Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, Middle Grade

Mini Book Reviews: December 2019 – Part 2

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*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig, Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue, Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) by Victoria Schwab, & The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

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» House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

House ofSaltandSorrows

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5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the cover is what originally drew me to this book.  I knew from the moment I set my eyes on it that I had to read it…

»  House of Salt and Sorrows was one of the most atmospheric books I’ve ever read.  I’m a huge fan of gothic style novels, so this book definitely fit the bill in regards to tone.  Parts of this book were very unsettling, and I would even venture to say that parts of this book were slightly scary.

» Despite this being a debut novel, Craig proves herself to be a skilled writer.  I really enjoyed her eloquent writing.  I could vividly picture everything from the landscape to the characters’ clothing.

» House of Salt and Sorrows is a loose retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  I was not familiar with this particular fairytale, however after doing some research I think the author did a great job pulling a few elements from the original fairytale while creating a new original story.WhatIDidntLike» Despite the fact that I loved the atmospheric writing, the plot was a bit underwhelming for me.  The author spent too much time on unnecessary things (i.e. the romance) & did not develop the relevant plot points.  I felt like the story just jumped from one plot point to the next.   There were also a few loose ends that I wanted to see tied up.

» The pacing of the story was off, particularly in the middle of the book.  I felt like the story started with a bang, lost momentum in the middle, then was a rush to the finish at the end.

» The romance did not work for me.  I felt zero chemistry, thus the romance just felt forced.  I think the story would have worked better without the romance.

»  The secondary characters were lacking in development.  I wanted to see more from the sisters, the father, and the step-mother.OverallHouse of Salt and Sorrows is a deliciously atmospheric fairy tale retelling that is perfect for fall/Halloween time.  I look forward to seeing what this author comes out with in the future as I feel that the potential for excellence is there.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of fairytale retellings; fans of darker gothic style novels; mystery fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ suicide

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge


» Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

BeholdtheDreamers

add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» I listened to Behold the Dreamers via audiobook, which was wonderfully narrated by Prentice Onayemi.  The narration really gave the characters an authentic feel.  I am not sure I would have enjoyed this story as much in print form.

»  In the current state of political debate regarding immigration in the U.S, Behold the Dreamers is an insightful look into the immigrant experience here in the U.S.   Books like this really put things into perspective and remind me of the privilege that I have benefited from being born here in the U.S.

» While I would consider this a understated type of story, it was very powerful.   The tone throughout the story was on the somber side, but there was an underlying theme of hope. Mbue covers heavy topics like immigration, family, marriage, social class, poverty, the recession of 2008, the “American dream,”etc.

»  The ending of this book was absolutely perfect and suited the story very well. WhatIDidntLike»  This is definitely a slower moving story that drags a bit in places.  If you are looking for quick paced & action packed, this is not going to be for you.OverallBehold the Dreamers was a wonderful & heartbreaking story about the challenges that immigrants face trying to live the “American dream.”

› Recommended to ⇒ readers looking for a culturally diverse read that portrays the immigrant experience

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ alcohol/drug abuse & adultery

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekeran


» Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) by Victoria Schwab

Tunnelofbones

add-to-goodreads-button5-Star Rating System

*4.5 stars*WhatILiked» I actually enjoyed this second installment more than the first installment in the Cassidy Blake series.  No “second book syndrome” here!

» Each Cassidy Blake book is set in a new country, so for Tunnel of Bones we visited Paris, France.  I loved the infusion of French culture and history woven throughout the story.

» Cassidy & Jacob’s friendship in this series is absolutely delightful.  I enjoyed watching their relationship evolve from the first book to this one.  We learn more about Jacob & his past in this installment.

» True to Schwab form, Tunnel of Bones is fast paced & action packed.
OverallThis middle grade paranormal series is the perfect not-so-scary read for the fall months around Halloween time.

› Recommended to ⇒  fans of paranormal stories; fans of the movie Capser

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


» The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

TheHideaway

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5-Star Rating System

I would like to preface this mini review with the fact that this book was selected for one of my book clubs.  This isn’t a typical book I would have picked out for myself, so take my rating with a grain of salt.WhatIDidntLike» The Hideaway had many of the tropes I have enjoyed in the past: eccentric cast, old house renovation, family secrets, etc. HOWEVER none of these elements were properly developed.  We don’t get to see any of the old inn being renovated.  The secondary characters were not developed.  The family secret was cliche… There was nothing that made it stand out from all the other books with similar elements.OverallIf you enjoy light-hearted Southern contemporary stories, you should give this one a go.  I am definitely in the minority here with my feelings, as The Hideaway has a 3.93 star rating on Goodreads.  It is a well written book, just lacking plot substance.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of light-hearted chick lit

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

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