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
Add to Goodreads


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



HAPPENINGS OFF THE BLOG

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).


NEW BOOKS THIS WEEK



THIS WEEK I READ

 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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


UPCOMING REVIEWS

 


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
Add to Goodreads


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



GIVEAWAY

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.

Monday, October 7, 2019

ARC Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Title: The Grace Year
Author: Kim Liggett
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Pages: 416
Add to Goodreads


No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between. 

I stumbled upon The Grace Year in a happy accident at ALA over the summer. While I had seen it previously, the very pretty in pink cover made me think it was definitely not something I wanted to read. Luckily, someone went to a signing and let me read the synopsis and I RAN to the line to get a copy!

The Grace Year is not what you'd think based on the cover. This is a dark and terrifying story about a community controlled by its men and the terrible things the women endure. Every girl has a Grace Year. During this year they go together to a community in the wilderness surrounded by walls and are forced to survive with poachers waiting to pick them off, all while ridding themselves of magic. No one speaks of the Grace Year so no one knows what to expect, but every year the girls come back shells of their former selves or not at all.

Tierney is the main character of this story of her own Grace Year. She questions everything including the magic the girls supposedly have to purge from themselves. She has never wanted to be a wife and is an outcast among the others who have all had that goal from childhood. Once inside their new home in the wild, Tierney attempts to help the girls survive, only to be further ostracised and in fear for her life with poachers and maybe even ghosts all around.

I can't actually say much about this book without spoilers and that's one of my favorite things about it! I was absolutely not expecting this story to be as brutal as it was and I loved trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't alongside Tierney. There are so many layers to this story including some that were very unexpected.

The relationship between the girls was fascinating and often painful to read. Their relationship to the men was even more difficult. Even the men who thought they were doing what was best for the characters were only doing what they thought was best, rather than discussing with the women what would be best for them. Although this book does take things to the extreme, it's a great exploration of patriarchy and how women contribute and resist, terrifying in the same vein as The Handmaid's Tale.

Although I really did love this book, I did have some issues with it. I almost feel like this should have been a series as it does cover the events of an entire year and sometimes things felt rushed. I would have loved some of the relationships being explored a bit more. I also did not particularly care for the ending. It was a realistic ending, but wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

The Grace Year is an incredible read that's fast paced and will keep you on the edge of your seat. This book will definitely make you think and I found it to be incredibly empowering. I really wish more YA books about how strong women can be together had been around when I was a teen. Despite my minor qualms, this is a must read!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Weekly Recap: 10/29 - 11/5



HAPPENINGS OFF THE BLOG

Hi everyone! This week I've been back to running around like crazy trying to get things accomplished and I am TIRED. I genuinely can't wait until I have a day where I don't do a single thing. Although, am I the only person who feels like I need to be doing something even when I don't have anything to do? If I sit on the couch and binge a show I feel like I should be doing something else at the same time. I end up working on lots of candle stuff this way.

In dog news, my youngest special child managed to hurt his eye again this week. I did use the antibiotics right away and it resolved quickly, but good GRIEF can he stop? He's also still being extremely picky about his food but at least he's eating. This dog will be the end of me. My middle furbaby has to go in on Tuesday for a teeth cleaning, which I'm nervous about, of course. I always fear putting any of them under anesthesia but I know it's for a good reason. Y'all keep her in your thoughts!

This was thankfully a decent book week! I actually read two things and also got my Fierce Reads box containing one of my most anticipated reads of the season! My friend Erin's third book also came out! Although I'm not huge on contemporary romance (as you know), I'm actually enjoying this series a lot and her covers are to die for! I spotted Over the Top at Target on Friday and immediately painted the pages pink, as you do. I can't wait to dive into that one!


NEW BOOKS THIS WEEK

    
    


THIS WEEK I READ

 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Monday ARC review of The Beautiful
The topic was numbers in the title for Top Ten Tuesday
On Thursday I talked about the Grishaverse cast
Friday review of Capturing the Devil
Spooky month was upon us for Saturday Screen Time


UPCOMING REVIEWS

 


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!

Saturday Screen Time #37: Spooky month is upon us!


Happy Saturday, everyone! This month I got started with the season's scary movies! I have a ton that I want to watch including some in my to watch list at the bottom (although that doesn't include rewatches). I also rewatched some old favorites in September! Because I have no patience, I ordered Poldark Season 5 on blu ray (and luckily I have a region free player) so I can't wait to dive into that! There just isn't enough time!


THIS MONTH IN MOVIES


It Chapter Two - I was SO excited to see this and it definitely didn't disappoint. I know a lot of people liked the first movie more, but I loved almost everything about Chapter Two. The adult actors were BRILLIANT at portraying their child counterparts and I every minute they were on the screen was wonderful. I also really enjoyed the Pennywise lore. I'd never seen the original miniseries or read the book, so this was my introduction to the deeper story and I was totally intrigued by everything that happened. I can't wait to buy this and watch it again! (4.5/5 stars)

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Extended Edition)- I decided in September to do a Lord of the Rings rewatch for the millionth time, although it had actually been a few years since I'd watched them. I only watch the extended editions, so I settled in for an extremely long watch. The Fellowship of the Ring has always been my favorite of the three and I watching it felt like coming home. I love the backstory and setup. My favorite character, Galadriel, is also in this one so she's a big part of why I love it. Every minute of this movie is perfect as far as I'm concerned. (5/5 stars)

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition) - Although The Two Towers is my least favorite of the series, I still enjoy it. This time I did zone out a bit more than in the past and I really did forget just how long and tedious this middle installment was. My favorite storyline is Aragorn/Legolas/Gimli and watching the others, especially Treebeard/Merry/Pippin was, well, boring. It still gets four stars though because it's the middle of my favorite trilogy! (4/5 stars)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition) - Again, I'd forgotten exactly how long this movie was! I thought it was almost over and there were still two hours left! And of course there are a million endings, but I love them. The last movie obviously has the most action and so it suffers most from early 2000s CGI but as long as you don't look too close it still holds up. Haha! (4.5/5 stars)



Would You Rather - I watched this movie to get ready for an episode of Rosemary's Ladies. I had never heard of it and I was super skeptical when it started, but it really grew on me! I loved that, although this had the potential to be super gory, it never went too far. The concept was fantastic and, although some of the acting was truly awful, it was a fun watch. (3/5 stars)

As Above, So Below - I wasn't too sure the first time I saw this movie, but I love it more with each rewatch. As Above, So Below is an amazing mix of horror, history, and Indiana Jones. The characters aren't always likeable, but the story is 10/10! There's a steady sense of dread from the beginning and once all hell breaks loose it never stops until the end. There are so many details that I pick up on each time I watch. This is definitely going to be a yearly spooky season movie from now on. (4.5/5 stars)

The Borderlands (Final Prayer) - This was recommended to me when I went looking for amazing found footage movies. The premise is pretty standard - priests investigating spooky goings on in a church. It's extremely slow burn and downright boring at times. The scares are really subtle and the characters are all morons. The reason this gets three stars is because the ending is absolutely wild! There's no way you could guess what's coming and it's worth watching this once. (3/5 stars)


THIS MONTH IN TV


Supernatural Season 13 - Finally! I've put this season off for way too long. I actually watched the first episode when it showed up on Netflix, but quickly became bored with Jack and took a hiatus. The first half of season 13 stayed difficult to get through, but the second half was amazing! I was in a constant love/hate relationship with Lucifer and Jack definitely grew on me. I can't wait to see what happens in the last two season! (4.5/5 stars)



THIS MONTH'S DNF LIST

I didn't DNF anything! Who's proud of me?


WATCHLIST




Do you watch scary movies in October?
What show have you binged recently?
Let me know in the comments!