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Review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Leah McLaren's A Better Man







There has been so much in the press recently about calculating husband’s misleading courts about their assets in divorce courts in the UK. Leah McLaren’s second novel, A Better Man is a searing insight into one modern marriage where the husband coolly and coldly calculates that by improving his behaviour his wife will be likely to receive less in a divorce settlement.

Not sure if McLaren  realised how prescient  this novel would be, but great timing. Nick is a bored, dissatisfied schemer who has everything on paper but is as shallow as water dripping onto their smart kitchen work surface. Maya, his wife is an obsessive nurturing mother who is isolated after leaving her role as a family lawyer to concentrate on bringing up their children. Her skills as a lawyer come in handy when she finds out Nick’s improved behaviour is part of a strategy to leverage as much money from the divorce as possible.

This an incisive, well-written novel dissecting a modern marriage.  Told mainly from Nick’s perspective the novel illustrates how you can have all the money in the world but it ain’t necessarily going to make you happy or satisfied.

A Better Man by Leah McLaren is available to buy online and at all good bookshops RRP £7.99

This novel was reviewed as part of the BritMums Book Club. All views are my own.

Deliciously Ella: A Guide to improving your health

Book Review:

Ella Woodward’s proactive approach to healthy living and good health clearly resonates with people. For those unfamiliar with her story she turned around her deteriating health by adopting a new plant based diet and committing to blogging 3 recipes a week. Her blog took off and she truly turned a dire health situation into being a  proactive health advocate as well as a hugely successful blogger with a passionate and loyal following.

Her book Deliciously Ella hit the bestseller lists as soon as it was published. I’ve bought at least 20 books on plant based health and can say from the heart if I had to choose one it would be this as her recipes work. They range from simple to moderate, ingredients can be sourced online if needed and the finished meals are tasty and satisfying. Without her I wouldn’t have discovered the spiraliser until two  years on when prices increased.

Recipes we’ve tried include Avocado Brownies, Peach Smoothies (my daughter says this is the best one she’s made so far) and Brasil Nut and Rocket Pesto – delicious even though it might sound a bit strange.

Ella is leading the keynote session this Saturday at BritMums Live and I can’t wait to hear about her health and blogging journey.

Deliciously Ella is published by Yellow Kite and is available as a book or ebook. It’s listed in this week’s Sunday Times as a Manual with over 100k sales since publication.

A Guide to plant based nutrition

Deliciously Ella – An invaluable guide to plant based nutrition and recipes














Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy. These views are my own and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to anyone seeking to improve their diet.

Review: The Silent Hours by Cesca Major


BritMums Book Club has been quiet for a while but it’s back with a vengeance with Cesca Major’s  debut novel. The Silent Hours is a fictional account of a real incident set in wartime France in a village relatively undisturbed by the German Army’s occupation until one horrific event changed the destiny of all the occupants of this cosy village.


The novel uses four different narrators to reflect the impact  and consequences for civilians drawn into the machinations and retribution dealt by the occupation and the prejudices  experienced by different members of the French community.


I got a lot out of reading this novel. This year has seen many  books published concentrating on different wartime events including Antony Beevor’s examination of the US experience with the withdrawal of the German Army from France.  Major concentrates on the human loss and the destruction of life in a concise way. I loved it. Well written and engaging I can’t wait to read her next novel.

The Silent Hours is a fictional account of an event in a French village during the German Army's occupation.

The Silent Hours is a fictional account of an event in a French village during the German Army’s occupation.














The Silent Hours is published by Corvus Books and is available from all good bookshops and usual online sources.

Disclaimer: I was sent a preview copy of The Silent Hours as part of BritMums Book Club. I wasn’t paid and all opinions are mine alone.








Kingsman – Thinking of Mr Benn

I’ve seen lots of films recently in London Art-house cinemas. It’s been great watching films for fun when you want to watch them.  Kingsman opened recently and it got me thinking about awards as it was the week before the BAFTA’s. I’ve seen films where there’s been lots of muted colour (Mr Turner), films where you can feel the Director’s passion (The Grand Bucharest Hotel),  and films where the lead character is unrecognisable as he’s been on a diet (Paddington used to be soft and cuddly – what happened?) and films where you just can’t stop laughing (Kingsman) .

Kingsman has lots of tributes to other seminal films and the script is so tightly paced it out-Bond’s Bond films and is so much more fun. It’s also a wonderful tribute to London’s Jermyn Street and the range of exquisite tailors based there. It reminded me of Mr Benn, the tailor who used to ask his clients who they wanted to be before giving them a new identity in front of a large mirror.

Here are my winners if I ran the LAFA’s (London Academy of Film Award’s).

Paddington is the best tribute to London Life and Ben Wishaw's Voice is the perfect fit.

Paddington is the best tribute to London Life and Ben Wishaw’s voice is the perfect fit.


Best hit you in the face Opening Credits: Kingsman

Best use of colour in a film: Mr Turner

Best film to make you want to get outdoors/go hiking/cry: Wild

Best Musical to make your heart beat faster: Into The Woods

Best homage/promo for London: Paddington

Bestest Baddie in a family film: Nicole Kidman, Paddington

Bestest Baddie in an adult film: Samuel L Jackson, Kingsman

Best Reinvention of a rather predictable well-loved male actor: Colin Firth, Kingsman

Best cultural references/tributes to seminal films: Kingsman

Best slice of British History: The Imitation Game

and my favourite

The most distinctive and heartfelt voice in a film: The Grand Bucharest Hotel


Who are your winners?


How do you like your Coffee?


There is something exquisite about sitting down with your favourite mug/cup and your favourite coffee. How do you like yours? Americano in a tall elegant mug or possibly a latte in a local pottery mug. Drinking fine coffee in your favourite cup/mug is a fine art no matter what time of day. It’s also a time to take stock, rethink or possibly veg while you drink your favourite drink.  I have a Nespresso* machine which is great but got slightly fed up having to order the cartridges online in bulk. I was invited by Carte Noire to preview their new coffee cartridges.  They have recently launched compatible cartridges available in leading supermarkets that will remove the financial pain of ordering in bulk.  However, it really depends what rocks your boat. Sometimes it’s easier ordering in bulk but its really useful to know you can buy compatible cartridges in smaller numbers.

My tester is someone whose coffee rituals are legendary. No matter what is happening in his world he stops religiously for coffee twice a day. Sometimes at leading independents in the City and sometimes the well-used Nespresso machine at work. I agreed to review the cartridges as I know many people who have been desperate to buy smaller batches.  They are available in 4 different strengths: No3, No5, No7 and No9 in ascending strength. We did a blind testing 4 identical cups (different colours) and he had quite a lot to say about them. Carte Noire packaging

Carte Noire launch coffee cartridges compatible with Nespresso Machines pre - 2013

Carte Noire launch coffee cartridges compatible with Nespresso Machines pre – 2013

Coffee and Cake from Fortnum's

Carte Noire Packaging




No3 was mild and for someone who likes their coffee mild this is the one for you.

N05 was stronger and smelt of old fashioned grocers who still grind their coffee to order like Monmouth Coffee Company. This was definitely the most attractive smell and we were all excited at the prospect of the taste based on this lovely just ground smell that is hard to recreate.

No7 stronger still and had a stronger depth and lasting taste that the first two didn’t have.

No9 very strong, possibly too strong for our seasoned taster.


Verdict: No5 and N07 came out joint top based on taste, aroma and much discussion about how he was feeling at any particular time. Would he buy them? Yes. They were easy to use and for a quick fix they did the job. However, we do feel really loyal to Nespresso and although he would feel guilty it would mean the Carte Noire Cartridges would become a guilty pleasure rather than forsaking the original cartridges. The packaging design is  smart but I would question the use of so much packaging. The boxes could be smaller and each cartridge is individually wrapped which is a lot of plastic. With increasing concern about plastics in the environment it might be worth revisiting after the launch. He enjoyed them with some leftover cakes from a Wolseley and Fortnum’s Afternoon Tea the day before.

Disclaimer: I was sent cartridges to review by Carte Noire. The opinions above are from my discerning tester who has years of experience trying and savouring a whole range of coffees and has a lot of experience of Cafe Culture in Central London. This is a sponsored post and all opinions are honest based on sampling mid-march 2014.


This post is an entry in the Foodies100 Espresso Collective Challenge, sponsored by Carte Noire. Each box of Carte Noire Espresso capsules contain 10 single servings and are available in supermarkets at an RRP of £2.79 and are available in four intensities. To find out more about the new Carte Noire Collection Espresso click here 


*Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK:















The Hungry Vegan Week 1

For lots of reasons I’ve had to radically refine my diet. I’ve ditched lots of things I truly love for a 6 month challenge. Dairy, Wheat, Gluten, Sugar, Animal Protein have all been put in a pending file. I’m concentrating on fresh, seasonal, organic veg, legumes and trying to eat as much raw, living foods as possible. This choice is not faddish like most people who radically change their diets its in the hope it will transform my body and help it start working optimally.

Anyway, we’ll see. The most important thing is I’ve discovered some great food and health advocates, vegan cafes and restaurants and of course great blogs and books about eating well on what is a much more healthy diet. My family still eat dairy, animal protein and sugar. If you have any suggestions re: vegan living please comment as I’d love to hear your suggestions. Salad whole bowl