Author: Cassie (page 1 of 5)

BOOK REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

BOOK REVIEW: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. CraigHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
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Synopsis:

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.

Thank you to Netgalley, Delacorte and Erin A. Craig for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly can’t believe this book doesn’t come out until August, because all I want to do is shove it in people’s hands and make them feel all the same magical feelings I felt when reading this phenomenal novel.

It honestly had everything I love in a book: Castles. Royalty. Strong family ties. Unique but not overly complicated world. Strong female lead. Swoon-worthy romance. Creepy atmosphere. Supernatural entities. Heart stopping peril. A book cover to die for.

Once there were twelve of us: the Thaumas Dozen. Now we stood in a small line, my seven sisters and I, and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a ring of truth to the grim speculations.

From the very opening scene, which was a funeral for one of the Thaumas Dozen sisters, I was immediately taken into this world, where (originally) twelve sisters, their father and their stepmother live in Highmoor, a grand castle near the ocean and rule over the land, but always in touch with the sea.

Unfortunately for Annaleigh, after her mother passes some years ago, her older sisters keep dying in mysterious and unfortunate ways until she is suddenly the second in line to take over the throne after her father’s passing. While several of the deaths could be attributed to accidents or suicide, Annaleigh is certain her most recent sister’s passing has something more sinister beneath it and is determined to figure out what is happening to her family. It is on one of her sleuthing missions does she meet the wonderful Cassius, who Annaleigh comes to befriend and trust.

I couldn’t help but smile, remembering their confrontation at the ball. “You sound jealous!”
“Hardly. And do you know why?” I shook my head. “Because I’m the one whispering in the corner with the prettiest girl in the room.”

Even with a blossoming romance to contend with, Annaleigh is determined to figure out what is causing members of her family to die. And here is where it starts to get creepy: one Annaleigh’s younger sisters starts drawing incredibly disturbing images she shouldn’t know anything about, Annaleigh experiences vivid dreams/moments that she can’t figure out if they are real or not, and all manner of spooky things are occurring around the house. Plus, more death.

I shook my head, as if warding off a buzzing mosquito.
None of this is real, it persisted. No one else sees it because it’s not really here to see. You’ve gone mad, my girl.
No. that wasn’t it. That wasn’t possible.
I wasn’t mad.
There had to be another explanation.
Does there?

The story continues to climb and build until everything comes crashing together at the end. And let me tell you, what an ending it was. Some things I had kind of guessed relatively close, while others I didn’t see coming at all. So many different plot points were so expertly tied up that I felt exhausted when I finally finished the last page. So much happens at the end and I just want to talk about it. I have so many feelings! I need to reread it, honestly, because I’m sure I missed things as I raced to see who made it out alive.

I loved Annaleigh’s dedication to her family, even when it meant putting others’ feelings ahead of hers, but at the end of the day, she had the ultimate say in what what would make her happy. Her relationship with her sisters was complicated, but full of love, and the same can be said of her relationship with her father. I adored Cassius and the wonderful aspects of Annaleigh he highlighted. His arc was super interesting and only added to the awesome world building of the story.

I’m honestly surprised this is the author’s first published novel, as it was so well done. I truly do not have enough good words to say about it and am already looking forward to reading it again, probably closer to the fall when the atmosphere will perfectly lend itself.

In case it wasn’t clear, I adored this book and almost all that it entailed. I will say, there are two scenes that involve an animal (a turtle). They aren’t the worst I’ve ever read, but they are disturbing, albeit short. As this is a major trigger for me, I feel it’s only fair to give others notice as well. So just be warned, but it’s easy to skip. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did!

“All my years of imagining you,” he murmured, leaving a trail of kisses across my face, “and you are so much more than I ever could have dreamed of…”

This book will be released on August 6, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

BOOK REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends...

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Thank you to NetGalley (for granting my wish!), Casey McQuiston and St. Martin’s Griffin for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to try and make this review as coherent as possible, but not promises. I’m honestly just so filled with emotions and glee and joy from this book. I have so many highlights from this book and they are all SO GOOD.

Welcome to 2018 and in a far better timeline than the one we currently find ourselves in (*sob*), the successor to Barack Obama is democrat President Claremont, a divorced and re-married bad ass lady, who made two wonderful, half Mexican-half American children in Alex and June.

We start this story in the months leading up to her reelection bid. Alex, the first son, makes a fool of himself, as well as his sworn enemy Henry, at Henry’s brother’s wedding. In attempt to show that there is no animosity between the countries, Henry and Alex are forced to show the world they are indeed, close friends. And cue the start of the enemies to lovers trope, in the best way possible.

“I think it’s amazing,” Nora says. “Sworn enemies forced to make peace to settle tensions between their countries? There’s something totally Shakespearean about it.”

“Shakespearean in that hopefully I’ll get stabbed to death,” Alex says. “This sheet says his favorite food is mutton pie. I literally cannot think of a more boring food. He’s like a cardboard cutout of a person.”

As you can imagine, as Alex and Henry are forced to spend time together, their feelings begin to blossom. While Alex had only been with women up until this point in time, I appreciate McQuiston not dragging out Alex questioning if he could possibly like other men. Alex pretty quickly accepted that he was bisexual; while I can totally appreciate this is not easy for many, it kept the story moving along nicely with Alex’s quick acceptance.

While Alex and Henry’s relationship is very much rooted in friendship as they put on a carefully cultivated PR trip in Great Britain, things really get going with Henry’s visit to a New Year’s Eve party in D.C. It eventually leads to one of the best first kisses I have ever read. There’s so much tension leading up to it and I devoured every interaction between the two.

“C’mon, it’s like in the hips. You have to loosen up.” He reached down and put both hands on Henry’s hips, and Henry instantly tenses under the touch. “That’s the opposite of what I said.”
“Alex, I dont’–“
“Here,” Alex says, moving his own hips, “watch me.”
With a grave gulp of champagne, Henry says, “I am.”

I mean, be still my swooning heart. I was a little surprised how quickly Alex and Henry got together (not that I’m complaining!) as I expected a little more build up. However, I really liked how much attention was given to the complexity of navigating their relationship. There are so many laugh out loud funny moments – I know I was grinning like a fool like 85% of this book.

How dare Henry come into Alex’s house looking like the goddman James Bond offspring that he is, drink red wine with the prime minister, and act like he didn’t slip Alex the tongue and ghost him for a month.

He kisses Henry until it feels like he can’t breathe, until it feels like he’s going to forget both of their name and titles, until they’re only two people tangled up in a dark room making a brilliant, epic, unstoppable mistake.

While most of the attention is on Alex and Henry’s relationship, there’s a lot of great subplots happening and excellent side characters. I absolutely adored June, Alex’s sister, and Nora, June and Alex’s best friend and Alex’s sometimes girlfriend. They are both wickedly funny and smart and incredibly real. I also adored Zahra, Amy, Bea, etc. There are so many excellent characters in their own right, even if they revolve around Alex and Henry.

There’s some also serious issues brought up, like the fact that Alex struggles with his mixed heritage, Henry struggles with anxiety and both struggle what it means to carry on a high profile family legacy.

If there’s a criticism to be made (besides giving me more books in this world), is that you can fairly easily guess the major plot points. There’s nothing terribly unpredictable about them, but honestly, I didn’t find myself caring all that much. They needed to happen and I was more interested in how these characters were going to handle them.

Take for instance Alex’s mother learning of his relationship and her immediate reaction was to make a powerpoint to lead their discussion, including this title for the ages:
EXPLORING YOUR SEXUALITY: HEALTHY, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE WITH THE PRINCE OF ENGLAND?
She apologizes for not having time to come up with better titles.

If I didn’t love Alex’s entire family already, this would have certainly sealed the deal. The ending, while a bit cliche, was still entirely wonderful and really tied up the book nicely. As I said, before, I would love a follow-up book in the future to see what all these amazing people are up to. I truly did not get enough of them in fantastic 432 pages McQuiston gifted us.

While I certainly have started to read more romance stories in the last few years, I still would not certainly consider myself a big reader of this genre. I tend to only like contemporaries and they definitely need to be well-done and bring something different to the table. I’ve only found a few so far that fit this billing that I’ve enjoyed and Red, White & Royal blue is certainly at the top of these.

I can’t wait to get this in printed form and read it whenever I need a pick-me-up. I cannot say enough positive things about this book and from everything I’ve seen, just about everyone else who’s read this agrees. It’s sexy, it’s funny and it’s emotionally heart-warming.

“You are,” he says,” the absolute worst idea I’ve ever had.” Henry’s mouth spreads into a slow smile, and Alex kisses it.

Red, White & Royal Blue will be released on May 14, 2019.

BOOK REVIEW: We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott

BOOK REVIEW: We Told Six Lies by Victoria ScottWe Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
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Synopsis:

Remember how many lies we told, Molly? It’s enough to make my head spin. You were wild when I met you, and I was mad for you. But then something happened. And now you’re gone.

But don’t worry. I’ll find you. I just need to sift through the story of us to get to where you might be. I’ve got places to look, and a list of names.

The police have a list of names, too. See now? There’s another lie. There is only one person they’re really looking at, Molly.

And that’s yours truly.

Thank you to NetGalley, Victoria Scott and Entangled Publishing for my free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

3.5/5

Did you know it, then, that I already belonged to you? Because I did, you beautiful, wicked girl.

“We Told Six Lies” is a captivating and well written YA thriller from Victoria Scott. However, there were a few things that held the story back from being great.

As with many thrillers, this book is told from varying perspectives and time jumps. The main players in this book are Cobain and Molly. Yes, you read that right, Cobain is a character’s first name. This book has a number of questionable first name choices, but I digress.

Molly is new to the high school and area, but quickly finds friends and becomes interested in shy and socially awkward Cobain. Cobain’s chapters often reminded me of Joe from Caroline Kepner’s YOU books, as he was truly smitten with Molly, even to his own detriment. Thus, when Molly goes missing, it’s not a surprise the police are most interested in Cobain, who also has a well-known anger management problem.

“Follow me,” you said, and I recognized that you were about to do something you shouldn’t. It was your favorite pastime, and you knew I’d do it beside you without question.

Cobain was an OK main character. He has a lot of issues, both with himself and with his family. I truly did feel badly for him many times, but I never quite loved him. On the other hand, I really liked Molly, even as flawed as she is. We unfortunately only get Molly’s perspective in present day and not in the flashbacks, as opposed to how we get Cobain’s. Molly has a lot of layers and is smart and determined. She also uses people to get what she wants, just like her father taught her.

Molly wanted freedom. But he wanted Molly. And love always triumphed in the end.

Without giving away much more of the plot, I was slightly surprised at the “twist.” I think part of it becomes fairly clear as the story goes on, but not all of it is easy to guess. The last couple chapters are wild and thrilling, but then it fairly abruptly ends. I would have liked to see more of the aftermath and a hint at the future, as opposed to ending it where it did. Also, it was never clear what exactly those specific six lies were referenced in the title. It’s not a big deal, but it was just weird to have the book titled something that wasn’t explicitly explained within the book.

So many lies. More than any of us can count. And with every lie, we had a chance to make things right. How could we have been so stupid?

BOOK REVIEW: Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

BOOK REVIEW: Sherwood by Meagan SpoonerSherwood by Meagan Spooner
Purchase on: Amazon
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When news comes that he's fallen in battle at the King's side in the Holy Land, Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on. Betrothed to Robin, she was free to be herself, to flout the stifling rules of traditional society and share an equal voice with her beloved when it came to caring for the people of her land.

Now Marian is alone, with no voice of her own. The people of Locksley, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, are doomed to live in poverty or else face death by hanging. The dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sherriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley, and Marian’s fiancé. Society demands that she accept her fate, and watch helplessly as her people starve.

When Marian dons Robin's green cloak, and takes up his sword and bow, she never intended that anyone should mistake her for Robin, returned from the Holy Land as a vigilante. She never intended that the masked, cloaked figure she created should stand as a beacon of hope and justice to peasant and noble alike. She never intended to become a legend.

But all of Nottingham is crying out for a savior. So Marian must choose to make her own fate and become her own hero...

Robin Hood.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Collins for my ARC. Sherwood will be released on March 19, 2019.

I am the Lady Marian. I am a free woman and I am loved by Robin of Locksley. I don’t shatter for someone like Guy of Gisborne.

Sherwood was another very good book from Meagan Spooner. I previously enjoyed Hunted, Spooner’s take on “Beauty and the Beast.” This time it is the legend of Robin Hood, with Marian stepping up to take Robin of Locksley’s place after he is killed in battle.

Marian is an excellent main character. She takes her grief and sorrow over losing Robin and channels it into doing good for the people of Sherwood. Along the way, a fantastic cast of side characters help her steal from the rich to help the poor. She is strong and unwavering in her belief in right and wrong, yet is not immune from pain and sadness for those she cares for. She constantly goes out of her way to spare anyone unnecessary and pain and even when it is necessary, she feels guilty for what she has done. Marian is not morally grey–she does what she believes is right and doesn’t second guess herself.

Madness, then, she thought with a grin. And then, missing the feel of wool on her fingertips, she thought, Robin would have loved it.

We are introduced to Robin with a series of flashbacks and his voice in her heard. I loved Robin’s character. He is funny and sweet and charming. View Spoiler » Robin’s voice is constantly in Marian’s head, guiding her through her foray into becoming Robin Hood.

Robin’s voice in her thoughts was gentle. Will you take away their hope because you have none?

As I mentioned before, I thought the side characters of Alan, Will, John and Elana were all quite likeable and well-written. And in usual Meagan Spooner fashion, it was written quite beautifully and the world building was excellent.

You must be wondering, if all of this is good, why only 4 stars, Cassie? Well, unfortunately for me, I didn’t love the romance angle of this. Spoilers hidden for those who haven’t read/don’t want to know:

View Spoiler »

Overall, this was another wonderful book by Spooner. I really enjoyed it and if you were a fan of Hunted or the Scarlet series, you will likely enjoy this as well. I’m sure there will be plenty of people who disagree with me regarding the romance, but I’m ok with that. I’m looking forward to whatever Spooner writes next.

BOOK REVIEW: Luna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW: Luna and the Lie by Mariana ZapataLuna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The problem with secrets is that they’re too easy to keep collecting.

Luna Allen has done some things she would rather no one ever know about. She also knows that, if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t change a single thing.

With three sisters she loves, a job she (mostly) adores, and a family built up of friends she’s made over the years, Luna figures everything has worked out the way it was supposed to.

But when one of those secrets involves the man who signs her paycheck, she can’t find it in her to regret it. Despite the fact that he’s not the friendliest man in the world. Or the most patient.

Sometimes there are things you’re better off keeping to yourself.

Looking back on it though, there had been no way for me to know then how much Lucas Ripley would haunt me in the future. I’d had no idea as I had walked into that room to introduce myself what he would end up owing me.

Alright y’all, I have a lot of thoughts on this. In a happy holiday surprise, we were gifted a new Mariana Zapata novel. Of course I was elated to get started and dive back into another one of her novels. I LOVED the other two of hers I have read (“The Wall of Winnipeg and Me” and “From Lukov With Love”), and even though this one was diverting away from the sports theme, I was still ready to fall deep.

Let me preface this whole review by stating this was a solid four-star review. I generally really enjoyed the first 80%. It’s the final 20% where I started to have some issues, but we’ll get there.

First, let’s talk about the main characters. Luna Allen, our main girl of the story, is working in a car repair shop in Houston. She is good at her job, loved by her co-workers and has a special father-figure in Mr. Cooper, who gave her the job when she was just 17 and new to the city. Mr. Cooper is a lovely character and I enjoyed every interaction he had with Luna the entire book. It was so sweet and pure, and the love these two had went so deep. He and his wife were there for her (and her sisters) when she didn’t have anyone else. As you learn, her family life back in San Antonio was incredibly terrible and left Luna with a lot of scars.

The heart is more resilient than anyone ever gave it credit for, and I liked to think mine was a bad bish.

And then there’s Rip. The new, second boss at the Luna’s work. He’s prickly and standoffish, but Luna goes out of her way to be nice to him. I bet you can see where this is going…

As the story continues, Luna and Rip get to know each other much better. Rip is there to help Luna when she’s at her most vulnerable and they both begin to open up to each other and learn about their dark pasts.

And more tears just came right out of my eyes with each thing said into my ear, spilling over my fingers and wrists, down my arms as I stood there, letting my boss, a man who barely talked to me on a good day, hug me and tell me I wasn’t a sad, pathetic person who deserved to feel so small.

Coming in at 580 pages, and well, being a Mariana Zapata book, you generally know how this is going to go. It’s a slow-burn, in every sense of the phrase, and things move forward and backward as these two figure out what they are feeling and reconcile it with everything else in their lives. And even with such a large page count, I never felt like it was dragging or found myself getting bored. I enjoy the slow pace, as that to me is incredibly realistic and thoughtful. I love the small moments that are sprinkled in their daily lives as much as the grand giant moments that pop up when the time is right.

”You kill me, girl,” he murmured in the roughest voice I’d ever heard. “I swear to God, you’re a fucking puzzle I thought was all in the box, but every damn day I find a piece or two hidden all over the place.”

So if you’re still with me, you’re probably wondering, well if you liked it so much Cassie, what went wrong?

First, while I know this was a romance and not a mystery thriller, if you’re even paying the smallest of attention, you will generally figure out the “reveals” near the end. Like, it was incredibly obvious. Not really a big deal, but to sit through 500 pages of Luna not figuring it out, when I feel it’s been made clear in the first 100, was a tad annoying. I would have loved to see a bit more creativity here if the “lie” was going to be kept like a big secret for so long.

But the biggest problem I had was with Rip and his actions near the end. Let me just say, so I’m very clear, I have no problem at all with characters who are jealous over their love interests. It’s realistic and I think it can definitely add some needed drama or tension into the story. However, I find some of Rip’s jealousy and actions due to this jealousy to be a problem and honestly, a very unhealthy way of showing his dedication to Luna.

I’m about to get specific, so click for spoilers:

View Spoiler »

If you are still with me, thank you so much for reading all of this! I don’t normally write such lengthy reviews, but I just had a lot of thoughts and feelings on this one. (*insert Mean Girls feelings gif here*)

Overall, it was another good book from Zapata. I don’t think she’s capable of writing a bad book, even if I haven’t gotten to some of her older novels. However, for reasons mentioned above, I hope you’ll understand why I felt this missed the mark. I truly hope her next book keeps all of the wonderful things she does, but avoids some of the negative behaviors and actions I truly found problematic.

“You gave me these pieces of you I know you haven’t given to anybody else, and they’re mine. You can’t take ‘em back. I need them more than you do, you hear me?”

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