Review: Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Alexis:

Well, I had this review ready to go over a week ago. I never got around to posting it, and then, unfortunately, I just got out of the hospital yesterday. The only good thing about being in the hospital was that I got to read 4 books, but I’m glad to be out and doing well.

Now, onto the review!

Thank you so much to Fierce Reads and NetGalley for sending me a digital arc of Lakesedge!

If you’re into dark YA fantasies, atmospheric books, lyrical writing, and dark themes, you might be into this book. It often gave me Jane Eyre vibes with a sprinkle of A Sorcery of Thorns thrown in. I’ve seen it described as a gothic book, and while I wouldn’t describe it as gothic, per say, it does have a creepy, haunted estate ruled by a morally grey man. 

Violeta lives with her abusive, overly-religious adopted mother along with her little brother, Arien. Arien has magic; he can make shadows. But his shadows are unpredictable, and they come out when he sleeps. When Rowan Sylvanan comes to their village to collect the tithe, he sees Arien’s shadows. He comes to collect Arien, but Violeta refuses to let him, her last surviving family member, leave without him. When they arrive at Lakesedge, Rowan’s estate, not only does she have to deal with the prickly Rowan and a cursed lake, but the Lord Under…the lord of the underworld himself.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Clipstone’s writing style completely sucked me in. Her details are dark and creepy, and her writing has a dreamy, atmospheric quality to it. Clipstone describes magic in a clear and beautiful way, and I thought the religion in Lakesedge was written well. Even though the story itself was slower paced, I found myself speeding through it because I wanted to know what the heck was going on. 

Rowan was my favorite character. I liked Arien, too, although I hope his character, and some of the others, are more well-rounded in the sequel. 

The biggest thing keeping this from being a five-star review is Violeta’s character. In the beginning of the book, she was naive and annoying, to be honest. While she got a little better as the book went on, she still wasn’t my favorite character. Because of this, I had a little bit of a hard time rooting for the romance. On top of that, while I’m happy to say that there is LGBTQ rep, it felt like it was a little thrown in at the last minute; but once again, I have high hopes for the sequel, where I hope everything will become more fleshed out! I’m here for the spooky vibes, magic, and romance. 

TW: Self harm/mutilation, abuse/parental abuse, death, blood, drowning imagery 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour

Alexis:

Welcome to my last review of the year! As awful as this year has been, I managed to have a great reading year, and read a total of 51 books.

Nina Lacour’s writing is lovely. It flows well and holds so much emotion.

Watch Over Me follows Mila, a young woman who aged out of the foster care system and finds herself taking a teaching job on a remote farm.

Lacour handles the themes of this book—loneliness, past trauma, wanting to belong—with care. The flashback scenes were well done, and I enjoyed the gothic-like setting and the blurring of genres/reality with the inclusion of ghosts.

However, I never found myself fully invested in the characters. I felt bad for them, and all the trauma they’ve been through, but I felt like the secondary characters weren’t fully fleshed out, and despite knowing about Mila’s past, I never fully understood her character, either.

That being said, if you’re looking for a slow-burn, lyrical, and atmospheric book that focuses on grief, trauma, and loneliness (with a dash of magical realism) then give this a shot!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐.5/5

Review: Mexican Goth by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Alexis:

This is one of the most atmospheric books I’ve read in a while. It reads like a gothic, psychedelic nightmare. Moreno-Garcia’s gross, creepy descriptions shine. High Place is dripping in mold, villainous characters, and ghost-like visions.

What I enjoyed:

The gothic feel of this novel. I love the homage to books like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I love the fairly upfront references to The Yellow Wallpaper.

Moreno-Garcia’s descriptions are wonderful (but in a horror type of way). And she describes everything in masterfully drawn descriptions with high amounts of detail. You’ll have no trouble visualizing High Place or its contents. The descriptions of the mold alone made my allergies want to flare up.

This book touches on a lot of the ideas of the 1950’s, even the unfavorable ones…like eugenics. But I enjoyed the discussions of anthropology and botany.

Francis’ character was definitely my favorite; he grew on me more as the book went along.

What I wasn’t a fan of:

The beginning of this book is so slow. The entire first chapter feels almost unnecessary. The first entire half of the book basically has no plot; it’s just Noemí trying to figure out what the heck is going on at High Place while also trying to comfort her cousin, Catalina. For that reason, I don’t think you can call this book “suspenseful.”

As for Catalina, there are reasons that pop up later as to why we don’t get to know her character that well, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I know her at all. We get Noemí’s perspective on her cousin, but I didn’t even get the notion that she even knows Catalina that well to begin with.

Overall, I wish the plot had been more solidified.

All in all, this book is split pretty much down the middle for me. The first half is slow moving and has a gothic atmosphere, while the second half is faster moving and leans more on horror.

If you want a lushly written, atmospheric, bizarre gothic story with a twist of horror, then this might be the book for you. Just be aware that it unravels slowly, but the descriptions and the twists at the end will stick with you.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Trigger warnings: Rape/sexual assault, violence, murder/death. Mentions of suicide, cannibalism, eugenics, incest, and miscarriage.

Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Alexis:

I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. I’m currently on an extended Spring Break, and my classes have all been moved online for the rest of the semester. While I’m bummed about that, it means I have more time to read and post on here. Without further ado, let’s start the review!

A dark, gothic fairytale retelling? Very up my alley!

Annaleigh lives in Highmoor, a manor on an island by the sea where the people worship a sea god. She used to be one of twelve sisters, but four of her sisters have died tragic deaths. When Annaleigh’s younger sister begins seeing ghosts, she believes that her last sister to die was actually murdered. In between dancing in myserious balls with her sisters, Annaleigh works to uncover the dark truth.

I really enjoyed this book! I it had a lot of twists and turns, and while I guessed two of the major plot points, the rest, particularly at the end, were great and surprising.

I loved the cast of sisters. They felt very Jane Austen to me, especially when they prepared to go to the balls. Craig’s descriptions of Highmoor and the world around them brought this fantasy world to life. I loved the octopus imagery and the descriptions of the sea. While most of this book was dark and gothic, there were fun ball and festival scenes in between. I also enjoyed learning about the gods and mythology of this world.

I should’ve known from the book’s description, but this book is full of (in-depth) murder and death. So if you’re not into any type of horror, then this isn’t for you.

My only critiques are that the romance was a little too underdeveloped and cheesy for my taste, and the dialogue in certain scenes felt a little flat. But if you’re looking for a fun fairytale read that doubles as a horror/murder mystery book, then pick this up! Its beautiful cover is never leaving my bookshelf.

VERDICT: 📚 📚 📚 📚 /5

Review: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

Alexis:

Grim Lovelies is my kind of fantasy: weird, dark, twisted, and magical, complete with (sort of) shapeshifting animals and a gothic feel.

Anouk is a beastie: an animal who was turned into a human by a witch. She and her fellow beasties are slaves for a powerful witch named Mada Vittora. But when Mada Vittora is murdered, Anouk and the other beasties must find a way to stay human before Vittora’s spell wears off. 

I really enjoyed this book! It reminds me of a Frances Hardinge novel mixed with The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. Shepherd’s writing flows well, and her dialogue shines on the page.

As with most books that I read, I loved the first half and liked the second half. I was worried that witches, spells, and goblins would feel too recycled, but I found the first half very original. 

I liked the cast of characters, though I had a hard time visualizing some of them. Unless I missed it, Shepherd didn’t even write a full description of Beau until the end. My favorite character was Cricket, as she had the most stand-out personality. 

I’m giving this book 5 stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was done well, but like all books, it isn’t perfect. I really enjoyed Anouk’s character arc, and I loved her dynamic with the other characters. Shepherd also did a good job with worldbuilding and explaining the magic system. 

I enjoyed how Shepherd weaved the Pretty world and technology with the magical world, and I liked the overarching theme of what it means to be human.

My only real critique is the way Shepherd handled the gay characters; their gender identity felt thrown in there just for the sake of it. I hope she handles the characters with more care in the sequel.

I also liked the ending, though I’m not sure I’ll like the sequel based on the description. I hope it proves me wrong!

VERDICT: 5 stars 

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Review: Idlewild by Nick Sagan

Alexis: Read 4/7/19

A teenager wakes up in the middle of a pumpkin patch with amnesia. He doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or what’s going on. He only knows that he was shocked so badly that he couldn’t move, causing his amnesia, and that he knows someone named Lazarus is dead, and someone just tried to kill him, as well.

Idlewind is like a mix between The Matrix and The Maze Runner. I don’t usually go for sc-fi, but I found myself enjoying the change of pace. I truly loved the beginning of the book. I found it really original and creative, and I enjoyed Sagan’s worldbuilding. I loved learning about Halloween’s character alongside him as his memory slowly started to resurface. I liked Sagan’s conversational writing style and I found Halloween’s gothic character interesting.

I also enjoyed the structure of the book. The majority of the book is in first person from Halloween’s POV, while excerpts in the beginning of each chapter focus on characters from the past. Sections called “Pace Transmission”s intersect the chapters. At first, these make no sense, but I found them helpful as the book progresses.

It’s hard to talk about this book without giving anything away. I feel like it’s best to go into it without knowing much. My overall consensus of the book is that I loved the first ¾ of it, including the plot twists and reveals, but thought the ending fell flat. I also wasn’t a fan of how the characters progressed, and I also didn’t like the characterizations of the female characters. In that regard, Idlewild feels very early 2000’s.

However, if you’re in the mood for a creative, apocalyptic sci-fi read with a large dash of virtual reality, I definitely recommend it. Most of the book was 4 stars for me, but the ending knocked it down ½ a star.

VERDICT: 3 ½ stars

 

SPOILERS BELOW:

 

My biggest issue with the ending was the reveal of Mercutio as Lazarus’ killer. I felt like there wasn’t any buildup or real evidence or motivations for this to make sense. I also didn’t feel like I knew the secondary characters well enough, especially since Halloween himself was still figuring everyone else out. Because of this, Simone and Mercutio’s deaths didn’t affect me, and I’m not really sure I want to continue reading the series. Halloween’s reaction to the ending felt a bit melodramatic, even for his already melodramatic character.