Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Upcoming Releases

Book Review: All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

All your Twisted Secrets

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

Genre: YA/Mystery/Thriller

Plot: Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.

What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.

Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?

Opinion:

The Queen Bee.

The Jock.

The Brains.

The Stoner.

The Loner.

& The Orchestra Geek.

It’s The Breakfast Club meets Saw!

And DAMN is it epic.

What they all assumed was a scholarship dinner with the mayor at one of the local restaurants, quickly turns into a game of survival against the clock. Six seniors are locked in a banquet room with no way out, and forced to play a sadistic game. Upon being locked in the room, the teams discover a bomb, a syringe filled with a lethal liquid, and a note instructing them to pick one person to kill within the hour, or they all die. Frightened and unsure if the game is real or not, the teens try to find a way out as the clock starts ticking down. But why would someone throw them all in a room together, wanting someone to die? Who is the common enemy? As the hour goes by and they become frantic, their morals and judgments are put to the test, as well as their pasts. The real question isn’t about who has to die, it’s about what you will do to survive.

It was do or die time.”

HOLY. SHIT.

I did NOT see that coming!

I came into this expecting a fluffy whodoneit with a little teenage angst, maybe some bully/slutshaming, a few screaming matches and possibly a flying fist or two. But what I got instead, was so much more than that. With a collection of teens that resembles the cast of The Breakfast Club (with an orchestra geek) set in modern times, and a Clue-esque murder mystery styled game that has all the horrific appeal of Saw, it was bound to get a little wild. The high stakes of only having an hour, being stuck in a blistering hot room with people you know but also despise, and then having to choose who to kill or risk exploding?!

The thing about being trapped in a room with five other people, a bomb, and a syringe of lethal poison is that at some point, shit’s going down.”

And down that shit went.

The story is told by Amber PrescottOrchestra Geek extraordinaire. From the beginning she comes off as a level-headed, conscientious and plain ol’ teenage girl. She has a passion for music that takes president in her life, as she hopes to one day score movies in Hollywood like Danny Elfman. She is dating The JockRobbie, who is a baseball star and again, proves to be a truly nice guy despite his popularity and dashing good looks. The Queen BeeSasha is of course gorgeous, intelligent, and has her toe in practically every aspect of their high school. She has big aspirations and is a go-getter, but also rumored to be a bit nasty towards her peers. DiegoThe Brains, is exactly what you’d expect. Super smart and inquisitive, and he has a history with Amber that has now evolved into something complicated, to say the least. Scott is The Stoner who is rumored to sell drugs, do drugs and be an all-around pretty doped up guy. And lastly is PriyaThe Loner. The former best friend of Amber, Priya is a super quiet girl who keeps to herself while practicing magic tricks and sleight of hand.

The story flips between the present, where the teens are trapped in the room and the clock is ticking down, to different moments in the past year. Each “flashback chapter” gives a piece of insight into the relationships between these characters – the good and the bad. The reader learns how their lives are connected, the things that each of them has done to affect one another, and why they have all ended up in this room together. At first the teens start out assuming they are being pranked. But when the doors are bolted, their cell phones have no signal, and they can’t escape through the barred windows, they begin to worry that maybe it isn’t just a practical joke after all.

No matter how frantically you claw at rationality, how desperately you cling to common decency, you eventually give in to your basic instinct to survive.”

This book is a web of lies, and I LOVED. EVERY. SECOND. OF. IT. I was hooked like Popeye on spinach, like Homer Simpson to doughnuts and beer. This story sunk its claws into my skull and refused to let me look away until the very last page. Not like I’d want to! I devoured this book and drank up every tiny detail the author left dripping on each page. The characters felt so incredibly authentic and developed, the plot had countless twists and turns that made me so unclear of who could have been behind it, and the amount of truly important topics this author included was executed perfectly!

Bullying, peerpressure, suicide, gun violence, drug abuse and societal and parental expectations are huge themes to the story. Each character’s backstory has been affected by one or more of these issues and it brings a raw realism to this YA tale. It made connecting with each character effortless because these are all issues, experiences and feelings that so many of us can relate to. And the best part is that each issue was weaved into the story in a very natural way. A lot of times when an author wants to include THIS many hot topics, it feels forced and rubs me the wrong way. But Diana Urban did an amazing job of blending each one into the story like a damn professional.

I really wish I could unleash and give away every secret to this sneakily crafted work of fiction but I won’t ruin it for you guys. Even if it does pain me to keep my mouth shut about it! This book just blew my mind and I loved how sucked into it I got. It’s a twisted web of lies, deceit, manipulation, trauma, regret, anger and vengeance. It was phenomenal. So buy it and buckle in buttercup, cause it’s about to get CRAZY!

Now you all know who you really are.”

4.5 Stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · Upcoming Releases

Book Review: Frozen Beauty by Lexa Hillyer

Frozen Beauty

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

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mystery

Plot: Everyone in Devil’s Lake knows the three golden Malloy sisters—but one of them is keeping a secret that will turn their little world inside out….

No one knows exactly what happened to Kit in the woods that night—all they have are a constellation of facts: icy blue lips and fingers cold to the touch, a lacy bra, an abandoned pick-up truck with keys still in the ignition. Still, Tessa, even in her fog of grief, is certain that her sister’s killer wasn’t Boyd, the boy next door whom they’ve all loved in their own way. There are too many details that don’t add up, too many secrets still tucked away.

But no matter how fiercely she searches for answers, at the core of that complicated night is a truth that’s heartbreakingly simple.

Told in lush, haunting prose, Frozen Beauty is a story of the intoxicating power of first love, the deep bonds of sisterhood, and a shocking death that will forever change the living.

Opinion:

“…it’s your life, your being alive. It was supposed to be yours.

But then, one day, it isn’t.”

“Secrets. Secrets.”

The Malloy sisters are well-known in Devil’s Lake for their contrasting personalities and unique beauty. They are thick as thieves and have always shared a close bond with each other, and their neighbor and best friend Boyd. But the three sisters also have secrets. Deep, dark and lovely secrets that they keep hidden from one another. And it isn’t until the eldest sister, Kit, is found half-naked and frozen to death, that the secrets finally start to unravel. And when Lilly comes forward with information about seeing Boyd and Kit out in the snow that very night, arguing and kissing, Boyd is taken into custody. But Tessa can’t believe that Boyd, their best friend and her crush, could hurt any of them. So she begins to dig deeper, but what the sisters uncover is more twisted than anything they could have imagined…

“Lilly: the unpredictable one, the selfish one, the baby of the family – all brawl and tears and flash and fire…

Kit: the good girl, the oldest, the one to whom everyone turned in a time of crisis.

Tessa: known for tripping on her own feet, a clumsy shadow in Kit’s wake. Not a shadow…but a negative, all bleached out and odd to look at.”

Frozen Beauty is a beautifully written story about the relationships between three sisters in close age to one another, but who are vastly different in looks and personalities. It portrays the competitive nature between the girls, the yearning to be seen, the desire to be confided in, and the secrets that each of them kept hidden – unsure if they could share them with each other. The sisters love one another deeply and spend a lot of their time together, along with Boyd, but the distances between them are vast once the layers begin to fall away.

This story is told between the two remaining sisters, Lily and Tessa, as they begin to navigate a life without their older sister Kit. The story flips back and forth between the days leading up to Kit’s death, and present time. So as we get to know these two sisters, it is quickly shown how different the girls are and how much they actually keep their lives separate from one another. Tessa is in the same grade as their neighbor Boyd, who is like a brother to the girls, and she is kind of quirky and nerdy but in a relaxed cool kind of way. Lilly, however, is a spunky fifteen-year-old who is the typical young teenage girlobsessed with clothes, loves attention, and is drastically trying to make herself seem older. But Lilly is also beyond hilarious and drops curse words like a seasoned vet, and I loved her for every sassy sentence she delivered.

But the real story centers on Kit, and the WHY and HOW of her sudden death.

“That early Saturday morning, only two days later, Kit’s body would be found, bruised and frozen, in the back of Boyd’s truck.”

Early on in the book, there is a “before” scene of when Lilly sneaks out of her friend’s house after waking up and seeing her friend is no longer there. She sneaks out onto the road when she sees headlights, and comes upon her sister and Boyd arguing in the snow, and eventually kissing. Not wanting to intrude, Lilly goes back to her friend’s house…but finds out the next day that her sister never ends up leaving that spot. So she goes to police and tells them that Boyd was there that night, and that he must have had something to do with it.

“A cry of guilt –

A wolf in the forest of falsehoods that we built.

And now, winter whispers: deny, deny,

Silencing me with its little white lies.

I open my mouth and it fills with snow.

The end’s a blur – I can’t see where to go.”

Secrets obviously play a huge role in this story, and not just between the sisters. EVERY character seems to be dealing with some heavy stuff or hiding a dark secret. Lilly’s best friends are no exception. One is shrinking into thin air and drowning in oversized clothing to compensate for her frail frame, while the girls don’t even mention anything about it. And the other girl begins acting frazzled and says the most indecipherable sentences and phrasesI swear, my brain was in overload trying to figure out what was going on!

As far as suspects go…this author really lays out the possibilities for you! She introduces countless characters who act vague, spout cryptic statements and just act incredibly suspicious. Boyd, who has grown up with the Malloy sisters and acts as their protector, comes off as this great guy at first but it’s not hard to be swayed into a corner of believing him to be obsessive over the girls. Then there is Patrick. A mysterious, new bad boy with rumors of violence and criminal activity following him through the school halls.

But how this story actually turns out was…well, it was alright. My mind wasn’t blown or anything, but it was still a twisty tale that I couldn’t figure out until the end. I definitely didn’t see THAT coming, but it wasn’t the kind of surprise that had me gasping for air and wanting to scream dramatically. Another story I had read last year had a similar outcome, so maybe that’s why I wasn’t as satisfied with the ending as I could have been.

I think I was expecting a bit more from this story. At times the writing was really beautiful and poetic, but other times it felt very forced and awkward. Dialogue was where things would get a little cringey for me, like when the author tries making Patrick seem like this super mysterious and cool guy…but just ends up making him look like he can’t form a sentence? There was a lot of odd comparisons that didn’t make sense, and the connections to the characters just wasn’t really there. I was wanting to get gut-punched with emotions and loss from Kit’s death, but I found myself in a state of not really caring for her at all.

It was a decent story and a good mystery, but I wanted a little more substance and feeling. However, I do like the themes of how secrets can both strengthen and ruin a bond, and the emphasis on sisterly dynamics. I think the author perfectly captured the essence and intricacies that make up the bonds of sisterhood. There is competition, fighting, envy and being left out. But there is also a deep and unbreakable love, and a compassion for one another that is deeply rooted.

I came for the mystery, but I stayed for the sistership.

“And sisters are the hardest – they are mirrors of you; they are competition, opponents in everything…They’re a reflection of your best and worst self, and yet strangers always on the brink of going their separate ways and leaving you, or being left by you – a shadow in the doorway, falling across the carpet. A hug that lasts the length it takes to snap a photo, before it turns into a shove.

They have the power to undo you. And, maybe, to save you.

That’s a terrifying kind of love…”

3 Stars

 

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Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases

Book Review: Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

Bone Criers Moon

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

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Romance

Plot: Bone Criers have a sacred duty. They alone can keep the dead from preying on the living. But their power to ferry the spirits of the dead into goddess Elara’s Night Heavens or Tyrus’s Underworld comes from sacrifice. The gods demand a promise of dedication. And that promise comes at the cost of the Bone Criers’ one true love.

Ailesse has been prepared since birth to become the matriarch of the Bone Criers, a mysterious famille of women who use strengths drawn from animal bones to ferry dead souls. But first she must complete her rite of passage and kill the boy she’s also destined to love.

Bastien’s father was slain by a Bone Crier and he’s been seeking revenge ever since. Yet when he finally captures one, his vengeance will have to wait. Ailesse’s ritual has begun and now their fates are entwined—in life and in death.

Sabine has never had the stomach for the Bone Criers’ work. But when her best friend Ailesse is taken captive, Sabine will do whatever it takes to save her, even if it means defying their traditions—and their matriarch—to break the bond between Ailesse and Bastien. Before they all die.

Opinion:

“On that new moon – like every new moon – the Leurress need to summon the dead from their graves and ferry their souls past the Gate of the Beyond.”

The dead must be ferried, my mother told me as I prepared for my rite of passage, or they’ll wander the land of the living and wreak devastation.”

The Bone Crier’s are a tribe of women called Leurress whose soul purpose is to ferry souls to the Gates of the Beyond. They must lead the unchained to the gates of Heaven, and the chained to the gates of the Underworld. But in order to become a Ferrier, each Leurress must first acquire three Grace Bones from an animal that she has hunted and killed herself. The most desired graces are from animals with extreme speed, powerful senses of smell and hearing, or immense strength. Once a Leurress binds the grace bone with their blood, there is only one ritual left – she must use the sacred bone flute, which also opens the gates on ferrying night, and play a song to lure her soulmate to a bridge, and kill them. But the boy that Ailesse lures to the bridge on her ritual night isn’t what she bargained for, as he plans to kill her to avenge his father’s death.

Ailesse is the daughter of the matron of the Leurress, and has been named heir. As such, she feels the need to prove herself to her mother and the women around her. We first meet her as she and her best friend, Sabine, begin to hunt a shark so that Ailesse may acquire her third grace bone. She is a determined and strong lead character who is not easily shaken or driven to defeat, and her tenacity is shown from page one. She desperately wants to become a Ferrier, as is her life’s purpose, and shows both excitement and longing to complete her final ritual…which involves killing her soulmate.

Her best friend, however, is quite unlike Ailesse. Sabine is just a little younger than her and is indeed a Leuress as well, but has no desire to kill any animal or an innocent person. She is a gentle soul who has an unflinching devotion and love for her friend, but she refuses to harm any innocent creature. She expresses sorrow and uneasiness for the rituals the Leuress go through with in order to ferry the dead, but she is fully supportive of Ailesse and helps her complete her tasks.

Far be it from me to deny anyone the chance to watch you slaughter the man of your dreams.”

Obviously a story about witchy women who kill their soulmates, gain powers from animal bones and ferry the dead into the afterlife is enough of an epic read. But add a little revenge, romance, betrayal and a kickass setting and you’ve got one amazing fantasy.

The story flips between three main characters: Ailesse, Sabine and Bastien. Bastien is a young man who, as a child, witnessed his father being killed by a bone crier. Ever since, Bastien has been planning his revenge on the Bone Crier’s for taking his father and leaving him an orphan living on the streets as a thief. For years he has been training to be able to compete against the Bone Crier’s and their otherworldly powers, and he does so alongside two other orphans whose father was also killed by a Bone Crier.

His powerful desire for revenge is a grace of its own.”

Bastien is a formidable love interest and makes things in this story interesting, but I didn’t get as much substance from his character as I wanted. And to be quite honest, I didn’t get enough substance from any of these characters. I feel that Sabine was developed the most in terms of personality and emotions shining through, but she is only a supporting role next to Ailesse, who is the female lead. I found Ailesse to be strong and a complete badass, but I only ever felt that we were brushing the surface with her. I didn’t feel a strong connection or love for her at all, or for Bastien for that matter. By the end of the read my favorite characters were Sabine, with her unshakable determination and loyalty, and Marcel (Bastien’s friend) with his quirky personality and carefree attitude.

Oh, and the mysterious owl.

Obviously the romance in this tale is between Ailesse and Bastien, soulmates who are never supposed to be together…right? Well no YA Fantasy is EVER complete without a little twist and an epic cliffhanger to leave you wanting more, and of course that is EXACTLY what this author gave us. But my question is this, will this love stand the test of time? The test of the stars and gods?? Well I don’t know. I’m waiting on book 2 just like you are! But there is something to be said about a forbidden love and two characters who desperately DON’T want to be attached to each other. That’s how all great romances start, right? Just ask SJM, she’ll tell you! Give them blinding hatred, threats of murder and a a few below the belt insults and we’ve got some serious LOVE.

All I smell is Ailesse. Earth, fields, flowers. Everything green and alive. A twisted trick of her magic. I have to remember what she really is.

Darkness. Decay. Death.”

But of course, the romance isn’t the only aspect of this tale. It’s an epic fantasy packed with magic, a setting of ethereal beauty and the catacombs of France, and a whole shitload of dead just praying to wreak havoc on the living. I really enjoyed every part of the world-building, the idea of intertwining the frightening and sad history of the very real underground grave in France, and the themes of bridges linking mates and guiding souls beyond. But as much as I loved all of these parts, the rest of the story just didn’t quite measure up. There were a lot of days that just went by as characters hid out in the catacombs, Sabine was constantly hunting for Ailesse, and it was all just kind of…a lot of waiting around?

I think the story could have been either condensed or seasoned with a bit more prominent scenes. It wasn’t exactly slow, but there just wasn’t enough happening to keep me fully invested…which is why I ended up putting the book down a lot and getting distracted way more than usual. It was a good start to the series and I feel like book 1 was just an introduction for what is to come, so I’m still invested and ready to continue the books. But just know, if you’re expecting epic mind-blowing, you might not get it from this first installment. But all in all, it was a good story with an impressive premise.

3-stars

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Book Wrap-up

Binding of Bindings #41: February 2020 Book Wrap-up

Do…do you hear that?
Someone’s knocking
And its name is MARCH!

 

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~* February 2020 Book Wrap-Up *~

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1. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Genre: YA/Dystopia/Romance

How I live Now

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

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

This book…Ugh!

I love it.

I had first found out about this book after watching the movie (2013) and for some reason didn’t realize it was a book. I have watched the movie COUNTLESS times, so I knew it was about time I actually sat down and read the original tale.

How I Live Now is a story of how five cousins live after the world falls into war and they are forced to fend for themselves. It is told by our main character, Daisy, a girl from New York that is shipped out to stay with her cousins in the countryside of England. What starts out as days of ultimate freedom and zero adult supervision where the teens are free to do what they want, quickly changes when they are separated and forced into different camps for their protection.

It’s a story about war, about fighting to get back to those you call family, and it’s also about a forbidden love that blooms between Daisy and her cousin Edmond.

Yeah, I know how it sounds. Just trust me, you need to read it.

(See my review here)

5-stars

 

2. A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers, Book 1) by Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

I had heard SO much about A Curse So Dark and Lonely all over bookstagram and through other bloggers, and I had a copy, but I had just never gotten around to reading it!

So in anticipation for the release of book 2, my good friend Shannon at Reads & Reels (Bookstagram: @shanannigans_of_readsandreels) and I did a buddy read! And let me tell you, we DEVOURED it!

It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in modern times about a prince in a land called Emberfall who has been cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over and OVER until he can get a sweet little lass to fall in love with him. Enter: Harper. Our feisty little heroine is taken to Emberfall, against her will of course, and so ensues a tale of princely wooing and a REALLY smoldery/attractive guard named Grey

4-stars

 

3. A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers, Book 2) by Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Retelling

A Heart so Fierce and Broken

So naturally, as soon as we finished ACSDAL, we annihilated A Heart So Fierce and Broken!

In this installment, our poor baby Grey is gone from the palace, his googly eyes with Harper is ceased, and he is basically hiding. Why, you may ask? I’m not telling you! READ ACSDAL!

But anyways, though I wasn’t AS in love with this as I was book 2, it was still a great book. I loved that it followed Grey instead of Harper this time, but I was also upset that Harper’s character was kinda thrown off to the side. Like hello, I liked that broad.

But it’s fine, cause Grey is life and I am all about him!!

4-stars

 

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

Red Hood

This is NOT your typical Little Red Riding Hood retelling.

It’s uncomfortable, gritty and gives a painfully realistic look into how a lot of women are treated, viewed and labeled.

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’s a story of female empowerment, sisterhood, and loving the body that you call home.

And also about boys/men who turn into wolves when they want to harm a woman.

And periods.

(See my review here)

4-5-stars

 

5. Fortuna Sworn (Book 1) by K.J. Sutton
Genre: Adult/Fantasy/Paranormal

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If you guys have been with me for a few years, you know I just love my girl Kelsey Sutton! She’s an indie author who primarily writes YA with SUPER wild and creative topics like Gardenia: a girl who can see “countdown clocks” above everyone’s head that shows when they will die or Smoke and Key: set in a place called “Under” that is neither Heaven nor Hell, and is beneath one’s grave where souls wander and are named after the possession they carry into death, like Smoke or Key.

Well Fortuna Sworn is her FIRST Adult Fantasy series, under the pseudonym K.J. Sutton. I first read this last year after Kelsey sent me a copy (I just about DIED I fangirled so hard) and let me tell you, it was UhMazing.

Check it:

Fortuna Sworn is one of the Fallensupernatural creatures descended from angels. But she is also one of the last of her kind, Nightmare’s – a creature of intoxicating beauty whose face shifts and transforms to accommodate the onlooker’s tastes. A creature that can reach into your mind with a gentle caress, find the fears that lay delicately in the folds of your thoughts, and turn them into a horrifying reality.

But when Fortuna is captured by two goblins who intend to sell her to the highest bidder, she is freed by a strange faerie that offers her a deal she can’t refuse. He knows where her brother is, who disappeared two years prior, and he can take her to where he is being held if she agrees to just one thing: to be his mate.

It’s loaded with dark faeries, twisted games, manipulation, and guys…it is HOT!

(See my review here)

4-stars

 

6. Restless Slumber (Fortuna Sworn, Book 2) by K.J. Sutton
Genre: Adult/Fantasy/Paranormal

Restless SLumber

OH.MY.SHIT.

This series and this author are going to KILL ME!!!!!!!

If you want your heart ripped out of your chest, read this. If you like having your brain constantly messed with and want to feel completely unsure of who you’re rooting for, read this. If YOU, like staring off into space for 45 minutes after reading a book….READ THIS!

I…I have no words.

Kelsey Sutton is a beautiful monster.

(See my review here)

5-stars

 

7. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
Genre: YA/Contemporary/Feminism

Asking For It

I have wanted this book for SO long guys. SO LONG!

You know I can’t help myself when it comes to books that will make me crumble, but I especially can’t help myself when said books are feminist fiction. It’s like a nicely aged bottle of heroin, I just want it and I want it now.

Asking For It is about a girl named Emma O’Donovan who wakes up on her porch after a party with little memory of the night before, or how she got home. After messaging the boys she recalled being with, and getting no reply in return, Emma soon finds out there explicit pictures and videos of her online from the night before.

Hoping that everything will go away and not wanting it to become an issue, Emma claims that she was in on it all and the boys are innocent. But as time goes on, Emma’s feelings on the night changes, and everyone has an opinion on what happened.

*Sigh*…this one hit the feels.

(My review will be up tomorrow 2/29)

 

8. One Foot in the Grave (The Mortician’s Daughter, Book 1) by C.C. Hunter
Genre: YA/Fantasy/Paranormal-Ghosts

One foot in the Grave

I’m sure most of you, like me, had read the Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter and loved it. A camp for supernatural teens with murder and romance? Perfection!

So when I saw that she had released another YA Fantasy/Paranormal series about the daughter of a MORTICIAN *happy squeal* I just knew I had to read it! One Foot in the Grave was about how ghosts follow Riley Smith’s father home from the morgue in search of her, asking for help.

And going into it, I totally expected the mushy forbidden romance and the dramatic teenage angst riddled banter between characters. I was ready for a hot ghost boy, a girl with some home issues and a little murder/mystery to spice up my week.

But UGH! I’m surprised my eyes don’t have a permanent twitch to them due to the constant eye-rolls and half-lidded cringes that were racking through my body while reading.

Definitely targeted for the pre-teen rather than the young adult.

2-5-stars

 

9. The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr
Genre: YA/Contemporary

The One Memory of Flora Banks

So I am currently demolishing The One Memory of Flora Banks and it is SO good, guys!!

Flora Banks developed anterograde amnesia when she was 10 after having a tumor removed from her brain. She can remember everything up to the surgery, but now at 17, she has trouble retaining any information/people/places. She relies on her best friend Riley who she knew before her surgery, and writes messages on her arms and leaves post-it notes everywhere of things she needs to remember.

But one night she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, and she can remember it.

I am fully expecting this to end in a really sad and heartbreaking way, because I’m less than 100 pages in and I am already wanting to snatch Flora up and give her a hug! The author completely captures the confusion of Flora’s situation and the struggle to lead a normal life.

But I suspect foul play from everyone! I swear, if someone hurts her, I am tearing the world apart.

(Keep a look out for my review)

 

10. Bone Crier’s Moon (Bone Grace, Book 1) by Kathryn Purdie
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Genre: YA/Fantasy

Bone Criers Moon

I am also currently in the middle of Bone Crier’s Moon which releases March 3rd, and it is amazing so far!

Here’s the scoop if you didn’t see my last Bindings post: There’s this group/family of women called Leurress who are tasked with escorting the dead by ferry to the Heavens or the Underworld. But in order to have the strength and power to do this, they must acquire threegrace bones” that they must take from animals they kill themselves. From these bones the Leurress are given the graces (powers) of the animals, such as their strength, speed, sight, etc.

Once the Leurress has all her grace bones, she THEN has to lure her “amoure” with a bone flute. Once she snags them, she either has to kill them OR she can stay with them for a year, and THEN kill them.

Obsessed.

(Review to come!)

 

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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 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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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Books · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Will and the Wilds

Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, 47North, via Netgalley for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

Plot: Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.

Opinion:

The strong prey on the weak, it has always been so. The setting is just happenstance.”

A species called mystings have been wandering the human realm and the wildwood near Enna’s village for years. They lurk through the darkness of the trees, killing and consuming those left unprotected or caught unawares. But Enna has always been kept safe by a charm on her wrist that warns of a mystings proximity-a charm her father stole from the monster realm. So when her home is suddenly attacked by not one, but two goblers, Enna is forced into the wildwood to summon a mysting in the hopes of striking a deal. She has heard that some mystings may be persuaded into work by mortals, and Enna hopes that a mysting will kill the creatures that seem to be hunting her. But the deal Enna makes will cost her more than she planned on bargaining with, and her soul might not be the only thing up for shattering.

Mystings should never be trusted. Ever.”

The Will and The Wilds is set in a much earlier period where horses are the primary use of transportation, food is traded in a market of a small village and talk of witchcraft is either whispered about or scoffed at. Enna and her father are practically shunned by their fellow villagers due to Enna’s fascination with the mystings that plague their world, and because her father experiences frequent lapses in his memories. Though there have been reports and sightings of mystings in the wildwood near their village, many villagers assume that they do not exist or think they have left. But Enna knows full well they are still very close and prowling the woods.

The day that Enna was born, some seventeen years ago, her father and mother were attacked by a species of mysting that delights in consuming humans. With Enna still in the womb, and her mother being horribly eaten alive (ugh, I know), Enna’s father is forced to cut her out of his wife and flee. Her father then finds a way into the monster realm (where the mystings originate from) and steals a charm from a powerful creature, which he brings back to Enna and gifts to her for protection. The charm that has hung on her wrist ever since warns of a nearby mysting. With this charm, several herbs and rituals to keep mystings at bay, and a journal that has been passed down in her family which holds vital information about the monster realm and its creatures, Enna is able to keep herself and her father safe. Until, of course, their home is attacked.  From her journal, Enna learns that sometimes mystings will make a bargain with humans if a summoning circle is cast. So naturally, the poor dear casts the circle.   

“Some of the intelligent species of mysting are tricksters-these are creatures more interested in toying with mortals than feasting upon them. However, do not let that fact convince you they are docile, for often a trickster will claim something far more valuable than flesh.”

Enter: Maekallus.

Devilish mysting creature with a razor-sharp tail, a horn sword and the kiss that will do more than just take a girls breath away

…it’ll take her soul too. ❤

Maekallus is a type of mysting called a Narval, who consume human souls with a kiss. After a deal between Enna and Maekallus turns south, and Maekallus is bound to the mortal realm with his body slowly decaying into a bubbly black tar, Enna makes the decision to willingly kiss him in order to save him. But what would normally leave a human completely soulless, somehow, only a piece of Enna’s soul is given to Maekallus.

“The mortal realm will devour a mysting’s body. The monster realm will destroy a human’s mind.”

This story is such a fantastical and beautiful tale. It blends two of my favorite genres (Fantasy and Historical Fiction) into an old-timey tale where portals to realms are opened, and a human becomes bound to a monster. It has a slight Beauty and the Beast romance mixed with a Grimm fairy tale darkness. Instead of angels and demons, it’s demons and humans, and it is totally swoon-worthy! The romance doesn’t overpower this wonderful plot by making it an eye-roll fest full of forced physical contact or stomach roiling one-liners. It feels natural and purposeful, and fully adds to the story that the author tells.

“It’s nothing like Tennith’s kiss. There’s desperation in the movement of his lips. They’re rough, but in a different way. Tennith was much warmer.

Maekallus is like kissing the twilight.”

There is a slight love triangle that happens, but trust me, it is so inconsequential to the big picture and it actually adds an amusing scene to the story that I was LOVING. I found Enna to be a very proper, strong, loyal and good-hearted character who is incredibly selfless. On more than one occasion she is willing to sacrifice herself for someone else, and she exudes a determination and strength that is to be envied. Maekallus is…mysterious. As a mysting he doesn’t have a soul, so he does not understand human emotions like fear, sadness, happiness, love or regret. He finds amusement in toying with humans and delights in consuming a soul to feel the short-lived traces of their emotions.

Though I fully enjoyed this story and read it in a day, I did find that there was a lot of moments that were either left unexplained or just weren’t tied up properly. The world-building wasn’t really there, the explanation of how a portal from the monster realm opened into the human world was vague, and scenes that didn’t center on Maekallus and Enna were left off to the side without a second glance. There was a lot of exciting moments that kept me hooked throughout the read, but I do wish there was more emphasis put on descriptions and extra history/research on the mystings in proximity to humans. But with that said, I also don’t think it takes away from the story at all. The writing is beautiful and eloquent, the dialogue is a fantastic representation of the times and the story as a whole is truly beyond creative. It was a perfect blend of fantasy, romance, sweetness and darkness.

4-stars

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