Book Review: The Winter Sister by Megan Collins

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“The green and flowering land was icebound and lifeless because Persephone had disappeared.”

Release Date: February 5, 2019

Purchase on Amazon

Price: $17.10 (hardcover)

Publisher: Atria Books

Plot Summary:

Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend, she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.

In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.

As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.

Grade: A

Review:

The Winter Sister is a lush, atmospheric mystery thriller that will delve under your skin. I don’t know what it is about winter or Christmas, (maybe it’s due to utter isolation of The Shining or Dario Argento’s Deep Red with the creepy Christmas carol being sung before someone gets stabbed to death), but I always find books or movies in the horror or thriller genre to be that much more effective when placed in a cold environment.

There’s something utterly haunting in the book when you think about Persephone, the murdered sister, lying in a bed of snow, her red coat a stark contrast to the stillness of the night. From the very beginning of the novel, I was sucked into the story. And I know that some reviewers have complained that the plot isn’t original (dead sister, alcoholic grieving mother, troubled traumatized adult sister), but I think one can easily cast that aside with this book, as it’s not truly plot-driven, but rather more of a character study of what grief causes to a family (much like in The Lovely Bones) and since I found the characters likable in their own ways and most genuine and real, I couldn’t help but want to know more about what had happened, and who could’ve possibly have done Persephone harm.

The writing lingers with melancholy and for this piece, it works perfectly well. I truly enjoyed delving into the mystery and honestly, if I didn’t have so much going on in my personal life (ya know, work, editing a short story, keeping up with my blog, and promoting my new book) I probably would’ve finished this much sooner, cause it was THAT GOOD. The Winter Sister is the perfect read for a cold, wintery evening in which you can curl up with this delicious thriller as your snuggled with your warmest Sherpa.

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

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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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Review: Tarte – Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara

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It was my birthday recently (January 8 like the awesome David Bowie & Elvis), and so I stopped by Sephora to get my free birthday gift. While I was there I saw this new Tarte mascara and since I’ve liked other mascaras from Tarte in the past, I decided to give this one a go. Especially since this one promised that it was the “wonder-bra of mascaras.” With that kind of promise, how could I NOT want to have the Pamela Anderson of lashes, right?

What It Is: 4-in-1 Mascara

What It Does: Lengthens, curls, volumizes, and conditions

Active Ingredients: Plant Waxes, Rice Bran, and Olive Esters

Verdict: All right, my only real gripe with this product isn’t the product per se, but the packaging. I’m not a fan of mascara wands that are bulky, cause it makes for a difficult application, I prefer sleeker packaging. And this packaging is way too bulky for my tastes. Apart from the packaging, this mascara is AMAZING. It truly does help with creating longer and curlier lashes. This mascara doesn’t dry your lashes out, probably cause of the olive esters that help condition the lashes. Even if you have puny lashes, this product will pump them up like you wouldn’t know! What I love about this mascara most, is that it really amps up your lashes, it gives you that false lashes look without having to wear falsies! I truly recommend in checking this one out if you get the chance. It’s easily become one of my favourite mascaras.

Price: $23

Where To Buy It: Sephora

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Lashes using the Tarte Mascara, no primer, just the mascara

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Review: Etude House Zero Sebum Drying Powder

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Oily skin has been the bane of existence since I hit puberty, and although many people assure me that having oily skin means that my skin will age slower (since essentially your skin is hydrated 24/7 and thus means fewer wrinkles will appear), trying to battle acne due to oily skin well into adulthood can be rather annoying. Not to mention that without any primers, any makeup I wear essentially melts off within three hours or so and if someone craves glowy skin, mine is like J.Lo’s glow phase times ten (meaning more an oil-slick than glow). So I’ve always been on the search for powder or cream that could help me keep my oily skin under control.

What It Is: Oil Control Sebum Powder

What It Does: Controls the production of oil on your skin.

Verdict: This product is what Urban Decay’s DeSlick wish it were. The thing is this powder WORKS. Even on uber oily skin as my own. The downfall? Well, apparently keeping the oil in check also means that my skin doesn’t breathe, so it actually broke me out more in areas of my face where I don’t usually breakout at. However, I may have used too much of the product, so I stopped using it for a week till my skin stopped freaking out and reused it again afterward using only a tiny amount and no breaking out occurred AND it kept my oil in check. So essentially if you’re looking for a powder that will help you curb your oiliness, then this is the way to go. Prior to this, I haven’t found one that actually works and I’ve used a billion others from various brands that provided no true results on the oil spill that is my skin. So, I’d recommend this product, however, use sparingly as it may break you out, but it DOES work on keeping oily skin at bay.

Price: $6.85

Where To Buy It: Amazon

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Book Review: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

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To sleep, perchance to dream….

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Pre-Order On Amazon

Price: $17.70 (hardcover)

Publisher: Random House

Plot Summary:

One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster.

Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Written in luminous prose, The Dreamers is a breathtaking and beautiful novel, startling and provocative, about the possibilities contained within a human life—if only we are awakened to them.

Grade: A –

Review:

I’m not a fantasy or sci-fi genre reader, but nonetheless, when I read the blurb for this book about a whole town being plagued by a mysterious deep sleep, I was irrevocably intrigued and requested for an ARC. The writing in this book was lyrically beautiful and I did like the characters that were presented, although I wish that we were allowed to get to know some of them more on a personal level rather than only ever seeing them from a bird’s view perspective.

My only gripe with the book is that although many people got infected by the sleep disease, they eventually woke up, and we never understood what had caused them to wake up or if there was an inkling to a cure. My second issue was that it was alluded to that some of the sleepers spoke of how their dreams were visions of the future, and I would’ve enjoyed the book more if we could’ve known more about people’s dreams and how this sleep disease affected their brains, since some of the other sleepers didn’t have these same prophetic dreams.

I really enjoyed following the perspective of college Freshman Mei the most, probably because to me she was the most relatable in the sense of a girl trying to fit in but finding out that she didn’t fit in anywhere, not even in a time of crisis. I wished that she could’ve had a better story-arc as hers was the saddest, but I guess someone had to be the tragic heroine in the novel, and poor Mei was the one for this one.

I recommend this book if you’re interested in dystopian novels or are fascinated by dreams or comas and how that affects people, as that’s what had drawn me into the book. The writing as I mentioned above is top-notch, and it reads like a fairytale of sorts. It has a dreamy quality to it and maybe in that way the author managed to have the reader feel that blissful-balmy sleep that befell the college town of Santa Lora.

The Dreamers is essentially A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream with a twist, and if you enjoy mesmerizing writing, then this book is for you.

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

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Happy New Year & 2019 Goals

2019

Happy New Year, peeps! I hope that 2019 has begun with a bang and that you were able to achieve all (or at least most) of the things you wished to accomplished in 2018. I made a goals list last year and I was very surprised by how much I actually got done.

2018 Writing Goals & What I Accomplished

  • Publish a poetry collection (DONE, you can pre-order BLEED LIKE ME here).
  • Complete my novel Wicked Game (DONE, just need to edit now)
  • Write a screenplay (Didn’t Do)
  • Participate in Pitch Wars (which I DID do)
  • Stick to a consistent posting schedule for my blog (DONE, my blog is now updated on Tuesdays and Thursdays)

Beauty

  • Sleep more (sadly this didn’t happen)
  • Try new eyeshadows or eyeliner colours (didn’t experiment as much as I wished I could have)

Reading

  • I had set a goal of 40 books to read in a year, and actually read 47!

2019 Goals

Writing

  • Edit Wicked Game
  • Finish writing my book Girl That You Fear
  • Finish writing my short story Pink Rabbits
  • Write a screenplay

Beauty

  • Sleep more
  • Been contemplating on cutting my hair short like Lucy Hale, will 2019 be the year of my big chop? We shall see.
  • Try out more cream formulas makeup, like cream blush and cream highlighters

Reading

  • Read 50 books for the year 2019

Blog

  • Since I’ve paired up with NetGalley and received a bunch of ARCs, so you’ll be seeing more Book Reviews & Author Interviews on the blog in the coming year
  • Since I’ve covered some events in 2018 such as Scare LA, Comic-Con LA, and Shriekfest Film Festival, I plan to try to cover more events in the new year

What are some of your goals for the new year?

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Book Review: The Fade by Demitria Lunetta

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The Others meets The Cellar in this scary ghost story thriller from the author of BAD BLOOD.

Release Date: December 11, 2018

Order On Amazon

Price: $12.32

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Plot Summary:

We don’t want to disappear.
We want to be found.

Something terrible happened in her basement. Haley can feel it.

Four girls went missing several years ago, and the police never solved the case. But Haley knows the missing girls were murdered. How else can she explain the hostile presence in her house?

The ghostly girls need something from her. And unless Haley can figure out what they want…she might be next.

Grade: A

Review:

Creepy haunted house in a small town? Check. Missing girls that are possibly dead and haunting said house? Check. Creepy little boy, that sees dead people? Check. Basically, this book has all the things that a good ghost story murder mystery should have. I liked that the book started right off the bat with creepy events, it wasn’t a slow burn. And I like that some of the minor characters were right on board with the belief of ghosts, cause sometimes it gets kinda taxing to have characters go back and forth about whether or not the existence of ghosts is possible.

The mystery of what happened to the missing girls is what had me hooked, to be honest. I really wanted to know what happened to the girls, how they were murdered, where, and why. I also wanted to know who had murdered them. That mystery was the most interesting aspect of the book. I also enjoyed that the book didn’t try to force romantic relationships, or rather they were more casual, rather than insta-love. There are some events that take you by surprise, so it isn’t one of those predictable books, instead it keeps you wanting to read because I really had no idea where it was going to take me. But it was a fun, yet creepy ride!

The writing flowed very well, and if you’re a fan of YA and ghost stories, then this book will be right up your alley.

Short Q & A With the Author:

Why do you think that books about missing girls are so popular?

I think that the mystery is what really gets people. WHAT HAPPENED?! Then when it’s a young person, when there’s an expectation of care, it’s even more important to figure out WHAT HAPPENED?!

What inspired you to write your current book?

I moved into a new house and was at the top of the basement stairs thinking, “This is such a murder basement.” And the idea for THE FADE was born!

The Fade isn’t only a thriller mystery but it has a paranormal twist to it with the ghosts. What makes ghost stories and haunted homes so frightening?

Ghost stories are terrifying because they’re all about the unknown. Unexplainable phenomenon is terrifying! When reading/watching ghost stories I always think about the point of when I would leave the haunted house. It’s usually pretty soon. I could get a new house. And new stuff. And a new husband. I’d be so gone at the first spine prickle of a ghost.

Your book kind of reminded me of The Sixth Sense in the way that Haley is tasked with trying to help the ghosts she encounters. What movies do you think influenced or inspired you with the writing of this book?

Yes! Haley’s name is inspired by Haley Joel Osment from the Sixth Sense! I loved the creepiness of that movie but also the revelation that the ghosts just want help.

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

ENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A SIGNED ARC OF THE FADE BY CLICKING THIS LINK!
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Book Review: And We Call It Love by Amanda Vink

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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.

 

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*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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5 Horror Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

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It: Chapter 2 – 27 years later, the Loser’s Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back. The biggest question that I have for the sequel is, I hope they give the movie a better ending than the novel actually did.

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Pet Sematary – Another Stephen King novel adaptation, I truly loved the original and was iffy about them doing a remake, however, after viewing the trailer, I’m quite excited now. Louis Creed, his wife Rachel and their two children Gage and Ellie move to a rural home where they are welcomed and enlightened about the eerie ‘Pet Sematary’ located near their home. After the tragedy of their cat, Church, being killed by a truck, Louis resorts to burying it in the mysterious pet cemetery, which is definitely not as it seems, as it proves to the Creeds that sometimes, dead if better. I just need three things for this remake to work for me, Gage needs to be incredibly adorable as the original, Zelda has to be crazily terrifying as the original, and Stephen King needs to make an appearance in the film as he did in the original.

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The Curse of La Llorona – Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids soon drawn into the frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this because the original legend of La Llorona is quite creepy and I’m curious to see how the director will pull this off.

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The Turning – A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. This is a modern take on Henry James’ creepy novella “The Turn of the Screw.” This movie stars It’s and Stranger Things young talent, Finn Wolfhard and is Floria Sigismondi’s second feature film (her first being The Runaways). If you think that name sounds familiar, it’s because in the early 90’s Floria directed the majority of Marilyn Manson’s music videos, so if her gothic, creepy videos were any indication of her style, I’m certain that this movie will be just as chilling and haunting.

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US – This is Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, and although the plot to this movie is yet unknown, simply being described as a “social horror-thriller,” on IMDb, I’m intrigued since I really enjoyed Peele’s Get Out. Besides, with Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o in the cast, I know that the movie promises some top-notch performances.

What movies are you looking forward to seeing in 2019?

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