The Neighbor

Lured with the affirmation of growing friendships, a family filled neighborhood, and a successful brewery; Clay Daniels uproots his wife, Leah Daniels, and twins, Zack and Zadie to Maine. Unfortunately for the Daniels, Maine is everything but what they’ve hoped for.
Stuck in an undeveloped neighborhood, Clay searches for happiness outside of his life and confines all his energy and love into his brewery. While Leah, haunted by the idea of playmates for her kids, friends for herself, and ignored by her husband, lets loneliness get the best of her. She begins to grow a strange obsession with her neighbor, Clarissa Gaines. However, the more she uncovers about Clarissa, the more she reveals about herself, her husband, and the rest of the secrets buried all around her that no one is ready to face again.

“I move to the window and see Clarissa’s car parked in the driveway. I can’t believe she’s come home so early, the one day I chose to snoop around. In all the time I’ve been watching her, she’s never returned at this hour. What am I going to do.”
– Joseph Souza

I’m not a harsh writer – especially when it comes to another author’s literary accomplishments. However, I can’t help but question the state of mind of this author as I read The Neighbor by Joseph Souza. This book is a psychological thriller told from the perspectives of Clay and Leah Daniels. It’s centered around the disappearance of Mycah, a college student activist and Leah’s strange obsession with her neighbor Clarissa. While this plot was promising in the first few chapters, it ended up being the opposite of a book I’d normally have high hopes for. It started off great. It was something I was drawn into and I was excited to uncover the same mystery that intrigued and entangled the main characters. However, the more I got to know the characters the harder it became to like the book and follow along with the plot. The Neighbor carried so much subplot, that ultimately the main plot got lost in all of the drama. Which made the book uninteresting and hard to read. The characters were very unlikable and the events in the book continuously snow balled into a mess of backstabbing, affairs, and murder.

She needs intensive therapy if she’s to put her sisters death in the rear view mirror. But will that be enough to save our marriage?”

– Joseph Souza

I was also disgusted reading the many “sexual” overly fetishized portions riddled in this novel, “I laugh, the wine making me bold and adventurous. I suddenly want to fulfill my marital duties to this wonderful man. “Would you like to make love to me Clay? Would you like me to pretend I’m your slave? A young girl that you trapped behind the barn one night and had your way with?” I giggle girlishly.” It wasn’t because the author was a white man and I’m a black woman – although maybe it was a small part of it – It was because of the many implications that these “sexual” segments meant. What they meant to me. The idea that any black woman would find these acts enjoyable or beg a white man to see her in such a notion was appalling. “She carried a whip in one hand, which she handed to me, I was at loss for words when she told me how she wanted me to do her. She leaned over the bed, exposing the caramel skin on her back. Then she ordered me to whip her… “You need to, governor. Treat me like the mouth slave you’ve always wanted to possess.”

“Here’s the sad irony. Mycah appeared to enjoy the rough sex. She couldn’t get enough of it. Name the sexual act and we did it. She encouraged -no ordered- me to smack her around.”

– Joseph Souza

If we ignored the sexual component to the book (which is pretty hard to considering how disturbing it is), there are many other things off with this novel. The plot for intense, was everywhere, hard to follow, and often at times unpredictable, and unrealistic. It left me with more questions than answers (and not in a good way). There were so many things going on in this book at the same time. Leah and Clay’s marriage down fall, both Leah and Clay’s alcoholism, Clay and Leah ignoring the existence of their children, both of their children’s state of mind and development, Leah’s obsession with Clarissa, Clarissa and her husband’s existence in the novel in general, affairs, all the killings, Leah’s lost story line, oh and let’s not forget the point of the book, Mycah.

Although there were some strong points to this book, it all centered around the mystery of Mycah. However, her story line was one that went nowhere. The ending, just like the entirety of this book, was disappointing. Leah, indulges in her self destructive ways, while everyone around her indulged in their own versions as well. The plot is mingled and many of the mystery’s that could’ve lead to an amazing book, resulted in a horrid one. I haven’t read a book in awhile that made me question the mind state of a writer. I also haven’t read Joseph Souza other books, but if there’re anything like this one – I’m starring clear of them.


29511359_186315198646750_4804008243360882691_nReviewed by:

Josie M. Hulen

Josie Monet Hulen is a writer with a Bachelors degree in literature. She’s passionate about the written word and often spends her time with her nose in a book or in the middle of writing one. Her hunger for knowledge and determination to learn, landed her a job as an office manager. She has also been an intern for 9 months with an online publishing company and works part time as a freelance writer. Josie one day hopes to be an inspiring writer.

Rubber Neck

Life is already challenging for Patrick Fort, a young medical student with Asperger’s syndrome. However, it proves more so, when Patrick gets an unanticipated glimpse of death and develops an undying hunger for the truth. This hunger grows when Patrick, along with 4 other medical students, meet cadaver 19. Unable to understand death or unwilling too – Patrick finds himself amid cadaver 19’s possible murder. Harboring different goals and different opinions than his anatomy peers and professors, his desire for the truth leads him to uncover a series of different truths and in the forefront of danger.

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“Death was an inverse Big Bang; an impossible magic trick where everything had become nothing in the very same instant, where one state had been replaced so completely by another that no evidence of the first could be detected, and where the catalyst had been vaporized by the sheer shock of the new.” – Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer’s crime novel, Rubberneck emits the essences of ‘on the edge of my seat’ literature. It’s told from the perspective of many conflicting characters through different variations of time. However, begins with the viewpoint of Samuel Galan. A car crash victim stuck in his own comatose body. From the beginning of the novel to the end you’re thrown into an influx of death, sadness, and a whirlwind of shocking ever-changing events. Belinda’s unafraid of hovering away from the sometimes-disturbing thoughts of her characters, “I could have killed you while you slept, he said, not unpleasantly” – but rather builds on them until her readers are unable to put the book down. From the everlasting downward spiral of Patrick’s mother, “his mother didn’t go to work in the card shop, and Patrick didn’t go to school. His mother slept and slept and slept” – to Tracy’s fidget, timid nature, “she thought that if her (hypothetical) boyfriend were in a coma for more than a few weeks, she’d probably just cut her losses and move on, not stick around to watch him shit in his pants for the next fifty years.” Bauer’s ability to make readers wonder and grimace simultaneously is truly remarkable.

However, in my opinion, what’s truly a page turner is Bauer’s unwillingness to romanticize Patrick’s Asperger’s syndrome. She riddles the novel with variations of Patrick’s “quirks” and his lasting obsession with death. Patrick elaborates on his speculations and readers discover how his unwillingness to let go of crucial events from his past and seemingly future, affect other characters. Readers indulge in Patrick’s disabilities, through Patrick and recurring characters, “Everybody else possessed the key to popularity and happiness, and his clumsy attempts to find his own key always ended with other children looking at him funny or calling him names.” Seemingly odd actions, normal to Patrick, give readers a realistic view of Asperger’s syndrome and allows us to empathize with him – even if we couldn’t imagine performing many of his actions ourselves. “You’re different, you know.” “Only different from you,” he said. “Not different from me.”

The growth, digression, and discovery of her compelling, complex, circulating characters are remarkable. As a reader – you must appreciate her ability to capture it all without leaving any story line unsolved or any questions unanswered. For that, I give Belinda
Bauer’s Rubberneck 5/5 stars.


Reviewed by29511359_186315198646750_4804008243360882691_n

Josie M. Hulen

Josie Monet Hulen is a writer with a Bachelors degree in literature. She’s passionate about the written word and often spends her time with her nose in a book or in the middle of writing one. Her hunger for knowledge and determination to learn about everything she can, landed her a job as an office manager. She has also been an intern for 8 months with an online publishing company and one day hopes to be an inspiring writer.