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 ~ email@example.com
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!
‘The Grace Year’ is the brutal and harrowing story about the young women of Garner County who are forced to spend their sixteenth year in a secluded encampment outside the town as they ‘embrace their magic.’ They must release their powers before they marry or go off to work in the fields or labor houses, before they return to civilization, that’s IF they return, surviving poachers who hunt them for their ‘magic’, and ultimately, surviving the time they spend with each other.
This is a feminist tale about survival, group dynamics (hysteria?), and the strength of spirit in the face of incredible adversity. The young women, teenagers, are faced with the odds stacked against them, in a patriarchal society that deems them as property, dangerous, basically as subservient pets. Many of them (all unforgettable characters) fall into the traps that are designed for them, but the main character Tierney, rails against them, questioning her predicament, and hopes for change. Over the course of the ‘Grace Year’ Tierney discovers as much about those around her as she does about herself, and draws on her own strength, of which she didn’t know she even had. It’s an amazing, albeit, often violent story about a young woman discovering herself and her own power against all odds.
This stunning novel from Kim Liggett will draw comparisons with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, but it also made me think of both ‘Lord of The Flies’ and ‘The Crucible’, all classics, well-known for their controversy and hard-hitting subjects.
Themes of feminism, social hierarchies, group mechanics, religion, and flower and color imagery throughout the book are vivid and powerful; it’s easy to see why this is being adapted for television before it has even been published. I think it will be hard to read this and not have it resonate with the reader in a strong way; it’s dark and haunting and it honestly blew me away. I want to read it again before I see any TV adaptation because it was just THAT GOOD.
ON SALE: 9.17.19
Helena Smith and Barry Sutton are inextricably entwined and yet at the same time, haven’t even met yet. And the way it happens at the same moment is thanks to the astonishing memory technology that groundbreaking neuroscientist Helena develops, inspired by the desire to heal her mother’s Alzheimer’s, to preserve memories and relive them.
The very dangerous ability to alter memories and create new timelines leads countless people to suffer from False Memory Syndrome, and what was intended to be a gift for humanity ends up becoming a nightmare and perhaps spells the end of the world as everyone knows it.
‘Recursion’ is like reading ‘Back To The Future’ crossed with ‘Memento’ and ‘Minority Report’, with a splash of ‘Groundhog Day’ mixed in (except with none of the funny stuff). And it’s certainly not because Blake Crouch is rehashing old territory or that he’s written a book we’ve all read (or that it’s something we’ve seen) before. It’s because ‘Recursion’ recalls the essence of what made all those movies great, and it’s a gripping genre-bending cross of science-fiction and thriller. And he does it in a way that feels like nothing that’s been done before.
Just as he did with the mind-bending science-fiction (and the actual science) behind ‘Dark Matter,’ here in ‘Recursion’ he has tapped into our curiosity about the unknown, the basic human question we all have about our pasts, of how our lives could be different if we could ‘change just that one thing and do things over.’
How everything could be different if someone we loved hadn’t died so soon, or we could’ve stopped that death from happening.
That very scenario comes up for Barry in the book, and just as with the catastrophic repercussions of messing with nature, and the ethical questions behind genetic engineering (thank you, Michael Crichton), most of our instincts probably say we shouldn’t mess with time-travel, our memories, and therefore, our very existence. But science-fiction says we must.
Crouch has written yet another tightly-paced read; the book flits between different timelines and at the beginning of the book, it’s unclear as to the connection between our two main characters. But as the stories entwine, and the science starts to make more sense, the pace and the intensity pick up, the lines blur, and time and memory collide. The consequences of the decisions made by some of the characters, and by humanity as a whole, are emblematic of a whole host of problems and it becomes seriously frightening.
It’s a clear reminder of how our lives are merely made up of a series of memories, and when we stop living in the present, what else do we have? My own greatest fear is losing my memory, my ability to remember my past. But I definitely wouldn’t want to live moments over and over again either.
Ultimately ‘Recursion’ is another breakout novel by the amazing Blake Crouch. Thank you for making me question my whole existence (yet again).
*Thank you Crown Publishing for my early copy, received at ALA Midwinter, where I also got to MEET Blake Crouch, and have him sign my books!!
Hendricks is undoubtedly living in the house of many a person’s nightmares, and at least one little girl’s death, and as the new girl in town, she seems to be finding this out gradually through her friends at school. Steele House doesn't seem to be an ordinary house by any measure, and not only is it hiding a dark secret, so is Hendricks, one that sent her family packing from Philadelphia and to this tiny town of Drearford.
Once her family moves into Steele House, which is being renovated, she finds a new group of friends right away (to her surprise). Hendricks begins to craft a new social life out for herself, involving both the popular guy at school, but also the boy next door, who is also the brother of the little girl who died. She soon finds there are new and far more powerful ghosts than the ones in her past that she has to deal with.
This is a pretty basic horror novel, a classic haunting tale that author Danielle Vega has written for teens, and it's perfect for those who might be somewhat cautious about stepping into the genre.
The main character Hendricks embodies all those insecurities and anxieties felt when starting at a new high school and she has a lot of baggage from her past, the very reason the family has had to move. I appreciated these parts about the story, as well as the very real conflict she has with whether she should fall in with cliques at school, but because they couldn't be dealt with very deeply that conversely also frustrated me a bit. The parents also happen to be totally absent from Hendricks' world most of the time, which is pretty convenient (and actually pretty irresponsible).
As far as the very descriptive scenes that involve the haunted Steele House, these are vivid and full of horrible paranormal evil that will conjure up images that will stick with you. There's also a very deep-seated reason for the evil that resides in the house and it's actually very sad. I appreciate that Vega tied the narrative together at the end, even though it was quite an abrupt ending.
As an author, I think she has great instincts for what works well to both scare and satisfy, understanding that real life is a bit messy and not perfect. It's kind of why the ending left me with a punch to the gut.
I read a lot of horror fiction and love a great scare, so I love finding creepy books that suck me in; this is a quick YA 'haunted house' read, perfect for a spooky weekend.
*I also would have fallen victim to Steele house myself thanks to the cat at the beginning that draws little Meredith into the basement (even though everyone should know the first rule in horror is ‘don’t go into the basement’). But…kitty!!!!
I'm going to dare to reveal a bit of myself in this review because it absolutely affected my reading.
I had the early reader’s copy for this brilliant book for a few years before I could bring myself to read all the way through it, and I even started it once and couldn’t continue, shelving it for at least a year or so before picking it up a second time. It was an intense and very difficult read for me because of the subject matter, and I got through it after reading Kathleen Glasgow’s excellent second book ‘How to Make Friends with The Dark’ which was almost as difficult for me to read, and equally amazing. Together, these two books encompass so much of my own experience it’s heartbreakingly uncanny, and I was lucky enough to even let Kathleen know this when I met her at her own book signing here in Seattle recently.
I’ve been that ‘girl in pieces’ like Charlie, like the many young women out there hiding their scars from others, under clothing or bandages, caused by cutting, burning, or whatever ‘needed’ to be done in that painful moment. It was a long and very hard journey for me to heal enough from depression, grief, anxiety, self-harming behavior, and PTSD, to where I felt I could cope with life again. The book is honest and gritty, and since Kathleen knows exactly what this all feels like, she understood what I meant when I said it took me a few years to get around to reading this; in the author’s note, she writes that it took her nine years to get this book onto paper. But she’s here. I’m here.
This book is actually about hope, and that’s honestly why I really want many many young women, girls, to read this.
When I read ‘Girl In Pieces’ my journey and all sorts of things came back to me, and yes, this is why the book was so hard to read; it brought up thoughts and feelings I hadn’t had for years. I know that’s what will make it hard for others to read too. The cover is a trigger warning or just a plain trigger itself; I don’t know that anyone seeing that will have any doubt as to what this book is about. While the subjects within are difficult to read about, those who understand them stand to benefit the most.
It takes a boatload of talent to tackle all kinds of really difficult issues: drug abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, parental neglect, grief, suicide, self-harming (and foster kids in her next novel), but Glasgow does a lot in this one book. Some reviews point out that there’s 'too much' in this one book but that’s the point; self-harming is rooted in deep pain borne from many issues, it doesn’t happen out of a vacuum. Many of these issues collide and Glasgow writes about them from her depths of her soul, from her personal experience.
There are a number of different characters in the book (the deeply wounded Charlie, the toxic Riley, counselor Casper, Charlie’s mom, a number of different friends who play varied roles in Charlie’s life along the way), and they’re all memorable and painfully vivid, often uncomfortably so. And Charlie's awkwardness, fear, pain, and bravery can be felt on every page. It's hard and absolutely heart-wrenching to read but it's incredibly worth it.
I'll end this by saying that some readers won't 'get' this book at all, others desperately need to read it and will likely have a hard time with it. But this book will reach some people and it will resonate deeply with them. When a book can touch you deep down it can stay with you forever. But scars and memories stay with you forever too, no matter how far in the past, and this story is a reminder of that.
Thank you, Kathleen Glasgow, for writing this book. I wish I'd read this a long time ago, even if I'm not sure I would've been ready. But I'm glad it's out there in this big wide scary world.
This is a short stunner of a book and it's hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It's that good.
Set in the vibrant, noisy, dense city of Lagos, Nigeria, Korede is always cleaning up after her younger sister Ayoola, who is self-absorbed, entitled, and by most people's accounts, beautiful - at least on the outside. Ayoola has men, and women, fawning all over her, and worst of all, she's now stringing along the doctor that Korede has admired, and who she works with, for a long time.
Korede covers up her sister's lies all the time, and the biggest of all being that she's a serial killer - she has killed three men now - but how long can she do it? How can she NOT do it (it's her sister)??
Author Braithwaite has written a book that is darkly comic, feminist, thoughtful, and biting, and I couldn't read it fast enough. I wanted it to be longer although it was actually perfect in that it's a short book with concise chapters with clever titles. There is a lot of underlying commentary about beauty and its power, and also about deception, family, and denial.
I really hope to see more thrillers out of the talented author Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Becky would do anything to find out what is ailing her fourteen-year old daughter Meghan, who has been in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices with unexplained symptoms. She is also frustrated that her husband Carl isn’t nearly as dedicated to finding out what is so obviously wrong. It’s also not helpful when her sister Sabrina, who is caring for their dying mother Cora, isn’t supportive; she also believes that their dysfunctional upbringing has led Becky to act obsessively towards Meghan.
When Munchausen by proxy, a rare behavioral disorder where the primary caretaker constantly seeks medical attention for assumed symptoms, is suspected as the reason for all of Meghan’s mysterious ailments, the hospital administration steps in. And things heat up in all kinds of ways in this deftly-written page-turner of a book.
This is a fascinating exploration of a rare behavioral disorder, of family ties and relationships, of grief, and it’s also a tightly-written medical thriller. D.J. Palmer is a skilled writer; the pacing and tone kept me enthralled page after page with the different character perspectives shifting, with only Meghan’s being written in first-person, as she is the one experiencing the mental and physical anguish of the ‘disease,’ which I thought was a brilliant decision on Palmer’s part. Everything written from Becky’s perspective takes on a tone of anxiety, which fits perfectly with her character, proof of how well the characters are written and drive this novel.
It’s also ominous how dangerously symbiotic the mother-daughter relationship becomes; the relationship between Becky and Meghan then mirrors the one Becky had with her mom and that is pivotal to the story. I’m kind of in awe in how well Palmer psychologically weaves these characters together.
There are other plot threads that play a large part in the novel but I will let the reader discover them on their own. The overt exploration of Munchausen by proxy is so well done, and the underlying themes swept me away, so when the twists came out and grabbed me at the end, I was utterly surprised.
I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough; it has everything I love in a book: Complex relationships. Family dysfunction. Medical/psychological thriller. Interesting characters. Twists you don’t see coming. Expert writing.
*Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book for review!
Millie is thirty years old and spends her days going to a thankless temp job at a designer furniture showroom, watching episodes of Forensic Files on her laptop, and fantasizing about what her new life would actually look like if she actually pulled herself together. She has a friend who is shallow and doesn’t really listen to her, an ex she thinks about too much, and all sorts of ideas for what her life will be like if the temp job becomes permanent.
‘The New Me’ is a perfect satiric send-up of all those little insecurities that have glimmered in the minds of many of us, and its glaring honesty is on every single page, and it’s also pretty funny. While the book is not an actual ‘stream of consciousness,’ it’s written in a way that demonstrates the way that Millie’s thoughts run from one to another, the way that one anxiety leads to another; this is the absolute genius of this short book, and it reads like the mind of a person trying to figure her crap out (and generally not managing to do so). Not everyone will jive will this style of writing though.
The situations Millie finds herself in, like standing in the break room at work, or being at a party, and dissecting what’s going on, it’s all written so well, and it’s startling and frustrating and even maddening. There are also times when she’s completely oblivious to what is going on around her and she has high hopes for her future; at one point she’s completely got her head in the clouds and gets it all wrong.
The banality of office work and modern life feature prominently and author Halle Butler paints a pretty depressing picture of it, and she does it so well it’s frightening. Fortunately for Millie, to balance out the uncertainty of work and the emptiness of a false friendship with Sarah, she has loving parents (the scenes with them are lovely) and they are very much her anchors.
In the past, back in my twenties in between freelance film gigs, I did some temp and call center work of my own; this book very much brought back some miserable memories of that time for me. No wonder Millie does so much drinking
This is such a clever little book, honest if depressing, funny although somewhat cautionary (shred the paper when you’re asked to). Definitely a dark comedy.
Les Misérables, the historical classic novel set during the French Revolution and written by Victor Hugo in 1862, may never be seen the same way again after you read this YA sci-fi re-imagining. Sky Without Stars is the first in a series of novels in the System Divine set on the planet Laterre, where the divide between wealthy and poor is massive, and signs of revolution are everywhere.
There is so much to say about this book that it’s hard to know where to start in describing it, especially without revealing too much. While the size of it is daunting, its pace is even and kept me enthralled throughout; I didn’t want to put it down at all over an entire weekend. You also don’t have to know the story of Les Misérables (and many readers will likely only know the story from the several films of the same name) so I'll be a heathen and say it doesn’t matter if you haven't read the original book this is based on.
This glorious epic novel follows the lives of Chatine, Alouette, and Marcellus, and we gradually find out how a thief, a guardian, and a general can have such desperately different lives but actually have a lot in common.
Within the Frets of the planet Laterre, Chatine survives as a thief, her parents run a gang, and she hides her identity by posing as a boy. Beneath the city in The Refuge, Alouette lives within the Sisterhood, protecting the only surviving library of the Old World and unbeknownst to her, has been living her life behind a web of lies. Meanwhile, Marcellus, grandson of General Bonnefaçon, struggles with the responsibilities of living up to the standards of his grandfather and doubts the government he is supposed to serve and stand by. The paths of these three characters intersect in a fascinating world that melds scenes from Hugo's epic novel with a space-age future where humans have inhabited multiple planets many centuries from now. I found all three of them to be multi-faceted and to constantly be in tune with what was going on around them, and even when they were struggling or seemingly at their worst, I found myself pulling for them.
I was easily drawn in with the excellent world-building, which has shades of rebellion that made me think of Star Wars, but the new planet that everyone has inhabited still feels very French, with Français used throughout the book, so it keeps the heart of Les Misérables close. The science fiction comes across as plausible and frighteningly realistic (the best kind to read, in my opinion!). I lapped up all the details in this world that was created for these characters: Everyone has electronic ‘Skins’ implanted in their arms, and audiochips in their ears, and the squalor that everyone lives in is hard to digest; it made me think of Bladerunner, that fusion of the old and new. The very fact that the written word has become extinct, that books have become extinct (and protected by the Sisterhood) is heartbreaking. Being able to actually read has also become a rare skill.
The planet is illuminated by three fake Sols and the moon has become a prison colony, even the use of fire has been banished. It seems there is some forest on the outskirts of the city and on the periphery of LeDome; all of these environments and areas are sketched out in a map in the front of the book. There are also other planets described in the System Divine and I really hope they are visited in subsequent novels in the series.
Authors Brody and Rendell have created an entire imagined parallel universe that I could’ve kept on reading about for hours longer, no matter how sobering and dark.
There is action, adventure, science-fiction, romance, the feeling of reading a history, as well as political intrigue, an underground revolutionary uprising called the Vanguarde. Based on one of the greatest novels of all time, ‘Sky Without Stars’ depicts a future where the chasm between classes has grown exponentially, but the layers in between make this novel irresistible.
Life as a young fox is scary, with so much to learn about the dangers out there in the woods. Little foxes learn about these dangers from their mama, a masterful storyteller, or the hard way, by facing the world.
This beautifully-written and illustrated middle-grade book invites the reader to step inside the minds of little foxes, and embark on an adventure, full of the real-life challenges that they often face:
Nasty humans, vicious woodland creatures like the Golgathursh and badgers, and dangerous territorial foxes. And especially the harsh Winter.
This is a tale within a tale, and just like scary stories told around a campfire, it has elements of horror and delight. Not only is it precautionary for fox kits, like foxes Mia and Uly, readers will recognize the themes of friendship, family, bravery, and the drive to push ahead when life is difficult.
Author Christian McKay Heidicker has a way with words too, and through his writing he has conveyed a very vivid picture of woodland life, describing objects as a fox would see them, and creating new words for things that wouldn’t make sense to them. He also doesn’t shy away from the brutality of nature, from the cycle of life and death, and the struggle for survival against the most difficult of odds. The young foxes in his story face hunters, painful separation from family members, and gruesome injuries and death. Heidicker draws inspiration from classic authors Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, and weaves in a very well-known children’s book author into this very book; young readers who love a scary story will enjoy this, but it’s not for those who are easily upset by animals getting hurt or struggle with the harshness of nature.
The most wonderful part in my reading this (aside from enjoying the adventure and the amazing artwork by Junyi Wu) was how it reminded me of discovering books about animals in my childhood, such as ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘The Wind in The Willows,’ and ‘Watership Down.’ I enjoyed these with my dad, and they fueled my love and compassion for animals. I expect many readers who will enjoy this book will be or are animal-lovers too, as Heidicker has embodied the curious and mischievous nature of foxes so well in this book, and it’s really hard not to love them because of it. This deserves to be a children’s animal classic!
**Thank so much to the editor, Christian Trimmer of Henry Holt Books, for my early copy and the chance to read and review this book.
Release date: 8.20.19
This is a crazy book, just no other way to put it.
If you saw ‘Pranked’ which was on TV or ‘Crank Yankers’ which was a puppet TV show based on prank-calling, you will get the idea of this, which is based on the author posting prank ads on Craigslist. The resulting email ‘conversations’ from those ads are contained within this book, and if you hate the idea of unsuspecting people being strung along on fall pretenses, this isn’t for you.
If you can put all seriousness aside and maybe have a few minutes at a time to read it (in the guest room? the loo?), you will probably read this with eyes widened and emit a chuckle or two.
If you look at this too seriously you will see that lots of people wasted their time engaging in the banter necessary for this book:
People actually entertaining the idea of dressing up snakes for a fashion show. Seriously considering crocheting someone into a cocoon for the winter. Pretending to be someone’s made-up partner to be taken along to a work party. Sitting for a tea party dressed like a doll.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fact that these people were strung along for the sake of author Kelly Mahon’s crazy idea for a book. BUT just like you can’t look away from a car crash on the highway, it’s hard not to read this and marvel WHY people are even considering doing these things. Some of them are so outlandish and ridiculous that I can’t even believe they would do them for money, let alone free. But it takes all sorts to make this world interesting, right?
I don’t think Mahon put this together with any malicious intent, but a laugh at others’ expense is hard to absorb. That said, if you answer an ad for racing in a lobster suit, you sound like you’re up for anything (or at least maybe a laugh)
Well, damn...another Shaun David Hutchinson book that’s going on my favorites list. There’s something about his writing that makes me laugh, brings tears to my eyes, and makes me think about both the dark and lighter sides of life. He writes about relationships between people in a way that no one else can.
And animating the Dead for this one made me read through it hoping like crazy that everyone could have the same chance that these amazing two characters, Dino and July, have. The chance to say our goodbyes properly and appreciate the people we love while they’re still around.
Check out my other favorite of Shaun David Hutchinson's, The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza
‘Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.’
This stunningly beautiful graphic novel is a treasure to hold in your hands. It’s a story with so many subtle layers, everything from bullying, to individuality, first crushes, and music history, all reflected within finely illustrated pages.
Charlie is nearing the end of middle school and while discovering the ‘soundtrack’ for her life for a school music assignment, she discovers opera and new friendships. While exploring the way we all identify differently with the music we hear, author Maclear tells Charlie’s tale of discovering the opera singer and diva Maria Callas, and those of her new friends Emile and Luka, boys who are alienated for liking bugs (weird) and singing (girly). Charlie recognizes how her classmates feel, their struggle to fit in and find their place along the cliques at school. The push of their class assignment encourages her to reach out to others as well as reach within and let her true self out.
The illustrations in this hardbound graphic novel (complete with a purple cloth spine and ribbon) tell so much of the story; they should be pored over and digested slowly. While the themes held within aren’t overt and initially obvious, ‘Operatic’ presents itself as a coming-of-age story that should be discussed and pondered to be absorbed, and it’s truly special.
The true story behind the meteoric rise of the infamous 70’s band Daisy Jones & The Six is chronicled in this captivating book. As quickly as they shot to fame they fell back down to earth; how this happened is revealed by the band members’ tell-all, with details never heard before. The inner workings of a popular band such as Daisy Jones and The Six often come as an eye-opener once you see past the glitz and the glam and begin to see the trappings of fame. This is their story.
At least this is all what we think we see when we first take a glimpse at this new book from Taylor Jenkins Reid. The fact that this interview-based novel about a fictitious band comes from the genius of Reid, and is not based in reality, is one of its greatest appeals. Telling the story of all the characters by way of their own conversation with the interviewer (who we only find the identify of at the end) is complex and unique; no additional descriptions of what is happening are really given, so the storytelling is driven by each individual’s perception of their experience.
Daisy is the outsider to the group and the story really ramps up when she joins The Six. The numerous relationships between the members of the band are central to the book, as are their many problems. We learn about struggles with addiction, fidelity, loyalty and the challenge of maintaining any semblance of normalcy once they reach the realm of stardom. All of the characters are expertly defined by Reid, and although it takes a little while to keep all the individuals’ names straight, their experiences all become clear the further you go into the book. None of them are entirely redeemable and it’s hard to feel sympathetic to any of them once they get caught up in it all, but I don’t think that’s the goal of the novel.
There are some topics contained within that may be hard for some readers to read about: drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, infidelity, parental neglect, abortion, and promiscuity. Nothing is glamorous or trivialized about with any of these issues when you see them in the way they’re presented in this story; there isn’t any ‘fluff’ to make excuses for the characters since it’s all presented in the rawest of forms. Reid writes about these issues in a way that vividly conjures up the music scene of the 70’s and convinces the reader that she was actually there herself witnessing it all. The anecdotes come across as though they’re based on documented events but translate into a realistic presentation of a band and their story being told to an interviewer. It’s just all presented as fact and you can make of it what you will.
Although it’s a little hard to get used to a story being told through individuals being interviewed, this is an amazing book, just so unique and memorable. Any early considerations that it may not be the story for you because of the way it’s told should be dumped at the wayside because the payoff for reading it all is immeasurable. This is the sort of book that sticks with you and transports you to another time and place.
Complete with all the lyrics to the songs contained in the story, the experience is further added to with a playlist on Spotify, including tracks from Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt. It’s easy to imagine this being adapted for film, and if you love music, song-writing, or are even fascinated with the seventies and eras past, this book will be a fast favorite.
When Lindsay lost her best friend Edie to suicide in 2009, she was amidst a haze of partying, hanging out in a hipster community in Brooklyn, living it up with drugs, alcohol, and forgotten nights. A decade later brings a reunion with an old friend from that whiskey-and-Molly-soaked era, Sarah, and memories and questions about their friend’s death surface.
Lindsay begins a fully-fledged investigation into her own past as well as of many friends who shared those wild days and wilder nights. Delving into the past by muddling through barriers to obsolete technology, getting access to police case files, and often awkwardly questioning people she’d soon forget, Lindsay becomes completely obsessed with Edie’s death and the night she can’t remember. Her memories play tricks on her and some have vanished; a testament to how many years were wasted in what seemed like the ‘best of times’ when they were happening. Her research become all-absorbing, intense and obsessive.
This novel explores more than just a death that left countless questions behind and friends and family grieving. It explores the complexities of memory, the psyche, the fragile frivolous relationships that are borne out of a life fueled by chemicals. The excellent writing by Andrea Bartz pulls you along Lindsay’s painful trail through the past, unraveling a mystery that proves to be as compulsive and gripping as it is disturbing and twisted. Bartz writes every word with absolute intent, creating a different atmosphere and tonality with each situation that arises and with other key players’ perspectives.
It even brought up emotions in me that were often difficult to juggle while reading, as I recalled questions I still have surrounding a sudden death of someone close to me, as well as the discomfort of my own fair share of stupid drunken nights in my twenties.
It highlights the recklessness and stupidity of the kinds of choices made when you’re young and you feel like you have the whole world at your feet. And this blast from the past, the window into New York at that time, even though it’s just a microcosm, comes across as both vivid and surreal at the same time.
This is the perfect read for anyone who loves a good psychological thriller or mystery that pokes around in the recesses of the mind, while questioning the past. The past behaviors and self-absorbed nature of the characters may be jarring to some people, but I found it to be eye-opening and thus made for riveting reading. Getting to the truth and having Lindsay get some closure to her friend’s death had me hooked entirely.
One of my fastest reads in weeks, this was an all-absorbing and exciting read; thank you to Crown Publishing for sending me this advance reader’s copy.
Life pretty much sucks for Selina Kyle, at least for as long as she stays living at home with her mom and the endless stream of boyfriends she brings home. None have been as bad as the latest guy, Dernell, who’s cruel and will even lock Selina up in a closet when he wants to teach her a lesson. When something happens to Selina’s new cat, she can’t take it anymore; life on the streets will surely be better than staying where she feels so unhappy.
Selina joins a small ‘pack’ of street kids, learns parkour, gets close to an old friend and takes on the new name and persona ‘Catgirl.’ Usually more of a loner, she begrudgingly learns she has to trust others if she is going to survive. And she also plans to carry out some not-so-small heists in gritty, crime-addled Gotham City.
This YA graphic novel is fresh from the DC Ink line and is written by author Lauren Myracle, who is no stranger to teen and tween lit, writing the bestsellers ttyl, ttfn, l8r, and g8r. This also means some pretty high expectations, because of Myracle’s familiarity with her audience and her success.
‘Under The Moon’ also happens to be about probably one of the coolest female comic book icons, Catwoman, although here we really have a version of her unlike any that has been seen before. Since this Selina is only fourteen years old, she really is a girl, and so calling it ‘A Catwoman Tale’ is definitely a bit of a stretch. And so begins the problems, because if anyone has read or seen any incarnation of this character before, it’s really hard to remove that image or knowledge (only just recently Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas came out as #3 in the DC Icons series).
In previous comics and the novel I just mentioned, we see an older Selina, who takes care of her younger sister and is trained under Carmine Falcone, as well as a past that included her mother dying, being a prostitute, as well as training and living in Europe.
‘Under the Moon’ gives us a Selina with a wealth of issues: she’s a runaway, she stops going to school as a result (making her a high-school dropout), and resorts to cutting to relieve her emotional pain. While I understand the notion of presenting a teen character who has the inclination to run from her home situation (abuse in the home is a pretty valid reason), or has a problem with self-harming (I will warn readers now about this, because it’s a big trigger), since these may be relatable issues for some readers, I also take issue with that being done in a responsible manner. I feel like these are risky, BIG topics to so lightly insert into a slim 96-page graphic novel, with very little insight. It’s irresponsible to add in a topic like self-harming so casually.
Since this is aimed at teens who are 13 to 17, I also feel like the flagrant use of foul language was wholly unnecessary. Unlike another teen DC graphic novel coming out soon after this, Kami Garcia’s ‘Teen Titans: Raven,’ that doesn’t have expletives and talk about things like penis size thrown in, this probably will be the reason for reconsideration for libraries (especially school libraries) carrying this book. I am not naïve about the use of swearing in YA lit, but it seems excessive in ‘Under The Moon’ and distracted me from the story, being used in a way that seemed like it was used to pander to young readers (who may think it’s ‘cool’ to talk like this).
I also got a very mixed notion as to who Selina is because of the swings in her characterization. Her portrayal is quite inconsistent, at once dismissive of the few friends she has, then she acts the opposite way soon afterward (although her compassion towards Rosie in the latter part of the novel is heart-warming). The self-harming comes out of nowhere. She is sometimes self-assured and then not remotely confident. And her connection to Bruce Wayne, which apparently starts in preschool, feels more confusing than it ever is in most literary and cinematic portrayals of Catwoman so far. Him being at public school is yet another diversion from his own origin story.
Something else that irritated me, is Selina’s inconsistent connection to CATS. I wasn’t convinced entirely by the way she came to call herself ‘Catgirl’ despite the event that preceded this juncture.
I wanted so much to love this graphic novel: the sentiments of her being a stray and her loneliness are powerful, with these being reasons for her ‘cat-burglar’ behavior, but I found too many problems that I couldn’t look past. Fleshed out and with paying more attention to the deeper issues in this story I would maybe go along with Selina’s backstory, but I can't recommend this, as it is right now (*as always, edits may be made before publication), to the targeted reader group.
**Points/extra star for cool artwork.