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?

Sunday, November 5, 2017


"Carve: A Simple Guide to Whittling"
Written by Melanie Abrantes
Review written by Diana Iozzia

"Carve" is a great little book about the art of whittling and carving little trinkets out of wood. This is a great book for people, like me, who have been curious about whittling! Also, many regard whittling as a very nature-conscious and environmentally safe hobby, since often, you are recycling the wood you choose. This little beautiful book has many different important sections: including the basic steps! Also, there are lists of useful tools, materials, products, safety tips, how to choose the wood, cutting wood, and more to help you get started. There are really nicely photographed pictures of each step. This seems very hipster-y, and I'm all for it. In addition to the how-to basics, there are different projects to work on, looking similar to recipes in a cookbook. Naturally, they start easy, but become harder in each section as you read on.

Your options are: chopsticks, wine stoppers, coffee spoons, spatulas, wood trays, air plant holders for decorations, bench hooks, smoothed and polished stones, soap dishes, hair combs, birds, dice, forks, and knives. Lastly, there's a section on personalizing the project, like burning the wood, adding wax, stains, and other tidbits.

I received a complementary review copy through Crown Publishing's blogger review program.

"The Gravedigger's Son"

“The Gravedigger’s Son”
Written by Patrick Moody
Review written by Diana Iozzia

“The Gravedigger’s Son” is very reminiscent of the scary stories by R.L. Stine mixed with “A Nightmare Before Christmas”. Reading this the day of Halloween and the week after, I felt very in the holiday spirit, nice and spooky. I was very lucky and very grateful to receive the hardcover copy from Mr. Moody himself. His book is great, but the illustrations that coincide work so well together to tell the story of little Ian Fosser.

Ian is a descendant of a long line of Diggers, who dig the graves of corpses, but then actually help the spirits / ghosts move on and find peace. Ian is tired of digging graves and learning how to speak to the spirits. With the help of his friend, Fiona, he learns about the Capital’s schools, which are similar to Hogwarts. Students learn how to Heal, Call to the spirits, and practice other spooky supernatural crafts. Ian doesn’t want to be a Digger, he likes learning of the Healing craft. In this world, the work done by the people who live here coincide with what they learn as trades. There aren’t restaurants, grocery stores, or other post 21st century creations. This gives me the illusion we are in an early 1900s tale. The language is also very similar to English slang, so it seems that the book would take place somewhere in Great Britain.

Fiona wakes Ian in the middle of the night, saying she’s been Called by a spirit of a young boy named Thatcher. Thatcher is depicted as a skeleton of a rambunctious and quite rascally thirteen-year-old boy. Ian realizes although he doesn’t want to be a Digger, he needs to help little Thatcher move on. As we follow this journey, we discover interesting locations. The book moves along like a Tim Burton video game. Each location acts like a stage in the book, where you meet this character. It moves very smoothly as you follow Ian through this map of the cemetery, the pumpkin patch, the village of the Weavers, the family crypt, Ian’s mother’s created world. The villains are pretty creepy, but with a middle grade fiction, you realize that there will usually be a happy resolution.

Without delving into any spoilers, I highly suggest you look into this book. It’s a great, spooky middle grade fiction book that’s highly enjoyable. I think the illustrations really add to the world-building. I don’t know if there would be a sequel, but I’d be very eager to read it if it ever comes to pass.

"Behind You"

"Behind You"
Written by Brian Coldrick
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Behind You by Brian Coldrick
"Behind You" is labelled as a collection of one-shot horror stories. The book has an introduction by Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, who also has been making strides as a horror writer. 

The one-shot horror stories are depicted as one illustration on each page, but a one sentence description of the illustration. All follow the pattern of there is something lurking in the shadows, at the bottom of the stairs, and just a foot behind someone. This book is eerie and strange, and it was great fun to look through. It only took me about 30 - 40 minutes to look through, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Brian Coldrick is very creative, preying upon the common fears we have as human. 

I can't say I had nightmares after this, or felt myself needing to turn on a night light, but this was worth the read. I've always loved horror illustrations and these are interesting! 

I'm glad I received this complementary copy via the publisher around Halloween. Perfect timing!