Movie Review

Movie Review: Hell House LLC

I mostly review books on this website, but I also really love horror movies. As I continue working on my own horror screenplay (details to come!) I’ve been watching all types of horror movies as inspiration and research. Recently, I stumbled upon one that I absolutely loved: Hell House LLC.

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This is a low-budget indie film that was just as effective, if not more so, than a lot of mainstream flicks with larger budgets. The premise is simple but fantastic and fresh. This is a mockumentary-style found-footage film about a film crew that is making a documentary about a tragedy that happened at a Halloween haunted house attraction a few years before. As they piece together what happened, they learn that something sinister might have been lurking in the house well before the  haunted house crew set up their theatrical props.

One of the things I loved about this movie is that there are very few jump scares. They are used judiciously and effectively, and the general ambiance of the film and the tension as the viewer is waiting to see what is going to happen next create a genuine feeling of dread. This film works because it has a fresh concept, builds tension well, and doesn’t rely on excessive slasher-like gore to create the feeling of horror. It’s just genuinely creepy and contains characters whose lives you really start to care about. There’s also an element of mystery pervading the storyline.

This film came out in 2015, and I just learned that they are working on a sequel. I’m so excited to see what is in store next!

Have you seen this one, or do you have a great indie film you want to share? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

Book Review

My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I love reading and write cozy mysteries. There’s something so charming about their idyllic settings, and often they have a lot of humor and a dash of romance as well. There are puzzles to be solved, but they’re not going to keep you awake at night. Cozies are probably my very favorite type of mystery, so I wanted to share a list of my favorites:

 

Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

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Agatha Raisin is a retired PR Maven who moves to the English countryside for a peaceful life. Once there, she gets entangled in local gossip and ends up solving murder after murder. Agatha is a prickly but endearing character, and these short books are so fun. The setting of the Cotswolds is also fantastic.

 

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

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When I discovered this series, I just couldn’t stop reading them, and now I anxiously await each new book. Georgie, the main character, is a distant relative to the monarchy of England. She discovers a passion for detecting and often helps her royal relatives when they get caught up in murder plots. These books are really fun, and the historical setting is very engrossing.

 

Jaine Austen Mysteries by Laura Levine

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This is another funny cozy series. In this one, Jaine Austen (named for the acclaimed Classic author) works as a freelance writer and often stumbles upon murders as she does her writing jobs. This series has a whole cast of funny characters, including her cat Prozac. Jaine’s humorous exploits and her unlucky-in-love storylines make this a really interesting and relatable series.

 

Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries by Ellery Adams 

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This cozy series has a splash of magic, which is extra fun. These books follow baker and witch Ella Mae LaFaye as she navigates the world of magic and her own baking business. I was so impressed by the world building in this series, and the magical moments really enhanced the story. There are five books in this series, and I really hope another one comes out soon!

 

Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett

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This last series stars Tricia Miles who owns a mystery book store in a small New England Town filled with niche bookstores. I adore the setting for this series, and I love that there are so many characters that grow from book to book. The mysteries are also a bit more complicated than some other cozy series.

 

Do you have a favorite cozy series? If so, be sure to let me know in the comment section! I’d love to check it out.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Hate U Give

I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a teen fiction novel that has just exploded in popularity due to its excellent writing and timely theme. In this book, a 16-year-old girl Starr is in a car with her friend Khalil, who is stopped by a cop and shot and killed during the event. The title comes from Tupac lyrics and reference the racial tensions currently happening in this country.

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I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s powerful and painful and something that we all need to read. My experiences in life have been a lot different than the narrators, and that’s exactly why I needed to read this book. Fiction has this amazing power to build empathy and understanding for cultures different than your own.

On a technical level, this book is so well-writing. It’s engaging and flows at a rapid pace. Even though it’s marketed as a teen book, it will definitely appeal to a much wider audience than that. Starr is an engaging protagonist who struggles with her feelings. She is caught in two different worlds – the rough part of town where she lives and the prep school that her parents pay for her to go to in a different neighborhood. When this tragic event happens, her two lives intersect and she has a bit of an identity struggle.

The theme is also something that is very timely. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, chances are you’ve heard several stories about unwarranted police brutality against young African American males. This book handles this topic very respectfully. It doesn’t come across as preachy, but it does shed light on the larger ramifications of this phenomenon.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially those who haven’t had to directly experience anything like this. I think that this book is going to really help continue the conversation of fixing racial discrimination in this country. You should definitely read this one!

Poetry Review

National Poetry Month

April is national poetry month! I love poetry, and I always use this time of year as an excuse to explore it more. Poetry gets a bad rap because it can be very vague or inaccessible at times, but I think a great poet can really cause you to emote and experience the poem just like an expert fiction writer can get you to experience a fictional story. I love raw emotion in poetry. That’s not always something you can find because poetry has been trending away from some of my favorite themes: naturalistic descriptions and confessionalism. Anyway, to honor national poetry month, I wanted to suggest 10 great books of poetry in case anyone is interested in delving into poetry this month.

The Infinitesimals by Laura Kasischke 

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Prelude to Bruise by Saaed Jones

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Blue Horses by Mary Oliver

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The History of Anonymity by Jennifer Chang 

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Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart

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Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

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Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth by Adrienne Rich 

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The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins 

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Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney 

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Time and Materials by Robert Hass 

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I hope everyone has a wonderful National Poetry month! Do you have a favorite poet? If so, be sure to let me know in the comments section so that I can check them out!

 

 

 

 

Personal, Update

Big Update! The MFA is Finished!

I have a great life update that I’m so excited to share – My MFA in Writing Fiction from Lindenwood University is now complete!

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My thesis, a collection of 8 short stories about motherhood (mostly fear of motherhood haha) was approved, and I finished my degree with a 4.0 GPA. The experience was so great. I learned so much, especially discipline. If I can get a master’s degree while working a full-time job, I know that I can write a novel while working full-time too!

I’m leaving Lindenwood with so many exciting ideas. I have two novels outlined that I’m going to start ASAP. I’m shopping around my short story collection, and I’m intrigued by the possibility of looking for an adjunct professor job too.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned school on this blog before, so I just wanted to update everyone and let you know that it’s now all over! 🙂

XOX

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: The Devil in the White City 

It’s no secret that I love mystery novels, but sometimes I like to delve into nonfiction and give true crime a chance instead. Recently, I had the pleasure of reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

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Erik Larson is a true master of nonfiction. I like nonfiction that flows kind of like a novel, and this definitely fits the bill. Larson makes history come to life, and I’ve loved all four of the books I’ve read from him. This one was no exception!

The Devil in the White City is about the serial killer H.H. Holmes who terrorized Chicago during the World Fair. It’s such an interesting portrait of a true villain. H.H. Holmes was enigmatic and charming and unhinged all at the same time. This books was absolutely fascinating as it delved into the events that led up to his reign of terror.

Also included in the book were tertiary historical references that really helped to round out the story and give it a definite sense of place. I felt immersed in the time period, and I definitely gained a better understanding of America in the late 1800s.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Days of Abandonment

I know this makes me sound like a major nerd, but I actually have a favorite publishing company: Europa Editions. Europa publishes tons of international books that have been translated into English. I’ve found so many gems from this publishing company, but recently I read one that I just had to share: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante.

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Elena Ferrante is an Italian author who is most known for being notoriously private. Her true identity has never been revealed, although there is plenty of speculation online as to who she might be. She is known most for her four-book Neapolitan series. The Days of Abandonment is one of her earlier works, but I thought it was an absolutely fantastic exploration of a crumbling relationship.

The Days of Abandonment follows a woman who is blindsided by her husband as he leaves her. In this short book (it’s only 188 pages), you can track her grief – from denial to emptiness to acceptance. This is one of the most emotionally raw books I’ve ever read, but it worked. I could see some complain that it is overly sentimental, but I disagree. I think that Ferrante has depicted the genuine emotion that comes from this situation. This is a hyper-realistic story that really touches on the psyche of the abandoned. Here, you can see how the whole family has to deal with this unexpected change. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for carefully crafted domestic literary fiction.