Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases

Book Review: Thorn (Dauntless Path, Book 1) by Intisar Khanani

Thorn

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, HarperTeen & Hot Key Books, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling-The Goose Girl

Plot: A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Opinion:

 

 

‘You are neither goose girl no veria, but something better than them both.’

‘You are mistaken,’ I say, the words bitter on my tongue.

‘I am nothing.’”

Alyrra is no stranger to cruelty and being looked down upon, even if she is Princess. Though her honesty may be seen as a virtue to some, in the eyes of court and her mother, it is her biggest weakness and downfall. After outing a courtier named Valka for stealing and trying to blame it on a servant, Alyrra has had to endure the consequences of her compulsion to tell the truth, through her mother’s sneers and the concealed beatings by her brother. So it is a slight reprieve when an arrangement of marriage is made between the kingdoms of Princess Alyrra and Prince Kestrin,promising safe haven from the family that despises her. But along the journey to her betrothed, Valka enacts revenge on Alyrra and makes a deal with a sorceress that switches their skin. Now Alyrra must navigate a new life as a goose girl, a drastic change from her life of nobility, but one she finds comfort in. But accepting her new life means forsaking her old one, and the obligations that came with it.

This is how you survive: one breath to the next, refusing each thought as it comes to you. This is how you get through the worst of things.”

This, was beautiful.

If there is one thing I love in a retelling, it’s when the author can effortlessly redesign a tale into one that still holds the atmospheric characteristics that blessed the original. This story feels like a classic old-timey and eerie fairy tale passed on through generations. It doesn’t feel like a fluffed new-age YA retelling stuffed with love triangles and whimpering teens. It’s characters are mature for their age, as most were in a time of traveling by horse and serving royalty, and their development isn’t rushed. They are thoughtfully revealed to the reader over time, allowing us to get to know who they are through their actions rather than a few words of their strength or demeanor. They have wit, charm, flaws, strengths, emotions and deep convictions. It reads like a classic fairy tale spun with YA Fantasy, and is laced with a rough purity much like a Jane Austen novel.

The geese are spread about the pasture, snapping up grass and tasty bugs, or dipping into the water. It is as if nothing has happened, as if the pasture exists out of time and none of the violence or illness I have seen can touch it. There is a wordless sort of hope in this field that bears me up.”

When I started reading this book, my only hope was that it would at least be better than the last Goose Girl retelling I read (Bloodleaf). The last one was…less than impressive so I figured we could only go up from there. And my word, did we go up. Thorn was a perfect re-imagining of the original story. It had many elements that mirrored The Goose Girl, but enough changes that it really created a descriptive and well-imagined full-length tale that I loved every second of. There was a perfect mix of seriousness and witty sentences littered throughout that made me fall in love with Alyrra, especially when she brings dark humor into her unfortunate predicaments.

At least the stream is too shallow for her to drown me in.”

Alyrra, called Thorn through most of the book, starts out meek and quiet due to how she was treated in her own kingdom. But as the story progresses, we watch her find her voice and the confidence to stand up for what she believes in. She blossoms into a sure and just woman who is impossible to dislike, especially next to that monster of a girl, Valka. I loved seeing her stand up to Valka every time they were forced to share the same air space, and the way she accepted this betrayal was beyond regal.

And I will make sure it fails if you betray the oaths of allegiance you took on when you stole my skin.”

Do you argue for the lives of men who cloak cruelty in the guise of justice?”

The overall theme of this tale is justice. What one will do to find it, and what it looks like to each person. For some it is revenge, for some it is mercy. But in Thorn, it is the driving force for this entire book and the decisions these characters make. It takes precedence over everything, even the romance. Though I usually love a romance (I mean come on, who doesn’t), the lack of one in Thorn is actually totally okay with me. There is a hint towards it and a little nudge as something that may come, but the lack of one was really fitting for this story and the times. Plus, there is going to be a sequel, so you know it will be picked back up in the next installment.

This is easily one of my new favorite retellings. It was written impeccably, had an even and well-paced flow throughout, and the characters were wonderfully crafted. Though I do wish to know more about Kestrin, I am expecting to learn more about him in book two. I cannot wait to see where the author takes this series!

4.5 Stars

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Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Upcoming Releases

Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

All your Twisted Secrets

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, HarperTeen, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

Opinion:

The Queen Bee.

The Jock.

The Brains.

The Stoner.

The Loner.

& The Orchestra Geek.

It’s The Breakfast Club meets Saw!

And DAMN is it epic.

What they all assumed was a scholarship dinner with the mayor at one of the local restaurants, quickly turns into a game of survival against the clock. Six seniors are locked in a banquet room with no way out, and forced to play a sadistic game. Upon being locked in the room, the teams discover a bomb, a syringe filled with a lethal liquid, and a note instructing them to pick one person to kill within the hour, or they all die. Frightened and unsure if the game is real or not, the teens try to find a way out as the clock starts ticking down. But why would someone throw them all in a room together, wanting someone to die? Who is the common enemy? As the hour goes by and they become frantic, their morals and judgments are put to the test, as well as their pasts. The real question isn’t about who has to die, it’s about what you will do to survive.

It was do or die time.”

HOLY. SHIT.

I did NOT see that coming!

I came into this expecting a fluffy whodoneit with a little teenage angst, maybe some bully/slutshaming, a few screaming matches and possibly a flying fist or two. But what I got instead, was so much more than that. With a collection of teens that resembles the cast of The Breakfast Club (with an orchestra geek) set in modern times, and a Clue-esque murder mystery styled game that has all the horrific appeal of Saw, it was bound to get a little wild. The high stakes of only having an hour, being stuck in a blistering hot room with people you know but also despise, and then having to choose who to kill or risk exploding?!

The thing about being trapped in a room with five other people, a bomb, and a syringe of lethal poison is that at some point, shit’s going down.”

And down that shit went.

The story is told by Amber PrescottOrchestra Geek extraordinaire. From the beginning she comes off as a level-headed, conscientious and plain ol’ teenage girl. She has a passion for music that takes president in her life, as she hopes to one day score movies in Hollywood like Danny Elfman. She is dating The JockRobbie, who is a baseball star and again, proves to be a truly nice guy despite his popularity and dashing good looks. The Queen BeeSasha is of course gorgeous, intelligent, and has her toe in practically every aspect of their high school. She has big aspirations and is a go-getter, but also rumored to be a bit nasty towards her peers. DiegoThe Brains, is exactly what you’d expect. Super smart and inquisitive, and he has a history with Amber that has now evolved into something complicated, to say the least. Scott is The Stoner who is rumored to sell drugs, do drugs and be an all-around pretty doped up guy. And lastly is PriyaThe Loner. The former best friend of Amber, Priya is a super quiet girl who keeps to herself while practicing magic tricks and sleight of hand.

The story flips between the present, where the teens are trapped in the room and the clock is ticking down, to different moments in the past year. Each “flashback chapter” gives a piece of insight into the relationships between these characters – the good and the bad. The reader learns how their lives are connected, the things that each of them has done to affect one another, and why they have all ended up in this room together. At first the teens start out assuming they are being pranked. But when the doors are bolted, their cell phones have no signal, and they can’t escape through the barred windows, they begin to worry that maybe it isn’t just a practical joke after all.

No matter how frantically you claw at rationality, how desperately you cling to common decency, you eventually give in to your basic instinct to survive.”

This book is a web of lies, and I LOVED. EVERY. SECOND. OF. IT. I was hooked like Popeye on spinach, like Homer Simpson to doughnuts and beer. This story sunk its claws into my skull and refused to let me look away until the very last page. Not like I’d want to! I devoured this book and drank up every tiny detail the author left dripping on each page. The characters felt so incredibly authentic and developed, the plot had countless twists and turns that made me so unclear of who could have been behind it, and the amount of truly important topics this author included was executed perfectly!

Bullying, peerpressure, suicide, gun violence, drug abuse and societal and parental expectations are huge themes to the story. Each character’s backstory has been affected by one or more of these issues and it brings a raw realism to this YA tale. It made connecting with each character effortless because these are all issues, experiences and feelings that so many of us can relate to. And the best part is that each issue was weaved into the story in a very natural way. A lot of times when an author wants to include THIS many hot topics, it feels forced and rubs me the wrong way. But Diana Urban did an amazing job of blending each one into the story like a damn professional.

I really wish I could unleash and give away every secret to this sneakily crafted work of fiction but I won’t ruin it for you guys. Even if it does pain me to keep my mouth shut about it! This book just blew my mind and I loved how sucked into it I got. It’s a twisted web of lies, deceit, manipulation, trauma, regret, anger and vengeance. It was phenomenal. So buy it and buckle in buttercup, cause it’s about to get CRAZY!

Now you all know who you really are.”

4.5 Stars

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Book Review: Frozen Beauty by Lexa Hillyer

Frozen Beauty

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, HarperTeen, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery

Plot: Everyone in Devil’s Lake knows the three golden Malloy sisters—but one of them is keeping a secret that will turn their little world inside out….

No one knows exactly what happened to Kit in the woods that night—all they have are a constellation of facts: icy blue lips and fingers cold to the touch, a lacy bra, an abandoned pick-up truck with keys still in the ignition. Still, Tessa, even in her fog of grief, is certain that her sister’s killer wasn’t Boyd, the boy next door whom they’ve all loved in their own way. There are too many details that don’t add up, too many secrets still tucked away.

But no matter how fiercely she searches for answers, at the core of that complicated night is a truth that’s heartbreakingly simple.

Told in lush, haunting prose, Frozen Beauty is a story of the intoxicating power of first love, the deep bonds of sisterhood, and a shocking death that will forever change the living.

Opinion:

“…it’s your life, your being alive. It was supposed to be yours.

But then, one day, it isn’t.”

“Secrets. Secrets.”

The Malloy sisters are well-known in Devil’s Lake for their contrasting personalities and unique beauty. They are thick as thieves and have always shared a close bond with each other, and their neighbor and best friend Boyd. But the three sisters also have secrets. Deep, dark and lovely secrets that they keep hidden from one another. And it isn’t until the eldest sister, Kit, is found half-naked and frozen to death, that the secrets finally start to unravel. And when Lilly comes forward with information about seeing Boyd and Kit out in the snow that very night, arguing and kissing, Boyd is taken into custody. But Tessa can’t believe that Boyd, their best friend and her crush, could hurt any of them. So she begins to dig deeper, but what the sisters uncover is more twisted than anything they could have imagined…

“Lilly: the unpredictable one, the selfish one, the baby of the family – all brawl and tears and flash and fire…

Kit: the good girl, the oldest, the one to whom everyone turned in a time of crisis.

Tessa: known for tripping on her own feet, a clumsy shadow in Kit’s wake. Not a shadow…but a negative, all bleached out and odd to look at.”

Frozen Beauty is a beautifully written story about the relationships between three sisters in close age to one another, but who are vastly different in looks and personalities. It portrays the competitive nature between the girls, the yearning to be seen, the desire to be confided in, and the secrets that each of them kept hidden – unsure if they could share them with each other. The sisters love one another deeply and spend a lot of their time together, along with Boyd, but the distances between them are vast once the layers begin to fall away.

This story is told between the two remaining sisters, Lily and Tessa, as they begin to navigate a life without their older sister Kit. The story flips back and forth between the days leading up to Kit’s death, and present time. So as we get to know these two sisters, it is quickly shown how different the girls are and how much they actually keep their lives separate from one another. Tessa is in the same grade as their neighbor Boyd, who is like a brother to the girls, and she is kind of quirky and nerdy but in a relaxed cool kind of way. Lilly, however, is a spunky fifteen-year-old who is the typical young teenage girlobsessed with clothes, loves attention, and is drastically trying to make herself seem older. But Lilly is also beyond hilarious and drops curse words like a seasoned vet, and I loved her for every sassy sentence she delivered.

But the real story centers on Kit, and the WHY and HOW of her sudden death.

“That early Saturday morning, only two days later, Kit’s body would be found, bruised and frozen, in the back of Boyd’s truck.”

Early on in the book, there is a “before” scene of when Lilly sneaks out of her friend’s house after waking up and seeing her friend is no longer there. She sneaks out onto the road when she sees headlights, and comes upon her sister and Boyd arguing in the snow, and eventually kissing. Not wanting to intrude, Lilly goes back to her friend’s house…but finds out the next day that her sister never ends up leaving that spot. So she goes to police and tells them that Boyd was there that night, and that he must have had something to do with it.

“A cry of guilt –

A wolf in the forest of falsehoods that we built.

And now, winter whispers: deny, deny,

Silencing me with its little white lies.

I open my mouth and it fills with snow.

The end’s a blur – I can’t see where to go.”

Secrets obviously play a huge role in this story, and not just between the sisters. EVERY character seems to be dealing with some heavy stuff or hiding a dark secret. Lilly’s best friends are no exception. One is shrinking into thin air and drowning in oversized clothing to compensate for her frail frame, while the girls don’t even mention anything about it. And the other girl begins acting frazzled and says the most indecipherable sentences and phrasesI swear, my brain was in overload trying to figure out what was going on!

As far as suspects go…this author really lays out the possibilities for you! She introduces countless characters who act vague, spout cryptic statements and just act incredibly suspicious. Boyd, who has grown up with the Malloy sisters and acts as their protector, comes off as this great guy at first but it’s not hard to be swayed into a corner of believing him to be obsessive over the girls. Then there is Patrick. A mysterious, new bad boy with rumors of violence and criminal activity following him through the school halls.

But how this story actually turns out was…well, it was alright. My mind wasn’t blown or anything, but it was still a twisty tale that I couldn’t figure out until the end. I definitely didn’t see THAT coming, but it wasn’t the kind of surprise that had me gasping for air and wanting to scream dramatically. Another story I had read last year had a similar outcome, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t as satisfied with the ending as I could have been.

I think I was expecting a bit more from this story. At times the writing was really beautiful and poetic, but other times it felt very forced and awkward. Dialogue was where things would get a little cringey for me, like when the author tries making Patrick seem like this super mysterious and cool guy…but just ends up making him look like he can’t form a sentence? There was a lot of odd comparisons that didn’t make sense, and the connections to the characters just wasn’t really there. I was wanting to get gut-punched with emotions and loss from Kit’s death, but I found myself in a state of not really caring for her at all.

It was a decent story and a good mystery, but I wanted a little more substance and feeling. However, I do like the themes of how secrets can both strengthen and ruin a bond, and the emphasis on sisterly dynamics. I think the author perfectly captured the essence and intricacies that make up the bonds of sisterhood. There is competition, fighting, envy and being left out. But there is also a deep and unbreakable love, and a compassion for one another that is deeply rooted.

I came for the mystery, but I stayed for the sistership.

“And sisters are the hardest – they are mirrors of you; they are competition, opponents in everything…They’re a reflection of your best and worst self, and yet strangers always on the brink of going their separate ways and leaving you, or being left by you – a shadow in the doorway, falling across the carpet. A hug that lasts the length it takes to snap a photo, before it turns into a shove.

They have the power to undo you. And, maybe, to save you.

That’s a terrifying kind of love…”

3 Stars

 

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Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases

Book Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Criers Moon

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance

Plot: Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Opinion:

“On that new moon – like every new moon – the Leurress need to summon the dead from their graves and ferry their souls past the Gate of the Beyond.”

The dead must be ferried, my mother told me as I prepared for my rite of passage, or they’ll wander the land of the living and wreak devastation.”

The Bone Crier’s are a tribe of women called Leurress whose soul purpose is to ferry souls to the Gates of the Beyond. They must lead the unchained to the gates of Heaven, and the chained to the gates of the Underworld. But in order to become a Ferrier, each Leurress must first acquire three Grace Bones from an animal that she has hunted and killed herself. The most desired graces are from animals with extreme speed, powerful senses of smell and hearing, or immense strength. Once a Leurress binds the grace bone with their blood, there is only one ritual left – she must use the sacred bone flute, which also opens the gates on ferrying night, and play a song to lure her soulmate to a bridge, and kill them. But the boy that Ailesse lures to the bridge on her ritual night isn’t what she bargained for, as he plans to kill her to avenge his father’s death.

Ailesse is the daughter of the matron of the Leurress, and has been named heir. As such, she feels the need to prove herself to her mother and the women around her. We first meet her as she and her best friend, Sabine, begin to hunt a shark so that Ailesse may acquire her third grace bone. She is a determined and strong lead character who is not easily shaken or driven to defeat, and her tenacity is shown from page one. She desperately wants to become a Ferrier, as is her life’s purpose, and shows both excitement and longing to complete her final ritual…which involves killing her soulmate.

Her best friend, however, is quite unlike Ailesse. Sabine is just a little younger than her and is indeed a Leuress as well, but has no desire to kill any animal or an innocent person. She is a gentle soul who has an unflinching devotion and love for her friend, but she refuses to harm any innocent creature. She expresses sorrow and uneasiness for the rituals the Leuress go through with in order to ferry the dead, but she is fully supportive of Ailesse and helps her complete her tasks.

Far be it from me to deny anyone the chance to watch you slaughter the man of your dreams.”

Obviously a story about witchy women who kill their soulmates, gain powers from animal bones and ferry the dead into the afterlife is enough of an epic read. But add a little revenge, romance, betrayal and a kickass setting and you’ve got one amazing fantasy.

The story flips between three main characters: Ailesse, Sabine and Bastien. Bastien is a young man who, as a child, witnessed his father being killed by a bone crier. Ever since, Bastien has been planning his revenge on the Bone Crier’s for taking his father and leaving him an orphan living on the streets as a thief. For years he has been training to be able to compete against the Bone Crier’s and their otherworldly powers, and he does so alongside two other orphans whose father was also killed by a Bone Crier.

His powerful desire for revenge is a grace of its own.”

Bastien is a formidable love interest and makes things in this story interesting, but I didn’t get as much substance from his character as I wanted. And to be quite honest, I didn’t get enough substance from any of these characters. I feel that Sabine was developed the most in terms of personality and emotions shining through, but she is only a supporting role next to Ailesse, who is the female lead. I found Ailesse to be strong and a complete badass, but I only ever felt that we were brushing the surface with her. I didn’t feel a strong connection or love for her at all, or for Bastien for that matter. By the end of the read my favorite characters were Sabine, with her unshakable determination and loyalty, and Marcel (Bastien’s friend) with his quirky personality and carefree attitude.

Oh, and the mysterious owl.

Obviously the romance in this tale is between Ailesse and Bastien, soulmates who are never supposed to be together…right? Well no YA Fantasy is EVER complete without a little twist and an epic cliffhanger to leave you wanting more, and of course that is EXACTLY what this author gave us. But my question is this, will this love stand the test of time? The test of the stars and gods?? Well I don’t know. I’m waiting on book 2 just like you are! But there is something to be said about a forbidden love and two characters who desperately DON’T want to be attached to each other. That’s how all great romances start, right? Just ask SJM, she’ll tell you! Give them blinding hatred, threats of murder and a a few below the belt insults and we’ve got some serious LOVE.

All I smell is Ailesse. Earth, fields, flowers. Everything green and alive. A twisted trick of her magic. I have to remember what she really is.

Darkness. Decay. Death.”

But of course, the romance isn’t the only aspect of this tale. It’s an epic fantasy packed with magic, a setting of ethereal beauty and the catacombs of France, and a whole shitload of dead just praying to wreak havoc on the living. I really enjoyed every part of the world-building, the idea of intertwining the frightening and sad history of the very real underground grave in France, and the themes of bridges linking mates and guiding souls beyond. But as much as I loved all of these parts, the rest of the story just didn’t quite measure up. There were a lot of days that just went by as characters hid out in the catacombs, Sabine was constantly hunting for Ailesse, and it was all just kind of…a lot of waiting around?

I think the story could have been either condensed or seasoned with a bit more prominent scenes. It wasn’t exactly slow, but there just wasn’t enough happening to keep me fully invested…which is why I ended up putting the book down a lot and getting distracted way more than usual. It was a good start to the series and I feel like book 1 was just an introduction for what is to come, so I’m still invested and ready to continue the books. But just know, if you’re expecting epic mind-blowing, you might not get it from this first installment. But all in all, it was a good story with an impressive premise.

3-stars

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Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases

Book review: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Red Hood

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Balzer + Bray, via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling/Feminism

Plot: You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked.

And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good. But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her. A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions. About the blood in Bisou’s past and on her hands as she stumbles home. About broken boys and vicious wolves. About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

Opinion: 

 

 

I stumbled to me feet and took off running.

Well, dear, he chased, and I am sure you know where this story goes. It’s your story, too, after all.

I ran, and he chased, and soon I became aware that it was no longer a man who followed me – it was a beast, a wolf.”

who’s afraid of the big bad wolf

i am afraid

of everything.”

Bisou Martel ran from the car to escape the bloody scene before her. The drops of blood running from his chin, mortifying her beyond repair. She wanted nothing more than to disappear, to vanish, so she ran into the woods. But the woods weren’t safe that night, especially for Bisou. For she was different now, and the wolf could smell it in the air. Could taste it in the turning leaves and the trickle of fear mixing with her sweat. So he prowled towards her, inch by inch, wanting to claim what was surely his. Bisou was scared, but she was also different now. So she steps out of the woods, but the wolf doesn’t.

There is only one way to kill a wolf, dear heart.

Quickly.”

This isn’t a fluffy retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. The maiden is not a princess, the wolf is not a prince, and grandmother isn’t sitting in bed twiddling her thumbs. Red Hood is one of the most raw retellings I have come across. It’s unhinging how forceful it pushes your comfort zone into submission and forces you to eradicate those tainted ideas instilled in us of how a female should act at. It will force women to shed every frightened sense of modesty that they grip to their bodies like a towel, and give readers a new insight into the meaning of wolf and prey.

Strange how a thing can strengthen one person and weaken another.”

Bisou lives with her grandmother and has been for since she was a child. Throughout the story there are hints at the trauma and mysteries surrounding her mother and their separation, and why her father isn’t in the picture either. The author blends poetry into the story as a glimpse into her mother’s past and her feelings, and it also gives Bisou a voice while she fights to gain control of what is happening in her town. Why boys are turning up dead, and if she has anything to do with it.

I was alone

in the ghost room

waiting for it to end

alone

hoping he wouldn’t find me

he came

and blew down everything

the moon was made of blood

your bed was full of blood

when he touched you

with his fists and fangs

he could have kept you safe

but he didn’t want to.”

But let’s get real about this.

This book is going to make you uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be an Elana K. Arnold book if it didn’t. But it’s okay if it does, and it’s to be expected. Our culture has been raising women in a world where they should feel shame for their bodies. For not being pretty enough, sweet enough, interesting enough. We are made to feel unworthy, unclean. Taught to take up less space, make less noise, need less and be less. So that is why you will be uncomfortable reading this. Because Elana just did everything society didn’t want her to do.

She made a group of strong, intelligent, driven, fierce and vocal women. Who pry and push their way towards their goals, damning the consequences. She gave their bodies truth. Showcasing them like the beautiful vessels they are. Full of awkward limbs, colors, textures and sizes. But best of all, she talked about that one special thing that makes women feel dirty. The one thing that men have made them hide and feel ashamed for – their periods.

Yeah, I said it.

PERIODS.

In this story, the men and boys who wish harm to women – both physically and sexually – turn into wolves, lurking and stalking their prey. But Bisou, like her grandmother, is bestowed with a certain special sense or ability upon her first bleedingPERIOD. I can’t say more without giving all the key elements away, but just know, this book is going to talk about periods and you’re just going to have to embrace it.

Because the layers of messages that this author weaves throughout this tale is so inspiring and beautiful. She wants you to embrace your body, to love this squishy and unique form that you have grown into and gotten to know your entire life. This flesh, bone and blood that is YOURS and yours alone. The frame that holds your heart, hopes and dreams…and the foundation of what holds you up. The author wants you to look at YOU, and feel good. To feel at home and to love it there. To feel safe, comfortable and happy that THIS BODY is YOURS!

“…now – here – you are your body.”

But the other HUGE aspects of this story are the toxic masculinity, the fear that women face on a day to day basis, and the unjust expectations and labels that are placed upon women and not men. How women are held to a higher standard in how the act and dress, being labeled a slut or said she was “asking for it” if she does not stick within those straight lines she is pushed into. And how men are able to dress and act how they please, with little to no consequences and zero labels following them around like a shameful reminder.

Later I learned that she had a bad reputation – she was a drinker, they said, and had a liking for short skirts and halter tops. She liked men, they said – emphasis on “men”, not boys.

Nothing was said of the fact that “men” obviously liked her, too.”

This book sheds light on a lot of REALLY important topics that NEED to be talked about. Rape, harassment, abuse and unfair labels. As the story progresses we see Bisou and her female friends start out quiet and docile, and end up being forces of nature. They find their voices and fight tooth and nail for one another and themselves. I found it to be empowering and an incredibly unique way to approach these issues. I really recommend it to everyone to read, because we need to stop shying away from topics and face them head on.

I can break things

I can make things, too.

I stand

On two strong legs

I kill

With two strong hands

I bleed

From one strong womb

I wish

With one red heart

That you could see me now.”

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Not me. Fuck the wolf.”

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes Between Us

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Frontlist via Edelweiss+ for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Mental Health-Addiction/Paranormal-Ghosts

Plot: Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

Opinion:

If you feel like crying, you’ve come to the right place.

“The only reason people come to live in this small town is to hide or die.”

Veronica has always been labeled as the weird girl in school. Surrounded by her group of misfit boys, and always doing the opposite of what is to be expected, rumors and cruel words have always found their way to her ears. But Veronica doesn’t care what the popular kids think of her. She has amazing and supportive friends, and a dad who loves her more than anything. Only, she hasn’t been completely honest with her father. Dealing with piercing migraines from a brain tumor and talking to the ghost of her dead mother obviously isn’t normal, but she fears her father wouldn’t understand. If she could just find a way to tell him her secret, everything would be okay. That’s when Sawyer enters the picture. Sawyer is friends with the popular kids who have always teased Veronica, or otherwise pretending she doesn’t exist. But Sawyer’s life isn’t nearly as perfect as he lets on. He has an adrenaline addiction that pushes him to the edge of cliffs, and is expected to be the man of the house for his mother and sister. So when the two pair up for a senior project hunting ghosts, they begin to realize a haunting can be more than just a spirit not wanting to leave.

This isn’t a ghost story.

But then again, it kind of is.

Just hear me when I say, it’s only a small part of what this story is really about. And let me tell you – this story is saying A LOT. For the past two days I have been smiling so fiercely I want to slap myself, and crying so much that I keep randomly saying “oh honey” out loud, which for some reason only makes me cry more. This book is evil. If you would like to go through a roller-coaster of emotions where halfway into reading you question if you should be put into an insane asylum, because your behavior of high-highs and low-lows are extremely questionable and alarming: then you should totally read this. Because that is obviously what the author wants from all of us.

To smile beautifully while endless tears flow down our gorgeous faces.

Well congratulations Katie McGarry, I’m officially a mess.

Where to I even start? This book, completely touched my heart. It touches on so many important themes like addiction, co-dependency, mental health, sickness, and self-punishment. I came into this book expecting a fluffy tale where two teens fall in love and everything turns out all sparkly and perfect. But thankfully, this book isn’t like that. It’s realistic. It portrays the lives of two teens who are so incredibly different, but in so many ways, the same. They both carry burdens on their shoulders that I can’t even fathom dealing with at their age, but they have a resilience that makes my head spin. These teens feel deeply, think deeply. They are so introspective and honest about their struggles and hurts, and they look fear in the face and smile at it.

I…

*sigh*

…I f***ing love this book.

The characters, the message, the plot, the romance, the ghost stories, the diary entries.

EVERYTHING.

One of my favorite characters is obviously Veronica. She has all the snarky attitude of one Veronica Mars (we all know and love) but also this immense and alluring uniqueness that makes you drawn to her. She is considered the “weird kid” at her school because of the many things she does that aren’t the social norm. She decides holidays at random times of the year, even going as far as decorating her locker for Thanksgiving in July or dressing up in a costume for Halloween in January. She has a badass style of colorful striped tights, ripped shirts, combat boots and mini skirts. She is spunky and fearless, witty and positive. She is one of the sweetest characters I have come across in all my reading, and I simply adore her. Even though we get to know her so well while reading, I still find her completely mysterious.

Sawyer is the opposite of Veronica. He is SO hard on himself. He is constantly putting himself down for not being perfect, for not being the “man” of the house – a role his father unfairly placed on his shoulders at the age of eleven. He is such a lost young man and is in so much pain, and it was so sad seeing him struggle while having no one to turn to. I connected with him the most due to his tendency to never think he is good enough, or to always assume he should be doing better than he is. He is a compassionate, intelligent and fearless character. He is an amazing big brother to his adorable little sister Lucy (omg, she is too cute!) and a fantastic role-model. He does so much growing in this story, it’s amazing to witness.

The friends of both of these characters also play an incredibly huge role, and have given the reader that much more insight into who Veronica and Sawyer are. Veronica is surrounded by friends who are also social outcasts, but ones I wish I had in my life. The love and care for her so fiercely, it brings needle sharp pains to my eyes. They have a closeness and respect for one another that runs deep, and everything flows so easy between them. But Sawyer also have friends that stand right beside him and support him fully. The way the author created these characters is beautiful. Each person in this story has flaws and struggles, but their incredibly special personalities shine through so easily. It’s so hard not to love each and every one of them.

But the real treat here, is obviously the romance.

“‘You’re crazy aren’t you?’ I say.

“Yes. Now let’s jump.”

Guys, protect your hearts.

Because this one feels so good it physically hurts.

“Soft fingers, a delicate touch and my entire body sparks to life. As if I had been in darkness-the world was black and white-and then the flip was switched into color.”

My gut is literally in pain right now from all of these feels. My eyes are puffy from crying, my hair disheveled from anxiously running my hands through it, and my overall demeanor is both elated and crushed. This romance is everything I have been wanting. It is breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. It makes my lip quiver just thinking about the gentleness and innocence. This is one of the most mature relationships I have EVER witnessed, especially for two teenagers. They are so raw with their thoughts and feelings towards one another and about their lives. From the very beginning they lay everything out on the table, being truthful and upfront about their past and present. They make me hopeful that true soul-crushing love outside of YA fiction is actually possible. Because that is all any of us really want, right? To have a fiercely blinding romance knife stuck into our chests?

But characters and romance aside, there is a lot happening in this book, and it’s perfect. Veronica has a brain tumor, and the way it debilitates her is…depressing to say the least. Sawyer has an addiction to anything that will give him an adrenaline rush, and mostly it’s in the form of jumping off cliffs. Sawyers family issues are deep, with his father basically deserting them and his mother allowing Sawyer to take the brunt of the responsibility of parenting his sister. These two teens have been through a lot in their short lives, and that trauma shapes the struggles they go through in this story. It gets so SO sad, but it’s worth the read.

Read this on a Friday or Saturday night in.

You’ve been warned.

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Books · Edelweiss+ · Netgalley · New Releases · Pre-order · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #31: My Top 10 Anticipated October Book Releases

Something Wicked this way comes.

You know who it is, you’ve been waiting all year!
It’s the Twisted.
The Ghostly.
The eerie Daughter of Darkness and the gloomy Son of Spooky.

 

 

It’s OCTOBER!

 

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~* My 10 Anticipated October Book Releases *~

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1. Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: YA/Fantasy

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Some of you may know Garth Nix, some may not.

He is the author of the Abhorsen series, Sabriel, and has made a name for himself in the YA Fantasy genre.

Angel Mage is a historical styled fantasy with heavy influence from The Three Musketeers. Set in a world that is largely controlled by angelic magic, Liliath seeks to be reunited with her lost love, the archangel of Ystara, by forcing four Sarancians to fulfill her destiny.

It basically sounds like an epic fantasy adventure of four against one, I am here for it COMPLETELY!

 

2. Resurrection Girls by Ava Morgyn
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal

Resurrection Girls

Resurrection Girls is one of those books I see and go-

was this written specifically for me?

It follows Olivia Foster, a young girl who is still reeling from the death of her younger brother. But when Kara Hallas moves in across the street, Olivia is immediately enamored with her free spirit and strange hobby of writing to men on death row. So Olivia joins Kara, and together, they write as the Resurrection Girls.

This sounds like it’s going to be one of those “they aren’t who they seem” styles of books, but I am REALLY curious to see where this fantasy/paranormal element comes in to play.

But who am I kidding?

I’m just here for the morbid tone.

 

3. Shadow Frost (Book 1) by Coco Ma
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Shadow Frost

Shadow Frost is about a girl named Asterin, Princess of Axaria, who vows to slay a demon that is terrorizing her kingdom. With the help of her friends, they set off to kill the beast in question, but discover startling information in the process. But an assassination attempt against Asterin has been planned, and a series of lies begin to come to light as they fight for survival.

Magic, a princess, demon beasts?!

Sign me up!

 

4. The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: Fantasy/Horror

The Twisted Ones.jpg

My Horror pick of the month, and you’ll know exactly why!

The Twisted Ones is about a young woman named Mouse who begins cleaning out her grandmother’s home after her death. What she thinks at first is just a bunch of useless junk, she soon finds that not everything in this house can be brushed off so easily.

Mouse uncovers a journal of strange writings by her step-grandfather, and soon begins to experience the strange and unusual events that she assumed was the musings of an insane man. 

This novel is said to read like The Blair Witch Project meets The Andy Griffith Show

HOW? I don’t know, but I NEED!

 

5. The Good Luck Girls (Book 1) by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Historical Fiction

The Good Luck Girls

So I JUST received this beauty in the mail from the amazing and wonderful Andrea @andreajanel_reads , and I cannot wait to start reading this Westworld meets The Hadmaid’s Tale fantasy!

The Good Luck Girls is the story of five young women who were forced into prostitution houses and called Good Luck Girls. When one of the girls ends up killing her client, the girls devise a plan to escape and find freedom.

This sounds like a Wild Wild West meets Sucker Punch meets The Accident Season, and I’m just over here like

 

6. I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

I Know You Remember.jpg

I LOVE a thriller that blindsides the ever-living shit out of me, and I am hoping I Know You Remember does just that!

When Ruthie’s once best friend Zahra suddenly vanishes from a party, she makes it her mission to find out what happened. But as Ruthie begins to dig deeper into the life of the girl she once knew, she soon discovers Zahra is far from the introverted and artistic person she was as a child. Zahra is popular and a young woman of many secrets, and Ruthie is about to fall into them.

7. The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Genre: YA/Sci-fi/Dytopian

The Grace Year.jpg

THIS book is the Sci-fi/Dystopian novel I have been waiting for ALL YEAR!

Set in a world where girls are banished until the age of sixteen and told their skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac that lures men in and throws women into a jealous rage, Tierney James dreams of a better life. A life where the girls don’t rage against one another, and work to tear each other down.

The Grace Year is dripping in feminist vibes like Wilder Girls and Girls with Sharp Sticks. It is a world where women are shoved down and fight against one another to survive in a society that only wants to push them down farther. 

I cannot express how long I have been waiting for this release.

I am so ready to highlight every word in this book.

Bring it on.

8. Love, Heather by Laurie Petrou
Release Date: October 8, 2019
Genre: YA/Contemporary

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Love, Heather is about two girls who enact revenge on the bullies of their high school by playing a few pranks, signing them with Love, Heather. But what starts out as innocent retaliation, quickly turns into a violent mess as students start to join in by pulling their own vicious pranks. As everything turns dark, the girls fight to take back control of what they started.

I am a HUGE fan of the Heathers movie, and if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do before reading this book!

 

9. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Gravemaidens.jpg

Gravemaidens follows Kammani, a young healer who fights to save her sister from her impending death.

When the ruler of Alu becomes ill, sacred maidens are picked to walk with the dying ruler into the afterlife. It is an honorable position, but one that Kammani only sees as an execution. So when her sister Nanaea is chosen as one of the Gravemaidens, she sneaks into the palace and attempts to heal the ruler. But the secrets of the palace are dangerous, and more than just her sister’s life may be in danger.

 

10. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Release Date: October 31, 2019
Genre: YA/Middle Grade/Fantasy

Deeplight.jpg

I LOVE Francis Hardinge books!!!

Not only does she come up with some truly amazing and unique ideas, but the detail and character building in each of her stories is FANTASTIC!

I mean yes, I wish she would write a more Mature YA or even an Adult book, but I am more than happy with these beautiful middle grade tales!

Deeplight is set in a fantastical world called Myriad, a place once terrorized by powerful gods that come from the depths of the ocean, until one day they vanished. Since then, the remains of these gods are traded and highly sought after. For Hark and Jelt, scavenging for “godware” is their life, and they soon set out on an expedition that will change their lives forever.

 

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Stay Witchy

 

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