Title: A Thousand Salt Kisses
Author: Josie Demuth
Pub. Date: April 11, 2016 (repubbed on July 25, 2020 (GR) or August 10, 2020 (NG))
Seventeen-year-old Crystal White is the new girl on Starfish Island. Dragged to the remote community by her environmental activist father, she is eager to find fun that doesn’t involve touching fish guts or listening to local folklore.
During a midnight swim with some new friends, Crystal is pulled out to sea by the waves. Convinced she’s going to drown, Crystal is rescued by Llyr, a handsome stranger. As she searches for him in the following weeks, she finds there may be more truth to the Starfish legends than she thought.
Over a sizzling roller-coaster summer, Llyr introduces Crystal to magic she’d only ever dreamed of. But as Crystal comes to love Starfish Island, it begins to drive her family apart. A nearby power plant is devastating local marine life, and her parents are stuck in the middle. As the magic and mundane parts of Crystal’s life converge, she finds herself risking everything to save Llyr, her family, and herself.
This will be a spoiler free review. Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review. You’ll note that there are 3 different pub dates. This book has been previously published, but Goodreads and NetGalley have two conflicting publishing dates listed. The book does appear to already be available on Amazon, but I’m not 100% sure if that is the version I read. The cover I share on this review is the cover that was provided to me, with my copy via NetGalley. I do not know if the 2016 version is still available, so I just wanted to be clear about which version of this book I read.
That being said, this book wasn’t what I was expecting. When I requested it on NetGalley, I was looking forward to a cute, swoon-y, merman/human romance. While it is technically that, I had so many issues with this book.
The formatting sucked. Now, I won’t blame the author for this, because for all I know, it’s just a glitch in the file. I just checked, and this was a PDF, and those don’t typically do well on Kindles. NetGalley did give me the option to download it directly to my Kindle.
The formatting made this hard to read at some points. Words ran together, weird line breaks and weird punctuation choices.
I’m going to chock that up to being formatting issues with PDFs and Kindles.
I really thought this was going to be a book that I would inhale, love and instantly want to pick up book 2. Based on the title, synopsis and the pretty cover, this book sounded like it was right up my alley. I requested it on a whim and was really excited to be approved. Almost immediately I started having some issues with it. The pacing was slow, I didn’t care for the writing style, the characters, their relationships and motivations fell flat, and the insta bond between Crystal and Llyr was kind of uncomfortable.
Let’s start with the pacing. Things either happened very quickly with time jumps – and half of the time I didn’t realize time had passed, whether it was a few hours, or days; or they unfolded at a snail’s pace that left the action/tense scenes feeling drawn out and exhausted. I can’t even tell you how long Crystal has been living on Starfish Island by the end of the book. I think it’s 6+ weeks, but I don’t know. It’s not entirely clear. There’s also this whole environmental activism/almost mystery element to the story. Neither are necessarily bad elements, but they almost feel like they were added to give depth and background outside of the romance. The problem is that they didn’t mesh well together. It almost felt like two separate stories that were hastily tied together. The connections weren’t really there, or that strong.
The writing style just didn’t do it for me. I don’t want to be harsh, but it felt unedited, surface, rushed. It was a lot of telling and not much showing. It was also very obviously written by a British person – not that I have a problem with that – but some phrases and words that are very British, don’t necessarily translate well? I could infer meaning, but I also lived in England for 3 years, so I have some background understanding. I liked that it was set in England, off the coast on a little island, I loved that aspect. It just felt like it was written more conversationally, than in a way that everyone could understand and grasp certain meanings. Besides that, no one just “says” anything. They giggle, shriek, laugh and cry, but no one just ever talks normally. Like, even the guys. They’re all just a really loud, giggly group. People giggle all the time in this book. And for no reason.
Do people actually giggle that much? I don’t think I’ve heard a guy over the age of like, toddler, actually giggle. So, I can’t imagine high school and college age dudes, giggling over anything.
The characters – and here’s where I have the bulk of my issues.
They’re all pretty annoying.
Crystal is this blonde pretty girl, who finds her beauty to be a burden after she basically magically turns pretty overnight. Her frizzy blonde hair turns smooth and wavy, and the baby fat melts off her face, and clothes cling to her curves…but her beauty makes everyone hate her.
Cry me a river.
She supposedly stunning, but that’s an inconvenience.
Nope. I can’t.
Then later in the book she has the audacity to judge a boy by the fact that if he weren’t a little chubby, he’d be cuter.
Girl, you can’t have it both ways.
Her relationship with Llyr is instant, and I’m not a fan of insta love. Especially when there’s no explanation beyond I’ve never felt this way about a guy before. I wish there had been a reason, like, he sirened her or something. Something beyond, oh he’s attractive and not like other guys.
Then there’s Rosie, her best friend.
She’s prudish, but apparently not?
She giggles so much.
I think she was supposed to be the sheltered island girl to Crystal’s city girl, but honestly, it felt like it was the opposite. Rosie makes some Choices, and goes from silently crushing on this older dude, to being his girlfriend in like, one night…from my understanding they hadn’t even said more than the occasional casual ‘hi’ to one another.
Rosie and Crystal’s friendship is cute, and it feels accurate at times, but Rosie’s other friend Jemima is a whole other thing. She’s uber jealous of Crystal, simply because Rosie befriended her, and she’s actually nasty to Crystal. Rosie does legit nothing to mediate this, just leaves her alone to get over it.
He legit reminded me of an entitled child, which is strange because he’s like, 320 some odd years old. He kind of gave me Peter Pan vibes, and if you read my Straight On Till Morning review, you know how I feel about Peter Pan in this sense.
He’s also just really handsy. Like, he’s always got to be touching Crystal.
I didn’t understand his motivations at all. He’s in love with Crystal, because she’s pretty, and every other thing about her. Their connection is just that strong.
I mean, sure her dad can go from high power attorney, to fisherman in his retirement. That’s fine. He seemed to be an environmental lawyer, so picking up an activist occupation, sure, why not. Her mother on the other hand…I don’t have words, because the whole plot line involving her mother was weird. It felt like it was added last minute for drama’s sake.
The other merpeople were a lot to take in.
They were either really serious, wholly against Llyr and Crystal being A Thing, or just basically bubbly airheads. I get the whole, we don’t want humans to find out about us, but like, everyone on Starfish knows something about the merpeople. True, they chock it up as myth and legend, but it’s not exactly the best kept secret.
I think George is the only character I didn’t find annoying. His story is actually a bit sad, but he’s a fun character with some quirks.
I mentioned it above, but the insta bond, insta love between Llyr and Crystal happens so fast. They talk about nothing, spending all their time touching, kissing, making love (yes, that’s the phrase that’s used). I think the biggest issue I had beyond the instant element of their relationship is the lack of understanding, of it, of what each of them want, what they want from their relationship. We’re just supposed to infer that this is a summer fling only, but we don’t know why. If you’re going to give in an insta love relationship, you need to give me the why it’s the way it is. I need to know. I need a reason, because as it stands, Llyr comes across as looking like a childish, manipulative asshole, and I don’t think he’s supposed to. Though, who know, maybe I’m wrong.
Y’all I don’t know. On one hand, I did kind of enjoy this book. The concept is good, it’s enjoyable. It’s exactly something I love to read. On the other, I just didn’t necessarily like the execution. I’m tempted to read the rest of the series – books 2 & 3 just to see how it all ends. I’m curious. If this book is/was a debut, I wonder if the next ones are better, if I’ll have the same complaints. I don’t think this is the worst book I’ve ever read; despite the issues I did have with it. Personally, I think some questionable choices were made, and there were some cringe-y scenes that I think could have been phrased differently. For all the moments that Starfish Island came to life, I wish there had been a little more world building, a little more showing than telling.
I hope I haven’t completely turned you off this book – that’s never my intention. If you’re willing to look past some issues, and just want to get lost in a merman/human romance, I think it’s definitely worth giving it a chance. You might find that you’re like me, and contemplating buying book 2 to see what happens next.
Sometimes, even with books that don’t meet my expectations, I feel compelled to find out what happens next. I feel a bit bad rating this a 2.75 stars, but with the issues I did have, it doesn’t meet my criteria for 3. If you are curious, the book should be out soon, or might already be out, so feel free to check it out!