Tuesday, February 20, 2018

"Big Little Lies"

“Big Little Lies”
Written by Liane Moriarty
Big Little Lies

            Hi, folks. Finally got around to reading this! I picked up a copy over the Christmas season, and it finally made it to the top of my to-be-read list. This review is going to be short and sweet and to the point, because I want to get reading for the next book on my list!

            “Big Little Lies” starts out letting us know that there’s been a murder / an accident / some sort of tragedy that occurs at an elementary school’s trivia night for the parents. We’re introduced to Madeline, Celeste, and Jane as our main characters. We also have many side characters including Madeline’s husband, Ed, her ex-husband, Nathan, his new wife Bonnie, and their children. Celeste and Perry have two boys. Jane is a single parent of little Ziggy. On the first day of kindergarten, a fellow mother, Renata, announces her child has been bullied. This causes a domino effect throughout the parent community in the little town.

            We are introduced to Madeline and Ed’s marriage, very cute but overshadowed by Madeline’s ex-husband and his new family. Jane is struggling through post-tramatic stress and the fact her son might become a bully, like his father was. We also see a heartbreaking but extremely riveting abuse story of poor Celeste by Perry behind closed doors.

            This book is very dramatic, and much less of a psychological thriller than I had imagined. This is very mysterious and intriguing. It’s also very funny. I didn’t realize how comedic some of the characters and events would be, especially Madeline’s character. She’s great. I couldn’t help but look up the cast of characters portrayed in the HBO production. The characters seem so fitting to the actors and actresses, and I cannot wait to begin the show.

            I enjoyed the narrative. There’s little “Lincoln in the Bardo” meets “Mean Girls” messages and chats from the other side characters, that I don’t like as much, but they’re an interesting narrative addition. Also, I do not think that the ending is supposed to be secret. There’s about 2-4 characters that I had figured could be involved, but it was very easy to determine who was killed. The killer surprised me.


            I thoroughly enjoyed this and I plan to continue reading more of Liane’s work.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Shards"

“Shards”
Written by Fariha Khayyam
Shards by Fariha Khayyam 
 Fariha’s poetry is haunting and beautiful, similar to gothic romance poetry. I felt like I was reading this while being placed into a dark garden with moonlight, or as if I was on top of a mountain. This feels very ethereal to me, but I can understand the pain, the sadness, and the hurt that was written down into poems here. It reminds me of the feelings of sadness and beauty found in Guillermo Del Toro’s creations.

“Shards” is separated into four sections, in order of telling the story within the poems. We have: “The Shattering”, “The Redemption”, “The Rising”, and “The Reforming”. This reads like an epic, similar to “Beowulf”. It’s natural and spiritual, and it feels like it needs read while standing on a mountain. Very wonderful to read and enjoy. I feel like I can go conquer a country now.

  My favorite poems in this collection are:

·        (Some pages have poems without titles): pages: 14, 24, 26, 28, 36*, 52*, and 56.
·        “What Scared Her”
·        “Maybe a Little Different”
·        “Tangled, trapped, but alive”
·        “Let Me, Just Me”
·        “Freedom”
·        “Unleashed”
·        “Nothing Can Stop Her Now” *
·        “Stubborn”
·        “Go Wild”


* I thank Fariha for sending me an e-copy of this book to read and review. *

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"A Penny For Your Thoughts"

“A Penny for Your Thoughts”
Written by Sherrill S. Cannon
A Penny for Your Thoughts by Sherrill S. Cannon

Sherrill Cannon’s poetry is beautiful, in the way that your grandmother’s voice sounded as she brushed your hair. I feel like I should be reading this book of poetry while sitting outside and breathing in morning air. I could see how lovely this book would be if read on a vacation in the countryside. This book reminds me of my aunt and her little kitchen with cute chair cushions and the nice decorations.
Mrs. Cannon’s writing is melodic and soothing, like a cup of tea with your favorite relative would be. I love Mrs. Cannon’s personification and metaphors. She often personifies things in nature, how they behave, how they hold meaning to her. I feel that if I wrote poetry, it would be something like this. There are many favorite poems in this collection, so bear with me. I really enjoyed reading these.

My favorite poems in this collection are:
“A Promise”, “A Sign” History”, “I Think of You”, “Proposal”, “The Box”, “To a Holly Tree”, “Thorns”, “Winter’s Nuptials”, “Autumn”, “Brief Meeting”, “Frozen Wasteland”, “Grandfather Clock”, “Flowers”, “My Tree”, “Peter Pan”, “Ready”, “Separation”, “The Fork”, “When Death Comes For Me”, “Winter” 1-4, “A Year”.

* I thank Sherrill deeply and wholeheartedly for sending me a copy of this book to read and review. *

          

"Small Talk"

“Small Talk”
Written by Theresa Sopko


 I enjoyed Theresa Sopko’s writing, because it’s very good. Her poetry is very dramatic and sad and thought-provoking, but it’s sadly not in the style of writing that I enjoy. I prefer more romantic, soft poetry, but Theresa’s poetry encompasses depression, anxiety, heartbreak, love, and life. I find it hard to relate to, because I don’t relate to most of these themes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand the poetry. So, as much as I can appreciate it, it’s just not in the same style that I prefer my poetry. I feel that rating poetry and reviewing it can be tough, because it feels insulting to describe what I didn’t like about an author’s work. Poetry feels more sensitive and personal than Stephen King’s new murder bestseller.

So yes, I think that someone could review this poetry and say that this is the best book of poetry written so far, but I do not feel that way, because it’s not to my interest. Poetry is too subjective. However, I can say nothing against Theresa, because it isn’t poor poetry. It’s very good, I just didn’t like it. I think that her poetry is very indie, very modern. It would be fantastic read out loud to a crowd listening to beat or spoken word poetry. It would also be great as a new song by the Arctic Monkeys. There’s themes of feminism, women empowerment, strength for mental illness, and more. Her poetry very much so reminds me of Anne Michaels and R.H. Sin. It’s very surreal, a bit ethereal. Some poems also remind me of the nostalgic innocence and nature of the book, “Tuck Everlasting” and “Holes”.

My favorite poems in this collection are:
·        “Haunted Houses” *
·        Some poems don’t have titles, so the ones on page 12, 15, 16
·        “Heavy Love”
·        “The Test of Distance”

* I thank Theresa for sending me an e-copy of this book to read and review. *

"Sweet Hearts"

“sweet hearts”
Written by Bella Ryan

sweet hearts: poetry for the anxious and in love

          Bella Ryan is a great poet, so it’s funny to even say, “because she’s so young, it’s surprising”. Many fantastic parts of literature were created by young artists. Bella Ryan is one of them. As a self-published writer, Bella’s created a beautifully designed book with many poems about her initial infatuation with her now husband, their love story, and their lives together now. From speaking with the poet, she’s lovely, kind, and interesting. Bella’s poetry speaks wonders to the love story she and her husband have.

          Like myself, Bella and her husband have been in a long-distance relationship. As I am still in mine and haven’t “closed the distance”, I find it really calming and soothing to read poetry of a couple who have moved in together. Bella uses great poetic techniques in her writing. She includes many metaphors, similes, interesting juxtaposition. Her poems seem very nostalgic and fairy tale like, in some instances. I also enjoy that the poems feel very consistent throughout the book. I always feel that a collection reads best if the poems are similar and in the same writing style. The words are quiet, but very sweet and nice to read. I had the lucky chance to listen to her read out some of her poetry today, and it gave the same warm fuzzy feeling that I had as I read along. Her book is great to read along to with a nice hot drink and a couple of snacks. If only I had a fireplace.

          My favorite part of “sweethearts” is the New Year’s Eve poems. These poems, I assume, were written annually, or about each year that Bella and her husband have been together. I personally find myself to be a romantic and very sentimental, so these hit me hard in the best way. Realizing that one year they’re just at the beginning of their love. Another year they’ve moved in and are settled together in a home of their own. Her poems are very real and caring. I can become a bit funny with poetry that sounds like it’s completely imagined. Poetry feels best to me when it’s natural and based in truth. Not “I was walking by the ocean today and I thought of our love”. Were you, were you really at the ocean? I feel that Bella’s poetry is coming from the heart. The words feel like love letters or like bed time stories. There are also many allusions to Greek mythology, which I thoroughly enjoy as well.

          I have many favorite poems. Quite honestly, I think “sweethearts” could have just become my new favorite book of poetry. From a new, self-published, smaller, indie poet, no less. I hope all the best for Bella, this book is exciting. My favorite poems include:

·        “Goldilocks”
·        “Airports”
·        “Implode”
·        The New Year poems ***
·        “Between Us” **
·        “Confection” **
·        “Shadow” *
·        “Vertigo”
·        “8.8.16”
·        “Moving In”
·        “He Is” ***
·        “I Wonder What He Dreams”
·        “Sculptor”
·        “A Collection of Him”
·        “Storms At Midnight”
·        “Platonics”
·        “Homecoming”

          With all of my reviews, I often try to mention what I disliked or didn’t find interesting about a book. I am happy to report I didn’t have any of the such. I thoroughly and honestly loved this book. Please, if you’re looking for a scathing, determined review, look at some of my other ones. This is a great poetry book, and I am so happy to add this to my collection.


* I received a complementary copy from the author for reviewing purposes. *

Monday, February 12, 2018

"Let Me Lie"

 “Let Me Lie”
Written by Clare Mackintosh
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh 
          As a person who frequents charity shops, thrift stores, library sales, and many independent book stores, I’ve come across Clare Mackintosh’s name many times. I’ve looked at her books on shelves, considered many times. When I was offered the chance to read her newest book as an advanced reader’s copy, I was very thrilled.

          “Let Me Lie” is a very complex plot, but it begins when a new mother, Anna Johnson, receives mail that seems to insinuate her late parents were murdered, rather than dead by committing suicide. Anna becomes terrified and entangled in this plot, working with Murray, a little old soon-to-be retired police officer.

          See, the great thing about this book is the amount of plot twists and turns. However, this also makes for a really hard line to tread while writing a review. Clare Mackintosh includes about four to five main plot twists. Some of them are surprising, some of them are easy to figure out as the book progresses. I always think that a good mystery lets you find out who can be behind it all, before the main character realizes. This is situational irony, but Mackintosh does a bit more foreshadowing than I would like.

          I liked the characters. The narrative style is very interesting, as it follows four different perspectives, Anna, Murray, and I can’t really tell you who the other perspectives follow. Mainly because they change when you realize more information and it would spoil a bit of the plot. I would recommend if you do not want to be spoiled in reading my review, you should probably not read any further.

          Spoilers now. Anna Johnson is an interesting and likeable character. All too often, the narrator or main character of a psychological thriller can be unlikeable. Think, Amy Dunne of Gone Girl, Rachel of Girl on The Train, (the widow’s name from The Widow. I can’t remember, it’s been at least 8 months since I’ve read it). We also wonder for a bit of time if Mark, Anna’s husband, could possibly be in on it. I have to say there are some great red herrings in this book. Is that person involved, who could actually be behind this? I was very happy that the main person I was concerned about was not actually involved in this suspenseful plot.

          Can I also just say how often I’ve read psychological thrillers where the main characters are Mark, Anna, Claire, Tom? If you’re writing an English psychological thriller, pick something else. I haven’t heard of a recent psychological thriller with a main character named Adam, or Jacob, or Thelonious. I might be a bit cynical, but if I read too many of these books in this genre, I won’t be able to decipher characters, sooner or later.

          I have quite a few points to make that are full of spoilers, so like I said, pleeeease don’t read on if you’re wary of spoilers. I always tab my pages with Sticky Notes or bookmarks, so I will be looking now to see the points that I wanted to make sure were said in my review.

          The plot progresses as expected for a larger psychological thriller. I think that the extra bits about Anna’s life or Murray’s home life are interesting, but sometimes, they feel a bit extraneous. Murray’s wife suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. I know not much of this disorder, but his wife’s storyline is a bit clich├ęd for my liking. Murray’s plot line makes sense and is necessary to the plot, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it less if his perspective was not included.

          The narrative is separated into three parts, similar to the three act play structure. At the end of part one, we receive a huge shock, whoa, how on Earth did that play out? (It’s really not that shocking, we knew it was happening, but Anna did not, of course). Because we receive perspectives of the villains, we know exactly how each plan is going to be executed. It’s as if we knew the janitor was scaring people away from the school in a werewolf costume the whole time, and now we’re waiting to see how Scooby Doo is going to find that out. I think if we only had Anna’s perspective throughout this story, it would have been more effective, shocking, and compelling. I would definitely have enjoyed it more, because I am not the type of person to enjoy knowing the villains’ intentions the whole time. I like finding out everything as a shock at the end.

          As a few of the plot twists go, I was okay with some of the reveals, but some of them just seemed extraneous and unnecessary. We find out near the end exactly how everything has occurred, and who are the people behind it all. However, did we have to sit through 150 pages incorrectly wondering how one of the villains is going to come destroy Anna? The bogeyman isn’t so scary when you find out why he’s creeping around. I don’t enjoy reading psychological thrillers where I’m believing something for a large portion of time, and BAM the spoiler is that it’s something else entirely. It feels like a cheap cop out of a plot twist. In addition, we have two little end bits to wrap up Mark’s story and Murray’s story. Murray’s story wrap-up is very expected, but I don’t think it was necessary for this book. A separate book on Borderline Personality Disorder maybe, but it felt like the season finale of “Degrassi” or another teen soap. Mark’s story ending makes a lot of sense for the book, I just wish we cared a little more about him the entire way. I remember reading a psychological thriller over the Christmas break, and I just found myself loving the main love interest, so much that I didn’t really care what happened to the main character. Will her life come to a crazy crashing halt? Nah, just the husband matters. Mark would have been a much more interesting character if Anna involved him in the story.

          Finally, I thoroughly enjoyed the last 75 pages or so. Once the climax began, it just kept going through a high-speed car chase, a crazy showdown in an apartment building. The first 2/3rds of the book weren’t hard to put down, but the last act was. And the best part of the book, the family pet was not murdered. (Why does this always happen in psychological thrillers? Not cool!)

          Last page, I mean come on already, we’re finished up. No cliffhanger wanted or needed, thank you though.


* I received an advanced reader’s copy for reviewing purposes. *

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Someone Like You"

“Someone Like You”
Written by Roald Dahl
Review written by Diana Iozzia
Someone Like You
“Someone Like You” is a collection of short stories that are comical, dark, and sinister. When I stumbled across this collection, I was excited to see how Roald Dahl’s writing would be for adults, and I wasn’t disappointed. Funnily enough, I recognized some of the short stories from the television program, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

The stories in this collection include:
“Taste”
“Lamb to the Slaughter”
“Man from the South”
“The Soldier”
“My Lady Love, My Dove”
“Dip in the Pool”
“Galloping Foxley”
“Skin”
“Poison”
“The Wish”
“Neck”
“The Sound Machine”
“Nunc Dimittis”
“The Great Automatic Grammatizator”
“Claud’s Dog” novella

My favorites in this collection are: “Taste”, “Skin”, “Neck” and “The Sound Machine”. “Taste” follows a man who believes he can identify any bottle of wine, who makes a bet with his friend / enemy who bets a prize he doesn’t want to lose. “Skin” follows a man who has an up and coming artist tattoo a beautiful and astonishing painting onto his back. “Neck” follows a man who stays as a guest of two very strange people in the countryside. “The Sound Machine” follows a man who creates a fantastic machine that can observe the sounds that plants and trees make. As a personal fan of short story collections, I thoroughly enjoyed this. The stories have great narration, quirky characters, and lots of twists and turns. This is exactly what I was hoping for and more.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down"

“Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down”
Written by Anne Valente
Review written by Diana Iozzia3
Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente

I have to give myself a lot of credit for being able to get through this book. I always feel a bit unkind for writing negative reviews, but I just didn’t enjoy the book. As this hobby goes, I come across great books and I come across books I just don’t want to finish. This book took me four days to get through, and honestly, I’m surprised I finished it that quickly. Some books I can finish in two hours. Picking up this book felt like picking up a boulder.

This book is sad, for the first 40 pages. After the unsettling and horrifying shooting, we’re subjected to poor, jumbled writing that’s so repetitive, it could have a drinking game attached to it. Drink every time Matt wishes he could talk to Tyler. Take a shot the eighteen times he describes in detail the girl’s body that he saw bleed out. When Zola and Christina have a weird gay moment. When Christina is mad at her jerk boyfriend. When Zola thinks about how she wishes she could take pictures, but it’s always during inappropriate moments, like the four funerals we read in deep detail. The storytelling is sort of diary-like, terrible first-person collective narration, that sounds like a long-winded graduation speech. We don’t know how to move on from this. Our town will never be the same. We want to know why this happened. We feel lost. And then, the characters’ prose is told in third person. It’s not as if the four characters are describing a particularly uncomfortable sex scene, it’s only told through Nick’s perspective. I don’t understand this dream-state, marijuana high-like narrative.

There are so many lists in this book. The groceries that one of the characters used to make fajitas. The smells in Autumn. The items left behind in fires (2x). My next gripe is also certain chapters. They begin with “The Brief History Of”... They describe autopsy procedures, arson investigations, what bodies look like post-mortem, how the brain forms memories, definitions of fire investigation terms, how crime scenes are collected and catalogued. It’s so unnecessary. I can imagine it would be a 30 second montage in NCIS, but in this book, these are long chapters that aren’t necessary. If I wanted to know more about how police officers determine arson, I’d Google it! (Or you know, read an actual non-fiction, scholarly book, rather than just have it summarized through the fictional perspective of a sixteen year-old).

The main premise following the shooting is the recovery of the students in the town. Our main characters are Matt, Christina, Zola, and Nick. They are the yearbook crew of their high school, struggling to memorialize the students and administration lost in the tragedy. I was originally fascinated by this premise, I hadn't ever thought what the yearbook committee's job would be like after such a horrible tragedy. Also, a completely unnecessary plot of arson: the houses belonging to all of the juniors who were killed in the shooting are burning down and killing the family members inside. The worst part is the useless police force. They decide that someone is clearly burning down the houses of the families affected. When do they start considering who's next? After about 5 families are killed. Do they fix the problem? Do they put the families into protective custody? Do they do anything? No. This is a useless plot point, and it just makes the story aggravating. If the author wanted us to hate her book, she's succeeded.

Back to the dialogue. As I mentioned, the narrative is a bit appalling. I think the worst is just some of the actual quotes. I'm including them, just so you can understand my reasoning. We have a super important memory of one character recognizing his classmate's mother, because she once brought cupcakes late to a birthday party.
"His mouth a knife. His tongue and a picture frame and a slammed car door."
"Christina grabbed a rock and pulled back her arm and hurled it at Ryan's window. A rock the size of a plum. A tangerine, an apple."

The conclusion of this book absolutely ruins me. I struggled and it pained me to read every page of this, but the conclusion just made me want to burn this book to the ground. I don’t recommend it. If you’re looking for a book with sentiments about school shootings, please look elsewhere. I highly recommend "Only Child" by Rhiannon Navin.


I received a complementary copy for reviewing purposes. Thank you to William Morrow for the opportunity.