The Glory of HOSAB

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas

A Five-Star Review (Minor Spoilers)

If you’ve been on Bookstagram or BookTok in the past two months, you’ve seen tributes to Sarah J Maas’s newest book, House of Sky and Breath, which is the second in her Crescent City. There’s good reason for this adoration, in my opinion. HOSAB is a great book – a long one too, clocking in at 800+ pages!

What I Loved about HOSAB

  • Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar: This couple is end game. They’re complicated protagonists with a deep love for each other and a desperation to live a quiet, uneventful life together. Bryce is another one of SJM’s queens, right up there with Feyre (A Court of Thorns and Roses) and Aelin (Throne of Glass), and her tormented angel Hunt is just as great of a character.
  • The circle of supporting characters: Ruhn is my favorite side character in Crescent City. He is a classic bad boy with a heart of gold, and I am here for that journey. His friends Declan and Fynn give off vibes like Cassian and Azriel, another excellent entourage. We see more of Juniper and Fury, Bryce’s BFFs, and they are so good as well.
  • The world-building: I don’t know how SJM creates these fantastic worlds with multiverses and unique histories. My brain doesn’t work that way, so I have to be content with reading about them in books like this.
  • The representation: I have seen criticism of SJM’s previous series for the lack of diversity, and I agree. Bring on the diversity of characters, Sarah! HOSAB brings more representation to our eyes, and I hope that this prevails in future books.
  • The ending: I’m not going to spoil anything, but that ending! Wow. I had no inclination that SJM was leading us down that path. I went back and re-read the last chapter just to make sure that I read it correctly. Perfection!

Other Thoughts about HOSAB

  • In it for the long haul: Much like House of Earth and Blood (Book 1), this is a slow build to greatness with different points of view and more exploration of Midgard, the planet on which our story occurs. What does this mean? A heck of a long book. It took me about 3 weeks to read, with breaks for other books as I went along.
  • The steam: Audiobook lovers, I advise wearing earbuds with this one! HOEAB had some steamy scenes, but House of Sky and Breath brings the heat. I was blushing!

So, now I join the ranks of all the SJM readers who are impatiently waiting for the next book in the Crescent City series.

Why I Love the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

If you’ve been around any book lovers on social media in the last minute, you have seen a post or two about Sarah J Maas and her trio of series: Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and most recently Crescent City. The general consensus amongst Bookstagrammers is that these series are swoon-worthy, fandom-worthy, and praiseworthy. There are some naysayers amongst the group, and the best series is up for debate, but overall, these series are popular to the max.

I am fully entrenched in the SJM camp, mostly because of my love for A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR). This was the first SJM series I read, and while I love Throne of Glass (Celaena and Rowan forever) and think Crescent City is well-worth the read, ACOTAR will always have my heart. Here’s why I love this series so much.

A Retelling of the Best Kind

ACOTAR begins as a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. There are plenty of references to this much-beloved tale in the first book, from which the series draws its name. We meet our protagonist, Feyre Archeron, as she’s trying to feed her father and two sisters after years of hardship and poverty, into which the family was thrust when her merchant father wrongly hinged all his fortune on a ship full of riches and paid for it with a crippling beating from his creditors. That loss, along with the tenuous treaty between the human world and the Faerie who live across the border (The Wall), have left the Archeron family in a wooden shack where Feyre takes on all the responsibilities for her family as her father has regressed into depression and her sisters, Nesta and Elain, are still mourning their life of riches.

In desperation, Feyre becomes a huntress and in a moment of fear and opportunity, she kills a wolf in the forest beyond the wall. That wolf pelt will feed her family, she knows, but she sees something unique in the wolf’s eyes before she makes the kill. This is where the story begins, and Feyre quickly learns that her kill would not be without repayment when a monstrous beast breaks into the Archeron cabin in the middle of the night. He terrifies the family as he demands to know who killed the wolf. Feyre, as she has done so many times before, sacrifices herself to protect her father and sisters. The beast insists she become his prisoner, and he takes her into the Faerie world beyond The Wall.

This is classic Beauty and the Beast inspiration, and I am here for all of it. The beast – named Tamlin – whisks Feyre to a mysterious castle where he shifts back into his Fae form, complete with a mask welded to his face. Tamlin is High Lord of the Spring Court, a brooding High Fae who protects his lands with mystery and passion. As the original BATB story goes, the Beauty melts the Beast’s cold exterior, but in ACOTAR, it is Tamlin’s wooing that eventually breaks Feyre’s apprehension.

Feyre faces kidnappings and challenges within a High Fae’s nightmare court as we meet Amarantha, a former general and now self-proclaimed Queen of Prythian, the Faerie realm. Amarantha is cruelly evil against her subjects Under the Mountain, and presents Feyre with three challenges to free Tamlin, who is now imprisoned by the Queen. From this adventure to those in the next four books, the story expands from a retelling of BATB and into an epic story of love, found family, war, and magic. It is glorious, and please read it!

The Characters

As the story grows beyond Book 1, the depth of the characters grows and becomes more intimate. When I first read the series and then re-read it, I found my love for the characters deepening because no one is who they seem at first, each has a backstory, and each acts with a passion to reach their goals. Here are four of my favorite characters, although I could go on about many more. (Note: This is where I’ll be spilling a few spoilers for the series.)

  1. Feyre: She loves her family (biological and found), will sacrifice herself, and doesn’t know how much she can accomplish. She is full of fire and love, but she is much more. She feels deeply and puts herself in danger to protect others; she’s flawed and guilt-ridden because she can’t eliminate all pain. Her guilt pushes her to fight against evil, and she does it with a beautiful partner next to her.
  2. Rhysand: At first meeting, this half-Fae, half-Illyrian High Lord is the typical bad boy with a heart of gold. He sacrificed himself to Amarantha’s court to protect the people of Velaris, his Night Court home. Like Feyre, he feels a deep sense of responsibility for his people and is willing to do anything to protect his citizens, his found family (The Inner Circle), and his mate, Feyre. He is overprotective in many ways, but he believes in Feyre’s power more than she does herself.
  3. Morrigan: This magnetic siren of a High Fae woman is Rhysand’s cousin and a member of the Inner Circle. She is sexy and flirtatious, but she uses those traits to hide the painful past that exists because her father feared her immense power so much that he sold her in marriage to a son of the High Lord of the Autumn Court. Morrigan fought the marriage and was punished, but she escaped to the sanctuary of the Inner Circle and will fight to the death to save them.
  4. Azriel: This Illyrian warrior is mysterious, literally cloaked in shadows that swarm around his massive wingspan as he watches everything. He and Rhysand met in the Illyrian war camp when they were children sent there to train, joining together with Cassian, another one of my favorite Illyrians. Azriel is the spy shadowsinger of the Inner Circle, and he remains silent most of the time, but once he has something to say, people listen. He is haunted by his past and even shy, pining for Morrigan and then Elain. While he may be one of the most lethal of the Inner Circle, he is also one of the most gentle characters in ACOTAR.

There are so many more characters I could talk about: Cassian, Manon, Nesta, and more. But I’ll stop to transition to the third reason I love this series.

The World Building of Prythian

This was my first venture into High Fae fantasy, and I had no idea how much I loved it. SJM does an amazing job of world-building throughout the series. The unique characters, the settings across the nine Courts of the Prythian realm, the monsters, and the lore that lives in the background of these stories is just so intriguing and fantastically described.

Reading an ACOTAR book is like being whisked away into a technicolor world of intrigue, romance, violence, and magic. It’s a world that I am here for. If you want a deeply descriptive book, illustrative of a fully fleshed-out story and history for all characters, then this is the series for you.

I hope these three reasons will be enough to encourage you to read the ACOTAR series in its entirety, or at least give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

A Year in Books, Part 2

As 2022 is close upon us, here is my final wrap-up of the best books I read this year. To be honest, I could have featured so many more tomes that impacted me on some level, but I tried to be a bit ruthless in my list.

July: The Guncle

The Guncle by Steven Rowley is a delightful, true 5-star read. When Patrick O’Hara’s best friend and sister-in-law dies, he must care for his niece and nephew while his brother Greg deals with his own health issues. What is a Golden Globe-winning actor supposed to do with two kids under 10 who are grieving for their mother?

The answer comes in the form of funny shenanigans, pool floats, and a grumpy Aunt Clara, along with a new dog Marlene and a pink Christmas tree in July. Maisie and Grant help GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) heal his own losses as much as he does theirs. One of my absolute favorite reads of 2021!

Read The Guncle if you love exceptional protagonists who pepper the pages with wit and spot-on voices.

August: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is a gift of love and color and adventure and magic. It is a book about being comfortable in your own skin, questioning your preconceived notions, and finding where you belong.

Linus Baker is a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He lives a grey existence and follows the RULES AND REGULATIONS to the letter as he investigates orphanages housing magical children. He does not sway from his life as an observer. Until Extremely Upper Management sends him on a month-long Classified Level Four assignment on Marsyas Island. As Linus gets to know – and love – the brood of characters on the island, he shifts from being an observer to an active participant in life.

Read The House in the Cerulean Sea if you love found families, magic, and endearing child-like characters.

September: The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021, and it did not disappoint!

This is the seventeenth installment of the much-loved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Penny. The beloved Three Pines characters, led by Gamache, are cautiously tiptoeing out into a post-COVID-19 world. There is fear and trepidation and a keen desire for a return to “normal,” despite a question of whether normal will ever exist again.

This book is gorgeous and haunting and a little too real. I savored every page but also rushed to read the ending. Reading a story about a post-pandemic reality was difficult for me as it felt too real at times, but Penny is a master storyteller who has created characters and settings that move me.

Read The Madness of Crowds if you love a mystery that ties together multiple voices and plotlines. But – if you haven’t read any of the series yet, start with Still Life and enjoy the ride!

October: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir continues the story of Laia and Elias, two strong-willed protagonists who are bound together by a sense of right and duty. This book is the second installment of one of my new favorite series, An Ember in the Ashes, a story of high-fantasy, Rome-like intrigue, and magical jinn while holding on to the power of family, honor, and love.

While Laia and Elias continue the search for her brother, Darin, we also get to better know Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike and Elias’s oldest friend. I liked reading Helene’s point of view as she battles two unbearable choices: to follow the Emperor’s orders and kill her best friend or to deny her role as Blood Shrike and see her family slaughtered. With magical secrets attached to each of these characters, this book is driven by their wants and needs, as well as an action-packed plot.

Read A Torch Against the Night if you like high fantasy, action, and magic – but of course, start with An Ember in the Ashes first. I think you’ll be hooked on the series within the first 100 pages!

November: Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is amazing, and I was shocked to learn that this is the author’s debut novel. It’s smart, socially aware, and engaging. With race, sexuality, social status, and money factoring into all parts of this story, Àbíké-Íyímídé has created a world where you don’t know who to trust or what to believe, and then she brings it all home to an incredibly satisfying ending.

Devon and Chiamaka are seniors at Niveus Private Academy. They both have high hopes for their futures, but Aces wants to dash all those dreams to the side. This anonymous bully knows their secrets, and isn’t afraid to tell. Devon, a quiet musician who is determined to fulfill his mother’s wishes of going to college, and Chiamaka, an overachieving It Girl who considers popularity as important as her college applications, are desperate to confront Aces, so these polar opposites join together to bring the masked texter down.

Read Ace of Spades if you like YA fiction that addresses social justice issues and thrilling mind-twists.

December: State of Terror

State of Terror by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Although I’m not much of a political thriller girl, this book blew my mind. I loved the insights into politics, and this fast-paced book kept my mind turning. This book was full of tension and alluded to so many real events/potential events that it felt like I was reading nonfiction at times.

The relationships between the characters, especially Secretary of State Ellen Adams and her best friend and counselor Betsy Jameson, were so strong and well-designed. Also, there were a few treats along the way as Three Pines (Louise Penny’s masterpiece of a small village in Canada) and its characters made brief cameos. Finally, I love that this book was written by two intelligent, strong women!

Read State of Terror if you like political thrillers, smart female protagonists, and a fast-paced novel.

December: The Love Hypothesis

I couldn’t keep myself from highlighting more than one book for December. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood has been getting rave reviews across Bookstagram, and there’s good reason for that! I’m not a die-hard romcom fan, but this one was a definite hit.

The Love Hypothesis utilizes the classic fake dating trope to bring its love interests, Olive and Adam, together, but it works on so many more levels. While I wasn’t a STEM student in grad school, I could completely relate to the pressures of graduate research and finally getting my doctorate. That stress is real, folks! Olive and Adam are a great pair, and I’ve already pre-ordered Ms. Hazelwood’s three novellas that are due out in 2022.

Read The Love Hypothesis if you like a great romcom with excellent character development.

And that’s a wrap on my 2021 favorite books! I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings for my love of reading.

A Year in Books – Part 1

As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve been taking a look back at my favorite reads for the year. This was a fun exercise to reflect on what I consider to be the best of the best for my year of reading.

January: A Woman is No Man

There are some books that manage to rip your heart out, filling you with grief for the characters, and then they give you hope for the future at their conclusion. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum is a story of three generations of Palestinian-American woman, and it explores fate, choices, culture, and traditions. It is a book about suppression and violence, but also about faith and personal strength. I loved it so much!

Read A Woman is No Man if you want to explore the depths of female relationships and cultural expectations.

February: A Court of Silver Flames

Sarah J. Maas took the Prythian world to the next level with her much-anticipated novel of Nesta and Cassian. With new mythology, new creatures, and new steam, A Court of Silver Flames is a great story of fierce action, heat, and love, all the things the Maasdom has come to expect.

What I loved most is that Ms. Maas went even further with this book. In taking us back to the Night Court and sharing Nesta and Cassian with us, Ms. Maas managed to build a fantasy that also addresses mental health, self worth, and the Me Too movement. The struggles and desire for empowerment may be cloaked in Fae magic here, but they’re relatable to us humans as well.

Read A Court of Silver Flames if you want a steamy book that makes your heart ache for an unlikeable protagonist (Nesta) while diving deep into a fantasy world that is well-designed and intricate.

February: The Four Winds

I couldn’t pick just one book for February, so here is my second favorite book from the shortest month of the year: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Ms. Hannah is an author whose books I pick up knowing that my heart is going to be ripped out, and her newest novel did not disappoint!

I could feel the despair and heartache that these characters experienced in the Dust Bowl of 1930s Texas and in the neverending circle of poverty when Elsa, our heroine, moves her children to California in search of a better life. From the touching relationships between Elsa, her in-laws, her children, and her friends, and the emotive descriptions of the landscape during the Great Depression, Ms. Hannah has created a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Read The Four Winds if you love historical fiction and deep-rooted familial love alongside a lot of conflict.

February: Concrete Rose

And another favorite from February is Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, a book full of Ms. Thomas’s beautiful prose, vivid imagery, and glorious characters. I truly hope she continues to tell stories about Garden Heights because each novel gets better and better.

Maverick Carter is 17 and dealing with a lot: his dad is in prison, he’s dealing drugs outside of his gang’s operation, and he just found out he’s a father. That’s just the start of the challenges that Maverick faces in Concrete Rose, and every bit of his journey brings all the emotions. With plenty of Easter eggs from The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, this book takes us back to the Garden Heights in the 1990s. It’s a powerful, emotional book that deserves all the Sevens, all the roses, and all the stars.

Read Concrete Rose if you want a brutal, beautiful story of a young man who has to grow up suddenly and to see how his choices make an impact on everyone’s future.

March: People Like Her

People Like Her by husband-wife writing team Ellery Lloyd is a cautionary tale about social media, motherhood, and appearances not being what they seem. Told from three points of view, the story is fast-paced and nuanced. We get an inside look at the world of Instamums, their hangers-on, and what happens behind the little squares of our favorite social platform.

I loved the relationship between Emmy and Dan, the power couple of the story. They love each other, but also they want to pay their bills and achieve greatness. As their priorities conflict, their husband-and-wife relationship becomes more convoluted, ending in a climax that shocks you.

Read People Like Her if you like fast-paced novels that make you question all your expectations of the characters and if you want to see a behind-the-curtain view of social media influencers.

April: The Last Story of Mina Lee

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a beautiful read! Ms. Kim crafted a gorgeous story about family, loss, language, and tragedy. I loved the dual timelines that told the story of Mina Lee and her daughter, Margot. With differences in culture, understanding, and desires, this mother-daughter relationship is complex but realistic, and I felt empathy for both characters.

The book shares the immigrant experience in a vulnerable, often brutal way, while honoring the stories of each character. As her debut novel, Ms. Kim has set the bar high and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Read The Last Story of Mina Lee if you like books about mother-daughter relationships and the complexities of the immigrant experience.

May: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

I know there have been comparisons to Daisy Jones & the Six, but The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton goes so far beyond a journalism-style review of a 1970s rock group. Ms. Walton addresses racism and bigotry in the U.S., weaving a story that shows that we really haven’t done that far since the 1970s. She illustrates how women’s voices – especially those voices of BIPOC women – were silenced then and now. She brings together music and fashion to demonstrate how art can take so many forms for so many people.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev that spans 40 years but is timely for today. It is a book that is about much more than music and a failed rock band. It’s about the choices each character has made themselves and the demands that society places on them because of their appearances and their backgrounds.

Read The Final Revival of Opal & Nev if you love it when an author combines historical fiction, music, and social justice to craft a great story that sticks with you.

June: Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Different than most of my heavy picks for the first half of 2021, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano is a wild romp of a novel that pits a woman who’s life is falling apart against her ex-husband’s fiancé.

This book was funny and fresh with a touch of murder-for-hire thrown in. Finlay is a nuanced protagonist who makes a lot of bad decisions but remains plucky and endearing at the same time. I enjoyed this one at lot more than anticipated, so it was a pleasantly surprising read. My only complaint was I wanted more backstory for Vero, Finlay’s nanny-accountant-accomplice.

Read Finlay Donovan is Killing It if you like protagonists who make bad decisions but keep a deadpan sense of humor about them. Pick it up before the sequel, Finlay Donovan Knocks Em Dead, drops in February 2022!

What’s Next?

I’m wrapping up the last half of 2021 this week and still haven’t found my favorite book for December! Stay tuned for what I choose! Happy reading, friends!

A Return to Three Pines

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny

A 5⭐️ Review

After taking us to Paris in All the Devils Are Here, Louise Penny brings us back to Three Pines in The Madness of Crowds, the 17th installment of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. I was so glad to open this beautiful edition and experience a return to the alluring Canadian village of Three Pines. Meeting the residents again was like coming home, a true sign of a great series for me.

But all is not well in Three Pines. The characters are cautiously tiptoeing out into a post-COVID-19 world. The pandemic has done to these characters what it has done to us in reality. There is fear and trepidation and a keen desire for a return to “normal,” despite a question of whether normal will ever exist again.

As the mystery unravels, Gamache shows his wisdom and gentle power, his love for his family and friends, and his innate drive to be morally good. Starting with his assignment to guard Professor Abigail Robinson to his vehement disgust against the woman’s claims of what society “needs,” Gamache battles with his own internal moral compass and watches his loved ones, especially his dear son-in-law Jean-Guy Beauvoir, do the same.

This book is about what fear can do to people. It is gorgeous and haunting and a little too real. I wanted to savor every page but also rush to read the ending. Reading a story about a post-pandemic reality was difficult for me as it felt too real at times, but Ms. Penny is a master storyteller who has created characters and settings that move me. As always, I was amazed by her ability to turn a phrase, describe a character, and unpack a mystery in a way that felt like magic. I hope that all will be well in Three Pines for many more books in the future.

Magic Hour

Book Review: Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah

I love Kristin Hannah. There, I said it. She has a way of storytelling that engulfs you with emotions and embeds you in the characters’ lives.

So, it’s no wonder that I enjoyed Magic Hour. This is the oldest book of hers that I’ve read, and it felt much different than The Nightingale, The Great Alone, and The Four Winds, all of which I loved. The sister relationship between Julia and Ellie was a wonderful journey, but even more importantly, I loved Alice’s heartbreaking story. This child’s voice felt real, making the terror that she faced even more powerful.

While I won’t say this was my favorite Hannah read, I did really like it and cried like a baby. A solid 4⭐️ read.

Broken: A (Funny) Tale of Mental Illness

Book Review: Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson writes with honesty, vulnerability, and power. She brings truth to the page as she explains what it’s like to be in the dark hole of depression and anxiety while you lose shards of your soul. She brings levity to the story as she shares her wild experiences at the dentist, in Puerto Rico, and in her backyard. Her love of taxidermy — including Allie McGraw the alligator and Daenerys Targaryen the prairie dog/squirrel — as well as her late night Twitter sessions and her insistence that her missing phone is in the floorboards (really in her pocket) are just a few of the laugh-out-loud instances from Broken.

But it’s so much more than that. Jenny is helping to end the stigma of mental illness. She is open about her dark days and shares what of feels like to walk into the light — to be unsettled when you have good days because you’re not sure when the dark will come again. There’s a reason I used up nearly all my sticky tabs and almost an entire highlighter while reading this book. Because it’s that good. And because it’s that real.

A Court of Silver Flames

Book Review (No Spoilers)

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

I know, I know. A Court of Silver Flames has probably been all over social media since its release in February. But there’s a reason for that.

This book is freaking good, y’all.

Like any Sarah J Maas fan, I could not wait to get my hands on this book. I even bought the Kindle version because I couldn’t wait for my delayed hard copy any more. Ms. Maas took the Prythian world to the next level with her novel of Nesta and Cassian. With new mythology, new creatures, and new heat, this book is jam-packed with a great story, fierce action, and all the things the Maasdom has come to expect.

But she went even further here. In taking us back to the Night Court and sharing Nesta and Cassian with us, Ms. Maas managed to build a fantasy that also addresses mental health, self worth, and the Me Too movement. The struggles and desire for empowerment may be cloaked in Fae magic here, but they’re relatable to us humans as well.

A 5⭐️ read with an added 🔥 for heat

You Should Read The Four Winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I start any book by Kristin Hannah with the expectation that she’s going to devastate my emotions with her characters and plot lines. And, with that in mind, The Four Winds did not disappoint!

I could feel the despair and heartache that these characters experienced in the Dust Bowl of 1930s Texas and in the neverending circle of poverty when Elsa, our heroine, moves her children to California in search of a better life. From the touching relationships between Elsa, her in-laws, her children, and her friends, and the emotive descriptions of the landscape during the Great Depression, Ms. Hannah has created a book that will stay with me for a long time.

I can’t recommend this 5⭐️ book enough!

What 5⭐️ book do you think people should read?

A Gorgeous Concrete Rose

Book Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

A 5⭐️ Read

Angie Thomas does it again. She’s ripped my heart out and then patched it back together with her beautiful prose, vivid imagery, and glorious characters. I truly hope Ms. Thomas continues to tell stories about Garden Heights because each novel gets better and better.

Concrete Rose is the story of Maverick Carter. He’s 17 and dealing with a too much: his dad is in prison, he’s dealing drugs outside of his gang’s operation, and he just found out he’s a father. That’s just the start of the challenges that Maverick faces in Concrete Rose, and every bit of his journey brings all the emotions.

With plenty of Easter eggs from The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, this book takes us back to the Garden Heights in the 1990s. It’s a powerful, emotional book that deserves all the Sevens, all the roses, and all the stars.