Cover Image: Belladonna

Belladonna

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Member Reviews

When I entered this book, I was not expecting to be transported into a gothic-rich world. The mystery aspect of this book was a surprise to me since I entered this believing it would be a high-fantasy. Although it was a surprise, I found myself absorbed into the storyline. I found Signa's stubbornness endearing and I thought Death's patience with her soothing. Death was not a love interest I was ever expecting. Signa and Death's relationship felt insta-love at times, but I understand why Death had such a fascination with Signa. Adalyn Grace surprised me her first duology, All the Stars and Teeth, yet her writing just keeps getting better. I am also partially biased since she is also from the same city as me. Overall, Belladonna is a great start to the series.

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Belladonna felt a bit slow for my taste or what I was looking for at the time and after putting it down for a few months, I didn't feel like returning to it. I will probably give it another go at a later time though.

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Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for granting me free access to the advanced digital copy of this book.

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5/5⭐️
Honestly this book was not what I expected. I wasn’t familiar with the author and I was intrigued by the cover. I did not even read the description. But oh the surprise and delight that was reading this book. Immediately the book has a very catching opening and hooks you in like roots curling in the earth.

I thoroughly enjoyed an entity, such as Death, being the love interest. I love how unpredictable this book was for me. I enjoyed the intrigue and mystery. The antagonist completely blindsided me! The book made me laugh, smile, blush and cry. I did find some repetitive phrases that I noticed, but other than that, nothing disturbed my consumption of this book. Thank you NetGalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read this wonderful book.

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Orphaned as a baby, 19-year-old Signa has lived with a string of guardians. All of them mysteriously died while caring for Signa. Her only constant companion during her lonely 19 years is Death himself. Finally, a long-lost and estranged relative - The Hawthornes - invites Signa to live with them. Here, Signa meets the ghost of her recently deceased aunt, who claims she was poisoned. Signa’s cousin is suffering from the same symptoms. To solve her aunt’s mystery and save her cousin, she must form unlikely alliances.

What I loved:
✨Blended Genre: YA Fantasy + Mystery + Romance = imaginative world-building, paranormal and gothic elements that added to both the world-building and mystery, and a solid Sherlock Holmes-style mystery. All set in the mid-1800s.
✨Signa: Great character development! Early on, Signa is confused, timid, and naive. She doesn’t quite understand two things about herself: why she sees spirits and why she can’t die. As the story proceeds, Signa embraces her powers, becoming bolder and wiser. Even though she still makes some immature decisions (after all, she still is only 19!), I’m excited to see her continued growth throughout this series.
✨Narration: Kristin Atherton perfectly performs multiple characters, bringing each one personality, charisma, and an air of historical charm. I don’t know how she does it, but Death is HOT!!! 🔥 Seriously - *Swoon* I only hope that Kristin narrates the rest of the series. I highly, highly recommend this format!!!

The final twist and cliffhanger perfectly set up book 2, which comes out this summer: August 22, 2023! CANNOT WAIT!!!

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Solid romantasy from Adalyn Grace with expert gothic fantasy vibes. I knew what I was getting myself into with a romance with Death, and the book didn't disappoint.

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One of my absolute favorite books. The mystery was thrilling and the setting was so beautiful and gothic.

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Finally, I have a review of this book. I absolutely loved it! The mystery, the romance, the newfound family; all of it made my heart so happy. The atmosphere was everything, I loved the ghostly, gothic vibes. The plot was wonderfully spooky. I cannot recommend this book enough. Looking forward to Book 2 - Foxglove!

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This isn’t exactly a terrible book but there’s two major things from keeping it from being good.

The first is the lack of plot movement. There was very little solving of Blythe’s poisoning. There was some investigation but little was learned ever. Mostly there was just a big reveal at the end that made sense but didn’t make you say, ah I see how all the pieces fit.

The second was Signa’s relationship with death. Which was creepy on two levels. It was firstly creepy because, death, in this world where the only supernatural being are Death and Fate. Secondly the way Death was originally like a uncle/father figure and became her lover. Like I was just no ok with that. Also the way she went to hate to love for dead in a matter of seconds with no real lead up was unrealistic.

The ending makes me wonder if this will be a series.

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I apologize for waiting until now to submit a "review." Goodness it probably means nothing at this point.

Long and short of it, I had a love-hate relationship with this read. I loved the premise, I loved the beginning. But it went down fast with the characters, pacing, and all around prose here.

-Characters: Signa was ok--kinda slow on the uptake, but I didn't dislike her or anything. Her "I don't need to fit in society's mold!!!1" was trite, but fine for a YA audience. Death was an utter disappointment. For being the embodiment of a FORCE OF NATURE...he was no different from any other brooding teenage heartthrob. I laughed every time he called Signa "Little Bird." Can someone direct Ms. Grace to the Tony Pizza copypasta so she can understand why that diminutive is so unserious? The other side characters were fine--nothing of note, but they got the job done. I will say though! I DO like the end of Signa's character arc when she's more comfortable in her skin. It seems like she'll be a more enjoyable perspective to read in book 2.

-Pacing: Again, the beginning was engaging until Signa arrived at the manor. Then everything slowed to a crawl. Sometimes scenes had the gothic atmosphere Ms. Grace was going for, but I was already bored from prior "Signa Tries To Fit In" scenes that I didn't care when the supposed Good Shit was happening. God, the middle portion was so slow in such an unforeboding way. The climax couldn't come fast enough

-Prose: This irritated me the most. Is this just how YA prose is now? We gotta hold our precious baby reader's hand to ///tell/// them exactly how Signa's feeling as she slowly adds 1 and 1 together to get 2 like the big, smart girl that she is? I'm sorry, I didn't know I was reading Gothic Blue's Clues. Trust your readers more.

-Romance/Relationship: A quick bonus section that could be attached to the characters section but whatever. It was underwhelming. Signa's fickle "I hate him or maybe I don't~?" with Death was irksome. I get she's still young and awkward--a real late bloomer in social development. I get that. Doesn't make it a pleasure to read. And when she was figuring out her attraction to "Sylas," it would be happening at the most inopportune times. Like, you gonna get sidetracked by Sylas' big, strong arms NOW, girl? it was such an eye-rolling distraction that took me out of whatever scene I was reading. Her and Death's romance was shallow as hell. I've seen people complain about how Death was intrigued by Signa's immortality since she was a baby an "eww, how pedo!!1, what a groomer!!11" But that label would imply that he had enough of a presence in her life to influence her feelings for him. And no, he was just a creeper in a shadows who never approached her until he deemed her old enough by OUR PRESENT DAY MORAL STANDARDS.

And that's just boring. What a boring ass foundation to be working off of. But that fits for this boring book I guess.

Thank you for the ARC. I dunno if I'll ever make a video on it anytime soon--it's so damn uninspiring. I hope book 2 finds its footing though.

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Belladonna sounds like a lush, decadent, gothic fantasy dream, but unfortunately I found it too cheesy, obvious, and clunky in its prose to enjoy very much. Plot details didn't quite hang together, Signa's character feels all over the place, and it's trying sooo hard to be a certain type of gothic-sexy, without having the sensuality or chemistry that requires. Somehow, the corporeal manifestation of Death as a love interest is...dull and corny. That takes doing.

(Also, the quantity of The Secret Garden details and similarities would be fine if it was acknowledged, but it's weird without that! The main mystery plot line is literally just doing The Secret Garden, names and all!)

There are some vibes, there's the decadent gothic aesthetic I guess (although it's been done better elsewhere)... but the plot is a mess, the characters are annoying, and the writing is flat. I won't be bothering to read the sequel.

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

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This is the first book I read by Adalyn Grace. This books reminded me of Bridgerton, a classic murder mystery, with a some reaper magic.

I haven't read that have death magic or deals with reapers. It was refreshing magic system for YA fantasy.
I adore Signa, and cannot wait to see what her future holds in the sequel, Foxglove.

There was plenty of twists and turns in this book, some I was quite surprised about, and maybe one or two I caught on early but was still pleasantly enjoyed.

I really liked Adalyn's writing and her ability to make characters/world pop off the page.

I can't wait to read more of Adalyn's books.

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Please note that I will not be counting this towards my reading challenge goal and that I DNFed it after the first chapter, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. 😂

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for a copy of this book for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

My immediate thoughts upon starting this were that I liked the writing style! It reminded me of This Vicious Grace writing, but then it started feeling like a crossover with A Series of Unfortunate Events. On the first page, I was raising my eyebrows like "A baby was smart enough to sense *what now*?"

That had me feeling a little skeptical, although it is 'explained' on the next page, so when (this is all in the synopsis, but feel free to skip this paragraph for spoilers!) the narrator says the baby should be dead because she has is full of poisoned breastmilk, I was like ???? If the mother dying was meant to be belladonna (which maybe there is a very slow poison and it wasn't belladonna???) and all of the party also died immediately, this does track because "Apparently works within seconds to cause unconsciousness and kills within 2-3 minutes at most." but then... how is the baby full of poison? Google says it takes 1-24 hours for what a mother eats to enter her breastmilk?? She wasn't even feeding the baby on page?? Anyways, I was laughing at that, and I finished the prologue even more confused because it seemed like the narrator tried to say the baby was crying because she could sense Death was on his way, but then later says she was so calm because Death didn't scare her? Who knows, I was still laughing.

I jokingly sent "If XXX is the romantic interest, I'm DNFing (:" to a friend but then.... I Googled again... and read some pretty disgusting quotes/scenes between them, so I am, in fact, out. (:

Pros: this cover was gorgeous. Truly, even the naked cover is breathtaking. I felt a twinge of sadness that I wouldn't want this book on my shelves.

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When a girl is born unable to die, she catches Death's interest. Orphaned young, Signa is passed from guardian to guardian in her extended family, the specter of Death taking some and scaring off others. When Sygna accidentally dispatches the latest herself, she finds that at her new home, Death has for once preceded her rather than dogging her footsteps. Thorn Grove is in disarray, mourning the matriarch of the family, Lilian. Elijah Hawthorne throws parties to drown out the sounds of his late, beloved wife's ghost. Their son, Percy, searches for responsibility to fill his empty days. And Blythe wastes away from the same illness that took her mother. Except Signa learns from Lilian's ghost that it isn't an illness at all, but poison. The furious ghost and Signa's own curiosity compel her to investigate the murderous plot and save her cousin.

One of the best parts of the book for me is Signa's character arc. After growing up largely alone and unloved, Signa thinks she wants the high society life her mother once had, sparkling with friends and a handsome husband. But the more she experiences at Thorn Grove, the more she finds herself suited to rebelling against society's strictures and to her newfound abilities borrowed from Death. It turns out that being polite and dainty is quite exhausting, whereas the rush of power is sweet.

On the other hand, the romance of the book features a love triangle that includes Death Himself so prepare for some emo vibes. A little ~too~ emo for this reader, to be honest. In contrast, I loved cousin Blythe's announcement that she intends to never marry so she can live wild and free. Sounds amazing.

In terms of the mystery, I fell for a red herring, and as strange as it sounds, I enjoy being tricked, so that was a welcome surprise. The mystery quickly lost its charm for me early on, lacking the eery suspense or psychological oomph to leave me on the edge of my seat. Getting a twist at the end didn't rectify the situation, but it did leave things on a pleasant note.

In the end, this ya fantasy offers an ok romance and an ok mystery, but Signa's journey has a strong message. For those who like the drama of a love triangle or the angst of being so misunderstood that dating Death is the best option, I think this book will have great appeal. Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for my copy to read and review!

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This gothic read with an unlikely romance was the perfect ya fantasy of last year. This has to be one of my favorite romance mysteries of the ya genre, and I can't wait to see what else Adayln Grace comes up with. I have now read this story thrice, and I notice something different that I didn't see before every time. The way the writing captures your attention and has you on the edge of your seat makes this book fast-paced and able to read in one sitting. This is the perfect story to help you escape your reading slump. I loved the romance with this one and the parties of an orphan trying to solve a murder to save her cousin. This one should be on everyone's TBR.

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I absolutely devoured this gothic romance about orphan Signa and her connection to Death. From the opening pages of the novel when the reader is thrust into the lavish and celebratory party that Signa’s mother is throwing, to the end when one mystery is solved only to have another present itself, I could not put this book down. This book was everything that I could’ve wanted in a gothic romance with a mystery and paranormal underpinning to it all.

Signa was such a fun and complex character to lead the reader on this strange journey between the living and the dead. From Signa’s first introduction as an infant when she is orphaned under terrible circumstances to the young woman she grows into who wants nothing more than to be a proper lady of society who is both well educated as well as up to date on the proper etiquette in the hopes of finding a husband and the lasting and loving home she has always yearned for, I couldn’t help but understand why Death would find her such a fascinating human. It was this bizarre and unique connection between Signa and Death that I found myself most interested in and drawn to and one that much like Signa I wished for them to explore more of.

I loved the writing and descriptiveness in this book and the pacing was spot on as there was never a moment where I felt as though the story was lagging behind. While the mystery of who the murderer is and why is resolved, I found myself being left with so many more questions about Signa, her parentage, Death the how fate potentially plays a role in Signa’s life and the lives of those around her; that these questions coupled with the “Nooooo! What do you mean that’s how the story ends and I have to wait until next year for the next book?!?” have left me hoping that these answers will be answered in the next book and that there will be many more books to come in this series as I can’t imagine it ever coming to an end and having to one day say goodbye to these characters.

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After many put-downs, I FINALLY finished this.

Gotta start with the pros right? Signa. is THE main character. Her development is incredible and she loves so ferociously that it's beautifully tragic. Her relationship with Death did not sell me at first... but then I found myself holding my breath until they interacted again. (Also was that plot twist totally obvious or was it just me?)

I will preface this by saying, I really did enjoy Grace's writing style. But oh my gooodddnessss was this slow and boring. I am not joking when I say I fell asleep multiple times while reading. I just truly couldn't care less about Signa's lessons and introduction to society. Not to mention the murder mystery that seemed to drag on forever and a day.

SO overall... characters fun, book boring?

I have no idea if I'll pick up book two. I'll probably wait until book three is out at least because that cliffhanger was not fun!

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Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for the ARC of this!

This somehow got pushed to my backlog and I have no idea why I allowed that to happen. It was SO AMAZING. I love books where Death is a character, and there was so much action and suspense and light creepies.

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Two reasons why I won't be finishing this book:
1. It involved a romantic relationship between "death" who is thousands of years old, and the 19-year-old girl he's been watching since she was a BABY. Labeling it as a forbidden romance doesn't change the predatory and grooming undertones.
2. It's boring.

This is extremely disappointing because I'm a huge fan of the All the Stars and Teeth duology by this author, and the cover of this book is gorgeous.

DNF @ page 102

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait for the sequel! My only complaints were that the characters could have been more strongly developed and at times, the plot seemed to drag. 4 stars!

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