Book Review: White Bodies by Jane Robins

white-bodies-9781501165085_hr

★ ★

White Bodies was genuinely creepy, but didn’t really reach the thriller factor for me. This was a novel that I couldn’t wait to dive into because the premise was promising, but it fell a bit flat. Between the writing style and the protagonist, Callie, I had difficulty getting engrossed into the story and didn’t reach for it when I wanted to read. Callie is an unsettling character from the beginning–she catalogs her sister’s life, and at an early age started to eat belonging’s of her sister (hair, teeth, urine) to feel connected and closer to her–and while I understand it was a part of her portrayal, there was something about her personality and reading from her point-of-view that just made me so uncomfortable. Now rated this 2 stars, I thought it was okay, and come the second half, it was intriguing and I had to find out what happened, but it wasn’t a book I would want to pick up again so it’s in between a 2 and 3 star rating for me.

When Callie is introduced to her twin’s seemingly perfect new boyfriend, Felix, it quickly becomes apparent to Callie that her sister is being destroyed physically and mentally– and under Felix’s control and psychological hold. Things spiral out of control when Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. Soon after, one of her acquaintances is killed by an abusive man, and then suddenly Felix dies.

It’s a slow build-up with more description and Callie’s thoughts rather than dialogue. In the first half, chapters alternated every so often to give a glimpse into the world when Callie and Tilda were kids, and what their unusual relationship was like as twins who are complete opposites. I thought that it brought insight and interesting backstory into the present and their characters. The second half was well paced and a page-turner! I found that I was picking it up more often to read compared to the beginning of the story since it was further along and developed. White Bodies is disturbing with tension and shock value, but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I expected. It most definitely will creep you out, and the ending brought an unexpected twist, but I wouldn’t necessarily pick this up to reread again.

Synopsis

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless facade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies–or was he murdered?

Hardcover, 256 pages
September 19th 2017 by Touchstone

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Advertisements

Book Review: Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

32188043

★ ★ ★ ★

A relatively short novel — only 225 pages — Six Stories is packed with a mighty punch; an original atmospheric story told in a series of six interviews by investigative journalist Scott King, as he attempts to discover the truth behind Tom Jeffries mysterious death at Scarclaw Fell twenty-years ago. Prior to reading Six Stories, I had recently discovered true-crime podcasts–such as Serial, which is frequently referenced to throughout–so I could not resist reading this book. This is one of those books where you want to go into it without knowing much aside from the blurb, and just let yourself get engrossed and experience the story. I finished reading and took a few days to write this review because I was stunned. If I had to sum it up in a quick sentence, it would be: a complex, clever literary thriller that at times left me feeling claustrophobic, and yet I could not stop reading.

This was unlike anything I have read before, because it is told in the form of a podcast transcript, so the first chapter (or rather, episode 1) took some getting used to because of the italics and format, but I adjusted to it easily come episode 2 as the story got going. It is authentic when it comes to reading like podcast transcripts, which at times did become tedious due to repeated information from previous episodes and King constantly interrupting during interviews to fill the readers in on further information backstory–however, it added to the conversational aspect and brought everything together in an engaging way. There were breaks in between interviews when we also get insight and the impact the events had on Harry Saint Clement-Ramsay, who’s father owns the land, and he is the one who found the decaying corpse of Tom Jeffries one year after his disappearance.

While a mystery-thriller, Six Stories does touch on the impact of bullying, friendships, rejection, manipulation, and similar issues during one’s youth, and the consequences to those actions along with the effect it has on others. I think in a sense, it was the base point of the beginning and what lead to the events that took place, and really puts into perspective that what you do does make an everlasting impact on the lives of those around you, and the author was attentive when it came to addressing that.

I found myself paying close attention to those being interviewed because I wanted to try to piece bits of information together and see where it lead to, if it were correct in the end. I did catch the clue in the second episode, which resulted into questioning the outcome that happened to be true, but it didn’t take away from the reading experience at all. If anything, I was eager to finish reading to find out how it actually unfolded. You can feel the underlying tension build as the episodes progress, and it is a mix of emotions from fear to anticipation because you want the truth.

Wesolowski’s is a natural writer, who crafted such a haunting, immersive podcast murder-mystery novel. I typically keep my reviews brief, but I think the length of this review shows just how much I loved this debut novel! Six Stories is a chilling and gritty narrative that will leave you horrified in the end.

Synopsis

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an Outward Bound center. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivaled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.

Paperback, 280 pages
Published June 1st 2017 by Orenda Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The Deaths of Henry King & Fütchi Perf

34146757

★ ★ ★

Without a doubt, this fulfilled my need for some dark humor in my life. It was just what I needed to help me get out of a book slump I was in for two weeks. The Deaths of Henry King by Brian Evenson, Jesse Ball, and illustrated by Lilli Carré. For me this was an introduction into the creators of this collaboration, and after reading this, I looked into more of their work because I wanted more. Lilli Carré’s illustrations are phenomenal, and she quickly became a favorite artist of mine after discovering her work in this book. This is not exactly a graphic novel, but it is sort of a small illustrated book with short paragraphs and gravestone-rubbing-style art. The Deaths of Henry King, simply put, is about one character dying over and over in some grim, but comical situations.

At certain points, I would make anyone around me listen while I read a few pages because it was too good not to share. Some grim, some hilarious, and some outright ridiculous deaths. Death by a cheddar cheese wheel? Eating six and a half pounds of glass? A visit from an angel that rips his heart out through his throat? It all happens within the 160 pages of The Deaths of Henry King.

The hapless Henry King, as advertised, dies. Not just once or twice, but seven dozen times. Each death a new demise, from the comic to the grim to the absurd to the transcendent and back again. With text by Jesse Ball and Brian Evenson complimented by Lilli Carré’s macabre, gravestone-rubbing-style art, Henry King’s ends are brought to a vivid life.

Hardcover, 160 pages
September 12th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

51dPR5QTRiL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

 

★ ★

Fütchi Perf is Kevin Czap’s first long-form in print, told through a handful of short comics combined to assemble like an album. Set in Cleveland, in a near-utopian future, there are themes of community, feminism, and a diverse world that is accepting and letting the good flourish. It’s filled with close-knit friendships, life-changing basement shows, and a joyous artistic community. I am torn because this was close to a 3 star read but closer to a 2.5 because of some reasons that I’ll discuss further in the review–but I did like this, just not as much as I hoped. I read this not once, but twice, because I felt like the first time wasn’t enough to extract all that the comic had to offer–and still, I am a bit perplexed. It is disjointed with little story, and has a lot going on between the color palette, and crowded pages. I definitely felt a little claustrophobic while reading this, which added to the second time around reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The artwork is cartoony with a vibrant bubblegum palette, displayed in flashes of scenes, that was fitting to the setting and the idealized, euphoria atmosphere of Cleveland.

I felt like this is one of those comics that really makes you stop and question a lot on how we think, the way society is verse how we would possibly like it to be, or how other’s may envision possible solutions to real life problems. I did love the premise of this, the characters, and all the diversity that is within it–you can feel the heart that went into crafting Fütchi Perf–but I had such a hard time really getting into it because of the layout, which did lower the rating I had in mind.

What if the future began in a small, queer, punk music show in the basement of a Cleveland, Ohio house? Romantic friendships, über-chic culture, magical solutions, kid think-tanks, and more. Fütchi Perf might not depict a perfect future, but its slice-of-life vignettes—drawn in a glorious, kaleidoscopic two-color palette—visualize a Utopian dream that seems almost real, but perpetually out of reach.

Paperback, 88 pages
October 10th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

28505350

★ ★ ★ ★

We Love You, Charlie Freeman is Kaitlyn Greenidge’s debut novel, originally published by Algonquin Books in March of 2016. A complex novel, Greenidge touches on history, race, family dynamics, science, and identity. Since I read this, I have not stopped thinking about it. A clever, poignant story that was compelling and at times a challenging read. There is always the feeling of tension that lies beneath the surface—how anything can happen at any moment, and you left waiting, just not knowing when all will break. Charlotte is a refreshing character; a sharp, witty voice in the midst of it all, trying to make sense of the world she is growing up in. Told through multiple point-of-views and timelines, this was the only flaw I had with the book— while I am not a fan of the switching back and forth, I did find it well-done and in a way, created the atmosphere and added to the story-telling.

Truthfully, I went into this story only knowing the synopsis, and afterward, I can say that I haven’t read anything quite like this. It’s full of risks and truth, so brilliantly written. It’s the first book I’ve read that makes me want to analyze, read it over, and have a conversation about the premise and topics. Kaitlyn Greenidge is a vibrant, powerful voice—We Love You, Charlie Freeman was an outstanding introduction into Greenidge’s work, and I can only hope to read more soon.

Synopsis

The Freeman family–Charles, Laurel, and their daughters, teenage Charlotte and nine-year-old Callie–have been invited to the Toneybee Institute to participate in a research experiment. They will live in an apartment on campus with Charlie, a young chimp abandoned by his mother. The Freemans were selected because they know sign language; they are supposed to teach it to Charlie and welcome him as a member of their family. But when Charlotte discovers the truth about the institute’s history of questionable studies, the secrets of the past invade the present in devious ways.

The power of this shattering novel resides in Greenidge’s undeniable storytelling talents. What appears to be a story of mothers and daughters, of sisterhood put to the test, of adolescent love and grown-up misconduct, and of history’s long reach, becomes a provocative and compelling exploration of America’s failure to find a language to talk about race.

Paperback, 342 pages
Published January 31st 2017 by Algonquin Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell

EIF_cover_500px

★ ★ ★

Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and often relatable, Everything is Flammable is a graphic memoir with raw storytelling, and simple art. After her mother’s home is destroyed in a fire, Bell returns to her hometown in rural Northern California to help her mother get things in order and buy a new home. Spanning through one year and touching on issues such as anxiety, financial hardships, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell’s humor and brutal honesty unfold into a profound memoir. While certain topics in this were at times difficult to read, I think Bell captures the overwhelming and uncertainty of anxiety and just going through life with it on top of dealing with anything else that comes along.

The beginning was like an small introduction into Bell and her life, before getting into the aftermath of the fire, which I liked because it gave the readers more insight into who she is. The characters were portrayed in such a way that by the end, you want to know more about them, and where they went from there. The artwork is simple, dark, and engrossing–I actually went back just look through the pages and appreciate it. Everything is Flammable is a well crafted graphic memoir that, more me, was just the beginning look into Bell’s work, and I look forward to checking out more in the future.

Synopsis

In Gabrielle Bell’s much anticipated graphic memoir, EVERYTHING IS FLAMMABLE, she returns from New York to her childhood town in rural Northern California after her mother’s home is destroyed by a fire. Acknowledging her issues with anxiety, financial hardships, memories of a semi-feral childhood, and a tenuous relationship with her mother, Bell helps her mother put together a new home on top of the ashes. A powerful, sometimes uncomfortable, examination of a mother-daughter relationship and one’s connection to place and sense of self. Spanning a single year, Everything is Flammable unfolds with humor and brutal honesty. Bell’s sharp, digressive style is inimitable.

Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Uncivilized Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry

9780143130406

★ ★ ★ ★

While I am pretty savvy when it comes to budgeting, I only know the basics. It is important to know all you can with finances, but I admit it has always overwhelmed me, so I was looking forward to reading this and gaining more insight and knowledge. Broke Millennial is a good read for cash-strapped 20 or 30-somethings, ready to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck and tackle those financial difficulties and situations. Broken down into 18 chapters and an epilogue, Lowry offers practical input on everything from budgeting to getting out of debt, to investments and retirement. You can either read from front-to-back, or skip ahead to sections that are best suited for your current situation. Each chapter ended in a brief, bullet-point breakdown to make sure you read everything that was covered.

As someone who has yet to graduate college, but is already thinking ahead, I found Lowry’s advice and guidance to be realistic and smart– without any condescending tones, it was like chatting with a friend who wanted to offer the best way to go about financial planning. I’ve already recommended this book to a few friends, and share bits of information whenever it happens to come up in a conversation. This was a lighthearted and at times funny, easy-to-maneuver financial self-help guide that removed the stress surrounded by finances– it is a great introduction with approachable steps at gaining control of your money.

Synopsis 

Broke Millennial shows step-by-step how-to guide to go from flat-broke to financial badass. Unlike most personal finance books out there, it doesn’t just cover boring stuff like credit card debt, investing, and dealing with the dreaded “B” word (budgeting). Financial expert Erin Lowry goes beyond the basics to tackle tricky money matters and situations most of us face #IRL, including:

• Understanding your relationship with moolah: do you treat it like a Tinder date or marriage material?
• Managing student loans without having a full-on panic attack
• What to do when you’re out with your crew and can’t afford to split the bill evenly
• How to get “financially naked” with your partner and find out his or her “number” (debt number, of course)…and much more.
Packed with refreshingly simple advice and hilarious true stories, Broke Millennial is the essential roadmap every financially clueless millennial needs to become a money master. So what are you waiting for? Let’s #GYFLT!

Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by Tarcherperigee

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

9780451499578

★ ★ ★

Here and Gone is an unsettling and intense thriller that I wanted to love. The premise was intriguing, the pace set to keep me questioning and interested—and while I liked it, but at times I was skimming details that didn’t add to the story. While I am not fond of multiple POVs, I thought it was fitting with this story, reading the events through Audra, Danny, and Sean’s eyes build up throughout as it unfolded.

I was rooting for all of them, and couldn’t help but feel for each of them. I thought Here and Gone was well-written, fast-paced, and engaging. I am only left wondering about one character, but I thought it was a well-rounded ending. It’s a short, quick read that I finished in two sittings, and I will be on the lookout for more published by the author.

Synopsis 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2017 by Crown Publishing Group

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

Book Review: The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond

y648

★ ★ ★ ★

My mother and I adore Ree Drummond; we watch her on the Food Network, check out her blog, and like numerous social media pages because she is a phenomenal cook, but also such a genuine, relatable person. This is the first Pioneer Woman cookbook that I own, so I was anticipating it’s arrival to check out what is inside, and get cooking in the kitchen. In this cookbook, there are over 125 simple, step-by-step recipes for delicious meals that the whole family will love, and want again!

There are eleven sections in this cookbook, which consist of Breakfast for Dinner; Salad for Dinner; Soup for Dinner; Freezer Food; 16-Minute Meals; Pasta Pronto; Comfort Classics; New Favorites; Veggie Sides; Starchy Sides; Quick Dinners. Before getting into the different recipes sections, there is an Introduction just like all cookbooks, but what I love comes after that, which includes A Typical Week, Prep Tips, and Stocking Up.

In Typical Week it is self-explanatory, but I know that anyone who adores Ree loves to hear from her point-of-view, or just about her day because she makes it enjoyable, and it’s nice to have the creator open up, and let those of us readers or foodie’s see a peek into their world, but also speaking about the recipes found within the cookbook. The Prep Tips and Stocking Up are two sections that I appreciate because as someone cooking in the kitchen, you can never have enough tips, insight, and guidance!

Each recipe includes serving size, step-by-step instructions with photos, along with make ahead tips, variations, and what can be served with the recipe. Prior to the ingredients and instructions, there are little paragraphs by Ree, which I could not help but reading in her voice, and it was a great start before getting into each recipe. When it comes to the recipes, I loved that there are a variety that anyone in the family can enjoy, but also easy-to-follow, and photos are included as a way to check and make sure you’re following the recipe right.

I have to say that my favorite recipe sections are Breakfast for Dinner, Soup for Dinner, and Quick Dinner. But there are so many to choose from, and this is a cookbook that can be used year around because it isn’t just for one season, and the variations note that includes different ways to serve the particular meal. I tried numerous recipes over the past week, and every dish was a hit in this household, with many more to be prepared over the week to come.

Synopsis

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime is a beloved collection of all the scrumptious supper recipes that make their way through my kitchen in regular rotation, from main dish salads to satisfying soups to hearty casseroles to comfort food classics . . . and everything in between. I lay out all the different ways I tackle dinner in my house, from super-quick 16-Minute Meals to make-ahead Freezer Food to irresistible pastas and a bundle of brand-new favorites of my crew.

You’ll want to immediately dive into surefire hits like Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons, Buffalo Chicken Salad, Baked Ziti, and Shrimp Scampi. But just wait till you try the Cashew Chicken, French Dip Sandwiches, Chicken Marsala, and Beef Stroganoff. And don’t even get me started on the Tomato Tart, Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce, and Pan-Fried Pork Chops. You’ll have a very tough time deciding on a favorite!

To take away the guesswork, I made sure to include all the step-by-step recipe photos I love to share, and I packed as much deliciousness into each chapter as possible. My hope is that you will turn to this book regularly to solve your dinnertime dilemmas, and that you will use these recipes to feed your family time and time again. The more stains, smudges, and smears on the pages, the better!

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 20th 2015 by William Morrow Cookbooks

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: Stirring Up Fun with Food by Sarah Michelle Gellar

dcd0a2cf0c9575475984233c59896bf0★ ★ ★

As a longtime fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar from back in her Buffy the Vampire days, I was thrilled to receive a copy of her newest cookbook, Stirring Up Fun with Food, published by Grand Central Life & Style. I love her enthusiasm when it comes to being in the kitchen as a family, and introducing her children to food in creative ways while keeping it healthy and simple. Organized by month, there are recipes for every occasion and theme, so the possibilities are endless and kid-friendly.

In January’s section, you’ll find quiche cupcakes that are light and flavorful, perfect for on-the-go during the busy week. March offers a delicious recipe for veggie egg rolls to make-at-home rather than ordering take-out—a little more involved, but a good way to get kids in the kitchen. In June, you can prepare coconut chicken fingers that not only the little ones will love, but adults will, too—paired well with a red pepper jelly or sweet chili sauce.

Each recipe includes ingredients, directions, serving size, and small blurb. While some recipes require as little as 5 ingredients and little prep time, it makes for fun and accessibility for everyone involved. I found some recipes better than others, while some weren’t clearly focused on fun and creativity—but overall it offers a great selection of projects and recipes for a family to enjoy. It was well crafted with time and quality, and Sarah and Gia did a wonderful job. It’s creative and cheerful, a cookbook that anyone with children would love to have in their home.

Synopsis

Why stop with making basic brownies? Why not put them on a stick and decorate them? Why not take boring broccoli and turn it into a yummy cheese muffin instead? Sarah Michelle Gellar learned quickly that to get her kids to be adventurous with food, she had to involve them in preparing it. She wanted that process to be fun and help them develop self-confidence, creative thinking, and even math skills! So Sarah and co-author Gia Russo came up with more than 100 fun food-crafting ideas that take basic food preparation to a surprising new level.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Grand Central Life & Style

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Book Review: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

EXQUISITE COVER AW.indd

★ ★ ★ ★

Deliciously dark, Exquisite is a book that you will not put down once you begin reading the first page. Alice Dark enters Bo Luxton’s quiet, simple life, and a sinister relationship develops. Told in both Bo and Alice’s point-of-view, an unnerving, claustrophobic story unfolds of passion, manipulation, loss, and obsession. I spent my Friday night on the couch, devouring all 306 pages within 5 hours. I found this leaned more towards psychological suspense rather than thriller—with a gradual build-up of tension and discovery that ended in a terrifying tale.

Stovell’s writing is rich and beautiful, with Exquisite being character rather than plot driven. Throughout, you can’t help but feel torn—who is the one with darkness seeping beneath their skin, the one with cruel intentions? It’s one of those stories were you think you may know where it is headed, but you’re left stunned in silence at the conclusion because it takes twists and obsession to an entirely new and unique level. A must-read for the summer, you’ll have this novel finished within hours!

Synopsis 

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.
Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.
When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…
OR DOES IT?
Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Paperback, 300 pages
Expected publication: October 1st 2017 by Orenda Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.