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 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.

“An eerie, lovely Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling full of ghosts and gods and a fascinating waterfront world and I’m reading it from behind my fingers.”–Melissa Albert, New York Timesbestselling author of The Hazel Wood (taken from Amazon)

                           When I was young, I loved the fairytale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. The version I knew had twelve princesses sneaking out of their locked room through a trapdoor every night, dancing the night away, and waking up the next morning with their shoes worn through. Their father, the king, promises one of his daughters in marriage to the person who can figure out how it’s happening. A prince with a cape of invisibility (no relation to Harry Potter that I know of) follows the girls in disguise, finds out where they’re going, brings proof to the king, and marries the eldest daughter. Of course, there are adventures in between, but that’s the general gist.

House of Salt and Sorrows is incredibly different. There’s a creepy, gothic atmosphere the makes itself known from page one. The author is extremely skilled at taking small things and imbuing them with an eerie feel. There was almost a Haunting of Hill House vibe at times, with ghosts, haunting images, and the disturbing question: What’s real and what isn’t?

I loved the first three quarters of the book. The characters were interesting, and, as I wrote above, I was a big fan of the feel of the book. The setting- a manor by the sea- was perfect. There was an entire mythos built around the small chain of islands talked about in the story, which was pretty stinking cool.

However, the last quarter of the book fell apart. I felt an abrupt shift in how the story was told, and the characters seemed a bit neglected in lieu of moving the plot along. The twists were less than twisty, which was disappointing since there were several moments where I felt like I was supposed to gasp in surprise. Instead, I just thought, “Well, that happened. Moving on.”

The biggest let down for me was the long-winded explanation from one of the characters as a way to catch the readers up on motivations and happenings. I wish there had been a different choice regarding the reveal of information. It felt stilted and rushed.

In the end, what started out as a book I loved ended up being just okay. It’s still worth reading for the creeptastic feel of the first three quarters of the book. Just don’t expect a mind-blowing conclusion.

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Markus by David Odle- ARC Review

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Markus Blue is one of the most powerful men alive. Fire from his hands can destroy armies and his battles are legendary. He is one of a rare breed called the warlock, one of the last of his kind and he is dying. But he must face one more battle, one more challenge or it will mean the end of the world as we know it. (taken from Amazon)

                     Thank you Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

When I read the description for this book, I thought it would be a fantasy adventure, the sort that pits one against many. Instead, this book is a modern story that just so happens to also include vampires, werewolves, and a crotchety once-powerful old man. It was a blast.

The premise was simple: a big, bad vampire rampaging around, causing no end of trouble. Battles ensue. I loved it. It was so much fun! I enjoyed the daylight out of myself. This book pairs well with 90’s nostalgia and popcorn.

There wasn’t a lot of character depth, but with a book like this, there doesn’t need to be. It sounds like I’m just listing negative traits, but what would normally be considered a negative is actually a very good thing in this story. Markus was a fun character with a tough exterior, experience and power to back up his ego, and a hidden soft heart.

Every now and again I have one of those days where the only solution is to watch a movie like Blade. One that’s not heavy on the plot, it’s easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and there are cool sunglasses. Markus didn’t have the sunglasses, but in every other aspect it felt like a simple, fun vampire flick. Check it out!

In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

I thought I knew what I was getting with this book. I was so very, very wrong; and it was perfect!

First mistake: This is a fun, lighthearted story. This book tends more toward horror than any other genre. The atmosphere is tense and creepy throughout the entire book, and the illustrations (more on those in a bit) only add to the mysterious goings-on.

Second mistake: The illustrations are just beautiful additions to the storyline. The illustrations- done in a graphic novel style- tell their own story. Basically, there are two separate stories being told, but they compliment each other and end up meeting up for the culmination of the book.

Third mistake: This book is intended for a young audience. While, reading-level wise, my ten year old could easily read this book in a week, the subject matter and the way it’s written would scare the snot out of…

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Bloody Rose (The Band book 2) by Nicholas Eames

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A band of fabled mercenaries tour a wild fantasy landscape, battling monsters in arenas in front of thousands of adoring fans. But, a secret and dangerous gig ushers them to the frozen north, and the band is never one to waste a shot at glory.
 

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, rolls into town, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death. (taken from Amazon)

This adrenaline-filled, heart pounding fantasy is a more than worthy successor to Kings of the Wyld, book one of The Band series. It’s an incredibly layered and touching book that just happens to also be full of battles and tough-as-nails warriors.

The first book follows a group of retired mercenaries called Saga as they take one last mission. Bloody Rose is told from the point of view of Tam, a barmaid-turned-bard, who joins Fable, a mercenary band led by “Bloody” Rose, the daughter of the frontman from Saga. Bloody Rose obviously has daddy issues and is desperate to surpass his reputation. Just how does she plan on doing that? Oh, only be killing the Dragoneater, a vicious, undefeated monster. The last band that attempted to take it on lasted only 17 seconds. Sounds easy, right?

What causes this fantasy to shine is the amazing cast of characters that Nicholas Eames has created. My favorite is either Roderick, the band’s booker, who is hilarious while also being useful in his own right; Brune, a shaman who shape-changes into a bear…when it works. Or maybe it’s Cura; a summoner whose tattoos come to life and kick butt. I found her story arc incredibly touching. I related a little bit, obviously not to the tattoos that can kill, but to the reason she gets them.

This book takes a bit longer to get to the main event than Kings of the Wyld, in my opinion, but it makes perfect sense and it showed more of the incredible world that Eames has created. I love how summoners work in this series, and the shamans were flat-out cool.

Look for old characters from the first book, although they don’t steal the thunder from the amazing new group. I’m not going to say who shows up, but expect some fantastic scenes.

If you like fantasy at all, read Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. If you don’t like fantasy but love a well-written book, read Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose. They’ll win you over to the fantasy genre.

The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin – ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Image result for the phantom forest liz kerinEvery tree in the sacred Forest of Laida houses a soul. Though each of those souls will return to the mortal world for many future lives, not all of them deserve to. 

Seycia’s father told her this story as a child―a story of the most holy place in the Underworld, The Forest of Laida, where all souls go to rest before embarking on a new life. But Seycia’s father is dead now, and his killer has put a target on her back. 

After being chosen for her village’s human sacrifice ritual, Seycia is transported to the Underworld and must join forces with Haben, the demon to whom she was sacrificed. Together, they journey to the forest in the Underworld where all souls grow, in a quest to destroy the tree of the man who killed her. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in…

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Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott- Blog Tour

 

The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.

For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.

But secrets have a way of leaking out.

Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothing before 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.

Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Jo Fletcher Books for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Rotherweird is a book unlike any other I’ve read. It’s ambitious, vast in its scope, and often left me both puzzled and intrigued. The writing in this book is confident and self-assured. Even when I wasn’t sure exactly where the book was going, it was quite obvious that the author knew precisely what he was doing.

I think both my favorite and least favorite parts of the book are the same thing: the characters. They were wonderfully quirky, from their odd mannerisms to their even odder names. But, there were many that seemed superfluous. I’m a huge fan of large casts of characters, however too many can be a bit confusing at times.

I loved the mix between the historical aspect and the fantastical. It was a wonderful juxtaposition, and it brought out the creative aspects in both. The feel of the book was sometimes reminiscent of Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

This book almost shouldn’t have worked, but it did. I’m planning to continue the series. I’m curious and intrigued.

Pricked by Scott Mooney- ARC Review

Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

Briar Pryce has the power to change the emotions of others by handing them a rose. It is a talent that has done surprisingly little for her, besides landing her a dead-end enchantment delivery job and killing any chance she had with her childhood-crush-turned-roommate. Worst of all, her ability might be responsible for getting her best friend transformed into a cat via a cursed muffin basket. Needless to say, Briar is nowhere near happily-ever-after. But that’s just life as a twenty-something in the Poisoned Apple, New York City’s lost borough of fairy-tale wonder and rent-controlled magic.

When Briar reluctantly agrees to help find a princess’s kidnapped boyfriend in exchange for reversing the curse on her friend, she gets the heroic quest she never really wanted. Unfortunately, the life of a noble heroine is not all it’s cracked up­­ to be – the hours blow, and Briar suspect that the Royal…

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Classically Cool- Let’s Talk Classics!

I think classics tend to get a bum rap. Possibly because of the way they’re taught in schools (being told to examine the minutiae of any book is enough to kill enthusiasm, in my opinion); possibly because some people just resent being told what to read by a teacher. Either way, I disliked most classics when I read them for school. Reading them on my own, however- that’s a different story.

I’m going to bore you by telling you about some of my favorites. You’ll notice that I don’t have any books involving brooding or swooning. I’m also sorry to report that, after reading it three times, I still don’t like Dracula. So, which classics stand out to me? Well, here goes:

The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After by Alexander Dumas. Well, buckle my swash! I’m pretty sure everyone knows at least the general gist of The Three Musketeers, but I think the flat-out fun of this book is often left out when people talk about it. Also, Twenty Years After needs to be more widely read. It follows the characters from The Three Musketeers, and what happens- you guessed it- twenty years after the events in that book. It’s got a few sad moments for me, but in a good way.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. I have no idea why this book isn’t more widely known. It feels very much like an early version of Batman (minus the wonderful toys), with the hero passing himself off as a useless fop in order to help those in anonymity. It’s a blast to read! Plus, saying you’re reading a book written by a Baroness is just awesome.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I love this book! It’s so nuanced, with a delightfully creepy feel to it. It’s incredibly well-written and surprisingly short. It’s easily read in a day, which is a good thing, because it’s hard to put down.

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney. If you’ve read much of my blog, you’re probably aware that I love all things fantastical. This carries over to classics. I love this epic poem so, so much! If you read this and enjoy it, I suggest watching The 13th Warrior, which is a movie adaptation of Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, a book that is partially based on Beowulf.

Alice in Wonderland, and Alice, Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. Okay, I might be stretching by putting this in the “classics” category. I’ve seen it discounted as a classic, but others say firmly that it is. I’m in the latter group. The delightful nonsense in this book is anything but nonsense. I’m not going to go into the whole “this means ___” of the book because that’s for the reader to decide on their own. I just find it absolutely fantastic.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. First of all, Frankenstein isn’t the monster! Except that he is. You can tell that pseudo-joke at parties and your friends will probably roll their eyes, just like I’m sure you did just now. This book is a little bit heartbreaking, but so well-written.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I think this is another one of those books that some people argue isn’t a classic. Regardless on where you stand on this very important issue (ha!), these mysteries are bloody brilliant. I’ve reread them more times than I can count.

So, what about you? What classics have you found to be classically cool? Which ones do you hate? Let’s talk!

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

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Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for. (taken from Amazon)

Filled with blood, guts, and a surprising amount of heart, this is everything a fantasy book should be. I loved this epic adventure: even more so, because the characters were long past their glory days. I guess you’re never too old to be a hero.

Having settled down with his family, Clay has no intention of getting sucked back into the life of a warrior. But when his best friend asks for help rescuing his daughter from the midst of a besieged city, Clay rushes back into the fray. Before attempting to brave an entire army in an ill-advised rescue attempt, Clay “Slowhand” and his friend Gabe, have to gather their old band back together, which proves to be more a journey than you’d think.

The writing in this book is fantastic! The battle scenes, while many, never became “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. I was surprised by how different each fight scene was from the others. I know that sounds like a weird thing to write about, but as a reader of fantasy, I’ve often found myself getting bored by the similarity between different fight scenes in a book.

If the battles were interesting, that’s nothing compared to the characters. I loved every single one of them. My favorite is a toss-up between Clay and Ancandius Moog, the band’s wizard. Moog was so kind-hearted! He was also a bit of a hit-or-miss wizard: sometimes he was incredibly useful…other times, not so much. Part of his background was tragic and sad, which only led to stronger character development.

Clay was wonderful in every aspect. It’s rare that I like a main character as much as I liked Clay. Because they’re often tasked with moving the story along, I tend to find them annoying (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter). But Clay was a loyal friend,  and someone who did what was right even when it wasn’t easy. I loved his wry sense of humor, his realistic viewpoints, and his tenacity. I also loved his giant shield.

I guess it’s pretty obvious at this point that there isn’t a single thing that I didn’t love about Kings of the Wyld. Every fantasy reader needs to pick this book up.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Write Reads- Appreciation Day

Less than a year ago, my wonderful husband suggested that I write my literary opinions in a blog. I wasn’t sure how well it would work, but I thought I’d give it a go.

I tend to get overtly passionate about books. I had no idea that I’m not the only person who likes books more than I like most people.

Enter Dave at @The_WriteReads. He’s fostered a community full of amazing, supportive bookbloggers. As everyone in the gang knows, not only does Dave feature a different blog post and book review each day- massively increasing readership- but he works tirelessly, organizing giveaways, blog tours, and basically being incredibly encouraging.

You, sir, are awesome! Thanks for everything.