Book Review: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol

Djinn Patrol book cover

Title: Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
Author: Deepa Anappara
Genre: Literary
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart


Synopsis

Set in Metropolitan India, this atmospheric novel follows Jai and his two friends as they search for their missing classmate.  Obsessed with a police television show, Jai is convinced that he will be able to find the boy, even when the police themselves are indifferent about the case. As more and more children go missing, however, it becomes clear that there is something insidious going on, and Jai’s life will be forever changed by the events that unfold…

My Thoughts

This book is beautifully written. The words seem to leap off the page, creating a dynamic, three-dimensional image of metropolitan India. It felt like I was actually there.  The language, while beautiful, can be hard to follow at first, as Anappara uses many Indian words in casual conversation. While the meaning of the words can be discerned from context, I wish I’d noticed the glossary at the end of the e-book before reading the story.  That said, I don’t think not knowing the exact meaning of words impacted my enjoyment of their use.

The protagonist is a child named Jai, and his entire world is tinted by rose-coloured glasses. He has an innocent and naive perception of everything that goes on around him, which is demonstrated through both his observations and the prose.

The book mostly comes from Jai’s point of view, but we also get scenes from the missing children – their last memories before they disappear. This in itself is heartbreaking, particularly after reading the author’s afterword.  180 children go missing every year in India, which is a shocking statistic that makes the words on these pages even more poignant.

My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Jai’s friend, Faiz, would state that the djinn were stealing the souls of the children. Brought up casually in conversation, I think this served several important purposes. It added a supernatural air of mystery to the story and it reinforced our perception of these children’s innocence, but it also created a beautiful metaphor for the true malignant cause of the disappearances.

This book is marketed as a mystery, but I disagree.  From the description on Goodreads, I’d gotten the impression that it was about a group of children searching for their lost friend, and that it would read similarly to Stranger Things or The Goonies. This isn’t the case. Jai is compelled to search for the missing boy that he barely knew.  The story is not at all plot driven. It is primarily setting and character driven, and the focus isn’t at all on his search. While his friends are three-dimensional characters in this story, I never got the feeling that they have an unbreakable bond and would go to the ends of the earth to find each other should one of them go missing.  The story itself doesn’t carry with it a sense of hope that I prefer to see in coming of age stories. It’s more of a harsh removal of the rose-coloured glasses, and we see the world for what it really is.  Gloomy.

Djinn Patrol

I recommend this book for someone wanting to get lost in the streets of Metropolitan India.  This is a coming of age story more than a mystery, and it delivers a powerful commentary on a true story, and how tragedy can shape an entire community.

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* Thank you to NetGalley and McClelland & Stewart for the arc to review! *

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Fierce Kingdom cover

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Viking


Synopsis

When Joan takes her four-year-old son to the zoo for a day of frolicking with the wildlife, of course she doesn’t expect to be staying at the zoo later into the night, fearing for her life while a killer hunts her down. Joan must keep her son out of the clutches of this psychopath–no matter the cost. 

Plot 

This novel is what the publishing business calls “high concept”. The idea behind the story is really quite simple: Joan is trapped in the zoo with her son and there’s a shooter on the loose. While it’s a very intriguing concept, it quickly becomes clear that the author didn’t have any other ideas when she wrote up this story. The plot is quite formulaic, without any real twists in the story. The decisions that Joan makes are at times understandable, but often they’re quite infuriating. Sure, your cell phone glows when you receive a text message, but getting rid of it is not a good idea, Joan. You will need it later. There were some plotholes like this – if you’re carrying a bag around with you, just put the phone in your bag! Put it on airplane mode. Check out the settings and turn off notifications! There were so many better ways that she could have handled that.

Anyway, I’m nitpicking on one plot issue, but honestly, the entire novel was full of these. 

While the book is primarily told from Joan’s perspective, we do get brief scenes from the points of view of some of the other survivors, but that wasn’t consistent. We were, however, consistently provided POV scenes from the shooters. 

The story really lags in the middle, but it picks up again towards the end. There wasn’t much going on in terms of twists and turns in the plot. Everything carries out the way you would expect, although, I would have expected the police to show up a lot earlier. Turns out the explanation for them not showing up is somewhat satisfactory. Somewhat.

Characters

Joan is the typical overprotective mother. One thing that I did enjoy about the story was how insensitive she was to the needs of the other survivors. She finds the talkative girl annoying – and even though it’s clear to the reader that the girl is jabbering on because she’s nervous and it’s her coping mechanism–Joan doesn’t realize this until later, because she’s so wrapped up in her own coping mechanisms.

Joan’s son is really quite adorable at first, but it starts to get laid on too thick when Phillips hounds the reader with one cute anecdote after another. Every parent thinks that their child is a special snowflake, but as a non-parent, I started to find this grated on my nerves. I understand that Phillips was doing this to make the reader invested in the outcome of the story, and that the true story is about how much this woman loves her child, but it definitely wore on me after a while. 

I also really really hate when authors use mental disability or mental illness to make a villain seem scarier. No. Just don’t. 

Language

This novel is very a very easy read, which makes me think of the Mark Twain line, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” It’s a favourite line for me, as a writer, and I do think this applies here. I can critique the story and the characters until the cows come home, but it’s clear to me that Phillips has a talent for getting the words on the page to depict exactly what she means. Her writing style bumped my rating up from two stars to three. The novel is also quite short, and so while some parts drag (as mentioned in the Plot section), these parts are over rather quickly and then it’s on to the next plot point.  

Fierce Kingdom

I recommend this book to those looking for a quick yet linear thriller that focuses on the relationship between a mother and her infant son. 

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Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run by Matthew S. Cox

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

Title: The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run
Author: Matthew S. Cox
Genre: Fantasy
Date of Publication: January 18, 2019
Publisher: Division Zero Press


Synopsis 

When Mia’s husband buys a beautiful old house at a bargain, she can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with it. She doesn’t have to wonder for long, because it quickly becomes obvious that the house is haunted.  Her husband is delighted–he’s a university professor who’s looking for proof of the paranormal. Mia quickly discovers that she’s psychically sensitive to the spirits in this house. While one of them is a harmless little girl Mia would do anything to protect, there is something else that is much more sinister lurking the halls of Six Minstrel Run…

Plot 

This novel fights a lot of tropes in the paranormal activity subgenre.  First off, Adam, a professor at the university, bought this house because he knew it was haunted. He wanted to see if he could capture evidence of the existence of ghosts on camera.  This automatically sets this novel apart from others like it–where there is that inevitable first third of the book where the protagonists are in denial that supernatural beings exist.  Even Mia, the skeptic, believes that there is a ghost in this house within the first few chapters.

There is a lot of paranormal activity right off the bat, which also sets this book apart. Usually in novels like this the author plays with shadowy figures in the corner of your eye, mysterious noises in the dead of night, and other events that can be attributed to the imagination or natural phenomenon.  But this book escalates things a lot more quickly. The plot isn’t about whether or not the protagonists believe there is a ghost. It’s about Mia getting to know the ghost of the little girl that lives there, all the while questioning if she’s truly a little girl at all, or if she’s something insidious…

The book also has religious undertones, as there is a priest who makes regular appearances at Six Minstrel Run, warning Adam and Mia that they need to leave before its too late.  He fears for their souls, though Adam and Mia find him more annoying than the ghosts inhabiting their home. This theme is carried throughout, as Mia was raised Catholic but turned against her religion for slightly spoilery reasons. 

Characters 

I had to suspend my disbelief just a tad when reading this book. Some of the plot points that I lauded in the “Plot” section make for unrealistic main characters.  Mia is supposedly a skeptic, yet the first time she has a paranormal encounter in this book, she instantly believes. Both Mia and Adam are invested in keeping the house, but as the paranormal events escalate, they remain oblivious to the danger they’re truly in.  Even someone who was desperate to prove the paranormal exists would have run for the hills after some of the events that take place early on in this story.  The main characters’ lack of relatability can be countered by saying that the novel isn’t meant to be horror, and that it at times takes a sardonic tone, but whether that was intentional or not is unclear.  The writing style is a lot lighter than you would expect a book with this type of plot to be.  I talk a bit more about this element a little more in depth in the Language section below.

There is a lot of cutesy back and forth banter between Mia and Adam, which serves to make me as the reader truly invested in their relationship.  They love each other, and there’s never a point in the novel where I questioned that even for a moment. 

I was particularly invested in the strange yet beautiful relationship between Mia and the ghost girl.  It’s clear that Mia has motherly instincts despite not being a mother, and she worries for the safety of the little girl, what with the other spirits that inhabit this house. She wants to protect her, despite not truly knowing if she isn’t dangerous, and the relationship is quite tender and refreshing.  It also adds to the horror element, as there’s nothing scarier than a child that might just be homicidal.  The little girl ghost is adorable yet incredibly creepy, a beautiful dichotomy that makes this book truly unique.

Language 

As mentioned earlier, the tone of the book is light. It reminded me a little of Jay Ansen’s “The Amityville Horror”, as it has that sense of the author calmly relaying the facts, no matter how disturbing they might be.  Many books rely on language to instill that fear in the reader, yet in this case (and in The Amityville Horror’s case), the language was a mere medium for relaying the horror of the events that unfold.  

The Spirits of Six Minstrel Run

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a refreshing take on an old subgenre–the ghost story–with a unique twist.

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*Thank you to Blackthorn Book Tours  for ebook for review*

Author Bio:

Originally from South Amboy NJ, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Since 1996, he has developed the “Divergent Fates” world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, The Awakened Series, The Harmony Paradox, the Prophet of the Badlands series, and the Daughter of Mars series take place.

His books span adult, young-adult, and middle-grade fiction in multiple genres, predominantly science fiction, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, and fantasy.

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, developer of two custom tabletop RPG systems, and a fan of anime, British humour, and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of humanity, reality, life, and what might happen after it.

He is also fond of cats, presently living with two: Loki and Dorian.

Author links:

Goodreads | AmazonFacebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Book Review: Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose by Rami Ungar

Rose book cover

Title: Rose
Author: Rami Ungar
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: June 19, 2019
Publisher: Castrum Press


Synopsis

When Rose awakens in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there, she’s horrified to discover that her body has transformed. Her memories are a jumble, and she encounters a strange man named Paris who claims to be the love of her life. She doesn’t remember him at all. He says that he saved her life using magic he found in an ancient tome, and that her bodily transformation is an unfortunate side effect. But there’s a sinister side to Paris that scares her and makes her question everything he’s told her…

Plot

The story gripped me from its very first lines.  Ungar keeps the pages turning with a fast-paced plot.  The novel itself is only 208 pages, and he fits quite a bit of action among its pages. The story is intense and dark and fit for any fan of the horror genre.

The transformations that Rose undergoes are truly unique, and Ungar has created a new horror monster that isn’t quite like the rest.  He establishes limitations for her that make the story more interesting, as we discover that Rose cannot simply escape from Paris’ home.

While compelling, there are some aspects to the story that require a suspension of disbelief, and those have nothing to do with the magic.  For example, what are the odds that both Rose and Paris speak Dutch?  There are also a few inconsistencies in the plot. Rose’s parents are uneducated, yet one of them is a librarian? Ahem. I’m going to let that one slide, but just FYI, you need at least one master’s degree to be a librarian. Rose is Paris’ sociology “teacher”, but I couldn’t quite tell if that meant she was his professor or teaching assistant.  These little inconsistencies are nitpicking, and while they did confuse me somewhat while reading the story, they didn’t affect my enjoyment of it.

Characters

Rose is categorized as a horror, and while there’s some body horror in her transformations, the real horror lies in what a human would do with seemingly infinite power.  Paris’ transformation may not be a physical one, but it is the most terrifying part of this story.  Paris is a fascinating character with a horrifying past that has distorted him into the man he is today.

As mentioned earlier, Rose has lost her memories. Part of the fact that she has lost her memories means that she could be any one of us.  There aren’t any obvious aspects of her past that distinguish her from any other woman reading the book, and that relatability adds a personal touch to the horror. Ungar manages to develop her personality well without having the crutch of many flashbacks to draw on.  She questions her sanity more than once which, again, adds another level of horror to the novel.  As the story progresses, she regains some of her memories, and this enables Ungar to flesh her out into an even more compelling character.

There are other characters in the story, but they aren’t as well developed, which is the nature of such a short, plot-driven book. Had Ungar decided to make the novel longer, I would have liked to have seen more of these characters on the pages.

Rose

I recommend this book to those looking for a psychological thriller with a body horror twist.

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*Thank you to the Blackthorn Book Tours for the ebook for review*

Author bio:

Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

Author links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne

Brimstone

Brimstone book cover

Title: Brimstone
Author: Tamara Thorne
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: May 9, 2019
Publisher: Glass Apple Press


Synopsis

Eleven-year-old Holly Tremayne has been able to see ghosts her entire life.  When Holly’s mother brings her to stay with her reclusive grandmother, retired actress Delilah Devine, at the Brimstone Grand Hotel, Holly’s excited to be staying at a haunted place. But what she doesn’t realize is that the ghosts are quite aggressive, and that she is personally connected to the most dangerous ghost of all… the Brimstone Beast.

Continue reading “Book Review: Brimstone by Tamara Thorne”

Book Review: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd. by Flo Fitzpatrick

Sweet Cream Ladies Ltd.

Sweet Cream Ladies Ltd. book cover

Title: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd.
Author: Flo Fitzpatrick
Genre: Mystery, Comedy
Date of Publication: May 15,  2019
Publisher: Encircle Publications LLC


Synopsis:

Bootsie and Binnie are two average middle-aged actresses with ex-husbands and professional rivals that they love to complain about.  While getting drunk at a bar in Manhattan, they jokingly plan to create a hitwoman company–Sweet Cream Ladies, Limited–and off their enemies in creatively violent ways.  But if it was all a joke, then how come these people are dying off–in the exact same ways that the ladies humorously plotted?

Language

For this review, I put language first, because the way this book is written is what will make it or break it for a reader. Either you love it because of this writing style, or you hate it.

Continue reading “Book Review: Sweet Cream Ladies, Ltd. by Flo Fitzpatrick”

Book Review: Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Your Life is Mine book cover

Title: Your Life is Mine 
Author: Nathan Ripley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: June 4,  2019
Publisher: Atria Books


Synopsis

Blanche Potter is more than just a documentary film-maker.  She’s the daughter of infamous mass murderer and cult-leader Chuck Varner. Blanche wants nothing more than to leave her past behind her, but when her mother is murdered, she’s forced to return home.  She must go back to the place where it all began, and she fears that her father’s followers are only getting started…

Plot

This book is slow paced at the start. Ripley provides a lot of description of the setting and Blanche is quite introspective. The plot picks up as the story progresses, maintaining an even pace until the climactic finish.

There are excerpts from a true crime book scattered throughout the narrative.  They provide much-needed backstory that fills in the gaps in Blanche’s memory and let us know what was going on that Blanche hadn’t known about.  

While slow paced, there are leisurely twists and turns in the plot that kept me engaged in the story line. Despite the introspective nature of the book, it’s a quick read, and I gobbled it up in nearly one sitting.

While an engaging book, the story didn’t move quickly enough for me. I would have preferred for this to have been balanced with more twisted introspection, but the characters were quite tame compared to other books about serial killers.

Characters

The most intriguing part of this book is the main character. Blanche Potter is the daughter of a murderer and cult-leader.  She always knew who and what her father was, which makes for interesting backstory.

I was particularly fascinated by her friendship with Jaya. They’re best friends, and there are intriguing parallels in their histories. Blanche’s father was a murderer. Jaya’s father was murdered.  Their friendship is unlikely and compelling, and it was beautiful to see how much Blanche relied on that relationship, how much she leaned on Jaya in times of distress (which was basically this entire novel).

Your Life is Mine book

I recommend this book to any fan of serial-killer fiction. It puts more emphasis on character and atmosphere than on convoluted plots, which will appeal to those looking for a character study of the daughter of a mass murderer.

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*Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Social Misconduct by S. J. Maher

Social Misconduct book cover

Social Misconduct book cover

Title: Social Misconduct
Author: S. J. Maher
Genre: Thriller
Date of Publication: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Simon Schuster


Synopsis

When Candace Walker starts a job at a marketing company in Manhattan, she’s thrilled about the perks, which include a brand-new company iPhone.  But someone should have told her not to click on attachments in texts from strangers. Her phone is hacked and her personal photos are shared with the world, threatening her career and her sanity.  A week later she’s on the run, accused of murder, and terrified for her life…

Plot

This book is a cautionary tale about social media and internet security. Have strong passwords, people! The story line is timely, especially in an era where privacy is almost entirely nonexistent.

The chapters of Social Misconduct plunge forward with very little break in between the action.  The chapters are short, and I often found myself thinking the cliché of “oh, well, I’ll just read one more chapter before bed”. That said, I sometimes thought the chapters were a little too short, since alternating chapters are in different timelines, and the transition between these two timelines often felt abrupt.  I was just learning about another incident of sexual harassment that had happened to Candace at her workplace in the past, and I’m already launched back into the present, where she’s in hiding and peeing into a bucket in a storage locker.

The novel has quite a few intriguing twists, although the final twist was a little obvious.

Language

As I said before, the story is very fast-paced, and there isn’t much time devoted to setting the scene or long-winded physical descriptions of characters, which I greatly appreciate in a thriller. However, the language Maher uses is a little too on-the-nose.  The protagonist is a millennial who works in marketing, and she talks exactly how you would expect a millennial stereotype to talk.  I understand that he’s going for authenticity, but how many times should he say “lame” before it comes across less “genuine”, and more “lazy writing”?  At times it was cringe-worthy, and resulted in an unintended lessening of the suspense of the novel. How frightened can a reader be about a psychotic stalker when the main character is saying “FML”. That made me LOL. (See what I did there?)

Character

I know quite a few vegans, and it’s characters like Candace Walker who give vegans a bad name. I wanted to slap her more than a few times.  She’s self-righteous, even though she gives up her values in an instant for the opportunity to do marketing for a cheese company.  *Insert eye roll here, please.*

I already talked a little bit about her character in the language section, but it became quite evident to me that Candace was two-dimensional. This is fine—since this is a primarily plot-driven book—but I would have been able to increase the number of stars in my rating if the character had been more believable to an actual human female millennial who does communications and marketing as a part of her job (me).

Also – Candace’s career is in shambles, yet she’s worried about her sister moving in on her crush? Seriously? She’s ambitious enough to give up her morals (veganism) in order to get ahead, yet when her future is on the line, she’s more worried about a guy she just met liking her sister more than he likes her. To be honest, I don’t blame him.

Another thing that really grated on my nerves was Candace’s casual considerations of committing suicide. This could be a legitimate character development for someone going through this type of experience; HOWEVER, it was not reflected in Candace’s outlook on life.  It was too casual.  It’s unsettling, how she flippantly mentions that suicide’s a possible way out.  Again, the way this came across might be because it’s a primarily plot-driven book, and Maher didn’t have a chance to delve very deeply into her psyche. But since it’s written in her point of view (in first person), I feel that if she was truly suffering from depression, it should have manifested itself in other aspects of her personality and inner dialogue.

Social Misconduct book cover

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a timely, rocket-ship-paced thriller about internet security.  It’s primarily plot-driven, and meant for those who want a quick thriller to read, not an in-depth character study of a millennial on the run.

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*Thank you to Simon Schuster and OLA Super Conference for the ARC for review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face

Girl Wash your Face book cover

Title: Girl, Wash Your Face
Author: Rachel Hollis
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-help
Date of Publication: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Thomas Nelson


Full Title: Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be

Rachel Hollis is the founder of the lifestyle website TheChicSite.com.  She shares lies that she (at one point) believed about herself, and talks about how she worked to overcome them. This book is a “How To” guide on becoming your best self.

My Thoughts

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was.  Turns out, this didn’t matter. The messages she shares are universal, whether you’re a fan of lifestyle websites or not.  She has a witty and light sense of humour, and she only occasionally comes across as preachy as she talks about overcoming obstacles, bad habits, and the lies she believed about herself.  

I did appreciate the disclaimer that she has at the beginning of the book. This book is meant to help those who are unhappy in life. It is not meant to help people who are clinically depressed, or people who are suffering from grief.  Girl, Wash Your Face is targetted to women with goals and dreams that they don’t think they’ll ever accomplish and they’re unhappy because of it.  

Continue reading “Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis”

Book Review: Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Stone Mothers

Stone Mothers book cover

Title: Stone Mothers 
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Minotaur Books


Synopsis

Marianne left her hometown a long time ago, only returning for brief visits with her family.  But when her husband buys a surprise gift–a condo in a refurbished mental institution–she’s forced to come back and face her past.  A past that involves the once abandoned insane asylum and a decades-old secret that’s clawing its way back into the light…

Plot

The book begins with a very fast-paced, intense scene that’s wrought with tension. It’s not at all characteristic of the rest of the book, which is very slow and drawn out.  The novel opens with Marianne returning to her hometown outside of London to live in a condominium her husband bought (without consulting her, despite the fact that they can barely afford it).  The condominium is in a renovated mental institution that stood abandoned during Marianne’s teenage years.

Unfortunately I can’t go into detail on the best parts of the plot, because they took place two thirds of the way through the book.  I will say that the book is divided up into parts, and one of the later parts deals with the asylum historically, talking about themes of feminism and mental illness that were engaging, fascinating, and, quite frankly, horrifying.  

Continue reading “Book Review: Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly”