Roar by Cora Carmack

Wow! Just Wow. Roar by Cora Cormack was everything I wanted from a YA fantasy and more!

29939048.jpgIn a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

I’ve read Cora’s New Adult work and loved it, but I feel like she’s hit it out of the park with Roar. As always, her characters are so well-developed and push the story forward, but the real star of this novel was the magic system…or should I say storm system. The idea of storm hunters and “taking” the heart of the storm as a form of magic hit every one of my little girl fantasies. (Full disclosure: I wanted to be a tornado chaser since I was in 1st grade and wrote my first report on tornadoes.) The storm chasing scenes were exciting and the tension between Roar and Locke only raised the stakes further as Roar attempts to learn how to “capture” magic from the storm.

I loved the relationship between Roar and Locke. It was so well-built and I rooted for them. What made the tension between them so delicious was the forbidden nature of their relationship and the secrets between them. Roar’s motivations were so pure and believable and Locke was such a good guy. Gah! I love those two! #Rocke4eva!

On the flip side, the drama going on back home in Pavan held my attention as the political plot of Aurora’s betrothed comes to light and her friend/servant holds the truth to Roar’s whereabouts. There was so much more to this novel than meets the eye. I even particularly liked the way the author switched point of view while in third person.

I can’t wait until book two because Cora has built a mesmerizing storm of a novel and I can’t wait for all hell to rain down after that ending. If you like YA fantasy, Roar is the book for you. It was exciting, romantic and completely enthralling.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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The Keeper of Crows by Casey Bond

I had the pleasure of meeting Casey Bond at Utopiacon. She spoke on a panel, and I was so impressed I wanted to read her books. The Keeper of the Crows was a unique, imaginative story. I enjoyed it, but there was something missing for me.

34644925.jpgCarmen Kennedy is a spoiled brat from Beverly Hills with a chip on her shoulder and a cocaine addiction to match. Using drugs to suppress reality, her life is more than she can stomach most days. All she wants is to disappear, and on one fateful night, her wish is granted.

There is a world that exists just beyond the fabric of our own. When Carmen is dragged there against her will, her hopelessness seems to disappear, replaced by a determination to survive. The Keeper of Crows is charged with guarding Carmen, but is safety a possibility in a world so desolate? Can love blossom when danger lies in wait? Together, they fight like hell, seeming to lose more ground than they gain with each battle against the dark enemy threatening to tear them apart. Can love keep her safe? Can it give her the strength she needs?

When the lines between life and death, reality and dream become blurred, who will save the souls trapped in the spaces between Heaven and Hell? Who will save Carmen’s only love, The Keeper of Crows?

I was drawn in with the very first line. From the moment Carmen calls her father the Antichrist for sending her to rehab, I was sold. She was a take-no-sh#t, abrasive protagonist. She was bad news and she knew it. Her character arc throughout the novel is what kept me reading. I liked her snarky attitude and I enjoyed watching her change and mature as she worked to overcome obstacles. She was a take charge kind of gal.

The story line and world-building was different from anything I had read before. It reminded me a bit of Angelfall by Susan Ee. I enjoyed the mind-reading banter and the crows. The biblical history with the veil was a nice touch. It was historical without being preachy. I enjoyed the author’s interpretation of heaven, hell and purgatory.

The one piece that was missing for me was the slow burn. The romantic relationship between Carmen and the Keeper moved a bit too quickly for my taste. I could tell the author was attempting to slowly build their relationship – the enemies-to-lovers feel – but it felt too much like insta-love. I’m not sure what it was but it felt rushed. Maybe it was the pacing? If the pacing didn’t feel so forced, I feel like the sacrifices they made for each other would have meant more. In addition, I didn’t really feel anything. I was a detached, third-party observer. I felt more for Gabriel than the keeper.

The story ends with an ominous feel and I want to see what happens next, but I’m not burning to get my hands on book two. Overall, I liked it but I would have liked to have seen more depth in the character development and relationships.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Tower of Dawn by SJM Book Tour Event

Last Tuesday, I hoofed it up to Nashville on a weeknight to see my favorite author – Sarah J. Maas – for the release of Tower of Dawn, the sixth Throne of Glass novel and parallel narrative to Empire of Storms. As much as I was ready for another book from SJM, I was really there to get the deets on the ACOTAR spin-off, and luckily my question was one of the few answered at the event where hundreds of fangirls sat in a private school auditorium hanging on SJM’s every word.

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After a standing ovation once SJM was introduced, I scribbled notes furiously so I could document all the goods as a special gift to you, dear readers. Here’s what I know:

Tower of Dawn

  • Tower of Dawn is one of SJM’s “top 3” books she’s ever written and it was an emotional journey (similar to writing Heir of Fire).
  • Yrene is one of her favorite characters to write and she’s been planning her reintroduction since the story The Assassin and the Healer for years.
  • She did a lot of research on those with a disability to make Chaol’s journey a realistic one.

ACOTAR Spin-Off

I practically squealed when I heard my non-question read (It literally said: I NEED details on the ACOTAR spin-off, pretty please.) and her answer did not disappoint.

  • In May, a novella told from Feyre and Rhysand’s perspective (**Fangirling**) will come out to bridge the gap from the original ACOTAR trilogy and the spin-off.
  • Here’s the synopsis:

Months after the explosive events in A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

  • The spin-off books will be about different pairings, and some of those characters may be ones we’ve already met (*cross-my-heart-hope-to-die for Azriel’s happy ever after*).
  • The first full-length spin-off book will come out in 2019.

Other revealing details.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence for writing strong, female characters that fall in and out of love, and reinforced that it’s “okay to grow out of a relationship.”
  • Someone asked a question about what a chapter narrated by the wyvern Abraxos would be like, and she basically described it as a chill chapter where nothing bad happens and Abraxos smells flowers and follows a bee around. LOL Sweet little Abraxos.
  • She described herself as an “indoor cat” and I feel her on a spiritual level.
  • Her best writing advice: When people tell you you can’t do it, use that anger to prove them wrong. Don’t listen to them. Getting published is a hard journey but it’s possible.
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My friend Brittney and I at the Tower of Dawn book event.

Overall, SJM is hilarious and I want to be her new bestie. She told some crazy stories from high school and how the haters fueled her drive to write. I also realized that I’ve been saying Manon wrong this. Whole. Time. It’s Ma-NAWN. I’ve been saying it like MAN-EN. *facepalm* I guess I’ll never pronounce any of this right.

I wasn’t one of the lucky few that got to “meet” SJM to get the book personalized and take a picture, but I was just glad to get my signed copy and hear her speak. Also, shout out to Parnassus Books in Nashville that puts on these awesome author events!

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

When I first heard that Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh was a Mulan retelling set in feudal Japan, I immediately put it on my TBR list. This story started off strong but left me wanting by the end.

23308087.jpgThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I am a huge fan of the girl-dressed-as-a-boy trope. There’s something about a girl proving herself an equal amongst men without the baggage that comes with gender expectations. Mariko, as a boy, was my favorite part of the novel. She was a great heroine. She was brave, clever and had a mind for science, which led to the creation of deadly inventions. She wasn’t the typical badass fighter heroine. She knew physical strength was her weakness so she put her mind to work.

There was a significant amount of female empowerment in this novel, which I liked but it came on a little too strong at times.

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

“She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion.
She was not a half. She was wholly her own.”

I was feeling this novel until Mariko was revealed as a female. Each time someone new discovered her secret, I felt the reader was robbed of the character’s real reaction. They were too accepting, too quickly. I was also blind-sided with the main love interest. I was watching a certain someone and then BAM! She’s suddenly kissing another guy. It was the strangest kind of whiplash, where I had to take a moment to change my allegiances before continuing to read.

I wish this book was a standalone because I wanted the relief of a resolution sooner. The ending packed in too many unanswered questions and unresolved plot threads. Since it’s the first in a series, they’ll be more to come to resolve these things, but I would have been more satisfied with a neater ending.

Overall, I really liked this book. I was hanging on every word until the end. I’ll be reading the second book to see what happens next.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

As I’ve stated recently, I went on a bit of an unintended hiatus last month, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. I missed last month’s recap, so this will be a recap for July and August.

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Book of the Month*

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The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews – 5 stars

I’m still thinking about this series so I’m picking this series as my book of the month.

*based on books reviewed this month

July/August Reviews (Total-9)

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 76 out of 100 books. (Read 22 books the past two months.)

Currently Reading

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Next on my TBR

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What I’m Watching

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I’m a proud member of #Bachelornation, so I was pumped for Bachelor in Paradise. But I’m not going to lie, this season is a bit of a let down so far.

What I’m writing

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I recently participated in #cpmatch on Twitter to try and match up with fellow writers in an effort to find a critique partner. It was hella nerve-wracking to put myself out there, but I’ve met some really cool people and I’m optimistic about how I can improve my writing while helping someone else.

What else…

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In September, I’m going to the Tower of Dawn book tour in Nashville to meet Sarah J. Maas! (*cue hyperventilating*) She’s my all-time favorite author so I’m sure there will be plenty of fangirling and trying not to bow in her presence while falling to emotional pieces at her feet.

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Also, in the next week, my home library will have custom shelves installed. This is a HUGE deal for me. I’ve been waiting to have the library of my dreams since I can remember and it’s finally here! Keep an eye out for a before and after library post in the near future.

Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker

Until If Fades by K.A. Tucker was a delightful surprise. It wasn’t what I expected at all.

31208654Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania: population two thousand outside of tourist season.

And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed attempt at a relationship, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has saved: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.

Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works.

For a time.

But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. What begins as an immediate friendship quickly turns into something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something that Catherine is afraid to trust.

Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine…before the spark fades?

I am a sucker for a hockey sports new adult romance. I eat those suckers up like candy. I mean, Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy, Toni Aleo…I can go on and on. There’s just something about hunky hockey guys and the girls who love them that’s the perfect formula for nighttime entertainment. So, I was super excited to hear that Tucker had written one. However, it’s not what I expected.

Tucker’s take on a New Adult Hockey romance is slower, more realistic in that she spends more time in the details than the typical formula. In fact, I was surprised how much of the book was the “before” they sparked a romance. There was a lot of background and character building. Even though it was about more of the mundane things in life, I never got bored or felt the pace slowed. I could have read about Catherine’s mundane life all day.

Even though this book is the typical trope-y Cinderella story, where poor girl meets handsome rich guy who solves all her problems with his wealth, the story had eccentric qualities that didn’t match the formula I was talking about earlier. For example, it didn’t have the pivotal “I love you” scene nor the expected sex scenes. This book was definitely more sweet and wholesome than the typical New Adult novel. It had unexpected depth that kept me reading late into the night.

Despite the unexpectedness, I didn’t miss anything that I expected to be present in the story. It left a big ole smile on my face and it’s a must read to anyone who’s a sucker for the classic boy meets girl, boy saves girl story.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Priceless by Shannon Mayer

Priceless by Shannon Mayer was a great start to a promising urban fantasy series.

18048164“My name is Rylee and I am a Tracker.” 

When children go missing, and the Humans have no leads, I’m the one they call. I am their last hope in bringing home the lost ones. I salvage what they cannot.

I’m on the FBI’s wanted list.

I have a werewolf for a pet, a Witch of a best friend, and have no need for anyone else in my life.

But when a salvage starts to spin out of control, help comes from a most unexpected direction. One that is dangerously dark, brooding, and doesn’t know a thing about the supernatural.

One whose kisses set me on fire.

I met Shannon Mayer at Utopiacon 2017 and she was so nice and encouraging. I listened to a reading and I knew I needed to read her stuff and I’m so glad I did.

Urban fantasy has a special place in my heart because it was my “gateway” drug from horror to fantasy fiction. There is just something about a badass heroine fighting crime or bad guys with kickass weapons and dangerous friends.

Priceless had everything you need for the perfect UF formula, but it had unique twists. I particularly enjoyed Mayer’s take on werewolves, where they are less hot alpha males and more man’s best friend. The main character, Rylee, was cool with awesome tracker skills. I loved that she was a bleeding heart, protecting her werewolf friend and working to find missing kids.

The most delightful surprise of Priceless was the blossoming relationship between Rylee and FBI agent O’shea. The tension between them was like electricity popping off the page. I’m a sucker for the forbidden relationship trope. Their relationship was built at a natural, believable pace and didn’t go all the way in one book. There is still plenty of growth and I’m glad that there is more room for the relationship to mature in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. If you like Patricia Briggs or Kim Harrison, give Shannon Mayer a try. I’m definitely going to continue the series.

STARS: 4 out of 5