Book Review – House of Salt and Sorrows

“We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return.”

Title: House of Salt and Sorrows

Author: Erin A. Craig

Publisher: Delacourte

Publication date: August 6th, 2019

403 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

Review

Nights like this were meant to be shared, remembered, and talked about for years. Skies like this were meant to be kissed under.

Erin A. Craig, House of Salt and Sorrows

In a retelling of 12 Dancing Princesses, Annaleigh is one of eight sisters left after four died tragically. The family has suffered so much loss, and Annaleigh can’t help but wonder if it’s too much loss to just be attributed to bad circumstances or coincidence. She starts to think the most recent death was a murder, so she starts investigates. The more she finds out, the more she realizes she has no idea what is happening in Highmoor – and everything and everyone is in question. Will Annaleigh figure out what’s happening before more death comes to call?

House of Salt and Sorrows is seriously dreamy and magical. Whereas it is a serious story with death and terrible things happening, you can’t not notice the fairytale feel and magical essence to the writing. I was able to read this book in one sitting, it captured and held my attention throughout. There was even a bit of a mystery element to it as you tried to figure out who is bringing the darkness down on the family – and I totally didn’t see the ending coming until it was there.

Annaleigh was a good narrator, she is a middle sister and is somewhere in the middle between oblivious and too suspicious, if that makes sense. Her older sister seems completely oblivious to everything happening around them, but one of her younger sisters seems too involved in the mystery – even seeing visions and ghosts. I think it was a good decision to make someone in the middle be the narrator, and then experience the whole spectrum from the outside.

I very much enjoyed House of Salt and Sorrows, and goodness just look at that cover?! Absolutely amazing. I loved that it was a standalone and the whole story was wrapped up in one book. If you’re looking for retellings with magical qualities, or a ghost story go check out House of Salt and Sorrows!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Queen of the Unwanted

Title: Queen of the Unwanted (The Women’s War #2)

Author: Jenna Glass

Publisher: Random House/Del Rey

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

592 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this feminist fantasy series, the ability to do magic has given women control over their own bodies. But as the patriarchy starts to fall, they must now learn to rule as women, not men.

Alys may be the acknowledged queen of Women’s Well—the fledgling colony where women hold equal status with men—but she cares little for politics in the wake of an appalling personal tragedy. It is grief that rules her now. But the world continues to turn.

In a distant realm unused to female rulers, Ellin struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile, the king of the island nation of Khalpar recruits an abbess whom he thinks holds the key to reversing the spell that Alys’s mother gave her life to create. And back in Women’s Well, Alys’s own half-brother is determined to bring her to heel. Unless these women can all come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk.

Review

**Thank you to Random House/Del Rey, Netgalley, and Jenna Glass for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Queen of the Unwanted is the second book in the epic fantasy Women’s War. Events pick up closely after the end of The Women’s War, but with several new characters and POV’s from across the world. As with any good epic fantasy, the plot is complex with political intrigue and war time strategies.

What I enjoyed about this book was the progression of the plot from the first novel and the character development of some of my favorite characters. The plot line in this series is so complex and different from anything I’ve read. The progression of the magic system is also very unique and gives the world a lot of potential for new and life changing spells. The magic system is not hard to understand yet is very powerful and the main magical event from book one is still in effect in this book.

As a second book goes, this was on the medium level of having second book syndrome. Some parts dragged and didn’t seem entirely relevant to the book, but there was also a good amount of political maneuvering and scheming across all the countries and main characters. So, it has a touch of second book syndrome but without being among the worst offenders.

One thing I had to ding Queen of the Unwanted on was the way some of the character’s arcs have progressed. I do not agree with several of the character’s decisions and it feels like the wrong choice for them. I can only hope that some of the bad decisions and questionable behavior is continued to be addressed in future books and swings back around to the more positive end of life.

Happy readings, folks!

eARC Review – By the Book

Title: By the Book

Author: Amanda Sellet

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

384 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Amanda Sellet for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

By the Book is a Young Adult Contemporary read that follows Mary, a sophomore just starting at a new high school. She had been going to school in a small, experimental school so she has no experience with “typical” high school life, and at this point has no friends. She’s the second youngest out of 5 children, and she knows everything there is to know about classic literature. Mary is timid and quiet, but can have some sass to her. She meets a group of girls to befriend, and they start classifying the guys in their schools as some of the villains in European literature, but no one is worse than Alex Ritter. He is a senior and a huge player who will hit on any girls around…. or is he?

The story line is sweet and has a fun group of friends. It’s also interesting to see the family dynamic with 5 kids who are all literature and theater inclined. The love story is sweet, a kind of enemies to lovers in a PG rated way.
I loved the LGBTQIA aspects and the nod given to other characters who aren’t hetero.

Frankly, Mary is my least favorite character in the book. I just think she came across as very flat, whereas other characters were given a lot of dimension. There was mention of her feeling slighted and ignored in a huge family, but there was never anything done or said about it. I wanted her to have more life in the book than she did.

Overall, I felt this book was sweet but could have gone deeper with the MC.

eARC Review – Last Memoria

Title: Last Memoria (Memoria Duology #1)

Author: Rachel Emma Shaw

Publisher: Self Published

Publication date: May 10th, 2020

253 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A heartbreaking dark fantasy thriller about flawed people making flawed decisions. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Joe Abercrombie.

Sarilla has learnt one thing from stealing memories. Everybody lies.

There’s nothing Sarilla hates more than stealing memories, but the king forces her to take them to keep his subjects in line. She wants to escape to where nobody knows what she is or what she can do, but her plans go awry when she runs into Falon.

Falon has a six month void in his memories that he’s desperate to restore. He doesn’t know why they were taken or what they contained, nor why the man he loves is acting so cagily about what happened during that time. He hopes to use Sarilla to get back his stolen memories and doesn’t care what she wants or why she’s desperate to escape. She will help him get them back, whether she wants to or not.

Review

**Thank you to the author for providing me an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Last Memoria reminds me of The Memory Thief by Lauren Mansy where people have the ability to steal memories. However, in this world it is called being a memoria and it is something that is considered monstrous and is shunned. Sarilla, the MC, is a memoria who is used by the King to manipulate and punish those who work against him. Sarilla doesn’t want to be used this way, but she doesn’t have a choice. When she gets her chance to escape she does, but not without consequences.

I found Last Memoria to be captivating, well-written, and at times heartbreaking. The characters were easily likable and there was a good amount of development from beginning to end. For a fairly short book, a lot happens without the writing feeling forced or the plot moving along too quickly.

The ending includes some twists, but one is so big and I did not see it coming at all! I was also excited to learn that it will be a duology. The ending doesn’t involve much of a cliffhanger, but there is clear possibility for the story to continue which I am looking forward to and will definitely read when it comes out.

I highly recommend this self-published book, especially if you read and enjoyed The Memory Thief.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Trouble with Hating You

Title: The Trouble with Hating You

Author: Sajni Patel

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy debut about first impressions, second chances, and finding the love of your life in the most unexpected way. 

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also arrogant and infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?

Review

**Thank you to Forever, Netgalley, and Sajni Patel for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

TW: sexual assault, domestic abuse, slut shaming

The Trouble with Hating you is a more serious contemporary romance where both characters have more tragic backstories and have some demons to overcome together. Told in alternating POV’s, Liya and Jay are being set up by their traditional Indian families. Neither wants to be set up to get married, but in this culture it is hard to say no. They both have different reasons for not wanting to get married, by when Liya flees the meeting Jay is interested in knowing why she is so against the idea of marriage.

Liya and Jay do not initially get along, this is a definite hate to love plot line. Liya has her defenses up so high due to her past and she can’t accept that a man is seriously interested in her for more than just a night. Jay means well, but Liya’s brand of honesty and bluntness causes him to rile her up further, even without always meaning to. It was a good transition from hate to love, it wasn’t too fast or too slow. There also was not a lot of steam.

There were very serious aspects to this book too, which can make it hard to read or be triggering for some people. Please see the trigger warnings at the top of the page before you read. I do believe the scenes were handled well and weren’t too much to handle at any given point. It was heartbreaking to see Liya shunned by her community and her father over something that was done TO her.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and think it was a solid contemporary romance.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Muse of Nightmares

“People are our safe places. I have one: a person who’s a home and a world to me.”

Title: Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2)

Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication date: October 2nd, 2018

522 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.

She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise.

She was wrong.

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the Muse of Nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this astonishing and heart-stopping sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

Review

I would have chosen you, if they had let me choose.

laini taylor, muse of nightmares

Strange the Dreamer was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and I have no idea why it took me so long to read Muse of Nightmares. Thankfully, it did not disappoint!

Muse of Nightmares picks up where Strange left off with the Mesarthim gang and Lazlo. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into the synopsis so much, but let’s be real you probably read the Goodreads synopsis already. But anyway, after the end of Strange, the group has a lot of issues they need to deal with…

I adore Laini’s writing. This duology was the first of her books I’ve read so now I desperately want to read her backlist titles. The writing is so beautiful and captivating that it’s hard to put the book down. The flow is great and it keeps the plot moving along smoothly. The romance between Lazlo and Sarai is also so endearing, and focused more on their feelings for each other than any sexual chemistry (even though it is definitely there!). Their relationship is beautiful and Lazlo is my new fave soft boi, cinnamon roll, book boyfriend.

My only, and I mean only, request from this book would be MORE. The ending definitely leaves it open for Laini to return to this world, because things weren’t really wrapped up. And I want it. And I need it. Kay thanks!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Magic For Liars

Title: Magic For Liars

Author: Sarah Gailey

Publisher: Tor

Publication date: June 4th, 2019

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Ivy Gamble has never wanted to be magic. She is perfectly happy with her life. She has an almost-sustainable career as a private investigator, and an empty apartment, and a slight drinking problem. It’s a great life and she doesn’t wish she was like her estranged sister, the magically gifted professor Tabitha.

But when Ivy is hired to investigate the gruesome murder of a faculty member at Tabitha’s private academy, the stalwart detective starts to lose herself in the case, the life she could have had, and the answer to the mystery that seems just out of her reach.

Review

I recently read Sarah Gailey’s newest book, When We Were Magic, and LOVED it. I wanted to read another book of theirs because I loved their writing style, so I chose Magic For Liars. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much as When We Were Magic, but it was pretty good.

Ivy Gamble is a Private Investigator who is being tasked with a murder investigation at her twin sister’s magic school. Ivy herself has no magical abilities (a fact that she tries desperately not to be salty about). There’s no love lost between her and a her sister, but she is itching to break out of the cheating husband’s game and work her first murder investigation. When the plans goes anything but personally, Ivy has to figure out in who’s best interest it is for her to solve the case…

One GIANT pro to Sarah Gailey’s writing is the level of absurdity that I’ve noticed in the first chapter. They throw something so completely mind-blowing and shocking in that you end up being instantly hooked. In this book, it is how the women who was murdered, was murdered. It is insanely interesting to me how they hook readers, so I will continue to go back for more.

Sarah’s writing style is also very trippy and it flows spectacularly well. The descriptions and care taken to bring the reader to really get a visual of what’s happening is prime and very much appreciated. The plot structure is easy to hold onto and creates a natural rhythm. Also, the mystery aspect of the book wasn’t super easy to figure out. The storyline keeps you guessing as new clues emerge.

However. I did not connect with Ivy as a character at all. She came across, to me, petty and self serving. She wasn’t particularly redeemable as she lied to her love interest, and only connected with her sister in order to get information about the murdered woman. Also, I would have loved to understand the magic system more. To be clear, the magic system was by no means the central aspect of the plot, in fact it didn’t have much to do with it until the end since Ivy is nonmagical. But I always love a story with a clearly defined and explained magic system.

For those reasons, I didn’t enjoy Magic For Liars as much as I had hoped to. I’m positive there are others who will immensely enjoy it for the reasons that I did not, which is one of the great parts of this community!

Happy reading, folks!