Thursday, December 13, 2018

"Twilight and Homecoming"

"Twilight and Homecoming"
Written by Uzoechi Nwagbara
Review written by Diana Iozzia

"Twilight and Homecoming" is a book of poetry, which is very opinionated and political, but in a way that many people can appreciate. This book is very honest, but very in your face about the struggles that many people from Nwagbara's culture have experienced and are still currently experiencing. This book is a call to arms, a call to attention of issues that many people might not know about. There are warnings about war, globalism, and corrupt politics. There is also a lovely underlying sentiment of hope.

Nwagbara's poetry is very eloquent, similar to the writing styles of a modern Edgar Allan Poe. There are many interesting similes, metaphors, and allusions. His poems are a bit exclamatory, and most sentences end with exclamation points. Sometimes, I cannot tell if it's a grammatical error or editing error, but some words are randomly capitalized and differently font formatted.

The poems I enjoyed most are:
"No Matter What"
"Summer of Rain" *
"I See A New Day" *
"Cultural Converters" *
"Fatal Beauty" *
"The Other Side of Silence" 
"Full Moon" *

I received a complimentary copy for reading and reviewing purposes.

"It's Autumn Time and Other Poems"

"It's Autumn and Other Poems"
Written by Nazia Mustafa
Review written by Diana Iozzia

It's Autumn Time and Other Poems by Nazia Mustafa

I feel very saddened to write such a negative review about a person's poetry, because poetry is very personal and often speaks of someone's experience. However, I was thoroughly disappointed when I read "It's Autumn Time and Other Poems". At first glance, I believe this book was not edited, to capture the authentic words and voice of the author. Unfortunately, it comes off as strangely difficult to read and understand. Many sentences do not make sense. Many sentences are repeated but have different endings just by one word. Nazia's poetry is very jumbled and childlike, which is not poetry I would like to read. It's not similar to the more frantic styles of poetry by E.E. Cummings. No, this poetry is a very confusing mess of words and ideas. Some poems are just plain nonsensical. Is this a poor translation error, or just a lack of necessary editing?

The cover, the title page, and the poem are all written differently. The title page inside and another page inside read "It's Autumn Time and Other Poems", but the book cover doesn't mention "Time". Also, the poem that the book is about is just called "It's Autumns Time".

I usually mention my favorite poems, or even just poems that I like, but I could not find a single poem I enjoyed reading. The author's little "About the Author" sounds like a job interview, with her mentioning "Since young age, I love to read books. People tell me often that I am very friendly and have a lovely smile. They also tell me I am very good with young children; my interpersonal and social skills are excellent. I seem to bond quickly, therefore I should be a teacher".

Different snippets of poems I had to point out for the strange sentence and grammar structure are:
"It's time for autumn to come back. It's time for a welcome back. It's time for the trees and the leaves to come back... It's time for autumn to go back. It's time for a goodbye. It's time for the trees and leaves to die back. And then to never come back".

Many of the poems are similar to read. Common idioms and phrases are told in broken English. Please understand that I do not mind a book with jargon or colloquial dialect, but grammatically incorrect English is too hard to ignore.

"There shouldn't be clouds covering us. However. Let he green branches be tanning us."
"I seek a glance at the sun. However. The sun pesters me from the light."

The poem that threw me most was "The Special Girl". This poem is about a pretty girl that the narrator of the poem envies. There's a vague reference to Cinderella. "Take control, making me sweat man run that show, It's us, prince, prince, prince, you just can't say no, hey girl I think we got a problem, Some girls are freaky, some are sweet". There's also a line about girls you meet at parties and on the streets. "Lookin' like a disabled turkey and always stalking me".

I'm not quite sure Olympia Publishing decided to publish this poetry collection. I do not recommend this book, but I highly recommend other books that OP has published. Thank you to them, nonetheless for the opportunity to read and review this.


Written by Mary Briggs
Reviewed by Diana Iozzia

"Care" is a wonderfully crafted book of poetry, written about the loss and grief Mary Briggs endured when her young son passed away from a battle with cancer and health complications. Our hearts break with Mary Briggs as we read poems about before he was sick, while he was sick, and we also hear her son's last words. This is an incredible work, and it should be praised, similarly to books by Joan Didion and Joyce Maynard.

There are many great poems in this collection, so I will mention the ones I like. If there is an asterisk next to a poem's name, it signifies a favorite:

"Tomorrow" *
"Winds" *
"Elusive Happiness" *
"The Sun Shines on the Outside"
"I Am a Bench"
"I Am a Child / Was"
"Past Resurrection"
"I Know"
"A Great Wall"
"New Year" *
"Come Home"
"Grief and Your Blazer" *
"Quiet Morning" *
"So I Stood on the Hill"
"Stop 7:30 a.m. Silence"
"13 Diaries"
"God's Soul Primaries"
"Could I Have Captured?"
"Breathing, Trapped in a Submarine"
"Packing A Life" *
"Grief Blazes Red" *

In the end of the book, we have a list of lovely but saddening memories of Mary and her son. This was reminiscent of the final portion of "Mortality" by Christopher Hitchens, told by his wife.

Unfortunately, I have to point out quite a few grammatical errors. Also, one of the poems is printed twice, which is quite confusing.

Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book of poetry. I received a complimentary copy for reading and reviewing purposes from Olympia Publishing.

"Sticks and Stones Falling From the Sky"

"Sticks and Stones Falling From the Sky"
Written by Andrew Daniels
Review written by Diana Iozzia 
Sticks and Stones Falling From the Sky by Andrew     Daniels

"Sticks and Stones Falling From the Sky" is a very romantic but mystical book of poetry. When beginning to read this book, I instantly felt connected on a fantasy level, with elements of knights, kings, queens, elves, mythical creatures, vikings, dwarves, giants, different type periods, samurai, and more. I read this book not long after finally watching all of the Lord of the Rings films, so I felt a bit of fantasy connection there. 

Andrew Daniels creates great personification, metaphors, and similes to create his poetry. There is a dream-like quality to his poems, and it's greatly appreciated by me. The cover of this book is beautiful, and the font and layout inside the book are great as well. 

I had many favorite poems in this collection. Here are the poems I enjoyed most:

"Autumn" *
"Waves from a Mermaid Violin" *
"Steel Love and Steel Faith"
"Gardens of Honor and Respect"
"Gift of the Silver Tongue"
"Spring, Summer, Winter"
"The Sunshine Here and the Sunshine There"
"The Sun Dances with the Moon"
"Playing Hardball with God"
"A Ladder to the Moon"
"Dancing to Italy"

I fully recommend this book of poetry. It was a wonderful read for me. I received this book of poetry in partnership to read and review it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

”Into the Water”

“Into the Water”
Written by Paula Hawkins
Review written by Diana Iozzia
Read from Mid-November to December 9th 

Into the Water

“Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins appealed to me, because I generally enjoyed her first book, “The Girl on the Train”. It was not my favorite thriller I have ever read, but I still enjoyed the multiple perspectives, the plot, and the unreliable narration. Hawkins has a fantastic ability to write unreliable and unlikeable characters. We do not like them, but we still wonder what may happen and usually hope they stay alive.

While reading “Into the Water”, I was drawn into the small English town life in Beckford, a town with many tales of  local folklore surrounding the large body of water. I do not remember it ever being fully identified, but I view it as a massive pond with a massive cliff.

We meet Jules, whose sister Nel has committed suicide. Or so everyone thinks. We meet Erin,, a scrappy detective who is very suspicious of everyone. The detective, Sean, is a bit untrustworthy, as well as his wife, Helen, and his father, Patrick. Jules takes in Nel’s daughter, Lena, who is a very scruffy, rude teen, who of course has a hard exterior to hide her personal demons. We also hear from Louise, whose daughter, Katie was found dead in the water months previously. Katie was friends with Lena and Sean’s son, Josh. We also have a strange perspective of a girl who was drowned in the water years ago, accused of being a witch.

I started to listen to this on audiobook, which is why I cannot quite remember when I first started. I believe this book is significantly better to read by listening in that format. There are fantastic voice actors. Once I stopped listening and reading in paperback form, I felt the magic was lost. However, I do think the book just slowly got less interesting, but in the worst time. As we begin deciding who seems suspicious, we are revealed some more secrets. As the story unfolds and becomes more climactic, I just was not interested. I did not like the possible suspects and find them to be interesting suspects. The motives seemed off to me and the climax was very slow and serious, rather than heart pounding and exciting.

I do not know if we are supposed to be able to predict this ending. I think Paula Hawkins writes her books to be predictable, but we are supposed to enjoy the clues and the buildup to see if we’re right, but it’s a bit like a game of Clue. Once you’ve figured it out, oh. Okay. It’s over. It does not feel exciting to wonder what will come next.

I would read another book by Paula Hawkins eventually, but there are so many great psychological thriller writers to choose instead. I think this book would be best suited for someone who would like to read in this genre, but they do not know whose books to start with.

"The Island"

"The Island"
Written by M.A. Bennett
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The IslandAfter reading "S.T.A.G.S." by M.A. Bennett, I was thoroughly excited to read her newest release, "The Island". This book is branded as a mix of a boarding school mystery and "Lord of The Flies". I was intrigued by both counterparts, because one of my favorite genres is dark academia, and I also enjoy readings survival stories. 

Link is our eccentric, self-branded nerd. We learn about him, his hobbies, his interests, and many of his dislikes. I am not a fan of link. I understand the author consulted her teen children and then wrote a perspective based on these thoughts and ideas, but the character feels very manufactured, as in he's an alien or a robot, only spouting out references to video games and current pop culture icons. These references date the book in an uncomfortable way. 

After growing tired of his bullies, Link wants an escape from the school where he doesn't fit in. His parents are flabbergasted, surprised how horribly he was treated, even though from the absolute start, they knew he was terribly bullied. His parents make a deal, that if he can spend two weeks at a summer camp, they will let him withdraw from the school and find one he likes more. He gets on a plane, with the only characters we've known from his school so far. Suspiciously only these characters. His bullies, the girls he likes. The plane crashes on a strange island, but none of the characters can remember the crash. 

We have a large portion of the book where Link establishes power over the group, by first teaching them to hunt, cook, and make shelters. He starts to manipulate those around him, threatening that if they do not obey, they will not eat. 

We eventually find out the major point of the crash, the whole explanation why the story has taken place. It is one of the worst reveals I have read in a book. I understand that this book is for teens and young adults, but as a twenty-two year old, I don't think I'm reading too far out of my age group. My younger brother is eighteen, and he never acted in any way that these teens do. I personally rarely encountered these types of teens. So, I do understand the ending, that this might appeal to teens, but I was exasperatedly unimpressed. 

I do not recommend this book, but I highly recommend "S.T.A.G.S", the first book by this author.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

"The Suicide"

“The Suicide”
Written by Amy Tollyfield
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The Suicide by Amy Tollyfield
            Poetry is always a fickle read for me. At this point in my reading experience, I have concluded that sadder, angrier, and darker poetry can be a fantastic read for me, or something I would like to avoid like the plague. Sometimes, I draw a line straight down the middle.

            With “The Suicide” I found poems I enjoyed, but I also found poems that were just not the right style for me. Some of Tollyfield’s poems are similar to Silvia Plath, whose poems and prose I have always enjoyed. Quite a few of the poems also reminded me of the book, “Girl, Interrupted” as well as Plath’s “The Bell Jar”.

            Amy Tollyfield’s poetry is full of similes, metaphors, and allusions. I do like a great allusion, but some of the mentions seemed necessary only to complete the rhyme couplet, as the typical style is 1212 or 12 32. For example, I thought rhyming “Pocahontas” with “orthodontist” was a bit of a stretch. I remember my younger adolescent years when I used a rhyming dictionary and came up with similar rhymes. To continue, I also enjoyed Tollyfield’s use of different colors to describe actions, emotions, and more.

            I personally felt that the majority of the poems in this collection were not for me. I enjoyed reading the collection, but I do think poetry is very subjective. The poems I enjoyed most are:

“Big Sea”

Courtesy of Olympia Publishing, I received a complimentary copy of this book for reading and reviewing purposes.

“You, Me, The Sun, and the Stars”

“You, Me, The Sun, and the Stars”
Written by G.P. Loehr
Review written by Diana Iozzia

You and the Moon, the Sun and the Stars by G P Loehr

            “You, Me, The Sun, and the Stars” is a poetry collection, with many poems centering around love, heartbreak, and faith. This book grants a cute, Southern American charm, if that was intended or not. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, through the perspective of the author. Loehr speaks of many emotions in a very natural and believable way. The reader can imagine the emotional experience he has been through and sympathize, relating in their own ways to their own loves. For instance, I related to quite a few of his poems surrounding long-distance love, because I myself am in a long-distance engagement. I felt very at peace reading Loehr’s books. I can imagine reading this on a nice, wooden porch with a glass of something cold and sweet.

            To continue, I enjoyed that many of Loehr’s poems have similar themes. Certain colors, days, times, and themes of nature are present throughout the book. The most noticeable recurring theme is the one of nature: the sun, the moon, the stars, the universe, day, night. I understand why he has titled the book after these. I often enjoy a theme in a poetry book’s organization. They feel more cohesive and as if you are experiencing the journey with the poet.

            I enjoyed many poems of his. I would like to share the titles with you:

“Tomorrow, We’ll Be Together”                           “These Summer Nights”
“The Foxtrot”                                                           “A Dream That You Inspired”
“Sunburst”                                                                “Shooting Stars”
“Atlas”                                                                       “Lullabies”
“Cycles”                                                                     “The Summer Rains”

            “Foxtrot” was my absolute favorite.

Courtesy of Olympia Publishing, I received a complimentary copy of this book for reading and reviewing purposes.

"I Wrote"

“I Wrote”
Written by Alice Bogen
Review written by Diana Iozzia

I Wrote by Alice Bogen

 The experience of reading “I Wrote” was absolutely wonderful. “I Wrote” was written by a seventeen-year-old poet. Jeez. Way to make the rest of us look unaccomplished! Alice Bogen’s poetry reflects a certain wisdom she has learned so far. Her writing also reflects a deep maturity and understand of her experience in the world. Her poetry is a large mix of different emotions, tales, and times in her life.

Her poems can be a bit sad or startling, but they have a genuine hope to them, which I find refreshing. There are many beautiful metaphors to nature, but they come across very realistic. Often, we find metaphors that just have sprinkles of random things thrown in. People are turtles, in the slow movements they make. He was the ocean after a storm. It can be a bit like Mad Libs, sometimes. However, Alice’s metaphors, similes, and other comparisons are very simplistic and believable.

To continue, an interesting technique that Bogen has implemented into her book is using general abstract themes or emotions like bravery, fame, happiness, youth, beauty and more. She creates original poems that are more than just their titles with a spin.

I enjoyed a multitude of poems in this book. They are:

 “I Wrote”                              “Happiness”                          “They”           
“Last May”                           “Youth”                                  “Beauty”
“Bravery”                              “Last Huge Breath”            “Life Shall Be Lived”
“Sacrifice”                             “Seen”                                    “The World is Not Enough”
“To Her”                                “Wings”                                 “To Leo”
“Acceptance”                        “Ears Don’t Lie”                  “Lion”
“Brother”                               “To M 2”                                “Goodbye”
“Consequences”                   “Sinners”                               “The Devil”

Courtesy of Olympia Publishing, I received a complimentary copy of this book for reading and reviewing purposes.

"The Life and Death of Sophie Stark"

“The Life and Death of Sophie Stark”
Written by Anna North
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

            “The Life and Death of Sophie Stark” was a very surprising book in the best possible way. When beginning this book, I soon realized the premise had sent me off in the wrong direction. I was expecting a book that was “thriller-paced, with mysteries revealed at every turn”. This is not quite a mystery, but perhaps a story about a mysterious person. This was the scope of a woman’s career, from awkward college age to awkward late 20s. Sophie Stark was / is an enigma. We read through the perspectives of six different characters that knew her, as she grew to obscure fame, but fame all the less. We also wonder as the years pass by how she will eventually die. That’s not a spoiler, it’s in the title, you see.

            Sophie Stark was a filmmaker. We see her through the eyes of others, as she starts out, just a young girl with a camera. This book is very reminiscent of many stories I’ve read before. It has the childlike and nostalgic but bittersweet atmosphere of books like “Lolita” and “The Virgin Suicides”. All three books have a young female characters who are mature and understand more about the world than we give most adolescents and teens credit for. Also, we occasionally have very fun scenes but interspersed with darker ones. Sophie behaves in a manner that most adults would consider wise, but her emotions often reflect a child trapped in an adult’s body. This creates a strange, puzzling character for us.

            We read about her through the words of:
Allison, her friend and actress
Robbie, Sophie’s brother,
Ben, a film critic,
Jacob, an actor, then her husband
Daniel, her first boyfriend
George, a producer

            Each character unwinds a time they spent with Sophie, sometimes interweaving with other characters’ stories as well. It’s a great reading experience to see the impact on others’ lives. Sophie was a bit of a messy tornado, fortunately and unfortunately affecting others on her path. She was obscure, but enchanting and peculiarly relatable. We readers want to know her, want to be around her. She seems like an incredible friend, but one who may ruin everything for you.

            I enjoy Anna North’s writing. Sophie’s speech is blunt, precise. She should not be a likable character, but we want to befriend or love her. The voice and the tone of the story in general is fantastic and ethereal. The author tells her story in a very realistic fashion, hardly ever implementing similes or metaphors. Each character describes Sophie in a different way: how she smells, how her voice sounds, how maddeningly enthralling she is. We often find characters like this in films like “500 Days of Summer”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, “Definitely, Maybe”, and “Once”. We have stranger female characters who boys fall crazily for, creating a stereotype known as the “manic pixie dream girl”. Sophie has all the elements of being one of these characters, but where other stories go wrong, Anna North diverges. Anna North breathes life into this seemingly unrealistic character.

            This is a book I had never heard about, but this book deserves more. Anna North created an indelicate but delicate character who feels real but also imaginary. If you just blinked, Sophie would vanish. I think this gem of a book should be known about, but maybe isn’t that the point of this story? Perhaps if something is not understood or known by all, the result is a great marvel.

"Dirty Little Secrets"

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain“Dirty Little Secrets”
Written by Jo Spain
Review written by Diana Iozzia

“Dirty Little Secrets” was a majestic thriller and mystery. We begin the book to understand that there are seven houses on a small street in Ireland. In one of the houses, a neighbor, Olive Collins, has been dead for three months. How has this occurred? Why have her neighbors not looked in on her, checked up on her? Who could have done this?

We meet Olive, telling her story in an after-death perspective, as she explains to the reader how she was distrusted and how she was betrayed by her neighbors. We also start to meet each character and start to learn their secrets.

House 1: George, a mysterious, quiet man with a perverted obsession.
House 2: Lily and David, a couple whose young son grew too close to Olive.
House 3: Allison and Holly, a mother and daughter on the run.
House 4: Olive.
House 5: Chrissy and Matt, husband and wife on the rocks due to an affair.
House 6: Amelia and Ed, who have a very strong disdain for Olive.
House 7: Ron, the lady’s man, who has a trip to many into beds that aren’t his.

We also meet the detectives, Frank and Emma. They are differently aged, but both wise in their own way. I like their dynamic, because it doesn’t feel typical “scrappy young female detective, doesn’t understand older male detective and his wise ways”. It feels like a strong friendship, with a slight paternal vibe. Frank and Emma are smart and determined to figure out what happened to Olive.

There is so much detail in this book, but no detail seems superfluous. Every description allows just enough to make the reader continue on. I never thought to myself that the book dragged or had lulling moments. Once I began reading, I did not want to stop. I have not often found a thriller so intriguing. There are quite a few red herrings that progress the story, but every character has a motive, so we readers do not exactly know where this is going. 

The only, and I mean only, bit I did not like about this book is the ending. I predicted it, because I have seen two different books go that route. There is even a small reference to one of those books in it, so I assume the author is self-aware of the similarity. This is a spoiler-free review, so I will not mention it, but I’d be happy to have a conversation with those who have read the book already.

I fully recommend this book, and I would give it a five star review out of five stars. The e-book will be officially published December 27, 2018. The hardcover version will be for sale January 24, 2019. I received a complimentary, advanced reader’s edition of this book for reviewing purposes. Thank you to Quercus Books.