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My Throat an Open Grave

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Member Reviews

I absolutely loved Not Good For Maidens by Tori Bovalino, so when I saw the cover of My Throat an Open Grave, I wanted to read it right away. I have to say, I’ve read quite a few books in under 48 hours over the years, but it has been a long time since I’ve read one in under 24 hours, but that was the case with My Throat an Open Grave.

First off, the lore behind the story was so compelling. The main character, Leah, lives in a small, religious town and has heard stories of the Lord of the Woods since childhood. Every several years, a child goes missing, and a woman is ultimately sent after the baby to “pay for her sins.” When Leah’s baby brother is taken by the LoW, her mother sends her after him, turning the whole town against her.

From the start, the myth of the Lord of the Woods was compelling, but what hooked me even more was a sharp sense of empathy and injustice for Leah. She didn’t even want a baby brother, why should she have to go after him?

Similarly, Leah copes with depression and suicidal thoughts throughout the story, which I thought Bovalino did an exceptional job of depicting. I definitely recommend reading this book when you’re in a good headspace because the depressive atmosphere is very immersive, which made the story feel more realistic.

Finally, Leah’s relationship with Tristan added a lot to the story and felt right for the story. I also appreciated the social justice messages tied into the story. As a whole, My Throat an Open Grave is a must read, regardless of whether you’re typically a fan of horror.

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This book had a captivating start with beautiful writing. The FMC Leah lives in the town Winston where people go to live and aren't destined for anything. We see religious aspects in this book and Leah questioning it because of how her life is turning out. She doesn't quite fit in with the other people like the students at her school as she doesn't see eye to eye with the life that they are living. Her parent, her teachers, and the community were supposed to be her guide and steer her in the right direction, but it seems they have given up on Leah and the others. When Leah's baby brother is taken by the Lord of the Woods, it is up to Leah to bring him back.

I found the book to be a little repetitive. There was also a continuous switch between Leah's decision where she's compliant to doing what the Lord of the Woods wants to being defiant. Overall, this book didn't meet my standards that I was expecting from the cover and synopsis. It leaned more towards the younger side of YA, with some of the common tropes you can expect from that. I will say there were lots of important messages the author incorporated into the book with the themes explored.

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haunting and atmospheric, this book grabs you by the throat and pulls you along for one hell of a ride

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I enjoyed this book, and really appreciated the labyrinth vibes it was giving off, along with the main plot and mystery which was compelling. I loved the romance, which is what kept me reading, and the gothic vibes it encapciliated.

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Tori Bovalino is an auto buy author for me. Tori walks the line between horror and the fantastical, and her words have a way of getting underneath your skin.

My Throat an Open Grave is a folk horror tribute to the Labyrinth, where a young girl wishes her brother away to the Lord of the Wood.

I loved the premise and aspects of this book but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as her other works. It felt a little flat and I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Some aspects that will likely appeal to other readers:
- Cottagegore vibes
- Enemies to lovers.
- Blood magic.
- Sacrifices.
- Found family.

Thank you NetGalley and Page Street Publishing for my eARC!

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Folkloric, full of interesting stories and fates. Beautifully twisty and turny, with a main character who wants to feel loved and a love interest who would do anything to give that. Wonderful story about a girl wanting to get back at a town that wronged her, and a boy who wants to prove he isn’t the person he’s made out to be.

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And here's another one to add to my favorites!

When I originally saw this cove and read that it was likened to Labyrinth, I 𝒊𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒅𝒊𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒚 knew I needed to read this one! Labyrinth is one of my favorite movies, and while the plotline was very similar, this book was uniquely its own.

I loved Leah as a character. She was imperfect and broken and very related. She had cult-like religion shoved down her throat her whole life and was still strong enough to come out more intact than before. She was strong even though she struggled a lot with feeling unworthy of any love, kindness, or acceptance. She was selfish and selfless and found unlikely friends and a place to call home along her journey.

The LoW was also a great character. Similar to The Goblin King, but with his own reasons and secrets. (no spoilers) But I loved him. 🖤

And Ruth!!! 🫶🏻 She was my favorite. I loved everything about her character!

There were ghosts, found family, a twist I didn't see coming, and so much more. The atmosphere was so good! I could picture myself in the Hollow with all its people, and I wanted to jump in on the mystery solving.

It was imperfectly perfect, and that's what made it so great. Our FMC was not perfect, but she was able to find happiness in her "shortcomings." I think that is all we can hope for in life. To understand and overcome our "mistakes." Find the people who love and accept us for who we are and strive to help us be the best versions of ourselves.

All the stars!

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4.5 rounded up.
This is a very unusual book that covers a lot of common themes in YA. Leah lives in a small town and is under constant pressure, like all the other girls in her town, to be a Good Girl. She is convinced, like many other girls, that she is not good at all. The town has an interesting solution to keep the girls good, and it's this solution that makes the book so good.

There is a monster in the woods across the river that takes people--mainly babies and girls who are Not Good. Rumors swirl around this Lord of the Wood. Maybe he eats them, maybe they are forced to join his cult...maybe he will allow one of the girls to return if only they are sorry enough for living such sinful lives.

Leah's best friend Jess is the BEST best friend a girl could ask for, and her love really shines as Leah tries to make sense of why the LoW stole her baby brother, and how she will be able to get him back.

I really enjoyed Leah's journey through this book, and loved where she ended up. We don't all have a monster living across the river, but this books shows us who the real monsters are--and that they are more prevalent than we think. Bovalino explores the idea of purity culture and what it means to sin with a thoughtfulness that doesn't feel preachy. She is tender with her characters and their struggles, and it makes the reader feel like they should be tender with their own struggles too.

There are descriptions of horror that might be a bit graphic for some, and the romance is a touch spicy, but nothing that a teen couldn't handle. I'd recommend it to fans of wither genre,and to those looking to branch out.

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Quite different to what I normally read but I fell in love with Toris writing in In These Hallowed Halls and really enjoyed watching this story unfold

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I’ll just start off by saying this – if I could give more than 5 stars, I would. I LOVED this book – I didn’t want to read anything else afterwards and that’s not a feeling I usually get after reading a story. I devoured this but at the same time wanted it to last forever. This book is a solid reminder that not all monsters are the ones you thought you knew.

The small town of Winston was like an exaggeration of my own small town and its beliefs. It hit close to home and gave this book a truthful razor-sharp edge. Leah is so outwardly steadfast in her loyalty to a town that repeatedly shuts her out that it seems recovering her brother is her only way towards redemption – in the eyes of her mother and the town itself. The plot twists in this book were unexpected except an inkling I had towards the end of the book.

I’m not sure how much I believe all that—I’m not a science person—but I get that water is a buffer. It has a smothering effect. And down here, it’s like I can think whatever I want, scream and shout and put my brain through the worst and most terrible thoughts, and it doesn’t escape besides a few bubbles to the surface. No one ever heard me, when I was under water: not Mom or Dad or Grammy, not Jess, not even God.

It’s safe. It’s peaceful. It’s like a quiet home for all of the worst parts of me.

Beyond thankful to TBR & Beyond Tours for choosing me to be on this tour for yet another spectacular book. Thank you to TBR & Beyond Tours, Page Street YA, and Tori Bovalino for the gifted egalley and physical copies of my favorite read of January. If you like dark, haunting, feminist fairy tale stories then I can’t recommend reading this book enough. This book will echo within my soul for a long time – all opinions in this review are my own.

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I did not finish reading this book. I read a lot of fantasy, including some YA. There are YA books that definitely have adult crossover appeal, and there are YA books that definitely do not. This book falls into the latter camp. It just felt so juvenile. I'm clearly not the audience for this book. I gave it 2 stars because I think that it will appeal to teenagers, and NetGalley requires a star-rating in order to send feedback.

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I simultaneously could not put it down and was beyond disappointed to be done reading it.

My Top 5 Reasons to Read::

A gripping, terrifying read you will not want to put down!!!!
A place where “even the mundane is a mystery.”
The power of words and song.
The battle between good and evil, but who defines it?

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Thanks to Tori Bovalino and Page Street Publishing for sending me a complimentary copy through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. This doesn’t affect my thoughts about the book in any way.

Perfect for fans of Darcy Coates, My Throat An Open Grave is a heartbreaking paranormal thriller set in the small town of Winston, Pennsylvania. Growing up, Leah Jones, like every other kid in their religiously conservative town, was taught to fear the Lord of The Wood, an evil entity who believers say takes unholy, corrupt girls. Therefore, she takes on the responsibility of taking care of her younger brother Owen after school to live up to the church’s standards and be the good girl everyone expects her to. But one night, Owen is suddenly taken in his crib after she falls asleep. Carrying the guilt for the loss of her brother, Leah determinedly ventures into the woods in the hopes of bringing him back. However, she soon discovers that her town is hiding something… and it involves the mystery behind all those missing girls.

What I really liked about this book was the inherently human characters. I easily felt anger and sympathy through me while reading it and how this book explicitly tackles religious trauma from the Christian church and their lack of compassion for women’s autonomy and reproductive rights. This was my first Tori Bovalino book, and she is excellent at painting a naturally chilling, gloomy, and agonizing atmosphere with beautiful lore. I thought I was going insane reading this. The twists in this book were truly unexpected and will pull you in deeper as you go further into the book. As I see it, I loved how My Throat An Open Grave tells a story of reclaiming one’s life and autonomy and acknowledging grief.

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Not going to lie, I was enjoying My Throat an Open Grave. I love when a character has to re-examine the rhetoric they've grown up surrounded in. Especially if they have to discover their sense of worth. But when I got to the twist, I screamed and fell in love. Bovalino's recent release is a book about the desires of girls. Of their bodies being turned against themselves. A society, a culture, a community which seeks to enforce rigid standards of 'purity' and 'goodness' for only some. Beginning with this, My Throat an Open Grave packs a punch.

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If you are a fan of dark, gothic, horror, and the classic 80’s movie The Labyrinth, this may be a good read for you. Leah wants nothing more than to be a “good girl” and for her mother to love her. She goes to church on Sundays, and when she isn’t at school, she takes care of the house and her brother while her mom is working. However, there is a folklore tale which permeates the town of Winston; if she isn’t good and perfect, she will be taken by the Lord of the Woods. With the way she is treated, I ( as the reader) wonder if it wouldn’t be a better life.

There is quite a bit of emotional neglect and abuse as Leah received almost no level of support from anyone around her except her best friend. When her brother, Owen, goes missing on her watch, she is sent into the woods to either return with him or to not return at all.

At some points this was a hard book to read only for the fact Leah was so broken by the way the town of Winston treated her, that she could not see when she deserved more than the bare minimum when it came to attention, care, and affection. I thought it was well paced and I think the atmosphere was perfect for a cold winter day. I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. I give it about 4.5 stars for keeping me engaged and for triggering those memories of one of my favorite films.

I will also be posting a video review on my Youtube channel: Coffee, Books, and Rain

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My Throat an Open Grave
by Tori Bovalino
Pub Date: 20 Feb 2024

My Throat an Open Grave” by Tori Bovalino is a YA horror novel set small town of small town of Winston, Pennsylvan
Winston, Pennsylvania is a deeply religious community that is heavily involved in systematic gender inequality.
We follow seventeen year old Leah who’s home life is troubled. She finds herself in a constant struggle to maintain the unattainable standards that have been placed on women in her small community. The responsibility of taking care of her little brother lays heavily on her shoulders.
When a terrible thing happens when Owen’s crying is inconsolable and Leah wishes her brother away. She finds herself tasked by the religious authorities to rescue her little brother from the clutches of Lord of the Wood. But not everything she was told is true about the lord of the Wood and she is surprised by what she actually finds.
A moving folk horror tale that had me glued to the pages. I was easily able to connect with the MC Leah, and the writing was solid. The found family is always one of my favorite troupes. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a great cottage core tale with a deeper meaning strung through out the storyline.

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I had to try My Throat an Open Grave by Tori Bovalino when I heard that it was based on The Labyrinth movie, and I'm glad I did!

This YA novel is darker and more violent than the movie, but follows the theme of a young women owning her power. Leah is battling deep religious trauma and parental emotional/verbal abuse. I enjoyed watching her grow as she battles to find her baby brother.

This really shows how harmful and hateful some religions can be, and how twisted the followers and leaders of these religions can be.

The graphic portrayals of animal death and gore were a bit much, so definitely check the trigger warnings for this book, but Leah's triumph will have you so excited!

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Combining whimsy, darkness, and acute emotional depth, this narrative has the power to delve into your soul, tighten its grip, and comfortably settle within. Not to mention - the title is most definitely on POINT!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!

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Book Review

Title: My Throat an Open Grave by Tori Bovalino

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The opening of My Throat an Open Grave was interesting and while not necessarily intriguing it presents a creepy premise. We are introduced to Leah Jones who lives in the town of Winston which seems to be cursed/haunted by something called the Lord of the Woods. The Lord of the Woods steals children from the town and being the religious zealots they seem to be, the town sends those responsible for the loss of the children after them but none have ever returned.

We can see that Leah doesn’t have a good home-life since something happened in her past which drastically altered her relationship with her family and the town. I believe this event also made her social as she thinks about it more than once. One night while she is caring for her baby brother he is taken while Leah is sleeping and her mother is furious when she finds out. At dawn Leah is taken to the Pastor and cleaned before being sent into the woods. Even at this point I had ideas that the evil is in the town not the woods as there are creepy vibes from several men that Leah has encountered so far but I don’t really know what is happening. During the cleansing it seems Leah is transported to an alternate dimension where the Lord of the Woods lives. Upon entering the woods she walks for hours without encountering anyone but soon meets a boy Tristan who takes her to where she needs to go. Upon arriving she is cleaned again before being presented to the Lord of the Woods at twilight and he is Tristan.

Tristan explains that he didn’t steal Owen but he was offered by Leah and now she wants him back which means she has to bargain. Leah offers to write him a song in exchange for Owen which he accepts, the terms of the deal give Leah one moon cycle to complete her end of the bargain but it isn’t going to be simple. If she doesn’t complete the task she will be bound to Tristan’s realm which she agrees to. During her first few days there, Leah tries her best to begin composing her song but nothing seems to come easy to her as she tries to understand the world around her but nothing makes sense. After Tristan takes her to see Owen for the first time since her arrival, it brings the truth rushing to Leah that she offers Owen to Tristan and he was unable to resist even though he tries staying away for months before eventually giving in to the compulsion.

It seems that Tristan’s land and Leah’s exist on different planes of time meaning when she crosses the river back to her world she is essentially a ghost and ghosts or echoes also exist in the forest. One goat Leah encounters is Maria, another girl sent into the forest but she learns that Maria completed her bargain and returned but it was never enough. Given everything we have learnt I’m thinking that Maria returned home with her baby but she was murdered by the people of Winston before her baby was given to someone else to raise. Even at halfway through I have so many questions about the different worlds, the things that happened in Leah’s past and the suspicious number of references to death, dying and suicide. I do have to say though that the pace of this book is much faster than The Devil Makes Three which had a slow start but it is equally compelling.

Honestly at this point I don’t think the novel knows what it wants to be since until this point it has been a version of labyrinth with some darker elements and some very slight religious ones. Now it has huge religious theme, the labyrinth tale and a potential murder mystery all thrown together with little cohesion between them. From Bovalino’s first book I think her speciality lies in her simplicity and this is definitely too complex of a narrative for her writing style to really shine. I think if it had just been a labyrinth story or a paranormal mystery then it would have been better and I also could have done without the heavy religious elements unless there’s actually a point to it. We still aren’t even close to getting any answers to the mountains of questions I have which has me concerned since there are only 100 pages left. To round this book off nicely it will have to be an outstanding ending that blows me away to get anywhere above a 3 stars.

The ending actually helped redeem some of the book especially where the confused plot was concerned as it finally made sense by religious, fantasy and horror were all coming together but I still felt the book didn’t know what it intended to be until the end. I wish that the elements surrounding the murder mystery were brought in earlier as well as understanding the relationship between Leah and Owen as that would have helped understand Leah as a character. Overall, it was a good book with some important message but I’d still recommend The Devil Makes Three over this.

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Haunting, atmospheric, and beautifully written, MY THROAT AN OPEN GRAVE is a fantastic tale that blends folk horror, romance, spooky forests, and cult vibes, all of which I adore. I loved the small town Pennsylvania setting and the belief that if girls don’t adhere to the town’s strict standards, they’ll be taken by the Lord of the Woods. ⁣

The religious aspect was wonderfully written and I loved the toxicity and the cult-like feel it gave me. This particular sect of religion is dripping with misogyny, with the female population being held to a much higher standard than the male population. This is a tale spooks and thrills, but there’s also a lot of life lessons hidden in the tale. ⁣

Leah was such a wonderfully relatable character, and I loved how much she grows from beginning to end. I adored her journey, both literally and figuratively — she’s on a quest to find her brother, and she manages to find herself along the way. This is very much a dark tale, but the addition of romance between Leah and a certain someone really helped to brighten things up just a little. I’m on a recent hot streak with 5 star reads, and I’m thrilled to add this one to that streak. Definitely pick this one up if you’re a fan of:⁣

⁣⁣⁣➽ Gothic, atmospheric reads⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Folklore and folk horror⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Cottagecore vibes ⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Spooky woods⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Eerie small towns⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Cult-like religion ⁣
⁣⁣⁣➽ Coming of age tales

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