Friday, May 19, 2023


Title: The Goblin Forest
Author: Mark Stary
Publisher: Rushcutter Press
Pages: 250
My Goodreads Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐


I read this book aloud to my son. He’s not much of a reader, and prefers screens to books. The reading aloud was a last ditch effort to convert him into a reader, and it worked. He hung on to the narration, and I can say, with due modesty, that I did a pretty good job of the reading, fancying myself an audio book narrator.

In 1841, the Springwood, sailing along Cook’s Strait, New Zealand, encounters a raging storm. Once the storm dies, the captain and another officer witness a terrible sight that the captain logs in his journals.

In the present day, Alan Dwyer, a loving husband to wife, Julie, and an affectionate Dad to kids, Matt and Leigh, decides to take his kids on a short vacation to New Zealand, while Julie takes care of her ailing mother. Before the vacation begins, Alan, a notorious prankster, promises his wife that he will not prank them ever again.

Once he reaches New Zealand, however, Alan cannot resist pranking the kids one final time before he turns over a new leaf. But the Goblin Forest is no place for jokes. So when Alan unleashes his last prank, disaster strikes, and Matt and Leigh are abducted by goblins. Now Alan, with the help of a park ranger, and a guild of Maori goblin hunters, has only four days to rescue his children and kill the goblin king, Harbin, or else his children will become goblins forever. Humanity will be lost forever as the goblins take over the world.

The action scenes, the characterisation, the setting, everything was well done. Even though this book was brimming with characters, the author succeeded in making each of them, even the goblins, appear as individuals with unique personalities.

The action beats were timed to perfection. At one point, I was worried about the fate of the children, but my sweet boy assured me that no harm would come to children in a children's book.

Just as I was hoping for a meatier role for the mother, the author managed to rope her into the story in a manner that felt natural.

The only criticism I can think of is that the book needed to be proofread better.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Book Review: PLAIN TRUTH

Title: Plain Truth
Author: Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 451
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Eighteen-year-old Katie Fisher’s life is bound by the beliefs that govern the Amish community’s way of life. So when she gives birth to a baby in the middle of the night, she wishes it might just go away. When it disappears, she thinks it’s a miracle. Her parents, Aaron and Sarah Fisher, need never know. But then the baby shows up dead.


Katie denies that the baby is hers, denies having been pregnant at all. DS Lizzie Munro and public prosecutor George Callahan build a case of neonaticide against her. It is a charge that may see her put away for years. Until lawyer Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Hathaway, niece of Sarah’s sister Leda, offers to represent her in court.


Ellie, fresh from having won a case on behalf of her client, an elementary school principal acquitted of the sexual molestation of six schoolgirls, is unhappy with herself. Seeking a break from her partner of eight years, she visits her aunt Leda for a much-needed break. Ellie wants to prove Katie’s innocence but it won’t be easy. For Ellie, struggling with a ticking biological clock and just out of a relationship with a man who didn’t want children, neonaticide is an unforgivable crime.


The book is written in the third person omniscient PoV in the past tense as well as in the first person past tense PoV of Ellie. The story picks up from page one, without wasting time in back story.

The pace of the narrative is slow and laidback, in keeping with life in an Amish community. As readers, we don’t feel impatience.


While I liked the investigation around the case, the relationship between Coop and Ellie bored me. Ellie’s concerns regarding the relationship, stemming from her relationship with Stephen, should have been left out of this book.


The only other book I’ve read by this author was Small Great Things, which I had appreciated a lot. This one paled in comparison. As courtroom dramas go, it wasn’t all that impressive.


I didn’t care for any of the characters either. Ellie took the moral high ground, considering neonaticide unforgivable. But she herself admitted that she had defended all kinds of criminals and helped them get acquitted. In fact, when we first meet her, she has just succeeded in getting a paedophile, a middle school principal, no less, acquitted.


The book ended on a bittersweet note that was more satisfying than a declaration of innocence might have been. 


Title: The Menopause Murders
Author: Mary Maloney and Ed Markel
Publisher: Ubiquitous Press
Pages: 534
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

At 47, fulltime housewife and part-time painter Debbi Dickerson is suffering the worst of menopause. She’s a case study for menopause, suffering all the symptoms relentlessly. Her teenage children, Brad and Chelsea, don’t care about her, and her cop husband Jerry is having an affair, though she doesn’t know that yet.

It seems that there is only one relief from her symptoms and the misery they inflict, and that is giving vent to rage. Very soon, Debbi begins to hear Ted-talks, imaginary talks by Ted Bundy that egg her on. But when bodies begin to drop dead and Jerry is given the case, what’s an upcoming serial killer to do?

The book is set during the presidency of one of the most sexist presidents the US has ever had. This dark comedy has been written in a light-hearted, fantastical vein, that stops short of going into the implications of snuffing life out.

Beneath the breezy tone, there are issues of significance being raised. How there is much ado about sex and not enough emotional connection in marriages.

This was a thriller with a higher goal, to blow the dust off the misconceptions surrounding menopause, albeit in a darkly comic way. The book throws light on how so many of modern pharma’s solution to the travails of menopause are just experimental. It also puts the spotlight on real issues such as opioid addiction, ageing and the rejection and discrimination that menopausal women face.

The authors bring their own female and male gender-centric perspectives to the writing. This is an asset, especially given the exaggerated nature of Debbi’s situation. In fact, between the two of them, Jerry and Debbi represent the pro- and anti-Trump support groups.

The chapter names were fun and funky, often referencing popular songs. The narrative referenced lines and ideas from popular books and movies such as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Dylan Thomas’ poem, Rage, Rage, Against the Dying of the Night, Gone With The Wind, Silence of the Lambs, Aretha Franklin’s songs etc. Lorena Bobbit who added the word, Bobbitisation, to the dictionary, also finds a place here.

The book was very long, but it didn’t feel tedious, thanks to the writing.

The time slipping away like a boat drifting downstream, unnoticed from the docks.

Chocolate and wine were temporary corks.

New wrinkles on her face and neck erupted every day, as if tectonic plates under her epidermis were shifting and pushing up land masses and creating deep trenches in the landscape of her body.

The imagery was graphic. When she kissed him good-bye, he reacted as if she had dog poop on her lips instead of lipstick.

It’s easy to sympathise with Debbi, even though she’s far from perfect. For one, Jerry is no paragon of excellence himself. He is an unabashed racist, faithless in his marriage and secretly a criminal. Egged on by her menopause woes, we find ourselves sympathising with her plight, and watching to see how she reacts to situations around her.

From being an accidental killer, Debbi morphs into a deliberate killer in front of our eyes, and the transformation is believable. Of course, the menopause symptoms described here are highly exaggerated. I doubt any woman suffers every symptom attributed to menopause, certainly not to the heightened extent that poor Debbi suffers.

The authors do not glorify Debbi, letting a minor character do that instead. But Debbi is punished for the impunity with which she kills with the sight of best friend, Ellen, slowly declining in health as cancer ravages her.

There was humour, as in Debbi’s use of the coffee enema. Of course, the humour in this case was slapstick but it worked well.

The book needed some proofreading. In one place, the author refers to a whole ‘gambit’ of symptoms; it should have been gamut.

I never thought I’d root for a killer but that’s just what these two co-authors made me do. I would definitely read other books they write.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...