Thursday, June 18, 2015

REVIEW: The Secret Baby Room (+$30 Amazon GC Giveaway!)

Title: The Secret Baby Room 
Author: D.D. Johnston
Series: N/A
Pages: 285
Date Published: 2015
Publisher: Barbican Press
Format: Paperback
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Goddess Fish Blog Tours

Synopsis:
A stunning new psychological thriller. Claire Wilson knows what she saw: on the eighth floor of a derelict tower block, a woman was bottle-feeding a baby. But why would anyone take a baby into a boarded-up tower block? And why are children disappearing? In an area of Manchester plagued by unexplained tragedies, Claire’s only allies are a pagan witch, a wild-child party girl, and a husband with too many secrets.
~My Thoughts~
After following her husband's career to Manchester, Claire finds herself adrift after giving up her own ambitions. She's lonely and afraid of not being able to make a life for herself in a completely new place. She makes the acquaintance of two oddball neighbors who seem to get her spirits up, only to see the specter of a woman and child in the abandoned building adjoining their two yards.

As Claire becomes more obsessed with the woman and child, it was interesting to see inside her head. She's worried that everyone thinks she's crazy, including herself. You find yourself wondering what is real and what isn't and even Claire herself doubts what is happening in her own mind. It was almost paralyzing in it's realistic portrayal of the human brain! As a character though, Claire was somewhat distant. I could relate to her and her horrible experience, but I wasn't convinced really about what drove her to be so obsessed with the woman and child. In the same situation, I probably would have shrugged it off as my imagination like everyone else said. 

An interesting quirk of these books is that they are so hopelessly English (as in the "other side of the pond" English). There was so much slang and banter that I felt like I was watching an Austin Powers movie or the Inbetweeners. It wasn't vulgar or anything, just lots of colloquialisms and phrases that I hadn't heard before. Fun though, and it definitely helped me picture the characters and how they spoke. 

Overall, the story was solid. I couldn't find any plot holes, and the overall theme was enjoyable and I was interested in where Claire was going and how she was going to solve the mystery. The flow did lag at times and I had to put the book down quite a bit because I just wouldn't be totally invested. Worth the read if you're interested in thrillers, and a good choice for a rainy day! 

~Try an Excerpt!~
On Sunday morning at 9:15 a.m., Claire was escorted to Interview Room 3. She was relieved to be out of the cell but self-conscious about her stale breath and unwashed body. Her jeans smelled of damp, and dried blood covered her right hand where she had grazed her knuckles kayaking.

And then it occurred to her, as she was waiting alone in the interview room, how ridiculous these thoughts were. What did it matter? So much of her life she had spent caring about the wrong things: what did it matter whether she had stale breath? What difference did it really make if her bra was visible through her shirt? Why did she care about her BMI or her… underarm fat. Underarm fat! Who even decided such a thing should be added to the catalogue of female worries? It was all absurd. She remembered that as she was being driven to the police station, her hands cuffed behind her back, among her many terrors was the thought that she might be strip-searched. As much as she feared the violence of the act, she had also worried because her legs were unshaved and it had been ages since she’d attended to her bikini line. What a moment at which to worry about depilation! ‘Who cares?’ she said aloud. ‘Who cares?’
~Meet D.D. Johnston!~ 
D.D. Johnston’s first novel, Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs, was a Sunday Herald Book of the Year in 2011 and is published in Spanish as Paz, amor y cócteles molotov. His experimental second novel, The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub, was a 2013 book of the year in The Morning Star, where it was described as “determinedly extraordinary”. He lives in Cheltenham, UK, and works at the University of Gloucestershire, where he is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing and a University Teaching Fellow. In his spare time he runs the OnlineWritingTips.com website.

D.D. will be giving away a $30 Amazon Giftcard to one lucky follower! Please comment below and fill out the rafflecopter to enter. 

39 comments:

  1. Many thanks for the thoughtful review, Andra. I really enjoyed reading your reflections :)

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    1. No thank you for writing The Secret Baby Room! What are you up to today DD?

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    2. Sorry for the slow reply, Andra - I've been trying to write a lecture for a residential writing course I'm teaching on. I seem to be going very slowly today! :)

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    3. Ow wow...what does residential writing even mean!? (Feeling like I'm slow today...)

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  2. Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

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    1. Good question! I think the hardest scenes are love scenes - not sex scenes but scenes in which characters are happy and in love. Story works on conflict, on characters wanting something and facing impediments to achieving their objectives. So if boy meets girl, but she's already married, that's a story one can write. If boy meets girl but he's a virgin and doesn't know what to do, that's a story one can write. But if there are no problems - if they make love happily and both enjoy it and feel good about it, it's very hard not to fall into cliche!

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    2. Hmmm...what does that say about a regular-old relationship in real life...is it boring if there's no conflict??

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    3. Ah... In real life there's nothing better than a happy, loving regular-old relationship :) Few things on earth give so many people so much happiness as a regular, loving relationship. But while happiness is great in real life, it's not the stuff of a good story - a story only comes about once things go wrong. Of course, it's nice if the characters manage to wind up happy in the end!

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  3. An interesting point about the colloquialisms and phrases.

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    1. Yeah - thanks, Mary (and Andra!). Some American readers really struggle with different forms of the language. But we need to remember that there are loads of different forms of English - even within America. There's not one form that's better than the others, and our literary culture is stronger for having different linguistic traditions and dialects - from Scots, to Indian English, to Creole, to AAVE, and all the others.

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    2. Agreed! I admit that I have the hardest time with Creole-blended English represented by some southern-style writing. Though having that sort of writing really enriches the experience I think...pushes you out of your average everyday box and makes you look at something new!

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  4. Thank you for the review . The book sounds interesting !

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  5. thank you for the chance to win :)

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  6. Thanks for your honest review, sounds like an gripping story

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  7. I have enjoyed learning about the book. Thanks for sharing it.

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  8. this sounds interesting

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  9. You did a good job with the cataloging of every woman's worst fears. And given Claire's circumstances, yes, things that shouldn't be bothering at Lara.

    Thank you for the . Insight into the book!

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  10. Thanks for the review and introduction to a new to me author.

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  11. Wow! What an excerpt! This sounds like an intense book~I can't wait to read it! The cover is perfect! Thank you for sharing!

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  12. Thanks for the giveaway! I like the excerpt. :)

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  13. Enjoyed reading your review, thank you!

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  14. Wow. I love thrillers. And Claire is such an intriguing character (from the excerpt, anyway). Can't wait to read!

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  15. The author has an impressive resume winning awards for his two books. Look forward to checking out his works.

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  16. That is a great cover. Loved reading the excerpt. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  17. Congratulations on your book's release, I enjoyed the excerpt! And thanks for the awesome giveaway!

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  18. CONGRATS Are able to write as a living????

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  19. This book sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it. Thanks!

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  20. Terrific excerpt! The cover and title are awesome! Thank you for the great post and contest!

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  21. Will I enjoy reading your book it sounds interesting.

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  22. Looks like an interesting book ;)

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  23. What is your favorite book of all time?

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  24. Psychological thrillers are my cup of tea and this one does sound quite interesting. Thanks for the chance to meet a new author I likely will enjoy and for the contest.

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  25. "... “determinedly extraordinary”...." I think I'm going to use that phrase in my life. Sums up so many things. Thanks for sharing!

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  26. Sounds intriguing.

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  27. Not my cup of tea- there's enough terror in the real world: When I read, I want to escape into a land of happiness.writer61 at yahoo dot com

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