Book review – The Madness Blooms by Mackenzi Lee

Caidyn's review (1)

The Madness Blooms

I received an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!

4/5

CW: homophobia, transphobia, outing, deadnaming, gender dysphoria, unsupportive family, graphic sex scene, and possible alcohol abuse

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AS I DISCUSS PROBLEMATIC PLOT POINTS.


First and foremost, I want to make some statements about this review upfront. A lot of you know me, but this review will be posted on Goodreads and Twitter and, obviously, this blog. I’m also going to bump it up in my story on Instagram.

I don’t know where it’s going to go and who will see it. So, I want to put right up front a few things about me and this review.

  1. This is my opinion alone from an ownvoices standpoint, informed by my own experiences. I do not have any interest in speaking for the whole trans community and I will not be. I can only speak of my experience and thoughts around this book. Life would be boring if all transpeople thought the same and this is one opinion of a highly nuanced situation.
  2. If you were offended/found this book problematic, I’m not trying to diminish your personal experience, just talk about my own.
  3. I also have an issue with the marketing done around this book. I don’t like that it was marketed as F/F then, surprise!, the MC’s trans. It’s horribly problematic and needs to be fixed more. I’m glad that Mackenzi has been working on changing that.
  4. This review is about the content of the book. I want to talk about the actual content and my perception of it.
  5. I love Mackenzi Lee’s past work. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy is the book that helped me realize I’m aroace.
  6. I welcome comments and ideas that differ from my own! However, I will not allow for cruelty. If anyone starts being rude, I’ll delete your comments. I don’t want to have to monitor that, but I will if I have to.

I’m not on Twitter. We might have a shared Twitter, but Chantel is the one who runs it. I rarely pop on over there. So, when the drama came around about this book, I had already requested this, super excited for Mackenzi’s new F/F book set in Holland which I’ll be shortening to TMB so I don’t have to type the title over and over again. Then, I started seeing Mackenzi on Instagram correcting the marketing and Chantel began filling me in about the stuff on Twitter.

I wasn’t going to read this book until December or January. I like reading my ARCs about a month before they come out because then it’s fresh in my mind. But with this? I felt like it was something I needed to read right away because I didn’t think that Mackenzi Lee meant any harm.

Thanks to her stories (and other authors, such as Adrienne Young) on Instagram that authors rarely, if ever, have control over their marketing and cover designs and descriptions. And, I also know that Mackenzi is a huge supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community and has captured our historical experiences in her past books.

Mackenzi also used trans sensitivity readers. Including Meredith Russo. And, personally, I’m with Meredith Russo. So, spoiler for my own views. As a transman, I didn’t find this triggering or problematic. I felt like it captured the historical reality of being trans in the 17th century. And it was wonderful.

meredith russo tmb
Screenshot taken from Twitter and her Twitter thread.

I’m a huge history nerd, I always take historical fiction with the historical context. Such as, there were certain historical realities and laws that criminalized sexuality and gender expression. Those were present in this book and I appreciated her capturing that honest reality. Also, queer characters didn’t have the language that we have today to explain their gender and sexuality. And I loved that, again, in this book Mackenzi honored that and wasn’t anachronistic.

The book was unapologetically trans without ever using that word.

Now, I’ll get more to that in a second because I did see someone’s comment on Goodreads — if you see this review and it was you, please tell me and I will link people there! — that said this book is more adult than YA with the current content. And, I agree there. It’s definitely more adult than YA. It reminded me of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (ownvoices historical transman book). TMB has very adult themes to it, even though the characters were teens.

A little bit more about using the word trans in this book. Transsexual was a word that was first used in the 1920s and transgender was first created in the 1960s. Definitely not a 17th-century word. And this book is about discovery. It’s about our transman MC discovering who he is and coming into that identity.

When I was reading it, I was struck by how represented, how seen I was, by this book. It’s so hard to find book about transmen that accurately captures what it feels like to discover your identity. There was one quote that stood out to me. Remember, ARC quotes are liable to change, especially since this book has been pulled from being published for the near future.

 A manacle I had not known was around my neck until it was removed, and suddenly, I could breathe, I could breathe, I could breathe at last.

That’s a quote from the MC after he got his hair cut off. I distinctly remember the day that I cut my hair from being super long to very short. And that captures how I felt when I did it and looked in the mirror, seeing a bit more of myself each day.

Then, there was the description of gender dysphoria that made me stop because it so captured the feeling. One second, so, so masculine and knowing that you’re a man and fully inhabiting that role, only to then be slammed back into the depressive and anxiety-ridden reality of your body not matching how you pictured it in your mind. It cut me right to my heart because, God, Mackenzi got it 100% right.

There are a few main characters in this. The MC, who I am going to refer to as Pim in here. Pim’s birth name, and what he’s referred to for a good portion of the book, is Lena. I know there’s a huge discussion of deadnaming around this book, but he doesn’t choose Pim as his name (while pretending to be a man whose name is Pim) until 41% and it isn’t until the second to last chapter that he really chooses it as his own. It reminds me of George by Alex Gino. She chooses the name Melissa but is called George throughout the book and most reviews call her George as well.

I’ve already mentioned that I loved Pim. I loved his journey to self-discovery. I loved how accurate he felt. I just loved it. As I said, it’s so hard to find a story where a transman is the main focus. And it was so refreshing to read something that made me feel represented.

Then, there’s Elsje, Pim’s love interest. I did like her. She was fun and quirky and so queer. However, I felt like she could have been fleshed out a bit more as a side character. There was not much more to her besides how she loves tulips and is totally interested in Pim and helps affirm his gender.

Bas is Pim’s older brother. I… I didn’t like him. He’s drunk most of the time and is very unaccepting of Pim’s identity. I’m very tired of the trope of an unaccepting sibling. I want more accepting sibling rep. I’m going to come back to this a little later.

Then, there’s Jan. Jan has a very minor role for most of the book. I think that’s a damn shame. He’s very accepting of Pim and Pim’s gender. He encourages him to live as a man. I wanted more of him. Bas was very unaccepting, Elsje middling with acceptance, and Jan was super supportive. I liked that there was a spectrum of support, but there needed to be more of Jan.

The plot itself is pretty straightforward. Pim and Bas are orphans, taken in by a tulip seller who suddenly dies and leaves them with a lot of debt. They find out that he might have had a Semper Augustus (a very expensive and rare tulip) and go to claim it. However, the man who had it is in jail away from Holland. Pim decides to take on his identity and sell it, then they get out of there.

The first 60% of the book was very positive and moved at a good clip. It was a fast-paced fun ride. Around 66% — I identified it in my status updates — the tone changed and it became bleak. Throughout the book, it was mentioned that people could get hung for being gay. But, around 66% there’s a graphic hanging. Then there’s Pim being outed later, around 80%. There’s also been some discussion about the ending and how unhappy it is. Tbh, I found it pretty happy? Pim didn’t get the girl, but, he was living his authentic life so how is that unhappy?

Now, I mentioned I love historical accuracy. I hate books that feel anachronistic. However, in this case, I think things could be edited out. I do not think that there needed to be a graphic hanging. That could be removed completely from the story without impacting things. It’s a scene that pushes the story from YA to adult for me. I wished that it hadn’t included that. Sure, it’s historically accurate, but it doesn’t add to the story.

I also mentioned that I wish Bas would be changed. Either made more supportive, given a smaller role, or bring more of Jan into the story to further offset Bas’s lack of support. That’s one thing that I wanted to be changed desperately when I was reading it. Because each time Bas came in, I knew that he’d be saying something that was rude and/or triggering. It didn’t add to the story and it felt gratuitous.

So, what are my overall thoughts on the book?

  • I felt myself represented from when I was a teen trying to figure out who I was and figuring out slowly.
  • There are definitely things that could be changed and removed, but it was so good.
  • I would 100% recommend this to people as an authentic trans read.

Whenever Mackenzi is ready to put it out for publication, I’ll be preordering it so I can have it on my shelves right next to the Montague Siblings.


Talk to me!
What are your thoughts on the drama?
Are you planning on reading it?

Top Ten Tuesday – Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!


Mark  Lawrence

  • Mark Lawrence

So far, I’ve read two of his series (The Broken Empire and Red Queen’s War) and I’m in the middle of reading — although it’s on pause because I need to read it all in one go — his Book of the Ancestor series. Either way, he blows me away with his characters and worlds. Always an auto-buy author.

Mackenzi Lee

  • Mackenzi Lee

I know that Mackenzi is getting a lot of heat right now. You’ll actually be able to read my take on her latest book, The Madness Blooms, tomorrow. I’ve really enjoyed her books and she’s definitely an author I’ll keep buying.

Seanan McGuire

  • Seanan McGuire

I’ve only read her Wayward Children series and Middlegame, but I will 10000% keep reading her books! They’re fantastic and always so imaginative. I just have a lot of catching up to do.

Stephen King

  • Stephen King

King is really hit or miss with me, but, more often than not, I like him. I can only think of a couple of books I didn’t like and I just have learned to avoid his short story collections. Still an author I’ll be reading and buying until the end.

Sarah Henning

  • Sarah Henning

She’s a fantastic local author for me! I loved her debut, Sea Witch, and I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel and, basically, everything else she’s coming out with in the near future.

Erin A. Craig

  • Erin A. Craig

Her first book isn’t even published yet, although I had a chance to read the ARC, and I can tell that Erin Craig is going to be a new favorite author. I’m definitely going to add her to my auto-buy list.

R.F. Kuang

  • R.F. Kuang

Yep. I’ll read anything she writes. I love her to pieces because both of her books have emotionally destroyed me. Never fails to impress me.

Caitlin Starling

  • Caitlin Starling

Earlier this year, I read and loved The Luminous Dead which was her debut. So. Damn. Good. I’ll be reading more of her in the future!

Becky Chambers

  • Becky Chambers

I decided to delve into her Wayfarer’s series and I loved it. Totally will be reading more of her stuff when she publishes more. It impressed me and showed me how great sci-fi can be.

Emily X.R. Pan

  • Emily X.R. Pan

Last, but not least, is this author. She’s fantastic. I absolutely adored reading The Astonishing Color of After. It broke me and it built me back up. I’ll be reading whatever else she publishes. You can count on that.


Talk to me!
Have you read any of these authors?
Do we share any on this list?

Book review – The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson

Caidyn's review (1)

The Art of Breaking Things

I received a finished copy from Viking Books in exchange for an honest review!

4/5

CW: child sexual abuse, grooming, drug misuse, sexual assault, and PTSD


When I got home from Portland, this was a surprise for me! It’s not usually a genre I reach for, nor is it a topic that I like reading about. Sexual assault is content that I don’t read because it bothers me. As it should, of course, but it just is one of those things that bothers me.

Skye is an art student in high school, going out for a competitive scholarship at an art school. All she has is her mom and her younger sister, Emma. There are some friends as well — Luisa and Ben. And, she harbors a secret. She uses drugs and alcohol to mask that pain and to bury it down so no one knows.

And then her mother starts dating the man who assaulted her.

Her younger sister is her age when it happened and, as it does, it all comes bubbling back up.

The story is largely told in the present, but there are flashbacks to Dan (the abuser) before the assault, when it happened (which is told in graphic detail, so take care with that), and after when she starts using drugs, alcohol, and sex to cope. For me, this was so well written. It really felt like an accurate description of grooming and the coping of what comes after.

I just loved how this was a story of discovery and realization that these are unsafe coping skills, along with finally realizing that someone has to say something to get it to stop. Otherwise, Emma would have been next no matter how hard Skye had tried to protect her over the years and especially once Dan comes back.

As I said, this was just a glorious book. I’m so glad that I had the chance to read it. It wasn’t perfect but it was just fantastic. I love that these books exist for people who need it, that they can find themselves in fiction and go with the character to discover that they do the same thing.

This was a very impressive debut and I know I’ll be reading whatever Sibson publishes next!


Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?
What contemporary would you recommend?

Book review – The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

Caidyn's review (1)

The Arrangement

I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

4/5

CW: sex work, stalking, self-harm, alcohol abuse, and cheating


Ever since I read Her Pretty Face last year, I knew that this was an author to look out for. She completely captivated me with her story. And, honestly, this one was no different!

Natalie, or Nat, is a young woman at a NYC art school. She waits tables and lives in a flat with two other people who don’t like her very much. Of course, she also once had a stalker who still worries her. She can barely afford her share of the rent. After meeting a fellow student who, somehow, has money, she learns about being a sugar baby. Time in exchange for money. A lot of money, at that. And, Nat decides to dip into that sugar bowl.

Gabe is a high powered attorney. He’s (unhappily) married and has a kid he doesn’t understand. The marriage he’s in has turned into one of companionship, lacking the passion it once had. This isn’t his first time having a sugar baby. But, he chooses Natalie.

I know I’ve said it before on here, but I have a huge interest in sex work. Not like that. I mean, I find the work absolutely fascinating. What drives people to do it. The work behind the scenes. I’ve always found it absolutely fascinating. For a long time, I had a personal Twitter. I’ve deactivated it now, but I used to follow camgirls to see if I could catch that glimpse. I used to follow sex workers on Tumblr before the changes happened to the website to kind of keep up on what was going on.

And, I love that this book came from that place of interest. In her author’s note, she says that she was interested and actually talked to sugar babies to find out why they chose that profession. I love that! I love that she actually went into the community to research! I think, for me, that’s why it felt so realistic. The story showed the good and the bad. The nice holidays, the jewelry, the housing. And the creepy men who go there because they can scare and hurt a woman. I could go on my whole diatribe against the criminalization of sex work for people who genuinely want to work there, but I won’t get on that soapbox.

Still, I didn’t like some of the tropes presented in this.

Sex and sex work shaming did play a role in this. I know that it’s a huge reality for sex workers, but I would have liked to not see every single non-sex worker character shitting on Natalie for her financial choice.

It also goes with the whole unstable sex worker line. Natalie is very unstable, I won’t lie there. She goes into being a sugar baby (which is, in a way, sex work) not realizing and accepting that’s what it was. She doesn’t seem to understand that being a sugar baby isn’t like being a girlfriend. It’s a job, one you have to work at. It’s not real. It’s a fantasy. She also has PTSD from her stalker.

Still, I didn’t like that it showed bad endings for both of the sex worker characters in this. I feel like balancing it out with something more positive would have been better for me. But, that’s me.

I still loved this book. It was a page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s one that I’ll want to own once it’s out and I was thrilled by it! The book felt so authentic and I loved the twists and turns it took, along with the characters revealing themselves who they really were. I couldn’t believe the ending and it was just so good!

Another fantastic book from Harding!


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Have you read this?
Is it on your TBR?

Please shame my ARC list

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I have lots of shame, actually.

This includes my ARC list.

At the moment, I have 35 ARCs that still need to be read and reviewed. Technically 34 because I don’t have one yet, but I know it’s going to get to me.

Image result for wince gif

I know, Hermione, I know. It’s bad. It’s really, really bad and completely out of control. Right now, I have 8 I need to read before August, 11 for September, 8 for October, and then the rest are either December or 2020.

It’s not good, right? I have the privilege of getting ARCs and I definitely abuse use that power. It’s how I read books I’m interested in without having to buy them or use the library. And I know I’m going to see more that I want and go on a requesting spree as soon as I get that number down.

The deadly circle.

I do my best to keep it down by a few techniques.

1. I do reading sprints!

Reading sprints is this thing when you pick up about three books, set a timer for 20 minutes, and then read for those 20 minutes. If you don’t get into it, time to put the book aside and move on.

2. I liberally DNF them.

I know that there are people who don’t DNF ARCs. I get that. Giving them an honest review, to some people, means reading everything of it. For me, I give an honest review even if I don’t finish it because there was something that kept me from finishing it that needs to be addressed.

3. I read multiple at once.

Yeah, I tend to have a couple going at the same time. Maybe more if I have a physical one or two (usually they’re e-ARCs, though). I try to keep the genres apart so I don’t read multiple books in the same genre and get confused. But, I just read them.

4. Set a reading goal.

There’s a wonderful app I use called Reading Planner. I have an android so I don’t know if it’s available for iPhones. But, basically, you search for a book that you’re reading, add it to your list, update the pages if needed, and then you can set a goal for yourself. That can be pages per day or finish by a certain date. I usually use the latter! Then, it tells me how much to read each day to finish it by that specific date.


So, in a nutshell, I want you all to shame me for having that many ARCs and my tips on how to keep the list down. Even though I know I’ll go and request more as soon as I get it down to a more respectable number.

Talk to me!
Is your ARC list as out of control as mine?
What tips do you have to keep your list short?

Down the TBR Hole

Down the TBR Hole

Down the TBR Hole is a meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

IT WORKS LIKE THIS:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Tommy's Tale

Doesn’t look like my thing anymore.

Verdict: GO!


Madame de Pompadour: A Life

I want to read another biography about Madame de Pompadour. The other one I read wasn’t what I wanted it to be and this one has a slightly better rating.

Verdict: Keep


Henry: Virtuous Prince

Believe it or not, I’ve never read a book by Starkey. I’m kinda hesitant because of his iffy reputation. Still, I’d like to give him a go.

Verdict: Keep


The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy, #1)

I have no idea why I added this book to my TBR.

Verdict: GO!


Singularity

This looks okay. I read Obscura as an ARC (same author) and I enjoyed it. But I don’t feel a pull to read it.

Verdict: GO!


The Vines

Again, I don’t know why I added this. I’ve never really been interested in Christopher Rice as an author. His stuff doesn’t sound like my thing.

Verdict: GO!


The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

I know that Hilary Mantel is a good author. But I just want her to get off her butt and finish the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, you know?

Verdict: GO!


Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control

I’ve burnt myself on poli-sci nonfiction. So, will I read this one day? Maybe. Right now? Nope. In the near future? Probably not.

Verdict: GO!


Look Behind You

Eh? Looks like I’d get annoyed by it within minutes.

Verdict: GO!


Henry VIII: Man and Monarch

This one sounds super interesting. I like the idea of different authors writing different pieces about Henry’s life.

Verdict: Keep


Last TBR: 1552

Books kept: 3

Books removed: 7

Current TBR: 1541

Image result for woo gif

Next couple of months, I’m going to get this thing down to 1499!


Talk to me!
Read any of these?
Should I have kept any that I purged?

Sunshine Blogger Award

The ever wonderful Virginia tagged me in this waaayyy back in April. Yes. That long ago. And then I scheduled it out on my calendar to July because that’s just how I am. So, thank you Virginia for tagging me even if it took me months!

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blogging site.
  2. Answer the questions.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  5. List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo on your site or on your post.

1. Which book character is the most like you?

Hm. I’ve always felt a certain kinship to Shadow from American Gods. He sees a lot of weird things (and has gone through a lot of shit) but just isn’t bothered anymore. The show kinda dulls that down, but the book is pure Shadow with him just not giving a shit.

2. Which book was your favourite read of 2019? (Of course we’re talking about the first quarter of 2019 here 😉

I actually keep a spreadsheet of bookish stuff each year, including a page for favorite books! So, looking over what I said were my favorites from January-April, I definitely think that The Hero of Ages is my favorite. If we’re looking at up to June, I’d like to add Radio Silence and The Dragon Republic!

3. Which books have made you laugh out loud?

Tbh, I laugh out loud pretty often when I read. Then I repeat the line that made me laugh out loud if it was a really good one. So, I don’t know which books have made me laugh.

4. Is there a book you hate with a fierce passion?

Y’all want to get me going, don’t you? I hate Shade of Magic series by Schwab. I think I hate it so much because it had such promise. And she fucking ruined it. (For me. I know it’s a very beloved series. I just hate it because it sucked ass.)

5. What’s the reason you started blogging?

My one word answer is: Chantel.

The longer answer is that Chantel wanted to start a blog but didn’t want to do it alone. I didn’t really want to start a blog because I already was doing pretty well over on Goodreads. But, she convinced me.

6. What is your favourite quote?

“I like to imagine that the world is one big machine. You know, machines never have any extra parts. They have the exact number and type of parts they need. So I figure if the entire world is a big machine, I have to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.”

It’s from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I just love it. Highly, highly suggest the book.

7. Are you a mood reader or do you follow a list?

I’m a bit of both. As y’all know, I make a TBR each month. I base them off of my mood. If I start a book and don’t like it (or I’m not in the mood for it), I drop it and either DNF or just put it back in the pile to try again later.

I also read lots of books that I don’t include on my list. Just how it is.

8. Also do you prefer to read e-books or physical copies?

I don’t think that I have a preference? I like them both for different reasons! Some books, I need to hold in my hands. Some books, I’d prefer reading them on my phone. Also, e-copies are great because I can read them while at work when I’m cleaning nasty skates.

9. Your most anticipated read for this year?

Hm. I think that it’s going to be The Queen of Nothing. I didn’t expect to love the series as much as I have. And, now that it’s being published this year, I’m dying for it.

10. What are your goals for 2019 and did you already go through with them?

Kind of! I pick 10 books to read each year. Right now, I only have two left to get through. Then, I also decided to expand my reading taste into sci-fi, classics (love them but I don’t read enough of them), historical women, and horror (love it, but don’t read enough). I’m already done with sci-fi and classics. Still working on horror and historical women!

I also kinda make a mental goal of how many books I want to read that I own. That can be physical or e-copies. Just to bring that down and get rid of things I don’t need.

11. If you could go on a date with a book character, who would it be? ;-P

So, I have zero interest in dating. But, I’d totally want to get a coffee with Harry Potter or the above mentioned Shadow. Just to pick their brains about things!


I’m not going to tag anyone or create new questions! If you like Virginia’s questions, you should totally consider yourself tagged and do them. Be sure to tag us so we can read your answers!!

July’s YA Book of the Month!

Hello all!

I’m an affiliate with Book of the Month’s new YA box and I wanted to show you the awesome choices that you can get in July!

 

Clicking that picture will take you to their page where you can sign up — if you already have BotM, you’ll have to sign up for a new one to just get their YA books — and I get a small amount with it.

The choices are, in a bit more detail:

 

And, for my affiliate box I picked:

I’ve had my eye on Wicked Fox for a while and tried to get ARCs. I’m so glad that I picked it because it looks amazing!


Talk to me!
Which of these books would you choose?
Have you thought about signing up for this?

Top Ten Tuesday – Characters I Hate

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Today is a character freebie, so I wanted to talk about characters I hate! I’ve kinda done this before, but I always have more hate to spread.


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  • Severus Snape

I will be honest. I hate him. I don’t think he’s a redeemable character. His obsessive love is fucking creepy — if you found out someone loved you for that long and obsessed over you, I hope you’d call the police. He’s abusive to children and anyone else, really. I just hate this man.

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  • Sirius Black

I rewatched the movies a couple weekends ago after not watching them for 5+ years and I forgot how much they sanitized Sirius’s character! No huge fight with Snape. Not abusive to Kreacher. But, the book Sirius? I know exactly why I didn’t like him. He’s that high school bully who never grew up and grew out of his tendencies. He’s nice to his friends but cruel to others. And, I just don’t like Sirius. Never have.

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

  • Lila Bard

Don’t like her. She’s a character that I can’t get behind. I think she’s dumb and reckless. Like Sirius, I get her psychology but I still don’t have to like her. Reckless characters, who are reckless just to be reckless, kill me.

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  • Dolores Umbridge

Pretty sure that this one is a no-brainer, right? She’s a fascinating character who I love to hate, but, in the end, I desperately hate her.

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)

  • Taryn

Oh, Taryn. I remember getting ready to read the first book and seeing all the hate towards her. I didn’t understand it until I did. And, God, do I hate Taryn. She only gets worse.

The Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1)

  • Will Henry

I never see anyone reading this series and I do not expect anyone to understand why I hate him. Hell, if you haven’t finished the series you won’t get it. But, Jesus. This boy ruined my mind and ugh. Just a huge mindfuck at the last page of what you know will be the final book.

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  • Percy Wetmore

If y’all aren’t familiar with The Green Mile you won’t get the reference. But, Percy is a son of a bitch who just gets worse and worse. He got what was coming to him.

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  • “Wild Bill” Wharton

Another Green Mile reference here. But, I hate him so much. He’s literally so awful that I can’t even describe him.

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  • Amy Dunne

I’ll tell you who she is. A horrible person. (Her husband is horrid also, but she’s a bit worse from what I remember.)

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  • Edward Cullen

I know everyone hates Bella and tends to leave out Edward, but he’s so much worse. Bella was a young teen who had low self-esteem and was pretty neglected. Edward groomed her, stalked her, and was super abusive towards her. Edward’s worse.


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Book review – House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Caidyn's review (1)

House of Salt and Sorrows

4.5/5

CW: death of a parent, death of a sibling, grief drugging, some gore, general horror themes


I will be 100% honest with you. I didn’t expect to love this book.

Seriously. I requested it because the cover caught my eye and the synopsis sounded pretty good. That’s what happened. It’s a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which isn’t the most horrifying fairytale out there.

But Craig took that starting point and elevated it to something that blew me away.

One thing I noticed when I started this book, there was no character list and no reviews pointed out all the characters. I actually had to start it over, get a piece of paper out, and draw myself out a genogram to see what the hell was going on and who all these people were.

Annaleigh is our main character. She’s the sixth daughter out of twelve. And bad things are happening at her home. Her mother died after giving birth to her last daughter, Verity (who is also one of the Graces, but give me a moment to get there). Her father remarried, Morella, who has now announced that she’s pregnant.

But it doesn’t stop there. The book opens with the funeral of one of Annaleigh’s older sisters, Eulalie. This isn’t her first sister who died either. So far, her older sisters Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth have also died, along with Eulalie and their mother. The siblings that are left are: Camille (older than Annaleigh); Annaleigh; the triplets Rosalie, Lenore, and Ligeoa; and the Graces (called that because they’re close in age and don’t really remember their mother) Honor, Mercy, and Verity.

Whew.

See why I needed a family tree and I had to start it over? There are tons of names and connections and I really had to concentrate.

A major theme of this book is grief. Having just lost my sister about two months ago when I dove into this book, it was palpable. I could understand and distinctly feel the sorrow that Annaleigh experienced. Her grief was on a different level with her mother and four sisters dying in mysterious ways, plus starting to believe that someone is out there killing them.

In this world, her father is a duke and rules this certain island. The island is a bit different. The oldest child, no matter what gender they are, inherits the dukedom. The island is a major setting for this story because it all revolves around the sea and their religion heavily comes from that, too.

I loved the setting. I loved the world. It was so much fun to immerse myself into it and watch as the story slowly expanded it. The plot itself wasn’t too predictable, which was shocking. As I said, Craig took a very plain story and elevated it. She brought in mystery and horror and some romance and religion and ugh. It was so good.

As I said, there is romance. I was kinda meh about it — I didn’t think it was needed, but at least I liked Cassius, the love interest. For a bit, I thought it would be a love triangle between Cassius, the mysterious arrival, and Fisher, a childhood friend. I’m glad that it didn’t develop into that. I would have been very disappointed.

More about the plot, though. It starts off dark and it progressively gets darker. Hell, I thought it was getting Grimm Brothers dark and maybe even darker than that. The ending had my eyes wide and I could picture it in my head. It was very gruesome. Sure, the ending is happy, but God did it get really dark right before that.

All in all, this book was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect from it and I set my bar very low for that reason, but it took me by surprise. Erin Craig is an author I’m going to keep my eye on. I can see her taking YA by storm.


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Have you read this?
Is it on your TBR?
What’s your favorite retelling?