Throwback Thursday: Dr. Jones – Aqua

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For someone who’s a self-proclaimed connoisseur of rock music, it’s probably very perplexing to understand why I’d enjoy a pop band like Aqua. Sure, I tried to resist this Danish-Norwegian band with their earworm music and bubbly demeanor. When Barbie Girl became popular, I resisted, they weren’t going to have me! But when Dr. Jones was released I could no longer resist and caved into the bubblicious world of lightness that was Aqua. Perpetually happy and poppy, the band sang about notorious icons such as Barbie and Indiana Jones. Mattel notoriously tried to sue them but a judge dismissed the case in 2002 allegedly stating, “The parties are advised to chill.”

The song though didn’t really have that many Indiana Jones references, the lyrics were more about a summer love (think Grease). But the music video was genius campiness to the max. I also truly loved the female lead singer Lene Nystrom, she was a breath of fresh air, because she dared to defy the busty 90’s gals that had been helped by silicone. Lene had a badass attitude wearing crop tops that read, “No Silicone Added.”

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But much like the heyday of the ’90s, even Aqua’s eternal optimism fizzled with the oncoming of the new millennia. And so, for awhile Lene tried a solo career, becoming one of those many busty gals singing suggestive songs that she used to mock. When the band reunited in 2009 and did a cover of Abba’s My Mamma Said, we immediately knew that this band wasn’t the same anymore. The music video was one of the most visually darkest moments for the band, as you see them reunited around a table, dressed in black as they were being served the strangest foods as roaches walked all over the table. Even their voices had lost their signature cheerfulness and instead had turned more morose. It was official: the once happy pop band had turned dark.

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There had also been a shift in the band dynamics. Before, at the height of their popularity, Lene was dating the male lead singer in the band, Renee. But then she later got married to another Aqua member, drummer, Soren, and the two were married for sixteen years before divorcing in 2017 (the couple has two children together).

So what did I learn from re-listening and rewatching a video I hadn’t seen since 1997? Well, I’m thoroughly confused as to why the cannibals were speaking French, but other than that, the light campiness of Dr. Jones is just as infectious now as it was in 1997. Although now, when I listen to it I’m taken back to a place where my teenage problems seemed so trivial to the real-life troubles that one only understands once you reach adulthood. Nowadays, I relate more to the Aqua members in My Mamma Said, disillusioned and nostalgic for their lightness but now consumed by the darkness.

And despite all those books and movies about how much light wins over the dark, the last two decades have proven that darkness has been prevailing and we’re all left longing for that time in our lives when we used to enjoy light pop songs like Dr. Jones.

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As Lene sings, “Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones wake up now,” I wonder if we’ve all been sleeping and that the past two decades have simply been one prolonged nightmare. Who isn’t ready to wake up now? I know I am.

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Poetry: Tonight, Tonight

*April is National Poetry Month, and thus I decided to share one of my poems from Bleed Like Me: Poems for the Broken. 99% of the poems collected in the book were written during the ages of 13-22 years old, so if anything reads too tragic or overdramatic, now you know why. And rather to censor or edit my poems with adult hindsight, I left them raw, obsessive, and dark.

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Tonight, tonight, you’re falling so behind

I see you trembling—

Feeling left on the side.

Tonight, tonight, you’re crying all your tears

I feel your pain—

Drowning in your despair.

Tonight, tonight, you’re growing so distant

I see you shriveling away from me—

Scorning my stoned affection.

Tonight, tonight, you’re scrapping at the floor

I sense your frustration—

Slapping me across the face.

Tonight, tonight, you’re running out of time

I see you walking out—

Letting go of any part that belongs to me.

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Film Review: US

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After seeing the trailer for Jordan Peele’s new film, I was left with this strange sense of unease. Something was off. I know, it’s a horror movie. It’s supposed to set an atmosphere of mental discomfort. But this was a subtle unease, like walking into your house and knowing something is amiss but you can’t put your finger on it. Then I saw the movie and realized the skewed detail I’d gotten hung up on was during the car scene where the Wilson family is listening to Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It.” The mother, Adelaide, tells her son to “get into rhythm,” and then proceeds to snap her fingers…off beat.

Huh?

At first, I thought it was just me but after reading up on it online, I realized it was actually a thing; a harbinger of truth pointing to Adelaide’s disturbing past. And that’s the beauty of “Us”. It’s going to toy with you, give you a few fake-outs and distractive ploys. Then it’s going to sock you in the gut with an intelligent sucker punch but for hours and days and weeks afterward, you’ll realize you actually got hit in the brainpan.

First, a brief synopsis: Adelaide Wilson takes a beach vacation to Santa Cruz with her husband, Gabe, and their two children. Haunted by a childhood trauma that occurred in a mirrored funhouse on the carnival pier, Adelaide begins to take notice of strange coincidences. She sees an odd vagrant with the sign, “Jeremiah 11:11”. Clocks read 11:11. A rogue Frisbee lands beside her, perfectly aligned with a polka dot on the towel pattern.

That night, four trespassers show up on their driveway. After a tense invasion of the Wilson’s beach house, Adelaide and her family come face to face with their doppelgangers, each a dark, deranged version of themselves dressed in matching red jumpsuits. Adelaide’s double, Red, reveals they were the subjects of an inhumane and failed experiment of clones forced to play out every action of their above-ground counterparts. Armed with a dagger-sharp pair of golden scissors, she aims to free herself and her demented family as second-class shadow-people by killing the Wilsons and taking their place above ground. Thus, the “untethering” begins. Snip, snip.

As with his debut film “Get Out”, Peele is wedging open the door on a new subgenre: societal horror. The fear surrounding social issues that plague the public today is over-ripe for exactly this kind of creative commentary. These are the subjects that privileged society would like to sweep under the rug: topics including mental illness, racism, unconscious biases, and discrimination. These are not well understood and what’s worse, they are not well-accepted. 

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People lean on belief systems to help them make choices. These are personal life lessons, religious teachings, parental guidance, peer pressures to assimilate. All these experiences act as a moral barometer. Now show those belief systems from an opposite perspective and those same people are left feeling totally confused, attacked, angry, defensive, helpless and desperate. They target the catalyst that brought the issue forward and not the issue itself. And usually, this translates into immense pressure being put upon the victims to become “normal” in order to be accepted into society again. It’s now their responsibility to stifle their hurt so the rest of the world feels comfortable. Translation: fix yourself. And if you can’t fix yourself, please have the courtesy not to talk about it. 

Herein lies another hidden beauty about “Us”. It is the catalyst. It shows the basic human fear of accepting our own duality. It presents a stark and uncomfortable contrast of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil…our shadow selves versus the masks we show to the world. And how we react when there is a critical imbalance of this light and dark power: rejection, jealousy, suspicion, paranoia, anger, violence. These knee-jerk emotions drive the need to delineate the status of “us” versus “them”.

Peele records these primal fears places them in the hearts of seemingly normal characters and plays it back in a distorted, reflective environment. Indeed, mirrors and reflections play a key visual element. There’s the presence of a “twin concept”, especially in the number eleven as it pops up on television, the time on clocks, in Bible verse, sports scores, even in abstract shadows. While this doubling can be consumed quite literally, it is best appreciated after you’ve seen the movie and had time to reflect on the multi-faceted meanings. And I’m not just trying to be punny here. These coincidences lead the characters to discover how their actions have helped or harmed others despite their intent, even how their actions have contributed to their own entrapment.

In addition to the psychology of duality, there is the theme of the American dream. The “haves” and “have nots”. Class structures and, in the constant strive to keep up with the Jones’, society’s inability to appreciate what they do have in their lives. There is a moral price for naivety and social complacency and this transaction plays out between the Wilson family and their tethered family of clones (but with more melodrama and excessive blood spray, of course).

Refreshingly, a talented, diverse cast takes the main stage. I am not a POC but I can attest that the amount of stories I’ve watched about white people has fatigued my appreciation for an intriguing plot. Presented here is a unique, well-told story about characters of color even though the story isn’t specifically about race. “Us” allows a brilliant opportunity for discussion of Hollywood’s lack of diversity without pandering to the audience. Lupita Nyong’o’s performance is spell-binding, especially in her disturbing portrayal of Red. She files her voice to a raspy, jagged husk and moves like a caged but confident animal who has conquered the laboratory labyrinth. Winston Duke deserves praise as well for bringing humanity and humor to the father figure trying to protect his family.

As a writer, my brain is always in “plot & character” mode. I tend to be severely critical of books and movies that lack logic or at least a moderate attempt at believability. Plot holes, if small enough, are forgivable. Give me a good story and I’ll give appropriate credit for the effort.

But don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

A good story doesn’t have to be airtight. In fact, if a movie is too clean this can be a bit condescending to the audience, as if the writer has said, “Here, I’ve done all the thinking for you in case you couldn’t figure it out.” Nor does a good story leave glaringly large voids that prevent the story from making reasonable sense. A smart writer knows how to leave just enough mystery without compromising a satisfying ending.

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So with that said, are there plot holes in “Us”? Yes. Don’t worry, I’ll keep this post-spoiler-free for those who have not seen the movie yet but just know that when the credits roll, you will have questions. Normally plot holes signal sloppy plotting and rushed production but in this instance, it is apparent that Peele has too much respect for the craft and his audience to have done this inadvertently. Go online to any of the numerous “Us” discussion boards or YouTube videos and you’ll find that deconstructing all the Easter eggs in this movie is half the fun. Personally, I feel the gaps are present on purpose. Maybe these plot holes give room for interpretation of the figurative gaps in society. Gaps in opportunity for individuals of lesser means. Gaps in understanding on common social issues. Gaps in memory due to trauma. The important takeaway is the ending gives closure while opening a Pandora’s box to a harsh new reality.

There’s plenty of action and gore to satisfy any terror junkie but “Us” goes beyond the blood spatter and gets cerebral. It touches on something more subtle in the human psyche. Darkness is not always evil. We must consider all the catalysts that trigger our fear and ask the simple question, “Why?” Does this emotion really stem from something out in the world or is it inside? And if it is inside, are we brave enough to face it? Ignorance can trap us in our own mirror house of horror for as long as we choose. We can close our eyes if we’re scared. But our reflections are still there. The shadow selves will wait until we’re ready to see what they have to teach us. And when that day comes, who will do the untethering? Snip, snip.

By: Erica Ruhe

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Review: Medusa’s Makeup Liquid Eyeshadow

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Hello darklings! I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last beauty review! But fret not, I’ll be sharing more beauty related stuff this month as I’ve got a lot of new products to share! My current obsession is liquid eyeshadows….how do you feel about them? A do? A don’t? Let me know in the comments below!

What It Is: Liquid Eyeshadow

Distinguishing Factors: Cruelty-free & Vegan

Review: Lately, I’ve been utterly obsessed with liquid eyeshadows. So I was appropriately excited when Medusa’s Makeup April Beauty Box came equipped with their newest cosmetics venture, their liquid eyeshadows. I was also happy to have received the silver hue (GINGER), (as they have a blue hue, but no matter what shade of blue I’ve used in the past, it has always gone horribly wrong for me). First things first: The formula is long-lasting and crease-free. I don’t know whether it’s because the shadow is actually made that way or probably because I always use eyeshadow primer (currently I’ve been using Milani’s Eyeshadow Primer, as it’s identical to Urban Decay’s Primer Potion but half the price), but once I put on the shadow at 6am (my usual wake-up call during the week) it didn’t budge nor crease all the way to 9pm (when I removed my makeup).

Secondly, the colour was utterly dreamy in an elfish-fairy way. I LOVE that it’s glittery without looking too intense (especially since I wore it for work). However, if you are looking for something a bit more pigmented then the silver shade wouldn’t be your choice, as this goes on a bit sheer (think Glossier’s Lidstars). But overall, I really liked the ethereal feel this shade had and the product itself was amazing! And last but not least….how freaking adorable is the packaging?! I love that it’s both functional and small enough to slip into a tiny bag! After all, Spring is here and less is definitely more!

Price: $13

Where To Buy It: https://medusasmakeup.com/

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Book Review: The Raven’s Tale by Cat Winters

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“The life still there, upon her hair – the death upon her eyes.” 

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Pre-Order On Amazon

Price: $12.32 (hardcover)

Publisher: Amulet Books

Plot Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Edgar Poe counts down the days until he can escape his foster family–the wealthy Allans of Richmond, Virginia. He hungers for his upcoming life as a student at the prestigious new university, almost as much as he longs to marry his beloved Elmira Royster. However, on the brink of his departure, all his plans go awry when a macabre Muse named Lenore appears to him. Muses are frightful creatures that lead Artists down a path of ruin and disgrace, and no respectable person could possibly understand or accept them. But Lenore steps out of the shadows with one request: “Let them see me!”

Grade: A+

Review:

I first came into contact with Cat Winters’ writing in the form of the short story, Emmeline, from the thrilling Slasher Girls & Monster Boys. I loved her short story so much that I decided to check out her other works (this is why I love anthologies because it gives you the chance to discover new authors). As a reader, you can’t help but notice just how poetic and elegant Winters’ prose is in all of her writing (think Anne Rice if she were to write YA). So when I found out that Winters was writing a book about my favourite poet’s teenage years, I was beyond thrilled! Honestly, no one else could possibly be a better fit to write about Poe than Winters. I’ve been waiting to read this book for over a year now and was fortunate enough to have received a signed copy of the ARC from the author (a huge THANKS!).

From the very first page, one is completely immersed into the story of Edgar “Eddy” Poe and his beautiful, yet creepy looking muse, Lenore. I’m a huge fan of dual narration, so I loved that we got to know both Poe and Lenore. Most Poe fans know that the Gothic writer had a very tragic life, but to see it come alive in fiction almost makes one a spectator of his formative years. Plus, I really loved the idea of muses coming to life, it kinda reminded me of the Greek muses that were actual women and not just a notion. Not to mention that Winters’ impeccable prose fits seamlessly perfect with any of the Poe-inspired figures of speech.

This is a beautiful tale told beautifully, by a writer who clearly loves her subject as much as I do. You’ll be fascinated and enchanted by the characters and gorgeous prose, and maybe its magic will make you want to discover or revisit some of Poe’s works because that’s what amazing books do. They don’t end when the story ends, and Poe’s legacy is one that will continue forevermore.

Short Q & A With The Author:

What about Edgar Allan Poe’s life made you want to write about him?

I wanted to write about Poe precisely because I didn’t know anything about his life, other than the fact that he married his thirteen-year-old cousin when he was twenty-seven and was supposedly an opium addict (the latter of which has been disputed by scholars). Teachers introduced me to his work when I was in middle school, and he was assigned to me as my American author to study in my eleventh-grade English class. Gothic literature mesmerized me from a very young age, and Poe’s work was no exception.

A few years ago, after using solely fictional characters in my novels, I challenged myself to write about the teenage years of a real-life historical figure, and Edgar Allan Poe immediately came to mind as the perfect subject. Even though his macabre stories and poems are iconic, and he has one of the most recognizable faces in literary history, most people don’t know anything about him as a person. Originally, I didn’t even know where he lived as a teenager, so everything about him was new to me when I first dove into the research.

What is your favourite Poe short story? How about his poetry?

I really love Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death.” To me, it reads like a sinister, Gothic fairy tale, and it’s an excellent example of how to create an atmosphere in fiction—and how to pack a punch with a story’s ending. I love Poe’s poetry even more than his stories, so choosing just one favorite it difficult. “Annabel Lee” was the very first work of his that I ever read, and I’ve always found it both beautiful and chilling. “The Raven,” of course, is a top choice, because it’s quintessential Poe. I’ve also become a big fan of “The Bells.” I wasn’t familiar with that particular poem before writing THE RAVEN’S TALE, but Poe’s rhythm and language—and the way his tone changes throughout the piece—is spellbinding. I love how the poem sounds like bells when read aloud.

After so many years left wondering, fans of Poe finally get a chance to meet Lenore in your novel. Do you think muses are indispensable to an artist, or can an artist create without a muse?

Well, there are both mythological muses and human muses. Both come into play in THE RAVEN’S TALE, and I think in some ways both versions influence all writers. My literary agent will frequently tell me to let my muse guide me, as if a supernatural being hovers around me, inspiring me and deciding when and how I should write. We writers tend to also complain about our muses turning stubborn and silent. I wanted to play with those ideas in THE RAVEN’S TALE, which is why I created the character of Lenore, a mystical, macabre muse who desperately needs teenage Poe to write Gothic works in order for her to survive. Unlike most muses, who remain hidden, she steps out of the shadows of young Eddy’s bedroom wall and demands to be seen. She represents the voice inside all creative souls that drives us to share our work with the world. It’s the same voice that fills our brains with new ideas, often when we’re not expecting ideas to appear, and it sometimes, sadly, falls silent when we truly need inspiration, leading to the dreaded “writer’s block.”

I think all writers tend to have real-life muses, too, whether we realize it or not. Many of my novels involve dark-haired leading men with emotional pasts, and I’m married to a dark-haired guy whom I met when we were both teens.

What part of researching for this novel did you most enjoy?

In 2017 I traveled to Virginia and explored the city of Richmond, where Poe lived the majority of his teen years, and Charlottesville, where he attended the University of Virginia at the age of seventeen. It’s one thing to read about people and places of the past in books and articles, but to actually walk in a historical figure’s footsteps brings a whole new dimension to research. Poe’s dorm room sits on display at the university, and it was incredible to map out my dormitory scenes while looking at and photographing his actual room.

When teaching poetry, I was asked by a student why so many poets and writers seemed to have had experienced some form of tragedy. Do you think that suffering is essential for the artist or can an artist still create relateable material without experiencing pain?

Some artists, including Poe, certainly endure more tragedy than others, but I think most everyone experiences some degree of pain in their life, whether it’s death, loneliness, injury, oppression, bullying, or anything else that leaves a mark on a person. For creative individuals, that pain often works its way into art, just as they also pour their loves and passions into their projects. I don’t think a person has to suffer a horrifying tragedy in order to turn into a great artist, but I think all artists use a version of their tragedies (and fears and challenges) in their works, including comedians, who often cite their pain as the source of their material.

 

 

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1995 Alanis Was My Spirit Animal

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A week ago, the internet was set on fire when someone dared to criticize Alanis Morissette’s multi-Grammy winning album, Jagged Little Pill. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not a current Alanis fan, however, there was a time when I fiercely loved that album and her. So, much like when things have ended with an ex, and you may not currently be in love with them, there will always remain the good memories of your time spent together, and in a way, you will always defend those memories. That’s exactly how I feel about Jagged Little Pill. Living in southern Italy during my youth, it meant that I was bombarded with female musicians who only sung of their broken hearts, begging for ungrateful exes to return to them, or images of TV hosts where they were barely dressed, showing off huge breasts and silicone enhanced lips. To be a woman meant to be passive and beautiful, almost like a pretty Christmas ornament.

But I couldn’t relate to those women, and thus felt very much an outsider living in a town where men stared at you like you were a pretty piece of flesh and that you were obligated to think that cat-calls were compliments in disguise, cause, after all, it only happened to the pretty girls. It also meant having nothing in common with any of the girls living in that town, who would spend hours sitting in the town plaza waiting and hoping for their crushes to pass by with their mopeds. When I’d declare that I wouldn’t wait for hours for a guy to show up I’d be seen as “weird”. Other times, people assumed I lacked passion simply because I refused to be a human doormat for men. I was very passionate as a teen, especially when it came to the guy I was majorly in love with, but I also loved myself enough not to be willing to wait six hours in the town plaza in hopes that maybe the guy would show up, to only be stood up. Cause more often than not, that’s how events played out for my friends.

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I don’t remember exactly how I came across Alanis, but probably it was through the radio (southern Italy didn’t get MTV) and I believe it was the song, You Learn, cause in patriarchal Italy, that was the least offensive song of the album. But for me, You Oughta Know was my jam. I remember playing Jagged Little Pill uber high that the walls would shake and my neighbors complained. They couldn’t understand the rage I felt, after all, I lived in a society that expected me to just be pretty passive. I was considered a freak for wearing dark blue nail varnish, fishnet stockings with Docs, and coating my lips in dark shades of Vermillion. In other words, I didn’t look “safe”.

Alanis was my gateway drug to Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani (No Doubt heyday was angry, not like today’s pop persona), and Shirley Manson, women who were even angrier and far more outspoken than her. I’m not trying to say that Jagged Little Pill saved my life, but it made it more bearable. It made me feel that there were other girls out there who had a similar rage and outspokenness. That there wasn’t anything wrong with me for wanting to reject the notion of what a woman should be, whether or not others agreed with me.

In 1995, Alanis was pretty much the rock goddess of angry rock that we all needed (I know I did), so to compare her legacy and efforts to a childish song like Baby Shark is not only insulting but downright cruel. I may not be into Alanis’ music nowadays (she’s too mellow for me now, and I never outgrew my anger and angst), but I’ll always defend the woman and the album that made an outcast not feel so much alone. I may have been out of place in Sicily, Italy, but I knew that belonged somewhere. Where the legions of angry girls resided.

1995

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Throwback Thursday: The Virgin Suicides

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I have a confession to make. As a teenager, I was utterly fascinated by films or literature that explored the themes of suicide. In fact, it was so much my focus that even my poetry reflected that. Now, perhaps at the time, I was guilty of glamorizing a horrific act, in part because at the time I saw it as a solution to my teenage depression and a manifestation of trying to get people to understand how serious my inner turmoil was (and not be blown off as simple teenage angst). This is why books and films like The Virgin Suicides hit home, especially when the youngest sibling, Cecilia tells the doctor after a suicide attempt gone wrong, “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year old girl.” And that statement was the crux of both the film and novel.

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We, the audience, never know what it means to be a 13-year old girl, especially since the narrator of the story is an older male reflecting back on his youth and his fascination with the five beautiful sisters. The film was Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut, and she did a stunning job at demonstrating the male gaze (cause after all the book is written by a male who’s trying to understand teenage girls). When we all know that the only way to truly understand a teenage girl is to have been a teenage girl yourself.

The film depicts how the neighborhood boys elevated the sisters (especially Lux played by the superb Kirsten Dunst) to an almost saintly level. They can’t understand why Cecilia wished to die, nor do they understand why sisters followed suit soon after in the most horrific ways.

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The Lisbon sisters are never allowed to simply be girls, which means that they, like other girls that have come before and after them, have always struggled with this dilemma where girls aren’t allowed to be real people. That they must fit into someone else’s idea of what they should be (their parents, society, etc.). and that ultimately, it’s that wanting to break free from that saintly ethereal mask that is pinned so aggressively upon them that breaks them in a way that no one will ever comprehend. When Lux tries to break out of her good-girl box and has sex with the school heartthrob Trip (Josh Harnett), the consequences are exceptionally dire, and ones that many teenage girls can relate to.

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What spurs the demise of the Lisbon sister isn’t their sadness, but rather they choose death because they see it as the only vehicle to freedom. They couldn’t be free to be themselves, they had to live up to the expectations that were thrust upon them, and in an act of rebellion, they eliminated themselves as a way to not conform. And sadly, that is something that many teenage girls relate to, and why teenage me only saw death as a means to escape as well.

Men that watch the film will never understand the motives for the girls’ suicides, as the boys in the movie never do. But the girls in the audience know why. Because obviously, the men in the audience have never been a 13-year old girl. But us girls have been and although we can’t condone the act, we do understand why.

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Book Review: How To Make Friends With The Dark by Kathleen Glasgow

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Here is what happens when your mother dies.

Release Date: April 9, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $12.91 (hardcover)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

It’s the brightest day of summer and it’s dark outside. It’s dark in your house, dark in your room, and dark in your heart. You feel like the darkness is going to split you apart.

That’s how it feels for Tiger. It’s always been Tiger and her mother against the world. Then, on a day like any other, Tiger’s mother dies. And now it’s Tiger, alone.

Here is how you learn to make friends with the dark.

Grade: A

Review:

Having read Glasgow’s heart-wrecking debut, Girl In Pieces, I had an inkling that perhaps her second novel would be another emotional rollercoaster. What I didn’t know is just how much of a wild, heart-breaking ride this would be. Last year, I finally got around to reading White Oleander (about a girl who goes into foster care once her mom is sent to prison for murder), so when Tiger’s mom dies, and she goes to foster care all I can think is, “OH NO BAD THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN NOW!” Because some crazy shit went down in White Oleander that made me grateful that I never had to be a foster child, but at the same time made me feel extremely sorry for those poor kids who do end up becoming wardens of the state. And although I had only known Tiger for a couple of pages, I instantly liked her and was fearful of her future without her mother.

The prose in this book is amazingly STUNNING, even when events happen that leave you feeling like you’re repeatedly getting sucker punched with the most horrible reality. The author has a way of writing that makes grief and despair appear simultaneously poetic and yet very harsh. This book doesn’t lull you with a false sense of security, instead, it pulls the rug out from under your feet making you fall painfully hard. This book isn’t for those who are looking for a casual YA because other than the protagonist being a teen, a lot of the tough reality of life wasn’t glossed over nor sugar-coated. Glasgow wants you to see how difficult it can be to lose the only person you have in life, even if that reality makes you feel uncomfortable at times.

This book will make you feel in ways you didn’t think you were capable of feeling. It will also absolutely shatter your heart to pieces. Not to mention that ugly crying will be in your near future once you pick up this novel. You’ve been warned. But it’s well worth it.

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

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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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