Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Title: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1)
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 528
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Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou's, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou's most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

I saw this book at ALA over the summer... and totally overlooked it. I'm not quite sure why, but Serpent & Dove just didn't catch my interest at all, even after I read the back. When I read it again though, shortly after it was published, I knew I HAD to have it! I've seen a bit of controversy about this one so this review will be a bit long since I want to share some of my own opinions where that's concerned. 

Louise is a witch in a world where magic isn't allowed and a witch is not permitted to live. She's also on the run from her coven. With her mother hot on her trail, finds herself accidentally married to a witch hunter, which happens to work in her favor. She spends her days attempting to hide her magic from everyone around her, husband included, while training to defend herself from her coven, should the need arise. She has no intention whatsoever of actually liking her husband who would want her dead if he knew what she really was. 

I did not expect to love Louise and Reid as much as I did. Louise is unapologetically crass and is constantly embarrassing her husband and his fellow Chasseurs because of it. At first I wasn't sure if like her, but she definitely grew on me and I loved them as a couple once they finally decided they could tolerate each other. 

Reid was also extremely frustrating through much of this book. Having been raised in the Church by the archbishop and trained as a witch hunter from childhood, Reid was undeniably a bigot. I've seen a lot of controversy over this character, but allow me to explain why I didn't hate it. I was raised in the American South surrounded by a lot of extremely bigoted people. (The internet also wasn't widely available in my childhood.) That was what I knew until I left my small town and started exploring the world. While Reid's behaviour was reprehensible, it was understandable because of the environment he was raised in. To me what mattered was that he changed when he was shown that he was wrong. 

Like I said, I wasn't sure about these two at first, but they grew on me until I adored them. Their romance was slow and swoon-worthy and I loved how much they grew together! If you're a fan of enemies to lovers, you'll probably enjoy this romance! That being said, the romance does take a turn in the direction of maybe-not-YA towards the end. 

This is another point I've seen controversy on and I'll jump on board with that one. The author has insisted that this book is YA despite the sex scene. All I'll say about that is, just because body parts are not named doesn't mean a scene isn't explicit. This sex scene is four pages long and doesn't leave much to the imagination. I was fine with it, but I'm also quite a bit older than the target demographic.

Controversy aside, I absolutely adored this book! I would have liked to know more about the larger world, but the town Serpent & Dove is set in was so well developed, I felt like I could see it. The Chasseurs were terrifying in their single-minded bigotry and I was constantly on edge for the witches. The magic was also fascinating and I loved the different factions of witches. I can't wait to learn more about the blood witches and maybe even others?? 

There's so much more I could say about this amazing book, but if I keep going this review will be ridiculously long. I loved it! I have the two special editions on their way to my shelves right now and I can't wait to hopefully snag an ARC of book two. I definitely recommend this if you're looking for a witchy romance that leans a bit older and darker. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday #260: Extraordinarily Weird Titles

Today's Topic: 
Extraordinarily Weird Book Titles

Happy Tuesday! I will admit up front that I legitimately had no idea what to do with today's topic. What does it mean? What constitutes extraordinary?? So I went with books from my read and TBR lists that have extraordinarily weird titles! 

The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale
Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
Burying Water by K.A. Tucker
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
The Other Side Of Gravity by Shelly Crane
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Weekly Recap: 11/6 - 11/12


Hi everyone! Spooky season is in full swing and I have SO many horror movies to watch! Unfortunately things have been way too busy in my house to sit still for very long. My candle shop has been having a sale and I am overwhelmed. :) I can't wait to wrap up these orders and take a mini-break! On a different note, my dog's teeth cleaning went well. She was so mad she wouldn't look at me when I picked her up, but her breath doesn't stink (at least for awhile).





Monday ARC review of The Grace Year
The topic was spooky books (& a giveaway) for Top Ten Tuesday
On Wednesday I asked why the horror genre is so hard to pin down
Thursday book review of Teeth in the Mist



I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Thursday, October 10, 2019

Book Review: Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

Title: Teeth in the Mist
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 447
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Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil's Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations...

Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember--so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?

In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward--one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching... 

This is the time of year when I usually start hunting for my next favorite horror book. The first Dawn Kurtagich book I read was And the Trees Crept in and it really wasn't for me. At first I was skeptical about picking up a second book by this author, but Teeth in the Mist sounded way too spooky to skip and I'm so glad I didn't!

Although this book is told in three different time periods following three different women, Roan is the main character and most of the story follows her. After the death of her father, Roan finds herself at the Mill House as a ward of its owner, alongside two others. The three of them don't know why they've been taken in, but accept the generosity nonetheless. Roan also has a secret she can't allow anyone to find out about, but she finds it harder and harder to keep it hidden as things spin more out of control.

Roan was an amazing, badass heroine and I absolutely loved the side characters as well! There is a bit of a romance in the second half of the book but it's very minor and doesn't overshadow the plot. Zoey from the present-day timeline was also fascinating and I loved the mystery in her part of the story. I didn't care a whole lot about Hermione, but definitely appreciated what her timeline added to the overarching plot.

The best thing about this book is the atmosphere. Mill House is a massive, centuries-old house set on a mountain that's often shrouded in storms and fog and it was chilling. The story is slow to unfold and was a bit confusing at the beginning, but the house itself made uneasy from the first page that it was introduced. By the time Roan arrives half the house is cordoned off and it's completely dilapidated in Zoey's timeline and it was so creepy! The house and the mountain itself with its caves and mist were almost characters on their own.

Like I said, Teeth in the Mist has a lot of layers and it can be confusing at times. I didn't realize until deep into the book that it was actually a retelling of a German legend and I immediately had to look it up upon finishing. This story is horrifying and absolutely gave me the chills I'm looking for in a good horror book.

If you're looking for something super spooky, but a bit more involved than your typical horror novel, you will probably love Teeth in the Mist! I have a feeling this will be a seasonal re-read for me and I can't wait to pick up some of Dawn Kurtagich's other books.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Why is the horror genre so hard to lock down?

Welcome to another day of Spooky Month™ in which we talk more about one of my favorite genres. In the last few days there has been a LOT of talk on Twitter about how YA needs a resurgence of good YA horror. This has offended some people and inspired lots of recs to prove good YA horror never left. However, many of those recs are not what I'd consider horror at all. Why is horror such a difficult genre to agree on? What even is horror?

Most other genres are pretty cut and dry. When shelving books it's simple to decide which ones are fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, etc. But people seem to disagree a lot on which ones actually count as horror books. Let's look at some genre definitions taken from Wikipedia:


Okay, so all of these are pretty straightforward. Romance focuses on romantic relationships, mysteries focus on solving mysteries, sci-fi focuses on science-y stuff, and fantasy focuses on fantastic worlds. But then there's horror.

The definition goes on to say that it "shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing". It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it might be also non-supernatural.

This genre is definitely much more convoluted. I feel like horror is more subjective than most other genres because what scares or disgusts each person is different. Still, here's my contribution to the argument: if a book fits in primarily another genre it is not horror. A mystery or romance book with a ghost is not horror by default. Neither is a book with witches or a murder.

Here are a few of the books and authors I've already read that have been recommended as GOOD horror and the genres I think they fit better with:

  • Wicked Saints - This is definitely fantasy. There's a villain and the magic is done with blood. That doesn't make it horror. 
  • Holly Black - Most of her books I'd definitely categorize as fantasy. The only one I think MIGHT qualify as horror is The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but only because the vampires are actually scary. 
  • Gretchen McNeil - I haven't read all of her books, but the ones I have are mystery. One of her older books seems to have an exorcist, so maybe? But it seems to be primarily shelved as fantasy.
  • April Genevieve Tucholke - No, not a bit. Her books are all fantasies. Good fantasies, but fantasy nonetheless.
  • House of Salt and Sorrows - I ADORED this book, but it's fantasy. 
I just. I get it. People are frightened by different things, but please don't get mad at those of us who insist YA needs more REALLY SCARY horror. The kind that actually makes you put the book down at night because it's too dark out to read it. Mysteries and ghostie romances have their place, but those of us who love the horror genre could definitely use a few more books! 

If you'd like to see some of my horror recs you can check out my Top Ten post from yesterday!

What scares you in a horror book?
Do you think romance and horror can go together?
Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday #259: The SPOOKIEST books (plus a giveaway!)

Today's Topic: 
 Top Ten Eight SPOOKIEST 
books to read in October

Happy (SPOOKY) Tuesday! It's that time of the year and I'm totally ignoring this week's TTT topic (it really wasn't speaking to me) in favor of a topic that's a bit more creepy. I often see people's horror recs and wonder why they're mostly made up of thrillers and mysteries. I am here for the HORROR, especially in October. This week I'm going to share eight of the creepiest books I've read and also give you a chance to win a super scary ARC giveaway!

The Merciless by Danielle Vega
The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn
Insylum by Z. Rider
Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Alone by Cyn Balog
Rules For Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
Return to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich


Enter to win three horror ARCs to keep the spooky season going after Halloween! Please be aware that The Twisted Ones is not a YA book. I have not read it but, since it is an adult book, it probably has more mature themes than the other two giveaway books.

Must be 18 or have a parent's permission to enter. No giveaway accounts. Ends 10/31/19.
Winner will be contacted via the email within 3 days after the giveaway ends.
If winner does not respond within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.