Books, YA Fiction

Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge


3 Stars

“This is the human way, she thought. On the edge of destruction, at the end of all things, we still dance. And hope.”

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

I actually feel bad for Crimson Bound. It took me nearly a month to finish this, because books, homework, and every mundane thing that existed kept interrupting my reading process. I would rather do ANYTHING than face the boredom of reading this book. I was expecting a lot from Crimson Bound, mostly because of Hodge’s debut masterpiece, Cruel Beauty. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite capture me the way I wanted it to even though it had a lot of potential.

The idea of the book is actually very well thought out. It explores guilt, fear, love, and courage in its characters, and goes all out with world-building. But, I think the extra-ness was its downfall in a way. There was too much going on, and not enough going on at the same time. This might just be me, but I though the the world-building was a good example of this. The book is set in a medieval France,   Like Cruel Beauty, the world is very intricate and complicated. It has all the good elements of a well-made society, and is very intriguing. But, it’s so confusing! Elements of the world (like the Forrest, bloodbounds, the Devourer) were well-described, but it’s so hard to connect the dots because there are so many things being thrown at you at once. The story is on the slow-side, and I don’t mind that, but not much happened until the last few chapters, where it actually gets exciting. Actually, thinking back on the book, I can’t remember anything until the last 20 pages.

The characters are everything you could want, but I couldn’t get attached to them. Rachelle is strong-willed, determined, and snarky. This book brings out all her strengths and weaknesses, and challenges her constantly. She’s got layer after layer, but I couldn’t connect with her as well as I did with Nyx (from Cruel Beauty, I’ve got to compare). She seemed a bit detached from the setting, even though she was the main character. The side characters were even harder to connect to, specifically Armand. I liked him, but there was nothing about him that really attracted me.

There is a love triangle, and I thought it was unnecessary. Rachelle had no chemistry with Armand, and their romance was rushed. I did like how it contributed to the story (especially towards the end), but it should have progressed more until it became ‘official’. I am conflicted over Rachelle and Erec’s relationship. It’s very “push and pull” at the beginning, but later it gets destructive. The relationship itself is quite scary, but I enjoyed their characters when they were together. Rachelle seemed to feel the strongest (about anything) around him, and Erec was very interesting. He was probably the only character in the book that kept me going until the end.

This might be just me, but I thought the last few chapters (where it all comes together) kind of dragged. I experienced this with Cruel Beauty, and I honestly think it’s because of the complicated nature of the plot and story-line. I was so tired by the end of this book, I just wanted to get it finished. Weirdly enough, I actually enjoyed the last few chapters. It was legitimately interesting, and I could totally connect to the characters better in those pages than throughout the whole book. One star is added to the rating because of the last few chapters.

Overall, I would suggest this to anyone who likes complicated and fleshed out world-building, and is a fan of the fantasy genre (specifically Rosamund Hodge). Unfortunately, Crimson Bound was just not for me.


Books, YA Fiction

How To Save A Life, by Sara Zarr


5 Stars

“It’s just so out of control. Life, I mean. The way it flies off in all these different directions without your permission.”

Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.

I have no idea why I picked this book up. Teen pregnancies in books, television, or movies are something I don’t want to deal with, especially when loss of a loved one is thrown into the mix. I guess I was in a depressing mood that day at the school library (as always), or I needed something desperately to read (as always). But, Sara Zarr has proven to me that some of the most overdone subjects can always be turned into a heartbreaking and realistic piece of work when in the hands of a good writer. How To Save A Life was exceptional.

The entirety of the novel was utterly honest and sincere. It is not a heavy book, as one would expect. Although the novel revolves around a dark concept, the story in itself seemed almost quiet with an emotional but uplifting undertone. The writing is pretty clean, it’s not flowery, but rather raw and pure.

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