[Book Review] House of Sky and Breath (2/? of Crescent City)

Book Cover for House of Sky and Breath

Title: House of Sky and Breath
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genre: new adult fiction; fantasy; romance; paranormal; magic
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it. 

Review: 4 stars

(If you’d like to review my review for book 1, click here.)

This is book 2 of a SJM series, so I walked in with some expectations – first and foremost that the ones we see the most of in Book 1 change their spots and we don’t like them as much in Book 2. That’s what I was hoping for with the Bryce and Hunt dynamic. I was a cynical reader for every passage involving the two, and was overly annoyed at Hunt the whole book. I wanted what happened in (SPOILER) ACOTAR to happen with Hunt. And then it didn’t, and I was supremely let down.

I couldn’t get over Bryce trying to sell herself to Sandriel for Hunt after he’d spent the whole Book 1 with her, letting her tell him her deepest darkest secrets. After she was so anti-alphahole but still fell for it (and so did we, despite the dual POV, another annoying plot point in Book 1), and wanted to sell herself into slavery. And so walking into Book 2, I was hoping for a deeper fallout, when all the adrenaline of the moment dissipated. NOPE. The two of them joke about it instead, on more than one occasion. This upset me.

But thankfully, Book 2 is about so much more than Bryce and Hunt. It’s also about some new additions and old favorites. I was so glad to see some of the familiar faces come back and get a deeper storyline – particularly Tharion and Ruhn. Tharion’s entire character is developed in such a strong and interesting way. For a lot of the book, you’re hoping he’ll be loyal to Bryce and the gang, but there’s a part of you thinking he might sell them out to his Queen. I also spent a lot of the second half wishing he’d make different choices, but that’s probably just me.

Ruhn’s glow up was impressive. He went from plot point half-brother to bestie and I REALLY enjoyed this. His own crew was fantastic, and when Ithan comes into it, I particularly liked how Ruhn went big-brother to protect Ithan, even from his own feelings. Ruhn’s humility and protection are his best traits. He’s talked up as this bad boy, full of tattoos and an “I don’t care” attitude, but in the end he wants what’s best for everyone, and it’s clear all the way through that he’s going to fight with Bryce. I love his own personal growth outside of Bryce too, with Agent Day, we see a really amazing side of him that I hope is expanded on in Book 3.

The new faces were fun. I really enjoyed following the mystery and meeting new people who pushed that mystery plot point along. The Hind and Cormac were my favorite. Cormac comes in hot, (descriptive and action wise) and reminded me a lot of Rhysand in the dark and broody fae type way. I thought for a long time that we’d see another Tamlin/Rhys style fight with Hunt and Cormac, but that was not to be. Sad.

I loved that we didn’t know if we could trust Cormac from literally his introduction until the ocean. He was crucial to Bryce’s character (and power) development but at what cost? What a good character!

I’m interested in seeing where this story goes, especially with the last few pages. Very, very interested. Overall, I liked this book more than the first, I didn’t need to wait 100 pages to really get into this one like Book 1, but I’m still salty about Bryce and Hunt.

[Book Review] Dead Djinn Universe Series (0.5 & 0.7)

Book Covers for A Dead Djinn in Cairo and The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Titles: 0.5 — A Dead Djinn in Cairo & 0.7 — The Haunting of Tram Car 015

Author: P Djèlí Clark

Genre: fantasy; short stories; steam punk; mystery; historical fiction; novella; sci fi

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine.

Entries in this series can be read as standalones in any order.

Review: 4 Stars

Around the end of 2020 I was looking for shorter texts to reach my goodreads challenge for the year and I stumbled on P. Djèlí Clark’s work and started reading it all as quick as I could. I am INTO it. In this series, he’s created this very realistic version of 1910’s Cairo with a twist… it’s kinda magical.

In 0.5 — A Dead Djinn in Cairo, he goes into the background a little, there or magical beings of all sorts in the world, both good and bad, and a group meant to help sort one from the other. This group is the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities. In both 0.5 and 0.7, the main characters are investigators in the Ministry and have a mystery to solve that is more than meets the eye.

In 0.5, the lead investigator is a woman, a badass woman who wears trousers and sleek coat and takes no shit from men who are still afraid of women with a brain.

In 0.7, the investigators are men, and work to solve the mystery together (but need help from women all along the way). Along the way, a women’s liberation movement is going on, fighting for women’s rights. It’s pretty cool.

My favorite parts of these stories are how seamless the integration of magic is in the mundane. Every single element has been thought of, but it all feels authentic. I think that’s a major credit to the fact that the author is a historian and does ample research before writing.

There are two more books in this series and I’m looking forward to getting into both!

[Book Review] The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal

Title: The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek

Authors: Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal

Genre: YA; fiction; mystery; horror/ thriller; paranormal fantasy

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

It’s 1992 in Bleak Creek, North Carolina—a sleepy little place with all the trappings of an ordinary Southern town: two Baptist churches, friendly smiles coupled with silent judgments, and an unquenchable appetite for pork products. Beneath the town’s cheerful façade, however, Bleak Creek teens live in constant fear of being sent to the Whitewood School, a local reformatory with a history of putting unruly youths back on the straight and narrow—a record so impeccable that almost everyone is willing to ignore the suspicious deaths that have occurred there over the past decade.

At first, high school freshmen Rex McClendon and Leif Nelson believe what they’ve been told: that the students’ strange demises were all just tragic accidents, the unfortunate consequence of succumbing to vices like Marlboro Lights and Nirvana. But when the shoot for their low-budget horror masterpiece, PolterDog, goes horribly awry—and their best friend, Alicia Boykins, is sent to Whitewood as punishment—Rex and Leif are forced to question everything they know about their unassuming hometown and its cherished school for delinquents.

Eager to rescue their friend, Rex and Leif pair up with recent NYU film school graduate Janine Blitstein to begin piecing together the unsettling truth of the school and its mysterious founder, Wayne Whitewood. What they find will leave them battling an evil beyond their wildest imaginations—one that will shake Bleak Creek to its core.

Review: 4 stars

As far as mysteries go, this one had me until the end. I wasn’t expecting some of the twists that came about and I was genuinely surprised at some of the more paranormal elements that McLaughlin and Neal incorporated into their storytelling.

That said, I enjoyed the mystery and storytelling overall but some of the writing was clunky. Pieces of the story could have gotten a little more developed (Janine for instance, considering she’s part of the storytelling instrument), but for a debut into YA and into this genre, it was fun.

Rex and Leif are really cute characters. They’re boys going through the heat of summer, puppy love and also a paranormal mystery in an ultra conservative small town where everyone knows everyone. What could go wrong? I love the way the friendship builds and grows over the course of the book too. Their boundaries are tested but in the end, they know they can rely on each other.

As I was reading this, honestly, the townsfolk just gave me the creeps. No small towns for me… thanks Bleak Creek.

Stripped

Title: Stripped

Author: Zoey Castile

Genre: Romance

Synopsis: (from Goodreads) The day Robyn Flores meets Zac Fallon is one of those days. You know, when you’re already late for work. Mostly because you haven’t really slept since your best friend abandoned you for her fiancé and her exponentially better life. The kind of day you drag yourself to the cleaners to pick up your laundry, only to discover you’ve got the wrong bag—Star Spangled sequined thong, anyone? So Robyn is definitely not ready for the ridiculously gorgeous guy at her front door, except that they have each other’s clothes. But then, is any woman ever ready to meet the love of her life?

There’s just one problem: Zac Fallon is not the love of Robyn’s life. Zac knows, despite the 
all-too-intimate dinner they share, he doesn’t have a shot at her. Because the next time Zac sees Robyn, he’s front and center of the male revue headlining her best friend’s bachelorette party. So much for wooing the pretty schoolteacher, much less impressing her old-fashioned family, with his upstanding lifestyle. Now he’s only got one way to win his dream girl. It’s gonna be the steamiest, most irresistible seduction she’s ever seen. And this time it will be no act …

Review: Stripped was the best book I’ve read this year so far. It was full of heart, steam, and character. The leads were real and relatable. The storyline was too. It wasn’t overdramatized or unacceptable. It felt natural and just GOOD to read.

Zoey Castile writes two remarkable lead characters that you want to cheer for through the duration of the text. You want them to find themselves, their passions. As you read, you want them to find their way to each other.

Robyn and Zac are funny, sweet, and supportive of each other as friends, lovers, and partners, which make this HEA novel a fun and engaging read. loved everything about it. I definitely recommend it.

*Special thanks to Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.