House of Sky and Breath Review

House of Sky and Breath

Author: Sarah J. Mass

Pages: 805

Published: February 15, 2022

Genre: fantasy, romance, young adult


This sequel to the House of Blood and Earth continues to follow Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar as they struggle to lie low in the bustling city of Crescent City. In their world, there are four main classes: humans, Vanir (mythical creatures like Fae or werewolves), Vanir leaders, and the Asteri. The Asteri are the all-powerful leaders of all living beings, fated to have been created from fallen stars. After saving the city from thousands of demons, and killing the Archangel that summoned them, the Asteri have ordered Bryce and Hunt to keep a low profile. But of course, acting normal has never been easy for the legendary Umbra Mortis and the Starborn Fae Princess, especially when a powerful rebel loses her life for her brother and every creature wishes to get their claws on this teenage boy rumored to have powers outranking his sister. The whole gang; two Fae princes, one Fae princess, an infamous angel, a merman, and a werewolf assemble to find this boy and discover the information that got his sister killed.

Bryce Quinlan


This book was as fast-paced as the first in the series. Though it is 800 pages, each one is filled with adventure. As with most Sarah J. Mass books, this book contains more twists and turns than a Hogwart’s staircase. We finally get to see Bryce and Hunt’s love blossom after every thwarted attempt in the first book. I love Bryce’s quick wit and confident personality. This book is also told from each main character’s point of view so readers are finally able to see what goes through the Umbra Motis’s mind. I love this book, it was just as good as the first and it leaves me hungry for the next in the series.

-Gia S.

House of Sky and Breath is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Timeless Qualities The Odyssey Holds

Taking Inspiration from Past Works

Cover image for The Odyssey / Homer ; translated by Robert Fagles ; introduction and notes by Bernard Knox.

Leaders of the world today face many types of challenges, such as the ability to resist temptations, and should take inspiration from past qualities of leaders displayed in literature. In The Odyssey, an epic poem by Homer, Odysseus faces obstacles that test his leadership skills on his journey home to Ithaca following the Trojan War. Odysseus develops as a leader by encountering anxiety-filled challenges that exhibit his leadership skills of self-restraint and knowledge of life lessons, many of which can still be applied to readers’ lives today.

Throughout Odysseus’ journey, he faces a variety of different experiences that develop him as a leader. The lessons he learns while at sea will ultimately aid him in killing the suitors and taking control of his home in Ithaca. These lessons act as inspiration for readers’ everyday lives. An important lesson readers take away when reading The Odyssey is that “the gods don’t hand out all their gifts at once, not build and brains and flowing speech to all” (8:193). Odysseus acknowledges this concept when speaking to Broadsea after being accused of not having “skill in any” sports (8:168). Even though Odysseus’ disk ends up flying “away past all the other marks,” (8:223) he reminds readers that nobody is perfect and everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. In addition to this aspect, readers also learn that some things are unavoidable, no matter how many hardships they have faced. The main takeaway from these obstacles is to learn from past experiences and apply them to real-life situations. For example, at the beginning of the epic poem, readers learn the outcome of Odysseus’ journey. Even though he fought hard and long to return home to the people of Ithaca, “the recklessness of their own ways destroyed them all” (1:4-9). Odysseus did all he could to return home and save Ithaca, but the people were already doomed from the start, and he could do nothing to help them. As demonstrated, Odysseus develops as a leader by experiencing a variety of difficult situations while embarking on the hero’s journey.  These timeless lessons Odysseus faces apply to social, emotional, and physical problems one might meet today, keeping the continued appeal.

One of Odysseus’ most essential leadership traits is self-restraint, which acted in times of crisis. When talking to Circe about the journey home to Ithaca, Odysseus learns of the Sirens, the “creatures who spellbind any man alive, whoever comes their way” (12:44-47). The Sirens are temptresses, and despite being warned of the deadly consequences, they can still be hard to resist. Even though readers do not necessarily face the same challenges Odysseus did, humans constantly face temptations and have to display self-restraint to resist those and complete the task at hand. Another act of self-restraint demonstrated by Odysseus is when he feels the urge to kill all the suitors at once for being disloyal to Penelope and sleeping with the maids. However, Odysseus resists the urge when “he struck his chest and curbed his fighting heart” (20:20). Seeing Odysseus face and overcome these barriers in his journey inspires readers to face their challenges head-on with self-restraint.

Odysseus and his crew face many challenges beyond their control while voyaging home. He uses his intelligence and leadership to guide his men through tough times and his quality of self-resistance comes in handy when being thrust into temptations. Readers take away powerful lessons and leadership traits that can be applied to certain situations that might be uncomfortable. Although The Odyssey is one of the oldest works of Western literature, it keeps its continued appeal based on timeless qualities, like self-restraint, as it is something all humans strive for.

-Abby V.

The Odyssey by Homer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Magic Systems and How to Write Them

A Guide to Writing Magic Systems | The Fantasy Hive

Writing a fantasy novel is amazing because the possibilities are endless. However, sometimes it’s difficult to get your creative ideas on paper in a way which makes sense. This will go over a few common fantasy themes and give some ideas on how to approach descriptions.

Perhaps the most standout theme in fantasy novels is magic, but this can also be the hardest to explain. First, plan out some ideas of what magic your world will have. Will the magic be elemental, illusions, mind-control, telekinesis, or manifestations? The next thing to consider is how the magic system works. Are there wands involved? Perhaps the character can shoot out the magic through their hands, or maybe, the magic is contained within the character. Furthermore, will every person be able to use magic? Is magic something that can be learned, or is it genetic? Or maybe magic is only reserved for royalty. Adding rules and boundaries to magic will help make the novel more believable.

Once you have created your magic system, the second most important part is putting it into words. A common trope in fantasy novels is that magic is channeled, almost like working out. Characters will get fatigued, especially if the magic is particularly strong. This is a relatively easy way to write magic and can lead up to very suspenseful moments, like if a character is stuck in a dangerous situation and has to strain themselves to create one powerful spell. 

Another way to write magic is if it is channeled through an object. This could be a wand, crystals, tarot cards or any other object. In this case, you will want to spend some more time describing said object. One example could be if the object heats up or breaks under lots of stress or use. You could also use a combination of the two ideas. An example would be if a character can use magic without the object, but the potency of the spell is increased with it. 

Finally, here are some possible descriptions you can use in your fantasy novel. A boy is filled with rage. He feels as though flames are dancing under his skin, begging to be released. He complies, expelling the liquid flames outwards in a beam. A girl, standing a few feet away from said boy, throws her wand up in response. She clenches her eyes shut as she is hit with a blast of scorching air. But then, as suddenly as it appeared, the heat dissipated. A low hum was now audible in the air around her. She opens her eyes and notices a shimmering blue shield at the end of her wand. 

-Michelle L.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

I recently finished The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood and fell in love. This book brought me out of a reading slump. The story follows Olive who is a Ph.D student. She is trying to convince her best friend that she is over a previous fling. Olive convinces this friend (Ahn) that she is on a date, when in reality she is just working in the lab. When Ahn shows up unexpectedly, Olive kisses the first person she can find in the dark. It happens to be a known professor on campus: Adam.

From there the story takes off and follows Olive and Adam as they begin a fake relationship in order to convince Ahn that Olive is moved on, and Adam’s bosses that he is not a flight risk in order to get funding for his next project. While on this journey, the two begin to bond and grow closer and closer together.

Of course, the journey is not without bumps, as with every romance story, but Hazelwood keeps the readers hooked with a mix of fluff and real world problems as Olive navigates the science world. She is able to explain science to readers simply so that they feel as though they are a Ph.D student with Olive while also focusing on her growing love with Adam.

I would give this book a 5/5. Any book that can take an avid reader out of a slump deserves such a high rating. This book does have a reading age of 14 or above with some content that might not be as acceptable for younger readers. The book is good for anyone who loves a romance, fake dating trope, or even just science. I highly recommend this book!

-Danielle B.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Libby.

Something Dark and Holy Trilogy: Character Analysis Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 1):  9781250195661: Duncan, Emily A.: Books


The book series, Something Dark and Holy (shortened to SD+H), is a dark fantasy trilogy written by Emily A. Duncan. The whole series revolves around a cleric by the name Nadya Lapteva. Her character is particularly interesting in the way she grows over the course of the series. Here’s some quick background information first. The series takes place in medieval Eastern Europe and follows Slavic mythology. Her country, Kalyazi, has been at war with Tranavia for centuries. The main difference between the two is that Kalyazi has clerics, individuals who can communicate directly with gods, while the Tranavians do not follow the gods and use blood magic. Nadya finds herself as the last remaining Cleric and last remaining hope to end the war. Fair warning, this will contain spoilers.

Wicked Saints: Ruthless Gods: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 2):  9781250195692: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the first book Nadya is a very timid girl. As the last cleric, she has been constantly protected and on the move. This, of course, leads to problems. In the first half of the book, she is separated from her countrymen and meets Malachiasz. He is a Tranavian who claims he was exiled from his country. Nadya sees him as a lost boy, pities him, and eventually agrees to travel with him. Malachiasz uses this story in order to gain her trust and lead her into the capital of Tranavia. Throughout this part of the novel, Nadya’s gods try to communicate with her and warn her. However, she ignores them. 

Around the middle of the novel, Malachiasz begins to show his true colors. However, Nadya is still too naïve and blindly in love with him. Nadya’s character continues down this path until the final chapter of the novel. In the last half of the book, Malachiasz admits he was never exiled. He only brought Nadya to Tranavia because she contained the power to turn him into a god. Nadya is absolutely torn and heartbroken with this betrayal. She not only lost the only boy she ever loved, but now her gods won’t even speak to her.

Ruthless Gods and Blessed Monsters Blessed Monsters: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy, 3):  9781250195722: Duncan, Emily A.: Books

In the beginning of the second novel, it is revealed that Nadya has fallen into a deep depression. She was in solitude for nearly a year before she decided to try and track down Malachiasz; he now has the power of a god and was terrorizing her home country. Her depression disappears when she finally finds him and tries to work out problems. This is where Nadya’s character truly emerges. She gains strength, bravery and grows in power. She becomes her own character as she makes the discovery that her magic doesn’t come from her gods, but rather herself. By the end of the series her character is nearly unrecognizable from the first novel.

I highly recommend this series if you like a strong female protagonist and lots of character development. 

-Michelle L.

Wax by Gina Damico

This was an interesting read. Not one of my favorites. It had a good concept and plot but I got very confused while reading it. I was also confused on the bad guy in the story, the back story was a bit confusing to follow and it would jump from one scene to the next without a nice flow. However, I may be partially biased because I didn’t like the personalities of Dud. I just thought it was a bit ridiculous. But to give this book the benefit of the doubt, I need to read it when I’m more in the mood for a teen thriller.

I haven’t read anything else by this author so maybe I just didn’t like this book and some of her other works would be more my taste. I plan to reread this book in a year or two and hopefully my perspective has changed by then to something more open-minded than this review. Overall, I would only recommend this book to someone who is okay with crazy twists that don’t entirely follow the story or feel that they contradict the backstory already. Hopefully this isn’t too harsh, just an opinion on a book I read a while ago.

-Coralie D.

Wax by Gina Damico is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Drawing inspiration from classic Faerie lore, A Court of Thorns and Roses is an encapturing retelling of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Feyre, a 19-year-old huntress, whose only goal is to provide for her family. However, everything gets turned upside-down when her cottage door gets ripped down by none other than one of the High Fae themselves, demanding retribution for the wolf she killed in the woods.

Swept into a world of magic that she’d only known in myths, Feyre must navigate the world of the Fae with caution all while keeping her hunting instincts alert- there are secrets that the Fae are keeping from her, and a blight that creeps towards her homeland – will she find out what lurks beneath the rose gardens and golden chalices, or succumb to the beauty of the magic around her? A Court of Thorns and Roses eBook : Maas, Sarah J.: Kindle Store

Honestly, my hopes for this book weren’t very high, but I was pleasantly surprised! While it definitely isn’t a complete 5/5 stars in my book, I loved reading it and it had me turning pages well into the night. As Beauty and the Beast retellings go, I loved being able to connect those parallels but also see what the author changed or mixed with Fae lore to make it her own. There’s a very colorful cast of characters and strong worldbuilding, which I especially appreciated.

Another thing I liked was that while the romance between Feyre and her love interest was a main point that drove the plot forward, espeicially towards the end, it didn’t seem to overpower the other aspects of the book, which was refreshing. That’s not to say the romance was bad, though; it was well-paced and filled with heartfelt moments.

Overall, I would say that this book is definetly worth the read! It’s also a series, so if you’re like me and tend to speed through books pretty quickly (and have a small obsession with romantic fantasies) this will be perfect for you!

-Luxy B.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

The Answers: A Novel by Catherine Lacey

The Answers: A Novel: Lacey, Catherine: 9780374100261: Books

The Answers, a novel by Catherine Lacey, is a profound memoir of an ordinary/not-so-ordinary young woman’s forays into an ordinary/not-so-ordinary love.

Mary has been in pain her whole life- the result of an undiagnosed illness that has left her with crippling symptoms and a massive medical-bill debt. When she discovers a shady, New-Age alternative therapy called PAK-ing, that gives her the only relief from her sickness that she’s ever had, she’s determined to find any way she can to pay for it.

Which is where things get strange.

Mary finds a job listing that’s offered to pay her everything she needs and more- with a few caveats. The position involves being one of the many girlfriends of reclusive actor Kurt Sky, who is running an experiment to find what qualities actually lead to lasting romantic connections- in other words, to find what creates love. Each ‘girlfriend’ is given complicated directives in order to complete the experiment. However, the position may not be as innocent as it seems- Mary finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into something she’s not sure she understands.

I was completely hooked by this book. Once I picked it up, I just couldn’t put it down until I had finished it. It’s definitely a very liminal, intellectual novel- but if you’re a fan of those, like me, you’ll really love this book. What I enjoyed most was Lacey’s ease and mastery at writing morally-grey characters. Every person in this book is one- but Lacey so closely and excellently interweaves it with the real human experience that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a book, but that you’re in a hazy dream- watching this unfold in front of you. The novel is chock-full of nearly infinite new perspectives- a great read I’d recommend to anyone!

This novel contains some descriptions of sexual violence that may not be suitable for all audiences.

-Vaidehi B.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois

The Twenty-One Balloons is a Newbery Award-winning novel by William Pène du Bois.  A professor named William Waterman Sherman has been found floating in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  At the time of his rescue, he is surrounded by the wreckage of twenty deflated balloons.  He had departed three weeks earlier from his home in San Francisco, using a giant gas balloon to fly over the Pacific Ocean.  Somehow, he ended up in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by twenty balloons.  When he finally arrives home, the people are anxious to learn what had happened to him.  They could not imagine how he could have circled the globe in only three weeks, and why he ended up with twenty balloons rather than the one balloon with which he began his journey.  So, the professor gives a speech to recount his amazing adventure. 

Professor Sherman explains that he had wanted to get away from the world, just so that he could relax for a time.  He decided to drift on a balloon over the Pacific Ocean.  Unfortunately, he crashed on the volcanic island of Krakatoa.  He was greeted there by a man in a white suit and bowler hat.  The man is part of a hidden community in the middle of the island.  As the professor was introduced to the community, he came to realize that this was a highly-sophisticated civilization.

I enjoyed reading about the inhabitants of Krakatoa, and about the professor’s adventures on the island and around the world.  His journey is interesting and exciting.  There were many whimsical and amusing elements to this story as well.  In a way this novel feels like a blend of truth and fiction.  The author seems to include some social commentary about the aristocrats living in Krakatoa, but for the most part this book is simply a playful children’s story.  It was a quick read but very enjoyable.  I can certainly see why this was awarded the Newbery Medal, and I would definitely recommend this book.

-Oliver H.

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang Dragon Hoops: 9781626720794: Yang, Gene Luen: Books

Dragon Hoops is a graphic novel that follows the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons’ journey to winning the state championship. A graphic novelist, Mr. Yang, is also along for the ride. After losing in the state championship game for multiple years, the Dragons are fed up and ready to make some noise! Their roster is looking stacked, with Paris Austin and Ivan Rabb leading the way as the star players. 

The Dragons experience defeats and victories along their path to the state championship game. There are ups and downs, but they get through those negative moments as a team. 

Gene Luen Yang, the author of Dragon Hoops, wrote about a true story from his time at Bishop O’Dowd High School. Ivan Rabb, Paris Austin, Alex Zhao, and other players are actually real people and not just made-up characters!

I recommend this book to any sports enthusiast. As I read this book, I really enjoyed getting a graphic novelist’s perspective on the team. Since the book was written as a graphic novel, it was easier and quicker to read. Dragon Hoops is a very entertaining book, and if you are someone who enjoys reading graphic novels, you will definitely like this book!

I would give this graphic novel a 10/10 rating because it had a plot to it. It wasn’t like some graphic novels which are just meant to make people laugh and read for fun, but it had a purpose. Dragon Hoops was written to show us the way a high school sports team operates but in a more interesting and entertaining way.

-Mert A.

Dragon Loops by Gene Luen Yang is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive.