Off the Shelf: A Review of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz

I’ve always revered my father as a master of foreshadowing. It never failed – we’d go to see a movie in the theater, and no later than fifteen minutes into the film, Dad would lean over and whisper to me how it would all end. Not because he knew any spoilers, but because he could pick up on the tiniest of details and already be five steps ahead of the plot. Now, it’s become somewhat of a game I play with myself whenever I go to see a movie or pick up a good mystery – I immediately start looking for those little ‘tells’. I’d like to think that I’ve gotten as good as Dad at my predictions, but then I happened to receive an ARC of Shutter by Laurie Stolarz…

28963881Summary (via Goodreads)
THE FACTS
• Julian Roman, age sixteen, is an escapee from the Fairmount County Juvenile Detention Facility.
• His parents, Michael Roman and Jennifer Roman, are dead.
• Julian is wanted for murder.

THE QUESTIONS
• Why is Julian Roman on the run?
• Just how dangerous is he?
• And who did kill Michael and Jennifer Roman, if not Julian?

Seventeen-year-old Day Baker views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she pictures and the truths she believes-neatly captured in black and white-begin to blur.

Julian is not the “armed and dangerous” escapee the police are searching for, but his alibis don’t quite add up, either. There is more to his story. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture . . . whatever it reveals. Did he? Or didn’t he?

Day digs deeper into the case while Julian remains on the run. But the longer her list of facts becomes, the longer the list of questions becomes, too. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels for him. Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

 

Things I Liked:

A lot of folks find their way to Laurie Stolarz care of the Blue is for Nightmares series or the Touch series, but for me it was the Welcome to the Dark House series. It was fabulous, frightening, and haunted my nightmares for weeks after I closed the covers. What really got me hooked is that Stolarz truly gets inside the minds of her teenage characters and brings out voices that are wholly believable as well as engrossing. While Shutter isn’t a book that will occupy my nightmares, it is one that has now spent several days occupying my thoughts. I’ve been turning over the mysteries of the story and the intricacies of the characters in my mind, and I am still rocked to the core that I didn’t see such a fitting yet shocking ending coming.

Julian (I have to just love that name, don’t I? I’m named after a Julian, after all.) is a teen on the run, escaped from juvie with the clothes on his back and a story full of holes. Day is a young girl taken in by his shy demeanor and mysterious circumstances, and her determination to find the answers in Julian’s case leads her to ask questions others might not. She’s desperate to prove herself, not only for Julian’s sake, but also for her own. Day is constantly trying to live up to her justice-seeking, do-gooding parents who seem to make everything work… except for a marriage and having time for their daughter.

Day also has a passion for photography, hence the name, and it doesn’t feel at all like a superficial character trait. Some authors might add it to make their characters seem more artistic but never really follow it up with much depth… Not here. Day has some beautiful concepts for projects detailed within the story that actually had me aching to see the photographs, however fictional they may be. Day’s photography helps to weave the story together and evoke some of the heavier themes, especially in relation to her feelings towards her mother and father.

I love the format of this book, told in alternate points of view between Day in the present and Julian writing in his journal. Julian’s journal entries are especially powerful because you glimpse more of his past, his relationship with his family and the tragedy that changed them forever, and also snippets from what really happened the day Julian found his mother’s body in the bathtub and was accused of murdering his father. These were my favorite parts of the book, the journal entries, because you really begin to feel for Julian and want to fight right alongside Day to vindicate him.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I’ve seen an early review or two that have mentioned some aspects being unbelievable. I’ll tell you what, the only part I found unbelievable was this:
“I must say, I’ve never had a customer take photos of items they purchased in the past. What is this really about?”
“A school project. Photography class.”
Come on! You know she wanted to say she was a writer doing research. This is actually how I feel anytime someone questions my Google history. I promise that “gruesome ways to kill a person” was totally just my research for something I was writing.
By the way, I am JUST KIDDING! It’s so hard to pick out things I didn’t like in a story that I really did love. I was so engrossed by the story that I didn’t really find anything about it unbelievable. Society can be pretty screwy, and I know plenty of kids that come from rough backgrounds. I also know plenty of intelligent kids with chips on their shoulders. For me, this story totally works.

If you really want me to nitpick and find something that I didn’t care for, I’d say Day’s friends. Well, mostly just Tori. I think the real reason she annoyed me is that we all know a Tori, and she’s just as annoying in real life as she is in fiction. Tori’s the taunting friend, the one that gives you a hard time about the things you like to do or a boy showing interest in you. She’s also the one that’s too preoccupied with her flavor of the week to really have any interest in anything else. Tori’s got her own issues going on, but that’s discussed briefly before she’s off to the next boy. Totally a believable aspect, but I did find myself trying to read faster through any part with her in it.

Overall Rating:
5 stars for getting the better of me! I thought that I had this one figured out at least halfway through, only to be completely, totally, utterly wrong. You’re going to race through the pages trying to piece together the truth, and meanwhile that little DUN-DUN sound clip from Law & Order is going to play on repeat in your head… I mean, at least it did for me. Laurie Stolarz has quickly become one of my favorites in the genre. She is masterful with chilling atmospheres, concealed mysteries, and characters that truly feel like people you would want to get to know (or in the case of some Welcome to the Dark House characters, I’d rather not meet them…not in a scary, horror house, nor anywhere else). She’s definitely an author you’ll want to check out!

The current release date for Shutter is October 18, 2016, and I definitely recommend picking it up before Halloween for a good, chilling mystery.

“Everyone has their own story – their own version of the truth, a rationale for how they act.”
“Because everyone has a unique perspective,” I say, thinking about my photo project.
“Exactly. In most cases, your mother’s political escapades aside, I’d say that people act out when they’ve lost their way, or when they aren’t getting the support that they need. They’ve fallen through the cracks and gotten desperate. I’m not saying that what they do is justified, but you have to wonder: if those same people were given different opportunities -“

Add Shutter to your To Be Read Shelf on Goodreads
Pre-Order Shutter via Amazon
Pre-Order Shutter via Barnes & Noble

Advertisements

A Wicked Signing

My First Signing

I’m a bit behind in making this post, but it has taken me quite awhile to put into words how I feel about the signing. In short, I am still in awe. On October 14th, the Wicked Wordsmiths had their first ever book signing for Wicked Words. A local bookstore hosted the event, and it was a success, to say the least.

I won’t lie, in the days leading up to the signing, I started having my doubts about how many people would show up. It was entirely possible that it could only be our mothers, fathers, and significant others. We’re just a small, local writing group… we shouldn’t expect a crowd, should we? As it turns out, the supporters showed up in droves. For an hour and a half, there was a constant line of readers making their way along the table to visit with each author. Of course, the mothers, fathers, and significant others were there. In fact, my father was the first person in line (adorable). But on top of that, there were people that showed up that didn’t have any prior connections to any of the W3 group, and THAT was what truly shocked us. It’s amazing to know that we managed to write this anthology, jumped headfirst into publishing it despite our nervousness, and that there are people out there that want to share in what we created. AMAZING. We can’t thank everyone enough for their support.

Wicked Wordsmiths of the West

I am beyond proud of this group. Wicked Words was definitely a learning experience for us all, and I think it has given us the drive to continue doing bigger and better things, including our own individual WIPs and more anthologies for the group. I know that personally, I now want to strive even harder to finish the book that’s been running wild in my mind and bring it to fruition by seeking publication. Publishing the anthology has done wonders for proving to me that I CAN do this, and I certainly won’t be losing that motivation any time soon. Especially not since we continue to receive promotion from the press. There have been several local news articles published regarding the anthology, and next week, a few of us will also be interviewed on a cable access show that reaches about 37,000 homes daily. Pretty sweet stuff, if you ask me.

Cabell Standard

We’ve also been invited back for another signing in participation with Small Business Saturday, which is extremely exciting, especially when you factor in that some big names like Craig Johnson and Marie Manilla are also in talks of attending. With November less than a week away, we Wicked Wordsmiths have had to shift our focus to our participation in NaNoWriMo, but we will continue to be grateful for all the opportunities and learning experiences that Wicked Words has given to us.  This also certainly won’t be our last anthology.

Oh, and for anyone wondering, why yes… I did end up signing my own book. Sometimes, you just need to give yourself a reminder.

Wicked Words – OUT NOW!

I’m a little late to the party, but WICKED WORDS is finally out! Actually, to be honest, we were able to release the anthology a few days before our official release date of October 1st, but the insanity that followed kept me from posting the update here. Pretty exciting though, yes?

I had ordered my copy the moment it was available, then sat in agony at work the next day after receiving the text alert that my book was at my local postal carrier, but wouldn’t be delivered for another 24 hours. If there’s one thing I have zero patience for, it’s waiting. On my lunch, I drove to the post office and begged and pleaded until the exceptionally kind postal worker searched through the packages in back just to find mine. There was a long period of time where I just sat in the car holding the unopened package, nervous to look inside. Finally, shaking all over, I held in my hands my very first venture into publishing.

It's really real!

It’s really real!

Sure, I’m still critical of my own work…there’s a giant glaring grammatical error in my story, but DAGNABBIT! It’s PUBLISHED! It happened! I can search my name on Amazon, and something I’ve written comes up! It’s real, and there are actually people out there in the world buying our book. That’s an amazing feeling to me, something I don’t have adequate words to describe, but that I won’t soon forget.

Want to get your own copy of this spooky collaborative effort from Wicked Wordsmiths of the West? You can buy the paperback copy HERE and the Kindle edition HERE.

I can’t express just how grateful we are to all of our readers! Thank you all so, so very much.

Wicked Words

While writing my bio for the Wicked Wordsmith anthology, I realized two things:
#1 – I need a more professional twitter account with less “colorful” language than my personal account. Thus, you can now find me @JulianneTillis
#2 – If I’m going to list my blog in my bio, I might want to actually start posting on a more regular basis. So, here we are!

I started a writing group about three years ago after my first NaNoWriMo experience. The Huntington region at the time did not have a ML, and so I unofficially took over and found a core group of local writers to participate in the write ins during November. At the end of NaNoWriMo that year, we’d all enjoyed the camaraderie so much that we wanted to make our meet-ups a regular occurrence. Wicked Wordsmiths of the West was born, and have met every month for the past three years to discuss all aspects of our craft and participate in creative prompts and activities. At the beginning of this year, we had the wild idea to start working on an anthology. A loose goal of a collection of creepy stories in time for Halloween was set, and we began drafting all varieties of horror. It has definitely come down to crunch time, but I think we’ve just about got it! Our cover release happened just the other day, and I’m pretty excited about it:

The cover for our first anthology - due out October 1st!

The cover for our first anthology – due out October 1st!

The photo in the bottom left corner happens to relate to my short story, “Flesh and Blood”, which you can read when Wicked Words is released October 1st. It will be available in both paperback and kindle format through Amazon, and I will be sure to post the link as soon as it’s available. For anyone who happens to be in the Huntington, WV area though, we will be having an in-person signing and release party October 14th at Empire Books and News in the Pullman Plaza. Hope to see you there!

Oh, and don’t forget to like the Wicked Wordsmiths of the West page on Facebook to keep up with all of our updates!