Book Reviews

Book Review: The Beholder (Book 1) by Anna Bright

The Beholder

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

Plot: Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.

From English castle gardens to the fjords of Norge, and under the eye of the dreaded Imperiya Yotne, Selah’s quest will be the journey of a lifetime. But her stepmother’s schemes aren’t the only secrets hiding belowdecks…and the stakes of her voyage may be higher than any happy ending.

Opinion:

What is this…sensation blossoming inside me?

*claws at face and chest*

It’s…

It’s unBEARable!

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“You tend to gardens and fields with the women and to the stock with the men. That makes you one of the people. That does not make you their leader.”

As Seneschal-elect of Potomac, and daughter to the current leader, Selah will soon have the responsibility of her country of Potomac resting on her shoulders. And being Eighteen she is expected to marry, to present a strong and united front as she leads her people. But when Selah extends an offer of marriage to Peter, a boy she has always yearned for from afar, and he rejects her proposal, her step-mother and the council take matters into their own hands. She is forced to travel across the Atlantic by ship with a crew of misfits, stopping in several countries and courting the eligible Princes, each for two weeks, in the hopes of proposals. Heartbroken, embarrassed, and only agreeing out of duty, Selah and her crew set off. But the royalty Selah meets is far from what she could have expected, and countless secrets and games are lurking around every corner.

“I didn’t want his proposal. I didn’t want to be a princess. I was never born to wear a crown.”

“Do not waste your efforts on good-for-nothing boys. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

“You are everything you ought to be.

When I started The Beholder…I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it would be that great. I had been debating purchasing it since it released a year ago, and every time I was about to buy it, I found myself not able to. The reviews from other readers have been super conflicting, some sprinkled in praise and others feeling luke-warm, but I was especially weary that it would be dull or completely lacking.

Well.

Curse me for second-guessing myself because…

This was everything.

“No mortal wounds, perhaps, but the scars these boys had left me would remain.

“The weight of the chaos was going to flatten me.”

This isn’t just a YA Fantasy retelling with a few Cinderella and Odyssey elements. And honestly, even calling it a Fantasy is a bit of a stretch. This world is a mix of fictional and real places. Europe plays a huge role, but peppered throughout are fictional countries and cities – like the one our dear heroine hails from. Also sprinkled within these pages are countless folklore and fairy-tales from all over the world, and each lends a hand to the plot and the direction our main character is thrust towards.

“. . . and if ye will listen but a little I will tell it you with tongue As I have heard it told, In a story brave and strong, In a loyal book of old, In the land it has been long.” —Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Selah is a sweet and a fairly dainty young woman with a great work ethic, and someone who is easily likeable. She is wrapped in innocence and her eyes bubble over with hope and sincerity for those around her, even when their eyes unfortunately do not. Upon the first few chapters, you are instantly heartbroken for her already. Not only is she woefully rejected by a boy she has loved from afar since she was a wee lass, but it is done so in front of EVERYONE. And THEN, to make matters worse, the fate of her love-life is discussed and decided by council members and her evil stepmother – “smother”, Alessandra.

And oh my sh, is this woman a piece of work.

“If Alessandra came down and caught me crying in the dark, she’d lean into my weakness, press on my bruises in front of the others until they thought me as spineless as she did.

If an author want’s me to feel heartbroken within the first 30 pages of a book, all you have to do is make a young girl feel entirely alone, while her sickly father stands by and does nothing.

Shatter me, why don’t you.

But this is just the beginning of heartbreak in The Beholder.

It was kind of him to pretend I wasn’t drowning.

I don’t even know how to describe the amount of sorrow I was feeling alongside Selah as she experienced betrayal after betrayal. Here is this beautiful soul, thrust into a duty of having to flaunt herself in front of princes and impress them enough to be offered proposals, all in the hopes of returning to her country to care for her sick father…and in the midst of being completely rejected! I felt her embarrassment, her loneliness and every wave of uncertainty that rolled through her. She is a shy introvert who just wants love. Not a title, a crown or a prince as a husband.

“He’d left me burning brighter than the candles.

Now I just felt burned.”

The Beholder is the name of the ship that Selah voyages on to meet her suitors, and the crew running it are a smattering of beautiful souls with various ethnic backgrounds, ages, and personalities. The author gives you just enough information and dialogue from them to instill a sense of trust and comfortably, but also withholds enough to keep you constantly wondering. Though I was a little surprised at how quickly these crew members become protective of Selah, I also found it entirely endearing.

“I imagined having a job onboard the Beholder, instead of being a job myself. Imagined being one of their friends, instead of cargo.”

And even though these crew members are fiercely loyal to Selah and always put her protection first, the reader quickly learns that there is something more going on when Selah isn’t looking. Most mysterious of all, is our dear Captain Lang. A VERY young captain in his early twenties (and dashing, I might add) riddled with secrets and complete intrigue. And even now, I am STILL wondering about this guy! With overly concerned glances and notions towards Selah, a tuck of hair behind an ear here, or an accidental lacing of fingers there…suffice it to say, I was being thrown in a million directions wondering WHO THE LOVE INTEREST IS!!!

“Would I ever learn what seeds he sowed that bloomed in bruises on his cheeks?”

Speaking of love interests

If there were ever a story to bloat me with so much love, and just as quickly drop my heart to the floor through my stomach

…it would be this one.

“You are making a mistake.”

“You are making a mistake.”

“You are making a mistake.”

How do I even explain the sheer mind messery that the love in The Beholder invokes? It is twisted, quick, fleeting, meddlesome, loaded, passionate, dark, light, achingly sweet and crushingly wretched. There are games layered in secrets layered in maneuvers and countermoves. Selah is a pawn in so many maps and boards, it’s devastating to witness. Her unwavering trust in people is endearing, yet wholly painful. Her desire to forgive and forgive is admirable, and the way she propels herself onward is empowering. The girl launches herself at the chance of love and being loved, and it makes me both happy and sad.

“My heart was a lit candle, a forest fire, a burning star. Doomed, but smiling.”

But her fear and lack of confidence in herself is truly the most sorrowful of all.

“I realized I’d been waiting for this moment, this inevitable point when he would look at me—soft, scared, unremarkable—and see that he could do better.”

I so SO badly want to dive into the romance angle, but I will spill all the beans of everything, and the unraveling of this story is just too good for me to do that to you. Just know that this is going to be an emotional whirlwind if you’re ready for it, and if you can understand/tolerate quick love.

But let me just say this: the siblings of Asling Fortress make my heart sing.

On another note, the world building.

There is a LOT of world building explaining in this, and let me not be the first to say, it’s damn confusing. Never have I encountered so many names that I didn’t even attempt to sound out. Call me lazy, but geez…those jumbles of letters were daunting. So in terms of making sense of the world – what was real and what wasn’t – yeah, I was pretty little lost. There was an excessive unloading of fictional names and places that I could not make sense of, try as I might. And even the land of Imperiya Yotne (that’s…the land, right?) which acts as “the villainbarely made much sense to me. All I know is there is something about the tsarytsya, they’re evil, and some mutterings of Baba Yaga – an old Russian folklore, sort of like the Boogeyman

“When Baba Yaga locks the door, Children pass thereby no more.”

“Baba Yaga’s land, there is no safety.”

So in that regard, I had to knock a star down. Because if this world and the cities/countries were cleaned up a bit, this book would be stellar. I am hoping book two, The Boundless, will really cut these loose strings and sew up some holes in terms of the setting and the story of the Tsarytsdafjfbdsf…you know, the bad place.

I am now already devouring The Boundless in anticipation for it’s release on Tuesday, June 9th. But I am still pretty early into it. So…

Pray for me.

“What fortune was mine.”

4 Stars

 

 

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Additional quotes I loved, because there were just too many.

“I was struck suddenly with the feeling of desperately needing to ask him a question and at the same time not being sure exactly what it was I needed to ask—the feeling that the question didn’t matter, so long as the answer came from him.”

“He is so very handsome, and we are so very, very unwise.”

“‘It’s not what you look like, it’s how you see,’ she used to always say, and she believed someone who didn’t read only ever saw through their own eyes.”

“We were doomed, but I was smiling.”

“‘I just wish you’d told me when it was just the two of us’

‘It never was just the two of us.'”

“No one knows how many years he has, Seneschal-elect. Life is short and death is certain.”

“So every moment I am aboveground and not below it, I want to feel the difference. We’ll all be in our graves soon enough.”

“I will fight, if I have to. But if I have to break another’s body, I deserve at least to feel his suffering in my own arm. I think the powerful would love less the fruits of violence if they had to deal it out by hand.”

 

 

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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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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: Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Red Hood

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

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling/Feminism

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

And the wolf is angry.

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

Opinion: 

 

 

I stumbled to me feet and took off running.

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

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

who’s afraid of the big bad wolf

i am afraid

of everything.”

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

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

Quickly.”

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

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

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

I was alone

in the ghost room

waiting for it to end

alone

hoping he wouldn’t find me

he came

and blew down everything

the moon was made of blood

your bed was full of blood

when he touched you

with his fists and fangs

he could have kept you safe

but he didn’t want to.”

But let’s get real about this.

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

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

Yeah, I said it.

PERIODS.

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

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

“…now – here – you are your body.”

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

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

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

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

I can break things

I can make things, too.

I stand

On two strong legs

I kill

With two strong hands

I bleed

From one strong womb

I wish

With one red heart

That you could see me now.”

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Not me. Fuck the wolf.”

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley

Book Review: The Hazel Wood (Book 1) by Melissa Albert

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Flat Iron Books, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Opinion:

Alice and her mother Ella have been on the run from bad luck since she was a child. Never able to stay in one place for too long, Alice had grown accustomed to the constant bag packing and switching of homes, schools and cities. Of course, sometimes the bad luck would creep in too closely. Like Alice being kidnapped by a man in a blue Buick at the age of 6, promising her a meeting with a grandma she had only known by name, only to have Ella find her and take her back. But no matter where they went, Alice always felt an anger eating away at her.

So when her mother suddenly disappears, she is forced to turn to the one person Ella has kept her away from her entire life: her grandmother, Althea Proserpine – a famous writer of dark fairy tales about a world called The Hinterland. Now, Alice must learn all she can about The Hinterland and how to find it and the estate that her grandmother lived in before her death: The Hazel Wood.

But Alice will quickly learn that she is chasing more than just fairy tales, and that even her story is yet to be finished.

Look until the leaves turn read,

sew the worlds up with thread.

If your journey’s left undone,

fear the rising of the sun.”

Where do I even begin?!

The Hazel Wood is the YA Fantasy story for fairy tale obsessed readers who like an unconventional tale. This may not be the fluffy sort of story most are accustomed to, by way of beautiful Disney Princesses and romantic happy endings. There isn’t just one evil-doer, and there are more than just poison foods that can kill you in a flash. No, this is definitely not a tale of good fortune. It’s The Brothers Grimm meets Once Upon A Time, and it is wickedly good. The characters are oddities in their own right, with addictive quirks and flaws aplenty. It is set in a world of ruthless caliber with threats of death at every turn, and it is written like classic dark folklore with descriptions and haunting poems that twist your gut while making your heart sing.

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.”

The center of this story is Alice’s dear grandmother Althea, whom she has never had the pleasure of meeting. When we meet Alice, we learn that she knows of her grandmother and her legacy. She is a famous writer of a collection of fairy tales called The Tales of The Hinterland, and she lives on an estate called The Hazel Wood, where her mother Ella grew up as a child. Though Alice has only ever once come across one copy of any of the elusive and ultra-rare stories, she had been forbidden by Ella to ever read any of the tales her mother wrote about. She is also warned to stay away from her grandmother’s crazy obsessed fans, who seem to always track Ella and Alice down, begging for information about Althea and The Hinterland. Naturally, we need to know WHY!

So when Ella disappears and Alice is left all alone, she turns to a schoolmate that is the closest thing she has to a friend. Ellery Finch is a strange boy she knows from school, but one who shows her kindness…even if he does know who her grandmother is. It turns out, Finch is one of those crazy obsessed fans Alice is supposed to stay away from, but she enlists his help as he is the only one that has any information on her grandmother. Together they begin searching for clues as to the whereabouts of The Hazel Wood manor, all the while trying not to be killed by strange creatures.

The Hinterland is, well, wicked. It is dark and seedy, magical and dangerous, and alluring yet completely frightening. It is crawling with eerie beings who are both human and not, and I can only visualize it as Wonderland dropping into The Upside Down. The book is basically little fairy tales put into one giant fairy tale. It reads just like the dark folklore that makes your skin crawl while tickling your fancy. There are strange and curious characters at every turn, like a grandmother moon or  Twice-Killed Katherine. There are stories of a spoiled girl who makes a deal with the Night Women, a young woman who kills to seek death, and a princess born with black eyes.

It is such an incredibly strange tale, but one I am completely enraptured with. I have already began reading book two, The Night Country, and I can say that I am just as hooked. Though I did find that The Hazel Wood was a little slow at times, it wasn’t enough to make me want to put it down or sway my interest. I’m addicted to the odd and gritty nature of the book as a whole, and it just feels like a story I have been patiently waiting to be written. It is for the readers who, like me, want a little darkness poured into their magical teacups and just want to get lost in the woods.

Though I can’t say much else without giving everything away, I highly recommend this read for those of you who haven’t already read it. It is exactly what a YA Fantasy should be, and it is written like a dream with ripples of fog blurring the edges. I cannot wait to see what happens next!

5-stars

 

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