Beatrice Reviews “The Insiders Club” by Echo Miller

“The Insiders Club” by Echo Miller
★★★★☆

The Insiders Club

Four social misfits: an 80s-obsessed eccentric, a movie-quoting mimic, a control freak, and a scrappy loner. They share a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, but can they create a home?

Keegan Harris has one weekend to persuade three other autistic guys to move into his group home. Using an 80s movie as his guide for socialization, he’s organized a series of adventures designed to form deep connections and create lifelong friends. But each stranger has packed emotional baggage and arrived with agendas of their own. Unless Keegan can convince everyone to stick to the script, his blockbuster plan may turn companionship into chaos.

When Monday morning rolls around, will they be best buddies or will Keegan’s community close before it officially opens?


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on the Reedsy platform, for an honest and unbiased review.

I admit, I was a little nervous getting into this book. Fiction that deals with the representation of sensitive topics such as themes dealing with mental health issues or differently abled characters can be hit-or-miss.

Some authors lack the research and can be ignorant to their portrayal of such themes, leading to ill-advised stereotypes and a black-and-white picture of the diversity of a group of people that deserve far better representation in art.

However, with the very first words of this novel, my worry started to dissipate. Echo Miller tastefully brings to life colorfully well-rounded characters on the spectrum, presenting readers with a perceptive insight of a world that they may not belong to but can start to better understand.

Miller’s writing style equips wonderful imagery together with a descriptiveness that is a pleasure to read as the story continues to unravel. We are introduced to a cast of autistic characters, many of which are on the spectrum but are not defined by their autism but their individuality. Miller’s shaping up of each and every one through their unique personalities and quirks had the effect of creating emotional connections to them that linger far beyond the end of the story.

Paying tribute to the ’80’s classic film The Breakfast Club, “The Insiders Club” is a heartfelt story, grounded in the exploration of complex and beautiful characters whose autism does not limit them, but rather allows them to go farther and feel things on a greater level than most are capable of.

Although the book is quick read and can be done in one sitting, I recommend taking the time to absorb each word and description and allow yourself to live the story slowly but meaningfully. It’s an experience that will definitely stay with me and I look forward to reading the next instalment in the series.

A story of friendship, acceptance and truth in the eyes of people who are deemed to be “different”, I recommend this novel for any and everyone. Miller shows us through the characters on these pages that often, being different is what makes us human and it’s time to not only accept that diversity but embrace it.

Beatrice Reviews “Steel Strings” by Alex Hayes

“Steel Strings” by Alex Hayes
★★★☆☆

Steel Strings

Brianna Jones is a smart, biracial teen who dreams of bringing music to the world via orchestral instruments fashioned out of recycled materials. But Brianna must keep her project secret from her half sister, whose mission in life is to destroy everything Brianna holds dear. 

Marek Lakewood is one of the few guys who sees Brianna for whom she really is and has admired her from afar for years, but he’s never been a risk-taker, not since his father was killed on a black diamond ski slope.

When a physics project lands Marek in Brianna’s sphere, he finds himself taking bigger and bigger risks, and discovers Brianna’s life and aspirations are far more complicated than he ever imagined.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on the Reedsy platform, for an honest and unbiased review.

This was an enjoyable and fast-paced book, perfect for those looking for a one-sitting read into a literary getaway. Alex Hayes does a wonderful job of bringing life to Brianna Jones and Marek Lakewood, the two protagonists, by employing switching first person point-of-view chapters.

Having not read Hayes’ Chameleon Effects series, I was hoping I would be able to follow along and form the same connect with the characters one would expect from a stand-alone novel. There were some scenes of hidden significance (Easter eggs) that did little to further the plot of “Steel Strings” but, I suspect, were linked to her main series. Nevertheless, this did not rob me of any enjoyment to this novel which stood on its own two feet.

Hayes’ character development shines through the dialogue and writing style, bringing out the vibes of teen romance I haven’t felt in years and also the plights of the main protagonist, Brianna, who I rooted for throughout.

However, I do feel there were certain plot points that could have been explored further to create a better connect between the characters and myself, the reader. Juggling elements of music, love and family all together, some aspects were lacking in weight to another, making the read feel a little imbalanced and the ending rather rushed.

Although good, I didn’t feel like it delivered the excitement and thrill indicated in the synopsis and I felt a little let-down toward the end on how the story had progressed. In this sense, the novel did not ‘knock my (figurative) socks off’.

However, as a light breezy read, “Steel Strings” promises to entertain and enthrall. I also believe readers of the original series would enjoy the novel a step further and encourage them to give it a read and discover the aforementioned Easter Eggs for themselves!

Beatrice Reviews “Poems to See By” by Julian Peters

“Poems to See By” by Julian Peters
★★★★☆

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This stunning anthology of favorite poems visually interpreted by comic artist Julian Peters breathes new life into some of the greatest English-language poets of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on Netgalley, for an honest and unbiased review.

I haven’t reviewed a poetry anthology before but I’m glad this is my first one off the bat. A stunning visual portrayal of works of art by the infamous Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings and Maya Angelou (to name a few), “Poems to See By” is a beautiful experience for those artistic souls out there.

The poetry, in itself, is a vast and uplifting collection. Covering various themes and topics such as identity, hope, life and death and supplemented by various art forms ranging from ink-based to comics and manga, Peters pays tribute to these poets’ creations as well as creating his own original work, adding a new layer of depth to the poems.

Although I don’t have the technical artistic terms down, the lack of knowledge in the field of art didn’t take away from the experience. I’ve always felt that poetry, literature and any form of art (visual or not) is a highly personal affair. To see this artist bring these poems to life through a mix of monochrome panels, dominant color schemes and splashes of his artist’s muse showing through is a delight. The varied nature of the styles for each poem also goes to show Peters’ talent as an illustrator.

In a world where the people’s experience is highly shaped by visual media and senses, it surprises me that the idea of combining artwork with written forms of literature hasn’t been done before. I’m glad that this was my first experience of that sort. Peters delivers nothing short of artistic mastery and a newfound depth for poems that have shaped the world.

An original and wonderful way to experience poetry and introduce new generations to the work of classic poets and renowned names in the field, I urge any and everyone to grab their own copy of the book and allow themselves to feel the magic it provides.

Beatrice Reviews “Nine Years” by Jessica Reed

“Nine Years” by Jessica Leed
★★★★☆

Nine Years: A novel (Beneath the Clouds Book 1) by [Leed, Jessica]

You would think Sienna Henderson had the perfect life. She has a successful career, a loving family and is engaged to be married. From the outside she appears to have it all together, yet on the inside she is coming undone.

Caught inside a dysfunctional relationship and with her work environment intolerable, she finds herself slipping further from the life she has envisioned.

After reuniting with a man from her past, Sienna’s life is turned upside down in a way that has her questioning everything she has ever known.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free on the Reedsy platform, for an honest and unbiased review.

I like to think I’m a contemporary romance ‘connoisseur’ of sorts, having read many books in this genre. I started reading “Nine Years”, not quite sure what to expect, but Jessica Leed knocked her debut novel out of the park.

A beautiful tale of romance, self-discovery and growth, “Nine Years” follows Sienna Henderson and her plight as she struggles to right the wrongs in her long-term but dysfunctional relationship while trying not to lose more of herself in the process. Things get even more complicated when a past she had let go of resurfaces, only to have her confronting parts of herself she had forgotten were still there.

I think what struck me the most about this novel is how relatable it is. Not all of us have been through the exact same struggles that Sienna faces in the novel but we can all relate, on some level, to the pain of holding onto something so dear to you, even when it starts to destroy you as an individual.

That being said, it is incredibly challenging to write a story of this nature and create people that the reader can emotionally connect to but the author does a wonderful job of crafting a well-rounded set of characters.

There is no concrete villain. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. Although we explore the story through Sienna’s eyes, all the characters are well thought-out and portrayed in a multi-dimensional way, making them more human.

I do feel the pacing of the novel could have been a little faster. Although I am not willing to comment on the necessity of certain plot points (given they might be set up to tie in with the sequel), the novel could have been a little shorter in length to increase the impact and have the story resonate even more with the reader.

All in all, a beautiful story and written in an equally evocative manner, I highly recommend “Nine Years” to fans of the contemporary romance genre. The downside? You’ll have to put in some waiting time for the sequel.

Jessica Leed does a wonderful job delivering with this book.

Relationships are challenging and through Sienna, we explore the many complexities and obstacles that can crop up in one. The question the novel poses is: how far are you willing to go to try and save your relationship? At what point do you stop and save yourself?

Beatrice Reviews “The Writer” by J.C. Maetis

“The Writer” by J.C. Maetis
★★★★

The Writer by J.C. Maetis – Schindler’s List meets The Tattooist of Auschwitz –  a gripping tale of love, survival and redemption against the backdrop of one of the darkest periods in recent history. 

Two Writers. One lives to write. The other writes to live…


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for free, for an honest and unbiased review.

I admit, when I first received a request to review this novel, I was a little skeptical upon reading the blurb and after my experience with the novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz. However, the premise of The Writer was intriguing so I decided to give it a shot and boy, am I glad I did.

The Writer follows the lives of Mathias Kraemer, Johannes Namal and Josef Weber, three different individuals with varying backgrounds whose lives and paths are tied together by the tragedies surrounding Nazi Germany. Through these characters, the book does a wonderful job of examining the circumstances and impact of Anschluss and the cruel, merciless regime of Hitler on three different communities: the Jews, half-Jews and Austrian-Catholics.

I was surprised to encounter a historical fiction novel on the Holocaust that effortlessly combined elements of various genres together. The Writer is a thriller, romance and drama all in one.

My heart raced and had me turning the pages out of concern for these characters that I fell in love with, anxious for them as they faced the harrowing possibilities of execution and being sent to concentration camps. The unlikely love story of Inspector Josef Weber and Romani-gypsy Deya Reynes adds a different light to the plot and kept me grounded in the horrors faced by non-Jewish couples as well in this very dark period of history.

This is, in my opinion, the strongest element in the novel.

Maetis does an incredible job in bringing to life the struggles of not just the Jews, but other communities as well such as Mischlings (the term used by the Nazi regime to refer to individuals of mixed Aryan and Jewish ancestry), the Gypsy community and those who refused to go without a fight that were branded as ‘dissidents’.

We don’t get a simple, black-and-white portrayal here of good and bad, of the right and wrong choices. Instead, the author gives us a full-fledged illustration of a world that we can count ourselves lucky to have not experienced, but in the process brings us one step closer to empathizing and learning from the horrors of it.

That being said, The Writer may be a gripping historical thriller but what struck me most was the humanity of the story itself. As mentioned in the blurb, a great part of the story revolves around two writers. One who grips to his own life on account of his profession as a writer, and the other that attempts to save others through his words.

Being a writer myself, this struck a chord in me: how words, how the art of writing itself can slice through the darkness and provide rays of light, provide hope and illuminate a path to redemption.

I cannot wait to see this book published and wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone when it is. Kudos to the author for managing the sensitivities surrounding the period of time in which his novel is set with the elements of love, suspense and drama that he weaves into the plot.

Do you want a page-turning thriller? Or do you want a Holocaust novel written so vividly it plays out like a movie in your head? Or even a love story with two very real, very raw characters that you can root for from the start?

Look no further. The Writer has something beautiful to offer you that will make the experience of reading it your own.

The Writer is pending release. In the mean time, you can check out the author’s other works here!

Beatrice Reviews “Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates

“Revolutionary Road” by Richard Yates
★★★★★

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In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model American couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is now about to crumble. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves. 


It’s a disease. Nobody thinks or feels or cares any more; nobody gets excited or believes in anything except their own comfortable little God damn mediocrity

What. A. Novel.

Revolutionary Road had been on my to-read list for the longest time but I had repeatedly put it off, hearing from friends and acquaintances that the subject matter was ‘dreary and depressing’. Not that I have anything against heart-wrenching novels but in my mind, the prospect of reading about a failing marriage for a couple who deluded themselves into chasing the grand illusion of the ‘American Dream’ could wait.

And if you’re putting it off too: stop. Wait no longer. Grab your copy of Richard Yates’ brilliant masterpiece and devour it. Afterward, watch the feature movie starring none other than the marvellous Leonardo DiCaprio and captivating Kate Winslet. That’s what I did and boy, was that an emotional ride.

You’re painfully alive in a drugged and dying culture.

April and Frank Wheeler are the textbook definition of that adventurous, explorative couple that blindly believe they are better than the rest of the world; a world confined to a dull existence that goes hand in hand with conformity in suburban America. Or at least, they try to be.

Yates’ does a fine job of examining the 1950s as a time driven by conformity in exchange for the promise of economic and social security. The writing is, no doubt, wonderful. I found myself turning the page as each line connected effortlessly to the next, painting vivid pictures in my head as if I, too, were in the same race for meaning and beauty out of life as the characters are.

However, that’s where the satirical elements come in. I couldn’t help but laugh and snort derisively through April and Frank’s (multiple) heated arguments. They say communication is key in a relationship and I couldn’t agree more but the two, as much as they talk (with Frank doing the majority of the talking) fail to grasp each other’s feelings. Communication is dead if there is no attempt made to truly understand and relate to what the other is going through or trying to express. And that’s where Frank and April fall short, amidst several other things.

The two entertain a shared illusion of superiority, characterised by their arrogance in running after the ‘American Dream’ while belittling those around them. However, they refuse to confront their own shortcomings and this is where the real tragedy lies – not in being trapped to a dull routine-based life but in their inability to face their own demons, instead choosing to find excuses for their dissatisfaction in other things.

Although I heavily disliked the characters themselves, I couldn’t help but amaze over the beautiful way in which they are etched out throughout the novel by Yates. Frank Wheeler, to put it into today’s colorful lingo, is full of bullshit. I do not wish to dwell too much into the details of his persona, nor the (slightly) favorable character development once the ghosts of his past are revealed, but Frank is poison to April as much as she is to him.

Here are two lonely souls that strive so hard to be this ‘perfect couple’ that the neighborhood views them as, but beyond the facade of their effortless partnership lies the wistfulness of having rushed and projected the promise of happiness and perfection onto the wrong person. Yates illustrates the dangers of romanticizing irrational dreams into theatrical possibilities, in place of accepting one’s limitations in a society driven by conformity.

The character spotlight extends beyond Frank and April Wheeler, with one particular favorite being John Givings. John’s character represents exactly what Frank and April strive to be but tragically fail at. He is a symbol of rebellion against the routine and conventional societal values of the 1950s. Described and no doubt viewed by the two as a “nut case” for having been wheeled off to an insane asylum, he’s probably the one person in the novel that calls things out for what they are and sees through the troubled couple.

Now you’ve said it. The hopeless emptiness. Hell, plenty of people are on to the emptiness part; out where I used to work, on the Coast, that’s all we ever talked about. We’d sit around talking about emptiness all night. Nobody ever said ‘hopeless,’ though; that’s where we’d chicken out. Because maybe it does take a certain amount of guts to see the emptiness, but it takes a whole hell of a lot more to see the hopelessness. And I guess when you do see the hopelessness, that’s when there’s nothing to do but take off. 

The novel is a must-read. There’s something for everyone to take away. We might not be living in 1950s America but there is truthto this story. Yates covers various important themes such as feminism (in specific, through the lack of choice and April’s need for liberation), the cost of freedom and the tragedy of unrealized dreams in a world where they were considered foolish. Yates shows us the bitter truth of mediocrity and the startling reality that may unfold in one’s search for perfection: a prison of one’s own making.

My Take on Black Mirror’s Latest Season

We live in the age of technology. Nearly every spectrum of our life is associated with some form of tech. Man made machine but now, it’s the machine that makes the man. Whether it be through the formation of our identities on various platforms of social media or the consumption of news and media through the Internet, we are heavily reliant on technology to lead our day-to-day lives.

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And that’s why Black Mirror, the bleak sci-fi anthology series created by Charlie Brooker, is exactly what we need to remind us of the grim outcomes that may result if we continue blindly down this path. Our technological advancements come with the risk of detaching from human interaction – and when the the very essence of humanity stems from empathy and connection, wouldn’t this place us on the losing side of a bargain?

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As every episode of Black Mirror imparts viewers with a key message to reflect upon, I can’t entirely say that Season 5 was a hard miss but in comparison to the brilliant, mind-blowing impact of some of the previous seasons, it was rather underwhelming.

The casting was undoubtedly well done with familiar and talented faces all around. In particular, Andrew Scott’s (you may remember him as Moriarty from Sherlock) performance was impeccable. His acting was probably the saving grace of the episode ‘Smithereens‘ in which he features.

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That being said, this season was definitely a little ‘softer’ around the edges in comparison to the previous episodes which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it hit closer to home, especially with regard to ‘Smithereens’ and ‘Ashley O’. I found the episodes to be much more indicative of issues that already exist in today’s age of technology, issues such as social media and porn addiction.

My favorite episode was without a doubt ‘Striking Vipers’, the first one in the season. I’m surprised that it’s one of the lower rated episodes, considering it brings the classic shock-value and distinct discomfort associated with the better Black Mirror episodes, but more so because of the themes it opens up for discussion – the potential for technology to impact forms of human intimacy.

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Yeah…let’s not go there yet, Karl.

Unlike ‘San Junipero’ or ‘Hang the DJ’ however, ‘Striking Vipers’ is comparably less heartwarming with the real-life implications it presses in a world of Virtual Reality which can alter people’s perception of self-image and broaden the boundaries of human sexuality. Through the uncomfortable intimacy projected on the screen of two college best friends entering a cyber-affair filled with lots of virtual sex, I somehow came to understand and appreciate what Brooker was driving at.

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Any Street Fighter or Tekken fans will feel some major throwbacks with this one.

Whether or not you’re an avid gamer, you know what it feels like to want to live out a fantasy with zero repercussions on your life. It’s human to desire more and search for an escape from a dissatisfying aspect to our lives. The episode brings to light the cost of doing so and the fight to either accept the blowback and own up to it, or continue to live in a world with no fantasy to fall back on.

The audience quickly realizes that Danny and Karl (our good ol’ cyber-loving buddies) do not feel the emotional or sexual intimacy they experience in VR in reality. They are not, by any means, ‘gay’ in that sense. However, the two of them who share years of friendship and closeness, finally find a platform to explore the meaning of that intimacy. And it stays there, limited to that realm of existence, virtual as it may be.

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The complex dynamic of VR allowing emulation of the sexual experience in a woman’s body for a man whose heterosexual identity in reality is now redefined and put into question, was brilliant. The ramifications of this on Karl’s sexual performance (in real life) are also explored in the episode. His sexual fulfillment is now entirely dependent on, not just adapting the gaming persona of Roxette, but in having it be with Danny in that form.

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Technology has the potential to completely redefine the boundaries of sexuality, gender identity and self-image. While this season may have been a little ‘mellow’ with its shock-factor, Season 5 still holds up to true Black Mirror fashion – provoking its viewers to think and reflect about how much power we’re willing to give away for our progression and the real-life impact of doing so on the most fundamental aspects to human life.