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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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Edelweiss+ · New Releases · Reviews

Book Review: Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Echoes Between Us

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

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Romance/Mental Health-Addiction/Paranormal-Ghosts

Plot: Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…

Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica.

A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

Opinion:

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

“The only reason people come to live in this small town is to hide or die.”

Veronica has always been labeled as the weird girl in school. Surrounded by her group of misfit boys, and always doing the opposite of what is to be expected, rumors and cruel words have always found their way to her ears. But Veronica doesn’t care what the popular kids think of her. She has amazing and supportive friends, and a dad who loves her more than anything. Only, she hasn’t been completely honest with her father. Dealing with piercing migraines from a brain tumor and talking to the ghost of her dead mother obviously isn’t normal, but she fears her father wouldn’t understand. If she could just find a way to tell him her secret, everything would be okay. That’s when Sawyer enters the picture. Sawyer is friends with the popular kids who have always teased Veronica, or otherwise pretending she doesn’t exist. But Sawyer’s life isn’t nearly as perfect as he lets on. He has an adrenaline addiction that pushes him to the edge of cliffs, and is expected to be the man of the house for his mother and sister. So when the two pair up for a senior project hunting ghosts, they begin to realize a haunting can be more than just a spirit not wanting to leave.

This isn’t a ghost story.

But then again, it kind of is.

Just hear me when I say, it’s only a small part of what this story is really about. And let me tell you – this story is saying A LOT. For the past two days I have been smiling so fiercely I want to slap myself, and crying so much that I keep randomly saying “oh honey” out loud, which for some reason only makes me cry more. This book is evil. If you would like to go through a roller-coaster of emotions where halfway into reading you question if you should be put into an insane asylum, because your behavior of high-highs and low-lows are extremely questionable and alarming: then you should totally read this. Because that is obviously what the author wants from all of us.

To smile beautifully while endless tears flow down our gorgeous faces.

Well congratulations Katie McGarry, I’m officially a mess.

Where to I even start? This book, completely touched my heart. It touches on so many important themes like addiction, co-dependency, mental health, sickness, and self-punishment. I came into this book expecting a fluffy tale where two teens fall in love and everything turns out all sparkly and perfect. But thankfully, this book isn’t like that. It’s realistic. It portrays the lives of two teens who are so incredibly different, but in so many ways, the same. They both carry burdens on their shoulders that I can’t even fathom dealing with at their age, but they have a resilience that makes my head spin. These teens feel deeply, think deeply. They are so introspective and honest about their struggles and hurts, and they look fear in the face and smile at it.

I…

*sigh*

…I f***ing love this book.

The characters, the message, the plot, the romance, the ghost stories, the diary entries.

EVERYTHING.

One of my favorite characters is obviously Veronica. She has all the snarky attitude of one Veronica Mars (we all know and love) but also this immense and alluring uniqueness that makes you drawn to her. She is considered the “weird kid” at her school because of the many things she does that aren’t the social norm. She decides holidays at random times of the year, even going as far as decorating her locker for Thanksgiving in July or dressing up in a costume for Halloween in January. She has a badass style of colorful striped tights, ripped shirts, combat boots and mini skirts. She is spunky and fearless, witty and positive. She is one of the sweetest characters I have come across in all my reading, and I simply adore her. Even though we get to know her so well while reading, I still find her completely mysterious.

Sawyer is the opposite of Veronica. He is SO hard on himself. He is constantly putting himself down for not being perfect, for not being the “man” of the house – a role his father unfairly placed on his shoulders at the age of eleven. He is such a lost young man and is in so much pain, and it was so sad seeing him struggle while having no one to turn to. I connected with him the most due to his tendency to never think he is good enough, or to always assume he should be doing better than he is. He is a compassionate, intelligent and fearless character. He is an amazing big brother to his adorable little sister Lucy (omg, she is too cute!) and a fantastic role-model. He does so much growing in this story, it’s amazing to witness.

The friends of both of these characters also play an incredibly huge role, and have given the reader that much more insight into who Veronica and Sawyer are. Veronica is surrounded by friends who are also social outcasts, but ones I wish I had in my life. The love and care for her so fiercely, it brings needle sharp pains to my eyes. They have a closeness and respect for one another that runs deep, and everything flows so easy between them. But Sawyer also have friends that stand right beside him and support him fully. The way the author created these characters is beautiful. Each person in this story has flaws and struggles, but their incredibly special personalities shine through so easily. It’s so hard not to love each and every one of them.

But the real treat here, is obviously the romance.

“‘You’re crazy aren’t you?’ I say.

“Yes. Now let’s jump.”

Guys, protect your hearts.

Because this one feels so good it physically hurts.

“Soft fingers, a delicate touch and my entire body sparks to life. As if I had been in darkness-the world was black and white-and then the flip was switched into color.”

My gut is literally in pain right now from all of these feels. My eyes are puffy from crying, my hair disheveled from anxiously running my hands through it, and my overall demeanor is both elated and crushed. This romance is everything I have been wanting. It is breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. It makes my lip quiver just thinking about the gentleness and innocence. This is one of the most mature relationships I have EVER witnessed, especially for two teenagers. They are so raw with their thoughts and feelings towards one another and about their lives. From the very beginning they lay everything out on the table, being truthful and upfront about their past and present. They make me hopeful that true soul-crushing love outside of YA fiction is actually possible. Because that is all any of us really want, right? To have a fiercely blinding romance knife stuck into our chests?

But characters and romance aside, there is a lot happening in this book, and it’s perfect. Veronica has a brain tumor, and the way it debilitates her is…depressing to say the least. Sawyer has an addiction to anything that will give him an adrenaline rush, and mostly it’s in the form of jumping off cliffs. Sawyers family issues are deep, with his father basically deserting them and his mother allowing Sawyer to take the brunt of the responsibility of parenting his sister. These two teens have been through a lot in their short lives, and that trauma shapes the struggles they go through in this story. It gets so SO sad, but it’s worth the read.

Read this on a Friday or Saturday night in.

You’ve been warned.

4-5-stars

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

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

The Night Country

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

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Plot: In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home…

Opinion:

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

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

After escaping The Hinterland and her story, Alice is back in New York with her mother, just trying to make a new life for herself away from the magic and fairy tales. But after time paces, Alice finds herself drawn back to the ex-stories of The Hinterland as random murders begin targeting those who have escaped. With no explanation as to why, Alice tries to hunt down the culprit. While worlds away, Finch is in the Hinterland and it is tearing itself apart. With so many stories leaving, black spots and wastelands begin consuming what is left of the magical and eerie world. As he looks for a way out, and possibly a way back to his world, Alice and Finch’s paths come closer and closer together to crossing again.

Little mouse

Scratch scratch

Hasten to your home

Lock and latch, do up the catch

And pray that you’re alone

Little spider

Twitch twitch

Run to steal the gate

Weave and sew, stitch stitch

Pray it’s not too late.

Alice is back, and things are as creepy as ever.

So it has been two years since Alice returned to the human world (is that what it’s called?) and she has turned her life into one of productive normalcy. She spends time with her mother Ella, works at a quirky bookstore and hangs out with her best friend Sophia. Well, technically Sophia is Hinterland and had that whole fun tale about stalking Death (you go, girl) but you get the idea-Alice has turned a new leaf. Gone is the angry, murderous, black-eyed frost princess! Or…so we think.

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

In this installment, Alice is having difficulty completely forsaking her Hinterland side. As much as she wishes to leave that side of her life in the past, for her sake and Ella’s’, Hinterland seems to seek her out wherever she goes. Suddenly random murders begin happening, with each victim having a limb missing from their bodies. A left hand, a right hand, left foot, right foot, eyes. Oh yeah. Super fluffy stuff, huh? But what makes everything ten times worse, is that the killings begin to resemble traits from Alice’s old abilities of frost.

Dun Dun Dun.

Alice is a bit more tame in The Night Country, but we get to see some of her old side spark back to life as well. I’m not going to lie, I do miss the old sassy and fairly angry Alice who wanted to scratch everyone’s eyes out, but this version is nice…if you like that “tame and reformed” type of thing. Basically the entire book follows Alice as she struggles with her identity and tries not to get killed. Sinister creatures from Hinterland now run rampant through New York, toying with humans and going unseen. But no matter what Alice does, she can never escape Hinterland. Because she IS Hinterland.


Though there are Hinterland creatures where Alice is, we really don’t get to witness a lot of the magical and strange imagination that comes from that world. Thankfully, the story flips over to Finch and we get to partake in his world jumping. As Hinterland starts to crumble, and people begin to panic to find a way out, Finch meets a traveler who promises to help him get back to his world after they do a bit of world jumping. He agrees, and THIS is where we really get to see the creative side of this author again.

There were patches of sky where the stars moved like living fireworks, creeks where girls with corpse-colored skin and dirty hair sang like bullfrogs and watched him through hungry eyes.”

I am still so impressed with how the author comes up with tales within a tale, and ties everything together so flawlessly. It is so much fun picturing these worlds and strange creatures in my mind. A place of huge walls of books that contain thousands of stories, and gadgets like a pen that sends messages right to the desired recipient or a mirror that would show you what your true love was looking at. The world building through each door is so creative and wondrous, and all I want is to see these stories come to life in movies!

Without giving too much away, I’d have to say this was a very enjoyable sequel to The Hazel Wood. Though Urban Fantasy isn’t really my thing, which is more what this book falls under, I found it to be a great story but not as addicting as the first book. Don’t get me wrong though, it was full of eerie and creepy happenings and I was loving the dark atmosphere that New York found itself in. It was twisted and murderous, which I love. But, I still think The Hazel Wood was my favorite of the two because it was like diving straight into a fairy tale.

I’ll leave you with this gem:

I’d opened my eyes and found Finch standing in front of me, looking at me like I was a door, too.

The kind he wanted to walk through.”

4-stars

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Binding of Bindings · Book Promo · Wrap-Up

Binding of Bindings #37: 2019 Book Wrap-Up

2019 was a whirlwind,
full of murder, lies and romantic delights.
Some characters acted regal, and some started fights.
There were cults, secret societies, and courts of tricks and schemes,
there were proper young ladies, hushed voices, and bloodcurdling screams.
Some plots were gentle, some plots were vexing,
some plots were filled with rebellion, and some with magic and hexing.
There were retellings of classics and introductions to new tales,
with characters who crushed our souls and threw our lives off the rails.
But with each new book and world read in 2019,
You can bet 2020 will be anything but serene.

 

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

~* 2019 Book Wrap-Up *~

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

 

5-stars

the wicked kingThe GiverEnchanteea danger to herself and othersA court of thorns and rosesa court of mist and furyA court of wings and ruinYesterday I Was The MoonAs DirectedGirls with Sharp SticksWhite RoseStars in the Winter SkySmoke and KeyZombie DogThe Life of DeathThrone of GlassCrown of MidnightMy Real Name is HannaThe Best LiesWilder GirlsForsaken WrathThe SUrface Breaks 2The First gIrl ChildThe Lady RogueSerpent and DoveThe Sound of Blue1Songs from the DeepA Violet FireVanished 1Vanished 2

 

 

 

4-5-stars

AlarumThe Unbecoming of Mara DyerTerrible LizardThe Liar's DaughterLove, HeatherI Know You RememberThe Door to JanuaryGood Girls Lie

 

 

4-stars

the cruel princeThe Cold is in Her BonesThe Trutch ABout AliceThe Evolution of Mara DyerThe Retribution of Mara DyerThe Hauntedperf5.000x8.000.inddThe Ten Thousand Doors of januaryThings we know by heartThe Lady RavenThe Cemetery BoysThe Lies They TellMissing you

 

 

3-5-stars

Evenfall

 

 

3-stars

BloodleafKilling NovemberStolenThe Last to Die

 

 

2-5-stars

Immortal GirlsDream Keeperwe set the dark on fireExit

 

2-stars

Alice WanderlandDrowning

 

UNRATED/DNF

The UnrepentantThe Memory ThiefDamsel

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

As Always, Stay Witchy

 

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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley

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

The Hazel Wood.jpg

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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Book Promo · Book Reviews · Netgalley · New Releases

Book Review: Love, Heather by Laurie Petrou

Love, Heather

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

Genre: YA/Contemporary/Mental Health

Plot: What you see isn’t always what you get.

Stevie never meant for things to go this far. When she and Dee–defiant, bold, indestructible Dee–started all this, there was a purpose to their acts of vengeance: to put the bullies of Woepine High School back in their place. And three months ago, Stevie believed they deserved it. Once her best friend turned on her, the rest of the school followed. Stevie was alone and unprotected with a target on her back. Online, it was worse.

It was Dee’s idea to get them all back with a few clever pranks, signing each act Love, Heather–an homage to her favorite 80’s revenge flick. Despite herself, Stevie can’t help getting caught up in the payback, reveling in every minute of suffering. And for a while, it works: it seems the meek have inherited the school.

But when anonymous students begin joining in, punishing perceived slights with increasingly violent ferocity, the line between villain and vigilante begins to blur. As friends turn on each other and the administration scrambles to regain control, it becomes clear: whatever Dee and Stevie started has gained a mind–and teeth–of its own. And when it finally swallows them whole, one will reemerge changed, with a plan for one final, terrifying act of revenge.

Opinion:

The high school cafeteria. The great leveler of high school movies. It’s where the entire mass of beauties and weirdos come together to eat and do so much more: try to fit in, wish lunch would end, laugh with friends or stare at people they have crushes on. It is universally different and the same…”

Nothing really seems to be happening, but everything matters.”

Things at Woepine high school have gotten out of control. What started as a few harmless pranks to get back at few bullies and ruthless popular kids, quickly turned into a full-on war where anyone could be next. It wasn’t just the Haves vs. the Have Nots anymore, anyone can be a target and anyone could be taken down. But things weren’t supposed to go this far. Dee said that they just needed to be taught a lesson. That once they knew what it felt like to be cast aside and stepped on, that it would end. But Dee took things too far, and Stevie let her. But when Stevie finally becomes the target of a callous prank at a party, it is everyone who will feel the force of this final act of revenge.

No one will tell. No one says anything.

I didn’t do anything, they’re thinking.

They did everything.

They did nothing.”

This Heathers re-imagining shares a theme with the 1988 film of taking down bullies and giving them a taste of their own medicine, but that’s where the similarities end. Love, Heather is a gritty story about the complicated workings of teenage life in high school, and what drives a human to unspeakable acts when threatened or cast out by their peers. It touches on incredibly important issues of bullying, rape culture, social media witch hunts and the effects of social isolation. I came into this story expecting a lighthearted contemporary packed with drama and some epic payback, but what I got was a punch to the gut and a wicked threat to my tear ducts.

The only thing this school has ever made me feel is different. Weird. A Freak. I tried to fit in, and then I tried to change that place, and neither worked. And so, I’ll do things my way. I am an artist. A Maker. I’m not like anyone else. I am different.”

For most of this book, I was reveling in the creative pranks that went from juvenile to borderline felony-worthy. I love an underdog story. One where a quiet or less socially-inclined individual (or individuals) rises up to put an arrogant bully in their place. To show them what it feels like to have their physical and spiritual identity shredded to pieces because it doesn’t fit into a specific social construct. It’s a feeling most of us can identify with and have experienced, so naturally, I love when the “Weirdo” or “loner” rises up.

But let me tell you, this book goes from “Tuesday afternoon read” to “sitting in your room alone, staring off into the darkness for hours contemplating your feelings” really quickly.

Throughout the story there are little hints as to how our main character, Stevie, feels about her friends and her home life. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother, who she feels is a close friend to her. They would spend so much time together watching movies and talking, and when her mother suddenly gets a new boyfriend, Stevie is brushed to the side. At home, she feels forgotten and isolated. Gone are her coveted mother-daughter moments of bonding. But to make matters worse, Stevie’s best friend turns on her as well. Lottie and her go from being inseparable, to barely speaking, in yet another case of Stevie being left behind. Lottie is inducted into a crowd of more popular kids, but they deem Stevie to be less than worthy of a position among them. They begin to bully Stevie, and Lottie sits back and does nothing to defend her friend. Stevie is left alone with no one to turn to, and no one to have her back.

I try to be myself, but no one wants that.”

But when Dee enters the picture, everything changes. Dee is everything that Stevie isn’t. She is sure of herself and her beliefs. Her convictions are strongly rooted inside her and she speaks her mind. She is fearless, strong, assured, alluring and infectious. And she sees Stevie and takes her under her wing, giving her a hand to hold onto. A voice to speak through and a friend to confide in.

I hid from you, but you found me.”

She gives Stevie the confidence to take charge and make a difference in her life, and so together, they begin the “Love, Heather” movement: a series of pranks that are left with a message saying “Love, Heather”, to those who have hurt others or deserve a little payback. And just as fast, other kids in the school begin adopting the signature and performing their own acts of rebellion against the people who have wronged them. Eventually, the entire school is flipped upside down and nobody is safe.

It feels like this author dipped their hands into my heart and head and pulled out every spec of heartbreak, fear and social guideline that I ever found myself in. Laurie Petrou perfectly showcases the strange nuances in teenage life. The pressure to feel included and seen by your peers. The irrational importance of high school etiquette of what to say, think, and wear. She highlights the minuscule things we would latch onto and obsess over – a strategically placed period in a text or seeing someone from your school and pretending you don’t know each other. The struggles to fit in and the awkward encounters in this story feel so real and raw, and it left me feeling anxious with flashbacks from my own experiences in high school.

Even if you have never seen or heard of the movie Heathers, I beg you to read this book. Give it to a teenager or a sibling, or just read it yourself and basque in the memories of how torturous teenage life was. But above all, remember this message and speak up when others are being bullied.

Sometimes all someone needs is a knowledge that they matter.

4-5-stars

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Book Reviews · Netgalley

Book Review: The Life of Death by Lucy Booth

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

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: One soul. One pact with the Devil. One chance at love.

Elizabeth Murray has been condemned to burn at the stake. As she awaits her fate, a strange, handsome man visits her cell. He offers her a deal: her soul in return for immortality, but what he offers is not a normal life. To survive Elizabeth must become Death itself.

Elizabeth must ease the passing of all those who die, appearing at the point of death and using her compassion to guide them over the threshold. She accepts and, for 500 years, whirls from one death to the next, never stopping to think of the life she never lived. Until one day, everything changes. She – Death – falls in love.

Desperate to escape the terms of her deal, she summons the man who saved her. He agrees to release her on one condition: that she gives him five lives. These five lives she must take herself, each one more difficult and painful than the last.

Opinion:

I am the woman you most want to see in those final seconds you live on this earth. I have been wives, daughters, best friends. I have been a beloved nurse, a primary school teacher. Your first love. I am the ultimate mother.

I am Death.”

Death is not the hooded figure you’ve heard about in stories. Death does not lurk in the shadows with a sadistic twinkle in it’s hollow skull, awaiting bloodshed and cruelty. Death does not take a life out of selfishness or evil. Death is a woman, and she only comes when she is called. She comes to those who are reaching their life’s end, to be a guide into their afterlife, wherever that may be. And for the last 500 years, Lizzie has been Death. She has been a familiar and loving face to those who are nearing their end, and she takes pride in helping others. But when Lizzie comes across a man named Tom, she is stricken with a love she never thought she’d have. Desperate to end her time as Death and to be able to have a life with Tom, He agrees to release her from her contract on one condition: she must kill five people of His choosing.

In 1590, I sold my soul to the Devil.”

After being accused of witchcraft, Elizabeth Murray is sentenced to be burnt at the stake. But as she awaits her impending doom in the dungeons, she is visited by Him – the Devil. He comes to her with an offer. He promises her, in exchange for her soul and complete ownership over her, she can “live” as Death. Naturally, she makes the deal. And so, for 500 years, Lizzie lives as Death. Constantly moving around the world, guiding souls across the veil between the living and the dead. She only comes when needed, as a means of comfort to the soul that is dying to ensure they go in peace and happiness. She does not take the lives she guides into Death, she only arrives as a servant in the circle of life.

Lives are given to me – I never take them. Never.”

This depiction of Death always takes the form of a woman, but her face changes to match the wants of the person dying. Whether someone wants to see their mother, sister, daughter, or aunt, Death becomes them. She is given the memories of the woman she becomes, and speaks with the person as they begin to enter the afterlife. But what is really interesting, is that some people are able to actually see Death for who she is, and keep her at arms length. Of course when this happens, it is utterly depressing to witness because those people go into a totally hysteria and shock as they realize what is happening to them. But Death has a job to do, and she does it well. She is a woman of a billion faces.

This is no place for a woman, I’ve heard it said.

I’ve never seen a place a woman was more needed.”

This is honestly one of the coolest and most unique stories I have ever come across. The outlook on death that this author possessed was truly special. She gave death a gentle and feminine quality that makes you feel comfortable with its presence. It is delicate and sweet, rather than a cold and fearful entity that we all seem to shrink away from. This author gives the reader an intimate introduction to an idea of death that almost brings peace and quiet. It is sensitive, caring, heart-achingly beautiful and truly one of a kind.

It is so seldom that a book can reach into my soul with such ferocity and gentleness.

But this book did that.

It crushed me.

This entire story feels like a poem written just for me. Like the author knew I would need this, and I am confident that I am not the only person who will feel this. The Life of Death is a love song, a sonnet. A message in a bottle that has traveled through storms of anger and eerie calm, only to wash up at the feet of its desired recipient. The writing is so descriptive and perfect. I was lost in this story, feeling waves upon waves of emotions for Lizzie and these fleeting characters.

It’s breathtaking.

But as soon as I began to see that this story was one of beauty and acceptance of death, the author drove a knife into my heart and cut the ties on the dam that was holding my tears in. DEVASTATION. Unending, literal, soul-crushing, weep-worthy devastation. And all I can say is, why? WHY?! Why did you fill me up with so much love and assurance, and then just cut me at the knees and leave me in a pool of my own despair?? Couldn’t we just let this be a story of happiness and good fortune?

Of course we couldn’t, this is the story of Death, after all. And in all reality, this isn’t the bright and happy story that I am making it out to be. It is a dark and gritty tale once Lizzie begins killing the people that He decides upon. Because each of these people are innocents. They aren’t supposed to die, but they must in order for Lizzie to be released from her contract with the Devil. And the worst part? Lizzie has to use other people to do the killings. So not only is she taking the lives that the Devil tells her to take, but she is also forever altering the lives of those she takes control of to do the deed.

This isn’t a fluffy tale.

It’s a tale about Death.

But even so, I can’t help but hold it close to my heart as a book that I will forever think fondly of. It’s just beautiful, in all of its depressing and dark glory. I highly recommend it to any reader that is looking for something truly different from the normal stories currently out there. It will give you a whole new outlook on death, and honestly, its for the best.

Fade to black.”

5-stars

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