Review | House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

“We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return.” 3.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: special slippers, lockets, bathtubs, nightmares, terrible deaths, midnight balls, masks, satin dresses, secret passages.

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.

I can understand why people have so many mixed reviews when it comes to this book. Personally, my experience was overall positive.

I really liked how creepy this book is. This book has a very mysterious and dark atmosphere/setting, which is something I really like in fantasy books. There are so many gore elements and horror elements that make this book come alive! And don’t even get me started on that turtle scene… that was so graphic!

The characters were just okay. I didn’t connect with the main character like I thought I would, but she was okay. You can say there’s a small dose of romance in this, but there’s nothing too fancy about it (I honestly didn’t pay any attention to it). What I did like was the family dynamics in this! I really liked reading about all the sisters and their relationships with each other.

I also liked how this book was inspired by a classic: “The 12 Dancing Princesses”! I have heard about this story before, but I never knew what it was about so I did some research to get to know the story before reading this book. At least I got to learn something new!

I can agree that the overall plot wasn’t the best and I found the end confusing and nonsensical. This retelling has a very interesting approach to the original story, and I appreciate what the author tried to do but I think the link between the stories felt a little off. I think the “new” plot had a few flaws that ended up influencing the entire retelling in a negative way. I admit there were a few times where I couldn’t understand exactly what was going on or even how to visualize the scenes, and this caused some confusion during my reading experience. And the icing on the cake: the ending was a little weak and I was a little disappointed with the way the story was concluded.

In the end, I enjoyed this story for what it was and I ended up liking it even if it was far from perfect!

Review | Truth or Dare by Camilla Läckberg

3.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: fireworks, New Year’s Eve parties, secret apartments, Monopoly, short dresses, truth and dare, a catering service, quick phone calls, terrible haircuts and rich families.

Four friends
Liv, Martina, Max and Anton have been best friends for years. So on New Year’s Eve, they’re more than happy to spend it together – drinking, flirting, and playing games.

Four terrifying secrets
But each of them is keeping a terrible secret. And when a game of truth or dare takes a dark turn, it’s not long before the shocking truth emerges.

A night that will end in murder
Now the secrets are out there, nothing will ever be the same again. And not everyone will live to see the chime of midnight…

This book was exactly what I needed to fight my current reading slump! 

This short fiction book follows the New Year’s Eve party of four (very rich) teenagers: Liv, Martina, Anton and Max. They decided to have their own small party at Max’s place while their parents are celebrating next door at Anton’s. Even though they’ve been best friends since primary school, all of them have some personal issues that they feel like they can’t tell each other – so, as you can imagine they have some dark secrets they’re hiding! As the evening progresses, they keep drinking and the games they play also keep getting darker… and that’s where I’ll leave it!

The teens are not very likable at first, but that plays a big part in this story so I’m not mad at that. Just imagine the typical super rich kids that are arrogant and feel like they can buy their way in the world – yep, here they are! As the book progresses, you start to feel a little sympathy for them because they begin to show more of their human side and vulnerability. They slowly progress from futile to human, and that made me care for them more.

As far as plot goes, I was really invested in what was going on until the end started. I was interested to see where their night was going since they started to open up more and more. But with that said, I didn’t love the way the book ended (it wasn’t terrible either). Let’s just say I was expecting something more surprising/shocking to happen. I ended up feeling a little underwhelmed with the “main event”.

Still, I had fun reading this and I liked it for what it was: a quick and entertaining short story!

Review | Fauxmance by Cookie O’Gorman

“It’s okay. You’re with me now. I’ll protect your heart.” 4.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: napkins, peeps, handkerchiefs, motorcycles, red dresses, disguises, elevators, soup kitchen, wedding cake, escorts and the fake dating trope.

Fauxmance (foh-mans): Term for a romantic relationship that is fake. Real feelings, like love, are strictly prohibited. See also: Why would anyone enter a fake relationship?

Eighteen-year-old Magnolia believes in true love.

Or she did.

When her boyfriend dumps her the day before her sister’s wedding, Maggie is devastated—but her broken heart is only part of the problem. Maggie is the maid of honor, and her sister insists: Every member of the bridal party must have an escort. No exceptions.

Thank goodness for Hayden Davenport.

Sarcastic, cocky, a surprisingly good listener and self-professed player, when Maggie gets stuck in an elevator with the handsome stranger, she thinks she’s found the perfect wedding date. Unfortunately, Hayden hates weddings. Like really hates them.

But one soul-shattering kiss changes everything.

Maggie needs a fake boyfriend. Hayden wants to prove he’s changed his playboy ways. Faking it should be easy. The hard part?

Remembering it’s all pretend and not falling in love for real.

This book features two opposites with sizzling chemistry, a sweet, hopeless romantic and a cynical bad boy who’ll steal your heart. Elevators, fake romance, and weddings, oh my! Get ready to swoon, laugh, and say ‘I do’ to this heartfelt YA romance.

Another great cutesy YA romance from Cookie O’Gorman!

Once again, I fell in love with the story and the characters. But is anyone really surprised by now? I really liked the romance and the characters in this book: the bad boy vibe from Hayden combined with Magnolia’s sweet personality made my little heart flutter! They had great chemistry and brought life to the book.

Not only the main characters were captivating, but I also loved the side characters as well. Especially the other guys from the band and Hayden’s grandmother.

One of my favorite things about this book is definitely the way Magnolia and Hayden met for the first time: by being stuck in an elevator together. It was everything my romantic heart could have hoped for!

If you like wedding themed books, you should give this one a try. A big part of this book talks about weddings, which I personally don’t love or hate as a theme. It’s just not my go to scenario when it comes to books, but I didn’t mind it as well.

Once again, I applaud the writing because it made the story flow easily and it made the reading experience fun and captivating the entire time. This is a very easy book to read, with simple language and fast pacing. I would recommend this author’s books for the younger audience (teenagers and pre-teens).

I had a lot of fun reading this! It was a nice, feel-good YA romance, and I’m sure I’ll pick up more from this author soon.

Review | Wallflower by Cookie O’Gorman

“One thing was certain: Dare was very good at pretending.
That kiss had sure felt real.
But it wasn’t, I reminded myself sternly. This was all just a means to an end.”
4.75/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: “Flowers”, soccer practice, the fake dating trope, mean cheerleaders, Harry Potter, quick breakfasts, carpooling, stray dogs and being brave.

Wallflower (wohl-flou-erh): Identifier for someone who is shy and/or awkward. For reference, see Viola Kent.

Seventeen-year-old Viola Kent likes being invisible. Well, not literally, but she’s content being a loner, reading her books, and hanging out with the animals at the shelter. She just wants to keep her head down and get through her senior year at Durham High.

Driving Dare Frost to school every day wasn’t part of the plan.

And when Viola finds out her dad recruited Dare, his number one player, to be her friend?

Her inner Slytherin demands revenge.

The solution: Get Dare to be her fake boyfriend.

Convincing the star athlete to pretend is easier than she’d thought it would be. The hard part is protecting her heart. With every word, touch, and kiss, Viola’s feelings become more real.

The problem: Viola knows she’s falling for Dare—but he doesn’t believe in love.

This book features two sets of soulmates, one happy pooch named Hermione, so many sizzling kisses and answers the question:

Can a dork and a jock fake their way to true love?

My third Cookie O’Gorman book and definitely my favorite so far! To be honest, I loved them all so far, but this romance was everything my little heart could have hoped for!

So what made this story so great for me? The answer is: everything! The characters, the relationship, the chemistry between the main characters, the plot, the pacing, the writing… everything!

Let’s start with the characters. I adored both main characters, Viola and Dare. Viola was a very strong and opinionated main character (but not in a bad way). I loved her as a female lead because she was a relatable character with a very kind heart. And Dare Frost was the perfect male lead! He was written with a great, likable personality that complemented Viola’s perfectly. Together, they had a great chemistry and great banter! I swear Cookie O’Gorman writes the best book boyfriends!

Not only the characters brought the story to life, but the writing and plot made the story flow easily. This was a very easy, feel-good read with a fast pacing. The story was well written and was full of cute, sweet and funny moments.

I also found some of my favorite tropes here. If you like the fake dating trope or the enemies to lovers trope in YA, chances are you will love this book – just a quick side note, the hate to love is one sided here.I adored everything about this book. I saw there are a few new releases from this author, and I’m dying to see what those are about. As for this one, I can’t recommend it enough!

Review | Tidesong by Wendy Xu

2/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: dragons, Gods, wind magic, spells and eager apprentices.

Perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and The Tea Dragon Society, this is a magically heartwarming graphic novel about self-acceptance and friendship.

Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy—the best magic school in the realm—even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.

Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.

Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t—beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?

I read “Mooncakes” a few months ago and I was very disappointed. The illustrations were pretty but the story made no sense and nothing actually happened. I thought this was probably an isolated situation, so I decided to pick up “Tidesong”. Even though the plot was a little better this time, the reading experiences were very similar.

Let me start with what I liked: the illustrations were beautiful! The art is very similar to “Mooncakes” and you can obviously tell the illustrator is the same person because the style was exactly the same. I really liked how the dragons were illustrated, because it reminded me a lot of Ghibli’s stories – in particular the movie “Spirited Away” that also has a little girl, a dragon and water scenes!  And… that’s pretty much it. That’s all I liked about this book.

The story itself was weak, the pacing was weird, and the timing between the frames felt super off sometimes – and I had the exact same experience with “Mooncakes”. It felt like everything happened in two or three pages, and then nothing happened for a longer time.

I think the author is extremely talented when it comes to illustrating, so if they worked with a talented storyteller the books would be magical (in all senses!). These books lack structure and a solid plot to shine.

If I had to choose between “Mooncakes” and “Tidesong”, I would definitely pick “Tidesong” because the story wasn’t as confusing and the plot was better defined.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Wendy Xu’s books are for me.

Review | Where the Drowned Girls Go (Wayward Children #7) by Seanan McGuire

“There was nothing wrong with any part of her. She was healthy, and happy, and fat, something which everyone who met her was quick to point out, some in tones of gleeful disgust, others in tones of shameful condemnation. Did she not know that she was fat, perhaps? Had she missed that essential fact of her own physical reality, and needed it explicitly explained to her? There was nothing wrong with her, but she was smart enough to know that everything was wrong with her, and even the fact that her parents and her doctors said that dieting would only do her harm didn’t change the fact that if she didn’t find a way to magically become thin, she would never be accepted.” 5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: fatphobia, diets, escape routes, doors, uniforms and private schools.

Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…

Found another favorite in this series! 

This book was a little different from the other books from the series, but not in a bad way. We are used to diving into the different fantasy worlds children go to, but not in this book. Here we follow Cora after coming back to the “real” world, more specifically at a new school: the Whitehorn Institute (the complete opposite of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children). The question is: why is Cora in a different school?

There are a lot of surprises and twists in this book, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll say this book focuses on fatphobia, bullying and strict authority. The rest, you will have to find out for yourself!

I have to say that I loved our main character, Cora. From what I remember, she made an appearance in a previous book, but I’m happy she had her time in the spotlight this time! Cora was a very relatable character, and I definitely saw myself in her in different ways.

Another thing I loved about this book was the amazing friendships! Not only a few new characters were introduced, but a few old friends made an appearance as well!

Two things that are important to mention if you’re considering reading this book:

#1: I would highly recommend you read the other books in the series first, because you will need to understand the backstory to read this one – or at least “Beneath the Sugar Sky” and “Come Tumbling Down”… but seriously just read them all, it’s worth it!)

#2: Ttrigger warnings for suicide, fatphobia and bullying.

This is definitely one of my favorite books and characters of the series! Can’t wait to see what the next book will bring!

Review | First Time in Forever (Puffin Island #1) by Sarah Morgan

“You’re going to love Puffin Island.” 3.25/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: long lost families, journalists, beaches, birds, new names, swimming lessons, cute dogs, waffles and chocolate milk.

Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It’s been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of “just breathe” pep talks she’s given herself. And that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it’s clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won’t let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he’s going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else’s hands?

My first ever Sarah Morgan book and to be completely honest, it was a little underwhelming. I liked the story and the island/birds elements, and I truly believe it had potential to become a great romance book… but it felt underdeveloped. Neither the characters or the romance were explored to their max. I would say a lot that happens in this book is just too “perfect” or convenient for the story. I’ll give you a few examples of why I felt this way:

  • Lizzie, the little girl, behaved in a very unrealistic way. She literally had just lost her mother and she was an angel the entire time: there was no sign of trauma by living in a different place without a single person she knew; she trusted everyone and was open to people, she didn’t cry… nothing! She threw no tantrums and just had an instant connection with her aunt – convenient to the story, right? I’m not saying that would be impossible to happen, but I would think it’s extremely unrealistic for a kid who lost everything to be so trusting and calm so instantly.
  • The romance was underwhelming. The main characters’ interactions were mostly sexual, and that would have been fine if the author sold it like that in the story. The problem is that the author sells it like it’s a really deep, soulmate connection and it never feels like that.
  • The quick change of heart of the main characters. They both had very strong beliefs and trains of thoughts that they keep defending throughout the book… until they change their thoughts in a heartbeat. This was confusing to me and made the book too “perfect” and convenient. Not a fan of this as well.
  • Following the last point: I was a little disappointed with the ending. If you also read the book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m not going to talk about it because I don’t want to spoil anything, but It didn’t feel realistic knowing it didn’t align with the characters’ backgrounds and personal beliefs, so I personally think the ending didn’t make sense.

Now with all of this said, one curious thing happened: while I wasn’t super invested in the main characters and romance, I’m now really curious about the future relationship between Sky and Alec! I found out the third book in the series is about their romance, and for that reason only… I’m continuing the series!

Another thing I found surprising about this book is that I didn’t know it was going to be so steamy. I definitely judged the book by the cover, and I thought this would be more of a sweet kind of beach read. If that is important for you to know, keep in mind that this is steamier than it looks!

I still think the atmosphere was beautiful and inspiring, but the characters/relationships felt a little off in this one.

Review | Disclaimer by Renée Knight

“To be a writer, to be a good writer, you need courage. You need to be prepared to expose yourself.” 4/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: old photographs, mysterious books, lingerie, beach days, drugs, motherhood and toy boats.

A brilliantly conceived, deeply unsettling psychological thriller— already an international sensation—about a woman haunted by secrets, the consuming desire for revenge, and the terrible price we pay when we try to hide the truth.

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.

This story was… wow. I can’t believe the turn it took!

This book was kindly lent to me by a reader friend and I got super curious when I read the synopsis. I really liked the concept behind the story: imagine mysteriously receiving  a book to your house and when you start reading it, you find out it’s about you! How creepy is that?

I admit I first thought the story was going in a different direction. I first thought the book was about her entire life, but it was “only” about a single event from the main character’s life. Still, I really liked how the story turned out and I was surprised until the very end – and needless to say I didn’t see that ending coming. Never in a million years.

All the characters were interesting and layered. They felt real and human, because as a reader we get so mixed feelings from them (and their actions). The characters and writing were executed to perfection.

Some people compare this book to “Gone Girl”, but I haven’t read it yet so I couldn’t tell you if the novels are similar or not!

Definitely recommend it, it’s worth it if you’re into mysteries!

Review | The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” 3/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: the power of prayer, helpful tips, biblical references and a positive attitude.

The phenomenal and inspiring bestseller by the father of positive thinking. The Power of Positive Thinking is a practical, direct-action application of spiritual techniques to overcome defeat and win confidence, success and joy. Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time, shares his famous formula of faith and optimism which millions of people have taken as their own simple and effective philosophy of living. His gentle guidance helps to eliminate defeatist attitudes, to know the power you possess and to make the best of your life.

“The Power of Positive Thinking” is a small self-development book, in which the author Norman Vincent Peale shares his lessons with readers on how to use the power of positive thinking to live a happy, successful life.

This book defends that there’s a strong connection between our mental state and habitual thought processes, so here you will find plenty of advice on how to start using a positive mindset to overcome worry and overall problems. It also shows a number of real-life examples that show how other people overcame their adversities by thinking in a positive way.

To be completely honest, I didn’t take much from this book. It’s not that the advice is bad, but the book wasn’t super impactful to me. Sometimes it gets a bit repetitive, so you keep seeing the same arguments being made over and over again. Not a terrible book, just okay.

A quick side note: if you don’t like books with a religious tone, you should probably skip this one. There are many references to religion that are used as arguments here. I personally don’t mind, but I can see some readers not liking the biblical/Christianity references that are frequently mentioned throughout the book.

I can see how this book could be impactful to some readers who are trying to better themselves, but personally for me it was just an okay book. Important message, but nothing too special about the book, in my humble opinion.

Review | Heartstopper: The Mini-Comics by Alice Oseman

4.5/5 stars!

Attention! This book contains: job interviews, boy bands, cute puppies, classic novels, baking, photo booths, flower arrangements, Quidditch, Gryffindors and Slytherins.

Cuteness overload (once again)!

This mini-comic book is a collection of stories about Nick and Charlie, some of them being part of the timeline of the original series, some being in the future and some being part of parallel universes.

My favorite stories were the Harry Potter one, the Pride and Prejudice one and the one where Charlie was telling his friend that Nick may like him back. Those made my heart sing!

There’s also a mix of different art styles and illustrators, so you won’t just find the art style used in the original series. I personally loved this mix and It’s cool that there were different interpretations in this collection!

If you’re considering picking up this book, I would advise you to read the series first and then this mini-comic book. It’s not like there’s a major spoiler here, but you still get a sense of where the story is going and if you don’t want that, I would advise you to pick up the series first.

The only thing that I wish was different is that two of the stories felt unfinished… other than that, I loved this!

I swear Alice Oseman could publish 20 more books about Charlie and Nick, and I would still read them. Until then… I’ll keep waiting for the 5th volume to come out!