• Book Review: DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE by Becky Blades

    woman standing on pile of laundry
    I read a lot of advice books. Trust me when I say this: DO YOUR LAUNDRY OR YOU’LL DIE ALONE by Becky Blades stands out from the rest of the graduation-gift-book pack. It’s not only informative, but also insightful, entertaining, funny, and a breath of fresh air.

    Book Summary

    When Becky Blades sent her firstborn daughter off to Harvard, she knew the world’s top-ranked college would not be covering the most important material: how to be kind, happy, and appropriate in public; how to protect oneself from sock monsters, boring conversations, and scary dates; and why you should keep your clothes clean. So the day before classes started, Blades emailed a good-bye letter with motherly advice she had kept to herself for a year. Just in time for her youngest daughter’s graduation from high school, Blades illustrated the prose with her signature mixed-media artwork, creating a thought-provoking, conversation-starting book. With warmth, wit, and a hint of motherly sass, Do Your Laundry, or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give If She Thought You Were Listening blends bite-sized morsels of coming-of-age common sense with tiny essays on more substantial topics.

    My Thoughts

    The book is a collection of “warm, witty, and wise coming-of-age common sense.” The entries range from lighthearted (“Keep at least one stuffed animal”) to lenghty (essays on topics like phone etiquette and forgiveness). Unlike many other “gift” books, this one takes advantage of humor, witticism, and colorful graphics scattered throughout. I liked looking at the myriad designs almost as much as I enjoyed reading the book.

    This is the book I wish I’d gotten as a graduation present. Blades offers a unique blend of advice and comedy in a style that is entirely new. Here are some of my favorite bits of wisdom from the book:

    If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. You’re smart enough to think of something nice.

    Make something every day.

    Don’t press ‘send’ in the heat of emotion.

    The best way to glow is to shine the spotlight on someone else.

    Reading is sexy.

    Do something nice or good every day and tell no one.

    Have a list of things you like to do that don’t cost money.

    Of course, there are hundreds of other tips in this book for you to take advantage of. It’s difficult for me to choose my favorites. If you want to read Becky Blades’ wisdom for yourself, you can purchase this book in various formats through Amazon, Indie Bound, Barnes & Noble, and Rainy Day Books. Go get your copy today!

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

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  • Book Review: IRKADURA by Ksenia Anske

    little mouse in the palm of someone's hand
    Why did I wait so long to dive into this book? I held onto it for month before cracking it open to reveal the decadent darkness inside. All that time wasted. I could’ve loved this book sooner.

    Let’s get one thing straight: Ksenia Anske is brilliant. Really, she is. I read her novel ROSEHEAD in one sitting over the summer, and I read IRKADURA without stopping, too. I couldn’t put it down. Anske’s prose is dark and dreamy. She evokes a mood that is haunting yet real; scary yet sublime.

    And I loved every minute of it.

    This review is going to be short and sweet in an effort to avoid gushing.

    Plot Summary

    Irina Myshko is a sixteen-year-old Soviet girl who doesn’t speak. Why? She’s suffered decades of abuse at the hands (and other parts) of her mother’s boyfriends, and she’s been coping by escaping to an alternate reality. In this world, people’s true natures are revealed and they manifest themselves as animals.

    When Irina becomes pregnant, homeless, and penniless, she must figure out a way to survive in the world long enough to keep the impending madness at bay.

    The chapters are composed of short scenes that jump from one event to the next without wasting time. The pacing is fast, but not too fast. Also, there are no digressions. There weren’t any sections I wanted to skip. That’s the mark of an excellent story right there.

    My Thoughts

    This book unnerved me in the best way possible. I’ve heard a lot of good things about IRKADURA. All of them are true. The story is told from Irina’s POV, in first-person present tense. This style makes the plot much more immediate – as a reader, it felt like everything were actually happening to me.

    The events of the novel stick in your mind, as does the imagery Anske evokes. After finishing IRKADURA, I dreamed I was pregnant with a boar. Weird stuff, people. Weird, but good.

    It’s darker than my usual reading fare, believe it or not, but it’s an incredible novel. If you want to read something that will stay with you long after you’ve put it away, you might want to go out and buy IRKADURA.

    What did you think of IRKADURA? If you haven’t read it yet, how do you think it sounds?

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  • Book Review: UNWIND by Neal Shusterman

    Tray of Surgical Instruments
    Photo Credit: phalinn on Flickr

    I first heard about UNWIND several years ago. I can’t remember where. All I know for certain is that it intrigued me. So, I had to read it.

    “Have you heard of Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND?” someone asked me. “It’s really disturbing.” Right away, I was hooked. “It has to do with abortion. It’s so controversial. You like that stuff, don’t you?” Of course I do. I couldn’t wait to read that book.

    I waited anyway. I’m not sure why.

    A few days ago, I decided I was tired of waiting. I picked up UNWIND and dove right in. And once I started reading, it was almost impossible for me to stop. This book made me lose sleep. I just couldn’t put it down. Keep reading to hear more of my thoughts on this controversial and compelling literary work.

    Plot Summary

    In the world of UNWIND, all pro-life and pro-choice advocates have reached an uneasy truce: there will be no more abortions, but when a child turns thirteen, the parents can decide whether or not to have them retroactively terminated, or unwound.

    Without giving too much away, unwinding is a shocking process that involves redistributing every part of someone’s body without killing them. I told you it was shocking.

    UNWIND tells the story of three different teenagers scheduled for unwinding. Connor is a rebel and a natural leader whose reckless behavior has gotten out of hand. Risa is a ward of the state who is too expensive to keep around. And Lev is something called a tithe, destined for unwinding as part of his family’s religious beliefs. When their paths collide, they figure out a way to escape their fates. The question is, though, how long can they keep running?

    My Thoughts

    The premise of this novel is simultaneously engrossing and revolting. Reading it was like driving by a car accident–I knew I should look away, but I couldn’t help staring. Without spoiling anything, the scene with Roland toward the end of the book is one of the most horrifying passages I’ve ever read. Thanks for that, Neal Shusterman.

    In spite of my nightmares, I have to admit that this book is incredible. I didn’t want to put it down. If you have a strong stomach and want to read something that will make your skin crawl, pick up UNWIND by Neal Shusterman.

    What do you think of UNWIND? What’s the most disturbing book you’ve ever read?

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  • Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

    Photo credit: Lauren Reads YA on Tumblr

    I waited too long to read this novel. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a life-changing book. I’m not saying that lightly. This book changed my life.

    The world needs more books like this one. We need more female characters like Cath. She’s a passionate young woman who loves writing fanfiction and doesn’t let her anxiety ruin her life.

    As someone who suffers from anxiety, I’ve waited my whole life for a book like this to make me feel normal. Cath’s thoughts and behaviors are all too familiar to me. Even though no official diagnosis is given, it’s pretty clear that she, too, suffers from anxiety. Throughout the book, however, it’s obvious that her fears don’t ruin her life. She’s able to enjoy her hobbies, make friends, and even fall in love. The anxiety never goes away, but she’s able to cope with it all the same.

    I can’t think of a single aspect of this book that I didn’t love. From Cath and Wren’s complicated relationship to the magical world of Simon and Baz, I didn’t want the story to end. A wild, lovely ride from start to finish, this book will sink its teeth in you and not let go after you’ve finished reading it.

    The next time you’re looking for a deep yet entertaining YA read, pick up a copy of Fangirl. You won’t be disappointed.

    Have you read Fangirl? What do you think of it?

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  • Book Review: ELLA by Stephen John Moran

    Book Review: ELLA by Stephen John Moran -- If you're looking for a dark read that;s tough to put down, check out this book. | brianawrites.blogspot.com

    ELLA is a novel by Stephen John Moran, published in 2014.

    I first became acquainted with the novel on Twitter, when I was followed by Ella Thomas’ (fictional) account. From there, I began interacting with the character as well as her author. I grew somewhat familiar with the “world” of the story and snatched up the novel as soon as it was published.

    Ella Thomas is a young woman who is much more menacing than she appears. Plagued by a dark past, she utilizes her charm and sexual prowess to lure and murder terrible men. She travels cross-country to meet up with her lover, Ray; work on her novel, and gather some “real-world” experience–all while dealing with the horrible memories dredged up by her writing.

    I had no idea what to expect from this book. I knew it would be dark, but Moran justifies the darkness well. Nothing happens for the sake of happening. The story is character- rather than plot-driven, and I had no problem seeing the motivations behind Ella’s actions.

    If I have one problem with the book, that is its brevity. Although it is packed with emotional and mental angst (in the best way possible), I wanted more. Still, Moran plans to write several other books in the same vein as ELLA, so I can’t complain too much.

    If you’re looking for a dark, psychological read that’s tough to put down, purchase ELLA on Amazon right away. The book is available in Kindle and paperback format. For more information about Stephen Moran and his writings, you can visit his website here.

    How do you feel about “darker” books? What book would you like me to review next?

  • Book Review: Next Year, Things Will Be Different

    Photo credit: <a href=http://www.designedbystarla.com/next-year-things-will-be-different/>Designed by Starla</a>
    Photo Credit: Designed by Starla
    Note: This post is not paid for or sponsored in any way. All opinions are entirely my own. Got a book you’d like me to review? Get in touch using my contact form and I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

    As a writer and blogger, sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to review a novel or a short story collection. This time around, I read Next Year, Things Will Be Different: A Collection of Short Stories by Tyramir Ross, John Biscarner, and J. C. Sayer and edited by Chris Forshner. I love reading YA fiction, so I was eager to dive right in. Here’s a breakdown of the stories that make up the collection:
    • Next Year by Tyramir Ross. Walker may not have finished high school yet, but he and his team are certainly finishing off every one of the G’laek they can. Now they face one of the oldest and most powerful of the ancient demons they have encountered. Can Walker use the power granted to him in Quellios of the Rising Waves, the great staff that conjures fire, as well as his own brains to save himself and his friends?
    • Illusion Of Choice by John Biscarner. When given the chance to have everything your heart desires, what would you ask for? Many of us have thought of what we would ask for, but have we ever really thought about the consequences of said wishes? Darren, a young teen, has been asked a simple question:  “What do you want from life?”
    • The Garbage Man’s Boy by J.C. Sayer. In the 1950s, the small northern Ontario town of Mallieu was terrorised by a serial killer named the Ferry Man.  Ron, the Garbage Man’s Boy, navigates small town politics in the wake of these murders, finding hidden truths he probably shouldn’t have found, while trying to protect the ones he loves from a terrible fate.
    I love all of these stories. Each of them has well-crafted prose, believable characters, and an engaging plot. They combine everyday concerns with magic and a touch of darkness. Although “Next Year” and “Illusion of Choice” are based more in fantasy than “The Garbage Man’s Boy,” I find them no less appealing. 

    Overall, these three stories succeed because they weave facets of adolescence–such as coming-of-age, loss of innocence, and the desire to find one’s place in the world–among the threads of narrative arc.
    The only problem I have with the work is that it is so short. I didn’t want it to end. It’s been a while since I read a decent short story collection, and I’m pleased to say that this one didn’t let me down. If you’re looking for some new YA fiction to read, give this amazing collection a try.
    If you’d like to read Next Year, Things Will Be Different, you can purchase it on Smashwords for 1.99 USD.

    What short story collections have you read and enjoyed? Which of these stories sounds most interesting to you?
  • Book Review: The Successful Novelist by David Morrell

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    David Morrell is a genius.

    There’s no getting around that fact. After reading this book, I am more than convinced that this man has more writing talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body.

    I digress.

    When I mentioned on Twitter that Stephen King’s On Writing is one of the most influential books about writing that I have ever read, someone suggested that I look up David Morrell’s book The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing.

    I’m delighted I did.

    This book, like King’s, provides a veritable treasure trove of knowledge regarding the craft and the business of writing. However, Morrell takes a much more practical approach, giving out advice for you to use in your daily writing sessions. King’s book is largely memoir with some practical bits sprinkled in. On the whole, Morrell seems so much more approachable.

    The Successful Novelist is suitable for writers of all skill levels. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been writing for ages, this book is for you.

    It’s also short, succinct, and easy to read and understand. What more could you want?

    Go out and pick up your copy today. This book will change your life.

    Have you read this book? What did you think of it? What book would you like to see me review next?

    P.S. Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown.

  • Book Review: Morning Glory by Allison Blanchard

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    Having read Allison Blanchard’s debut novel Forget Me Not, I was thrilled to have the chance to read and review the sequel. Morning Glory continues the story of Adeline, a high school girl whose ordinary life is turned upside down when she encounters a boy named Cole and his native traditions. Blanchard’s new novel is the perfect blend of depth, drama, and romance. Her stellar cast of characters, dedication to narrative, and attention to detail make Morning Glory an even greater success than Forget Me Not. This book is fantastic.

    Fans of the first novel’s protagonist Adeline will not be disappointed by her portrayal in this sequel. Blanchard stays true to Adeline’s character throughout this novel, and I had a difficult time finding anything that did not feel true to character. My other two favorites, Cole and Emma, are given an equally respectful treatment. The relationships established in the first novel are deepened and explored further in this sequel. Because fiction is about people, I loved Blanchard’s depth of characters and exploration of family, friendly, and romantic relationships throughout her new book.

    Another quality that makes this sequel worth reading is Blanchard’s dedication to the established narrative. Blanchard reminds the reader of the legend established in Forget Me Not while adding details that enhance the realism of the mythology. She also does an excellent job of keeping up with her characters’ histories and backstories (I’d like to know how she does it because I could use a few pointers).

    With a whole mythology to look after, it’s impressive that Blanchard does not slack off when it comes to her attention to detail. As with the backstories, Blanchard makes certain that every part of the legend exists for a reason–that is, every seemingly-insignificant detail coincides with something that happens in the story. Nothing happens unless it needs to. This level of attention is something that I have the utmost respect for.

    My only complaint about the novel? At times, it seemed that there was too much convenience. Certain events felt contrived rather than inevitable. Without giving too much away, I had a hard time believing the identity of the man who pulled Adeline from the river. Even then, Blanchard did her very best to convince me, which is why I am reluctant to list this single grievance.

    This sequel is as good as, if not better than, its predecessor. I enjoyed every second of the book and found it difficult to put down. If you loved Forget Me Not, or if you’re in the market for a new kind of paranormal romance, you need to check out Blanchard’s work.

    You can purchase Blanchard’s debut novel on Amazon. She also has a blog that you can view here.

    Want me to review your book? Comment or send me an email! I’d love to get in touch with you.

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  • Book Review: Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson

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    I’ve read and reviewed plenty of books in my time. Some of these books have been written by individuals that I have not known personally (the vast majority. in fact). However, some of these books have been written by friends or colleagues with whom I am well-acquainted. When reviewing these books, I have to be careful to stay objective. I usually pretend that the book I’m reviewing was written by someone else entirely, someone that I don’t know, in order to give the review the emotional distance it deserves.

    And if the book is bad (oh, God forbid it), then I lie. When my friend or neighbor or loved one asks me what I thought about the book, I spit half-truths through gritted teeth. This approach takes a great deal of energy and usually results in me feeling exhausted and unfulfilled by the conversation.

    When it comes to Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, though, I’m happy to say that I do not have to lie. This book is fantastic. Let’s talk about it.

    Here’s the book description from Amazon.com: “Not all lives seem connected, but when a storm hits in St. Laurent’s, Alaska, the lives of many are thrown together. They find that their lives weren’t really so far apart to begin with, but quite the opposite.”

    Throughout the novel, the people of St. Laurent’s, Alaska interact and develop relationships with one another. Thompson handles their backstories with a masterful touch, revealing details only when they are relevant to the present action. Although the novel is short, it contains a great deal of emotional and psychological depth and character growth. The prose in and of itself is an absolute delight.

    Thompson’s latest novel is a treat. Oleanders in Alaska presents the struggles, triumphs, and journeys of the citizens of a small Alaskan town. It is a pleasure to read and even more so to review. If you love literary fiction, you should consider this novel your next must-read.

    Want me to review your book? Email me or leave a comment!

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  • Book Review: Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

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    I’ll be the first one to tell you that I love scary things. Whether it be books, movies, or video games, I love any story that gives me the creeps. Blame my weird fascination with horror on R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and the television show Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Whatever the cause, I love anything that frightens me. And Flowers in the Attic is no exception. Note: this review contains some spoilers.

    I feel like I’m the last person in the world to have heard about this book. V. C. Andrews wrote it in 1979, so it has certainly been around for a while. The book achieved widespread popularity after its release, selling over forty million copies worldwide. In 1987, it was adapted into a movie. Somehow, though, I still hadn’t encountered it until discovering it on a list of contemporary classics. I’m so happy that I found it.

    The narrator of the novel is Catherine Dollanganger, a young girl who wants to grow up to become a ballerina. After Catherine’s father dies in an automobile accident, Catherine’s family loses all of their money and possessions. Corinne, Catherine’s mother, moves her four children (Christopher, Catherine, Cory, and Carrie) out of their family home and into the house where she’d lived as a child. Corinne’s wealthy parents have written her out of their will, and she hopes to win back her father’s approval and secure a stable future for herself and for her children.

    Upon arriving at Foxworth Hall, the house of Corinne’s parents, the children discover that the grandfather has no idea that they exist. Apparently, he and the grandmother would view them as an abomination because they are the product of incest. Corinne goes along with the grandmother’s plan to hide her children in the attic. The mother assures the children that they will only have to stay in the attic for one night. The next morning, she says, they can come out into the open.

    Needless to say, the children spend a great deal more time in the attic than they anticipate. Without giving too much away, days turn into weeks and months and even years. As the children grow older, they also grow weaker. Could it be that their mother has no intention of ever letting them out of the attic?

    Flowers in the Attic is a chilling story that reveals the dark side of human nature and the capacity for imagination and innovation in children. This book is certainly not a light read, but it’s hard to put down. If you’re looking for something haunting, psychological, and intense, be sure to pick up V. C. Andrews’ bestselling novel.

    Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

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