Tuesday, February 19, 2019

"The New Neighbors"

“The New Neighbors”
Written by Simon Lelic
Review written by Diana Iozzia

The New Neighbors by Simon Lelic
I received a free advanced reader’s edition for reviewing purposes. Thank you to Berkley Publicity.

“The New Neighbors” was a novel that was completely different from what I expected it to be. It’s branded as an exhilarating thriller that hinges upon a body found on a back porch, of our two unreliable narrators Jack and Sydney. As we begin their perspectives, we notice a little arguing back and forth, as if they know what the other is saying in this perspective. This does not particularly break the fourth wall, but it leads to a bit of intriguing narration.

“The New Neighbors” is not a thriller to me, in the typical sense of the genre. This is first and foremost a love story, or well, falling out of love story. Jack and Sydney are complicated people in complicated situations. They are busy with their own lives, while they are falling apart. As they move into a weird new house, we learn more about Sydney’s abusive childhood and Jack’s difficult job dilemma. I really enjoyed this story for the parts that weren’t involved in the murder on the back porch. We only really find out the ‘thriller’ aspect during the last 75 percent of the book. Naturally, we read through their unreliable narration, but it’s different to me than regular unreliable narration. Often, we read denial, lies, and it’s clearly overt who is unreliable. Until we reach the climax and resolution, I personally did not distrust either Jack or Sydney.

I think this was a very complex thriller with much more aspects and fragility than I expected. I think this is a hard book to brand, because yes, there is abuse, rape mentions, drug addiction, and murder, but the most interesting aspect is the relationship failure. I beg you to read this; this is absolutely a new favorite.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"To Nightowl From Dogfish"

"To Nightowl from Dogfish"
Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer
Review written by Diana Iozzia / Bookworm Banter

To Night Owl from DogfishI received a free advanced reader's edition copy of this book to collaborate with Penguin Kids to write a review and create a Spotify playlist.

"To Nightowl from Dogfish" is a sweet and endearing middle grade fiction, surrounding two characters named Avery Bloom and Bett Devlin. The girls begin communicating via e-mail and continue through the entire story in letter and e-mail format, as well as other characters chiming in from time to time. Bett and Avery begin a tentative friendship as they find out their fathers are romantically involved with each other. Their fathers plan to send the girls to a summer camp where they meet. During the adventurous, funny summer, the girls grow closer but their fathers grow apart. This begins the next adventure: getting their fathers back together again.

This book brings back all the nostalgia of children's films I used to love that involved summer camp: primarily, "The Parent Trap" and "It Takes Two". The e-mail and letter format was a fun way to read. I felt the younger characters to be very believable in their communication, which does not often occur in books for middle grade girls. I felt this book could be enjoyed by boys as well, but I imagine the target is pre-teen and teen girls. Avery is very mature for her age but becomes more silly with Bett. In contrast, Bett becomes more serious when around Avery, but still she keeps her childish antics.

This book has a lot of heart, and I was definitely brought back to the early days of my teen friendships. I think this has a very healthy portrayal for young teens learning about LGBT issues as well. It's a great coming of age story in many ways.

Most of all, it was fun!!!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

"Little Darlings"

“Little Darlings”
Written by Melanie Golding
Review written by Diana Iozzia / Bookworm Banter

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

I received a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for reviewing purposes.

“Little Darlings” is a fun psychological thriller that blends in dark fairy tales, like that of the Grimm Brothers. We meet Lauren, who believes that her twin boys were almost kidnapped at the hospital on the day of their birth. Her paranoia increases until one day, she shuts her eyes at the park, and the boys are taken.

We are enraptured in a horrific way as we see the eerie fairy tale elements. The dark shadows, the witch-like woman, the singing twins, and more build to a creepy atmosphere, that makes this book reminiscent of “The Babadook” and “The Changeling”. This is an absolutely fun and entertaining psychological thriller. As fun as it is, it’s still written very well with great suspense and well-written characters.

Everyone is suspicious, of someone else or in their own way. We are not sure who to trust. Are the creepy apparitions real or are they imagined by Lauren? Is she crazy? Or is she seeing something that no one else does? Our other main protagonist is police officer Jo who is unraveling the mystery and finding out the truth, as Lauren struggles to keep her head above water and her wits about her.

No big twist ending, but this is a really fun ride! I highly recommend this for those readers who are looking for a little bit of fantasy and supernatural, mixed in with their psychological thrillers. I thoroughly enjoyed this and I imagine others will too!

"The Girls at 17 Swann Street"

“The Girls at 17 Swann Street”
Written by Yara Zgheib
Review written by Diana Iozzia / Bookworm Banter

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for reading and reviewing it.
Reading books about mental health, especially ones written by people who have experienced the mental health illnesses, can be difficult to do. This book is about a woman in her twenties, Anna, an ex-ballerina whose health has declined so drastically, she must stay in an in-patient home for women with eating disorders. Anna has anorexia, and she has been battling it for years now. Loved by her husband, Matthias, and her family, she feels the motivation to get better.

This book is difficult to read in different ways, but this book is important. We read through Yara’s voice, explaining her own experiences, but through the medium of Anna’s story. Anorexia is very personal, and we see Yara’s own heart and sadness in the story. This book does not glamorize eating disorders, unlike many forms of media about mental health. We see the happy lives of Anna and Matthias turn cold and lonely as Anna descends into her anorexia. We see heartbreaking patients that Anna befriends. We see death in the home.

This book is told in a very poetic style, with descriptions but not set prose. Everything seems more in Anna’s head than told out loud. When we do see Anna’s past, we are told through third person omniscient, which gives us the information that Anna does not tell us.

Now, with a mental health book about characters in a mental help facility, we know that they will either fail or improve, so we are not surprised with the path that Anna goes through. We have hope for her, but we also are frustrated with some of her decisions. I enjoyed this book, but I did not enjoy this book at the same time. I think that as someone who has never struggled with mental health issues, that I do not feel as sympathetic or understanding, because I do not know how this character feels. I do want her to get better, to be happy again. I recommend this book for those who enjoy reading mental health fiction but not to those who would like to learn more about anorexia. This is more about Anna’s relationship, her family, and her rather than her eating disorder.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

"The Silent Patient"

"The Silent Patient"
Written by Alex Michaelides
Review written by Diana Iozzia
The Silent Patient
Like other people, I have enjoyed reading many psychological thrillers and mysteries. To the point where when I have a plot twist ending revealed to me, I find myself either satisfied that it was a good twist that made the book completely new to me, or extremely dissatisfied that the ending ruined the book for me. In the odd case of “The Silent Patient”, I disliked the book until the ending, enjoyed the ending and how it connected the two narratives told to us, but still disliked the book. The ending was satisfying, because it explained everything, or so I thought. In the recent days after reading this book, I hesitated in writing my review, because I felt too many contrasting thoughts. Did I like this aspect? Wait, no I didn’t. Did I like this character? Well, not when I realized the truth.

This book is extremely difficult to discuss without explaining the plot twist. I think this is why the hype is so dramatic. How can you discuss a twist ending that completely changes the book from the first line to the last? This idea is fantastic! It could be a completely new way to write a book. Only then we remember many thrillers that are exactly like this. I compare this book to “Murder on the Orient Express” or “The Sixth Sense”. Once we understand the truth, we dive back into every character’s sentence or motivation. We dive back into the two perspectives and look for inconsistencies, complications, and plot holes. Boy, I am not so sure I enjoyed the second read through. Granted, I did not read every line, but in remembering how the book progressed, I found myself aggravated. When creating a twist ending, I believe that you should create an ending that disrupts the story and turns it on its head. Then, you should have created a story that cohesively glues both the explained narrative to the twist, allowing no questions or holes. Everything should match back together like a puzzle piece. Perhaps this is wishful thinking, as I have enjoyed reading thrillers and mysteries for most of my life. Perhaps it can be difficult to create a unique twist ending nowadays. However, I have read many, many fantastic psychological thrillers that are more enjoyable and more consistent than this.  

We question the motives of both main characters, Dr. Theo Faber’s and Alicia Berenson’s, as we look back into his narrative and then Alice’s diaries. We question how on Earth did this character think like this, once we know the truth? Why did this character think this way? There are so many aspects of this book that do not connect properly once you read the story. We do not comprehend why characters chose certain actions, even though we know understand the truth.

To continue, the main character is first and foremost the narrator, Theo. We have his storyline: him grappling with his wife cheating in addition to his budding career helping Alice as her psychologist. When we read through his perspective, he is unlikeable, irritating, and obsessive: to a point that I found myself not enjoying his character’s perspective. Alice’s diaries slowly progressing, explaining her husband’s behavior and her increasing dislike for him makes us wonder why she has decided to kill him. We also have side characters that we question their motives and decisions as well, but I do not think they received the attention they needed in the story. They did not feel fleshed out or realistic.

In conclusion, I personally do not recommend this novel. I enjoyed Alex Michaelides's writing, but his talent was not a match for the story. I would still happily read his next book, but "The Silent Patient" just did not do it for me. Perhaps this could be a good psychological thriller if you enjoy going back into every single sentence and picking apart each meaning, but I do not. I enjoyed the ending, because I did not see it coming, but it still does not make this an enjoyable read for me. I am glad I stuck it through, but this is just not the book for me. Perhaps I'll read it again in five years.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for reviewing purposes.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

"As Long As We Both Shall Live"

“As Long As We Both Shall Live”
Written by Joann Chaney
Review by Diana Iozzia

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for reviewing purposes.
As Long as We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney 
I personally think I missed the mark when I read this book. This mystery / thriller book is best suited for fans of true crime news and media. I am one who very rarely enjoys watching and reading about these types of stories, so I felt that this book was not my type of thriller.

I disliked the way that this story is told. We first read from before both Janice and Marie are presumed dead. I have to warn: this book is nothing like you think it will be. There are twists upon twists in a way that was not entirely pleasant. We also read in perspectives about the detectives.
There are so many different aspects that I cannot tell, because this review is spoiler free. I might eventually plan to write a spoiler version of this review, but for now, you should be safe.

Matt’s two wives have mysteriously disappeared and been assumed dead. First, twenty some years ago. We have the most recent disappearance as our catalyst. We follow Matt protest his interest, but we learn less than comforting secrets about him and the wives.

My least favorite aspect of this book is the detective investigation. Detective Ralph Loren (ha ha, so funny) is the nastiest, most inappropriate and irritating cop I’ve read so far. His boys’ club narrative is full of filthy language and just stupid dialogue. In this day and age, why would it be entertaining to write or read a character like this? We do not love to hate him, we just hate him. I would have much preferred the story to be completely apart from the detectives, just focusing on Matt, Janice’s, and Marie’s perspective.

About half way through, we are clued in on the secret. I do not think it’s a great secret, but it goes to show how many thrillers this book was ‘inspired’ by. I enjoy one of the characters that comes out of this revelation. We also choose to sympathize or feel completely apathetic, while also questioning our moral stance on certain topics. Would you make the same decisions as these characters if you were placed in this situation?

In all, I did not enjoy this book. There were too many aspects I did not like. Too many twists led to an anticlimactic ending. I would read Joann Chaney’s writing again, but I would hope it would be different from this. She has a great writing style, but I believe she focuses on too little of what I like to read in a thriller. Some readers might enjoy this, but I just did not like it. I do not think it is a ‘bad book’, but it is certainly not my type. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend this to fans of true crime. I felt the stories were reminiscent of the case of Drew Peterson and possibly also Scott Peterson.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for reviewing purposes.