Thursday, 24 February 2011

Book Review: Hector and the Secrets of Love by Francois Lelord

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Published by:  Gallic Books  (January 2011)
Pages:  276  (Paperback)

My Rating:  7/10

About the Book:

What is the secret formula for love?
Hector, our intrepid psychiatrist, sets off on a new globe-trotting mission – and this time he's looking for LOVE.
One of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies has employed him to track down their brilliant scientist, Professor Cormorant, who has disappeared abroad with the secret of a modern-day love potion.
Leaving behind his troubled relationship with girlfriend Clara, Hector's adventure takes him to the Far East and into the arms of beautiful Vayla, forcing our hero to think deeply about what love really is/means.

This is the second book about the adventures of Hector, the psychiatrist, following on from Hector and the Search for Happiness which I reviewed here

The style of writing is in the same childlike manner which is so easy and quick to read that I just skipped along the short paragraphs.

Hector travels to Asia to look for his friend, the professor who has disappeared with samples of a drug for falling in love, or for staying in love when we want to. But, before he sets off his girlfriend Clara tells him that they should stop seeing each other for a while so he has to question his own feelings for her and tries to discover the secrets of love along the way.

As in the first book Hector makes notes of his discoveries, some of which include

  • Love and jealousy go hand in hand

  • Love is, smiling the moment you see one another

While searching, he meets a young girl who speaks no English, possibly falling in love with her, is used in one of the professor's experiments, makes new friends, meets and then loses the professor.

I like Hector, he is simple, uncomplicated, friendly and intelligent.  He easily makes friends with people no matter who they are or where they're from.

But, about half way through I started to get bored with the story, the pace was going a little too slowly for me, and there was quite a lot of information to absorb. I didn't feel that I knew the other characters very well so couldn't really empathise with them or care too much about what happened to them.

This wasn't a page turner, though it did pick up pace gradually as the plot unfolded and I liked the few twists and turns.

Overall, I didn't enjoy it as much as Hector and the Search for Happiness.

At the back of the book there is an excerpt from the next Hector book -- Hector Finds Time -- which is to be published in April 2012.

For more information see the GallicBooks website

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Book Review: The House of Dust and Dreams by Brenda Reid

Genre:  Historical Fiction
Published by:  Orion Publishing  (June 2010)
Pages:  384  (Paperback)
My Rating:  9/10


About the Book:

Greece 1936 A young British diplomat and his wife have been posted to Athens. Hugh loves the life there but his spirited and unconventional wife, Heavenly, finds it hard to fit into the whirl of endless parties and socialising. When Hugh is sent to Crete to sort out a problem, they stay in a rundown house owned by his family. Heavenly falls in love with the place and the people, and stays on when Hugh returns to his duties. As she tries to rebuild the ramshackle home, Heavenly makes firm friends with Anthi, a young woman from the village and Christos, the handsome and charismatic young builder. But the dark clouds of war are gathering and the island will become a crucible of violence and bloodshed in the days to come. For Heavenly, her friends and family, it will be the greatest test they have ever known.

First Lines:

I first saw the old Orfanoudakis house on a warm, sunlit afternoon, the only sound a lone bullfrog and the cicadas.  The village around it was sleeping.

The chapters alternated between the two women, Heavenly an English lady and Anthi a Cretan.  They met when Heavenly was first exploring the beautiful countryside, she slipped and hurt her ankle and Anthi helped her, they immediately became firm friends, and this friendship was the basis for the story.
The backdrop was the lovely island of Crete and as the years went on and the War came nearer their lives began to change in different ways.
Heavenly was no longer the shy gauche creature who moved awkwardly, she blossomed in the friendliness of the people and gradually became absorbed in village life.
As the Germans gained control in Crete, Brenda Reid didn't shirk from describing the awful situation the inhabitants of the little villages found themselves in as they fought against the enemy.
I really warmed to both Heavenly and Anthi ..... they led two very different lives ...... Heavenly was the privileged wealthy wife of an Ambassador and Anthi was the poor hard-working mother of two young daughters and wife to a cruel husband in a loveless marriage.

Wonderful descriptive writing that was easy to read, the author obviously knows a great deal about Crete and which comes through very strongly throughout the story.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Book Review: The Skinny On .... The Art of Persuasion by Jim Randel

Genre:  Self Help
Published by:  Rand Media Co.  (May 2010)
Pages:  293  (Paperback)
My Rating:  9.5/10


About the Book (taken from the back)
It's about developing the skills to move minds.  In this graphic, one-hour read you'll learn how to influence the thinking of others.  You'll learn skills to increase your persuasiveness and eventually, your success at whatever endeavour you pursue.

This is a delight to read ..... there are stick thin illustrations (as on the cover) and has lots of real life examples of how different people tried different approaches to try to persuade someone to buy their product or to listen to what they have to say. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but you realise after you've finished just how much you've learned.

Each chapter deals with the different ways people can be persuaded to do what you want them to do ..... for example one tells us we should learn to listen and watch as good listeners make good persuaders. In another we learn the difference between being persuasive and being manipulative.

Some of the chapters seem obvious, e.g. people want what they can't have and others that I'd never even considered but which, when explained so clearly and easily, are obvious to me now.

The blurb claims that it will only take an hour to read this book ........... I read it in about 1 3/4 hours but I did keep stopping to jot notes down or to think about what I'd read or just to impart some of the information to my husband ......... so I think around an hour without any distractions would be right.

This is the sort of book to keep and just dip into to jog your memory, I think it's a brilliant idea, it's so simple and effective with lots of graphics and is so clear to understand. Nowadays we get bombarded with so much information that it's sometimes too much to take in, this little book will give you just enough without overloading your brain!

This is only one of many books on The Skinny On series -- To see the full list go to

 I have these books to read and review 

Networking .....maximising the power of numbers
Time Management .... and other life challenges
Success .... why not you?

Special Thanks to Rand Media Co. for forwarding me these books to read.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Book Review: Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Genre:  Mystery,Suspense,Crime,Psychological Thriller
Published by:  Corgi  (2009)
Pages:  348  (Paperback)
My Rating:  9/10


About the Book
A psychological thriller about the cat-and-mouse game between a boy desperately seeking the truth about this uncle's murder and the murderer himself.

Twelve year old Steven is lonely and feels unloved by his family.  His nan spends most of her days staring out of her window waiting for a son who will never come home and he knows his mother loves his little brother more than him; he rarely experiences praise and he can never do anything right in her eyes.
19 years ago his Uncle Billy (who was only 11 at the time) disappeared just 200 yards from his home and the family's anguish and suffering began and has never ended.
Every afternoon Steven goes digging on the moors convinced that if he found his Uncle Billy's body his nan would notice and love him and everyone would be pleased and Steven would feel happy.
The digging had given his life a purpose.
He then decides to write to a convicted child serial killer, Arnold Avery, who was the main suspect for Billy's disappearance, thus a chilling game of cat and mouse begins. Steven was writing to the Devil and asking for mercy.
The slow build up in suspense creates an atmosphere of tension and fear as the letters go back and forth and I felt very uncomfortable reading the serial killer's thoughts as he recalled some of the children he'd abducted.  Bauer does not, thankfully, go into too much detail here but what is left unsaid is probably more chilling.
I did feel that the prison part of the book took up too much of the story and I found myself feeling a little bored and was glad when the story returned to Steven.
The descriptions of the wild and desolate moors added to the chilling feel throughout the novel and I could almost see the mist and feel the icy wind blowing across the pages.
This is such an original plotline which I found difficult to put down.

Belinda Bauer's debut novel won the CWA Gold Dagger for the crime novel of 2010.  Her official website can be found here
Her new novel 'Darkside' is out now.

This is my 2nd book in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge
1st Book in The Great Transworld Crime Caper

Monday, 7 February 2011


If you've read any of these books please let me know and I'll put a link to your review next to it.

The Sentry (Joe Pike, Book 3) by Robert Crais

Dru Rayne and her uncle fled to L.A. after Hurricane Katrina; but now, fiveyears later, they face a different danger. When Joe Pike witnesses Dru's uncle beaten by a protection gang, he offers his help, but neither of them want it-and neither do the federal agents mysteriously watching them. As the level of violence escalates, and Pike himself becomes a target, he and Elvis Cole learn that Dru and her uncle are not who they seem- and that everything he thought he knew about them has been a lie. A vengeful and murderous force from their past is now catching up to them . . . and only Pike and Cole stand in the way.

 The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Book 12) by
 Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe is haunted by a dream in which she is driving her dear old white van. Grace Makutsi dreams that her 97 percent on the Botswana Secretarial College exam was a mistake. When Mma Ramotswe discovers that her van is actually still in use (and, of course, sets out to retrieve it), Mma Makutsi wonders whether her dream will turn out to be prophetic as well.
They can only wait and see, but, in the meantime, one of Phuti Radiphuti's apprentices has gotten a girl pregnant and, under pressure to marry her, has run away. Naturally, it is up to Precious and Grace to help the couple work things out.

A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia de Luce Mystery, Book 3
by Alan Bradley

Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse - that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce's drawing room.

My Review of the 1st Book (which I loved!) The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is here

The Survivor by Sean Slater

Columbine. Dunblane. Virginia Tech. Winnenden. But Saint Patrick's High?
In his first hour back from a six-month leave of absence, Detective Jacob Striker's day quickly turns into a nightmare. He is barely on scene five minutes at his daughter's high school when he encounters an Active Shooter situation. Three men wearing hockey masks - Black, White, and Red - have stormed the school with firearms and are killing indiscriminately.
Striker takes immediate action. Within minutes, two of the gunmen are dead and Striker is close to ending the violence.
But the last gunman, Red Mask, does something unexpected. He runs up to his fallen comrade, racks the shotgun, and unloads five rounds into the man, obliterating his face and hands. Before Striker can react, Red Mask flees - and escapes.
Against the clock, Striker investigates the killings for which there is no known motive and no known suspect. Soon his investigation takes him to darker places, and he realizes that everything at Saint Patrick's High is not as it appears. The closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous his world becomes. Until Striker himself is in the line of fire.
I will be reading and reviewing this very soon

Prophecy (Giordano Bruno, Book 2) by SJ Parris

It is the year of the Great Conjunction, when the two most powerful planets, Jupiter and Saturn, align - an astrological phenomenon that occurs once every thousand years and heralds the death of one age and the dawn of another. The streets of London are abuzz with predictions of horrific events to come, possibly even the death of Queen Elizabeth.
When several of the queen's maids of honor are found dead, rumors of black magic abound. Elizabeth calls upon her personal astrologer, John Dee, and Giordano Bruno to solve the crimes. While Dee turns to a mysterious medium claiming knowledge of the murders, Bruno fears that something far more sinister is at work. But even as the climate of fear at the palace intensifies, the queen refuses to believe that the killer could be someone within her own court.
Bruno must play a dangerous game: can he allow the plot to progress far enough to give the queen the proof she needs without putting her, England, or his own life in danger?
I will be reading and reviewing this very soon.

The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland

Set in the reign of King John, when the whole of England was under sentence of excommunication (among other issues, King John wouldn't accept the Pope's choice of Archbishop). Can you imagine the chaos - all the churches closed, King John in retaliation arresting every priest who hadn't fled and the people terrified of dying in sin without the last rites? No burials were permitted on consecrated land, no marriages were conducted, no babies baptized. But I don't want to reveal much more, except to say the plot involves people-trafficking, murder and, oh yes... a very feisty dwarf and a eunuch with a hunger for revenge. 
My Review of this novel is here

When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman

An incredibly exciting debut from an extraordinary new literary voice. WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT is a mesmerising portrait of childhood and growing up; the loss of innocence, eccentricity and familial bonds. Stripped down to its bare bones, it's the story the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

Butterfly's Child by Angela Davis-Gardner

When three-year-old Benji is plucked from the security of his home in Nagasaki to live with his American father, Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, and stepmother, Kate, on their farm in Illinois, the family conceals Benji’s true identity as a child born from a liaison between an officer and a geisha, and instead tells everyone that he is an orphan.
Frank struggles to keep the farm going while coping with his guilt and longing for the deceased Butterfly. Deeply devout Kate is torn between her Christian principles and her resentment of raising another woman’s child. And Benji’s life as an outcast—neither fully American nor fully Japanese—forces him to forge an identity far from the life he has known.

The Gravity Pilot by MM Buckner

It is the polluted and gritty future, saved, sort of, by technofixes. Young skydiver Orr Sitka wants no more from life in future Alaska than he already has: a woman he loves and the chance to dive. When he makes a reckless, record-breaking jump that catapults him into celebrity, he's courted by corporations that want to exploit his talent to make him a sports media star.
The dangerous jump that wins Orr infamy turns out to be a breaking point for his loving girlfriend, Dyce, who is wooed away by a promising job in the thriving underground city of Seattle, a world media center in a crumbling civilization. Separately, Orr and Dyce are sucked into nightmare lives that take a terrible toll on each of them. When Orr learns that Dyce has become addicted to virtual reality, controlled by an eccentric media billionaire and his decadent daughter, he does everything in his power to rescue her. But is Orr strong enough to get through to Dyce and break them both out of hell?

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Genre:  Historical Fiction

Published by:  Harper  (May 2010)

Pages:  384  (Paperback)

My Rating:  9/10


About the Book: (Taken from Lovereading)

In the last years of the 9th century, King Alfred of Wessex is in failing health, and his heir is an untested youth. The Danes, who have failed so many times to conquer Wessex, smell opportunity! First comes Harald Bloodhair, a savage warrior leading a Viking horde, who is encouraged to cruelty by his woman, Skade. But Alfred still has the services of Uhtred, his unwilling warlord, who leads Harald into a trap and, at Farnham in Surrey, inflicts one of the greatest defeats the Vikings were ever to suffer. This novel, the fifth in the magnificent series of England's history tells of the final assaults on Alfred's Wessex, that Wessex survived to become England is because men like Uhtred defeated an enemy feared throughout Christendom.

First Line:

"Not long ago I was in some monastery.  I forget where except that it was in the lands that were once Mercia. I was travelling home with a dozen men."

Uhtred, King Alfred's warlord, is looking back over his life to the time when he was the most feared swordsman in the Land, recounting some of the most bloodthirsty battles between the Saxons and the Danes to gain land and power in the country yet to be named England: he was not just a warrior, he was also an excellent tactician, planning his battles with meticulous detail.
The battles are gory, the descriptions of the killing are somewhat squeamish, the life of the warriors hard, Cornwell's storytelling really makes the characters come to life, but it's not just about the battles, it is the beginning of England, of how religion played a huge part in people's lives while the Danes worshipped the old gods. Uthred, himself, worshipped Thor......he is talking to the wife of one of the Danish ruler's --

'Christianity is a disease that spreads like a plague. We have to stop it.
''If the gods want it stopped,' I suggested, 'they'll do it themselves.
''Our gods prefer feasting. They live, Uhtred. They live and laugh and enjoy, and what does their god do? He broods, he's vengeful, he scowls, he plots. He's a dark and lonely god, Uhtred, and our gods ignore him. They're wrong.'

It is not all about the men, there were some strong women as well, such as King Alfred's daughter who would probably have made as good a ruler as her brother given the chance, riding out to watch while the battles raged.
It was easy to read, the details are interesting, not boring, there was a good pace to the story throughout.

This is the 5th in Cornwell's Alfred series, and several earlier events are mentioned throughout but I didn't feel as if should have read them to know what was happening in this book, though I wish I had now as I'm sure I would have enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed reading this!

If you love historical fiction you should add this series to your collection - as the blurb on the back of the book says --

'This is the making of England brought magnificently to life by the master of historical fiction'

And I certainly wouldn't argue with that!

Bernard Cornwell's official website is here

Friday, 4 February 2011

'I'm an accessory in The Great Transworld Crime Caper!'

It would be a crime not to take part in The Great Transworld Crime Caper wouldn't it?!
After the success of last year's Summer Reading Challenge (which I took part in but didn't quite finish the books in time) they've decided to repeat their crimes again.

This time you can pick 3 books from a list of 12 which are --

1. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
2. Sacrifice by S. J. Bolton
3. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
4. Birdman by Mo Hayder
5. The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett
6. Past Caring by Robert Goddard
7. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
8. Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin
9. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
10. If I Never See You Again by Niamh O’Connor
11. The Accident Man by Tom Cain
12. The Business of Dying Simon Kernick

You have until the 14th February to choose your 3 books, they'll be sent one at a time, after each review is up, and  the challenge finishes on the 31st March.  Click here for the full details.

The books I've chosen are --
  1. Blacklands by Belinda Bauer
  2. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
  3. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

Many of the books seem to be the first ones in a series so this is a good chance to read something new.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Mypure state that all their natural deodorants are certified organic and free from nasty chemicals.  NO parbens, NO aluminium, NO Propylene Glycol, NO artificial fragrance.  So you can be sure that everything that you put on your skin, like this Alva Daily Care Roll-On Deodorant, will be kind and gentle.

The smell of Vanilla and Orange is so delicious and sweet without being too strong, it didn't overpower the fragrance that I was wearing.

The Alva Deodorant was quite sticky at first and it did take a minute or two until I was completely sure that it wouldn't wet my clothes. It didn't stain them at all.

Overall, it did what it claimed on the mypure website: "helps prevent body odour and wetness for up to 24 hours." I didn't have any problems and I felt quite dry throughout the day.

Available in a 50ml roll-on for £7.00.

Check out some of my other Body Care Product Reviews:

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


This month's product review is from the A'kin range of hair care and is a shampoo for colour treated and permed hair.

The smell is divine!  It's not overpowering at all.  The liquid is thick, not too runny and it felt very gentle to use, I put on quite a large amount to get a good lather but you probably don't need that much.  My hair felt very soft when I was rinsing it, almost as if I'd used a conditioner.
I was very pleased with the results, my hair felt soft and looked shiny and my colour was retained.
I would definitely recommend this shampoo.

Available from mypure for £10.49 for a 225ml bottle.
All A'kin products use certified organic ingredients where possible.


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