House of Salt and Sorrows – Erin A. Craig

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Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

Get swept away by the New York Times bestseller that Melissa Albert, author of The Hazel Wood, calls “eerie” and “lovely.” As one by one her beautiful sisters mysteriously die on their isolated island estate, Annaleigh must unravel the curse that haunts her family. Be careful who you dance with…

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there 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 her sister’s deaths were no accidents. The girls 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. House of Salt and Sorrows is a spellbinding novel filled with magic and the rustle of gossamer skirts down long, dark hallways. Get ready to be swept away.

Review:

Well that was five nightmare inducing stars!!

I received my copy of House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig in OwlCrate’s August “Storm and Seas” box. I had heard about House of Salt and Sorrows prior to receiving my OwlCrate box and I was super intrigued by the premise! I’m happy to say that House of Salt and Sorrows exceeded my expectations! Congrats to Erin A. Craig on this fantastic debut!

I decided to read House of Salt and Sorrows in October because I had heard that it was super creepy! I am not a fan of horror movies, but I do love thrillers and psychologically scary stories (and creepy things around Halloween time). This was a little out of my comfort zone because this book was definitely scary!! There were a few scenes where I actually had to step away for a few minutes. Erin A. Craig did such a an incredible job of creating vivid imagery that felt so real. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and read this perfect spooky.

House of Salt and Sorrows is a gothic, dark, and incredibly eerie retelling of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Even though it’s a retelling, this book is totally original. The plot was full of twists and turns! I truly didn’t know what to expect next! House of Salt and Sorrows was totally mind bending! There were several moments where I was like “whaaattttt!” with my mouth wide open in shock. There’s also mystery, horror, family bonds, and romance. The story was fast paced and exciting. It was so hard to put the book down!!

When I finished reading House of Salt and Sorrows I just sat there for a few minutes trying to digest it all. I was awestruck by the conclusion. I guessed a couple of small details, but I was genuinely stunned by all the reveals and the conclusion. I immediately had to go talk to my friend who had also just read the book. We both are still totally amazing and slightly creeped out.

House of Salt and Sorrows is a stunning gothic tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a fantasy horror with mystery and romance. I highly recommend it! Congrats to Erin A. Craig on this incredible book. I can’t wait to see what she writes next!!

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1) – Roshani Chokshi

39863498Rating:⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Roshani Chokshi comes The Gilded Wolves, a novel set in Paris during a time of extraordinary change–one that is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous desires…

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

Review:

I received The Gilded Wolves as part of Owl Crate’s Magical Artifacts box. I had heard about The Gilded Wolves prior to receiving this box and the premise caught my attention immediately. A heist, magic, Paris, and a kickass team! Can it be any cooler!? Unfortunately, I don’t have really any strong feelings about The Gilded Wolves. It wasn’t good or bad. It was just ok.

One major problem I had was the world building. The beginning of the book is chock full of information. It was too much too quickly. Total information dumping. I felt thrown into this confusing and complex world and magic system. It was very hard for me to picture the world. Also, It was a little weird because I was getting futuristic vibes and didn’t realize that it was actually set in Paris 1889. It didn’t feel like old-timey Paris. I actually kept forgetting that we were in Paris. I did however really like the little history sections at the intros of each part that explain a little more about Forging magic. I thought that this was a neat touch.

My favorite part of The Gilded Wolves was all the puzzles and riddles that the team had to solve. I absolutely loved the chapter when Zofia and Enrique work together to solve the Horus Eye riddle or later when they must figure out the code to save Laila! It was all so exciting and fascinating! All of the clues and puzzles actually kind of reminded me of the movie National Treasure. Even though I can’t stand Nicholas Cage I still love that movie because of the treasure hunt, clues, and puzzles. I kept thinking about this while reading The Gilded Wolves. 

Going into The Gilded Wolves I was prepared for similarities to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. I love heist stories and books with a diverse cast of characters so I was looking forward to this book. Unfortunately, The Gilded Wolves was a very watered down Six of Crows. The magic of SOC just wasn’t there. The characters are clearly similar to the SOC gang, but without the magic that made them so compelling. I never felt very connected to Séverin, Laila, Enrique, Zofia, Tristan, or Hypnos. I wanted more history on each character and their relationships with each other. I had no attachment to any of them. I was reading other reviews on GoodReads and one by Megan said, “This reads so much like a second book. There were too many prior events and too many previously established relationships that I felt like I was missing key elements needed to read this book.” I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with The Gilded Wolves until I read this review. Megan is totally right. I linked her review at the beginning of the quote so go check it out!

One random question . . . what was the significance of the gilded wolves? They wear gilded wolf masks, but am I missing the importance?

In writing this review I realized that I should probably lower my rating. I initially started out as 3 stars, but I am dropping it to 2. The Gilded Wolves is not a bad book. There were some really cool aspects and I loved the riddles. It was just missing something.

The Gilded Wolves ended on a slight cliffhanger, but I’m not dying to know what happens next. I actually think it works as a stand-alone.

Grace & Fury (Grace & Fury, #1) – Tracy Banghart

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Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Synopsis: 

Serina Tessaro has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace–someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. It’s her chance to secure a better life for her family, and to keep her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, out of trouble. But when Nomi catches the Heir’s eye instead, Serina is the one who takes the fall for the dangerous secret her sister has been hiding.

Trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one option: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to save Serina. But this is easier said than done…. A traitor walks the halls of the palazzo, and deception lurks in every corner.

Meanwhile Serina is running out of time. Imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive, surrounded by women stronger than she is, one wrong move could cost her everything. There is no room for weakness on Mount Ruin, especially weaknesses of the heart.

Thrilling and captivating, Grace and Fury is a story of fierce sisterhood, and of survival in a world that’s determined to break you.

Review:

I received Grace and Fury in the Owl Crate August 2018 “Ruthless Royals” box. I had heard about the book and thought it sounded interesting, but I probably wouldn’t have read it if it hadn’t been in this box. One of my favorite things about Owl Crate is the exclusive covers. The exclusive cover of Grace and Fury is stunning! I like it more than the original cover.

The story follows two sisters, Nomi and Serina, in a land where women are oppressed and have no rights or power. Through a series of events Serina is imprisoned and Nomi is forced to stay in the palace as a Grace of the Heir. I liked both sisters stories, but Serina’s was more exciting. Mount Ruin (aka the island prison) is crazy and full of super intense action. Serina starts off as a “perfect” woman who submits and never rebels. I really liked watching her grow into a strong, independent woman.

One of the biggest strengths of Grace and Fury is the imagery. Tracy Banghart was able to create beautiful scenery with her writing. I especially loved the Graces’ dresses and all the Italian influence. Even the gruesome scenes at the Mount Ruin amphitheater were beautifully written.

Grace and Fury was very predictable. As soon as Nomi and Serina arrived in the palace and we met the Heir (Malachi) and his brother (Asa) I knew exactly where the story would go. All of the romances were too insta-lovey and obvious from the characters first meetings. Despite this, the story was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.

My favorite part of  Grace and Fury is the female power! The world in Grace and Fury is all kinds of f***** up!! I absolutely loved watching the women realize that they do have power and that they can create change. The best was that the women realized they’re better when they work together! Grace and Fury was full of amazing feminist messages and I loved every bit of it. This is what took the book from a 2.5 star rating to 3 stars.

I’ll wrap this review up by including my favorite feminist quotes from the book . . .

“You fight back. Always.”

“In all the stories, women give up everything,” Maris said, her voice tight.  “We are always supposed to give. We are never supposed to fight. Why do you think that is?” . . . Voice low, knowing she was walking on a knife’s edge, she murmured,  “Because they’re afraid of what will happen if we do.”

But Serina couldn’t stop. A wave was building in her chest, and if she didn’t speak, it would  destroy her. “Why do we let them do this to us?” she asked, and she was thinking of more than  the guard’s barbaric fights. “Why do we let them break us? Starve us? Punish us for being  ourselves? Is it because we think we’re sweet, delicate flowers and we let them?” Her voice rose. “I  don’t think we’ve ever been what they want. That’s why we’re here in the first place.” She remembered what Oracle had said when she’d arrived, and suddenly, the words meant even more now, because Serina believed them. “We are not flowers,” she said  firmly. “Like you said, Oracle, we are concrete and barbed wire. We are iron.” Serina stared at the women surrounding her. “We are smart, and we are dangerous. The guards know that. They  know we have the power to overthrow them, if we’d just work together.  We need to stop killing each other and fight them.”


I wanted to add this part last so I could talk about how Grace and Fury reminded me a lot of The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It was actually a little too similar in some parts.

SPOILERS BELOW FOR BOTH BOOKS.


Here are all the similarities between Grace and Fury and The Red Queen . . . 

  • There are two brothers (Cal & Maven/Malachi & Asa) who are the King’s/Superior’s sons. The older brother (Cal/Malachi) will be the heir.
  • The lead (Mare/Nomi) connects with the younger brother first.
  • The younger brother (Maven/Asa) is more progressive and a visionary. He convinces the lead (Mare/Nomi) that he is the better brother and cares about the same things she does. He convinces her that he could lead better and should be heir.
  • The lead (Mare/Nomi) and the younger brother (Maven/Asa) scheme to overthrow the cruel king/superior.
  • The lead (Mare/Nomi) starts to develop feelings for both brothers and is torn between the two. She feels wrong about her connection with the older brother (Cal/Malachi).
  • In the big twist, it’s revealed that the younger brother (Maven/Asa) is actually the bad guy and had been manipulating the lead (Mare/Nomi) all along. The older brother (Cal/Malachi) is actually the good guy.
  • The younger brother (Maven/Asa) murders his father and frames the older brother (Cal/Malachi).
  • The older brother (Cal/Malachi) and the lead (Mare/Nomi) are imprisoned by the younger brother (Maven/Asa) who then assumes leadership.

Shadow of the Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1) – Julie Kagawa

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Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos.

Now, for whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers, a new wish will be granted. A new age is about to dawn.

Raised by monks in the isolated Silent Winds temple, Yumeko has trained all her life to hide her yokai nature. Half kitsune, half human, her skill with illusion is matched only by her penchant for mischief. Until the day her home is burned to the ground, her adoptive family is brutally slain and she is forced to flee for her life with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll.

There are many who would claim the dragon’s wish for their own. Kage Tatsumi, a mysterious samurai of the Shadow Clan, is one such hunter, under orders to retrieve the scroll…at any cost. Fate brings Kage and Yumeko together. With a promise to lead him to the scroll, an uneasy alliance is formed, offering Yumeko her best hope for survival. But he seeks what she has hidden away, and her deception could ultimately tear them both apart.

With an army of demons at her heels and the unlikeliest of allies at her side, Yumeko’s secrets are more than a matter of life or death. They are the key to the fate of the world itself.

Review:

I received Shadow of the Fox in my Owl Crate October 2018 box. When I heard the premise of this book I knew I had to read it. I was thrilled to see it in my Owl Crate box. And can we talk about that cover!? It’s gorgeous!! The cover of Shadow of the Fox is one of my favorite 2018 covers. 

I really enjoyed Shadow of the Fox! It was unlike anything I have read before. The story follows Yumeko, a half-kitsune (fox magic) girl who is tasked with protecting a piece of the dragon scroll. During her journey she meets a lot of different people, but most important is Kage Tatsumi. Tatsumi is the Kage Demonslayer and possessor of the demon sword. He agrees to help Yumeko so that he can get the scroll. I am so happy with the way the author handled the relationship between Yumeko and Tatsumi. As they grew closer I was worried that there would be insta love and the story would veer away from the plot and action and towards their romance. Luckily, the author did not do that at all. Their relationship was not the main focus of the story, and it develops slowly. They do feel comfortable with one another and the love is definitely developing, but it doesn’t happen overnight. I really liked this about Shadow of the Fox

Shadow of the Fox was full of magic, action, demons, samurai, and Japanese culture. It was exciting! The action and suspense was so well done. The first chapter pulled me in immediately. It was perfect! I had no idea what to expect, but the first chapter hooked me in from the first sentence. It was a super fun book with lots of twists and turns. I am very curious to see what happens next!  

A few stray thoughts . . .

  • Lady Satomi is one scary villain! She was terrifying and so truly evil!
  • The god damned blood magic giant centipede. I COULD NOT HANDLE THIS. It’s no secret that I do not do well with bugs and this was so hard to read! The author definitely did a great job in scaring me and giving me the creeps!
  • Speaking of blood magic . . . I thought the use and imagery of blood magic was incredibly well done. It was just so evil!
  • The Kodama (aka tree spirit minor gods) were adorable! They actually reminded me of the Bowtruckle (Pickett) in Fantastic Beasts! 
  • The whole graveyard village curse subplot seemed kind of out of nowhere and really didn’t add much to the overall plot.
  • I loved that there is a glossary at the end of the book. I am very unfamiliar with Japanese culture and folklore, so this was extremely helpful. Whenever I couldn’t remember what a word or name meant I would just flip to the back of the book. I loved it!
  • The last few chapters are full of twists, turns, and reveals. I was hoping that Shadow of the Fox was going to be a stand alone, but it is going to be a trilogy. After reading the last few chapters I knew I wanted more and I can’t wait to see what happens next! 
  • Favorite quotes:
    • “May the Kami bless you, and may you never lose that fire that burns within your soul.”
    • “One step at a time, little fox. The spider does not spin its web in a heartbeat, nor does the albatross fly across oceans with a few flaps of its wings. Many would consider what they do impossible, and yet, they still complete their tasks without fail, because they simply . . . start.”

Sky in the Deep – Adrienne Young

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Rating⭐️⭐️

Synopsis:

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient, rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield―her brother, fighting with the enemy―the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

Review:

I received Sky in the Deep in the OwlCrate “Fight Like a Girl” May 2018 box. I absolutely loved the premise . . . female vikings!! The world was stunning. The imagery and scenery were absolutely beautiful. I loved the setting. This was the saving grace for me in Sky in the Deep. The story itself was disappointing. 

I was expecting a thrilling adventure led by a badass viking girl! Eelyn was fierce and definitely badass, but I felt the story lost the thrilling adventure. The book opens with an awesome chapter. It begins with a bloody battle that ends with an epic cliffhanger . . . Eelyn sees her dead brother on the battlefield fighting with the enemy (the Riki). After a series of events, Eelyn is kidnapped by the Riki and brought to their village. This is where the story lost me. I was so bored! Nothing really happened until the end. 

I had several issues with Sky in the Deep:

  • The world and imagery was beautiful, but the actual world building was lacking. I felt like the author just threw random words and phrases and I was supposed to know what she meant. For example, Eeyln freaks out at the possibility of being a dyr. I had no idea what this was and it took a couple of more chapters for me to realize it meant slave. 
  • The pacing. . . or lack thereof. The start, until Eeyln becomes a dyr and the end are the only exciting parts. Literally nothing happened in the middle. There was a lot of talking. The author tried to put something extra in with the bear and the Tala’s premonition/prophecy, but it fell flat. It could have been really interesting, but unfortunately the author did not delve in enough. 
  • The insta-love between Eelyn and Fiske. When I read the synopsis I knew that there would likely be insta-love, but this was just too much. Eeyln and Fiske go from barely speaking and literally trying to kill one another to being in love and “belonging” to each other. Even though I was expecting it, their relationship came out of left field. Nothing happens between them to lead to this undying love. They see a bear together and I guess that brings them closer, but that’s still pretty weak. I will accept insta-love if there’s moments and reasons for why the two characters fall in love, but I didn’t see that in Sky in the Deep
  • The Herja aka the shared enemy. I wish that the author would have included more history and/or explored the Herja more. They sounded absolutely terrifying in her descriptions, but they just felt like a prop. I think the story would have been a lot more exciting and interesting if the Herja were included more. 
  • The ending. The last ~75-100 pages finally pick up again and it’s building up to what should be an epic battle and conclusion. It was supposed to be this huge battle with drama galore, but it was the opposite. The ending was so damn fast and neat. I blinked and it was over.  I love happy endings (especially in a stand alone book), but this was just ridiculous. It was so easy and everything worked out perfectly. It was boring and uneventful. 

As you can see I was not a big fan of Sky in the Deep. I hate being so hard on books and authors, but I have to share my honest opinions. Sky in the Deep was ok . . . I don’t feel super strongly about it. It’s a stand alone book, but the author announced that there will be a companion novel published. 

Let me know what you thought of Sky in the Deep!!