Book Review: Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson

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That night when you kissed me, I left a poem in your mouth.

Release Date: November 27, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $13.01 (paperback)

Publisher: Button Poetry

Plot Summary:

Andrea Gibson’s latest collection is a masterful showcase from the poet whose writing and performances have captured the hearts of millions. With artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family, Lord of the Butterflies is a new peak in Gibson’s career. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart while giving the body wings to soar.

Grade: A

Review:

Andrea Gibson has been one of the most potent voices in poetry for the LGBTQ community at large. Although since this genre of poetry (spoken poetry) is best consumed if heard live (or watching a video of one of their readings), I suggest that in conjunction to reading this book that you also see them live, because they’re a force to be reckoned with. The poetry comes alive in ways that wouldn’t be able to on print, making you feel just how raw, visceral, and gut-wrenching this experience can truly be.

Many of the topics they explore are things that society is still dealing with such as gender identity, gun control, homophobia, and mental illness. I’m usually not a huge fan of contemporary poets as for someone who majored in Classics, I’ve got a penchant for the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Poe, John Keats, and William Blake. However, much like Sylvia Plath in her days, Andrea Gibson has the courage to shed her skin and allow us to see what’s inside and challenging us to do the same.

I recommend this book if you’re okay with having to nurse a cracked heart afterward because Gibson’s poems cut deep.

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

 

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Book Review: A Danger To Herself & Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

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Four walls. One window. No way to escape.

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $17.99 (for hardcover)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Plot Summary:

Hannah knows there’s been a mistake, She doesn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at that summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctor and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. Those college applications aren’t going to write themselves. Until then, she’s determined to win over the staff and earn some privileges so she doesn’t lose her mind to boredom.
Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage, and she’s the perfect project to keep Hannah’s focus off all she is missing at home. But Lucy may be the one person who can get Hannah to confront the secrets she’s avoiding-and the dangerous games that landed her in confinement in the first place.

Grade: A

Review:

It’s been a recent trend lately where the female protagonists are named Hannah (think Thirteen Reasons Why, Pretty Little Liars, Hanna Fell From The Sky) in novels, and both films and shows haven’t been immune to this phenomenon either (think Girls, Hanna, and recently The Exorcism of Hannah Grace). So when I started reading this novel I noticed that the protagonist’s name was Hannah, I somewhat groaned. I hope you five me, but I’ve overdosed on Hannahs as of late.

On the upside though, is that the author writes with such clarity and poise that I could forgive her naming the protagonist Hannah. And it helped that the story was narrated in the first person, meaning that the name would be used even less.

Apart from my dislike of the name choice, I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this book immensely. I don’t know what it says about me that I LOVE books that take place in any sort of mental institution whether it be contemporary fiction, nonfiction, or historical. I really enjoyed having the story being told by Hannah’s point of view. She’s smart, sarcastic, and somewhat manipulative. This is probably why the reader initially may believe Hannah into thinking that she has no place being in the mental institution, after all, her best friend Agnes falling out of the window could’ve been an accident, right? The majority of the book focuses on Hannah being stuck in the institute and finding a way to get out (but not as in breaking out but proving to the doctor that she’s sane). The reader receives hints and flashbacks and those are compelling enough to make one want to know what exactly happened the night that Agnes fell. Was Hannah to blame or has she been placed in the institute by mistake?

Some of the twists in the book I suspected, while others completely took me by surprise. It was one intense wild ride. If you’re into books about mental illness, asylums, deception, and unreliable narrators, then this book is right up your alley.

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

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Book Review: Witchcraft and Monsters by Kala Godin

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“We may be good at burying things. But we aren’t gravediggers.”

Release Date: January 21, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $4

Publisher: Patchwork Press

Plot Summary:

If there’s anything Kala knows, it’s monsters.
Witchcraft and Monsters is a debut poetry collection by Kala Godin.

Kala understands that the human body can be its own kind of monster. She knows the way strangers both see her and don’t.
There is magic in everything we do.
And there are monsters in each of us.

This collection is broken into five parts.
Witchcraft.
Fairytales.
Bodies.
Bad ideas.
Endings.

Grade: A

Review:

Ever since Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav came to the scene, they’ve officially made poetry cool and the rise of poetry collections that can be found today are astounding. Poetry is having a golden age again, mostly thanks to Instagram where people share and repost bite-size poems. Since so many poetry collections have adopted the simplicity that made both Kaur and Leav famous, I was expecting to get relatively short poems in Kala Godin’s Witchcraft and Monsters poetry collection, but that wasn’t the case at all. These poems are a bit lengthier than what the Instagram crowd is used to, but they’re way more up my alley than the tiny four sentence poems that are being vastly shared today over social media.

The book itself is relatively short (roughly 54 pages) but the poems contained within those pages are powerful and thought-provoking. Godin has broken down the collection in five parts: Witchcraft, Fairytales, Bodies, Bad Ideas, and Endings. Many of the poems found within this collection are dark (again a plus for me as I enjoy darker literature) and very relatable and well-written. I have a soft spot for Fairytales and Myths, and in Part 2, Godin explores certain Greek myths and popular fairytales. In The Big Book of Mythology, the poet questions Hera’s decision on remaining with Zeus when he’s a serial cheater and it all boils down to loyalty.

Another section that I enjoyed a lot was Part 3 that dealt with how we see ourselves (our bodies) and how that relates to how we relate with others. One poem in this section explored how someone in a wheelchair likens herself to Medusa because many avoid eye contact with her, just like people did with the Greek monster.

This was a very solid poetry collection, and I actually look forward to reading more poems or any other writing from this author in the future. If you’re into dark and sinister literature, mythology, or feminist-themed poetry, then this collection is simply perfect to add to your collection.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Patchwork Press for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: And We Call It Love by Amanda Vink

andwecallitlove

Release Date: June 1, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $19.95

Publisher: West 44 Books

Plot Summary:

Clare and Zari are best friends. They write music together, go everywhere together, and they know everything about the other. At least they did before Zari started dating Dion. The more Zari falls for Dion, the less she has time for anything else. At first, Clare chalks it up to a new and exciting relationship, and she tries to be happy for her friend despite her loneliness. When Zari starts to show up to school with half-hidden bruises, Clare knows there’s something darker about this relationship that has to be stopped.

Grade: C –

Review:

I usually love poetry and verse, however, this book just didn’t hit the mark for me. I think my biggest issue with it, despite the fact that it was written as poetic verse, was that the writing just wasn’t that poetic. I was expecting more lyrical writing with this type of writing format. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. Another issue that I had with this book is that it was told in alternating perspectives, and I usually love the dual points of views, however, the way it was written, there was no clear definition between who was Clare or who was Zari. So it made it a little confusing to keep up with the plot because of that.

It saddens me that the execution of the story wasn’t done well because the book explored some very important topics like friendship, self-discovery, and abusive relationships. And I think those are some compelling topics for teens to read about if done well. The characters in this book weren’t very well-developed and this book just fell short.

As a writer, I honestly despise being too critical when it comes to debut authors so I won’t delve too much on the negatives. Also, since I’m not the intended audience, the writing may not resonate with me so much, however, middle-grade readers or tweens may find this books interesting.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and West 44 Books for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Book Review: The Favorite Daughter By Kaira Rouda

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The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect lie.

Release date: May 21, 2019

Pre-Order on Amazon

Price: $26.99

Publisher: Graydon House

Plot Summary:

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

Grade: B-

Review:

I’ll admit that I really struggled reading this book for the first 45 pages or so. The main reason is that I really couldn’t stand the protagonist of the novel, Jane. She was the typical vapid bitch that one would imagine a rich Orange County housewife to be. I know that the author was trying to vividly depict a narcissist who’s also an unreliable narrator, but I suppose I like my narcissists to be more charming than annoying.

Jane is a total control freak who can’t stand that her daughters don’t follow her rules, especially her biological daughter Betsy, whom she keeps referring to being the lesser daughter, and going on about how her deceased daughter Mary was her favourite because she was beautiful, smart, talented, and above all popular.

Maybe it’s a personal pet peeve but I really dislike protagonists (especially those that are written in the first person) who are prone to criticize other women and pretty much be the sort of mean girl you try to avoid in real life. Honestly, there’s a reason why I avoid those reality shows like the Real Lives of (insert city) Housewives, cause all those women are shallow, manipulative, and just plain horrid human beings.

Now you’re wondering, what made you continue to read if you hated the protagonist so much? Well, the writing itself was flowing and easy going (although it lacked the descriptive writing I’m more of a fan of) and I did want to find out if my hunch on what had really happened was true.

Spoiler alert: I was right, so the grand twist was no true twist. I don’t know if this book was the best representation of a psychological thriller, but it was entertaining. I just wish that the other characters in the book were a bit more likable, as I would’ve actually felt some compassion for the terrible things that were happening to them. But ironically, as much as I disliked Jane, I kinda sided with her, cause her family members truly treated her poorly that they kinda deserved her ire.

I think women’s book clubs and fans of cozy mysteries would actually be the best fans for this novel. There’s not much gore or thrill, so fans of thrillers seeking a chilling tale won’t find it in this book, but if you’re hoping to be entertained and spend the afternoon with a delusional rich housewife and laugh at her expense, then you’re at the right place.

 

kaira

Follow Kaira Rouda on Instagram!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Graydon House for the digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

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Short Story: Errors of Grievance

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“I warned you!”

The old priestess pounded a weathered fist on the small dining table, her dingy blouse falling off of a dark, bony shoulder. “But you know more than Miss Beaulieu, eh?”
Across the small table, Momma dried a rivulet of shame from her cheek.
“I didn’t mean no harm,” her voice quivered. “I swear.”
From her cold, moonlight-washed perch atop the old bayou house, Adelaide shifted her attention to the agitated women below. Rolling her skinny frame onto her belly, she shivered under her thread-bear dress, setting her little doll beside her. He balanced on his round torso, head draped in a dry tangle of Spanish moss. Yellow lamplight sliced across his black button eyes and together they peered through a crack near the chimney overlooking the kitchen.
“I never took it out the house.” Momma insisted. “Someone done stole it.”
Miss Beaulieu planted a hand on her hip and took a long draw on a short cigar.
“Who done the spell? That jinx, Laronde?” Syllables of dark smoke puffed out of her mouth. Momma stroked her arm and looked away.
“Stupid girl.” Beaded bracelets criticized and chided on Miss Beaulieu’s thin wrist. “His bad voodoo gon’ come back to him and everyone he cast for.”
“You’ve cast for love before.” Momma’s eyes pleaded.
Miss Beaulieu jabbed a finger. “You know this ain’t the same.”
Adelaide’s heart ached. She didn’t like seeing Momma so upset, but she also didn’t like being only one in the house when Momma fell into one of her dark moods. So when her brothers escaped to the river to hunt gators, Adelaide took refuge on the rooftop. In a cigar box, tucked under a missing brick in the chimney top, was her trove of knick-knacks. Her new doll, dressed in cotton pants and a burlap overcoat, was her most valuable addition. It was bad to spoil surprises but Adelaide knew Momma had made this Christmas doll just for her.
“‘Sides,” Miss Beaulieu paced, “he got himself a faithful wife and a good job in Baton Rouge. You think all the Magick in the world gon’ make that man wanna leave that to take up wit’ you out here? Wit’ your five kids?”
Adelaide gave the little man a kiss to ease his troubled expression, the scent of cloves and musk wafting up from the crude stitching down his chest. She would replace him in his hiding spot under the floorboard tomorrow.
“Can you make him a gris-gris bag for protection?” Momma wiped her apron across her cheeks. “In case something happen to the doll?”
Adelaide froze.
“A good Christian like him won’t be caught dead with a necklace full of chicken’s feet and dove’s blood.”
Adelaide’s eyes fell upon the little man beside her. Dried grass protruded out of his stiff arms and legs. He suddenly appeared feeble and indisposed, like a paralyzed prisoner.
“Ain’t no spell on your lover can be reversed without that doll.” Miss Beaulieu dropped a large dollop of ash onto the floor. “Only the One Most High can help him if something happens to it.”
Nausea swallowed up Adelaide like the cold, wet mouth of a whale.
Miss Beaulieu leaned in. “Who you think done stole it?”
“Adelaide?”
Below, Adelaide’s brothers eased their rowboat up to the, rotting, crooked pier. The eldest, Francois, shielded his eyes from the bow lantern to see her better.
“Why you up there?”
Flushed from hiding, Adelaide leapt to her frozen bare feet, accidentally kicking her treasures down the slanted roof. The doll bounced over the ledge. Vertigo struck her numb. Her footing slipped and she tumbled down the sharp slats.
“Adelaide!” Francois’s voice broke as her footing slipped.
A screech leapt from her throat before she plunged into the river. Frigid water hit like glass on her stomach. It rushed up her nose, burning the brain lobes behind her eyes. Sound muted, heavy and low in her ears. Her mind jolted with panic. Adelaide’s eyes popped open but there was no light. Her heart pounded. Only the flash of a brass shoe buckle glittered as it somersaulted down into the watery shadows. She grasped but only caught emptiness. Lungs aching for air, she pulled her way up through the cold void and burst to the surface.
“Sweet Jesus!”
“Grab her!”
“The doll! The do—!” A wave of river water sloshed into Adelaide’s mouth.
“Adelaide, stop! Settle down!”
“No, no, no!” she cried. Strong hands gripped under her arms and slid her into the tiny boat. Violent coughs rattled her little bones. She gagged from a bellyful of the Mississippi and tried to writhe free a final time.
“I…I…didn’t know!” Adelaide sobbed. Warm arms wrapped around her and pinned her to the seat of the small wooden rowboat. “Momma, I didn’t know!”
“Adelaide?” Momma’s voice carried from the house.
“Settle yourself, girl.” Francois held her firm. “What are you carryin’ on about?”
Adelaide’s eyes darted beyond the bucking bow, searching for the voodoo, but it had sunk all the way to the bottom of the bayou.

By: Erica Ruhe

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11 Books On My Reading List

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I’ve always been an avid reader, but in the past four years or so ever since I got myself a Kindle, my reading has increased tenfold. What can I say? It’s so much easier to find myself reading when I’ve got 200+ books at my fingertips. Plus, I don’t have to worry about unread books taking up any physical space, which means that I can begin and stop reading a book whenever I wish. Last year I read over 30 books, and although it’s July, I’ve already read over 24 books this year.

Below is a list of books that I’ve placed on my reading list (some titles have been released whilst others still need to be released so I pre-ordered them).

001. Baby Teeth – Zoje Stage

Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.
But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.
Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger…

002. The Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

003. The Witch Elm – Tana French

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

004. Social Creature – Tara Isabella Burton

They go through both bottles of champagne right there on the High Line, with nothing but the stars over them… They drink and Lavinia tells Louise about all the places they will go together when they finish their stories, when they are both great writers-to Paris and to Rome and to Trieste…

Lavinia will never go. She is going to die soon. 

Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.

005. #Murder Trending – Gretchen McNeil

WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0.

When seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

006. On The Come Up – Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least get some streams on her mixtape. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But when her mom unexpectedly loses her job, food banks and shut-off notices become as much a part of her life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are, and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working class black families.

007. Glitter – Aprilynne Pike

Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.

When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. 

Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.
Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.

But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.

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008.Pretty Dead – Francesca Lia Block

People pity me, but mostly they feel envy. I have all the luxury and freedom a girl my age could want.
Something is happening to Charlotte Emerson. Like the fires that are ravaging the hills of Los Angeles, it consumes her from the inside out. But whether it is her eternal loneliness, the memory of her brother, the return of her first love, or the brooding, magnetic Jared—she cannot say. What if it’s something more . . .
Something to do with the sudden tear in her perfect nails. The heat she feels when she’s with Jared. The blood rushing once again to her cheeks and throughout her veins.
For Charlotte is a vampire, witness to almost a century’s worth of death and destruction. But not since she was a human girl has mortality touched her.
In what way will you be transformed?
Until now.

009. The Cure For Dreaming – Cat Winters

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

010. Gilchrist – Christian Galacar

Two years after losing their infant son to a tragic accident, Peter Martell, a novelist with a peculiar knack for finding lost things, and his wife, Sylvia, are devastated to learn they may no longer be able to have children. In need of a fresh start, and compelled by strange dreams, the couple decide to rent a lake house in the idyllic town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts, a place where bad things might just happen for a reason. As bizarre events begin to unfold around them—a chance encounter with a gifted six-year-old boy, a series of violent deaths, and repeated sightings of a strange creature with a terrifying nature—Peter and Sylvia find themselves drawn into the chaos and soon discover that coming to Gilchrist may not have been their decision at all.

Set against a small New England town in the summer of 1966, Gilchrist is a sinister tale about the haunting origins of violence, evil, and the undying power of memory.

011. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White 

Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. 

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness. 

What books do you have on your list? Do any of these would be ones you’d want to read?

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: A Chilling Prophecy

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The TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale has been an incredible success (so much so that they’ve already confirmed a Season Three), but before actually watching the series, I decided I wanted to read the novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of George Orwell’s 1984, a futuristic novel that should be seen as a cautionary tale of how the government can control every aspect of our lives, even history (as the protagonist Winston works in doing exactly that, rewriting history). Like Orwell, Atwood hopes that her novel can also be seen as a cautionary tale of how easy it is for women to lose their rights and actually be reduced to silenced slaves if we do nothing about keeping the rights we already have and obtaining new ones that we’re still fighting for today.

The book opens with Offred telling us about her life as a Handmaid. The new government in the Republic of Gilead has outlawed reading for women, they can no longer have bank accounts or jobs. In this new austre republic, women are divided into groups of Wives (who wear blue, much in resemblance to Mary from the Bible and are usually married to commanders), Handmaids (they are used as wombs for the barren wives and made to wear red), Marthas (dressed in green and symbolize those who do chores much like servants), Aunts (they dress in brown and are those who instruct future handmaids on their “occupation”), Jezebels (they’re allowed access to alcohol, drugs, makeup, and garish clothing cause they’re essentially prostitutes), Econowives (wives of those who are lower-rank and dress in stripes), and Daughters (dressed in white). Then there’s the non-women, these group of women are those that have defied authority or are too old to reproduce, hence are sent to the colonies to clean up toxic waste till they die.

In this novel, Atwood seems to want to shake women and tell them WAKE UP! THIS COULD BE YOUR FUTURE! And eerily enough, with more and more politicians and conservative women fighting to strip away rights from other women, Gilead could pretty much become a reality. Whenever one perpetuates rape culture or slut-shames, we’re allowing a future like that to manifest.

Serena Joy, in the novel, is the Commander’s wife in which Offred if the Handmaid to. In her former life, Serena Joy was a conservative religious TV personality. The irony is, that Serena Joy got exactly what she preached for, but at the same time, her rise to fame wouldn’t have occurred if she hadn’t been living in a democratic republic. But, once things began to spin out of control, it was too late for Serena to regret the change she herself had perpetrated.

One of the most chilling quotes from the novel is spoken by Aunt Lydia who tells her handmaids in training, “ This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will.” And that’s where the horror lies. The new society hopes that future girls won’t question their fate, because they won’t have a recollection of a time before, nor would they have access to books to know that such a time ever existed.

With this novel, Atwood wants women to wake up and see that as the Commander tells Offred, “Better never means better for everyone…It always means worse for some.” People like Paul Ryan are hoping that you tire of fighting so that they can have a better society that betters their lives but would ultimately make yours worse.

In the novel, we never know what became of Offred. But if there’s one thing we can take away from Atwood’s novel is this: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” (Don’t let the bastards grind you down). Fight on and fight hard.

By: Azzurra Nox

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Book Review: Hiding – Henry Turner

hiding

Review*

HIDING was a very unique, particular book about a teenage boy who has been figuratively hiding all his life, that he’s capable of going unnoticed in plain sight. The whole book takes place within a twenty hour-time frame and explores the various secrets one keeps, and how sometimes surface truths aren’t always the truth, but merely a cover-up to what is truly hiding beneath the surface. This novel will keep you guessing as you try to unravel the truth about why the protagonist’s girlfriend left him, and how the truth affected the whole relationship. A fast-paced YA that ultimately delivers an important message to teens, how precious life is and what it means to be true to yourself. Check this out if you’re into coming of age YA novels, with a protagonist reminiscent of Holden Caulfield.

About The Book:

 HIDING tells the story of a teen boy who excels at being unseen and who finds himself in the unlikely predicament of hiding in his ex-girlfriend’s house. There he uncovers carefully concealed truths—about her, her family, and himself—in a breakout mystery both unpredictable and perceptive. Trapped by the alarm in his ex-girlfriend’s house and his own indecision, he’s confronted by how little he knows about Laura and her family—her seemingly perfect life and the reasons she shut him out of it. As he explores the palatial home, he uncovers more than he bargained for. How long can he stay hidden? What will happen if he is found? What will he learn about Laura—and himself—in this house? And what is his true motive for being there?

Turner’s affinity for observant outsiders—and teens who share a desire to hide from nosy adults and judgmental peers—shines in a psychological thriller in which the slow burn of tension keeps readers turning pages to a sudden twist that changes everything.

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Short Q & A With The Author:

In your past novel, Ask The Dark and your current novel, Hiding, both books focus on how the protagonists came from lower class families. How important was that detail to the plot and how did it shape the characters and their actions?

In ASK THE DARK the protagonist was from the lower class, financially speaking, but really that’s not the case in HIDING. HIDING’s narrator is middle class, but living in a neighborhood where that category would have wide boundaries and a sliding scale because there’s a lot of variety and nuance to the whole socio-economic scheme of the area.  It was important that his lifestyle is in contrast to Laura’s – she’s rich and has had a lot of prestige experiences: she lives in a huge house, attends prep school, travels, and so forth, but he doesn’t. He has every reason to wonder why she is attracted to him and sees value in him, because, in at least external ways, they have very little in common. Hence part of his quest is to learn the reasons of her attraction, which ultimately have nothing to do with their socio-economic positions. Also important is how their lifestyles have influenced how they react to their problems and the development of their coping strategies – the differences of which lead the narrator to his most important discoveries.

Hiding reminded me of a true crime incident where a man in New Orleans hid in his ex’s attic for weeks without her knowledge. Was the novel inspired by true events?

Certain personalities in the story have real-life antecedents, but always in a composite. I used to cut school and hang out at a country club where the waiters would give me drinks – though I never put on the act the narrator does! The central situation was my invention, however, and not based on a true crime.

There was a stark contrast between the protagonist and his girlfriend Laura. Do you think that she was attracted to him because unlike her mother, he wasn’t expecting her to be perfect?

He doesn’t have expectations at all. He sees her in the moment, as she is. He looks past her accomplishments, her beauty, money, athletic success, and connects with what makes her real as a person, and not as a reflection of what she has or does, which, to his way of thinking, are really just obstacles getting in the way of their getting to truly know and love each other. A big part of the story has to do with his convincing her that it’s the innate aspects of herself that are most special about her, not things she has or does that are external to her, and that is losing the meaning she once placed in them.

The novel explores the idea of hiding in plain sight. Do you think that many people, especially teenagers find it easier to hide rather than to bring attention to themselves?

It depends on what they hide; or rather, what they hide behind. I think the narrator uses hiding, or at least his highly adaptable definition of hiding, to take control over how he feels he’s being overlooked and ignored in his neighborhood. Instead of saying, “They can’t see me,” he prefers to think, “I’m hiding from them,” which allows him to preserve his private sense of value and keep it a secret to himself, without the need for external approval or validation. The risk, however, is that at its most dangerous level, the narrator defines hiding in the sense of keeping important aspects of the self-buried, from others as well as from oneself. So the kind of hiding that the narrator discusses is very different from just staying out of sight. It can be that – simply staying concealed so you aren’t noticed – but more subtle and dangerous is using some external trait as one’s identity, as the representation of one’s value, behind which hides the secret self.

There was a feeling of dread throughout the whole novel up until the climax. Do you think that this was necessary for the protagonist’s journey?

In the end, when he realizes what is really happening to Laura and the imminent danger of it all, he feels dread, amped up by feelings of urgency and despair. But earlier, as he walks through the neighborhood, or even in the earlier scenes of him sneaking around inside Laura’s house, the sense is more of isolation and alienation – and there is a lot of humor in his way of looking at things. All throughout the story he talks about being unrecognized and in some instances actually rejected, which certainly can be dreadful, but this was necessary to show that he can maintain his sense of self-worth without external support, praise, validation, etc.  That’s really the essence of the book – the revelation that the narrator has developed a coping mechanism that lets him maintain his sense of personal value despite how he’s treated or believes he’s perceived by others.

About The Author:

Henry Turner grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, in Roland Park, where he attended public school. He was always interested in storytelling in one form or another, and as a teenager he started making films with his brother and neighborhood kids.

Henry wound up making five feature films, writing and shooting and cutting them. When his films won awards and attracted industry attention he moved to Los Angeles, after getting a call from a film production company that was looking for scripts. He stayed in L.A. and helped build a fledgling film festival that has since become well-established. He also freelanced in entertainment journalism, interviewing well-known filmmakers such as George Lucas, Brian Grazer, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, and many others. All along he was writing stories.

During a year spent in Greece he made a total commitment to writing fiction. Returning to Los Angeles, he met his future wife, who encouraged him to study fiction writing with a novelist he admired – John Rechy. Henry stayed in Rechy’s private writing group for a number of years and also studied privately with Hubert Selby. Since then he and his wife have had a son, Hugo, who is now twelve. Henry Turner is now writing a new novel.

Purchase the book on Amazon or Indiebound!

Check him out on Twitter!

Visit his author website!

*I received a free copy of the book for review purposes. 

By: Azzurra Nox

 

Book Review: Dakota – A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris

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Synopsis:

In 2001 Kathleen Norris published a memoir titled Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. This rousing story illuminates what life is like in a rural town––but more than that, it begs the question of what it means to live life as fully and intimately as possible.

About the Author:

Norris is a well-known poet and essayist who lives deep in the rural Dakotas, in the little town of Lemmon. She moved here after spending much of her life in New York City, but also spends some of her time in Hawaii.

Other publications of hers include Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, The Virgin of Bennington, and The Cloister Walk.

Themes––Land, Humanity, Love, Prosperity:

The themes in Dakota are simple, yet profound. In this review I strive to provide an overview, and break down the whole of the book into four clear themes; however, the reader should note that each theme is like a lake––placid on the surface, but immeasurably deep. This review is meant to be just an introduction, not a full in-depth analysis, that will hopefully entice the reader to enjoy the book.

Our odd, tortured landscape terrifies many people. Some think it’s as barren as the moon, but others are possessed by it.
(p. 36)

Dakotans know why they like living here, where life is still lived on a human scale.
(p. 35)

Watching a storm pass from horizon to horizon fills your soul with reverence. It makes your soul expand to fill the sky.
(p. 9)

Norris muses about the wide, open plains and the lack of trees and large cities. To Norris, especially as a poet, the solitude of the land inspires her to a deeper connection with God, to the grittiness of real life, and to her creative pursuits.

Even urban monasteries run on a rural rhythm, taking notice of sunrise and sunset with morning prayer and evensong.
(p. 184)

Together, the monks and coyotes will sing the world to sleep.
(p. 217)

Norris writes that the 21st century has stripped us of all realness. She asks: What if we rose and set with the sun, just as God made us to do? She argues that humans have created their own sense of time, one that runs on hours and minutes and seconds, where we focus too much on the numbers of a clock and less on how our bodies are meant to flow with the days.

At first glance, these notions may sound strangely new-age––rhythms? Follow the sun? But Norris is not advocating for the worship of nature by any means; rather, she spends much time with the Benedictines who teach her spiritual disciplines and ground her in the teachings of Christ.

True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person.
(p. 197)

Norris often mentions the extreme love monks have for their fellow humans. She is inspired by age-old proverbs of desert monks who gain knowledge by solitude––and who find that this intense solitude, such as experienced on the Dakotas, provides immense joy when social interaction is received.

In short, Norris writes that she is becoming like a monk: She sees a trip to someplace bigger than Lemmon as a great joy, a feast.

Both monks and country people take for granted that prayer works, and that it’s worth doing. Why not relax and enjoy it? Why not make it beautiful?
(p. 211)

Why not become all flame?
(p. 123)

Norris writes of the hard times in the poor, rural Dakotas. She recognizes the blessings this area has to offer but does not sugarcoat the struggles these people have endured throughout history.

Last Statements:

She leaves the readers with a sense of aloneness––but not loneliness. This idea, to be “all flame,” to transform into one whose religion is not a rigid set of rules, but a faith that at its root seeks truth in Christ, provides hope to the poor Dakota soul. In turn, the reader can also find hope.

Maybe the desert wisdom of the Dakotas can teach us to love anyway, to love what is dying, in the face of death, and not pretend that things are other than they are.
(p. 121)

Guest Post by: Amy

About Amy:  Amy is a lover of lilacs, old books, and authentic community. Her work has appeared in the Southwest Metro and Plymouth magazines, and the Crow River Ink literary magazine. She runs a blog called The Writer’s Refuge.