Friday, September 14, 2018

BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage

    Seven-year-old Hanna doesn’t not have much to say. Nothing, actually. Ever. While she seems to otherwise develop normally, she can’t—or won’t—talk.  Her parents, Suzette and Alex, subject her to test after test to find out why. But mutism isn’t Hanna’s only problem, not even her biggest. She wants her father all to herself, even if that means getting rid of Suzette. Is there such a thing as evil? Demons? Witches? After spending time with Hanna, those are the questions most will be asking!
Zoje Strage
     Baby Teeth is written using alternate point of view of Suzette and Hanna. Suzette--smart, likeable, hardworking, loves Hanna despite her behavioral problems, and works hard to be a good mother—sometimes lets her frustration and get the better of her. Hanna--smart and diabolical--still has the emotional, intellectual, and physical limitations of a seven-year-old, manifested in the sometimes-childlike simplicity of her plotting and beliefs in spells and curses. Her evil plans often fail the way one would expect when made by a seven-year-old, adding a layer of childlike inculpability. 
     Even in the failed plans Hanna’s intent is clear, and Suzette is caught between Hanna’s wrath and her husband, who is reluctant to believe his beautiful daughter is capable of such things. 

Stage, Zoje. Baby Teeth, St. Martin's Press, July 17, 2017. 
ISBN: 9781250170750

A copy of Baby Teeth was provided by the publisher via No compensation was paid for this review. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS by Michelle Sacks

Sam and Merry left the busy life of New York City and were living the dream raising their infant son, Conner, in Sweden. At least that’s what they were telling themselves, and anyone else who would listen. But the long winters and slower-paced atmosphere, raising their own vegetables and making their own bread, jams, and baby foods might not be all they’re making it out to be. When Merry’s oldest and best friend Frank sends word she’ll be coming for a visit to meet Conner, Sam and Merry double-down on their version of the utopia they have been portraying.  But Merry and Frank know each other too well, and the secrets—and rivalries—can’t stay hidden for long.  

You Were Made for This, the debut novel by Michelle Sacks, is told in the first person alternating between Sam, Merry, and Frank. All three are deeply developed, establishing themselves and providing insight into the current events of the novel by sharing their pasts. The relationship between Merry and Frank—how they’ve influenced each other since early childhood and still do today—is central to the story.  Sam, though wanting to be in control, is controlled by them both, and by the relationship with his mother, giving him a loathing for women that he just can’t seem to get over. 
Full of characters you'll love to hate, You Were Made for This shows us the worst of the human nature.

How far will this rivalry between Merry and Frank go? Adultery? Murder? And who will come out on top? You just can’t predict what a lifetime of love and hate can do among friends.

Sacks, Michelle. You Were Made for This, Little, Brown, June 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-316-47540-2

A copy of You Were Made for This was provided to The Thirty Year Itch by the publisher via NetGalley. No compensation was received for this review. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

JAR OF HEARTS by Jennifer Hillier

     Sixteen-year-old Angela went missing, without explanation, never to be heard from again. Fifteen years later, her body was found in the woods behind her best friend’s—Geo’s— house. She was the first victim of serial killer Calvin James, Geo’s boyfriend. Geo kept the secret, until the body was discovered, and she was arrested for the crime. She testified against Calvin and served five years in prison, while Calvin escaped shortly after his conviction and disappeared. When Geo is released from prison, a new string of murders begins, mimicking the death of Angela. Geo learns that some secrets can’t be kept buried, and her crimes continue to haunt her. 

     What an amazing surprise this book was. Jar of Hearts is my first book by Jennifer Hillier, and from the jacket description I was somewhat ambivalent about it. But the first chapter had me hooked, and it only got better from there. 

     I particularly liked that the story jumped from past to present, allowing for fragmented revelation of information so readers could eventually piece together what happened. Geo was a frustrating but likable character, largely because of her self-awareness. The guilt over her bad choices that led to and followed the death of her best friend, was always present despite the outward appearance that she was living her best life. Angela, Geo, and their third wheel and friend-zoned Kaiser Brody--who grows up to be the cop who arrests Geo and Calvin--are all well-developed, believable, and relatable characters. 

     Among many great books this year, Jar of Hearts is a surprise favorite. A perfect blend of mystery, thriller, and good characters.

Hillier, Jennifer. Jar of Hearts, Minotaur Books, June 12, 2018. 
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250154194

A copy of Jar of Hearts was provided by the publisher via No compensation was received for this review.