Salutations everyone! I have missed you all, I have missed writing reviews, and just miss bookish things in general! I know it’s been a while. Actually, it’s been more than that, it’s been a darn hot minute since I’ve posted a review here. I hope everyone has been doing well, reading lots of things. I actually have quite the stock pile of reviews that haven’t been typed, drafted, etc… and I thought I’d quickly throw two of them together while I sort some of the other reviews out, in the meantime. 💚
Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, loss of a parent, loss of loved ones, loss of a child, pica (xylophagia; books/paper, but mentions of hair and flowers), mentions of heart attack, grief, mentions on self-harm, mentions of hospitalization, mentions of suicide (of a minor character), intense scenes and depictions of anger issues, blood depictions, panic attacks, depictions of situations that could make one feel claustrophobic brief scene/mention of animal torture and death, murder, and a scene of under age drinking, child abuse in the past
“You be careful up there, in Bells Hollow. These old towns all have histories. Some darker than others.”
I’ll be honest, I’ve never read a Katrina Leno book before, but I’ve heard good things. However, I’d have to say I’m in the minority when it comes to how this book left me feeling after the book was closed and the dust had time to settle. What I will say, if you’re looking for a spooky book to chill you to the bones and perfect for the fall/winter season, then look no further.
After losing her father to a heart attack and finding themselves in a sticky situation, with no other options, Ruth and Jane find themselves starting life anew. Leaving California behind, Jane and Ruth find themselves relocating to Ruth’s hometown, in northern Maine, Bell’s Hollow. With the ache from the loss of a father/husband, Jane and Ruth will pick up the pieces of their life at North Manor. After leaving everything she knew behind, now Jane is faced with a family mystery and the big manor she now calls home.
I think the thing I fell in love with the most when it comes to this book is the amount of grief we see in this book. Wee not only see Jane’s side of grief, but we glimpses of Ruth and how much everything weighs on her shoulders. I love that we see both sides to grief. Truly, I wish books showed this kind of dynamic when grief is going to be laced into a storyline. Not only that, but we see people grieving about their pasts, about the unknown, about grief being the loudest thing in the room that it echoes for hours. it’s truly the strongest element in this entire book and at times it feels so intense. And truly, grief is an emotion that manifests in various ways and I love, with my whole chest, the way the author emphasized all elements that is grief. Grief isn’t just sadness and weeping, it’s violent and anger, coldness and at times, bitterness.
“Grief is different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong answer.”
While I loved the grief in this story, I really enjoyed how the narration from Jane felt… real. Though Jane isn’t the best of narrators or perspectives to get a story from, the way this book is written and through the perspective of Jane, everything thing almost feels real. You can practically feel the heaviness, the confusion, anger, and sadness that radiates off of Jane in waves. However, Jane doesn’t handle her triggers in the healthiest of ways. We also see mass flashbacks of things suppressed in Jane’s memory and even get moments of blacking out. With all of this into consideration, these are the things that make her an unreliable narrator. Yet, let me ask you this, how often do you get to read a book where the narrator is dealing with (or suffering) from mental health struggles? Not to often, I bet. Which is another reason why I liked have Jane as our narrator.
Speaking of Jane, every since Jane was a young girl, she’s struggled with her feelings especially anger. When she’d feel overwhelmed by these feelings, Jane would would seek out the comfort of eating pages from her books. She’d then replace the hollowed books with fresh, crisp pages that she could journal in. This is called Pica. Pica is a disorder where a person will consume items/objects that have no nutritional value. A person may due this for a number of reasons, and there are many layers to this disorder such as (sharp objects even poisonous things), this disorder can also overlap with other health conditions (OCD, anemia, or even schizophrenia), but in this story the main component for our main character is books. If you’re like me, this might be the first time you’ve every read a book that has Pica. And while I can only speak about my own personal experiences when I had Pica as a child, I can’t fully express how accurate other readers who have/had experienced Pica may feel about this representation.
“No, she couldn’t remember the first book she’d eaten, but she could remember the first book she’d eaten purposefully. And that was maybe more important.”
Though I feel this goes without saying, there’s a lot of discussion happening around mental health within this book especially when it comes to passing on mental health struggles, genetically. And how important it is for parents to recognize the signs and acknowledge their own mental health, to provide the help their children should they need it. I would be lying if I said this was an easy book to read because there were times where I felt like pieces of me were splitting from how much I felt seen, but also times where I had to set the book down due to it feeling hard, just really hard to read through. And I think anyone who reads this book, the feelings will expand over a vast amount of various emotions when it comes to a lot of the things addresses in this book. But I want to say as someone who has felt seen by this book, I want to say the relationship between Jane and Ruth feels very real and something that deserves to be talked about, from a plethora of perspectives. Depression, anger issues, loss and spiraling grief are a wild storm, a hell of a combination… but this is a reality for so many families, many people out there in the world and it deserves to be talked about, to be voiced.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, “Malli, if you loved all of these things then why wasn’t this a five star read?” Well, to put it simply, the ending. I docked the ending two stars for two different reasons. The first reason, it felt unfinished. It’s done in a style that’s more open-ended, that allows the reader to decide how things truly ended. Personally, I’m not a fan of that styled ending. Things tend to feel more unfinished for me, where I’d prefer something that was more straightforward and clear as crystal. The other reason was Ruth. Things with Ruth felt so unfinished, so inconclusive and personally, I would have loved to have seen a little more of her. I think the other reason this book left me feeling so conflicted was the lack of a prologue. With the way it ended, I had hoped there would have been something to follow up, but… to my disappointment there wasn’t any. So the ending really left something to be desired, in my opinion. I think many readers will either love it or strongly dislike the ending.
“Something had happened in this house. She wasn’t sure where the thought came from, when exactly it had been born, but it arrived now like a force, like a storm.”
Overall, I truly stand by my statement that this is the perfect read for the fall/winter season. There’s many parts that chilled me, where it felt impossible to regain the warmth back into my body. But maybe that’s from my feeling that felt rattled by this book. Though this book has important themes, this book is beautifully written and spooky, nonetheless. Though this wasn’t a five star read for me, I still recommend it to those who are looking for a chilling thriller that will leave them feeling a little starstuck, a little breathless, and sparking discussions over a cup of hot cider!
Buddy read with Destiny from Howling Libraries 💜
Arc was given by Europe Comics & NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Content/Trigger Warnings: Nudity, animal death, imagery of blood
“The sea, like the human heart, is full of secrets.”
This was a beautifully written, heart-breaking story to read. The writing style is so delicately and wondrously woven together that makes your heart weep for the characters and story. Not to mention, I almost cry so many times while reading this book. Though, I whole heartedly fell in love with everything that this book encompasses.
Though this book is laced with simplicity, this book truly is a master piece in itself. I couldn’t recommend a better book that holds a powerful, silent thunder that will stir your emotions and cause you to pause in your reading. As well as having imagery that compliments the dialogue quiet well. Truly, this is a graphic novel to add to your list of stories to read.
“We learn to tell stories for the same reason we learn to swim. To keep from drowning.”
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.