Posted in Book Review

Ever Alice by H.J. Ramsay

Read Dates: September 18, 2021 – September 21, 2021
Date Published: August 1, 2019
Source: ebook

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Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.

**Thank you to H.J. Ramsay and Red Rogue Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Hi. So uhh… as you can see, I finished this book a couple of weeks ago… I’ve honestly been putting off writing this review because I HATE writing reviews on books I didn’t like. But I felt like I needed to be true to the reason I started this blog in the first place and true to the people that read my reviews and let y’all know… I didn’t like this one.

I love retellings. If you follow my blog posts you know I am a serious SUCKER for a retelling. So when I saw this one, I got excited! An Alice in Wonderland retelling where Alice is a psych patient? That sounded AMAZING to me. But it was nothing I hoped. Nothing I expected. I was bored. I wanted to like it! I really did! I really tried to love the story but I was so, so incredibly bored.

When I think “Alice in Wonderland” I think silly, out of the blue, unexpected, straight up NONSENSE. But that’s not what happened.

This book was full of characters I couldn’t connect with. I didn’t feel anything for a single character. There were moments in the book that should have made me gasp and my heart should have ached but it didn’t. It just didn’t. Because I couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters in this book.

Alice annoyed me most of the way through. She wasn’t a constant character. She didn’t stick to one personality. She cycled through many. Which I guess would be appropriate since she’s a psych patient and that’s sort of the point but it made the entire story feel sloppy and forced. She couldn’t do a single thing unless someone told her to do it and it was incredibly frustrating.

Speaking of forced… the elements of Wonderland and some of the happenings felt forced. It felt like the author was trying to shove every well-known element of Wonderland into this story in a new way that we hadn’t seen but it didn’t work for me because, again, it felt forced.

The prince. Let’s talk about the Prince of Wonderland. That whole storyline didn’t make a lick of sense either. I couldn’t connect with him and I couldn’t bring myself to care what he was doing and with whom. His presence wasn’t even needed in this story. I feel like he was just added for a “romance” element that the book could have done without.

Now, I suppose these things would make sense and they would sort of go with the ending of the story, which I saw coming unfortunately, but when I read an Alice in Wonderland retelling, I want to feel the wonder. I want to be dazzled and I want to hear all the silly fast-paced Wonderland banter. Sometimes we would get tiny snippets of that classic Wonderland but then suddenly the book would shift back and it didn’t feel like we were in Wonderland at all. It felt like a regular story in a regular world full of regular characters where regular things happened and nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred.

I’m just sad and disappointed. Maybe it’s my own fault. Maybe I went into this book with my expectations too high and my excitement level a little through the roof. However, I’ve sat on thoughts of this book for weeks and I still can’t get past how utterly plain it was. No story about Wonderland should be so plain. It should stick with you. It should have you recalling moments and laughing at how silly it was. The parts of the story that were meant to be climaxes just continued to feel like the rest of the story. It didn’t feel like anything exciting was happening. I never felt I needed to hold my breath for what was to come because the story held the same monotonous tone the entire way through. This story was forgettable and I’m just really disappointed.

ALL THAT BEING SAID, I would never straight up tell someone to not read this book. I’ve seen rave reviews on this book. Lots of them. This book has won awards and has come incredibly close to winning others. It’s been a finalist in many “best book” categories. So if you came here to read this review because this book sounded interesting to you and you thought you might like it, I implore you, go read it! Chances are you’ll think differently than me. Everyone perceives differently. Don’t let my sad review deter you.

Just be warned that there are no happy endings in this book. Which is usually a plus for me, but this time it wasn’t. Things aren’t going to work out the way you want them to in ANY situation. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers but… yea. Go see for yourself if you feel so inclined.

✌💛

Posted in Book Review

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Read Dates: September 3, 2021 – September 9, 2021
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Kindle ebook

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From Goodreads:

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Another Rosamund Hodge book down! Rosamund is one of my favorite authors for multiple reasons. One: she wrote one of my all time favorite books, Cruel Beauty. Two: she has the most amazing short stories I’ve ever read in my life. Three: she makes me feel eerie and romantic and intrigued, and enthralled all at the same time and I LOVE IT. I could go on and on. Another huge thing for me is her retellings. I LOVE a good retelling. Cruel Beauty gave us a spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast, Gilded Ashes gave us a creepy and incredibly enjoyable spin on Cinderella, and Crimson Bound gave us a magically sinister spin on Little Red Riding Hood with a hint of Rumpelstiltskin. I’m such a sucker for retellings and she NAILS them every time.

That being said, this was actually my least favorite of her retellings thus far. I still got the creepy vibe I love to have but the story wasn’t as enticing as the previous two. Which, I mean, with something like Cruel Beauty in existence, it’s hard to compare. Especially when that was my first Rosamund Hodge novel.

When I read one of her books, I have to take a few days to marinate in what I just read before writing a review. When I come out of one of her books I’m in a trance. A happy, “I wanna go back into the book’s world” trance. This one was no exception. I had all the happy, giddy feels that I always get when I finish one of her stories. So I took a few days to reflect and realized, it wasn’t my favorite.

So in this retelling, Rachelle meets with a forestborn in the Great Forest regularly, feeling like she has made a trusted friend in him. Soon, she is betrayed and is forced into a life as a relentless murderer. She watches over the city as one of the King’s “bloodbound”, killing any woodspawn who enter the city and threaten the villages and their people. Though, her end goal always remains the same: Find the legendary sword, Joyeuse, and kill the Devourer for good, freeing the bloodbound like her and relinquishing the world from the threats of the woodspawn and the forestborn.

“Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always had to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.”

She ends up forcing the man she’s been charged by the king to protect into helping her locate the sword; as her time is limited with the looming reemergence of the Devourer.

I know what you’re thinking… she’s guarding a guy… sooo…. probably they end up falling in love?

Well, rest easy, this isn’t really a romance novel. Though, I will warn you ahead of time, if you don’t enjoy even the slightest hint of a love triangle… well then… this book isn’t for you. It’s not explored very much. Maybe just a few chapters total. This book is in no way oversaturated with the love triangle aspect. But just know, it’s there. (Love triangles just happen to be one of my guilty pleasures. :D)

Her throat tightened. It was unfair—it was absolutely unfair that his voice could make her heart beat with jagged, idiotic hope…
He grinned at her, and it felt like there was no space or barrier at all between them, like his smile was happening inside her heart. Without meaning to at all, she smiled back.

Anywho, I LOVED the world that was built into this book. The Great Forest, the woodwives and their “witchcraft”, and the building dread we get knowing that the Devourer is on his way to eat the sun and the moon and bring the world into eternal darkness where the woodspawn and forestborn will feast on the living and go on living forever as greater beings. It was a really fascinating book. Everything was so well thought out and executed and I liked it a lot. I just didn’t love it.

They didn’t even care that she was one of the rare women with permission from the King to carry a sword and a dispensation from the Church to wear men’s clothing. Not when her red coat was embroidered on each shoulder with a black fleur-de-lis, symbol of the Royal Order of Penitents. The King’s bloodbound. The King’s pet murderers.

Most of the book was just Rachelle being mean to people and then fretting over it later. Or reassuring herself of why it was necessary to be mean to those people. Granted, her character build is really fun to watch. But it’s also a bit exasperating. I get the need she feels to not trust anyone but herself but she makes some really stupid decisions that, honestly, made me cringe. I understand why they ultimately happened in the book, but that didn’t mean I had to like them. And I didn’t.

Was the ending worth it? I mean, yea? It wasn’t as definitive as I would have liked it to be. The way things happened was super cool and I didn’t see it coming… but I felt like I needed like one or two more chapters.

This is the human way, she thought. On the edge of destruction, at the end of all things, we still dance. And hope.

Overall this was really enjoyable. Just not one of my favorites. This book will likely be one of the ones I’ll have to go back to my notes in order to remember exactly what went on. Whereas books like, you guessed it, Cruel Beauty, are still so fresh in my mind even after all these years. Honestly, so is Guilded Ashes. But I highly doubt this one will be. But DAMN IT if it doesn’t have some good lines in it. Classic Hodge, I tell ya.

“The problem with martyrs is that they’re all dead. What have they got to do with those of us who are sinful enough to still be alive? Should we just give up and want to die, because death is better than dishonor? But suicide is a sin too, so then we really are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

I’ve been looking at the Bright Smoke, Cold Fire series and I’ve thought about reading it but I’m not huge on Romeo and Juliet unless you’re Leo Dicaprio and Claire Danes. It IS a retelling though, so maybe it’ll be more enjoyable to me than the original was.

Next up on my reading list are a couple of books that I got via netgalley back in 2019. One is a young adult novel and the other is a mystery/suspense. So stay tuned!

Keep spreading kindness and positivity. ✌💛

Posted in Book Review

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair

Read Dates: February 9, 2021 – February 14, 2021
Date Published: May 25, 2020
Source: eBook

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(Synopsis from Goodreads:)
A Modern Hades and Persephone Retelling

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.
Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.
After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever. The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.

Here’s a little known fact about me: I’m obsessed with Greek mythology. I love to read the fan made graphic stories on Webtoon or fictional stories that retell those of the Greek gods and goddesses. I have read most of the Lords of the Underworld books by Gena Showalter which has a good bit of the Greek mythology intertwined. I’ve even read a couple of the textbooks covering the beliefs of the Greeks and I can tell you who most of the gods and goddesses are and what they represent. Sometimes I can even tell you a little bit of their history. I have a lot to learn but I know quite a bit as well. It can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to reading fantasy fiction based on the Greek characters of myth. I always wonder what new twist the author is going to put on the classic characters. That’s the beauty of retelling Greek mythologies, the possibilities are endless.
Well, this was a good one. Not my favorite! But it was definitely a good one.

The author leaves Persephone’s typical personality untouched. She’s timid and unsure due to a sheltered life with her mother Demeter. She did, however, add a twist. Persephone is the goddess of Spring, but in this book, everything she touches withers. She’s not yet found her powers and doesn’t know if she ever will.

Persephone and Hades’ is one of my favorite stories. No matter where or how I read it, I so enjoy reading about them. Mostly because of Hades. I’m slightly obsessed with the King of the Underworld. Persephone is definitely an agreeable character with me too, but… it’s Hades, y’all.

In every story I read about them, Persephone drives me a little crazy the way she says yes to everything and doesn’t stand up for herself. But this is ok with me because of her past and upbringing. This book is no different when it comes to her character.

I also love a good Hades and Persephone story where the author throws other gods and goddesses into the story. I found myself getting so excited when a new character was mentioned and I would literally stop and tell my husband something like, “OMG. Hecate just showed up! She’s the goddess of witchcraft and magic!” I’ll be honest, I was fangirl squealing at a couple of the featured guests in their story.

Overall this was a really great book. I enjoyed every second. HOWEVER. The author wrote this same story but written from Hades perspective and I SO wish I had known that was an option before I read this one. I would have opted for his book instead. I still plan to read it at some point. If it’s different enough and I like it a good bit more than I did this one, I may do a review but probably not.

Let me add before I go, this is not a young adult book. There’s a bit of smut there in the last third of the book soooo… if that’s not your thing then… perhaps a different retelling by some other author. 😀

Cheers!