BBC Shop Reviews Uncategorized

DNAFit Results Review

dnafitLast year I took a genetic test through 23 and Me and was impressed by the results. I was recently approached by DNA Fit who offered to process my 23 and Me DNA results and send me their fitness and diet reports (normally £79 each) in exchange for a blog review. I’m interested in the way our genetic make-up affects the way our bodies interact with food/exercise, so I agreed.

DNA Fit Premium (£79)

DNA Fit Premium gives five results:

  • Power and Endurance Potential
  • Post-Exercise Recovery Speed
  • Injury Risk Profile
  • Recovery Nutrition Needs
  • Aerobic (VO2 Max)

I suspect that those who train in a gym will have more interest in the results than I did. I am reasonably active, but I prefer to walk my dog or go for a bike ride with my children than do any more serious training. It was mildly interesting to know that I should do an equal mix of power and endurance training and reassuring to discover that I have a low risk of injury and a fast recovery time after exercise, but overall I was a little disappointed in the amount of data given. I think £79 is far too much to charge for this information. I’d be happy to recommend it if it cost less than £10.

Potential DNA Diet Premium (£79)

The diet package was more interesting to me. It contained much more information for the same price:

  • Your Ideal Diet
  • Carbohydrate & Saturated Fat Sensitivity
  • Lactose & Gluten Intolerance Risk
  • Suggested Shopping List & 12-week Eating Plan
  • Your Detox Ability
  • Your Anti-Oxidant Needs & Micronutrient Intake
  • Caffeine Sensitivity

The only problem was that most of the information followed advice I was already aware of. It told me to limit my caffeine, salt and sugar intake and increase my omega-3 consumption – something we all know is important.

The 12-week eating plan contained some good recipes. I’m not interested in following the diet, as I prefer to be spontaneous with my cooking, but I will try some of the recipes – the grilled vegetables stuffed with pistachio nuts looked especially nice.

Overall I found the information far less interesting than my original 23 and Me results as most of the advice is common sense. I’d have been prepared to pay about £25 for both sets of results, but at their current price they are far too expensive.


Mini Reviews: Red Leaves, Man’s Search for Meaning and The Sunne In Splendour

Red Leaves

Red Leaves by Thomas H Cook

Five words from the blurb: son, suspect, murder, brother, family

This reads like a watered down version of We Need to Talk About Kevin. It reminded me The Good Father by Noah Hawley and numerous other books that have tried to copy Lionel Shriver’s outstanding novel. Recommended to those who are too disturbed by Shriver’s powerful writing and would like to approach the subject in a lighter way.


Man's Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Five words from the blurb: Holocaust, survivor, hope, life, human

Powerful book about how man can find hope in even the darkest of places. Written by a man who survived Auschwitz, this is a poignant reminder of the strength of the human spirit. Disturbing in places, but positive overall. Recommended.


The Sunne in Splendour

The Sunne In Splendour by Sharon Penman

Five words from the blurb: Richard, loyalties, royal, battle, betrayed

I went to see the fabulous re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury a few weeks ago, but because I knew nothing about the battle I decided to do a little research before going. I discovered this book contained the details and so bought a copy. It started really well, but the number of characters ballooned (to 50+?) and because I don’t know my history very well I found it impossible to keep up. If you love your historical fiction then this is for you, but I’m afraid I didn’t have the interest required to complete all 1000+ pages. I highly recommend going to The Battle of Tewkesbury though! 


Booker Prize Other

The 2014 Booker Longlist

The longlist for the 2014 Booker Prize has just been announced. I’m impressed by the selection as it appears to be a nice mixture of themes and styles and some are new to me. Five books aren’t published until September, so we’ll have to wait a while for those. 

The 2014 Booker Longlist:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

Five words from the blurb: Burma, prisoner, camp, starvation, letter

The Blazing World

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Five words from the blurb: female, artist, experiment, conceals, identity
The Bone Clocks

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Five words from the blurb: teenage, runaway, asylum, Metaphysical, shadows 

 History of the Rain

History of the Rain by Niall Williams

Five words from the blurb: Ireland, twin, hopeful, ancestors, farming

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

Five words from the blurb: saga, Bengali, society, fractures, family


Us by David Nicholls

Five words from the blurb: family, husbands, wives, parents, children


Orfeo by Richard Powers

Five words from the blurb: composer, police, experiment, music, fugitive

The Dog by Joseph O’Neill

(no cover or blurb available)

How to be both

How to be both by Ali Smith

Five words from the blurb: art, versatility, love, playful, mysterious

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Five words from the blurb: sister, vanished, unique, trouble, story

The Wake

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

Five words from the blurb: battle, Hastings, Norman, resistance, fighters

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Five words from the blurb: New York, dentist, privacy, Facebook, sanity


J by Howard Jacobson

Five words from the blurb: love, questions, brutality, suspicion, denial

My thoughts

I’ve only tried three of them:

The Narrow Road to the Deep North was an impressive book, with fantastic writing, but I’m afraid I abandoned it as the subject matter was too dark. 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was a lovely book, but it was ruined for me as I accidentally discovered the spoiler in advance and I think the magic of this book is lost if you know the twist

Blazing World was an impressive book – see my review

Of those that I haven’t tried I’m most looking forward to reading Orfeo and The Wake. I haven’t had much success with novels by Howard Jacobson (don’t get his humour), Joshua Ferris (too experimental) or Ali Smith (too experimental) in the past and so may give them a miss unless someone can convince me they are vastly different/better than their previous novels. The rest look interesting and I look forward to trying them, but I’m in no rush, especially as most aren’t even out yet.

What do you think of the longlist?


Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing

Five words from the blurb: forgetful, mystery, friend, missing, note

Elizabeth is Missing is an amusing, but poignant story about Maud, a woman suffering from dementia. The book alternates between Maud’s current life, where she is preoccupied with the whereabouts of her friend Elizabeth; and a second strand which shows what it was like for her growing up shortly after WWII – a period of time in which she is devastated by the disappearance of her sister.

The book gives a frighteningly realistic insight into the mind of a dementia sufferer, but somehow manages to avoid all sentimentality and insult. Some of the stories made me cry with laughter and I recognised many of the situations from interactions with my own grandparents.

I’m terribly thirsty.’
‘No wonder,’ Helen says, turning to leave the room. ‘There was a line of cold cups of tea on the shelf in the hall.’
I say I can’t think how they got there, but I don’t think she hears me, because she’s already disappeared into the kitchen and, anyway, my head is lowered as I’m going through my handbag.

I loved the first half of this book, but unfortunately the sad, repetitive nature of her actions, although completely realistic, began to wear a bit thin and I found myself losing interest. I think the book would have benefited from being slightly shorter.

The dual detective elements of the story were quite clever and I loved the ending, but there was something about it that didn’t quite work. I think it might be the fact that I didn’t connect with Maud’s younger self and so didn’t care whether or not there was a resolution to her story.

Despite the minor problems I really enjoyed reading this book  and I will be recommending it to a wide range of people. I hope it makes readers more tolerant of those with memory problems and I expect to see it on a few prize lists later in the year.


2014 Historical Fiction

Darkling by Laura Beatty


Five words from the blurb:  woman, adrift, history, Puritan, echoing

Darkling is part historical fiction, part reflection of modern-day living. The book begins with Mia, a woman who feels lost in the world, viewing a derelict castle in Shropshire. She is researching Lady Brilliana Harley, a woman who defended her home from Royalist troops during the English Civil War, and becomes fascinated by the similarities between their two lives. 

I shouldn’t have liked this book (it has very little plot and is terribly over written), but there was something about it that grabbed my attention. The vividness of the writing captivated me and I found myself totally absorbed in each slowly unfolding scene. 

The writing quality was excellent, but it had a meandering style – no single word was used when it could be replaced by twenty, more complex ones. It shouldn’t have worked, but for some reason it did. Wisdom oozed from each page and it is almost possible to open the book at random and find a beautiful quote:

Because while London teems and jostles and is so blind, at the ends of the roads that lead out of it and away, where the roads thin themselves to single track and get lost in the villages of deep countryside, there is space that opens out between people’s lives. There is room to just be. Like Mia’s father and her aunt, who sit not speaking, just clearing their throats now and then in their living room – and who knows what they are thinking – while the clock on the mantelpiece busies itself spilling out time, marks the silence with its small audible marks, with authority, as if measuring were system enough. 

The book was beautifully researched and contained many wonderful details about life both now and during the English Civil War. The descriptions of nature were also particularly evocative. 

Overall this is a slow, but vivid story about our relationship with others and how this is affected by our surroundings. Recommended to people who love the written word and are not bothered by the lack of a strong plot.


Booker Prize Other

Who will be longlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize?

The longlist for the 2014 Booker Prize will be announced on Wednesday 23rd July 2014. This year the rules have been changed to allow American authors to enter for the first time. No-one knows quite how this will affect the longlist, but I’m sure it will change the dynamics a bit. It also means that a wider pool of books are eligible, making a prediction of the longlist even harder.

For the past few months I’ve been scouring the Internet for signs of Booker potential and have chosen 13 books which I think are strong enough to make the grade.

My predictions for the 2014 Booker longlist:

Dept. of SpeculationThe Narrow Road to the Deep NorthThe Blazing World

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The Bone ClocksThe Paying GuestsThe Goldfinch

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Signature of All ThingsThe OrendaEvery Day is for the Thief

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

The Emperor WaltzArctic SummerBoy, Snow, BirdFourth of July Creek

The Emperor Waltz by Philip Hensher

Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

What do you think of my prediction?

Which books would you like to see on the longlist?

Update 21st July: I’ve just realised that The Shock of the Fall was originally published under a different title, earlier than the Booker cut off date, so have swapped it for Fourth of July Creek in my prediction.