COVER REVEAL: Mercenary

The hardest secret I’ve had to keep over the last week or so is the stunning cover for the third and final book in Bella Di Corte’s Gangsters of New York series. Mercenary features probably the most beautiful boy of the three, so without further ado I present to you the gorgeous face of Corrado Capitani!

Available as of November 13th in print and on Kindle Unlimited, I can’t wait for the final part of this trilogy and I want to congratulate Bella once again for such an incredible series of books. You can learn more about Marauder below and be sure to add it on Goodreads!

Synopsis:

I had something to live for.

The moment I saw him, I knew.

His eyes would hypnotize.

His lips would speak the most beautiful promises.

His body? Made for pleasure.

But if Corrado Capitani thought that he could fool me into thinking he was a good man, he was wrong.

The moment I saw him, I knew the truth.

Those eyes hid his poisonous heart. Those lips were vessels of deception. That body? Made for inflicting pain.

He wasn’t sent from heaven. He was sent to drag me back to hell.

I had something to die for.

Alcina Parisi had a price on her head, and she’d eluded the best. She thought no one would ever find her, but I did. Everyone in our world called me Scorpio–the man who never let the enemy go. But she was a weapon, not an adversary, and I’d claimed her as mine.

Mercenary is the third of three books set in the savage world of the Gangsters of New York series.

REVIEW: The First Sister

Thank you to Simon & Schuster as well as NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book.


When I first saw the cover for Linden A Lewis’s debut novel, The First Sister, I knew I wanted to get my hands on it. The second I stated it, I fell in love with each of the characters immediately and didn’t want to put it down.

The story follows three POVs between The First Sister – a priestess aboard a starship headed to the moon Mars where the Gean people reside, Lito sol Lucius – a soldier who fought with the Icarii during the Battle of Ceres, and Hiro val Akira – Lito’s battle partner who has gone rogue and disappeared. Each of the POVs is written is first person which confused me slightly with the first few chapters, but I quickly got the hang of it and each character has such a distinct way of talking, it is easy to remember who is talking.

The comp titles for this book were Red Rising (by Pierce Brown) and Handmaid’s Tale(by Margaret Attwood), but I honestly felt it was closer to Red Rising meets Dune (by Frank Herbert) with a hint of Star Trek in there. The Sisterhood, the main religion of the Geans that also happens to run their government, strongly made me think of a more dictatorial version of the Bene Gesserit from Dune in the way that the training is strict and aggressive and the rules must be followed to a T or else there are drastic consequences. The addition of these priestesses acting as consorts or concubines in a sense just added to that and made me think of Jessica from Dune. When it came to the levels of society within the Icarii race and the advanced technologies they have, that’s really where theRed Rising aspect fits so well. The rankings of society and the commentary on how poverty works within this alternate future really reflected our current society where the poor “don’t deserve” basic things like fresh food or proper living conditions, or even medicine. The two clashing societies were also fascinating and the natural vs altered debate was a curious one especially given that the genetically altered (read as: perfected) Icarii honestly have a better way of life in a lot of ways compared to the Geans.

But what hit hardest was the characters.

The First Sister was thrust into the Sisterhood because she was housed in a Sisterhood funded orphanage. She was stripped of her voice and her dreams and her freedom to become a part of a religion she didn’t entirely understand. Lito risked it all to rise up from the lower levels and make it into the military where he met Hiro, only to be punished for the military’s failure in battle. Hiro… I have a lot of thoughts about Hiro.

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Hiro is a non-binary character. A person who has faced ridicule and abuse at the hands of his father as well as classmates and superiors. They lost their mother who couldn’t bare it all. They were shown the horrors of the world and couldn’t stand to turn away from them again. After the failure of the Battle of Ceres (set before the events of the book), Hiro was terribly wounded and instead of being allowed to rest, they were drugged and mutilated, shaped into the female warrior who had nearly killed Hiro and Lito, both. Lito was able to make Hiro feel welcomed, feel loved and cared for, and began to love themselves as a result of that, only to be forced into a gendered role by the people who dislike and/or disprove of them.

Reading these moments, as a trans person, hit so hard. It is so hard to explain to cisgendered people what it is like to be perceived as someone you are not, to be seen as something you are not. Hiro being forced into a female body for the sake of espionage and being unable to look at themselves or feel at all like themselves is something I’ve felt personally (well, maybe not the espionage part) and it is the most painful thing in the world. For these reasons, Hiro is a character I immediately grew attached to and I wish I had a friendship, a bond, with some like Lito the same way he has bonded with Hiro.

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Another thing with this book that I really appreciated was the depiction of Japanese. I am white and English is the only language I’m fluent in. However, I can understand several languages including Japanese. This was the first time I’ve read a book that didn’t romanize the Japanese dialogue and instead included hiragana, katakana, and kanji to spell out the words. The same was done for the small instances of Chinese that were in the book. I’ve read a lot of books (and even more anime fanfiction) that have romanized Japanese in them and there was always something that felt off to me about it, so seeing it this way in a sense felt more authentic and respectful to the language.

I would honestly be really curious to hear what other people think in regard to this formatting of language in books. I know that romanizing it makes in “more accessible” to those who don’t speak the language but I think it’s little things like this that can prompt avid readers to learn a few words here and there in other languages. It’s not hard to look up a character chart or to put a sentence through google translate, but even literary fiction like Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman has large sections in Italian or Latin that aren’t translated. Even Lord of the Rings or Star Wars have lengthy moments of made up languages that aren’t translated but we all get the gist. If we’ve reached a point in the world where you take university level classes in Klingon, we can all take a moment to learn a few phrases in Japanese using the proper character alphabet.

But back to the book.

As is usual with science fiction, there were lulls in this, and I did find myself wondering where the story could go in order to carry out a full trilogy, but the last handful of chapters had me majorly freaking out. With several plot twists happening all at once, It really is a thrill ride and Ineed more of it. The chess pieces are set, and a few have fallen, but the real game is only just beginning.

Saying “No” To Book Blogging

Hi everyone. It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a review and I want to take this time to explain why.

I’ve been involved with the social media side of loving books and reading for nearly five years now. I’ve worked hard to take photos and read books and post reviews for the sake of being noticed by other bloggers as well as publishing companies in order to gain more followers and therefore be able to take part in more blogging opportunities. When I first started in the community, it was a lot different. Everyone was more or less reading the same books, the drama was kept to a minimum and mostly just involved spoilers, outrageous demands for ARCs wasn’t really a thing I was aware of. These days it seems like there is nothing but drama between authors and reviewers and publishers. Every day someone has messed up (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) and my feeds are flooded with vague tweets that require at least an hour to dig through to find any names, or call-outs for bigotted people to be cancelled, or more and more things that I just can’t keep track of anymore.

With all of the civil unrest regarding Black Lives Matter as a movement and an organization turning a human rights issue into a political one, with the harmful transphobia of a once-beloved author that will lead to the deaths of transgender children being brushed aside in the name of nostalgia, with statistics from both COVID and police brutality numbers being skewered in the name of “pro-life” religious bigotry, there is so much going on and it is hard to have the strength to keep up with everything. It is hard to find the mental and emotional and physical capacity to continue moving on when there is nothing but awful on all sides.

But you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the book community. Allow me to explain.

As all of these civil rights movements gain more and more ground, those who oppose them are doubling down on their bigotry and becoming just as vocal about why the minorities involved shouldn’t be listened to. Within the book community, there are people who don’t see the point in “forcing” Black authors’ works onto other – or other racial minorities for that matter. There are people who don’t want to listen to trans folks who are directly hurt and harmed by the foul words of J.K. Rowling because they would rather cling to their nostalgia for a series that has always been riddled with racist, anti-semitic, homo- and transphobic depictions. There are people who side with a bigotted book-themed Etsy shop owner who was using statistics listing how many people have been killed by police in 2020 to ask where the outrage was for “how many babies have been murdered” and using religion to force right-wing anti-abortion (or as I prefer to say, anti-choice) views on people. This latter example also called for her supporters to report Instagram accounts who were speaking out against her.

What hurts the most is that many of these people who I have unfollowed and/or blocked on social media have huge followings within the book community and many of these people have publishing companies among their follower counts even after months of horrible statements. Several of these people are constantly receiving ARCs for massive releases or even finished copies or several copies of both ARCs and finished copies.

There are 200 people following this blog. I have less than 200 people following my Twitter. I have 875 followers on Instagram. Compared to bloggers I look up to as well as these hurtful bloggers, these numbers are barely a fraction of what they have. Perhaps this is a selfish opinion, but every time I have worked with a publishing company, I have jumped at every opportunity, I have worked hard on blog tour posts that involve interviews as well as book reviews. I have accepted ARCs out of my preferred reading genres to prove I can and will read whatever I’m offered and do my best to put out some positive content with which the company can use to promote the book in question.

Bloggers big and small do all of this work for free that vast majority of the time.

But no matter how hard I work, my counts aren’t nearly as big as the huge accounts and therefore my time is worth even less. This means that while accounts spouting off bigotted views will still receive specially packaged exclusive ARCs for the biggest titles of the year while bloggers like me are left with the scraps.

So with all that has been happening, I have made the decision to stop being a part of blogger teams until I can be sure that these teams are properly vetted to ensure that everyone will be respected. Will I continue to just email companies directly for the bigger ARCs I would love to read? Yes. Will I continue working with the smaller authors for release posts? Yes. Will I still apply for ARCs on NetGalley? Yes. But when it comes to the publishing companies directly, I plan on saying no far more often than I plan on saying yes.

Before I learned about how to get ARCs and before I got sucked into hype holes, I just read what I wanted, when I wanted and enjoyed myself. I think we all need to get back into that kind of thinking. I think we need to remember how to care about each other.

RELEASE BLITZ: Marauder

Happy [ belated ] birthday, Cash!!

RELEASE BLITZ

WordPress sadly ate this post yesterday, but today is no less of a day to celebrate the release of Bella Di Corte’s latest book, Marauder!

Book two of the Gangsters of New York series hits the ground running as we get to see Keely’s side of the story during Capo and Mari’s courtship from the previous novel, Machiavellian. As we learned at the end of the previous book, Harrison’s boss wasn’t just some rich man and Keely clearly knew more about the mysterious Cash Kelly that she was willing to admit, getting all of the gritty details is more than a delight.

Cash Kelly, Irish mobster in Hell’s Kitchen, is out of prison and out for revenge against the cop who put him there in the first place. But Cash isn’t satisfied with anything straight forward and has his sights set on Stone’s heart: his girlfriend, Keely Ryan. Not taking “No” for an answer, Keely is pulling into a relationship with Cash in order to keep her brother from being killed. All fire and brimstone, Keely isn’t the kind of girl to just go with something she doesn’t want and she hits Cash with as much sass and passion as she can muster. He wanted a spitfire of a girl? She will give him a girl so firey he doesn’t know what hit him.

As the drugs and the violence escalate in Keely’s world, two lonely and traumatized children enter the strange family she is beginning to form with Cash and tensions rise and Keely begins to question Cash’s line of work along with his morals. For a man who wants to keep his streets safe and clean, he has a lot of blood on his hands.

Right from the getgo, this book made it clear it was going to be very different from Mac. I loved it right away. As much as I loved Mari and Capo, theirs was a softer kind of romance in the face of violence. Keely and Cash? Right from the start, they go toe-to-toe with sass and wit, fighting against and for each other to prove where both of their hearts actually are. I loved their dynamic and the way that once things hit the fan, Keely was just as ready to fight as Cash was. The feral rage she contains makes her such a strong female lead. Keely shows she is rough and tumble and fearless while Cash learns to show he isn’t made entirely of nails and steel.

With how different Marauder was, it felt so fresh and new and exciting while still very much remaining a clear instalment of the Gangsters of New York. I’m so proud of Bella for this book and even if we were only just introduced to Cash, I can’t wait for  what’s next with the final book in the trilogy.

Bring on the Mercenary!!

PS. As of right now, Marauder is a #1 best seller in the Amazon store! Congratulations to Bella on her latest success!!


Machiavellian_Ebook_Amazon img_2453 Mercenary_Placeholder
Read MACIAVELLIAN now on Amazon! Read MARAUDER now on Amazon! Preorder MERCENARY on Amazon and add it on Goodreads!

About the Author: 

Bella Di Corte has been writing romance for seven years, even longer if you count the stories in her head that were never written down, but she didn’t realize how much she enjoyed writing alphas until recently. Tough guys who walk the line between irredeemable and savable, and the strong women who force them to feel, inspire her to keep putting words to the page.

Apart from writing, Bella loves to spend time with her husband, daughter, and family. She also loves to read, listen to music, cook meals that were passed down to her, and take photographs. She mostly takes pictures of her family (when they let her) and her three crazy dogs.  

Bella grew up in New Orleans, a place she considers a creative playground.

She loves to connect with readers, so don’t hesitate to email her at belladicorte@gmail.com if you’d like to reach out. 

You can also find her:

At Home: http://belladicorte.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BellaDiCorteAuthor
On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/belladicorte
VIP Access: https://www.facebook.com/groups/BellaDiCortesRoseRoom

Follow:
On Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2UsKj89
On Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/belladicorte/
On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B085949YN9
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/belladicorte
On BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/bella-di-corte 

Mrs. Dalloway Double Feature

With wanting to go back to school this fall, something I decided to do over my two-month leave from my day job for quarantine was to try and read at least a handful of books listed on the English course reading lists I was looking at. With my mother being an English Major, she decided to join in and we read Mrs. Dalloway together with the intention of watching the film The Hours (dir. Stephen Daldry, 2003) when we finished it.

Mrs. Dalloway was a tough read for me. It’s a really dense story that follows several characters over the course of a single day with flashbacks to various points in time throughout. As someone who has never really had to do a close reading before, I found it difficult looking for things that I don’t even think were there to begin with (like a point), and it made for a very long time spent pushing through the dense prose. While Virigina Woolf has some seriously great quotes in the book, and an interesting look at female independence in that time period, I found the number of characters and the muddled paragraphs very difficult to follow. I get that it’s “stream of consciousness” writing, but I found myself re-reading things several times and – at moments – entirely giving up and just continuing on with the book whether or not I understood what I was reading. When I finally finished the book I was more annoyed than anything else because I seriously felt like I missed something.

While waiting for my mom to finish reading, I learned that The Hours film is based on the book of the same name by Michael Cunningham. Having read one of Cunningham’s books in the past and enjoying it, I jumped on trying to read The Hours.

In three days, I finished reading one of the most beautiful books I’ve come across this year. The Hours follows three women over a single day: Virginia Woolf as she plans on writing Mrs. Dalloway, Laura Brown as she fights depression while planning her husband’s birthday, and Clarissa Vaughan as she plans a celebratory party for her friend that has won a significant literary award. The storyline that I loved best was Clarissa’s as the involvement of the AIDs pandemic fallout of the 90s and the harsh reality of the suffering AIDs patients went through… It’s heartbreaking and raw and beautiful. With so many context cues to the source material that is Mrs. Dalloway, adding AIDs on top of the tragedy of the adaptation of Septimus’s life makes so a heartbreaking and layered reason for the horrible end.

I definitely enjoyed The Hours and I feel like I picked up on a lot more nuances having read Mrs. Dalloway first. Of course, the film was a different story (for a different day but… how do you ruin a movie that stars Meryl freaking Streep?!) and I honestly hated it, but I’m so pleased to have picked up Michael Cunningham’s novel. It was an interesting exercise reading both of these books with my mom as well and really reminded me how much I enjoy talking about books with people.

REVIEW: The Dreamers

Originally published as The Holy Innocents, Gilbert Adair’s novel was re-released as an updated edition after he had the chance to write the screenplay for the 2003 film, The Dreamers based on his work. I was so happy to get my hands on a copy of the re-released The Dreamers novel and was not disappointed.

This book came on my radar while I was revisiting the history of people running through the Louvre. I was familiar with the film (though I have not seen it save for the running scene) because of my love for actor Michael Pitt, but once I found out it was a book I was determined to get my hands on a copy. The day my copy of The Dreamers arrived, I was over the moon. And then proceeded to read the entire book in a day.

The novel follows twins Isabelle and Theo as they welcome American student Matthew into their tight little circle of obsessive French cinema worship. As their friendship grows, Matthew learns of the debauched relationship between the twins and is welcomed into their way of life. As the three are left to their own devices, secluded alone in the twins’ apartment, they lose all sense of the world around them and the only world that exists is the one inside the flat. Meanwhile, the riots of May ’68 are grasping the nation, creating a huge contrast between the two ways of life.

While I know this book is problematic by the standards of many, it was exactly what I was hoping it would be and was absolutely magical in the way Adair manages to create such an intense relationship and make the isolation of the trio feel natural. The style and flow of the writing was so beautiful and hypnotizing, I absolutely adored it from cover to cover. The Dreamers was exactly what I had hoped it was going to be and it was such a breath of fresh air after struggling through the book I had finished prior to starting this one.

In all honestly, the only part that grated on me was whenever French New Wave director, Jean-Luc Godard, was mentioned. As a film grad, I had to watch Breathless (1960) every damn semester and I hate it so much. Considering this isn’t even an issue with the book (and me mentioning it is literally a joke to any of my fellow grads who feel my pain about that stupid movie), I couldn’t have asked for anything more from this book.

Adair’s books seem to be mostly out of print these days, but I look forward to tracking down his other novels because I am obsessed with his style of writing.

COVER REVEAL: Marauder

I spent the early days of my quarantine season curled up with Bella Di Corte’s first Gangster’s of New York book, Machiavellian, and I adored it.

Coming later this summer is the second book in this series: Marauder! It’s Cash’s turn to be in the spotlight and I’m so excited for this book. I mean, check out how gorgeous he is on the cover!

Available as of August 7th, I can’t wait for the story to continue and congratulate Bella on her success so far! You can learn more about Marauder below:

Synopsis:

He stole my heart out of revenge.

There was one thing I always thought was mine to give: my heart.

I never imagined a marauder would steal it out of vengeance—vengeance that had nothing to do with me. His greatest enemy happened to be the man in love with me, and somehow I became nothing but a pawn. I was no damsel in distress, though. More like an archer, ready to battle.

And my target? The marauder himself.

Cashel “Cash” Kelly.

Kelly might have been as gorgeous as he was ruthless, but he had no idea what I’d do to steal it back. Or better yet, get even.

She was determined to keep what was mine.

They say hearts can’t be stolen unless they’re willing to be. Tell that to the man everyone on the streets called “the marauder.”

Me.

Because by the time I was through, Keely Ryan’s heart would be mine. And my enemy’s? As good as broken. Trouble was, the archer was precise with her aim, and her arrow was pointed at my heart.

Marauder is the second of three books set in the savage world of the Gangsters of New York series. Each book can be read as a standalone, but they are all based in the same world.

REVIEW: The Sun Down Motel

One of the books I was incredibly excited about reading earlier this year was Simone St. James’s latest novel, The Sun Down Motel. A mystery novel with a synopsis that had me asking “People or ghosts?”, this was just what I needed to get me out of my reading funk as brought on by my attempt to get through A Little Life.

The story follows a double timeline between Viv in 1982 as she works at a dodgy motel after leaving her home life, and Carly in 2017 as she digs into the past to discover what happened to her long-lost Aunt Viv who went missing thirty-five years earlier. Right away there is tension and suspense to chill your veins and I absolutely loved it from cover to cover.

The way the story jumps around between the timelines is impeccably done as the story unfolds and honestly, I just want to scream about the setup and the characters as both Carly and Viv uncover the mysteries of the Sun Down, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. If you’re also asking “People or ghosts?” about this book in regards to the cause of what’s going on, I’m going to leave you asking.

Forgive me for this short review, but I highly recommend picking up this book.

REVIEW: A Little Life [ part one* ]

This month I decided to tackle one of the bigger books on my shelves. At 800-ish pages, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life seemed like what I wanted. Contemporary, set in New York, I heard it was gay and came highly recommended by someone I was close to.

But then I got 400-ish pages in and was in such a horrible mental state because of it, it’s not even funny. This is not a fun book. If anything, it’s a horrible book. So to start off this review, let’s get to the list of trigger/content warnings, shall we?

This book contains:

  • child abuse
  • sexual assault of a child
  • child abandonment (a baby literally in a dumpster)
  • child death
  • sexual assault
  • domestic abuse (that has the potential to lead to a possible murder)
  • gross dismissal of chronic pain
  • gaslighting
  • manipulation
  • graphic depictions of self-harm
  • suicidal ideation with mild intent
  • drug abuse

And that’s just the part of the book that I managed to get through.

As someone who is constantly battled chronic depression, this book actively made me want to jump in front of a train. Things only get worse and worse as the story progresses, even when you think things might turn around, the punch in the stomach is only a few paragraphs down the page.

The story itself follows four friends – JB, Jude, Willem, and Malcolm – in New York as they navigate their lives as artists, actors, lawyers, architects. Moving from post-college life into the real world is a struggle as they all fight for dream jobs with terrible pay and discover routes to where they feel their purpose is. Bouncing around in time, the narrative goes over the histories of each of them, talking about their privileged to not-so-privileged to terrible lives before they met each other.

The sad thing about this book is that all of the friends are incredibly likeable, even when they’re making asses of themselves (cough, JB, cough cough). Their histories really make you want to keep reading and find out what happened to them just as much as wanting to know where they’re all headed. It’s so beautifully prose-y and I absolutely adore the way with words that Yanagihara has, but I just couldn’t continue after the half-way mark of this book.

But this book very quickly reached torture porn levels of terrible as one of the characters gets sucked into a beyond incredibly abusive relationship. The character in question doesn’t believe he deserves a truly rewarding relationship and allows the most gruesome things to happen to him. After something of a “cliffhanger” of a chapter at what I hope was the climax of the abuse, I had to stop reading. I couldn’t take it anymore. A Little Life is literally like walking down stairs coated in broken glass barefoot into the vast depths of hell with no end or light or hope in sight.

This is not a book to read if you have any kind of major depressive issues.

I would not recommend this book to a single human being.

Ever.


* I’ve marked this as “part one” in case I do decide to go back to this book at a later date in order to try and finish it

 

REVIEW: And The Hippos Were Boiled…

The lives of the Beat Poets are something I’ve been in love with for ages. I just can’t resist the romanticized tragedies of their lives and the film Kill Your Darlings, certainly made me love them even more and tossed me headfirst into reading everything I could find about Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and – of course – Lucien Carr. When I learned that Kerouac and Burroughs wrote a fictional retelling of when Carr killed David Kammerer, I was all over that. I was even more excited when the fancy second-hand book store in my neighbourhood had a first edition copy of that same book.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is the story of Will Dennison and Mike Ryko, the two narrators written by Burroughs and Kerouac respectively, as they go about their bohemian lives in New York and deal with their friends’ troubles. When one of their friends, Phillip Tourian, decides he is desperate to get away from the affections of Ramsay Allen, he and Ryko make a plan to ship out with the war relief and run away to Paris. For those who know what happened in the true story, I don’t need to remind you that this plan doesn’t exactly work out.

What I wanted from this was Kill Your Darlings. I was hoping for more about the murder, more scrambling during the aftermath. I was really hoping for a fun insiders look at what happened even if it was only a functionalization. Sadly what I got was a bunch of drunken youths for 80% of the book and then maybe twenty pages at the end involved the murder.

The writing style was interesting to see because this was written many years before Burroughs and Kerouac truly became famous but published only in more recent years. Knowing how the two authors came to write, it was kind of cool to see how they grew and developed as writers. Honestly though, the best part about this book was the afterword by James W. Grauerholz, who broke down more of the history behind the events of Kammerer’s death. I’m sad to say I was disappointed in it, but I think that might result in being too connected to the original story.

Ginsberg and Carr honestly mean so much to me, so – again – I think that had something to do it with. Either way, I’m happy to have read it and learn even just a little bit more from the afterword.