Small Favors by Erin A. Craig

Summary:
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

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Review:
Small Favors is a new release that I was extremely excited about. I got it as a gift for my birthday (Thanks, Antonia!) and I read it during my birthday weekend. This would have been an excellent book to read for spooky season (much like her debut novel, House of Salt and Sorrows). Small Favors follows Ellerie, who lives in a small town. She’s grown-up hearing myths and folklore about the monsters that used to live in the forest around the town. But most within the town never really believed them. When a supply party goes missing, those that believe in the old stories worry that the monsters have returned. The book follows Ellerie for a year, through all four seasons, so, as the seasons pass, strange things continue to happen. Are there really monsters in the woods? Or is there something else going on?
Ellerie was a character that I immediately liked. The only thing that I didn’t like about her was her attraction to Whitaker (a name that she gave him because he wouldn’t tell her his actual name). There was something suspicious about him from the beginning, but Craig managed to tell his part of the story in a way that I felt bad for him and ultimately liked him and how things played out for him and Ellerie. Aside from not liking Whitaker, I really liked Ellerie. She’s the second born child. But her older brother, Samuel, is a bit of a shit. He isn’t following through with his responsibilities to the family and he continues to make selfish choices for most of the book. Ellerie really steps up as the head of her family when something happens to her parents. There were some parts of this story that were slow, following Ellerie just trying to keep herself and family alive. But just because they were slow, doesn’t mean that nothing was happening.  There was something unsettling about this story. All throughout the story, there was an overall creepy feeling. A sense that something more was going on in this town than we were being led to believe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There was a spooky feel to it, a mystery that was waiting to be unraveled. It’s a story full of questions just waiting to be answered. I really loved the characters. I liked the reveals of what was really happening to this town. I think it’s a fascinating story about how there is darkness in each and every person. I definitely would recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Amanda’s Favorite Retellings

Hey, lovelies! I used to read so many retellings, fairytale, folklore, and mythological retellings were a huge favorite genre of mine for a really long time. But I think I’m growing out of that. I’ve noticed that I don’t gravitate toward picking them up anymore. I will say that I do still read mythological retellings, and pretty often, especially now that we’re branching away from the typical Greek and Roman mythologies. I’ve also been discovering retellings other than fairytale and folklore. You will find some of those on this list. So, today I want to share some retellings that I really enjoyed.

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses which was one of my favorite fairytales as a kid. I’d never read a retelling of this one before, and I think this one was excellent. I don’t know if it’s actually considered horror, but it definitely has some horror elements. Annaleigh is one of twelve siblings. But four of her siblings have died, one at a time, and Annaleigh doesn’t think that they were accidents. I really loved this book. It stayed true to the heart of the 12 Dancing Princesses fairytale and added some really cool horror elements. The setting was creepy and atmospheric.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
This is a Sherlock Holmes retelling, sort of. This is a four book series that follows Charlotte Homes and Jamie Watson. They are the descendents of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Charlotte and Jamie find themselves at the same boarding school and when a student is found murdered, they obviously must solve the mystery. I loved this whole series. There are a lot of hard hitting topics like mental health and drug use. There’s even a little bit of romance. This is one of the books I was talking about when I said I was finding and enjoying retellings outside of fairytales. This is a retelling of an older book series and I thought it was so interesting and I loved all of the characters.

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The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
We have here a Henry VIII retelling. I actually didn’t know that this was a Shakespeare retelling until after I finished it. I think I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it in the description as I’m not a fan of Shakespeare at all. Despite that, I really enjoyed this modern retelling. I thought the mystery was well done and I really liked the characters. We follow Annie, nicknamed “Cleves”, and Henry. They are best friends, but they also briefly dated. Out of all of Henry’s ex-girlfriends, Cleves is the only one that has remained friends with him. She doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about that, but after talking to some of his ex’s she might be changing her mind. I liked the mystery in this one because I couldn’t decide whether of not Henry was actually guilty right until the end of the book.

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The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis
This one is more inspired by than a true retelling, but I really loved it so I had to add it to this list. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, this is a dark and gritty story of revenge. In a small town in Ohio lives Tress and Felicity, two girls that used to be best friends. When Tress’s parents went missing, Felicity was with them, but she claims not to remember anything about what happened. Tress doesn’t believe her and she’s determined to get the truth out of Felicity, even if that means sealing her up, brick by brick. This book was weird and dark as hell and I cannot wait for the sequel.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
This series is a pretty popular one, but this first book is my favorite of the series. It’s a historical retelling with a fantasy twist. This one is a bit less retelling than it is fantasy. We follow Lady Jane Grey as she’s about to become queen. But her cousin is determined to see her married. The only problem is that the love interest, G, turns into a horse everyday at dawn. This added some hilarity to the story. I loved this book because it was funny but it also had an interesting historical feel.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Another popular one, but this is the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. We get to see her childhood and the events that led up to the Queen of Hearts that we know from Alice in Wonderland. There’s lots of baking and love and fun in this book. There’s love and romance, but also betrayal and heartbreak. I thought this was a really great retelling or rather a prequel story.

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
This one is more of an after sort of retelling. In this one, we get to see what happens to Cinderella’s stepsisters after Cinderella meets and marries her Prince Charming. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this one because the main character that we follow, Isabelle. She’s the stepsister that cut off her toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Isabelle is a pretty unlikeable character, but the way that this story is told really helped that. Instead of just Isabelle’s perspective, we see a point of view from Fate, who is following the map of Isabelle’s life. They’re watching to see what path Isabelle might take and if she will veer away from the path expected for her. I thought this was a really unique retelling about a character that most people don’t think of in the Cinderella story.

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And I Darken by Kiersten White
We have a historical retelling, which surprisingly end up being some of my favorites. I don’t really love historical fiction, but there’s something about a really good historical retelling that keeps me engaged in the story. We follow Lada and Radu. This is a gender bent retelling of Vlad the Impaler. Lada is a vicious and angry girl. She’s determined to prove that she is worthy to her father, but when she and her brother, Radu, are sent as gifts to be raised in the Ottoman courts, she feels nothing but betrayal. This is a really slow moving story, but it’s so worth it. We see Lada grow from a vicious girl into a lethal young woman. I absolutely loved it.

These are some of my favorite retellings. I’ve had so much fun finding new kinds of retellings from alternate historical retellings to retellings of other fiction works, to some more unique fairytale and folklore stories. Do you have any favorite retellings? Leave a comment and share them with me!

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogtober Day Four: Books & Baking – House of Salt and Sorrows

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Hi, lovelies! Today I am here to share my first post of the newest blog feature here at Classy x Book Reviews! We’ve titled it Books & Baking. Basically what this new feature is baking (or cooking sometimes) things that are inspired by the books we read. For this first post, I have baked something that was directly mentioned in the story, but sometimes we will just make things that are inspired by the story. Not all books mention food and we don’t want to limit ourselves to books that directly mention or talk about food. So, now that we have the business out of the way, let’s get down to the first part of this post.

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Book: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Read my full review here!

I had so much fun buddy reading this book with my fellow Capricorn moon signs for Zodiacathon. I love the setting, the world, and the characters. It was such an atmospheric experience. The perfect read for the spooky season. It was creepy and mysterious, there was suspense on every page. I highly recommend this book for so many reasons. I’m going to share a few of my favorite quotes before getting into the baking half of this post.

“We are born of salt and starlight.”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re the People of the Salt. We’re tied to this land, to these seas. Fire cannot force us to retreat.”

“The High Mariner says Pontus created our islands and the people on them. He scooped salt from the ocean tides for strength. Into that was mixed the cunning of a bull shark and the beauty of the moon jellyfish. He added the seahorse’s fidelity and the curiosity of a porpoise. When his creation was molded just so-two arms, two legs, a head, and a heart-Pontus breathed some of his own life into it, making the first People of the Salt. So when we die, we can’t be buried in the ground. We slip back into the water and are home.”

Baking: Glazed Almond Cookies

Now, these cookies were a part of the many delicious sounding treats that Annaleigh sampled at the Churning festival. These were the most realistic for me to bake, also some of the other things don’t exist.

“We stuffed ourselves with treats from street vendors. Spun sugar sea glass, glazed almond cookies shaped like sand dollars, roasted corn, and bowls of thick clam chowder were offered on every corner, along with more exotic fare: red frog crabs and whelks, jellyfish jerky and sea urchins.”

If you feel like you want to make these delicious cookies too, here’s the link to the recipe I  used!

Ingredients:

Softened, salted butter
Granulated sugar
Egg
Almond extract
All-purpose flour
Baking Powder
Salt
Chopped sliced almonds
Orange zest

Icing Ingredients:

Confectioners’ sugar
Milk
Almond extract

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the butter, sugar, egg, and almond extract until the mixture is creamy with no lumps. Next, in a new bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually mix the butter-sugar into the new bowl. Then stir in the chopped almonds and orange zest. Place on parchment paper over a cookie sheet in tablespoons. Bake for ten minutes then cool.

Icing Instructions:

Combine all three ingredients until smooth.

Assembly

Drizzle icing over cookies once cool and top with a dash of orange zest. Then enjoy!

 I love baking, so trying something new like these almond cookies was super fun! And now my family has dessert for the next few days! I think they turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. I’ve added a photo so you can all take a look at my final product!

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What did you think of the first installment of our new Books & Baking feature? Let me know if you decide to make these too. Feel free to give me any feedback you might have to make this new blog feature the best it can be! Thoughts and opinions are entirely welcome.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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Blogtober Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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GoodReads Summary:
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.
House of Salt and SorrowsReview:
A 12 Dancing Princess retelling? Say no more. I was beyond excited to read this book and I was lucky enough that my fellow Capricorn moon signs wanted to buddy read it for the Zodiacathon. It was the perfect read to start off the Spooky Season.
Let’s start off with the atmosphere. The setting was an island that worships the sea. That’s a place I could live in. It starts off with the fourth funeral of one of Annaleigh’s sisters. So, right from the start, it’s a little creepy and grim. It continues like that for the rest of the story. You can almost feel the atmosphere. Foggy and rainy, murder and mystery. It’s the perfect October read.
At first, I had trouble keeping the sisters straight. There’s so many of them, even the ones who died. Trying to remember who was who and who was dead or alive was confusing, but I did figure it out after about 100 pages. I really enjoyed our main character Annaleigh, but I feel like because there were so many sisters and other side characters, we really only got the chance to get to know a few of them. We got to know the stepmother, who I alternated between loving and hating several times. Fisher, who I also both loved and hated for different reasons. And a few of the sisters. I would have liked to go more than surface deep for the other characters. Cassius especially. Though I’m still obsessed with him, we didn’t really get to know him that well. We learn who his parents are, but not what he likes and doesn’t like and things like that. It was similar with a few other characters too.
The mystery was really great. I suspected almost every character except the sisters at one point or another. I really love books that keep me guessing and this one did. While I did predict (but then convince myself I was wrong) the identity of the big bad, there was so much more to the mystery than I could ever have predicted. I loved that the mystery was so much more than I anticipated.
Overall, I completely loved this book. I am excited to see what else Erin Craig comes out with. I loved the main character and Cassius. I loved the setting, the mystery, and most of all the atmosphere. I also really enjoyed the twist on the 12 dancing princesses’ story. This is a must-read if you like fantastical retellings and spooky reads.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.