Book Review: Jackal by Erin E. Adams

It’s watching.

PLOT SUMMARY:

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward, passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the couple’s daughter, Caroline, disappears—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.

It’s taking.

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: A summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in Liz’s high school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart removed. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.

It’s your turn.

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.

GRADE: A+

REVIEW:

I’ve always been wary of the forest – in fact, when we lived in Sardinia and our villa had a forest behind it, I always stayed out of it. Even at four years old I had a gut feeling that whatever noise I heard in the forest I should ignore it, and never investigate its origin. Liz returns to Johnstown for her best friend’s wedding, only for her goddaughter Caroline to go missing. But every year for thirty years young Black girls have gone missing – always in the same spot in the forest. This novel is rich with history, terror, and what it means to return home to a place that has never quite felt like your own. The writing is rich and the protagonist Liz is flawed but hopelessly determined. I love folklore and the author masterfully crafted a thriller mystery that weaves folklore with history in a way that you’re left racing through the pages attempting to escape the darkness and rush towards the light. I loved this book, there’s so much one can learn from this about race, class, and history. Read this book even if it scares you, actually read it because it will.

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

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Review: Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb

What It Is: Moisturizing eye cream

What It Does: Moisturizes and depuffs the eye area

Active Ingredients: Vitamin C

Verdict: This eye cream is lightweight but at the same time feels so satisfyingly rich. I love how refreshing this eye cream felt after a 12-hours flight. It has helped restore and reset my tired eyes, waking up to completely recharged skin that was line free and incredibly hydrated. I recommend this for all skin types, but especially if you’re on the dry side, it’ll be very beneficial. If you suffer from puffy eyes, this will work miracles on you too.

Price: $48

Where To Buy It: Sephora

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Film Review: Luckiest Girl Alive

Full disclosure, when I started reading the novel, I struggled with the first chapters because I found present Ani to be too fixated on looks and appearances, especially when it came to clothes and her views on marriage (when I read the book I was still unmarried and was annoyed that the character could be so judgmental on what was the perfect age to be married by). It wasn’t until we got to meet teen Ani (then known as TifAni) that I warmed up to the character and could feel like we actually had more in common than I would’ve anticipated. Having said this, at the time I really enjoyed the novel so when the film hit Netflix last week I quickly viewed it.

Maybe because the author, Jessica Knoll has written three books since Luckiest Girl Alive, but I felt like the screenplay for the film (also written by the author) managed to convey a powerful punch to the gut, in a way that the book didn’t (I much prefer the film’s ending than the book ending). The writing was raw, sharp, and went for the jugular, in other words, it doesn’t aim to please, rather it aims to seize what is rightfully theirs, without shame.

The movie, much like the book has us meet present Ani – who seems to have it all, impressive journalist career, rich fiancé, and is on her way to becoming an editor for The New York Times. And yet, she’s plagued by an incident from her past that’s linked to personal trauma as well as collective trauma. Mila Kunis skillfully brings this complex character to life in the present timeline, while Chiara Aurelia portrays teen Ani is a stark contrast to her present self, as teen Ani is curvaceous with unruly hair who desperately wishes to be accepted by her blue blood rich classmates at her posh private High School. Present Ani is impeccable in looks, but when her fiancé Luke steps away from the table at the restaurant, we see her scarf down two slices of pizza with a hunger that the viewer knows that there’s something brewing instead of Ani that wishes to unleash itself. That she isn’t being her authentic self because present Ani thinks the only way she can move on from her past is to deny everything she was as a teen.

This is a very harrowing yet powerful movie, and if you’re a woman it’s one you don’t want to miss because finally there’s a character that is both complex and messy and yet manages to honor her younger self in the end by doing something that her teenage self would’ve approved of. The way in which Mila Kunis delivers the most eloquent fuck you in the final scene will make you think that that fuck you is one that many women can stand behind

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Spotlight: If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang

Release Date: October 11, 2022

ABOUT THE BOOK:

In a YA debut that’s Gossip Girl with a speculative twist, a Chinese American girl monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.

Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.

When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.

But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ann Liang is an undergraduate at the University of Melbourne. Born in Beijing, she grew up traveling back and forth between China and Australia, but somehow ended up with an American accent. When she isn’t stressing out over her college assignments or writing, she can be found making over-ambitious to-do lists, binge-watching dramas, and having profound conversations with her pet labradoodle about who’s a good dog. This is her debut novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: https://www.annliang.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annliangwrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annliangy

BUY LINKS:  

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/if-you-could-see-the-sun/9781335915849 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335915849

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/if-you-could-see-the-sun-ann-liang/1140845015

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/If-You-Could-See-Sun/dp/1335915842/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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3 Realistic Horror Movies That Will Give You Nightmares

Sure, ghosts and demons can be very frightening, but what are the chances that they will happen to us in our lifetime? Some horror movies are scary because the chances that they could actually happen are high. Here are three realistic horrors that will chill you to the core.

THE STRANGERS

Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) are expecting a relaxing weekend at a family vacation home, but their stay turns out to be anything but peaceful. First, a mysterious and dangerous woman arrives at the door while James is out on an errand. When he returns, he accidentally kills his friend Mike (Glenn Howerton), mistaking him for an intruder. And then real danger does show up — in the form of three masked torturers, leaving Kristen and James struggling for survival.

Scare Factor: 10/10 Home invasions are scary, and sadly very probable!

SPEAK NO EVIL

On a vacation in Toscana, a Danish family instantly becomes friends with a Dutch family. Months later, the Danish couple receives an unexpected invitation. It doesn’t take long before the joy of reunion is replaced with misunderstandings.

Scare Factor: 9.5 – strangers that turn out to be crazier than anticipated is very frightening and makes you understand why summer friends should never be seen outside of holidays.

WOLF CREEK

A chilling, factually based story of three road-trippers in remote Australia who are plunged into danger when they accept help from a friendly local. Kristy, Ben and Liz are three friends in their twenties who set out to hike through the scenic Wolf Creek National Park in the Australian Outback. The trouble begins when they find that their car won’t start and they run into a local bushman named Mick Taylor.

Scare Factor: 10/10 Who doesn’t like to hike? And who doesn’t find themselves enthralled by the help of friendly strangers? This movie will make you wary of strangers forever.

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Book Review: The Haunting of Alejandra by V. Castro

The creature stalked in the shadows….

PLOT SUMMARY:

A woman is haunted by the Mexican folk demon La Llorona as she unravels the dark secrets of her family history in this ravishing and provocative horror novel.

Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her.

Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.

When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors.

Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.

But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever.

GRADE: A+

REVIEW:

Anyone living in Los Angeles is familiar with the lore of La Llorona, mostly because people claim that oftentimes at night, they can hear her crying. So of course when this novel popped up on my radar I knew that I simply HAD to read it. Castro’s novel is part Mexican lore and part generational curse and WOW anyone who’s a woman can relate to Alejandra’s plight as she tries to keep a happy exterior as marital pressures and her own dissatisfaction come to a head when La Llorona begins to haunt her. The novel explores the trials and tribulations that span across generations and how each woman has been affected by their encounter with La Llorona. The novel was both creepy and difficult read as women can easily see how often in marriages they’re expected to be mothers and wives first and foremost and to leave all sense of self behind. Alejandra finds herself at a crossroads when the haunting begins – she’s so unhappy with her life that death seems the only way out. I enjoyed learning more about the lore and Mexican history – that’s so rich, diverse, and oftentimes devastating. La Llorona was very terrifying in her descriptions that pale to any Hollywood version of her ever made. This book was riveting, terrifying, and utterly timely. I recommend it if you love your horror with a feminist edge.

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

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Review: Huda Beauty The Overachiever High Coverage Concealer in Marshmallow

What It Is: High coverage concealer

What It Does: With 31% pure pigment it cover and conceals imperfections.

Active Ingredients: Green Tea and Rose extract

Verdict: I wanted to love this product because the quality is excellent – however, it doesn’t perform the way I need a concealer to perform. Sure, this concealer perfectly blurs dark under eyes circles and blemishes but the formula is terribly unblendable, which means that it easily cracks when dry. I even tried to use a wet Beauty Blender to ease the blending process – but nope! Maybe if one only uses this for blemishes it can work for you, but it cracks and creases way too much to be placed under the eyes. Not to mention, that I always use an eye cream prior to putting concealer, and I’d hate to see someone try to use this without eye cream prior because it would completely dry the skin out. It’s a pity because the shade was a perfect match for me. C’est la vie.

Price: $30

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

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Book Review: Full Immersion by Gemma Amor


God, I’m tired of myself…..

PLOT SUMMARY:

What can you do when you’re reeling from trauma but you’ve tried it all? Counselling, yoga, pills, meditation, art, healthy living… none of it makes a dent. What’s left?

Magpie is out of ideas. She’s desperate enough to try anything. Just when she thinks her life can get no worse, she discovers herself, or rather her own dead body, partially buried in the mudbank of a river. A man stands by, a familiar stranger. What does he want? And why can’t she remember getting here? Why can’t she remember anything?

Unbeknownst to her, two pairs of eyes watch from behind an observation screen, in a room filled with computers and sensors. An experiment is unfolding, but is Magpie the subject, or practitioner? Reality becomes a slippery concept. And beyond the glass is something worse still: a hint of an outline, shaped in darkness…

Magpie realises all too soon that her journey has transformed from healing to survival. She must become the hunter rather than the hunted, with her missing memories the prey.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Gemma Amor’s sci-fi horror novel perfectly blends the horrors of postpartum depression with supernatural/sci-fi horrors. Magpie is desperate to escape her suicidal ideations and finds herself penning a letter to an experimental group in hope that they can fix her. The only issue is that the researchers aren’t prepared for Magpie’s fear to manifest in a true identity ready to devour and destroy everything that comes in its way. This book expertly describes the malaise that often comes with motherhood and how still today many women face these same issues alone drenched in shame. This was an emotional and scary ride – kudos to Amor for having the balls to write something so deeply personal and share it with the world. But I feel like the world is better with such an important book like this available. I recommend this book if you love horror and sci-fi genre blends and seek horror with a ton of heart and soul.

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

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Review: Acure Brightening Vitamin C Jelly Mask

What It Is: A brightening face mask

Active Ingredients: Vitamin C, ferulic acid, and brightening banana flower extract.

Verdict: This jelly mask is meant to be put on for only ten minutes and then rinsed off. However, I left it on as an overnight mask. I liked how my skin felt the following day – smooth, soft, and supple. My only tiny gripe with this mask is that since it’s jelly, it’s incredibly watery, meaning that it’s difficult to grab hold of it to put on your skin. I’d like a mask that’s a bit firmer to grasp. But other than that, the ingredients are incredible for your skin.

Price: $19.99

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

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Book Review: Mothered by Zoje Stage

What made a human being turn monstrous?

PLOT SUMMARY:

Grace isn’t exactly thrilled when her newly widowed mother, Jackie, asks to move in with her. They’ve never had a great relationship, and Grace likes her space—especially now that she’s stuck at home during a pandemic. Then again, she needs help with the mortgage after losing her job. And maybe it’ll be a chance for them to bond—or at least give each other a hand.

But living with Mother isn’t for everyone. Good intentions turn bad soon after Jackie moves in. Old wounds fester; new ones open. Grace starts having nightmares about her disabled twin sister, who died when they were kids. And Jackie discovers that Grace secretly catfishes people online—a hobby Jackie thinks is unforgivable.

When Jackie makes an earth-shattering accusation against her, Grace sees it as an act of revenge, and it sends her spiraling into a sleep-deprived madness. As the walls close in, the ghosts of Grace’s past collide with a new but familiar threat: Mom.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

I read this author’s debut novel, Baby Teeth and had enjoyed some aspects of it – so I wanted to try out another novel of hers. Mothered is a case study of pandemic life and how it is to cope with your life dramatically changing as the world outside was full of uncertainties and how a mother/daughter relationship completely deteriorates towards the end. Grace and Jackie have been estranged for many years but now during the pandemic, Grace has allowed her recently widowed mother Jackie to move in with her. The two haven’t had the best relationship since Grace took the burden of taking care of her disabled twin Hope growing up while her mother worked – being a single parent. I wasn’t particularly fond of the protagonist Grace, so I actually found her behavior more offputting than her mother’s. My biggest gripe with the novel is that the majority of the horror happened in dream sequences and since I could easily tell when Grace was dreaming – reading the horrible gory dream weren’t as frightening because I knew that nothing truly happened in the waking world. I know the novel took place mostly at home due to the pandemic, but it still made me feel restless and I couldn’t wait for it to be over (especially since we already knew what was going to happen since the prologue gave it away). Overall, the book was well written but I’m weary of Covid and reading about it was such a chore. I recommend the book if you like protagonists with mommy issues – don’t mind a Covid plot, and are okay with slow burn thriller with no clear resolution.

*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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