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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14 Best Book Deals for 1/26/19 – TWO FREE BOOKS, Notorious RBG, The Belles, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, and more

There are some great deals this week!

Free

Queen of Someday by Sherry D. Ficklin

Slave, Warrior, Queen by Morgan Rice

How can you turn down free books? Both of these are ones I’ve downloaded and I’m excited to get to them!

Less than $1

Truth or Dare by Madeleine Labitan – This is actually a novella and it sounds like a great love to hate story!

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier РI absolutely adore retellings (especially Beauty and the Beast). This one looks great!

Less than $2

Stealing Snow¬†by Danielle Paige – Again, with the retellings! I seriously can’t get enough.

Loving vs. Virginia¬†by Patricia Hruby Powell – I loved this book so much! I don’t read many books written in verse, but as part of an interracial couple, this was a must-read for me. It tells this true story in such a delicate and beautiful way. I was literally moved to tears multiple times. (my review)

A Year with C.S. Lewis¬†edited by Patricia S. Klein – This seems like it would be a great way to start every day–with a little bit of C.S. Lewis.

Winterfolk by Janel Kolby – I just heard about this book and it sounds really interesting! I haven’t read a book with contemporary homeless representation before and I grew up near Seattle so it especially hits close to home for me.

Less than $3

A Date with Darcy¬†by Tiffany Schmidt – This is the first book in the Bookish Boyfriends series and it sounds so cute! Who hasn’t fantasized about their bookish crush coming to life?

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee – I have heard so many good things about this book! And I love a strong Asian American protag. Represent!

Less than $4

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon РWith the RBG movie coming out, this could be a good book to familiarize yourself with her story.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – This book was hyped SO MUCH last year. If you haven’t read it yet, then where have you been?

About $5

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner РThis sounds like a great book with serious fairy tale vibes and (hopefully) a strong sister relationship.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer РI really loved this book which features two characters falling in love via letters (swoon). Highly recommend! (my review)

 

Russian Fairy Tales Come to Life | The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [ARC]

The Bear and the NightingaleVasya was born on a windy night to a dying mother who knew that Vasya was going to be someone special. As Vasya grows and becomes more and more wild, her father starts to worry that she needs a motherly influence. So he goes to Moscow and brings back a bride whose sanity may be a little questionable¬†as she claims to see demons where others see nothing. While learning how to live with her new step-mother, Vasya continues to develop into a striking young woman who may have inherited a little bit of her grandmother’s magic.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I thought the writing was beautiful and I was very interested to learn about Russian mythology and fairy tales as that is an area that I know literally nothing about. I’ve always been a fan of mythology and fairy tales in general, so it was just fun to hear some new stories. I thought the author did a great job of incorporating Russian culture and language into the overall story without ruining the flow. I did find myself wondering, however, whether this was supposed to be a complete alternate Russia/Russia-derivative (kind of like Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha-verse) or if it was simply a fantastical historical Russia. The author’s note at the end of the book cleared that question up, but it wasn’t really clear throughout the story and I found myself distracted in some parts.

I thought Vasya was a really compelling character. I loved how the author starts the book with Vasya’s birth and we get to follow her into her teenage years. It really allows the reader to watch the character develop and helps us to understand who she is and what her motivations are. I also thought Vasya stayed really true to who she was supposed to be as a character throughout. Sometimes I’ve found that characters do things that don’t really make sense with who they are supposed to be, but I thought Vasya was a great example of somebody who just made sense as a character. She was so complex and conflicted throughout the book. As a reader, I felt that I could really empathize with what she was going through. Vasya tries to be the good Russian girl that she’s supposed to be, but at the same time her heart is leading her in a completely separate direction. Just…a really good character. I also loved the cast of secondary characters that Arden gives¬†us. The familial relationships that exist between Vasya and her brothers and her younger step-sister felt so genuine.

The plot itself was a little slow-moving. It required a lot of setup, but I didn’t really find that I minded. The world that the author paints for us is so beautiful and filled with an ordinary (but at the same time not ordinary) magic. That being said, nothing much really happens until the last 25% of the book and then I felt that the ending was a bit abrupt.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes well-developed characters or who is interested in a historical picture of Russia. Just from a quick scan of Goodreads, it looks like this book is the author’s debut novel. I anticipate that we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future.

Overall: 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.

BLOG TOUR: Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas

Kingdom-of-Ashes-GalleyCatKingdom of Ashes (A Wicked Thing #2)
by Rhiannon Thomas
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 23rd, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Fairy Tales, Romance, Magic, Fiction, Teen

Goodreads|Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|iTunes|Kobo

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
A Wicked Thing (see my review for it here)

SYNOPSIS: Asleep for a hundred years, awoken by a kiss, Aurora’s life was supposed to be a fairytale. But since discovering that loyalty to the crown and loyalty to her country are two very different things, Aurora knows she can only dream of happily ever after. Once the enchanted princess, savior of her people, she is now branded a traitor.

Aurora is determined to free her home from the king‚Äôs tyrannical rule, even if it means traveling across the sea to the kingdom of the handsome and devious Prince Finnegan‚ÄĒsomeone who seems to know far more about her magic than he should. However, Finnegan‚Äôs kingdom has perils of its own, and any help he gives Aurora will come at a price.

As Aurora and Finnegan work together to harness her power‚ÄĒsomething so fiery and dangerous that is as likely to destroy those close to Aurora as it is to save them‚ÄĒshe begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the curse that was placed on her over a century before‚Ķand uncover the truth about the destiny she was always meant to fulfill.

Brimming with captivating fantasy and life-threatening danger, the sequel to A Wicked Thing takes Sleeping Beauty on an adventure unlike any she’s ever had before.

REVIEW:¬†Let me start off by saying that this series is a commitment. There isn’t a lot of resolution in each book, but I think the overall series will be able to accomplish that. That being said, the pace of this book is slow. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Aurora is in her head a lot so it sometimes keeps the story and the plot from advancing as quickly as it could (so just be ready for that). At the same time, I feel like we as readers really get to know Aurora well and understand her feelings and motivations. It’s just kind of a trade-off there. Sometimes it can¬†get tiresome with all of the, “Should I kiss Finnegan? But no, I shouldn’t. But I really want to. But I can’t.” Just kiss him already!

Outside of Aurora though, I have a hard time figuring out some of the other characters and why they’re doing what they’re doing (i.e. Finnegan, Orla, Nettle, Tristan, etc). It seems like everyone is really secretive and nobody is telling Aurora the whole story. It’s almost like we’re all still playing catch-up with her from when she was asleep. This was hard for me at times because I typically like to feel like I know more than the protagonist does. In this case, we’re just as uncertain as she is who to trust.

Lastly, even though I feel like I get Aurora, I had a hard time understanding what exactly her end goal was which made it hard for me to care all the way about the plot of the story. Does she want to be queen? What does she want to do with her magic? Does she intend to stick around for a while? We don’t really know the answers to any of these questions.

Overall, I liked this book and I will continue with the series. There were some things that I disliked about it, but they were all personal preferences and I would not consider them fatal flaws in any way. My last bit of criticism is that I wish we had been given a more complete description of the dragons. They become a big part of the story, but I had a hard time picturing them.

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


giveaway

Click on the above picture or this link to be taken to a Rafflecopter giveaway


RhiannonABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rhiannon Thomas is a recent graduate from Princeton University, where she studied English and Japanese, and smuggled bubble tea into the library on a regular basis. She now lives in York, England.

As well as reading and writing YA fiction, she runs the blog FeministFiction.com, where she discusses TV, books, and all kinds of fannish things from a feminist perspective.

I don’t hang out on Goodreads much, so if you want to contact me, please swing by my personal website or message me on Twitter.

Website|Goodreads|Twitter|Tumblr|Instagram


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

Winter by Marissa Meyer (SPOILERS)

Okay, normally I try to avoid including spoilers in my review, but I find that I just cannot talk about this book without them. So reader be warned.

winter-finalThis book was everything that I wanted it to be and more. I think it must be hard when you have such a hyped series to end it in a way that is satisfying for everyone–but I think Meyer was (for the most part) able to accomplish that. I liked that the book starts right where the third book left off. It really throws the reader into this world in a way that they become immediately invested in what’s going on. Meyer is also very good at doing some recapping without it feeling like review (especially for those of us readers who just discovered and devoured the series this last year). The characters were all just as great as they were in the previous books¬†and had the same¬†witty¬†banter going back and forth. There were a lot of times in this book (and the past ones) where I’m just going, “Okay, how the¬†heck are they going to get out of this one? There’s no way everything will work out okay!” But then it does and even better than that–it¬†makes sense how it does. Sometimes an author will do something and I’ll think, “Hmmm…not so sure about that” but not with these books.

The fairy tale elements were awesome and seamless. Every time something started happening to echo the actual fairy tale of Snow White, I would get a little excited. I don’t know why, but I got a little giddy when they brought out the stasis chamber or whatever to save Winter. I just thought it was all so clever!

I love how strong all of the female characters are in this book. Not only are they strong, but they are strong in perhaps traditionally masculine ways. Cinder is a great mechanic, Scarlet is a skilled pilot, Cress is an awesome hacker, Winter is a great natural leader, even Levana is a really good strategist (though I hate to admit it). It’s so awesome to me that these books are based off of fairy tales where the women are portrayed as damsels in distress. In these books, the women are saving the men just as much as (if not more than) the men are saving the women. Girl power!

Now that I’ve talked about how awesome the women are…I can’t help but gush over the romances. I seriously ship Thorne and Cress so hard. The other romances are fine–whatever. But I LIVED for the scenes between Thorne and Cress *sigh*. On another note, the most heartbreaking thing in this book for me was Wolf’s transformation after he’s been captured. Obviously I knew that Scarlet would still love him, but for some reason it really made me sad that this irreversible thing had happened to him. How can something like that not change their relationship? It has to.

Okay, just to wrap up, there were a couple of things that I didn’t like about this book. First, I think it’s unrealistic that all nine of our main characters made it out alive (the four couples plus Iko). They go through this huge battle–Lunar citizens are being killed left and right–but all nine of our protagonists make it through with only slight injuries? It’s just not realistic. I mean, compare this to Harry Potter, right? Sure our three main characters made it out, but not all of the characters who had been there from the beginning did. In fact, quite a few of my favorite characters ended up dying. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy they all survived and can live Happily Ever After–but is this realistic? I think you’ll agree with me that it is NOT. Second, I saw another blogger bring up that the book does not look like it’s over 800 pages long (due to the thinness of the pages). While my shelf space is grateful for this, my pride as a reader wishes that the book looked like it was as long as it is. Yes, I want people to visit my apartment and go, “Whoa, you read that whole thing?” Vain, I know. But what can I say?

Overall, I thought this book was GREAT. Totally worth the wait, definitely worth the hype. If you liked the first three books, you’ll like this one. If you haven’t read the first three books, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Seriously, you need to pick this series up ASAP.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None
Violence: Heavy. Very large quantity, but not a lot of gory details.
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Top Ten Tuesday: Fairy Tale Retellings

top-ten-tuesday

This Top Ten Tuesday is seriously right up my alley. I LOVE FAIRY TALE RETELLINGS! I have read dozens of retellings–not just limited to fairy tales–and I usually enjoy them. So, let’s get on with it.¬†Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week there is a new topic and this week‚Äôs topic is:¬†Ten Fairytale Retellings I’ve Read

1) The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Snow White

2) The Cruel Beauty Universe by Rosamund Hodge – Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella (Novella), Red Riding Hood

3) Fairy Tale Retellings by Jackson Pearce – (all set in the same universe with some characters slightly overlapping) Red Riding Hood, The Snow Queen, Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid

4) Timeless Fairy Tales series by K.M. Shea – Beauty and the Beast, The Six Swans , Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, The Little Mermaid, Puss in Boots (comes out Aug 6)

5) The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor – Alice in Wonderland

6) Twelve Dancing Princesses series by Jessica Day George РTwelve Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood/Robin Hood

7) Entwined by Heather Dixon – Twelve Dancing Princesses

8) The Woodcutter Sisters series by Alethea Kontis РThe Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel, The Six Swans

9) The Hagenheim Family series by Melanie Dickerson Р Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast

10) Splintered series by A.G. Howard – Alice in Wonderland