Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner (Author Guest Post / Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Birthdays of a Princess by author Helga Zeiner!

Author Guest Post

My novel Birthdays of a Princess is set against the sinister background of child beauty pageants. The evil my protagonist encounters stems from the premise that parading a young child on stage, dressed as a mini-adult to be judged by total strangers is not only harmful for her development but can also be dangerous.

Is that so? Did my writer’s imagination run wild and create an unfair judgement of the mothers (and fathers) who are involved in such pageants? Did I go overboard when assuming that this circus is a haven for pedophiles?

Surely many of you have occasionally watched an episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras”. All you need to do is picture in your mind the costumes, the poses, the make-up and hair styles of those little girls. Are they age-appropriate? No way. They are presented as mini seductresses, tiny little toy things, and we all don’t need much imagination to understand what will go on in the twisted minds of some adults when they “look at that those pretty little things”.

In my psychological thriller I explore the mind-set of a mother who uses her daughter to fulfill her own dreams, and the long term effects this exploitation has on the young girl as she grows up. It is a difficult subject, and many readers have told me that there were passages that were quite shocking to read in a novel as “I am pulling no punches” but I felt that they were necessary to expose the clandestine and dark side of child pageants. I have avoided excessively graphic descriptions, but the end-result is certainly not a cute, little princess story. Again, I’m told by many readers that it is an intense read, one they couldn’t put down.

Hopefully, once they finished the last page, they not only had a thrilling read-ride, but will in future look at the “Toddler & Tiaras” and related TV shows with a very different perspective.

By Helga Zeiner, author of Birthdays of a Princess

About The Author

Born and educated in Germany, author Helga Zeiner 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 Section 132. A thrilling fact-based page-turner about a young girl forced into a polygamous marriage that has received countless 5-star reviews. Birthdays of a Princess is her second novel and was published in May 2013.

Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner ~ Virtual Book Tour Page: Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Book Review

Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner
Publisher: POW WOW Books, Canada
Publication Date: May 9, 2013
Format: eBook - 290 pages / Kindle - 507 KB 
ISBN: 9780986879876
Genre: Psychological Thriller

BUY THE BOOK: Birthdays of a Princess

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours. 

Book Description:

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.

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

Book Excerpt: 


She wakes up earlier than usual. It’s not even eight yet. The apartment feels empty, but that doesn’t surprise her, because it is empty most mornings. To make sure, she gets out of bed, opens the curtains, waddles down the narrow hallway, stops at the second bedroom and listens briefly. Not a sound. Of course not. She would have heard the flat door open, no matter how late. She is a light sleeper.

The kitchen greets her with familiar comfort. Welcome, my lonely friend. Make yourself a cup of tea. Sit down by the window. Look out, check the weather, think about what to wear for work. Stop listening. Nobody is home but you.

Just another day in the big city.

Vancouver is still sleepy. Yawning and slowly stretching like a lazy lion, rubbing its exhausted eyes, waiting for the helpers to brush the filthy remains of last night’s excitement from the concrete floor of its den.

The water kettle switches itself off and she pours the boiling water over the tea bag and waits one minute, standing in front of the kitchen counter. It has to be exactly one minute, no point in doing anything else but stare at the twirling surface inside her cup. Sixty seconds later–the second dial on her kitchen clock is within her periphery—she discards the bag, heaps three generous spoonfuls of sugar into the cup, followed by so much cream that the tea instantly cools to drinking temperature, and sits down at the kitchen table.

Still thinking it’s just another day.

A gentle traffic hum outside, no sound inside her kitchen. Correction: no sound inside her flat, this two bedroom, one bathroom borderline apartment. Borderline because its location touches a good neighborhood and the Eastside. The street she lives on stops the filthy guts of downtown spilling over into suburbia. Her kitchen window points toward the high-rise monuments of downtown Vancouver. Very pretty at night, not so attractive at daytime when the not-so-high and not-so-modern buildings that envelope the skyscrapers become visible. She doesn’t want to look at the decaying grey buildings any longer that provide a battle ground between city planners who want to sell it to developers and Eastsiders who have occupied them.

Just another day. And it is so quiet.

Melissa turns on the TV, not realizing that it is exactly eight o’clock now. The channel is set on CTV and there is a ‘Breaking News’ banner flashing in bright orange below the female morning anchor. She increases the volume. The excited voice of the lady anchor fills her kitchen. She takes a sip of her sweet, sweet tea and leans back a little.

“We have a developing story of a brutal attack on a customer at Starbucks coffee shop on Robson Street. Apparently a young woman has stabbed another woman inside Starbucks. Our reporter Emily Jackson is on location. Emily, what can you tell us…?”

The upper body of a reporter, holding a microphone in one hand and fighting her wind-swept hair with the other, comes into the picture. Melissa hadn’t noticed that it is quite windy outside. Well, it’s October, at least it’s not raining. Behind the reporter a yellow band is restricting access to the crime scene. She sounds overly excited. “From what we have learned, a young woman has suddenly attacked a woman inside the coffee shop you see right behind me. We don’t know yet if the customer was already seated or still standing in line to place her order. We also don’t know the identity of the attacker or of the victim yet or have any information about the motive. Apparently the attacker suddenly produced a knife and threw herself at the woman, yelling obscenities on top of her voice. As you can see behind me, police have cordoned off the area and are processing the scene.”

The anchor interrupts her. “Do we have any information about the condition of the victim? Is she badly hurt? Or…”

An autumn gust blows hair over the reporter’s face. She nearly loses her microphone, trying to control the strands with both hands, but fumbles it back into position when she realizes that the camera is focused on her again. One side of her pretty face is completely covered with hair. It looks ridiculous and Melissa catches herself thinking the reporter would look a lot prettier if she had a different hairstyle.

“The ambulance has transported the victim to the emergency ward of St Paul’s…”

The reporter’s voice travels along Melissa’s attention span and loses its grip. Background noise quality. She likes that. And God, her tea is good.

Another developing story news-flash banner demands her attention again. The anchor sounds triumphant: “We have just received a video-clip from one of our viewers. We would like to warn you that some viewers may find the content of this video-clip offensive in nature…”

The clip starts. The picture is shaky, the filmmaker hassling for a good position between other coffee-shop customers who have jumped up to look what is going on in the middle of the room. The back of shoulders and heads pop in and out, screams of horror and confusion can be heard. Their unedited sound quality provides an unnerving authenticity to the unfolding drama.

An arm rises up in the air and down again, in kind of a wood chopping motion. Up and down, in one swift move, no hesitation whatsoever. In fact, the chopping goes on. Up and down, up and down—accompanied by ‘Oh my God’s’ and ‘Oh no, oh no’s’. The filmmaker edges closer, seems to get up on a chair, because he is above the scene now, holding his iPhone or whatever device he’s got, high above the center of the customer-circle that inched away from the dangerous situation. The victim of the attack is on the floor now, mercifully blurred by the rapid movements of the inexperienced cameraman, or maybe by CTV’s editing. The attacker, the young woman, wearing a black hoodie, is over her and chops into her with such vengeance that Melissa can feel the force of her hatred, furious and powerful. The victim is trying to protect her face and chest with crossed hands. The mad attacker continues to stab her wherever she can—face, arms, torso, it is impossible to make out exactly in the shaky clip where her knife slices into.

Bodies pop in and out of the picture and mercifully block most of what is going on. Several of them finally muster enough courage to intervene. The picture goes even more shaky and blurry. Then the anchor speaks again.

“We have word from the police that the victim you have just seen being attacked inside Starbucks on Robson about an hour ago is in critical condition. The young woman has been overpowered by three heroic young men…”

and now it happens, it’s not ‘just another day’ any longer

“they were performing a citizen’s arrest and held her captive until the police arrived…”

the anchor’s voice fades, just like the reporter’s before, because all of Melissa’s focus concentrates on what she sees on the screen. Meanwhile the filmmaker has managed to muscle himself closer to the group of guys who have pulled the young women off her victim and have now pinned her to the ground. Her face appears. The filmmaker zooms in. She smiles victoriously straight into his camera, as if she has achieved a very special feat.

Melissa is standing now, holding on to her cup of tea, frowning with the exhausting task of connecting what she sees on the screen with the reality of her life. It can not be. It can not be. But it is.

The tea cup slips from her weak hands, falls to the floor, spills its content on the cheap vinyl kitchen floor before rolling under the table.

It is. It is.

It is…her daughter.

My Book Review:

Birthdays of a Princess is a fascinating yet very disturbing story of the traumatic manipulation and exploitation of a child. Author Helga Zeiner weaves an intense and gut wrenching psychological thriller that follows the traumatic and dysfunctional life of fifteen year old Tiara Brown.

Written in alternating chapters in the first person narrative by Tiara aka Princess Tia, and the third person narrative by the police detectives and Tiara's mother Melissa, Tiara's horrific story of exploitation and sexual abuse unfolds from infancy through her early teenage years as she endured the Texas child beauty pageant circuit and later child pornography at the hands of her neglectful mother and manipulative aunt. Tiara commits a heinous stabbing attack upon an innocent woman at a Vancouver Starbucks. Through the help of Psychologist Dr. Stanley Eaton, Tiara goes on a journey of healing by documenting her traumatic and emotional life story in a journal by each birthday year. Through her journal entries, long repressed childhood memories surfaces and the truth about her childhood filled with unspeakable exploitation and pedophilia/pornography is revealed.

Birthdays of a Princess is a riveting but emotionally intense and difficult story to digest. The author captivates the reader's attention from the beginning of the story, and takes them on a chilling roller coaster ride filled with tension and surprising twists and turns. This painful and shocking story documents the horrific and vivid accounts of unspeakable trauma that Tiara suffered throughout her childhood, you can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions for this teenage stabbing suspect, she is ultimately the real victim. Author Helga Zeiner has written a compelling and powerful story that provides much food for thought in regard to child beauty pageants and child pornography, and its potential for perpetrating the harmful manipulation and exploitation of innocent young children.

Birthdays of a Princess is a heart wrenching and realistic story of child exploitation that will resonate with you long after the last word has been read.


Virtual Book Tour Contest Giveaway

Win (1) eBook Copy of 

Birthdays of a Princess by Helga Zeiner

Contest Dates: July 22-29, 2013

The winner will be notified via email notification by the tour promoter, Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours and/or by the author.

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  1. Extraordinary review and post!! We share the same opinion on this book. It definitely will stay with me for a very long time!

    1. Hi Cheryl! This was a difficult but fascinating book to read. It provides a lot of food for thought. Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event.

  2. I enjoyed this book.

    1. Hi Teena! I enjoyed reading this fascinating book too.