The Frog Theory

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The Frog Theory by Fiona Mordaunt (General Fiction)

The title of this book refers to the theory that a frog put into boiling water will jump out, but if put into cold water slowly heated to a boil, will stay and be cooked to death. It is a metaphor for the inability to perceive danger and to react appropriately when a situation is getting worse little by little.

In this case, the frog is Clea, a girl from the wealthy side of London, who is being abused by her stepfather. The boy who makes her aware of what’s slowly happening is Kim, who lives in a housing project on the wrong side of town. Kim and his buddy Flow deal drugs, drink beer, and go to parties. We also follow The Principal, a woman who runs a school for problem teenagers. Kim becomes a student at her school, and the four main characters come together.

Eventually we realize that they are all frogs. Kim lives a pointless life and keeps making the same mistakes. Flow’s fiancé, Jackie, cheats on him, coming on to Kim and everybody else, but he defends her in spite of the evidence. The Principal was wronged by her former husband, but rather than telling her children the truth about their father, she told them he died and continuously feels guilty about it.

The book description calls this a laugh-out-loud story, but I found only the occasional snicker, usually provided by Flow. The one and only character whose fate I actually cared about was Clea. I found it hard to root for Kim, and The Principal was annoying. The “miracle” that happens to her felt completely out of context, a true WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT? moment for me. An epilogue does its best to wrap it all up into a neat package and provide a final surprise, but for me it fell flat.

Four-letter words aside, the use of the vernacular was interesting, as was the look at life on a different side of London.

Bella gives The Frog Theory three stars. 3 stars

Potty-mouth Index: HIGH   If you, the reader, are at all offended by use of the “f” word, the “c” word, and a few others of the same persuasion, this book will definitely offend.

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour. For Fiona Mordaunt’s guest post go here.

No Place Like Home: Guest Post by Fiona Mordaunt, author of “The Frog Theory”

Reading Armadillo by William Boyd as a teenager excited me in large part because he mentioned Fulham, where I grew up – a tangible connection to my own experiences. It made sense to set The Frog Theory there, too, where the characters were born, and where I started writing their stories at the age of fifteen.

‘When I see those mountains I feel a little leap of excitement and I know I’m nearly home!’ said a woman in a pub in Scotland. I looked out of the window with her at the stunning view and wished I felt like that about somewhere.

Not long afterwards, I spent a stint living in Australia and when I came back, I felt that leap for the first time. Oh, that’s what she meant. But I don’t get it with mountains, I get it when I know I’m approaching London – London is my home! I thought. There was something alluring about the idea of roots and connection.

I am now conscious of that same excitement every time I go to London. Memories pop up like forgotten photographs – remember this, remember that, myriad emotions jostling for space. I enjoy seeing cranes pecking like robotic dinosaurs at some new building project; art galleries; theatre. I walk through More London for our pilgrimage to Dim T (sharing platter, dim sum, other delicious things) and stop halfway when Tower Bridge is perfectly framed. I turn around on the spot and look at The Shard; I do it again. Old. New. Old. New. Just once more in the imaginary time machine.

Sometimes there are small children making their way diligently up and down the moat. My daughter has been one of them, incongruous amongst the business people striding up and down on their mobile phones, smart in their slick office clothes. I wonder whether the architects knew how much children would enjoy the area too and how they would slot in so happily?

While I am in town, there is always time for Borough Market and for Jose on Bermondsey Street; the food and the wine calls so sweetly – tapas fit for gods. I may even pay a visit to House of Fraser, just over London Bridge, fondly known as ‘Hoff’! So re-named by my great friend, Moira.

At this point I feel the urge to mention Balham. ‘Places connect us,’ I said to someone here in Gaborone when they first arrived,

‘I used to live in Balham, too! For eight years. I had a little workshop there with a garden… and frogs, in the conservation area.’

‘No way, which street?’

‘Bushnell Road, do you know it?’

‘Know it? I was just around the corner!’ And so we went on for a happy hour or more. It is our way of establishing connections, of finding things in common.

I am well used to coincidences of this sort, they happen all the time, but here’s one that amazed even me: I was in London and I hailed a black taxi from Waterloo to Wandsworth. The driver asked me where I lived and I said, ‘You might not have heard of it, but we live in Gaborone right now.’

‘Funnily enough, I have! My best mate from school days moved there with his wife, you might know him.’

There are 231,592 people in Gaborone, 8.6 million in London, but it’s always worth a try, isn’t it? They are my next door neighbours! His wife is actually in my book club. Out of 22,000 black taxis I got into his. He even had photos of them together at their leaving do on his phone.

As for Fulham, I do return. It is precious for me but I would not want to live there. Too much history and too many memories which make me feel sad; my mum is not there anymore and I miss her.

Why should we have roots like a tree, deep in the earth, calling us back to one place, anyway? I think of orchids with their floating roots above the ground, closer to the sun, settling high in mystical forests, full of birds and animals, the babbling of water never far away. That image is so much more versatile; it suits. I edit out anything that bites. Or stings. And I add a treetop pub or two. There! Perfect! There’s no place like home.

fiona-morduant

After attending school for model-making, Fiona Mordaunt started Image Casting in 1998, specializing in customized body castings. Over the course of 13 years, she worked on such films as Atonement and The Wildest Dream, as well as for personal clients like Lionel Richie. In 2012, she relocated to Botswana with her husband and daughter where she currently resides.

http://www.fionamordaunt.com/

 

 

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Tragedy and comedy in perfect proportion.

Kim and Flow are the best of friends, living on a council estate, making money selling drugs.

Just around the corner in a smarter part of Fulham is Clea, a well-heeled young woman coping with a violent home life at the hands of her twisted step-father.

The Principal runs a famous college for problem teens. Fostering guilty secrets which distance her from her own children, she resists the advances of a man she sees on the train every day.

When Kim and Clea meet by chance, Kim is smitten but worried about her. Using the anecdote of the frog theory — that it will jump straight out of boiling water and live, but stay in and die if heated slowly from cold — he wakes her up to the dangerous situation she’s in at home.

Serendipity and a cake-fueled food fight that goes viral will bring Kim, Clea, Flow and The Principal together in weird and wonderful ways in this frenetic, laugh-out-loud story about love, conscience and lion-hearted nerve.

For our review of The Frog Theory go here.

A Bridge Across the Ocean

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A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (Historical Fiction)

During World War II, the luxury oceanliner Queen Mary was commandeered for transporting troops, and in 1946 it became the vessel carrying European war brides across the ocean to their American G. I. husbands in the U.S. Among those brides are Annaliese Kurtz and Simone Robinson. One is a German ballerina traveling under an assumed identity and one is the daughter and sister of French Résistance fighters. Each seeks to leave the horrors of the war years behind and start a new life.

In present time, Brette Caslake is a young woman struggling with the effects of having “the Sight,” an inherited ability to see and communicate with the ghosts of people caught between this world and the next. It’s a gift she prefers to downplay and ignore but cannot always control. When prevailed upon by an old friend to help his young daughter cope with the recent death of her mother, Brette visits the Queen Mary, now docked in Los Angeles as a floating hotel and tourist attraction. The oceanliner has a history of ghost sightings, and the child felt her mother’s presence there. But when Brette visits, the presence she feels is that of another who connects with her and wants her to solve the decades-old death of a war bride while traveling on the Queen Mary in 1946.

This fascinating tale is told from the points of view of four entities: Brette, Annaliese, Simone, and the unnamed presence on the ship that communicates with Brette. The result is a story that kept me reading when I should have been doing other things, like sleeping. The fate of each character became important to me, including that of the unknown on the ship. The very intense stories of Annaliese and Simone during World War II were vividly portrayed, providing a level of depth and understanding that made the conclusion completely believable. Brette’s fears and concerns and how they are resolved send a strong message about our need to do something meaningful with what life gives us rather than striving to control that which we cannot.

As happens with the best of historical fiction, Susan Meissner’s rich portrayal of disparate characters living in very different environments and times was an education as well as entertainment, leaving me with the satisfying sense of having spent my time wisely, even if I lost sleep.

Grandma gives A Bridge Across the Ocean five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book will be released by Penguin Group (USA) in March, 2017, and is available for pre-order.

Tragic Deception

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Tragic Deception by M.A. Comley and Linda S. Prather (Crime/Suspense/Thriller)

I read Clever Deception, the prequel novella to the Deception series, before breakfast, then immediately moved on to Tragic Deception and finished it the same day. Alex Fox is the type of believable heroine I appreciate, a less-than-perfect woman who keeps on going in spite of the odds and her own mistakes. In this book, she has moved to the U.S. from Great Britain, where she was on the police force, and is now working in New York City. She encounters the same anti-female bias from male counterparts in the NYPD as she experienced at home in Gloucester and has alienated quite a few of them, not the least of whom is her commanding officer. He suspends her for insubordination and gives her a mandate: solve a trio of high-profile infant kidnappings within the week or don’t come back.

The collaboration of authors Linda Prather and M.A. Comley – American  and British, respectively – gives authenticity to the character as a British transplant navigating the world of urban American law enforcement. Her British-isms amuse her fellow police officers, while their use of the vernacular confuses her. I enjoyed watching both grow to understand and appreciate each other almost as much as I enjoyed the fast-paced, engrossing story.

The frightening serial killer introduced in Clever Deception, the Escape Artist, has a presence but doesn’t dominate the book. He remains significant as Alex’s motivation for moving to New York, and even plays a part in the resolution of the kidnappings, but her life also moves on and is not simply an obsession with finding him. This realistic approach gives the character even more credibility and depth. I believe this series has great promise, and I look forward to the next book.

Grandma gives Tragic Deception five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

Clever Deception

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Clever Deception by M.A. Comley and Linda S. Prather (Crime/Suspense/Thriller)

This fast-moving novella sets the stage for the Deception series and introduces its heroine, British police officer Alexandra Fox — a no-nonsense woman doing her best to make it in a predominantly male profession, a situation made more difficult by heavily biased male leadership. The book also introduces the Escape Artist, a serial killer who has been targeting and brutally murdering the wives of men in law enforcement. Now the killer has set his sights on Alex and her family, and he begins communicating with her to make sure she knows.

Written by two New York Times best-selling novelists –one British and one American — this series is a brilliant collaboration of criminal fiction authors with backgrounds on two continents. Together, they have created a flawed but likeable heroine who captured my interest immediately and made me care about her future. I’m ready to see more of Alex Fox.

This book contains graphic violence intended to illustrate the depravity of the Escape Artist. While it made me cringe, it did not feel gratuitous.

Grandma gives Clever Deception five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Girl in the Ice

The Girl in the Ice

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (Crime Thriller)

Grandma Says: The Girl in the Ice is a well-written, suspense-filled thriller set in South London in the UK. In addition to enjoying the setting, I was immediately drawn in by the pacing and characters. We briefly meet the socialite who will be murdered and found beneath the ice in a pond, then are introduced to Detective Erika Foster who has been chosen to lead the investigation into the girl’s death. Erika comes with plenty of her own baggage, a backstory that’s told with just enough detail to help explain her in-your-face attitude toward the girl’s high-society parents who do their best to control her investigation. Erika’s headstrong ways get her into plenty of trouble with her commanding officers and others, and her efforts are thwarted by male colleagues (who we know will get their comeuppance when she solves the case).

The story is told from multiple points of view, including that of the killer who is always kept gender-neutral, adding to the suspense right up to the end. While sometimes it was hard to believe that Erika’s commanding officer would be as understanding as he was in the face of outright mutiny, her relationships with her fellow investigators Moss and Peterson were credible and added to the story. As mentioned previously, the pacing was a major draw for me: things kept happening, and there was never a dull moment nor a sense of “why was that passage in there?” I did have to look up some British terms, such as “off-licence,” but that simply added to the sense of being in an interesting, unfamiliar setting.

I’m pleased to note that this is the first in a three-part crime thriller series. Erika Foster is a character I enjoy, and Bryndza’s writing is a treat.

Grandma gives The Girl in the Ice five stars.5 stars

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