eARC Review – Ever Cursed

Title: Ever Cursed

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: July 28th, 2020

304 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Damsel meets A Heart in a Body in the World in this incisive and lyrical feminist fairy tale about a princess determined to save her sisters from a curse, even if it means allying herself with the very witch who cast it.

The Princesses of Ever are beloved by the kingdom and their father, the King. They are cherished, admired.

Cursed.

Jane, Alice, Nora, Grace, and Eden carry the burden of being punished for a crime they did not commit, or even know about. They are each cursed to be Without one essential thing—the ability to eat, sleep, love, remember, or hope. And their mother, the Queen, is imprisoned, frozen in time in an unbreakable glass box.

But when Eden’s curse sets in on her thirteenth birthday, the princesses are given the opportunity to break the curse, preventing it from becoming a True Spell and dooming the princesses for life. To do this, they must confront the one who cast the spell—Reagan, a young witch who might not be the villain they thought—as well as the wickedness plaguing their own kingdom…and family.

Told through the eyes of Reagan and Jane—the witch and the bewitched—this insightful twist of a fairy tale explores power in a patriarchal kingdom not unlike our own.

Review

**Thank you to Simon Pulse, Netgalley, and Corey Ann Haydu for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

TW: sexual assault, eating disorders, insomnia, gaslighting

Ever Cursed is a fairytale style story of witches and royals. Don’t be fooled though, there are seriously dark themes in this book, on’s that need to be discussed and addressed. Several years ago a witch named Reagan cast the Spell of Without on the Princesses of Ever. Each one lost something that day – can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t love, can’t hope, and can’t remember. The Queen was trapped in a glass box. The princesses must find a way to reverse the spell, or it will stay forever. In an unlikely twist, Reagan begins to help the princesses gather what is needed to reverse the spell. But will it be enough?

This story is told through alternating POV’s of Princess Jane, the oldest Princess, and Reagan. I thought Ever Curse was so well done, I finished it in just a few hours and just couldn’t put it down. Firstly, I loved the writing style. Ever Cursed is written in a fairy tale format so it seems very whimsical and fairy-like, but the tone of the book is very serious and tackles matter such as sexual assault, sexism, and conquering fears. It is a hard line to walk, but Haydu does it very well.

The characters aren’t exactly redeemable. If you’re looking for a book about perfect people, you won’t find it here. Everyone has made mistakes or done terrible things, but I think this story is more about fixing wrongs than being perfect. The character growth is real and Princess Jane comes to realize some terrible truths about her father, the King, and Reagan learns the real consequences of actions and magic.

I felt like the ending could have been stronger and had a better message it. The whole book ramped up to a pretty serious ending but it felt like it wasn’t given enough attention. For that reason, but overall rating was pulled down but I still very much enjoyed this books.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Circus Rose

Title: The Circus Rose

Author: Betsy Cornwell

Publisher: Clarion Books

Publication date: June 16th, 2020

288 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A queer retelling of “Snow White and Rose Red” in which teenage twins battle evil religious extremists to save their loves and their circus family.

Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.

In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

Review

**Thank you to Clarion Books, Netgalley, and Betsy Cornwell for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Circus Rose is a magical fantasy told in alternating POV’s from twin sisters, Ivory and Rosie. The writing is so different based on what twin is narrating, and provides different context. Ivory is the more reliable narrator. Seriously the magic in this book is off the charts. Ivory and Rosie are a part of The Circus Rose, the circus hosted by their mother. For twins, Ivory and Rosie couldn’t be more different – Ivory prefers to be a stagehand behind the scenes and Rosie is the high flying trapeze artist, star of the show. They are like Yin and Yang, fathered by two separate men who both loved their mother.

The main plot of the book revolves around the circus and challenges that pop during the circus. The first part of the book lays a lot of background into the twins and the circus before it gets into the main conflict. I thought the circus aspect was very compelling, along with the amalgamation of Fey, righteous Church groups, humans, a feminist world where girls can go to engineering school.

I loved the LGBTQIA pieces of the book. The Fey are described as being more androgynous, they are non-binary and have the pronouns of fe/fer. Rosie clearly identifies as only being attracted to females, and Ivory is attracted to males and Fey. Being in an open relationship or practicing polyamory is not strange. It’s a very progressive and refreshing book.

The Circus Rose is an easy and quick read. The writing of Betsy Cornwell just flows so easily and it’s simple to lose track of time around you as you delve into the world of the circus. For fans of Caraval, The Circus Rose is an enthralling, magical tale of sisterhood and finding yourself.

Happy reading, folks!

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!

Book Review – Sky Without Stars

Title: Sky Without Stars (System Divine #1)

Authors: Jessica Brody & Joanne Rendell

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 26th, 2019

582 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A thief. An officer. A guardian. 

Three strangers. One shared destiny . . .

When the Last Days came, the planet of Laterre promised hope. But five hundred years later, it’s now a place where an extravagant elite class reigns supreme; where the clouds hide the stars and the poor starve in the streets; where a rebel group, long thought dead, is resurfacing.

Whispers of revolution have begun—a revolution that hinges on three unlikely heroes…

Chatine is a street-savvy thief who will do anything to escape the brutal Regime, including spying on Marcellus, the grandson of the most powerful man on the planet.

Marcellus is an officer—and the son of a traitor. Groomed to command by his legendary grandfather, Marcellus begins to doubt the government he’s vowed to serve when he discovers a cryptic message that only one person, a girl named Alouette, can read.

Alouette is living in an underground refuge, where she guards and protects the last surviving library on the planet. But a shocking murder will bring Alouette to the surface for the first time in twelve years…and plunge Laterre into chaos.

All three have roles to play in a dangerous game of revolution—and together they will shape the future of a planet.

Power, romance, and destiny collide in this sweeping reimagining of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece Les Misérables.

Review

This book is a chunker y’all. I picked Sky Without Stars up on a Barnes and Noble sale awhile back because this cover is gorgeous. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of the next book, Between Burning Worlds, through Netgalley so it was time to dive into this world!

First off, I’ve recently become super into classics re-imagined in space. I’ve only read a few, but I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve read, even though I always thought the sci-fi genre was low on my list. Sky Without Stars is basically Les Mis in space, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were interesting, while also having fatal flaws, which was a really good balance.

First off, the characters. I am here for them all (with a special shout-out to my girl, Chatine, who just can’t seem to get her shit together). I like how you get the story told in alternating POV’s – it goes back and forth between the three main characters; Chatine, Marcellus, and Alouette. They each have a distinct voice, which I think was very well done. I appreciate the differences between these three characters, and how you just know they will all be interconnected by the end somehow.

The plot was great. I really enjoyed the retelling aspect. There were parts that were a throwback to my high school History classes learning about the French Revolution (hey there guillotine) that really showed the class issues that were happening at the time. Humans are broken into three social classes; First Estate (royalty and nobles), Second Estate (middle class), and Third Estate (lower class and workers). You can really see how terribly the Third Estate is treated, and can totally understand why riots and rebellions are breaking out.

Lastly, I thought the Bastille adaptation was genius. A horrible prison built on an orbiting moon where people are sent to mine in hazardous conditions? LOVE IT (the concept, not the actual thing obvi). I thought it added a level of pressure to the story, because no one wants to be sent there. Also, a nod to the actual Bastille in France. It’s like a combination of Azkaban and the mines in the Ash Princess series.

As you can see, I can go on about this book for awhile. Some criticisms include the length, I don’t feel like it needed to be this long to get the point across, and the weird love triangle. I don’t mind love triangles, but this one was just strange. I don’t actually ship any of the budding relationships at this point, but we’ll see what the next book brings!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Shrike & the Shadows

Title: The Shrike & the Shadows

Authors: Chantal Gadoury & A.M. Wright

Publisher: The Parliament House Press

Publication date: March 3rd, 2020

365 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Men have gone missing before.

The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has. 

When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night – their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps – the village falls into frenzied madness.

Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever. 

With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home. 

As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.

The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods.

Review

**Thank you to The Parliament House Press, Netgalley, and the authors for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Shrike & the Shadows gives us different version of Hansel and Gretel than we may be used to. Twins Hans and Greta are orphans living in the village of Krume. Their mother died from going into the woods, and their father died shortly after. The village thinks Greta is a witch and they are eventually cast out in to the woods for her ‘crimes’. The downside? There is a mysterious woman called ‘The Shrike’ that torments men in the village by seducing them and ripping out their hearts to put the outside their family’s house. The woods hold terrors the twins can’t even imagine, and the ending will be surprising.

I have never been a huge fan of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, and I didn’t like it much more in this book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the characters were more interesting and redeemable. Hans screws Greta over from start to finish and Gretel is a doormat. She lets everything happen to her and her ‘innocence’ feels more like blank slate. I think her character should have been fleshed out more.

There was a level of dark and twisty to this book that was refreshing. It didn’t pull punches in that way and the terrors that Hans and Greta experience were interesting. Overall, this book wasn’t quite for me but if you like Hansel and Gretel, retellings, and dark & twisty than definitely check this out!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Title: A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Publication Date: January 29, 2019

484 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Review

The choices we face may not be the choices we want, but they are choices nonetheless.

A Curse so dark and loney, brigid Kemmerer

It’s finally Friday! The end of the week always makes me so happy, even when I took two days off work in the beginning of the week! I started ACSDAL while away in Lewes, DE over the weekend and finished it all in one day. Vacation reading really is the best. I’ve had ACSDAL since Memorial Day and I’ve been super stoked to read it. After reading her most recent YA Contemporary, Call It What You Want, I knew I needed to read more of her work.

In a new Beauty and the Beast retelling, Kemmerer creates a kingdom that resides in a universe adjacent to ours. Emberfall was cursed when Prince Rhen messed around with an enchantress who went on to curse the kingdom. Rhen needs to make a woman fall in love with him, otherwise the curse will continue on forever while Emberfall is left defenseless. Oh, and at the end of every season Rhen turns into a scary monster, so there’s that.

Harper is the latest woman taken from Washington, DC for Rhen to charm. His Army Commander travels to DC to find women, though Harper wasn’t his first choice – just a concerned citizen who noticed a hulking man carrying and unconscious woman down an alleyway in a city. Totally normal. Harper is stolen from her very ill mother and brother who is doing unspeakable things to make up for their dad’s drug debts.

ACSDAL is a good retelling novel that follows the fairy tale pretty closely with the added benefit of some seriously snarky characters. Harper also has cerebral palsy, which adds a layer of disability rep. She is portrayed as not letting her CP stand in her way, but accepting her limitations and learning to work around then – without letting anyone believe she is lacking. To Rhen’s credit, he only underestimated her once in the beginning.

Kemmerer wove a tale that will captivate you and feel all the feels for Rhen, Harper, and Grey. The ending is a small level cliffhanger, but will lead into the next book seamlessly. This was also announced to be a trilogy, so I’m really excited to keep going in Harper and Rhen’s story for another two books – praying for a happy ending for my two love birds.

Happy reading, bookish friends 🙂