stated aim to ‘set Europe ablaze’. SOE agents were not spies; they were saboteurs. The idea behind the organization was foment resistance to Nazi rule in Occupied Europe. Intelligence gathering was left to the spies of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The SOE was all about arming, supporting and training freedom fighters, by any means necessary. Importantly (and excitingly for me as a writer), women were also recruited into the SOE – as many as forty may have worked undercover in Occupied France alone (there is still some argument about the actual numbers involved) – parachuted into enemy territory under cover of darkness.

Once I started researching I found many stories of incredible bravery amongst the female SOE agents, like Eileen Nearne. And I discovered that SOE’s French section’s agent handler was also a woman, Vera Atkins, and that there was a huge conflict of interest right at the heart of her situation. She was impossible to ignore. So I decided then to twist the real-life story of agent handler Vera with a fictitious agent, codenamed ‘Yvette’ (who some of you might remember as Edie from The Gunner Girl).

Researching The English Agent was fascinating and humbling. I was blown away by the courage and stoicism of the young women who worked within this top-secret organization. I was so engrossed that at times it felt as if the book were writing itself. Who wouldn’t be inspired by the lives of these incredible women, pioneers of the Special Forces, amidst the chaos and carnage of World War Two?

The English Agent is out now in hardback, paperback and e-book.

You can catch up with me here:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Facebook: ClareHarvey13
Web: http://clareharvey.net


[My Review]

The English Agent is a well-written, enjoyable novel about a subject that doesn’t always get as much coverage as it should: the women’s effort during the war, particularly female agents that risked their lives to help the resistance against the Nazis in France.

The story unfolds from two perspectives: agent Edie (codename Yvette) who is fresh out of training on her first mission abroad, in Nazi-occupied France, and Vera, who trains and looks after the agents. This way you see snippets of info about the war from both France and London. You really get a feel for what life must be like for both women, and the danger that Edie in particular faces.

The story is fast paced and kept me enthralled. I love novels set in WW1 or WW2, so hoped I’d really enjoy this – and I definitely did!

The English Agent felt like a well-researched story, and two of the characters were apparently based on real people. There were parts that were probably over-dramatised for the purpose of the story, but none of it felt completely unbelievable, which was good. I liked that the characters weren’t completely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on whether they were Allies or not (and perhaps this is partly because . Most of the characters had their own faults  or errors in judgement, despite being generally good people, whilst people you’d assume would be bad through and through weren’t necessarily presented in such an obvious way. There are some really inspirational women in this novel that I loved reading about, and found it fascinating to read about people involved in the war that we don’t often hear much about.

There is quite a lot of the story that jumps around, and sometimes I got a little confused as to whether we were in the present day or ‘remembering’ past events. Bits of the characters’ memories are sort of ‘teased’ out throughout the novel, which I really enjoyed reading and added extra tension to the story!

Clare Harvey’s other novel, The Gunner Girl, features Edie in it too, and I’d like to read more about her (though I suppose that would be a sort of prequel to The English Agent) – still, I’ll definitely still be adding it to my reading list!

The English Agent is definitely a truly entertaining, well-written and enjoyable read that I’d really recommend!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an unbiased and honest review, and for the spot on the blog tour!

Here’s who else took part in the blog tour:

the-english-agent-blog-tour

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The Witchfinder’s Sister [review]

The Witchfinder's Sister - Beth Underdown

[Synopsis]

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

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[Synopsis]

The Witchfinder’s Sister definitely has a unique premise – set in 17th century Essex and told from the perspective of Alice, whose brother seems to be rather too interested in the current whispers and rumours about witchcraft, the novel follows her as she slowly unravels her brother’s dark side and the past that may have led him to behave the way he does…

The writing does a great job of really bringing the 17th century – not an era I have read that much about, to be honest – to life, with insights into the economical and social setting of that time which led people to start blaming their own misfortunes on other people. I have to say I felt it was not unlike a certain President who has managed to persuade people in his country with a crap or unfortunate life that this must all be because of immigrants. Of course at the time that this novel is set, the misfortunes of East Anglia (in fact, probably most of the country) seem to be blamed on witches and witchcraft. Sometimes people can’t just accept that bad things happen, no matter how awful they are; they’d rather believe that it’s actually because of people who don’t attend church regularly, or who may have a disability that makes them seem ‘strange’ or different. Reading The Witchfinder’s Sister I certainly picked up on certain conditions that we know a lot more about today, that at the time must have seemed frightening, unknown and therefore undiagnosed, leading people to mark them out as potential witches. Today we’d be able to deal with it all a lot better with scientific and medical knowledge.

The only thing I didn’t like was that some parts of the novel felt a little slow and could have been a bit more gripping, in my opinion – but others would disagree, I’m sure. Most of the writing, however, is rich and atmospheric, and I really liked the ending. Though it’s not a quick read due to the language being a little more old fashion to fit the setting, it’s not a particularly hard read and I’m sure anyone with even a small interest in that era – or in history in general – will enjoy reading this novel.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Viking who provided a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Witchfinder’s Sister is out in the UK on 2 March.

BLOG TOUR: Ragdoll [review]

Ragdoll - Daniel Cole

Title: Ragdoll
Author: Daniel Cole
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group

I’m SO excited to be part of the blog tour for Ragdoll, so read in for my review and check out the other amazing bloggers on the tour!

[Synopsis]

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

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[My Review]

I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting this – I’ve seen so many amazing reviews that, before I began, I was wondering if it can live up to them all?…

It definitely does!

This is a fast-paced, punchy crime novel that hits just the right notes – humorous (at times making me really laugh out loud) without being too obvious; dark and with plenty of gory detail without being gratuitous; full of action without overdoing it; and – to top it off – really well-written!

The characters are likeable and make you want to read more about them. Wolfe has his own problems and flaws but seems very sharp even whilst his life seems to be falling apart, whilst Baxter is just great – a strong, willfull female sidekick that doubles as a lead character in her own right, really – I enjoyed reading about her just as much as Wolfe. I loved trainee Police Officer, Edmunds, as well, and felt so sorry for him at times. All the characters seemed pretty well-rounded and convincing in their own ways, although some were a lot less likeable than others!

The story manages to be fast paced without losing the reader in a flurry of Police language and action. The quick comebacks and humour from Wolfe only add to the snappiness of this novel, giving it a fresher, more sophisticated feel. It’s got surprises aplenty and it certainly consumed me from start to finish!

Eagerly anticipating Daniel Cole’s next in the series already!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Orion for providing a copy of this novel, on which I chose to write an unbiased and honest review.


About the author…

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing. He currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two instead.

Ragdoll is out in the UK on 23 February.

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

The One That Got Away [review]

The One That Got Away - Melissa Pimentel

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Melissa Pimentel
Publisher: Michael Joseph


[Synopsis]

Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren’t.

Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There’s barely time for a trip to England for her little sister’s wedding. And there’s certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past…

[My Review]

The One That Got Away is a fun, reflective and sweet story about lost loves, missed chances and the chance to start all over again.

The characters are likeable, though at the beginning of the novel I found main character Ruby a little abrasive and overly short with Ethan, but she really grew on me as the novel continued. Her sister Piper is pretty spoilt and annoying at times, but Ruby and everyone else knows this – that’s just how she is – and her dad is crackers most of the time, but in a loveable, sweet way. No one is perfect – many have their little faults (though Ethan does seem rather perfect!) which is much more relatable and realistic, or so I felt. You can’t help but warm to the characters!

Ruby and Ethan seem so well matched (as they always do, in romantic novels, but still!) and it was really sad sometimes to read about their missed chance to stay together, and how things started to go wrong. I felt quite emotional in some parts! I also enjoyed the way the novel flicks between the two timeframes – then and now – and was intrigued to find out what exactly Ruby was feeling so guilty about.

There are lots of references to things that happened back in what was presumably the 00’s, and I enjoyed picking up on little comments and inclusions that took me back to that era when I was a teenager! The novel is also set in Edinburgh, whilst most of the characters are American, so it’s quite amusing to read about some of the differences between cultures and places.

The One That Got Away has many of the typical tropes of the romance genre, but it’s really well done and avoids veering into cheesiness too much. The writing flows well and it’s really easy to read, so I breezed through it in no time. Though some parts are quite predictable, but I think that’s expected of many books in this genre, and none of that takes away from what is a sweet, fun story that will leave you feeling happy and satisfied as you reach the last page!

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The One That Got Away is out now in the UK!

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo [review + giveaway]

the-girl-with-the-lower-back-tattoo-amy-schumer

Title: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Author: Amy Schumer
Publisher: HarperCollins

So today I have a review of The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo and a giveaway – a hardback copy of the book!

[Synopsis]

The Emmy Award-winning comedian, actress, writer, and star of Inside Amy Schumer and the acclaimed film Trainwreck has taken the entertainment world by storm with her winning blend of smart, satirical humor. Now, Amy Schumer has written a refreshingly candid and uproariously funny collection of (extremely) personal and observational essays.

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.

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[My Review]

Prepare yourselves for plenty of vagina talk, cause there’s lots in The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo – and it ranges from the ridiculous to the real ‘Oh I’ve been there!’ moments, which is what makes this book so relatable!

I really enjoyed this autobiography of Amy Schumer’s life, from childhood to where she is today, and (almost) everything in between. There’s plenty of chuckles and Amy’s dry sense of humour shines through, which I find really amusing to read, but this is interspersed with sudden more serious chapters, which do make you stop and think. It’s an odd mixture, in a way, but not if you view it as a whole – ie. about the many things that have affected Amy, as a female, and so of course vaginas will feature, as well as some very awkward (and some downright awful) sexual encounters. There’ll also be lots on the way she’s treated as a female comedian – not just a comedian, mind, other people (particularly men it seems) feel the need to point out her sex before the ‘comedian’ part – and dealing with family, relationships and friend issues throughout her life.

One of my favourite parts of the novel were the various ‘journal entries’, with a commentary from Amy which made me laugh.

It’s a pretty easy, quick read and I raced through it in a few days. Some parts I found more interesting and/or funny to read about than others, but I did end this book feeling entertained and also quite empowered as a woman. So that can’t be a bad thing!

[Rating: 4/5]


[Giveaway]

To win a hardback copy of the book, just enter via the link below – good luck! Don’t forget to find me on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads too 🙂

Enter here!

WWW Wednesday [15 February 2017]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

  1. What have you finished reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading?

A little while ago I finished reading The Breakdown B.A. Paris and The Recipe hacker Confidential – Diana Keulian so I’ve included them here.

I also finished:
No Excuses Detox – Megan Gilmore

What are you currently reading?

The Chalk Pit - Elly Griffiths

The Chalk PitElly Griffiths

This is an author I love and a great series (Ruth Galloway) which is set in Norfolk!

What will you read next?

The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by  Amy Schumer for my book club

And I’m not sure after that… maybe The One That Got Away – Melissa Pimentel or The Witch Finder’s Sister – Beth Underdown (which I’ve wanted to read for ages!)


What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!

Why not add me as a friend on Goodreads!

The Chalk Pit [review]

The Chalk Pit - Elly Griffiths

Title: The Chalk Pit
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus

[Synopsis]

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they are recent – the boiling not the medieval curiosity she thought – DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard of a vast network of old chalk-mining tunnels under King’s Lynn, home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

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[My Review]

This is another great release from one of my favourite authors, as part of the Ruth Galloway series that I always really enjoy. As it’s set in Norfolk, I enjoy reading about the area, particularly when some of the story moves into Norwich so I recognise lots of landmarks (though some of course are made up).

The story was interesting, particularly with its focus on the homeless community in Norwich – it’s nice to see a book that is actually quite objective and reasoned about people on the streets, instead of failing to treat them as actual human beings. The idea of an ‘underground’ community was really fun to read about and an interesting idea. Elly Griffiths does a great job of treating the issue of homelessness seriously and, I felt, with respect but still adds a bit of light-hearted fun to the story. I also quite liked that everything wasn’t too ‘neatly tied up’ and left some things unsolved, leaving me looking forward to her next instalment!

The characters are as great as ever (one of the many reasons I enjoy this series so much); I’ll always love Ruth, despite her sometimes making what I feel are questionable decisions regarding her personal life – but hey, no one’s perfect which makes me like her even more really! I also really like Nelson, his wife Michelle, Cathbald, Judy – even Clough, despite his odd views sometimes! In fact almost all of the Police force and supporting characters are really interesting characters and fun to read about (though some characters definitely featured less in this novel than I’d have liked, leaving what felt like a bit of a hole without them).

I am generally a big fan of Police procedurals anyway, which certainly helps, but some procedurals can be a bit dry at times. However the Ruth Galloway series is far more than that – each book has adventure, suspense and mystery as well, and this is no different. They all set such a high standard and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Quercus for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Chalk Pit will be released in the UK on the 23rd February 2017.

The Recipe Hacker Confidential [review]

The Recipe Hacker Confidential - Diane Keuilian

Title: The Recipe Hacker Confidential
Author: Diana Keuilian
Publisher: BenBella Books

[Synopsis]

Unlock the secret to cooking mouthwatering and nutritious mealswithout giving up your favorite dishes!

In today s era of rampant food allergies, gluten-free popularity, and the rise of paleo eating, putting together a meal that will satisfy everyone at your table can be more complicated than computer science! With Diana Keuilian s unique approach for hacking recipes, however, you ll learn how to easily recreate beloved, traditional comfort foods without all the grains, gluten, dairy, soy, or cane sugar.

In this long-awaited follow-up to “The Recipe Hacker,” “The Recipe Hacker Confidential” is bursting with more than 100 new recipes and stunning photos that will tantalize your taste buds while trimming your waist.

The book is divided into five sections: Breakfast, Appetizers, Sides & Snacks, Main Dishes, and Desserts; each offering lighter versions of your favorite recipes such as:
– Breakfast Pizza
– Walnut-Raisin Rolls
– Butternut Squash Spaghetti
– Teriyaki Chicken
– Braised Short Ribs
– Snickers Bars
– Chocolate-Glazed Donuts

Keuilian spills all of her secrets on how to hack these recipes and many more while preserving the flavor, presentation, and enjoyability of each sumptuous dish. She also shares stories and musings throughout the book that will inspire, encourage, motivate, and propel you toward weight loss, improved health, and culinary happiness.

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[My Review]

This is a great introduction for people wanting to eat healthily and cut certain foods out of their diets. I’d say if you know a bit about the subject already then the information sections might be a bit basic, but there are some nice recipes in here and it’s a great way to learn more about clean eating.

I have tried a few of the recipes so far and really enjoyed them. The breakfast recipes are mostly great, as I’m always struggling for healthy breakfast ideas (particularly those I can make in advance and pick up just before I head to the gym in the morning) and the desserts/ sweet courses shone out at me, which is unusual as I’m usually more of a savoury person!

Some of the main meal recipes are a little uninspiring – I didn’t see a huge number of exciting combinations, to be honest – but there’s plenty here to keep you going, and lots of ideas that are relatively easy to try so don’t require a horrendous amount of bizarre ingredients (though this probably depends on your level of cooking so far).

Worth a read!

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to BenBella Books for providing a copy of this ebook in return for an honest and unbiased review.

No Excuses Detox [review]

No Excuses Detox - Megan Gilmore

Title: No Excuses Detox
Author: Megan Gilmore
Publisher: Ten Speed Press

[Synopsis]

From Everyday Detox author Megan Gilmore, powerhouse blogger behind Detoxinista.com, comes her second title featuring 100 quick-to-prepare, affordable, and delicious whole-food recipes that make it easy to follow a healthy lifestyle for you and your family every day.

In No Excuses Detox, Megan Gilmore presents a collection of satisfying, family-friendly recipes developed with speed, convenience, and optimum digestion in mind. Because enjoying what you eat on a daily basis is crucial to maintaining health goals, these recipes for comfort food favorites–from Freezer Oat Waffles, Butternut Mac n’ Cheese, Quinoa Pizza, Loaded Nacho Dip, and Avocado Caesar Salad to Frosty Chocolate Shakes, No-Bake Brownie Bites, and Carrot Cake Cupcakes—taste just as good as their traditional counterparts, but are healthier versions packed with nutrients. Megan Gilmore sharply identifies many of the reasons people fail to stick to a healthy diet—too busy, budget conscious, cooking for picky eaters, concerns about taste or fullness, and more—addressing them head on and offering simply solutions. This beautifully packaged and artfully photographed book gives readers no excuse to not eat well year-round.

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[My Review]

No Excuses Detox is a great recipe book if you’re after comfort food without all the guilt!
The information about eating healthy, and leading a healthier life, looks great and very useful. However I’ve just focused on the selection of recipes to try out, all of which I know are nutritious, healthy (because that’s the point of the book, after all!) and which I can also use as a base to customise – ie. adding fish or other ingredients, if I want to. A lot of the recipes are healthier versions of favourites or take-away style meals that are traditionally very calorie-packed and not particularly nutritious, so this is a great alternative.

The recipes are easy to follow, and don’t require too many crazy ingredients. There are some that I’ll need to buy if I want to copy the recipe exactly, but most of them I can imagine subbing certain ingredients for others and getting a good result nevertheless.

As someone who has recently bought a pressure cooker but found I need some guidance on timings etc, and therefore on the look out for pressure-cooker-friendly recipes, this book is GREAT. It tells you if the recipe fits into certain categories eg. freezer friendly, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, etc etc OR if it’s a pressure cooker or slow cooker recipe.

For veggies this is great as it’s all plant-based, and many recipes can be adapted to be vegan or to other requirements. I also loved that the author included costs too, so you have some idea how miuch of a cost-effective recipe it really is. Basically, the author has done all the hard work for you and made a super easy to follow, informative cookbook.

I’ve only tried a few recipes so far but they’ve tasted nice (a few I felt needed a bit more seasoning, but that’s easy to adjust and depends on the person), and a few others I’ve used as a general idea which I’ve then changed slightly depending what I feel like. Photos look lovely but not too perfect, so that’s a win from me too!

This is, ultimately, a really great recipe book and I’d highly recommend it for anyone wanting to eat healthier but whilst still feeling a bit indulgent. There’s some recipes which I wouldn’t bother making or which don’t really appeal, but also a lot that I’ll be trying out in the near future!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Ten Speed Press and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel

The Breakdown [review]

The Breakdown - BA Paris

Title: The Breakdown
Author: B A Paris
Publisher: Harlequin

[Synopsis]

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

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[My Review]

The Breakdown had me gripped pretty much from page one. I read a large portion of it in bed at night, and I have to say that made for tense and eerie reading! I don’t usually get unsettled whilst reading or watching things (I am a big horror film fan) but, perhaps due in part to the darkness and being alone, this did leave me feeling a bit creeped out – it plays on your mind, but not in any way that hampered my enjoyment! I raced through it and felt it was a real page turner.

The characters are, at times, a bit frustrating – sometimes I felt like screaming at Cass to tell someone – but as you read on you understand, more and more, why she feels like this. They all feel like really well-crafted,convincing people that you can imagine having in your life…

As a reader you can also get a real sense of how it must feel to worry that you’re going mad or starting to show symptoms of dementia, and how that must affect how you confide in people.

This is a story where you’re never quite sure who’s being honest, who’s telling the truth or who’s a threat – and I love books like this. I’m a huge psychological thriller fan but some novels in this genre can get rather samey and completely ridiculous. This felt like a fresh take on the genre – it had some strange parts to it which seem a little unbelievable at first, but it all makes sense in the end!

The Breakdown felt like something a little different; something that stands out in the genre. It really gripped me, leaving me completely absorbed in the story and not wanting it to end! A definitely recommendation for any fans of the genre – or anyone fancying a fast paced, captivating read. I definitely want to read her other novel, Behind Closed Doors, now!

[My Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.