Friday, December 29, 2017

"Bad Call"

"Bad Call"
Written by Stephen Wallenfels
Review written by Diana Iozzia

I was really excited to read this, but I think the anticipation had to do with the length of time I waited for my complementary copy to come. Not to be disparaging, but I think I built up a huge amount of excitement. When I do this, I do find myself becoming a little let down and disappointed. "Bad Call" let my twenty-two year old self down, but would have really impressed my 13 - 16 year old self. This is a book created by Disney's teen imprint, Hyperion, so it is really marketed at teens. I still read young adult / teen fiction, so I had thought that this would still be a relatively good read for that young adult side of my reading. This follows a group of five high school seniors, 4 boys and 1 girl, as they lose their way while camping in Yellowstone National Park.

Perhaps I was going into this thinking that it was going to be significantly creepier than it actually was. It sounded like a twisty Donner party reimagining, so I was hoping for some creeps and spooks. When I found out that this was an imprint of Disney, I was surprised to see cursing and foul language as well as bloody violence. However, this was slightly disappointing. I have always been a fan of "The Lord of the Flies" and other survival in the elements stories, but this turned out to be a little more frothy and sugarcoated than I expected. 

There are a quite a few complements that I have for this book, although I was relatively disappointed. Like I said, my younger self would have loved this book if it was written when I was younger, so I think I still resulted in liking it. Although there weren't people roasting others' limbs, it was still relatively creepy. It's weird to phrase this, but I liked that one of the characters, Grahame, was creepy in the sexual, awkward advances. He was very uncomfortable and eerie, and a perfect almost villain. I also thought that the language and dialogue was very realistic for teen fiction. Sometimes, I feel that some teen characters sound like adults, or they sound like caricatures of teens. Okay, save Grahame's weird fake Jamaican accent. Yes, we are supposed to think he is annoying and weird, but it seems like a step too far. I also enjoyed the map in the beginning of the book and the descriptions of Yellowstone National Park. The locations and scenery seemed very realistic and well-described. In the last few pages, we also receive a few newspaper clippings. I often enjoy extra additions to books like maps and newspaper articles.

I think my main complaint about "Bad Call" is the build-up to the action. About 150 pages before the characters even slightly seem to be in danger. There's a gigantic amount of backstory and perspectives that collide and are repetitive. I guess the backstory is in place to show how some of the characters could have secret agendas and aren't always the nicest people. Unfortunately, I felt this was a massively slow start. By the time it became interesting, it was great, but it took a while to get to the exciting point. 

Okay, I have one last funny gripe to make. Characters that don't understand references to Sir Isaac Newton? High school seniors don't have a clue who he is??? Characters that go viral and become popular on Jimmy Fallon's talk show because of a funny Q-Tip picture????

* I was sent a complementary finished copy for reviewing purposes. *

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Written by Maggie Stiefvater
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
I was really excited for "Linger", because I enjoyed "Shiver" much more than I expected to. I thought it would be a rip off of "Twilight" or "Teen Wolf" or "The Vampire Diaries". If we go back into my review of "Shiver", I feel that many of my points still stand, but let's see if anything changed. Please don't read this unless you've read "Shiver".

Great. Thanks. Let's begin. "Linger" picks up a couple of weeks (I think???) after Sam is exposed to meningitis, which has seemed to cure him of his wolf transformations. Interestingly enough, it seems that Grace's wolf tendencies are finally catching up to her, and she is slowly changing into one. It's not a scene from "Teen Wolf" where she slowly finds herself with fur on her skin, or her ears pop out. She just knows something is wrong until the final few moments.

"Linger" follows a lot more of the present, than "Shiver" did, which is a pretty normal thing for sophomore books. Now that it's all set up in the first, the author can continue in the present with the current problems and plot at hand. Speaking of plot, is there one???? There's not really a central conflict, other than Grace's parents disapproving of Sam. We also meet a new wolf, a drug addict musician who just decides he wants to become a wolf, because it's a better option than suicide? It's funny. This guy is Cole, right? I like Cole, only when he's in the present tense. When he talks about his music career, his ex-girlfriend, his addiction, I feel my eyes glaze over. He's seemingly into Isabel, who I absolutely love. I think if I had to pick a favorite character from this series would be Isabel. I originally thought she would be similar to Jessica Stanley from Twilight, the snobby side character who is only there to seemingly piss off the main characters. Isabel is shockingly caring towards Sam and Grace, especially the latter. I really enjoy her as a character, but honestly, my involvement in the LGBT community makes me always read a little lesbian subtext about Isabel. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Cole and the male gender alike do not really feel right for her. Anyway.

Sam's music career and songs still piss me off. I think they're awful. As I mentioned in my review of "Shiver", it's very similar to Archie Andrews from "Riverdale". No one caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaares. I think my fourteen year old self would be confused and scoff at me for saying this, but I am not reading this series for a high school guy who wants to be a musician. Grace's dialogue is still really cheesy and unbelievable. She gets caught nearly naked with her boyfriend, who has been sneaking into her room every night for a couple of months. Parents FINALLY care about her. Okay, I understand that Grace's parents are very absent, but did she really expect that her boyfriend could practically move into the house without her parents knowing? Her dialogue is very "But Mom, Dad, you don't understand! I love him!"

Ah yes, here, I had bookmarked this exact part I wanted to mention: "Mom! I am not like you. I am NOTHING like you. You have NO IDEA what goes on in my head, or how my brain works, or whether or not I am in love with Sam or vise versa. So don't even have this conversation with me. Don't even - ugh. You know what? I'm done". UGHHHHH MOOOOOM You don't understand! Calm down, Grace. Your "16 year old Disney princess thinking she knows exactly what life is about" is showing.

Let's see. As I mentioned earlier, what exactly is this plot? There's lots of cuddling and Isabel comforting Grace and new wolves emerging, but it seems like a solid half hour of plot, if we thought of this like a film. I had heard from a reputable source that the series does go a little downhill, but this quickly? I really liked the book, but I severely hope the plot picks up in the next. Pretty good, onto the next one.

"The Perfect Mother"

"The Perfect Mother"
Written by Aimee Molloy
Review written by Diana Iozzia of Bookworm Banter

The Perfect Mother

"The Perfect Mother" is a near perfect psychological thriller. When this arrived on my front porch for me to read and review, I nearly jumped for joy. I hadn't remembered submitting a request for this or entering a contest, so this felt almost like a Christmas present. I was instantly intrigued by the cover, description, review quotes, and the announcement that this is going to be a major motion picture starring Kerry Washington.

The story follows a group of four women who belong to a Mommies group: Winnie, Collette, Nell, and Francie. We also meet a few other members of the group, but these are our main characters. The women and a few others from the group decide to go out to the bar a year after the babies are born. While out at the club, Winnie's son, Midas, is kidnapped. This sends the group off in spirals, each character telling her side of the story and the past. We also have another mysterious perspective, seemingly the one responsible for Midas's kidnapping. This is a very well fleshed out debut novel, each character having an interesting story arc. I personally enjoyed Francie's and Collette's perspectives most. In addition, I really enjoyed reading about the husbands too. In some psychological thrillers, the husbands are barely mentioned as an after thought. On the other hand, I found Nell to be the "high ho cheerio" "across the pond" "cuppa tea" fake British character that appears all too often in American thriller novels. 

There isn't much I can say about this novel now that I've read it. It's one of those that once you know the plot twist ending, it's hard to see the book in the same light. Well, I can easily say that I had absolutely no clue that the ending would play out in the way that it did, which I appreciated. But it also seems a little like one of those endings that don't really make a lot of sense, as if it popped up out of thin air. I don't think there is any inclination or foreshadowing, which I might have enjoyed. There are some interesting red herrings, of course.

I have to mention the narration and perspectives, as I referenced earlier. We have the four women told in third person, and then one in first person, but I cannot reveal who that is. Now that I look back into it, it's fun to re-read after I understand the twist. Each third person's narrative begins with the daily newsletter of the Mommies group, which helps you realize the chronological order of the events as they play out. It adds to the suspense. 

Lastly, because it's my review and I can do whatever I'd like, I want to mention a memorable quote from the book that I enjoyed. This is said by Nell about the paparazzi following her and the case, "They'll find fresh blood somewhere else. The shark like you".

In conclusion, I thoroughly liked this, and I wish I could flatter this debut novel more. Please pick this up and read it. I don't know if I can picture Kerry Washington in the main role, and that this would be a 'major motion picture'. A mini-series, maybe. Hopefully not Lifetime.

*I received a complementary advanced review copy for reading and reviewing purposes.*

Friday, December 8, 2017

"The Couple Next Door"

"The Couple Next Door" 
Written by Shari Lapena
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I borrowed it from the library, read it last night, and finished it five minutes ago. This book is very complex with many different characters, lies, and plot twists. Are they all fantastic? Well, you see my rating out of five. I enjoyed this for the fast, intriguing pace, but this was predictable. And repetitive. And by the last few pages, the final plot twist just felt normal to me. It's similar to a bag of Halloween candy for me. You eat all of the boring ones first, and by the time you get to your favorite candy, it's really great. Then, you have three more and it doesn't feel special anymore.

Anne and Marco visited their neighbors for a little birthday dinner, leaving their six month-old daughter, Cora, asleep in her crib. They return, she's gone. Wow. I think the best part of this book is the investigation completed by Detective Rasbach. It's very reminiscent of the detectives Boney and Gilpin from "Gone Girl" or the actual crime story of Laci and Scott Peterson. I enjoyed that Detective Rasbach was very thorough and investigated all of the right people, places, and events. It bugs me in books when the detectives aren't that thorough, and they may make mistakes. Rasbach was just the right level of intelligent, where he didn't figure out the entire plot magically.

This book is very well-written, but the story wasn't as impressive as I hoped it to be. We have the scary truth of the kidnapping told to us half-way through, which I appreciated, but it wasn't interesting. The people involved in the kidnapping were very obvious. The eventual main villain in the book wasn't as obvious, but yet again, this wasn't a great reveal. I think I need to stay away from psychological thrillers involving kidnappings of children, because they don't interested me as greatly as other p.t. crimes. I also think this book had a little of a tendency to bite off more than it could chew. Which I don't say lightly. I wasn't impressed by the side characters, I mainly only felt sympathetic towards the women characters, and Anne's dissociative identity disorder seemed all too convenient for the plot and twists. Lastly, I do recommend this, but I just felt a little disappointed. I would definitely read another novel by Shari Lapena in the future. I'll check out "A Stranger in the House" and report back.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"All We Saw"

“All We Saw”
Written by Anne Michaels
Review written by Diana Iozzia

All We Saw by Anne Michaels
            Recently, I’ve been really getting back into reading poetry. After a great booktuber recommended R.H. Sin’s books, I read many of them. I also decided to read more, and then more poetry. I stumbled upon “All We Saw” by Anne Michaels. This is a very small collection of slightly angsty, slightly confusing, slightly naturalistic poetry. I personally tend to read natural, simple, and romantic poetry, so this had a slight step in the right direction.

            I honestly dislike rating poetry, because I feel that poetry is so different to everyone who reads it, especially modern poetry. I am personally rating this, as I read it, not for quality or for recommendations. I just couldn’t really get into it. Many of the poems in this collection were very long and not so cohesive. I enjoyed some parts of poems more than the poem entirely, so to best describe what I liked, I am listing the page numbers and/or name of the poem.

Pg. 14 from ‘Sea of Lanterns’.
‘Somewhere Night is Falling’, this is a great, long poem that each sentence starts with ‘somewhere’. I am a fan of form poems, so I enjoyed this as well as ‘To Write’.
‘Five Islands’.
Pg. 42 from ‘Bison’
Pg. 64 from ‘There Was a Distant Sound’

            The design of the book kind of bugged me. For a very small poem book, you could probably contain all of the poems on maybe six printed pages. Yaaaaay, what a great use of dead trees… Anyway, the cover image is fitting, the book without the cover is as well. Other than that, this book was a mixed bag. I enjoyed certain poems and enjoyed certain lines. I think I’ll be passing this along to a friend. I enjoyed this for what it was worth, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing to keep this in my collection.

            I received a complementary copy for reviewing purposes.

"The Lying Game"

“The Lying Game”
Written by Ruth Ware
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware           

            As a fan of Ruth Ware, I found it only fitting to pick up her third book, the brand-new “The Lying Game”. I thoroughly enjoyed “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, but a relative unfortunately gave away my copy, so I couldn’t look back on it, and compare. Over the summer, I read “The Woman in Cabin 10” in a span of maybe three hours. I wasn’t expecting to breeze through “The Lying Game” so quickly, since it was a significantly larger book. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, so I took my time reading this, but I relatively enjoyed it.

            This book felt very similar to both other books by Ruth Ware, but it also really reminded me of “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn. In both, the main character returns to a very important place in their child hood, Camille returns to her hometown, and in this book, Isa returns to the town in which she went to boarding school. Isa Wilde returns to Salten, England to meet with her three friends after years of being apart, because a body washes up on the Salten Beach. Naturally, you soon realize that the four friends, Isa and Thea, Kate, and Fatima are involved.

            Isa is a very arrogant and aggressive character, but in the beginning of the book, you only see her as a really protective mother of her little Freya. She’s certainly not a likable character, which is often Ruth Ware’s signature. Isa lies to Owen, who is honestly the sweetest husband and character Ware has written so far. He’s absolutely loving and cute, and he does not deserve any of the BS that Isa puts him through. Regardless, we jump back into the boarding school days, which I really enjoyed reading. Something about being a middle class, American public-school kid always made me long for boarding school. To be fair, the exposure I had was the Blue is For Nightmares series and Harry Potter to blame. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Isa’s younger narrative, of the girls being rascals and jumping out their window at night.

            Of course, we have to jump back to the complicated friendships of these girls. Kate, the guarded, isolated artist. Fatima, the lovely but concerned NHS worker. Thea, the alcoholic and possibly anorexic woman, I don’t even know what she did as a job. And then Isa, our main nuisance. As I mentioned, before the half-way point, I relatively liked Isa, until she started being cruel and dishonest to her husband. Yes, and “almost cheating” is still repulsive and terrible. Isa just isn’t a great character. Smoking and then breast-feeding, taking Freya to a crowded pub. She’s so concerned one second, then forgetting actual mothering skills the next.

            I like that this book does have quite a few bits of foreshadowing, and it doesn’t reach the last chapter to figure out everything. You have a pretty good idea what’s going on from about half-way through, which I appreciated. I liked that Ware’s “In a Dark, Dark Wood” was a bit final chapter plot-twisty, but I couldn’t stand the reveal in “The Woman in Cabin 10”. Personally, “Cabin 10” is one of my least favorite mysteries I’ve read this far. But anyway, back to “The Lying Game”. The reveal throughout this book takes a while to unfold, which I appreciated and didn’t appreciate. It wasn’t that great of a reveal, what happened to the body, who helped kill the person, and why. I mean, if you’re up for *possible* pedophilia, incest, murder, suicide, heroin, and other stuff, go for it… However, if for some reason I had been spoiled the ending prematurely, I wouldn’t have read the book anyway, if that helps you understand.

            In conclusion, I liked this, and I didn’t like this. It played out beautifully in my mind. I could picture every scene, every character flawlessly. I think this would be a fantastic film. That being said, Ware’s first book would also be a great film. Something about these psychological thrillers, you know. I would rate this as maybe a 3.75. Almost a four, but not quite. The dialogue and narrative were fantastic, but you had frequent moments that shouted, “No, in no way is this possible or realistic”. Lots of red herrings, lots of almost red herrings, where you are kind of right, but not exactly. I would recommend this to people who enjoy Gillian Flynn and B.A. Paris!

Friday, December 1, 2017

"The Girls"

“The Girls”
Written by Emma Cline
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The Girls by Emma Cline
            Sigh. I really don’t like having to write a negative review, but this review is going to be pretty negative. I feel that if you read this before you read the book, you might come out with a poor impression or feel less likely to read the book.

            “The Girls” follows our main character, Evie Boyd, (honestly just had to look back into the book for that). Evie had a weird childhood, where she didn’t like her stepfather and her mom. Her father is absent, but she knows her father’s girlfriend, Tamar, pretty well. I really enjoyed her father and Tamar most out of all the characters, but they hardly have any presence, so I think you can infer something about that… The only sympathy I felt was for Tamar, Evie’s father, and the murder victims. I never felt sympathetic towards Evie. She was an unlikeable character, and it really rang true for the entire book.

            Evie meets Suzanne and a couple of other girls, who live in a little, crappy farm, but this world is enchanting to Evie. It’s practically a cult, but it’s mainly weird, sexual, drug addicts who live together and steal to survive. I was surprised that there wasn’t any religious aspect to this, because statistically, cults do follow religious patterns. The leader of this “cult” is Russell who finds himself competing with his friend, Mitch, who is a musician. Mitch is alluring and many of the girls like him. I honestly think that branding this as a “cult” makes it too buzz-wordy. This is hardly a cult, so that disappointed me.

            We also read Evie as a middle-aged woman who takes in her old roommate’s son and his girlfriend. This is just a really strange part of the story. Yes, I understand it’s metaphorical. Evie takes in and tries to protect the poor little girlfriend. It’s just weird. When we read this present-day part of the story, Evie, Julian, and Sasha talk about the cult and the murders the cult has committed. But of course, it’s like water in the desert. We receive so little and randomly about the murders, that you have to read the entire book to hear about the murders. The actual events are very similar to the Charles Manson murders, which is oh, so relevant now that he’s just died. Not to spoil, but if you’re uncomfortable with innocent people being ruthlessly murdered… Another thing that bothered me about the night of murders was that none of these characters had any violent tendencies, or seemed that they were that manipulated into killing. It felt just randomly thrown in at the end. Surely, you’d imagine that all along the characters were creepy, but the only creepy one was Russell, who takes on the Manson position of being absent that night.

            There are many aspects I didn’t like about this story. There is so much underage sex, in really gross, graphic detail. No, I didn’t think that a cult story would be absent of sex and drug abuse, but it’s a little too graphic for me. I mean every aspect of sex in this book is underage, so it’s a bit of a creepy factor. Also, I’m not usually the kind of person sensitive to this, but maybe it would have been a bit better to make the underage sex less glamorous?? It’s very warm and cuddly and nice, and I’d worry it may give a younger reader the wrong idea.

            Lastly, in every review, I always list off the last few things I have made a note to mention with page markers and sticky notes: I wanted to mention that the first few chapters were very intriguing, but that was it. I felt I had to push myself past a lot to get to the good parts. I didn’t skim through it, but I probably could have. Another thing that irritated me in the end was that Evie was complicit. She had a poor feeling that something was going to happen the night of, still planned to go along. She never confessed to being complicit in the end, which bothered me. Just a happy ending for her… I’m really glad that I didn’t spend any money on this, just a five-minute trip to the library. Oh, well.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

"The Missing"

The Missing by C.L. Taylor“The Missing”
Written by C.L. Taylor
Review written by Diana Iozzia

“The Missing” is a psychological thriller / mystery about a family that lives in Weston, England. The youngest son, Billy, had disappeared six months before the book begins, so we meet his parents, Claire and Mark, his brother, Jake, and his brother’s girlfriend, Kira. I was interested to read this book, because I am often interested in books that are labeled as psychological thrillers. I was slightly disappointed with this novel, but that wasn’t because it was a bad book. See, the issue I found with “The Missing” is that it fit into the mold of every other psychological thriller ever. We can use the example of a salad. You have all of the core ingredients, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, dressing, maybe croutons. You can add other ingredients, make it a little more exciting, but it still is a salad. Sometimes, you have a salad that is world-ending, ground-breaking, unlike any salad you’ve ever had before. “The Missing” is a chef salad.

Now, to sound less like I’m having a stroke, I mean to say that this book has all of the core plot devices, dialogue techniques, and characters that are necessary in a psychological thriller. It doesn’t really have any SHOCKING, CRAZY, INVENTIVE ideas that set it apart from any other books like this. This book is very reminiscent of the first and second seasons of the English television program, “Broadchurch”, but without the focus on the police force. But it’s so similar, so that’s a problem. I like my thriller novels to have exciting new twists and interesting plot devices hardly ever used before.

“The Missing” has most chapters ending in a cliffhanger like, “And then from behind the bedroom door, I heard a scream.” No one’s dying. It’s just dumb teenagers drinking. There’s predictable language, “I can’t believe our son could be like this,” “the side of the bed feels cold without you”. Of course, the main character has blackouts and can’t remember where she is or what she was doing! “I really shouldn’t be doing this,” but the hotel desk attendant gives personal information on the computer. I’ve never seen that in a book before, no… There’s an affair! TWO! WOW. How innovative. Child pornography always seems to pop up in psychological thrillers too. Can’t we have an original villain anymore?

Also, the mother, Claire, is an unreliable narrator. I understand how that can be unappealing, I often like unreliable narrators, but she isn’t all that unreliable. Sure, she can’t remember a few things every now and then, but she’s a pretty normal scared mom. I think my least favorite part of the narrative is the instant message conversations between ___ and ____. (Spoilers not included, obviously). They’re unnecessary and don’t give enough of the plot away or progress the plot. Everything is told to Claire as it unfolds, rather than her actually finding it out on her own.

Let’s (finally) talk about the positives about “The Missing”. Although this is a very unoriginal book with very unoriginal elements, it was pretty good. I enjoyed the character, Claire. She wasn’t as annoying as I thought she could be, even though she’s “unreliable”. I did feel for her. I didn’t like Mark, but most dads in thriller novels are either the villain or the antagonist, so was I even supposed to like him? Kira is easily the most interesting character and rightfully so. The twist and reveal are interesting, well done enough to justify the simplistic plot elements. This was a slightly watered-down novel, and I think it had a bit more potential if it didn’t focus on Mark’s rivalry with his stepbrother, and Claire’s wine drinking with her neighbor. I think this would be a pretty good BBC or ITV mini-series…I enjoyed this novel nonetheless. It read out like a television show, and I could vividly picture the characters and events play out in my mind. As I mentioned, I enjoyed the plot twists and reveals in the end, and they were unpredictable. They really made the book worthwhile.

I received a complementary review copy from William Morrow Publishing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Nightmares and Dreamscapes"

“Nightmares and Dreamscapes”
Written by Stephen King
Review written by Diana Iozzia

            “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” is a collection of short stories written by the beloved author, Stephen King. There are 23 in the collection, and I was pretty pleased with the stories. As with most of Stephen King’s work, there is a very large range of types of stories and who would enjoy the stories most. I have always said that his stories fit a shotgun effect for me, I have to read a few before I find one that I really enjoy. I loved reading the introduction and the “Notes” sections. His introductions aren’t that amusing or funny to me usually, but I enjoyed this one. The “Notes” section always includes little explanations or inspirations for each story.

             I don’t particularly enjoy his short stories about revenge, so I didn’t like “Dolan’s Cadillac” and its theme, but the quality of the story was intriguing. A man whose wife was killed by this horrible man seeks revenge after years gone by.

            In “The End of the Whole Mess”, we learn of two brothers. One brother, Bobby, is a child genius and prodigy, while his brother, the narrator, Howard, was smart, but lesser in comparison. Bobby is a flighty person, spending many of his years on his own, learning interesting things about the world and conducting experiments. One day, he shows up on Howard’s porch, explaining his new discovery. His discovery is a form of medicinal chemical that is supposed to stop a volcano from devastating the south of Earth. When this chemical does not work, many people begin to die. We read Howard’s narration after he’s put his brother down and is slowly dying by suicide. This was really sad, but very interesting. I always enjoy a good science-fiction, alternate future story.

            “Suffer the Little Children” follows Miss Sidley, a boarding school teacher, whose students start to creep up on her and drive her paranoid. The results of her paranoia and insanity are heartbreaking. As with most good science fiction / horror stories, this ends off on a cliffhanger, a strange future to come after the story ends. I enjoyed this, “Crouch End”, “Home Delivery”, and “The End of the Whole Mess” best out of the stories in this collection.

            “The Night Flier” is a sort of noir detective story where a man becomes obsessed with following and finding a mysterious serial killer who drains his victim’s blood during night flights. This was weird and creepy, but I liked it.

            “Popsy” is a creepy, kidnapping story, where you read through the perspective of the pedophile, which was uncomfortable. King always has a fantastic habit of making readers feel very unsettled. Not to spoil the ending, but the characteristics of the person who rescues the little boy, his Popsy, was an interesting twist.

            “It Grows on You” is a depressing epilogue to King’s “Needful Things”, my least favorite book by him so far. Needless (no pun intended) to say, I didn’t want to read or enjoy this story. Spoiler alert, I didn’t enjoy it.

            “Chattery Teeth” was a hitchhiker story gone wrong. I tend to like King’s hitchhiker stories. This was odd, but enjoyable.

            “Dedication” was about a woman whose son dedicated a story to her. We learn of her not-very-interesting backstory of her first husband, and then her second husband. Domestic abuse stories aren’t interesting to me.

            “The Moving Finger” came across as a campfire scary story for adults. A man is haunted by a little finger that pops up in his bathroom. He’s driven insane by this little finger. It’s comical and also slightly disturbing. I also enjoyed the characters as well as the story. A strange, but enjoyable read.
            “Sneakers” is about a man who sees a specific pair of sneakers at work, in the bathroom, and in other places in public. I didn’t understand this story, and I don’t think I’m missing out.

            “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” is a great. My father is a collector and big music fan, so imagining my father finding himself in a rock-and-roll hell was an amusing time. Probably the worst version of Hell for him, so it was funny to read a story like that. A couple finds themselves trapped in a small town that turns out to have evil versions of Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbison. This read like a “Goosebumps” story / “Twilight Zone” story combined. I thoroughly enjoyed this funny but spooky read.

            “Home Delivery” is a really cool zombie story, but it doesn’t feel at all like a “Walking Dead” type story. I really enjoyed this science fiction, zombie horror story for many of its elements. Our narrator, Maddie, is pregnant. We learn of her horrific, abusive marriage. Maddie lives on a little fishing island, and we start to learn how on the mainland across the United States, corpses are coming back to life. We have a mini version of an epic story, where we witness the stopping of the corpses, her husband come back to life, and we resolve with Maddie becoming ready for her child to come, in a home delivery of course. This was great.

            “Rainy Season” follows a couple who find themselves on vacation in a strange town where every seven years, killer toads rain down from the sky. Weird, but pleasant story.

            I didn’t understand the story, “My Pretty Pony”. It first sounded like a predatory grandpa telling his grandson about life. I have no idea what happened in it.

            “Sorry, Right Number” is a creepy and twisty screenplay, where a mother Katie thinks she is receiving phone calls from her daughter, who seemingly is perfectly fine and not in danger.
            “The Ten O’Clock People” was my least favorite short story I’ve ever read by King. A man discovers that people around him are like secret alien / lizard creatures.

            “Crouch End” follows a team of London cops who try to help a woman find her husband who has disappeared. We read the story in two parts, the cops trying to find the husband and her story that she tells to the police. I really liked this, but I don’t want to reveal anymore, because there are great twists and turns.

            “The House on Maple Street” follows the children in a family explore their summer home and also find a way to seek revenge on their disliked stepfather. This was strange, but I enjoyed it. It reminded me a little of the books by Lemony Snicket.

            “The Doctor’s Case” is a story written through the perspective of Dr. John Watson, following a case in which Watson works with Sherlock Holmes. I liked Sherlock Holmes when I was younger, but this was a trip down memory lane. It was written in the same melodic style as Arthur Conan Doyle.

            In “The Fifth Quarter”, Jerry Tarkanian seeks revenge for his friend who died. He shows up to make a deal with Barney’s killers.

            “Umney’s Last Case” follows a private investigator who meets his last client, the author who created him. Then, Umney finds himself in a worse situation than he began.

            I didn’t read “Heads Down”. It chronicles his son’s baseball season and is practically a diary. “Brooklyn August” is a poem that coincides.

            “The Beggar and the Diamond” is a re-written Hindu teaching. It was similar to a cautionary tale.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"rest in the mourning"

“rest in the mourning”
Written by R.H. Sin
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Rest in the Mourning by R.H. Sin

            “rest in the mourning” is a collection of poetry that centers around loss and sadness. This is a very short collection in comparison to the other two books I’ve read by R.H. Sin so far. “rest in the mourning” only clocks at 118 pages, but I still think it was immensely worth the read. I am so appreciative to have found a modern poet I like so much. I have always enjoyed reading Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry David Thoreau most, but I am grateful to have read a poet who has just started becoming published over the past three years.

            Please read my other reviews on his collections, “whiskey words & a shovel III” and “a beautiful composition of broken”, to understand my full love and understanding of his poetry. R.H. uses great metaphors and personification to speak about love, self-respect, kindness, trustworthiness, heartbreak, and life. My favorite poems of his often include a metaphor or personification that compares something to nature or to the elements. Additionally, most of his poems do link together in his other collections. Some are in two or three parts. This collection reads to me like a chain link game, where the poem directly leads to the next poem. Then, the next takes a part of the previous and so on.

            I seem to have forgot to mention in all of my reviews of his books so far, but I really like the titles of the poems. I think the most interesting titles are the ones that are named after the date he wrote them, the day that inspired the poem, or the time at which they were written.

            Because this collection is significantly smaller than the others I have read, I had thought there would be a smaller number of favorite poems. I was wrong. Nonetheless my favorite poems here are:

“many broken promises.” pg. 5
“it’s late I & II.” pg. 8 – 9
“mouth of lies.” pg. 11
* “beside the moon.” pg. 17
“many moons, many battles.” pg. 18
* “a type of love.” pg. 23
* “some sleep.” pg. 25
“rest in the mourning.” pg. 33
“heart’s silence.” pg. 48
* “resting.” pg. 75
“total recall.” pg. 87
“my 20s.” pg. 117

I received this poetry collection as a complimentary copy for reviewing purposes through the publisher.

* favorite poems in collection

"whiskey words & a shovel III"

“Whiskey Words & A Shovel III”
Written by R.H. Sin
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Whiskey Words & a Shovel III by R.H. Sin

            “whiskey words & a shovel III” is a collection of poetry, written by my newest favorite modern poet. r.h. Sin is an unorthodox poet with his lack of punctuation, capitalization, and the occasional intentional sentence fragment. I enjoy Mr. Sin’s poetry, but only a certain percentage of each book. I noticed that in the first book I had read by him, “a beautiful composition of broken” that his poetry in that book was very sad and heartbroken. The first half of “whiskey words & a shovel III” is very angry, confused, and a little vulgar. The second half is more likeable to me. I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to literature, so vulgar language and descriptions of sexual encounters often make me feel uncomfortable. His poetry does make you feel angry, because he’s angry. I just don’t like seeing the F word every page I turn. However, this book had more poems in it that I enjoyed in comparison to “a beautiful composition of broken”.

            If you haven’t read my other review, I highly suggest it. Many aspects of his poetry ring true in this book as well. r.h. Sin uses many different metaphors, similes, and great personification. However, the poems that I didn’t like in this book, I reeeally didn’t like. There are so many poems on how strong women are, how you should look for relationships that make you whole, how crappy some women are, how crappy men are. Like I mentioned before, many of the poems in this book are angry and a little bitter. But I do understand that in the world today, there are concerns of feminism, sexism, racism, so I’m not surprised to read the themes in this book, even if it can be a little brash.

            Still, I think I really enjoyed this book, because of all of the poems I did indeed like. There are quite a few, but here are the ones I suggest and like. I have bookmarked them, so enjoy!

“nightfall.” pg. 3
“she was and still is everything.” pg. 29
* “garden.” pg. 35
“midnight Colorado.” pg. 63
“the woman I love.” pg. 70
“April 18th.” pg. 91
“under the moon.” pg. 123
“she is you IV.” pg. 149
“she was grand.” pg. 156
* “a garden for Gods.” pg. 169
* flames in the distance.” pg. 208
* “mountain high.” pg. 216
* “journal entry.” pg. 231 – 233
“grave garden.” pg. 237
“brown liquor girl.” pg. 238
“roses in the summer.” pg. 239
* “as the sun rises.” pg. 257
* heightened flames.” pg. 271

I received this poetry collection as a complimentary copy for reviewing purposes through the publisher.

* favorite poems in collection

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"This Love Story Will Self-Destruct"

"This Love Story Will Self-Destruct"
Written by Leslie Cohen
Review written by Diana Iozzia / Bookworm Banter

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct by Leslie  Cohen
"This Love Story Will Self-Destruct" is a great new romantic comedy. This is very different than typical will-they-won't-they books, and it's very reminiscent of "When Harry Met Sally" and many Nora Ephron films, both of which are written about in the blurb and in reviews, so I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks like this. Clearly, if you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of late 80s and 90s romantic comedies: "Sleepless in Seattle" being my favorite. Maybe I'm just a Meg Ryan fanatic.

Anyway, we meet Eve and Ben in their college years. Eve is an annoying girl, possibly alcoholic, who doesn't know what she's doing in life. She's been hurt before by the abandonment by her father and the death of her mother. She clings to her stepfather, Arthur, and her college friends as she navigates a passionate but chaotic relationship with Jesse. She meets Ben multiple times over her years until they are finally able to connect and fall in love. Stupidly, Eve cheats on Ben when she sees Jesse years later, and of course, he forgives her. I really don't like cheating plots in romantic comedies. Surely, there have to be other ways for romantic leads to find their way back to each other.

I did enjoy this book, but I did have some problems. Sometimes the dialogue is a bit nutty, but it's mostly relatable and realistic. The book sucked me in with a good prologue. Eve asks many sad questions, if an apartment still exists after you move out, if a restaurant stays open after you pay the bill and close the door? Do places still exist in time after you've left? Eve begs the question why it took so long for her and Ben to find each other. I like openings like this. 

In addition, Jesse is a great character, although he's actually a terrible human. What's interesting to me is that he's written more with a stronger description and story line than Ben is, who is supposed to be our main character. I mean I like Ben, but the book spent so much time on Jesse, that we hardly know who Ben is. Another thing about Ben is that he knows something really important about Eve that takes him about three years to tell her. He's also kinda stupid. She writes him this funny and weird letter apologizing to him, and it takes him too long to finally find it. Also, goodness gracious how many times can characters, places, and things be considered "exotic"? Honestly, I think I read the word at least four times. 

My least favorite thing about this book is the way that the characters find their ways back to each other. It absolutely infuriates me, actually. Eve accidentally bumps into one of Ben's old friends, tells Glick that she still loves Ben, Glick secretly arranges a meeting, Ben leaves, and then he realizes that the beautiful, kind, innocent woman he's with now has nothing on Eve, so he completely drops Natalie for Eve. I'm not sorry to say that Natalie shouldn't set him free so easily. If I had found out that my significant other secretly still loved his ex and wanted to go back to her, I wouldn't just let him go. This is unrealistic and places no blame on Ben for being a shitty person to her. Yuck.

Lastly, I did enjoy this book, despite the slightly unkind characters. But it's hard to find a romantic comedy where the characters are flawless? (Sleepless in Seattle <3) I think this book is a really cool rom-com, and I find it's rare to find such a realistic, honest one in book form. I'd certainly enjoy this if it was turned into a film!

(I received a complementary ARC for reviewing purposes.)

Monday, November 6, 2017

"Hereafter and Other Stories"

"Hereafter and Other Stories"
Written by Adam J. Smith
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Hereafter and Other Short Stories by Adam J.  Smith

"Hereafter and Other Stories" is a small collection of short stories. I enjoyed mostly all of them, but there were some that were better, and some that I didn't like as much. It's hard to critique a self-published book, because you have to account for how hard the writer has tried. I think Adam Smith's writing style is very traditional with simple, effective dialogue. I have listed the stories I liked in the order of my favoritism.

My favorite story in the collection is: "Eviction". "Eviction" follows an eerie and unsettling occurrence during an eviction from the show "Big Brother". The main character seems to be in on a dangerous plot to kill the contestants, which is pretty relevant for the terroristic plots occuring in the world today. This is a genuinely creepy story, similar to something from "Black Mirror" and would be a great short film.

My second favorite story in the collection is: “Hereafter”. "Hereafter" is an interesting story, following the neighborhood boys from "The Virgin Suicides", twenty years after the Lisbon sisters had killed themselves. I haven't read "The Virgin Suicides" yet. I know, I know, why haven't I yet? It's a classic. I've seen the film, of course. However, for not knowing much about the book, this is a pretty good short story, following the same characters. I can't at all compare it to the original, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless.

"Dawn" follows the main character, Kacey, as she and her siblings try to find their cow to milk. Then they get cold. Then this character, Richard, tries to warm them up. I didn't really understand this story.  This is third on my list.

"Time" is the fourth story rated on my list. "Time" is about a man named B.C. Hackman who has learned how to travel to different moments that have or will occur in his lifetime, but only in his, no one else's. He calls them "Different Time Dimensions" or D.T.D.s. His story is told in journal entries. It's a curious story, because B.C. is a very unlikable, rude, and over-confident narrator. This time travel, of course, goes terribly wrong. I think I'd like this story more if it kept the same time travel idea, but was less grotesque. I'm quite a prude when I read, so reading about vomit and genitals does not create a pleasant reading experience for me.

“Silence” is my fifth story on the list. “Silence” is a really confusing story. We read about Graham and Jill who are failing in their marriage and don’t seem to be very happy. I don’t understand who is telling the narrative. The blurb on the back says something about possessions owning you. I dunno.

The sixth story on my list is "Urge". This is an uncomfortable, strange story about a man who visits a naturalist / nudist beach in England. I mean at least he enjoyed himself?