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?

Book review – Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Caidyn's review (1)

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)

I received this ARC from Netgalley for an honest review!

3/5

CW: sexism, slavery, and attempted rape


I’m so conflicted about this book.

On one hand, I really liked this and thought it was a solid book with an interesting plot and fun characters. On the other hand, I thought it lacked pacing and the story got very lost.

To make this a bit more clear, I’m splitting this book in half and I’m going to review each half of the book. There was such a stark difference between the first half and the second half that it really needs to be done that way.

The first half, I would give 4 stars. Maia had three older brothers. Two died and the other just came back from war very injured. Her father is a tailor but is really struggling to make ends meet and she has to step in. So, when someone from the palace comes, demanding that her father come to compete in a tailoring competition, Maia decides to pretend to be her older brother who is back from war and go in his place.

I really loved the family dynamics. I found them so interesting and I genuinely would have liked a little bit more of Maia with her family.

Once she got to the palace, I really loved the challenges that Maia had to go through with the competition and the conversation about gender restrictions that happened periodically with another character.

That character is Edan. He’s the emperor’s enchanter. No one really likes him, but he takes a real interest in Maia. Now, I liked him. I thought he was cool and the banter he and Maia had was so nice. I really loved their friendship. I need more friendships in books rather than straight to romance.

The only thing I didn’t love was the pacing. It was very slow. Granted, it worked. The slower pace gave time to set up the relationships that would go into the second half of the book and the challenges really shone. Still, I would have like a bit of a quicker pace.

Then, we got to the second half. I’m giving that 2 stars. My entire mood throughout the second half of the book is encapsulated by this gif.

It was just such a pain to get through and I wound up skimming.

Instead of Maia staying at the palace, she goes on some journey/quest/adventure. With Edan. I didn’t mind that change of events — although I found the palace intrigues more interesting in hindsight — but it was a surprise.

What came as no surprise to me was that the friendship Edan and Maia had turned into a romance. I have no interest in it. There were so many cheesy quotes, though. So many cringe-y YA romance quotes. Like this gem: (And remember that quotes are liable to change in the final, published copy!)

I knew that we were like two pieces of cloth, sewn together for life. Our stitches couldn’t be undone.
I wouldn’t let them.

Gag.

Not only that, but the romance took place of the quest. It would have been hella cool, but the pacing was so off. The romance was slow and there was a lot of time focused on the romance that the actual quest/journey got forgotten. Each little challenge was quickly written to get back to the romance.

Now, I’m very sure that I’ll be the one with the unpopular opinion about the romance. I just had no interest in it and didn’t think that the story needed it. As I said, I want more books with friendships in them rather than it always having to be a relationship.

All of that being said, I don’t think this book needs to be a series. If the story was tweaked just a little bit, it would have been a great stand-alone book and I might have some nicer things to say about it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but there was such a stark difference between the halves of the book that it left a bad taste in my mouth. Will I continue with the series? I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t like where the story went.


Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?
What books have had unnecessary romances in them for you?

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

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Unsolvedathon check-in #2

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of Top Ten Tuesday

Week two and I’m still on track!

Image result for gasp gif

I’m shocked, too, because I’m so. Bad. at readathons. I forget or lose motivation. But not this one! Right now, I’m at 7/10 for the books! Still on track with them, too. A little ahead even! Seriously, I’m happy about that. But, read below to see my reviews for the books!

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Book review – My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

Caidyn's review (1)

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Caidyn: Today is a very special day for me. That being, it's the third anniversary of the day I changed my name. Why is that such a big deal? Because I'm trans and that means I no longer had to go by my dead name. That day was so special and I'm so grateful that I had the ability to do it. Not all transpeople have those resources. . So, in honor of this day, I'm reading some of my highest anticipated reads! One, obviously is My Plain Jane. I had my first every @owlcrate box and I am so glad I own this book! I loved My Lady Jane so I'm excited. . I'm also going to read The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by @themackenzilee and Bedfellow by @jeremycshipp ! . #bookstagrammer #transman #transvisibility #myplainjane #bedfellow #theladysguidetopetticoatandpiracy

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4/5

TW: sexism

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