May 27, 2015

REVIEW: Black Iris By Leah Raeder

Thriller/ Contemporary / Romance

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Synopsis On Goodreads:

The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Todaybestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Purple's RATING: 5/5 STARS
Beatrix' RATING: 5/5 STARS
Glass' RATING: 5/5 STARS

*** Buddy-read REVIEWS ***

~ Purple:

“I am not the heroine of this story. And I'm not trying to be cute. It's the truth. I'm diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes.”

I've read a fair share of good books this year, but this is only the 2nd one I've rated full 5 stars and it more than deserves it because for me it's on a totally another, I would even dare to say superior level from the the rest of them. My first book by this author was Unteachable. While I loved the author's writing style there, the story as a whole was more of a 3.5/4 stars read for me, but with this book Leah Raeder won me completely over. And what better way to read her newest book than buddy-reading it with my friend & co-blogger Beatrix, who was also the one who first introduced me to this author.

"I never wanted to be saved. I wanted someone to follow me down into the darkness. To hold my hand as I fell."

Without spoiling anything all I can say is that Black Iris is one dark, gripping, twisted, riveting, poignant, thought-provoking page-turner which will leave you speechless after every new unpredictable twist of the story. What's special and compelling about this book is the fact that the main character Laney is nor the heroine nor the true villain. The lines between good and evil get blurred and disputable, at times over-weighing on one and at other times on the other side, therefore messing with our heads all over again and of course I loved it, the weirdo that I am.

This book was so good that not the even infamous "love triangle", which is usually a deal-breaker for me when choosing my next read, bothered me. That says it all. I won't say anything more about the plot, because when it comes to mindfucks like this the best way is to experience it without any prior knowledge. The writing was supreme. One of the most highlighted books in my collection.

Highly recommended to every fan of dark thrillers/mindfucks!

“Strength is not in the body, it’s in the mind. It doesn’t lie in flexing your muscles and crushing those who oppose you. It lies in being the last one standing. By any means. At any cost.”


“Darkness isn’t bad. It’s only darkness.” Those fingers relaxed. “All it means is you don’t see the world as they do. You see what’s really there. They see what they wish was there.”

Revenge. Suspense. Ecstasy. Sex. 

BLACK IRIS was my most anticipated book of 2015, and it did not disappoint. That’s saying a lot since I’m a huge fan of Leah Raeder and I’ve been craving this book basically since I’ve read Unteachable back in 2013 when it was first published. In my opinion Raeder is a true artist when it comes to the art of words. I feel as if she sees the world with different eyes and then transforms that onto the page and gives us her more poetic, vivid, and colorful version of reality. Here’s a paragraph to illustrate what I’m saying: 

I smelled the storm on him. There’s a word for that scent, the breathy fragrance that’s released when rain soaks soil and floods your sinuses like a drug: petrichor. Petros, stone. Ichor, the blood of gods. There was a disturbing loveliness in that image, gods opening their wrists to slake the earth with their quicksilver blood.

This is the kind of novel which will definitely make you question everything. Not only will you constantly be on the edge of your seat with questions such as: what is happening; but this book will also make you question your beliefs and morals. Characters in this book are constantly doing some morally ambiguous acts and let’s just say this is not for those of tender heart. If you’re bothered with excessive drinking and drug abuse, F/F sex, revenge, cheating, love triangles, unlikeable protagonists – then this book might not be for you. 

Don’t expect a typical NA story, or a morally encouraging book. However, what you can and should expect is an incredibly well written and important book, with its message about labeling, sexual fluidity, bullying, and mental illness. 

Something ineffably sad rose in my chest, a drowning feeling, as if my lungs were filling with water from the inside. My hand raised but not touching. My voice unheard. I’d spent all my life in moments like this.

Nothing here was black and white. These characters are so complex and my attitude towards them was ambivalent. I didn’t like Laney, but I understood her. Furthermore, she is not meant to be a role model, nor is she trying to be one. BI is unapologetic and that’s why I like it. Characters are entirely messed up and they’re not trying to hide it. Laney is not attempting to set an example with her behavior. She does what she wants and if you don’t like it, then she’s probably tell you: “Screw you, I’m not trying to impress anyone.”

I’m saying this because I’ve noticed how some negative reviews state that Laney sets a bad example for young girls with her drinking, sleeping around, and basically being high the entire duration of the novel. If you’re so sensitive, then don’t read this. And you’ve probably missed the point as it’s stated right on the first page what kind of novel this would be. This is not the story with a typical HEA; don’t expect a heroine to overcome her issues. This is a dark and twisted story and that’s why it’s so unique.

Furthermore, a few words on the writing style and a quick comparison with Unteachable. Obviously both books are written in the same lyrical, purple tone and if I’m being completely honest I have to admit that maybe, just maybe this style was more suitable for UN and the reason for that is the genre. 

UN is first and foremost a romance novel – it explored emotions, maturing, growing up, love, etc. However, BI proclaims itself to be a suspense novel and I believe it’s difficult to build up tension with adjectives. You need lots of dynamic verbs, descriptions of processes, not states. That taken together with switching timelines, I can see how some readers were lost or found the book to be too slow. I personally was not bothered by that, and I’ve raved enough how I love Raeder’s writing style, but I can understand some of the frustration I’ve noticed in several reviews.

Some of the things I've loved: the sex scenes. Hot damn. This is how you write steamy. Nothing overly vulgar, but so poetic and sizzling hot. Moreover, let’s not forget the poetry. T. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson are some of my favorite poets and it made me so giddy to recognize all the references. I truly think BI wouldn’t have been the same without it. 

In conclusion, BLACK IRIS is at its core a powerful story which explores the darkness within a person, triggered by someone else’s darkness. It portrays how one act of violence may initiate entire chain of such deeds and how a person may end up trapped in that vicious circle. Have you ever been bullied, misunderstood, and rejected for who you are? Sometimes it’s difficult for a person to see the light, sometimes a person is so weakened, tormented by their own demons that it’s easier to drown than to swim back to the surface. 

Leah Raeder wrote a book for anyone who has ever felt that way. She is the voice of the downtrodden, of the underdog. It’s okay to feel malice and rage, those too are human emotions. Therefore, what I’m saying is – don’t expect a redemption story. But, if you do prefer dark, challenging, and gritty stories, then BLACK IRIS might be just the right book for you! 

I’m the black iris watered by poison. The wolf that raised its head among sheep and devoured its way, ruthless and bloody, to freedom. I never forgave, never forgot.

PS: I’ve found the song which perfectly fits the book, with its lyrics and overall atmosphere -- Sick by Chelsea Wolfe

This suffering brings me closer to you

And time is broken and moves slow
Your pure heart, your white light
I should be put to death for ever being cruel to you
Come closer now and step right into
The wide mouth, the sharp teeth of the one you love
I’m not the kind of sick that you can fix
Don't you worry about me baby 


Purple & Beatrix


  1. I love that this is only your second 5-star read this year. It shows how incredibly picky you are. I'm a little worried about your labels though. Lol. LOVE TRIANGLE. Gah.

    1. I blame authors like Megan Hart, Jojo Mojes, Tiffanie DeBartollo, John Green etc. who wrote my favorite books and set the level high for others. :)
      Believe me, if anyone despises love triangles that's me, but I guess I can handle everything if the story and the writing is good. And this author's writing is beautiful!!!

      If you're not a fan of dark thrillers like this, try her standalone novel Unteachable if you haven't already. It's a student-teacher romance.

  2. It makes me so happy to see this! I love this book so damn much. And nice song choice.

    1. Ditto! This book was amazing!


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