Short Story Review: Getting Better by Tyr Kieran

TITLE: Getting Better
AUTHOR: Tyr Kieran
FORMAT: Kindle
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 3/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Fans of Chuck Palahniuk. People interested in psychology and horror. People who like crime novels or Criminal Minds.

Shaun is institutionalized. Traumatic events have led to his stay at Agronaville Mental Health Center, where he battles his inner demons. Witness his first group therapy session. Experience his struggle against the violent visions that threaten to consume him.

The Basics: Kieran’s short story shows great promise and a blossoming talent. His writing is mostly very clean and fluid, although it could be trimmed for unnecessary descriptions and occasional awkward phrasing. He has a great sense of atmosphere and character. I could get a good feel for the mental hospital and Shaun’s situation right away, and the other mental patients in his class were very vivid, though somewhat over-the-top. The connection between Shaun’s imagination and the events of the story’s end make for a very interesting portrayal of psychotic aggression. I found his actions in class to be a better surprise ending than the actual ending, actually. My main complaint is that many of the details of the psychological illnesses and the psychiatric institution do not seem realistic. However, on the whole, I enjoyed this story and look forward to following Kieran’s growth as a writer.

Plot (4/5): In general, the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I liked hearing about the other mental patients and Shaun’s instinctive reactions to their stories. I thought it was a very entertaining way of revealing his problems. Some details seemed overdone, though. The description of his father at the beginning never becomes important later, and his abuse at the hands of Marcus also seemed more incidental than necessary. I enjoyed the part during class the best, up until Shaun leaves the classroom. I thought the final reveal was unnecessary and (as I will explain below) not entirely realistic.

Concept (4/5): Violent mental patients (though rare in real life) are not new in literature. You could throw a stone at a list of TV shows and hit an episode of a violent “crazy” person nine out of ten times. Especially the poor schizophrenics, who get a bad (and very fictional) rap from Hollywood. However, Kieran’s portrayal of Shaun is still very well done and enjoyable to read. The way he presents Shaun’s pathology as obsessive thoughts around what he can do with normal objects is a very clever way of showcasing his problems. And, a much more interesting version than “The voice told me to,” so kudos for that.

Characters (3/5): I liked Shaun. Even though he was pretty typical as a mental patient, I felt like I could still get a handle on his personality. The other characters were a little over-the-top. Marcus seemed too much like a caricature of a mental hospital worker. The psychiatrist was definitely not believable as a PhD. Darla and the football player also seemed like caricatures, but I actually liked that part of it. I thought they were just ridiculous enough that they seemed satirical instead of unbelievable, and it added some dark humor to the story that I appreciated. I think Marcus and the doctor needed to be a little more normal or a little more flamboyant to fit in the story. Either full-on satire, or full realism.

Style (4/5): Kieran’s writing is good, and shows a lot of promise as he develops his skill. While the plot could use a bit of polishing, the writing definitely didn’t scream “amateur” like some stories do. Some lines were really wonderfully sharp and well-done; in context, my favorite was, “But here, I’ve no one to protect. So when the footsteps come, I wish them on someone else.” I think the story was best when it was subtle like that. Some of his metaphors are also clever, like the orderly as a “failed parachute.” But when Kieran tried to describe too much, that’s when the writing felt heavy-handed or clunky. Then, this is a personal taste, so judge for yourself. With a little pruning, I think Kieran’s skill would show through even more. The exception being Shaun’s thoughts; here, I thought the excess of description really helped to emphasize the obsessive quality of Shaun’s thoughts.

Mechanics (3/5): Typo-free and well formatted, which is always nice to see! My main concerns relate to realism of the psychology. I’m a psych major, so I get a little nitpicky about these things. One, electro-shock therapy (modernly called Electroconvulsive Therapy) is not painful and would not be administered by orderlies like Marcus. It’s a fairly safe procedure that uses anesthesia and muscle relaxants to prevent uncomfortable spasming, you can’t feel the electricity, and the usual side-effects are stomach-ache and occasional loss of memories very near to the ECT event. Greater memory loss has been reported but is rare. So the portrayal of ECT as some kind of terrifying, painful punishment in modern times just doesn’t make sense. And especially, a trained technician would do the procedure, not an orderly whose job it is to serve lunch.

The other big thing was the schizophrenia bit. If you haven’t read, please skip this paragraph NOW because there will be a spoiler. Basically: schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder. They are unrelated and anyone having both would be almost unheard of. Either Shaun was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia or the ending is just extremely unlikely.

Take Home Message: An entertaining piece with an interesting internal view of violent obsessions.

Note: I received this copy for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. The price and origin of the story in no way affected my stated opinions.

Teaser Tuesday: Lunar Park and The Portrait of Alatiel Salazar

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

Steven Katriel

“One of the circle would find a 'stunner' among the city's waifs and strays, and they'd pass her along between them, like a mysterious parcel that excited children long to unwrap at birthday parties.  Soon enough, they would tire of the game, and this fascination with the more decorative poor would pass." 

Bret Easton Ellis 

“Then she wanted to talk about Robby and if I was still resentful of him, and next it lurched to Jayne and exactly what I was aiming for with her, and soon my patience expired and I had to interrupt what now resembled an interrogation.  She balanced a legal pad on her lap and furiously kept writing notes."

Share your own teaser link in the comments!


Announcement: Lost and Found, a short story collection

Hello, friends and readers and stalkers and passersby!

It's been a while since I've addressed you all directly, at least to say more than, Read this or Look at that or Buy stuff because it supports my cool writerly friends. However, today, I have a very exciting announcement to make.  Well, I think it's exciting.  Hopefully you do too.  Or I'll cry.  Just kidding.  Okay, seriously, now, I'll tell you.

I have decided to self-publish a small volume of 3-4 of my short stories!  It will tentatively be called Lost and Found and it will compile a few stories that somehow relate to this theme.  More may be added in the process, but currently I have about 3 in mind that will definitely feature.

I plan to have it out by the end of this year or the very beginning of the next, depending on how crazy my life gets in the fall.  However, I'm super stoked about this project!  I hope some of you all will be too.

And if any of you kind people would like to offer tips in the way of formatting and the general process, I will gladly accept your advice and give hugs and cookies.


Cover Love: Shine by Lauren Myracle

This cover is absolutely beautiful.  Like a painting, something I'd hang on my wall.  The colors have a very Victorian, soft feel to them, while at the same time seeming frayed and weathered.  And they all go together, with the same orange-tinted shadows--a triumph for color theory!  The single bright bud outlined by twisted branches is a great focal point, drawing the eye in before letting it wander around the lifeless-looking landscape.  Just gorgeous.  The book itself sounds great too! 

To pair with this cover, enjoy this cover of John Lennon's "Instant Karma" (you'll see why I find it appropriate if you listen to the chorus) by Lucky Boys Confusion.  A Chicago ska band and one of my favorites in the world, they performed this song when I saw them at their Notre Dame show several years ago.  Just great.  


Cover Love: What Kills Me by Wynne Channing

I saw this cover the other day on S.M. Boyce's blog and fell in love immediately.  Yes, I'm averse to the standard girl-in-dress cover...but this is anything but.  The pose has enough pathos alone, but then you have the violence of the splashing water, the stormy clouds, and her unnaturally twisted body literally disintegrating into butterflies.  If that doesn't catch your attention, then . . . you're silly.  Not to mention, the manipulation is done very cleanly with a great high res image.  Kudos. 

While we're on the subject of vampires, here's a cover that appeared at the end of the movie adaptation for Interview with a Vampire.  Guns n' Roses does an excellent version of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" with some added bayou flavor for the New Orleans setting of the movie.  Always have loved this.  


Review: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

TITLE: Why We Broke Up
AUTHOR: Daniel Handler
PAGES: 368
FORMAT: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0316127257
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Fans of Meg Cabot and Lemony Snicket (duh). Brokenhearted people. Anyone looking for a sweetly sad story of teenage romance.

I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

The Basics: I loved this book, loved it so much I put off finishing it so that I wouldn’t have to be sad it was over. Handler’s new novel has all the whimsy that I loved in A Series of Unfortunate Events but adds an emotional depth and authenticity that exceeds his past efforts. Min is an idealistic narrator, both loveable and frustrating. Her affair with Ed is brief and intense in only the way high school loves can be. The backdrop of fictionalized old movies illuminates Min’s character and adds to the whimsical atmosphere of the whole story. The break-up box is something many people, including myself, can relate to—a clever way to dissect a relationship moment by moment. While the actions of the characters seemed sometimes too incredible, the writing was strong and held together a very touching and relatable story.

Plot (4/5): Handler’s clever about it. He doesn’t tell us a wholly linear tale. He doesn’t give us all the details. We still don’t know exactly what happened second-to-second, what went on in the hallways at school, every afternoon hangout. We’re given vignettes that create an impression of a relationship—a deep one, one that makes Ed, Min, their love, and its disintegration very real to the reader. The only bit I can’t get is the final reveal, where one character’s actions tip the balance of the relationship. I won’t say who, only that, for someone who acted one way for most of the book, I just couldn’t fully buy the callousness they showed later on. Maybe the narrator’s flawed perspective contributed to this, but it just seemed a wee bit too convenient to me.

Concept (5/5): Kudos to Handler for taking a new kind of stab at the typical teenage love story. This isn’t a love to last the ages. This is the kind of relationship you had in high school, where you lived and died by movie theater kisses and notes shoved into lockers. Back when the Prom seemed like forever. The fact that it’s told surrounding objects is a great move. We’ve all had the break-up box, or known someone who’s done it. It’s so incompletely satisfying, shoving your whole relationship into a confined space and chucking it back like that’s going to unbreak your heart, Toni Braxton style (look it up). Showing how deep the relationship goes beyond those memories is a much more interesting structure than your typical “Girls meets boy. Lovey dovey stuff. Disaster.” linear narrative.

Characters (5/5): I adored Min. Maybe because I was (and to some degree, am) Min. She’s the perfect heroine for a reader, since so many of us are nerds trapped inside our own heads. And Min is in her head for sure. Every bit of her life reminds her of an old movie. She’s living scripts instead of living life. Something she never fully realizes, even, perhaps, at the end. And it’s this idealism that blinds her to all the little reasons Why They Broke Up. Until the scales fall. Sometimes you want to slap her and her lovey-dovey gushiness, but then you remember when you were like that. The supporting cast is also brilliantly done. Ed feels like your typical guy trying to be your typical jock, even if parts of him are less typical. Al reminds me heartwrenchingly of somebody that I used to know, Gotye style (look it up). Even the couple of minor characters, Joan, Lauren, etc., feel so real despite their very brief appearances. This is a place that could exist somewhere. Anywhere.

Style (5/5): Personally, I loved Min’s voice. She’s a smart, idealistic girl and that came out through the way she spoke in the book. Big words, phrases borrowed from old movies, colorful metaphors. Handler may be an adult male, but he writes my teenage years like he lived them. Only really now, would a basketball star who calls things “gay” also say, “Criminy?” Because, criminy! I doubt it. The constant inclusion of old movies was a touch. They were all fake, so it doesn’t matter if you didn’t recognize the references. They did what they needed to: brought out Min’s fantastical imagination and made it demonstrably clear just how “different” she is from Ed.

Mechanics (5/5): Nothing to add. The combination of pictures and text worked well and it was polished, as expected.

Take Home Message: The story you never hear: a typical teenage romance, told in a way anything but typical.

Note: I received this book on loan from Emily Rencich, who had a very different opinion of the book which you should read here.


Indie Review: The Sin Collector: Thomas by Jessica Fortunato

TITLE: The Sin Collector: Thomas
AUTHOR: Jessica Fortunato
FORMAT: Kindle
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 4/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Fans of The Sin Collector. Duh. People who love the occult and old myths. People who like vampire books, though this is not about vampires. Anne Rice fans.

This story is meant to be read following Book One in The Sin Collector Series.

Thomas has taken vows. As an immortal, he is impervious to harm on the battlefield. As a Collector, he alone can take away the sins of the fallen and allow them to move peacefully into the next life.
But valor never comes without sacrifice.

Far away from combat is his home, and her name is Lucy. Lucy is a human and frail from the explosion that nearly took her life, but Thomas’s duty pulls him from her before she can recover. His letters are his only connection to her, and to her caretaker, Thomas’s best friend Emmilina.

Thomas has gone to War for his God and for honor but there is an even more personal mission that drives him.
He will find other Collectors, and tell them the secrets he has learned.

The Basics: This long short story, or short novella, is a lovely companion to The Sin Collector and a nice interlude before the release of the sequel. It satisfies the curiosities of fans of the first book who met Thomas briefly and, like me, were intrigued by his history. It also takes you more in depth into the protection ritual practiced by the Collectors, as well as Collector lore that could very well become important later on (I hope). Focusing on the two most influential parts of Thomas’ life, it is a sweet slice of tragic love and duty. Of what it really means to serve selflessly, to be a Collector. While it left out some details that I really craved (e.g. the sin-eating ritual), I definitely enjoyed it.

Plot (4/5): In such a short work, Fortunato is clever enough to focus on small snippets of time, layered upon each other to give the background we need. My favorite scenes described Thomas’ efforts in World War II, though I wish there had been more views into the actual battles. I thought it dragged a little during some of the exposition, but for the most part, it was a fast-paced read. However, my main concern is the lack of attention paid to sin collecting. Like the first book, it talks about the sin-eating ritual but never goes into depth. I want to know what it involves. How you do it. What it feels like, viscerally. I hope to see this in the next installment.

Concept (5/5): As I said for the first book, very original. Fortunato takes a little-known myth and makes it her own. With all the allure of vampires but none of the blood sucking, the Collectors have a nicely fleshed-out mythos that kept me flipping pages, even during slower parts.

Characters (4/5): Thomas was the deepest of the characters, since we saw through his eyes. I also really enjoyed Cricket. Though he played a small role, I thought it was a very important one in the shaping of Thomas’ attitude towards his duty. I thought Emmilina and Lucy could have been fleshed out more. They felt flat to me, props more than people. I would have liked to see a little more what made them so likeable and unique to Thomas.

Style (5/5): Simple and clear, with some very pretty descriptions here and there. Like much YA writing, Fortunato’s style doesn’t try to compete with its subject matter and get too clever for its own good. It’s here to show you Thomas’ world without getting in the way. If you like a sparse, plot-heavy style, it’s perfect for you. If you like something more flowery, there is less of this, but Fortunato still can write some very lovely descriptions. I never had trouble picturing where I was.

Mechanics (5/5): Some of the problems of the last book (e.g. misplaced commas) have been ironed out in this one. I didn’t notice any distracting typos or grammatical mistakes. It was nicely polished.

Take Home Message: A fun look into the history behind the Collectors. A great quick read.

Fridays in Verse: The Pirate's Love

This silly ballad was written by your whimsical author back in the storied year of 2007.  Did I use enough adjectives?  Huzzah!  Look later today for a book review!

“What is love?” the pirate asked,
Stroking coins of gilded make.
“Once I knew a bonny lass,
Then the answer did I know
‘Til I faced with my mistake.
Near the lake in mine home town
Did I spot her fiery cheek
And the eyelets of her gown
Ringed about limbs pale and thin;
But ‘twas I the one was week.
First a word then sweetly said
Then a stolen lover’s kiss
Perfumed hair against my head
And a woven golden band—
Oh, my love rejoiced in this!
Ne’er a man more glad than I
On each meet ‘neath looming stars
Ever mindful of her sigh
Chasing phantoms ‘round my ear
E’er forgetful of my scars.
‘Til the flowered arch grew near
Fit to fix an iron band
And in haste I sought her there
Where our kiss caught starry eyes
And our prints sank in the sand.
Lo! My soul had led me true
But to gape the Devil’s dance
For the hand she held was new
And the lips she grazed not mine
Weaving lies with innocence.
Now no more her kiss I own
Nor her sighs my utt’rance free
If the demoness live on
Meaneth nothing it for me
For my love, it lies in thee.”
There the pirate clutched his prize
And his heart did match its ray;
Gemlight mirrored in his eyes—
For a coin returns no kiss,
But its gild cannot betray.  


The first letter I've ever received from a nonliving thing

Normally when I buy books, I get the standard, "Oh, hey. Your order is shipping. Call us for questions, yo." Paraphrased.  However, I just ordered from Better World Books, a lovely site shown to me by Robert Zimmerman, where your book purchases help to fund literacy charities all over the world.  Which is pretty cool, right?  I already ordered 26 (yes, I have a problem) books from them during their last sale.  Today's shipment is only four . . . but with a special touch.  I'm sure many of you have gotten similar notes already, but I am laughing out loud in my office, so I must share this whimsy with someone. 

Even cooler ... my books came from Mishawaka, just right next door to Notre Dame!  (Though, I always avoided the Backer . . . ha.)

Still cooler than that ... they even signed it.  So look out for these lovelies as reviews over the next few months!

Hello C--,

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.


Eagerly awaiting our meeting,

White Teeth
The Gravedigger's Daughter: A Novel (P.S.)
The Informers

Review: Choke by Chuck Palahniuk

TITLE: Choke
AUTHOR: Chuck Palahniuk
PAGES: 306
FORMAT: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0385720922
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 9/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Anyone who has read or seen Fight Club. Fans of horror movies. Fans of Bret Easton Ellis, Don DeLillo, George Saunders, or Quentin Tarantino. People who won’t mind a lot of graphic sex and violence. Would-be urban philosophers.

Victor Mancini, a medical-school dropout, is an antihero for our deranged times. Needing to pay elder care for his mother, Victor has devised an ingenious scam: he pretends to choke on pieces of food while dining in upscale restaurants. He then allows himself to be “saved” by fellow patrons who, feeling responsible for Victor’s life, go on to send checks to support him. When he’s not pulling this stunt, Victor cruises sexual addiction recovery workshops for action, visits his addled mom, and spends his days working at a colonial theme park. His creator, Chuck Palahniuk, is the visionary we need and the satirist we deserve.

The Basics: If Gaiman is my literary hero, Palahniuk is my literary god. He’s made his way to favorite author status in a remarkably short time, to join Kurt Vonnegut, Fyodr Dostoyevsky, and Diana Wynne Jones. He’s our Oscar Wilde, with an R rating. Choke has every ounce the brutal sarcasm and psychological torment of The Picture of Dorian Gray, but with teeth. Passages will make you recoil and cringe, passages verging on pornographic, verging on psychotic. Yet never exploitative. Never overdone. The explicit excesses of the book only serve to make Victor’s pathos more real as he struggles to reconcile his tumultuous childhood with a cruel and bleakly disappointing adulthood. As with all Palahniuk’s heroes, he is outwardly a complete cad, inwardly a broken toy. The plot takes you through Victor’s struggles to support his dying mother, dropping you off at an ending that is neither happy nor sad nor definitive, but ever hopeful.

Plot (5/5): Palahniuk is a master of the nonlinear. The book alternates between first-person narration of Victor’s current life, mingled with shocking facts and back-alley philosophy, and third-person accounts of Victor’s childhood, told by a cold and loathing narrator. The jumps allow us to piece Victor’s life together, observing his pathology while simultaneously glimpsing its origins. It’s both horrifyingly beautiful and tragic. The turn is psychotic, of course, and leaves both reader and Victor lost and reeling. We break as he breaks. It’s a fast moving read, even when it seems that little movement occurs. 

Concept (5/5): A sex addict feigns choking to collect money for the treatment of a mother who kidnapped and abandoned him repeatedly as a child. And it only gets weirder from there. But, it works. It feels authentic, even at its most ridiculous. The satire is so sharp that you feel these people and situations probably exist out there somewhere, with different names and faces. Just ridiculous enough to make the truest of points. 

Characters (5/5): Deeply flawed and deeply heroic, Victor is the crux of the piece. You love him even as he’s doing the most dastardly of deeds. He’s the lost puppy you warn your teenager daughter away from. His best friend, Denny, is a great supporting character with a pathology of his own. He’s a foil to Victor, no less broken but differently manifested. Victor’s mother is talked about more than she talks; she’s the perfect villain that only her own child could find sympathetic. As for Paige Marshall – she’s wonderfully fanatic. These are all extreme caricatures of people who, like the plot, are just ridiculous enough to be real. 

Style (5/5): Effusive, is a great word. Palahniuk gushes. He gives you lists and lists of examples of the worst sex offenders, the injustices at Colonial Dunsboro (theme park of doom), the indiscretions of Victor’s past. It’s gritty and doesn’t shy away from very explicit material. If you can decide, for a moment, to set aside your ideas of morals and creeds, it’s addictive. And if you don’t mind that it sticks up the gears of the plot sometimes. It’s not a thriller; it moves quickly if you want to soak up the ideas, but if you’re looking for something more focused on plot progression, it’s not for you. 

Mechanics (5/5): Lovely. A little too much repetition of some key phrases, but that only got annoying towards the end, and said annoyance could even have been intentional. 

Take Home Message: A guide to the most accepted sins of the modern time, in fiction.


Waiting On Wednesday: Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Joyce Carol Oates 
Coming August 21, 2012
Learn More

Joyce Carol Oates masterfully captures the unique experience of being a teenage girl in this provocative and poignant new novel in the vein of Wintergirls and Thirteen Reasons Why. It wasn't like she had not warned us. It wasn't like she had not prepared us. We'd known that something was wrong those last several months. But then, Tink hasn't actually vanished. Tink is gone, and yet—she is here somewhere, even if we can't see her. Tink? Are you—here? . 

Many WOWs, they’re books I’m curious about. Interested in. Will shove onto my Goodreads page and remember to read in a year or so when I get a bit of spare cash. This book, I will be buying the day it comes out and probably finishing night of. I’ve long loved Joyce Carol Oates’ stories, and have become recently obsessed with her style after reading Zombie, her fictionalized biography of a Dahmer-esque killer. (Plus my good friend J. Scott Sharp tells me my writing reminds him of her, and though I am bashfully skepticl, of course a little ego boost never hurts.) Back to the story. I loved, loved Thirteen Reasons Why with a passion, so much so that upon finding my copy was missing the last thirty pages, bought the e-book to finish it at three in the morning. So if this book is anything like that, and also feature Oates’ signature snark and beautiful language, it’ll be an automatic ten.


Teaser Tuesday: Why We Broke Up and Lunar Park

But wait . . . there’s more! For today only, two Teaser Tuesdays for the price of one! Which is free.
"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

Daniel Handler 

“’OK, yes,’ I said, as the coffee rolled down inside me. I felt embarrassed, boarding the 6, to still say I was angry about something two buses ago.”

Bret Easton Ellis 

“E-mail memo #9: 'Somehow writer has been teargassed at anti-globalization demonstration in Chicago.'
E-mail memo #13: ‘Berkeley; angry drug dealer was found choking writer due to ‘lack of payment’ in alley behind Barnes & Noble.’”

Share your own teaser link in the comments!

Teaser Tuesday: The Sin Collector: Thomas and The Stranger

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

Jessica Fortunato 

“He didn’t give such deep thought to God and honor anymore. He wanted the tattoo so no one would find him out.”

Albert Camus 

“The way I see it, it’s bad luck. Everybody knows what bad luck is. It leaves you defenseless.”

Share your own teaser link in the comments!


Excerpt: Life, As Told by Laura and Prozac

Just for kicks, I thought I'd throw in a brief excerpt from the story I've been working on lately (aka the reason that I've been slacking on reviews).  I'm working with a sort of strange format, so let me know what you think of it.  Enjoy!

Her wrists were brittle like old rubber bands.  The thin kind, the kind your mother wound around a fistful of pencils twenty years ago.  The translucent and cracking kind.  Creaking as she heaved herself up, down, up, down, her palms carpet-burning on the daisy-shaped Ikea bathmat she’d repurposed as a living room rug.[1]  Ding.  She wiped her sticky forehead with a towel and went to the kitchen where her Kashi heart-healthy oatmeal was waiting for her.  No pesticides, steel-cut, half a teaspoon of Splenda and brown sugar.  She choked it down like vomit, half of it before unplugging her nose, and slopped the rest down the garbage disposal.  Out the window, the sun beat her strip of shared lawn into cracked ceramic islands.  No sprinklers in this heat.  Save water, all the signs said.  She saved water in a five-minute cold deluge under the low-flow showerhead.  Shivering at the slickness of the grease on her cheeks before she scrubbed it away. [2]  Five pieces of clothing lay on her bed, crumpled Banana Republic dress pants and a Forever 21 chiffon shirt and another shirt, Target, pink-striped like a baby candy cane.  Bra and panties.  Push-up bra, Pink by Victoria’s Secret.  Red panties edged in white lace, Target, with a snag where it cut into her left thigh.  Button-down or chiffon.  Chiffon.[3]  Flowy, nothing to pinch or hug.  Only fifteen dollars at T.J. Maxx. 

[1] Fifty-three.  Fifty-four.  Fifty-five.  Dammit this hurts.  Shut up.  You need it.  Look at you, look at your arms.  They could use you for lipstick and save the whales.  Cheaper than liposuction.  Sixty-two.  Sixty-three.  It hurts.  That’s good.  Burn it off.  Slice it off.  Sixty-nine.  Seventy. 
[2] Disgusting.  You need new cover-up.  Maybe that fancy Chanel stuff.  Something so you don’t look like Pizza the Hut.  What a great movie.  Maybe Brandon would watch it with you.  Mark wouldn’t.  Bastard.  Not if you shine like an oil field. 
[3] That needs a vest.  Ew, too many layers.  Like a pig in a wig. 


Cover Love: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I’d seen daylight. One-fifth of my life. 98,409,602 seconds since the heavy, steel door had fallen shut and sealed us off from the world

Sherry has lived with her family in a sealed bunker since things went wrong up above. But when they run out of food, Sherry and her dad must venture outside. There they find a world of devastation, desolation...and the Weepers: savage, mutant killers.

When Sherry's dad is snatched, she joins forces with gorgeous but troubled Joshua - an Avenger, determined to destroy the Weepers.

But can Sherry keep her family and Joshua safe, when his desire for vengeance threatens them all? 

I've loved this cover for a long time, and only now had the presence of mind to feature it.  It's simple, clean, and enigmatic.  It gives away a little (the barbed wire, the blood) without telling the whole story.  It also has a sketchy Tim Burtonesque atmosphere that I couldn't possibly not adore.  Not to mention, the story actually sounds really clever and interesting.  You can bet I'll be picking this up.  (Oh, and did I mention the staggered typeface?  Brilliant!)  

Today's cover with a cover comes to us from Korn, covering Prince (or the symbol formerly known as Prince?)'s fantastic disco tune "Word Up."  I know.  Weird blend, right?  And they so very much pull it off.  It's still got plenty of that 80s flavor with an edge that only nu-metal can provide.  Enjoy. 


Fridays in Verse: From Spenser to the Irish

A bit of a story.  My junior year of undergrad, we had an assignment: write a Spenserian sonnet about the Irish, aka our football team.  The best poem would win a prize.  And yes . . . I actually won, and was giddy, and my prize was these delicious key lime squares my professor had made.  My friend reminded me of this contest over the weekend.  So, in the spirit of nostalgia, a very unusual Spenserian sonnet:

The Fighting Irish, as they took the fielde,
Full fearsome formd that e’en a fearfull quake
In Mart’s eye had not missed, did Lady shielde
Whose hew in gild their helmets’ hue did take
For to blind their foe.  Yet dear the vain mistake
When foe their trick’ry gaped with eye unmoved
Of whose own land the sun outshines did break
The line of Eire, who unfelled Troy removed
That gilded gloried seemd, quicksilver tested proved.  


Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

TITLE: The Graveyard Book
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
PAGES: 336
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1410414410
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Anyone who was ever a child and enjoys creepy, dry humor and whimsical story telling.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy-an ancient Indigo Man beneath the hill, a gateway to a desert leading to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible menace of the Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family. . . .

The Basics: Neil Gaiman is my literary hero. A few books in and he’s already risen to stand with my heroes Vonnegut and Palahniuk. The Graveyard Book is no exception. Dry, eerie, and devilishly funny, it turns childlike storytelling into something both children and adults can enjoy. Bod begins the story as a young boy with childlike wonderment and ends a street-savvy teen facing his family’s killer. The ending is bittersweet—not the perfect happy ending you’d expect, but ever hopeful. Cast with characters as quirky and lifelike as Bod himself, it’s a world I could return to again and again. 

Plot (5/5): It’s not easy to span fifteen years in one novel without losing your audience, particularly if those fifteen years take your hero from toddlerhood to teens. Gaiman handles it well. Rather than attempting to cover every important detail, he gives us snippets of each stage. The novel becomes almost a collection of intertwined fairy tales, glued together by the mystery of Bod and the nefarious man Jack. The danger is always present and real, but without ever sacrificing the lightheartedness that trips between whimsy and sarcasm. 

Concept (5/5): Boy’s family is killed. Boy escapes to graveyard. Boy is raised by ghosts and questionably otherworldly guardian. Already, we have the creativity for which Gaiman is so well known. The graveyard is a fleshed-out society with its own customs, laws, and flavor. The Jacks are perhaps a bit understated, but so clever and pun-filled that I can forgive the lack of development. It’s set in the modern world, but it has the feel of an old town. Timeless. 

Characters (5/5): Bod himself is clever and entertaining, even as a toddler. His perspective shapes the way we see the graveyard. He’s a little more alive than you’d expect from a fairy tale hero, with more personality. This is perfect for an updated tale. The other characters are not as fleshed out, but they don’t need to be. First of all, they’re ghosts (ha ha). Second, they’re easily recognizable and do well to populate Bod’s world without overshadowing his own journey. I came to know and love them without really needing to know all their outs and ins. 

Style (5/5): Gaiman’s style is a favorite of mine. He’s always witty, often sardonic, sometimes light, sometimes dark, never taking himself too seriously. He’ll make you laugh even at the darkest of moments. Parts were very touching; others made me laugh out loud and read the same lines over and over. Literally, laugh out loud. In my office. It was quite embarrassing. The language is accessible to younger readers but with plenty of clever metaphors and more elevated vocabulary sprinkled in, giving older readers additional layers. 

Mechanics (5/5): Flawless, as always. 

Take Home Message: A quick read with a sharp, chilling wit.


Waiting on Wednesday: Spellbinding by Maya Gold

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Maya Gold 
Coming April 2013

Salem is the bewitching backdrop to this lush, fast-paced tale of one girl discovering the source of her powers. It is during a routine school project that Abby Silva--sixteen and nearly friendless--makes a startling discovery: She is descended from women who were accused of witchcraft back in 1600s Salem. And when Abby visits nearby Salem, strange, inexplicable events start to unfold. Objects move when she wills them to. Candles burst into sudden flame. And an ancient spellbook somehow winds up in her possession. Trying to harness her newfound power, Abby concocts a love potion to win over her longtime crush--and exact revenge upon his cruel, bullying girlfriend. But old magic is not to be trifled with. Soon, Abby is thrust headlong into a world of hexes, secrets, and danger. And then there's Rem Anders, the beautiful, mysterious Salem boy who seems to know more about Abby than he first lets on. A reckoning is coming, and Abby will have to make sense of her history--and her heart--before she can face the powerful truth. 

There’s just something so intriguing about the Salem witches. Hidden, dark, tortured. Mysterious. The last really good Salem book I read was Witch of Blackbird Pond, which I fully recommend. I can’t wait to give this one a try. I love your typical high fantasy, Harry Potter magic, but once in a while, it’s cool to delve into a little Earthly magic too. Mysterious and hidden forces. Witchcraft and wicca. Something just out of the realm of possibility. And I’m curious to see what danger comes with her schoolgirl’s love potion.


Teaser Tuesday: Choke and Glitch

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

Chuck Palahniuk 

“You gain power by pretending to be weak. By contrast, you make people feel so strong. You save people by letting them save you.”

Heather Anastasiu

“I expected coming home to my family quarters would make me feel better, that I’d feel that sense of safety and belonging that I sometimes did. But home was just a lie I’d made up to make myself feel better.

Share your own teaser link in the comments!


Cover Reveal: In Between by Tara Fuller

I'll first apologize for this being a wee bit late!  The dates in the email were crossed and so was I.  But here we go!  A lovely cover for Tara Fuller's upcoming novel, In Between.  Personally, I love it.  Cute, simple, and I love that it just focuses on the held hands.  It makes the image very powerful and sweet, and emphasizes the "in between" part. Very clever! Check it out:

Since the car crash that took her father’s life two years ago, Emma’s life has
been a freaky—and unending—lesson in caution. Surviving “accidents” has taken
priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old, so Emma spends her days taking
pictures of life instead of living it. Falling in love with a boy was never part of the
plan. Falling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an

It’s not easy being dead; especially for a reaper in love with a girl fate
has put on his list not once, but twice. Finn’s fellow reapers give him hell about
spending time with Emma, but Finn couldn’t let her die before, and he’s not about
to let her die now. He will protect the girl he loves from the evil he accidentally
unleashed, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he has left. His soul.

Publication Date: August, 2012
Imprint: Entangled Teen
Novel length: 400 pages
Format: Trade paperback and eBook
Add Inbetween to Goodreads
Pre order: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / The Book Depository / Books A Million

About The Author: Tara Fuller writes novels. Some about grim reapers​. Some about witches. All of course are delightfully full of teen angst and kissing. Tara grew up in a one stop light town in Oklahoma where once upon a time she stayed up with a flash light reading RL Stine novels and only dreamed of becoming a writer. She has a slight obsession with music and a shameless addiction for zombie fiction, Mystery Science Theater, and black and white mochas. Tara no longer lives in a one stop light town. Now she lives with her family in a slightly larger town in North Carolina where they have at least three stoplights.

Where you can find Tara.

Website / Blog / Twitter / Facebook

Go to Tara’s website to read the prologue! http://www.tarafuller.com/


Waiting on Wednesday: Saturday Indie Edition

Welcome to Waiting on Wednesday: Saturday Edition! In honor of Indie Week, I’m going to highlight some great indie books that I’m dying to read . . . when they come out! Look at my previous posts today for more indie goodness, including an excerpt from Dark Moon: The Ward of Shadows.  Get your indie fix at A Life Among the Pages!

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

S.M. Boyce 
Coming Fall 2012

Kara Magari ignited a war when she stumbled into the dark and stunning world of Ourea, and all because of that stupid Grimoire she found. The armies are amassing, the traitors are revealed, and she is alone. The war has started.. 

Jessica Fortunato 
Coming July 20th, 2012

Thomas is a short story based on one of the most beloved characters from Book One of The Sin Collector Series. "Thomas has taken vows. As an immortal, he is impervious to harm on the battlefield. As a Collector, he alone can take away the sins of the fallen and allow them to move peacefully into the next life. But valor never comes without sacrifice. Far away from combat is his home, and her name is Lucy. Lucy is a human and frail from the explosion that nearly took her life, but Thomas’s duty pulls him from her before she can recover. His letters are his only connection to her, and to her caretaker, Thomas’s best friend Emmilina." Every character is a person, and they have led entire lives before the main story even begins. This is the history of Thomas. 

Learn more

Excerpt: Dark Moon: The Ward of Shadow

As Indie Week comes to a close, I thought it would be best to celebrate it with a day of indie joy!  So except a few posts today.  This one is an excerpt from Dark Moon: The Ward of Shadow, the first in my six-book high fantasy young adult series.  Wondering how I plan to publish it?  Head on over to A Life Among the Pages for my post on To Indie or Not To Indie.  Don't forget to check out the posts by Sarah M. Ross, Cinta Garcia, and all the other contributors this week for some great excerpts, insights, and giveaways!  And now, the first few pages of my book:

“Box brush to stone wall!”  The girl beamed like a lighthouse as she guided her chestnut mare into the center of the arena, a large fenced oval of dirt cluttered with a few horses and riders and jumping fences.  The horses in the huge grass pasture next to it turned their heads for a moment, then returned boredly to grazing.  The rider spurred on her horse, who cantered easily over the low wooden fence and the faux stone wall.  “That all right, Ellen?” she asked sweetly to the trainer. 
The other riders hid their groans behind their hands.  However, the loudest groaner was not a rider but Lena Angeles, a dusty fourteen-year-old leaning on the fence, shuffling a pack of ratty playing cards.  “She’s such a show-off, Buddy.  I told you,” she whispered to the golden retriever, who simply wagged his tongue in joyous ignorance.  Lena watched with a frown as the showy rider jumped another perfect fence and flashed a grin.  “Nice try, but you’re not fooling anyone,” Lena grumbled.  Just to prove to Buddy that she wasn’t simply jealous, she added, “I would totally be that good if I had five horses and private lessons every week.” 
“Talking to yourself again?”
The cards flew from her hands, spitting out all over the ground.  “Natalie!  Where’d you come from?”  She stuck out her tongue.  “Definitely wasn’t talking to you.” 
Natalie ran a hand through her dark hair.  “Are you going to whine about Sasha all day or are you going to help us muck stalls before Ellen sees you?  It’s your first day back to work since . . .”  She frowned.  “You probably shouldn’t be slacking off.”    
“Cool it.  I was just taking a break.”  Lena chafed at the reminder of the “incident.”  Her mother already reminded her every day.  Shoplifting!  How could her well brought up, innocent little daughter be caught shoplifting? Apparently, no one remembered that it was just one time and it was only a fine.  Well, it was a couple of times.  But she wasn’t about to cop to the whole bunch. 
“So . . . uh, learning a new trick?  I don’t think you’re supposed to throw them.”  Natalie pointed, laughing, at the cards Lena was crawling after. 
“Ha ha.  Trent got me a new magic book.  I was just practicing.” 
“How about practicing your mucking?” 
“Oh, come on, I’ve been mucking all day.  Pick a card.”  She fanned them out in front of Natalie, who sighed disapprovingly but drew one anyway.  “Put it back.”  She closed her eyes, waiting for Natalie to set it on top, then shuffled through a few times.  Sharply, she flicked the top of the deck and a card flew off. 
Natalie picked it up.  “That’s not it, Lena,” she said, anxiously looking back to the barn. 
Lena smirked.  “Nope, it’s right here.”  She reached her empty hand behind Natalie’s ear and flourished it, bringing it back with the three of spades facing out. 
Natalie snatched it.  “How did you—”
“Nope, we have to go muck, remember?”  Laughing, she put her cards in her pocket and raced Natalie away from the arena and up the hill into the barn, breathing in deep the sharp scent of hay and horse.  The central aisle was surrounded by horse stalls, all of which needed cleaning.   
Natalie smirked and shoved a rake into Lena’s hand.  “You’re lucky I don’t rat you out.  At least Ellen can’t give you detention.”   
“Hey,” Lena warned, brandishing the rake, “that was one time.”  
Lena’s brow furrowed.  “Three.  Shut up.”  
 “Better than . . .”  Natalie’s smile faded. 
             “Go on, say it.  Better than getting arrested.”  


Cover Love: Angelfall by Susan Ee

In honor of Indie Week, hosted by A Life Among the Pages, here's cover love for an indie cover that is so beautiful, I would never have known it wasn't from one of the Big Six.  It's grungy in a deep and high-res kind of way, not an I-got-brushes-from-DeviantART way.  The text is simple and clear.  The color scheme is beyond gorgeous.  It's like a painting.  I'd hang the middle bit in my house.  No joke.  If someone knows how I can get a print of it, comment me. 

And for an indie cover is an indie cover!  One of my favorite indie bands, Company of Thieves, covers one of my favorite non-indie bands.  Genevieve's voice is gorgeous beyond belief. 

Fridays in Verse: The Prophecy of Caladen

In honor of Indie Week, I decided to share the only poem currently inhabiting the Dark Moon universe.  Well, the only acceptable one.  Because, hey.  I'm still indie at the moment.  And I'm running out of poems that don't bleed with teenage emoness.  So, here you go.  Enjoy!  Bonus points if you can tell me what poem I based its meter and rhyme off of.

Where the stars shine darkly, lies the fallen blade;
That kingdoms conquered and kingdom made;
The broken key alone shall its long sleep break;
And the sons of gold its power remake. 

Poison in the mountain shall find the start;
Second in the hands of the exiles’ heart;
Third in the waters where the maidens die;
The last with the castle in the turning sky. 

With fire and blood alone shall the silver signs be read,
Of kings returned, and of kings long dead.  
To the gate of gold in the land of endless day;
The secret speaks but “Take me up” and then “Cast me away”. 


Cover Love: Entangled by Nikki Jefford

I can honestly say that this is the best indie cover I've ever seen.  While there are many decent or good covers in the indie world, it's rare for them to look so polished and professionally done.  The author's name at the bottom is a little cluttered, but otherwise, the image is crystal-clear and just gorgeous.  I feel as though I'll be drawn into some magical world ala C.S. Lewis if I open the book, and I want to what that rose is about.  

Today's cover with a cover comes to us from Right Side of the Tree.  It's (wait for it) a slowed-down, stripped-down version of Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop."  Strong language, so if you're young or offended by that sort of thing, please don't listen.  If you're like me and you have an unnatural love for ballad-y covers of rap songs, then check it out.  Watching the guys get so into it just makes it even better. 


Cover Love: Vaempires: White Christmas by Thomas Winship

In honor of Indie Week (check it out at A Life Among the Pages), I'd like to feature Thomas Winship's cover for Vaempires: White Christmas.  This cover grabbed me the instant I saw it at the bottom of his post.  Not only is it an extremely well done indie cover, but it's just an extremely well done cover ingeneral.  Simple.  Clean.  Perfectly expresses the sentiment of the title without giving too much away.  In fact, the simplicity is intriguing.  Even a little comical.  Yeah, that's a tree bulb covered in blood.  Yeah, this is going to be that kind of Christmas.  Just stunning. 

Today's cover with a cover comes to us from Story of the Year, a sort of emo / screamo band that I was obsessed with as a young teen and still very much enjoy.  It's a little scratchy since it's live, but it gets the point across.  I heard them perform this cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" when they opened for Linkin Park, back when I was in eighth grade.  I'd heard the song before but couldn't remember who did it.  I loved it.  Immediately after the concert, I bought the black album and fell in love with Metallica and metal.  The rest, as they say, is history.  

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Kim Harrington 
Coming January 1st, 2013

A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller. Jade loves the house she's just moved into with her family. She doesn't even mind being the new girl at the high school: It's a fresh start, and there's that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade's little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade's jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn't. Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house . . . is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who's seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade's school -- until her untimely death last year. It's up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?. 

What do you do with declined ARCs from NetGalley? Turn them into Waiting on Wednesdays! This comes to you from my recent ghost obsession spurred by Jeannine Garsee’s The Unquiet. The set-up isn’t particularly different from your typical haunted house thriller, but I think that’s what drew me to it. It’s classic and simple. I’m looking for a solid ghost story and I hope to find it when this comes out next year. Forewarning: Don’t just google the title. Google the author too. Or you might find a creepy truCrime book instead. I’m scarred.


Teaser Tuesday: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

"Teaser Tuesday" is a weekly feature hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  

It has been added to the Sarcasm and Lemons repertoire after the inspiration of Doodle

Neil Gaiman 

“They were small, like full-size people who had shrunk in the sun; they spoke to each other in undertones, saying things like, ‘If Your Grace has any more blooming idea of where we is than us do, I’d be grateful if he’d say so.’”

Share your own teaser link in the comments!

Indie Review: The Sin Collector by Jessica Fortunato

I’m trying something a little new with my reviewing. I always complain that I hate number ratings because they can be very skewed and unhelpful. So, I’m going to try to break it down. Inspired by S.M. Boyce.

TITLE: The Sin Collector
AUTHOR: Jessica Fortunato
PAGES: 127
FORMAT: Kindle
ISBN: B0076D11WK
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 4.5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: Anyone who likes vampires (though this is not about vampires) or Anne Rice (again, not about vampires but similar aesthetic). Anyone who’s interested in the occult. Anyone looking for a fast-paced read with light romance.

"The Sin Collector" follows the life of Liliana, a born Sin Collector. She has spent over 100 years absorbing people's sins so they may rest in peace come death. However when she meets another Collector, one who insists everything she has been taught is a lie, Liliana must make her way from sunny L.A. all the way to the streets of Madrid. Searching for answers to a question we all share. Why are we here? The friends and enemies she makes along the way only seem to blur the line between right and wrong. Can Liliana fight the Castus, an organization whose sole mission is to kill every Collector? Should she trust her head or her heart when the two most important men in her life are fighting alongside her? Then there is the worst question of all, who will be left when the dust settles?

The Basics: The Sin Collector is a rare beauty in a paranormal market overwrought with vampires and the occasional witch. Exploring the old obscure sin-eaters myths of England and Scotland, it creates a hidden world of Collectors that feels both ancient and breathtakingly new. Liliana is a childlike character with the wisdom of a century under her belt and a sarcastic tongue that keeps the tone light and makes for laugh-out-loud pages. While the other characters aren’t as strong, they’re sufficient to prop up a fast-paced plot. Once I started reading, it was a trick to put it down. 

Plot (5/5): On the whole, the plot shows very tight design. Details are planted in the beginning and woven carefully to an exciting end. Since Lily doesn’t know quite whom to trust, you as reader are also left guessing—and the final traitor, while not a complete surprise, is still a satisfying discovery. Some parts feel thin, mostly surrounding the two romances in the book (which I’ll omit to avoid spoilers). The first, I felt was strangely intense for its underpinnings. The second, I thought a little eerie, considering the previous relationship of the two characters. However, in general, the book moves at a quick and exciting pace that keeps you reading. The ending promises a thrilling sequel. 

Concept (5/5): I have little to say about the concept except “Wow!” Fortunato has a talent for breathing life into old myths and making them modern and fresh. The aesthetic reminds me of Anne Rice and her Egyptian demon vampires. On two points, however, I wished for more detail. The first is the Castus, the evil group tracking the Collectors. There were hints of their motivations, but I felt I didn’t understand them deeply enough. The second and most important is the collecting. Sin-eating is the most exciting part of this concept, but for a long time, we only hear about it. When we finally witness the ritual ourselves, the moment passes quickly and with only routine description. For such a cool idea, I would have loved to see a much more in depth exploration of the process and how it really feels

Characters (5/5): Lily was a little childish for 100, but it didn’t bother me. She never really went through the adult rites of passage. It made sense for her to be a little broken. Julia was the next best character, in that I got a good sense of her immediately. Both Olexander and Billy fell a little flat. Also, this might just be me, but I was imagining Olexander as a sort of Donald Sutherland type from the beginning and didn’t realize that he, like Lily, does not age. I just couldn’t feel as comfortable with the others as with Lily, who was very deeply portrayed. 

Style (4/5): The style was generally good and simple, a backdrop for a fast-paced plot. Lily’s voice felt consistent throughout. The only hitch was dialogue. The characters rarely used contractions and in some places, their speech sounded forced. This would pull me out of the story when it happened. However, in general, the style didn’t overpower the plot. 

Mechanics (3/5): Commas were a persistent problem, in that they were either missing or misplaced. There were a few odd grammar points. In general, the spelling was typo-free and the formatting was good. 

Take Home Message: If you’re looking for a quick read that packs a punch, pick up Jessica Fortunato’s debut—and look out for her second offering, coming this month!


ARC Review: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

TITLE: The Unquiet
AUTHOR: Jeannine Garsee
PAGES: 400
ISBN: 978-1599907239
BUY IT: Amazon
GET IT: July 17th RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8.5/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
FOR: People looking for a genuine, accurate portrayal of mental illness. Teenagers. Fans of old-timey ghost stories who want a modern twist. Anyone who likes good, solid writing. People who miss R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series.

When Rinn Jacobs moves to a new town she hopes it will be a fresh start-a place where nobody knows about her past. At first, everything goes according to plan. She falls in with the popular girls at her new school and falls for the very cute boy-next-door Nate. But River Hills High School has a secret. The ghost of a girl who died back when Rinn's mom was a student supposedly haunts a hallway. Rinn's not sure she believes it, but when strange things start happening to her friends, Rinn decides there's only one way to know for sure. She needs to ditch her bipolar meds and see what the voices are really trying to say...

The Basics: I’m not sure if it’s possible to express how much I love this book in writing. SQUEE!!!!! would probably be a good approximation. I’m a psych nerd, so any use of mental disorders will attract my attention. The difference here? Garsee does it well. Rinn is a believable, relatable character who has very severe problems—but that doesn’t stop her from being a normal teenage girl who wants to fit in. Her candid descriptions of her voices, her guilt over a past accident, and her daily struggles with reality are both moving and highly accurate. Her relationship with Nate is at just the right heat level for a high school girl, and her friendships with Lacey, Meg, and Tasha are just the right combination of sweetness and drama. This could be someone’s memoir. Now add the ghost story, and you have an exciting thriller that, almost to the end, poses a question: is it real, or just happening in Rinn’s head? The plot never lets up and the last page leaves you with a chill running down your spine.

The Breakdown: You can tell that Garsee is a psychiatric nurse. Her portrayal of Rinn’s disorder exudes authenticity, from the recollections of her manic episodes to the flatness she feels while on her meds. Rinn is just the right combination of headcase and normal teenage girl. She tries not to let her disorder define her, but she can’t help but feel trapped by it anyway. She wants to be normal, but the guilt of her past actions lingers. She’s got some spunk but she’s deeply insecure too. You can’t help but root for her from the very first page. Her voice is a relatable backdrop for a very eerie tale of a girl drowned long ago, and spooky happenings in the school’s old, rundown tunnel.

The best part of the plot is the uncertainty. All the weird goings-on toe the line between paranormal and reality. Maybe Meg really did get an ear infection. Maybe Lacey had a borderline moment and wrote that mean e-mail to her boyfriend. Maybe the oily air was just gas from the boiler room. Maybe there is a ghost, or maybe Rinn’s delusions are stronger than her meds. You don’t know—and that’s the scariest part. It’s part thriller, part mystery. Rinn is part architect to her own disaster. She can’t stop her fascination with the ghost, even as it pulls her deeper and deeper into danger. You’re half rooting for her to find answers and half screaming at her to get the hell away from this crazy town. 

And there’s always more going on under the surface than seems at first. This is a small town where everyone has secrets, and more people are connected to the ghost than you realize. Until it’s too late. And Rinn seems to be the only one who sees the horrors going on. Between the threat of danger and Rinn’s isolation, you as reader can’t help but feel the claustrophobic sense of fear that pushes Rinn deeper into the ghost’s mystery. And Garsee isn’t kind to her characters. This is a place of real danger, where no one is safe. If you can read this in the dark without shuddering, I applaud you. I couldn’t.

Solid writing, believable, flawed characters, and a tight plot that never lets up—that’s The Unquiet. Did I mention it also has a gorgeous cover? Pick it up July 17th! 

Note: I received this ARC free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The price of the book in no way impacted my stated opinions.

Disclaimer: This is not the most typical portrayal of Bipolar Disorder. It’s an extremely good portrayal of severe Bipolar Disorder. However, as always, mental disorders come on a spectrum and not everyone with this disorder is going to have psychotic hallucinations, violent experiences, etc. Also, meds are important.