‘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)

 

‘Hunted’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Last night, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which was my book club’s pick for this month. For some reason, I was nervous about reading this one and wasn’t sure I would like it (Beauty & the Beast retellings are getting a little overdone after all) but I needn’t have worried!


What the book is about…

hunted

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


What I thought of it…

Spooner has done a great job with this one. What could have been just another generic YA retelling is actually far more original and compelling thanks to the inclusion of Russian folklore. I’ve always been a sucker for Russian-inspired fantasy so as soon as I realised that’s what I was in for, I comfortably settled in for the journey.

The wintery aesthetic in this book was gorgeous. Give me all the snowy books please and thank you. Even though the book’s setting was quite limited, I thought the author did a great job of conjuring it and I could really picture everything that was happening. I believe this is in part due to the inclusion of a lot of sensory detail – sounds, smells, textures all added dimension to the story. 

Spooner’s writing is very readable. It is easy to become swept along in the narrative and the fact that the reader knows information that the protagonist, Yeva, does not makes things very interesting.

I also really enjoyed getting some snippets of the Beast’s perspective, as this is not something I’ve seen often in retellings. His narrative voice felt strangely reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, both in his moral conflictions and in the articulate way he expressed himself. It was fascinating to read Yeva’s hatred and thirst for revenge on the one hand and see the Beast’s struggles on the other; Spooner did a great job of balancing things and making the reader question their feelings towards the characters.

I have to say that the hate-to-love trope, which can sometimes annoy me, was VERY well done in this instance. The author handled the situation in a way that felt far more believable and plausible than other Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read.

I also want to give points for the disability rep; while not a huge part of the book, it was nice to see it included.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It is a compelling story which builds to an immensely satisfying conclusion and I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of fairytales or of books set in the wilderness of Russia!

hunted

Have you read this one? What did you think of it? What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? Let me know in the comments! x

‘Catwoman: Soulstealer’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’ve got a review of Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas for you today! Thank you to Penguin Books UK for sending me a free copy. Let’s take a look at it!


What the book is about…

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.


What I thought of it…

This was a very cool origins story. I didn’t love it as much as Wonder Woman: Warbringer but I liked it more than Batman: Nightwalker.

At first, I wasn’t really feeling the whole ‘gangland’ vibe but Maas certainly created a strong opening atmosphere. I loved the explanation for Selina’s motives and found it highly believable. This was my main issue with the Batman retelling; it wasn’t realistic and I just couldn’t picture things panning out the way I was being told. But here, I could totally understand and accept Selina’s actions; even though Maas paints her as a real anti-hero, I found myself willing her to succeed.

In fact, all of the characters (not just Selina) had excellent backstories and I thought this was the book’s biggest strength. It was great to see Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in there! Maas gave us believable reasons for their behaviour and really had me rooting for these anti-heroes. I also enjoyed the interactions between the three female characters; a bit of banter is always fun!

Maas has been slammed in the past for not making her books diverse enough but I think she did a good job here. It’s nice to see that she’s paying attention and adding persons of colour and gay characters that feel authentic and not shoehorned in. I was also pleasantly surprised to see some great mental health rep here. Mental health rep is something I always pay particular attention to and I liked how Maas handled it.

There were a few too many fight scenes in the book for my personal tastes but overall, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one! If you’re a fan of the DC universe or comic book heroes in general, I’d recommend this for a fun read!

 

catwoman soulstealer

Have you read any of the books in the DC Icons series? Which superhero would you like to see reimagined next? Let’s chat in the comments! 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?