Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Ginny Moon

Fresh voice. Easy to read, impossible to forget.





6:54 at Night, Tuesday, September 7th
The plastic electronic baby won’t stop crying.
My Forever Parents said it’s supposed to be like a real baby but it isn’t. I can’t make it happy. Even when I rock it. Even when I change its diaper and give it a bottle. When I say ush, ush, ush and let it suck on my finger it just looks dumb and screams and screams and screams.
I hold it close one more time and say, Nice and gentle, Nice and gentle, in my brain. Then I try all the things that Gloria used to do whenever I went ape-shit. After that I put my hand behind its head and move up and down on my toes. “All better. All better,” I say. From high to low like a song. Then, “So sorry.”
But still it won’t stop.
I put it down on my bed and when the crying gets louder I start looking for my Baby Doll. The real one. Even though I know it isn’t here. I left it back in Gloria’s apartment but crying babies make me really, really anxious so I have to look. It’s like a rule inside my brain. I look in my drawers. I look in the closet. I look in all the places a Baby Doll might be.
Even in the suitcase. The suitcase is big and black and shaped like a box. I pull it out from under my bed. The zipper goes all the way around. But my Baby Doll isn’t inside.
I take a deep breath. I have to make the crying stop. If I put it in the suitcase and put enough blankets and stuffed animals around it and push it back under the bed then maybe I won’t hear it anymore. It will be like I put the noise away inside my brain.
Because the brain is in the head. It is a dark, dark place where no one can see a thing except me.
So that’s what I do. I put the plastic electronic baby in the suitcase and start grabbing blankets. I put the blankets over its face and then a pillow and some stuffed animals. I’m guessing that after a few minutes the noise will stop.
Because to cry you need to be able to breathe.

7:33 at Night, Tuesday, September 7th
I ’m done with my shower but the plastic electronic baby is still crying. It was supposed to be quiet by now but it isn’t.
My Forever Parents are sitting on the couch watching a movie. My Forever Mom has her feet in a bucket of water. She says lately they have been swollen. I walk out into the living room and stand in front of her and wait. Because she is a woman. I’m a lot more comfortable with women than I am with men.
“Hey, Ginny,” my Forever Mom says while my Forever Dad presses the pause button. “What’s up? It looks as though you might have something to say.”
“Ginny,” says my Forever Dad, “have you been picking at your hands again? They’re bleeding.”
That was two questions so I don’t say anything.
Then my Forever Mom says, “Ginny, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t want the plastic electronic baby anymore,” I say.
She brushes her hair off her forehead. I like her hair a lot. She let me try to put it in pigtails this summer.
“It’s been almost forty minutes since you went into the shower,” she says. “Did you try to make it stop? Here. Hold this until we can get you some Band-Aids.”
She gives me a napkin.
“I gave it a bottle and changed its diaper three times,” I say. “I rocked it and it wouldn’t stop crying so I s—” Then I stop talking.
“It’s making a different sort of sound now,” my Forever Dad says. “I didn’t know it could get that loud.”
“Can you please make it stop?” I say to my Forever Mom. And then again, “Please?”
“It’s great to hear you asking for help,” my Forever Mom says. “Patrice would be proud.”
Far away down the hallway I hear the crying again so I start looking for places to hide. Because I remember that Gloria always used to come out of the bedroom in the apartment when I couldn’t get my Baby Doll to stop. Especially if she had a manfriend over. Sometimes when it cried and I heard her coming I used to take my Baby Doll and climb out the window.
I grab the napkin tight and close my eyes. “If you make it stop I’ll ask for help all the time,” I say and then I open them again.
“I’ll go have a look,” my Forever Dad says. He stands up. When he walks past me I recoil. Then I see that he isn’t Gloria. He looks at me funny and walks into the hallway. I hear him open the door to my room. The crying gets louder again.
“I don’t know if this idea is working,” my Forever Mom says. “We wanted you to see what it was like to have a real baby in the house, but this is not turning out like we planned.”
In my bedroom the crying gets as loud as it can get. My Forever Dad comes back out again. One of his hands is in his hair.
“She put it in her suitcase,” he says.
“What?”
“I had to follow the sound. I didn’t see it anywhere at first. She crammed it in there with a bunch of blankets and stuffed animals, zipped it shut and then forced it back under her bed,” he says.
“Ginny, why would you do a thing like that?” my Forever Mom says.
“It wouldn’t stop crying,” I say.
“Yes, but—” My Forever Dad interrupts her. “Look, it’s going to drive us all nuts if we don’t put an end to this. I tried to make it stop, but I couldn’t do it, either. I think it’s at the point of no return. Let’s just call Mrs. Winkleman.”
Mrs. Winkleman is the health teacher.
“She said she gave the emergency phone number to Ginny this morning,” my Forever Mom says. “It’s on a piece of paper. Check in her backpack.”
He walks into the hall and opens the door to my bedroom again. I cover my ears. He comes out holding my backpack. My Forever Mom finds the paper and takes out her phone. “Mrs. Winkleman?” I hear her say. “Yes, this is Ginny’s mom. I’m sorry to call so late, but I’m afraid we’re having a problem with the baby.”
“Don’t worry, Forever Girl,” my Forever Dad says to me. “This will all be over in a few minutes, and then you can get ready for bed. I’m sorry this is so intense and nerve-racking. We really thought—”
My Forever Mom puts the phone down. “She says there’s a hole in the back of its neck. You have to put a paper clip into the hole to touch a button and shut it off.”
He goes into the office and then he comes out again and walks down the hall into my bedroom. I start counting. When I get to twelve the crying stops. And now I can breathe again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

After Room, how can Emma Donoghue possibly astound again? And yet astound she does, in her beautifully crafted latest novel, "The Wonder". Rich, poetic prose. Believable characters. Story that tugs at your heart and compels you to turn the pages. Themes of motherly love and being confined to a room. :-)



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Into the water

"Into the water" by Paula Hawkins:
  • Reader, it's good.
  • It's nothing like her debut, "The girl on the train".
  • The number of characters may be daunting at first, but the book will make you think.
  • As in, _really_ think.
  • I didn't expect the twist.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Mother's Reckoning

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold was surprisingly easily to read, given that it's about the Columbine High School shooting on 20 April 1999, and written by the mother of one of the shooters. It's also surprisingly difficult to review.


So many thoughts. So many questions. So much sympathy.


If you ever thought the parents were to blame in this tragedy, read the book. Read the book if you want to learn to recognise signs of depression in your loved ones. The author wrote it hoping she could help prevent another disaster.



Love Like Blood

"Love Like Blood" is Mark Billingham's latest thriller (2017), again featuring both Thorne and Tanner. I liked the ratio in this one (his previous book was a bit Thorne-poor), I was intrigued by the topic of honour killings, and I enjoyed the non-predictable plot twists.


5/5. This one's a winner.


Warning: the official blurb contains a spoiler (IMHO).
DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold.



Monday, July 03, 2017

The Dry

The Dry is the debut thriller of Australian author Jane Harper. Atmospheric, quick-paced, and written with a lot of heart. I loved it. Can't wait for the next book.




Blurb:
A small town hides big secrets.
After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke's steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn't tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.
Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there's more to Luke's death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.







Watching the Detectives

Watching the Detectives by Julie Mulhern is the fifth book in the Country Club Murders series. IT's probably my favourite, because it deals with gender equality. Hard to imagine that this was still an issue as late as the 1970s, and yet.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Murder Games by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

I can't resist a book with playing cards on the cover. And so, having decided not to read any more James Patterson thrillers because of their graphically brutal nature, I found myself reaching out for Murder Games by James Patterson and Howard Roughan.

It's a page-turner. Loved the dialogues and the characters. And the violence level was tolerable.

Really enjoyed this one.

Oh, and was James Patterson inspired by my cover of "Murder @ Play" by any chance? Compare the two:


 


Monday, June 19, 2017

No Middle Name

Lee Child's latest book, "No Middle Name", is a collection of short stories about Jack None Reacher. Fans will have accumulated most of them electronically over the years, but it's still neat to have them grouped together in one bundle.








Thursday, June 08, 2017

Lie with me

"Lie with me" by Sabine Durrant is a fine example of British crime fiction. Set in part on a Greek island Pythos, it weaves the web in which to catch past actions. A clever book.

A few little lies never hurt anyone. Right?
Wrong.
Paul has a plan. He has a vision of a better future, and he's going to make it happen.
If it means hiding or exaggerating a few things here and there, no harm done.
But when he charms his way on to a family holiday...
And finds himself trapped among tensions and emotions he doesn't understand...
By the time he starts to realise that however painful the truth is, it's the lies that cause the real damage...
Well, by then, it might just be too late.



Sharp Objects - Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects (2006) is a debut novel by American author Gillian Flynn - yes, Gone Girl. It's a page-turner, masterfully written. It's also an uncomfortable read, particularly if you're a parent. It's a must-read of fans of suburban thrillers.

The novel is also being made into an 8-episode TV drama



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

No Place To Rest

"No place to rest" by D.L. Barnhart is the first book in the Liz Crawford thriller trilogy.


You will like this book if you're into:
  • Intelligent, problem-solving heroines (Liz Crawford is an engineer).
  • Thrillers that focus on people, not gore.
  • Questioning the system.







Monday, May 29, 2017

The Grownup

"The grownup" by Gillian Flynn is a short story published in paperback format.


This is a book for you if:
  • you don't have much time to read;
  • you like the author's voice;
  • you enjoy thrillers;
  • you don't mind a touch of the supernatural - maybe.







Monday, May 01, 2017

One Perfect Lie

If you love thrillers... but violence not so much, try One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline. It's a page-turner that will warm your heart.



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Designated survivor

"Designated survivor" is a TV series that's not only about conspiracy or USA politics. It's also about human decency. A bit of an oxymoron, decency and politics in one paragraph, but there you have it. Extremely watchable.


Monday, April 10, 2017

I see you

"I see you" by Clare Macintosh is a page-turner. Call it a who-dun-it or a psychological thriller... this is a fast-paced nail-biter about real characters in an almost unreal (and yet chillingly plausible) situation.

(I found the author's much-acclaimed debut too melancholy-grey to read beyond the first few chapters - and that's despite being aware of the twist. This book was not depressing like the first, and it did have an OMG twist nonetheless.)


Blurb:

You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you're going.

You're not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .



The Memory Watcher

The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent is an intriguing psychological thriller with a twist I didn't see coming. I loved the message of the book "not everything you see online is real" - because, no matter how we know it intellectually, we keep falling for FaceMyth time and time again.

Blurb:
When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence.

From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace's every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination soon spirals into an addictive obsession that comes to a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning.

Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace's life under false pretences. And it's only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn't exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.




Monday, March 27, 2017

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi


I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi is a novel that you want to describe as “beautiful” and “poignant”, but those words have been used to often, and to reflect this book’s originality and depth, you ultimately need much fresher and more significant adjectives.

 

It’s a book about how to live your life, how to cope with loss, and how to not hurt those you love. It’s a book about marriage, teenagers, and death. It’s about what comes after and how what came before shapes our destiny.

 

It’s a book that deserves our attention.


Ready Player One


If you haven't read "Ready player one" by Ernest Cline yet, try it. You will love it if:

  • You remember the 80s fondly.
  • You liked video games.
  • You watched 80s movies.
  • You played text adventure games.
  • You’re into SF and VR.

Premise: The 80s have been recreated in virtual reality, and now a treasure hunt is on: for a fortune in money, but also for the ownership of the virtual reality and for the chance to save it from a greedy corporation hell-bent on changing the setting forever. The plot is one gigantic video game / treasure hunt / puzzle.

 

Young Adult level, a bit too much swearing for young young-adults. A romance subplot. Because the plot is a virtual reality game, any deux ex machina devices should be forgiven. J


Monday, March 06, 2017

When I was Invisible

"When I was invisible" by Dorothy Koomson is a beautiful book about an ugly topic. Don't let the backstory tragedy stop you, though. This novel will make you think about many issues and on many levels.

In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Girl Before

If you like thrillers, read "The Girl Before" by JP Delaney (pseudonym). It pulls you right in and doesn't let go, not even after the last page.


And do yourself a favour: don't read the blurb. Don't read any other reviews until you're done with the book. Let the plot unfold around you, let yourself guess what it's about. You won't be sorry.


(For those of you who've read it, scroll down.)





SPOLER ALERT!!!!

Please don't read further until you've read the book.




































So, here's the full review, or rather, my main thoughts:
  • I was blown away to discover the author is male: I thought the two main characters were written authentically and believably.
  • Full disclosure: I loved, loved, loved the house. What does that say about me?
  • Surprisingly, I didn't guess the culprit's identity. Always a refreshing thing for me.
  • At the end, I still don't know whether Emma had lied about the video. I like that it's not resolved, given that Simon could have been lying.
  • The ending moved me to tears. And then I found out about the author's own children.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

"Leave Me " by Gayle Forman deals with important issues: motherhood, work-life balance, feeling unappreciated. The blurb takes us right into the crux of the matter: "Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack."


It's an enjoyable book, and a quick read,  though I must confess I couldn't empathise with the protagonist. I realise a heart attack combined with unresolved feelings around being adopted are powerful motivators, yet still I could not understand Maribeth's choices.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Right Behind You

"Right behind you" is Lisa Gardner's latest book. The local shooting gets personal for FBI Profiler Quincy and his wife Rainie, and probably because of it, this novel is more of a character-driven drama than a thriller. A fast, enjoyable read.





Monday, February 06, 2017

EXCERPT Operation: Genocide

Chapter 8 - Wednesday, 3 Days Before The Murder


Wednesdays were Hester’s days off. Funny that. She still had to cook breakfast and straighten the house. But if she hurried, the madam would let her go before lunch. Hester was counting on it today. She didn’t want to be late for her meeting.
            The night before Hester had left the kitchen spotless. This morning the sink held two smudged whisky tumblers, an oily pot encrusted with burnt popcorn (takes forever to scrub), a greasy bowl and two mugs with dregs of milky coffee.
            The madam and the master must have had one of their good evenings together. Shared popcorn, whisky and coffee. Alcohol to make her more agreeable and coffee to make him stay up. Hester sniggered. The master got a bargain last night. When he entertained his mistress at home the time his wife and kids went to the seaside, he served lobster with sparkling wine.
            “Good morning, Hester. The children will have soft-boiled eggs with toast for breakfast.”
            “Yes, missus. What will the master have?”
            The madam moved her mouth into a tight smile that faded before it began. “Probably nothing, Hester. He’s running late this morning. I’ll just pour the coffee.”
            Perhaps if the master took as much trouble with his wife as he had with his mistress, the smile would’ve been genuine.
Heavy footsteps on the stairs didn’t bode well. The master stomped in like a buffalo with tight testicles. A chuckle bubbled in Hester’s throat. Good for the madam not to have been seduced with a bowl of popcorn.
“I’m late,” the master’s growl was all buffalo too, “and the coffee’s bloody hot.”
“Sorry. Let me put some more milk in it.”
He took another sip. Scowled. “That makes it too weak.”
The madam handed him a paper bag. “I’m very sorry, Gordon,” she repeated. “Here is some dry sausage and fruit for your breakfast. Would you like to take a lunch sandwich as well? It’s ready.”
“No, I’ll get something at work.”
Hester was sure he would. Not once and not twice did she launder traces of lipstick off the master’s business shirts.
***
“I’m late,” Gordon said, “and the coffee’s bloody hot.”
Annette felt her stomach cringe. It was all her fault. She should have got up earlier. “Sorry. Let me put some more milk in it.”
“That makes it too weak.”
Annette still hoped to make amends as she handed him a paper bag. “I’m very sorry, Gordon. Here is some dry sausage and fruit for your breakfast. Would you like to take a lunch sandwich as well? It’s ready.”
He didn’t want it. Perhaps he realised she hadn’t made his lunch with as much love and devotion as a wife should. When they were newlyweds fourteen years ago, she would hide little “I love you” notes in his sandwiches, but Gordon complained he kept biting into the pink paper, so she stopped.
            When they were newlyweds fourteen years ago, Gordon had this contagious laugh that started in his belly and burst out like gunshot from his mouth. What had happened to that laugh? Had she killed it?
            “Bye, doll.” Gordon called out.
            For old times’ sake, Annette wanted to say, “Bye, honey.”
            She couldn’t.
***
 “Bye, doll.”
Doll. Well, the madam did look like a porcelain doll, and she certainly acted like one, too, whenever the master was around.
With the puppeteer gone, the doll regained control of her own strings. “Hester, I’m going grocery shopping later on. What do we need?”
Hester recited a long list of foodstuffs and cleaning products, and the madam wrote it all down. The whites couldn’t remember things, which explained why they had to be so good at reading and writing.
The clock hurried on without mercy. Hester changed the baby’s nappy, straightened the beds, picked up the dirty clothes, washed up after breakfast, changed another nappy. Beth was getting hungry. Hester was getting restless.
“Shall I make up the bottle, Missus?”
            “No, I’ll feed Beth myself. You may go now. Please take the sandwich from the fridge, if you like.”
            “Thank you, Madam.” The sandwich was bound to contain something more interesting than Hester’s usual apricot jam with a slice of pink Polony sausage.
            Free at last. The madam would make her own lunch and gobble it all up, away from the master’s controlling gaze. For dinner, the family would go out to a restaurant in order to relieve the white woman’s workload. After all, the madam was bound to be tired from lying by the swimming pool all day, painting her nails and pretending not to gawk at the gardener’s muscles covered with forbidden black skin.
            Hester glanced at the clock. Just enough time to catch a taxi van to the illegal meeting.
***
            Annette glanced at the clock. Just enough time to drive into the city for her meeting.

***




Saturday, February 04, 2017

Lie Lay Lain - Bryn Greenwood

Today I'm delighted to introduce you to "Lie Lay Lain" by Bryn Greenwood. Bryn is a New York times bestselling author, and the book's about lies. The lies we tell others. The lies we tell ourselves. It's also about truth and the importance of a good manicure.