Grey & Darker by E.L. James

(NOTE: This may contain spoilers if you haven’t read the original trilogy.)

The release of the final Fifty Shades of Grey movie, Fifty Shades Freed, is upon us, and with the prompting of a friend, I decided to give Grey and Darker, the first two books in the Fifty Shades trilogy told from Christian Grey’s perspective, a try.

32024902E L James revisits the world of Fifty Shades with a deeper and darker take on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the globe.

Their scorching, sensual affair ended in heartbreak and recrimination, but Christian Grey cannot get Anastasia Steele out of his mind, or his blood. Determined to win her back, he tries to suppress his darkest desires and his need for complete control, and to love Ana on her own terms.

But the horrors of his childhood still haunt him, and Ana’s scheming boss, Jack Hyde, clearly wants her for himself. Can Christian’s confidant and therapist, Dr. Flynn, help him face down his demons? Or will the possessiveness of Elena, his seducer, and the deranged devotion of Leila, his former submissive, drag Christian down into the past?

And if Christian does win Ana back, can a man so dark and damaged ever hope to keep her?

First, I don’t know why, but I hate strongly dislike books told from alternative points of view, especially if it’s an entire book published way after the fact to capitalize on the success of the first. Why wasn’t the story told in dual POV in the first place? Does this character – a secondary character, really – have anything to add to the story? Alas, there’s a special place (a small, red room, perhaps?)  in my heart for Fifty and I gave Christian’s perspective a try.

Grey and Darker were impossible to put down. Much like reading their counterparts for the first time, I was immediately immersed into Christian’s dark world and it was kind of a pleasure to get a peek into his fifty-shades-of-effed-up head. However, Christian comes across less domineering and more damaged hero with his constant worrying and insecurities. I found them endearing.

My biggest struggle with reading Grey and Darker is you only get Christian’s perspective. Sure, it allows you to see some interesting things we missed in the original books (i.e. Christian’s fear and immediate attachment to Ana, what really went down when Charlie Tango crashed, and my personal favorite, what Christian’s mother said after finding out Mrs. Robinson and Christian’s secret.) However, I found myself struggling to remember what actually happened when Ana is “off-the-page,” specifically Ana with her Mom in Georgia and Ana and the gun-wielding sub in book two.  It made me want to go back and read the originals (even though I loathe re-reading), which I read years ago now, to get the full picture.

I did enjoy Christian’s perspective, but I wish these stories had been told side-by-side since the get-go, which goes back to my instinctual dislike of Alternate POV retellings. However, Christian’s nervous energy and fear would have taken away from his allure in Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s only endearing to readers after we get to know him and the end of his story.

My favorite part of Christian’s POV is the look into his past, specifically his “crack whore” mom and his early sub days with Mrs. Robinson. This really filled out Christian as a character for me and made his domineering, controlling ways more palatable. He became more of a person than a typical caricature of an “Alpha Male.”

I initially listened to Grey on audiobook, and the narrator did an AMAZING job, but I don’t think this book is conducive to narration because of all the email traffic and contracts. There is nothing more boring than listening to the narrator read the ENTIRE contract, especially when I skimmed through most of it the first time I read this story.

In the end, I give this story four stars because I couldn’t put it down and it was entertaining and familiar. I love these characters and their story, and I enjoyed being immersed back into their world. I couldn’t give it five stars because it can’t standalone. You have to read the original to get the retelling.

STARS: 4 out of 5

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Wild Card by Rachel Vincent

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Vincent’s Shifter series so I’m loving her Wildcats spinoff, and Wild Card is the third book and its Kaci’s story!

Wild Card (Wildcats, #3)Kaci Dillon is a man-eater.

She’s grown up on the fringes of shifter society, hearing the whispers. One desperate act as a starving, terrified child has made her the first tabby in history with no romantic prospects. But whatever. Eighteen is too young to get married anyway. Still, when she stumbles upon an opportunity to get away for a few days, who could blame her for seizing it?

Justus Alexander is screwed.

Confined to the South-Central territory, awaiting trial for crimes he committed as a traumatized, newly infected stray, Justus has discovered that the tribunal already intends to vote for the death penalty. He has no choice but to run. Too young to touch the trust fund that could finance his escape, he’s betting on a big win at the poker tables—until Kaci, his secret crush, catches him sneaking out and demands that he take her with him to Las Vegas

After a wild night she can’t remember, Kaci wakes up with a ring on her finger, next to a young billionaire who can’t access his fortune until he turns twenty-five—or ties the knot. If she can keep her hands off her hot, charismatic new groom, she can have their unconsummated marriage annulled. But can she really abandon Justus to his death sentence, just to undo her own mistake?

It took me a minute to remind myself of who was who in the original shifter world, but once I was in, I was back in. It was so nice to see Faythe and Marc and others again. It was great to see Kaci all grown up and to meet Justus.

I loved being back in Vincent’s shifter world – the struggles of being a wildcat, the challenges of being a female, and all the shifter politics! I loved that Kaci had a mind for strategy and played a major role in council politics with this story. She’s beauty AND brains!

I’m a huge fan of the “waking up in Vegas married” trope and this has got to be one of the most unique with the added complexity of being shifters. This story was romantic with Kaci and Justus falling for each other but it was a little more PG-13 than her other Wildcat novels since the protagonist is only 18. It’s a bit of a YA shifter story. Wild Card was also action packed – death-defying escapes, car chases and fighting. I wish there was more fighting in cat form or spending more time in cat form in general.

If you’re a fan of Vincent’s Shifter series, this spinoff series is a must-read. I believe she self-publishes it so it doesn’t get out there as much as her other series, but it deserves all the recognition.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Brave by Jennifer Armentrout

When I heard Brave by Jennifer Armentrout, the final book in the Wicked trilogy, was being released this December, I quickly read Torn and followed up immediately with Brave.

 23149316.jpgIvy Morgan hasn’t been feeling like herself lately. Not like anyone can blame her. After all, being held captive by a psychotic fae prince hell-bent on permanently opening the gates to the Otherworld is bound to leave some mental scars.

It’s more than that, though. Something dark and insidious is spreading throughout Ivy, more powerful than she could ever imagine… and it’s coming between her and the man she’s fallen deeply in love with, elite Order member Ren Owens.

Ren would do anything to keep Ivy safe. Anything. But when he makes a life altering choice for her, the fallout of his act has far reaching consequences that threaten to tear their lives apart.

If Ivy is going to have any hope of surviving this, she must put aside the hurt and betrayal she feels, and work with not only those she loves, but with an enemy she would rather kill than ever trust. War is coming, and it soon becomes clear that what Ivy and Ren thought they knew about the Order, themselves, and even their enemies, has been nothing but a cluster of dangerous, deadly lies.

Ivy knows she must be more than just brave to save those she loves–and, ultimately, to save herself.

Because behind every evil fae Prince, there’s a Queen….

Brave was a fitting conclusion, and Armentrout’s writing was as strong as ever with badass fight scenes and deliciously steamy love scenes.

It’s refreshing to read some classic paranormal romance. I forget how much I love it until I’m back in it again. *Looks back fondly on the Twilight-obsessed days.* This story was action-packed and heart-wrenching.  I loved Ren. He never gave up on Ivy and I love him for it. I’d even argue that Ivy doesn’t deserve him, but *Cue Kermit Meme* that’s really none of my business. *sips tea*

I have to admit that Torn was probably my favorite book of the three, which is surprising because it’s book two, but it had the most angst and horror with Ivy being trapped under the Prince’s control. There was a lot of stuff happening there, whereas Brave started with a whole lot of emotional angst and self-reflection, where Ivy shut everyone out and made dumb decisions which was very frustrating for me as a reader.

However, by the end, Ivy was a fighting machine and I loved the action scenes, especially when she fought a certain evil lady. I liked how it all wasn’t wrapped up with an unrealistic bow but it had enough closure to come full circle and leave the reader satisfied. I know this is the last book in the trilogy but I’m kind of hoping for more or at least a spin-off because there’s some unresolved tension between Tink and a certain Prince. There’s a novella titled “The Prince” in the 1001 Dark Nights collection. I may read that to get my fix.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Blogoversary and Bookish Resolutions

Happy Blogoversary to me!

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Today, I’ve been blogging for SIX years. This blog began as a New Year’s resolution that I’ve stuck with for six. whole. years. CRAZY! There have been times when I thought about retiring my blog because it’s a lot to keep up with but I keep going because I love books that much and I can’t help but talk about them.

Last year, I made the following resolutions.

1.Stay consistent with my blogging throughout the year.

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I’m fairly satisfied. I’ve stayed mostly consistent but I’m trying not to stress myself out, which requires me to be okay with ghosting from the blogging world for awhile.

2. Focus on quality over quantity for reviews.

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I met this goal because I wasn’t worried about reviewing every book I read, but focused on writing quality reviews at a steady pace. So I’m going to call that some high quality H2- oh, er, reviews.

3. Write more.

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Since last year, I’ve written two novels  — a contemporary romance and a YA Fantasy. I’m now in the editing stage to get my manuscripts prettied up for querying. So NAILED it!

4. Get more ARCs.

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FAILED! I absolutely failed. I think I got as far as glancing at my netgalley account and then nothing. I’ve read a lot of good books this year, just no advanced copies.

Now for my 2018 Bookish Resolutions.

  1. Read what I want to read. I’m such a mood reader and I often feel pressured to read the newest books instead of what I really want to read. Here’s to reading what I want, when I want in 2018.
  2. Participate in Top Ten Tuesday…sometimes. I love lists and I adore reading other bloggers’ Top Ten every Tuesday, but I’ve never taken the time to get it together and do it myself. So I’m going to try, but I can’t guarantee I can pull it off every week because of time and sometimes I just don’t like the topic.
  3. Start Querying. I’ve written a few novels, found some critique partners and I’m in the thick of heavy edits. My goal this year is to start querying agents because I’ve realized that getting published really is my new dream.
  4. Get ARCS. Yeah, I’m going to try this one again. Fingers crossed!

What about you? Any bookish resolutions?

2017 End of Year Survey

I know it’s now officially 2018, but I wanted to participate in this year’s (2017) End of Year Survey created by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

Number Of Books You Read: 105
Number of Re-Reads: 1
Genre You Read The Most From: Romance

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1. Best Book You Read In 2017?

(If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2017 release vs. backlist)

A Court of Wings and Ruin by S.J. Maas

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

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Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott. I thought I was going to love this one but I ended up hating it.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

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Hunted by Megan Spooner. I liked this one way more than I expected.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

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I pushed Ilona Andrews Hidden Legacy series, and of course, anything written by Sarah J. Maas.

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

Started: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Sequel: Tied by Carian Cole

Ender: A Court of Wings and Ruin by SJM

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Laura Thalassa and Amanda Bouchet

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

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Devils Within by S.F. Henson. Although this book is YA, which I read all the time, it wasn’t the kind of YA I typically read.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

I binged the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I don’t typically re-read, but if I do, it’ll probably be SJM’s ACOTAR series.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff. It’s badass and aligns completely with this story.

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

Cat Fisa from the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. She’s a badass heroine that can tell when people are lying.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

A Court of Wings and Ruin or Tower of Dawn by SJM

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

I want to say Hunted by Megan Spooner or the Fallen World Trilogy series by Laura Thalassa

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

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Outlander, definitely

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2017?

From A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas:

“Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest: What About Her by Emma Tharp

Longest: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

(OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Serenity and The King from the Fallen Trilogy by Laura Thalassa,  Cat and Griffin from the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet, and of course, Rhys and Feyre from ACOWAR by SJM

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

I have no idea on this one.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

The Fallen World trilogy by Laura Thalassa was a recommendation and I am SO thankful!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

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Griffin from the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

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Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Twist by Kylie Scott

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

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Tied by Carian Cole

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas because she left us with the “Fireheart” chapter that made me want the final book NOW!

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New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

I’ve followed a lot of new people but I enjoy posts from A Novel Glimpse and Twin Bookmarks because we have the same taste in books and they recommend some great books I’ve never heard of before.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

Probably Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff because I was so on fire when I wrote my review or the few times I used gifs writing Mini-Reviews, which I think I’ll try to do more of in the future.

 

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

I would say my monthly recap posts because I have fun putting them together and sharing a bit of what I’m doing outside of my reading life.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I went to see Sarah J. Maas at the Tower of Dawn release and UtopiaCon was awesome this year. Also, S.F. Henson, who wrote Devils Within, lives in my area and visited my book club!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017?

The best moments for me is when I can convince someone to read something they love or when I find a new book/author based on another blogger’s recommendation.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I’m an aspiring author so I’ve been trying to juggle reading, blogging and writing. This makes it hard to focus sometimes, and inevitably, something falls off my radar for a period of time.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My most viewed was surprisingly my review for The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer and That Time I Met Sarah J. Maas.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Probably any time I write a discussion post.

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

I love receiving my Uppercase Box, which is a YA monthly book subscription, each month. I also buy a book quite often from my daily Bookbub email newsletter much to my wallet’s dismay.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I met my goal of 100 books for the Goodreads Challenge. I want to join other challenges but I don’t have time to be that organized.

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1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

 

I’ve resisted reading the last book in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series and Chloe Neil’s Chicagoland Vampire series because I don’t want to let go of those characters yet.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

Blood Fury by J.R. Ward and Rage by Cora Carmack

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

See my upcoming post on Bookish Resolutions.

Top Books of 2017

I can’t believe it’s already the end of the year but I’m all about this Christmas cheer.

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According to Goodreads, I’ve read 96 books so far this year. (Still on track to reach 100 by end of the year.) Here’s a list of my top ten for the year of our Lord 2017 (in no particular order).

  1. A Court of Wings and Ruin By SJM – Such a fitting end to my favorite series.
  2. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller – The Pirate story that I didn’t know I needed in my life.
  3. The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa — This was the first time I’d read this author and now she’s on my auto-buy list.
  4. A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet — My new favorite Fantasy Romance series. It’s up there with Kim Harrison, Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs.
  5. The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews — She writes the most amazing sexual chemistry. Read it!
  6. Roar by Cora Carmack — This story made my tornado-chaser-loving heart go pitter patter.
  7. Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff — Bloody brilliant, gentlefriends!
  8. Tied by Carian Cole — She knows how to rip out my heart, stomp on it, dust it off and hand it back while I nod in gratitude.
  9. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson — Best fae story I’ve read all year!
  10. Tower of Dawn by SJM — That twist, you guys! I can’t believe what this means for the last book!

And now some honorable mentions…

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins – So. Freaking. Good!

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft – This story has a piece of my heart. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Devils Within by S.H. Henson – In these dark times, this story is more relevant than ever.

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer – Judge me if you want, but Stephanie Meyer can write, y’all.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi — I’m late to the party on this one but it deserves all the hype.

When It’s Real by Erin Watt – Simply a pleasure to read!

 

Can you tell that I had some trouble narrowing it down? What do you think? Read any of these? Share in the comments!

 

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