Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Pub Date: 9 Nov. 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Length: 288 pages
Hardback: £12.99

Synopsis

Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”

Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire. I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.


I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.

Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.

Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.

Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.

I’m giving Bonfire 3 stars

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Who’s The Best Mum In The World?

Okay, I’m going to get this off my chest once and for all. I have not spoken about parenting before. But I can’t bear it anymore; so many stories I hear about child rearing infuriate me! Really make my blood boil!

But I’m no expert, I’ll tell you that right off. I know someone is going to say, ‘Who does she think she is? One child?’ Yes, I have 1, singular, an only, child.

It was a choice we deliberated over – did we want to have a child? Could we afford to bring a child into the world? Were we going to be a burden on the state? What skills did we have to look after another human life? Were we mentally and emotionally mature enough to bring up a child?

Who knew it could be so hard, so demanding, so exhausting, and heartwarming?

My ‘child’ is now a 20-year-old; a young woman. She is studying away at university. I feel I have done a good job (with some assistance from the hubby). On her 20th Birthday, I thought, ‘I did it. I got her to adulthood confident that she is a pretty well-rounded human being with a strong sense of who she is and what she wants from life. Job done’. I have worked with college students for almost 13 years. They tell me their problems, I see their physical, mental and emotional development on show daily, so I have a pretty good idea of what the results of parenting can be. So you want to be a parent?….

1. Forget about ‘rights’ – we all have the right to have a baby, I hear someone wail – really? You think? What about the child’s rights to be nurtured and loved and fed correctly and clothed and schooled and nursed and so on and so forth. You do not have to have children. It is NOT ‘what you do’ because everyone else does it! I see so many young mothers with multiple offspring who complain about their kids! You made a choice – get on with it! And use contraception next time!

2. Children come first. YOU hold sole responsibility for your child before he/she starts school. YOU are the primary carer – ALWAYS! Get over yourself if you think that your interests are more important than your child’s well-being.

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Give everyone relief, by teaching your youngster how to blow her nose!

3. Stop handing over responsibility! Teach your child something before he/she goes to school – for Christ’s sake!!!! It is NOT the schools job to teach your child how to – use a knife and fork, tie her shoelaces, blow his nose, wipe her bottom, fasten shirt buttons, tie his school tie, pronounce his name correctly, write her own name, recall own home address, learn some manners. All these, my daughter could do before attending Nursery school aged 3 1/2. No, she isn’t a child genius – she was prepared.

Parents who avoid teaching children how to tie shoelaces are ‘hindering their development’ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/11843223/Parents-who-avoid-teaching-children-how-to-tie-shoelaces-are-hindering-their-development.html

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Don’t let your kid be that one at college who can’t tie his laces – everyone will laugh at him!

4. Do not leave it all up to the schools. It is your job, as the parent, to prepare your offspring for the world at large. It is your job to make an independent human being. It is your job to ensure your child has the confidence and where-with-all to go forwards without you. I think our society, media, needs to stop blaming teachers when something goes awry with a child. We also need to stop blaming Social Workers, when a childs life is in danger – I notice with astonishing regularity that blame is laid heavily on the Workers and little on parents. These people do the jobs they do because they are excited and driven to help young people – your children, not theirs, yours!

‘Teachers can only ever have a small impact on their students’ results – yet they are judged as if they are 100% responsible’ https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-views/teachers-can-only-ever-have-a-small-impact-their-students-results

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Remember what happened to Augustus?!

5. What are you putting in your child’s mouth?! Come on really? You didn’t know that sugar was bad for their teeth? The number of Primary School aged children in the UK having multiple fillings and extractions has risen dramatically. It is frankly shocking that anyone could allow this to happen to their child. Fizzy drinks and chocolates and shitty kids cereals. All the information is there – read the ingredients dumb ass. SUGAR BAD. OKAY? Buy a recipe book. Get online recipes. Sit down as a family for meals. It isn’t that hard, you can’t afford to be lazy if you’re going to be a parent.

‘The number of children aged four and under being hospitalised for tooth extractions has risen by almost a quarter in the last decade, new figures have revealedhttp://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/tooth-decay-teeth-remove-children-hospitalised-numbers-up-10-years-quarter-25-per-cent-a7640031.html

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This is a form of child abuse. Stop it!

6. If you annoy me is it ok for me to hit you?! At college, we can often spot the teen who has been smacked by his parent/s. Stop it. Just, stop. There is absolutely NEVER any need to smack a child. You are the grown-up, find a way to deal. Babies and Toddlers are not naughty, really; they are exploring the world around them – so you’re going to make them angry at the world from an early age – just because you are?! Grow up.

‘Children who are smacked by parents ‘more likely to grow up to be ABUSIVE’ https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/889028/Smacking-child-abuse-parents-more-likely-become-abusive-domestic-violence

7. And finally, young folk – Take no notice of those teachers who tell you that your GCSE choices will be the ‘most important’ you will ever make. I tell my students – “There are only two decisions that you will make in life that are the most important. One– should I spend the rest of my life with this person? And Two – should I bring another human being into the world? That’s it, all the rest is gravy.

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There’s going to be a lot of this; buckle up.

So in the words of that 1970s advert – Think before you drink, before you drive, Think before you bring another human into the world!

Best Mum In The World? Well maybe not, but my daughter thinks so.  smileyface

 

New Years Resolutions of Super ‘Heroes’

Happy New Year to all my readers. Yeah I’m late, so sue me! Let’s hope it’s a goodie!

Do you chaps make New Years resolutions? I’m not sure if this is just a western thing or countries around the world partake of this annual making-a-promise-to-improve-oneself-or-do-something-different. I gave up making them years ago and this year I have made 4 – swear less, smoke less, lose weight and publish book. *If only you could see my face right now*

Thought I’d start the year with something daft, a bit of candyfloss for the brain as I like to call it (and some of my writing-but that’s another matter). So I present for your delectation a selection of New Years resolutions from some of our favourite comic characters – yeah I actually interviewed them! What!? I didn’t say I was going to stop lying in 2018!!!

 

“Gonna smile more.” Hellboy

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Hellboy, ” I AM smiling!”

“Start a swim club and invite Batman; maybe he’ll like me more.” Aquaman

“Spend more time with my family.” Loki

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Loki, “What do you mean, you don’t trust me, brother?”

“Visit my mother more.” Wonder Woman

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Diana, “Mama, I just killed a man…or two or three.”

“Get in touch with my gentler side, and hug people.” Batman

“Take up appliqué sewing.” Thing

“Try and get over my social anxiety and stop hiding.” Invisible Woman

“Try out a better alter-ego disguise.” Superman

“Ditch the tights, too chilly.” Green Arrow

“Quit smoking, drinking and swearing so much.” John Constantine

“Get a shave.” Wolverine

“Get a nice girlfriend and…get laid!” Captain America

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Captain America, “Keep going, no-one suspects you’re running away from girls. Bullets bad, sex scary, bullets bad, sex scary, bullets bad…”

“I am going to start taking out all the movie producers who do not give me film of my own this year. And you know I don’t mean dinner!” Black Widow

“ Make an Iron Woman; so I can get in touch with my feminine side. No, actually, what could be better than making love with me, myself and I.” Tony Stark

“I’m gonna get a kitten and call it Francis, and feed it, and love it, and care for it and pet it. And stop being so sarcastic and pay attention when the bad guy shows up. And make friends with all the strangers I have yet to meet…New Years Resolutions? Get outta here!” Deadpool

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Deadpool, “Hey readers, Alexandra thought she’d just appropriate all our images for your enjoyment. Happy New Year, oh, and play nice.”

Well there you have it folks, resolutions from fourteen of our super heroes, for real!

Happy 2018 Everyone!

C is for…Christmas Cards

It’s that time of year again folks!

I was thinking, as I wrote my cards this year, how is it, that we live in a world of E-mails, Text Messaging, Snapchat, Twitter, Virtual Reality, etc. etc. – in a world that is supposed to be saving its natural resources – we still send these real life cards?!

I know there are online ‘e-cards’, but they’re not quite the same are they? I even know someone who doesn’t put his cards up, (If you’re not from the UK… We display our received cards along with the Christmas decorations, either hung, cheesily a la 1970s on a line strung across a wall, or blue-tacked to a wall or door). This guy, he puts his in the shredder!!!! Immediately!!!!

I know there are also some truly horrendous cards out there – especially the photos used for the ‘personal touch’ cards; I’ll sprinkle a few of these throughout for your pleasure – like hideous snowflakes! Here’s your first…

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Poor kids, call Child Services! Hideous Christmas card #1

So, I decided to collect a few factoids together about cards for you. Enjoy.

  • The first commercial Christmas card was created and sent in 1843 in the UK. It cost 1 shilling (5 pence/8 cents today)
  • The most expensive Christmas card, was this very same, first card. Sold in November 2001 for £20,000 ($28,158).
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Whoa there dad! Hideous Christmas card #2
  • Christmas cards (of a kind) had already been a thing in Ancient China and 15th century Germany.
  • The Greeting Card Association report for 2017 states that:- Nearly 100 million Christmas single cards were sold, add packs of cards, bringing the total for the Christmas card market to one billion cards sold in the UK.
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Purr-fectly awful. Hideous Christmas card #3
  • The US apparently sends around 2 billion cards annually.
  • Christmas cards with glitter often cannot be recycled.
  • Millions of tons of cards and wrapping paper end up in landfill sites each year.
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Yikes! Hideous Christmas card #4
  • The first Christmas postage stamp in US was issued in 1962.
  • There are around 123 companies that make Christmas/greetings cards.
  • What are Christmas cards made of? Wood pulp, part textile waste, acrylic, inks, parents tears and fake conviviality.
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No words…Hideous Christmas card #5
  • According to one magazine, House Beautiful, the polar bear is this years most popular design for Christmas cards. (Get yours now, these animals may be extinct in 15 years if climate change continues)
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My personal favourite – and actually quite fitting

 

 

http://www.greetingcardassociation.org.uk/resources/for-publishers/the-market/facts-and-figures

https://recyclenation.com/2014/12/recycle-greeting-cards/

https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/cards.shtml

http://www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Greeting-Card.html

Christmas Story…

Each year, members of Wirral Writers pen a short Christmas themed story each. The only rules are – it has to be between 500 and 600 words, and Christmas orientated.

Each year I post my mini offering here. This years is loosely (very loosely) based on the journey of three Biblical characters.

***WARNING*** There will be profanities ahead*** 

Wirral Writers Christmas Story 2017

We Three Kings

The three Kings rode from the east. It was unseasonably warm and time was running out.

Useless bastard!”

Frank, language.”

Fuck language, fucking gearstick’s…ngh…get in ya bastard!”

Frank!”

Dad. You’re so sweary.”

Alisha, the day you get your own car and do your own…argh…bastard…Christmas shopping…grr…don’t talk to me about effing swearing. Gotcha!”

The Signal yellow Austin Allegro belched and farted and grizzled through early evening traffic.

Take the A124, Frank, that’ll take us straight to Canary Wharf, right, right! Frank.”

I always drive this way.”

Every year’s the same.” sighed Alisha popping her right earbud back in.

Dad growled.

Mare, did you bring the list?”

I thought you had it? I told you it was on the hall table.”

I said I was putting water in the friggin car. That was your job, Mare. One list. One-”

I’ve got it.” Alisha waved a white piece of paper at the rearview mirror.

At Blackwall roundabout, the traffic slowed, slowed and the not so trusty steed ground to a halt.

Fuck! Fuckfuckfuckkity fuck!!” screamed Frank.

Alisha sank lower in the rear seat, aware of other drivers and passengers watching the beetroot faced man having a meltdown in the shittiest car in England.

Once again,” said Mary, “Mind the language.”

Why? Why should I mind my language?”

Mary indicated the backseat passenger with a head motion.

Alisha rolled her eyes.

She’s seventeen years old, Mare.”

It’s true mum. I am. And I do know swear words. In fact we did about them in English, for example did you know the word fuck-”

Alisha!”

It’s a real word mum. Did you know, it appeared as early as the 15th century in some poem about the monks of Ely fucking local wives-”

Alisha King. I don’t care about the fucking monks of Ely. I just want to buy Christmas presents!” Mary cried.

And you just used it correctly as a verb, or is that an adjective?”

Alisha!”

What?!”

Eventually on the move again, after a fashion, the Kings kangarooed along Upper Bank Street. Six eyes straining.

I love the old traditions.” Alisha said, “Such as trying to find a parking space.”

We should have taken the train.” Mary moaned.

What, and carry all it all back with a million other sweaty bodies? No thanks.” Frank made a yipping sound. “There!” He ground the gears, and his teeth. “Shit! There’s a bike in it.”

They drove round and around the parking lot until they saw a shopper emerge from the mall. Then they followed her,until she led them to a parking space.

Yay!” cheered Mary as they pulled up. “Okay, what’s everyone need?”

Samsung Galaxy S7; Pink Gold, please.” Alisha thumbed the dial, selecting a new tune and slunk off ahead of her parents.

How about you Frank? I need to find something for Janice and the nephews. Oh, don’t let me forget your dad’s razor.”

He doesn’t need a new razor, Mare.”

That’s not the point love. It’s Christmas.”

What, so we buy shit we don’t need or won’t use or that breaks in five minutes?”

Mary started to make her way to the shopping centre, “Come on love, get in the spirit will you.”

Frank looked at the press of bodies, the trolleys filled to overflowing, crying kids, mums with frayed tempers, the signs plastered across the windows, Christmas Eve Sales, took a preparatory breath and through gritted teeth said, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, and Batteries not Included.”

The End!

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The horror of Christmas shopping

 

The ‘E’ Word or, I Thought I’d Finished But…

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“Did you say the e word?!”

I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.

But now I have to edit it,BOO!

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The joy of editing…

I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.

The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.

When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.

Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.

Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.

Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.

Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.

Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.

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“I said back off! I don’t want to edit my story.”

Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December. Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)

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Buddy the Elf

So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”

Have a good weekend everyone.

This Week I Have Been Mostly Listening To…

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Motionless in White

The ‘Challenge Alex’ experiment continues. This weeks suggestion comes from Beckie. When I asked what genre of music this was I was told it is a kind of Heavy Metal/Rock. Wikipedia tells us it is Metalcore/Gothic Metal/Industrial Metal – so let’s see what happens to my middle-aged-lady sensibilities!!!! Turning up the volume for…

Motionless in White…

N.B: this is NOT a review – it’s simply an experiment in expanding my listening tastes. 

*** WARNING*** THERE WILL BE PROFANITY***

What I listened to –

1. Necessary Evil feat. Jonathan Davis – Reminded me a little of Marilyn Manson. The opening has this familiarity that I cannot put my finger on; a repeated refrain on an unidentifiable instrument. With lyrics stolen from Lesley Gore’s 1960s “It’s my party” for the verse – ‘It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to, Cry if I want to, cry if I want to…” Becomes, “It’s my body and I’ll die when I want to, Die when I want to, die when I want to…”. All very Goth with Emo lyrics – of course all teens have this dark side (No-one likes to talk about it though). There’s some lyrics sung in ‘Screamer’ style. I first heard this type of singing from Norwegian bands about 10 years ago.

What does it sound like to me? Sort of what Beckie said – Heavy Metal/Rock. I can hear it’s roots in the Metal genre, completely updated to include the Gothic and Industrial.

Did I like it? Yes! My head was banging and my foot tapping from the first notes on.

2. Reincarnate – Opening with electronic, industrial guitar sound. Vocals vary between growly to ‘poppy’. This has a softer feel compared to the first song. Heavy on the drums, briefly.

What does it sound like to me? Pop, with a ‘screamer’ influence.

Did I like it? Not as much as the first one. It was okay.

3. Eternally yours – Sounds like a keyboard and drum opening, which was rather ‘pretty’ (Hey, I’m getting used to the hard-core dudes!). Again the growler voice makes way for the pop; chorus and verse see-saws between two vocal styles – intense, dark and aggressive to lighter vocals and guitar.

What does it sound like to me? Pop/Metal/Goth

Did I like it? Nah.

4. Black Damask – Piano melody, light Gothic, almost something one might hear as film intro, then pow! All of a sudden to screamer vocals (No, I do not know what he was saying!) and then the pop voice briefly, but mostly the ear-splitting, teeth-grinding roaring bile of an angry (young?!) man.

What does it sound like to me? Goth Metal

Did I like it?Kind of.

5. Puppets 3 (The Grand Finale) Feat. Dani Filth – Strafing the guitar again. Did some one scream or was that keyboard. High octane, racing lyrics, drums and guitar chords. The speed is quite exhilarating; however, I did have a look at the lyrics and find it’s a kind of ended romance and felt a little aggrieved that this sound should be slave to yet another ‘love song’. There is a brief moment we hear guitar solo, and it so reminded me of those 1970s Metal Bands.

What does it sound like to me? Goth/Metal

Did I like it?I think so; though I didn’t enjoy the sentiment in the lyrics.

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Puppets 3

 

6. Death March – Industrial alarm like the workers are finished, rolling heavy drums lead into screamer vocals. Lead singer, Chris ‘Motionless’ Cerulli, sounds even more like Manson in this. Pretty tame considering it’s called Death March.

What does it sound like to me? Metal.

Did I like it? It was okay – would have liked more Industrial sounds included.

7.Immaculate MisconceptionTwenty-eight seconds of what sounds like a single chord on a church organ gives way to an angry roar “What the fuck?!” and continues to rant throughout, backed by, what I would call regular pop vocals. A sudden halt – the ears sigh with relief – and twelve seconds of what sounds like wind through abandoned warehouse.

What does it sound like to me? Industrial Goth

Did I like it? Would have liked more of the eerie industrial stuff and it’s beginning to sound very ‘samey’ by now.

8. Creatures – Spoken word from, what I believe to be, archive radio footage, scratch,“Death”, rattle, rubbing, clink, ring and tapping sounds are the intro. Breaks into a frantic drum and guitar rhythm with a slower keyboard accompaniment. Just after the mid point the vocals take on the cleaner more innocent quality before reverting back to screamer. Ends with the ‘itchy’ metal and a woman’s voice saying “There is more inside of me.” and stops dead.

What does it sound like to me? Industrial Goth/Metal

Did I like it? I think so. I liked the intro and ‘outro’ especially and the frantic drums and bass.

 

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M.I.W  America

9. America – Was that an animal or a horse screaming at the very beginning?! Carousel music and a voice played backwards, stretch into the tune then other eclectic sounds and a cricket? A steady drum and guitar beat matching the growling vocals provide a very coherent piece. Feels like this is the band’s actual sound, it’s has more confidence (you don’t need to scream to sound confident) and isn’t trying to ‘fit in’ as much angst and variation as possible.

What does it sound like to me? Industrial Goth.

Did I like it? Yes. Second favourite after Necessary Evil.

10. Loud (Fuck It) – Nirvana style trash guitar intro. Bit of a contrast to what I’ve become used to with this group.

What does it sound like to me? An anthem. More rock than anything Goth. If the vocals were sung without roaring, this could be a rock song, a good rock song (I hate stadium rock), but not Goth.

Did I like it? Kind of. Not sure if it’s good or mediocre.

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M.I.W’s Chris ‘Motionless’ Cerulli

To round-up – I will probably be giving Motionless in White another listening to. I do not, as a rule, watch the music videos that are made for the songs I have been listening to – I do believe that the audience today puts too much emphasis on these visuals, which in turn, takes away from the actual thing they should be paying attention to – the music. I have peeked at one or two (just to see) and I did with M.I.W. I had mixed reactions – Oh, not more of this/Cooool/Derivative much?/I wish I was a teenager again. Another issue I have is the names of the band members – Chris “Motionless” Cerulli (lead vocals), Ricky “Horror” Olson (rhythm guitar), Devin “Ghost” Sola (bass); I mean, really? Come on guys, how old are you? (Turns out, Cerulli is 31, Olsen is 29, and Sola is 27).

There was a lot of swearing in the vocals, much of it I think I missed too!! But swearing doesn’t offend me – I like a good swear myself sometimes – but repetition is the sure way to make that word impotent. And who wants an impotent Fuck!?