This month was kind of crazy- definitely my busiest in recent memory. I moved back to school, line-edited a 500-page novel on paper, started four demanding classes, and put the paper edits into my document. With all of that, I still managed to read six books this month, 2,477 pages. Admittedly, two of them were for school, but it counts! I'll first review the books I read for pleasure and then the books I read for school! And as always, if you feel called to any of these books, clicking the book cover image will take you to my local independent bookstore's page- shop local!
Crescent City- House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J. Maas- 9.5/10
Those of you who know me at all know I absolutely adore SJM's work. The first two books of 2023 were rereads of her Crescent City series, books I read for the first time early last year. The first time I read HOEAB, I had a hard time with the amount of worldbuilding involved. The first 125 pages or so are super confusing, which was okay with me because it was an 800-page novel. Since I knew the general storyline this time, I digested it a lot easier. Crescent City is a little different from SJM's other books because the characters have modern technology, even though it's a fantasy world. There are angels and demons and faeries and shape-shifters and they fight with swords but also guns, and they have cell phones. One of the reasons I started my year with these books is that this is the kind of society I want my characters to have in the book I'm writing. I was trying to get some inspiration, and it definitely helped!
23-year-old Bryce Quinlan is the female half-human-half-fae protagonist in this book series; two years after the brutal murder of her best friend, she is forced to work with the dark, elusive Hunt Athalar, an angel who is nicknamed "The Shadow of Death" to figure out who killed Bryce's friend. Hunt is a slave to the city's evil governor and has to kill a certain number of people before he can be freed. They both have pretty low opinions of each other in the beginning, but, as you can imagine...they soon realize that they're more than partners or even friends. I love this book and these characters so much, and I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy!
Crescent City- House of Sky and Breath, by Sarah J. Maas- 10/10
Despite how much I loved this book, it took me over two weeks to read, which is pretty much unheard of for me. The book I was writing took major precedence over the book I was reading, despite the fact that this book is, in my opinion, masterfully written. I annotated both this and the previous book with this reread, and I think it helped me digest the plot and some of the confusing points I missed the first time around.
(Spoilers from this point forward, so if you haven't read House of Earth and Blood but want to, this would be a good time to keep scrolling. You've been warned!)
Now that Bryce and Hunt have solved the murder of Bryce's best friend, freed Hunt from his enslavement, and saved their city from the demons of Hel, they're free to pursue the romantic relationship they've been craving, but a few things are getting in the way:
One, Bryce's estranged father, the Autumn King, has promised her hand in marriage to a distant cousin of hers, Cormac, a swaggering jerk with more than a few secrets.
Two, Hunt and Bryce have been put on another case- to find a girl named Sophie Renast who mysteriously disappeared after it was revealed that she knew secrets about the Asteri, the rulers of their world.
Three, Bryce's friend Ithan, a wolf shifter that has recently come back into her life, has been abandoned by his pack and is crashing on her couch; his enhanced hearing makes the intimate moments that Bryce and Hunt want to have a little bit awkward. But it doesn't stop them from finally connecting in more ways than one.
This book has so many moving parts, and I just thought it was brilliant. It takes a really smart author to be able to keep track of all the stories being told at once, to foreshadow things without making it super obvious, and to write an ending that made me scream not once, but twice. The third (and likely final) book in the Crescent City series is next in line to be released by Sarah J. Maas and though we don't have a release date yet, I'm hoping (praying, really) that it's sometime this year, because I have to find out what happens next.
All Your Perfects, by Colleen Hoover- 8/10
Taking a break from fantasy, I decided to go through a couple of the Colleen Hoover books on my shelf. All Your Perfects was devastatingly sad, but I really enjoyed it. This story was told from two perspectives: then, and now.
Then: Quinn and Graham find themselves in the same hallway on the night they learn that their significant others have been cheating on them with each other and the rest, as they say, is history. They fall in love, get married, and plan to live happily ever after.
Now: The two have a miserable marriage on the cusp of divorce, mostly due to Quinn's infertility issues, which have left her dreading sex because it never gives her the child she wants, and Graham struggling with why his wife seems to be a shell of the woman she once was.
As someone with PCOS, this book hit me hard, and I definitely cried more than once, and it scared me a little, but I'm also still hopeful. I really enjoy CoHo's work, and I know that her books aren't for everyone.
Ugly Love, by Colleen Hoover - 4/10
Ugly Love, unfortunately, fell flat for me. As is typical for me with Colleen Hoover, I read most of it in a day, but mostly because I wanted to be done with it, and I rarely do not finish books because Mama didn't raise a quitter!
This book was also told from two perspectives and also sort of then and now- Tate, a 23-year-old nursing student who has just moved in with her brother, and Miles, the brooding man who lives across the hall. Miles's storyline isn't about Tate, though; it stays six years earlier with a girl named Rachel that he fell in love with in high school- but her mom and his dad have started dating, so the two date in secret, falling deeply in love until a tragic accident leaves Miles reeling. He doesn't ever want to fall in love again, but when he and Tate begin to have feelings for each other, he tells her that they can have a friends-with-benefits relationship but with two conditions: she can never ask about his past and she should never expect a future with him.
I have a few big problems with this book.
Miles- my god, this man had issues. And after learning what happened between him and Rachel, I almost understand why he is that way; it truly was horrible. But having trauma isn't an excuse to be a jerk or lead a girl on, only to break her heart over and over again. He did this TWICE- dating a girl against his better judgment only to end up devastating everyone involved, and I don't care how good the sex is- fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on MILES. CoHo also formatted his chapters in a way that made me want to rip out my eyes:
his perspective was
formatted like a
Do you feel how terrible that was? I only did it for a few lines- try reading 150 pages of that.
If he'd had some kind of poet background, I almost would have understood why some of it would be formatted that way, but he didn't, so it just grated on me constantly.
And TATE- this girl had NO self-respect and it made me hate her almost as much as I hated Miles. She knew from the start that she would fall in love with him, but she doesn't seem to care, but still gets mad at Miles when he breaks her heart over and over by being closed off and cold every time they start to act like more than friends with benefits. She let him treat her like a doormat under the guise of "being there for him"- at one point, she actually said "I'll let him use me to get rid of his pain" and I was like "GIRL, NO! DUMP HIS ASS!!"
Anyways, they can't all be bangers. Unfortunately, this was not my kind of book. But a lot of people loved it!
Candide, by Voltaire- 5/10
This was a book that I read for one of the two Western Literature courses I'm taking this semester; I read this for Western Lit- Enlightenment to Modern. I doubt I'll review all of the books I read for school on here, but this one was accompanied by quite a bit of class discussion, so I feel like I understand the text enough to have a concrete opinion.
Candide is a text translated from German, and the word candide in German means optimism. Candide is also the name of the main character in this story and the irony of his name is that he has literally not one single thing to be optimistic about. He's driven out of town because he picked up a girl's handkerchief and immediately fell in love with her (I think that's all it took in the 1700s.) From that point on, everything bad that can possibly happen to him does. I lost count of how many times he was whipped, burned, and stabbed, often with little to no cause, and I say this as a mental health advocate- if I were in Candide's situation, I would have offed myself way before it seemed like he even started to lose his optimism. At a certain point, it clearly wasn't going to get any better. He escapes a near hanging, and you think things might be okay for a few sentences, but wait, no, he gets attacked by a monkey! It was insane.
My friend and I joked that candide is actually German for "it gets worse."
Cost of Living, by Martyna Majok - 8/10
Cost of Living is a play that I read for my Readings in Drama course, and I actually really enjoyed it; it triggered a lot of classroom discussion about the way we see suffering and why it may be important to portray it on stage.
The play went back and forth between two stories- one, the story of Jess, an immigrant who has begun working as an aide to John, a college student with Cerebral Palsy, and two, the story of Ani, a woman who has recently been in an accident that has left her paralyzed in some degree and her ex-husband Eddie, who starts showing up to help her (in a similar nature to Jess). Jess begins to develop feelings for John only to have her heart broken by a miscommunication (that was ENTIRELY John's fault, by the way) and Eddie and Ani have begun to rekindle their relationship when Ani abruptly leaves us at the end of the play.
This play said a lot about human suffering, both apparent and invisible, and it was obvious that all of the characters were suffering to some degree. I liked that Majok chose to portray some of the difficult conversations and themes of disability that society often turns away from. The only criticism I really had for the play was that John was an idiot- he asked Jess if she would like to come over on a Friday night, only to reveal that the date Jess thinks she's about to have with him is actually the one that she's getting him ready to have with a pretty girl from school. If he had just said "WILL you come over tonight to help me get ready for a date", Jess would have been spared the heartbreak.
Wow! I did way more in-depth reviews this month than I have in the past and I think I like it (though it did take twice as long to write up.) In honor of Black History Month, I'll only be reading books by Black authors in February. Do you have any POC authors that you love? Let me know in the comments and I'll add them to my TBR!