Book Review—Live Green: 52 steps for a more sustainable life by Jen Chillingworth Published by @QuadrilleBooks

“Less buying, more doing, less wanting, more enjoying.”

I can’t stand unnecessary waste, or littering, especially plastic. An invention I both love and loathe in equal measure. Cheap and durable it is believed that 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the stuff has been produced during the last 70 years alone, 79 percent of which has been thrown away either into landfill sites or the general environment, including 8 million tonnes into our oceans every year. Estimates suggest that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our seas and 99 percent of all seabirds will have consumed some. For this reason alone I believe we owe it to our planet to act and think a little greener, but not just with plastic but all aspects of our daily life. 

Live Green is a handy sized and thoughtful collection of 52 tips, one for each week of the year, offering ideas about the changes we can make to our home and lifestyle including the reduction and recycling of plastic. It looks at things like cleaning products and the advantages of making your own, and the benefit of mindful shopping and eating green. It also addresses personal care, including how to create a capsule wardrobe and buying vintage, plus some helpful advice on hair care, cosmetics and beauty routines. 

With a fab section at the back containing useful links to other green sources of information and helpful recipe ideas (including a great sloe gin, and a rather lovely sea salt and lemon and lavender body scrub) scattered throughout, Live Greenis an easy to read and beautifully illustrated guide to help start you on your way to a more healthy and eco friendly lifestyle. 

Smile… It’s Good For You!

“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald  

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and everyone looks forward to what’s left of the year, it’s tempting to swap one lot of worry for another. After all, no one can predict the future, and at the moment it’s hard to understand what the real toll recent events will actually have on us all. What the cost will be for the everyday person in terms of job losses and business closures, not to mention much needed, and still now postponed surgery and healthcare issues. These and other burning questions are, I’m sure, everpresent amongst many of us at the moment. On a personal level, I have, and continue to believe there’s a lot that doesn’t add up, questions that are not being addressed. This has prompted me to seek my own answers, carry out some of my own in-depth research, which has proved interesting to say the least. I’ve learned a lot. But for now, all I can safely conclude is, all is not as it necessarily appears to be. Except an agenda perhaps to keep us fearful, even divided. Which isn’t good for anyone’s health? So for now, like so many others, I’m concentrating on getting back to some sort of ‘normality’, which I’ve vowed to do with a smile.

Here’s why… 

Facial expressions have an enormous impact on mood. We are born with the ability to smile; yet as we age, we smile less. Research suggests that on average, a child will smile 400 times per day compared to adults who smile just 40-50 times per day. When we naturally feel good, we smile. However, we don’t have to be in a good mood to smile, it’s a tool we can use when we’re feeling down to bring us back up. Science has shown that the simple act of smiling has the power to boost a person’s mood by signaling to the brain to tell it we are happy, which in turn releases cortisol and endorphins into our bodies, thus lowering stress levels and bringing about a sense of mild euphoria. 

Other health benefits include:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Increased endurance
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced stress
  • Strengthened immune system

“when we smile we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronising feature. You’ll notice that one smile will lead to additional smiles, not just for you, but for those around you.”

Also, according to an article by Earlexia Norwood, M.D. (2017) smiling, as I’ve long suspected, is contagious. Norwood explains that, “when we smile we activate neurons in the brain that fire a synchronising feature. You’ll notice that one smile will lead to additional smiles, not just for you, but for those around you.” In other words, when we smile, the world smiles with us.

My advice? Take a break from social media, turn off the news, and smile. Why? Because it’s good for you!

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Eva Jordan reviews Dead Inside by @nholten40 published by @OneMoreChapter

“The crash at the bottom of the stairs woke me instantly… I didn’t want to move. I couldn’t, I was paralysed with fear. I had always accepted the verbal abuse that was thrown at me. I could take that. It was the physical abuse that filled me with shame.”

Dead Inside is the debut novel of award winning blogger, and writer, Noelle Holten, and the first in her DC Maggie Jamieson Police Procedural series. Written in the third person (except the prologue), the central theme of this story is domestic abuse, a subject matter the writer handles with great sensitivity and professionalism. The cast of characters is large, so it’s important to keep up with who’s who; otherwise you run the risk of becoming a little confused. However, the chapters are short and snappy, making it easy to read as well as adding to the pace of the storyline.

Some reviewers have said there is one main protagonist in this killer thriller, however, I’d argue there are two. The first is Lucy Sherwood who, based on Noelle’s own career experience, is a probation officer. In her professional life, Lucy comes across as a tough, no nonsense individual: a given for a probation officer dealing with offenders who have abused their partners, which is also rather ironic when juxtaposed to Lucy’s private life. The second protagonist in this story is DC Maggie Jamieson who, like Lucy, is a strong individual, the right balance of firm but fair, and it’s her job to solve the recent murder of a man connected to a domestic abuse case.

However, when a second body turns up, followed by a third, and the discovery of a connection between the said individuals in that all three men had either been previously charged, or linked to separate domestic abuse cases, it quickly becomes apparent there’s a serial killer on the loose.

With the clock ticking will DC Maggie Jamieson and her team find their suspect? I suggest you buy the book and find out!

A fab debut and a great start to a new series.

For buying links, or if you’d like to know a little more about Noelle, click here where you can read my brilliant Q&A with her, including a fascinating insight into her former career as a Senior Probation Officer, as well as a wealth of knowledge and advice on blogging and writing… which I strongly urge you to take a look at.

Eva Jordan in conversation with @nholten @OneMoreChapter

Although we’ve never met in person, I’ve been an online friend of Noelle’s for over 5 years now, and like many bloggers and writers, I’ve found her to be both extremely supportive and encouraging to all those linked with the book world. Today we get to know her a little better…

  • Welcome Noelle, thanks for chatting to me. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to be a probation officer?

Hi Eva! Thanks so much. A little about myself – hmmm. By day I am the PR & Social Media Manager at a leading digital publisher in the UK – Bookouture and by night I write the DC Maggie Jamieson series for Harper Collins imprint, One More Chapter and read/review on my blog: CrimeBookJunkie. Yes, I was a Senior Probation Officer for nearly 18 years. I managed two teams of officers and one of the teams was based in a police station. I left in 2017 when my dream of working for a publisher came true!

  • Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers inspired you?

The short answer to that is no! I always wanted to work in the criminal justice field. I used to write morbid, teenage poetry in my youth and a few short stories in high school but I never believed I could actually write a novel myself. I was an avid reader from a young age and my favourite genre has always been true crime/crime fiction. My interest in writing came when I was about 44/45 yrs. old and every crime author I read (there’s been a lot) are the ones who inspired me. I was in awe of their talent to pull a reader into a story and I wanted to see if I could do the same. So far, so good! My series isn’t for everyone, but that’s the great thing about books – some people will love them, others won’t but there are plenty of great crime writers out there to choose from!

  • How does writing compare to probation?

The only murders I now have to deal with are those I create myself on the page! Probation can be a very stressful and emotional draining job. Even though I left in 2017, I still consider myself a probation officer – albeit an ex one! It is challenging and the rewards can be few. I admire all my colleagues who still go in and do their very best to ensure the public are protected. I loved my time in Probation but once politics became involved and split us into Public/Private sectors – I knew my time was limited. What I love about writing is I can still be ‘involved’ in probation and other criminal justice fields – without the stress.

  • And finally, for anyone thinking of starting a blog, or becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

For starting a blog, I’d say – just go for it! Be yourself, read and review what you love and make it your own. There are no rules!

In terms of writing, I would say read as many books in the genre you want to write about as you can. See how your favourite authors keep you turning those pages. I would also suggest that if you seek any advice, by all means take it on board, but find what works for you. If you don’t have a thick skin… develop one! You need to be able to accept constructive criticism, rejections as well as negative reviews. And finally, persevere! Not everyone gets a book deal the first time around. You may have to keep at it for years – but if it is something you are serious about, think of it like a job – you need to keep doing it and hopefully you’ll find that agent or publisher who sees your potential. There’s always the self publishing route too – but I’d suggest that you make sure you invest the time and money into making your self publishing journey as successful as possible – like Mark Dawson, L.J Ross or M.A. Comley to name a few!  

To read my review of Dead Inside click here

Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:

Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/noelleholtenauthor/
Blog FB page:https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/
Instagram:@crimebookjunkie (https://www.instagram.com/crimebookjunkie/
Website: https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk  
Bookbub Author page: https://bit.ly/2LkT4LB
Newsletter:https://bit.ly/3glVZlO

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2Y1kCM1

Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/37P4t0C

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2Y1lQ9Y

Harper Collins Website: http://bit.ly/2OAnBYJ

Buy Links – Dead Inside 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PtcKk7 

Apple: https://apple.co/2SBRpqt 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2DZwZ2M 

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/T17w30nCWp3 

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/2qiQVJR 

Eva Jordan reviews The Railway Carriage Child by Wendy Fletcher, Published by Whittlesey Wordsmiths

Last month I interviewed local writer to me, Wendy Fletcher (which you can read here). We discussed, among other things, her memoir, The Railway Carriage Child, and this is my review.

Wendy was born in the small fenland market town of Whittlesey, which, as mentioned in the foreword, includes two medieval churches, a 19th century Butter Cross and rare examples of 18th century mud boundary walls. Less well known is a pair of Victorian railway carriages, which stand just outside the town. These Great Eastern Railway carriages, built in 1887, later converted to living accommodation in the 1920s, were Wendy’s childhood home, and are still home to Wendy’s family to the present day.

Beginning around the mid-twentieth century, Wendy starts her story with her birth, introducing us to a life that seems a million miles away from our present one – “the ‘web’ was where the spiders lived [and] ‘Broadband’ was something that kept your hair tidy.” Moving through her childhood, she paints a picture of a time that, although arguably much physically harder for most than it is today, was also, mostly, a much simpler one too. One much closer to nature and one that, with none of the gadgets and technology of today, carried a wonderful sense of innocence about it. “I look back on a child’s lifetime of listening to the gentle sounds of dawn through the changing seasons. Each morning as I woke, I was bathed in the early light, spreading from the blurred patches that were the windows above my bed… It seemed that there was always plenty of time. I knew mother wouldn’t allow me out to play too early. She would say ‘Wait ‘til the day’s got up proper,’ as I pleaded to be released from the kitchen door.”

Filled with memories of scorching hot summers and fun-filled coach trips to the seaside, juxtaposed to bitterly cold winters (without central heating!) that required much-needed knitted shawls and woolly hats, not to mention lots of huddling round the hearth for heat, The Railway Carriage Child is both wonderfully warm and evocative. An easy to read but beautifully crafted memoir that, although heartfelt and reflective, is at times, delightfully humorous. An innocent account of an unconventional childhood but also a reassuringly familiar one, especially when I discovered that like me, Wendy also developed a keen love of books and reading whilst growing up.

However, if this review leaves you with one burning question, namely how, or why, Wendy’s family came to live in two Victorian railway carriages… well… I suggest you buy a copy of the book and therein find your answer.

Click here to purchase your copy of The Railway Carriage Child from Amazon

Wild Thing!

Recent events and restrictions have, as I’m sure they have for many others, affected my ability to do ‘normal’ things of late and stick to a routine. Some of my family are working from home, while others are furloughed, which means the house is often awash with noise. This means the sleeping and working patterns of some family members have changed, and while some of us are still getting up at the crack of dawn, others are rising later, which in turn means there is always someone pottering about, often at all hours of the day and night. The cat was most disgruntled by this intrusion to his routine at first, mainly because, except for the tap, tap, tapping of my computer keyboard, he generally likes the peace and quiet of our house during weekdays, when I usually work and he sleeps.

Simba cute

Now our house is full of people and noise––all day every day!

Simba grumpy

However, like a lot of us, the cat has adapted. Unfortunately for me though, as someone who needs the peace and quiet to write, this has meant these remarkable circumstances have left me barren, suffering from writer’s block. I’m not particularly worried about it though, mainly because I have a couple of other important distractions keeping me busy at the mo. I’m reasonably confident that the desire to put pen to paper will return when it’s meant to. Plus, I’ve also come to realise, as is often the case, sometimes our loss is our gain, and that by taking more walks to clear my head, I in turn have become closer to nature again. I’ve always loved walking, and as my other half is a keen amateur photographer, we’ve made the most of our extended time together to explore some of the breathtakingly beautiful local wildlife areas close by.

Sometimes during our walks we’ve been lucky enough to spot certain animals or birds, often when I was feeling particularly worried or confused––emotions I’m sure we can all relate to, especially of late! However, once home again, refreshed and revived from my walk, I’ve found myself sitting in front of my computer, not to write, but to research, usually about the said seen animal or bird, including their spiritual meaning. I’m pleased to say my findings, while fascinating, have at times brought me great comfort, some of which I’d like to now share with you, and, some of which may even creep into my future writing projects!

Fox

Fox – the fox reveals itself during great and unpredictable change, and compels you to turn up your own senses.

Cuckoo

Cuckoo – the cuckoo provides the message to listen with your heart as well as your head, and also to learn ways to unfold the fate coming your way.

Owl

Owl – known for it’s sharp vision and keen observation, the owl totem means you can see beyond the masks that other people wear.

Kite

Kite – spotting a kite is a symbolic message that is directing you to release the pain you are experiencing and instead go with the flow of things. She will help you make decisions, illuminate what is black and white, along with any polarities you may be experiencing, while enhancing clarity. Seeing a kite brings about truths and wisdom while keeping the watery emotions in balance.

Deer – a deer emphasizes softness, kindness and gentleness, even during the toughest and most challenging times of your life, reminding you that you can assert yourself without violence, and should always lead by example.

Eva Jordan reviews The Giver of Stars by @jojomoyes published by @PenguinUKBooks

Jojo Moyes

 

Wow, just wow! This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Beautifully written and heartfelt, The Giver of Stars is, above all else, a testament to the power of positive friendships and the simple joy of books.

Set in 1930s America, this story is based on a fascinating piece of American history regarding the horseback librarians of rural Kentucky. The aim of the Pack Horse Library Project, which was set up in 1934 by Eleanor Roosevelt, was to aid the education of those living in the more remote parts of the state, often hit hardest by the Great Depression. Hazardous work, including travel across tough terrain, often in adverse weather conditions, it was no easy task for the librarians (who were mostly women) who would regularly ride 20-mile routes into the Appalachian Kentucky Mountains via horseback. However, this band of women, who proved to be as determined as they were dedicated, delivered books and magazines to the people and families that requested them, as committed to their jobs as the mail carriers were.

Narrated in the third person, the main protagonist of this story is Alice, a young English woman who, desperate to escape the rigid confines of polite society and her well-to-do family, marries a handsome young American called Bennett, whom she meets when he is visiting Europe on an outreach mission. However, when she arrives at her new home in America, all is not as Alice imagined it to be. She does her best to adjust to her new surroundings but it soon becomes apparent that her new life in the small Kentucky town of Baileyville, despite the cultural shift from Sussex, is almost as stifling as her old one. Things change, however, when she volunteers to become a horseback librarian where she discovers new friends, including Margery O’Hare. Margery is unlike the other townswomen, or any of the women Alice knew in England. She wears leather breeches and unpolished boots. ‘I suit myself [she said], and people generally leave me be… That’s how I like it.’ The two women develop an unlikely friendship which, set against the vibrantly drawn landscape and mountains, interwoven amongst the beautiful imagery of the ever-changing seasons, we follow the ups and downs of this pioneering duo alongside their other spirited friends.

However, when tragedy strikes, their friendship is truly tested…

With vividly drawn characters, including the villain of the peace, The Giver of Stars is a beautifully crafted and meticulously researched work of art. A real page-turner, both evocative and thought provoking, and full of heartfelt love and hope. Succinctly put, it is a story about a group of women finding themselves and their tribe, but above all else, it is a wonderful celebration of friendship and books.

 

 

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer Wendy Fletcher

In convo with Wendy

 

I’m currently reading a beautiful memoir called The Railway Carriage Child, written by the lovely Wendy Fletcher. Look out for my review in next month’s magazine. In the meantime I thought we’d get to know Wendy a little better…

 

Hi Wendy, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, I live in the railway carriages just outside Whittlesey, the last ones still occupied in this area – as far as I am aware. These have been in my family since 1935 and I spent my childhood there with my parents and grandmother; attending school at King’s Dyke and March. I returned to the carriages in 2009. Then my mother died and I realized how much history was lost with each generation. I started to record my memories, originally just for the family. Edward Storey, well-known chronicler of the Fens, suggested that this might appeal to a wider audience and The Railway Carriage Child evolved.

 

Your memoir is beautifully written. Have you written any other books and do you have plans to write more in the future?

This is my first book. I am currently collecting material for a book on the social history of King’s Dyke, which I hope to publish as a tribute to the families who lived and worked in that small community just outside Whittlesey. I am also 12,000 words into writing a novel and have started two children’s books. I am enjoying having a variety of projects and swap from one to the other, as inspiration takes me.

 

Finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of writing a memoir?

My first experience of writing was very lonely and isolating. I was surrounded by piles of notes and half-remembered images from more than fifty years ago. I found the balance for this by setting up a creative writing group (U3A Whittlesey Wordsmiths). Through them, I have met like-minded people and received support and encouragement. My advice to anyone considering a similar project would be ‘You don’t need to do it on your own’.

 

You can purchase The Railway Carriage Child here at Amazon or locally (when they re-open) at the Whittlesey Museum, and Parkers Newsagents. Plus, if you’d like to read more by Wendy, you can read a number of her short stories in two anthologies published by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths, Where the Wild Winds Blow (read my review here) and A Following Wind, also available at Amazon and at the Whittlesey Museum.

 

 

 

 

Eva Jordan reviews The Roommates by @RachelSargeant3 published by @HarperCollins

Add a heading

 

This book has a great cover; one I find both thought provoking and sinister. So when the author contacted me and asked if she could send me a copy in exchange for an honest review, how could I refuse? I’m a huge fan of psychological thrillers so I was more than happy to oblige. However, as most of the story is set on a university campus and the four main characters are a group of young female students thrown together as roommates, I must admit to being a little reticent at first. My chief concern being that I might exceed the target reading age. I’m pleased to say I was wrong, and The Roommates is a thought provoking, dark tale, full of intrigue, that kept me gripped from the first page.

The story begins with a character, as yet unknown, standing on a bridge, clearly distressed, clearly suicidal. But why? Fast forward three years to the present day and one by one we are introduced to the four main protagonists of the story, namely Imogen, Tegan, Phoenix and Amber. Roommates, strangers at first, brought together as they embark on their first exciting year at university. However, each of the characters has a personal backstory, including a hefty amount of emotional baggage in some instances. Imogen, in particular, seems very pre-occupied and withdrawn – but for good reason. Seven months prior, her older sister, Sophia, went missing, and despite an in-depth investigation by the police and a frantic search by Imogen and her family, she remains missing, which is something that has, and continues to haunt Imogen. So, when the four flatmates attend the Freshers’ Fair together during their first week on campus and something, or someone, appears to spook roommate Amber, who then disappears, we find Imogen (through some misplaced guilt for failing to find her sister) compelled to look for her, also drawing her other roommates into the search.

Could Amber’s disappearance have something to do with the hooded stranger that Phoenix has noticed loitering outside their flat, or the creepy student Riku, that occupies the room opposite?

Gripping and unsettling, The Roommates is easy to read with short, snappy chapters and believable characters. A well written, intriguing, and clever whodunit that will keep you turning the pages to the very end.

 

Eva Jordan reviews The Women by @SELynesAuthor published by @bookouture

 

The Women

This is the second psychological thriller I’ve read by this author (read my review of Mother here) and she is fast becoming one of my favourite writers in this genre. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, for me, this story brings to mind writer Neil Gaiman’s quote – “I like stories where women save themselves” – which is just what this story does.

However, at what price?

We begin in Rome where newlyweds Samantha and Peter are on their honeymoon. They are queuing to visit a famous stone carving of a man’s face called Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) where, according to legend, if you place your hand in the mouth and tell a lie, the stone jaw will clamp down and bite if off. Samantha is intrigued. “The gargoyle is disconcerting, she admits. But the urge to put her hand inside the mouth is almost overwhelming. At the same time, she imagines the mythical severance, the bloody stump of her own wrist, the horror on the faces of the crowd as she staggers, bleeding, onto the street.” Peter, on the other hand, seems harassed, reluctant to be there.

But why?

We are then taken back in time and introduced to Samantha Frayn, a university student from Yorkshire studying in London, where she meets the rather handsome Peter Bridges. Peter, who is much older than Samantha, is an accomplished, charismatic history lecturer. “He is slim. He dresses well—how she imagines an American academic might dress: soft blues, fawns, tan brogues.” He spots Samantha at a university social event and begins chatting to her, offers to take her for a drink. Samantha, both young and impressionable, is completely swept away by his charm and sophistication. She is flattered that a man such as he, a man with a wine cellar, who whistles classical music, drives a sports car and lives in a beautiful house on a hill, would single someone like her, a nobody, out. Their ensuing romance is immediate, thrilling and intense. Quite unlike anything Samantha has experienced before, especially with boys her own age, and before she knows it, she has moved in with Peter.

Later, when she looks back, Samantha will wonder at what point the subterfuge began.

As in her previous novels, the author’s prose, which is succinct yet brilliantly informative and descriptive, completely draws you in, making The Women an enthralling psychological thriller that is perfectly paced with just enough tension to keep you turning the page to the very end.

 

If you’d like to purchase The Women, or find out more about the author, go to Amazon here and here.