Book review – Sea Witch Rising by Sarah Henning

Caidyn's review (1)

Sea Witch Rising (Sea Witch, #2)


CW: loss, grief, loss of a loved one, and war

  1. Sea Witch – 4/5

As this is a sequel and directly picks up where the first book ends, there will be spoilers for the first book in this review! I don’t really want to dance around what happened and try not to give big spoilers away for this. Got it? Good. Sorry y’all who haven’t read this fantastic series, but maybe it’ll give you a jump on reading it?

So, as I said, this picks up immediately after the last book. Hell, the prologue in this is the very last chapter of the first book. Here’s a quick summary of the ending for those who need it. Evie saves Nik’s life with magic at the sacrifice of her own. She’s dying in the sea, but, with some magical help, she takes the life of an octopus, becoming the Sea Witch as we know her. Decades have passed. The mermaids are frightened of her. But, one mermaid comes looking to be turned into a human so she can win the love of a boy, Nik’s grandson (also named Nik; these damn royals, right?). And, Evie does that for her, stealing her voice and giving her days to win his love without it.

That’s where the story ends.

The mermaid’s name is Alia and she’s one of the king’s daughters. Except, she has a twin, Runa, who knows that she can’t do this and doesn’t want her sister to die. She makes her own deal with Evie to go up to the top and to help her sister in any way necessary.

The heart of this story, like the last, is sisterly love and the bond between siblings. It was beautiful to read that. I’m really loving all of these books that are coming out with that as its big focus and a huge theme that it deals with. The relationship Runa and Alia have in the book was so believable. They love each other to pieces and would do anything for the other, but they also hate each other at times.

Also, this book is about Evie. Runa is one perspective — and the one that dominates the book — but Evie also gets a say. Sarah said that this book (because I was lucky enough to see her speak on the night this released) is about those who are left behind. Runa was left behind by Alia. Evie was left behind by everyone because everyone she loves has now died. And it’s about the two of them, in their own way, coming into themselves.

It’s also about finding people. In the human world, Runa finds people that are like her. And they band together to try to make things right after the plan goes horribly wrong. It doesn’t help that it’s the dawn of World War One and everything’s about to get fucked anyways.

And WWI is a big part of this story. It’s something motivating the merpeople and, definitely, Runa’s father. It took me a while to realize that her father was the same one. That means that Runa has the same father that Anna did after her adoption by the merpeople. The timeline really messed with me in this story. It took me a while to actually get down the relationships and that people were basically the same from the first book. Kind of confused me for a while until I got it down.

Another thing that didn’t work for me is the characterization of Runa’s father. It just didn’t sit right with me for some reason. It felt unbelievable. And I never quite got the reason why he had become like this. It never felt adequately explained to me. As the book went on, it became more central to the plot. And I still never got it. It confuses me still. I’m pretty sure I’d catch it whenever I reread it, but that was one major part of the story that didn’t work for me.

I’m also glad to report that, unlike the first book, romance isn’t very central to the story. It’s there, of course, but this book has a lot more action than the first one. I liked that it had more action. The story went faster and my eyes didn’t glaze over like they do with romance.

The ending was a really good one. During Sarah’s talk, she kept saying that there’s no other book in the works, but that this one is being called a Sea Witch novel so that means there’s always a chance that more will come out. Personally, that makes me excited. The ending closed off the plot for this book, but left it open enough for more to come in the future. It’d be interesting to see something set in more contemporary times.

Overall, another great book by Sarah Henning! I highly recommend you check her out because she has amazing books and equally amazing projects that are in the works.

Talk to me!
What mermaid books do you love?
Do you have plans to read this one?

ARC review – Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Caidyn's review (1)

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)

I received this from Edelweiss and HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review!


CW: sexism, forced marriage, human experimentation, cutting (for blood magic), execution, starvation/not eating, and burning at the stake

I was completely blown away by this debut! When I went into this, I was pretty sure that it would be a good book but damn! Apparently, this year is all about debut authors shocking me by how amazing their stories are. This is on the upper-edge of YA — I’d say 16-18 — and I was so here for it. Alternately, I was laughing and on the edge of my seat. Sometimes at the same time, honestly.

This book follows Louise (Lou) le Blanc and Captain Reid Diggory. Lou is a witch from a very important lineage who is trying to escape from her life with her best friend, Coco, who is a blood witch. Reid is a Chasseur, or a part of the Church. And he kind of burns witches at the stake from time to time. And works for people who do a bit of human experimentation. You know how it is. Common stuff, every day stuff, right?

It’s set in a fictionalized France and I loved it. It was so much fun to read it while keeping in mind all that I know about France. This France hates witches. Hates them so much and will do anything to get rid of them. It’s rather sexist, admittedly, going with the belief that a woman becomes her husband’s property.

But the world was so rich and developed. I could really get a feel for it and place it in my head. Sometimes the world is the hardest thing for me to get down because they can blend together. This one stood out, which I really loved. I could keep it straight in my mind despite all of the moving parts — Lou’s old life and those connected with it, the people she’s with now, the Church, etc.

And that plot? So damn fast-paced. It was a whirlwind to read and I kept wondering exactly where it was going towards, even though I had an idea of where it might end up. It kept me wondering because it was so broad. There were little things here and there that would catch my attention as a reader, then the story would come back to the story/ending that we were being worked to.

The biggest win for me with this book was the trope that it had running through its veins. Enemies, although Reid doesn’t know who/what Lou is. They just don’t like each other. Lou is very boisterous and opinionated and loves a song about Big Tiddy Liddy. (Not joking there.) Reid is reserved, quiet, pious. He takes his church vows very seriously. Doesn’t curse and finds her horrifying, although he doesn’t agree with some of the church’s mandates.

Even better, it’s a forced marriage. They are forced to get married and, from there, start realizing they like each other more than they should since, you know, they should hate each other. I felt my aura enrich and grow, and my grey hairs slowly turn back to brown by reading this trope.

It’s so hard to get right, too. Because if you go too fast, it’s not believable that they really hated each other at all or there was any bit of force at all to get them married. Go too slow and it wears at my patience. Mahurin was like Goldilocks. She got it just right for me and what I didn’t even know that I wanted.

Really, what else do I have to say to convince you to give this witchy, twisty book a try? I preordered it when I was around 30% in because I knew that I had to get my hands on a finished copy because this was just so much fun to read. Definitely a favorite of this year!

Talk to me!
Have you read this one? Is it now on your TBR?
What’s your favorite book that has a forced marriage in it?

Book review – The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

Caidyn's review (1)

The Smoke Thieves (The Smoke Thieves, #1)


CW: sexism, creepy brother, war, violent torture/execution scene, and death of a loved one

I’m very conflicted about this book.

On one hand, it was good with decent characters and it honestly felt like a YA version of Game of Thrones. On the other hand… well, I’ll get to that in a second. My rating reflects that I did really enjoy reading this book.

This book takes place in a fictional world. Two main countries are in this story, although there are more. I’m just going to touch on the two big ones that feature the most in the story

  • Brigand: a conquering world led by a very sexist king.
  • Pitoria: more peaceful and open to women leading/being independent.

There are five main characters, all of which belong to one of these countries.

  • Catherine: daughter of the sexist king, about to be married to the heir of Pitoria. Very smart and suffers at the hand of her sexist male family members.
  • Ambrose: Catherine’s guard. At the beginning of the book, his sister is executed.
  • Tash: a 13-year-old demon hunter who lives in Pitoria. She’s sassy, resourceful, and a delight
  • March: originally from one of the lands Brigand conquered and currently works as a servant in the palace, but he’s been radicalized; also is a POC character
  • Edyon: bastard son of a merchant-woman who is a bit of a kleptomaniac and is also queer.

Each character has chapters and you see the story from their perspective. As I said, it’s like Game of Thrones. I’ve only read the first book and never watched the TV show, but I remember the book. All these perspectives and you’re wondering why the hell they’re important and getting space on the page. Slowly, you watch as the plot expands and you see all the pieces fitting into place about these characters.

It’s like that in this book.

You don’t quite know what’s going on and why these things are important, but as the story goes on you get there. I found it clever and I liked fitting the pieces together.

However, I still prefer books with fewer perspectives. My favorite was Catherine. I loved watching her grow and come into her own in this new kingdom (kinda like Dany, right?) as the story went on. To me, she’s the real winner in this story. I only care about her and Tash. (Tash because she’s a cute kid and I love sassy characters.)

This leads me to the stuff I didn’t like. The author is a white woman and, admittedly, it read like a white woman wrote this. Aka, there was a queer character and a POC character who might be queer, but it was never stated outright. Not once. It was mentioned that March had darker skin, but that’s it. There’s never a show of subtle racism or prejudice against him coming from a different country. And in the Brigand world, that was hard to believe. Then, there’s Edyon, the solidly queer character. Yet, it’s never mentioned that he definitely is queer.

Plus, when I was getting the pictures and stuff for this review, I found Percy’s review saying that he won’t read it and has the author blacklisted because the author has a history of queerbaiting and using the bury your gays trope. (Link will take you to his review where he discusses her book where she does it.) Which is disappointing and, honestly, I can tell that the author didn’t quite learn from that.

And that really ruined the book for me. I was excited to keep reading since the book comes out in early August. But now? I’m hesitant. I might give it a try, but knowing that about the author and that she hasn’t learned too much makes me hesitant to read more.

Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?
What author actions make you stop reading them?

Book review – The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Caidyn's review (1)

The Bone Houses

This is an ARC, but I received it from Sam (not the publisher)!


CW: violent scenes, corrupt government, gore, chronic pain, and loss of family

This is a lush, imaginative, Welsh-inspired fantasy and I was so here for it.

Aderyn, or Ryn, is the daughter of a gravedigger. After her parents die, she becomes the sole provider for herself and her two siblings, Gareth and Ceri, at their village Colbren that’s at the border of a forest.

But this isn’t any town. Those who aren’t buried properly come back to life. They’re called bone houses. And it’s part of Ryn’s job to make sure that they don’t harm Colbren. That’s all at stake when the lord of the town starts trying to kick Ryn and her family out for not paying their rent.

Ellis is a mapmaker with no family and chronic pain. He comes to Colbren to make an accurate map of the area, but finds more than he bargains for when he runs into Ryn and ends up being sucked in to a centuries old legend.

God, this book was amazing.

I’ve always thought that Wales is the perfect place to set stories. And Lloyd-Jones really captures the scenery, language (and she does use the language in it), and made me feel like I was in the mystic Welsh past. I felt completely transported into this legend. I’m a huge history nerd, especially with medieval British history, and the worldbuilding was breathtaking.

And, I mean it. This world is amazing. The lore behind this is so developed. As the story kept going, the world kept going. I loved how gradually it unfolded. One of my biggest pet peeves with fantasy is when the whole world is info-dumped on me. Lots of terms all at once and some overexplaining (or lack of explaining). The Bone Houses didn’t suffer from that problem at all. Time was taken throughout the whole book to let you explore the expanding world, which was such a joy because it’s a hard thing to balance.

In addition to the lush world, I loved the characters. Ryn and Ellis were such great characters to follow. I found them incredibly fleshed out. Ryn with her grief and trying to provide for her family in the absence of her family. Ellis by dealing with the feeling of loss he has of being a boy with no family and how he handles having chronic pain from an old injury.

The side characters were also great. I loved reading about Ceri and Gareth (and Goat — an actual goat, who was the true hero of all this). The villagers in Colbren were also such fun to read. It really felt like I was in a small, medieval town where people were close out of necessity to survive and because they liked each other.

While I enjoyed all of these aspects, I also felt like the story stalled out periodically. Things just stopped and I was reading for a while, not really seeing anything new, then all of a sudden the story picked back up. It was still interesting and I finished the book, but the pacing could use some work.

Overall, this was a fantastic stand-alone YA fantasy. I can’t wait to read it again when it’s finished!

Talk to me!
What setting do you wish was used more?
Have you read this? Are you going to?

Book review – Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Caidyn's review (1)



CW: anxiety, grief, loss of a loved one, violence, and forced institutionalization

Goodreads was being a butt with the picture for the Owlcrate edition, so I had to use my picture from Instagram. Oh well! I think it looks prettier like this.

In other news, I liked this a lot! I don’t know how much I have to say about it, but I did really enjoy it.

The story focuses around a world where books aren’t always what they seem. Some have the souls of humans in them and can transform into deadly creatures that kill people. And Elisabeth is an apprentice, training to become one of the people who protects those books. Except one night she finds that one of the books has transformed and killed the Director. She defeats the book only to find herself being punished.

Enter her adventure.

Elisabeth was such a dynamic character! I really enjoyed reading her transformation and all of that. She was badass and likable and nice and just great. She was really enjoyable.

Along the way she meets Nathanial Thorn, a sorcerer — and librarians hate sorcerers — who has a demon, Silas, tethered to him. When Nathanial dies, Silas will eat his soul and then go on to serve the next Thorn. If there is one, of course. She grudgingly likes them, then, of course, it becomes more. Nathanial is so much fun. I loved how cocky he was and that he was so open with his sexuality, honestly saying that he’s bisexual. Which was great.

The character that completely stole my heart, though, was Silas. He was just fun and I want more of the demon lore for this! He was endlessly fascinating, how human he was yet how other he was at the same time. I thought that Rogerson did a great job of balancing him as a character, making him likable and also terrifying when we were reminded as readers that he isn’t like us at all.

The world took a bit of time for me to sink into. I blame my mood when I was reading it. I was very distracted and just needed to read, even if I wasn’t completely paying attention to it. (Sorry, book. I do that because it’s my self-care.) I was still catching up and gathering everything towards the end because of that. My fault, I know, but I should have picked a different book to read like that.

I have a feeling that I’ll bump this one up to 4.5 or 5 stars when I eventually reread it. The story just took my breath away and I ended up loving all the characters. It took me a while to really like Elisabeth and Nathanial. As I said, I liked them but I needed to get to know them more. Luckily for me, the book is pretty long and I definitely had enough time to get to know them! They were wonderful and I know that the plot was fantastic.

Do yourself a favor and check this out! I already know I’ll be trying Rogerson’s debut novel because she’s an author I’ll be paying attention to more.

Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

The gravedigger’s children were troublemakers.

Maybe not the most entrancing first line, but it totally drew me into it. I would have included more to it, but it went into great detail and I didn’t feel like typing it up.

But, I’ve read beyond the opening page. And damn this book is fantastic!

It’s YA, blending horror, historical fiction (to me), and fantasy together in an amazing way. It’s being published in September. I’ve had my eye on it.

It is…



The Bone Houses

As I said, this is fantastic! I’m being serious, y’all. It’s seriously amazing and I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be devouring this whole book.

Talk to me!
Did the first line make you interested in reading more?
Have you read this? What did you think?

Book review – House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Caidyn's review (1)

House of Salt and Sorrows


CW: death of a parent, death of a sibling, grief drugging, some gore, general horror themes

I will be 100% honest with you. I didn’t expect to love this book.

Seriously. I requested it because the cover caught my eye and the synopsis sounded pretty good. That’s what happened. It’s a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, which isn’t the most horrifying fairytale out there.

But Craig took that starting point and elevated it to something that blew me away.

One thing I noticed when I started this book, there was no character list and no reviews pointed out all the characters. I actually had to start it over, get a piece of paper out, and draw myself out a genogram to see what the hell was going on and who all these people were.

Annaleigh is our main character. She’s the sixth daughter out of twelve. And bad things are happening at her home. Her mother died after giving birth to her last daughter, Verity (who is also one of the Graces, but give me a moment to get there). Her father remarried, Morella, who has now announced that she’s pregnant.

But it doesn’t stop there. The book opens with the funeral of one of Annaleigh’s older sisters, Eulalie. This isn’t her first sister who died either. So far, her older sisters Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth have also died, along with Eulalie and their mother. The siblings that are left are: Camille (older than Annaleigh); Annaleigh; the triplets Rosalie, Lenore, and Ligeoa; and the Graces (called that because they’re close in age and don’t really remember their mother) Honor, Mercy, and Verity.


See why I needed a family tree and I had to start it over? There are tons of names and connections and I really had to concentrate.

A major theme of this book is grief. Having just lost my sister about two months ago when I dove into this book, it was palpable. I could understand and distinctly feel the sorrow that Annaleigh experienced. Her grief was on a different level with her mother and four sisters dying in mysterious ways, plus starting to believe that someone is out there killing them.

In this world, her father is a duke and rules this certain island. The island is a bit different. The oldest child, no matter what gender they are, inherits the dukedom. The island is a major setting for this story because it all revolves around the sea and their religion heavily comes from that, too.

I loved the setting. I loved the world. It was so much fun to immerse myself into it and watch as the story slowly expanded it. The plot itself wasn’t too predictable, which was shocking. As I said, Craig took a very plain story and elevated it. She brought in mystery and horror and some romance and religion and ugh. It was so good.

As I said, there is romance. I was kinda meh about it — I didn’t think it was needed, but at least I liked Cassius, the love interest. For a bit, I thought it would be a love triangle between Cassius, the mysterious arrival, and Fisher, a childhood friend. I’m glad that it didn’t develop into that. I would have been very disappointed.

More about the plot, though. It starts off dark and it progressively gets darker. Hell, I thought it was getting Grimm Brothers dark and maybe even darker than that. The ending had my eyes wide and I could picture it in my head. It was very gruesome. Sure, the ending is happy, but God did it get really dark right before that.

All in all, this book was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect from it and I set my bar very low for that reason, but it took me by surprise. Erin Craig is an author I’m going to keep my eye on. I can see her taking YA by storm.

Talk to me!
Have you read this?
Is it on your TBR?
What’s your favorite retelling?

Book review – Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Caidyn's review (1)

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1)

I received this ARC from Netgalley for an honest review!


CW: sexism, slavery, and attempted rape

I’m so conflicted about this book.

On one hand, I really liked this and thought it was a solid book with an interesting plot and fun characters. On the other hand, I thought it lacked pacing and the story got very lost.

To make this a bit more clear, I’m splitting this book in half and I’m going to review each half of the book. There was such a stark difference between the first half and the second half that it really needs to be done that way.

The first half, I would give 4 stars. Maia had three older brothers. Two died and the other just came back from war very injured. Her father is a tailor but is really struggling to make ends meet and she has to step in. So, when someone from the palace comes, demanding that her father come to compete in a tailoring competition, Maia decides to pretend to be her older brother who is back from war and go in his place.

I really loved the family dynamics. I found them so interesting and I genuinely would have liked a little bit more of Maia with her family.

Once she got to the palace, I really loved the challenges that Maia had to go through with the competition and the conversation about gender restrictions that happened periodically with another character.

That character is Edan. He’s the emperor’s enchanter. No one really likes him, but he takes a real interest in Maia. Now, I liked him. I thought he was cool and the banter he and Maia had was so nice. I really loved their friendship. I need more friendships in books rather than straight to romance.

The only thing I didn’t love was the pacing. It was very slow. Granted, it worked. The slower pace gave time to set up the relationships that would go into the second half of the book and the challenges really shone. Still, I would have like a bit of a quicker pace.

Then, we got to the second half. I’m giving that 2 stars. My entire mood throughout the second half of the book is encapsulated by this gif.

It was just such a pain to get through and I wound up skimming.

Instead of Maia staying at the palace, she goes on some journey/quest/adventure. With Edan. I didn’t mind that change of events — although I found the palace intrigues more interesting in hindsight — but it was a surprise.

What came as no surprise to me was that the friendship Edan and Maia had turned into a romance. I have no interest in it. There were so many cheesy quotes, though. So many cringe-y YA romance quotes. Like this gem: (And remember that quotes are liable to change in the final, published copy!)

I knew that we were like two pieces of cloth, sewn together for life. Our stitches couldn’t be undone.
I wouldn’t let them.


Not only that, but the romance took place of the quest. It would have been hella cool, but the pacing was so off. The romance was slow and there was a lot of time focused on the romance that the actual quest/journey got forgotten. Each little challenge was quickly written to get back to the romance.

Now, I’m very sure that I’ll be the one with the unpopular opinion about the romance. I just had no interest in it and didn’t think that the story needed it. As I said, I want more books with friendships in them rather than it always having to be a relationship.

All of that being said, I don’t think this book needs to be a series. If the story was tweaked just a little bit, it would have been a great stand-alone book and I might have some nicer things to say about it. Yes, I enjoyed it, but there was such a stark difference between the halves of the book that it left a bad taste in my mouth. Will I continue with the series? I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t like where the story went.

Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?
What books have had unnecessary romances in them for you?