Sunday, July 29, 2018

"The Other Mother"

“The Other Mother”
Written by Carol Goodman
The Other Mother

I opened up “The Other Mother” during a sick day, gross with the stomach flu. At first, I thought I was really confused by the premise, because my head was foggy from fever, from chills, from the flu. After I became better, I still am not entirely sure what I read.

I am a fan of the book you don’t understand until the final twist, the book you have to read three times in a row to understand. This is reminiscent of “Shutter Island”, “A Cure for Wellness”, and I dunno, some other crazy books. We follow Daphne, who has brought her child with her away from her husband, to begin working as an archivist for her favorite author. However, Daphne is using false credentials from a mother she befriended in their post-partum mommies group.

After we get that far, I don’t know who from whom, what’s going on, who’s the villain, who’s innocent, who’s insane, and who’s perfectly healthy. We have about five different twists, and frankly, I wasn’t happy with the eventual explanation. The primary twist was okay, but predictable if you had put any thought into the book. The other twists were obvious at the beginning and seemed to disappear completely and then resurface at the end, after you think they couldn’t possibly have led to anything. The book is full of red herrings, but only 25% are actually included in the twist.

I liked the scenery, a big old creepy house with a tower and a beautiful library. My head was full of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” meets “Phantom of the Opera” meets “The Sixth Sense”. I wish this was more eerie and suspenseful, it just seems like a lot of: “Am I crazy? Wait, I can’t be crazy! I know this to be true and that to be true. Wait. Are you sure I’m the person I think I am? I hope I don’t hurt my baby!” I think this would be a fantastic play, but in book form, it seemed too drawn out and confusing.

I have some specific examples I’d like to include to further explain my thoughts on “The Other Mother”.

Because we aren’t sure who is the true narrator, Daphne or Laurel, we have an unreliable, unlikeable narrator. I am not a fan of those narration types. I need to know everything that’s going on, as it’s going on. Yeah, go ahead and throw a spoiler twist at the end, but at least let me have a sane narrator for 80 percent of the book.
I like that we have multiple narrative styles, even if they’re jumbled. We read through Daphne (???)’s first person, her and Laurel’s journal entries, and Edith’s journal entries.
In the beginning, Daphne (???) is reading the patient files of her boss’s father, and it’s very creepy and eerie, similar to the case studies and journals of Dr. Jekyll, in “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. The “Strange Case” book is my favorite classic horror book, so I was happy to draw the connections and enjoyed the parallels as I read.
As I mentioned earlier, yes, the author did research into post-partum depression and psychosis, but since she did not experience it first hand, I wonder if she’s doing it a justice. I’m going to be researching into both, as well as intrusive thoughts. Coinciding with the intrusive thoughts, are experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder or is it a result of the plot twist? The resolution in this book is as clear as mud.
Also, like I said earlier, I called part of the main spoiler by page 25.
There’s a lot of weird pop culture references. For example, there’s a rambling thought about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West...
“He said in a voice so low I could feel it rumble in my bowels”.

I recommend this if you like unreliable narrators with debatable depictions of mental illness.

I received a complimentary advanced reader’s copy from William Morrow.

"Bring Me Back"

"Bring Me Back" was a great return to my reading for Goodreads. After a bit of an intermission, I'm back! Similar to the title, hmm? This is the second book I've read by B.A. Paris so I had high expectations, because I flat out loved "The Breakdown" by her. I would say that my first excitement for the book did play out nicely as I expected. 
Bring Me Back

"Bring Me Back" is one of those English psychological thrillers that has you confused, curious, and intrigued. However, I am one of those readers who enjoys not knowing everything that's going on, that I know no more than the main character does. In receiving multiple perspectives, I find that books lose that touch. "BMB" has three perspectives. Finn, our main narrator, as a younger man, tells his story how he hurt and lost his girlfriend, Layla, at a highway bathroom stop. Layla is presumed dead. We see him having moved on years later with his Layla's sister, Ellen, who is more prim and conservative than Layla who was wild and exciting and free-spirited. 

The book begins with Finn's police statement, which explains the incident at the pit stop, but we start to see his darker side unravel. We question if he is a villain, or if he is (the) villain. I like the before perspective, but he uses the second person perspective, speaking directly to Layla. 

The book worms and twists to allow theories you may have to develop, but then pulls them away and reveals more of the truth. Everyone is suspected, and no one is telling the truth. This is definitely going to be one of those books that I will have to re-read again.

Sadly, the book can be a bit redundant, but I really enjoyed it none the same. A few chapters are just endless and repetitive, but once you get to the exciting sections, it's worth it.

This was a twist I did not expect, could not have predicted, and I really appreciated. I find in psychological thrillers, the endings can be predictable, but often they are just letdowns. I found with "The Breakdown" by B.A. Paris, the ending was very predictable, but it still played off well. "Bring Me Back" had a great ending, and it was an all-around good book.

* I received a complimentary copy for reviewing purposes. *

Sunday, June 17, 2018

"The Wife"

“The Wife”
Written by Alafair Burke
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Wife

            “The Wife” by Alafair Burke follows our main characters, Angela, Jason, and Corrine. Angela’s husband, Jason, has just been accused of sexually harassing a college student of his. Corrine is the detective at the Special Victims Unit who is investigating the case. We also have a small perspective from Angela’s mother, which I thought was the most interesting one. The story develops into a whirlwind of confusion, revenge, sacrifice, and anger.

            We begin with interesting perspectives through unreliable narrators. The dialogue is catchy and interesting, with a great narrative. The prose is well-written and interesting to read. The detail put into the story does not feel unnatural. However, I did feel this book picked up and was like a tornado with whirling excitement, but then a calm pond in other sections. It was very exciting, and then very slow.

            The chapters were short, but always ended with a dramatic last sentence. This is not a very intriguing device to me, because I understand it’s meant to be an interesting cliffhanger. For example, “It would be four days before I realized how naïve I had been”. 

            I particularly like the additional narrative device that is written into the story. We read police reports from Corrine that she writes up after every interview, every visit to each location. It gives us insight into the Special Victims Unit protocol and her own thought process. I like the e-mails we have between certain characters as well.

            There’s a backstory we read of Angela’s that explains how she can be too trusting, too naïve, but I think it’s an unnecessary plot point. This book takes on too many thriller / drama tropes, such as the tragic backstory that builds this character into who she is now. And then, typical to the trope, the climax / twist / reveal always relates to this backstory and the strength / weakness she developed.

            I absolutely love the plot reveal / twist. I think it was unpredictable and very well-written. I highly recommend this book and would absolutely love to continue reading books by Alafair Burke.

Friday, May 18, 2018

"He Said / She Said"

“He Said/She Said”
Written by Erin Kelly
Review written by Diana Iozzia

            First and foremost, I think this book is going to get me back into the British psychological thriller books, and I’m grateful for that. I had heard great things about Erin Kelly and was intrigued by “He Said/She Said”.
            This book has four perspectives, Kit in 1999, Laura in 1999, and both of them in 2015. Kit is an eclipse hunter, bringing along his girlfriend, Laura, for her first time to see an eclipse. At the festival for this eclipse, Laura witnesses a stranger, Beth, being raped and assaulted by Jamie, another stranger.
            We see the story in the past, of Laura and Kit’s battle in the courtroom, to prove that Jamie indeed raped Beth, that it was not consensual sex that looked strange and kinky, as Jamie claimed. Slowly, intertwined with present day Kit and Laura, we unfold the story of the aftermath of Jamie’s conviction. Beth becomes obsessed and clingy to Laura, much to Kit’s dismay.
             In present day, Kit and Laura are expecting twins. Kit is off on an eclipse chase, under an assumed name, hoping Beth has stopped looking for them (Why he’s afraid of her? Of course, we don’t know the whole story yet). Laura stays home and increasingly becomes paranoid, as a video of drunken Kit appears on social media, nearly becoming viral.
            This novel is twisty and intriguing, but it does not pay off with the ending I had expected or wanted. I had a thought in my mind where it could be going, but it seemed to be a red herring, as other reviews have agreed. The twist and climax were not predictable, but they just were not exciting or thrilling. Yes, they were suspenseful and a little surprising, but I was a little underwhelmed with the ending. However, the other 75 percent of the book beforehand was great. I thoroughly enjoyed this, but do not think this book is going to have the shocking, brilliantly concocted twist ending that it’s branded to have. 
* won in a contest held by Minotaur Books on Instagram . *

"The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares"

“The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares”
Presented by Jason Blum
A Collection of Short Stories
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares by Jason Blum

            Where on Earth to begin? In shopping in the book section of the ever-brilliant Dollar Tree, I found “The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares”. I have been a fan of films created and produced by the Blumhouse production company in the past. My favorites include: “Sinister”, “Paranormal Activity”, and my favorite horror film to date, “Get Out”. I opened up this book and found that the book is a collection of short stories written by Jason Blum’s friends and colleagues, including a contest winner to have a place in the book. Jason Blum had stipulated to each writer that the story they contributed did not need to be of a certain plot, horror, character choice, or fear level. The main stipulation was that each story should take place in a city. Whether that be a fictional or a non-fictional city. By the way, this is not a spoiler free review. But I’m not going to give toooooo much detail in case you do read the book after you read my review.
            To begin, I cannot give a flat answer, “yes, this book was amazing” or “this book was terrible”. Short story collections are often difficult to gauge, because they are often written by various authors. I would say for this, I counted how many stories I loved, how many I liked, and how many I wanted to burn. I am a fan of horror fiction, but not every horror plot intrigues me. I am not afraid of much, aside from falling from literally any height, drowning, dark laundromats, and food that might be saucy or squirt out at you when you try to bite it. So, when I begin reading horror, I look for scary stories that would be great at a campfire, or when you’re trying to creep out your significant other before bed time. I did not expect to hide under the covers or place white sheets over my mirrors.
            “Hellhole” followed a man who is flipping a rotten and destroyed money pit of a home in Brooklyn. I didn’t enjoy the plot or the ending, but the writing style was intriguing.
            “Valdivia” was one of my favorite stories, and after reading this book about a month ago, this story is certainly the most memorable. I was intrigued after I read that the author was Eli Roth, a horror favorite and common colleague of Jason Blum. Our main character visits a strange city in Chile, in which he investigates to find about the rumored Nazi community that once existed there. **

            “Golden Hour” follows two men hunting down predatory monsters in Hollywood. I disliked this story greatly.
            “A Clean White Room” follows a strange landlord who kills tenants for the superintendent. This was absolutely the worst, most boring, and stupidest story in the collection. I know my opinion is subjective, but I hate it and that’s that.
            “The Leap” follows a really strange psychic who has the ability to possess others. This was a story I didn’t expect to like, but I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end. **
            “Novel Fifteen” follows a pompous mystery writer. He’s sweaty and an alcoholic. He’s bored. He’s possibly going to have a mental breakdown. I think this story is more, “you’re driving yourself insane” scary than “ooh, there’s a boogeyman” scary.
            “The Darkish Man” follows a creepy stalker who kills people mysteriously in bars. Umm, nah. Skip this one.
            “1987” was a strange story about homophobia and gay bashing.
            “Geist” creeped me out pretty badly before bed. This follows an urban legend in Munich, in which a man who finds out his lover is a ghost. **
            “Gentholme” was fascinating and a really creative way to tell a story in which a couple accidentally move into a ghost town, with its previous occupants still around... ***
            “Donations” was the short story winner that was entered into this collection. I thought this was completely passable. A city in which people, their body parts, and their possessions are taken by some magical omnipotent, over-being for donations to the city. This sounds like an episode of “The Twilight Zone”, but we’re missing the twist ending, like “Oh, they’re all in a doll house. Oh, they’re experiments made by Sid from ‘Toy Story’”.
            “The Old Jail” follows a man’s descent into insanity. It was really confusing, but I didn’t mind it too much. The narrative is strange, because it’s from the perspective of the man, so the narrative becomes more frenzied as the story progresses.
            “The Words” is about a child psychologist who is struggling to have her young five-year-old trauma patient recover from his tragedy and his mutism.
            “Dreamland” follows a sleep study gone wrong. I can imagine this on screen, whether it be a film or a Black Mirror episode. Pretty good, but also bizarre on many different levels.
            “Meat Maker” was a strange, weird cop chase.
            “Eyes” was completely unmemorable. Even skimming it for a second time just to write up a little bit about it for the review, I remember absolutely nothing from this. It seems like our main narrator is a man who is paranoid a homeless man is following him.
            “Procedure” follows a police investigator who is trying to solve the crime of a rape and attack of a woman. She shows him a secret group of strange surgeons who have found an erogenous zone inside the body, only accessible by an invasive, dark room procedure.
            Overall, my favorite stories were “Geist”, “Gentholme”, and “The Leap”. I think these stories were brilliant, while some of the other stories were lackluster. I would suggest this if you have a wide taste in horror, I think this just proved I’m more of a “ghost story” horror fan.

Monday, April 16, 2018



Written by M.A. Bennett

Review written by Diana Iozzia


"S.T.A.G.S." follows our main character, Greer, as she is invited to a weekend away with her new classmates. They all go to a mysterious, historical boarding school with lots of secrets. It's interesting to watch as Greer learn all about the school and her fellow classmates.

Greer and the other two invited students, Shafeen and Chanel are very nervous and uncomfortable. The main events of this weekend include a stag hunt, a pheasant shoot, and a fishing tournament. All too soon, it appears that Greer, Shafeen, and Chanel are the hunted, rather than the hunters. I like the premise of a cult-like boarding school. Not bad.

We have a great amount of foreshadowing, interesting detail, and an unpredictable plot. This reminds me of the films "You're Next", "House on Haunted Hill", and "The Invitation". As for books, this reminds me of "Dead Poets Society", "The Fall of the House of Usher", and "Black Chalk".

I enjoyed this book, but sometimes the language was a little off-putting. Not to say that it was vulgar language: my issue mainly involved Greer's perspective. She's sometimes annoying with her constant film references. I understand she likes movies, but on nearly every page, something happens that reminds her of a movie. She also announces a pretty big plot point that spoils the entire book, within the first two chapters. I would have preferred not to know. I didn't think that knowing in advance had made the book feel more suspenseful and gripping.

It's easy to picture this story, and I liked that it felt vivid in my mind. Also, it doesn't hurt that my favorite place in England is Cumbria and the Lake District, so it was great to have that be its location.

It's funny, upon reading this, I found many fellow reviewers who didn't like this book. I can understand why, this was more of a guilty pleasure read than some gritty, terrifying horror novel. I did thoroughly enjoy it, and I'd like to give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I do think I'll pass it on. I would recommend this, but don't go into the book thinking it will be the next best "Get Out". Although the deer similarities are intriguing...

Issue and Trend Interview Blog

Issue and Trend Interview Blog
A Conversation with *** ******

Issues and trends in children's literature are recent discussion topics that I have learned about through this class. Many librarians, parents, and teachers have differing opinions on literature. *** ****** is a librarian at my local library, who I was able to speak to for an interview. We sat down for coffee and had this conversation:

Image result for old bridge public libraryQuestion 1: ***, what do you describe to be children's literature?
Answer: I consider books for newborns until about 18 years old to be children's literature. You have to consider that teenagers are still children, so we consider 18 to be the limit.

Question 2: ***, do you find the political climate to be an influence on children's books?
Answer: Diana, we live in New Jersey, one of the most diverse states for political opinion. I would definitely say I agree.

Question 3: ***, can you elaborate further?
Image result for nuts in spaceAnswer: Okay. Our political climate seems to be focusing more on accepting others than ever. We have to be kinder, more understanding. Our books are reflecting this.

Question 4: Can you describe any recent books that don't perpetuate these new changes?
Answer:  I read a book the other day, "Nuts in Space". I didn't like the language. "Stupid, hate". No, thank you.
Image result for 13 reasons why book
Question 5: As a librarian, do you find issues with other books?
Answer: Sometimes, the summer reading books can be a little dated. I had a parent complain about the teen book "Thirteen Reasons Why", because of suicide themes. I think that a reader should enjoy any book they like, but sometimes, books can be a bit much.

Question 6: Would you dissuade a child from picking this story?
Answer: Maybe I would try to reason with their parent, see if the parent understands the story elements.

Question 7: How do you feel about "banned books"? Should we still ban books?
Answer: As a reader, no. As a librarian, I don't know. I don't like banning books, but sometimes, our library has restrictions on certain ages.

Question 8: On a happier note, how do you feel about audiobooks?
Answer: I love audio books! They give the best opportunity for readers without perfect eyesight or if they just prefer listening! I'm surprised they made such a comeback. So many people come in to listen to Harry Potter.
Image result for harry potter book
Question 9: A big concern in my college classes is resources. Do you feel that the library provides enough resources to students who need them?
Answer: We need more computers. So many students come in trying to use the computers for homework, and we have bozos who are reading their e-mails (*** apologized for using "bozos").

Question 10: As a librarian, do you have any advice for a student becoming a teacher?
Answer: Understand that not every kid succeeds with technology. An old fashioned book goes a long way.

I thanked *** for allowing me to interview her. I further researched the books she mentioned, including "Nuts in Space" and "13 Reasons Why". "13 Reasons Why" is a popular book chosen by schools for summer reading. It follows the character, Clay Jensen, as he listens to audio tapes recorded by his fellow classmate and crush, Hannah Baker. Hannah has committed suicide and often describes each character on the tapes for their responsibility in her decision. The book is widely described positively for its accurate depictions of rape, suicide, abuse, and sexual harassment. However, it is also panned for those exact reasons. Due to the severity of "13 Reasons Why", it has been banned in many classrooms and schools across the United States. Teachers are not using this reading material anymore.