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: Nick and June Were Here By Shalanda Stanley

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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!

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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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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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Upcoming Books: Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists

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I’m thrilled to announce that my short story, GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER is going to be included in the upcoming anthology Betty Bites Back – Horror Stories for Young Feminists (coming out October 2019). This anthology is put together by award-winning badass authors, Demitria Lunetta, Mindy McGinnis, and Kate Karyus Quinn.

Here’s a little teaser of what my story is about:

GOOD SISTER, BAD SISTER by Azzurra Nox

Puberty comes with many changes, but after being bitten by a mysterious animal in the forest, Dilay finds out that some changes may just give her a certain edge she didn’t have before.

Until then, support me and the amazing authors that are going to be included in this awesome anthology by stopping by the Kickstarter Page for it (even if you can’t contribute monetarily, forward the link on your social media so we can spread the word!).

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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

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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

 

My Life In Books: All The Books I Read In 2017

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The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker – This is the novella that later inspired the movie Hellraiser. Chilling and dark.
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood – Two eleven-years old girls meet one fateful summer day and by the end of the day, both girls are charged of murder for the death of a younger girl. Twenty-five years later their paths cross again in the most unexpected ways.
Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa – Truly dark and macabre short stories that will continue to haunt you after the last page.
The Merciless by Danielle Vega – The Exorcist meets the Mean Girls. Disturbing for those that don’t like gore.
The Merciless II by Danielle Vega – Sequel to The Merciless. More exorcisms and gore. Not as compelling as the first.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King – The nearby woods holds a chilling secret about an ancient Indian burial ground and the powers found there that are much more of a curse than a blessing.
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland – Henry has never fallen in love till he meets Grace, a girl who walks with a cane wears men’s clothes and hides a dark and painful secret.
The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein – A girl is convinced the new girl Ernessa is a vampire. Is it true, or is she simply losing grip of reality?
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? By Henry Farrell – A has-been former child star Baby Jane lives with her disabled movie star sister, Blanche. Things begin to escalate when Blanche decides to sell their Hollywood home, unleashing Jane’s cruel streak.
Whatever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? By Henry Farrell – A southern belle refuses to leave her manor where a hideous murder took place years ago.
Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa – A young girl begins an illicit relationship with an aging translator.
Survive the Night by Danielle Vega – A rave turns into a nightmare for three friends who go out for a night of fun.
How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather – The Crucible meets Mean Girls, when a modern-day witch hunt unfolds in the heart of Salem after descendants of the women who had been tried for witchcraft.
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for future, counting the days until graduation when she can escape her small town and her past. When the two meet, their lives are changed forever.
Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur – Poetry that is both lyrical and short.
Palo Alto Stories by James Franco – Short Stories inspired by life and people James Franco knew growing up in Palo Alto.
Actor’s Anonymous by James Franco – A study about the actor as an individual and amusing anecdotes.
Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow – An ex-cutter who tries to piece her life back together, despite being in a dozen million pieces herself.
The Fireman by Joe Hill – A highly contagious deadly spore spreads across the nation. No one is safe from the infection and the healthy try to eliminate the infected before the whole world goes down in flames.
The Reminders by Val Emmich – A girl who can’t forget befriends an actor who has recently lost his significant other who wishes not to remember. Read book review here.
Ten by Gretchen McNeil – Ten teens. Three days. One killer. Inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, now a Lifetime Original Movie.
Among the Shadows: 13 Stories of Darkness & Light – Even the lightest hearts have shaded corners to hide the black thoughts that come at night. Experience the darker side of YA as 13 authors explore the places that others prefer to leave among the shadows.
Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven – When a boy who suffers from face blindness meets America’s Ex-Fattest Teen, the last thing he expects is to fall in love.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer – The world has been invaded by an alien species that take over human minds while leaving their bodies intact, but things get strange for Wanderer, the invading alien, when her host Melanie refuses to give up her body.
Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger – Eric Thorn is a sexy musician afraid of stalkers that falls in love with obsessed fan Tessa over Twitter, only she doesn’t know he’s Eric, because he’s been hiding under the name Taylor. A suspenseful tale of love gone wrong in The Catfish era.
The Merciless III by Danielle Vega – The origin of the evil that possesses Brooke is finally explored in this chilling prequel of the series.
How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell – At twenty-six, Cat Marnell was an associate beauty editor at Lucky, one of the top fashion magazines in America—and that’s all most people knew about her. But she hid a secret life. She was a prescription drug addict. She was also a “doctor shopper” who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists for pills, pills, and more pills; a lonely bulimic who spent hundreds of dollars a week on binge foods; a promiscuous party girl who danced barefoot on banquets; a weepy and hallucination-prone insomniac who would take anything—anything—to sleep.
One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus – The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars in this thriller told from four points of view of a murder that occurs during an afternoon detention.
3:59 by Gretchen McNeil – Josie discovers a parallel universe and jumps at the chance to live in that new world till she finds out that the dangers of the new universe are far more worse than the horrors she left in her previous life.
The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur – Poetry about how to be a woman in the modern world.
This Darkness Mine by Mindy McGinnis – Sasha Stone’s world turns upside down when she discovers that she had a twin that she absorbed in the womb. Now her twin, Shanna wants to take reigns of her life back, even if it means eliminating Sasha’s in the process. Read the book review here.
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – A couple goes to a dinner party next door, leaving their infant in the crib, when the couple returns, the child is gone. Who has taken baby Cora?
All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda – Ten years ago Nic’s best friend went missing, now a decade later another girls missing and the only way to find out the truth is to uncover the past.
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green – Aza and Daisy pursue the mystery of what happened to missing billionaire Russell Pickett in hopes of winning the ransom money. But Aza begins to feel differently when she starts having feelings for the billionaire’s son.
I Wrote This For You by Iain S. Thomas – Love poems for the heartbroken.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1-7 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa – Terror is born anew in this dark re-imagining of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s origin. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda.
Afterlife with Archie Vol. 1-10 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa – When Jughead’s beloved pet Hot Dog is killed in a hit and run, Jughead turns to the only person he knows who can help bring back his furry best friend—Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Using dark, forbidden magic, Sabrina is successful and Hot Dog returns to the land of the living. But he’s not the same… and soon, the darkness he brings back with him from beyond the grave begins to spread, forcing Archie, Betty, Veronica and the gang to try to escape from Riverdale!
Snowblind by Don Roff – When four Army Rangers are stranded in the woods due to a snow storm, they seek refuge in an abandoned chalet, not knowing that a sinister evil awaits them. Soon to become a major motion picture starring Ashely Greene.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis – Grace finds herself in an asylum, and a quirky doctor fakes a lobotomy to help her escape and employing her as his assistant in his new endeavor of criminal psychology.
*I read 39 books this past year. I enjoyed the majority of the books read, and probably the only two I didn’t enjoy that much were The Wicked Girls and The Couple Next Door.

What are your book resolutions for the new year? I always aim to try to read 2 books a month (roughly 24 books a year, and this past year I surpassed my goal).
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

 

How I Fell in Love with the Tortoise Balancing, Elephant Carrying Magical Realm Known as Discworld

At last, Sir Terry, we must walk together. Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night. The end.”

It was a series of 3 tweets that brought tears to my eyes. Something about those lines really struck me as both beautiful and sad. There was finality in one world but continuity in journey. No where else had I read such a more fitting tribute to the end of a man’s life.

I knew of Sir Terry Pratchett from the novel Good Omens which he wrote with Neil Gaiman. After reading the Sandman series, I became a fan of all things Gaiman which explained the purchased novel sitting on my bookshelf. However, I never had the chance to read this particular book.

discworld

Only when I learned of the passing of Sir Terry did my mind every return to the lone work with his name on my shelf. As the tributes came pouring in through social media, I knew this writer was something extraordinary. It takes an incredible type of storyteller to write in a way that affected so many people on so many different levels.

Through the tributes one word was repeated so many times that I had to investigate.

Discworld

A comic fantasy book series” (as described by Wikipedia) featuring many eccentric characters including the infamous Death. With so many fans championing the series, I knew it was time I gave it a shot. That very day, I picked up The Color of Magic and dove right in meeting Rincewind the bumbling wizard and the naïve Twoflower and Luggage as they travel about the city of Ankh-Moor. My love affair was instantaneous and I was finished with the book by the end of the day. I immediately purchased The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites. Spellbound, I cruised through the books and moved on to Mort where I finally had to take a short break from the series.

I finally understood why these books meant so much to so many readers, and with each page the sadness within me grew. This great writer was no longer with us and I would never get the chance to go to a book signing or otherwise meet this remarkable person.

However, Sir Terry left behind 41 DiscWorld books and several other standalone books and related short stories. Although I may ever get the chance to meet him, I have met his thoughts, his friends his work in the flat planet on the backs of four elephants balanced on a tortoise.

By: Phoebe Jane