Cover Image: My Throat an Open Grave

My Throat an Open Grave

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Member Reviews

Blurb
Leah offers her baby brother to the Lord of the Woods, compelling her mother and the community to send her into the forest to negotiate his return, unearthing hidden town secrets along the way.

Thoughts
I was immediately intrigued by the book’s cover and the blurb relating it to the Labyrinth, although I didn’t find much of a parallel once I dove in. Regardless, I still found this to be a really enjoyable book. It had some depth to it, especially as it explored the FMC’s inner monologue and self-destructive thoughts. Despite the sadness she was experiencing, largely attributed to her dismal town and inhabitants, there was a certain beauty in her emotions that arose from it. I was anticipating a quest-like adventure after reading the blurb but that wasn’t really the focus. The last 80% was where the book gained some momentum and I was racing to finish to find out the final resolution. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eArc of this book.

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I recently finished reading My throat an open grave and I have to say, it was not really what I expected. While the writing was lyrical and immersive, the storyline itself fell flat for me.

I found it difficult to care for the characters, as they didn't seem fully developed, maybe needed more background of Leah's life before the events? Additionally, I was not expecting the love story that was into the plot, which felt forced.

One of my main issues with the book was that it was difficult to follow at times, with a lot of repetitions that made the story drag on and lose my interest. The reveal towards the end was not a surprise at all, as it was rather obvious.

However, I must say that the world-building was intriguing, a dark fairytale setting that was easy to imagine. The descriptives that were used painted a vivid picture in my head that I really enjoyed.

I want to thank Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book, I wish that it would have meet my expectations.

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Thank you so much to Netgalley and PageStreet YA for allowing me access to the advance digital copy of My Throat and Open Grave. An additional thanks goes out to the publisher and Storygram Tours for providing me with a physical ARC copy of the book! This review is entirely my thoughts and opinions based on the two copies provided to me. (Yes, switched between physical and ebook lmao)

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The Appalachian region of the United States is old and full of folklore and tales, some borrowed from the indigenous tribes that have long lived in its shadows, others carried over from the Old World and adapted to its new surroundings. But all of them have changed and grown into something unique, providing excellent backdrops for thrilling Folk horrors such as My Throat an Open Grave.

Leah grew up with those tales, mixed with the fanaticism of the Christian church. Try as she might tho, she just could not measure up to the impossible expectations laid upon her by the adults that surrounded her. So, like many of the other teens around her, she lived in fear of The Lord of the Woods. On a night when all felt wrong and broken, she offered up her baby brother to the Lord of the Woods. And he took her up on that. At the bidding of the adults, she's forced into the woods to go face the Lord of the Woods and claim her brother back from him. But her journey into the woods uncovers mysteries she wasn't expecting, and the opportunity to face the truth.

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My Thoughts:

This was a tough read for me personally. Not because of the story or the writing. No, it was because it felt as if Tori Bovalino had reached back into my childhood and plucked out all the darkness there and gave it a voice and a story. I was Leah. I was a lost, broken teen who wondered if she just stayed under the water long enough, would that solve all her problems? The way the adults treated her, was all to familiar. The insults and unfair expecations thrown at her by her own mother hit too close to home. The willful blindness of the Church and the adults who were supposed to protect her and guide her, was too familiar a tale. The toxic shoving of purity culture down our throats, including the thin silver ring with "true love waits", was exactly as I remember it.

So many of my personal scars and still bleeding wounds from a depressing childhood were laid bare in this story, and then given their own voice, their own story, and a new path to healing. This book felt like Tori was reaching out a hand saying "I know. I see you. I feel you. I understand you. You're not alone. What's been done to you is wrong and there is a path forward into light away from all this".

So, lord do I wish I had this book when I was a broken teenager struggling with suicidal ideation because she was convinced the world would be a better place without her broken, dirty, unwanted, and unloved self. Clearly, as an adult in her mid 30s, I'm out of that place and in therapy and am healing. But still, Tori touched me deeply with this story. So, I applaud Tori for writing the hard story that needed to be told. I hope this book gets into the hands of girls that need it, that need to be shown they are not alone.

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Tori's writing for My Throat an Open Grave hooked me from the first page. If it wasn't for the fact I needed to put the book down occasionally for my own mental health, this could easily have been a one day. I do greatly recommend this story. It broke me, it made me cry for past me. It gave me a good clarifying discussing with my therapist. Its going to be a treasured book on shelves. Even if you don't relate to Leah, this story is an excellent window into youth struggles. I highly recommend it.

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My Throat an Open Grave is a book about a teenager named Leah Jones who often thinks about how she feels better submerged underwater. She lives in a small town that’s suffocating at best and is run by a religious cult at worst. In the whole town of Winston, her only ally is her best friend Jess. But, even with Jess around, Leah still feels out of place in the town she grew up in. And, why shouldn’t she? There is supposedly a Lord of the Wood that steals children at night, and the local town lore requires that those females that allowed these babies to be abducted go into the wood to get them back. On top of that none of the girls and women who go looking for the babies ever come back. So, who in their right mind would feel comfortable in this little town?

One night Leah’s little brother Owen is abducted by the Lord of the Wood and she is given this very task. There is a ceremony, a really creepy ceremony at the town’s church. Leah is branded with a bloody handprint by the pastor. Then, she is led to the Youghiogheny River to some sort of ritual baptism. She emerges on the other side of the bank and walks into a magical world not too far from her own. There, she meets the Lord of the Wood as well as the others that call this dimension home. She’s given a task to complete to retrieve Owen, and her adventures in Wonderland commence.

Leah is a strong character. Her story resonates and allows the reader to really feel her despair. Her character development throughout the book is believable. She doesn’t climb a straight line to the top. She has several peaks and troughs along her way. Being an adult reading this book, I could tell from the very beginning the lesson she needed to learn, which made this book somewhat predictable. The character development ends there however. None of the other characters introduced really have a role to play in this book besides being Leah’s side character and support. This includes the positive characters, the negative characters, and the villains. No one really developed much, and not nearly as much as Leah.

As far as the plot pacing and story, the pacing was even throughout. I can definitely say that the book is somewhat slow in pacing, but the language the author uses to write it is extremely easy to read, so that isn’t a problem. As I mentioned before, the story itself is predictable. I could guess the plot, Leah’s situation, and the conclusion, especially when romance was introduced into the story.

I could go on and on about my feelings on romance in plots. They are like raisins and nuts in desserts. Throwing them into an already delicious dessert doesn’t always elevate the dessert. Sometimes, it just brings it down to muggle town. It makes it mid. It generalizes the dessert. It absorbs all the things that make the dessert delicious already because it takes focus away from all the other ingredients until you only taste raisins or nuts. Can you tell that I hate raisins and nuts in desserts? I also hate chocolate chips just randomly thrown in there as well. Nobody asked for it. Nobody needs it, especially not the main character, but the romance is there anyway.

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My Throat an Open Grave
By: Tori Bovalino
Genre: YA Horror
Release Date: February 20th

Synopsis:

Leah’s baby brother disappears from his crib one night while she is supposed to be watching him. All signs indicate that he was taken by the Lord of the Wood, a supernatural figure the townsfolk fear. To get her brother back, Leah must enter the woods and confront the LoW, only no one who has attempted this has ever returned alive.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. It’s horror, but it’s also part mystery, part ghost story, with just a touch of romance. It’s dark, moody, and has heavy woodland fairytale vibes. The atmosphere is deliciously melancholy. It never fully crosses into scary/horror territory, in my opinion, but there’s a nice eeriness that clings to every moment. It’s a compulsive read. There was something about the forest setting and the characters that lived there that had me wishing I could live there too. I didn’t want the story to end, but at the same time, I needed to know what was going to happen. And just look at that cover! So gorgeous. The artist did an amazing job of capturing the essence of this book. I can’t wait to pick up a physical copy of My Throat an Open Grave as soon as it hits stores!

Ratings:

Plot — 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳 /5
Characters — 🎼🎼🎼🎼🎼 /5
Chemistry — 🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤 /5
Atmosphere — 💀💀💀💀💀 /5
Overall — 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹 /5

Thank you to @netgalley , @ pagestreetya , and @toribovalino for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Girls in Winston, Pennsylvania are raised to fear the Lord of the Wood. He takes what is offered to him, and especially for young single mothers, this is a scary prospect. Those who have had their babies stolen away are sent after them and no one has returned yet. One night, after being exasperated.by her brother's crying, Leah wishes him away. Owen goes missing, a bundle of sticks in his place.
She is sent by the religious authorities and her mother in a quest to find Owen and bring him back. She is terrified.
However, once she finds the Lord of the Wood's terrain, she doesn't find what she's expecting.
I was pleasantly surprised by My Throat an Open Grave. I thought that it was going to have a lot more horror but was blown away by the coziness portrayed. With the exception of the garden of memories, the setting is idyllic. Tristan is trustworthy and honorable. Owen is well taken care of by a caring elderly lady. The food sounds delicious and the descriptions of the parties sound enticing.
I enjoyed the twist of Leah realizing what she really fears. Also, what she decides to do after her time in the woods. From there, the real horror will begin..
A captivating read, and one that made me want to read more of the author's work as well as try out more folk horror.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for a free advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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I've never seen Labyrinth, but now I think I have to after reading this! What first made me curious about this book is that it's set in a small town in Pennsylvania, and I just so happen to live in a different small town in Pennsylvania. I haven't read many books set in my state and I love horror, so I decided to give it a go and I really enjoyed this! It was very cottagecore-horror, and the romance played a larger role than I was expecting for a horror novel, but the mutual respect the two characters had for each other was refreshing. This is a YA horror, so it wasn't as dark as I would've liked it to be but it wasn't unenjoyable. This covers a lot of heavy topics like purity culture and religious trauma which often impacts small towns, and while my small town (thankfully) wasn't anything like Leah's town, it still resonated with me. This book also addresses women's bodily autonomy, again in the context of a very small , obsessively religions town. I would love to learn more about the other villagers like Ruth and Fletcher, and just more about the village itself like how it came to be, since it's never really explained to the extent that I would've liked. Overall I enjoyed this and I'll definitely be reading more works from the author!

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My emotions were HIGH while reading this. I devoured the first third -- such a strong and engaging start to this book!!! -- and had to force myself to read a bit more slowly so I didn't miss too many details. This one took me to some dark places and some beautiful ones, too. Leah's growth over this story is incredible and I felt for her so strongly. She is healing, while trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the girls who left Winston before her. This book has moments where some truly scary things happen, but through it all is a thread of love and compassion. I wanted a little bit more character development for some of the people besides Leah (Fletcher, especially), which kept this from rating a little higher. Overall, this is a moving story about someone who grows up in an ultra-conservative society and how she heals from the trauma inflicted by said society. It's emotional and timely and the fantasy element is very lovely. Between this and "Not Good For Maidens," I will certainly pick up anything Bovalino writes.

Similar vibes to:
Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
The Low Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado
Not Good for Maidens by Tori Bovalino

Thank you to NetGalley and Page Street Publishing for an early copy in exchange for my honest review!

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Tori Bovalino has done it again, she always knows how to balance the atmosphere of “otherworldliness” magic and reality into a book. All the characters were lovable, I especially adored Leah and the complexity and depth of her character, you really feel, relate and root for her throughout. The heavier topics were well written and easily digestible for the YA genre, like the exploration of religious trauma through symbolism and water and the effects of religion being weaponized against women and how choice and resources are ultimately important.
I just came out of a reading slump but I can tell this one is going to put me right back in one.
Thank you NetGalley and Page Street Publishing for this ARC!

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Gothic, rural, folk horror with a smattering of fae. This book was atmospheric and delightful. Tristan is our new misunderstood crush, Leah isn’t the worst (although she is a bit unlikable and whiny, I tried to not focus on it). I loved the underlying theme of trust and facades. I could’ve done without the Maria subplot. I get why it was included but I honestly felt like it was given an unnecessary amount of attention. I really did love the plot, and I’m always here for a Lord of the Woods who knows how to treat women.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC in exchange for my honest review!!

This cover/title was already a 10/10 for me. But this story? I’m absolutely obsessed.

Religious trauma mixed with folk fantasy aspects and magic otherworldly beings? Say less!

Leah is a teenager from a religious small town. She’s always been taught to be a good girl and to follow the rules so she stays pure. Everyone warns girls about The Lord of the Wood. He kidnaps babies when someone prays them away. When Leah wishes her baby brother would be taken, she is sent into the woods to bring him back. What she finds isn’t what she expects. The Lord only offers her the return of her brother in exchange for a song. Now she has 1 month to write it and figure out a way to get back to her life. But does she want to?

I’ll be the one to say I haven’t seen Labyrinth. I have no frame of reference with this being a labyrinth retelling. I loved the vibes and I loved the storytelling. Deff cozy fantasy mixed in with some horror and dark supernatural elements.

TRISTAN!! Ugh. I never loved a boy in a book more than him. He was literally the sweetest person in the entire universe. Ok but everyone in the Wood was amazing. Ruth and Fletcher were such sweethearts. I would never want to leave! I also like how this randomly became a murder mystery but I love murder mysteries so I was here for it.

The twist near the end I did not see coming. I was completely blown away. And the end. Ahhh had me tearing up. I loved this book so much more than I thought. Highly recommend to everyone when it comes out on February 20th!

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This is a delightfully dark sophomore effort from Bovalino. I'm always here for a good Labyrinth re-telling.

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I seem to be stumbling into a lot of religious trauma books when I wasn’t expecting it.

I know it is an ARC but the sentence structure was confusing fairly often and copy editing issues popped up more than I normally see in an ARC.

The book really over uses the phrase “nails digging into my palms”. It was used three times in one chapter at one point.

The untold mystery that the story works towards showing you was SUPER obvious.
It wasn’t slow paced but because the reveal is so apparent, it felt like a slog waiting for it to come about.

It’s very heavy handed with itself themes despite trying to go about displaying them in a mysterious way.

The “task” she has to do to get her brother back is such an after thought to the plot. You never even see her working on it in the story.

The ending is satisfying but not. She fought her way back to show the town what happened to the other girls but then they never do anything with the proof or tell anyone

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While I was initially frustrated with the unexplained lore and context, I grew to appreciate it as it fit the folk horror/magical realism vibe of the story. Bovalino's prose is so eminently readable and the pacing so well done that I read this in one sitting. The flashes of body horror added the perfect amount of dread to the otherwise pleasant, otherworldly peace of the setting.

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I almost don't have words to describe this genre-bending horror book from Tori Bovalino. It ripped my heart out in the most stunning way, both the language and the story was hauntingly beautiful. I don't know that it surprised me in its ending, but I didn't care - it was done so well that I won't be able to stop thinking about it anytime soon.

Leah lives in Winston, Pennsylvania, a small time in Appalachia. Her life revolves around her best friend Jess and taking care of her little brother Owen. And trying, even though she's failed in the past, to be a good girl and make her mother love her again. When the Lord of the Woods takes Owen, she is required to go to him and offer a sacrifice to get him back and bring him back to Winston. But all the girls who have had to bargain with the Lord of the Wood before have never returned. While she's in his kingdom, she's haunted by the ghost of the most recent girl from Winston, Maria. Through it all, she must barter for her brother and figure out why her interactions with the Lord of the Wood don't match the fear that had been instilled in her by the patriarchs of Winston.

This is technically a YA horror, but I feel like it's so much more than that. It's a dark fairytale, it's magical realism, it's a touch of paranormal romance. It's an indictment of the way so many teenaged girls are raised throughout small and medium sized towns in the Bible belt. It is *so* good. I cannot recommend it enough. It's out 2/20 and should be an autobuy!

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I just couldn't get into this story. I wanted to DNF it, and I probably should have, but I pushed through and enjoyed it no more at the end than I did at the beginning. The marketing and cover of this story just gave me a different idea of what this story would be like, and I was thrown off that the marketing didn't quite match the story. In addition, the pacing was a bit off for me. I felt like the middle was a bit slow and the tone changed enough to be noticeable.
I loved the ending, and I felt like the tone and idea of the book and what it was trying to be finally worked together, but I was disappointed that it took until the end of the book to really be interested in the story.
I feel like comparing this to 'Labyrinth' just does it a disservice because the Goblin King really brought the fire in a way that this "goblin king" did not. I did enjoy the commentary about religion, religious trauma, female autonomy and female bodies, though.
Overall, I didn't hate this by any means, but it was just so not for me.

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Wow! This one had me hooked from the first page! The atmosphere just seeps off the page, and Leah and the LoW quickly become favorite characters. I flew through this in a day, and it's definitely one I'll be getting a physical copy of.

From the beginning I felt for Leah, not only is the town she lives in super religious, but her mother treats her like crap., and while she is scared to enter the woods and meet the Lord, the alternative of staying without her brother is too much to bear. The whole ceremony to get Leah to the woods is dark and creepy and is so different from when she arrives and sees what her town has been so scared of.

Once Leah finds out what happened to her brother, and what she has to do to get him back, things start popping up. Thinks that make her question what the Lord has told her, then what the town has told everyone.
Like the ghost of one of the other girls who went into the woods and never returned. Leah is driven to find out what happened to her, and honestly, the longer she stays in the woods the less she wants to return home. (seeing where she came from and the family she left behind, even if I didn't have the hots for the LoW I would have wanted to stay too).
This book was dark and twisty and held me in its thrall from start to finish. The vibes were spot on, and Leah had me feeling all the things. This is one of those books that will stick with me, and I can't wait to read it again!

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Wow! I went into this expecting a YA Horror novel (that cover though) and got so much more than that. The horror elements were well executed and juxtaposed with beautiful imagery of the woods. Leah was a wonderful main character and her journey into the woods to find her brother paralleled her journey and longing desire to self discovery. I was completely blown away by this story. 4.5 stars. More of a review to come on the pub date!

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I absolutely adored the mixture of folklore and the gothic in this unique coming of age story. I also really enjoyed the themes of toxicity within the town, Leah's family, and from men in general.

Leah was a complex character who displayed some serious growth over the course of the novel, and she was easy to route for - despite wishing for Owen to be taken by the Lord. Her choices were based on a myriad of complex emotions that demonstrate the depth of her character; nothing ever felt random or like it only existed to serve the author's vision. As for that vision, Tori Bovalino did a wonderful job in the execution of the Lord of the Woods lore, and implementing that lore into a modern-day setting. My Throat an Open Grave has a distinct identity, which I greatly admire. I think my favourite part, though, is the 'twist' in the final chapters that reveals *****SPOILER***** Owen is actually Leah's son, not her brother *****SPOILER*****. I didn't expect that at all, and it only added to the layers of complexity of Leah's character.

Even though I enjoyed all these amazing things about the novel, I still felt as if there was something missing. For one, while Leah felt very well-developed, I didn't feel that connection or depth with any of the other characters. I also would have liked it if Bovalino delved even more into the lore of the Lord, or perhaps if she'd done an epilogue to show the reader how Leah is *****SPOILER***** acclimating in her new life with Tristan in the Woods*****SPOILER*****

Regardless, I think My Throat an Open Grave is a standout in the young adult genre for a unique plot with important themes that is still enjoyable and appropriate for that age division (and for adults too, of course!)

Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for providing me with an electronic advanced copy of My Throat an Open Grave by Tori Bovalino in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are not influenced by any third parties.

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What a powerful and emotional story! There is such beautiful prose throughout and though the story was quite a bit more focused on the romance rather than the horror/dark aspects (which is what I assumed it would be based on the marketing/cover) I really enjoyed it. There’s some painfully accurate discourse of womanhood, being a”good” vs “bad” girl, and religious trauma which I thought was excellently handled. The romance was very sweet as well.

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