Kingdom of Ash

Kingdom of Ash, the final book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, was my most-anticipated book to read for 2019. In a nutshell, this fantasy series follows a female assassin out to save the world from an ancient evil creature who is building an army of vile creatures. There are also fae warriors, pirates, witches, wyverns, talking spiders, and shapeshifters, plus drama, romance, and plenty of epic battles. The previous six books, plus novellas, means that I had already devoted close to 4,000 pages to the series, and I was eager to see how SJM would pull everything together, defeat evil, and give us a satisfactory ending. While almost 1,000 pages on its own, Kingdom of Ash is a dense read – but absolutely worth it. I was first introduced to Maas when I read her A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I adored the series, so at first, I was hesitant to fall for Throne of Glass. How dare she write another fantastic series?! However, as I read novel after novel, there was no denying that I was hooked. I’m definitely a SJM fan.

Goodreads Blurb:

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

I’m so sad to see this series end because I really and truly enjoyed it. From start to finish, I was immersed in Sarah J. Maas’s world. I loved getting to know the characters, hearing about their struggles, and watching them grow into incredible heroes. The series may have started with our young Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol, but it grew into something bigger and better than I could have imagined.

Kingdom of Ash begins right where Empire of Storms left off. **Slight spoilers ahead if you haven’t read Empire of Storms** Aelin is being held captive in an iron box by Queen Maeve – tortured physically by Cairn and mentally by Maeve’s power of illusion. Rowan searches for her frantically, along with Elide, Lorcan, and Gavriel. Meanwhile, Aedion leads an army to fight against Morath. He’s joined by Ansel of Briarcliff, Prince Galan, Ilias of the Silent Assassins, Rowan’s fae cousins, and the Bane, among others. Lysandra uses her shapeshifting abilities to become Aelin as needed, but her lack of flame is quickly noted. Picking up from Tower of Dawn, Chaol and Yrene make their way to the continent along with Nesryn, Sartaq, and a host of well-trained soldiers from the southern continent. But before they can get to Terrasen, they decide to take on a faction of Morath’s army in Anielle – Chaol’s father’s city. Far from the fighting, Dorian and Manon hold the two wyrdkeys and search for the third. When their search proves fruitless, Manon changes course and works on rallying the crochan witches. Dorian continues to gain even more control of his magic and learns some incredible skills. He ultimately makes the decision to leave Manon and go in search of the last wyrdkey in the most dangerous place of all: Morath, where Erawan will surely be keeping watch over it. Outnumbered by the thousands, and with Erawan and Maeve as powerful enemies, does Terrasen stand a chance? Our characters are all in danger: who will survive?

The characters are fighting to keep their world safe from evil, and I felt like I was right there with them. I was invested in the characters and the outcome. Even though at points the book was slow and I wanted more to happen, it was balanced by moments of great intensity. Looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted to cut any of it out, even though I barely managed to finish the book before my 21 day loan was up. In fact, sometimes I felt like scenes weren’t long enough or that I didn’t get enough dialogue from certain characters (like Manon. She’s awesome). One of my favorite things about this book was how all of the pieces fit together. I love how characters pop up just when they’re most needed. I love how everyone is so on board to build a better world – humans, fae, witches, pirates – everyone works together. The ending becomes all about #girlpower, which felt a little bit forced, but I’m okay with because I’m a ‘90s girl! There are a lot of chapters at the end to wrap everything up. This is one book where all the loose ends are taken care of. It’s pretty clear where everyone and everything stands at the end. I adored the journey that Aelin and Maas took us on, and I don’t know what I’m going to read in the fantasy realm now that I’ve read all of the Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses books! 5 stars and beyond. One of my most favorite series to read, ever.

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Faraway Lands

As I sit in the Houston airport during a loooong layover, I’m reminiscing about all the cool places I traveled to in books this year.

  • An assassin’s keep in a dessert oasis in Sarah J. Maas’s collection of novellas, The Assassin’s Blade. Maas knows how to write books that suck you in and transport you to a new, fantastical place. Her world building is so well done. The Throne of Glass series is incredible. In this story, I could almost feel the heat and sand as Celaena trains in the dessert.
  • An almost-utopian island called Antica in The Tower of Dawn. Also a part of Maas’s Throne of Glass series, TOD sends a few characters away for healing by the famed healers of the Torre Cesme and for answers and military backing. While some fans felt this book was a distraction from the main story (trying to make money off another book?), I felt it was a refreshing break, offering up another opportunity for Maas to shine at world building and society building. Unlike what’s happening on the northern continent, the people of Antica are safe and cared for by a royal family that fiercely protects their own.
  • Fennbirn Island in Kendare Blake’s Two Dark Reigns. The island is retaliating against the botched ascension by sending out a deadly mist that no one understands. So technically, this is a dangerous place, but it’s so intriguing and magical that I can’t help loving this dark, twisty series.
  • A colony on the moon in Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel, Artemis. There’s nothing cooler than imagining what it would be like to live on the moon. That’s not just me, right? Weir makes the multiple-domed colony sound so plausible thanks to his science-heavy descriptions and explanations. How do you build humongous buildings on the moon? You extract the supplies right from the moon itself and smelt the building materials. Genius! Between the science, there’s also a decent adventure, heist, survival story going on, too.

Traveling by book is my favorite kind of travel. All the thrills without the hassles of airports!

Where have books taken you this year?

A Thanksgiving for the Books

Since my husband, daughter, and I are flying to Mexico very early tomorrow morning, we weren’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family members who live hours away.

So instead, I decided it would be fun to imagine a Thanksgiving table filled with some of my favorite authors. Here are my self-imposed rules. Feel free to play along and post your guest list in the comments.

1. Guests have to currently be alive. It has to have some sense that this could maybe possibly happen!

2. My dining table can hold 8 people. Minus my “1-2-3 family” (as my daughter likes to call us), that leaves room for 5 guests.

3. Guests have to be authors, but they could have written many books or just one.

My Lit Thanksgiving Guest List:

  • Sarah J. Maas: I have read nine or ten of her books and I adored them all. I want to hear her talk about the characters. I would also love for her to bring along a copy of Kingdom of Ash because I haven’t read it yet and I’m dying to find out what happens.
  • Victoria Aveyard: I know from hearing her speak at the War Storm tour that Victoria is smart and interesting to listen to.
  • Jenny Han: Her books are adorable, so she must be too, right? Maybe she’s also a baker like her character Lara Jean? She can bring dessert!
  • Steve Berry: His books are full of history and conspiracy theories, so I think he’d be a good guest. Plus, my husband would probably appreciate having another guy at the table!

Ok, next, I wanted to pick queen J.K. Rowling because who doesn’t love Harry Potter?! And it’d be lovely to have someone at the table with a British accent, but really? Getting her to my house seems unrealistic- even for this made up scenario!

  • Laurie Halse Anderson: Laurie’s book Speak has been on my mind a lot lately because of its relevance. I recently read the graphic novel version and loved it. She’s also just released a very personal book of poetry. I think she sounds like she has a lot to say, and she really gets YA.

There you have it! I hope you’ll share your guest list with me. Happy Thanksgiving!

(P.S. I’ve been busy packing for our trip all day today, so this post is seriously lacking in images. Please picture a cleverly photoshopped image with all the authors sitting at a dining room table! Thanks!)

5 Star Reads of 2017

This year, I was blown away by the second and third books in multiple trilogies. In the past, it had felt like no other book in a series could top the first book – and the third book? Might as well just pretend it never existed (I’m looking at you, Allegiant). But authors Sarah J. Maas, Victoria Aveyard, and Leigh Bardugo have made me hopeful that trilogies and series are alive and well. Sarah J. Maas tops my list as the author of five of my most favorite books of the year. Stand alone books didn’t disappoint either. Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a must-read for anyone looking for a politically and emotionally savvy #metoo read. I’ve been anxiously awaiting for another book from my Graceling-universe-author Kristin Cashore, and while Jane, Unlimited was worlds away from Graceling, I was still hooked on every page. I’m looking forward to whatever else she decides to write. Another interesting thing about this list? Women authors dominate, with the only male writer being Scott Westerfeld for Afterworlds. Way to go, ladies!

Without further ado, here are my five star reads of 2017, in no particular order:   

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  2. A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
  4. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
  5. King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) by Victoria Aveyard
  6. Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo
  7. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
  8. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

But I read so many GREAT books this year, and eight books just doesn’t do my reading list justice. So here are a few four star books that were an absolute pleasure to read.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
  • Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1) by Leigh Bardugo
  • Siege and Storm (The Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
  • The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Ahdieh
  • Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  • A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis
  • Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  • Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

What were your favorite reads of the year?

Find my top books of 2016 here and 2015 here.

A Court of Mist and Footwear

My love for books is almost matched by my love of shoes! Here are two designs I came up with for The Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The blue wedge is a more literal interpretation of the book’s cover, while the boot is something I imagine Feyre might have needed as she went off on awesome adventures. I hope to share more about Maas in future posts. I’ve read five of her books so far, and I don’t think I’ll be stopping yet.

If you’re interested in checking out more of my shoe art, type “shoes” in the search bar at the top right of this page, or follow “shoes” in the Tag Cloud at the bottom right of this page.