Drown the Positive

Polly Tremaine has spent 30 years trying to avoid the drama that came from her short stint at childhood stardom, but in a matter of days, forced to do an assignment she doesn’t want, she will realize that it doesn’t matter that she changed her name, changed her career, altered her appearance and moved to another country – once she’s set foot in L.A., she’s once more surrounded by death as something, or someone, seems out to get her. Will Polly be able to Burn the Negative, or is she destined to become a victim herself…?

Josh Winning’s Burn the Negative is campy good fun. Written in homage to the seventies, eighties and nineties horror books and movies that were not always well done but were usually enjoyable to certain stans (you know who you are), this book is for the fans. With a style reminiscent of My Best Friend’s Exorcism, this book is delicious – the beluga caviar of horror novels. It’s rich and full, and you should pay your $27 at the bookstore, and sit back and enjoy the twists and turns Winning throws at you.

If you do not like older horror films, don’t know what a Final Girl is, and are not a fan of gore — this book’s not for you, and I don’t want to go so far as to say that you definitely will not enjoy it, but I also cannot guarantee that you will. This book was written by someone who stared Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason and his mother in the eyes through a pre-Roku TV, felt a thrill in his heart, and decades later, took that thrill and weaved it into a novel. This book is for those who secretly wondered, just a tiny bit, in the dark recesses of their being, if they were taunting a serial killer by losing their virginity. This book is for the people who understand that of course Alex had to kill all of the kids who thought they were his friends on Prom Night, because he knew what they had done and they didn’t even feel sorry for it.

I truly enjoyed this book, and if you are a fellow retro-horror stan, I highly recommend, as I think you will too.

Ravenfall: ARC Review

Have you been on the hunt for a new middle-grade series featuring supernatural elements, the inception of life-long friendship, and wholesome family values? Kalyn Josephson’s Ravenfall may be the book for you! Released in early September, and presumably intended for the Halloween crowd, spookiness is not relegated to the early autumn months, so why limit yourself?

Ravenfall has a fairly authentic (i.e.: somewhat annoying*) female protagonist, and a less authentic (i.e.: less annoying*) male protagonist. These kids have seen some shit – to be more specific, they’ve given Haley Joel Osment a run for his money. HJO may have gotten the opportunity to act opposite the hunky Bruce Willis, but these kids get to live in a knock-off Encanto house and flaunt their supernatural abilities in life-threatening ways that will make anyone who is a parent reading this novel shudder.]

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, of course… this is a middle grade series, with the expectation for some form of continuation. But the annoying and the less annoying characters become friends, engage in dangerous shenanigans that endanger their lives, and these high stakes are resolved in some form. There’s also a helpmate that looks like a cat, creepy psychic twin sisters, warm cider, and a showdown at a raging Halloween party.

It was not the best thing I’ve ever read, but it was pretty good. Recommend!

*Don’t pretend middle school aged children don’t annoy the shit out of you. I see you, and more important, Santa Claus sees you. & you can bet your ass he lets the Elf off the Shelf to take a shit in your stocking when you lie, because you’ll assume it’s coal and what the fuck are you going to do with coal other than throw it in the trash or light it on fire anyway? So unless you want elf shit all over your footwear, you should be real with me. Also, this metaphor got super weird, and a little out of hand…

ARC Review: Killing Me

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be abducted by a serial killer? Well, Amber Jamison doesn’t have to wonder, because it has happened to her before the beginning of Michelle Gagnon’s cozy-ish mystery Killing Me.

Amber had always prided herself on her street smarts… but feels distinctly less smart after she is abducted by a killer who first turns his fetish-female type into Pokemon doppelgangers before slicing and dicing.

She narrowly makes her escape, with the help of a gorgeous woman, who could be her savior… or something darker altogether.

Peopled with a cast of colorful characters, Gagnon’s Killing Me will keep you interested, keep you guessing, and keep you on your toes as you continue to read to discern whether Amber and all of her friends will manage to survive.

Slated for release May 2023. Trigger warning: It does primarily take place in Las Vegas, so… if you’ve done shady shit in Vegas you don’t want to be reminded of, this book probably won’t help.

Writing Treat: ARC Book Review

After NaNoWriMo, your self-imposed writing retreat;

Is over, whether you win or have to admit defeat

Never fear, Julia Bartz will appear,

it is clear,

in bookstores February of next year.

The Netgalley gods have been smiling upon me a bit lately, including recent bestowal of Julia Bartz’ The Writing Retreat. Slated to be published in February 2023, in case you ignored my poorly crafted poem above, this novel was a treat.

The novel follows protagonist Alex, who is struggling through the sludge that is her life, including a massive case of writer’s block, in the opportunity of a lifetime. Joining 4 other talented young female writers at a month-long retreat in the reclusive home of one of her favorite authors, Alex wonders if she will be able to work through her writer’s block… and then things get weird.

This novel is a thriller encapsulated in an isolated setting (possibly haunted mansion in Northeast America) in February (cue the snow) with writers (meaning everything is open to interpretation and could possibly be hallucination, fictionalization, or enmeshment between the author’s work and the author’s life). The characters are a bit flat, which makes them harder to read in what is most certainly a plot-driven novel. Leave your own writing insecurities at the door, and follow along with Alex and the other lovely lady novelists, who will most likely experience these insecurities for you! I had no idea what was going to happen in this rollercoaster of a novel where extreme highs or lows could be around every curve of the tracks.

Highly recommend! And am now craving more great books featuring writers… so if you have one, please let me know in the comments below, so I can add it to my neverending TBR.

Creative Ways to be #1

For some people, being #1 is all that matters. I don’t think I’m one of those people, but I will say I get a small thrill of dopamine when I manage to achieve supreme status – even for things that don’t matter (which, come to think of it, is most things that I have gotten first place in #thingsthatdontmatter).

Like recently, I have been publishing the first story in my Love is Hell re-write on Wattpad, which has gotten negligible views and no votes (how unexpected that no one wants to rant-rewrite an anthology that’s like 15 years old with me, right? #notbeingesoteric). Yet, through the power of creative hashtags (which I mostly make because I think they’re funny and part of me secretly hopes someone else will notice them and agree, or better yet, search for the darn thing because they have created a story with the same hashtag and a small part of them desperately wants to find someone with the same ridiculous sense of humor), I am in fact the #1 (and only) story in the following categories:

#disappointmentthynameisme

#loveishellrewrite

#ya-ish

This is my peacock moment. Revel in my ridiculousness with me, and please, share your unique hashtag of creative way of being #1 in the comments below.

If You Want Something Done Right…

Ok, I’m just going to be a bitch for a minute – I recently read the YA short story collection Love is Hell, which managed to fall short of my expectations in pretty much every way possible with the exception of Justine Larbelestier’s tale “Thinner than Water.” The rest of the collection was comprised of work that felt unfinished, unpolished, and at times, just downright poorly written. I have to assume this collection was a cash grab, that the editor, if there was one, fell asleep when he was supposed to be working and didn’t actually do his job. What should have been a collection of smart short stories featuring supernatural YA romantic horror are instead a sloppy mish mash of stories, sometimes supernaturally related (one of them is just sci-fi).

I am a bit angry, to be honest – the authors who theoretically wrote (I’m not going to rule out that there could be ghostwriting) the stories in this collection have careers and make a living by writing when something this mediocre is associated with their name is… baffling.

So my response?

I want a decent collection of YA romantic horror short stories, so for all of the stories in this collection that I don’t like, I’m going to re-write them.

… care to join me? Use the tag #loveishellrewrite if you also want to re-write at least one of the atrocious stories in this disappointing anthology, or leave a comment below if you have similarly done a re-write of something that had a promising premise that was, unfortunately, not fulfilled, so I can check out your rage re-write.

What it looks like when stream-of-consciousness analyzes an unfinished book

I did not know what I was getting myself into with Samantha Hunt’s The Unwritten Book: An Investigation, but I am so very glad that I was lucky enough to receive a Netgalley ARC. Hunt’s writing is thoughtful, interesting, intelligent, wandering… and in my opinion, well worth the read.

Although Hunt is probably best known for her fiction work, such as Belletriste’s pick The Dark Dark, this book is mostly nonfiction. I say “mostly” because interspersed throughout the book are excerpts of Samantha’s deceased father’s unfinished book. In addition, this book reads more like a collection of loosely related essays/musings than a more traditional narrative non-fiction book where each chapter builds on what came before. Hunt’s book could literally be read in any order, except for the excerpts of her father’s book. This book, which analyzes the writing from the partial book that Papa Hunt left behind, experiences Samantha had with both her father and her own experiences parenting her children, and general musings/information, is interesting. It feels like spending time with a friend — a very educated, empathetic, slightly lost friend. This friend is trying to navigate her way through losing a parent, being a parent, and being a person.

And really… aren’t we all? I highly, highly recommend.

Okay, Corn Fairy

One of the plethora of clickbait business e-mail newsletters that I receive is Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm that sometimes has good articles… and sometimes does not. “5 People to Meet When You’re Back in the Office” is one of the latter.

This article is fucking hilarious. Supposedly intended to be a helpful guide as we return to the office post-COVID, it actually just congregates all of the people you work with into groups so that, if you take this article literally, you are just re-connecting everyone in the office. Not the worst approach, but also not the targeted help that the title pretends is being offered.

Who, specifically, does Korn Ferry say you should meet?

  1. your manager,
  2. your direct reports,
  3. colleagues and peers,
  4. key stakeholders and internal partners, and
  5. new staff members

So… like I said, pretty much everyone.

Definitely more than 5 people, unless you are creating a start-up with four of your friends and y’all are literally the only ones who currently work for the company.

… I should probably unsubscribe.

Want advice on how to behave in the office? Don’t go to the corn fairy – this bitch ain’t helpful…

Wow – This is a Really Shitty Book Review

In August, I read Alexa Donne’s book The Ivies recently, and… didn’t much care for it. It had okay writing, and I actually really loved the murderer, but I won’t go into details in case you want to read this murder-mystery, since a large part of the enjoyment of a murder-mystery is trying to figure whodunnit. So after posting a mediocre review on Goodreads, I checked out some of the other reviews, as I am wont to do, and… this one really stuck out to me:

I think my blog post title makes my opinion of this review quite clear. As someone who reviews books quite frequently myself, I thought it was worth exploring why I think the particular book review I included screenshots of above is a terrible one, and what I think does make a good book review. I would love to hear your insight, as well – maybe there is something that I should be keeping in mind as a self-appointed book reviewer that is not currently on my radar.

I’ll start off by saying that I do not disagree with everything in Alex Nguyen’s review. I think that, as a prominent AuthorTuber, it is fair to put this review in context. I also think it is completely fair to hold someone who publishes videos on the internet proclaiming to be an expert on writing to a higher standard. Alexa Donne’s internet/author brand is that she is so good at writing, she can give you tips on how to be a better writer, as well, if you’re into that sort of thing. As someone who is branding herself this way, I expect excellent writing in the genre that she writes (this particular novel is YA thriller). I also liked that Alex Nguyen provided both pros and cons – almost no book is without merit, so pointing out what was done well and what, specifically, Alex disagrees gives the review an appearance of fairness.

Appearances, however, can be deceiving. My largest problem with this particular book review is that it gets personal. Disliking the book, making fun of the writing style, the plot devices, the characters, the publishing industry are all fair game in my book. Making assumptions about the author and personally attacking the author are completely inappropriate.

The first inkling that this review is going a bit sideways is the off-hand remark that Alexa is casually racist against white people, a remark that immediately sets off my alarm bells, because nearly everyone I have ever met who makes a remark like that is, in fact, racist. Someone makes a remark like that, and as a person-of-color, I identify that person as someone to be extremely cautious around. This remark is ended with the contemptuous, supercilious remark that Alexa is “not the brightest bulb or the most self-respecting” person. This last remark is a personal attack against Alexa Donne. It is cruel, unconstructive, and identifies the reviewer as someone who is extremely biased in a way that casts doubt on that reviewer’s ability to accurately assess the book, because it indicates that this reviewer has negative feelings about the author whose book is being reviewed that may make them inclined to view the book in a negative light regardless of its’ merit.

So at this point everyone looking at the review for meaningful analysis or an idea of whether or not they will like the book should just stop reading. Nothing that comes afterward can be taken seriously, because it is clear that the person writing the review may not be able to separate the art from the artist.

But sure, let’s keep reading, right? Why not.

The list of pros is generally pithy, until the last bullet point, which comes across as judgmental and also seems to miss the mark. I think it is generally known that teenagers trying to get into an Ivy League school can have a myopic vision that makes it difficult for them to consider alternatives and put things into perspective. In fact, even teenagers not trying to get into an Ivy League school can have difficulty with things like appropriate perspective. This novel features teenagers and is intended for a teenage audience. Anyone reading this review for purposes of analysis or determining whether or not they want to read this book should definitely stop here. Alex Nguyen has made it clear that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the target audience and characters in this novel. If Alex N. liked this novel, it would be shocking. Yet we can see the one-star review, so it’s clear that Alex N. did not like the novel.

But let’s continue reading, shall we?

The cons again include trigger words like “token poor girl,” “appropriation,” etc., that make it seem that a large part of this reviewer’s problem with the book is that it did not solely feature privileged white students, which is just… odd. The reviewer complains that these characters are included, because it “feels like” the author just included some diverse characters to pretend to be woke or something, then says that the book feels like a trashy novel. First of all, it is odd to assume you understand the author’s intentions for an issue like this one. Second, trashy novels are notorious for having flat characters who are not well fleshed out and for whom not a lot of thought was put into character development. So if it is, in fact, a trashy novel (not saying I agree with that characterization), then wouldn’t including diverse characters whom the author doesn’t include a lot of detail on be par for the course? Is this reviewer saying that trashy novels should only feature cis white people with money? Because it kind of feels like that is the subtext in these two points. Keep in mind that these two bullet points that complain about a smidge of diversity occurring in the novels and the privilege of some of the other characters being acknowledged are the two most lengthy con written points.

The “final thoughts” paragraph makes assumptions of the author’s fears and insecurities, prefaced with a half-hearted “perhaps.” Knowing when to stop editing, when to share with the world, is a leap, because similar to new parents, most writers never really feel completely prepared. It feels like a weird jump to assume that Alexa Donne didn’t write and publish the book of your personal dreams because she has a fairly successful Youtube channel.

The review ends with another judgmental snippet that basically says the only people who will enjoy the novel are her Youtube followers.

In summary, what I think makes the particular book review analyzed in this post a terrible book review is the use of personal assumptions about the author and a fundamental misunderstanding of the audience and characters of the book. The reviewer’s own remarks indicating that diversity in books could only be an attempt to placate the publishing industry’s push for acknowledging that non-white people of varying means, sexual orientation and gender identification exist doesn’t help, either.

I like honesty in book reviews. I’m okay with hyperbole to make a point. The issue is in making the review personal about the author rather than focused on the author’s work.

Welp, I think I’ve talked enough for the day. What do you think?