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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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #43: My Top 5 Anticipated April 2020 Book Releases

getting to you?
Don’t fret, my child.
April has releases that’ll keep those precious jeans high and tight.
But no…it’s not a video game.
Books, my friends. Books.

 

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~* My Top 5 Anticipated April 2020 Book Releases *~

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

1. Chosen Ones (Chosen Ones, Book 1) by Veronica Roth
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-fi

Chosen Ones

A thrilling new fantasy by Veronica Roth (author of Divergent), Chosen Ones is about five young people who had been tasked with destroying the “dark oneten years ago. They completed their mission and went on to live mostly normal lives. But then on the day they were to celebrate their victory from all those years ago, one of the five has a premonition that darkness is coming back.

My only hope is that there will be a character like Klaus from Umbrella Academy. Because he is positively everything.

 

2. The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson
Release Date: April 7, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary

The Lucky Ones

OF COURSE I’m going to include a book that will most likely have me flooding my apartment with tears.

Like, who do you think I am??

The Luck y Ones is the story of two teens lives that come together after living through the same horrific experience.

Eleven months ago, May’s twin brother was shot and killed at their school during a shooting where she was the only one to walk out of the band room alive. Unable to cope with the loss and the trauma of that day, she struggles to move on.

Zach, whose mom defended the shooter, has lost all of his friends except for one. Everyone quickly cut him off after his mother voiced her opinions, and now Zach is a social pariah. But as much as Zach wants to disappear, his best friend keeps him from losing it completely.

Then one night, May and Zach meet and they learn how to survive their past together.

 

3. Deeplight by Frances Hardinge
Release Date: April 14, 2020
Genre: YA/Middle Grade/Fantasy

Deeplight

I LOVE Frances Hardinge’s brain!

This lady comes up with some of the COOLEST book premises I have ever heard, and I don’t even care if they are middle grade ones…like this.

Deeplight is a re-release (originally came out in October 2019) but I want to read it just as much! It’s 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.

 

4. The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Genre: Fiction

The Memories We Bury

I had mentioned this book in my last Bindings post as a newly gifted ARC, so naturally I am going to mention it again as it comes out in April!

The Memories We Bury is about a bond that forms between a new mother and her elderly neighbor. It highlights the motherly habits and traits that both Lizzie and her neighbor Morag have learned through personal experiences, but it also dives into how that relationship and the relationship between Lizzie and her husband changes.

That’s basically all I know about this book. But knowing this author, I know it’s going to be an emotional doozy wrought with raw human nature that isn’t always pretty. I’m expecting some sinister and twisted stuff!

 

5. A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen
Release Date: April 28, 2020
Genre: YA/Contemporary

A breath too late

This is currently available to request on both Netgalley and Edelweiss+…though for some reason my requests are still pending

A Breath Too Late is about seventeen-year-old Lizzie who dies by suicide, but is still able to linger in her home and around her friends observing and watching what she has left behind. She is not able to communicate with anyone, or interfere with the living in any way. Instead, she must experience the ramifications of her choice.

I have read the reviews of this on Goodreads, and man oh man…it’s definitely going to be a heart smasher. But you know me, I’m ready AF.

 

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Stay Witchy

Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson

Sparrow

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Tor teen, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Plot: There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey
I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.
My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.
And I am still prey.

Though Savannah Rose―Sparrow to her friends and family―is a gifted ballerina, her real talent is keeping secrets. Schooled in silence by her long-dead mother, Sparrow has always believed that her lifelong creed―“I’m not the kind of girl who tells”―will make her just like everyone else: Normal. Happy. Safe. But in the aftermath of a brutal assault by her seemingly perfect boyfriend Tristan, Sparrow must finally find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past, or lose herself forever….

Opinion:

Affliction is enamored of thy parts, and thou art wedded to calamity”

-William Shakespeare, Romero and Juliet

‘What is the haunted name, the secret name of your deepest self?’

And I answer, ‘Sorrow.’”

Sparrow lives and breathes ballet. Working with her ballet company and training for their rendition of Swan Lake for the Winter Gala has been a dream come true, and she couldn’t ask for a better partner than her childhood friend Lucas. And when she literally runs into a beautiful boy from her class, Tristan King, a heated romance sparks between the two that is both addicting and fierce. But sometimes Tristan isn’t always the boy she fell in love with, sometimes he changes. A quick flash of eyes like black holes and soft features that sharpen into granite have become Sparrow’s waking nightmare. But Tristan isn’t the only darkness that surrounds her in pirouettes. The death of her mother consumes her, wakes her in the night and follows her like an entity feeding from her soul. Sparrow is drowning.

The earth tilts beneath me. My hand falls into the rushing water, blood spooling out from my fingers, dark ribbons in the moonlight stream. The stars flare and disappear. I float away on a sea of mercies.”

I try hard to breathe, and then I remember.

Dead girls can’t breathe.”

Wow.

This was a heavy hitter.

I haven’t highlighted sentences and paragraphs like this in a book since…well, maybe ever. Practically my entire kindle edition of Sparrow is yellow. And if that doesn’t express the immense haunting beauty that this book is, well, allow me to elaborate.

Sparrow is the story of a girl falling into darkness.

A swan princess becoming the Black Swan.

Sparrow is dedicated, charming, spirited and loving. She pours every ounce of hurt and emotion into her dancing, and it is the only time she can breathe and speak with her heart without screaming. When we first meet her, her infectious and fun personality shines through immediately. She is a typical teenage girl who laughs, acts silly, goes to school and gossips with friends. She is living out her dreams of dancing as Odette in the Swan Lake, and she is thriving. But when she begins her relationship with Tristan, everything shifts.

Count the houses. Count the streetlights.

Count the minutes until Tristan turns back into the boy I love.”

The beginning of their relationship begins and goes by fast, skipping ahead to three months before I even realized what was happening. It started out like an insta-love relationship and I was a little put off, but as the story progresses you realize there is a reason for why it was written like this. It is told in some chapters by Sparrow, and some by Lucas. Through each of their eyes you see different versions of each scenario, how Sparrow sees things, and how Lucas is viewing the reality.

It’s almost a relief when he hits me.

Everything comes back to me, all of it. I remember to tighten my body so I won’t fall, how to pull up, just like in ballet, every muscle taut and prepared. I know how to protect my face, where to hold my arms to keep the first, the strongest blows from reaching the softest parts of my body.”

To say that it was easy to read Sparrow’s journey would be an outright lie. It was so painful witnessing the abuse that Tristan rained down on her. The mood swings, his possessive nature, and how he would so ruthlessly talk down to Sparrow as if she didn’t matter. His cruelty and darkness towards her was frightening. He would scream hateful comments at her, demeaning her and calling her worthless or a slut. His anger was volatile and sudden, a tsunami engulfing a peaceful beach.

If only he’d look at me, give me a smile, tell me with his eyes that I’m forgiven, that he loves me, that we are okay.

If only I could forget his hand on my throat, the pressure of his fingers, the fury of his eyes.”

But what was worse, was Sparrow’s unflinching love and loyalty for this monster. She was enamored with him when he was sweet, when he treated her with affection and promised her love and the world. She so easily brushed aside his temper and rage, and refused to admit that his hitting her and abusing her was actually his choice. And even when her friends questioned his treatment of her, she was adamant about defending him and refusing to open up. Sparrow is like a steel door, chained and bolted. Everything stays hidden and locked away, and she deals with everything alone.

This is my fault, my fault, my fault. He loves me. He loves me so much. He tells me all the time. This will pass. We’ll be fine. He’ll feel terrible in a few minutes, and there will be apologies and tears and promises and kisses.

I will forgive him, because I love him.”

It was heartbreaking to have to sit and watch her fall away into nothing, until it was too late.

The Swan Queen is dead.”

What I love about this story is how seamlessly everything connects. Throughout the story Sparrow has dreams and memories of her mother that come up, more and more often as her relationship with Tristan builds and she begins to fade away. With her mother dying when she was a young girl, the unresolved emotions from her passing has now found it’s way into Sparrow’s every day life. Her mother begins to consume her thoughts, emotions and reactions. She quickly finds herself in a dark space that she can’t find her way out of, and the past that they shared begins to shed light on who she has become.

I promise, Mama. I’ll be quiet. I’ll be good.

I am not the kind of girl who tells.”

There is a turning point in this story when Tristan goes too far, and it is…devastating. The aftermath of what Sparrow becomes, a shell of herself now filled with anger and rage, was one of the hardest things I’ve read. My heart broke a thousand times over as I witnessed the pain and betrayal that this poor girl suffered, and the atrocities of how Tristan is dealt with. Sparrow becomes unrecognizable and defeated. It was like every ounce of light was sucked out of her soul, and all that was left was pitch black nothingness.

I’m the Black Swan.

Curses swirl in my blood. Wickedness is buried in my bones, bound to make everyone who loves me suffer. I’m a black hole, a night without stars, drawing pain and grief and heartbreak to me like a magnet. Destined to make no one happy ever.

I am my mother’s daughter.”

“He told me once that he could hear what people were thinking in the silent spaces between their spoken words. That he could tell what someone was feeling just by looking into their eyes. So I wonder, as I have so many times since I was small, why he couldn’t see the terror in my eyes.”

Though Lucas plays a big part in giving us an important outside look and perspective on Sparrow, I think his side story was a tad unnecessary and I found myself slightly skipping through them. I think the story would have benefited if it went into less detail about what he was doing at his grandmother’s house, and really dove deeper into Sparrow and the aftermath of Tristan. It felt like some parts of her story were rushed over, while Lucas was given a lot more development and focus. Which was confusing to me.

But what was important about his book apart from Sparrow’s experience, was how her abuse affected those around her. So many times the friends and loved ones are forgotten in traumatic experiences. They also go through the hurt and pain alongside the victim, so I was glad to see this story gave them a voice as well. Overall, this story was beyond beautiful. It was a poetic tale of abuse and trauma that got extremely dark and raw. I highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys getting their heart shredded, or just wants to read a book that will actually make you feel something.

All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

At the end of everything, a fish dive.”

4 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 Reviews · New Releases · Simon and Schuster

Book Review: Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks, Book 2) by Suzanne Young

Girls with Razor Hearts

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster – SimonTeen, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Plot: Make me a girl with a razor heart…

It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.

The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.

And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.

Opinion:

The Caregiver.

The Doll.

The Educator.

The Seductress.

The Companion.

The Rebel.

…the corporation created us to replace the girls in society who they couldn’t control.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We were programmed to be obedient, but then we woke up.”

The girls have finally escaped Innovations Academy, along with the possessive and cruel men who promised to protect them. Having been bred to be obedient, subservient and to idolize men, the girls have finally awoken. They are no longer docile and afraid. They have found their sharp sticks, and they have procured their razor hearts. But what they didn’t expect upon leaving Innovations Academy, was that the outside world wasn’t going to be as welcoming and beautiful as they hoped. As the girls try to heal their bodies and hearts, they are pushed to find an investor in the academy that might be their ticket to tearing it all down. Though they have each other and immense love in their hearts, they soon realize that bad men weren’t just confined to the walls of the academy. That darkness lurks around every corner, in repulsive behavior and peer pressure. So the girls do what they do best…they fight.

Girls with kind Razor Hearts

Open your eyes, my father said.

The day I was born.

You will be sweet, he promised threatened

You will be beautiful

You will obey fight back

And then he I told me myself

Above all

You will have a kind razor heart

For that, they will love fear you

They will protect revere you

They will keep run from you

Because you belong to them no one

So be a girl to make them proud afraid

Girls with Razor Hearts is the second book in the amazing feminist sci-fi series, Girls with Sharp Sticks (see my review here). After learning the truth behind their pasts, and what really went on at Innovations, the girls are on the outside with a mission to take the corporation down and to save the girls they left behind. But as they try to navigate this new world, they are still tracked down by people close to the academy – like Leandra, the headmaster’s wife who is also like them, and Winston Weeks, a prominent figure in the company. Leandra says she also wants to take the corporation down but needs the girls to find the top secret investors who are keeping Innovations afloat. Unsure of who to trust, the girls go along with Leandra’s plan while also searching for a way to free their girls.

I scream in my head when I see the scalpel in her hand. She brings it to the center of my chest and slices me down the middle. Then she reaches inside and pulls out a heart of razor blades.”

Girls with Sharp Sticks shredded my heart and made me ache for unbreakable female companionship.

It gave me hope and filled my heart, instantly making me love and care for these beautiful, spirited girls. And in Girls with Razor Hearts, I was happy to find that these girls were just as loving and compassionate as before. Their bond with one another is a fierce gentleness that I have sadly never experienced before. It is so pure and untouchable by darkness. No matter what, these girls look out for each other and their best interests. They only want the best for one another – to be loved, respected, accepted and free. Mena, Sydney, Marcella, Brynn and Annalise are each unique and have traits that show pieces of their hearts. Their sharp minds, their tenacity, their nurturing nature and unwavering resilience. No matter what befalls these girls, their loyalty to each other can never be broken.

The other girls are my strength, and I theirs. Together, we’re powerful.”

The plot in this second installment takes a drastic turn into a world that unfortunately closely mirrors our own. As the girls search for the son of an investor in a private school across the country, they realize the behaviors of the men from Innovations wasn’t just secluded to their former academy. They quickly become subjected to the cruel nature of boys who have been given too much power. Boys who take and abuse, and continue to without consequences or fear of being told on. The girls are put down and ridiculed while others look on, afraid to step in, and they are forced to play a game with the boys so they don’t make it worse for themselves.

I’m sick of faking nice as a way to avoid violence, avoid menace.

Girls have to play nice or face the consequences.”

The behaviors from these boys is appalling and disgusting, but unfortunately, it isn’t something we as females have never experienced before. Suzanne Young has put the patriarchy under a blinding spotlight that shows the darkness and prejudices that are very true, even in today’s culture. It is sad and heartbreaking to see, but even more so because of the realistic nature of it all.

But while the message behind this book is extremely important, I feel like the story as a whole has slightly suffered due to unrelenting preaching that fills these pages.

I am a feminist to my core, but there is a point when a message becomes so repetitive that it becomes preaching. By the time I got halfway through this book, I felt like the disdain for the behaviors of men was being shoved down my throat. This series started out as a poetic tale that held important truths that were being discovered by beautiful souls, but it has turned into 390 pages of why men need to be taken down. In some cases the author says that men need to be taught, but then a few pages later it is being conveyed that they need to be destroyed. I am all for a book that educates and shines a light on the horrors that women face, but I don’t want the entire plot to be overshadowed completely. But that is what happened.

In Girls with Sharp Sticks, the reader is shown the fear and confusion that the girls face. It is raw and breaks down the realities and expectations that society places on girls, but it is delivered in innocence and sweetness. It felt so pure and honest, with an effortless nature that sang to my soul and stung my eyes with pride. But Girls with Razor Hearts seems to have lost that gentle ease. It felt forced, jagged and slightly aggressive in it’s voice. Instead of showing me the trauma that plagues the girls, I was told.

There were a lot of words and not enough feeling.

Though I am not as impressed with book two as I was with book one, I have high hopes that book three will tie things together and go back to the series’s roots. There was still a lot of thrilling and exciting things that happened in this sequel, with the return of characters and the introduction of new ones. But I feel like this might be the stepping stone to the next installment, and I am very interested to see where Suzanne Young takes this. This was a great sequel, but I really want to feel a bit more from book three

3.5 Stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · Upcoming Releases

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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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Upcoming Releases

Binding of Bindings #42: Recent Book Purchases/Gifted ARCs

Here are a few books that I have received and purchased in the last few weeks.
Some are already released and some have upcoming publications.
Either way, they’re all going to be

 

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~* Gifted ARCs *~

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1. Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
Genre: YA/Contemporary/LGBT
Release Date: September 15, 2020
Available for Request on: Netgalley

Surrender Your Sons

This cover though, right?

Surrender Your Sons is about a young man who is thrown into a conversion therapy camp called Nightlight Ministries after coming out to his extremely religious mother. At the camp Connor learns quickly that there is more to the seemingly converted counselors and the odd camp director. He fights to find a way out and take his fellow campers with him, if only they can figure out how to take the camp down

I had read a book a few years ago called The Dead Inside which is a memoir by Cyndy Drew Etler and documents her time at one of the scared-straight camps that were run by Straight, Inc. and hugely popular in the 80s and 90s. They were “tough love” camps that were riddled with abusive and bizarre acts of therapy. I am expecting Surrender Your Sons to be similar to this or the 2008 film Boot Camp starring Mila Kunis.

 

2. The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary
Release Date: April 17, 2020
The Memories We Bury

H.A. Leuschel is an author I have read in the past, namely her collection of short stories called Manipulated Lives that I found to be incredibly raw. Helena has an uncanny ability to see the faults and darkness that is weaved into humanity, and she is able to portray them to the reader through a tale that feels realistic but also non-judgemental.

The Memories We Bury is her first novel and about a bond that forms between a new mother, her husband and her elderly neighbor. It highlights the motherly habits and traits that both Lizzie and her neighbor Morag have learned through personal experiences, and is a story of having to learn who to trust.

 

3. I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: June 2, 2020
Available for Request on: Netgalley
I killed zoe spanos

I Killed Zoe Spanos is about a girl named Anna Cicconi who arrives in the Hamptons for a Summer job. Upon her arrival she learns of a girl that has been missing since New Years Eve – Zoe Spanos. As Anna learns more about Zoe, she is told by members of the community of her striking resemblance to Zoe, and she soon begins to wonder if they are linked in some way.

But then when Zoe’s body is finally found, Anna is charged with manslaughter with an alibi that doesn’t quite make sense.

The premise is giving me mad The Lies They Tell vibes, which I loved, so I am supper stoked to start this gem.

 

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~* Book Purchases *~

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1. Hidden Bodies (You, Book 2) by Caroline Kepnes
Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Thriller

Hidden Bodies

I have become horribly obsessed with Joe Goldberg.

He’s just a lover of words and YOU and only wants to get rid of the toxic shit from your life so you can excel and be happy, okay?

*sigh*…swoon.

Thankfully I had found not one, not two, but THREE other girls on Bookstagram who are equally infatuated and understanding of Joe’s murderous ways (@_Shelikestoread , @Heyyitsfahh , @book_and_jane). But only one of us has ever read the books, so we agreed to do a buddy read of You and Hidden Bodies in April, and I am beyond excited. Apparently Joe is MUCH more horrible in the books, but I am sure our love will remain strong.

For those of you who don’t know, You is about a book lover named Joe who works in a bookshop. He meets a woman named Beck who he falls for, slightly totally stalks until she falls for him, and basically he ends up…getting murdery

…I swear he’s totally dreamy.

*This is not an invitation to come stalk me.

 

2. Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Genre: Fiction/Horror/Thriller

Pet Sematary

I am not a Stephen King fan…mostly because I’ve never read any of his books.

Does that make me a bad bibliophile???

There has been a lot of recent buzz about this book again with the 2019 movie reboot and the various book merch that has been circulating through Bookstagram and Etsy. In one of my most recent rep packages from Twisted Wonderland Perfumery I received a beautiful Pet Sematary inspired enamel pin of Gage and Church.

Gage and Church

“Sometimes Dead is Better” Enamel Pin and Soaps – Use code TWJENACIDE to save 10%.

So naturally I found myself super curious about the book and looked it up. Pet Sematary is basically about a pet cemetery that has strange and eerie aspects. Louis Creed and his family move to Maine (where every fucked up King scenario takes place), and behind their house there is a path that leads to a Pet Sematary where children have buried their pets. Apparently the family’s cat dies and everything pops off from there.

 

3. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Genre: Nonfiction/Autobiography/Death/Science

Smoke Gets in your Eyes

Now before you get all weird and start looking at me with eyebrows scrunched in concern and pursed lips of disapproval, let me explain.

I’ve always wanted to work in a morgue, and it’s mostly just because of how quiet it would be. I really love hushed voices.

Whispers.

Silence.

And so naturally my weird little gothy book obsessed self is going to scream of excitement when she sees a book like this!

Smoke gets in Your Eyes is the story of Caitlin Doughty’s first cremation job at WestWind Cremation and Burial in Oakland, CA at the age of 23. The book documents her time there and how she learned the ropes at this unconventional job. It is said to be funny, full of information, and gives the reader a new outlook on the dead in general. And obviously that book title is genius.

So I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve found my true genre of book. ❤

 

4. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

Words in Deep Blue

These last three books I also bought today, but via Ebay because DAMN were they a deal!

But since I have fallen into a deep, dark, sobbing, soul incinerating black hole of heartbreaking YA contemporary…I was starting to run out so I had to buy more.

I’m a masochist okay? I want alllllllll the painful feels!

Words in Deep Blue is said to be a love story. Aw.

It’s about best friends Henry and Rachel, an inseparable duo. Basically Rachel had feelings for Henry, but Henry was all googly-eyed for someone else. But as Rachel is planning to move away, she decides to confess her love for Henry in a letter that she hides in his favorite book in his family’s book store (MAJOR Aw’s, right?!). Some years go by without any contact, and then she comes back to town where Henry lives and…

…well I don’t know. I need to read it.

 

5. The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

The palces ive cried in public

Ugh. What a great title.

Can you guys even count all the places you’ve cried in public? I wouldn’t even know where to begin!

Anyways. The Places I’ve Cried in Public is about how Amelie and Reese’s relationship ended, and it sounds like it’s going to be a story of abuse and toxic relationships. These are always super dear to my heart so I am beyond ready to get wrecked over this.

 

6. It Only happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

It only happens in the movies

I am hoping this is going to be one of the most realistic portrayals of romance in YA Contemporary that I’ll be finding, due to the title and the premise.

It Only Happens in the Movies is about a girl named Audrey who begins working at her local cinema to escape her home life, and ends up meeting Harry – a wannabe filmmaker. A romance sparks and they fall fast, but their romance isn’t the fluffy spectacle that is portrayed in the movies. It’s real and difficult and everything nobody likes to talk about.

 

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Stay Witchy

 

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