April Hopefuls

I am usually not a spring person, but the fact that spring is here and I can read outside on my deck on warm days is fabulous. It was a hard, snowy winter in New England, and I am looking forward to more sunny days and to watch the flowers and trees bloom in my new yard.

I mentioned this in my March Wrap-Up, but this month, I submit my Master’s thesis (post forthcoming). Because of that, I am going to be realistic with my books this month.

I am going to try and read 3 books in April (two will look familiar because they were in my March Hopefuls list). Here they are:

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series)

Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6)

I am about halfway through this one, so I know I will finish this one AT LEAST. So far, I am OK with it … it’s hard to shift focus to a new storyline and keep up with the new characters (should have done the tandem read, but I am reading these individually for a buddy read). Overall, I am a fan of the Throne of Glass series, and I enjoy it more than ACOTAR.

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly (Lilac Girls # 3)

Sunflower Sisters (Lilac Girls, #3)

This one was just published on March 30. I absolutely loved her two books, and I got this one on audio to listen to while I color. I love historical fiction and the premise of sisterhood and strong women … and I love sunflowers, so this book is a win. I will be prepared to cry like with every Martha Hall Kelly book.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Lost Village

This book is a little out of the norm for me, but it gives me spooky, Blair Witch Project/Midsommar vibes that I think I need in my life. Also, it explores the topic of mental illness and the mistreatment of women with mental illness, and that is a topic I am very interested in (read “The Yellow Wallpaper” if you really want your blood to boil).

What are you planning to read this month?

Check out these posts to see what I’ve read this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

“March went out like a lion …” Any Carousel fans out there?

No?

OK, well, it’s time for my March wrap-up!

What a month. I am submitting my Master’s thesis in April, so I am going to admit that leisurely reading will be a low priority for me until that is submitted. BUT, I did read 3 books this month, which I am proud of.

I originally had 6 books planned for March, but I was only able to commit to 3. Two were audiobooks and one was a physical book. I LOVED listening to my audiobooks and coloring on my iPad in my reading nook with my cats. It was so relaxing and I highly recommend it.

So, here’s what I read this month:

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy)

Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #2)

I flew through this book in early March, and I am really enjoying getting swept away in the Grishaverse. I was hoping to get through all of the books by the time the show comes out on Netflix in April, but I will try my best! This book was slower to start than the first one, but I really fell in love with Nikolai and how morally grey the characters are. The ending of this book was incredibly fast-paced and intense, so I am looking forward to picking up Ruin and Rising soon.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (The Brown Sisters #3)

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

This was definitely my favorite of the Brown Sisters trilogy, and Eve definitely has my heart. While Dani is still my favorite Brown sister (nerdy, witchy, academic type), I really loved this story. I love Eve’s empathy and personality. I didn’t realize how much I loved the enemies to lovers trope until I picked this one up! This was a fantastic audiobook. I recommend listening to this one … just maybe not in public because the STEAM is real. *blushes*

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (Beartown #2)

Us Against You (Beartown, #2)

Cried my eyes out. First, Marin Ireland is an amazing narrator. Second, I loved this book more than Beartown. *gasp* Backman really knows how to write about the human experience. There were times when I wanted to end the book out of frustration, but there were also times when I had to keep on listening with happy tears in my eyes. Humanity is ugly, messy, and beautiful. This book is all about that (with some hockey thrown in).

What did you read this month?

Thanks for reading!

Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

This time last year, a good friend of mine on bookstagram posted about her love for the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas (known as ACOTAR to the fandom), and the description piqued my interest. I never heard of her books, but I love fantasy, so why not? We just entered quarantine and I was feeling scared, exhausted from long hours at work, and in need of an escape.

Enter, Sarah. J Maas. I remember tearing through the series within a month, fully engrossed in the characters and storyline. I loved the examination of trauma, sisterhood, self-love, and healing. The romance wasn’t half bad either. I was new to that type of steam; I’ve read some steamy scenes before, but nothing prepared me for chapter 55 in A Court of Mist and Fury!

After ACOTAR, I read House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) and absolutely loved it. It’s one of my favorite books. Now, I am almost done with the Throne of Glass series, and I will be sad when it ends.

In February, A Court of Silver Flames (ACOSF) was released, and I was greatly anticipating returning to ACOTAR. I’ll admit; I didn’t enjoy Nesta. I thought she was rude, arrogant, and extremely stubborn. She did horrible things. My skin would crawl when she was in a scene.

When I realized that ACOSF would be in first-person narrative diving into the stories of Nesta and Cassian, I went, “OH, so now I will love Nesta.” Great.

I was right. I found a character that I really connected with. All of the negative self-talk. The self-loathing. The destructive behavior. Pushing away from the ones who love you most because it hurts to be loved. I know those feelings. I experience them daily. I was starting to understand her.

There were things that I loved about ACOSF. There were things that I did not like about ACOSF. Without spoilers, I will talk about them so that others can have their own experience with this one.

But first, I’m going to spoil it a little bit with some trigger/content warnings. They’re important and you should know them before going into this book. I’m not seeing a lot of reviews with these content warnings included, and it’s important we do this as readers and reviewers. Now, while Maas touches on trauma in all of her books, this felt a little heavier than most.

This was a first-person narrative about battling trauma. It had PTSD flashbacks, heavy traumatic imagery, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, r*pe narratives, mental descriptions of sexual assault. It was very, very heavy. A lot of these themes are in SJM’s other books, but trauma is the main theme, and SJM does not pull back. It was hard to read at times, which is the point of this book. It’s not an easy read, so it will be difficult for some who are in different parts of their mental health journeys. I have been in therapy since 2013, and moments were triggering for me. Proceed with caution.

OK, review time (photo featuring my cat’s little body)

High level list of things I loved:

  • Nesta’s journey: As I mentioned, I connected with Nesta so much. As someone who has been in therapy for 8 years, I felt for her as she dealt with her trauma and how to combat it. There is a scene with Cassian that serves as a turning point for their relationship and her own self-awareness and I experienced similar conversations in my own marriage. Nesta is a force. She is power. She is resilient. Is she perfect? No. Does she make mistakes? Yes. But, is she raw and human? Yes.
  • The female bonds: Nesta forms strong friendships with two female characters who have also experienced trauma. I smiled big when Nesta let them in as friends and they grew physically, mentally, and emotionally together.
  • THE HOUSE. Favorite character.
  • Azriel. Always Azriel.
  • That extra Az chapter…

High level of things I did not love:

  • The amount of smut and lack of fantasy plot: Essentially, this book was STEAMY SMUTTY romance with a sprinkle of fantasy. While there were moments of world-building and the fantastic, it was really lacking. I am not a big smut person, and this book was pretty much 700+ pages of sex. Chapter 55, who? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed parts of it, but it got a little old too fast for me. If you love smut, PLEASE ENJOY! No judgment. Just not for me!
  • How the story started and ended with Feyre and Rhys. It doesn’t need to come back to them, or be centered around them. It really bothered me.
  • Not a big Cassian fan. There, I said it.

Overall, this was an average read. There were moments I really loved. There were moments I cried. Most of the time, I kind of read and shrugged. I closed this book feeling unfulfilled.

Did you read ACOSF? What did you think?

February Wrap-Up

February was another great month for reading. We had a TON of snow in New England, so I was more than happy to stay indoors and read under lots of blankets.

I read mostly fantasy in February — 4 out of the 6 books were fantasy or fantasy romance. I am still wrapping up my Throne of Glass buddy read, A Court of Silver Flames came out on Feb. 16 (which I will review in a separate post), and I was in a buddy read for From Blood and Ash. Overall, I am pleased with my book stack in February and look forward to reading more great books in March.

Here’s the breakdown and some quick reviews:

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)

This series continues to captivate and amaze me. I found this one to be super action-packed and intriguing. I really loved all of the characters and enjoyed following their stories. Lysandra? Favorite. Dorian? Another favorite. Also … this cover is stunning. I plan to do a full series review when I am done in April and I will gush about why I love Throne of Glass so much.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)

Ehhhh … well … this book proved that I might not love ALL fantasy books. First, I’d like to say that the concept behind this story is super complex and captivating, but the execution of the story and worldbuilding were lackluster. The dialogue was very watered down and cheesy (lots of eye rolling), and I just couldn’t get into the romance. I found Hunt to be super predatory and icky. I wish I loved this book, and I know that so many of my pals loved it, but it didn’t do it for me. I’m sorry, fantasy friends. Will I cave in and read the rest of the series because I need to know what happens anyway? Probably.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1)

More fantasy? You bet. Badass heroine? Yep. Sign me up. I flew through this first book and really enjoy Bardugo’s Grishaverse. She really knows how to keep her audience captivated, and this fantasy series is so different from other fantastic texts that I’ve read. I love the Russian elements and I really am digging Alina. And, hello, Darkling (hate your name but I enjoy you). Oh … hi, Mal. Leave.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

I received an advanced listeners copy (ALC) from Libro.fm and I am telling you all RUN don’t walk to get this one. This work of nonfiction was curated by Kendi and Blain and features a collective group of scholars, writers, historians, journalists, lawyers, poets and activists who share the history of African America. It’s poignant and powerful and everyone should read it. I bought a physical copy just so I can revisit certain parts and share this book with friends and family.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

This book follows the story of Nesta and Cassian and let me tell you … it gets STEAMY. I don’t even know if “steamy” covers it. Tons of blushing and clutching my pearls. I am going to post a longer review, but I will tell you what I liked: Nesta’s journey to self-love, the power of sisterhood and the bond of strong women, and the discussions of trauma. What I didn’t like? Not enough fantasy. This book was super focused on their romance and Nesta’s healing. It was a wild experience … and that final Az chapter? I have some thoughts! If you want to read this, please contact me for trigger warnings. While every SJM book focuses on trauma in some ways, this one felt a little different.

Coffee Self-Talk: 5 Minutes a Day to Start Living Your Magical Life by Kristen Helmstetter

Coffee Self-Talk: 5 Minutes a Day to Start Living Your Magical Life

I received an advanced readers copy (ARC) from NetGalley and found myself underwhelmed after reading this book. Honestly, I loved the cover … how cute is this cover!? BUT, I skimmed through a lot of it because, again, I’m finding newer self-help books are regurgitating what I’ve read before. I thought some parts were cheeky and cute, but overall, I did not get anything new out of this book.

If you want to read any of these books and are interested in learning content warnings, please email me at kass.readsbooks@gmail.com or find me on Instagram: @keepitkassual.