Book Reviews

Book Review: A Whisper in the Dark by Jessi Elliot and K.J. Sutton

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the authors, Jessi Elliot and K.J. Sutton, for an honest review. 

Genre: Adult/Fantasy/Romance/paranormal-Vampires

Plot: A city ruled by vampires. A disgraced princess. A world underground.

Charlotte Travesty lives in a world of comfort. Glittering nightclubs, a lavish mansion, and a staff of humans at her beck and call. Being a royal vampire means her future is secured—all she has to do is get through the Awakening, an ancient ceremony every vampire experiences when they come of age.

But when her Awakening arrives at last, everything changes in one terrifying instant.

Cast from her home and rejected by the royal family, Charlie is forced into a life of fear and brutality. Where creatures called weepers live below the city, kept at bay by an unlucky sector of fighters enslaved by the very king who cast her out. Charlie now finds herself among the ranks.

She soon learns that weepers aren’t all she needs to fear in her new life. Other workers are dying in the tunnels below ground. Charlie knows that if she’s going to survive, she must form alliances with the very humans that despise her. But will she win their trust in time? Or will she die in the very darkness she was born to rule?

For fans of Sarah J. Maas’s Crescent City and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series, A Whisper in the Dark is the first volume in the Charlie Travesty serial.

Opinion:

“The crown rests beside me – it must have fallen off while I slept.”

A quick introduction to a new Adult Fantasy series that are bringing the Vamps back with a vengeance!

I LOVE anything by Kelsey Sutton, so of course when I found out she was working on a series of novellas with an author I hadn’t had the pleasure of knowing about, I was SOLD. And in true K.J. Sutton fashion, she literally gives ZERO information ahead of time about what she is writing, and then just displays it in all it’s glory on release day, on a platter of gold and blood. ❤

This first installment of the Charlie Travesty series was AMAZING! I was hooked from the first page until the last, immediately in love with our leading vamp Charlie, and obsessed with the world. I absolutely love a dystopian styled fantasy, especially one where Vampires rule over humans, and one where a royalfalls from grace“.

In this vampire world, the Awakening is the moment when a vampire comes into who they are. Each eye color dictates where a vampire will reside and what their interests will be. Charlie, being an artist, hopes to wake with emerald eyes that will take her into Sul, the quarter for artists and writers. But when she wakes, her eye color shows the true proof of who Charlie really is.

I am so impressed with how easily this story flowed. Usually when you get a book written by two or more authors, there is a disconnect between the writing styles or the switch in voices in painfully obvious. And being such a HUGE K.J. Sutton fan, I figured I’d easily be able to tell which parts were written or influenced by Kelsey.

Well. Color me wrong AF.

You would NEVER guess this was written by two different people! The melding of these two creative minds is impeccable, and the story and world they created was addicting as hell. And even though I’m not a big novella reader, I really found myself preferring this pacing. It gets to the point, but not in a rushed way. I honestly had no problems at all with this book, and all I want is to read everything else these two beautiful writers put onto paper.

5 Stars

 

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo

Binding of Bindings : 10 YA Books with Unique Concepts

Wanna get weird?

 

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~* 10 YA Books with Unique Concepts *~

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1. Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace, Book 1) by Kathryn Purdie
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Bone Criers Moon

Bone Crier’s Moon is the perfect way to kick off this ‘Unique Concepts‘ post, especially because it’s about a tribe of women who kill their soulmates so they can ferry souls across the gates of Heaven and Hell.

The women are called Leurress and their purpose is to guide the Chained and Unchained to the gates they belong to. In order to become a ferrier, each Leurress has to acquire three Grace Bones from animals they hunt and kill themselves. The “Graces” they receive from the animal – like the speed of a rabbit, the sight of a hawk, the stamina of…something – become abilities they then posses as long as they wear the bones.

Once they acquire all three bones, they must complete the final ritual. Using the sacred Bone Flute that opens the gates on ferrying night, the Leurress must play the flute and lure her soulmate to a bridge…and kill him.

(See my review here)

 

2. Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Dooms Day Preppers (I told you it was a genre now)

Last girls

I just read Last Girls last week, and it was fantastic. It’s a story of three sisters who live on a compound with other Dooms Day Preppers, where they train in hand to hand combat, hunting, survival skills, making bombs…you name it.

But there’s a story within this story, and it is epic.

The Juniper sisters are the “weird sisters” wherever they go. Honey is the responsible older sister whose job is to keep her sisters in line and together. Birdie is the middle sister who does what she wants, when she wants. She is the brash and fiery sister. Blue, the youngest, has cobalt blue hair and is the calm that holds the girls together. She also has a tendency to say odd little prophetic sentences at all times of the day and night.

(See my review here)

 

3. All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery/Thriller

All your Twisted Secrets

All Your Twisted Secrets:

SAW meets THE BREAKFAST CLUB.

Six seniors are locked in a room with a bomb, a syringe and a note instructing them to pick one person to kill. Before time is up, they must choose one person to inject with the lethal liquid, or they all die.

And Oh. My. Shit. is that ending going to blow your mind.

(See my review here)

 

4. The Hazel Wood series by Melissa Albert
Genre: YA/Fantasy

I personally thought the first book in this series was better, but the concept is still kickass.

It has all the twisted Grimm’s Brothers vibes you could want, and instead of it being a book of bubbly fairy tales and happy endings, it’s very much like a Once Upon a Time version where everything is actually quite fucked up.

The Hazel Wood is an estate where writer Althea Proserpine lives, and where she writes the haunting stories set in an eerie world called The Hinterland. Alice has never read the stories her grandmother wrote, and instead has been outrunning bad luck with her mother for years. But when her mother suddenly disappears, Alice is forced to find her grandmother, becomes it seems that her mother has been taken to a place that wasn’t supposed to be real – The Hinterland.

The world building is so cool, and the fairy tales are jacked up, so naturally I loved it. The Night Country was meh because it turns into more of an Urban Fantasy, but the world building was still amazing.

(See my reviews for The Hazel Wood here and The Night Country here)

 

5. A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health

A Danger to Herself and Others

THIS book.

What a psychological whirlwind this was.

It’s about a girl who is institutionalized for something that happened at school with one of her friends. She claims she didn’t do it and knows that she just has to prove that she is sane so they will let her go home.

But the truth of what happened is so unexpected and so heart-clenching...

…it was immediately one of my new favorite books, and still is.

READ THIS.

(See my review here)

 

6. Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Red Hood

Red Hood is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, but so different and bizarre that you’ll be saying “wtf” while grinning from ear to ear.

This is a straight-up feminist retelling. And when I say feminist, I mean

FEMINIST.

It dives deep into those womanly hardships of feeling unclean, unimportant, unsafe and unworthy. It is unhinging how gritty and purely raw this story is, and the author doesn’t hold back at all.

In this story, men and boys who wish to hurt women are the wolves. But our main character Bisou, and her grandmother, are bestowed with a special gift that allows them to sense the wolves and kill them. But the real magic about this book, is that the shining star of it is PERIODS.

Yeah. I’m not kidding.

(See my review here)

 

7. The Door to January by Gillian French
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal/Mystery

The Door to January

The Door to January is a really interesting YA Paranormal/Mystery combo in that it has elements of spirits, murder, a fantasy door to the past, and very serious trauma.

It is about a girl named Natalie who went through a very traumatic experience in the woods two years prior to the reader meeting her. Now, after her family had moved away, Natalie keeps experiencing dreams of a door in a house she thinks is from back home. So when she ventures back to her hometown, and she and her cousin investigate the old house, spirits start to communicate with her.

 

This book is bursting with multiple plots and is completely unique.

(See my review here)

 

8. The Life of Death by Lucy Booth
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

The Life of Death

Ugh. What a whirlwind this story was!

The Life of Death is just like it sounds, it’s about the life of death – or the “Grim Reaper“.

As a woman is about to be hung for accusations of being a witch, she is visited in her cell by HIM. He offers her a deal, a chance at a life after death as death itself. And so she accepts.

And so for the next 500 years Elizabeth acts as death, guiding souls across the threshold. But in their dying moments, Elizabeth takes on the face and memories of a loved one that the dying most desires to see. She guides them along with love and compassion.

But when Elizabeth comes across a man whose wife she just helped cross over, she is suddenly struck by love and wants out. So HE gives her a task: HE will assign her five lives that she must take, and then she will be free.

And this is where things get fucked up and sad.

(See my review here)

 

9. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy

The Ten Thousand Doors of january

What a lovely and fantastical story this is!

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is all about doors to other worlds, bad men trying to destroy the doors and keep the beautiful secrets inside for themselves, and a young woman trying to get to her father. It’s a tale of EPIC romance, and a coming-of-age fantasy period-piece that NEEDS to be a movie NOW!

Probably one of the best stories I have read in my lifetime, for its exquisite writing and amazing plot.

Just go buy it.

(See my review here)

 

10. Wilder Girls by Rory Power
Genre: YA/Horror/Mystery/LGBT

Wilder Girls

I know a lot of you have seen this one and read it already, but it deserves a spot on this list for it’s astounding yet horrific uniqueness.

Wilder Girls is the feminist Lord of the Flies that you didn’t know you needed. And as I said in my review:

This book will make your skin shift.

Though this is in the Horror category, and is definitely creepy, it isn’t a scary story. It’s creepy in the sense of science fiction in that a school for girls has been infected with a virus they call The Tox. And the Tox effects each girl differently when the flare-ups hit them – from seconds spines and hearts, scales growing on the hands or face to lesions or skin bubbling. The story tracks how the girls live among one another trying to survive, and then figuring out how to escape once the government stops sending them aid.

But the best part of this book is the unflinching unity between these girls who look like monstrous creatures, but have respect towards one another and don’t even bat an eye to one another over physical abnormalities.

Now THAT is an enviable world to live in.

(See my review here)

 

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Stay Witchy

 

 

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Blog Tour · Book Reviews · New Releases

Book Review: The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel

The Memories We Bury

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, H.A. Leuschel, for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Psychology/Suspense

Plot: An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, who’s own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In ‘The Memories We Bury’ the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

Opinion:

Why is it I seem to remember events that hurt me better than experiences id rather hold on to because they make me happy?”

The Memories We Bury is the first full novel by Helene Leuschel, but definitely not her first dive into psychological fiction. After reading her last collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives, I became obsessed with her ability to showcase the countless ways of manipulation that a person can find themselves victim to, or wield. Whether the manipulation is in a form of an abusive partner, a con man/woman, or a friend or family member being able to coerce their loved one into doing what they want, this author delivers a realistic and frighteningly detailed portrayal of such scenarios.

In this story, a young mother struggles to navigate parenthood with a reluctant and mostly absent husband, but finds friendship and guidance in her elderly neighbor. Together the two form a fast bond where the young mother, Lizzie, is able to find a mother figure in her neighbor, and where the neighbor, Morag, is able to feel of sense of purpose as a stand-in mother and grandmother. But as the two become closer and their lives begin to intertwine, the complexities surrounding motherhood and their pasts lead the women to a place that will be almost impossible to come back from.

What I love about H.A. Leuschel is her dedication to the development of her characters. They have distinct personalities that gives each of them a soft uniqueness, but are given a detailed background of family dynamics, trauma and experiences that adds to the overall framework of who they become. None of them are perfect, and they are all surely flawed in many ways, which makes them feel as genuine and raw as both you and I.

Lizzie is one of two women that this story focuses on. She is a young woman in her late 20’s who has just married a man who is walking confidence and charisma. Lizzie however, is an introvert and prefers to lose herself in the keys of a piano. They are a mismatched pair, but upon being introduced to them they seem to compliment each other well and bring a balance to their relationship. But as the story goes on, we quickly learn that her husband, Markus, is not Mr. Perfect. He is the typical arrogant and archaic type of salesman who talks down to his wife through quips and jokes, expects her to sit at home and run their household, and who always has a phone glued to his ear. Upon marrying, they discuss putting children off until they have had time to enjoy each other. But then, Lizzie gets pregnant.

Markus is reluctant to become a father and not ecstatic about the news, which leaves Lizzie to go through her pregnancy mostly alone. But with Markus working long hours or away on business trips, Lizzie begins to strike up a quick friendship with her sweet elderly neighbor, Morag.

‘There are no half measures with you, Morag’ I heard Pete’s voice in my head. ‘You switch from confidence to paranoia in a heartbeat.’”

Morag is a fun lady. Very opinionated, very knowledgeable, and VERY matter-of-fact. She is always on the go and more than happy to spend time with her neighbor, as her children very rarely visit and her husband had passed. Her career was working as a nurse with premature babies, where she developed her love for children and for helping new mothers and fathers experience the joys of new life. It is through her hospital work that she eventually met her late husband Peter, and started a family of her own. But though Morag seems to be a very caring and heartfelt woman, hints of her tumultuous relationships with her children are hinted throughout the story.

It is after the birth of Lizzie’s son that things start to develop and change between Lizzie, Morag and Markus. As the story unfolds and describes the days and months after the birth of Lizzie’s son Jamie, the reader is also given insight into the childhood of Lizzie growing up with a cold and rarely comforting mother. It is there that Lizzie wishes for a mother figure, someone who will love her unconditionally and be there as a support system for her. But her need for someone to fill this role is ultimately where things begin to get rocky between Lizzie and Morag.

There is a lot of character and background building that takes up most of this book. The first half really dives into who Lizzie and Morag are. Their wants, desires, pasts, fears and qualities. It was a little slow for my liking in this first half, but everything blended together nicely to set up the REAL plot of this story. Once things really started to roll about halfway through, I was hooked. My mind was reeling about what might happen, where I thought the story would go or how the characters might end up. It was the perfect mix of suspenseful twists that didn’t feel fabricated or overly fictitious. The turmoil felt authentic, the forms of manipulation were realistic, and the outcome was shocking.

Overall, The Memories We Bury was another enjoyable story of dark human behavior. I am so excited to see what else this author comes up with, and what other types of personalities will grace the pages of her next stories.

4 Stars

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Binding of Bindings · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #42: March 2020 Book Wrap-up

I may be slightly behind in posting my March Book Wrap-up
…but come on. It’s practically the apocalypse around here.
So.

 

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~* March 2020 Book Wrap-Up *~

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1. Frozen Beauty by Lex Hillyer
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery

Frozen Beauty

Definitely not my most favorite read of March, but also not the worst.

Frozen Beauty had all the promise in the world to be a dreary and eerie, femi-powered contemporary mystery laced in sorrow and sadness. But instead it was just a bit…

It centers on the Malloy sisters and the strange and sudden death of the eldest, who is found half-naked and frozen to death. The sisters thought they knew everything about one another, but as they begin digging into what really happened… the secrets start to unravel. 

I wanted to love this, especially because of that cover art, but I just didn’t care for it much. I was able to get through it quickly and easily, but the characters just felt so BLAH. The ending was a bit predictable, and there was some weird/awkward insta-love that happened that I don’t even need to get into.

3 Stars

(See my review here)

 

2. All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

All Your Twisted Secrets

THIS BOOK!

WOW!

All Your Twisted Secrets is a YA blend of The Breakfast Club and Saw. Six teens are invited to a scholarship dinner in a banquet room, where they are locked inside. On the table are three items: a syringe filled with a liquid, a bomb with a countdown clock, and a note indicating that they must pick a person to killor they all die.

Yeah. I know.

But just when I thought I had this little beauty figured out

Oh yeah. Epic.

4.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

3. All the Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault
Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

All the Pretty Things

….

…there’s just not a lot to say here.

All the Pretty Things STARTED as a mystery set at an amusement park where an employee/well-known kid in town dies. It had a little bit of the Adventureland vibes that I was hoping for, but what it turned into was just…

…it’s not good.

If you like reading books where your face is scrunched up the whole time like this:

Then yeah, be my guest. And enjoy that father.

He’s a real gem.

2.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

4. Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Sparrow

Beautiful.

Sorrowful.

Stunning.

Sparrow is a YA twist on Black Swan that will surely cause tears to flow down your precious cheeks. It is about a ballerina who finds herself in an abusive relationship, and and shows the what lays broken on the ground after things go too far.

Books on abusive and manipulative behavior are so important and I am a big advocate for them, especially when they showcase different forms of abuse. But what makes this story truly important, is the fact that it doesn’t just show our main characters POV and how she is affected. It sheds light on the emotional toll it takes on her family, friends and those close to her.

It is beautiful, and though there were some parts that I found unnecessary to the story, it is a book worth reading.

4 Stars

(See my review here)

 

5. Girls with Sharp Sticks (Book 1) by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Girls with Sharp Sticks

I have been ranting about this AMAZING book for a year!

Every chance I get I am recommending it to my bookstagram girlfriends and begging them to read it! And since the sequel to it released in March, I decided to reread it to get a refresher before starting my ARC! Girls with Sharp Sticks is a YA Feminist tale with a twist that will blow your mind, while simultaneously making your heart rip itself apart because your feelings will be feeling FEELINGS.

It’s about a group of girls who attend Innovations Academy. Here they are bred to be obedient, to listen to the male figures in their life (because they know best) and to stay as beautiful as possible. If the girls misbehave, they are redirected and given therapy immediately, until they have been…realigned.

The story is about the girls waking up from their fog, and realizing that the place they are in does not have their best interests at heart.

5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

6. Girls with Razor Hearts (Girls with Sharp Sticks, Book 1) by Suzanne Young
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi/Feminism

Girls with Razor Hearts

I had SUCH high hopes for the second book to Girls with Sharp Sticks, and I devoured Girls with Razor Hearts in such a short time. But it wasn’t because it was amazing and held my attention to the point that I couldn’t eat or sleep without knowing what would happen.

No…it was more like I kept reading in the hopes that SOMETHING would happen. But nothing really did. It was just a bit of a blah read next to the first book where the author focused way too much on shoving toxic patriarchy down my throat. This sequel just felt like preaching. It felt forced and didn’t have the same flow and heart behind it’s message as it did before.

The story just lost its way a bit here, and I am hoping that it will come back around in the next book. This seemed more like a “buffer book” or a stepping stone to set up for the next installment, so fingers crossed that it improves!

3.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

7. Thorn (Dauntless Path, Book 1) by Intisar Khanani
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling – The Goose Girl

Thorn

THORN!

Ah, what a GEM of a retelling!

I know I’m not the only one that has been overjoyed with these countless fairy tale retellings coming out, so when I saw Thorn I knew I had to have it. And after reading Bloodleaf last year and not liking it, I was hoping that this Goose Girl retelling would be better.

And ohhhhhh child, it SO was!

You know the story: A Princess is married off to a Prince in another kingdom, and upon traveling there, her handmaid steals her body and poses as her, which forces the real Princess into a new life as a goose girl.

In this rendition, the same happens and so much more! The story keeps the atmospheric old-timey feel to it and spins in a layer of eeriness that perfectly blends with the poetic nature of the tale. It was a fantastic read and one I was fairly surprised by, because though I was hoping this would be a win, I had my doubts

But here I am, DYING for the next book!

4.5 Stars

(See my review here)

 

8. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, Book 1) by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: New Adult/Fantasy/Romance

House of Earth and Blood

Only 60 pages in and SJM had me, and everyone else, like

And then we get a little farther and it’s a whole lot of

A ton of

And then back to

Beyond. Epic.

5 Stars

 

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

All the Places Ivve Cried in Public

As I said above, a book that focuses on the several other types of abuse and manipulation that go on, are stories that need to be read.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public is in the style of Thirteen Reasons Why where a girl recounts the pivotal moments that lead to the end of her relationship with her boyfriend. They are all moments that she has cried, either from joy, despair, or confusion. But each place, and each moment is a clue into how they broke up and what happened between them.

This story was like a punch in the gut for me, because so many aspects of it were familiar or sparked a memory. For those of us who have experienced relationships like this, and for those who haven’t, the importance and reminder to look for signs of hurtful and manipulative behavior needs to be shown. This book does just that.

Every teenager needs to read this.

3.5 Stars

 

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Stay Witchy ❤

 

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Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases

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

Thorn

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

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling-The Goose Girl

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion:

 

 

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

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

‘I am nothing.’”

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

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

This, was beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 Stars

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Book Reviews · 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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