book review: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

26050845.jpg

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

No, this is not like Gone Girl or Girl On a Train. When will the Gone Girl comparisons end? Somewhere, I bet even Gillian Flynn is asking herself that question. “Is it over yet?” she ponders, sipping a martini and killing a character off gleefully. “Can I emerge? Will people ever stop this madness?”

Perhaps not. And even though Behind Closed Doors has zero in common with Flynn’s work, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t race out right now and buy it. Because you definitely should. Spare, unflinching and great fun even in its grossness, B.A. Paris’ novel is an unputdownable knife blade into the dark heart of a marriage.

Obviously saying too much will necessitate spoilers, so I won’t. The blurb tells quite a bit, of course. Grace, the perfect wife. Jack, the perfect husband. Friends, suspecting nothing. Grace’s thinness. Jack’s over-protectiveness. What does it all mean? A simple case of co-dependency? An abusive marriage? Something darker?

And it is dark. Paris doesn’t shy away from the vileness inherent in Jack’s rotten soul, nor are his motivations or his line of work made any less horrifying than they could be. Yes, he has a bit of the gothic to him, but he reminds me of Ted Bundy – good-looking, charming, careful. You’d never suspect him. Even as he snuck up into your dorm room and took a hammer to the eggshell of your skull.

Behind Closed Doors is a lightning read. I just kept going until it was over, and unlike others, I adored the ending. Everything that needed to be said was said in that moment. In the end, a small blip in time or a conversation that seems to mean nothing, can actually mean everything.

Advertisements

(Harlequin Romance) book review: Green Lightning by Anne Mather

1739367

Note, sometimes I like to go back and read old school Harlequins, okay. If that’s not your particular brand of gin, don’t fuss. I also write “regular” book reviews. 

This is a great book, albeit completely wrong on so many levels, given the heroine is approx seventeen, and the hero is approx forty. Not to mention he’s been raising her since she was a kid. So, let’s get that out of the way.

Helen is a willful, spoiled orphan, living with her ‘Uncle Heath’ (actually no relation, which Mather goes to great pains to point out during the course of the novel – no small wonder, because gross).

Heath employs ‘Angela Patterson’ to look after Helen and teach her how to wear clothes well, do her hair, act in society, be ‘proper’, etc. Of course, it turns out, Angela has her sights set on Heath and wants to be his ladywife. Helen is like, um, no bitch and thwarts the ice queen at every turn.

As the book progresses, it becomes clear that Helen is hopelessly in love with Heath, and Heath is obviously attracted to her — as much as he knows it’s a felony.

Regardless, the writing is awesome and Helen is likeable and spunky. Much as I wanted her to meet someone her own age, I’m sure she’ll grow out of her love for “Uncle Heath” when she sends him to the nursing home… next year.

book review: The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike

137975

A creepy, satisfying tale of horror. One of Christopher Pike’s best.

Dr. Lauren Wagner is one of the crew of the Nova, a manned mission into space, specifically, to explore Mars. A Russian crew already tried, but have been given up for dead, so it’s up to the crew of the Nova to find out what happened, and why.

Lauren leaves behind her boyfriend (you never quite understand why she’s with him… he’s a wet rag) and her lovely sister. They live out in the backwoods of Wyoming. Jennifer (her sister) is a troubled young soul but deeply beautiful and old beyond her years.

When Lauren and the crew (which includes Gary, a sexy Pilot whom Lauren has a mad crush on) arrive on Mars, shit starts to go down. First of all, one of the cosmonauts is “alive” but anyone with a brain could tell you he’s been drinkin’ blood to stay that way. He leads them on a path into the darkness, taking them into the depths of the red planet to a cave and a lake that will give you nightmares of the blackest kind.

Although some of the astronauts make it home, they can never quite reach Earth again. Not in the same way.

Sad, horrifying, gross. This is a great book, but the ending is haunting and indeed, Mars doesn’t look quite so beautiful against the night sky after reading.

(Harlequin Romance) book review: Betrayal in Bali by Sally Wentworth

29406601

Note, sometimes I like to go back and read old school Harlequins, okay. If that’s not your particular brand of gin, don’t fuss. I also write “regular” book reviews. 

This is a perfect old-school Harlequin by Sally Wentworth! I always really like her books.

Like revenge porn, basically.

*SPOILER*

The ‘hero’ thinks the heroine was responsible for [the death of his fiance in a drunken car wreck.

*END SPOILER*

So of course, he ignores the decision of the court and takes it upon himself to ‘punish’ her suitably. Namely, by trapping her in Bali in a sham marriage and making her life Hell, including threatening her with physical violence.

As the novel progresses, he falls in love with her, natch. She’s pretty pissed with him and doesn’t really warm up until the jumbled, confusing ending. When he finally finds out the truth, it’s pretty anti-climatic.

All in all though, a solid Harlequin and I love everything Sally Wentworth does. It’s no Judas Kiss, but what is? 😉

book review: Diana: Portrait of a Princess by Jayne Fincher

632113

This is an exquisite book about Lady Diana Spencer – who was oft-called “the most photographed woman in the world”.

Jayne Fincher actually seems to care about Diana and knew her – something I think that is lacking in most books that were written hastily in the wake of Diana’s untimely death. She even dedicates the book to the memory of Diana, something I think is important – most of the so-called “tribute” books were written by either publications that used to benefit from the paparazzi’s stalking of the princess, or by people who didn’t know her personally at all.

I was 14 when Diana died, and was devastated by it – she was a personal hero, and I grew up fascinated by her life, her emotions that always seemed so close to the surface and her troubled relationships, be it with her family or her ex-husband. I adored how much she adored her children, how she protected them and raised them to be the men they now are (I often think how proud she would be of William and Harry).

Fincher’s book is more than just a collection of gorgeous photographs (and they are gorgeous – Diana certainly was!) – it’s also a loving remembrance of a woman, a mother and a philanthropist. I think it’s a tribute Diana would have appreciated, given it was written with grace, gentleness and above all, compassion.

(Harlequin Romance) book review: The Kissing Game by Sally Wentworth

6448406

*Note, sometimes I like to go back and read old school Harlequins, okay. If that’s not your particular brand of gin, don’t fuss. I also write “regular” book reviews. 

GLORIOUS.

It’s misogynistic and terrible, and yet – it’s splendid.

Davina and Max meet and he’s like, HOW DARE YOU HAVE A JOB and she’s all BUT I’M AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN AND I LIKE TO WORK and he’s like BUT YOU ARE ATTRACTIVE AND I WILL NOT HAVE THIS TOMFOOLERY and she’s all BUT I AM GOOD AT MY JOB YOU DICK and he’s like WELL LET’S KISS ANYWAY ACTUALLY MAYBE I’LL FORCIBLY KISS YOU OKAY and she’s a bit not into it like THAT WAS KINDA RAPEY and he takes a breath BUT YOU LIKED IT NOW COME OVER AT CHRISTMAS AND BE COOL WIT IT and she drives over and is like OKAY COOL

And that’s the book.

It’s seriously good, btw.

book review: People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

8491980 (1)

 

Searing, meticulously researched and absolutely heartrending, this is a tale of horror touching innocent lives and changing them irrevocably. It’s a “true crime” book that also explores the human condition – the three sides of the coin – evil, good, and the grey areas in between. It’s also an intelligent examination of a foreign and often maddening culture that contributed to the rape and murder of two girls (and how ever many countless more).

I didn’t know about Lucie Blackman before I read this book. As Richard Lloyd Parry astutely points out though, I did know the case of “the girl in the bathtub” – Lindsay Hawker, a young British woman who was strangled to death by her killer to keep her “from screaming for help while he raped her.” (I can’t think of anything more devastating than what I just typed, to be quite honest.) For most Westerners, the two cases seem virtually indistinguishable, but of course they are very, very different.

Lucie Blackman was a complicated woman and much of what she thought and felt – from her depressive episodes to her worries about failure, her body, her debts – were so familiar to me that I immediately felt so much empathy with her. After she traveled to Japan with a close friend to become a “hostess” (serving drinks to wealthy Japanese ‘salarymen’ in the largely multicultural area of Roppongi), Lucie disappeared while on a ‘dohan’ (an outside date with a man she’d met at work). Hostesses were required to have a certain amount of dohans each month, or face being fired. Lucie was never quite able to meet her quota – and was desperate to do so. Is that why she accepted the date? Or did she truly believe that Obara – her date for that evening – was harmless?

We will never know. What we do know is that Lucie’s body was found nine months later, buried in a rocky seaside cave, dismembered, her head encased in cement, any evidence washed away by tide and time. After a desperate search by her grieving family, the truth was almost too much to bear.

Lucie, their golden girl, dead – cut up, and left alone in darkness.

Parry paints a complex portrait of both the Blackman family (torn apart by divorce and grief), Lucie, Obara – the accused killer and rapist, and Japan’s judicial system and police force. He talked to endless people – witnesses, friends, family members, and police officers. He walked Lucie’s path and tried to discover – finally and forever – what befell her in Obara’s apartment.

It’s a startlingly involving read, made all the more evocative by how Parry approaches his interviewees. He tries not to judge (as I did – I couldn’t help but be disgusted by Lucie’s father at almost every turn, and my opinion hasn’t changed one iota) and he gets to the true heart of their own flaws, failings and yet – their humanity. Their endless love for the girl who vanished. I found Lucie’s mother’s premonitions, grief and unwavering love very, very moving.

Of course, amidst all of the questions and drama, there is Lucie. A much loved daughter and sister, a heartbreaker, a confused and lonely girl, an affectionate and giggly friend, and in the end, perhaps – a mystery. We can never know the depths of another’s heart. We can never truly know what Lucie knew in her final moments – perhaps she knew nothing at all. And wouldn’t that be a sweet mercy, for what we <i>do</i> know is that she fell into the arms of a murderous, rapacious monster of a human being – who sought only his own pleasure, and thought nothing of the women he brought to his lair – thought of them as objects for his “conquest”, for his “play”, for his killing, raping, cutting, filming, objects objects all.

People who eat darkness indeed.