Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew – Book Review

Told in verse, Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon tackles public shaming, sexuality, friendship, and more. A must-read for young adults.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew
Young Adult | Contemporary
Published by Walker Books US
Released 1 September 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating:

Public shaming has always existed, but it seems far more prevalent and far-reaching in our age of internet and social media. Lucy Cuthew’s Blood Moon is a young adult contemporary novel told in verse that takes a look at the impact of public shaming, as well as the importance of friendship.

Frankie, our main character, is a high school girl who has her first sexual experience, during which her period starts. She and the guy, Benjamin, both agree that it’s not a big deal. (Which is a great thing to be included in a young adult novel – let’s nip that taboo in the bud.) The same week at school, however, Frankie starts to realize that something is up as rumors start flying that Benjamin fingered a girl on her period. On top of that, there are memes about the situation that start making their rounds, horrifying Frankie.

While all of this is happening, Frankie is also dealing with the fallout of a huge fight with her best friend Harriet. At the time when Frankie needs Harriet the most, she’s not there, causing Frankie to navigate the whole sphere of public shaming by herself.

I have a tendency to really enjoy novels told in verse. It sometimes adds a touch of whimsy, other times it is just an interesting way to tell a story. For Blood Moon, I don’t think that it added to the story in any way. I would have felt the same way about the novel if it had been written in prose. The writing style wasn’t bad, I just felt incredibly neutral about it.

More than how Frankie managed the public shaming debacle, I’m glad that Lucy Cuthew focused so much on her troubled friendship with Harriet. I love books that feature healthy friendships, especially young adult books. All friendships have their rough patches, especially in our turbulent teenage years, and realistic portrayals of this is always a healthy aspect to include in a story such as this one.

Frankie’s relationship with her parents and how they react to learning of her sexual exploit and everything that followed was another incredibly strong aspect of this story. Sex isn’t a big deal, and everyone does it. Her parents’ reaction mirrors this perspective, and is a much better way of dealing with teenage sexuality than universally punishing it.

The reason I can’t give this book a full four stars was due to the way the ending was wrapped up too quickly and perfectly. Without giving away too much of the ending, it has to do with Frankie and Harriet’s friendship. I just feel that everything was resolved much too easily.

Overall, Blood Moon is a wholesome and positive novel perfect for pre-teens and teenagers. It reads young, so if you’re an adult fan of YA keep in mind that it’s written for the lower end of the age group. I’d love to see this sort of taboo-tackling, feminist, positive narrative become a new trend for the young adult audience. I know that I would have loved to have access to a book like this when I was a teenager.

A big thank you to Walker Books for the advanced review copy.


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Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats – A Review

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Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats
Young Adult | Historical Fiction
Published by Candlewick Press
Released March 10th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my opinions.

The cover of Spindle and Dagger is gorgeous, and that’s what initially drew me to this novel. Then I learned that it was a historical fiction novel set in Wales in the 1110s, and I was absolutely down to read it. I love historical fiction, especially when it takes place somewhere that I’ve never been to. I had a feeling that I would really enjoy this novel.

Spindle and Dagger follows Elen, a teenage girl who watched her family be murdered by a warband and who convinced the leader said warband, Owain ap Cadwgan, that she could keep him alive through her connection with Saint Elen. While Elen’s basic needs are provided for, it is not an easy life. Her position hinges on Owain staying alive and she has no freedom.

Despite wanting to enjoy this book, I found myself having to push to get through it. I was bored the whole time. The thing is, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with Spindle and Dagger, but it’s just so average. I had no strong feelings about the characters or plot because they were all average. J. Anderson Coat’s writing was just fine.

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J. Anderson Coats

However, a novel being average and fine are not enough for me to enjoy or recommend it.

The story didn’t feel complete to me, but it’s hard for me to put my finger on where exactly it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Again, the storytelling and plot weren’t bad, but there was nothing that stood out as compelling.

Elen has severe PTSD from Owain’s warband raiding her home and murdering her family, and while there are instances within the story where the character has flashbacks, it should have been dealt with more. It seems like an important part of Elen’s character, but it never gets resolved or discussed in any way except in her flashbacks. In the same manner, Elen has also been a victim of rape and sexual assault, and that’s also passed over in the story.

Elen’s character didn’t grow enough during the story for me. From start to finish, she remains weak and timid, only daring to escape the warband when she has the help of someone else. There’s one moment towards the end of the novel where she attempts to take matters into her own hands, but it was hard for me to support her actions because ultimately they helped Owain and his band escape to continue chasing her.

I did think that Coats’ decision to tell the story in the first person from Elen’s point of view was the best way to tell this story. I also appreciated the author including a brief guide at the beginning of the book showing readers how to pronounce Welsh words. It helped a lot because even though Welsh is a beautiful language, it’s not an easy one for English speakers.

I can’t recommend this book because there wasn’t enough in it for me to enjoy. There are much better historical fiction novels on the market. The story was forgettable, and I had trouble recalling some of the names and plot points of the tale just two days after finishing it.


Have you read Spindle and Dagger? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.




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Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace – A Review

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Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace
Poetry | Feminist | Retellings
Published by Andrews McNeel Publishing
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received an electronic arc of this collection from NetGalley. This in no way affects my opinions.

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I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, despite often trying to love it. Classic poetry tends to either go right over my head or it’s so flowery that I struggle to enjoy it, and modern poetry’s “edginess” tends to annoy me.

Browsing Netgalley this morning, I came across Amanda Lovelace’s newest poetry collection, Break Your Glass Slippers, and thought I’d give it a shot. I’d heard from friends and the online book community that Lovelace’s works are really good.

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Amanda Lovelace

Break Your Glass Slippers is a modern, feminist collection of poetry inspired by the classic fairytale, Cinderella. Lovelace uses the classic story to show the reader that changing who you are in order to please your “prince” is not a requirement of deserving love. Learning how to love yourself first, being supportive of other women rather than feeling jealousy at what they have and you don’t, going after your own dreams… all are topics that Lovelace touches upon, as well as many others.

The layout of this collection was beautiful. Since I read an ARC of the collection rather than the finished copy, which is scheduled to be released mid-March, I’m not sure how much things will stay the same. In between sections in the collection, there were pages of a beautiful, illustrated moonscape, and some of the poems had cute illustrations. I hope these features will remain in the final version.

A lot of the poems resonated with me on a personal level, and I feel that many women will feel the same. I can see myself gifting Break Your Glass Slippers to my female friends. When it’s finally released, I hope so many other people will pick it up and fall in love with it just as I did.


Have you read any of Amanda Lovelace’s other collections? What did you think of them?




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After the Flood by Kassandra Montag – A Review

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After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
Post-Apocalyptic | Adult Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Released September 3rd, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received an unsolicited ARC of this book from the publisher. This in no way affects my review.

I’m a bit obsessed with post-apocalyptic literature, so I was thrilled when I received a copy of After the Flood in the mail. Apparently not excited enough to read it until a couple of months after its release date, but excited.

After the Flood takes place in the future, when most of the world is covered by water, and the few remaining communities are dangerous and found on mountaintops that are tall enough to still be above water. There’s no more government or social structure, and raiders are mainly controlling the seas. It’s a world where people struggle to survive through fishing and trade and have to fend for themselves when things get dangerous.

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Kassandra Montag

We follow Myra and her daughter Pearl as they travel between trading posts on a small boat they named Bird. Life is far from easy for them, but they’ve managed to survive. Myra, however, still mourns the absence of her oldest daughter, Row, who was taken from her by her husband, Jacob. It’s been seven years since he took her away, and finding Row has always been on the back of her mind.

Finding Row becomes Myra’s main goal, however, after hearing that she might be alive in a colony in what’s left of Greenland. From that point on, Myra does whatever is necessary to get to Row, even if that means using people who are trying to help her.

This novel was really enjoyable to read. Again, I love post-apocalyptic fiction, so the setting of a mostly-water covered world was really interesting to me, and I loved the realistic, simplistic world-building that Montag created. Mainly, I loved the lack of world-building, because in a world where there are so few people and resources left, creating any kind of structured society would be difficult. While I’m not positive that a completely water-covered world is realistic, the way the author portrayed a broken-down society was definitely plausible.

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There really aren’t any heroes in this story, and I appreciated that. Myra, our main character, is manipulative, selfish, and judgemental, but despite that, she’s still an intriguing character. As the reader, you understand her motivations so deeply that, even if you can’t praise her actions, at least you know why she is acting the way she does.

Such a quality is visible in many of the characters, and one of the themes of this novel that I encountered over and over again was that people have complex reasons for their actions. Two of the side characters, Daniel and Abran, are so multifaceted that my opinions of them shifted up and down many times. I like this in a book – characters that are perfect are often boring. People are infinitely complex, and I appreciate authors that reflect that in their characters.

The ARC that I received stated this on its cover: “Life is about more than surviving.”  That’s another big theme of this book. For the first portion of the novel, Myra’s only goal is surviving and/or finding Row. It’s only after she enters a larger community and learns to appreciate them as individuals and their shared goals that she realizes that surviving isn’t the same thing as living.

Lastly, through Myra, Kassandra Montag shares how difficult parenting can be. Myra adores both of her daughters but oftentimes is overwhelmed by their presence or her responsibility towards them. Despite not being a mother myself, I can appreciate the difficulty of having and raising children, and it’s refreshing to read an account of how difficult it can be, rather than following many books that regurgitate endlessly how much of a joy it is.

I’m rating this book 3.5 stars because I generally enjoyed it, but it wasn’t in any way mind-provoking or unique. It’s worth a read, especially if you enjoy post-apocalyptic settings or unlikeable/untrustworthy main characters. However, I’m not sure if it’s a book that I can see myself re-reading.


Pair with a candle!

Frozen Lake

White Barn Frozen Lake 3-Wick Candle

This candle is one that I’ve burned quite a bit in my house, and it’s perfect to pair with this novel. The scents here include juniper berries and glacier, which reminded me of the endless ocean and scavenged wood common throughout the novel.


Have you read After the Flood? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!





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Quichotte by Salman Rushdie – A Review

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Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Fiction | Contemporary | Magical Realism
Published by Random House
Released September 3rd, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

“Every quest takes place in both the sphere of the actual, which is what maps reveal to us, and in the sphere of the symbolic, for which the only maps are the unseen ones in our heads.”

There’s nobody else in the world who writes quite like Salman Rushdie. No matter what topic he’s writing about or which of his characters the words are coming from, his words are poetic and profound.

My brother was the person who introduced me to Rushdie and inspired me to read The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a book about a famous singer lost after an earthquake. I still consider that novel one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I quickly followed that up with what has become my favorite Rushdie novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Salman Rushdie.jpgQuichotte is a story told from the point of view of Sam DuChamp, author of spy thrillers. Within that story, we also meet the characters of the newest book that DuChamp is writing, about a character named Quichotte.

Quichotte is a former salesman obsessed with television, particularly a TV personality named Miss Salma R. Quichotte is in love with her, and in order to meet her and have her reciprocate those feelings, he travels through “seven valleys” to make her more attainable and himself more worthy.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot because I really think that this is a book that you need to go into not knowing too much about it. I love this part of Random House’s official synopsis for the story because it’s what initially made me want to read this novel:

Just as Cervantes wrote Don Quixote to satirize the culture of his time, Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse. And with the kind of storytelling magic that is the hallmark of Rushdie’s work, the fully realized lives of DuChamp and Quichotte intertwine in a profoundly human quest for love and a wickedly entertaining portrait of an age in which fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.

A quick note before getting into my thoughts:  You do not need to read Don Quixote in order to read Quichotte. 

The story carried me along, enchanting and baffling me at the same time. Rushdie’s talent for weaving the fantastical with what’s real is easy to see here, just as it is in many of his other novels.

While Quichotte isn’t my favorite novel of Rushdie’s that I’ve read, I enjoyed the story very much and rated it a high four stars. I loved the dual narratives. Sam DuChamp is going through a midlife crisis while telling a story through Quichotte, a semi-autobiographical character on a quest for love.

The story takes on a variety of topics related to familial and romantic relationships, such as that between Quichotte and his imaginary yet real son. Estrangement, sexual abuse, drugs, and more are touched on, in a manner that is well done and serves to make the characters relatable. Their backstories also explain a lot about their personalities when we meet them in the story as well as their motivations. Few of the characters are good, they all have dark sides and make questionable decisions.

There were passages in this book that got a little bit repetitive. It was definitely a stylistic choice made consciously by Rushdie, which I was fine with the first few times I encountered it, but eventually, I started to dread sentences like this one:

“He devoured morning shows, daytime shows, late-night talk shows, soaps, situation comedies, Lifetime Movies, hospital dramas, police series, vampire and zombie serials, the dramas of housewives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and New York, the romances and quarrels of hotel-fortune princesses and self-styled shahs, the cavortings of individuals made famous by happy nudities, the fifteen minutes of fame accorded to young persons with large social media followings on account of their plastic-surgery acquisition of a third breast or their post-rib-removal figures that mimicked the impossible shape of the Mattel company’s Barbie doll, or even, more simply, their ability to catch giant carp in picturesque settings while wearing only the tiniest of string bikinis; as well as singing competitions, cooking competitions, competitions for business propositions, competitions for business apprenticeships, competitions between remote-controlled monster vehicles, fashion competitions, competitions for the affections of both bachelors and bachelorettes, baseball games, basketball games, football games, wrestling bouts, kickboxing bouts, extreme sports programming and, of course, beauty contests.”

See what I mean?

This novel was very much worth the time it took me to read it. It’s by no means a short book, and due to passages like the one I shared above, at times it can be a bit daunting. It was wonderful, and I was enchanted by the settings, characters, storytelling, and Rushdie’s writing style.

I’m not sure if I would recommend Quichotte to a reader who will be reading Salman Rushdie for the first time. Instead, maybe read The Ground Beneath Her Feet or Midnight’s ChildrenHowever, if you have read any of Rushdie’s other works and found yourself loving his witty, fantastical, surrealist stories, definitely read Quichotte.


Have you read Quichotte? What’s your favorite Salman Rushdie novel? Let me know in the comments!




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