Member Reviews

My Throat an Open Grave by Toni Bovalino releases on February 20th 🥀 thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy (and to @annotatedbibliophile for raving about it and putting this book on my radar hehe)

My Throat an Open Grave is like if the horror genre poured you a cup of tea and offered you fuzzy socks, all the while dripping viscera and gore all over your floor. it’s filled with magic, ghosts, body-horror, and pretty forest-folk alike.

im a sucker for a slow-burn (*cough* tgcf *cough*) so the romantic progression in this book was a bit too fast for my taste. that said, the story focused on enough outside of the romance that the pacing of the main character’s relationship didn’t detract much from my overall enjoyment of it.

the pitch for the plot is very similar to Labyrinth, but the book deals with a lot of dark themes that made it feel much less “Bowie with the Eyebrows™ and musical numbers” than i was originally anticipating. even still, i really enjoyed what this story turned out to be, so it was by no means a bad surprise!

if you enjoy metaphors about the horrors of womanhood, copious religious references, cults, and the necessary untangling of harmful rhetoric, My Throat an Open Grave is definitely worth picking up after its release!

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I was super, super hyped about this book, based on both the fact that I'm becoming quite a fan of Tori Bovalino—Not Good for Maidens was unlike anything I'd read before in YA, and her contribution to the YA folk horror collection The Gathering Dark was quite excellent as well—and the fact that the premise sounded super, super intriguing. Right off the bat, though, I can tell you that this book has actually very little in common with the film it's being compared to, Labyrinth, apart from the basic premise of a teenage girl whose baby brother is stolen by an otherworldly being, and who must then go on a journey into the unknown to retrieve him. If you go into this book expecting a Labyrinth-esque adventure to follow, but with more horror (just look at that cover), I have to tell you that this is not that. And part of me was disappointed in that fact, at first. But what this book is ended up being so great that the comparison to Labyrinth became disappointing for a different reason: I don't think it does the book justice at all. I also don't know that I'd personally classify it as horror; there's plenty of scary, ghostly business afoot, but to me it seems like more of a dark fairy tale or a fantasy with some darker elements than a horror.

This is a dark, fantastical parable about, much to my surprise, reproductive justice, set in a community where girls' choices are taken from them and then that lack of choice used as ammunition to punish them further. The beginning of the book did a great job amping up the elements of folk horror—the community is small, poor, and fiercely religious, but it's also bordering a deep, dark wood where it's said a man (or devil), known as the Lord of the Wood, rules. This is a very satisfyingly spooky setup, but from there, I felt the scares were minimal. I also felt that the book suffered at times from a lag in action in the middle, and some confusing world building (we're told that the Lord of the Wood isn't human, but we're never given a satisfying explanation of what he is) that made it difficult to stay interested for a chunk in the middle of the book. When the plot really gets going again, though—when it all starts coming together, and we see our main character, Leah, begin to reclaim some of her power—I couldn't put it down. I was very deeply moved by the story, and by all that it represents of our world today. I also found the "twist", if you can call it that, to be fantastic, and just the right amount of unexpected. Others may have found it more obvious than I did, but I didn't really start to pick up on hints until halfway through.

I'm thrilled that this book exists, for so many reasons that I don't want to spoil. I look forward to reading more of Tori Bovalino in the future.

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A YA dark fantasy? who am I? This book was a bit out of my comfort zone so I was pretty nervous but when I saw it was a Labyrinth inspired story I was so excited for it! I did enjoy this one and I did get the Labyrinth vibes! This was a very dark coming of age story and I liked the themes explored here, But the romance was pretty boring for me...like all romance is haha. You can check more of my thoughts in this vlog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlTNAkallfI&t=1203s&ab_channel=KatrinaBrown

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Leah lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. When she’s not at school, she’s at church or taking care of her little brother. She thinks that if she isn’t good and holy, the Lord of the Wood will take her…like many of the girls before her.

Religious standards are high and one night when Owen won’t stop screaming, Lead wishes him away. The screaming stops, and when Leah checks his crib, all that remains is a bundle of sticks tied with a ribbon.

What does Leah have to do to get Owen back?

I love reading folklore books about religious town and their views of women, mainly because they’re just the views are so toxic they’re ridiculous. This book did a fantastic job showcasing how it is always the woman’s job to suffer at the feet of men. Leah was a fantastic, multi-faceted character who showed great growth over the course of the book. This story is very creepy, and utterly atmospheric. I loved how it was written because I felt like I was transported into the book with the characters. This was on the slow side pacing wise, however things unfolded nicely over the course of the book, so I stayed engaged. Once I started going with this one, I didn’t want to put it down and finished in one sitting. This book is so much more than just a spooky read, it’s full of self-love, redemption, and acceptance. I loved the twist at the end and didn’t see it coming!

This book is perfect if you are looking for spooky gothic read.

Thank you to Page Street YA @PageStreetYA TBR Beyond Tours @tbrbeyondtours Tori Bovalino @toribovalino and Netgalley @netgalley for allowing me to read this book.

4.5 Stars from me.

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I did not expect to devour this book so quickly. I read it in only two days--and I worked both days so I was basically spending every second of free time reading. You already know I love flawed, messy female main characters (see my love for Starling House, Little Thieves, and A Study in Drowning). My Throat an Open Grave also offers excellent criticisms of religious structures and the way girls are punished for stepping a toe out of line. I did want a bit more intensity and true horror, and a bit less of a focus on the romance, but I understand that making those changes could easily push this book out of the YA age range. As it stands, this is a solid 4 star read for me. I anticipated all of the reveals toward the end, but I didn’t find their impact lessened at all. I was still up past my bedtime, teary eyed and hanging on every word.

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Thank you to NetGalley for providing a review copy.

This book, while beautifully written, didn't quite do it for me. I figured out what was going on almost immediately. The romance and fantasy aspect definitely outweigh the horror. The only real horror happens in the last 10% of the book, so I'm unsure why it's marketed that way. Supernatural YA fantasy romance would be a better fit. As such, I'm definitely not it's intended audience. 3.25 stars

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My 12 year old 👧🏻 read through this book in one sitting, roughly 3.5 hours, and she was smiling from ear to ear and declaring a loud “WOW!” @Pagestreetya, you got her, and she caught @Toribovalino’s writing bug!!! Now, she wants more of her books!!!

👧🏻 review: At first I was skeptical after looking at the cover (actually I liked it) and thought why not!?! So after few pages in, I felt the book magnetized me. I didn’t want to put it down because the twists and turns kept going and the plot, ending and the story was so well-written. There’s no cliff-hanger and the ending was unexpected but super satisfying. I want to read the rest of her other books and I’m hoping we’ll be able to find them in our local network libraries. She is added to my newest favorite author! I don’t want to give away the story but you need to at least check this one out!

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Thank you so much, Page Street Publishing, Page Street YA and NetGalley, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.

TW: body horror, blood, murders, misogyny, suicide ideation

Leah lives in the small town of Winston and like every girl she tries to be good and holy, going to church, school, working and taking care of her little brother Owen. If she's not good, the Lord of the Wood will take her and she will disappear like many other girls before her. But one night Owen won't stop screaming and she wishes him away. And the Lord listens to her. Now she has to do everything she can to get him back, weighed down by the town's judgment. She's forced to cross the river and look for the Lord, bargain with him to get Owen back. But the Lord of the Wood isn't the bloody figure she expects and to get Owen back she bargain a song she has a month to write. Now living in the Lord's house and domain, Leah starts asking herself questions about the fates of every missing girls and discovering a bloody pact between Winston and this domain. And what she deserves.

My throat an open grave is everything I could have hoped to find in a book and more. It's an intriguing, darkly romantic tale, Labyrinth meets fairytales in a gorgeous and compelling writing style. I loved every single book written by Tori Bovalino and this one isn't an expection.
The author does a brilliant work in writing the setting of Winston and the Lord's domain. An oppressing religious city, where the girls are forced to comform to rules upon rules, being obedient, holy and good, with brutal institutions and the willingness of crushing girls dreams if they are not following the society's ideas. In this deeply migonynic society, where being queer, being in love, having sex is deeply frowned upon and condemned, Leah feels like suffocating and drowning. She doesn't feel loved and accepted, she can't find a way out. Ironically, looking for the bloody and murderous figure of the Lord of the Wood lets her into a world made of kindness and acceptance, a world where she can be herself, free of others' judgment, shame and violence and starting on a path of self-love, self-acceptance and forgiveness.
Also, this beautiful growth is accompanied by a romantic story between Leah and Tristan, in their parallel growth of knowing each other, their worlds and their town's secrets and lies.

I absolutely loved how Leah's personal growth is interwoven with her looking for answers for the missing girls and her town's past and history and also, with her relationship with Tristan and the city's inhabitants, in a compelling story of love, kindness, forgiveness, redemption and truth.
Tori Bovalino is a master in creating a creepy atmosphere, filled with tension and magic, lies and secrets and letting Leah, and the reader with her, peeling the truth bit by bit.
It's a dark story, but also a love one, filled with kindness, acceptance, forgiveness and more.

Brilliant, unique and deeply recommended.

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*Thank you NetGalley for the eARC of this book*

This was so darkly lush and deliciously brilliant. I loved all the references to "Labyrinth" and the overall thrilling and gothic atmosphere. It was a very good read for any fans of the movie. 3 stars.

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If you love "Labrynth", appreciate the creepy undertones of "Peter Pan", and vibe with the religious trauma and forest magic in "For the Wolf", you're gonna want to add "My Throat an Open Grave" to your TBR immediately.
Leah feels trapped in her small town of Winston, Pennsylvania. It's surrounded by the forest on all sides, but what really suffocates her is the way it orbits the church. In Winston, there's no further calling for their women than being a Good Girl, and if you're not? The Lord of the Wood will punish you, and you'll be the next in a long line of girls who disappear into the forest, never to return.

When Leah's baby brother, Owen, is taken by the Lord of the Wood and replaced with a bundle of sticks while she's babysitting him, the town turns against her. She's forced to venture into the woods to attempt to bargain with the Lord in exchange for Owen's safe return. But when Leah meets the Lord of the Wood and his followers and experiences the mysterious magic of their realm, she begins to wonder if good vs. evil is really as straightforward as she thought. 

Leah is introspective and smart, and her trauma is depicted realistically and painfully. This was a great combo of fantasy and horror elements, with a woodsy, folk vibe. I did see one of the twists coming, but not the other, and felt satisfied with the ending. I'd have loved a little more background on the magical lore, and it was a little weird every time I remembered that this was set in modern day, but overall I had a great time with this one! Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for my honest reivew.

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3 stars. I’ll start off by saying that the cover design and the fact that it was marketed as a ‘Labyrinth’ inspired story, made me sooooo hyped to read this book. And perhaps that was the first mistake. Expecting something and getting something totally different. Which isn’t always a bad thing, however it wasn’t necessarily a good thing. At least, not until about 3/4ths of the book. While the story itself and the commentary was wonderful (more on that later), I feel like the pacing was a little off towards the middle. The moments where she was in the Lords woods felt a little too slow, cozy, cottage core-zy that I couldn’t reconcile the title and cover art of the book and with what was going on. However, like I mentioned, the last third really picked up the darkness a tad bit that the title/cover didn’t feel too jarring. I loved what was revealed and the implications of it. I hated that that I had to wait the whole book to get there and that it all felt so rushed, right when it was getting exciting! World building also could have been fleshed out. I still have no clue where she was at and how it’s there and who was what or WHY. Maybe I was expecting a little more darkness out of a YA book but I feel like I was bamboozled. Anyway, for the great religious traumacore and the great commentary about women and their bodies, I still give this 3 stars.

Also, if you’re gonna throw in ‘Labyrinth’ as any type of comparison… then your version of the Goblin King better BRING it because David Bowie set the bar high when it comes to the mysterious is-he-evil-or-not-but-also-he’s-so-hot vibes and Tristan just did not deliver in that regard. :(

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This is so much more a labyrinth retelling and actually hardly felt like one in the end:

Thoughts:
- deeply folkloric and has rich commentary about religious trauma, the cult attitude around many religious small towns, purity culture, and more.
- very Ava Reid core in its flowery language & use of metaphor
- I feel like this book should be categorized as adult.
- wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance in the end; felt kind of random and Insta-lovey to me.
- definitely don’t go into this expecting a whimsical labyrinth vibe, it’s much more dark, folk, horror, romance, I would say!

Generally, I really liked this and that twist at the end I absolutely did NOT see coming; I do feel as though there were pacing issues at times, but overall it was a good read!

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not as horrory as expected, but that wasn't a bad thing. i'm in for a good horromance just as much as the next person, and cults are super cool. thanks so much for the arc. 4.5

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Thanks to NetGalley and the author for an ARC of this title

The only downside I have for this book was that it felt trope-y. I

Think that this book had such an interesting way of presenting the story. I went in thinking it would be much more of a horror and was pleasantly surprised by a love story. Although parts of your very predictable I was still very happy with it. The world was built beautifully and I was very interested in the way that the twists happened

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While I enjoyed the premise of this novel, it just didn’t work for me and I ended up DNFing it at 20%. Teenage angst is unfortunately not my cup of tea and I didn’t need to finish the book to know that it was probably going to be highly predictable. As much as it pains me to DNF, I just don’t see myself finishing this.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

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3.5 stars

I was immediately hooked after hearing that this book was a retelling of Labyrinth.. because, duh, who doesn't love Labyrinth?!

The story follows Leah, a teen living in the small town of Winston, Pennsylvania. Winston is a very religious town where the women are taught to remain pure and "be a good girl" or else the Lord of the Woods might come for them.. One night, while Leah is babysitting her younger brother, Owen, he vanishes. Their mother is heartbroken and in order to make things right, Leah must venture into the woods to find the viscous Lord of the Woods and bargain with him to bring her brother home safe.

The atmosphere within the book was absolutely perfect, major small town vibes & I loved the lore surrounding the ominous woods. However, some of the things in the very beginning seemed repetitive, as if the author is reallyyy trying to make us understand the legends in the town, but she kind of beats you over the head with it - like ok! we get it!

The story progresses steadily for about 35% of the book as we follow the set up, but after that point, nothing 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 happens until about the 80% mark. Throughout the middle, we follow Leah in her day to day life as she is working on her end of the bargain, learning more about the village inside the woods, and uncovering a ghost story. The events were interesting enough, but I just didn't feel like a whole lot was happening and it made me slightly disconnect from the story. The one thing that kept me going were the little glimpses of a budding romance 😏

The last 20% was very eventful and fun. There was a little bit of a plot twist that I was not expecting, which I enjoyed. I think it is very clear from the beginning just how this story will end, but despite being slightly predictable, it was still enjoyable and I think things wrapped up perfectly. I also enjoyed the commentary on religion & sexism within the story.

Overall, this is a fun Young Adult book that I would recommend if you want something not so serious. I will say, in my opinion, this is more of a dark fantasy than a horror.

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I really liked the exploration of religious oppression and the shame and persecution of living in such a town. The cottagecore, folky vibes were such a mood and I loved it. It was written fabulously and the story just got better and better.

That being said, I felt the romance played a larger role in the story than I would have liked. Of course, this is a preference thing and the description clearly states there would be a romance aspect to the story...I just found it to be far less interesting than everything else and a bit distracting. Idk, maybe because this is YA and that aspect appeals more to the YA audience. I think I would have enjoyed this even more if it was just darker overall.

This was my favorite Tori Bovalino book and I will definitely read anything else she comes out with; her writing is fantastic and she knows how to tell a damn good story.

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Thanks to Netgalley, Tori Bovalino, and the publisher for an advanced review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

I generally like Bovalino's work (and folk horror in general), but this one didn't grab me like I was hoping it would. While it definitely hits on the folk and romance sides of things, the horror was surprisingly minimal. I liked the pretty obvious Labyrinth references (stolen child, polychromatic eyes in the not-Goblin King, etc) and the general setting did a pretty good job of showing how a magical forest would work. I didn't like our main character in the slightest bit, or the town she came from. Her POV made it difficult to feel consistently invested.

Cover is great, and I can definitely see myself putting this into teen patrons' hands if they are looking for a somewhat-spooky romance, but it wasn't as much for me as I was hoping.

3.5 rounded to 4.

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➸ 4.25 ⭐️

Tis the year of cottagecore horror-y books and I'm here for it.

'Labyrinth' meets folk horror in this wonderfully dark and twisted tale of belonging and what it means to be good.
My Throat an Open Grave is about facing your fears and overcoming religious trauma. It's about a girl who can't quite be "good enough" in the eyes of the small town that's been condemning her for years.

Our MC Leah was complex and well fleshed out, she's becoming more and more relatable with every chapter, gods how my heart broke for her.

"I'm Red Riding Hood, lost to temptation, screaming forever in the belly of the wolf. The princes don't come for the ruined, the unchaste, the soiled girls they only care for princesses. They don't come for girls like me."

I loved the dynamic between her and the Lord of the Wood. He was such an interesting character and exactly what Leah needed I only wish we'd gotten his POV.

The last 100 pages were super interesting and everything came together, one of the plot twists really destroyed me emotionally.

"You came for me."
"I would always come for you," he promises. "I waited for you."

MTaOG was such an atmospheric and creepy read, perfect for the spooky season. Leah's story is one that'll stay with me.

eternal gratitude to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC
all quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in the final publication

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A fabulous YA folk horror novel full of atmosphere, gore, and heart.

My Throat is an Open Grave follows Leah, a high school student balancing her job and taking care of her baby brother, Owen. Leah lives in a small town in Pennsylvania, a town that fears the Lord of the Wood. According to their legends, the Lord will steal babies and girls and they’re never seen or heard from again. Owen is stolen by the Lord of the Wood and Leah must venture into the dangerous forest to save him and herself along the way.

I love stories like this one, with forests creeping of lore, myth, and magic that blend horror elements so beautifully to create the most engaging and haunting read. And the religious element elevated the story so well. I loved reading about Leah and her troubles as she goes to save her brother and the complicated relationship she has with him, her family, and her town. She had such a good character arc of growth and accepting that her town and the expectations they put on girls and women is wrong and toxic.

This is such a fast-paced book with incredible descriptions and spooky, unnerving vibes while also having this mythical quality as we learn more about the Lord and the Woods. The plot was really engaging and I liked the twists the author chose as some were expected to me but some were not and I really enjoyed that.

I would definitely recommend picking this up if you like YA horror, folk vibes, gore, and romance.

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