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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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.

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

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Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies. But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected. This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

I am back on the Book Con wagon. A friend gave me this book when I told her I only picked up one book that day after being in panels all morning. I should start off by saying that I read the ARC and the novel will be released on August 18, 2015.

This book started out confusing. The story is not linear, the world building was not described in great detail. At one point I wondered if the lore had contradicted itself. The history of the war between the different races (or is it species?) was not as well described as I was expecting.

Then you have this passage at the end of Chapter 1

Shit, what the fuck am I even doing? What kind of history book doesn’t even have a map? Once upon a time there was a writer who couldn’t write a fucking book. I don’t know what comes next. That whole chapter’s going to need to get thrown out anyway. You completely forgot halfway through that you’d said it was raining at the beginning.
Was it raining?
No one’s ever going to know, and it’s all your fault.
Put a fucking map in the next draft.

I had no idea who was speaking there. For a while I thought it was Hannah Moskowitz herself talking to us, the readers. My immediate thought was, “Oh, it’s supposed to sound like a first draft manuscript on purpose.”

Pages 68-84, it all starts to make more sense. I realized the reason why the story sounded like a journal with scrapbook clippings. Also, once I realized the different between the races I knew that an error had not been made with the mythology.

Basically, it starts out strange and disjointed, not everything is as well explained or developed as it should be, but stick with it because it’s an enjoyable story. It’s also written in such a unique way that it stands out from other fantasy novels.

The story is more about the effects the war has on these young fairies, gnomes and a tightroper. It’s about the twisted relationships and trying to survive their circumstances.
There are dark themes: what is murder and what is self-defense during war time, teenage prostitution, and mentions of rape.

I also got the sense that in this world, there are no hangups about sexual orientation. There are prejudices, discriminations and slurs thrown around for other reasons, but not for one’s sexual orientation. I wonder if that was intentional as part of the world building.

I found myself engaged in the characters and their story, and it was not all what I was expecting.

4 out 5 specs of glitter. 

Book Reviews: The Dead-Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places, by Carrie Ryan

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The Dead-Tossed Waves(The Forest of Hands and Teeth #2)

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.

I enjoyed this a bit more than The Forest of Hands and Teeth. There was a wider view of the world where the community was not as sheltered and led to believe they were the last ones left alive. It gave the story more to work with.

As for Gabry, the inner monologues of her doubts became redunant and I couldn’t get into the love triangle between her Catcher and Elias. Though I did like the boys individually.

I did really like the scenes between Gabry and her mother, Mary. That being Mary from The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The relationships and aftermath from the first book tie in nicely. Any questions I was left when I finished The Forest of Hands and Teethwere answered.

3.5 out of 5 Waves.

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The Dark and Hollow Places (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #3)

There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

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Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire, by Cassandra Clare

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Shadowhunters and demons square off for the final showdown in the spellbinding, seductive conclusion to the #1 New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell. Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian, but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance.

Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world will change. Who will survive the explosive sixth and final installment of the Mortal Instruments series?

I wrote a guest review for Lazy Book Lovers, where I remained spoiler free. If you don’t want any spoilers please read  my review on LBL.

If you have already read it and would like to know my thoughts and discuss the book, please continue.

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Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Lost Souls, by Cassandra Clare

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What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

(Note: I originally wrote this review February 23, 2014. )

This book has become such a huge guilty pleasure of mine. It’s not a great book. Heck, in the whole series the prose gets quite repetitive. Whenever Clare describes a character there is a formula about the angles of their face, what they are wearing, the color of their hair, their eyes, and what their eyelashes are doing. BUT it’s deliciously cheesy with teenage angst and I can’t help but admit I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of when I would love to watch soap operas in my childhood and teenage years. It was like Days of Our Live, Passions, and some CW supernatural drama all rolled into one. I just can’t get enough. LOL

I think I was supposed to read this after Clockwork Prince and before Clockwork Princess, which means the references to Infernal Devices made in Lost Souls were just supposed to be hints. But I already know how the dots connect.

Like all the good soap operas I have enjoyed in my life, here are a few things that bothered me: (Spoilers ahead.)

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Book Reviews: The Infernal Devices, by Cassandra Clare

The Infernal Devices trilogy is a prequel story to The Mortal Instruments. Even though it is a prequel it should definitely be read after The Mortal Instruments‘ first three books because they are not as bogged down with the set up of the mythology. It gets right to the story, so by the time the reader gets to this book they should know about this supernatural world.

 

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The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.

(Note: I originally wrote this review January 25, 2014. )

Not going to lie, I totally judged this book by the cover. I bought it years ago because I love the artwork. I knew I would not read The Mortal Instruments right away. I had no idea if I would even like that series or it’s prequel story, but I just bought it for the cover alone.

I really like the descriptions of Victorian London. The story was fun and well paced, even if it was a bit predictable. I knew early on not to trust Axel Mortmain and predicted the distractions. Still, I enjoyed the way it unfolded.

I also liked most of the characters. I feel Tessa is more mature and less whiny than Clary. I like her. I love Jem. In fact, it would not be a YA novel without a love triangle and I prefer Tessa with Jem over Will. I know it is futile since I read on Shadowhunter wiki page that Jace is a direct decedent of Will and Tessa. I don’t care. Jem is friendly, kind and open. (I love this quote from Jem to Tessa on page 472: “I know you feel inhuman, and is if you are set apart, away from life and love, but I promise you, the right man won’t care.” He said this after Will rejected her because she might be a warlock and it is forbidden for Shadowhunters to get romantically involved with them.) Will can be a jerk. I don’t dislike Will, he just needs a good kick in the behind and to stop putting up walls.
I am unsure about Jessamine. Her brattiness can get old fast.

The creepy Clockwork automations are interesting. It’s a new sci-fi addition in a mainly fantasy series, This is more of a sci-fi and fantasy mix.

I loved this quote from Tessa on page 87: “One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have power to change us.”

4 out of 5 automations

I was advised to read these in publication order, which means I should read The Mortal Instruments: City of Fallen Angels next. However, I never bought that book and it’s not availble to read at the library yet. So, since I own it already I am going forth with The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince.

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.

(Note: I originally wrote this review January 28, 2014. )

I really enjoyed this story. It was a mystery, crime solving adventure and a page turner. Over the weekend I read 365 pages. Saturday morning I was on page 137 and by Sunday night I was finished.

This whole world totally reads like fan fiction. Not that that is a bad thing. I just mean that I really like the relationships between these prequel characters and the world they live in, even though it does not reflect actual historical Victorian England. The characters feel too modern in a period setting. Still, the banter between the teenage characters is amusing. I especially like the brotherly bond between Will and Jem, as well as the friendship between Tessa and Sophie.

It is interesting reading about the ancestors of the families from TMI, and their feuds. 

I warmed up to Will and had a bit more sympathy for him. However, he’s so silly to believe that demon curse. I knew that demon was bluffing all along. That was so predictable. I mean, I guess because Will was young and clueless about the Shadowhunter world that made him too naive to realize the curse was bogus. It’s just so silly. And why didn’t Magnus mention the demon’s flaw in the first place? Would Will not have believed him?

I love Magnus more and more with each book. His humor and personality amuse me.

While I prefer Jem as a love interest (his make-out scene was Tessa was pretty hot), Will’s confession scene to Tessa was so sad. And while she cares for Jem, her heart is with Will. Poor Jem. I am a bit spoiled about what happens. I know Tessa gets to have them both. Talk about having her cake and eating it too.

5 out 5 swords

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare.

(Note: I originally wrote this review February 9, 2014. )

This was a great conclusion to The Infernal Devices trilogy. There was action, drama, humor, political vindictiveness, bitter-sweet good-byes, answers to questions, and possibilities. 
First off the Herondale birthmark. I was glad to see its origin, but Will never brings it up. I know he has too many scars to count, but I thought at least this mark would not have escaped his notice considering it has significance in the previous (yet future events) Mortal Instruments books. Besides being “touched by an Angel,” what does it mean? Does it mean Ithuriel protects him and his bloodline too? That would bring more meaning and protection for Jace who has the mark and was given Ithuriel’s blood before he was born. I just would have liked a follow up to its meaning, besides it being a marker for the Herondale bloodline.

I’ve come to love Will as much as I love Jem. He’s funny, and I did like his silly, cheesy songs and poems. I absolutely love Will and Jem’s friendship. My heart broke first when they had to say goodbye, and then when Will died. I cried during the Epilogue. Not only for Will and Jem, but for Tessa, who leaves her children and grandchildren because she cannot bear to outlive them too.

I really like Woolsey’s line to Tessa, “Most people are lucky to have one great love in their life. You have found two.” I have read that Tessa and Jem make an appearance in the next TMI books and I am so looking forward to it.
And even though I ship Tessa/Jem, I was totally cheering them on when Tessa and Will consummated. That scene was very sexy. I ship them both. I am glad Tessa and Will got to have a full life together and have children, and I am glad Jem found a cure, left the Silent Brothers and can finally be with Tessa. I hope they have children too in the next series to come.

Consul Wayland is a backstabbing piece of shit. So glad he got what he deserved in the end. His letters to Charlotte, or to anyone, would piss me off. On the other hand, the Lightwoods’ letters to him were amusing and made me chuckle.
So glad those Lightwood boys were good guys. Gideon’s proposal to Sophie reminded me of Pride and Prejudice. Everyone had to leave the room, Cecily and Gabriel were listening at the door. lol

It was really cool to see Henry’s invention of the Portal work. I liked that he worked with Magnus.

The climax when Tessa turns into Ithuriel was very cool. Having Mortmain’s clockwork device and Tessa be his destruction was a good backfire. Not to mention it is Tessa who saves them all with her power. She’s not as well trained, and an outcast in the Shadowhunter world, but she stands up for herself and doesn’t sit on the sidelines.

Another plus is that the end was not rushed and summarized after the battle was won. There was a good 100 pages after the battle to wrap it up making the last book well paced throughout.


5 out 5 Angels