Dear Ninth House: why did you do this to me

Dear Ninth House: why did you do this to me

I’ve started this post over and over but you know what? Here we are!!! Today I’m going to be talking about the book that completely caught me off guard: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo.


Settle in with something cozy, folks

I remember hearing about this in passing sometime last year, thinking it was intriguing, and adding it to my goodreads tbr. All I’d really retained was that it was adult/new adult and that it was dark, and to be honest, that’s about all I needed. The only other LB book I’ve read is Six of Crows, and I know she’s quite a beloved author. I thought, why not?

Then BEA and BookCon rolled around, and everyone was rushing to get an ARC. I believe it was over the summer when the reviews and discourse rolled around — and boy were opinions mixed. Some people were saying it was incredible, some people were saying it was way too dark. There were discussions about the dark content present in the novel and backlash ensued over it, saying that it was done for shock value or asking why anybody would ever write a book that contained child abuse. In my opinion, it was blown way out of proportion. Leigh Bardugo handled these situations with care; it most definitely did not feel like it was written just for the sake of being written at all to me. There’s a lot to be said about the merits of dark content, but for now, I’ll just say that if you’d like to read this book, seek out a list of trigger warnings and proceed at your own risk.

Ninth House is about Galaxy Stern (Alex) who gets accepted to Yale on the condition that she join Lethe House, a group in charge of keeping Yale’s secret societies in check. Because these aren’t just any secret societies… they’re doing some powerful magic, and Alex may be in over her head.

While this is for fantasy lovers, it’s also for the broken and mended. Most of the dark content surrounds Alex and her past. She truly goes through some horrific things. What struck me the most was how Leigh not only allowed her to survive through it all, she let her thrive through it, too. Alex is angry and wants to watch the world burn, and Leigh helps by giving her a fucking flamethrower. It’s like that. While reading, I found myself literally cheering out loud for her, hoping for the best and waiting with bated breath at every turn.

The characters were super interesting. I wanted to learn more about all of them and peel back their layers to find out what makes them the way they are. I wanted to find out what pushed Alex’s boundaries, and I wanted to squish Darlington and make him uncomfortable with my unrefined personality (affectionately, of course!) He reminded me of a slightly older Gansey!

But maybe we should talk about where I disagree with other reviews. There were numerous complaints that the beginning was confusing and boring, and that it was overall hard to understand and get through. I’m not sure if it’s because I majored in English or because Leigh’s readers (myself included!) are used to YA’s writing style, but I didn’t feel that way at all. Sure, there were moments at the start where I thought “Wait, what’s happening?” But you know where else I felt that? Six of Crows. It wasn’t until maybe 150 pages or so that I got the hang of things, and I think the same can be said for Ninth House, probably even sooner. She throws you right in the middle of the world, and I think the best way to experience it is to just keep going. Stopping and re-reading, or reading too quickly and not taking anything in, or just continuously questioning small sections will almost positively ensure you’re left behind. This is how I was taught to read denser texts in school — don’t stop, just keep pushing!

I can’t say much as to whether it was boring or not at first; I personally didn’t think it was. Even though we were just getting to know the world, it was so much fun piecing things together and I was so intrigued to see where the story was going next.

Another reason reading this book was so great was because it was a buddy read! I read it with a group of people too numerous to name right now, so I’ll just call us by our group name, the Erection Party, or:

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It was so much fun being able to discuss scenes with them. We shared theories and experiences, had heartfelt talks about what it meant to be a survivor and see it play out on the page, and made a lot of jokes. I’ve never buddy read anything “officially” before, and I think it really enhanced the reading experience for me!

Since I’m not really into fantasy, and Six of Crows took me so long to get into, I was expecting to feel pretty in-the-middle about this book. But to my surprise, it contains everything I love, like ghosts and darkness and things I can’t really say here because they’re spoiler-y. All I’ll say is: that ending? This is going in a direction that is so incredibly up my alley, I can’t even believe I have to wait until 2021 for it. I unexpectedly adored this book!!

If you’re looking for a dark read that’s perfect for autumn/wintertime, I’d say give this book a shot! It could surprise you the way it surprised me~

Have you read Ninth House? If you have, was it what you expected?

   xonikee1

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Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

Your lips were made for mine, Beck. You are the reason I have a mouth, a heart.

I wanted to read something creepy to get me into the Halloween mood, and so I picked up this book in hopes of getting a different sort of scare. Friends: I really got what I asked for.

You follows the story of a man stalking a woman after she walks into the bookstore he works at one day and immediately develops an obsession. The unique thing about this novel is that it’s written in a mix of first and second person, meaning that we see many sentences like “you do xyz” followed by his reaction to these words or actions written in first person. In my opinion, this was what really solidified the creepy factor of this book, especially if you’re listening to the audiobook version. Not only does this get into the main character’s head, but it allows the reader to feel the all-consuming nature of his thoughts directed at one single person.

I started the audiobook on a bus ride home with my boyfriend, and after we got home, he asked “What were you listening to? You looked like you were going through a lot.” That’s an understatement. It was so hard to sit still through Joe’s ramblings and tangents. What’s surprising was that the things that made my skin crawl the most weren’t his violating actions, but the thought processes that lead to them. What struck me was that I recognized snippets of these thoughts in people I once knew, particularly one man who decided we were dating after a few times hanging out. One of the lines in the novel — you said ‘bang’ and you said ‘Joe’ and that has to mean something — hit me so hard because it was exactly the same kind of thing that man had once said to me. The guesswork required to draw the most extreme conclusions was so upsetting to read, it was bordering on funny. Because, we all know this person, don’t we? The one who decides that another is fated for them, and they’ll stop at nothing to have them? The one who doesn’t mind a lie or two or seventy to get what they want? Maybe it’s not to the degree that it is for Joe, but we’ve all seen that sliver of something that gives us pause.

I honestly think the audiobook was a better way of going about reading this (at least for me). The narrator delivered a fantastic performance, managing to sound controlling and calculated while still maintaining the cool exterior that allows people to trust him. The book is full of sentences that sound like crazed rambles, thoughts upon thoughts driven by obsession, and the narrator reads them perfectly. He’s tense in all the right moments, frightening in his calmness and self-assurance. He thinks he’s better than everyone, and his anger and frustration comes out not in raised voices, but long-winded rambles. I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of anger that scares me the most: the quiet & expecting anger.

Needless to say, I couldn’t stop listening. I was engrossed in Joe’s twisted brain, hoping he would be thwarted while at the same time wondering how he would get out of certain situations (and subsequently being disgusted whenever he did). I saw someone say that they thought the minor characters weren’t as fleshed out, but I think that makes sense for the narrative. Joe doesn’t really care about anybody apart from himself, Beck, and the people who stand in the way of them being together; his intense attention is selective, so of course he wouldn’t give the reader as much information as he does for the characters he actually cares about, whether that be genuine care or as a means to get what he wants.

One more thing about the audiobook, though this is just a silly thought I had: the voice the narrator does for one of the characters sounded like the voice of Joey in the Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged series. Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, just kind of hysterical.

In all seriousness, though, You was such a creepy novel and got under my skin in ways I didn’t think were even possible. Caroline Kepnes really understands how easy it is to violate someone, and the ins-and-outs of manipulation. It’s definitely not an easy read, and sometimes downright disgusting; Joe is by no means a likable character, and definitely not even one that you can say you love to hate. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, I’d definitely recommend this book.

      xonikee1

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Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

When you’re a stupid girl in love, it’s almost impossible to see the red flags. It’s so easy to pretend they’re not there, to pretend that everything is perfect.

You ever read a book that takes you back to your past and absolutely guts you? That’s how this book was for me. I read it over a year ago and have been thinking about it since. I’ve started this review a dozen times, but it was impossible to untangle this book from the pain of my own past.

So I won’t.

Bad Romance is about a girl named Grace who falls for a boy at school, Gavin, who changes her entire world — but for better or for worse? The book is about the abusive relationship that she finds herself in, and I’ve never read anything more true and painfully honest.

Grace is full of brightness and imagination. She’s fueled by dreams and passion that her precarious home life could never contain. Her stepfather and her mother are verbally abusive and she wants nothing more than to go far away to New York City and live the life she knows she’s destined for.

And then she meets Gavin.

Gavin, who is charming. Gavin, who is funny and understanding. Gavin, who has big emotions of his own. Grace is taken immediately. When they begin their relationship, she knows someone finally understands her. But it doesn’t take long for her to feel the squeeze of his controlling nature around her heart.

I’ll be frank. I saw so much of myself and my first relationship in this novel and that made it incredibly difficult to read at times. From the home life where Grace seemingly could do nothing right to the ways Gavin cut her down with the tiniest of remarks. But especially in Grace’s starry-eyed disposition that we see slowly dying out the longer the relationship went on. Right around the time that I’d read this novel, I found an old photo of myself just after I’d left the relationship this book was reminiscent of. I was struck by how small I looked. How delicate. How innocent. Why had I been so cruel to myself? I could see the weariness in my eyes, no doubt the result of the last few months of the relationship where I’d been told that I was worthless and that my partner should and would cheat on me.

I didn’t realize how much she’d cut me down over time.

Looking at pictures of myself at the beginning of high school compared to that moment just over a year later really reminded me how quickly and how easily our hearts can be broken without us even realizing it. Grace’s descent into pain and insecurity was all-too familiar to me. She’d gotten so caught up in Gavin that by the time she realized she was suffocating, she was trapped in Gavin’s misery.

You’re a maze, all high hedges and endless loops. I can’t find a way out, can’t see where I’ve been. It’s all running, lost in the dark of you. Trapped. Everywhere I turn is a dead end. I keep winding up back where I’ve started. 

It’s so hard when the person we care for is in pain, but even worse when you think you’re the cause of it. I truly thought I was responsible for her moods, for her anger, for her own insecurities. I was nothing more than a pawn in her game, and she adored playing. Because that’s what these relationships are about, at the end of the day: power. Gavin has survived a suicide attempt and this knowledge looms over Grace’s head when the relationship begins to turn sour. I have no doubt that Gavin did indeed suffer from depression, but I also know that he used his sadness to manipulate Grace into staying with him and doing what he wanted.

The novel is written between Grace’s accounts of the past and direct responses to Gavin as the relationship nears its end. It was so refreshing to see this format, because you’re given little snippets of Grace’s own power during her times of most pain. It’s like a reminder while reading that this is not the end. I thought it was a great way to keep the reader invested in the story while still giving the reader little breaks after being so wrapped up in Grace’s hurt.

The only complaint I had was that it seemed to go on for a bit longer than I would have liked. I understand that this is a precarious situation and things can’t be rushed, but I felt like I was in an endless cycle near the ending. On the other hand, this is also such an accurate representation of how tiring it can be when you’re trying to get out of something so horrible and are met with obstacle after obstacle.

This book was so gripping, emotional, and empowering. I found myself shaking at times and holding my breath at others. Even if you’ve never found yourself in a relationship like this one, I think Bad Romance is essential reading to understand the horrible intricacies that bring a person to their knees in the name of a blinding love. And if you have been in Grace’s shoes, I want you to know that you are worthy, and always will be, of so much more.

**Please be aware of content warnings for abuse, suicidal thoughts, and attempted suicide**

      xonikee1
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Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas

Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas

“One moment. One picture. One glimpse — that’s all it takes to make someone think they know the truth.”

Spring Break is supposed to be the time of Anna’s life — until it’s the end of her best friends’. After Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself accused of the crime. Alone in Aruba, she must fight against everyone who believes her to be guilty, from the media to even her closest friends…

It’s been a while since a book sucked me in this way. It was a quiet sort of addiction; I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. But let me go back to the beginning. Continue reading “Review: I’ll Never Tell by Abigail Haas”

ARC Review: The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson

ARC Review: The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson

17-year-old Piper is faithful to Father. After all, he is the chosen one. He knows best, and he’s just trying to protect his family from the war that will bring the end of the world. But then Piper is taken away from her family in a government raid. Now, it’s up to her to escape from the Outside and return to the place she knows is completely safe… isn’t it?

**Thank you to Edelweiss+ for providing me with a free e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review!**

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Liar’s Daughter by Megan Cooley Peterson”