Mother knows best takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother.
Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.
A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, these are not my babies.
Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.
Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some of our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking—and rechecking—your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.”
With newborn twins, Lauren, like most first time mothers, is exhausted, anxious and under supported. But she had seen it, hadn’t she? Alone, bleary eyed, with her babies in the middle of the night – a woman, who wanted to take them from her. Swap them for her own little creatures.
If it weren’t for the chilling moments, this book could very well be just an honest portrayal of first-time motherhood. How easily you can be overcome with new responsibilities, how isolated you can become and the fears that loom over you when you realize just how much you can love these tiny, vulnerable little humans.
An engulfing melding of mystery, fantasy and horror in one. Little darlings uses classic folk and fairy tales to cleverly weave, at once, a relatable and nightmarish story for mothers.
The story told from the perspective of Lauren and Harper, two women who it would be easy to assume have little in common. Both however are in turn unsupported, isolated and told they are crazy for following and believing in their instincts.
Harper is the only one who resonates with Laurens predicament, the only one with the intuition to dig into Laurens case. And I, like Harper, was so captured by Laurens story that I never stopped to consider if she was really an unreliable narrator. If she could be wrong.
So vivid and sympathetic to Lauren’s experience; her exhaustion, her unpreparedness, the marital imbalance, the trauma of child birth on a mother’s body, the fear and drive to protect her children. Do we like Harper, endeared to her experience, miss the warning signs as the horrors unfold bit by bit?
I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
– 4/5 The reality of motherhood and the fantasy elements are portrayed and melded so convincingly it’s difficult to distinguish between the two.
A danger to herself and others – Alyssa Sheinmel Review
Author – Alyssa Sheinmel
Publisher – Sourcebooks Fire
Publish date – 5th February 2019
Genre – YA
POV – First person, present tense
Setting – Mental Health Institution in California
Rating – 4/5
Recommended for – A YA audience that is interested in a mystery story revolving around Mental Illnesses.
“Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape…
Girl, Interrupted meets We Were Liars in this gripping new novel from New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel.
Four walls. One window. No way to escape.
Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She doesn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. Those college applications aren’t going to write themselves. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.
Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage, and she’s the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she’s avoiding—and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.”
Seventeen-year-old Hannah is institutionalized after her roommate at a summer program ends up in the hospital. The only person who knows what really happened is Hannah and according to her it’s all just a big misunderstanding. She doesn’t belong institutionalized; besides she’s got better things to do with her senior year approaching and college applications looming.
When Hannah gets a new roommate, Lucy, and she hatches a new plan to get what she wants everything begins to slip out from under her self assured feet.
At first glance Hannah is a spoiled, manipulative, perfectionist. She’s a perfect student, daughter and friend. She is calculating, dishonest, paranoid and clearly in denial. Hannah is an unreliable and unlikable a narrator, as unlikable as I’ve read from a main character. Everything is a game and she knows exactly who to be to make people like her, friends and family included. She is in control.
Painstaking detail and time go into show casing her worst qualities. That is why when her mask finally starts to slip and you find yourself beginning to sympathize with her, it is so much more powerful and shocking. The intensity with which you begin to feel for her and how complex she becomes as a character is so well done.
It does seem a slow build up at first. Hannah is bored, she’s stuck in a small room, her thoughts drag, and she can be very grating. It does make the read difficult. But the wait is worth it.
You then see Hannah as vulnerable, uncertain, hurt, even selfless. Confused about relationships, about who she is, confused about everything. Hannah is not in control, she’s mentally ill and though it is clear she is from the beginning, it is not until halfway through the book you see the depth and brevity of it all. Her own important realization is a sickening gut punch. The portrayal of her symptoms and experience raw and realistic.
At the end you are left with the weight of her sadness and the difficulty of her circumstances. It’s not all resolved or neat. It’s a step into a life long journey for Hannah. One in which she will continue to struggle.
The highlights –
The slow revelation to the reader of Hannah’s complexity as a character.
Realistic and personal way in which it’s written and paced making some of the later moments in the book all the more hard hitting.
A promising but dark and unresolved ending.
I have received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
– 4/5 While not totally original or surprising, A Danger To Herself And Others is a devastating journey to go through with Hannah, and that impact is really what stays with you long after you put down the book.
Setting – Hidden Watcher Castle in the middle of the Woods Outside Shancoom, Ireland.
Rating – 4/5
Recommended for – Fans of the Buffyverse interested in delving into what remains of the Watcher lines. Though it can be confusing for fans who left off on the TV show as the book begins after events that take place in the comics (which I myself have not read and was a little confused and spoiled by).
“Into every generation a Slayer is born…
Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.
Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.
Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.
As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…
But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.
One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.”
I don’t fan girl over many things. I like a lot of shows, I really like a few books. But obsessions that stick, that I’ve grown with and continued to adore, love, in different phases of my life? Only Buffy… and Gilmore Girls. So, I’m not unbiased. In fact, it’s probably impossibly unreasonable to expect anything to fit into those Buffy sized shoes. I tried to remember it would not be that before I read. But I still had big expectations and… I liked it. Also, possible spoilers. For spoiler free reviews check out my quick review of Slayer.
Nina is the kind of character I enjoy. She’s wounded, she’s not particularly good at much and she relies on other people to shield her from things. She’s… Well any of us if thrown into the Buffyverse, to be honest, insecure and way out of our depths. Not really belonging.
Her twin sister Artemis is the opposite. Capable and confident where Nina is flailing.
The two are Watchers in training, raised in a boarding school style life. Their routine consisting of Artemis, favored by their mother (a member of the Watchers council), taking care of everything and everyone. While Nina, treated by her mother as inept and unfit for the same role, takes up as resident medic.
Nina struggles with past demons, the lack of any parental role in their lives and her own role in the last remaining group of Watchers. All of that turns upside down when Nina discovers she’s a Slayer. The last Slayer ever since Buffy infamously destroyed the seed of wonder to save the world (again), closing off other dimensions from us and cutting off all magic.
And boy does Nina not like Buffy. She hates Buffy. Buffy is the bearer of all blame (to my great and constant irritation). She doesn’t like any Slayers for that matter. Feeling like they are all the opposite of her nature, what she’s built herself up to be – a healer, a thinker and despite what her mother claims a Watcher.
As she discovers this; demons attack, the Slayer prophetic dreams ensue, a shadowy being starts to attack people and she is thrown into the thick of being a Slayer without much time for preparation.
I immediately found the premise interesting. Nina is a Watcher Slayer hybrid, so there presents an opportunity for her to intertwine the both, create something new of herself with both walks of life. I also hoped that perhaps it would be a chance for something to be done with the Watchers, who I was never a fan of because of their one-sided views and extremist practices that we saw through Buffy. And that hope for redemption and recreation is mostly what kept me reading (other than my hope for cameos with beloved characters which was there in ample doses).
Nina’s personal history with Buffy also makes her take interesting. She has a lot of personal reasons to dislike Buffy and a lot of work to do before she can understand Slayers and what role she can make for herself in between two worlds. The plot had a lot of potential and it did build up to some interesting and unexpected revelations in the end though it meandered a lot before getting to that pay off. Often times I was lost as to why things weren’t understood by the characters the prophecy being one of them.
It was blatant from the beginning of the book and yet it’s ignored or a source of confusion for the characters for far longer than it should have been. Or the fact that Nina felt her change into becoming a Slayer months before and somehow managed to kind of but not really know it until the books plot takes off.
The characters I had a bit of a hard time with. I liked Nina. Some of the side characters were perfectly pleasant. Leo seemed kind though I didn’t feel like I really knew much of him in the end. But Nina’s relationships with her sister and mother were an endless source of frustration for me. None of them could actually talk or listen except (occasionally) for Nina who, I felt, took more responsibility than she deserved to for things she could not help because she was never given the opportunity to even know about them.
They’re all secretive and closed off and taking on things without discussion. Which is the entirety of their problems. Nina and Artemis seem on the surface to be close sisters but they aren’t and some of it is understandable and made for good complexity in the characters and relationship dynamics, but others were absolutely not. Artemis is not there for her sister on a few occasions where I felt her support was crucial. Her mother was constantly missing and a source of mystery and pain, all for the purpose of looking out for them. The reasons, once revealed, did not feel necessary or justified.
None of them seem to get on the same page until something is blowing up in someone’s face or feelings are hurt (often times not even then). Which left me feeling unable to connect with them. Also, I really dislike Honora, just throwing that out there. She’s a bully and again, in the end even when her ‘reasons’ for behaving like a bully are brought to light I continued to feel unsympathetic toward her.
The highlights –
The continuation of the Buffyverse, taking on a story from the perspective of the Watchers.
The Buffy humor.
Nina’s growth into becoming a more rounded and capable character.
Her slow journey into understanding Buffy and the heartwarming moment they share towards the end, Slayer to Slayer.
A promising to be continued ending which is what really pushed the book for a 4/5 for me.
– 4/5 A new voice to the Buffyverse and a redemption and recreation of the Watcher organization.
“Meet Evie, a young woman held captive by a man named Jim in the isolated New Zealand beach town of Maketu. Jim says he’s hiding Evie to protect her, that she did something terrible back home in Melbourne. In a house that creaks against the wind, Evie begins to piece together her fractured memories of the events that led her here. Jim says he’s keeping her safe. Evie’s not sure she can trust Jim, but can she trust her own memories?”
First person present tense – split between portions of “Before” and “After” unknown major event.
Maketu – isolated/ small community New Zealand beach town
Memory can be an unreliable source of truth.
Mental health – trauma
Reliability of memory
When you finally get to hear from the perspective of Jim.
Least favorite part?
The beginning portions where it’s a little confusing to understand what exactly is happening because you have such limited information, and the portions leading up to what would be the major defining events that made it all happen. It was necessary to go with the feeling and mystery plot he was trying to create but they were a bit boring and felt slow – though that didn’t change the fact that you kept wanting to get through the book to find out what was going on.
Pomare used trauma induced amnesia as a device to withhold vital information. It’s a trope, but it worked and was interestingly written.
Recommended for –
For people interested in Thriller or suspense novels with an unreliable narrator. A younger audience could be interested as the main character is a teenager and goes through some typical teenage themes. Young relationships – friendship and romance. Insecurity. A little on consent, trust, inappropriate or abusive relationships.
After a major unknown event Evie (Kate) is brought to another country, to live in the middle of nowhere with a man she isn’t entirely sure is helping or hurting her. Evie sorts through her fractured memories to piece together why exactly she’s there, who is after her, and what exactly is the true motivation of Jim, the man who claims to be protecting her. With little to no freedom, little access to the outside world and little personal items, Evie struggles through the painful memories of the past to uncover the mysteries laid out. A journey of survival at first.
There is an urgentness in the writing straight off the bat. Pomare cleverly weaving trails everywhere, leaving you double taking everyone. Is Evie being paranoid or are the other characters revealing ulterior motives? He helps this immensely by laying out the dynamics from the first page. Evie is small, weak and vulnerable. Jim is big, powerful and in control. But also leaving a little space in the wording so you could rethink all your presumptions.
The dynamics and style working well to help us sympathise and relate to Kate but also keeping up tension and paranoia. What do we read into? Kate’s perspective and interpretation of Jim and herself or the words and actions of the others around her? Jim is controlling but does he have a reason? Is he menacing and calculated or anxious and grappling for ways to keep Evie above water?
That uncertainty drives you along with Kate’s frame of mind. The mood invoked dark and visceral, while you turn the pages starved for information. A roller coaster of changing theories about the real truth at the heart of everything. The “Before” and “After” chapters working well to unfold the story while keeping the mystery and stakes high. Evie’s unreliability becoming more and more evident as the chapters go on.
The setting ties in well with this theme of the book. The small town and its population easily seen in two possible scopes. As a plot device it leaves Evie stranded. No one to go to, nowhere to run. She cannot trust anyone. The place as much of a stranger to her as her own memories.
Trust seems to be a major theme. Evie cannot know who to trust, not even herself. In the before sections she learns those who she trusts disappoint her. Unveiling themselves as people capable of hurting her.
Mental health and the question of the validity of memories are major themes throughout. The effect of trauma, not necessarily as a wider discussion but a personal look at Evie and Jim’s specific experiences and those around them.
While you do want to keep reading to get those answers, points of the book did get a bit mundane. Following day to day things that lead to very small accumulative morsels of hints and information. It becomes a sort of calm tension, the sense of something not quite right looming, despite the drag, was enjoyable.
The ending payoff is worth it. I enjoyed the reversal of feelings about the main characters. Victim and victimiser in truth not what we imagined.
4/5 – A suspenseful, dark and dread filled read about the fallibility of memory, the ways in which our memory can alter our perception from the truth and the different natures of people not always immediately evident.