Sunday, September 23, 2018

Welcome to the Dollhouse: An Interview With Jessyca Thibault

There's something about prose that ties us all together in the most intimate of ways. We seek out these lines to tell our story or to hear it reflected back to us.

It's an outlet. It's self expression. It's soul baring truth and painful realities. It's hope. Jessyca Thibault is one of the newest voices building ground of her own within the community and with the successful releases of "doll eyes." and "glass girl." I have a feeling readers will be hearing her name a lot more in the future.

I recently had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Jessyca Thibault, who I admire greatly.

During the course of this interview we discussed the poetry community, what writing means to her (and what her writing process is), how old she was when she began writing, who we have to thank for giving her an extra push when it came to self-publishing, what her mother almost named her and where she draws the most information from.

Review: To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace | Rating: ★★★★★

Amanda Lovelace does it again with her latest collection. To Make Monsters Out of Girls is her most revealing offering yet and that's saying something, given Lovelace's knack for diving straight into the more intimate parts of her thoughts. This, of course, is what makes her work so beloved in spite of her newcomer status. Amanda Lovelace continues to make a name for herself and I have a feeling she's solidified her position as one of the most well-liked poets of our time.

Armed with the same sort of raw, urgent honesty that her prior two collections showcased--Lovelace's voice has truly come into her own and once more she hits the nail on the head when it comes to the more sensitive topics of life. In To Make Monsters Out of Girls, she focuses on a dark spot in her life--during her time in the shadows, she slowly but surely finds her strength and is brought back into the life. She puts great emphasize on her past but an even greater one on her future. 

While all three of her collections focus deeply on the good and bad, there's something especially painful but striking about the honesty behind every line in To Make Monsters Out of Girls. I purchased the special edition from Target and I'm glad I did, because there was an added bonus to it. Anything extra in poetry is honestly a blessing and I so rarely use that term in a serious way.

Review: The Towering Sky (The Thousandth Floor, #3) by Katharine McGee

The Towering Sky by Katharine McGee | Rating: ★★★★★

“That was what she loved about New York. That feeling of utter aliveness, a rush and flow of ruthless, furious energy. That New York belief that this was the center of the world, and god help you if you were anywhere else.”

Katharine McGee, you just slay. You actually destroyed me. In a fun, glamorous way that I would totally allow at least a thousand more times. First of all: WOW. I cannot believe the series is... over. I adored it! It was so very fun and nostalgic; reminding me of that simple time as a pre-teen/teenager where I spent a great deal of the year in anticipation for Gossip Girl and The A-List to have new installments published. The Towering Sky was just as thrilling and seductive as the previous two installments and probably one of the funnest releases this year.

While so many series lose their dazzling factor long before it ends, The Thousandth Floor has never lost its. This is entirely due to Katharine McGee's hypnotic prose, fascinating worldbuilding and ability to write teenagers who struggle with their lives, even in all that decadent privilege. No matter how futuristic The Towering Sky, and its predecessors, is--the dramatic comings and goings of elite teenagers is just the same as they've ever been.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

Breathtaking, mesmerizing and utterly heartbreaking. A Girl Like That is bound to be one of the most loved contemporary releases this year and for good reason. Armed with a sort of cattiness that you'll only find in teenagers, this is a story worth looking into because it rings true to real life. Bhathena captures youth beautifully and embraces all its complexities, crafting a witty and vicious coming of age story.

It's bittersweet and captivating, something that you simply cannot put down.  A Girl Like That is truly and completely special.

And because of the subject matter of this book, it's not going to be for everyone. There are a lot of trigger warnings I should specify: sexual harassment, abuse, death, drug abuse, bullying and more. As always, take care of yourself if you find any of the above mentioned subjects triggering.

Needless to say, a lot is tackled in the pages of A Girl Like That and each topic is very important to discuss. Bhathena doesn't hold back in her portrayal of each and will certainly hit you straight on with emotion. She handles each topic as carefully, yet honestly, as a good writer should--showing us that she has a very promising career ahead of her.

Review: Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown | Rating: ★★★☆☆

This was one my most anticipated reads this year. Yes, I am perfectly aware that it was published before this year. However, it was new to me. Ever since I was a little girl, I'd been intrigued Princess Margaret in spite of the fact  that I'd never been too interested in the lives of royals. I found Princess Margaret to be utterly glamorous and a little rebellious and proper I knew very little of her beyond the persistent rumors of her rudeness and what history has shown us of her in photographs.

Like many people, I've grown more and more attached to her history in recent years due to the fresh portrayal of her on Netflix's The Crown. At first, I assumed that this book was setting out to be an uniquely formatted biography. Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret was not at all what I expected it to be and I am on the fence about it. The only things I am certain of are these: (1) I still am intrigued by Princess Margaret and (2) Craig Brown's prose is fantastic.

Princess Margaret was truly an enigma. Almost everyone in the world has, or had, an opinion on her. I longed to have a better understanding of who she was as a person; the good and the bad up until her death in 2002. I think to a degree I did learn quite a lot about her throughout the course of Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret, but there were a lot of moments that felt either repetitive or annoying due to their fictional nature.

Hidden Bodies (You, #2) by Caroline Kepnes

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Have you ever felt almost betrayed from a book? That's the only way I can describe just how I felt about Hidden Bodies, the highly anticipated sequel to You. Admittedly, I am a little late to the party when it comes to Kepnes' bestselling duology but when I read You earlier this year, I was blown away by the subtle creepiness in it. One of the things I loved most about You was the fact that it made me feel so unsettled and on the edge of my seat. Throughout the course of the book, I wanted to crawl out of my skin in the best way possible.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had to get my hands on Hidden Bodies. About a quarter of the way through this sequel, however, I felt my interest dwindle almost entirely. Kepnes' writing has grown stronger in terms of prose, however, there was a bit of a standstill when it came to the plotline of this book. I felt like Joe was arguably a different character--there was still that little kick of murderous madman in his blood but he also appeared to be a little more romanticized in this. And I hated that.

What made You so enjoyable was the lines blurring between Joe's violence and his almost serene sense of romance. In this novel, it felt like the writing was trying too hard to excuse his actions and that's just not something I can get into. It's gross. It's unwelcome.

Review: The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles

The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles | Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Before you guys say anything... I didn't hate this book! At all. Would I reread it? Doubtful. Would I have liked it as a teenager? Absolutely. Am I giving some serious props to the author, who was literally a teenager when she wrote this? YES. As far as plotlines go, The Kissing Booth is as sweet as can be--it's straight forward and highly out of my age range at this point. It's your typical teenage rom-com in the form of a book and you have to appreciate it for what it is, which is merely fun.

I watched the film adaptation of it before reading it, which was fun (and flawed) in its own right. The movie sparked enough curiosity in me that I picked up a copy of the book pretty soon after. The Kissing Booth is one of those rare adaptations that keeps the essence of its source material pretty well but also makes it into its own story.

Something you'll notice about Beth Reekles writing right away is that she is a sweetheart. You can just tell. And this shines in lead character, Elle. It's striking how much these kids seem like actual kids and this is entirely due to Reekles herself being so young when she penned this romance. Everything in it felt pretty genuine in terms of coming-of-age and first love stories and Reekles age both showed and didn't throughout The Kissing Booth.

Review: Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning | Rating: ★★★☆☆

Forget everything you know about the infamous villain in The Little Mermaid. While this book took a bit of time to get into, its groove not especially found straightaway, it was haunting and quite intriguing once I really got into it. Sea Witch is an interesting spin on the classic tale and it offers up a fresh and new take on the mythology behind mermaids. Sarah Henning clearly put forth a lot of work in crafting this tale and I found it to be quite enjoyable for many reasons.

I will warn you guys: the first... let's say 35% of the book wasn't the greatest. There wasn't a lot going for it. I had my reservations about whether or not the story was even compelling enough to continue. Despite its flaws, and the general slowness to it, there was still something drawing about Henning's prose. I do love mermaids and I do love a good retelling. Sea Witch is just that--a good, but not great, retelling.

That being said, there were a lot of qualities I liked about Sea Witch. The dreary tone, for example, really added a nice layer to the storytelling. It was not dreary in a painful way, but in an almost captivating and matter of fact way. You could almost see this story playing out on screen with an almost blue and gray contrast to the films colouring. I don't know if that makes sense, but I did dig it a lot. Because one of Sea Witch's strongest suits was its atmosphere.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin | Rating: ★★★☆☆

Alice Bolin's offering of Dead Girls is a solid debut. It's surely an interesting and complex read that analyzes the ever-appearing dead girl trope. Yet, it's also something I am of two minds about--which has been happening fairly often for me this year. You know when you read something and you're partly like, "Yeah. I liked this a bit." and still a bit, "But I kind of didn't like this, either."and it's just all very... puzzling? That's how I felt when finishing Dead Girls.

From an academic standpoint, every essay reads exactly as Bolin meant for it to. Highly intelligent and thought-provoking, Dead Girls really and truly gives some great insight to the title topic. Yet, the flow of each essay seemed almost a bit misplaced--and the collection itself felt quite like it wasn't marketed quite like it should have been. As someone who seemingly questions everything, I really enjoyed the criticism that Bolin brings forward on who we are as a society and what we give the most attention and coverage to.

Review: And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1) by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

Do yourself a favor, and check out this book. ASAP. I don't normally start my reviews with statements like that but And I Darken is bound to be the exception to my rule. Ditch all thoughts you might have about what this book may be like. It exceeded even my wildest dreams and, while it had some flaws, this is entirely due to the pace Kiersten White maintains during all 475 pages. Not only is her worldbuilding vivid and striking, her characters are  developed in strength, wit and viciousness, and the plotline is incredible.

Darkly enticing, the very definition of alluring, it signals what is sure to be a standout series and I'm so sad it has taken me so long to pick it up!

And I Darken reads less like a YA book and more like a standard fiction/fantasy novel, albeit a little cleaner cut. White has a prose that stands out amongst many YA authors (this isn't to say that YA is bad writing, mind you) for its crisp and full of life intelligence. Marked by its premise as a re-telling of sorts (Vlad the Impaler, for example, is now a young woman named Lada) it still feels like its own story.

Review: Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

Before I picked up Undead Girl Gang, I had a pretty good idea on what it would make me feel. I was either going to adore it or despise it. Fortunately, I adored Undead Girl Gang and was completely captivated by it. Lily Anderson really held nothing back with this book and I appreciated this immensely. Not only was it an incredibly compelling and magical mystery-thriller, complete with just the right dash of humor and romance, it was a pretty accurate look at, well, life. And death. And all those little moments in between.

As a whole, Undead Girl Gang hit all the right notes for so many genres I cannot begin to explain. Secondly, it was a truly unique coming of age story that will leave readers on the edge of their seat. Anderson gets really creative both with her prose and characters, the premise only grows more and more enjoyable as the story unravels. If you are a fan of contemporary YA, this book will be right up your alley. If you aren't typically a fan of these types of story, the supernatural elements and dark humor will satisfy your desires for something more. Most importantly, you'll love the characters and the bonds they form in unlikely circumstances.

Undead Girl Gang gives off the impression, at first glance that it could be one of two things. (1) Just a simple slasher novel, with a ghostly twist or (2) A ZOMBIE TALE. It's neither of those things but also, kind of, something that takes tropes from both of these. We meet our main character, a teenage witch, Mila, quickly after the quick, unexpected, deaths of her best friend and two other classmates.

Review: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente | Rating: ★★★☆☆

"Life is beautiful and life is stupid. As long as you keep that in mind, and never give more weight to one than the other, the history of the galaxy, the history of a planet, the history of a person is a simple tune with lyrics flashed on-screen and a helpful, friendly bouncing disco ball of glittering, occasionally peaceful light to help you follow along. Cue the music. Cue the dancers. Cue tomorrow."

For many years, I'd heard nothing but rave reviews when it came down to Valente's prior releases. Immediately, I saw in it just what everyone had been saying all along--she's got a beautiful prose. In truth, Catherynne M. Valente could probably write about an orange being set on fire and thrown into space and it would still sound so much more stunning than most of her peers. For me, Space Opera was gorgeously executed with a highly captivating premise--it just wasn't entirely my cup of tea and, at times, hit some slower points.

This isn't to say that I didn't enjoy Space Opera. I really did like a good chunk of it! The start pulled me in, but somewhere about 25-75% of the way through I felt myself losing interest. Then, right around that 75% mark, it picked itself up again. Still, Valente's writing is what made me keep up and continue on--it was much less about her skills as an author and much more about my inability to connect with the story for one reason or another.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis | Rating: ★★★★★

So. How does one describe Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now in a single word? Remarkable. This book is truly and completely a remarkable, thought-provoking, heart-wrenching, and at times stomach curdling, read. Dana L. Davis really knocked it out of the park with this one and left me in shambles by the time the story reached its end.

Every year, I feel like there are less and less books that are able to actual evoke genuine emotions from me. But, Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now quite frankly owned me from the very start and was so, so gripping. I will never forget this book. Ever. It is truly an impossible to put down read. Even moreso, it's an impossible to forget novel and one of the best debuts of all time.

When I was younger, the first time I remember reading and having a good cry over a book was Candle in the Wind by Maureen Crane Wartski and The Girl Death Left Behind by Lurlene McDaniel. Last year saw the very emotionally charged releases of Dear Martin by Nic Stone, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now joins the ranks of these books in the sense that it will truly move you.

Review: I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon | Rating: ★★★☆☆

“The thing Anna has always hated most about being a small woman is the disadvantage she has in situations like this. People assume they can touch you, pat you, shake your hand without permission. They assume that if your size is little more than that of a child, you must be one. That you can be talked down to or coerced. It is hard for a small person to be intimidating or to be taken seriously. This lack of stature has forced Anna to develop other skills through the years: to sharpen her wit, to treat her tongue like a blade and her mind like a whetstone.” 

Like so many people my age, I first heard of the Romanov family through the animated film Anastasia. It wasn't until years later--when I was only just a teenager--that I began to understand the story behind the highly romanticized tale. I was horrified and intrigued. The year in question, we were watching a documentary in history class on Romanov imposters. I don't recall the details of which imposters were talked about, but I remember asking myself: "What would possess someone to feign their identity as a long lost member of the imperial family, who were long dead?"

There is still a part of me that wonders what it was they were thinking. Financial gain. Mental illness. There were so many possibilities. I Was Anastasia is a highly vivid historical fiction release that is told backwards, and in split narration. We begin at the end of the life of Anna Anderson, one of the most infamous faux Anastasia impersonators, and the way the story unfolds from their is unique and engrossing.