Film Review: The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

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I went into this film, much how I often do with indie dramas, without much information about the movie itself other than knowing that Elle Fanning was in the cast (and I’ll watch any movie she’s cast in). When I read the plot summary of the film stating that it was about a former writer who after his ascent to stardom, decides to throw a disappearing act ala J.D. Salinger and travels across America’s libraries and bookstores so that he can burn his Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel, Suburban Tragedy, I decided to give this movie a go instead of my default horror film selection.

The film is directed by former frontman of the rock band Stellastarr, Shawn Christensen, who also helped co-write the script with Jason Dolan. Christensen proved to be a competent storyteller and director a couple of years ago when he won an Academy Award for the short film, Curfew in 2012.

We’re first introduced to the precocious Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) whilst he’s reading an essay for his English class where he describes a girl he used to fantasize about and masturbate to. Some of the students giggle, while others are appalled, namely the English teacher who wants to report him to the principal. Honestly, I had to suspend belief there for a moment, cause I can’t see anyone in my high school getting away with reading an essay about masturbation in class (the teacher never would’ve allowed a student to read it all the way through without truncating it before it went into NSFW realm). However, I can see why the director opened with that scene, we, the audience are supposed to believe that Sidney Hall isn’t your typical teenager. He’s got talent and talented people can get away with being blunt as long they’re being creative about it.

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Sidney isn’t particularly likable at first, but Christensen provides a “save the cat!” scene, where Sidney agrees to help jock and bully Brett Newport (Blake Jenner) with a favor if Brett in return promises to no longer bully the nerdy outcast at their school. Suddenly, we’re thought to believe that maybe Sidney isn’t such a jerk after all, but merely a misunderstood genius. Which is why we won’t bat an eye when he cheats on his wife (Elle Fanning) later on in life, because after all he can’t be too awful if he did that one act of kindness so many years ago!

The story is told in three parts, teenage Sidney, twenty-something successful Sidney, and thirty-year-old Sidney. Throughout the film we get scenes from all those three-time frames as we try to piece together exactly what happened that inspired Sidney’s debut novel, and also wish to know what caused him to become a hobo-looking book-burning nomad later on in life.

After viewing the film, I noticed that the reviews for it weren’t so positive. However, I loved the movie (maybe it’s because it’s about a writer who strikes it big but then has a major fall from grace moment, coincidentally that’s what made love Words too). Adult Sidney sees himself being stalked by “The Seeker,” (Kyle Chandler) which we don’t exactly know why he’s being pursued by him (if he the authorities or someone he wronged?). I thought the reveal of Chandler’s character was rather clever.

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I found the film to be compelling, emotional, and at times too raw and visceral but you can’t help but keep on watching and hoping that your hero will find some peace.

I recommend this to anyone who loves their indie movies to amp the tragedy and downplay cliché happy endings because if you’re looking for one you won’t find one here.

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Book Review: Squad by Mariah MacCarthy

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A Cheerleader loses her squad but discovers herself.

Release Date: March 12, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $12.88 (hardcover)

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Plot Summary:

Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. And she wants you to know it’s not some Hollywood crap: they are not every guy’s fantasy. They are not the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re literally just human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. And their team is at the top of their game. They’re a family.

But all that changes when Jenna’s best friend stops talking to her. Suddenly, she’s not getting invited out with the rest of the quad. She’s always a step behind. And she has no idea why.

While grappling with post-cheer life, Jenna explores things she never allowed herself to like, including LARPing (live-action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels a lot like love.

When Jenna loses the sport and the friends she’s always loved, she has to ask herself: What else is left?

Grade: B+

Review:

After embarking on a creepy, twisty journey with Will Haunt You, I decided I needed a moment of respite from all things horror (at least in books) so I decided to give this book a try. Although when I told a friend of mine that I was reading a book about cheerleaders he said, “Why would you do that? They’re scary!” So I wasn’t sure what to expect. From the first page, I was hooked. Not because anything compelling was really happening (there wasn’t much action throughout the whole novel), but I just loved Jenna’s voice and her way of telling a tale of friendship gone awry. How one single social misstep can instantly make you the outcast of your own group (which I’m sure most of us can relate to, to some extent if you’ve ever been in high school or ya know, just been a teenager).

So Jenna finds herself having to learn to navigate school life without her best friend Raejean, and not being part of the cheerleading squad anymore (something dramatic happens, that’s all I can say as to why she’s no longer in the squad). But I love how this novel explored bullying in a way that wasn’t so over the top, but rather how ignoring someone can in itself be its own form of bullying too. Also, kudos for the author for including a transgender (female to male) character. I haven’t seen that many transgender characters in YA novels, so that was refreshing. The book overall was an easy read and although it wasn’t one of the best I’ve read this year, I did enjoy it, mostly for the realism of teenage relationships with their parents and siblings, dating, and friendships.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Glossier – Celebrating Natural Beauty

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Glossier is the sort of brand that beauty aficionados either love or hate. Although with 1.5 million Instagram followers, there are many that truly love this brand. The brand was founded by Emily Weiss, with the tagline of, “Beauty products inspired by real life.” For those that aren’t fans of the brand, it’s because Glossier strives for natural beauty, meaning that their products are all about creating dewy skin, feathered brows, and lips with a hint of colour.

So of course I wanted to try out this brand and see what all the hype was about. I decided to go for one of their bundles since it was the most cost effective for the price and product amount.

I ordered The Makeup Set which included: Boy Brow (grooming pomade) in Brown, Cloud Paint (seamless cheek colour) in Beam (a soft peach), and Lash Slick (film form mascara).

Cost: $40 (but there’s FREE shipping over $30)

By buying these three items as a set, you save $10, which is a deal!

Boy Brow Impression: It’s thickening and helps bulk up the brow (however you need SOME brow hairs for this), but it doesn’t offer much colour (you’re better off with The Brow Gal for colour).

Cloud Paint Impression: I LOVE this because it offers a hint of colour without looking too made up. It’s the closest thing to a natural flush after a workout you can get sans the thirty-minute gym sesh. A little goes a long way for these, you honestly only need a small dot for your whole cheek.

Lash Slick Impression: I do really love this mascara, but since Wet N’ Wild offers a similar mascara for a fraction of the price (Glossier’s retails for $16 and the Wet N’ Wild one is around $3).

Overall Verdict: I actually really loved these products very much and am considering to purchase different shades of the Cloud Paint, and maybe check out their Lidstar eyeshadows (I’ve been aspiring to a more dewy colour finish than a made-up look lately and feel as though those would be perfect to achieve that). However, if you’re looking for a makeup look that is extremely extra, this brand isn’t about that at all. Glossier is about natural beauty and enhancing your own beauty, so it doesn’t offer much coverage or colour, for it doesn’t strive to eliminate or cover, but rather to enhance and showcase beauty at its natural state. This is the best no makeup, makeup brand you can find.

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Losing Luke Perry Means Riverdale Loses Its Heart & Soul

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It’s only been one week since the actor, Luke Perry passed away due to a massive stroke at the age of 52. The death came unexpected, and fans worldwide mourned him. For the older generation, he had been the iconic Dylan McKay, the brooding bad boy who oozed effortless cool and charm in Beverly Hills 90210. He was the sort of person that all the girls wanted to date and all the boys yearned to be. At the height of his fame, he was bigger than Robert Pattinson during the Twilight craze stage of his career.

Like anyone growing up in the late ’90s, I too fell in love with Beverly Hills 90210. Being twelve years old living in Naples, Italy at the time, the halls of West Beverly High seemed as alluring and unreachable as attending the Met Gala. I yearned to be as gorgeous as Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Kelly (Jennie Garth), and could only pray that my future high school boyfriend could be as charming, generous, kind, and gorgeous as Dylan (spoiler alert, it didn’t happen). Although the show was probably seen as merely a teen drama, Luke’s portrayal of Dylan, the fatherless rebel was always intense and pulled at the heartstrings. Towards the last seasons of the show, I wasn’t really a fan anymore but continued to watch because the characters seemed like old friends and I wanted to know how it would end. I was happy when Dylan returned in the remaining last seasons, although I’ll admit that I don’t know if I ever liked the assumption of the finale that Kelly and Dylan would’ve become a couple again (probably because I had always been Team Brenda).

As the years went by, I rarely saw Luke Perry again, probably because I don’t watch much TV or simply because I wasn’t tuning in to the shows he was in. But all of that changed when Riverdale aired. Let me premise that I’ve been a huge fan of Archie Comics since I was 8, so to finally see the characters I grew up loving in comic strip form come to life was a dream come true. At the same time, I was very hesitant, because what if they screwed it up? I almost didn’t want to tune in to the show until I discovered that Luke Perry was going to be playing Fred Andrews, the dad to the show’s protagonist, Archie Andrews (played by KJ Apa). I thought, how bad can a show screw things up when if they excellently cast Luke Perry in it? I was also intrigued to see him play a father figure since the last time I saw him he was still a very sexy Dylan McKay.

Upon viewing the first episode of Riverdale, I was hooked. Luke Perry brought a certain wisdom and kindness to Fred Andrews that couldn’t be said of any of the other parents on the show. In a town that is filled with shady parents, campy plotlines, and a 1950’s Americana nostalgia, Perry’s presence was a balm of calm in the midst of craziness. If in the 90’s we envied Brenda Walsh for dating Dylan McKay, in 2017 we envied Andrew Andrews for having Fred as a father. I think we all wished we had a parent who was as sage and loving as Fred has always been with Archie. Even when in Season 1 Archie was hung up on pursuing music despite it not giving prospects to a college scholarship, Fred was more concerned about Archie lying to him about football, rather than choosing not to be on the team anymore. Anytime Archie has done anything stupid, Fred has never belittled him, but rather be patient and nurturing.

When the Season 1 finale ended with Fred Andrews being shot, I thought, OH NO! FRED CAN’T DIE! WHAT WILL RIVERDALE BE WITHOUT FRED?! Sadly, we’re going to be forced to find out very soon (I don’t know how many more episodes Luke Perry will appear in Season 3). But I can assure you that Riverdale won’t ever be the same without Fred. Luke’s furrowed brow may have seemed too mature for the high school Dylan, but it conveyed all of life’s hard battles in Fred’s gaze. Riverdale has lost its heart and moral compass, without Luke as Fred, both the town and the show is going to be a cold, dark place. R.I.P. Luke, you are missed.

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Book Review: Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk

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You don’t read the book. It reads you. 

Release Date: March 14, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $11.91 (paperback)

Publisher: Flame Tree Press

Plot Summary:

Rumors of a deadly book have been floating around the dark corners of the deep web. A disturbing tale about a mysterious figure who preys on those who read the book and subjects them to a world of personalized terror.

Jesse Wheeler―former guitarist of the heavy metal group The Rising Dead―was quick to discount the ominous folklore associated with the book. It takes more than some urban legend to frighten him. Hell, reality is scary enough. Seven years ago his greatest responsibility was the nightly guitar solo. Then one night when Jesse was blackout drunk, he accidentally injured his son, leaving him permanently disabled. Dreams of being a rock star died when he destroyed his son’s future. Now he cuts radio jingles and fights to stay clean.

But Jesse is wrong. The legend is real―and tonight he will become the protagonist in an elaborate scheme specifically tailored to prey on his fears and resurrect the ghosts from his past. Jesse is not the only one in danger, however. By reading the book, you have volunteered to participate in the author’s deadly game, with every page drawing you closer to your own personalized nightmare. The real horror doesn’t begin until you reach the end.

That’s when the evil comes for you.

Grade: A

Review:

Let me start off this review by saying that this book is creepy. But not creepy in the slow burn atmospheric way that The Exorcism of Emily Rose was (or A Head full of Ghosts at its best before the dismal downfall of an ending), but rather it’s creepy in the way that only Rob Zombie and Eli Roth movies know how to be. Meaning, we’re creeped out because we can envision these horrors happening to us, and we squirm and wish that we could do something to save the protagonist. And yet, we’re also kinda worried for our well being, after all the book is about a cursed book, and the cursed book in question is the one you’re holding in your hands right now. Don’t have chills yet?

Now, if you’re not a fan of Rob Zombie films, I can see how this may not be the kind of horror book for you. This book was very much reminiscent of Zombie’s newest film, 31, with its bizarro villains, and the location of being enclosed in one of the creepiest mansions known to man.

I’m not sure why I have a penchant for has-been rock star stories (of any genre), but when it’s combined with a cursed book, it just amps up the interest level for me. This book has you questioning everything and everybody, but mostly it will leave you wondering who are the real monsters, the others? Or yourself?

Must read for those who love strange, gory tales with a writing style of an enraged demon on speed.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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I’ve Applied to be a Mentee in Author Mentor Match!

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What is Author Mentor Match?

In short, Author Mentor Match is a mentorship program that pairs aspiring authors (or self-published authors) with seasoned published and agented authors. The awesome thing about this program is that it’s supposed to help authors who have a completed manuscript and are in the process of querying agents, improve both their manuscript and query letters. The reason why this program is so sought after because the authors you’re paired up with have already gone through the query and publishing process so whatever advice they may have for you is truly valuable and sound.

Why have I decided to Enter this program?

I came across this program by chance (through a Twitter hashtag no less!), but it reminds me a lot of Pitch Wars, which I submitted to last summer but sadly didn’t receive a mentorship through that. However, since I participated in Nanowrimo this past November, I have a new manuscript that I think is ten times better than my Pitch Wars submission, so I wish to try my luck with this.

What I hope to get out of this program is:

  • Write a powerful query letter.
  • Feedback from a professional of both my letter and manuscript.
  • Forging a friendship/professional relationship with a fellow writer, as only writers can understand certain things about what you go through!

My Project

GIRL THAT YOU FEAR, a YA Horror that’s Speak meets The Exorcist.

Spencer Torres seemingly has it all, she’s beautiful, popular, smart, and on her way to becoming the school’s valedictorian. However, after a visit on the Queen Mary ship, something goes amiss. It all begins with the ominous taps she hers on the walls and the nightmares of an enigmatic, yet creepy young man called Dever. Her therapist believes she’s simply under stress. But Spencer secretly believes another truth. One far more sinister. She thinks she may be possessed by the demon Dever, and a part of her doesn’t mind. A part of her relishes in her new power. Especially when triggered by a song she remembers a sexual assault that she had repressed in her mind. Now, with vengeance as her sole companion, she seeks out to destroy all of those that were to blame for her rape. She doesn’t care if it even means that she will lose her soul in the process.

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Who else is participating in Author Mentor Match? Let me know!

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Throwback Thursday: TLC – No Scrubs

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When the single NO SCRUBS came out twenty years ago (February 2, 1999), TLC was the best-selling girl group in the world and fierce feminists at a time when the music world was suddenly getting overrun with Lolita-esque divas like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

I chose this song for my Throwback Thursday because when the song came out I loved the message it promoted. For the first time, you had women who were confident enough to say, “NO.” No, they didn’t want a man who had no ambitions and was a deadbeat parasite. And if you think that this message wasn’t bold, you’re gravely mistaken. For centuries women have been groomed to always say, “Yes,” that stating a “NO,” loud and clear, for women to actually have standards of which men could pursue them, this was a big deal.

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Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes were known for being bold, independent, and outspoken young women. They were no damsels in distress, these women were ambitious and hardworking and didn’t expect anything less from their men. This song actually had men questions themselves for the first time, ask themselves if they fit the “scrub” list or not. Ironically, usually, the men who did fit the “scrub” list were the ones who got the most upset over the song.

Of course, this song wouldn’t have been the same without Hype Williams amazing futuristic music video, especially in an age where music videos could make or break a career (this was back in the day when MTV still predominantly only aired music videos on their channel). Hype Williams at the time was considered to be one of the best music video directors around with his bold colours, anime style sequences, and notorious for his fish-eye view which distorted the image in central focus. In his vision, Chilli, T-Boz, and Left-Eye were futuristic warriors that could be both sexy but ferocious, in other words, they were fierce.

The video went on to win the MTV Video Music Award for that year, beating out the all-male competition of boy bands like Backstreet Boys and Nsync at their career highs, which was no small feat.

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Listening to this song twenty years later only emphasizes how much this message is still relevant today. Not that long ago when just idly chatting with my boyfriend in the car, he said he couldn’t understand my need for all this ambition, that he’d still love me even if I were a slob who’d spend all day at home and wait for him to return and he said something along the lines of, “Wouldn’t you love me still the same way if I were like that?” And I replied, “Look, as TLC taught me, I don’t want no scrub. I’d never date someone with no ambition or dreams to be better.” Probably not the kind of response he was relying on (after all, most men would hope that women are “romantic” enough to like them even at their worst), but it’s the truth.

I expect a lot from myself and would never dream of being someone who’s just looking for a way to get out of work to stay at home. So for anyone to think that I’d expect less of them just because out of romantic notions is kind of absurd. TLC taught many girls the power to say no, and that’s a lesson that many of us took to heart. I know I did.

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Review: Maybelline Snapscara in Pitch Black

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I haven’t done a beauty post in so long (and not because I’m lacking any new products, I have lots to share!) that I decided that it was long overdue for one. Since mascara is one of the beauty products that I absolutely LOVE, I wanted to share with you my latest find.

What It Is: Clump-free voluminizing mascara

What It Does: Creates volume in one sweep

Active Ingredients: Wax-Free Pigments

Verdict: I’ve always been satisfied with Maybelline mascaras and products in general, so I was really looking forward to trying out this new product cause from the ads it looked amazing and even the packaging was cuter than your usual drugstore buy. But that’s pretty much where the love stopped. And it stopped cold. The wand itself should be fool-proof to use, but I don’t know whether it’s small to larger bristles combo or the formula itself, but once you try to layer this mascara, it starts to get seriously clumpy like you’re dealing with a decade old product, rather than a brand new one, and for some reason it was also very messy (in my attempt to lengthen my lashes, it would also transfer colour over onto my lid whatever I’d wiggle the wand, which I’ve never had this problem with any other mascara before so I know that my application wasn’t to blame). And for those of you that might say, why layer if it creates a mess why can’t you go with only one layer? To put it bluntly, one layer doesn’t provide you with the lift and colour you need (or at least I want), so you’re better off sticking to any other trustier mascara, for this one is a total fluke in my book. Such a shame, because I do love the packaging. Sigh.

Price: $7.77

Where To Buy It: https://www.maybelline.com/eye-makeup/mascara/snapscara-washable-mascara/pitch-black

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Film Review: Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are)

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I had been planning on attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival, then work got busy and I only knew about which films were going to be screening at times the same day that they were screening so trying to take time off at the last minute was kind of difficult. However, out of the films that I was proposed to watch, I was curious about Bonifacio Angius’ film (maybe I was biased cause he’s a fellow Italian as myself), Ovunque Proteggimi (Wherever You Are for the English public) that was competing at the festival. I contacted the director and he graciously allowed me to stream the film since I couldn’t make the screenings.

I didn’t read the plot summary before plunging headfirst into the film, but I often find that going into a film blindly renders it more enjoyable as I have no expectations. The film is about Alessandro, an aging singer that primarily does gigs at local events with his childhood friend. One night, after a particularly failed gig due to the low audience outcome, his friend tells Alessandro that he’s no longer going to play backup for him and that he too, should think about quitting the local music scene. Depressed, Alessandro decides to hit up a club where he meets a group of young girls who want to buy coke. To show off, he assures them that he can get the money to buy the coke, he simply needs to stop by home first.

Once home, we learn that Alessandro still lives with his mother, and it’s her who he begs for the money. That’s when we learn that the protagonist has probably been doing this for years, abusing drugs and alcohol, and on this hapless night, his mother, fed up, decides to have him taken away to rehab. At rehab, Alessandro meets Francesca, a misfit like himself, whom he feels some affection towards, although he doesn’t readily admit to it at first. When the two of them are released on the same day, on a whim, he decides to accompany her to her house and that’s when Francesca learns that her parents had the child services take her son away.

This is when Alessandro begins to see the injustices that women who don’t follow societal norms befall to. Throughout the movie, we’re told by her parents and the child services that Francesca is a former junkie and “whore,” however, we never witness her using drugs, being promiscuous, nor crazy. The only time we see her lose her composure is when she is told that the child services has taken her son away (so in a way it’s understandable).

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Just like the audience feels sorry for Francesca and her plight, so does Alessandro who decides to help the woman reunite with her son. This journey allows us to understand that Alessandro deep down is a man with a good heart who can rise above his own flaws to do what he thinks is morally right, whether that is viewed right by society.

Throughout the movie, we can’t help but cheer for these two unlucky lost souls who clearly mean nothing to the people closest to them. This film isn’t overly dramatic, but it explores some heavy themes such as mental health stigma, motherhood, and the cost of following your dreams. The two leads Alessandro (played by Alessandro Gazale) and Francesca (played by Francesca Niedda) have quiet chemistry and they play their characters in such a broken, vulnerable manner that they manage to steer clear of any tropes or cliches. These characters feel real and because of that, we’re invested in their story, and we want to see them have a happy ending.

Ovunque Proteggimi is a film that will seize your heart and squeeze it ruthlessly, leaving you brutally breathless. Watch this if you want to experience a film that is full of heart and humanity. Hats off to Bonifacio Angius for directing a film that gives voices to those in society who usually aren’t allowed to have one.

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Book Review: Blood Echo by Christopher Rice

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A conspiracy that promises bloodshed and the only woman who can stop it…

Release Date: February 19, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $15.99 (hardcover)

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Plot Summary:

Kidnapped and raised by serial killers, Charlotte Rowe suffered an ordeal that made her infamous. Everyone in the world knew who she was. But no one in the world has any idea what she’s become…

Charlotte is an experiment. And a weapon. Enabled by a superpower drug, she’s partnered with a shadowy pharmaceutical company to hunt down and eliminate society’s most depraved human predators. But her latest mission goes off the rails in a horrifying way. Unsettled by her own capacity for violence, Charlotte wants some time to retreat so she can work on her new relationship with Luke, a sheriff’s deputy in the isolated Central California town she now calls home.
If only the threats hadn’t followed Charlotte there.

Something sinister is evolving in Altamira, California—a massive network of domestic terrorists with ties to Charlotte’s influential and corrupt employers. As a vast and explosive criminal conspiracy grows, the fate of Charlotte’s hometown hangs in the balance. With everyone she cares about in danger, Charlotte has no choice but to bring her powers home.
Charlotte Rowe has been triggered, and now she’ll have to take matters into her own powerful hands.

Grade: A

Review:

I’ve been a fan of Christopher Rice since 1999 when he released A Density of Souls. And yes, I’ll be honest, I did check him out solely because I am a huge fan of his mother Anne Rice (the brilliant mind behind The Vampire Chronicles & The Mayfair Witches sagas), but what has kept me picking up his books time and time again (I’ve read all of his, even his venture into erotica), is the fact that Christopher is a competent writer of his own and that he manages to put together taunt, fast-paced thrillers that you can’t help but speed read through them to try to get to the end.

Now, Blood Echo is the sequel to Bone Music, of the Burning Girl Series, and while I did like book one, there was something about it that it just didn’t make me crazy about it (maybe cause a lot of book one was spent setting up the premise for book two), however, book two is waaaay better, writing-wise and plot-wise. Also, I get the feeling that Rice has gotten to know his characters more, so Charley (aka Burning Girl since she grew up with adopted serial killer parents who tasked her turning on the incinerator that burned said bodies) is way more fleshed out and interesting in this sequel, not to mention that she completely kicks ass (think of The Hulk meets Silence of the Lambs).

This book has everything that a modern audience loves, a compelling mystery/thriller aspect to it, a superhero (or at least a character with superhero qualities, even though they’re drug-induced powers), and a strong female protagonist. With those three ingredients, you can’t possibly go wrong. I recommend this book if you’re into books with third-person omniscient narratives (which I love!) and if love to be taken for a wild ride, cause honestly, you’re gonna need to strap yourself for this high-speed thriller.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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