REVIEW: THE BAD THINGS, BY MARY-JANE RILEY

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Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha’s two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.

Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.

But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?

 
My Thoughts: The Bad Things alternates between the perspectives of Alex Devlin, a journalist whose niece and nephew were kidnapped and murdered, and DI Kate Todd, who worked the case back then.

Now, fifteen years later, we see Alex trying to find out from Jackie Wood where Millie was buried, and also hoping to ward off the discovery of her long-buried secret. If she could uncover the location of a specific object from Jackie Wood, she might be able to contain her shame.

But nothing is coming together in quite the way Alex hoped, and another murder will add to the puzzling elements of the case, leading Alex, the cops, and other journalists down all the wrong pathways.

Sasha, the mother of the deceased children, was a very disturbed character, and I was suspicious of her from the beginning. The stories Alex shared about their childhoods added to the picture of her as a self-absorbed woman capable of anything, and someone who also used her “victim” role to keep everyone at bay. Who would dare to probe beneath the surface of this wounded creature?

Finding the truth was definitely circumvented by numerous corrupt individuals, both family members and police, who would do anything to keep everyone in the dark.

Even when we thought we had most of the answers to our questions, another narrator at the end of the book brought a final revelation. 4.0 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

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CALL ME ZELDA, BY ERIKA ROBUCK

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F. Scott Fitzgerald and his lovely wife Zelda were legendary in their time. For the glitz and glamor of their lives, for their often chaotic behavior, and for the passionate yet stormy nature of their relationship.

Call Me Zelda is a story that began in 1932, in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, in the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic. Zelda was a patient, and Anna Howard, a nurse. The story is narrated in Anna’s first person voice, and we learn about the losses that have devastated her. How the ravages of war have hollowed out her very soul.

Almost as if the two of them were born to be connected, Zelda and Anna developed a close, almost symbiotic relationship that was mutually beneficial for a time, but then seemed to turn, until Anna was consumed by the needs of Scott and Zelda. Having a relationship with Zelda meant also having to relate to Scott, who proved difficult and challenging on the best of days.

Why was Zelda obsessed with finding her old diaries? Does her quest have anything to do with her assertions that Scott has “stolen” her writings and her ideas? That he has created his work from her life?

At one point in the story, there is a break between the Fitzgeralds and Anna, and only then is she able to start her own life over. To move past her losses.

And then there is a leap forward to post-WWII, when Anna is married to old friend Will, and has settled in with their three children: twins, Ben and Will; and Sara.

When Anna receives a letter from Zelda, years after Scott’s death and long since their last communication, all the old feelings of connection are stirred up. Will Anna take a final journey, at Zelda’s request, to search through the moments in Zelda’s past and find the diaries? And afterwards, what sad ending will finally close the chapter for the two of them?

An unforgettable tale that will stay with me, and which I enjoyed enough to award four stars. Recommended for those who love historical fiction and who won’t mind slogging through a lot of detail to reach the core of the story.

REVIEW: SURE SIGNS OF CRAZY, BY KAREN HARRINGTON

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Sarah Nelson has a past she would like to forget. A history that makes her worry about her own mental health in the future.

Narrated in Sarah’s first person voice, Sure Signs of Crazy takes us into the world of her thoughts and feelings, and as we follow along with her, we can feel what she feels. As a 12-year-old, she is precocious, real, and likeable.

This book is a sequel to JANEOLOGY, the story of what happened to Jane, the mother of Sarah and her twin Simon, and the tragedy that became Sarah’s life.

Why does her father seem so distant? How do Sarah’s two sets of diaries help her to figure out her life? And what summer events change her life from boring to interesting and then to something totally unexpected?

Sarah seemed like a child I would like to know, and reminded me of my own preadolescence, from the embarrassments that plague us to the crushes we think will stay with us forever. I was glad that she found a way to cope with her life, and would love to see what happens to her next. 4.5 stars.