Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England.
You can find my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+.
School library volunteer at my son's K8 school. Member of ALA and YALSA.
Review requests ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2018, I totally fell for a YA thriller called 'DIVE SMACK' by debut Greek-American author Demetra Brodsky, and eagerly wrote a blog tour post featuring a 5-star review for the book. The book has a male teen protagonist who shows emotional vulnerability, is on the school dive team, and is experiencing profound grief and loss, bold choices for a lead character, plus he's within a whole cast of unique characters. It's dark, twisty, and even funny, I can't recommend it enough.
SO, I'm very excited about Demetra's next upcoming book, 'LAST GIRLS' due to be released May 20th, 2020 by Tor Teen! It's a book about the end of the world, a YA dystopian novel, but the author describes it as a book about survival and sisterhood.
Here is the first look at the amazing cover!
Cover Artist Credit
No one knows how the world will end.
On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.
Train for every situation.
But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:
Nowhere is safe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, DEMETRA BRODSKY
DEMETRA BRODSKY loves to write twisty thrillers about dark family secrets. She is an award-winning graphic designer & art director turned full-time. A first-generation Greek American and native of Massachusetts with a B.F.A from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Demetra now lives in Southern California where she's always exploring and researching, hunting for clues that might feed into her next book. Dive Smack, her debut YA Thriller, was a 2018 Junior Library Guild Selection, and an (ALAN) Pick (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE).
LINKS TO PREORDER THE BOOK!
I expect I'll have a review up before the book release; lookout for this exciting apocalyptic thriller, and preorder! Preorders really help authors!!
So I took a break from my regularly scheduled October menu of horror reading and read LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS for this blog tour, and it was like stepping into an alternate reality. It's a YA fantasy, but it almost defies categorization because of how it brings the old world into the present and breathes new life into ancient myth.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Author: Emily Roberson
Pub. Date: October 22, 2019
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.
When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn’t just endanger her family’s empire―the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.
Ariadne’s every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?
This is an astoundingly clever mash-up of Greek mythology, celebrity culture (think 'Keeping Up with The Kardashians'), and the Hunger Games; altogether the story of Ariadne and Theseus is told, where the gods are under the lens 24/7 just like Khloe and Kim, and ratings are always king. The monster is the Minotaur, Ariadne's brother, a tragic character, who is supposed to be killed by whoever solves the maze. Ariadne is caught between helping her new-found love or helping her family, with everything having been written by the gods.
Life's tricky when your dad is King of Crete.
It's kind of nauseating to read about Greek gods and goddesses caught up in the trappings of modern life, of cell phones, celebrity gossip, and social media, BUT its also really fun. Suspend your disbelief for a little while and imagine Ariadne with an iPhone. She is also a strong heroine in this novel who carries the whole storyline, making you root for her the whole way through.
Author Roberson is making Greek myth accessible for a newer generation at the same time questioning the way we value celebrity; she has written something decidedly clever and unique. Her writing is provocative without being too obvious, fand it's both funny and intelligent.
Purists may have a hard time with a book like this but it's hard not to get caught up in the idea of it. If you liked the Hunger Games, like Greek myths and can see the funny side of celebrity culture, give this is a go.
EMILY ROBERSON is the author of LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2019). She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Emily has been a bookseller in Little Rock, a newspaper reporter in Vicksburg, a marketing manager in Boston, and a writer in Chapel Hill and Dallas. She graduated from Brown University and has a master’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband, three sons and no pets.
You can find her on the web on instagram @robersonemilym and on twitter @RobersonEmily.
Sign up for Emily's newsletter here if you would like book news and other updates.
Image by: Laura Kellerman photography
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!
3 winners will receive finished copies of LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS, US only.
*Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for this blog tour!
Scarlet. Mustard. Green. Peacock. Plum. Orchid.
One storm will change their lives forever…if they survive the night.
When a killer storm strikes at Blackbrook Academy, an elite prep school nestled in the woods of Maine, a motley crew of students are left stranded at the aristocratic mansion on campus. House later, his lifeless body is discovered in a pool of blood.
Based on the classic board game CLUE, IN THE HALL WITH THE KNIFE kicks off a trilogy of young adult mysteries in which nothing is what it seems, and everyone has a motive for murder.
The Game is On. No One is Safe.
I am going to hazard a guess and bet that a whole load of readers of this will pick it up out of nostalgia for either the cult classic 1985 film 'Clue' or because they enjoyed the Hasbro board game of the same name that the excellent movie was based on.
Or both, which is why I had to read it!
This is a modern reimagining of the board game 'Clue' (and when it's brought 'to life' in this way, it takes on the story form like the movie); set in an elite prep school in the woods of Maine called Blackbrook Academy. The characters are all there: Scarlet, Mustard, White, Green, Plum, Peacock, Orchid, and yes, Mr. Boddy. They all become stuck in this grand mansion of a school out on the tip of a rocky peninsula in the middle of what seems to be the storm of the decade, with no power, no way in or out, and then there's a murder.
The characters all have secrets, and a lot of them neatly fit stereotypes (rather like the original movie, I suppose, which may grate on some nerves and irritate some readers, but is actually wonderfully campy in the film). If you don't have the movie to constantly compare to (even with the board game as background), the book actually simply works well as a YA fun murder-mystery read: everyone is a suspect, they all seem to have a motive, but it doesn't get too heavy or scary. This is actually much like the vibe of the film; mystery LITE.
I would be interested in hearing what people think who have only played the board game, and from those who have not played the game but seen the film; I may have seen the film so many times that I constantly had images of Tim Curry scurrying around a mansion in a butler outfit (he was just SO PERFECT). I do think that Diana Peterfreund has paid great homage to the general 'Clue' board game franchise, and it will bring back some warm fuzzy feelings for fans (unless you expect the characters to be carbon copies of the movie versions, as well as the storyline).
It took a little while for me to get fully invested in the story, and much like the film, the 'big event' happens quite the way into the book. The chapters are named after the different characters as they reveal more about each one and follow them through the story. That took a while to get used to (it is used SO much) but I found it useful in separating their story arcs.
It's always a huge gamble to write a movie based on a book, so is it just as much of a gamble to write a book based on a movie? I'm not sure. This may be removed enough from the original film (or game) that it will find a different audience anyway. And maybe people will go out and play the board game again??! Who knows.
This will be released 10.8.19 on Amulet Books (Abrams) and there are plans for a series of Clue mysteries (at least 2 more books).
You can find all the links to GET A COPY HERE!
*I gratefully received this ARC as part of Miss Print’s ARC Adoption Program. Thank you!
Ultimately this was a pretty confusing read, and that’s not good when it comes to middle-grade reading, as the basic storyline should be easy to follow. The story even started as though a chapter was missing.
Given that the famed author R.L. Stine is adept at stringing a yarn or two together, I kept thinking it was going to become crystal clear. I enjoyed the illustrations and some of the concepts involved but if the Scare School is going work in graphic novel form, the storylines have got to be WAY clearer than this.
This meticulously drawn graphic novel about Jeffrey Dahmer as a high schooler is a haunting portrait of a disturbed individual in his formative years and it depicts how the environment that he grew up in helped create one of the most notorious serial killers in recent memory.
The author-artist is fellow Dahmer classmate Derf Backderf, who proves how hindsight can be 20/20, recognizing all the disturbing behaviors and situations upon reflection, and after Dahmer's ghastly murders were committed. Derf has pieced together the timeline for the graphic novel with help from Dahmer's father's novel and other records, used recollections from other classmates, and paints a picture of Dahmer that is both shocking and in many ways sympathetic.
If there was ever a playbook for creating or spotting a serial killer Derf shows how Dahmer 'checks all the boxes': a disturbed mind and untreated mental illness, teenage alcoholism, isolated in a small town in an era when school had few rules, dysfunction at home where parents go through a nasty divorce, mother has her own mental health problems, dad is oblivious to his son's issues, Dahmer doesn't fit in at school and is bullied by some of his peers, repressed sexual urges and closeted homosexuality, interest in dead animals and roadkill, collection of animal carcasses, his apathy and lack of emotion. So many warning signs. So little done to step in.
Derf asks at one point 'Where were all the adults?' but he also recognizes that this was a different decade, a different era, and remarks that even his teachers would comment on rolling their own joints, and obviously turned a blind eye to a drunk Dahmer every day. There's also a point where, after Dahmer's first murder, thanks to shoddy police work, he SHOULD have been caught. Today, we have our eyes open to all sorts of new concerns, and schools have zero tolerance for any substance use and keep an eye out for mental health problems and bullying.
This is a tragic tale, but I appreciate that Derf told it the way he did (even with the adolescent ignorance involved) and that the movie adaptation happened. May another horrific set of crimes, or such a troubled individual, never come out of a similar circumstance again.
As with everything that Blake Crouch writes, ‘Summer Frost’ is absolutely mind-blowing and is based on a terrifying concept. Set in a future where artificial intelligence becomes so powerful that it threatens humanity, this novella secures my opinion that Crouch is THE master of science fiction. He has a way of reminding the reader that existence is finite and he always poses huge life questions.
I usually complain that I race through his books after waiting for them for so long; this time my complaint is that this is way too short! That said, I WILL be reading the rest of the Amazon Forward Collection on Prime.
I think this may be your best yet, Ruth Ware!
‘The Turn of The Key’ ticks off all the boxes necessary to make this the perfect mystery: a protagonist who may well be going to prison for murder, an old house in Scotland that seems to be haunted but is also a marvel to be in, one that has a history of deaths and local stories swirling around it, plus a family with a strange set of circumstances. The characters and the setting are all pieces of this fantastic puzzle and they are craftily put together seamlessly.
Ruth is such a skilled writer of suspense and mystery, that I feel as though I am just moved along with the story in such a vivid way, but it’s also so very natural, and I never feel like I have to jump one step further to try and guess ‘whodunnit.’ I always feel like I’m right there with the main character (Rowan) because the pacing is so brilliant. And yet again, the final twists completely managed to blow my mind.
Every single page had me fully imagining myself in Carn Bridge, Scotland, where the story takes place, and I absolutely didn’t want it to end. Waiting for each new Ruth Ware novel just gets harder and harder, I swear.
This is an extraordinary book.
It’s a sobering, sometimes difficult read, eye-opening, and enlightening. I had to put it down on many occasions, being constantly reminded of how Obama’s presidency has been followed by Trump’s is depressing enough, but the central focus is on challenging the American racism (and how the current toxic presidency has exposed this malignant state). Coates openly wrestles with his own changing views on the first Black Presidency, and demonstrates how deeply engrained systemic and societal racism infects everything in this country, Obama or no Obama.
‘We Had Eight Years in Power’ is practically required reading.
‘I’m Not Dying With You Tonight’ is a powerful, quick read destined for lots of conversation and many classrooms and library bookshelves.
Following two young girls, thrown together by a high school football game that deteriorates into chaos and a night of city rioting, this YA novel addresses issues of race and class and reflects the fragile state of the domestic climate right now.
Lena, a popular black student, and Campbell, a white teen new to town, who knows no one and is unsure of herself, live in the same world, but seemingly come from different worlds. The book is set over one single night, really over several hours, and that’s what it took me to read this captivating book.
Over those few hours, they rely on each other to survive unimaginable circumstances, facing down riot police, looters, vagrants, and gunfire. The perspective shifts back and forth between the two characters throughout and the chapters are short, keeping the action moving quickly and the pace fast.
While it may seem as though there's no time to dig deeper into the enormous issues that come up in this book, all revolving around the race relations canon, debut authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have written a relatable novel that can serve as a great jumping-off point for conversation.
When Lena and Campbell have awkward moments that remind them of their (often ill-conceived) preconceptions and assumptions of each other, the subtext taps into the dialogue we are having as a country and also serves to point out how easy and necessary it is for all the walls to come down. The two girls end up being emblematic of how we work through things better when we work together.
I expect that others reading this will recognize how it reflects the racial divide in this country (and some shocking recent current events), yet feel the hope that I felt when I read it. I honestly raced through this, it placed me right in the action myself; it's a poignant read for teens or anyone who needs to have a quick reexamination of their thinking about how we are all judging each other.
Sometimes I'll go out on a limb and read a book that wasn't necessarily on my radar, by an author who's new to me, and even within a genre (or crosses several genres) that I don't read often. I like reading outside of my comfort zone because this is often where I'll find the shiniest gems of books that may otherwise pass me by. 'The Lost Power' is one of those books; touted as 'Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider' (both of which I know of, but haven't read or seen, and probably just as well), I knew that others had found popular works to compare it to, but I'm glad I went in blind.
A family get-together in Napa, ruined by sniper's gunshots, is the opening setting for this exciting novel; app designer and Aikido instructor Maddy Marshall meets up with her estranged twin brother Will, go there to meet their elderly father, who reveals a dark, family secret, as he takes his last breaths. They then meet up with an old classmate, Bear, who accompanies them on their adventure across the globe, perhaps not so coincidentally.
The trio set out on a quest to discover a secret ‘Lost Power’ (with some dangerous people trying to beat them to it), before it can possibly endanger millions. It’s something of a quest to find the Holy Grail, filled with encounters in Spain, Jerusalem, and flying in a hot-air balloon.
What is so captivating about this novel, and what I didn’t expect, is the way that author Avanti Centrae has created a story about a brother and sister, with a rich family history, and made their relationship relatable, endearing, and it drives a lot of the action through. By having their friend Bear along for the adventure, he acts as the perfect buffer for the twins’ rough spots and develops into a fuller character than I expected. Rather than Will and Bear taking the lead with all the action in this book, it was completely refreshing to have Maddy be the person who ends up kicking butt, and it makes a change to have both the male and female characters airing their fears and showing their weaknesses.
Like any action adventure, there are many sequences that seem implausible (Spielberg and authors like Dan Brown say it can be done though), but it felt really good to read a book that was just one crazy ride.
This is a heart-pounding action thriller that makes you feel like you have stepped into an adventure movie, where your every move will have you moving from one exotic locale to another, looking over your shoulder for who is chasing you, and tapping into the author’s vast knowledge of history and world religions and cultures, to solve an international mystery with unbelievably high stakes.
Thank you so much to Booktasters for the chance to read this; I powered through it during a recent readathon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
RELEASES TUESDAY AUGUST 6, 2019!
This is the sophomore novel from the immensely talented and wildly unique Derek Milman, who previously gave us the quirky and brilliant YA novel, ‘Scream All Night.’
Milman steps it up a notch in this one, bringing readers something close to the anxiety-fueled capers of Hitchcock, but with an emotionally-fueled story at its core, something he seriously does best.
‘Swipe Right’ is a high-stakes genre-bending murder mystery, with classic elements like a case of mistaken identity, running from the good guys (the FBI) and being targeted by the bad guys (a crazy, murderous cult). There are dead bodies, accusations of cyber-terrorism, and it all starts with a deadly DirtyPaws hookup in a hotel room.
What makes this incredibly fresh and compelling for readers of YA, is the fantastically honest character portrayal of a young gay man, the main character Aidan Jamison. He is flawed, and arrogant, funny, charming, and he is struggling with his independence from his family, while receiving warnings from friends who seriously are worried about his recklessness. Amid all the action, and dark comedy that’s packed into this book (one of my favorite things about Derek’s writing), Aidan is forced to face his disturbing past and relationships.
‘Swipe Right’ moves at a break-neck speed as Aidan races to solve the crime that he’s implicated in, without getting killed or arrested, and finds out a lot about himself while he’s ‘on the lam.’ His character arc is natural and necessary and kept you rooting for him. Derek just knows how to write compelling, flawed characters and knows how to really get you to feel.
It’s exciting, funny, relatable, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in Aidan’s story of emotional highs and lows as well as Milman’s writing really quickly. I swooped in quickly on Derek’s first book and became a fast fan of his, and now I’m already wondering what he will be doing next. This must be your summer thriller read for 2019!
IT IS FINALLY HERE.
When it comes to 'must-read' authors for me, Riley Sager is one of them. I was fortunate enough to be one of the early readers for his first thriller FINAL GIRLS, and I suddenly had found a new favorite author.
I was then lucky enough to be an early reader and be the blog tour for his second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, and I was a certified obsessed fan of Sager's writing.
My biggest problem is that I read his books too quickly.
His books, which are fast-paced thrillers with gutsy young women as protagonists, have quickly made him a best-selling novelist and a three-time Book Of The Month (BOTM) author.
His new book, 'LOCK EVERY DOOR’ is said to be inspired by his love of the old Gothic apartment buildings in Manhattan, and from the opening dedication to the great Ira Levin, who wrote the brilliant 'Rosemary's Baby' (a favorite of mine, which was adapted into the one of the most iconic horror films of all time), the scene is set and you WILL be sucked in.
Read ahead to find out more about Riley’s newest exciting thriller, reminiscent of the classic horror movie, but with a decidedly modern twist.
ABOUT THE BOOK: LOCK EVERY DOOR
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Dutton Books, Hardcover, 371 pages
Find it on Goodreads
No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen's new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan's most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.
As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.
Searching for the truth about Ingrid's disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew's dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building's hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.
LOCK EVERY DOOR REVIEW
It probably comes as no surprise that I’m going to say that this is a must-read. It’s a little hard to talk about it without giving too much away but I’ll do my best.
‘LOCK EVERY DOOR’ starts with twenty five-year old Jules experiencing some kind of emergency and frantic that she not return to the Bartholomew.
We then transition to six days earlier to when she first is shown the huge, exclusive, and very private apartment inside that very building that she will end up living in, as an apartment-sitter, and being PAID to do so. For someone who was basically homeless, jobless, and penniless when you compare her to the residents of the opulent Bartholomew, this seems too good to be true. Usually when you suspect that’s the case, you’re probably right.
Jules Larsen is relatable to anyone who has been in a position where they would consider taking on the responsibility of apartment-sitting in exchange for having contact with the outside world; just having a decent place to live can be a great motivator in these times so I found myself completely understanding why Jules would do this. Shedding her old life and being willing to try something new feels hopeful but a bit naive, but blameless. It would probably be pretty bloody hard to resist living in a huge apartment in one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan overlooking Central Park, no matter the circumstances (or gargoyles outside your window). Cutting yourself from the real world, except for access to the internet, when things go badly feels so 2019.
Sager moves on from setting the stage for Jules’ exciting new chapter to presenting the reader with a cast of characters, all with unforgettable personalities and quirks. The Bartholomew itself is an undeniable presence as well, with its dumbwaiters, patterned wallpaper, old-fashioned elevators, iron floor vents, spiral staircases, and complete with front doorman, and it’s hard not to picture the infamous Dakota building in New York City (which inspired Sager, and is where ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was filmed). Such a building seems like it would be a marvel, as well as terrifying.
The building changes from being a refuge and a place that fascinates, to somewhere that Jules feels trapped, and the other occupants either end up missing or are acting strangely. Her isolation suddenly becomes suffocating, she realizes she must discover the truth, uncover the secrets of the Bartholomew, and fight like a ‘final girl’ to get herself out. Like Rosemary, she experiences moments of clarity interspersed with those abject fear, and sometimes has to question her own sanity because of the environment she is in.
There is real genius to creating a quiet atmosphere of dread that can felt on every page, one of panic, suffocation and confusion, and it’s why this psychological thriller is perfect horror. When the real world takes away your safety nets, it can be terrifying, and this book made me think about that, maybe because I’m going through similar things right now; as humans, we need basics like a home, food, as well as connection to others. When the rug is pulled out from underneath you, it really can be terrifying. You don’t have to have someone chasing you with a knife for you to want to scream and cry and run.
‘LOCK EVERY DOOR’ is quite unlike his other two books, this time paying distinct homage to an iconic horror story, but needless to say, this is trademark Sager. He has a distinct voice that makes you want to devour his books in one sitting, and unlike when I read his first book and was encouraging fellow readers to pick it up, having not heard of him yet, I’m sure this one will fly off the shelves. Plus it’s pink and black, so it’s utterly perfect, you can’t miss it.
YOUR CHANCE TO WIN: BOOK GIVEAWAY
There is an amazing giveaway to go along with this blog tour; there are SEVEN COPIES of LOCK EVERY DOOR by RILEY SAGER up for grabs, so make sure to enter. US ONLY.
Click on THIS LINK TO ENTER!
ABOUT AUTHOR RILEY SAGER
Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.
Now a full-time author, Riley's first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called "the first great thriller of 2017" by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.
Riley's second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published in 2018 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was inspired by the classic novel and film "Picnic at Hanging Rock" and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios.
His next book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, inspired by a lifelong fascination with the grand apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will be published in July.
A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is "Rear Window." Or maybe "Jaws." But probably, if he's being honest, "Mary Poppins."
If you are lucky enough to be near any of these bookstores next week (7/8- - 7/11/19), Riley Sager is ON TOUR. I'm sad he won't be anywhere near me, so don't you dare pass this up if you are close! You can still call the stores and order the books for signing.
Thanks for having me on the blog tour again, Fantastic Flying Book Club!
*Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with an early copy of the book for review.
The Kingdom is the ultimate fantasy theme park, with its thrilling rides and coasters, set among safari grasslands, mermaid pools, and tropical forests, a monorail, and the magical Princess Palace. Long-extinct animal species have been bioengineered and now roam free, along with hybrid animals like horseflies as well as virtual dragons.
And what’s this Kingdom without princesses? Ana is one of seven Fantasists - half-human, half-android princesses, who are engineered to make park visitors' fantasies come true. Her programming dictates that her behavior is predictable, and she is not complicated with the vast array of human emotions. So when Ana does start experiencing emotions, questioning what she's been told to think and say, her whole world inside this surreal futuristic amusement park changes. It also leads to the most controversial trial of the century and to a surprise romance.
Author Jess Rothenberg isn't new to the YA scene, having been both the editor of the popular 'Vampire Academy' series, and writer of 'The Catastrophic History of You & Me.' But this is a genre-bending departure from vampires and paranormal romance for Rothenberg, bringing us a mash-up between sci-fi and fantasy, Westworld crossed with Disney World. The Kingdom is set in Lewis County, WA, 2096, a future that comes across as incredibly eerie, the kind of ‘too good to be true’ that is undeniably unsettling from the very beginning.
Ana, being half-human, has deep questions about the role she is supposed to play in the theme park, as it becomes clear that it’s far from ‘normal’; most importantly, the question of whether she actually committed the highest crime of all - murder - pushes the story through twists and turns all the way through. The confusion Ana feels over her romantic feelings and friendships are also fantastically exaggerated examples of how the teenage years can be a minefield to deal with anyway, and the way she questions the treatment of animals hit me at my core.
This book is the perfect combination of fantasy and sci-fi, with the twist of mystery, romance and good dose of a fairytale mixed in, and it brings up so many profound questions about humanity and how we treat others. It felt like nothing else I had read lately and so I loved this deeply original book.
*Thank you to Christian Trimmer for introducing me to this delight, and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for treating me to an early copy.
What a sad, depressing, and eye-opening read. It’s interesting that the author calls this his ‘death-penalty’ book, but I’ll definitely agree with it also being a book about friendship and loyalty, as well as one about child abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. So much is also about poverty and as a result, the loss of hope. The two teens in the story, Luke and Toby, don’t have much to look forward to in their lives, or ways to cope, and this feels very desperate and is difficult at times to read. It paints a very grim portrait of impoverished middle America.
I commend the author on writing a book about two teen boys, which doesn’t happen often within the young adult genre. But it’s ultimately heartbreaking. I’m grateful to my Litsy Postal Book Club group for picking this, otherwise I may not have read this emotional YA novel.
I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.
The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’
Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).
This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.
This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.
I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.
*Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD
RELEASE DATE: 6.11.19
I love horror novels. I also love horror movies (probably not a secret by now, if you’ve read any of my reviews, and know of my film background). So this slim but powerful volume of poetry dedicated to the final girls of horror cinema reminded me exactly why I love them both.
Women have always played vital and shocking roles in horror movies, but in the wake of all of horror’s hapless victims, Holland’s poems pay homage to the countless survivors, warriors, and fighters among the ranks of our favorite films in the horror genre; the slasher flicks, the hauntings, the violent exorcisms.
The poems are about everyone from the unforgettable 'Carrie', to the original ‘Scream Queen’ Laurie in ‘Halloween,’ to Selena in '28 Days Later.' There may well be a high body count of women in these films, but the ones who fight and thrash and scream bloody murder, even if they don't make it to the end, are the ones who make their mark on our memories.
Claire C. Holland goes further than just to shine a spotlight on the most well-known celluloid superstars like Rosemary from Roman Polanski's 'Rosemary's Baby' (a personal favorite of mine, played by the brilliant Mia Farrow), and Sally, who is tortured and brutalized in the horrific cult classic 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' (played by Marilyn Burns). She has also written poems about the horror ‘heroines’ (we will call them that even if some them don't survive), of many smaller, lesser-known, and independent films.
The poems are divided into four different sections: Assault, Possession, Destruction, and Possession, to reflect the role or type of hell that horror heroine goes through on screen. Holland hits the nail on the head with depicting the pain, the brutality, violence, and sheer terror that is inflicted on these characters in their respective roles on film, and at the core of every one of them is the spirit of a girl, a woman, who isn’t going to go down without a fight. These poems make you feel a certain discomfort, a frustration, an anger at the misfortunes and acts that are inflicted on them, and on women in general, and in so many of the poems, it’s clear that the violence or horror of the film mirrors acts that many females have to endure in real life. My own reaction on reading these poems, especially after having seen the respective films, was very visceral; I will have to read them more times now to fully absorb them. I also feel like Holland has made these characters even more real to me, some of whom I thought I already knew so well already, by giving them more of a ‘voice’ in this way.
I ordered the Night Worms 'Final Girls' Subscription Book Box partly because of this book being in it (along with Stephen Graham Jones' 'The Last Final Girl' and 'Tribesman' by Adam Cesare), and I'm so glad I did. I connected immediately with the poems because of my love of horror movies (I knew I would); but what I was most surprised and most affected by was the introduction by Holland, where she expresses her sentiments on the feminist stance she has taken with these poems. I was truly blown away by her powerful and heartfelt introduction. There has been a lot of talk about how this poetry collection connects to the state of ‘womanhood’ today; women NEED to read this empowering literature and poetry. If horror is not your bag of chips, this won’t be for you, BUT if you have a survivor or final girl in you, you will find these poems inspirational, horrifying, and thrilling.
**Thanks for adding a few more movies to my already long movie list, Claire C. Holland!