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!

White and Pink Strikeout Cosmetics Beauty Logo

DID YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU JUST READ? IF YES, THEN SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLOG, GIVE THE POST A LIKE, OR LEAVE A COMMENT! NEW POSTS ARE UP EVERY TUESDAY & THURSDAY

 

Book Review: Nick and June Were Here By Shalanda Stanley

nickjune

How far can they get on love alone?

Girl in Pieces meets All the Bright Places in this heartbreaking story of two teens who are determined to stay together in a world tearing them apart.

Release Date: February 19, 2019

Pre-Order On Amazon

Price: $17.99

Publisher: Knopf Books For Young Readers

Plot Summary:

Nick and June were best friends for years until their relationship suddenly turned into something more. Now, June is coping with a new diagnosis of schizophrenia, a secret she asked Nick to keep for too long. Between managing her symptoms and her parents, June is just trying to keep it together. Nick is a reluctant car thief, supporting his aunt with the money and focusing on his art whenever he can. But when June’s condition sends her to the hospital and Nick’s latest crime threatens to land him in prison, the two decide to run away. When the world is trying to tear them apart, can Nick and June find a way to stay together?

This emotional lyrical novel will tug at your heartstrings and make you think twice about what you would give up for love, even if it’s a piece of yourself.

Grade: A

Review:

I really felt bad for these star-crossed lovers. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, Nick and June’s relationship was an enduring one, as they were best friends since fifth grade, and sometime in high school, the two decide to become a couple. I always felt like whenever Nick and June were together, the best of them came through, it was when they were apart that the worst of them came out.

The two characters had a strong and passionate bond, and when you’re a teenager you truly believe that true love is forever. But Nick and June have so many things going against them, from Nick’s car thievery occupation to June’s recent schizophrenia, it’s almost a bad idea for these two to even be together. However, the two truly believe that love can be all for them, although at times June acknowledges that forever doesn’t have to mean forever in a physical sense, but that her love for Nick will live forever in her heart.

Despite the odds, the reader can’t help but cheer for these two. You truly want their love to endure and hope that nothing will break them up. The fact that these two characters are likable and relatable makes you wish that somehow, in the end, they can have their happy ending.

This is definitely a journey you won’t want to miss and one that will surely pull on your heartstrings.

Author-Photo-Shalanda-Stanley

Follow Shalanda Stanley on Twitter!

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

White and Pink Strikeout Cosmetics Beauty Logo

DID YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU JUST READ? IF YES, THEN SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLOG, GIVE THE POST A LIKE, OR LEAVE A COMMENT! NEW POSTS ARE UP EVERY TUESDAY & THURSDAY

 

Book Review: The Favorite Daughter By Kaira Rouda

book3

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!

White and Pink Strikeout Cosmetics Beauty Logo

DID YOU ENJOY WHAT YOU JUST READ? IF YES, THEN SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLOG, GIVE THE POST A LIKE, OR LEAVE A COMMENT! NEW POSTS ARE UP EVERY TUESDAY & THURSDAY

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

maid

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

maid2

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.

HenryAuthorPhotoDF2_preview

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

dakota_book

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.

Book Review: Running Wild Anthology of Stories Vol. 2 – Amelia Kibbie Q & A

14563358_10104122370488439_6991094984042256591_n

Amelia Kibbie’s latest short story “Idylls of the King,” is one of the twenty short stories featured in the new Running Wild Anthology by Running Wild Press. Her short story features two young boys who have to leave their London homes due to Nazi bombings during WWII with their school teachers and classmates for the safety of the countryside. Both boys, James and Arthur are ruthlessly bullied by their peers, the first for having effeminate mannerisms and fancying boys, whilst the second for his weight. But when the two boys meet an aging Baroness, their lives will never be the same again.

What inspired you to write this short story?

Actually, it was for a totally separate anthology called “Heart of Steel.” The anthology called for happy ending LGBT love stories that contained knights of some sort. I didn’t want to do the typical fantasy thing, so my story takes place in England in WWII. I wanted to show that no matter how old you are, or what time period you live in, you can have a heart of steel — the heart of a knight that values love, friendship, honor, and protects those in need.

Your short story explores the theme of bullying—how important is it to have a story where the bullied triumph over their bullies?
Like pretty much everyone else, I’ve been bullied. I think everyone dreams of some kind of a sweet moment where you can go back in time and stand up to your bully. But in the real world, this usually doesn’t happen. So part of writing this story was wish fulfillment for me. I wish that anyone bullied for their sexuality would be able to stand up and fight back or have someone to protect them.
I’m definitely not the first person to depict this, but maybe the first person to have a suit of medieval armor involved!
What actually happens in, Idylls of the King is that James and Arthur stop being the bystanders to each other’s bullying. James sticks up for Arthur and risks a beating, only to be saved by the air raid siren. When Arthur sees this, it empowers him to stick up for James in return. In real life, empowering the bystanders is the most effective way to combat bullying. All of those other kids in the class were just standing there and watching all those years, just thankful it wasn’t them being targeted. They should have been banding together to stand up to Morgan and his friends to improve life for everyone in the class. I work with young people, and the anti-bullying research finds that empowering the bystanders is the most effective way to improve a school climate.

Why did you choose WII England as your setting?
This is going to sound super cheesy, but I was actually inspired by the ultra-crappy sequel to The Woman in Black. I liked the first movie quite a bit, and the second one was on Netflix. I was homesick, so I decided to watch it. It wasn’t a great movie, but it had some really interesting ideas to it — like the manor house being cut off by the tide at certain parts of the day. That reminded me of one of my favorite travel destinations, Mont Saint Michel. The part that obviously made it into Idylls of the King was the story of the children evacuated for Operation Pied Piper and moving into a mansion together.
Do you have any other upcoming writing projects?
I’m currently crafting Idylls of the King into a novel that picks up ten years after James and Arthur find one another. They’re still together, living in London, and find themselves on a cross-country adventure to fulfill a man’s dying wish.

You write across genres, which one is your favourite?
I would have to say horror. I just re-read The Shining, and it brought back so many memories of being in high school and reading Stephen King. He and Anne Rice were my big inspirations back in the day, and horror will forever hold my heart. I love writing in other genres and just telling a good story with characters I care about, but when I write a horror piece, I really get into it.

anthology vol 2_cover final (1)

You can purchase this book HERE or check out Amelia’s short story in MY AMERICAN NIGHTMARE – WOMEN IN HORROR ANTHOLOGY HERE.

Follow Amelia either on Facebook or her website.

By: Azzurra Nox

Book Review: Brave by Rose McGowan

McGOWAN_BRAVE_HC_TEST2.indd

Growing up, I always wanted to be an actress. Movies have always been a form of media that I love. Going to the theatre as a child was always one of my favourite things to do, becoming immersed in the stories that were being told, and admiring the actresses who looked so glamorous. But despite my love for cinema, I was always deviated to pursue my acting dreams, being told that Hollywood wasn’t a safe haven for women (by people in the industry) and the whole cliché of all that glitters isn’t gold.

I always thought those stories were just stories. Until I read Rose McGowan’s autobiography.

And boy is this book one wild ride.

For years what we knew of Rose McGowan was of the characters she portrayed in movies (often the sex-bomb snarky femme fatale type as can be seen in Doom Generation, Scream, Jawbreaker, and Planet Terror to name a few) the men she’s dated (Marilyn Manson and Robert Rodriguez), and the image the media sold of her as a “bad girl.”

There’s never a dull moment in Brave, where McGowan begins the book from her early days of growing up in a cult, Children of God, and living in northern Italy, to experiencing culture shock once her dad brings her back to America where she kept being sent back and forth between her parents and living in different states. How she didn’t actually pursue acting as a career, but it was more something that happened to her by accident, and that the fear of becoming homeless and living on the streets as she had done for awhile as a teen, haunted her into continuing her career in an industry she didn’t feel truly understood her or regarded her as a capable human being.

But what really had me reeling the most whilst reading the book was the moment when McGowan has her meeting with whom she refers to “the Monster” (Harvey Weinstein) and how she (and other young actresses throughout the years) was the sacrifitional lamb to a man who abused his power and knew that he could get away with it because as it turns out no one tried to be of help to her when she told various people of the incident, from her manager who said that maybe her career could only get better because of the assault, to a female attorney stating that she wouldn’t win the case since she had done a nude scene in a movie, to her then-co-star Ben Affleck who offered no true help (which is no surprise seeing that he’s Hollywood’s equivalent of Frat-Boy Bro-hood mentality and was besties with said Monster).

Other interesting tidbits was finding out that Marilyn Manson was the kindest boyfriend she had (and that the song Coma White was about her). How Robert Rodriguez was a “charming prince” soon to be revealed to be a manipulative, sadistic, power-hungry, unhinged individual. That her years spent filming Charmed were her worst gig, not because of her character, Paige, but because of the grueling schedule and male-dominated crew. That the only Prom she experienced was that in Jawbreaker, where she portrayed mean girl Courtney Alice Shayne, who wins Prom Queen, but then gets shamed and pelted by corsages when it’s revealed that she killed the much adored popular girl Elizabeth Purr. And believe it or not, it was Ashton Kutcher who inspired McGowan to join Twitter.

Brave is a tale of a woman who had her spirit crushed by the machine that is Hollywood, and how, much like a Phoenix, she has soared from her ashes, and reclaimed her identity, her true self, not the one that was pinned to her by the men in the movie industry. The day she shaved off her hair, was the day she broke up with the world and reclaimed her person for herself. From that moment on, she has ventured into directing (watch her moving short film Dawn), singing, photography, and became an active voice for those who either were too scared to speak up or didn’t know how to, and has long since been an advocate and activist for female empowerment.

This is a moving book that will stick with you long after you’ve read it.

And if you’re going to take anything from this book it’s this: Be brave. Be bold. Don’t be afraid of being yourself.

By: Azzurra Nox

ROSE_MCGOWAN_AUTHOR

Book Review: This Darkness Mine – Mindy McGinnis

This-Darkness-Mine-by-Mindy-McGinnis-

Mindy McGinnis has been delivering badass (sometimes unlikeable) but definitely strong female protagonists since her early works. This Darkness Mine is no different from her previous novels in that regard. Sasha Stone is the epitome of perfection: first chair clarinet player, straight-A student, and also comes equipped with a “perfect” boyfriend who’s handsome, well-dressed, and doesn’t pressure her into sex. All of this slowly begins to erode once bad-boy Isaac Harver enters the scene. Soon, she begins to feel feelings towards him that she never did and recalling events she’s never taken part of. Or has she?

Some light begins to shed when we find out that Sasha had a twin that she ultimately ended up absorbing whilst in the womb (known as Shanna). Unlike Sasha, this twin despises control and perfection and begins to wreck havoc into her life once she starts to take over Sasha’s psyche. But is Shanna real or merely a figment of Sasha’s imagination?

The book flirts with the notion of unreliable narrator, much like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan did with Natalie Portman’s character. Is what is happening real or is it all just a sign of Sasha’s ultimate madness?

McGinnis breathes life into the “dead twin” Shanna, allowing her to be the personification of Freud’s ID (meaning being a person who only lives for their own passions and don’t allow their brain to control their emotions). Sasha on the other hand is Freud’s EGO end of this yin-yang duo, the brain and captain of the ship. But what happens when the emotion-driven Shanna takes reins of the situation and how will that effect Sasha’s “perfect” world?

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s gory. (Yes, I L-O-V-E-D it!). And just when you think you know where it’s leading you, you’re completely blindsided by yet again another improvised detour that will leave you questioning your own sanity and judgment. McGinnis delivers a punch to the gut with her sharp writing and often ruthless character interactions.

So take the plunge, cause it’s one hell of a crazy ride.

mindy-main-with-name

Short Q & A With the Author:

When I started reading This Darkness Mine I realized that the book was based off of the short story that appeared in Among The Shadows, entitled Phantom Heart. When did you decide to further explore Sasha’s world and what was it about this character that compelled you to do that?

Great question, thanks for noticing! Yes, DARKNESS is based on my short, “Phantom Heart.” Originally, I had no intention of taking this any further. Then my fellow editors for Among The Shadows – Demitria Lunetta and Kate Karyus Quinn – insisted that there was a whole novel there. I wasn’t sure, but I pitched the idea to my editor at Harper Collins, who was like – Yes! Write it!

Sasha Stone is the typical overachiever. Do you think that her mental illness derives from expecting perfection out of herself and the pressures that come along with that, or does she suffer from multiple personality disorder?

I worked in a public school for 15 years, and I always thought it was interesting how black and white rules and programs were. Drugs are bad. Sex is bad. Smoking is bad. Period. In some ways, we’re telling the kids that even curiosity about our “darker” inclinations are plain wrong, and need to be smothered, not investigated. Perfection is impossible, yet many strive for it. I wondered what would happen if you took an already strained teen, trying to be the “good” kid, and had her repulsed even by any interest in doing “bad” things. Would she be able to accept that such urges can be normal? Or is that so far outside of what we’ve taught her is “good” that she has to come up with an alternative explanation?

For many years I’ve been very fascinated with the creepy phenomenon of Fetus in Fetu, where a twin ends up absorbing the other twin in the womb, and in some cases doctors have later found the missing twin inside of the living twin, usually mistaken for a tumor later on in life. When did you become interested in this strange phenomenon?

It’s actually not a rare event, it’s something that usually goes completely unnoticed. I can’t remember the first time I ever heard of it, because it is pretty pervasive in pop culture, but I did have a student years and years ago who had absorbed his twin. It’s something I collected in my lint trap of a brain, and it became paired in my mind with the mirror therapy that they use for phantom limb syndrome, which is how “Phantom Heart” came about.

In the novel, Sasha is a clarinet player. Were you ever in band in high school and how did that help with writing the novel from a musician’s point of view?

You bet!!! Trombone since 4th grade!!! I tell everyone this is my band geek book. I also took piano lessons throughout most of my childhood, so music has always been a part of my life as both a consumer and a producer. This was a chance to work that into a book.

This novel was exceptionally dark. It explored the trials of mental illness as well as what it means to be a successful girl. Which actress could you see in the role of Sasha if this were to be made into a movie?

Oh, I have no idea. I don’t ever do any fan casting.

(Editor note: I asked that question because I could totally see Emma Roberts portraying stone-cold crazy bitch Sasha to perfection.)

I often use music to get into a certain mood depending what scenes I’m writing. Since your novel was about a girl who was obsessed with music, did you use music as a way to aid you in the writing of this book? And which music/artist/or song did you listen to when immersing yourself into Sasha’s world?

I actually don’t listen to music when I’m writing because while it can be helpful to get you into one mood, it can also end up controlling you mood so that when you need to flip to something else when you change scenes it can be hard. Instead I have a white noise app that I keep on while I’m writing. It’s a back ground noise that lets my creativity be in control, not someone else’s.

Get your copy of This Darkness Mine here today!

Visit the author’s site http://mindymcginnis.com

By: Azzurra Nox

Book Review: The Reminders – Val Emmich

the reminders

If the name Val Emmich sounds familiar to you, it’s because you may have recently seen him on HBO’s Mick Jagger’s and Martin Scorsese’s produced TV show Vinyl, about a record executive in the 1970’s. Or you may remember him from other popular TV shows such as Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, and Cashmere Mafia. Or you may have stumbled upon some of his songs whilst watching an episode of Teen Wolf.

More recently, you may find Val Emmich in the bookstore in the form of his debut novel, The Reminders.

The plot is pretty straight forward, it’s told in alternating voices (something that Jennifer Niven loves to do in her novels as well), between Gavin Winters, an actor of a semi-popular TV show that has recently lost the love of his life and Joan Lennon Sully, a precocious ten-year old girl with a fascinating but rare neurological condition that allows her to recall every single detail of her life since the age of four.

Gavin and Joan’s lives meet when Gavin goes to visit his old college friends in New Jersey, as a way to escape a scandal in Los Angeles and in the meantime try to forget his time with his partner Sydney since the memories are too painful for him to move on. Meanwhile, Joan struggles with the notion of being forgotten after her grandmother has difficulty remembering her because of Alzheimer’s disease and yet can still recall all the lyrics of her favourite songs, which prompt her to believe that in order to be remembered she must write an amazing song just like John Lennon (her hero and namesake). Once Joan learns that Gavin used to be a musician, she attempts to persuade her into helping her write a memorable song if she in return shares with him her memories of his late love. Together, they forge a very dynamic and amusing bond.

The novel’s strength is that is has us pondering the importance of memories. Is it a curse to forget or is it an even bigger curse to remember? Ultimately, the reader will come up with their own conclusions on that as the characters each demonstrate the pros and cons of both of those throughout the novel. If you’re a music lover (in particular a Beatles fan) you’re going to love all the tidbits about them strewn throughout the novel. I particularly enjoyed being able to see the world with child-like wonder as Joan and then seeing the world from the eyes of an emotionally broken character such as Gavin. One of the best moments in the novel is when the two of them end up on the Mindy Love Show (that for some reason reminds me very much of The Wendy Williams Show) and how that goes drastically different from how both characters thought it would go, but as a reader it was hilarious although you’re left sort of cringing for the two characters at the same time.

If you’re hoping to get immersed in a music-filled ode to memories and the power they hold, then The Reminders is right up your ally. It’s a fun, light, but also thought-provoking book about love, loss, and what is worth fighting for, that will leave you missing the characters once you’re done.

val

Short Q & A with the Author:

Your book focuses on the importance of memory –what is one of your favourite childhood memories?

Joan in the book has an exceptional memory, but unfortunately my memory is terrible. I don’t have a specific favorite memory that sticks out in my mind but I remember moments when I was hanging out with friends and we’d laugh so hard that our stomachs would be in real pain. I haven’t had one of those painful laughs in ages and I miss it.

As an artist –the art of creation means that whatever you create will outlive you. Since you’ve dabbled in various mediums, which one do you think is the most representative of you?

At this point, if I stopped making art tomorrow, my music would be the thing that probably best encapsulates me as a person. Mainly because there’s so much of it and it spans more than half of my life, so you’d have a pretty comprehensive look at what I care about and how I’ve changed over time. But to get the truest sense of me as a person, I think you’d want to look at all my art together, in its various forms. It all tells a different part of my overall story.

The novel seems to be an ode to The Beatles, so it’s obvious to ask what is your favourite Beatles song?

I don’t have one and I’m suspicious of anyone who can choose just one. I can’t even pick my favorite album. What I love about them is their variety, the scope of their achievement. This relates to the previous question. The Beatles are a big, messy, evolving thing that becomes more complex and rewarding when taken as a whole. I’m sorry to dodge the question, but it’s the truth, I can’t choose. Nor can I choose a favorite member of the band. Contrary to what one may think from reading my book, it’s not necessarily John Lennon. I love all four of them and I love how they balanced each other out and formed a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.

The whole time I was reading, The Reminders, I kept thinking about how Matt Bomer would be perfect for the role of Gavin Winters in a movie adaptation. Who would you think would best portray the character?

I think Matt Bomer would be great. I hadn’t thought of him. Well done. The novel has in fact been optioned for a film and when I flew to Los Angeles to meet the creative team they asked me this same question and I didn’t have an answer. They mentioned Ryan Gosling, probably just to get the conversation started. I thought that would be interesting. My wife would want it to be Gael Garcia Bernal just so she could meet him.

I think that anyone who’s read The Reminders, will agree that the real scene stealer is Joan, the little girl with the incredible memory. I really enjoyed reading her chapters and wonder if there may be a possible future for her in later books or not?

Anything is possible. I don’t have any plans for a followup right now but I’ve been getting this question a lot and I’m flattered that people would be interested in reading more. Maybe down the line. I’ve already started writing a new novel with different characters and so that’s my focus for the time being.

Get your copy of The Reminders today!

By: Azzurra Nox