Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (Psychological Suspense)

When I started this book, I wasn’t sure I would finish it. Seven-year-old Hanna is not only unlikable, she’s terrifying. A tiny psychopathic manipulator, her goal is to get rid of her mother so she can have her father all to herself.

The mother, Suzette, appears to be a shallow upper class matron struggling to keep face while her daughter exhibits bizarre and sometimes violent behavior in public. The father, a successful businessman who is away a lot, knows Hanna only as a sweet, innocent child who adores him. He refuses to believe that she’s capable of the nastiness attributed to her by her mother and what he considers to be inept headmasters of private schools that keep expelling Hanna.

Before long, however, the personalities and backstories of Suzette and Hanna blossom as each narrates the tale in alternating chapters. Hanna becomes more terrifying, but Suzette is now someone I can care about. I found myself enthralled by Hanna’s resourcefulness as she gleefully tormented her mother in accelerated attacks. Meanwhile, the father begins to witness injuries and destruction that he cannot ignore.

The author does a great job of fleshing out the characters, including a child therapist who does her best to help the family cope with Hanna’s aberrant behavior. Hanna’s child side comes through as she gives snide names to adults like “Brown Teeth” and “Mrs. Stinky Breath.”

Suzette’s repeated navel-gazing regarding how she may have messed up as a mother became somewhat redundant at times, but not terribly. My one complaint is that the ending left everything hanging. Sometimes, you just want to know that the people you care about are going to be safe.

Grandma gives Baby Teeth four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. with a request for an honest review.

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Manipulated Lives

Manipulated Lives

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel (Suspense)

Five short stories comprise this book which, as the title states, presents tales of the manipulated and their manipulators.  Although promoted as suspense, they are really psychological studies of people who take advantage of others. As such they can be less than enjoyable reading unless the topic truly interests you.

I found some more compelling than others, especially those told from the victim’s point of view, as the stories often had a surprising twist or revelation. Others I skimmed because they simply made me uncomfortable. I’m the sort of reader who needs to make a connection with the characters in order to care about them, and it was difficult to do so with these stories.

That said, the writing was fine overall, except for one story in which some of the punctuation around dialogue tags was in need of a good edit. This is a hard one to quantify in stars as it comes down more to personal comfort with the stories than actual literary quality.

Grandma gives Manipulated Lives four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author with a request for an honest review.