Book Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I let you go

“A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .”

This was recommended to me by a friend (and it would seem that a mutual friend knows the author personally through her previous life in the police) but it was worthy of the recommendation on content alone. It was BRILLIANT.

It starts off with a car crash and then the aftermath of the crash.  About half way through there is an AMAZING twist – one that makes you want to go back to the beginning of the book and start again to see if you can see the clues, as I’d completely missed it on initial read.  I can’t really say any more without giving it away!

Some of the chapters are written in the first person as if Jenna is speaking – and initially these alternate with third person narrative of the police investigation.  As the book develops a third ‘voice’ is used too.  It is very clever writing and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The descriptions throughout the book – from the tragic crash, to the Welsh coastline, are wonderfully emotive and evocative. You are rooting for Jenna throughout the book and her personal roller coaster.

I really don’t want to say too much, as you need to read it to see how it develops – but I would very highly recommend it.

This is Clare Mackintosh’s first book – and I’m very much looking forward to reading her future books.

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I am silently* correcting your grammar (*not silently)

I should start with informing anyone who doesn’t know me in real life, or on Facebook, that I am something of a grammar pedant. I like to make sure that the correct spellings and punctuation are used even in texts / emails / postings etc. (Obviously now people will start correcting my grammar on here – but never mind!) In fact one of my lovely friends made me this cross stitch because of my reputation:

Cross stitch

This may seem random at the moment – but all will become clear later!!

Last night the husband and I went to see the fabulous Take That at the Genting Arena at the NEC. The venue is huge – not sure on capacity – but we’re talking thousands. As we arrived we randomly bumped into one of our friends – Mandy – had a quick chat and went on our separate ways. Then, as we’re going into the stand, we see her again! Quick ‘hello’ and on our separate ways again. We go to our seats (lovely ones, front row – we’re far too old for standing now!) and then spy Mandy and her friends in the super special middle standing bit. Cue ‘Where’s Wally Mandy?’ photo:

Where's Mandy

Then – just before it started – there was much excitement near us, as a certain Mr James Corden and his Mum had arrived!  I could see Mandy and her friends trying to see who it was, and so sent her a quick text.  Obviously she also heard who it was and texted me to tell me who was just behind me.  However, as often happens at such events when the whole world is trying to send messages / upload selfies / check in on Facebook, the messages took a while to go through – so Mandy didn’t get my message until after sending hers – hence this very amusing message thread:

Texts

And just to prove it – here’s a hideous photo of me – but with James and his Mum in the background behind me!

James Corden

School Run Strop – Wicked Wednesday 24 June 2015

Now my youngest is renowned for her strops (she even made the front page of Mumsnet!) – and it’s been a few weeks without one, so we had a classic today.

She refused to walk through the school grounds to get her big sister from school. A stand off ensued. OBVIOUSLY it was school sports day so there were loads of extra people, including well meaning Grandparents (not hers) asking what the matter was.

Strop 1

After 10 minutes, I had to give in and carry her. But when we got to the playground I put her down – and the strop turned into a sleep, on the concrete …….

Strop 2

This is my entry for Brummy Mummy of 2’s #wickedwednesdays

brummymummyof2

Sicky sisters – Wicked Wednesday 17 June 2015

Monday morning started at 4am with child number 3 throwing up – which she continued to do every 20 minutes for 4 hours – which was nice!

This is after she’d stopped and was hiding under a blanket – and child number 4 was looking at her with a ‘I’m just waiting to join in’ face!

Sicky sisters

She doesn’t always rock an 80s hair do – it was preparation for when she started vomming! She hasn’t as yet – although child number 1 did at 5.30am this morning (much to the chagrin of child number 2 who would most like to have missed a Wednesday at school, and wondered if he could get his sisters to lick him……….)

brummymummyof2

Book Review: Game of Scones by Samantha Tonge

Game of Scones

A story of icing and flour…and how love doesn’t always go to plan!

Growing up, Pippa Pattinson’s summers were spent in the idyllic Greek island fishing village of Taxos. There she spent many long hazy days determinedly ignoring thoughts of the life her parents had mapped out for her (a dreary-but-secure accounting job and obligatory sensible husband!) Instead she daydreamed of running her own tea shop – serving the perfect scones – with mocha-eyed childhood friend Niklaus by her side…

Arriving back in Taxos for the first time in years, with suave boyfriend Henrik, Pippa barely recognises the tired little town – but is relieved to catch glimpses of the quaint, charming village she’s always loved. Together Niklaus and Pippa put together a proposal to save Taxos from tourist-tastic ruin, and at the heart of their plan is Pippa’s dream project: The Tastiest Little Tea Shop in Taxos. It’s time for Pippa to leave her London life behind and dust off her scone recipe that’s guaranteed to win over both locals and visitors. And amidst the rolling pins and raisins, it seems romance is blossoming where she’s least expecting it…”

From the outset I knew I was going to enjoy this.  There aren’t many books where the lead female character has a maths degree and trained as an accountant like me!!

It is not highbrow literature, but it is a great escapist read that is still well written and character lead.  I really liked Pippa and was plumping for her at all times.  And who doesn’t love a good scone?!  (But is it scone like gone, or scone like phone – got to love the English language!!)

I haven’t been to Kos for years – but it really evoked the feeling of the Greek seaside.

The plot is not complicated and a little predictable in its conclusion, and there are some huge leaps of plausibility at times, but that means it is quick and easy to read when you’re tired after a long day.

It reminded me quite a lot of Jenny Oliver’s book The Little Christmas Kitchen – which is also set in Greece – and interestingly they appear to have the same publisher – so if you’ve enjoyed Jenny’s books, I am sure you’ll enjoy this too.

I was also very excited to see on Amazon that this says it’s book 1 in The Little Teashop series – so I am looking forward to finding out what Pippa does next!!

Review: Exante diet products

I spotted a Twitter request for people who are on a diet and like Bounty bars. Now I am on a diet BECAUSE I like Bounty bars – and any other chocolate bar, and wine, and cake, and basically anything you can eat or drink! So I immediately replied! The very lovely people at Exante then offered to send me not only some diet Bounty bars – but also some other of the Exante diet products that are available to trial.  There’s even salted caramel pudding in there – boom!!

Exante

X Factor winner Sam Bailey is doing the Exante diet at the moment with great success and is blogging about it here.  Exante basically offer a wide variety of meal replacement products that are high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.  There are numerous plans you can follow to suit your lifestyle to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

I am not following a plan – but thought I would try out the products and let you know what I thought of them!

Day 1

The fist thing I tried was the chocolate coconut bar – the aforementioned ‘diet Bounty’!  I had it post workout, when I needed a protein / energy fix – and at 207 calories and 17g of protein, it seemed like a good plan.  I have to say it was more chocolate than coconut, and didn’t have the consistency of coconut – but was a bit ‘gritty’ – but in a good way, adding texture to it.  It had a typical ‘protein bar’ taste to be honest.  Now a ‘proper’ Bounty is 270 calories but only 2g of protein – so whilst it might not taste quite the same, it’s a better alternative – and way better than no chocolate at all!!

Day 2

Today, in lieu of breakfast, I had the strawberry shake. I was going to go for a run, and didn’t have time for ‘proper food’ to go down and thus a risk of it coming back up over the treadmill – so the shake was the perfect substitute. With 201 calories and 14g of protein, I figured it would power me through my run! I used the shaker that I’d been sent – which had a clever metal spiral ball inside which helped mix up the shake really well. It recommended 200-250ml of cold water – and I went for the maximum amount – but the shake was still incredibly creamy. The powder had been white – but the shake was a lovely strawberry colour (keeping all senses happy!) and tasted really nice. Some protein shakes can have a weird synthetic aftertaste – but this didn’t at all. I really liked it.

Mid morning – I had the choco balls as a snack.  These are fabulous – like super crunchy Maltesers. At 79 calories and 7.5g of protein per serving – not too naughty either!  HOWEVER, a serving is only half of the bag!! This is as ridiculous as the fact that a ‘serving’ of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers is only 4!  Obviously once I’d popped I couldn’t stop and ate the entire packet – whoops.  This lack of self control is another major factor in why I’m 5 stone overweight…….

For lunch I had the tomato and basil soup. I was at work and therefore had neither a blender or whisk to had – as they advise – so had to make do with a fork. Consequently the soup was a bit lumpy as I couldn’t get all of the powder to disperse properly – but it was really tasty – and with similar calories and protein to the breakfast shake, I can positively polish my halo today with eating!!

Day 3

I’m having a shake as an early lunch before a gym session with my PT – and today’s is the creamy coconut shake. This has the same calories as the strawberry one (201) but a whopping 16.9g of protein. The description was perfect – it was very creamy and coconutty – and again, I really liked it.

Day 4

Today I am at home with a poorly daughter – and so even more time poor than usual – and in need of a treat – so I thought I would try the gooey salted caramel pudding.  I mixed this up as per the instructions and it made quite a paltry amount, and when I licked the spoon it had more than a passing resemblance to butterscotch angel delight.  I then had to microwave it.  I did it for 1 minute (as per the instructions) but that was too much in my 900W microwave, and I’ll do the gooey chocolate pudding for only 40 seconds I think.  It expanded brilliantly – and tasted like a proper pudding.  There was no gooey middle (hence the fact I think I’d over zapped it) but it was really tasty.  I had very low expectations, and was concerned I was going to slate it – but I needn’t have worried, it was great! And with 205 calories and 16.7g of protein, should keep me going with playing nursemaid all afternoon.

Now – I still have the aforementioned gooey chocolate pudding, along with chocolate, white chocolate and raspberry, and strawberry cheesecake shakes to try – but I wanted to get this initial review up for you all to read – and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that these shakes will be lovely too!

I was very pleasantly surprised by all of the products I was sent to test.  I’m not sure I could be as hardcore as to do one of the total replacement diet plans – but they are great meal replacements for a busy Mum like me.  Having looked on the Exante website there are loads of different ways to purchase the products that work out very reasonably, so I will be shopping later!  And maybe I should just try it hardcore for a few weeks……….

I was sent these products to review, but all opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Great Allotment Proposal by Jenny Oliver

The Great Allotment Proposal

“Welcome to Cherry Pie Island – once you step on to the island, you’ll never want to leave!

Socialite Emily Hunter-Brown has just bought the old manor house on Cherry Pie Island – and her friends think she’s gone mad! Still, they should have known that wild-child Emily will try anything once…even settling down!

But when Emily discovers she has an allotment to take care of as well as the crumbling mansion, she’s unexpectedly flummoxed! It’s all very well knowing that you have to swap your high heels for Hunter wellies….but it’s quite another actually getting dirt underneath her Chanel Rouge Noir polished nails?

And what is she supposed to do with her bumper crop of courgettes anyway?!”

This is the 3rd book in the Cherry Pie Island series and it just dropped into my Kindle on the publication date – hooray for pre-ordering!

I immediately devoured it – and as with the others, I loved it.  My only complaint is that the books are short, and I enjoy them so much I’d like them to be longer!!  But at least that keeps you excited for the next publication (beginning of July, not that I’m counting!!)

Whilst this book centres around Emily and her life having bought the local mansion (I quite liked the building / refurbishment references – but then that’s my day job!) it also brings in strands from the previous two books – and is setting the scene for subsequent books I’m sure!

The descriptions of the flowers and produce at the various allotments are wonderful – and as I have come to expect from Jenny Oliver’s books.

All in all, a lovely, quick, light, escapist read – but not at the expense of good writing and editing, where you like the characters and want to see what happens to them  (not mentioning any other book in this genre by another author that I’ve reviewed lately that was the opposite – obviously!!)

Roll on book number 4!

It’s all O2’s fault……

When I first started this blog I was reading LOADS – mostly when sat at the station or at school waiting for my eldest daughter.

Now, back then – 6 months or so ago – the village where we live, the train station our daughter uses, and the location of her school were all total O2 blackspots – so I couldn’t access the internet from my phone – therefore reading was the only option (other than napping, which did happen occasionally!)

Anyway – O2 have sorted themselves out – and all of the above areas are bathed in the glow of 4G – so I can sit in the car and respond to emails, do the internet shopping, play Words With Friends etc – and reading is taking a back seat.

I think I need to sort myself out and get reading again!

Book Review: Putting Social Media To Work: A Practical Guide by Gemma Reucroft and Tim Scott

I had commented on social media that I wanted our company to start doing more on there – and a friend recommended this book:

Putting Social Media to Work

“Social media has the power to change everything. It is simply that impactful. How we communicate and collaborate. How we lead and how we learn. How we engage and communicate with the people that work for us and buy from us. How we do the day job. Who has power. Who is considered to be a leader. How and where we do the work that we do. We live in an increasingly open and transparent world. Social media offers greater opportunities to rethink some of the old ways of working than organisations have had before. This book will explain why understanding social and getting social is important for individuals and organisations alike, and why, whatever your personal perspective on all things social media, you cannot ignore it. The authors share their own experiences of what social has done for them professionally, and will give you some ideas on how to implement social for you or where you work. How to build your business case, how to overcome the obstacles of implementing social, and managing both the practicalities and the myths. This is the social world. Are you ready?”

I downloaded it and starting reading it – well, that’s like doing work isn’t it!?!

I am already a regular (ok, let’s say excessive) social media user personally, so quite a lot of this was a bit basic – but would be ideal if someone was coming at it without knowing their Twitter from their Facebook as it does explain everything really well.

It definitely gave me lots of ideas about what we should / shouldn’t do!

It’s also a bit different because our organisation is a small family run business, so whilst I will be in charge of social media, I’m also the boss – so there’s no one to ask for approval from (technically my husband is the MD – but let’s not go there!!) Because of the HR background of the authors, it does come at it from their point of view and is probably more applicable to someone within a larger organisation.

But it was definitely worth the read. I liked the tone of the book and the humorous way it was written – and the little asides were great. One of them is a One Directioner (Tim says it’s Gemma, but I fear he doth protest too much!!!)

So – here are my company Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin pages – let’s see how I get on!!! #blatantpromotion

The Photo Gallery Week 234 – Buildings

Now this is a topic that I could provide multiple photos of, as it’s my day job! We run a building company and so are dealing with buildings day in and day out. I actually posted on our company Facebook page the other day how much I love these warehouse photos of a building we refurbished

Warehouse

But we’ve just spent half term in Dubai where the buildings are AMAZING. So I thought I would use 2 of the most iconic buildings of that city – although both are also family shots.

The first is the husband and I in a selfie in front of the Burj Khalifa – currently the tallest building in the world:

Burj Khalifa

The second is the 7 star hotel the Burj al Arab. This is not where we stay – although our villa did look out over it – but it is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – although probably not often photographed from this angle.

Burj Al Arab

In this shot my very handsome son is doing footie tricks in front of it – and I adore this picture.  I think he might need it on the wall in his bedroom.

These are my entries for this week’s Photo Gallery over on the Sticky Fingers blog – do go and look at other people’s buildings too.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery