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

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

 

 

Book Reviews · New Releases

Book Review: Restless Slumber (Fortuna Sworn, Book 2) by K.J. Sutton

Restless SLumber

*Warning: This review contains spoilers to book 1, Fortuna Sworn! Tread carefully*

(See my review of Book 1 here)

Genre: Adult Fantasy/Dark/Fae

Plot: “Before I met you, I thought Nightmares were creatures of pain and darkness. Why, then, are you constantly seeking freedom and light?”

Fortuna’s entire life has changed.

She has no idea how to balance her new responsibilities and who she used to be. There are hundreds of faeries in her head, her brother seems to have lost touch with reality, and a werewolf won’t leave her side. Maybe the utter lack of control is why her abilities seem to be changing, as well.

Then there’s Collith. Enigmatic, beautiful, and infuriating. Not only a king of the faeries she despises so much, but also her mate. His gentle pursuit causes confusion in her normally unwavering relationship with Oliver.

As a result of it all, Fortuna now finds herself surrounded by new enemies and ones from the past. The question isn’t whether she is strong enough to make change in such a corrupt court.

It’s whether she will survive long enough to do it.

Content warning: This novel depicts scenes of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Opinion:

What do you fear, faerie?”

“The lights of anger and resentment in their eyes gave way to pain and terror. Screams, cries, and moans filled the room, more lovely than a string quartet.”

Where…do I even begin?

This book has ravaged my soul. Ripped my barely there black heart from it’s cobwebbed, rock bottom hole in the rubble of my chest, and left me aching like a widow at a love parade. I am shock. I am devastation. I am wondering how I didn’t see this coming, what with HB stabbing me in the back with Wicked King last year, and me assuming Kelsey Sutton would only want to bring a smile to my face…instead of this contorted expression of betrayal and deeply sadistic thrill that is now etched into my features.

Well done, Kelsey.

Fortuna Sworn has just been crowned the Unseelie Queen, rescued her brother Damon, and returned to life above ground. But try as she might, she can’t escape her new duties or the faeries she is now bound to. And with her relationship to Collith, her mate and the Unseelie King, shifting from loathing to something…more, she can’t help but revel in this newfound power. But Fortuna’s ruthless decisions that helped get her on the throne are coming back three-fold, and there are threats at every turn. Unsure if she can finally trust the mate that she has bound herself to, and suspicious of the motives behind the Seelie King’s kindness, Fortuna is forced to do confront everything that makes a Nightmare – Fear.

Nothing had been real and then with no warning, everything was.”

There is SO much happening in this sequel, I hardly know where to begin. Restless Slumber is packed with magic, supernatural creatures, betrayal, murder, lust, secrets, blindsides and anything and everything that could make you want to weep with unhinged joy. Gone is the ethereal and mystifying tale about a woman rescuing her brother and marrying a Fae king. This book is DARK. It’s raw, it’s unapologetic and it gets right in your face forcing you to dismiss every sense of morality that you so desperately cling to. There are NO RULES in this dark fantasy, but don’t worry, you won’t even miss them.

Restless Slumber is WILD. There are constant assassination attempts, eloquently phrased sentences spoken to entrap someone, blindly made deals in secluded areas, secrets woven into webs of deceit, and completely OUT OF NOWHERE blindsides that will make you want to scream. There are witches, werewolves, sirens, vampires and goblins. There’s necromancy that brings a slew of corpses after Fortuna, epic battle scenes that pit supernatural creatures against one another, and moments where you question if you’d actually want to be dragged into the forest by a faerie. Because these aren’t the sweet and mystical beings that YA Fantasy likes to portray them as.

The Fallen in this book are brutality at it’s finest and beauty as it’s darkest.

Speaking of brutal, let’s talk about our dark Queen Fortuna.

Then, once they were all crowded within my skull, I released the creature living inside me. The creature that I’d denied too long, too often.

Fear.”

If you guys thought Celaena Sardothien was a sassy badass who didn’t give one Fae Fuck, you need to rethink what recklessness in it’s most stunning form looks like. Fortuna, is the literal definition of a Queen. She has no mercy, loves the thrill of shoving a nightmare down someone’s throat, and has a sharp tongue that would leave anyone shaking. She is brash, unrelenting and unapologetic for the things she does. She doesn’t care if anyone likes her or is on her side. She doesn’t need someone in her corner rooting for her and holding her hand.

She holds her own damn hand.

But even so, Fortuna does have morals and dreams of making things better for the faeries. She stands up for victims and those who are tossed aside or abused. She is a voice for the sufferer and an executioner for the wicked. She is incredibly resilient and strong, and doesn’t look for approval from others. She knows what she wants and takes it, and it’s impossible not to love her completely. Especially for her patience and persistence with Damon.

Fortuna has indeed “rescued” Damon from the Unseelie court and from Jassin (good riddance), but Damon is a shell of who he once was. He is gaunt, withdrawn and has vowed to never forgive Fortuna for what she did to the faerie he loved. Most of the time he refuses to even acknowledge her presence, and it makes rooting for him so hard. But of course, that’s all you want to do. Damon’s situation is so tangled and doused in trauma, leaving him a skeleton of the Nightmare he once was. He’s in a haze of Stockholm Syndrome for this beautifully wretched faerie that enslaved him for two years, yet some piece of him also knows that he was treated horribly. Throughout the story Fortuna battles against giving him space and wanting to force him to forgive her, because though she hates to admit it, Damon is her weakness.

I have weaknesses. I am vulnerable. But all of them are tied…to you.”

Speaking of weaknesses

If you’re looking for a slow-burn romance that will beckon you towards its fluorescent flames with promises of warmth and contentment, fulfillment and happiness, coaxing you closer and closer, until you’re only a breath away from its beautiful blaze…only to have it push you in, engulfing your body in an agony and anguish that you can’t escape – well, this is the book for you.

The romance that is, but also isn’t! Strong as she may be, Fortuna just can’t seem to break down that wall for Collith. And to be honest, who can blame her?! The guy bribed her into marrying him, and still withholds so many secrets from her that I can’t even decide if he’s a good guy or not. But of course, I am horribly in love with him. He is darkness shrouded in gentleness. He is eloquent, calm and sincere. Sure he holds back and is a faerie of few words, but there’s something to be said for his patience and stability. He proves to be dependable at every junction and always puts Fortuna first. Sounds like the real deal to me.

But in classic K.J. Sutton style, she has to put my heart into a panic blender.

Collith isn’t the only love interest in Fortuna’s life. There is Laurie, the Seelie King who is both slightly irritating but also swoon-worthy, who keeps flirting with Fortuna even though I wish he would just BACK OFF. But then…there’s Ollie. *Sigh*…my heart. When Fortuna was a child, Ollie was, what Fortuna assumes (and what the reader is told, but I’m suspicious), created by her through her subconscious. He lives in a dreamscape that they created together, and she meets him in her sleep every night. He has been a rock for her for years as a friend and confidant, and since recent years, something more. The bond Ollie and Fortuna share is so precious and gentle. Around Ollie, this fierce and harsh form of Fortuna falls away, leaving a regular girl with regular feelings and thoughts. She is vulnerable and honest with him, and it brings such a loving and alluring side to Fortuna that the reader doesn’t normally see.

But what I really need to talk about, is this goddamn cliffhanger.

My soul, was shattered by this ending.

I spent 45 minutes staring at nothing after finishing this book. I sat on my living room floor at a complete loss, unable to form coherent sentences, and stricken by what happened. Usually I crave for an author to torture me and shred my feelings into nothing…but THIS?! THIS?? This was just cruel….and I loved every second of it.

But now, all we can do is wait for book three. And I am praying to all hell that it comes quickly, because I still feel like I’m going to vomit all my hopeless romantic emotions up. And so with that, all I have left to say is…

a demon? FFS.

5-stars

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

Book Promo · Book Reviews

Book Review: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

How I live Now

Genre: YA/Fiction/Romance/Dystopia/War

Plot: “Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

Opinion:

“I was dying, of course, but then we all are. Every day, in perfect increments.”

“Staying alive was what we did to pass the time.”

How I Live Now is the story of how five cousins live after the world falls into war and they are forced to fend for themselves. As young teenagers, they fill their days with fishing trips, lounging in open fields, foraging for food and tending and playing with the animals on their farm. As the days go by without adults to tell them what to do or how to live, the group finds falls into a state of wild freedom that bonds them together. But with enemies invading the countryside, the cousins are forced to deal with reality when they are separated and thrust into a world that no longer has rules. And with this lawless life comes a forbidden love that can’t be ignored, and all these teens can do is fight to find one another again.

“If you haven’t been in a war and are wondering how long it takes to get used to losing everything you think you need or love, I can tell you the answer is no time at all.”

This is an unconventional YA story of friendship, love, war, freedom and self-growth. It follows a young female lead who arrives in the UK from New York, after her father ships her off to stay with cousins. Daisy is a fifteen-year-old who has a less than healthy view of who she is and what her worth is. She feels cast aside by her father, leaving her with a tainted yearning for control that she satisfies by refusing to eat. She is a brash and outspoken girl, but she has a sweetness and allure that makes the reader instantly fall in love with her. She’s a little rebellious, but in all the best ways.

When she arrives at her cousin’s home, she realizes quickly that these kids more or less rule themselves. Her aunt is always holed up in her office working towards preventing an impending war, and constantly coming and going on work trips. The kids fend for themselves, and it is a freeing and innocent dynamic that gives each of them a sense of purpose and responsibility. And this lifestyle they have been raised in shows strongly in their personalities.

Piper is the youngest at nine, but she has a knack for plants and communicating with animals. Isaac and Edmond are twins at fourteen, with Isaac being very quiet and Edmond being more vocal. But both boys have a deep sense of understanding in body language. While Isaac is more attuned to animals or always knowing exactly where everyone is at all times, Edmond possesses a quality of almost being able to see into one’s soul. Osbert is the eldest boy at sixteen and takes his role as the eldest seriously. He’s a little self-righteous and acts like a know-it-all, but his role is fairly limited compared to the other kids.

“I guess there was a war going on somewhere in the world that night but it wasn’t one that could touch us.”

But this is more than just a story about cousins who spend their days without rules and roaming as they please. It’s a beautiful and raw story of survival. It’s about making friendships and bonds, and doing anything it takes to get back to one another. How I Live Now documents the strength and resilience that each of these beautifully crafted characters holds inside them. They are intelligent, loving, thick-skinned and possess an overwhelming sense of maturity for being so young. I can’t help but think how I would have fallen if I had been in their shoes. How difficult it would have been to keep moving, and fighting to live each day.

But this is also a story that can be touchy and shocking for some readers, with there being a romantic relationship that blossoms between Daisy and Edmond, who are cousins.

“The real truth is that the war didn’t have much to do with it except that it provided a perfect limbo in which two people who were too young and too related could start kissing without anything or anyone making us stop.”

Look, I know. We’re talking incest here. And incest between two VERY young teenagers at fourteen and fifteen. But look. This is such a small part of what this book is really about. Yes it can be a little uncomfortable at first. After all, we are programmed to think/know that this is forbidden. But please try to give this book a chance and be able to look at this aspect of the story as something MORE than whatever your head is screaming at you. Daisy has gone through her life feeling unwanted, less than and unloved. She is shockingly hard on herself and has a 3 foot thick wall up around her, blocking from others getting too close. But when she comes to stay with her cousins, she starts to transform. She forms friendships with Piper and Isaac that she holds so dear to her heart. And her and Edmond have a bond that is so beautifully delicate and intimate, like twin souls finding one another and intertwining.

It can be an odd read. And the writing can throw you a bit as well, with its strange dialogue and random caps. But honestly, every strange nuance to this book gives it this unique essence that I have grown to love immensely. I love this book. It’s raw and realistic. It doesn’t dance around sensitive topics or sugarcoat things for the reader. It is exactly what it is, and it doesn’t hold back. It’s a story about people thrust into a world where they are forced to fend for themselves at the drop of a hat, and how they do so by sticking together.

I initially found out about this book after I had watched the movie. Had I known this was a book BEFORE I watched it, I would have read it first. But I am also glad I waited until now to read it. I think my younger self would have judged it too harshly and wouldn’t have been able to see it through the eyes of these characters and the author. I am glad I waited until now, because I feel like I can truly appreciate the story that was trying to be told. It is breathtaking and sorrowful, but it is one that is a new favorite of mine.

“Fighting back is what I’ve discovered I do best.”

5-stars

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

Book Reviews · Books · New Releases · Simon and Schuster

Book Review: Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson

Together We Caught Fire

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

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance

Plot: What happens when the boy you want most becomes the one person you can’t have?

Lane Jamison’s life is turned upside down the week before her senior year when her father introduces her to his new fiancée: mother of Grey McIntyre, Lane’s secret, longtime crush. Now with Grey living in Lane’s house, there’s only a thin wall separating their rooms, making it harder and harder to deny their growing mutual attraction—an attraction made all the more forbidden by Grey’s long-term girlfriend Sadie Hall, who also happens to be Lane’s friend

Torn between her feelings for Grey and her friendship with Sadie—not to mention her desire to keep the peace at home—Lane befriends Sadie’s older brother, Connor, the black sheep of the strict, evangelical Hall family. Connor, a metal working artist who is all sharp edges, challenges Lane in ways no one else ever has. As the two become closer and start to open up about the traumas in their respective pasts, Lane begins to question her conviction that Connor is just a distraction.

Tensions come to a head after a tragic incident at a party, forcing Lane to untangle her feelings for both boys and face the truth of what—and who—she wants, in this gripping and stunningly romantic debut novel.

Opinion:

How many nights would I lie awake, listening through the thin wall of my bedroom for the sleep-jagged edge of his breath? This boy, so long unreachable-the core of everything I’d wanted, mangled and reassembled into a cosmic joke.”

Mood Board 2

I have always gravitated towards books that will punch a hole through my gut and make my heart feel like its weeping. A book that forgoes dancing around truths by ripping back the layers that mask humanity from what it really is-a tangle of limbs and whispered promises, lines being washed away and expectations discarded in a wind. Pure emotion and action that is flawed, gritty and raw. A story that could incite the same anger, sadness, regret, shame, sorrow, hope, love, fear and recklessness in me, as it does its characters. If a book can do that to me…well.

There’s just no unfeeling that, is there?

I was not prepared for the onslaught of emotion that hit me like a freight train while reading Together We Caught Fire. I, as I assume so many other readers have and will, expected this to be a fluffy contemporary about forbidden love. About a girl who pines for someone she can’t have, but eventually gets. But to say that this is just a love story between two people who want things they shouldn’t, would be a huge disservice to the lives these characters live. It’s a story of trauma, pain and sorrow. Where these young people are thrown into depths they can barely stay afloat in, frantically thrashing their way towards one another, while simultaneously helping and threatening to drag each other down beneath the surface.

From the very first page you are thrust into these tumultuous and vibrant lives. Lane-the girl who has loved her new step-brother from afar, Grey-the step-brother in love who also sees another, Sadie-a girlfriend deep in her faith and future, and Connor-a lost boy who consumes chaos. I fell in love with these teens so quickly, due to the harshly realistic actions and feelings they possessed. They were wild and reckless, but also levelheaded and compassionate. I felt such a strong connection to Lane in particular, and to that anger and fire that was constantly eating her alive. That sadness that makes her reach towards people shyly, wanting love and respect, but retreats immediately and slams up a wall of brick because she would much rather not feel at all. “A girl who picked sensation over feeling.” She is fierce and calm, angry and sweet, a bubble of light and a pit of sorrow.

Mood Board 1

When Lane was at the age of five her mother committed suicide, and Lane was the one to find her. Even several years later, she has horribly vivid and frightening nightmares of her mother almost nightly. Seeing her in various states of pain and horror. Though she has an incredibly supportive and accepting father, Lane was still unable to fully heal from her mother’s death. This book dives incredibly deep into the roller-coaster that Lane finds herself on as she deals with this new family that has entered her life, and a love that she is forced to push down and ignore.

I looked up and lost my way, drawn to him with that familiar sickening swoosh. A pitiful tide, held fast in the grip of the moon.”

Which brings us to Grey. He’s one of the most unique male characters I have comes across in YA. Sure he’s good looking, smart and respectful. But he’s also Pagan! A young fictional male that practices?! I was shocked, but deeply thrilled. At first I really loved Grey and found him to be a desirable character, and I could easily see why our leading lady was head over heels for him. But as the story progresses, my opinion of him quickly changes when it comes to how he begins treating Lane. To put it nicely, he becomes a complete ass. He is in love with his girlfriend while fighting the growing attraction and connection between him and Lane. He is confused, frustrated and unsure of what he wants. But when Lane begins to show interest in something other than him, he completely flips and begins throwing tantrums. Stomping his feet and sneering because he wants the shiny new toy to himself.

But don’t worry, our girl Lane knows how to dish it.

I wanted to puke again. I wanted to scream at him and slap his face, kiss him until the world burned down. Dare him to ever call me cold again, once everything we’d known was ash.”

I wanted to flatten his soul.”

In this story, the reader gets more than just a tale of love. Lane becomes friends with Connor, the brother of the girl that is dating Grey. When Connor was a young teen he was kicked out of his home for being gay, and had spent the next few years living on the streets. Now he lives in a warehouse for artists, spending his days as a metal worker. Not only do Connor and Lane begin to bond over their love for art, as Lane crochets, but they have pasts that are troublesome and hard to bear. Connor pushes Lane outside her comfort zone, helping her to confront her fears and to move past the debilitating triggers caused by her mothers suicide. He’s a rough-edged, snarky, confident and breathtaking character. It was impossible not to love every aspect of him.

The romance is obviously a huge aspect of this story, and it is incredibly beautiful and raw. It put an ache in my chest and a sharp pain behind my eyes. It was a tender, rough, electric connection laid bare. It was shocking and left me slightly unhinged, wondering how I didn’t see it coming. Every time I assumed it would go a specific way, it twisted and went in a completely different direction. This love has no rhyme or reason and was poetically unapologetic. These two souls entwined to fill the holes in one another that had left them gaping since they were children. Being an anchor for the other to release their pain and sadness. But as swoon-worthy and magnetic as it was, it was also a pit of destruction and tears.

How had I thought we could end in anything but ruin?”

This book wholeheartedly swept me away into this world of love and darkness. It was more than just a Contemporary Romance, it’s THE Contemporary Romance. It was starry-eyed and dramatic. Sloppy and poetic. But it wasn’t just a teenage relationship story. It was about a girl who had been dealt some serious life-altering shit on a platter at the age of five, and had been trying desperately to crawl out of the hole that it had thrust her in. Together We Caught Fire is a story of loss and forgiveness. How a girl fights through her hardships just to find a shred of herself that she can love.

It wasn’t about them at all, and never had been.”

If you do anything in 2020, ensure it’s that you read this. The part of you that loves being fulfilled while simultaneously shattered, is begging for it.

5-stars

 

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

~* Dream Casting *~

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

 

Lane

Emily Browning is one of my absolute favorite female actors, and I couldn’t imagine anyone better to play Lane. She has the look on innocence and sweetness, but has that uncanny ability to flip a switch and become enraged with emotion.

 

Sadie

Sadie has to have that southern “Girl Next Door”, girly, wholesome, vibrant, bubbly look to her. I think Rita Volk’s look is perfect for the beautiful Sadie.

 

Grey

Raf Miller feels like a shockingly perfect fit for Grey. Not only does Grey need to be gorgeous, which Raf is, but he needs to give a little of that “Homecoming King” vibe with a little edge of mystery.

 

Connor

A no-brainer. Lucky Blue Smith is Connor in a pretty package of devastating gorgeousness and rough-edged allure. He knows he’s stunning, but also possesses that level of assured awkwardness that is Connor.

 

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

Book Reviews · Netgalley · Upcoming Releases

Book Review: What Kind of Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

What Kind of Girl

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

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health/Abuse

Plot: Girl In Pieces meets Moxie in this unflinching exploration of the many forms of abuse society inflicts upon women, and the strength it takes to rise above it all to claim your worth.

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But the students have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if he was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?

Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

Opinion:

*sigh*

This one is heavy.

No self-respecting girl would stay with a guy who hit her.”

What Kind of Girl is more than just a domestic violence story.

It’s about two best friends who are both going through extremely trying times in their lives, but don’t reach out to each other for support. It’s about the expectations put on a person by their parents and peers, the assumptions that are made from onlookers, how trauma can drive a person towards self-harm, and the importance of mental health.

I need you to come with me. I need you to say you’re too worried about me to let me go. I need you to stay that you’ll love me whether I change the world or not.”

This book is told by Maya and Junie, two teenagers who are best friends but find themselves suffering alone. Maya is struggling with the repercussions of telling her principle that her boyfriend Mike had been hitting her, as the entire school divides itself and chooses sides. For Maya, the situation is just as confusing to her as it is to others. On the outside, her relationship with Mike seemed perfect, and most days, even she thought so. Mike is the responsible and stellar student, the track star. He is popular and nice to everyone around him, which makes it so hard for students to believe that he was abusing his girlfriend. Throughout the story Maya professes her love for Mike, how sweetly he treated her and how he didn’t want him to get in trouble for fear of him being expelled and losing his scholarship.

It’s hard to believe he would ever do what he’s accused of doing. And if he did, maybe he didn’t mean it. Maybe it was an accident. Or maybe it was justified, somehow.”

Maya always saw herself as a girl who would stick up for herself and immediately tell someone if she was being abused, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen like that. A lot of times victims stay in their relationships because they think that it could have been an accident, that their partner didn’t mean to hurt them, that they just got angry and lost control for a second. But other times it goes deeper. Manipulation plays a huge role. The abuser will not always be the screaming and violent character that is usually portrayed. Some abusers take the opposite approach. Soothing voices, promises of love and respect, ignoring the fact that they have hurt their partner, and learning how to control with their words.

Now, when I think about it, the bracelet reminds me of a handcuff.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only thing in Maya’s life that is causing her harm. She is bulimic and uses purging as a way to stay in control. Though she is a beautiful girl inside and out, she see’s herself as needing to be thinner or better. Her thoughts on when to eat, when she can throw up, how much food she has consumed takes over her thoughts and places her in an even more isolating place than she already was. To see how her bulimia and abuse were intertwined broke my heart, and all I wanted to do was give her a hug and tell her she wasn’t alone.

His fingers wrap around my upper arm. Sometimes he held me there instead of holding hands, and I’d see extra flesh in between his fingers. I don’t remember if I noticed that before or after I started throwing up.”

The other half of this story is told by Junie, Maya’s best friend. Junie is yet another beautiful girl who struggles with her own demons. She suffers from OCD and panic attacks, intrusive thoughts that leave her dissecting conversations and putting herself down, and cuts herself in order to finally quiet her mind and be still. Junie fights to be the strong and self-assured woman that her parents believe and want her to be. Their high expectations of her to be an activist, to stand up for what is right and make a change, weighs on her greatly. Whether it is her parents, her girlfriend or her peers, Junie feels she must be a leader and shouldn’t have issues like OCD. She sees these things as immense weaknesses and the reason for why she thinks nobody wants her.

So I went deeper again, like I thought maybe I could cut out the bad parts, the lonely parts, the needy parts. The parts that were sad about being alone. The parts that explained why I was alone in the first place.”

This is my second story by Alyssa B. Sheinmel, and it was just as amazing as the first book I read by her – A Danger to Herself and Others. This author knows how to talk about real mental health issues, and display them in a way that is equally beautiful and heart-achingly sorrowful. It’s as if she reaches inside a person’s mind, body and soul, extracts their fears and quirks, and displays them like she’s lived and breathed every aspect of who they are. Her writing and expertise on mental health is superb and she gives a voice to so many people who are struggling or feel lost.

As I suspected it would be, this story was beautiful. It is a gentle portrayal of some very serious topics that so many of us have been affected by, whether it be personally or through a friend or loved one. This author makes these characters so realistic-they have flaws that compliment their stunning attributes and voices that want to speak but just don’t know how. Yes, this book is about mental health and abuse, but it’s also about finding self-love and the importance of friendship. About reaching out when something is wrong, and not worrying about how other’s will look at you or judge you.

We may suffer alone, but we survive together”

-Aly Raisman

4-5-stars

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

Binding of Bindings · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #39: January 2020 Book Wrap-up

The first month of 2020 came and went.

It was lovely. It was glorious.

It was downright spectacular.

But now it needs to make way for February.

So, January, I think it’s time you…

 

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

~* January 2020 Book Wrap-Up *~

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

 

1. The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, Book 1) by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood

My first read of 2020 started off with The Hazel Wood, and honestly, what better way to dive into 2020?!

It’s a dark YA Fantasy that’s like a blend between Once Upon a Time and The Brothers Grimm. It’s a fairy tale inside a fairy tale, but it isn’t full of happy princesses and helpful creatures. It’s downright haunting, and you KNOW I was loving every second of it!

After Alice’s mother is taken, she is forced to seek out the one women her mother has forbade her from talking about or to – her grandmother, Althea Proserpine. Althea is a writer of strange and unusual fairy tales set in a place called The Hinterland, and had been holing herself up in her manor called The Hazel Wood for years. Alice begins seeking her out in order to find her mother, but the truth she uncovers is more than she could have imagined.

“My love he wooed me

My love he slew me

My love he buried my bones

His love he married

His love I buried

My love now wanders alone.”

5-stars

(See my review here)

 

2. The Night Country (The Hazel Wood, Book 2) by Melissa Albert

The Night Country

So of course my second read of 2020 was my ARC of The Night Country, the sequel to The Hazel Wood.

The Night Country still has the creep factor from The Hazel Wood, but it’s cranked up a notch. Not only is the book split between Finch traveling through strange and mysterious worlds and Alice, but Alice is dealing with some SERIOUSLY dark shit. There’s a struggle between two halves of who she is-one dark and one light-and in this installment, she really comes into her own.

“‘Look at me,’ I told him. ‘Look at your destruction.’”

Though I wasn’t as in love with this installment as I was with the first, due to it being more of an Urban Fantasy, I still enjoyed the creepy nature and getting to know more about these amazing characters. But even so, I just about died from happiness when THIS went down:

“‘You still think you live in a world where girls will lie down for you and show you their throats.’”

“‘Now lie down, and show me your throat.’”

4-stars

(See my review here)

 

3. Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes Between Us

As I said in my review,

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

Echoes Between Us is about a girl who experiences piercing migraines from a brain tumor, and speaks to the ghost of her mother. Veronica is the “weird girl” in school and hangs with a collection of misfits, and they’re honestly the damn coolest. Sawyer is the popular, attractive, “perfect guy” at her school who ends up moving with his family into the unit below Veronica and her dad.

Obviously a love blossoms, but…*sigh*…this book gets real AF and touches on some sensitive topics. It’s a depiction of two teens who go through separate events in their lives that forces them to grow up quickly, but also gives them a really mature and beautiful outlook on life. The two bond over these aspects of their lives, and…it’s just wonderful.

“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.”

4-5-stars

(See my review here)

 

4. Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, Book 1) by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits

So after reading Echoes Between Us, I decided I needed more Katie McGarry in my life and bought Pushing the Limits

It seems that this author loves to create stories that center on two charterers who are VASTLY different, but both have serious issues that they are fighting to overcome. This story is about Echo, a girl with “freakyscars on her arms but little recollection of how she received them, and a boy named Noah, a foster kid with a reputation for being a bit of a player.

This was a heavy one.

Noah lost his parents in a fire and was separated from his younger brothers through foster care, while Echo knows that a very traumatic event happened to her that included her mother, but she can’t exactly remember the events. Needless to say, this one hurts the heart in more ways then one. But these two characters are SO amazing on their own and even together. I LOVED them!

4-stars

 

5. Beyond the Shadowed Earth (Beneath the Haunting Sea, Book 2) by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Beyond the Shadowed Earth

My first DNF of 2020.

That didn’t take long, did it?

But with the new year I decided that I will not be wasting my time by forcing myself to read books I either hate or just can’t get into. There are WAY too many amazing books in the world and I am done with making myself suffer through pages that make my eyes droop.

Beyond the Shadowed Earth isn’t bad. I was just bored to tears.

It started off decently and grabbed my interest, but the lack of connection with the characters, the way the main lead, Eda, would stomp her foot and throw childlike tantrums, and the weird insta-love was just rubbing me the wrong way. I felt nothing for this book, it was just words on a page and I couldn’t do it.

 

6. The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Will and the Wilds

Thankfully The Will and the Wilds didn’t slow my roll!

This YA Fantasy Romance was WONDERFUL! It’s a historical fantasy, set in a time where you have to walk to market to sell your goods and get supplies, ride a horse, go to another city to access their library…you know what I mean.

THIS is about these creatures called mystings who have come to roam the wildwood, a forest near where our heroine, Enna, lives. Mystings are demon-like monsters, some enjoy eating humans while others prefer to toy with them.

Enna’s house gets attacked by two goblers (a type of mysting, obvi) so she goes out to the wildwood to summon a mysting and “hire” it to track the gobler who had gotten away, and kill it. Long story short, the mysting she summons is Narval-a being who survives off the consumption of souls. Somehow he gets Enna to kiss him, which relinquishes part of her soul over to him, and so ensues a whole chaotic mess of romance and soul snatching.

4-stars

(See my review here)

 

7. Breaking the Rules (Pushing the Limits, Book 1.5) by Katie McGarry

Breaking the Rules

Another Katie McGarry book, but also the sequel to Pushing the Limits.

As you read above, I really loved Echo and Noah and how their tragic lives intertwined. So I immediately bought Breaking the Rules and continued to read about their issues, love and overall struggles.

But GODDAMN, this book was literally a story of two people fighting about any and everything they could POSSIBLY fight about. That was literally my Goodreads review of it:

Breaking the Rules:

A book about two young people fighting.

Seriously. That’s all I wrote.

But I didn’t hate it, I actually gave it 3 stars and finished it. It was just a lot of arguing and me yelling at my book for them to shut up and stop worrying about inconsequential shit, but to be fair…they had a lot of these arguments because of their pasts. So, in all fairness, I guess it makes sense. But geez, my sensitive soul just can’t take that much bickering.

3-stars

 

8. The Gray Chamber (True Colors series) by Grace Hitchcock

The Gray Chamber

The Gray Chamber!

A Historical Fiction/American Crime story set in 1887 about a woman who is thrown in an insane asylum so that her uncle can steal her fortune!

One thing I may love just as much as a cult, is an asylum.

Edyth is an eccentric young woman who isn’t your typical lady out in society. She fences alongside men, doesn’t wear corsets and big fancy gowns, and rides her velocipede rather than taking a carriage like a civilized woman.

So her dear uncle calls in some doctors from Blackwell Island, the local Insane Asylum, and has her committed.

Oh yeah, it’s a good one. I really enjoyed the first part of the story, but Edyth did start to bother me while she was in the asylum with all her “don’t you know who I am” talk and expecting someone to come do her hair…? What? The ending also dragged on longer than it needed to, being spread out through multiple chapters when it could have been tied up in one.

3-stars

(See my review here)

 

9. What Kind of Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Release Date: February 4, 2020

What Kind of Girl

I have not posted my review of this BEAUTY of a story yet, but I will have it posted this weekend!

What Kind of Girl is about a girl who comes to school with a black eye, goes to her principle, and tells her that her boyfriend has been hitting her.

What ensues is a school divided. Those thinking it odd that she didn’t go to the police, wondering why she waited so long to tell if it’s true, and not believing their popular and sweet classmate could do such a thing vs. those who wish to rally for his immediate expulsion.

This is my second story by Alyssa B. Sheinmal, and it was just as amazing as the first book I read by her – A Danger to Herself and Others. This author knows how to talk about real mental health issues, and display them in a way that is both beautiful and scary. It seems like she reaches inside a persons soul and mind, extracts their fears and quirks, and displays them like she’s experienced every aspect of them.

*sigh*…it hurts so good.

Read it.

(review to come)

 

10. Together We Caught Fire by Eva V. Gibson
Release Date: February 4, 2020

Together We Caught Fire

“I wanted to scream at him and slap his face, kiss him until the world burned down. Dare him to call me cold again, once everything we’d known was ash.”

(review to come)

 

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

Stay Witchy ❤

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF

Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock

The Gray Chamber

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Barbour Publishing, Inc., via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: Historical Fiction/American Crime/Romance

Plot: Will Edyth prove her sanity before it is too late?

On Blackwell Island, New York, a hospital was built to keep its patients from ever leaving.

With her late father’s fortune under her uncle’s care until her twenty-fifth birthday in the year 1887, Edyth Foster does not feel pressured to marry or to bow to society’s demands. She freely indulges in eccentric hobbies like fencing and riding her velocipede in her cycling costume about the city for all to see. Finding a loophole in the will, though, her uncle whisks Edyth off to the women’s lunatic asylum just weeks before her birthday. Do any of Edyth’s friends care that she disappeared?

At the asylum she meets another inmate, who upon discovering Edyth’s plight, confesses that she is Nellie Bly, an undercover journalist for The World. Will either woman find a way to leave the terrifying island and reclaim her true self?

Opinion:

Etiquette, propriety, courting, and men who don’t think much of women.

It’s like a Jane Austen novel, but with an asylum!

The Gray Chamber is set in the later part of the 1800’s in high society, following a young woman named Edyth Foster as she nears her twenty-fifth birthday. Though Edyth has grown up privileged and accustomed to playing the role of a lady, she is a quirky woman who lives her life by her own set of rules. She wears relaxed dress-wear without the bother of a corset, and prefers beating men at fencing to sitting on a cushion looking primped and puffed for eligible suitors. And with the fortune her parents left her becoming available to her on her birthday, she is able to forgo the stress and pressures of securing a husband.

That is until her uncle throws her in an insane asylum.

I LOVE a historical fiction tale just like the next Jane Austen lover. There’s just nothing more romantic than a woman being courted using proper English and gentlemanly manners. Mix in beautiful gowns, arrogant men, tittering females and a mental institution…and you’ve just opened up the gates of heaven to me. I found this story to be thoroughly addicting and positively riveting. The language was perfectly on point, the time-period was well-portrayed and it showcased how easy it was during that time for men to dispose of “problem women”. Anyone who didn’t fall in line with society or do as a man said was at risk of being thrust aside.

Corset forbid any of these ladies have some individuality!

When we meet Edyth she is enjoying her life in leisure and comfort. She goes to the fencing club where her crush Bane is the instructor, sketches and paints in her free-time, is carefree with a sunny disposition, and even houses her Uncle and his new bride. Though the relationship with her uncle SEEMS fine to begin with, we obviously know it’s not. Unbeknownst to Edyth, her uncle brings doctors from Blackwell Island, the infamous Women’s Insane Asylum nearby, to have her evaluated for her eccentricities and “odd behavior” in order to have her committed so he can steal her fortune. But once she is shipped off, things got a little sour for me.

After Edyth arrives at Blackwell Island, she began to turn me off a bit. Gone was this strong and independent woman with a humble head on her shoulders, and in her place was a character who whined like a teenager and stomped her foot. Granted, the poor dear HAS just been committed and fears she will spend the rest of her days there…but come on. She acted like a spoiled child who had spent her entire life with a silver spoon in her mouth, and didn’t understand why she wasn’t getting her hair done. Seriously. She asked if a chambermaid would be coming in to do her hair. In an insane asylum.

*sigh*

But her time locked up wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. The orderlies were brutal to all of the patients, and there seemed to only be one nurse that actually had a soul. The women were all washed in the same disgusting bath water, were given food that was barely considered food, dressed in thin pieces of fabric that did nothing to keep them warm, and were sleeping in horrid conditions. It sounded dreadful, and Edyth attempting to escape the institution gave me SUCH anxiety as she was running through the halls trying to flee! 

I liked where the author took the story and how she threw in a few twists and blindsides. I found Bane to be a dreamy and perfect romantic interest for Edyth, but I do wish the poor guy would have realized she was a gem BEFORE deciding so after seeing her in a fancy gown and with makeup on. *facepalm* But even so, their relationship was very sweet and gave me little flutters. Bane’s determination to find Edyth was so pure, and it really showed how strong of a friendship they had that he knew something was up as soon as she missed their date. How things tied up with them was perfect, innocent and very romantic.

All in all, I really liked this American Crime/Historical fiction tale. It kept my attention, the setting and dialogue felt authentic to the era, and it showcased the atrocities that some women were subjected to. I do think the last 15% of the story was a bit unnecessary and was dragged out a little more than was needed, but it didn’t bother me enough to make me stop reading until the very last word. This was my first read from this True Colors series, so I definitely want to read the other stories and see how the other authors constructed their tales.

3-stars

612B40E9C1CD2F68AD9B9A8097CED4FF