Review: The Art of Peeling an Orange, Victoria Avilan


That very day I fell in love with you, I asked why you wrote alternate endings. You said that reality is cruel and that fiction should be truth, but also an escape. You said that if a writer is considered God, she should be a benevolent one.


Carly Rosen is nothing, if not distraught.  As she sits in a dark church, mourning the death of her best friend and fiancé, she cannot ignore the woman delivering his eulogy. Anna Garibaldi is a master of arts in the public eye and Greg’s grieving widow.  Though she despises this stranger, this woman who stole Greg away and allowed him to die, Carly loses herself in the life of Garibaldi.  She stops painting and stops contacting her family and friends.  In doing so, Carly uncovers some of the most well-kept secrets of Garibaldi’s past and learns a little about herself as well.  Perhaps most importantly, she discovers that with time and the right support, she is able to cope with love and loss.   

As I opened my copy of The Art of Peeling an Orange, I couldn’t help feeling a little hesitant.  Romance is not typically my genre of choice, so I didn’t know what to expect from an Adult Fiction novel.  Nonetheless, my eye was drawn to Victoria Avilan’s vibrant cover and clearly symbolic title.  Who (or what) is the orange? All I knew was that whatever was about to happen, the story was going to get delightfully messy.  I suggest this book to readers who enjoy LBGTQA+ and Adult Fiction with splashes of Erotica.

What I like most about this book is the way Avilan writes sexuality into her plot. She does not alienate or insult her audience by writing from a heteronormative standpoint. She does not spend pages explaining a character’s sexual preferences and successfully avoids falling into a “coming out” storyline. As a disclaimer: the “coming out” story is important, especially for audiences who are struggling to discuss or even claim their own sexuality, but “coming out” is not an LGBTQA+ person’s only story. (Just as a character who happens to be African American has more to share with the world than their experience with race.)  We need more books like Avilan’s  because they feature sexually fluid characters who are struggling with love and loss in the volume and fashion we’ve previously seen from books which feature heterosexual characters.

I have just a few qualms with this text. In terms of literary content, I didn’t agree with the frequent and blatant references to Hades. I think the land and/or god of the dead is useful in order to convey themes of grief, anger, and loss; however, sometimes the image feels forced.  I think “Hades” makes sense in an internal conversation for Carly because otherwise, it’s as if all the characters are speaking to each other in metaphor.  Also, the word “musk” is used 29 times and is sometimes used multiple times in the same section or chapter.  I suggest replacing the word here and there with others such as “scent,” “perfume,” or fragrance.  In terms of grammar, I only spotted one typo. (On page 62, the word “crank” should be “prank.”)

All things considered, I give The Art of Peeling an Orange 4 out of 5 stars.  


Avilan, Victoria. The Art of Peeling an Orange. Shaggy Dog Stories, 2015. Kindle file.


Review: Gone Girl

I was never one to read a psychological thriller.  Then… I read Gone Girl.

Nick and Amy Dunne are auspicious young writers who met, as many writers do, in New York City.  Nick came from a small town known as North Carthage, Missouri to make a name for himself in journalism.  Though born a city girl, Amy held similar aspirations.  Her parents had made a living writing children’s books featuring Amazing Amy, a character the “real” Amy has struggled to emulate.  The two writers are a perfect couple with the perfect life: until the recession starts to eliminate their job market.  What’s more, they learn Nick’s mother has been diagnosed with cancer.  It only makes sense to move back to Missouri.  In order to make ends meet, Nick decides to open a bar.  Amy contributes the remains of her savings to make this happen but is unable to find work herself.  They are about to celebrate their 5 year anniversary when Amy disappears.  Though Nick is the police’s prime suspect, his guilt cannot be confirmed.  In fact, it seems very few details regarding Amy’s disappearance can be confirmed. As various clues and alibis start to contradict each other.  The police struggle to build a coherent case.  The question remains: Where is Amy?  


Gone Girl is not necessarily a “new” release, as the original publishing date was in 2012 and the film adaptation was released in 2014, but I still feel obligated to review (and praise) Gillian Flynn for her work.  As I stated above, I was not typically drawn to her genre but then I was required to read Gone Girl for a critical reading course in college. I was totally sucked in and wrote as much about the book as possible.


I promptly bought Flynn’s other novels: Sharp Objects (2006) and Dark Places (2009) and was happy to find that Gillian Flynn is inventive in all her books.  She writes to achieve rumination rather than resolution and forces readers to challenge their comfortability with principal characters.  There are neither “heroes” nor light-hearted adventures.  To be crystal clear, Flynn writes for a mature audience.  


My favorite aspects of Gone Girl is Flynn’s use of dual and unreliable narration.  These two literary techniques aren’t always used together, but I do think they work together nicely to prove that multiple perspectives are integral to the plot of a successful thriller novel.  The point of view alternates between Nick and Amy Dunne, who recount events in a manner which protect their self-interests.  As a result, both narrators are unreliable and increasingly unlikeable.  When Amy disappears, Nick is barely fazed. He withholds details regarding his alibi for the morning of Amy’s disappearance from secondary characters as well as from the reader. 

Amy is just as murky in her diary entries.  seems like a caricature of a woman when she writes in her diary.  Her stories from when she and Nick met in NYC  read like a film script. I didn’t know who to believe or when to take either character seriously (which was great, because I don’t want predictable characters in a thriller or mystery novel).  This unreliability caused me to start thinking about how secondary characters would tell their version of the “Nick and Amy” story.  For example, how did Amy’s parents interact with her on a daily basis?  Did they actually expect Amy to use the Amazing Amy series as a literal roadmap to success, or were they simply inspired to write after her mother was finally able to deliver their only daughter?


I also enjoyed how Flynn confronts gender stereotypes in this book while keeping the characters realistically problematic.  For example, Amy brings forth an interesting debate on gender expectations by expressing the pressures of being “Cool Girl.”  She explains, “I waited patiently— years— for the pendulum to swing the other way, for men to start reading Jane Austen, learn how to knit, pretend to love cosmos, organize scrapbook parties, and make out with each other while we leer. And then we’d say, Yeah, he’s a Cool Guy” (301).  The idea that women should be constantly agreeable while interacting with men is still prominent.  This is why we are still referred to as “bossy” instead of “authoritative” when we establish ourselves in positions of power.  We are expected to adapt to men’s tastes and to “calm down.” To exploit our sexuality. To tolerate inappropriate jokes when we know they’re offensive and unfunny.  


However, women are also taught to look for an unrealistic profile in men, and Amy exhibits this phenomenon.  Though she admits to struggling with gender expectations, she shames Nick for struggling with his identity:  “You are a man,” I say. “You are an average, lazy, boring, cowardly, woman-fearing man…The only time in your life you’ve ever liked yourself was pretending to be someone I might like” (529).  This moment is interesting, as she is chastising Nick for being passive, but also for performing according to her expectations.  Again, I must stress how this novel will make you think about character likeability and complexity.  


The only complaint I have about this novel is the very end because the story is uncharacteristically resolved in comparison to Flynn’s other books.  I can’t elaborate too much without including spoilers, but I do feel there would be more complications to the resolution when all character perspectives are considered.  This aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I give Flynn a 5-star rating and am eager to see her on the best-seller list again soon!

*CLICK HERE* for a free sample or to purchase Gone Girl on

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. Crown, 2012. Kindle file.



You’ve been asking me what is this “XYZ”

when you should have learned the alphabet when you were 2

when all you needed to know was that her name was Shannon

and you thought her sparkly purple sandals were pretty.


You liked her

and it didn’t matter she was different the other girls you used to like.  

It didn’t matter

because you were not her and she was not you.


The year is 2017-

and it’s still possible to be “too much” of yourself.

I’m not talking about arrogance.

It’s time for some honesty,


and honestly?

I love women and I love men, too-

especially the gentle ones.


I’m sorry you’ve fallen victim.


You’ve heard too much about your friend Shannon,

whose legal name was still Shawn

until 22 years of persistent protest

transformed to progress.


I’m sorry

you heard she had the shit kicked out of her in 6th period shop class.

I’m sorry

you saw her fuchsia nails resting so out of place on callused fingertips.


I’m sorry

that you had to forget that she used to be called he

and that you have been best friends

all this time with you none the wiser.


I’m sorry you had to endure all of that.