Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner

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“I lie back on his pillow, my head spinning, and for one split second, I think how crazy it will be when I get home and tell Aubrey everything. But that’s wrong: that won’t happen. She and I are barely friends anymore.”

Release Date: April 7, 2020

Pre-order on Amazon!

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.
With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

Gae Polisner’s Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me is a story about the fragility of female friendship, of falling in love and wondering if you are ready for more, and of the glimmers of hope we find by taking stock in ourselves.

Grade: B+

Review:

This novel was a well-written contemporary YA that is full of heart and emotions by the bucket loads. The entire book is written in epistolary mode, as JL writing a letter to her childhood friend Aubrey that she’s no longer close to anymore (and that’s killing her inside).

JL is dealing with a lot of issues for just being a teen: her dad has left for an undetermined amount of time for California, which means that she has to deal with her mother’s depression/dissociative disorder on her own. Although she does have her grandmother check in on her and her mom (but her grandmother prefers to remain in denial about her mother’s true condition rather than face the bleak truth). JL spends her days taking care of her mother, raising butterflies, and hanging out with her 19-years old boyfriend.

This book doesn’t hold back any punches. It’s easy for the reader to become easily invested in JL’s struggles and wanting to root for this girl. This novel is raw and gritty and maybe a bit too realistic if you’re looking for any escapism, but it’s emotionally gripping from the very beginning till the very end. You won’t regret delving into this book if you’re looking for something with more heart and less fluff with a dash of darkness.

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

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Poetry: Bad Habit

I’m like a smoker

In need of a cigarette

I need you, even if

I know you’re detrimental

To my health

But the rush you give me

Is worth more

Than saving myself.

smoke

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Book Review: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

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The world is not tame.

Release Date: March 3, 2020

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Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Price: $13.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.

So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.

Morning brings the realization that she’s alone—and far off-trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.

Review:

You can always expect Mindy McGinnis to deliver gritty, wild narratives. Although with her new novel she literally places her protagonist Ashley, in the wild. After she drunkenly discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, she runs away from the scene of the crime, stumbles and somehow really damages one of her feet and consequently manages to get lost in the woods.

Now, Ashley isn’t your typical girl. She loves the outdoors, hiking, and camping and knows how to survive in the woods better than anyone else. However, nature and the elements play against her, not to mention having to deal with an infected foot. All these things make for her journey to freedom to be quite laborious.

This is a survival story that doesn’t hold back. You get everything from trying to deal with finding food and shelter, to stumbling upon a meth camper (I know, it’s crazy, but it wouldn’t be a McGinnis novel if crazy shit didn’t happen). And because it is a McGinnis novel, you know that the protagonist’s life can always be at stake or that she’ll come close to death. Basically, anything terrible that you can imagine happening? It’s going to happen but twentyfold.

McGinnis’ usual sharp, sparse prose helps create tension in the novel and creating anxiety that will have you rooting for Ashley but at the same time, you know how difficult her chances of survival truly are, especially when several days pass by with no signs of being found.

I recommend this book if you love survival stories with a side of sarcasm, grit, and gore.

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Film Review: The Hunt

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The Hunt was touted as being one of the “most controversial movies of all time.” So much so, that they halted the release of it, and even the President tweeted about it stating that it “was made in order to inflame and cause chaos.” Truth is, this movie isn’t smart enough to cause chaos or inflame anyone.

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The movie has a lazy script at best. While The Purge franchise (especially the first movie) was a smart social commentary about the rich and poor, this movie merely seems to make fun of both the “elites” and the “deplorables.”

A movie that’s supposed to poke at both sides of the political divide doesn’t really garner any discomfort, questioning, or basically any immediate reaction or gut emotion. The reason for this is because every character in the movie is a caricature of what we think a liberal or conservative is. These characters never become real people to us within the realm of the movie, and thus we can’t take them seriously nor care about their survival. When you’ve got “elite” characters screaming, “Climate change is real!” to a “deplorable,” before trying to off them, you can’t help but think that they’re both loonies.

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The controversy and hype over this movie was way more than what the movie ever merited, to be honest. You’ll leave the theatre feeling like you’re not on either side because none of those characters will resonate with real people. And none of us will care what happens to any of them. The world would be better off with all those horrible caricatures gone, and Blum House should focus on making smarter films with some real horror. There’s never a moment in the movie where you feel the ever-growing sense of dread, and even in a splatter torture film, you wish to be terrified or at least feel some kind of tension or suspense. But there’s none of that. There’s nothing. The Hut was all smoke and no roast. You’re better off watching The Purge.

The Hunt

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My Top 5 Books By Irish Authors

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! What better way to celebrate the Irish than to celebrate its authors? Ireland has had many talented authors and many times people forget that certain authors are indeed Irish only because they either relocate to London or are lumped in with English literature (as Oscar Wilde often is). But Ireland offers a rich literary slew of authors and picking up a book from one of them as ultimately way better than getting drunk on green beer (at least you won’t have to nurse a terrible hangover the following day).

Here are my Top 5 Books by Irish authors, spanning from various genres and times. Pick which one strikes your fancy and curl up with a nice Irish coffee as you devour literary treats! Enjoy!

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The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

A beautiful young man wishes for his youth to remain eternal as his painting ages for him. Soon, what seems to be a blessing turns out to be a curse.

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Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Colm Tóibín’s New York Times bestselling novel—now an acclaimed film starring Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture—is “a moving, deeply satisfying read” (Entertainment Weekly) about a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn in the early 1950s.

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The Sea by John Banville

In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel — among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.

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Room by Emma Donoghue

Held captive for years in a small shed, a woman and her precocious young son finally gain their freedom, and the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.

To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.

Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating — a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Berlin, 1942: When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move to a new house far, far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different from his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

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Poetry: The Lessons We’re Taught

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Men are taught to take what they please

Women are taught to relinquish their treasures with a smile.

It’s why women mistake brutality for love

And men believe a woman’s body is for them

to seize without consequences.

***

lavinia

Did you enjoy this poem? You can find this poem and many others in Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken

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Book Review: Dear Laura by Gemma Amor

laura

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Price: $6.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something…personal.So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura. From the author of Cruel Works of Nature comes a dark and twisted tale about obsession, guilt, and how far a person will go to put her ghosts to bed.

Grade: A-

Review:

When Gemma Amor’s novella appeared as a Bram Stoker nominee, I certainly piqued my interest (because it was self-published). The hype surrounding this book is worth it (unlike the hype surrounding A Head Full of Ghosts). The story follows Laura, a girl who’s boyfriend goes missing when she’s 13, but who’s kidnapper begins a pen-pal-ship with her, teasing details about her missing friend but only if she’s willing to pay the price. The requests start out small till they escalate to the grotesque. It’s a very binge-worthy novella (and seeing as it’s short you can absolutely read it in one sitting). My only gripe is the ending. Maybe my morals are skewed, but I wouldn’t have reacted the way Laura did. But overall, it’s a taut thriller, and one you’ll think about for awhile.

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Twenty-Six Things About Azzurra Nox

 

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A- Age: Young enough to be reckless, old enough to be wise.
B- Biggest fear: Being powerless to defend myself or someone I love from being physically hurt by someone else.
C- Current time: 1:06 am
D- Drink you last had: Coke Energy Drink (it’s my new crack)
E- Every day starts with: My alarm going off at 5:30am where I reluctantly try to wake up and do my morning stretches, while my pups peek from under the covers with that, Sucks to be you smugness on their faces.
F- Favorite song: Psh, obviously Pierrot the Clown
G- Ghosts, are they real?: Fuck yeah, they are. Sometimes they’re supernatural, and sometimes they just live in your head.
H- Hometown: Catania, Sicily (Italy)
I- In love with: My fiance.
J- Jealous of: Lucy Hale’s hair & brows, cause c’mon she’s slaying.
K- Killed someone?: If I did, you’d never know…..
L- Last time you cried?: Reading an old love letter.
M- Middle name: Azzurra (haha that’s the twist)
N- Number of siblings: 0 – Only child which makes me both responsible but a somewhat spoiled brat.
O- One wish: No more violence.
P- Person you last called: My mum.
Q- Question you’re always asked: Do you prefer Italy or America? (for someone who is both half Italian & half American there is no true answer, there are pros & cons to both countries)
R- Reason to smile: Sunny days, chocolate, pups, friends, ice cream, unexpected gifts, family, my love, and walks in the rain.
S- Song last sang: Cosmic Dancer 
T- Time you woke up: 5:30am (kill me)
U- Underwear color: Crimson silk
V- Vacation destination: Take me to a beach or London
W- Worst habit: Drinking tea too hot or biting into right out of the oven pizzas (the roof of my mouth is probably mostly scar tissue now)
Y- Your favorite food: Pasta alla Norma and sushi!
X- X-Rays you’ve had: Always for my teeth (I’m obsessed with impeccable oral hygiene & healthy teeth)
Z- Zodiac sign: Capricorn (so it’s in my nature to be bossy cause I’m a born leader)

Tell me something about you!

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Book Review: Lullabies for the Suffering: Tales of Addiction Horror

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Release Date: January 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wicked Run Press

Price: $14.95 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Addiction starts like a sweet lullaby sung by a trusted loved one. It washes away the pains of the day and wraps you in the warmness of the womb where nothing hurts and every dream is possible. Yet soon enough, this warm state of bliss becomes a cold shiver, the ecstasy and dreams become nightmares, yet we can’t stop listening to the lullaby. We crave to hear the siren song as it rips us apart.

Six stories: three novellas, three novelettes, written by a powerful list of talent, all featuring the insidious nature of addiction–damaged humans craving for highs and wholeness but finding something more tragic and horrific on the other side.

Grade: B+

Review:

First of all, I’m going to admit that I absolutely LOVE how hauntingly beautiful the cover is. I would’ve noticed this anthology for the cover alone. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of the TV Series YOU, so knowing that Caroline Kepnes contributed to the anthology gave me the extra push I needed to pick it up.

All the stories in this anthology center around addition (something they’re drug-related other times it’s the addiction to something else that’s just as decremental to your health and turns you a slave). Most of the stories written for the anthology aren’t truly short stories but verge on the novella length, which I didn’t mind at all. With any anthology, there were some gems and some misses for me. Unfortunately, the anthology started off truly strong with “Sometimes They See Me,” by Kealan Patrick Burke, which is a tale about two addict and their crazy benders. There’s something truly haunting about it and one that will leave you questioning any painting or wallpaper you ever see again.

“Monsters” by Caroline Krepnes follows the same writing style as YOU (writing in the second person) at least when the story is narrated by a lonely young man who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I really enjoyed the story, but despite the narrator having been wronged, I still feel like he had very much Joe-vibes going on.

My absolute favourite story from the whole anthology was “Lizard” by Mark Matthews. It had everything I looked for in a horror addiction story. It showed the horrors of true addiction but it also had supernatural elements to it that I enjoyed very much. Also, it ends in a very ambiguous way ala “The Lady or the Tiger” where you’re left questioning what decision did the protagonist makes after all?

“The Melting Point of Meat” by John FD Taff started off very strong for me, but kind of took a Clive Barker turn towards the end that I wasn’t a fan of. I would’ve enjoyed this story better if it had another ending.

After that story, the anthology started going downhill for me. I didn’t particularly enjoy “Beyond the Reef” Gabino Iglesias nor “Love is a Crematorium” by Mercedes M. Yardley. I know that addiction usually ends with the addict’s death, however, Yardley’s story was more real-life horror than anything else. It was truly gut-wrenching but I suppose I was still waiting for horror (as in psychological, supernatural, or slasher) to happen. And I had a HUGE issue with the male protagonist Kelly, whom we’re supposed to see as some kind of Romeo, but honestly, he seemed perfectly OKAY allowing Joy (the girl he loved) to prostitute herself for food money. I don’t understand why he never tried to resolve their lack of cash problem or actually be of help rather than just be there but not really doing anything for Joy. I wouldn’t have run away with this dude, he really provided no resource at all, not even emotional support.

I recommend this anthology if you’re into tales of addiction with a dash of darkness.

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Book Review & Author Interview: The Sun Under A Night Sky by Vontress Renae

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Exclusive collab with: VoyageLA(large inverted)

You are the sun and the center of your universe.

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Plot Summary:

In this collection of untitled thoughts, poetry, and affirmations; Vontress plants her powerful feminine energy and wisdom like a seed. Showing growth through struggle, and sharing stories of blooming into a flower. She shines her light like the sun into the darkest parts of her soul.

Grade: A-

Review:

The poems in this collection are often dark, but even in the darkest moments, there is a tiny light that glimmers with hope. And this is what makes this collection stand out from other poems that tackle similar topics like love and heartbreak. The message Renae seems to want to give with these poems is that happiness isn’t something you should search in someone else, or depend on someone else for your own happiness, but rather that happiness lies inside us all if we have self-love and that’s an essential and potent message to give. I recommend this book if you’re into poetry that explores life’s dark moments but that has an uplifting message in the end.

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Short Q & A with the Author:

What has inspired your writing?

The inspiration for my writing comes from day to day life. I wonder what people think and put it on paper, my own stories and sometimes the stories of those around me.

When did you first start writing?

I have always written things for as long as I remember, but it was not until recently that I felt comfortable enough to share it with others.

What tips would you give a novice writer?

My advice would be to remove all distractions. There are times that I sign out of social media and take a bit of a hiatus in order to gather my thoughts and get them down clearly.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I was given would be to do what makes me happy. I feel that my writing can take me all the places I want to go in this world I just have to trust myself and believe in what I’m saying on my pages.

What are you currently reading or looking forward to reading?

I am currently reading ” The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F” by Mark Manson. It has definitely been a page-turner and I plan to take a view of the tips that I have learned while reading.

RENAE ON THE WEB:
Website: https://vontressrortega.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/writtenbyvontress
Twitter: https://twitter.com/byvontress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writtenbyvontress/

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