Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

baby teethBaby Teeth
By Zoje Stage
Available 7/17/18
Publisher: St. Martins Press
ISBN: 9781250170750
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Mystery

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Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.


My Thoughts

Warning: This one is a bit winded. I have edited and edited, but I have a few things to say.

Baby Teeth starts off with a promising narrative that alternates between 7-year-old Hanna and her mother Suzette. Hanna has yet to begin speaking but is otherwise highly intelligent. She loves her daddy dearly and feels that her mother is coming between them and the life they should have together. She will stop at nothing to remove Suzette from the equation.

Suzette loves Hanna, but is struggling to understand her silence and constant bad behavior that ironically never occurs when her husband is present. She is searching for answers while dealing with her own personal battle with Crohn’s disease that includes a history of surgeries and many complicated symptoms. She is exhausted and increasingly concerned with Hanna’s behavioral issues and her husband’s obliviousness to it all.

“Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp.”

I have read several other reviews and spoken with a few friends in the book community, and I know that one question revolving around Baby Teeth has been how parents will handle a thriller that involves an “evil” child. Personally, as a mother, I can say I find myself drawn to them! I am not exactly sure what this says to me, but I have always gravitated towards films and books such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Good Son, etc. Perhaps it is the fact that I am a parent that makes them more thrilling or terrifying and this is where I often find success in them? Or perhaps it is my continuing fascination with the human psyche and behavior?

Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth starts off strong, striving to be no exception. The decision to split the narrative works brilliantly, pitting mother and daughter against one another and exposing the reader to various family dynamics. It sets a promising stage that is likely to deliver for many readers. However, I encountered some major obstacles that greatly impacted my time with the story and not in the best of ways.

“Now that she knew the name of the game – Scare Mommy – she should be able to defend herself. But goosebumps rose on her skin, even under the heat of the water, when she thought about her creepy daughter. The whites of her eyes. Her ability to sneak up on her as she slept.” 

Hanna’s narrative was inconsistent when compared to that of a 7-year-old. I tried to suspend belief and go with it, as I understand this is fiction and she is certainly not your average child. But, in the end, these constant fluctuations between childlike and adult mentality became too much. Throughout story progression, her actions and the possibility of them continued to lose credibility. As a result, the tension was slowly stripped away from about 50% on.

Suzette was also deeply flawed as a character. I was sympathetic to her plight, having no real sense of what my own composure would be under such circumstances, but her affection for Hanna was suspicious and wavering early on. This drove an immediate wedge between us.

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever.” 

A large portion of the content felt gratuitous. There was even one particular scene that I believe was added for increased shock appeal that I can actually say I wish had been avoided. It was tactless and improbable. There is no true mystery in Baby Teeth and the ending was fittingly my final disappointment. It was a predictable cliché.

I will admit that Stage’s writing is not without merit. She offers readers a fluid experience that moves at a desirable pace for a thriller. Even with the hurdles I encountered, this was an effortless read. The narration was seamless and concise. Fans of thrillers that are willing to suspend disbelief and seeking a fast read will likely find enjoyment in Baby Teeth. For myself, there was a disconnect with the characters that I never fully recovered from.

Contains some violence, sexual content and themes of chronic illness.

*I would like to thank St. Martins Press for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Pair this fast-paced read with a crisp herbal mint blend.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

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Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

bring me backBring Me Back 
By B.A. Paris
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 9781250151339
Pages: 336
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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A young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again.

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?


My Thoughts

I love a good mystery and thriller. The quick pace and twisty events are often the perfect recipe to break up oncoming reading slumps and liven up my TBR. For that reason, I try to always incorporate them into my current reading piles periodically. This was my first encounter with BA Paris, so I admittedly had no specific expectations when I began Bring Me Back, but being the honest reviewer I am, I am sure they were higher than what I ultimately received.

The skinny..

Mysteries are meant to be just that. They are best left to be explored by the reader. For that reason and the amount of predictability I encountered with this particular story, I am opting to skip my usual recap and leaving you simply with the blurb.

“That was the statement I gave to the police, sitting in the police station somewhere off the A1 in France. It was the truth. But not quite the whole truth.”

What I appreciated..

  • This was a case of an unreliable narrator. Or is it? We simply do not know and it works well to initially heighten the mystery of Bring Me Back.
  • An alternating timeline delivers a story that unfolds at a rather quick pace in easy to digest chunks that I appreciated.
  • BA Paris clearly has a knack with the pen, creating a fluid and inviting read if only just for how effortless it is.

Challenges some may encounter..

  • I would be lying to state that there was not a large amount of predictability within the plot. I had the majority of it pegged by page 75, which was too soon for myself.
  • It was difficult to establish a connection with the narrator and characters, as emotion is not conveyed very well on the page.
  • The abrupt change of story at the half-way point felt clunky and really failed to add any value to my experience.
  • The final conclusion was highly improbable and demanded a lot from the reader in terms of surrendering all belief. While I will not expand on this for the obvious reasons, I was not able to overlook the multitude of holes and issues here.

In the end, Bring Me Back was an initially appealing and fast-paced read that while maybe not entirely plausible still entertaining. However, I struggled with the predictability and lack of complexity. I still believe that fans of the author and those seeking a lighter read will find easy enjoyment within this one.

*I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press for this advanced copy. The quote included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Pairs well with a nice large blanket a cup of Earl Grey.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

36315374 Jar of Hearts
By Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: 9781250154194
Pages: 320
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

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This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?


My Thoughts

First drawn in by the lush cover, I was completely sold upon finishing the synopsis. It turns out I was instantly drawn to Jar of Hearts for many good reasons. Craving a story full of delicious twists and turns, I have to admit that Hillier delivered and exceeded on all my expectations.

The Skinny..

As this is a mystery (a dark and beautifully twisted one), I will refrain from divulging too many details in terms of actual plot but I do want to attempt to sum it up briefly. This is a classic case of whodunnit with very unexpected results. We are introduced to Georgina Shaw (Geo) a successful executive in her fiancee’s pharmaceutical company 14 years after the disappearance of her teenage friend Angela Wong. When Angela’s remains are discovered in the woods very close to Geo’s childhood home and her past boyfriend Calvin James, who was later convicted of several other murders, becomes the primary suspect, she soon finds herself at the center of the investigation. When she decides to open up about what really happened all of those years ago she is sent to prison. But now new victims are beginning to surface, pointing to bigger secrets. The story is far from over.

If it sounds like a lot, that’s because Jar of Hearts has a lot going on in the best of ways!

“…but the guilt is still there, stinking like an invisible piece of rotting garbage underneath your bed that won’t go away no matter how many attempts you make to clean it. Because that smell – of rotting flesh, of rotting soul – is you.”

What I appreciated..

  • Jar of Hearts is one of those rare, gripping page-turners that hooks you within mere pages making it impossible to put down. Many will find this to be a one sit read.
  • Hillier’s writing is smart, crisp and incredibly raw lending a tremendous amount of credibility to story and characters that rewards the reader with a gripping and fully atmospheric experience.
  • This is a complex, multifaceted plot that relies on revelations, continually delivering the unexpected while feeding us just enough to encourage further exploration.
  • The protagonist Geo is beautifully flawed. Her struggles and emotions transfer to page with great ease creating an emotional connection with the reader that is viable and strong.
  • An unforeseeable and explosive ending left me begging for more. I can honestly admit that Hillier took me by complete surprise and I loved it!

“…years had passed, and it seemed like maybe the past would be buried. A bad pun, but fitting nonetheless.”

Challenges some may encounter..

  • This is a very graphic read. Please be warned that there are multiple triggers including violence, rape, and more. I am trying to refrain from divulging details but please feel free to contact or message me with any questions or concerns before starting this one. 
  • The ending while successfully surprising did feel slightly rushed, however, I still walked away ready to read more from this author.

Jar of Hearts is the sort of read that defines my expectations for the mystery and thriller genre and then easily exceeds them. Hillier offers readers a rewarding experience that draws them in from the first page and refuses to let go until the very gripping end. Be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat and hold your breath.

*I would like to thank Minotaur & Netgalley for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

I recommend a nice herbal blend or chamomile to help settle the nerves while reading this dark, twisted thriller.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,
Danielle ❤

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