Summary: Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds. Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her. Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut is a dark and thrilling novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.
Review: Generally, I start my reviews with a bit of a summary of the story in my own words. Well, I can’t do that with this review because I honestly have no idea what just happened. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. I felt like the story itself wasn’t super fast-paced (until the end anyway) but it still felt like I flew through the story. I think part of this is because I was so confused and filled with questions that I just needed to keep going so I could get some answers. I gave this book 4 stars, but honestly, I’m still so confused. The story follows Eleanor after she flees her boarding school and returns home to a family she hasn’t seen in almost ten years. Her family is filled with monsters and she is missing quite a few important pieces of her memory. The things that Eleanor couldn’t remember was one of the more frustrating aspects of this book because it clear that her family remembers more than she does, but because she’s been gone so long with no communication from anyone aside from her grandmother, there’s a lot of distrust between all of them. Eleanor’s grandfather, sister, father, and cousin are werewolves (they’re never called that because their origin is a whole other thing. But they’re basically werewolves). Her paternal grandmother (the one that sent her away in the first place) is a witch of some sort and her mother is hinted to be something, but it’s never really addressed. Now, with all of this, it was easy to assume that Eleanor was also something, but we didn’t know what exactly that was. This was one of the big plot lines of the book. What is Eleanor? Well, we learn that what she is played a big part of everything that’s happened to her. So, the things that I liked about this story were many. Despite being confused as heck for most of this story, I was interested. The setting was atmospheric and vivid. The author did an excellent job with stunning imagery. I liked seeing Eleanor uncomfortable. I think this was because I didn’t really like Eleanor. She doesn’t make good choices (her grandmother gives her advice on her death bed and Eleanor basically never thinks about it again even though following that advice would have saved her from literally everything in this book). But what compelled me to continue on in this story was that I couldn’t help but understand why Eleanor did the things she did. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with her even though I didn’t really like her. There were some things that were so clear to the reader that Eleanor didn’t want to see them, so she didn’t. But with her backstory, it was easy to understand why she was this way. I loved all of the fantasy/horror elements. The monsters and the magic, the stories that we heard the family tell, it was all so creepy in the best way. I also really loved Margaret. She’s Eleanor’s aunt. I liked the slow development of the relationship from actively disliking one another to finding themselves on the same side and working together. Margaret doesn’t speak and doesn’t like to be spoken to, so we get some fun charades scenes. I would have liked to have gotten a bit more from some of the other characters though. We got a lot of Arthur (a family friend) because he is a love interest. I think the ‘romance’ was absolutely not needed for this story to work. Romance is in quotes because there was a sort of happily ever after that I didn’t really care for. I would have totally been okay with all the other bits of the ‘romance’ if they hadn’t gotten that HEA moment, especially after learning all the details of Arthur’s backstory. We didn’t get much from Eleanor’s cousin and sister other than the fact that they were spoiled adults that acted like children because they’d been given or had taken anything they had ever wanted or needed. Overall, this was a wild ride that was spooky, creepy, scary, and a whole bunch of other things. I think it was written well. But sometimes there was just a bit too much going on. I loved all the monsters and magic and mayhem. I will definitely be reading more work by Szabo.
Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.
But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.
Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?
The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. Review:
First, I want to say a huge thank you to my wonderful friend over at Books in the Skye for gifting me the audiobook for Burn Our Bodies Down for my birthday. I found a new narrator that I really enjoy and this story was wonderfully weird. The story follows Margot as she’s searching for answers. She lives with her mother and has never known any other family. She wants to know who her family is and what her mother is hiding. She absolutely gets more than she bargained for.
Margot was a really interesting character. Her drive was just to find her family, to find someone that would show that they loved her. She just wanted her mother to choose her. I don’t think I really understood her though. When she finds and goes to her grandmother, she gets almost the same treatment as she did when she was with her mother. Her mother and grandmother both lied and hid things from her. I understood her desire to ferret out the secrets that she knew were hiding in her grandmother’s home, but I personally would have gotten the hell out of there and written off the whole family.
Overall, this book was spectacularly creepy. I didn’t see the end coming and it was absolutely disturbing. The mystery and suspense kept me going. I loved that Margot was a lesbian, but there wasn’t really any romance in the story. She made a friend, but there wasn’t a romance plotline and I appreciated that. I definitely cannot wait to see what Rory Power comes out with next.
GoodReads Summary: Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented. As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears…. Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid? Review: Horrid was one of my most anticipated releases for the spooky season. I’m really upset to say that I was very disappointed with this book. This book was another that was completely ruined by the ending. I am going to have a bit of a spoiler rant after the last paragraph. I will clearly label when I start with spoiler complaints. So, this story follows Jane and her mother Ruth as they move from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere Maine. This is a huge adjustment for Jane. But she’s also dealing with the grief of losing her father. This grief is a huge part of the story and I really appreciated that. It wasn’t just her father is gone, but it really talked about what that meant for Jane. Her father was the one that could help her calm her rage. Now that he’s gone, she’s fallen back into old coping mechanisms: eating pages out of books. This aspect of her character was weird but I sort of understood it on a comfort level. I liked Jane. I felt bad for her, but I liked her. I didn’t like how she clearly knew something was wrong with North Manor (where she and her mother had just moved into) but she wasn’t willing to ask for any real answers about it. It felt obvious that something was wrong and everyone in town knew it. I liked Jane’s relationship with her mother, Ruth. She was obviously closer to her father, but the love between Jane and Ruth is clear and I appreciated that they were doing their best to be there for one another. I also really liked the new friends that Jane made. She meets Alana and Susie at school. The three become fast friends. I liked them well enough, but the relationships weren’t too deep. I also like Jane’s friendship with her new boss at the coffee shop/book store, Will (who is also Susie’s older brother). They bond over books and coffee and I liked them even though it wasn’t a very developed relationship. Overall, I enjoyed most of this book. I really liked the spooky aspects, the possibility of a ghost in North Manor. I thought the suspense and the mystery were interesting (though a little obvious). I didn’t love how oblivious Jane was being. She knew there was something wrong in her house and she never pushed when she asked questions and that really bothered me. The ending is what killed my enjoyment of the book. Without spoilers, the book ended at the climax of the story. We’re finally getting all the answers we’ve been searching for the whole story and then we’re still left with so many questions because of the players that were present in the final pages. I’m just really mad about how the story ended and that anger makes it really hard for me to say I liked this book. I felt similarly about Wilder Girls by Rory Power, so if you liked that book, you might like this one. This book has a pretty decent rating on GoodReads, so don’t let this deter you from picking up this book. But if you don’t like unsatisfying endings, this book might not be for you. Now, I’m going to get to spoilers about the ending in the next paragraph. The spoilers are starting now. The final pages have Jane letting someone die, which is essentially murder, at the guidance of her sister ghost. But it’s never really clear whether the ghost is real or not. The ghost was pretty convincing, but there were hints here and there that made the reader think that there might never have been a ghost and it all could have been Jane. What I’m mad about is that we never got any sort of answers. The book literally ends in the climax of the story. Someone dies and the story just ends. The synopsis says “Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?” and the way that the synopsis is written makes it seem like we will find out whether it is one of those three things, but we don’t. We don’t find out what really happened or what happened in the aftermath and I’m very annoyed by this. I’m just angry and sad because I had really high hopes for enjoying this book. Okay, rage complaining is over. Thanks for reading!