House of Salt and Sorrows Review

To quote “The Secret Garden”; “High on the hill sits a big, old house with something wrong inside it”. 

Spoilers abound, you have been warned. 

“House of Salt and Sorrows” is by far the best things I’ve read all year. The story follows Annaleigh who believes her family to be cursed from the day her mother died. Her sisters keep dying, often under mysterious circumstances that are so easily explained away by the town as the “curse” or the aftereffects of mourning. 

Meanwhile, the Thaumas family is upsot by their step-mother’s sudden announcement of a pregnancy. She calls for an end to the constant mourning that has been in place since the death of Ortun Thaumas’ first wife. The remaining daughters plead with their father, and are granted the permission to keep on living, rather than keep themselves shrouded. This culminates in a coming out party for the triplets, who have recently turned sixteen. Lavish dancing shoes and dresses are ordered, the estate is thrown from its shroud into vivid color and decoration. The ball does not go as planned, however, as no suitors wish to touch the “cursed” girls. They are reasonably disappointed in this and wish they could escape the small island chain’s whispers and hopefully find love above this curse nonsense. 

Throughout this time, the youngest  and supposed source of the curse, Verity is subject to terrible visions of how her sisters perished, including those who passed before she was even born. She is haunted by the ghosts of these girls and draws her visions in disturbing clarity in a sketchbook, which she shows to Annaleigh. Shortly after being exposed to this Annaleigh begins seeing the ghosts too, as well as other terrifying apparitions. 

Still longing to find love and leave the Estate, the sisters and their childhood friend Fisher hatch a plan to find a secret door within the shrine to Pontus, the island’s deity. Upon entering this door Fisher finds himself in a faraway land that he’d been thinking of as he stepped through. He comes back with invitations to a ball, an offer too bright for the girls to resist. 

The girls begin using this door to transport themselves to faraway lands and spend the nights dancing at parties so decadent that they believe none could outshine the last. Each morning they awaken exhausted, believing that they’d danced the night away. Their shoes, a whimsical delicate leather slipper made for the coming out party begin to deteriorate. Undeterred by this, they begin to wear out any shoes they can get their feet into, including shoes belonging to their mother. 

Annaleigh begins to feel uncomfortable with this evening practice, and begins abstaining from the dancing, leading to her being visited more than ever by the ghosts and other unpleasant visions. As the winter solstice and the Churning celebrations approach, only Camille, the oldest and heiress, continues attending. 

The Churning dawns and brings with it a slew of men eager to take a blessing for a kind winter. Enter Cassius. Cassius is this tale’s tall, dark, and handsome Prince Charming. Having met Cassius earlier in the story, and encountered him a few times in the interim, Annaleigh is surprised to see him attending. They fall in love over the course of the story, despite her wondering if this mysterious, beautiful man is the source of their family’s grief. 

During the Churning celebrations Cassius finds Annaleigh trapped in the solarium, chased there by her nightmares, and they vow to find out what’s haunting the family before any of the remaining sisters can be harmed. Annaleigh accompanies Camille to another ball, hoping to find the answers to the mystery there. Instead what she finds is that these glamorous parties and elaborate feasts are just farce. The glamor peels away as she stands there horrified, seeing a layered cake turn to a dead sea turtle, the punches turned to chum. 

But when she awakens from this nightmare, a new one begins. There was no door in the shrine, there were no parties, just girls possessed and dancing in their rooms. The mystery unravels and Annaleigh is thrust into a race against time to keep the curse from spreading and taking every last one of the family. Tragedy strikes leaving only Annaleigh and the remaining five sisters to start their lives anew on the island. 


All in all, this book was a fantastic read. Though it was a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, it read like a marriage of the YA of old, like Meg Cabot’s “Mediator” series, with touches of the darkness found in Holly Black’s “Modern Faerie” Trilogy and staple tales like “The Secret Garden”. 

The romance was believable and the love interest helped the protagonist towards her goal instead of impeding it, or stomping on her ideas in favor of his own. Despite his being a demigod, he is still limited in many ways by his mortality and I think it was done well up until the epilogue. But even then, while that is an element of YA fantasy that I am not fond of, others are. It was written for them, and I respect that. 

Each character is lovingly written in a way that allows you to imagine them interacting with each other outside of the narrative just the same. The storylines between them unfold so naturally that you are often just as shocked by plot developments as the characters themselves. The icy cold feeling of betrayal as Annaleigh realizes that Morella was the source of their nightmare from the beginning is just so visceral. The strength and restraint Annaleigh shows in not granting Morella a swift death, it just makes me shake my fist and go YESSS!

The landscapes of this book are all so well thought out, again, you could paint a mental picture of them so clearly that you could taste the salt and feel the sand. It is truly a wonderful book. It well exceeded any of my expectations, and I look forward to reading this author’s future works. 

If you’d like to purchase your own copy of this book, check your local indie, or use my affiliate link here.

To Subscribe to Owlcrate, where I received this lovely book from, click here!

August 2019 OwlCrate Review

For those who do not know, OwlCrate is a monthly curated YA book box. They bring you bookish goodies, one signed and often special edition copy of the book, and a slew of really cool extras like bookmarks and letters from the author. 

This month’s theme was “The Storms and Seas”, and both the book and the goods were well worth the $29.99 subscription fee. 

I went into this box really not knowing what to expect because I have conflicting thoughts about the state of YA at the moment. I figured I’d get stuck with things I didn’t want a la the Lootcrate Fiasco of 2014-2016. From the moment I opened the box, however, I was in LOVE.  Spoilers ahead for the August 2019 OwlCrate! You have been warned!

The box came packed so well that not a single bit of tissue was out of place and each and every thing in the box was gorgeous!

Let’s start with the enamel pin. This month’s enamel pin was sourced from Laserbrain Patch Co, a lovely company with a subscription service of their own, or a slew of purchasable goodies for those who don’t want to commit to surprises. The pin features the crest of the family in the theme’s book “House of Salt and Sorrows” as well as a glow in the dark lighthouse! This pin is absolutely stunning in-person and has a locking back, which is a perk for me because it will be adorning my partner’s nerdpunk vest. 

Next is a tin pencil case based on Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Scorpio Races”, which is just a lovely treat. It snaps really tightly closed and I think it will make an excellent addition to my travel crochet/cross stitch kit. 

The next item is a very cool engraved wooden bookmark that is almost too pretty to keep hidden in a book. I’m currently using it as a shelfminder when I take out books. The design on the bookmark is based on “Daughter of the Pirate King” by Tricia Levenseller

OwlCrate also included a really cool stamped metal lantern which can hold a single tealight. I am a bit of a mess when it comes to using those, so I’ll be opting to put a battery operated tealight in mine. 

This next inclusion was a bath salt mix that was straight out of my wildest dreams. I have always coveted things on The Soap Librarian’s website, and this was a perfect introduction to her product. It is an absolutely divine beachy mix of florals and savory notes that really make you want to soak in it for hours. 

Now you may notice something from the first picture is missing. That would be the absolutely amazing Sea Witch tea from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe. This tea was so fantastic that my partner and I polished it off on the first day. It was such a robust blend of spices and bergamot, which gave it so much body that it was almost like drinking a scone.

The real showstopper in this month’s crate is the book. This book is FANTASTIC. As of writing this I am only about 50% through it, but so far it is absolutely gripping. I was not familiar with the source fairytale, but that has not impeded my enjoyment of this story in the slightest. I will pen a proper review when I have completed it, because I do not believe I am far enough to give a constructive review that isn’t just blubbering about how much I love it. 

The book itself looks absolutely stunning. The exclusive cover is a shade brighter than the retail one, which to me adds a touch of whimsy. 

All in all I find myself completely satisfied with the contents of this month’s OwlCrate. Each item has a place in my home and my life that isn’t shoved aside or hastily gifted to a friend, and each piece adds to the mood and ambiance of the book. The accompanying pieces also gave me a few new recommendations for my TBR. 

If you’d like to get your hands on this month’s crate, head on over to OwlCrate

If you’d like to sign up, do your friendly neighborhood witch a favor and use my referral link here

Betrayal, Broth, and Baked Goods

It’s no secret that I have a bit of a “thing” when it comes to Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox. So when I found out they’d be appearing onstage together in a show I was absolutely thrilled. Until I checked and found it would only be showing in The West End. I’d sort of written it off and figured I could live it vicariously through posts on Tumblr and Instagram and that would be that, until a few weeks ago when a Telecharge mailer was nestled in the grocery circulars. Without much thought, I grabbed my laptop and mashed the codes into the site and within moments had fed it enough personal information and promises of currency that I had two tickets coming in the mail. 

This is the part where I tell you that after being shafted by “Burn This” I still have not learned to vet plays before I fling my wallet at them in an effort to be in the same room as an actor I admire. With “Betrayal” I at least gave a cursory glance at the Wikipedia article for it and found it interesting enough plot-wise that I wasn’t worried. You can see where this is going. 

The 14th came and it was rainy and sort of godawful all day. Not really the sort of day you want when your evening festivities include standing in queue outside of a theater for 45+ minutes waiting for doors, but I was already too far (and too monetarily) in to call it quits. The weather broke as we drove into the tunnel, and by the time we parked the only memory of the day’s rain was a soft cool breeze off the Hudson. 

This show was unlike anything I’d ever been to. For starters, it only had a 90 minute runtime with no interval. **Possible show Spoilers ahead!! For no spoilers ctrl+f and skip to the word DOUGHNUT!!**

The show itself felt like a victim of “Awful Taste But Great Execution”. It was a reverse-chronology of a love triangle between a man, his best friend, and his best friend’s wife. The show opens on a really awkward bar conversation that plays out like a Python sketch between Jerry (Cox) and his former affair partner, Emma (Ashton). They quip back and forth for a few minutes as Robert (Hiddleston) stands in the background eclipsed in shadow.  

The show continues to flow in this fashion, where two characters interact while the third is rotated to the back of the stage via a mechanism like a giant lazy susan. As they wind back time you watch the affair and its discovery play out via often completely frigid interactions between the cast, where in the same breath you can feel the absolutely off the charts amazing chemistry between them you can also feel how insincere and stilted the dialogue is. The culmination of this out-of-body weird experience is in the second-to-last scene, where a drunken Jerry privately proclaims his love to Emma during a party. They are interrupted by Robert, who embraces them both and expresses how much he loves his best friend and his wife, and how lucky he is that they all get along so well. The dialogue in this scene is by far the most awkward, with the chemistry between Jerry and Emma completely dissolving as she rebuffs him. The scene does nothing to set up the several-year long affair that it precedes. 

We ended up leaving the show feeling very “what the hell” about the whole thing, especially because throughout most of the audience laughed at things that were…not funny? Or even awkward? It seemed that I was missing some sort of universal “straight older couple” jokes, but I don’t know, the laughter just felt sitcom laugh-tracky. 


Onto better and more delicious things. Since the show let out so much earlier than we’d anticipated we had a bit more of a selection for dinner. Based on some quick searches in the immediate area for ramen, we came across EAK Ramen. Nestled on 46th Street between 9th & 8th Avenues, it is an incredibly cute restaurant. The menu is vast, and contains a myriad of delicious things to try. You definitely can’t eat here just once. The staff were incredibly friendly and attentive, and the overall vibe of the restaurant was very casual. My partner and I opted to order a bit of everything, which amounted to the gorgeous spread pictured above. The prices are really reasonable, with our entire meal coming to $75 after tip, including two beers and two lemonades. 

The gyoza were absolutely divine. The dumpling exterior had that soft delicate chew that only handmade dumplings have, and the pork filling was salty, savory, and packed with ginger. Their takoyaki were also similarly fantastic, with a generous coating of takoyaki sauce and hot mustard. 

For entrees, I got a Chashu Mini Bowl, while my other half had the Tokyo Chicken Ramen. The chashu bowl came with a perfectly cooked marinated egg, two caramelly wonderful slices of chashu, spicy pickled ginger, and spinach over steamed rice. It was absolutely heavenly. 

The ramen really stole the show though. The noodles were springy and velvety, almost eggy, and the broth was a multi-layered experience. A rich, savory chicken broth broken up by sharp freshness of the onion and added broccoli, made whole by a marinated egg that showered each bite in its delicious essence. 

After this lovely meal, we decided to indulge in a final caper that has become a part of trips to NYC; Milkbar. For those who don’t know, Milkbar is the brainchild of Christina Tosi, a baker with a knack for turning all the stuff we weren’t allowed to have as kids into delicious nostalgia bombs. From a photo-perfect birthday cake (which your not-so-humble blogger is currently devouring) to a myriad of cookies that push the boundaries of “can I put that in there?”, her shop is a wonderland of treats and flavor combinations. Where else could you get a cereal milk latte? It’s honestly the bees knees, and worth a trip. If you aren’t ready to eat, the cookies are always a good bet as they come individually wrapped and will easily survive a trip home. If you can’t take home cookies, they also now sell the cookie mixes in tins! 

For those who want to try things on hard-mode or want to make your favorite sweets at home anytime, there’s also the Milkbar cookbook. Aside from being instructions on how to replicate the various amazing treats available in store it also has the “why” of all of the techniques you’ll need to whip up your own Birthday Truffles or Compost Cookies. You can find it on Amazon at the link below! 

**Please note that purchase via affiliate links like the one above help keep us blogging! **

The Spite Sweater

Spite Sweater with my friend Rexy

About eight years ago now, I got sick of asking my friends to make me amigurumi, or trying to commission complex things, and finally sat myself down and learned to crochet. My first object was a granny square I learned from a YouTube video.

This very same YouTube video, actually. (Thanks Google for always having my back and a comprehensive list of all the odd things I plug into Youtube!) 

After that, it was off to the races. I learned to make hats, blankets, amigurumi. I experimented with shapes and mixing them together to create some absolutely wild creations

Mermaid Tails for a gift 2016

But one thing that eluded me was actual wearable garments. Sweaters scared the bejesus out of me. All of the patterns I’d found pre-Ravelry seemed to just be instructions more than patterns, with most of them being “Construct top down using the regular sweater method ™”, which made them even more unapproachable to me. It wasn’t until a while into my learning that I found this adorable sweater pattern that did everything I was asking of a sweater. 

So I printed the pattern, I bought every stitch of Caron Simply Soft in (avocado? I have since lost my labels and don’t remember), I bought the hook the pattern called for. I was prepared. 

And I started the sweater. And I miscounted. And I restarted the sweater. And miscounted again. Over six months went by of me trying to figure out the sweater with my limited knowledge of crochet terms and fouling up pretty consistently. And so into a tote bag it went, with its hook, printed pattern, stitch markers, and barely started piece. It moved to three houses with me, each time getting a disdainful look into the tote bag and shelved with the other “ugh” projects. It lingered in storage until this last June, when I said “Well screw it, I’m going to spite-finish my sweater. 

It was such a different experience this time. I was able to make adjustments on the fly, I was suddenly able to change things to be exactly what I wanted without stressing it or asking a million questions on online forums. I blew through the main body of it in one day. The sleeves took two episodes of a home improvement show. It wasn’t until I got to the cowl that I started to stagnate. The cowl was one of my old sworn enemies. Repetition. It was just row after row of going in the same circle of sc’s. I put the sweater down for an entire month. 

Until I FINISHED THE BEASTIE. She’s done and she’s…not at all what I’d hoped for. Which on one hand is super unfortunate. BUT on the other hand is super awesome because I finished a GARMENT! And it will make a sweet gift for a similarly proportioned friend. 

All in all this was a weird project for me. Mostly because I have made such wild things in the time since I first attempted it. But it’s finished. With the same yarn it all started with five years ago. 

FINALLY! For the rest of the month of August I am having a Clear the Shelves sale on my Etsy! Come by and grab something you might like before it’s gone! Our fall collection will be launching Mid-September! Visit Puckish Playthings on Etsy!

Who is The Well-Read Witch?

A fair question.

I am Kolyat, also known as Teepa.

I am a twenty-seven year old with more interests than I have hours in a day. This blog is a repository for cool craft things I’m doing, books I’m reading, and places I’m going.

Some things you’ll find here once I get myself in order:

  • Tarot Journaling
  • Trips & Experiences I want to share
  • Book reviews
  • Writing Projects
  • Crafting (Cross stitch, crochet, knitting, etc)
  • A plethora of cat pictures and stories
  • Spoonie Life Tales/Encouragement

I look forward to getting to know you and share myself with you!~