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

"Linger"

"Linger" 
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.