Friday, December 22, 2017


Title: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces
Author: Lynn Weingarten
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 304
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Bad girls with perfect faces by Lynn Weingarten tells us of the unpredictable ways in which the sanest individuals react when they realise that their dear ones have acted in monstrous ways.

On the eve of the 17th birthday of Xavier, her best friend, Sasha decides to tell him about her feelings for him. He has just about recovered from a bout of severe depression after having been dumped by his ex-girlfriend, Ivy.

Sasha decides that tonight, she will tell him all, take a deep breath, open my mouth, and let my heart climb right out of it. In the last one month, they have shared one drunken rum-soaked kiss, and Sasha hopes they have a future together.

They go out to their regular haunts and they are having a good time when Sasha literally senses the presence of Ivy around, deep in my gut the way some animals sense an earthquake just before it comes. Ivy has come there with her best friend, Gwen, who had been best friends with Sasha, when they were in the 4th grade.

When Ivy and Xavier get together again, Sasha feels compelled to act. She knows that Xavier is as deeply entranced this time around, as he was earlier. She also knows that Ivy’s liaisons with random men will continue and that she will hurt him again.

Sasha pictures Ivy reaching in, tearing out his heart, putting it into her mouth, and eating it. She opens a fake account in the name of Jake Jones, and then begins chatting with Ivy, in the hope of collecting proof of her faithlessness. Over the course of 18 days, they text hundreds of times, flirting with each other, getting closer.

When Ivy and Jake finally agree to meet, Sasha hopes to catch Ivy red-handed. But tragedy unfolds, affecting all their lives with unforeseen and terrible consequences.

For the most part, the story is written in alternate viewpoints of Sasha and Xavier. Sasha’s is first-person, while Xavier’s is in third-person. Halfway through the book, the author introduces a mystery PoV. Is it Ivy? Or someone else?

Sasha is very mature for her age. She knows how easy it is to lose someone and how there are so many different ways for it to happen. She has a keen sense of humour. I appreciated the playful banter between Sasha and Xavier, how they ‘got’ each other.

Sasha is a strong character, and so is Ivy. Xavier, their object of affection, remains weak in contrast. His niceness is all that seems to be his strong point.

If there was anything that the four young characters had in common, it was the minimal presence of their parents in their lives. Xavier’s parents are emotionally dry, uncomfortable with expressing affection. Ivy openly rebels against her parents through her lifestyle. Sasha’s mother jet sets around the world with her latest boyfriend; she does not mention her father. Gwen’s mother is dead of cancer.

Ultimately, everyone, it seemed, was hurtling towards self-destruction. The characters lost their heads, drinking beyond limits, often losing count of reality in the process. Also, there was an unhealthy addiction to Instagram, of living life for the benefit of sharing it on the social media.

There are some beautiful lines in the book, all in Sasha’s accounts, which make you stop and ponder.

The faraway monster always looks different than the monster in front of you, in your arms, in your heart. When someone you cherish does something incomprehensible, you will find reasons to decide they are the exception. You will cling to the details; telling yourself, but this is different. But it never is.
No one thinks the people they love are monsters. Because love is the biggest liar of all.

Later she adds, We are all capable of both more and less than we ever could have imagined.

She also says, A heart too full is like a bomb. One day it will explode.

And that’s exactly what happens.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this one, and sometimes it was hard to imagine that people can actually act in such bizarre ways. But then I had to remind myself that the characters were all high-school students –- a time when people literally let their hormones do the thinking for them.

The book also skirts around issues relating to social media, sexuality and mental illness, with at least two characters questioning their own mental health.

The whole point is about how far we may go to save the ones we love, and about how we make mistakes, and then set out to rectify those mistakes, only to end up making bigger ones.

The cover image, a full lipstick with flies buzzing around it, is a reminder of how something that looks beautiful and sexually enticing can often be rotten at its core.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: THE TWIN GAME

Title: The Twin Game
Author: VJ Chambers
Publisher: Punk Rawk Books
Pages: 251
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I enjoy reading books about twins. I find them a fascinating subject. Two people with the same DNA, people who should have been one, but are two. That is why I picked up The Twin Game, and was totally pleased to see what a fantastic thriller it turned out to be.

The first chapter, acting as a Prologue, tells us about a man stalking a woman, hinting at dark things, telling us in the first person how he is planning to do her harm.

The second chapter moves to the first-person account of Hope Ross, who has just been released from a mental health care facility. She returns to the massive manor house she calls home, the one that only houses twin sister Serenity, since their parents are both dead. Returning home, she and Serenity, who hasn’t spoken to her in years, occupy opposite wings of the home.

Hope is concerned about the serial killings that have been plaguing the town for a long time, but the voices of authority, Inspector Radcliff and the family physician, Dr Gunther, both disbelieve her allegations, insisting her mental illness makes it difficult for her to think straight, fostering the belief that she is delusional. Both also insist that Serenity does not exist, that she is making her up.

Hope insists that she was assaulted by a serial killer, Neil Stillwater, who was the drama teacher when Hope was in high school.

Rhys, Hope’s childhood friend, now a film star, picks her up at the facility and moves into the manor, insisting that he is doing it to keep her safe. His presence pleases Hope. Rhys is, after all, the only person who knows Serenity, who played with both girls when they were kids.

Even as a child, Hope had been raised to never tell anyone about Serenity. She and Rhys used to play the Pretend-Serenity-does-not-exist game.

When Hope finds evidence of a deranged woman, her mother’s twin, having been hidden in the attic, and discovers rotting bodies and skeletons in the basement, she realizes that the danger is very real. But then she is accused of attempted murder, and it seems that even Rhys thinks she is crazy.

The book raises questions about whether Stillwater is to blame for the killings, and if insanity does indeed run in the family.

Hope is an unreliable narrator. Her insistence on Serenity being real leaves us feeling confused for a long time. We can’t tell whether Serenity is real or not, whether Hope is delusional, lying or imaginative.

Hope does flip flops between realities, and we don’t know whether to trust her or not. She keeps getting flashes of insights relating to things that her memory does not back her on. Maybe she’s crazy, and maybe she’s also trustworthy.

There are more than a few grammatical and proofing errors, but they don’t take away from the thrill that the book gives us.

There are literally twists and turns on every page. The pace just doesn’t falter.

I look forward to reading the author’s other books.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Book Review: DEPTH OF LIES

Title: Depth of Lies
Author: EC Diskin
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages: 290
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Depth of Lies is an examination of the life of a woman, post-mortem, by her best friend who refuses to believe that she would deliberately end it all.

The death of Shea Walker in a bathtub in an inn on an island far from home comes as a shock to her friends and family. No one can believe that this feisty, vivacious woman would choose to die.

Hoping to both honour and celebrate her memory, Shea’s friends, Kat, Tori, Lina, Evelyn and Dee meet at Tori’s holiday home where they once enjoyed great getaways. Only Georgia is too distraught to join them. As they swap stories about Shea, Kat, who had moved to Texas several months earlier, realises that there were many secrets and lies that swirled around Shea, and that it seems as if she hardly knew her or any of her friends.

Kat, Shea’s closest neighbour and friend of 20 years, cannot understand these secrets, relating to the state of Shea’s marriage, her cheating husband, Ryan, and Shea’s own one night stand in response. On the island, Shea had flirted with a married man, Blake, who later that night died in a boating accident.

But Kat has a secret of her own. She cannot admit to the others that Shea had called her the night before she died and that she had ignored the call. Feeling guilty, Kat feels driven to find out more about her friend, believing that Shea was in distress, yet refusing to believe that her death was anything but an accident.

The story is written in the 3rd person past tense point of view of Kat and Shea. Kat’s narrative in the present time is interspersed with flashbacks from Shea’s life, four months before her death. Besides the story of Kat’s amateurish search for the truth, we also get to see the narrative of Shea and Ryan, of how Shea gamely held on to the marriage, hoping to keep it alive while Ryan strayed.

The story follows two timelines, Kat’s from April 8, when she comes to Maple Park for Shea’s funeral up to April 14, as she seeks to find out whether her friend’s death was an accident or murder. The book opens with Shea’s death on April 1, then goes back in time to November 24 the previous year when her life seems to be crumbling, leading up to her death.

Be warned – the pace is far from breathtaking. And while the mystery of what happened to Shea remains, this novel is more about relationships and the ensuring drama than it is about the death.

This drama caused the story to feel too long drawn, with Kat having her own set of issues with husband Mack complicating her life.

The author does a great job of bringing out the camaraderie between the women. This part sounded truest for me. But then we realise, that even in a group of girlfriends who’ve shared great times, the intensity of friendships changes over time. Little by little, the simmering tensions come to the surface. It was this element that kept me reading.

Nearly everyone in the book appears to be grappling with their own ifs and buts relating to Shea’s death, wondering if there was anything they could have done to prevent her death.

As the one who moved out of Ohio, Kat is the one most perfectly suited to sift through the lies and find the truth.

While the plot was entirely plausible, it would have benefited from tighter editing. Even though Shea dies on April 1, and the mystery is resolved on the 14th, it seems way too long.

But there were things I found annoying. There were portions when the conversations felt stilted and unreal, not like the way real people talk. I also found it odd that the women were all so easily blown away whenever a good-looking man complimented them and flirted with them.

The phrase, Ryan had a tell, was totally weird.

Kat too was annoying. There were several occasions when she seemed incapable of good judgement, of keeping her mouth shut.

The title was most apt. Kat sinks in deeper into the lies, wondering if she ever knew these people, much like Shea sank deeper into the water and met her end.

(I read a Kindle edition of this book through NetGalley.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Title: The Red House Mystery
Author: AA Milne
Publisher: Dover Publications
Pages: 156
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who would ever have thought that AA Milne, the author who gave us the delightful Winnie the Pooh, could have written a detective story?

With all my fondness for Winnie and his friends, I was ready to like this one, even before I read the first page. What’s more, Milne wrote it in gratitude and affection for his father, who like all really nice people has a weakness for detective stories.

The Red House is almost a character in its own right, for in the very first chapter, we learn that it was taking its siesta.

Mark Ablett’s brother, Robert, sends home a letter to announce that he is coming home after having spent 15 years in Australia. Mark is none too happy to hear this.

Mark’s cousin, Matthew Cayley, who is in attendance, looks after the house and other matters. Major Rumbold, Bill Beverly, Miss Norris, Betty Calladine, Mrs John Calladine are the other guests at the house. Into this mix, arrives Anthony Gillingham, an intelligent young man, who fancies himself something of an amateur detective.

The moment Anthony arrives is the exact moment when a dead body is found in the house. At first Anthony and Bill believe that it is Robert who is dead, and that Mark has killed him and fled the scene, with or without help from Cayley.

Anthony takes it upon himself to solve the crime, using Bill as a sidekick. The two conveniently make fun of the Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson device, employed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which Watson asked the most pointless questions so the sleuth could shine.

Anthony asks Bill, Do-you-follow-me-Watson; that one. Are you prepared to have quite obvious things explained to you, to ask futile questions, to give me chances of scoring off you, to make brilliant discoveries of your own two or three days after I have made them myself all that kind of thing? Because it all helps.

Hamming up on Doyle’s pet device, Anthony talks in a friendly and slightly patronizing tone to Bill, which the latter doesn’t mind in the least.

The pace of the book is quite laidback, and very British. Which means, there is a lot of dressing for dinner, and elaborate teas, and games of billiards and bowls and that sort of thing, which makes us wonder how these guys could ever keep up this kind of a lifestyle.

The only time my heart popped up in my mouth was in the library scene, where Cayley enters the library just as Anthony has entered the secret passage and Bill is afraid he will pop out of the bookcase at any time, in full view of Cayley.

The book ends on a very encouraging note, with Anthony urging Bill to accept the invitation he has and to let him know if someone should drop dead.


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