The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

imageOn a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves.

Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

I didn’t know much about The Kind Worth Killing before I started reading it other than people had said good things and it was based loosely on Strangers on a Train, one of my favourite films.  Knowing this, I wasn’t surprised by the beginning, when Ted and Lily meet and they agree to murder Miranda.  I was surprised by the many twists and turns that followed.  Not what I expected at all and so much better than anything I could have hoped for.

Lily is the first surprise.  She is not what she leads Ted to believe but a much darker person, one that is slowly revealed as she tells her own story through chapters that alternate with Ted’s and, later, Miranda’s too.  Each has their own agenda and it’s not always what it seems.  As a reader, I was completely drawn in from the first Lily chapter and couldn’t stop turning pages.

The stories time travel too, visiting Lily’s childhood, her and Miranda’s college days and Miranda and Ted’s early life, as well as the present. With each chapter a little more is revealed and another piece of the puzzle provided.  Still, I was still pretty sure for the first third that I could see where the story was going.  Then something happened (which I won’t reveal – spoilers) and I was completely thrown.  All my assumptions were wrong.  This happened again later in the book, and again.  It was brilliant…I really didn’t know where I was heading and who would end up winning.

With complex characters I also didn’t know who I wanted to end up winning.  Neither Ted or Lily could be that sympathetic, they were planning murder after all, but Miranda was a real piece of work and the more I found out about her the less I wondered if Ted didn’t have the right idea (but only in a fictional sense obviously!).  Peter Swanson does a great job fleshing out all three and making them feel real – people you love to hate is probably a good way to describe them.  He writes well, with good pace, and did I mention the plot twists (o.k., maybe once or twice).  As a result, I couldn’t put the book down and – if you hadn’t guessed – ending up loving this one.

Emma

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Eat, Nourish, Glow by Amelia Freer

25718437Way back in what seems like the mists of time but was actually only the end of October, I decided I needed to start being healthier. Over the course of the previous year, I had slowly being putting on weight – about half a stone so not a lot but enough to notice. Worse, I was feeling sluggish and tired all the time.

I was talking (o.k., moaning) to a colleague at work who said she had recently made quite a lot of changes to her diet for the same reason and she was feeling much better as a result. She recommended a couple of books, one of which was Ear, Nourish, Glow, which I found at the local library so thought I would give a go.

Freer is a nutritional therapist who has worked with a number of famous people, helping them lose weight and look good – the type of changes the press love to report on. The idea she lays out at the beginning is everybody is different and responds differently to food and being healthy is not about dieting but about changing your diet, slowly and steadily getting rid of things that make you feel, basically, like crap.  These things end up being almost everything I would say I loved – sugar, bread, pasta, dairy and alcohol – and are replaced with fruits, veggies, natural grains. As a result, you will lose weight but, more importantly, you will glow from all the good things you are eating.

To get to the glow, there are 10 easy steps – or supposedly easy. I can’t say I found them that particularly and, if I’m honest, by chapter 10 I had pretty much lost the will to live because whilst Freer starts off saying it’s up to you what you change in your diet (based on a food diary you keep in the first two weeks), she basically ends up telling you everything is bad.

To follow her simple 10 steps, you need to cut out gluten, alcohol (other than good quality red wine), salt (unless it’s pink Himalayan salt), dairy and – most importantly – sugar.  Sugar, according to Freer, is evil and the worst thing you could consume.  She might be right here, given what is in the press, and I don’t necessarily disagree with her on processed sugar but she also doesn’t seem to like natural sugar in things like fruit.

The problem is that to do what she asks you basically have to throw out everything in your kitchen and restock it with things I’m not sure the average person could afford on a weekly food shop.  Cans need to be replaced with food stored in glass wherever possible for example and juices should be blended in a Vitamix which runs at several hundred pounds.  You could use another juicer (as long as it’s cold press) but you get the feeling that – if you do – you are failing.  I am sure that wasn’t Freer’s intention but it’s how it came across because the messages kept being repeated so it started to sound like dogma.

What also kept being repeated was basically the same dozen or so recipes – meaning the book became (for me) a bit of a boring lecture on what not to do vs. what to do to feel better.  Saying that, and almost despite it, I did find that after reading the book my diet improved.  That was down to the food diary I kept in the beginning and which I found really useful.  It told me what I already knew – I eat too much rubbish when I’m travelling for work and snack too much when I work from home – but made me focus and think twice when I was about to buy a bag of crisps as part of a meal deal.

Since reading the book, I have paid much more attention to what I eat and my diet has changed.  However, I haven’t cut out things that I don’t think have a negative impact on me – like dairy – because life is basically too short to not enjoy what I eat.  As a result, though, I have probably reduced the bad fats and definitely the sugar in my diet, and I have lost weight – 4lbs so far which I’m chuffed with.  I could probably have done I without the book though – or at least chapters 2 through 10 – so overall, I have to say, the book wasn’t for me and it’s not one I can recommend.

Emma

The Prodigal by Nicky Black

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Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much.

Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home.

As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections.

In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go.

I came across The Prodigal by chance after following Nicky Black on Twitter. I decided to read it because it was getting good reviews and it sounded like something I would enjoy, which I did. Nicky Black is actually two people. Their bio says they are friends Nicky and Julie and that Julie originally wrote The Prodigal as a TV script over a decade ago before Nicky turned the script into a novel because the show was never made.

It’s a good thing she did because it’s a good story with interesting characters. Lee and Nicola are strong personalities with a lot to lose as they begin to fall in love. For Nicola it might be her life given she’s married to a local gangster, Micky. For Lee, his job as he takes greater and greater risks to try and be with Nicola.

Lee’s teenage daughter, who he’s never met, and his relationship with her mother, his former girlfriend, give the story another angle and show another side to Lee’s personality. He is a good guy trying to do the right thing. And trying not to get annoyed with his fairly useless colleagues and the constraints of the system he’s working in.

I thought his colleagues could have been a little more fleshed out – they felt a little stereotypical – but that all the other characters were well drawn and so was Newcastle in 1999, a city that was changing but where there were still haves and have nots.

I could see this as a TV show and maybe it will end up on Telly after all as a result of this book. I hope so because it’s a good one. I liked it a lot and a recommended read.

Emma

A Mother’s Story by Amanda Prowse

imageWhen newly weds Jessica and Matthew find out she is pregnant, it’s unexpected but not unwelcome news.  They had planned on waiting a while until they had children – they’re only in their early 20’s – but it isn’t like they didn’t want them and, with good jobs and a nice home, a baby feels like a perfect addition to their pretty perfect life.  Unfortunately, once their little girl is born, things are not as perfect as they had hoped as Jessica struggles to come to terms with motherhood and those around her struggle to understand just what is happening.

A Mother’s Story opens with Jessica being admitted to hospital, where she is treated with a mix of kindness and complete disrespect and disdain by the nurses, before returning to her wedding day and telling the story of her and Matthew’s courtship and the early days of their marriage through to her admittance.  Each chapter gives a snapshot of their lives before ending with a diary entry, written by Jessica and set in the present.  It paints a much darker picture of her life than the chapters would suggest.  And it shows just how deep a depression she is in as she is diagnosed with and tries to recover from post natal depression.

This isn’t something I have experience of myself and I don’t know anyone directly who has but I work in the mental health field and I know it is not only common but can be debilitating at a time when women are supposed to be at their happiest.  I think Amanda Prowse does a really good job of presenting the condition sympathetically and explaining it without being overly factual in a work of fiction.  I did feel for Jessica, although as a couple, she and Matthew are quite sickeningly happy and possibly a little too perfect for me.  I think, though, that part of the idea of this was to show that post natal depression can happen to anyone and it can be completely life changing and out of a person’s control.

Even with this, I did enjoy it, though not as much as the first (and only other) Amanda Prowse novel I’ve read – What Have I Done.  This might be because I listened to vs. read the book and found the narration a little off-putting at times – it was done by Prowse herself and her voice just didn’t seem to fit for me or have enough range when the different characters were speaking.  I stopped more than once for a few days before continuing because I did want to know how it ended.  Which mean that, overall, I would have to say I liked vs. loved this book.  Still, worth a read (vs. listen!).

Emma

 

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

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When Susan finds a photo of a little boy pushed through her letter box and the note on the back says it’s her son – the son she killed four years previously – she is determined to find out the truth about who sent her the picture and why.

With the help of her best friend, Cassie, and a local journalist, Nick, she begins to dig deeper into what happened on the day she woke up and was told she had murdered her baby, a day she can’t remember.

Slowly, she begins to unravel a web of lies, lies which put her and those around her in danger but lead her closer to uncovering the truth.

As you can probably tell from that brief summary, How I Lost You presents a tangled web with lots of twists, turns, and red herrings. It does get a bit confusing at times but I still found myself turning the pages to find out what happened next. It wasn’t what I expected and didn’t quite end up where I thought it would, which I liked.

I also liked Susan and felt for her as her world, one that she had worked so hard to rebuild, started to fall apart again. Nick and Cassie I needed a bit more convincing of. Nick was a little too good to be true whilst I wanted to see and hear more from Cassie. She started off as a really strong character before fading into the background and becoming nothing more than a voice on the end of a phone.

Despite this though the plot held together well with a slightly unbelievable but enjoyable ending making it all worthwhile. It’s especially impressive as it’s Jenny Blackhurst’s debut novel and I have to say I liked this book a lot – definitely a recommended read!

Emma

The Other Child by Lucy Atkins

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Greg and Tess are perfect for each other. Two halves of the same coin. Which is why, when Greg gets offered the job of a lifetime in Boston, Tess agrees to marry him and move, along with her nine year old son Joey and soon to be born baby, from her home in England. This despite their romance having been something of a whirlwind and her misgivings about how Greg feels about the pregnancy (he never wanted children).

Once they arrive, things don’t go as Tess hoped. Greg is from the States and fits back into the life straight away, that’s when he isn’t at work – which is pretty much all the time. Tess feels like a fish out of water. Her neighbour Helena seems to hate her. Joey hates school and is being bullied. Then there are the mystery notes that keep turning up threatening Greg, possibly left by the disheveled red-haired woman Tess keeps seeing outside their house. Greg seems to find it all perfectly normal but Tess isn’t so sure. She starts asking questions and Greg, she starts to find out, hasn’t been telling her the truth about his past.

I really like these type of books, where you spend most pages wondering if a character is or isn’t up to no good. When they are done well, they are real page turners and this one was, despite the slow start. Lucy Atkins builds up the tension bit by bit. At first, you think Tess is being paranoid because of the stress of the move and the new baby. All along, though, you know Greg is slightly off. The question is just how off?  I just had to know and loved all the twists that got me there, though I must admit there were a couple of times I thought we could have gotten there quicker (the timeline is written to fit with the pregnancy).

What didn’t work so well for me was the ending, which left me a little flat and thinking “is that it?”. The run up had been quite intense with a drive through a storm and a remote house. I was started to get worried about what would happen to more than one character. Then it was all over. I wanted a bit more and felt I had been promised that. Looking back, though, the ending wasn’t bad and it is a bit different from the usual ones for these type of stories but it wasn’t what I expected and so I’m left with mixed feelings about the book. If I was rating it, then, it would likely be right in the middle – 3 out of 5.

Have you read this, what did you think of the ending?

Emma

p.s. I “won” a copy of this from Goodreads so whilst there wasn’t a requirement to post a review on my blog, it wasn’t a purchased book.