Clicking in the New Year

My three words for 2018 are detox, declutter, and self-care. All three, I hope, will affect my reading this year in positive ways.

With that in mind, here are the five e-book titles I “clicked” today:

1. 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal While I don’t usually spend time reading nonfiction, I’m hoping that “small steps” will help me further my goals this year. I tend to get overwhelmed by (and then ultimately abandon) big projects, unfortunately.

2. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

I’ve wanted to be a published author as long as I can remember. Like the book listed above, I’m hoping the “routine” and “focus” bits will help this gargantuan task become a manageable reality.

3. Nest by Terry Goodkind

As a fan of fictional thrillers, I can’t resist a cover with a striking center image–especially one so “vulnerable” as an eyeball. Not to mention, this compelling description on its Amazon page:  “a complete reinvention of the contemporary thriller. Travel with Goodkind on a dangerous journey to the back alleys of the darknet, to the darkest corners of our minds, and to the very origins of what it is to be human.”

4. Twisted by Andrew E. Kaufman

Another cover I couldn’t resist. Plus, any tale that starts with the protagonist, a psychiatric hospital psychologist, “overseeing a unit known as Alpha Twelve, home to the most deranged and psychotic killers imaginable” is right up my alley. The thin, tenuous line between sanity and insanity has always intrigued me. In asylum-themed works of fiction, I like determining which characters are actually the “good” ones. (Think Gothika, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, American Horror Story: Asylum, Shutter Island, etc.)

5. Obsession by Amanda Robson

This book purports to be a “page-turner,” and that’s what I’m looking for in a read these days. Currently priced at 99 pennies, I figured it was worth a look.

 

Happy clicking in the new year, friends!

Advertisements

2017 Recap: Holly’s “Best Of” in Books & Film

Unfortunately, the stress and distraction of the first half of 2017 eclipsed recreational activities for me. Less leisure time resulted in fewer books read and an unintentional lapse in self-care.

As a result, I made some changes during the second half of the year: I decluttered, learned to say “no” when necessary (for my own peace of mind), and restructured my priorities.

I don’t want to be busy or harried 24/7, always worried about the next item on a to-do list. Instead, I want to be less “preoccupied” with minutia and more mindful regarding my own personal goals and the people who matter most in my life.

That said, I started reading for me again in the latter half of this year—mindlessly browsing Kindle deals, stumbling upon new authors, experiencing new-to-me genres and topics.

My favorites from what I read this year are listed below (with #1 being my top favorite)*:

1. Desert Flowers by Paul Pen (literary fiction/psychological thriller)

2. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison (psychological thriller)

3. Hell House by Richard Matheson (haunted house horror)

4. Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin (dark & graphic psychological thriller)

5. Disclaimer by Renee Knight (suspenseful psychological thriller)

 

I also watched a number of excellent films this year, as I consider well-made movies to be “literature”—a reflection of culture and humankind—in their own right. Listed below are my favorites, titles which earned the distinction because they’re though-provoking, surprising, and memorable:

1. The Ninth Configuration (literary/philosophical)

2. Hell House LLC (slow-burn horror)

3. The Invitation (slow-burn psychological thriller)

4. Intruders (psychological thriller)

5. Sleep Tight, English subtitled (psychological thriller)

Runners up (in film):

  • Eden Lake (literary/psychological thriller)

 

NOTE: Although I bought (rather than rented) this film digitally, I haven’t watched it a second time. Eden Lake is brilliantly-made, its heavy message conveyed through superb acting, sustained tension, and plot twists. Both cringe-worthy and anxiety-inducing, one viewing was all it took for me. And some scenes are still branded on my brain.

Random find, pleasant surprise. And who doesn’t love Brian Austin Green?!

Strays from cliché slasher territory to the credit of a strong heroine and an unexpected twist.

Impressive cast!

 

    •  

      *Classifications in parentheses are my opinion, not necessarily how the works are categorized by their creators or online retailers. Also, I’m not suggesting that any of these titles were published or released in 2017, merely that I experienced them this year for the first time.

Must-Watch Monday: Horror Films

Hell House LLC

Hell House LLC tells the partial, disjointed story of a company (i.e. a group of friends) that designs and runs haunted houses each year. Although I stumbled upon the movie by accident, it has since become one of my favorite Halloween-themed titles.

Brief comedic reprieves in Hell House LLC—courtesty of Paul, my favorite character—lighten the otherwise slow-building tension. Suspense and mystery are what this film does best, leaving several elements of the friends’ journey open to speculation and interpretation. Documentary-style storytelling (interviews, found footage, and secondhand video) works in the film’s favor, especially when it comes to nailing down what actually happened “that night” in 2009.

Amazon Instant Video (FREE for Prime members): http://amzn.to/2ycnavl

__________________________________________________________________

Martyrs

First, to watch and understand Martyrs, one must be prepared to read subtitles (unless fluent in French).

Second, this movie is NOT for the faint of heart.

To me, it’s almost divided into two halves, the second of which seems to take an entirely different turn. While some of the violence and gore may be construed as gratuitous, much of it serves a purpose that isn’t revealed until the end of the film. One image in particular is seared into my memory. I won’t forget it soon…or ever.

WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Amazon Instant Video: http://amzn.to/2xuoLOw

__________________________________________________________________

Sinister

Sinister is one of few horror films to affect my ability to sleep and feel safe in my own home. (In fact, the only others I can remember are Candyman and The Unborn, after watching both back-to-back at a sleepover in the seventh grade.)

Not only is Ethan Hawke’s acting top-notch, but the director does a fabulous job of balancing “jumpy” scenes with an ever-increasing intensity that reaches its crescendo at the movie’s close.

Let’s just say my husband wasn’t thrilled when the lamp by my bedside stayed on stayed on that night.

Amazon Instant Video (to rent or buy): http://amzn.to/2yccWeE

DVD: http://amzn.to/2yCkWac

 

****Stay tuned for more horror-themed movie reviews throughout the month!****

October: The Season of Horror

It’s FINALLY October, the season of horror films!

Maybe it was AMC’s FearFest, or a similar movement from Chiller TV, that first got me hooked on the genre and medium. Either way, I’ve become a self-professed horror film “connoisseur” in the last few years, and I’d love to pass my recommendations along to viewers of like minds.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll bypass a defense of the genre and its fans here (although I did have my students read Stephen King’s article “Why We Crave Horror Movies” this semester).

Some people don’t understand those of us who watch, analyze, and re-watch scary movies. And that’s okay….

To each their own!

Although a departure from the blog’s titular entertainment medium, I’ll be doing several film features this month, all revolving around the scary, the horrific, the suspenseful, the dark.

To kick it off, I’ll share an article that was shared with me: “Here’s 31 Underrated Creepy, Disturbing, and Downright Scary Films You Can Watch Throughout October”. My plan is to watch and review all of these, while also highlighting some of my favorite all-time horror films.

If this subject matter appeals to you, stick with me this month as we cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time! And if this subject matter doesn’t appeal to you, keep following our Facebook page for book-related posts, per usual. 🙂

~Holly

Cover Reveal: Saving Mercy by Abbie Roads

SavingMercyHighRes


Saving Mercy by Abbie Roads

Series: Fatal Truth Series
Genre: Dark Romantic Thriller
Publication Date: April 4, 2017

AVAILABLE ON NETGALLEY

PRE-ORDER NOW
Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Google

add-to-goodreads-button

He’s found her at last…

Cain Killion knows himself to be a damaged man. His only redeeming quality? The extrasensory connection to blood that he uses to catch killers. His latest case takes a macabre turn when he discovers a familiar and haunting symbol linking the crime to his horrific past—and the one woman who might understand what it means.

Only to lose her to a nightmare

Mercy Ledger is brave, resilient, beautiful—and in terrible danger. The moment Cain finds her the line between good and evil blurs and the only thing clear to them is that they belong together. Love is the antidote for blood—but is their bond strong enough to overcome the madness that stalks them?

Continue reading

Book Review: Love & Rockets by Maggie Wells

Love & RocketsLove & Rockets by Maggie Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another gem from witty wordsmith Maggie Wells!

Third in the Coastal Heat series, Love & Rockets follows in the footsteps of the previous installments: the title can be read as a standalone romance, and it stands out among its peers as superbly written.

Maggie’s use of the English language never fails to amaze me. While reading, I often think: “Wow, I never would have thought to express __________ in that way.” Rather than watered down prose, her vocabulary and syntax challenge readers, giving credit to their intellect and/or powers of deduction.

Like the other titles in the Coastal Heat series, Love & Rockets features relatable, well-developed characters and sources of conflict that readers can identify with: family tensions, societal hierarchies, career demands, and—last but not least—the treacherous “dating” landscape.

A Maggie Wells hero has chinks in his armor, a source of vulnerability that makes him human (one of my favorite aspects of the author’s storytelling). Her heroines, on the other hand, wear pride and independence like a badge and struggle to admit when they need help. This dynamic, when aired with the author’s mastery of the craft, never fails to deliver a page-turner.

Finally, I found the aspects of Jake’s job to be well-researched, and I liked that the novel’s rhetorical devices (i.e. descriptions and comparisons) often revolved around the subject of space science. The latter adds an extra layer of “art” to an already well-written novel.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Race the Darkness by Abbie Roads

Race the Darkness (Fatal Dreams, #1)Race the Darkness by Abbie Roads
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

REALLY impressed with this debut from Abbie Roads!

As Race the Dawn’s premise is quite complex, I really didn’t know what to expect from the title. Preternatural elements, religious fanaticism, and convoluted interpersonal relationships make this a difficult read to categorize. For me, it strikes a balance between my two favorite genres, romance and mystery/suspense, with a sprinkling of paranormal thrown in to keep readers on their toes.

Learning about Xander’s ability, post-trauma, gets the novel off to an interesting start. The hook did its job of investing me in the characters and action, and the momentum never lapsed. Thankfully, there was no sagging middle to contend with. Instead, the action chugs along at a steady pace, offering readers a new discovery in nearly every chapter.

The author’s writing really impressed me. Her vivid descriptions held me captive (no pun intended), and even the villains had a complexity and depth to them that goes beyond the typical good guy-bad guy scenario.

Race the Dawn is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. As this one was a win for me, I’ve already started on another from the author (Hunt the Dawn).

View all my reviews

New Release: Peace of Infinity by Maegan Abel

Title: Peace of Infinity
Author: Maegan Abel
Release Date: Sept 19, 2016
Add on Goodreads
Soul Mates.
Two words that bring out a wide range of meanings, depending on who you’re asking.
According to Evangelie Walker, the women in her family are cursed. She’s watched this curse run rampant her entire life and she’s not about to fall into the trap. To protect herself, Evie keeps everyone at arm’s length, aside from her sister, Cara.
Things are a little different for Gavin Jericho. He’s spent his life waiting for Evie, just like he always does. He knows, without a doubt, she’ll appear at some point and the hollow ache he always feels during the wait will give way to the completeness she brings.
There are theories about soul mates ranging anywhere from completely romanticized Fiction to scientific belief of one soul separated into two bodies. But is it a blessing or a curse to be tied so undeniably to another soul?
Can you find peace in your Infinity?
I wanted to scream. I wanted to beg him to look at me, really look at me, and tell me how to let him in the way he wanted. I just wasn’t enough, even though I tried. And that killed.
“I’m the kind of bitch who is usually proud of that title. I’m the kind of bitch who wears that title like fucking armor.” My voice wobbled and it pissed me off. His expression didn’t change and that just hurt more. How could he bring me to the brink of breaking and not even care? “I’m the kind of bitch who is just barely not bitch enough to pretend that it doesn’t bother me that you see me as a bitch.”
He pushed up, coming to stand right in front of me again, and I did everything in my power not to run away from him and the damage he could cause. This was only the beginning of what Infinity could do and I knew that, but I wasn’t sure I could stop it now. His hand lifted, almost like he was going to touch me, but at the last second, he raked his fingers through his own hair instead. “You’re trying to protect yourself from the wrong things, Evie. You’re guarding yourself on the wrong side and I’m afraid—no, I’m actually fucking terrified that by the time you open your eyes and see that, it’s going to be too late.”
Maybe it was already too late.
“It’s easier to give up everything now than to see how good it can really be and lose it,” I whispered, keeping my eyes on his with a great deal of effort.
He shook his head. “That’s just it. You won’t lose it. This thing between us, that’s the way it works. We all live, we all die, we all start over. The best part of that is knowing that when we start over, we have someone there the next time. And the next.” He sighed and this time he cupped my cheeks with his warm hands. I hadn’t taken the time to really enjoy the way his big hands felt when they touched me. Any part of me. I needed to. “This is the beauty of Infinity. This. Us. Knowing we will always find one another again.”
I had no words. None.
He bent his forehead to mine and closed his eyes. My body shuddered as his sigh washed over me, then he tilted his head up and pressed his lips to my forehead.
“I meant what I said earlier,” he whispered against my skin, the position keeping me from being able to see his face. “I have always loved you. And I always will.” It hit me all at once then. His words felt like goodbye, and it terrified me. My hands came up of their own accord, grabbing his back near his shoulders as if I could hold him to me…as if I could keep us together by sheer force of will.
But I couldn’t find my voice. My fear choked me and kept me from saying the words that would make him stay.
Maegan despises writing about herself in the third person. She also hates touting her accomplishments like she thinks she’s really done anything special…
Now that we got that out of the way, I’ll tell you what you need to know. I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I went back to school in my late twenties and studied Stage Production Technology. I now work full-time in the alterations shop of a major department store and part-time backstage in the various theatres around the area.
I’ve been an avid reader from a very young age and the top goal on my list of things to accomplish in my life was to write and publish a book. During the summer of 2013, while working backstage on The Lion King, I read eleven books in four weeks. I read my first New Adult book and was introduced to a genre I felt I could totally relate to. The idea for Perfectly Broken and the character of Lili was born backstage during that time.
   

 

Cover Reveal: Peace of Infinity by Maegan Abel

Title: Peace of Infinity
Author: Maegan Abel
Release Date: Sept 19, 2016
Add on Goodreads
Soul Mates.
Two words that bring out a wide range of meanings, depending on who you’re asking.
According to Evangelie Walker, the women in her family are cursed. She’s watched this curse run rampant her entire life and she’s not about to fall into the trap. To protect herself, Evie keeps everyone at arm’s length, aside from her sister, Cara.
Things are a little different for Gavin Jericho. He’s spent his life waiting for Evie, just like he always does. He knows, without a doubt, she’ll appear at some point and the hollow ache he always feels during the wait will give way to the completeness she brings.
There are theories about soul mates ranging anywhere from completely romanticized Fiction to scientific belief of one soul separated into two bodies. But is it a blessing or a curse to be tied so undeniably to another soul?
Can you find peace in your Infinity?
Maegan despises writing about herself in the third person. She also hates touting her accomplishments like she thinks she’s really done anything special…
Now that we got that out of the way, I’ll tell you what you need to know. I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I went back to school in my late twenties and studied Stage Production Technology. I now work full-time in the alterations shop of a major department store and part-time backstage in the various theatres around the area.
I’ve been an avid reader from a very young age and the top goal on my list of things to accomplish in my life was to write and publish a book. During the summer of 2013, while working backstage on The Lion King, I read eleven books in four weeks. I read my first New Adult book and was introduced to a genre I felt I could totally relate to. The idea for Perfectly Broken and the character of Lili was born backstage during that time.
   

 

Book Review: For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

For Better or Worse (The Wedding Belles, #2)For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

For Better or Worse is one of those books I hated to put down, looked forward to picking back up, and mourned over as it came to a close. Off-the-charts, sizzling chemistry between its main characters, and surprises that take readers well beyond the predictable, make The Wedding Belles #2 an enjoyable endeavor from start to finish.

Both characters are likable in their own ways, and both storylines emphasize career-related pursuits in some way. (So, not the “finding oneself” of YA or NA, but the finding of one’s passion.) On a more personal level, there’s a mystery behind Josh’s recent past that readers discover along with Heather, and readers are along for the ride as the heroine works through issues with her mother.

Although I’m admittedly a long-standing Lauren Layne fan, the author has kicked it up a notch with this series. Something about the way everything ties together in the end, the scope of the characters’ emotional growth, and the ins and outs of the wedding planning business make this series some of LL’s best work yet.

View all my reviews