Oh look, a bunch of books being released on August 6th! Like they knew it was The 100 finale day or something! Er I mean, Happy Book Birthday! (But actually shhh Happy The 100 Finale Day!)
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.
This was different than I expected- in a good way! I mean, to be fair, I never fully know what I am expecting because I rarely make sense, but that’s okay. Fine, I thought it was about mermaids or something, shhh. (It isn’t, by the by.) It is, however, about an upper-crust family consisting of a bunch of sisters (twelve in all but a whole bunch are dead) who live by the sea and are sure they are cursed. Which tbh, I feel, because how else do you explain all these deaths, goodness!
The sea setting is kind of awesome and atmospheric. To be fair, I could have used a little more worldbuilding, but that is because the worldbuilding we did get was interesting and I wanted to know more stuff! The family is incredibly tight knit, especially after all their losses. The sisters disagree on a lot of stuff, but they love each other so very fiercely. It is kind of how I imagine having sisters would work, really. You might get on each other’s nerves, but you love the heck out of one another. That’s how this group is, and obviously their terror of losing another one of them adds to both the tension and the love.
There’s a mystery at the core of the story. What exactly is happening to the sisters? Is there a curse? Can it be stopped? And hey, what’s with all the worn out dancing shoes, anyway? I’d do you a disservice by talking about any of it much more. You’ll get an ending that satisfies your answers to all those questions and more. Promise.
Bottom Line: Atmospheric and full of familial love, House of Salt and Sorrows lives up to its name and then some.
They may have escaped Sanctuary, but Kenzie and her friends are far from safe.
Ex-Omnistellar prison guard Kenzie and her superpowered friends barely made it off Sanctuary alive. Now they’re stuck in a stolen alien ship with nowhere to go and no one to help them. Kenzie is desperate for a plan, but she doesn’t know who to trust anymore. Everyone has their own dark secrets: Omnistellar, her parents, even Cage. Worse still, she’s haunted by memories of the aliens who nearly tore her to shreds—and forced her to accidentally kill one of the Sanctuary prisoners, Matt.
When Kenzie intercepts a radio communication suggesting that more aliens are on their way, she knows there’s only one choice: They must turn themselves in to Omnistellar and destroy the ship before the aliens follow the signal straight to them. Because if the monstrous creatures who attacked Sanctuary reach Earth, then it’s game over for humanity.
What Kenzie doesn’t know is that the aliens aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Omnistellar has put a bounty on Kenzie’s head—and the question is whether the aliens or Omnistellar get to her first.
I really enjoyed Sanctuary when I read it last year. And as it ended on quite the cliffhanger, I was eager to jump into this one! I have to say, props to the author for dropping in bits from Book One where it was necessary. She did it in a way that didn’t take me out of the current book, but also refreshed my feeble memory. Thanks!
What I Liked:
- Same action-packed fun as before! Yeah this series does not let up on the adventure. And most of the time that’s a good thing! You won’t get bored, that is for sure.
- Love the characters, just as in the last book. Kenzie is just really relatable. She’s dealing with so much, and all her doubts and insecurities feel really authentic, but then when she is strong and fierce, that too feels authentic. And the secondary cast? They’re beyond awesome, so fleshed out that they really enhance the book.
- Gray morality ftw! I just love this sort of book for that very reason. I am not getting into detail about any of them because spoilers, but there are so many decisions that are just flat out hard. Because sometimes there just is no right answer, you know?
- Portrayl of mental health outside contemporary (and it’s handled quite well!) Kenzie has some legitimate PTSD from everything that went down on Sanctuary. She watched so many loved ones die, had to kill people herself, that honestly it wasn’t a shock that the girl was suffering.
What I Didn’t:
- Lie of omission trope, which lead to a fight, which is not my fave. Especially since I didn’t even really think the omitters were wrong in this case, and that the mad folks were being a little over the top? Especially in situations like those presented in this series, when every choice you make means life or death. Cut your buddies some slack, yeah? Anyway, I just didn’t love the addition of this storyline, I guess.
- I struggled a little in the middle. Ugh guys I know this is unfair, but I just didn’t have a lot of motivation for a little while? This might be more a case of a Me Problem™ than a book problem. I think at times, too much going on makes me bleary eyed. Idk, I don’t totally blame the book though.
Bottom Line: A really solid sequel in an overall awesome (so far!) series- can’t wait to find out what’s next for Kenzie & Company!
Katie Henry, the author of Heretics Anonymous, delivers an engrossing and thoughtful tale that tackles faith, friendship, family, and the potentially impending apocalypse.
There are many ways the world could end. There could be a fire. A catastrophic flood. A supereruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one. What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.
Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of the ones she loves—the two girls become fast friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions. When does it happen? Who will believe them? How do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?
Let’s Call it a Doomsday tackled a few pretty tough topics, and overall handled it quite well. Ellis has an anxiety disorder, which she is in therapy for. She’s of the Mormon faith, trying to figure out what her actual beliefs are. She has a rocky relationship with her parents, especially her mom, though they definitely love her tons. She is also a doomsday prepper, complete with supplies stocked away, emergency kits, the whole shebang.
Enter Hannah. Hannah claims to know when the world will end, and she knows this because she’s dreamt it. Including Ellis’s role in it. And that, in a nutshell, is how Ellis meets Hannah and her friends. What unfolds next is the fun part, the part I won’t deprive you of, but it helps to have some context for when I talk about the stuff I liked!
- Complicated family dynamics. Oh, Ellis’s mom. She’s kind of the bane of my existence, because frankly, my own family has acted like her a time or twenty. To be fair, not at her level, and not always, but it’s still very relatable. Ellis’s Mom wants to know what she talked about in therapy. If Ellis talked about her. And to be quite frank, Mom sees Ellis’s anxiety as a big ol’ inconvenience. Like you know what Ellis’s Mom? It’s a true burden for Ellis. Not you. You’re the mom, the caretaker. Get over yourself. Ellis’s Dad tries, but not hard enough if you ask me. There is growth throughout the book though, and I can live with it. The bottom line is, it opens the door for a lot of discussion about families of people dealing with mental illness and I am here for it.
- Complicated friendship dynamics. At times, I really didn’t know if Hannah and Ellis’s relationship was healthy? And I think we’re supposed to feel that way! Hannah’s other friends even bring it up. But Ellis really is good hearted, and I think Hannah needed someone like her. And through Hannah, Ellis finds a whole group of people who are in her corner, which I loved. Also, they’re super fun people.
- Awesomely diverse (and swoony, and realistic) relationships. Oh, I don’t even want to tell you about this because I wasn’t 100% sure who the love interest would be for awhile! So I won’t. But there are a lot of characters with differing identities, and it was awesome. And also when the romance did happen, I was a very big fan.
- Religious discussion. Mormonism seems to be a tough road for a lot of young people. In most of the stories I have read about being Mormon (both fiction and non-fiction), there’s a fairly strict code of conduct. And often, a person’s beliefs aren’t going to fit all the categories of this (or any other, really) religion. And I think so often, this aspect of young adulthood is overlooked in books, when there are probably a lot of people questioning their beliefs and values at this time of life. So kudos to the author for taking on some of these challenging questions!
- A few semi-ridiculous things that end up being really heartwarming. Okay some of the story is a wee bit bananas, but in such a fun and loving way that it didn’t bother me one bit. But that’s all I’ll say on that. 🤐
- And a few sobering truths about mental health. Some of what happens in regard to this happen closer to the end, so I’ll keep it vague. I will say that I knew from early on where this particular thread was going, but also that I appreciated that the author went there. She shows a wide spectrum of mental illness, and that is rare.
The only complaint I really have is that I would have liked to have felt a little more connected to Ellis. Like, I understood her to an extent, but I never felt totally connected to her.
Bottom Line: Katie Henry is absolutely an auto-read author for me going foward. This is the second of her novels that deals with the tough stuff while still being heartwarming and entertaining. Talk about a win.
Thelma and Louise gets remade in this powerful, darkly funny teen novel from acclaimed authors Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry. Two teenage girls who have had enough of the controlling men in their lives take their rage on the road to make a new life for themselves.
Winona has been starving for life in the seemingly perfect home that she shares with her seemingly perfect father, celebrity weatherman Stormy Olsen. No one knows that he locks the pantry door to control her eating and leaves bruises where no one can see them.
Lucille has been suffocating beneath the needs of her mother and her drug-dealing brother, wondering if there’s more out there for her than disappearing waitress tips and a lifetime of barely getting by.
One harrowing night, Winona and Lucille realize they can’t wait until graduation to start their new lives. They need out. Now. One hour later, they’re armed with a plan that will take them from their small Michigan town to Chicago.
All they need is three grand, fast. And really, a stolen convertible can’t hurt.
Chased by the oppression, toxicity, and powerlessness that has held them down, Winona and Lucille must reclaim their strength if they are going to make their daring escape—and get away with it.
Parts of this book were super. Like a road trip! And two young women being completely over the patriarchy! And strong female friendships! But for whatever reason (and I can’t fully articulate them which I realize makes me the worst), I just never fully connected to the characters, and by extension, the story.
Here’s the thing: most of the people in this story are pure and total garbage. Not Lucille and Winona, they’re just caught in the crosshairs of a lot of bad actors. Winona’s dad is the trashiest garbage of them all, abusing his daughter every chance he gets. He’s giving meteorologists everywhere a bad name, tbh. And I was glad as anything when Winona ran the hell away from him. And Lucille helping her? Yep, made me love her too.
Lucille isn’t exactly doing great either. Mom’s always working, and her brother is a drug dealer who stole all her money. So it’s… depressing at best. And most of the people they encounter along the way are also pretty much human dumpsters. Maybe it’s the hopelessness of the whole thing that made it hard for me to connect? I am not really sure.
For what it’s worth, the road trip itself is fun, and the plot itself was entertaining enough to make me want to keep reading. I also liked the characters, but more at a surface level, if that makes sense? Regardless, it was all enough to be at least a worthwhile read!
Bottom Line: While I didn’t love it quite as much as I’d hoped, I am always here for strong women taking control of their destinies. And also driving across the country.