Probably the darkest 12 Dancing Princesses retelling you’ll ever read | House of Salt & Sorrows by Erin A. Craig [ARC]

House of Salt and SorrowsAnnaleigh just wants her sisters to stop dying. There used to be twelve of them but now that Ava, Octavia, Elizabeth, and Eulalie are all dead, there are only eight of them left. As she struggles to mourn the latest death, Eulalie’s, Annaleigh must also find a way to comfort her younger sisters when the town starts theorizing about a family curse. Frustrated that all of the young men are too afraid of “the curse” to court them, the sisters realize they must try to find young men that have never heard of them or their dead sisters. They think they might have found a way, but what will it cost them?

TL;DR – The story of the 12 Dancing Princesses darker than you’ve ever heard it. Part mystery and part fairytale retelling, it comes together better than expected even if a little confusing at times.

Order: Hardcover | eBook

Sometimes I request books on NetGalley and then when it’s finally time to read and review, I’ve forgotten what the book was supposed to be about. I went into this book pretty blind–I didn’t realize at first that it was a retelling until they were buying their “fairy shoes”. With that being said, I love a good retelling and I’ve actually read quite a few retellings of the 12 Dancing Princesses. This one was different. A lot of the ones I’ve read stick to the “secret door in their room that leads to another place” outline. I’ve even read one or two where the princesses are forced to dance against their will. Craig’s take on the story felt a lot more insidious. I think part of it was Camille’s desperation and refusal to let go of this outlet she’d found and part of it was the spooky stuff that was going on with Verity.

Annaleigh was a likable character from the beginning. Her sisters varied in likability depending on what was going on, but they were all enjoyable. The only thing I wished was that we got to see the softer, kinder side of Camille. Annaleigh states that they grew up as best friends, but we never really see that side to their relationship. Camille is mostly just bratty and grumpy the whole book. Craig did a good job of making a lot of the secondary characters feel kind of grey. I wasn’t sure who was supposed to be good and who was supposed to be bad until almost the very end. It seemed like maybe we were getting set up for a love triangle, but the author managed to turn that on its head as well. I wasn’t super into Cassius as the love interest. I mean, he seemed perfect, but (as is often the case) we’re not really given any concrete reasons as to why he likes Annaleigh. He seems like this perfect guy (too perfect) so what exactly does he want with or flawed main character? Authors! We need an explanation for this!

The plot was twisty and suspenseful. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next or what the conclusion was going to be until it was upon us. Without giving anything away, I will say that I’m a little disappointed by some character resolutions…I’ll just leave it at that. I thought the religious system could have used a little more explanation. Maybe the author could have started each chapter with a myth or legend about the gods that these people believed in. It’s just that almost nothing is said about their gods in the first 2/3 of the book, and then all of the sudden they start playing this huge role.

Overall, I would recommend this book for people who are looking for darker fairytale retellings. While it has a happy(ish) ending, I wouldn’t say that it’s feel good at all. It was definitely darker and creepier than I had anticipated–I was surprised by the touch of horror! I would definitely say this could be a good book to read in late September or in October to get ready for Halloween.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Morally grey characters dressed in black | Vicious by V.E. Schwab

ViciousVictor has been thinking about the moment he would confront his former best friend Eli for a long time. For 10 long years while in prison to be exact. He wants to punish Eli but unfortunately for Victor, Eli is a little…unkillable. With Victor’s former cellmate Mitch and a runaway named Sydney by his side, Victor will put his plan into motion and finally find the justice he’s been seeking.

TL;DR – Schwab’s storytelling devices keep the plot moving quickly and the suspense high. While there are no good guys in this book, there are plenty of likable characters.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

I loved this book so much–possibly more than her Shades of Magic series (which I also LOVED). I first encountered this author’s YA books (under the name Victoria Schwab) and was immediately hooked on her world-building. I had no idea what was to come when I made the leap to her adult works. Her skill in creating likeable “bad guys” is out of this world. Victor is not a good guy. He’s done bad and questionable things, but I still REALLY LIKE him. It’s the darnedest thing. All the characters, in fact, are incredibly well fleshed-out. They all have depth and I felt like the reader gets to know them on a deeper level than we do most characters in books. And don’t even get me started on the antagonists… (so evil, but also evil isn’t quite the right word?).

The world that Schwab has created for this story isn’t that different from the one we’re currently in except for the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). The entire concept of EOs isn’t necessarily revolutionary (think X-Men) but the way that they get created in her world seems entirely too plausible. What Eli and Victor do with that information also seems extremely realistic (without being too spoilery).

This story could have been told in a really linear, straightforward way, but that’s not how Schwab has decided to tell it. Chapters all start with a reference to an event: “6 hours before”, “10 years ago”, “The day before”. That kind of thing. This lets the reader know that we’re building up to some big event, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until it’s almost upon us. This creates an almost unbelievable amount of tension as we’re left trying to figure out what we’re building up to. The way the different timelines and the story is woven together is just plain genius.

You guys. This book is GOOD. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little sci-fi-y but not like, too sci-fi-y. I would also recommend if you’re just plain looking for a good book to read.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Mild

This book made me feel 100% Latina | Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno [ARC]

Don't Date Rosa SantosThe Santos women are cursed by the sea. Any man that they fall in love with will be claimed by the ocean. Rosa has grown up her entire life with this knowledge and has never really grappled with it until now. She’s about to pick which college she wants to go to when she meets Alex. He’s tall, has a beard, ocean tattoos, and…a boat. Rosa knows it’s a bad idea to fall for him, but how can she resist especially when she finds out that he bakes too?

TL;DR – This book will make you wish you had an abuela. The Cuban culture is so authentic throughout that it makes my heart hurt.

eBook | Hardcover

My ethnicity is a mixed bag. I’m a quarter white, half Chinese, and a quarter Hispanic. The grandparent I grew up closest to is my mom’s mother who was born and raised in Panama. Rosa’s abuela, Mimi, reminded me so much of my own grandmother. I could see her doing and saying so many of the things that Mimi did. There are more similarities as well that I’ll address later on. Seriously though, this book made me feel so much more Hispanic than I actually am. During and after reading I found myself gesturing at things to my husband with my lip/chin. I never do that!

First, I just want to say that I absolutely adored this book. It was so close to being a five star read for me! I thought Rosa was a really enjoyable character right off the bat and I loved her dynamic with all of the other characters. She was so interesting and really felt alive for me. I also loved the dynamic and tensions between Rosa, Mimi, and Liliana (Rosa’s mom). All three women were incredibly strong in different ways. I enjoyed that the author was able to portray that differing strength in women. Women can be strong, even if they’re not all strong in the same way.

Secondary characters were amazing! They all felt like they had depth to them and I felt they contributed to the story in an important way. I especially enjoyed Rosa’s best friend and the viejos. Please, I would follow their Instagram in a heartbeat!

The atmosphere of the book also felt so real. The weather was almost another character and I loved how that played into the slight magical/mystical thread throughout the book. It was all very fun. The weather also contributed to the raw emotions that came out at times. There are a few scenes throughout this book where the emotion is just so heavy. Despite that, this isn’t a heavy book and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a Summer read.

***Slight Spoiler Ahead***

This book hit me especially hard because my grandmother just passed away last month in a way that was similar to Mimi. It was kind of sudden and like Liliana, my mom was the one there performing CPR on her own mother until the paramedics arrived. There were some other similarities as well that I won’t go into. It just felt eerily similar to me. When Rosa was dealing with Mimi’s death, I felt it so hard. I saw myself in Rosa and parts of my mom in Liliana. The emotions felt so real and it’s obvious that the author has lost someone close to her. I still forget some days that my grandma isn’t around anymore. I hope, like Rosa, that I can one day make that pilgrimage back to my grandmother’s homeland. The sacrifices that she made to come to America amaze me every day and I would literally not be here without her. I love you, Llaya.

***Spoiler End***

Anyway…I highly, highly recommend this book. I appreciate the call for diversity in YA, but a lot of times I think it’s done poorly or in a way that’s inauthentic. That is NOT the case with this book. If you want to read diversity in YA, then this is the kind of thing you should be reading.

Overall Rating: 4.5
Language: Mild
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Turns out, I don’t hate this series | Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch

Safiya fon Hasstrel is a Truthwitch which means she can sense when people are lying. But if anyone besides her closest friends knew that, then she would immediately become a political pawn or be assassinated. With a 20-year-truce between nations coming to a potentially bloody close, Safi finds that her secret has been discovered and that her ability is more sought-after than ever. With the help of her friend and Thread-sister Iseult and finding an unlikely ally in the Nubrevnan Prince Merik, Safi is on the run.

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

TL;DR – Writing, worldbuilding, and plot are all good. Strong female friendship gets an A+. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

I was so prepared to hate this book and the entire series. There had just been so much hype around it and for some reason I had this belief that it was going to be poorly written with a myriad of plot holes, probably a love triangle, and abysmal world-building. I think I’ve just been disappointed one too many times on hyped books/series–I’ve become jaded. Regardless, I went into this book prepared to be disappointed and was completely blown away instead.

Now, the book isn’t perfect, but I was really impressed by the writing and the world/magic system that Dennard had created. Even though the world seemed complex, I didn’t feel completely lost in the beginning like I have in other books. The magic system is pretty reminiscent of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I’m willing to look past that.The switching POV was a good way to give the readers perspective and helped us to learn about the different nations and the political climate pretty quickly. However, not all of the POVs felt distinct. Safi and Iseult particularly felt like the same character was narrating.

I really, REALLY enjoyed that Dennard highlighted friendships in this book as well. The friendship between Safi and Iseult is so pure and it kills me that they both think that they’re holding the other person back. I wish that the friendship between Merik and Kullen had been explored more, though. It felt like we were more told about that friendship rather than shown. If that makes sense.

One last observation that I had was that the contract between Merik and Safi’s uncle stated that she couldn’t spill any blood, right? Well, what if Safi had been on her period??? Typical male-written contract…

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am excited to continue on with the series. So far, I’m not super convinced that Safi’s Truthwitchery is actually that valuable, but I’m hoping the next books prove me wrong.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

ebook | Paperback | Hardcover

 

 

BLOG TOUR: Who I Am with You by Robin Lee Hatcher [GIVEAWAY]

who i am with youWho I Am with You
by Robin Lee Hatcher
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Genres: Christian fiction, Romance

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N

SYNOPSIS: For these two broken hearts, the first step toward love will be a huge leap of faith.

Jessica Mason isn’t looking for love when she meets Ridley Chesterfield. Instead she is still reeling from the tragic, unexpected loss of her husband and daughter—and awaiting the arrival of her unborn child. Harboring the secret of her husband’s betrayal, her pain is deeper than anyone knows.

Ridley Chesterfield is hiding out in Hope Springs, Idaho, avoiding a political scandal and the barrage of false media headlines that have tarnished his good name. The last thing Ridley wants is a relationship—but when fate leads Ridley to form a friendship with his reclusive and pregnant neighbor, he wonders if this small-town hideout might be more of a long-term destination.

When Jessica begins to read her great-grandfather’s Bible, she finds a connection with a man she never knew. Somehow the verses he marked and the words he wrote in the margins open her heart to healing. And as Ridley and Jessica help each other forgive the people who have broken their hearts, they must decide if the past will define them or if they will choose to love again.

Who I Am with You weaves together a modern-day romance with Jessica’s great-grandfather’s story from the 1930s, reminding us that some truths can cross generations and that faith has the power to transform families forever.

Who I Am with You is the first book in Robin’s new “A Legacy of Faith” series.

REVIEW: I’m always a little wary of Christian fiction because I think sometimes the religion aspect is too heavy handed. That being said, I thought Hatcher struck a great balance with this book. Obviously their faith is present, but the characters aren’t talking to God or reflecting on Christ every other paragraph.

Both Jessica and Ridley were enjoyable, sympathetic characters. They both start off the book a little angry because of things that had happened to them in their past and it was interesting to see the different ways that they dealt with that anger. Ridley chose to escape and turn to God, while Jessica chose to become more closed off and independent. The reader gets a chance to see both characters develop as they work towards forgiving those that have wronged them.

The plot is nothing crazy, but it helps us to get to know the characters and by the end, the reader really wants both Jessica and Ridley to be happy. Andrew’s sections were not quite as compelling to me, so I was glad that they were significantly shorter than the present day narrative. One thing I wished was that more of a connection was struck between Jessica and Andrew. I think it mentions her reading through his Bible once? They were going through some similar things I would have liked to have seen Jessica find more comfort and kinship in her great-grandfather.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s the first book in the series and it looks like the next book starts with Jessica handing off Andrew’s Bible to another relative. It will be interesting to see how Andrew’s story continues with this new family member.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: None
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: Mild


Who I Am with You blog tour

Click on the banner above to be taken to the giveaway!



robin lee hatcherABOUT THE AUTHOR: 
Robin Lee Hatcher is the author of over 75 novels and novellas with over five million copies of her books in print. She is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an ACFW Carol Award winner and an eight-time finalist and has won two RITA Awards and been a finalist eleven times. Her numerous other awards include the Christy Award, the HOLT Medallion, the National Reader’s Choice Award, and the Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award. She is also the recipient of prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from both American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin and her husband make their home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon dog and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

For more information, visit www.robinleehatcher.com, Facebook: robinleehatcher, Twitter: @robinleehatcher and Instagram @robinleehatcher.


Note: I received this book free from the author/blog tour in exchange for an honest review.

Food and drama and family, oh my | Love ĂĄ la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm [ARC]

Love a la ModeRosie and Henry are both on their way to Paris to live at the Ecole. It’s a culinary high school for teens around the world who love to cook. Rosie is from a small town in Ohio and isn’t sure if she really belongs at the Ecole since her passion is baking, not cooking. Henry is from Chicago and just wishes that his mom would get off his back and let him do what he loves–cook. Both Henry and Rosie will need to prove to themselves that they really belong in Paris and along the way, they may find something else as well–it is the city of love after all.

TL;DR – Loved the food aspect, but everything else (characters, drama) felt exaggerated and shallow.

I really, REALLY liked the premise of this book. I’m not an awesome cook or anything, but I can appreciate good food and I love watching Food Network. Honestly, this book read like it was written by somebody who also just enjoys watching Food Network and doesn’t know much about the culture of cooking, etc. The main characters were in awe of a chef who won Chopped four times…I just have a hard time believing that’s actually what Michelin star winning chefs actually care about. I also questioned teenagers being sent to Paris for high school? But I guess people send their kids to boarding schools all the time, so maybe it’s not that weird.

The characters were okay for me. They seemed relatively immature and there was a bit of an instalove component between Henry and Rosie. I thought the friend group had the potential to have a great dynamic, but in the end it fell kind of flat for me. I felt like each secondary character was a stereotype or caricature of their culture…they all just felt so exaggerated.

Plotwise, again, the book was just okay. The drama between Henry, Rosie, and Bodie felt SUPER fabricated. Henry and Rosie are pretty much with each other 24/7 and they can’t find two seconds to talk and clear the air? I also didn’t appreciate how angry Henry would get at Rosie doing things with Bodie. Henry and Rosie weren’t actually dating and Rosie doesn’t owe him ANYTHING. I mean, she does end up liking Henry, but even if she did like Bodie, Henry has NO RIGHT to be upset about that.

The last criticism I have is how the author treated Henry’s “tiger mom”. Henry is Korean and his mom is super involved with his academics–even going as far as to email his teachers in Paris. To me, it feels like an Asian tiger mom can really be portrayed in a bad light and I feel like Henry’s mom was mostly portrayed negatively in this book. I feel like the tiger mom thing was used as a plot device to inject more drama into the story. Henry’s mom felt like just another character exaggeration and I didn’t really appreciate that coming from a white author.

Overall, this book was just okay. I liked the descriptions of food (hard to go wrong there), but the book itself didn’t really have any weight or depth. I’d probably advise a pass on this one.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.