House of Salt And Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they 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 the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters 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.

This is an ARC my sister won at Book Con 2019. I borrowed it from her.

I didn’t know it was a re-telling of the Brother Grimm’s “The Twelves Dancing Princesses” (a.k.a. “The Worn-out Dancing Shoes and “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.”) I never heard of that story. So I can’t compare the two.

I do know I liked this version very much. It had a great atmosphere. I love the sea theme. The cover artwork is just beautiful. I really liked the world building and they way their different devotions to different gods and goddesses were explained.

The supernatural murder mystery was intriguing and kept me wanting to turn the page. The pacing does slow down a bit in the middle, but I still wanted to know the outcome. I had several suspects on my list because a few people come across as untrustworthy and I would change my mind as to who really was the villain.

I enjoyed how the book built up to the ending. I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t as Annaleigh searches for the truth.

I am happy to say that the love triangle was very minimal. It focused more on the sisters, the mystery, and the enchantments.

Also, I am glad that this is a standalone, but if it were to become a series I would like to see a story from one of the other cities that follow a different god or goddess.

Besides the slow pace in the middle I do have one other reason for not giving it a perfect score, but it’s a spoiler. Basically I am a little confused.

SPOILER WARNING

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More News Tomorrow by Susan Richards Shreve

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On the morning of her seventieth birthday, Georgianna Grove receives an unexpected letter that calls her back to Missing Lake, Wisconsin, where her mother was murdered sixty-six years earlier. Georgie’s father had confessed to the murder the next morning and was carted off to a state penitentiary. Haunted by the night that took both her parents away and determined to unearth the truth, Georgie takes her reluctant family on what will become a dangerous canoe trip up the swollen Bone River to return to Missing Lake.

Acclaimed novelist Susan Richards Shreve, celebrated for her “refined explorations of parent-child relationships” (Washington Post), captures the tenor of the times with clarity and elegance as she follows both Georgie and her parents on parallel trips up the Bone River, weaving together the hope of June 2008 with the injustices of June 1941. Georgie must untangle a web of bigotry, loss, and half-forgotten memories to finally understand her parents’ fate.

More News Tomorrow is a stirring and irresistible portrait of a family drawn together in search of truth.

I picked this ARC up at Book Con 2019.

More News Tomorrow is a fast, entertaining read. I enjoyed reading the multiple point of views from the present and the past. Most were written in the third person and one was in the first person.

It is a page turner because I just had to know if Georgie’s father really killed her mother. Some twists and doubts are presented.

 

Warning! Major Spoilers Below:

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Book Con 2019: Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2

Saturday, June 1

My sister and I got to the Javits shortly before the Exhibit Hall opened at 10 am. The first thing we went to, because we saw it right there, was Christmas Land – which was this whole display for the promotion of NOS4A2 on AMC.

They had this promotion where if you go to the Facebook app and take a picture of your face it will turn it into one of the creepy kids. Speaking of which, the actors there dressed up as Charlie Manx and the kids were so good. Like, I couldn’t look at them. Too creepy.

Anyway, I didn’t want to get the Facebook app and do it so we just took a photo with Charlie and we got a gift from The Wraith. It was a gingerbread cookie! It was so good too.

I thought it would be a Christmas ornament. Some people did get that. I am glad we got the cookie.

 

 

 

So, then we went to the Penguin Random House booth to get a pin my sister saw being promoted on Tumblr for The Starless Sea. We got the pin but we also found out that there was a signing with Erin Morgenstern. She was signing ARCs of The Starless Sea. The tickets were already gone and we were just really annoyed that that signing wasn’t promoted better. We would have gone there first had we known.

I think next time we are making a bee line for that booth first.

On a happier note, my sister’s memory made it onto this board for the promotion of Recursion by Blake Crouch. Hers is the gondola ride in Venice.

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland.

 

I got this book as a give away at Book Con 2017.

I really enjoyed this story. While the world and story isn’t anything new, Córdova did a great job of incorporating old Latin American lore into a modern story.

I love the family dynamics and the fact that the characters are from Brooklyn. Alex’s coming of age journey and acceptance of herself and her powers was well done.

If your are looking for a fantasy book with diverse representation, read this. The leads are POC and there is a bisexual love triangle. Luckily the story doesn’t lean too heavily on the typically overdone love triangle aspect and concentrates more on the world building, the character development, and the magic.

I do have a small critique about the villain. I didn’t find her as scary or threatening as she was supposed to be. She was more cartoonish in my opinion. I also wished to know more about her history.

Overall I enjoyed it so much I bought the sequel right away because I want to see more from Brooklyn Bruja sisters (and Nova too) and know more about their family history and future.

Favorite quotes:

page 126: What’s the point of being what I am if I can’t use it when I need it to save my life?”

page 234: But burden or gift, this is who we are. Just think, nena, if you didn’t fear your own power, then you wouldn’t have respected it enough to rein it in.

4 out of 5 Death Masks.

Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

Disclaimer: I received an ARC from Book Con 2017 so I can’t say how this differs from the final printed version.
My friend borrowed my ARC and read it first. She’s a fan of Krysten’s acting work but was disappointed in her first novel. She said there was too much environmental stuff. She just wanted the hometown story.
That lowered my expectations about the novel. I thought I would be bored with environmental jargon.  I felt the opposite.  Abby leaves most of the environmental research to her team, and 3/4 of the way through they go back to Chicago to continue investigating there. Abby becomes more and more obsessed with what happened to her friend, Kaycee, ten years ago, and the scholarship conspiracy at Optimal.
**Minor spoilers below**

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Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Includes an exclusive conversation between Ruth Reichl and Emily Giffin

Ruth Reichl is a born storyteller. Through her restaurant reviews, where she celebrated the pleasures of a well-made meal, and her bestselling memoirs that address our universal feelings of love and loss, Reichl has achieved a special place in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers. Now, with this magical debut novel, she has created a sumptuous, wholly realized world that will enchant you.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her home in California to take a job at Delicious!, New York’s most iconic food magazine. Away from her family, particularly her older sister, Genie, Billie feels like a fish out of water—until she is welcomed by the magazine’s colorful staff. She is also seduced by the vibrant downtown food scene, especially by Fontanari’s, the famous Italian food shop where she works on weekends. Then Delicious! is abruptly shut down, but Billie agrees to stay on in the empty office, maintaining the hotline for reader complaints in order to pay her bills.

To Billie’s surprise, the lonely job becomes the portal to a miraculous discovery. In a hidden room in the magazine’s library, Billie finds a cache of letters written during World War II by Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, to the legendary chef James Beard. Lulu’s letters provide Billie with a richer understanding of history, and a feeling of deep connection to the young writer whose courage in the face of hardship inspires Billie to comes to terms with her fears, her big sister and her ability to open her heart to love.

 

I picked this up at Book Con 2015.

I loved this story. I wish it came with some of the meals mentioned. Instead of scratch and sniff stickers I want read and eat books. It’s also a good history lesson, learning about the food during World War II, with the rationing. I loved the way Lulu was so resourceful using pumpkin leaves, growing a garden, and finding milkweed in the wild.

It wasn’t just the talk of food that I loved. The hidden room in the library is a dream of mine. I was so engulfed in the mystery of the letters from Lulu, as well as the scavenger hunt on the index cards that Bertie created.

I also loved the group of friends that became Billie’s family. I became attached to them. No surprise here, I especially loved the Italians: the Fontanari and the Cappuzzelli families. Those names are so much fun to say.

Another thing I thought was an important part was the subject of how during WWII there was such a deep prejudice against anything Italian that, in some parts of the U.S., spaghetti, lasagna, and other pastas were considered “enemy food”.
Your loss, prejudice jerks. Italians have the best food in the world. I am not being bias.

(I need to read more WWII historical fiction books that focus on Italy and Italian Americans.)

I liked the way it ended. I don’t want to spoil it so I’ll be very cryptic, I felt the way it left off with a certain character was realistic, and there is still a chance for Billie to write her book, one day when she is an older woman.

My one critique is that in the real world the publication would have transferred Billie to an office to deal with the Delicious! Guarantee. Or it would have been the responsibility of the customer service department at another publication. But then that would defeat the whole point of finding the secret room and reading the letters while alone in that big mansion. Which was cool and mysterious because the mansion had it’s own history and story.

I am glad that some recipes are included (maybe I’ll try to make them, though that gingerbread cake sounds complicated!), as well as a conversation between Ruth Reichl and Emily Giffin, and a reader’s guide.

4.5 out of 5 Gingerbread Cakes.

 

 

Book Con: Sunday, June 4, 2017

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I’ll Take Audiobooks for $400, Please!: an Audience vs. Author Game Show I’ll Take Audiobooks for $400, Please!: an Audience vs. Author Game Show

Jun 04, 2017, 11:15 AM – 12:15 PM, Room 1E10

Test your bookish knowledge, competing head-to-head with Sarah Dessen (Once and For All), Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything), VE Schwab (A Conjuring of Light), and Kami Garcia (The Lovely Reckless) in categories like “Whose Voice Is It, Anyway?,” “Fantasy Worlds” and “Spotted at BookCon” and more, using audio clips from a wide variety of popular audiobooks. Are you a bigger book nerd than your favorite authors? Four lucky audience members will be recruited to join the fun onstage, hosted by Holly Black (The Cruel Prince). All attendees will receive a pair of earbuds and three free audiobook downloads!

This was a fun panel. It wasn’t really the authors verses the audience. More like an author teamed up with a member of the audience. They were chosen by being the first to answer a question about the author correctly.

The rest of the game was played much like Jeopardy!, and they even had to answer in the form a question.
Many of the clues were easy as they were from current and/or popular books, and the narrators sampled were some famous voices.

The blone girl who was on Kami Garcia’s team was exceptionally good. She had a extensive knowledge about books and authors. She was also really fast at buzzing in.

Authors Left to right: Nicola Yoon, VE Schwab, Kami Garcia,  Sarah Dessen, and Holly Black.

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After the panel my sister and I had lunch. Then we met up with Jenn from Australia. We roamed the Exhibit Hall.
There was madness at the Random House booth. There was a ticket giveaway for Leigh Bardugo, who wrote a book about Wonder Woman.

We saw a giant, disorganized crowd surrounding the booth and they had their hands in the air. We later found out that they started giving out the tickets randomly. People who had been waiting on a queue were livid, as they waited for quite a while only to miss out on a ticket to a random selection process.

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