Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted By Meagan Spooner hit me like a cupid’s arrow straight to the heart. I tried to resist, but ultimately, I fell in love with this story and it left a permanent mark.

24485589 (1)Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

This is the third book I’ve ever read from Meagan Spooner. The first book, Skylark,hated. The second book was These Broken Stars, which I loved, but it was written with another author so I wan’t sure how much of it I liked was Spooner. So when uppercase box (monthly YA book subscription) sent me Hunted, I groaned and set it on my shelf to collect dust. Plus, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses will be, forevermore, the best Beauty and the Beast retelling *cue inner Kanye* OF ALL TIME!

Now I may have spoken too soon, because unlike ACOTAR, Hunted is a closer retelling but with a unique, magical twist. And dare I say, I now love them both.

“Fire cannot hurt us. And yet, when we light her a lantern, there is a moment as we watch the wick flare in the darkness-a moment in which I want to touch the flame. Just to see if I can still be burned.”

Hunted was a beautiful story. The writing was excellent, the descriptions awe-inspiring and it was so heartbreakingly romantic. I loved the slow burn between Beauty and Beast. Typically I hate “verbatim” retellings, but I loved this one because the plot was very similar but the world building was outstanding. The magical forest, the believable secondary characters, and the coming of age confusion that makes YA so fun to read had me devouring this book quickly.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

The overall theme and message by the end caught me by surprise and made my heart soar. It was so beautiful and it truly struck me in the heart dead center. I think this book changed me somehow. Or at least changed my outlook. Gah! It’s just so freaking beautiful!

“There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.”

Hunted was romantic, magical and hauntingly mesmerizing. If you like YA fairytale retellings, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Devils Within by S.F. Henson

I didn’t know what to expect with Devils Within by S.F. Henson but it blew all my expectations out of the water.

31213050.jpgKilling isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is. It’s the after that’s hard to deal with. 

Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.

Enrolled in a new school under a false name, so no one from The Fort can find him, he struggles to forge a new life, trying to learn how to navigate a world where people of different races interact without enmity. But he can’t stop awful thoughts from popping into his head, or help the way he shivers with a desire to commit violence. He wants to be different—he just doesn’t know where to start.

Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.

Like a teen American History X, S.F. Henson’s Devils Within is gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at the plague of white supremacy in contemporary American culture that may have you examining your own soul.

I fell in love with Nate from the very first page. I loved being in his head and reading about his inner thought process. It was both fascinating and bizarre, familiar and foreign. Nate had such a strong voice and perspective.

This story takes on a very hot topic right now — racism. And not just normal racism (although I could argue that the author calls that out as well), but radical racism. The kind of racism where people carry tiki torches and participate in lynchings. It’s sad to say, but this story is so relevant today. I felt like Henson executed this story in such a great way because her protagonist was so believable. I felt his pain. I felt his confusion about what was right and wrong. I felt the way he fought through the brainwashing of his childhood. The fear. The desire for approval from a horrible parent. The desire to be normal, have friends. Gah, this story was just so good!

I usually require some kind of love story in the books I read, and even though there was a hint at a potential romance, I didn’t miss that element of the story at all. The way the story unravels with his unlikely friendship with Brandon and his difficult relationship with his guardian left me turning pages faster and faster.

All I can say is read it. There’s a reason it’s been named Book of the Year, and I wholeheartedly agree.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu was everything I hoped it would be but it got a little confusing at the end. Luckily, this is just book one, so I have time to figure it out.

29385546For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m not much of a gamer, but I know enough gamers and am aware of pop culture to truly enjoy Lu’s latest masterpiece. She created a colorful, dynamic world, where it felt like I was in a game. I’ve played some MarioKart in my day, and I even caught the “Leeeerooooy Jeeeenkiins!” shoutout.

Emika was the best kind of heroine. She was street smart and badass. I mean, she’s a bounty hunter for pete’s sake! I also loved that she was great with technology, hacking and all that awesome STEM stuff. Emika is the kind of heroine that will inspire young girls everywhere to pursue careers in technology.

This story faltered with Hideo. I loved him at first. He was the socially awkward billionaire creator of Warcross. I loved the push and pull of the relationship between him and Emika as they try to unravel the mystery of who’s messing with the Warcross games. Toward the end, Hideo as a character took a wrong turn and plunged into the abyss. I don’t understand how he went from point A to point B as a character. It was like whiplash for the reader. My difficulty understanding his motives made me dislike him and I don’t know if that was the author’s intent. I do know that it left a sour taste in my mouth and my overall enjoyment of the novel took a plunge by the end.

I did see the twist at the end coming, but I was still shocked and it left me with so many questions. Because of this, I’ll most likely read the next book to see what happens.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson is one of the best classic “fae” books I’ve ever read in a long time, where the fae are beautiful but dangerous, and humans are momentary and easily breakable.

30969741Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This book surprised me. The story was enchanting; the writing was mesmerizing. I felt myself fall into the story and frolic between the pages until the very end, where I was rudely dropped back into the mortal world. The characters were intriguing and unique. I mean, the fact that Isobel has twin sisters that were originally baby goats until a fae turned them into humans is just so freaking different. I loved her bond with her aunt but I specifically loved that Isobel had such a strong disposition, where she didn’t waste her enchantments on frivolities but spent them on protection for her family and necessities like food. I respect the hell out of her.

My respect only grew as the story progressed because even though we know she’ll inevitably fall for the love interest, we don’t know when, and I was pleasantly surprised that she held out, kept her feelings to herself. She didn’t fall into Rook’s arms from the moment he showed her a bit of affection and declared her undying love. Their love was slow (although not really a slow burn, there was minimal burning but the heat was sweet and just enough to satisfy this reader) and she made logical decisions.

Isobel was such a self-aware narrator. I laughed out loud when she recognized that she was becoming one of those lovestruck girls but she had enough self-awareness about it to make her a lovable protagonist as opposed to just another dumb teen girl who loves too easily.

I’m having trouble putting into words what I loved about this book. It was entertaining. It had me on the edge of my seat, hoping against all odds their love would persevere the obstacles. The art was gorgeously depicted and I felt like I knew Isobel.

If you like tales of whimsy, magic and forbidden love, An Enchantment of Ravens is for you.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

Do you need a Rhysand fix? Yes? Yes, of course you do.

Then let me introduce you to The Bargainer from Laura Thalassa’s Rhapsodic. The first book in the bargainer series.

25820414.jpgCallypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

Rhapsodic is a unique take on the fae and other supernatural creatures, including a certain King of the Night, his sexy, dark mysterious ways, and a healthy wingspan. *wiggles eyebrows* It’s by no means a replacement for SJM’s Rhysand but the bargainer has a certain magnetic quality that stands on its own, giving me the fix I needed for more broody, winged heroes.

This story was like A Court of Mist and Fury meets Daughter of Smoke & Bone. It was romantic and enthralling. I felt myself falling under the bargainer’s spell just as Callie did. The story built and built and built until my heart was pushed off a cliff only to realize that I had wings to fly me safely back to the ground.

Callie was a strong heroine with kickass Siren powers. I loved that we get to see both sides of Callie – the past and present – where she’s broken, abused and searching for herself, and then later when she’s built a life her herself and can stand on her own two feet. The alternating past and present POV made for delicious tension and shocking reveals. It also had a nice combined Young Adult v. New Adult feel.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this book while I was reading. Outside of the romance, Callie and the bargainer attempt to unravel a dangerous mystery in the fae realm, and I was pleasantly surprised and adequately disgusted by the big bad in this story and his terrible, horrifying antics. *shudders*

I read and loved Thalassa’s Fallen World Trilogy. Her writing is effortless, her heroine’s relatable – both strong and broken – and most importantly, her male leads are dark and hella swoon worthy.

This book would have been a perfect five stars, but the ending felt a little rushed and pre-packaged. I will, however, be reading the next book The Strange Hymn.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

Tied by Carian Cole

Tied by Carian Cole was worth the wait.

34454485.jpgHe was the myth and the legend of our small town. But no one knew the truth… except me.

Me
My childhood was stolen by a monster. I’ve forgotten what love feels like. What happiness feels like. What hope feels like. I am numb.

Him
He’s possibly as damaged as I am. Maybe even more. Scarred just as much on the inside as the outside. Just like me. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t smile. He hides in the woods like an animal. I should be scared of him. But I’m not. He’s the only one who has ever made me feel. And I want to make him feel, too.
Everything…

Since I discovered Cole, I’ve devoured everything she’s written. There is just something about her characters and the situations she puts them in that calls to me. I’m like her ideal reader. She also writes about some taboo subjects that I usually don’t entertain, but from her, I’ll try anything.

Tied was a story that I can only describe as the dawn breaking into the night. Her characters are both in such dark, dark places at the beginning and it was amazing to watch them slowly unfurl and ultimately flourish with each other by the end.  I laughed. I cried. I held the book close. I threw it across the room. I devoured it in one sitting.

The pain that Cole created with just her fingertips and the way she weaved their story together had me gobbling up her words like it’s Thanksgiving. I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to know more. More. More. More.

By the end, Cole left me a satisfied reader. I loved this story. It’s a story of love and redemption and the strength that can only come from pain. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

October flew by folks! To be honest, I’ve just been trying to keep it together, but I think it was more of me running around like:

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Book of the Month*

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Tower of Dawn by SJM

I don’t think anyone is surprised by this selection.

*based on books reviewed this month

October Reviews (Total-5)

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 90 out of 100 books. (Read 11 books this month.)

Currently Reading

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Next on my TBR

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What I’m Watching

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I am obsessed with this show. I can’t stop watching.

What I’m writing

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I can’t seem to finish my current work in progress so I’m weighing whether or not I should participate in NaNoWriMo this year to get my word count up. And, yes, I’m aware this it’s already a couple days in November and I can’t seem to make a decision.

What else…

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I recently attended a Backstreet Boys concert and it. was. awesome! It was the first time that I’ve seen them in concert (middle school me was super ecstatic!) and it was everything that I dreamed it would be. *sigh* BSB still has it! I’m a fan for life!