‘The Girl in Red’ spoiler-free review!

 

the girl in red

Hello lovely people! Today is my stop on the social media tour for The Girl in Red by Christina Henry! I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a huge fan of Henry’s dark fairytale retellings so when Titan Books offered me a copy of her latest book to review, I jumped at the chance.


synopsis

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods…


my thoughtsSo I’ve already mentioned that I’m a huge fan of this author. Which means my expectations for this book were HIGH. And I’m delighted to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

The protagonist, Red, is FIERCE. She is one of my favourite characters that Henry has written to date. Red is a woman of colour with a brilliant mind and she is definitely someone I would want on my team in a crisis. I was really pleased that Henry didn’t just tell us how great Red was, but actually showed it through her choices and actions throughout the book. She is not the typical badass female we have come to expect in stories these days; instead, she is competent and level-headed, and she makes lots of nerdy movie references, all of which adds to her ‘realness’. She’s just a normal woman trying her best to deal with the rotten hand she has been dealt. To be honest, if I was the kind of person who had feelings towards fictional characters, I would have a bit of a girl crush on her.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the disability rep. It is fabulous. I loved that Henry portrayed something we don’t often see represented and did it in a way that totally normalised it. This is exactly what we need from our books!

Henry’s writing throughout this book was the high quality that I have come to expect from her in her previous works. I will say that there were a lot of brackets used and some disjointed sentences that weren’t always the easiest to read in terms of flow, but they made sense in that they represented Red’s conscious stream of thinking and this enabled the reader to really empathise with her.

The chapters were also rather long but I didn’t have an issue with this as it enabled me to become immersed in the story. I only mention it as I know some readers prefer shorter chapters 😉

Overall, this is another great offering from Christina Henry that takes a fairytale we are all familiar with and twists it into something even more awesome. Henry never shies away from the gory details and darker themes such as mental health and racism. I love what this author is doing and hope that she continues long into the future!

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Have you read any of Christina Henry’s dark fairytales? Which is your favourite? Are you planning to read this one? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘Alice’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! You may have noticed I’ve not posted a lot of book reviews this month. That’s because I have been in the worst reading slump of my LIFE. It was so hard to pick up a book, even though I desperately wanted to be reading. But I think I’m finally dragging myself out of it and bringing you a review today!

alice christina henry


synopsisIn a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo with the screams of the poor souls inside. In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blonde, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place-just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood… Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago. Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.


my thoughtsThis is the third book I’ve read by Christina Henry and, as I’ve come to expect, I really enjoyed it. I love Henry’s writing style, there is just something very easy about it. Her words flow nicely and sweep you up into the story.

That said, with this being an earlier work, I can see how Henry has honed her craft in recent years. There were elements of this one that irritated me slightly, like the infamous line “she exhaled a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding”! There were also moments when I felt a little confused and didn’t know if I was reading about people or magical creatures (though perhaps this was the author’s intention, to never have things fully explained?)

I found the plot to be compelling from the very start, though there were times as the book progressed that it felt a little aimless. There was a lot of walking and fighting, followed by more walking and fighting – the protagonist herself even comments on this at one point so at least Henry was aware of it, I suppose. After the meandering plot, the ending felt quite abrupt and anticlimactic, and I’m still not sure whether I’m happy with it or not. I guess you’ll have to read it for yourselves and make up your own mind 😉

I feel like this review is coming across as quite negative but I did genuinely enjoy the book. Considering I’m not a huge fan of the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Henry did a great job keeping me interested in the source material. I particularly liked the story of the Jabberwocky’s origin.

This book is extremely dark, even more so than Lost Boy, Henry’s Peter Pan retelling, so it won’t be for everyone. But since Henry’s fairytale reimaginings are now auto-buys for me, I’m glad to have read this one.

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Have you read any of Christina Henry’s books? Which fairytale would you like to see reimagined next? Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading xsignature (2)

‘The Language of Thorns’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’m still catching up on reviews after my mammoth reading month in June so please bear with me!

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo was one of my favourite reads of last month. Before I tell you why, here’s the synopsis…

 

What the book is about…

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a love-struck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairytale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves.

 

What I thought of it…

This book is everything I never knew I needed. I love the way Bardugo subverted all the fairytale clichés with this collection, giving us dark and twisted endings, unexpected romances, defying notions of beauty and speaking out for women and minority groups everywhere.

As always, the writing is seriously gorgeous. For some reason, I always forget how great Bardugo is at descriptions – this book definitely serves as a reminder. There were phrases in this book that moved me to tears (not something I’d expected!) Bardugo’s beautiful writing really helped to convey the messages at the heart of each story, all of which were so powerful and impactful.

The tales read like classic fables, reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling, Aesop and, of course, Hans Christian Andersen. However, there is an originality here that showcases Bardugo’s wonderful imagination. She would pull me in with what seemed like a simple fairytale and then I’d be absolutely floored by the endings!

There was also SO MUCH FOOD in this book and I was living for it. I love a foody description and this book was filled to the brim with them.

My favourite story in the collection was When Water Sang Fire. It is the longest and most developed tale in the book and I adored it. It was everything I wanted from The Surface Breaks but didn’t get. This right here is how you write a feminist take on The Little Mermaid.

Finally, a special mention for the illustrator because this book is truly a work of art. The drawings grow with every page, ending in full double-page illustrations, and they are things of beauty. I wish every book looked like this.

I hate that I waited so long to read this. Please pick it up if you haven’t already!

 

the language of thorns leigh bardugo

I don’t know why the book looks blurry in this picture, but I’ve noticed even on Goodreads it looks like this?! It clearly does not like to be photographed! *cries*

 

Who else has read this one? Please leave a comment below and fangirl with me! x

‘The Surface Breaks’ spoiler-free review!

Ok, prepare yourselves my friends. I have a lot of thoughts on this one. Before I start ranting, take a look at the synopsis…

 

What the book was about

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

 

What I thought of it

So before I start, I want to emphasise that this review is by no means a personal attack on the author. I appreciate that a lot of hard work will have gone into this book; sadly, it just didn’t work for me.

I found The Surface Breaks to be seriously problematic. O’Neill raises a number of topical issues but unfortunately, I didn’t feel as though any of them were afforded the attention or respect they deserved. The book features misogyny in SPADES, sexual predation and abuse, oppression of women and minority groups, fat-shaming, the notion that homosexuality can be ‘cured’ – I could continue. While I realise that these are very real issues that are faced by people all too often in this day and age, I did NOT like the way they were presented in this book. It felt forced and I’d even go so far as to use the word disrespectful. If an author is going to raise issues like this, it needs to be done sensitively and should ideally leave the reader feeling hopeful and empowered, not seething with anger. There was no uplifting message that I could take away from this book. Maybe the ending tried but it was too little too late for me and, by that point, I had completely stopped caring. I was hurting and feeling frustrated.

Putting aside the content for a moment and looking at the more technical aspects, I didn’t really find the book all that well-written. The blurb promises sharp writing and stunning world-building – neither of which was delivered. The writing was average; there were a couple of nice turns of phrase at the beginning but nothing that made me do heart-eyes as I would have expected from a mermaid book! And the world-building was distinctly lacking. None of the politics of the world were explained and the author seriously missed the opportunity to indulge in the kind of opulent descriptions of this underwater kingdom that I wanted/expected.

And now to the characters. They felt paper-thin with no understandable motivations for their actions. The protagonist Gaia was the most annoying character I’ve come across in recent literature. The insta-love was INSANE and so unrealistic; I get that the author was actually being quite faithful to the original story in this respect and I don’t know if she was attempting to poke fun at the concept but the whole thing just felt ridiculous. I was so irritated by Gaia and the nonchalance with which she threw everything away. She took everything for granted all for a boy she’d seen ONCE.

Which brings me to Oliver. His character was so weak and there were huge chunks of the novel where he wasn’t even present?! I did not understand the choice to have him missing half the time. The scenes where he did feature felt jarringly contemporary in comparison to the first half of the novel which took place under the sea; Oliver behaved like a spoilt little rich boy, drinking and acting entitled. Any attempts at explaining his behaviour were feeble. The author could have done so much more with his character (and his mother, for that matter). There wasn’t a single character that wasn’t a cardboard cut-out and I just didn’t care about any of them.

I’m going to wrap this up now because I’ve ranted long enough. My final feeling on this book is one of betrayal; a feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid could have been a dream-come-true and instead, I got a nightmare. So much about this book is hurtful and I feel like there will not be a single group of people whom the author will not offend with it. By all means, call out the BS we face in society – but don’t just leave it sitting there and making us feel bad. Give us something hopeful to take away from it. This book might have a beautiful cover but it masks some very UN-beautiful content. I feel distinctly let down.

the surface breaks

Has anyone else read this one? Did you pick up on any of these issues? What other books have lured you in with a pretty cover and then disappointed you?