Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Last Girls by Demetra Brodsky


Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the Publisher, Macmillan-Tor/Forge via Netgalley for an honest review.
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Dooms Day Preppers (It’s a genre now)
Plot:

No one knows how the world will end.
On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.
Prepare for every situation.
But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:
Nowhere is safe.

Opinion:

Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?

-Pink Floyd

“Preparedness is the root of prepping.”

Sisters Honey, Birdie and Blue know they’re weird. Unlike regular teenagers who worry about school dances, dating and shopping, the Juniper sisters are more versed in survival skills and tactical combat. For years they have been moving around with their mother Alice, never without their EDC bags or each other. But after settling in Washington and working and training along fellow doomsday preppers on a secret compound in the outskirts of town, things for the Juniper sisters are getting…strange. After a mission set by the compound leader goes wrong, one of the boys from the compound is forced to go out on his own as punishment. But what really happened that day on the mission is the real question, and why the mission was ordered in the first place. Suddenly life isn’t all government conspiracies and stock-piling food. While trying to keep their prepper identities secret, they soon realize the truth is much more toxic than they ever expected.

‘Why did we ever come here?’

‘To find our way home,’ Blue says.”

I think this is my new favorite book of 2020. I mean sure, nothing can really beat the gut-punch and epic fantastical emotion show that was HOEAB, but for me…Last Girls comes damn close.

Maybe it’s just the conspirator in me, or the slight hope for an apocalypse so I can run around the world mostly scared, yet completely badass in my combat boots, unpractical black jeans, ripped shirts and unnaturally large knives strapped to my legs. But in truth, it’s probably the fact that I am a sucker for badass females that can take care of themselves – ESPECIALLY in the woods with a bow or a rifle. And that is exactly what the Juniper sisters are. BAD. ASS. They’re fiesty, they’re sharp and witty, they are experts in weaponry and hunting and can lay you on your back in .25 seconds. They are teenagers who posses the innocence of young women, but also carry a wisdom and complete sense of comfort as to who they are. They are thoughtful, tactful and at ease in their bodies. I adore them.

We can handle them.

My sisters and I can handle anything.”

The girls live on a compound with a bunch of other preppers. Men and women, boys and girls. The compound is separated into two two sections: The Burrow, where the men reside with the weapons and artillery, and The Nest, where the women reside and grow food for the compound and tend to the animals. Every day the girls are required to take care of the animals that are used for food, to train with the rest of the compound, and to remember the most vital rule of all:

The first rule of prep club is you don’t talk about prep club.”

The compound is ultra strict about keeping the prepper business on the DL, and anyone caught violating their rules or putting their fellow preppers at risk are swiftly dealt with and banished. This lifestyle is all the juniper sisters have ever known, and it’s almost like they were made for it. So even though they are always labeled the Weird Sisters at whatever school they end up attending, they also are quite aware that if a disaster ever hit, they would definitely be the last ones standing.

“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”

HONEY

Honey is the oldest Juniper sister and tasked with the responsibility of keeping her sisters in line and ensuring they always stay together. She is compassionate and strong, fierce yet approachable, thoughtful and definitely acts as the mother hen. The story is told by her and seen through her eyes, which I think was the perfect choice for a voice for this story. She is the balance of her two sisters. A piece of Blue’s calm and a piece of Birdie’s brash nature. She is the glue and the rational authority for her sisters, always thinking ahead and making sure they are safe.

“…a look that rides the line between aloof and ready for battle.”

BIRDIE

Now Birdie…she’s my girl. I connected with her SO much, even though she’s still a bit of a mystery. She has the Fury/Amren vibes of cool and carefree murder in her eyes, and a sassy mouth like Aelin and Bryce. She fully lives up to her name in the sense that she flies out the door on a whim, doing what she pleases and when. She acts before thinking and refuses to be told what to do, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t an excellent prepper. Because she is. She is just as dedicated to her lifestyle as her sisters, but she likes to bend the rules more. She is the strength and unwavering determination of the sisters.

“A calm blue sea with hair to match…”

BLUE

Blue is also my favorite! So yeah, okay…I love them all. But Blue is perfection! She is the youngest Juniper and is an enigma of cool, calm and collected at all times. She is unwavering in her thoughtfulness and passive nature, and is always spouting odd prophecy-like sentences that even make her sisters look at her strangely. But of course, that was why I was obsessed with her. Well, and the cobalt blue hair. Blue is so sweet and loving, definitely the heart of the sisters.

So foul and fair a day I have not seen.”

But this story has so much MORE of an underlying purpose weaved within it, but I of course can’t say a damn thing about it because OHMYGAH, it’s so good. By the end of the book I had tears forming, and when Birdie flies at someone near the end…well. I just about broke down and started happy weeping. How this tale comes together is really crafty and sly, and I loved how slowly everything was revealed. It broke me a little, in a good way, and I am still oohing and ahhing about the beauty of it all. And to make the story EVEN BETTER, the writing in it was fantastic! The sarcastic jokes, ironic Hunger Games references and witty banter between Honey and her classmate Remy was so enjoyable. I was highlighting SO MUCH while reading because I couldn’t get enough of these personalities.

There are a few romantic notions in this tale, but I really liked that it didn’t encompass the story or overpower the real plot. It added to the characters by bringing a necessary softness and realistic nature to them. It helped make the girls feel like actual teenagers, rather than gun-toting soldiers looking for a fight.

Overall, I loved this book. I want it to become a movie, I want to play Birdie, no I cannot act, but I have that “f**k you” look ready and the hair to match, so bring it on. Read this book. Get into the culty/Dooms Day/Apocalypse/prepper lifestyle with me and let’s go be weird together.

Currently taking applications for my other Juniper sisters.

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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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Upcoming Releases

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

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

 

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~* Gifted ARCs *~

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

Surrender Your Sons

This cover though, right?

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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~* Book Purchases *~

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

Hidden Bodies

I have become horribly obsessed with Joe Goldberg.

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

*sigh*…swoon.

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

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

…I swear he’s totally dreamy.

*This is not an invitation to come stalk me.

 

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

Pet Sematary

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

Does that make me a bad bibliophile???

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

Gage and Church

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

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

 

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

Smoke Gets in your Eyes

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

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

Whispers.

Silence.

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

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

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

 

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

Words in Deep Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The palces ive cried in public

Ugh. What a great title.

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

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

 

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

It only happens in the movies

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

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

 

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Stay Witchy

 

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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

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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

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