Three reviews for the price of one…Yeah, this post is gonna look a little different ha-ha. Normally, I read one book at a time. This week, I’ve read three. All at the same time. I sort of feel like a teenager again. It’s been a while since I’ve read three novels in such close succession.
Here’s what happened.
My initial intention was to only read House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig.
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.
So what happened?
I started reading House of Salt and Sorrows, and I’ll say up front I enjoyed it immensely. But, the problem became that my past showed up to distract me. As some of you may know, Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyers came out this week. It’s Twilight from Edwards POV.
I was NOT going to read this book.
And then I did. Why you might ask? Well… Because nostalgia. Here’s where I fall within the Twilight reader world. There are those who absolutely love Twilight to this day. There are those who absolutely hate Twilight to this day.
I am both of those people.
At sixteen, I received Twilight for my birthday from a friend.
I ended up devouring it, loving it. I read it in a day before picking up the second, which I believe had just released. At the time, I was the teenager at the start of the Twilight craze. It was just launched, and the books I had before were amazing, but Twilight was a phenomena no one had ever seen before. So, it was easy to love at the time. It was also the first romance novel I’d read, considering my prior reads were Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Obviously, far better works of literature, but still…different.
At twenty, four years after the whole Twilight madness, I’d lost my love for the books.
I went back and tried to reread them and struggled. The writing was far from what I remembered, and nowhere near as good as what I read after Twilight released. Not to mention, having learned so much more about writing, I recognized all the reasons given for hating these books. It had major flaws.
I’m twenty-nine now. And I fall in the gray area between loving and hating Twilight.
I will never read the saga again. I maintain the same perspective I had when I was twenty, but I also came to realize that I don’t hate Twilight. How can I?
I’m a writer, in the YA genre, and Twilight is the reason YA has come so far. YA was not a well known genre before Twilight. Not to say it wasn’t there, that there were no books published under that genre. But, Twilight rocketed it into a much more prominent genre within publishing and bookshops. It went from being a tiny corner in my local borders, to taking up nearly the whole back wall of the shop after Twilight.
How can I hate those books and their author for jump starting the genre I love so much? At twenty-nine I recognize the significance of that and have a healthy respect for what she did for YA. As well as the authors who have continued to keep YA as such a prominent genre since then.
So when Midnight Sun was published I told myself I wasn’t going to read it, but then it was all over my Facebook. I am part of so many groups and each one was blowing up about this book and how excited people were to finally read it. Unable to escape it’s cover, I wound up on Amazon reading the preview. Then, I found myself purchasing the book. I mainly sped read it, which is why it only took me 2 days to get through, but being on the other side of that 670+ page behemoth I have several thoughts.
First and foremost, it wasn’t bad.
Meyers writing has clearly matured and gotten better making it easier to read MS than go back and read the original saga. Edward was still an angsty teen as he was in the original books, but being in his POV was actually more interesting. I think if Meyers had done more from his POV originally the books would have made more sense. You see a much more interesting side of both characters in this book as well as a look at all the things happening when they aren’t together. Which, reading MS reminded me that was a lot of time. Hence the thickness of MS compared to Twilight.
I’m glad I read MS. It was nostalgic. I reminded me why I loved the original at 16, while also giving me better insight into why I hated it at 20. I’ve reached a point where if you asked ‘should I read Twilight’ I’d say go for it, because my opinion may not be yours and I begrudge no one their love of a book. I can’t. Because Twilight kept me reading. It’s a stepping stone on my reader’s journey, which took me onto greater books.
So, thanks Stephanie Meyers.
That was my first detour away from House of Salt and Sorrows. At that point I was 150 pages into the novel by Ms. Craig and enjoying it, but I was also I think waiting for it to pick up a little. To see where the connection to the 12 Dancing Princesses came into play. I didn’t have to wait long. The book immediately picked up and I found myself nearing page 300 out of 405. What I realized, though, while reading is, I think, that House of Salt and Sorrows is a book I should have bought in paperback or hardcover form instead of an ebook.
There are just some books that read better in physical copy. I think this, for me, is one of them. House of Salt and Sorrows is a book to read in bed, with the lights dimmed, and the mood a little spooky. It is a Dark Fantasy/Horror after all.
So I hit about page 267, the book is moving well, the mystery is interesting, the romance is quiet in this book, but I still love it. What happened?
Remember, three reviews for the price of one…so bear with me.
Julie Rowe, a romance author I love to read and also admire, sent out her newsletter on August 4th. Not only was one of her recent novels on sale, she was also announcing when the next in her other series I adore would be released. I was ecstatic and immediately purchased Trapped with the Secret Agent. Psst, it’s still on sale today, though I believe it ends today just fyi.
Julie’s one of my auto-buy authors. Her books come out and essentially I look like this…
There was little chance I wasn’t going to switch books. Trapped with the Secret Agent is a romance, so if romance isn’t your thing – I don’t recommend it. But, if romance is your thing, it’s a definite fun read. Julie writes swoon worthy romances. Her heroes are tough, rugged, sweet, and melt-worthy. Her heroines are always smart and tough, even in the worst situations. The story is a fast read, action packed, but still heartfelt.
I enjoyed it immensely and I want another as soon as possible LOL. I’m always down to swoon, especially over a character like Peter.
Back to House of Salt and Sorrows!!!
I feel so bad I’ve put this book down so many times already. And it’s not because I haven’t enjoyed it. I actually love it!
Annaleigh, our heroine, is super likeable. She’s got gumption. Her sisters are dying, she’s probably cursed, and more than likely she’s next. She’s got no experience playing detective and reacts appropriately throughout the book, taking on the case simply because no one else believes her. Initially, she wants her father to take over. But, when your father is the Lord of Saltann and runs the whole fleet of ships there, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise. So what’s a girl to do? Do it herself. Even through the fear. And the madness.
The setting is beautiful, the world well built and used to the perfect degree to lend the story a spooky background. I wish this weren’t a standalone novel as it would be fun to see other parts of the continent and learn more about the various people who live in Arcannia.
I’ll say it again. I love this book.
It’s a slow start, I’ll admit, but Craig is weaving a tale of madness. Supernatural madness, I’ll give you, but madness nonetheless, and it’s masterfully done. In fact, so well, there are times when it’s hard to know if the supernatural element is real or not, if Annaleigh isn’t truly mad or just under a dark illusion.
Romance is always my favorite part of any story – even if the plot is as wonderfully crafted as it is in House of Salt and Sorrows – and Craig did not disappoint. Cassius is swoon worthy and his romance with Annaleigh is neither overdone nor underdone. Its balance perfect and the ending satisfying.
The last one hundred and fifty pages is when everything goes from the slow crawl you see in the opening – the setup of everything for a definitely satisfying payout – to careening at a breakneck speed for the end. It felt like cresting the top of the biggest hill on a roller coaster after a long climb and then racing to the bottom before dipping and weaving through the rest of the ride.
I look forward to what Craig does next – Small Favors a Rumplestiltskin retelling – as this was a beautiful debut of her career.