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When wishes don’t come true “Birthdays of a Princess” by @HelgaZeiner

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Another review and giveaway this week for a Partners in Crime VBT. I have to say, again they are the best tour company! I choose to hop on this tour because I was sucked in by Helga Zeiner and her book Section 132 during her last tour. Her story was dark in that book and this one proves to be the same. The authors intense research is again evident and I cannot stress enough how incredible the writing is. Her second book is even more disturbing than the first. There were a few triggers, such as me wanting to curb stomp mothers who enter their children in beauty pageants…

~Review and a Giveaway~

Things I love about Helga’s writing – She writes as if she is the one who has experienced these things. Her research is top of the bar and her writing is some of the most incredibly realistic and dark I have read in a long time. Whereas yesterday’ review of Cold Killing was from the killer’s point of view, Helga Zeiner is able to write from a victim’s point of view invoking some of the most realistic emotional responses  from me as a reader in a long time.

The story seems cut and dry once we find out who Tiara is. A former child beauty queen raised in a dysfunctional household. Child princess grows up and mother having moved back from the Pageant State of Texas and now is a brooding teen? Oh but this teen decided to go into a homicidal rage against a Starbucks customer for no reason and it is caught on everyone’s smart-phones. It has your basic cast:

  • An oblivious mother who doesn’t understand how this is happening to her baby girl! (insert major eye-rolling)
  • A seasoned detective (Mackenzie) who has a heart of gold (yes yes reverse of a western .. no hooker with a heart of gold.. oh wait YES there is but I will get to that later)
  • An estranged family member, in this case Grandma, whose own daughter cannot even call her Mom… hmmm what is up with that?
  • Bad guys.. bad guys galore … a lot of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing it seems
  • The victim… and man is this victim, who starts off as the perp, one doozy of a victim.

But Tiara, or Princess Tia, which she refers to herself  to the psychiatrist when she finally ends her silence, is not scared she is finally in control. Some people would be scared about being locked up, but Tiara was grateful. Her storm was quieting and she had control over her life for once. Finally ridding herself of the last person connected to her pageant past, her mother, by refusing to have her visit.

Oh … confused? Don’t be, this is the most gut wrenching story and it is told in birthdays starting with her birth. Since she has a problem sharing verbally the doctor suggests writing out her memories. As she works through them birthday year by year the gaps and confusion pouring forth from dark corners of which are filled with both real and constructed memories from tales told by her aunt and mother. These memories both constructed and real get more frightening and alarming digging deeper and darker with each turn of the page.

Nothing about this book is a cookie cutter psychological thriller.  The players may seem cut and dry but as the story unfolds we find they are not even close. A child used and abused for her looks, raised in isolation and made to be a pageant baby, toddler and girl till she was too old then used even more for “photo sessions” (cringe). Tiara’s memory is muddled with cobwebs and drug induced nightmares. Despite all these roadblocks (and there are many many more), despite her crime, the victim manages to find stability on the streets of Vancouver B.C. with that aforementioned hooker with a heart of gold and in the trust of the curmudgeon of a detective and a forensic psychiatrist, two of three of the only men she feels safe with.

A thriller with breathtaking – should I say stealing – writing. Our author presents us with a victim which we cannot help but feel for, a victim who made me want to hunt down all those reprehensible mothers who think it is OK to dress up little girls like little beauty queens, creating a pedophile’s wet dream under glitter and crowns. I was left with anger, grief, terror and shaky triggers which did not fire only because of how wonderful of a writer Helga Zeiner is.

The triggers: This is a story of years of exploitation, sexual abuse, of a child’s trip down a memory lane which must be cleaned off and brought into the light in order for Tiara to move on and survive. Even you have never experienced violence in your life, or rape or sexual abuse you could be moved by the horrors presented.  I am a survivor and can say this was a courageous act of bravery and love in these pages. Helga Zeiner handled each situation and scene without the use gratuitous violence, or sex but still so successfully and sophistically woven I won’t be surprised to find this book becomes award winning.

There are not enough stars! Thank you again, Ms. Zeiner, for such an amazing literary thriller.

ANSWER ME THIS

What is your opinion on toddlers in tiaras? The real deals, the show the mothers who do this to their children? I know Honey BooBoo is cute, but COME ON!  Do you believe it is child exploitation? DARE YOU to give me a good reason to support children in beauty pageants!

When wishes don’t come true “Birthdays of a Princess” by @HelgaZeinerBirthdays of a Princess
Series: Beauty pageant, Forensic Psychiatry, Helga Zeiner, Sexual abuse, Texas, Tiara, Vancouver
by Beauty pageant, Forensic Psychiatry, Helga Zeiner, Sexual abuse, Texas, Tiara, Vancouver
four-half-stars
Pages: 300
on May 9, 2013
Amazon • Barnes & Noble • • Goodreads •

To be famous and be admired by total strangers can be very dangerous.

Her little girl has always been her princess. In fact, she was so lovely, Melissa entered her toddler into child beauty pageants, making her a star from an early age. But her dreams and hopes are shattered one October morning, when Melissa watches a breaking news story on television. A young girl has been filmed by bystanders, committing a brutal assault in broad daylight in a downtown Vancouver Starbucks … and it looks like the girl is her daughter.

From this moment on, a story unfolds, so shocking, that it will hold you captive and you will find yourself reading faster and faster into the night.

Guided by a forensic Psychiatrist, Helga Zeiner has captured the tormented inner thoughts of a former beauty queen and her mother with amazing sensitivity. The 5-star bestselling author delivers yet again an impeccably researched thriller – this time one that takes you into the complex world of child beauty pageants - with an ingenious plot. Just when you think you know the ending … read on, the ultimate surprise waits at the end of the thrill-ride

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence. This book may also contain triggers for sexual abuse.

“In Birthdays of a Princess, Helga Zeiner has captured the inner thoughts of an abused teen with amazing sensitivity. From my own experiences in 25 years of Forensic Psychiatry both in private practice and at Youth Forensic Services the psychopathology of the characters is accurate and realistic.” ~ Dr. Paul Janke – Forensic Psychiatrist, M.D., F.R.C.P., Vancouver, BC

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About Helga Zeiner

Born and educated in Germany, Helga left her home country when she was 18 to travel the world and experience the magic of life she was passionately reading about.

She spent the next 15 years in exotic places like India, Thailand, Australia and Hong Kong, where she worked her way up into excellent managerial positions in large international companies. To achieve this she had to further her education and enrolled at night classes at the ‘Chinese University of Hong Kong’ for her Diploma in Management Studies.

Love eluded her for many years. She was nearly 40 when she finally met her dream man and settled in Canada, where she now lives, neatly tucked away in the wilderness. She has previously written several suspense novels which have been published in Germany.

Her first novel written and published in English is called. ‘Section 132”. A thrilling fact-based page-turner about a young girl forced into a polygamous marriage that has received countless 5-star reviews.

Helga Zeiner

Find Helga on the web:

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Birthdays of a Princess is her second novel . Her first book “Section 132” is one of my favorite books this year, and this one is creeping up there too. READ MY REVIEW~ HERE. I pre-ordered this book prior to the tour running. I signed up in order to share my honest review, but I did receive anything in exchange.

 

Excerpt

 Birthday Zero
So, you don’t remember anything before age five, or six? Bullshit, I say. I remember! Shall I tell you what happened when I was born? Do you really want to know, even if it’s not pretty? Well, alright then.
It was a hot day in 1998, August 21, to be exact, the same day my father, Miguel ‘Mike’ Rodriguez, died on the day of a goddamn stupid cruise missile strike called ‘Operation Infinite Reach’. The US bombed an obscure terrorist camp called Zhawar Kili in Afghanistan. Officially the attack was in retaliation for the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but unofficially the CIA suspected Osama bin Laden to be there. Didn’t work, though. They found out later that he had left a few hours prior to the attack. In fact, the strike was so ineffective that Bin Laden taunted the US Army later by joking that ‘only a few camels and chickens had died’. No US soldier had died—except my father, and even he wasn’t really a casualty. The less said about it, the better. It hadn’t been the ultimate sacrifice, it had been a goddamn stupid accident while getting ready for action.
At about the time he blew his brains out by mistake, my mother was doing what I assume expecting mothers do while waiting for their belly to pop. Don’t know that one for sure because, obviously, I wasn’t born yet—(not like my birth, which I do remember, remember?). Presumably she was knitting some tiny shoes or sewing little toddler’s outfits. She’s always been into handicraft work. I wasn’t due for another month, but when she got word of her beloved Mike’s unfortunate and uncalled-for demise, she went straight into shock. They took her to a hospital in Houston and performed a caesarean to make sure she wouldn’t lose me too.
When she woke up, she couldn’t even look at me. Next day, my father’s sister Graciella, or Gracie, as Mom called her, dropped by with a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates. After they had cried together for a while, Gracie carefully placed me on my mom’s cut-and-stapled-back-together-again stomach.
My mom said to Gracie: “At least it’s a girl. I couldn’t bear it if it were a boy. I’m sure he’d look just like Mikey and remind me of him every single day.”
And Gracie nodded in agreement and said: “Yes, it’s a blessing. A girl is so much easier. She won’t want to play all that ball stuff, and you can make pretty things for her.”

Mind you, I was lying right on my mom’s now empty belly, listening to every word the two ladies said. You believe that? Ha, ha—got you there. Of course I didn’t. I was a newborn, for crying out loud. But I have heard it told so many times, it’s like so deeply imprinted in my memory, I can’t be totally sure if I know it from hearing or from experience. In any case, it is true, unless their account of my birth has been twisted to suit their own memories. Could be a figment of my aunt’s and my mom’s imagination because they don’t want to admit that they didn’t even look at me, the red-wrinkled premature bundle of obligations. It could well be that my mom cried and lamented and cursed me for being born and becoming a burden to a young, widowed woman. Wouldn’t surprise me, the way she always went on about her suffering and how much she’s given up for me and so on.

Whatever. That was my Birthday Number Zero.

A big, fat Zero!

Helga Zeiner Tour - Partners in Crime


13 Comments

  1. I think the whole “Toddlers in Tiaras” thing is completely disgusting and in some cases borders on child abuse. If a child actually wants to do it, that’s fine, but I don’t feel any child should be forced to do it. =
    Show me some love!

  2. But how can a three year old KNOW what they want? How can they determine it is OK by the time they are 8 when this is all they know. When they accept caps, disfiguring acrylic nails…
    Show me some love!

  3. Great post Kriss! And I truly think I need to read this book, your review has triggered all my must read alarms. Wheeeeheeee! I already have more books than I can handle! Stop hurling all these great reviews at me 🙂 Nah, keep them coming, I’m a sucker for a good review which leads me to read/discover a new book by a terrific author.
    xoxo

  4. Awesome review, NYT worthy. Fantastic post!! I read this book and had a hard time putting it down. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this title and starting a discussion on this topic. Ironically, I was flipping thru the channels last night, coming upon “Toddlers and Tiaras” and it was disturbing, IMO. And thank you for the kind words about PICT. Great job, as always!

  5. WOW! that looks amazing!!

  6. This is what I had been hoping for while writing this book: to make people aware of the disturbing aspect of those child beauty pageants and start a discussion about it. Thank you so much, Cabin Goddess, for your review. I feel honored and humbled…and encouraged to get on with my next project!

  7. I always hated that crap oddly even when I was a kid. The shops we’d go to would have them on and as we’d walk past I’d pretend vomit. There was a kid I went to school with who’d compete in them. I was not friends with her!
    Show me some love!

  8. Beauty contests are horrifying enough when the contestants are old enough to know what they’re doing and are competing (supposedly) for scholarships (so why it is based on beauty then???), but throw in CHILDREN, practically BABIES? It’s disgusting, and it’s exploitative, and grown-ass women should KNOW BETTER than to do that to their children.
    Show me some love!

    • I agree… ohhhh I don’t think anyone is going to bring up the other side.. SOMEONE has to know a pageant mum!

  9. “Toddlers in Tiaras”
    We all love to see beauty there’s no getting around it. But what some mothers do to exploit their children is disgusting. The clothes, the make up, the walk…C’mon. The beauty of a child is in their innocence, not in their sexual appeal. Beauty pageants are a big mistake. Why? Because it promotes the female body as an object. It’s a circus act if nothing less. And the worst thing is that the American beauty pageant has poisoned minds all over the world and has made things worse for women by being the stigma of westernization.

  10. You really did a nice job n this review. You made me want to (need to) read the book. Thank you for that. No, I do not care for little girls dressing up like fashion plates. They are babies and they are not old enough or mature enough to know what they are doing. Mostly it is for frustrated parents who want the pat on the back….or whatever. It looks wrong and feels wrong too!!!!

  11. I enjoyed this book.
    Show me some love!

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