Friday, May 24, 2019

"A Nearly Normal Family"


“A Nearly Normal Family”
Written by M.T. Edvardsson
Review written by Diana Iozzia 

A Nearly Normal Family
“A Nearly Normal Family” was a very enigmatic and intriguing thriller, offering a refreshing perspective from the father of a girl who has been accused of murder. Edvardsson creates very realistic, average characters but makes them captivating by manipulating their thoughts and actions, which in turn manipulate the readers’ thoughts and reactions.

Stella is accused of murdering a man much older than herself, although she is only eighteen, a decent student, and an innocent young girl. However, as our story develops, we start to realize that she wasn’t so innocent and she wasn’t such a great daughter. Her father, a pastor, and her mother, a defense attorney, risk everything to prove their daughter innocent: even though they are not sure of her innocence.

This thriller is considered to be a legal thriller, which would be a useful way to describe this genre. In my opinion, I think it has a great premise, but the characters are much more of a focus, than the legal proceedings. I felt this was much less of a legal thriller and more like a very complex domestic thriller.

In part 1, we read through Adam’s perspective. As Stella’s father, he speaks all about how he and his wife raised her. He speaks about all of the problems they faced disciplining her, which gives a great insight into her personality. In part 2, we hear from Stella in her jail cell, as she awaits her trial. She tells us all of her sides of things, which are not too different from Adam’s. Interestingly enough, although the whole family’s side of the story, this does not feel redundant or boring. It’s intriguing to see who believes what and which lies they are telling, almost like playing game of Clue or deducing like Sherlock Holmes. In part three, we hear from Stella’s mother and Adam’s wife, Ulrika. Her side of the story is much more intense and certainly the most shocking one.

The court procession builds to a trial with Stella and her best friend. Both girls could have murdered Christopher, a possibly pedophilic and abusive man. But who was really there? Was it either of them?

Let’s talk about the ending without giving it away at all. Although I thought it have might have went in a different direction, I still felt satisfied how it played out. This is just one of those stories that requires a skeleton-like review, hardly enough details, because you really just have to read it for yourself. I think this story offers a lot of poignant and effective questions for this genre: What is guilt? What is innocence? How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

I received this book in exchange for reading and reviewing purposes. Thank you to Celadon Books for the opportunity.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Wooing Cadie McCaffrey"

“Wooing Cadie McCaffrey”
Written by Bethany Turner
Review written by Diana Iozzia


Wooing Cadie McCaffrey

It has been an incredibly long journey to find a favorite romantic comedy in book form. There have been many terrible tropes I’ve read through, manipulative characters, and tiring pop culture references that make the characters seem funny. While “Wooing Cadie McCaffrey” has some of those misery-inducing tropes, this book flips them and shows how romantic comedies can be sweet and hilarious, without boomboxes, hundreds of flowers, and chasing down romantic conquests in New York City. This was easily the most enduring romantic comedy written as a book, that I have ever read. This is instantly a new favorite for me, and I plan to read it many times in my life.

When I first was offered the chance to read this book, I was hesitant, as I had noticed it was from one of the Christian publishing imprints from Harper Collins. As an atheist, I was expecting something from Nicholas Sparks’s caliber. However, don’t let the publishing imprint scare you off. There’s a little bit of praying and there are characters discussing their abstinence and chastity beliefs. Other than that, the main focus was elsewhere: on one of the sweetest and most honest relationships I’ve seen in years.

This romantic comedy has all of the wonderful aspects that I look for in this type of book or movie. The characters should be good people. I am tired of a love interest being awkward and creepy in their conquests, hunting women down and beating up other men to win the heart. I have been tired of women or men lying about themselves or manipulating to win the person over. Nora Ephron’s films have always been a favorite, but there’s always a small element of deceit. There’s no deceit here. Every character truly cares about each other. Our main characters, Cadie and Will, are so genuine and so hilarious! Man, the meet-cute is easily the best part of the book and frankly had me laughing out loud, which is something that very rarely happens when I read.

Let’s speak about the premise. The alternating time jumps and the perspectives allow for an interesting narration technique. We jump back and forth in time of Cadie’s and Will’s relationship. Cadie explains to us that she absolutely loves Will, but she feels he will never be ready to reach the next step of their relationship: marriage. After losing their virginities to each other, four years into their relationship, Cadie and Will are devastated, as they wanted to wait until marriage. Cadie loses sight and love for Will, so she decides to break up with him. Will seeks out help from their friends (who are GREAT side characters) to win and woo Cadie back. This occurs in an endearing way, not in a psycho “why don’t you love me? I’m going to make you love me” way.

This book is so refreshing and so sweet. I felt it was heartwarming, honest, cute, and exhilarating. I loved watching Cadie and Will miss each other and find ways to catch up with each other, knowing that they would find their way back to each other.

I personally believe this is a new favorite. I cannot explain any more how much this book amazes me. I would love to see this as a film. I feel like every favorite aspect of romantic comedies is mixed in here. Even some of the cheesier tropes, like the big, crazy Hail Mary of an apology. I’m also begging for a sequel and to read every book by Bethany Turner.

P.S. What an amazing epilogue.
P.P.S. I love all the baseball and sports stuff! It’s so great to see well-fleshed out career settings in a rom com.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for reading and reviewing purposes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

"Star-Crossed"

“Star-Crossed”
Written by Minnie Darke
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Star-Crossed
“Star-Crossed” is a zany, romantic comedy, inspired by zodiac astrology. Our main characters, Justine and Nick, are meant for each other. Well, if the universe needs to be meddled with a little bit, why not try? Justine works for a popular Australian magazine. When she bumps into an old friend and first crush, Nick, her world is set on a completely different tilt. She does not share his favorite interest, reading horoscopes and interpreting how they relate to his life. Justine begins rewriting the Aquarius horoscope, in hopes that he’ll come to his sense and realize that she’s the one for him. What could possibly go wrong?


This is a silly, wild ride with a lot of heart, drawing upon the cute and fun tropes that are in my favorite romantic comedies. I’ve always loved the zany woman, the dog that brings everyone together, the oddball coworkers, and of course, the true loves that find their way to each other, no matter the odds.


Justine and Nick are absolutely adorable characters. I feel like depending on your personality, you could easily fall in love with one or the other. They are charming, kind, and loving.


Lastly, there’s a lot of cool Shakespeare moments and references, as Nick is playing Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet”!


This is one of those super fun romantic comedies that we absolutely have to share with the world. There are a lot of completely unrealistic moments full of serendipity. You'll definitely have to suspend your disbelief often. This isn't a very deep book. I don't think you'll understand the meaning of life or the secrets of the universe, but it was a nice, pleasant read. I think my enjoyment of this would have been severely improved if I knew more about zodiacs and horoscopes, but I feel Minnie Darke gave enough information, so I didn't feel lost. I think this would be a lovely and cute movie, similar to the ones created by Nora Ephron or starred in by Julia Roberts. I hope you have a chance to read it and I hope you love it!


I received a copy in exchange for reading and reviewing purposes.

Friday, May 10, 2019

"Internalize"


“Internalize”
Written by J.A. Handville
Review written by Diana Iozzia
Internalize by J.A. Handville

“Internalize” is a collection of poetry by the self-published poet, Joshua Handville, a.k.a. J.A. Handville. His poetry collection is separated into two “hemispheres”, which equates to one half of the book dedicated to his past and the other hemisphere about hope.

Joshua Handville’s poetry is about mental health, heartbreak, self-worth, and how we treat others. Typically, this is not the type of poetry I am drawn to, but I agreed to read his collection and tell you my thoughts about it. To be honest, I’m not really a fan. This type of poetry is not my type, so I personally did not enjoy it that much. However, if you flock to his certain genres of poetry, I am sure you’d enjoy them.

To me, the poetry seems a bit flashy and a bit forced. Common idioms and expressions are thrown into the pages, but I would hope for a little more than that. I often hope for poetry to be a bit more imaginative, including metaphors, similes, and personification. Showing can be more effective than telling. There are a few illustrations throughout the book, but I was under the initial impression that this would be much more influenced by pictures than it was. Let me tell you which poems I enjoyed most. One interesting element about J.A. Handville’s poetry is that it had a dark, eloquent nature to it, similar to Edgar Allan Poe and the Rod Serling introductions of “The Twilight Zone”.

“Inkwell of Heartache”
“This Hard Place of Weakness and Silence”
“Torn Between Her and I”
“A World Away”
“Darkness and Light”
“Internal War”
“Perspective Change”
“Dying Embers”
“Breathe New Life”

In conclusion, I enjoyed the poetry on a base level. This poetry just wasn’t for me, but I can appreciate the time and effort.

Thank you to the writer for sending me a copy to read and review.

"My Best Friend's Exorcism"


“My Best Friend’s Exorcism”
Written by Grady Hendrix
Review written by Diana Iozzia
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Every few years, I find a new coming-of-age story about friendship that is worth every admiration. Never did I think that I would find it in a book about teenager girls, one of which has been possessed by a demon. However, this book was absolutely spectacular, and you won’t be able to avoid my recommendations of it, until the end of time. Grady Hendrix was a new author to me, but he’s always been in the periphery, writing notable horror or about it, such as “We Sold Our Souls”, “Horrorstör”, and “Paperbacks from Hell”. I had spotted “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” on the audiobook app I use, Hoopla, and decided to give it a try.

“My Best Friend’s Exorcism” follows our main character, Abby, through a third person perspective that felt very intuitive but refreshing. I have been a bit tired lately of first person, especially for young adult fiction. We meet Abby quickly in a flash forward, talking about the exorcist. Then, we jump back to young Abby in the younger years, meeting Gretchen for the first time, when only Gretchen arrives at Abby’s roller rink birthday party. We see the girls become fast friends, in a fashion that screams 80s nostalgia. Then, we continue through the story until the ultimate moment that Abby’s and Gretchen’s lives are changed forever.

There are so many incredible marvels within this book. The setting, location, time, and atmosphere provide for a very nostalgic childhood, even though I wasn’t a child during this era. I feel that the 80s time periods allow for fun references, old jokes, catchphrases, and iconic objects from the time period, including music, TV, clothing, and films. Abby’s favorite film is “E.T.” I find this movie to be inspirational for this book, especially the true friendship between a boy and his odd friend. Abby, Gretchen, and their friends go to a Catholic school, which gives an interesting look back into the ideals and morals at the time. The preachers talk about the influence of drugs, sex, and sins, which can be a bit overbearing at times, but it allows for a well-represented school experience. The portrayal of middle and high school is so real and authentic, which hardly comes across in teen fiction. I felt that this book had a perfect balance of serious life difficulties, mental health representation, laugh out loud comedy, friendship, and fantastic horror elements. In addition, I do not feel in teen fiction that the parents are well-written. These parents were very fleshed out, cared about the children, and had an important presence.

For a book so grounded in reality, this book does go to some wicked places, and boy, is it jaw-dropping once we arrive there. Naturally, a book about an exorcism has certain tropes it needs to include. We usually read about the catalyst, the moment the demon is unleashed. There are characters introduced that are the caring loved ones, who want the demon out of the inhabitant. Also, as exorcisms are often Catholic-based, we need a priest. All of these elements are created in a way that allowed this book to feel more than just an exorcism story. I compared this tale to many different films and books, and it impressed more than all of them. I felt that Grady Hendrix drew from all of the great exorcism films and the great horror friendship novels and created a beautiful Frankenstein’s monster.

As far as the actual horrific elements included in this story, I was very surprised by the depths the story would go. There were types of creepy actions and creatures that are not often portrayed in horror, so it was refreshing. The most intense scene in this story for me will obviously not be spoiled by me. If you’ve read the book, just think of the pelican. The horrific imagery was supremely enhanced by the audiobook narrator. In listening to the audiobook, I found that my enjoyment of the story would have been far different. Naturally, an audiobook is often narrated faster than the average person would take to read the story, or myself at least. However, the actual quality of the narration was fantastic. We often get snippets of eerie music. The narrator uses great inflection and narrates each character in a slightly different way. During the actual exorcism, I was a bit speechless.

The conclusion of this story was absolutely wonderful, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any differently.

An aspect that I wished would have been explored more is the actual origin of the demon that inhabits Gretchen. We receive detail about when and how this occurs but not enough detail about why the demon was set free. In addition, I would have liked to know a bit more about the running motif through the story, which was anatomy. It felt a bit underwhelming, to be so sprinkled through. Another slightly odd thing about this story was the age appropriateness. I felt that this book would be more appropriate for older teens, perhaps 16 – 18, due to sexual content, cursing, and some disturbing language. I wouldn’t shy away from it if you dislike that in books as an adult, but I would just warn it for the teens.

I have a great belief that you’ll enjoy this book if you enjoy: “Jennifer’s Body”, “The Exorcist” (duh), “The Birds”, “IT” (the remake), “Stand by Me”, “Stranger Things”, “E.T.”, “The Omen”, “Rosemary’s Baby”. and R.L. Stine’s books.

In conclusion, I will be recommending this book forever. This was one of those random books I decided to take a chance on, and I will be forever looking for more books like this. This was an incredible ride, and I hope you give it a chance. Try listening to the audiobook; I really believe my enjoyment of the book was extremely enhanced. That’s it. I could go on for another five pages if I let myself.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"The Passengers"


“The Passengers”
Written by John Marrs
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The Passengers
Pitched as a dystopian, sci-fi thriller, this book succeeds as a thriller that takes place in a dystopian England instead. After the implementation of completely self-driven cars, the citizens of the United Kingdom find themselves a bit torn, since they dislike the lack of control or override. A hacker hijacks these self-driven cars with a cast of characters inside, prompting a small judicial group and the world through social media to decide who lives and dies.

This felt very reminiscent of a tech-based dystopian film or television show. I’ve seen many people relate it to the ultra-popular “Black Mirror”, which reflects how the world would react in certain scenarios based on a downfall caused by modern technology. I would agree this book follows this sort of premise well. I feel that all too common after the popularization of “Black Mirror”, authors and TV / film writers capitalize upon this premise. In one way, I’m a big fan of the genre, but I lose interest in the medium once it becomes to unrealistic. I find that the dystopian element of the story has to be slightly realistic, as if it makes sense that our society could get to this point. In “The Passengers”, a hacker hijacking self-driven cars seems possible to me. I do not feel this is all too imaginary and implausible.

Although the book has many positive points, such as the interesting technological elements, the book falls short for me. I enjoyed learning about how this society exists in different ways compared to the real society in today’s world. For example, to charge these self-driven cars, there are chargers implanted in the roads of roundabouts, drive-throughs, parking spaces, at stop lights, and more. In addition, there were some places such as the Princess Charlotte Hospital that would realistically come to fruition. However, the plausible dystopian elements also mirrored the impossible ones that I felt were just too much for this story. The book would have been just fine without DNA testing for security clearance in public buildings. There are mentions of tech contact lenses. I felt that we didn’t need these many elements to scream “FUTURE” at us. We understood.

Another downfall of this book was the actual hijacking plot. It was entertaining to learn the secrets of these seemingly innocent citizens who are placed in peril. It was exciting wondering who would make it out alive. However, without giving full spoilers, the actual payoff of the hijacking event was utterly disappointing. I had hoped for a much better climax and explanation who the hacker was and their motivations. It fell very flat for me. In addition, Libby, the seemingly random jury member who the book focused on heavily, was just too much. It felt very repetitive.

My favorite element of this book was the chapter beginnings. Most chapters had a phone related or social media reaction to the events unfolding. We saw news headlines, small articles, trending hashtags, fake Reddit forum postings, GPS locations, ‘tweets’, the car instructional manual, polls, music playlists, online quizzes, fake Wikipedia pages, and more. This added so much to the story, giving us easy exposition in creative ways. It also kept us updated with time and the reactions of the world. Basically, we only had two main locations: in the cars with the victims and the jury office, so it allowed us to jump back into the social media without feeling too detached from the characters. This ‘real time’ social media buzz felt realistic and what I would imagine could occur in a similar scenario to this.

Lastly, I recommend this book heavily. Although the ending was a bit passive for me and I had expected more, I think this is a very successful book. I would hope for more from this author and could enjoy this book as a Netflix original movie. I think if you’re looking for sci-fi dystopian similar to “Black Mirror”, this is a good place. I’m very picky about this genre, and I approve of this. I also think that once this book is fully published, it could be a very interesting audiobook.

I received a complementary advanced reader’s edition of the book in exchange for reviewing purposes. Thank you to my beloved Berkley Publishing. You rock.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

"The Silent Wife"


“The Silent Wife”
Written by A.S.A. Harrison
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

“The Silent Wife” was utterly disappointing. We begin this tale, knowing off the bat that the main character, Jodi, has a hand in her husband’s death. Then, we begin to read what happened prior to his death, that led her into wanting her husband dead. What a tiresome rabbit hole to go down.

Pitched as better than “Gone Girl”, I don’t think this could come close. Any book compared to “Gone Girl” will possibly pale in comparison. Well, figure this. Any popular thriller that has ever been written that stands the test of time or was a landmark in its genre will always have books compared to it. In this circumstance, the wife and husband despise each other. He’s cheating. She’s upset. How many more thrillers like this do we need? This book barely offered anything new to the table, except perhaps the method of death and the conclusion.

This felt like a drama, more than a domestic thriller. There was hardly any action that led to violence or blood spilled. I felt that marking this as a psychological thriller is hard to do, because it just felt like a marriage on the rocks. Yes, Todd is despicable. He was a terrible husband and a terrible husband-to-be for the woman he left his wife for. This book reminded me a lot of the BBC drama, “Dr. Foster”, if any of you are familiar. I felt just disappointed, more than anything.

I felt the author had a great writing style. I am also falling out of love with first person narrators in thrillers, because they are always unreliable. I liked that we had an omniscient narrator inside both Todd’s and Jodi’s heads separately, rather than hearing them and wanting to shut up the peanut gallery. I also liked the dialogue, the descriptions of location, setting, and the eventual conclusion. It felt refreshing.

In conclusion, I felt that as much as I had wanted to be blown away by this book, I just wasn’t. Perhaps we need to stop comparing books to the landmarks in their genre. Does every book about a creepy man in his forties need to be compared to “Psycho”? Does every mad scientist need to relate to Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Henry Jekyll? I think in comparing books to landmarks, we set up the book to disengage viewers. If we long for a book to be so similar to something else, it may never turn out that way.