Poetry: First Cuts Kill

broken-heart-candy

I should’ve known I was set up for heartbreak

The moment my eyes settled upon you

You were a modern Mozart

Wild hair and hands that could create

The most beautiful music

I yearned to be your piano

I wanted to be your favorite song

Maybe if I hadn’t been so young

I would’ve known that you were

A beautiful disaster

I had so much love for you

Just bursting at the seams with affection

I would’ve given anything to be your girl

But I didn’t know what to do

My teenage days were filled with a

Poe-ridden depression

Because I kept trying to make you mine

Always chasing your love

Not knowing that your heart

Was never something I could steal

Facing the world like I had been locked

In Mr. Rochester’s attic

Screaming at the injustice

Of being unloved

Not knowing that only some of us

Are meant to be the heroines

While the rest of us are forced to be

The villains

When I finally vomited my heart

Leaving it on your doorstep

You pitied my frailty

Wishing me good luck

But had I been lucky

I never would’ve met you.

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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

fivetotal

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Price: $10.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled layover, it looks like Mira might get stuck at the Philadelphia airport indefinitely.

And then Harper, Mira’s glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, comes to the rescue. Harper and her three friends are renting a car, and they can drop Mira off on the way home. But as their trip begins, Mira discovers her fellow travelers aren’t friends like she thought—they’re total strangers. And every one of them seems to be hiding something dangerous.

Soon, Mira is in a panic. The roads have gone from slippery to terrifying. People’s belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying…and Mira beings to suspect that one of them is sabotaging the trip. If she wants to make it home alive, she’ll need to uncover the truth about these strangers before this nightmare drive turns fatal.

Grade: B-

Review:

Fast-paced is the saving grace for this novel. But let me backtrack a moment. I hate snow. So the idea of being stuck in a car with four other strangers during a snowstorm feels like my idea of hell. And since I find snow to verge more on the creepy than beautiful (after all, notice how bright blood looks in the snow!), I was eager to read this book. The fact that the novel mostly takes place within the confines of the car makes for some masterful claustrophobia. Not to mention the fact that if it weren’t for it being the dead of winter, any of these characters could’ve just taken their changes on walking to the nearest house instead of staying inside a car where they each were becoming suspicious of the other, especially when things start to go missing.

If you love movies along the lines of I Know What You Did Last Summer and the hit TV series YOU, then you will love this fast-paced novel where not only does the protagonist Mira, have to contend with dire weather and a creepy drifter than continually see at all their rest stops, but also one of the four in the car with her has been stalking her for a year. All those things line up to create one hell of a thrill ride.

I didn’t enjoy any of the five characters in the novel and sometimes I was tired of Mira because while yes she was in a car with four strangers, a lot of her assumptions towards one character seemed plain our judgmental. And that she automatically assumes that her stalker is the one person she has been judgmental about during the whole trip is just plain annoying. Sure, the character in question wasn’t the best person out there but he wasn’t the worst either.

I recommend this book if you love YA novels that read like a Blumehouse horror. If they hurry up and turn this book into a movie, Lucy Hale could still pull off playing high school senior, Mira.

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

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Review: Osea Ocean Cleanser

IMG_1675

Bioavailable formulas rich in earth and ocean essences deliver powerful skin solutions.

What It Is: Facial Cleanser/Makeup Remover

What It Does: Cleanses without drying skin out.

Best For: Normal, Dry, and Combo Skin Types

Active Ingredients: Vegan Lactic Acid, Lime, Cypress, Organic Seaweed, and Juniper.

Verdict: When it comes to cleansers, I can be picky. I don’t favor those that are so liquidy that they slide right off your hands, nor do I like those that are too oily. But the worst infraction is when a cleanser leaves your skin feeling stripped of any hydration and moisture. Luckily, this cleanser doesn’t have those faults. The cleanser consistency is creamy, soft, not oily, and with a hint of a refreshing scent that echoes a sea getaway to a tropical island. Plus, the cleanser delivers where it matters the most, it cleanses without stripping you bare, but it’s also gentle enough for sensitive skins. I also love that it didn’t feel soapy nor burned my eyes as some cleansers tend to do. Overall, this is definitely a must! I’m a very happy with it and can see myself purchasing this product in the future once I’m done with my sample.

Price: $48

Where To Buy: https://oseamalibu.com/

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Book Review: With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

without you

Is love really all there is?

Release Date: August 4, 2020

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Publisher: Algonquin Books

Price: $26.95 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt writes novels that expertly explore the struggles and conflicts that people face in their search for happiness. For the characters in With or Without You, it seems at first that such happiness can come only at someone else’s expense. Stella is a nurse who has long suppressed her own needs and desires to nurture the dreams of her partner, Simon, the bass player for a rock band that has started to lose its edge. But when Stella gets unexpectedly ill and falls into a coma just as Simon is preparing to fly with his band to Los Angeles for a gig that could revive his career, Simon must learn the meaning of sacrifice, while Stella’s best friend, Libby, a doctor who treats Stella, must also make a difficult choice as the coma wears on.

When Stella, at last, awakes from her two-month sleep, she emerges into a striking new reality where Simon and Libby have formed an intense bond, and where she discovers that she has acquired a startling artistic talent of her own: the ability to draw portraits of people in which she captures their innermost feelings and desires. Stella’s whole identity, but also her role in her relationships, has been scrambled, and she has the chance to form a new life, one she hadn’t even realized she wanted.

A story of love, loyalty, loss, and resilience, With or Without You is a page-turner that asks the question, What do we owe the other people in our lives, and when does the cost become too great?

Grade: B-

Review:

This is one intense, realistic, and emotional ride. Simon and Stella met twenty years ago and they’ve been together ever since. They’re convinced they’re soulmates, but from Chapter One I quickly get the feeling that each person has spent twenty years yearning the other would change. Simon used to be in a successful band in his early twenties and although he’s now forty, he still wants to live the rock n roll lifestyle. Stella on the other hand, has spent twenty years hoping that he’d warm up to the idea of domestic life. She’s a nurse, and all she wants is to get married and start a family. Despite the two being very much in love, this book proves that sometimes, love isn’t enough when your paths are not parallel to one another, and each individual longs for something else. In fact, I don’t think that Stella and Simon were ever a good match because each person secretly despised the lifestyle of the other.

But everything changes when after a night of heavy drinking and drug-taking lands Stella in a coma. Simon is distraught and doesn’t know what to do. After several months, Stella wakes up but she’s not the same. She has acquired a new artistic skill that she didn’t have before. And now this becomes more important to her than anything else. In the meantime, Simon has gotten closer to Libby, the doctor that was treating Stella during her coma.

You’ll enjoy this book if you love flawed characters who act in a realistic way. The first half of the book was fast-paced for me, but it kind of slowed down towards the middle portion. If you love literary books with the focus being on relationships, then you’ll love With or Without You.

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

 

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Film Review: Amulet

amulet

Romola Garai is my spirit animal when it comes to writing because the wild, vindictive story she weaves in Amulet is one that I could’ve easily penned myself. Maybe it’s because I write feminist horror, but I found myself knowing exactly what direction the film was going in and to figure out exactly what dark secrets the protagonist Tomaz (Alec Secareanu) was withholding the whole time.

Amulet is Garai’s directorial debut, but audiences have seen her onscreen many times mostly in period dramas like Atonement, The Crimson Petal and the White, Emma, or on TV with the short-lived The Hour, although American audiences know her mostly for having been wooed by Diego Luna in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Having been a fan of Garai as an actress I’ve seen her demonstrate a lot of range and in a perfect world, she would be embodying June in The Handmaid’s Tale because I think she would be perfect. But I digress.

amulet3

The film begins with Tomaz, a philosophy reading soldier guarding an outpost in the middle of the woods. At some point, he uncovers a strange looking amulet, that horror aficionados can easily envision it being a harbinger of bad omen. And ultimately, the amulet in question does bring bad luck, especially for Tomaz.

Flash forward to the present and now Tomaz is homeless living somewhere on the streets of London. A nun (Imelda Staunton) discovers him and soon gives him a new place of employment in exchange for food and a room free of charge. The gesture could almost seem lifesaving if the home Tomaz is asked to live in weren’t a decrepit looking slaughterhouse ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or if we didn’t find out that Sister Claire pressed the issue for him to remain at the home to help a young woman, Madga (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother, by withholding the wad of money he had been religiously saving up from odd jobs.

From the very get-go, we know this arrangement is bad. And I’m particularly suspicious of the food that’s served, maybe because the young woman who prepares it never seems to take a bite herself of the huge chunks of meat.

The film is a slow burn horror ala Hereditary with its own interesting mythology surrounding it. But there’s enough creep factor to keep the viewer feeling rightly unsettled. Kudos to Garai for using albino bats in the most terrifying manner possible. The setting and style evoke feelings of dread and you can’t help but draw parallels with the Grimm Fairytale, Red Riding Hood, because we’ve always been taught from a very young age that the woods are never safe for girls of all ages.

This film isn’t for the faint of heart and will surely leave a lot of men feeling very uncomfortable. And for that alone, I applaud it.

Amulet dares to press the issue that “moving on” simply isn’t possible depending on the severity of the crime. And for that reason, the wrongdoer has to pay for their sins in the most horrific ways. If there’s one thing that I walked away from this viewing is that Garai doesn’t want us to forgive and forget. Rather she wishes for us to remember, and enact sweet, sweet revenge.

Amulet can be found to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and Google. Check out the trailer here.

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Poetry: A HOME IN THE WORDS

smiling woman using laptop

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Home, in spite of the house.

Home, in spite of the neighborhood.

By the fourth grade, the many homes I’d had

Could be counted on two hands.

Make new friends, be social,

Strike up conversations to be normal.

I talked with words,

Hoping to find another

Who would talk similar words at me

So we would have some words in common

To talk about.

Report cards chastised my love of words—

“She talks a lot.”

“She talks too much.”

“She talks in class.”

Little girl, hush!

Home, in spite of the city.

Home, in spite of the state.

The state lines blurred and swirled in my head

Class clown or introvert?

But the truth is, when the talking came

To a merciful stop,

That was home.

School bus rides spent in solitude,

Left to my thoughts.

An inconspicuous corner in the park

To people-watch.

Quietly learning things

That can’t be taught.

Silently yearning

To accompany none.

To simply be

In the comforting company of one.

Alone.

Talk is tiresome.

And I’ve talked for too many years.

Home, in spite of society.

Home, in spite of deity.

I covet, I desire, I lust to communicate.

It’s a sin to have waited this long.

To let these words languish,

Unused and unloved.

Herds of unwritten pages

Penned and left silent

Under the varnish of a social façade,

Confused and shoved aside.

The words that aim to hit a woman’s heart,

Not her eardrum.

The words that pull laughter from a man

Residing in the slum of his despair.

The words that inspire the inner child,

Not to give way to fear,

But to demand fear bows at their feet.

Smiling, no matter how many tears scroll down their cheeks.

Surviving collateral damage in the years they toil to be unique.

Braving the verbal batter all the peers who scold their defeat.

Home is right where I write.

Home is right where I think.

Home lies in the honesty of humor, humanity, honor and humility.

Home is in the words

That haunt and transcend language.

And they linger, patient

In the periphery

Needing no translation.

It is the holy dialect of our motherland.

That is the tongue I long to speak.

By: Erica Ruhe 

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Out Now: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Volume 4 Book 2

running wildbook

I’m proud to announce that Running Wild Anthology of Stories is finally out! What’s exciting is that the story I co-wrote with Erica Ruhe (fellow Inkblotter), “Fragile Fruit,” is one of the many thrilling stories you will find in this anthology.

For a quick recap, Marietta who left Sicily after she refuses to marry her rapist has to return when she receives a phone call from her sister informing her that their mother is on her death bed. Marietta is afraid to return to Maletto, after all, she had left the small Sicilian town being shunned as an immoral woman and whore for refusing to marry the man that raped her. Will Marietta finally make peace with her demons or will they simply overtake her this time around?

Excerpt from, “Fragile Fruit” –

“Where are we?” Jane asked, tugging at her mother’s hand.
Marietta didn’t readily answer her. The suffocating stares of all the women sitting behind their closed glass doors or windows, whispering under their breaths, played in her mind. She knew what they thought of her. But it didn’t make things any easier.
The last time Marietta had walked these cobblestone streets, it had been the summer of 1968. Every radio newscaster only spoke of the revolts in Paris. What had started as a student protest had soon turned into a national protest as millions of people went on strike and the streets were in an uproar. Soon, similar upheaval bled into northern Italy. Newspapers spilled ink on the infamous protests in Sessantotto. While, across the pond in America, women were discovering their independence, stretching feminine expectations and demanding respect. But none of that was happening in Maletto. Sicily was trapped in amber, remaining dreadfully the same. The town and traditions were impervious to change.
“Mommy!” Jane yanked her hand again and, this time, Marietta was forced to acknowledge her daughter.
“This is where I was born,” she said.
“Really? You weren’t born where I was born?” Her big innocent eyes looked up at her with curiosity. She sniffed at the fresh run of mucus from the cold air.
Marietta shook her head. “No, Mommy came from far, far away.”
“Like a princess!” Jane beamed, little teeth on display.
Marietta didn’t reply as she approached her home. Her heart pounded with trepidation, thinking back to the last time she had been here. Of how her mother wailed and shook her head at the tragedy.
No, no, no.
No.
How much had that “no” been worth?
The sound of sweeping had stopped. Marietta clutched the cornicello at her neck and looked behind them. The small poppet was in her coat pocket, giving her a false sense of security. An old woman stood on her stoop and glared at the two. She gripped the broom like a guard with a spear. Marietta shivered. She pushed the noisy door open and hustled Jane inside. Scattered salt crunched under their boots, covering the tile floor of the foyer like a sprinkling of snow.

Purchase the anthology on Amazon!

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Book Review: The Living Dead by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus

the living dead1

We had to devolve to realize we’d never really much evolved.

Release Date: August 4, 2020

Pre-Order on Amazon!

Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $27.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

George A. Romero invented the modern zombie with Night of the Living Dead, creating a monster that has become a key part of pop culture. Romero often felt hemmed in by the constraints of film-making. To tell the story of the rise of the zombies and the fall of humanity the way it should be told, Romero turned to fiction. Unfortunately, when he died, the story was incomplete.

Enter Daniel Kraus, co-author, with Guillermo del Toro, of the New York Times bestseller The Shape of Water (based on the Academy Award-winning movie) and Trollhunters (which became an Emmy Award-winning series), and author of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch (an Entertainment Weekly Top 10 Book of the Year). A lifelong Romero fan, Kraus was honored to be asked, by Romero’s widow, to complete The Living Dead.

Set in the present day, The Living Dead is an entirely new tale, the story of the zombie plague as George A. Romero wanted to tell it.

It begins with one body.

A pair of medical examiners find themselves battling a dead man who won’t stay dead.

It spreads quickly.

In a Midwestern trailer park, a Black teenage girl and a Muslim immigrant battle newly-risen friends and family. On a US aircraft carrier, living sailors hide from dead ones while a fanatic makes a new religion out of death. At a cable news station, a surviving anchor keeps broadcasting while his undead colleagues try to devour him. In DC, an autistic federal employee charts the outbreak, preserving data for a future that may never come.

Everywhere, people are targeted by both the living and the dead.

We think we know how this story ends.

We. Are. Wrong.

Grade: A+

Review:

It’s no secret that George A. Romero was pretty much the progenitor when it comes to the zombie genre. First in the films and then even in comic books and novels. If you’re a fan of George A. Romero, then you’re well aware that the iconic director’s zombie movies aren’t merely a gore fest. Instead, Romero uses the zombie genre to explore the human condition or reveal the incompetence of government or lack of empathy in humans. Ultimately, the real monsters in Romero’s movies are rarely the zombies, but rather the humans. We’re deadlier than the undead because we’ll turn on our own when the going gets tough. Unfortunately, Romero passed away in 2017 and never was able to complete the novel himself, so his widow asked Daniel Kraus to complete the novel using Romero’s notes. The end result isn’t disjointed nor can the reader tell where Romero begins and Kraus takes over. The writing style is seamless throughout the whole novel and doesn’t change.

Now, I don’t know how much Romero had completed before his death, but this novel is a horror saga (it’s over 600 pages!) but it doesn’t mean that there’s ever a moment of dullness, because there isn’t. There are so many diverse characters in this novel, much like how Max Brooks’ novel World War Z was fashioned. Third person omniscient works superbly as there’s so much ground to cover that we need to know what’s happening to everyone at any given time. Sure, there are some characters that I favoured over others, but the fact that Romero always managed to create characters that we cared about means that even when we know that most of them will face dire endings, in our heart of hearts we can’t help but hope that there’s another way out. But this novel isn’t about comfort, this novel is brutal. I don’t read many zombie books but since I am a huge fan of Romero’s zombies, I knew that I had to read this novel and I’m not disappointed. If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be full of zombies, you are correct. But you’re also going to walk away with a feeling that ultimately the book wasn’t about zombies, but it’s about us, and how much humans CAN be both resilient and full of heart.

For a book about the undead, you’ll depart the novel with all the feels. You’ve been warned.

livingn dead

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

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Poetry: Apexia

blonde long hair of smiling woman

Photo by Neemias Seara on Pexels.com

A tangerine and lavender dawn bleeds across the horizon and

I drop my hiking pack on the cold, rocky ledge.

My breath rasps cold and jagged down my throat,

Much like breathing in a piece of amethyst,

Depositing it into the quarry of my oxygen-starved lungs.

The air at this altitude is shallow, lacking nourishment,

Much like the education that inebriated me

Throughout my formulaic youth.

Every facet of my life had been fastidiously polished

With superficial pageantry and public praise.

Until I became a ghostly reflection

Of the studio lights that shone on me.

Condensation swirls from my lips now,

As if a few society’s expectations

Escapes with each exhale.

Alone at the summit,

I am sober.

There is no intoxicating high of over-proof self-worth,

Only a calm, pure proof spirit.

I sit cross-legged on the cold, rocky ledge.

Admire the bruises blossoming on my shins.

Much like purple merit badges bestowed from the mountain.

By: Erica Ruhe

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Book Review: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

mayhem

“One thing I never could stomach about Santa Maria, all the goddamn vampires.”

Release: July 14, 2020

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Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

It’s 1987 and unfortunately, it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else.

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good.

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost.

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Grade: B+

Review:

First things first, anyone who knows me knows that The Lost Boys has been one of my favourite movies since I first watched it at 8 yrs old. In fact, I’ll admit that it’s probably my favourite vampire movie ever. And you know there have been a lot of movies made about those alluring bloodsuckers. Having stated that, it was a total no brainer for me to want to join the book tour for this novel as it had been marketed as a cross between The Lost Boys and The Craft. What I hadn’t expected was to find actual characters from The Lost Boys in the novel! What does that mean? It means that we run into the Frog Brothers (notorious for being vampire slayers) and we even get to witness a sax solo by Sax Man (if you’ve seen the movie then you know exactly who I’m referring to). If seeing characters from the movie wasn’t enough, we’re also treated with the exploration of the infamous cave from the movie.

The book is filled with so much 80’s nostalgia that I don’t know if the author was aiming to win the hearts of 30-yrs olds who lived during the ’80s or to make today’s teens (after all this is a YA novel and supposedly teens are the targeted audience) yearn for a time they never got to live through the experience.

I didn’t mind the movie references too much, because like I said I LOVE The Lost Boys. I also liked the protagonist Mayhem a lot. She managed to talk her mom into leaving her abusive step-dad and return to her hometown of Santa Maria. Now if you think that this novel is about vampires, well you’re only halfway right. The novel offers a different perspective on the supernatural, where, much like in the Anne Rice Werewolf series, the supernatural entity uses its powers for the good of the community rather than for evil. But even when you’re ridding the town of evil people, the question that looms over Mayhem’s head is, is it moral to decide who gets to live or die, even if the person they’re killing has done terrible things? The novel tries to grapple with that along with the question of, can one break free from one’s lineage and familial curse? Or does one embrace the curse and view as a gift?

For the vast majority, I enjoyed the novel although I feel as though it moved a bit too slow at first, to truly escalate towards the end. Overall, I felt as though this novel deserved more in regards to delving into the mythology of the Brayburn family and to perhaps do more into depth about the curse that spanned generations of Brayburn women.

Again, because I love The Lost Boys so much, I adored being part of this universe yet again, albeit in a different form. But if you take all the homages to The Lost Boys away, the overall plot is pretty flimsy. That’s not to say that this book isn’t worth your time. It is enjoyable, but it just lacked in certain areas.

Pick this book up if you wish to take a dive into the 80’s nostalgia, or like me, you’re a huge fan of The Lost Boys.

*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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