The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry is a somewhat disturbing psychological thriller if the reader can buy into the incredible stupidity and naivete of two important characters, Christopher and Hannah Bauer, the parents of an adopted child, Janie. This is a story of domestic abuse, terror, and torture both physical and psychological. The terrorist, in this case, is Janie, a child that looks two or three years old at the time of adoption. A medical examination will reveal that the Bauers have adopted a six-year-old child who is very, very disturbed. Janie had lived in a closet where she had been confined and tortured for an indeterminate number of her years by her mother, Becky. Somehow, she had escaped from the closet and was found wandering in a park. She was filthy, covered with cuts, rashes, and bruises and wore a dog collar around her neck. Janie was taken to a hospital where both the Bauers worked. Christopher, a surgeon would spend many hours in corrective surgery followed by a lot of time spent at Janie’s bedside. Eventually, Chris would introduce Janie to Hannah, a nurse in the same hospital. Janie had a crush on or was in love with Dr. Bauer and could only sleep when Christopher was around. Christopher was completely taken in by Janie’s displays of trust and affection. Janie did not care for Hannah and was clearly hostile to Christopher’s wife.
I don’t believe Dare to Imagine by Nilza Elita was written by a native speaker of English. It is not because Johnathan’s father has the name of Niraj or that there are frequent references to India. It is because that for lengthy passages there is a lack of rhythm to sentences. Long tracts of text use sentences of uniform length. It is like a speaker using a “robot” voice. Aside from that, there are is phrasing that comes across strange to readers who have English as a native language. The unusual phrasing causes readers to pause as if stumbling over small rocks on a path. This does not mean a novel is bad; it is just a feature worth remarking on.
The title for Bitch on Wheels by Gregg Olsen comes from a description by one of Sharon’s “colleagues.” Sharon probably never had true friends. Sharon only had feelings for people who could provide benefits to her, either monetarily or connections with those who demonstrated the potential for future exploitation. Those feelings changed from moment to moment. People who initially had feelings of friendship for her would change their perceptions over time as Sharon’s true nature would inevitably emerge. Throughout the story, I wondered if author Olsen was giving an accurate portrayal of Sharon. Her documented actions were deplorable on their face; it was Olsen’s description of Sharon’s acceptance of her own actions that caused me to speculate. If Olsen’s description of Sharon’s self-perceptions is accurate, Sharon is a monster.
Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse is a novel I purchased on Amazon in December 2018 for USD 0.99. As of the date of this review, the price is US 9.49 and it has just over 300 reviews, 33% of which are five-star reviews. I think the author is good but is writing for a tough audience. Psychological thriller readers want something “never-been-done-before.” Philosophers will argue that is not possible so the author must come up with a different twist on familiar themes. I liked the story and gave it five Amazon stars. Because it had parts where the action was slow, I can see some readers knocking it down to four Amazon stars, but I was willing to give the story a chance. When it picks up the pace is good and is worth waiting (reading) for.
The House of Twelve by Sean Davies will deceive the reader many times. The idea seems familiar. Twelve people wake up in a house but can’t remember how they got there. They don’t know each other and can’t figure out a connection that will tie them together. It is almost as if they had been drugged, kidnapped, and imprisoned in one house. That they were imprisoned is obvious from many indicators. Doors are steel, reinforced, and locked. Where there should be windows, the glass has been replaced by thick constructions of brick. And on a coffee table in the living room, there is a document with House Rules. The first one says they will never be allowed to escape, the second rations the food and water, and the third relates to their imminent deaths. There is constant background music; think elevator music. Each evening at 2300 the music will stop, and one person must die. The victim can die by suicide or be killed by others. If no selection or volunteer happens before 2400, gas will kill all of them.
I received this book through Booksprout as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for a review. I received no compensation other than the fun of reading the book. This was a challenging book to read for two main reasons. The style of writing in which the story was written made it occasionally difficult to determine which character was dominant and presenting a point of view. The second difficulty might be due to the format of an ARC. There are distracting spelling irregularities and clumsy phrasing such as “Could have they come all the way here …” (Kindle locations 1814-1815). While I do not consider the phrase wrong, it reads like an outdated, formal style. I don’t know whether changes are planned before final publication but I feel this novel should go through one more examination by a copy editor. Otherwise, it reads as if it were written by an accomplished writer whose second language is English.
The Unknown by Martha Henley is the first story in a series of suspicious tales and psychological shorts with an interesting cover blurb that proclaims: “Live Your Life, Die Your Death.” Stephanie has avoided most social events since the accident that left her with one prosthetic leg. One might think that at university level ridiculous demeaning comments would decrease. Stephanie had decided to re-enter social life by attending a Halloween fraternity party. She would be “coming out” with her disability. Friend Dani did not initially want to go but felt she needed to support Stephanie at this vital decision point.
The party at the fraternity house was held outside; Nick explained that his parents didn’t allow parties inside the house. Nick lied. It wasn’t his parents’ disapproval that worried Nick. It seemed the house was haunted in a very specific way. People with disabilities, those with prosthetic devices, heard voices. The voices delivered specific instructions to the special people that led to torture and murder of those around them. The haunted, singing voices took control of those with prosthetics; none had the ability to resist unless they were in the basement of the house.
Stephanie was not in the basement. She heard the voices. Eventually, so did others.
Sticky Fingers: 36 Twisted Short Stories by JT Lawrence is presented as The Complete Box Set Collection because the set contains Volumes One, Two, and Three of volumes titled Sticky Fingers. For some strange reason, I started reading the series with Volume two, followed that with Volume Three, and never got around to reading Volume One. This review will look at the stories in Volume One. I reviewed Volume Two here https://ron877.com/2018/07/23/stories-that-stick-to-the-mind/ and Volume Three here https://ron877.com/2018/07/25/dark-humor-and-mirrors/. The one story that I felt not up to the usual great writing in Volume One, Grey Magic, does not stop me from giving this volume, as was with the other two, five Amazon stars.
Terry Boyle walked into a hardware store, met Renee Patrick, the partial owner and full-time operator of Hardware California, to buy five fire escape ladders for his home. According to the overly cautious, extremely conservative, and always well-organized Terry; you could never have too much safety equipment. If we believe that opposites attract, Terry was the perfect match for Renee; a spur-of-the-moment woman, a sex addict, and a woman dedicated to a life of instant gratification. Terry was very aware of his marital status; he would not succumb to the overt sexual invitations Renee signaled. Renee was very aware of Terry’s marital status, wasn’t bothered by it at all, and looked on Terry’s resistance as a challenge worth overcoming. No other man had ever resisted her, and married men were better conquests because they went home. Tools used should be put back in their place after use.
Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil might be a book of horror for parents. Emma was a single parent living with her parents and son Aiden in the small town of Bishoptown, population 400. It was said to be the second smallest village in England and was separated into two parts by the river Ouse. On one of those life-changing days, Emma had to cross the river to pick up six-year-old Aiden from school. It was raining so hard that many villagers concluded the bridge joining the village together would soon be swept away. Hurrying to cross the bridge before it was too late, Emma lost her balance due to high waves and landed on a riverbank on the side where the school was located. The river had taken her phone and one boot. Still, she had made it to the school where she met a very worried teacher and former friend, Amy. Near tears, Amy told Emma that Aiden had wandered off somewhere. The search was on; almost everyone in the village participated.