The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa

It’s been awhile since I’ve been sucked so wholly into a story, and The Fallen World Trilogy by Laura Thalassa was an addicting read.

21422225In the future, the world is at war.

For the last decade, King Lazuli of the Eastern Empire has systematically taken over the world. No one knows much about him other than a series of impossible facts: he cannot die, he has not aged since the conflict began, and he wants to rule the world.

All Serenity Freeman has known is bloodshed. War has taken away her mother, her home, her safety. As the future emissary of the Western United Nations, the last autonomous region of the globe, she is responsible for forging alliances where she can.

Surrender is on the horizon. The king can taste it; Serenity feels it deep within her bones. There is no other option. Now the two must come face to face. For Serenity, that means confronting the man who’s taken everything from her. For the king, it means meeting the one woman he can’t conquer. But when they meet, something happens. Cruelty finds redemption.

Only in war, everything comes with a price. Especially love.

Recommended by @Twinbookmarks, I decided to give it a try based on their gushing, and they were absolutely right. This book is a fast-paced, action-packed, hurts-so-good romance story. Half-way into the first book, I immediately purchased the rest of the series. Don’t let the covers fool you. This is a great read by an indie author.

Let’s start with Serenity and Montes’ relationship. Never have I read a more excruciatingly delicious, slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers trope. Their relationship was so toxic yet engulfing that I can only describe it as dying a slow death of arsenic poisoning, where it’s included in your favorite nightly tea. It’s both indulgent and destructive. The love and hate pull between them was dynamic, magnetic and most of all entrancing. I Could. Not. Stop. Reading.

This story isn’t all romance. In fact, there’s less sexy times with even less details than I usually expect from a romance novel. HOWEVER, the action in this story was relentless. Serenity is one badass chick. In every book, she’s taking down bad guys like it’s just another day in the life. Her targeted deadliness is balanced by her innate yearning for justice and peace. She’ll do anything to save her people. ANYTHING. That includes a bullet hole through the eyes with absolutely no remorse.

The author created a world with very high stakes. The post-apocalyptic world was both realistic and devastating. Every day is life or death. Every day one must sacrifice to help those in need. I’ve steered clear of post-apocalyptic novels as of late because I was tired of the same old, same old, but this world really stands apart – mainly that we get to see it from the dictator’s point of view. The cruelty of the King and the determination of Serenity drive this story forward like a high-speed car chase.

My favorite book of the three had to be the second book Queen of Traitors. The first book The Queen of All that Dies was a great introduction, but the depravity of both the King and Serenity is unleashed in book two. And the finale, The Queen of all the Lives, was a satisfying end to this whirlwind of a story.

If you like action-packed adventure in a post-apocalyptic world with badass heroines and a dark and twisted love interest, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn

Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn messed me up. It tore the flesh from my body and left me nothing but vital organs and bones. From the very first page, I was mesmerized by the writing. Flynn’s words left me hypnotized, so much so that by the end I felt like I too suffered from a third-person Stockholm syndrome. I don’t know who I loved or hated. I just felt so strongly – too strongly – about all the characters that I was left raw and vulnerable. It was so messed up – the lies, the secrets, the torn feelings. It was all too much. I still don’t know how to feel.

23253863On May 15, 1975, fifteen-year-old Ginny Lemon is abducted from a convenience store in Fort Lauderdale by a member of one of the most notorious and brutal motorcycle gangs in South Florida.

From that moment on, her life is forever changed. She gets a new name, a new identity and a new life in the midst of the gang’s base on the edge of the Florida Everglades—a frightening, rough and violent world much like the swamps themselves, where everyone has an alias and loyalty is tantamount to survival.

And at the center of it all is the gang’s leader, Grizz: massive, ruggedly handsome, terrifying and somehow, when it comes to Ginny, tender. She becomes his obsession and the one true love of his life.

So begins a tale of emotional obsession and manipulation, of a young woman ripped from everything she knows and forced to lean on the one person who provides attention, affection and care: her captor. Precocious and intelligent, but still very much a teenager, Ginny struggles to adapt to her existence, initially fighting and then coming to terms with her captivity.

Will she be rescued? Will she escape? Will she get out alive—or get out at all? Part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age novel, filled with mystery, romance and unexpected turns, Nine Minutes takes readers into the world of one motorcycle gang and inside the heart of a young girl, whose abduction brought about its fall.

I picked up this book because it had really good reviews. I normally hate books set in the recent past but I love a good biker book. Nine Minutes was like the worst side of The Sons of Anarchy, the tv show (which I miss dearly). It was the most non-romantic romance story I’ve ever read, yet it was still touching and heartfelt and physical. I don’t know how else to put it. I both loved and hated every single character. They made dumb decisions, committed evil acts, yet held this tiny molecule of redemption.

This book was like a puzzle. I struggled to put the pieces together and it wasn’t until the end, when the big picture was complete before me, that I realized it was a web of deceit that was so evil and brilliant, but yet to be completed.

The book had a strange ending. Some things were buttoned up but it left me with more questions and hope—a sick kind of hope where even the dead may be resurrected in the next book – dead that deserved to be dead ten times over. I don’t know how to rate this book. I’m still a little dazed. Flynn has a way of making you feel for evil characters in a way that I’ve never experienced, probably because no one admits to evil intentions and motives – leaving everything in a mucky spectrum of grey.

Mini-Reviews in anticipation of UTOPiAcon 2017

This week, I’m going to UTOPiAcon in Nashville with my best friend. I’ve been to this conference before in 2014 and had a blast. I’m looking forward to another weekend of fun and spending way too much money on books.

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There’s going to be a variety of indie authors there, and I’m always on the hunt for my next favorite read. Plus, I’m always down to support an indie author. In anticipation of my trip, I picked up books to try from the list of authors attending. (Ya know, so I can fangirl when I meet them.)

Here’s what I’ve read so far…

#Nerd by Cambria Hebert

23493256Two people from completely different worlds are about to be thrown together…

In more ways than one.

She wants to keep her scholarship. He wants to stay on the team. An awkward alliance doesn’t even begin to cover Rimmel and Romeo’s relationship.

But that’s about to change.

It starts with a dare. An initiation. A challenge.

Quickly, it turns into more. But when you’re a victim of your status, there is no room for anything real. The rules are clear and simple.

Stick to your circle.

And never fall in love with anyone on the outside.

This book was so cute! Yes, it was the typical hot jock falls for nerd because of a bet trope, but it was so well done. I was laughing, swooning and pretty much grinning from ear-to-ear while reading.

VERDICT: Read it if you like sweet contemporary romance. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson

33932353I’ve sworn off men.

All men.

Famous last words, right? You’re expecting some epic tale of reluctant love and my dramatic change of heart? Well, you’re not going to get it.

I’m stubborn. And headstrong. And I’ve just survived the worst three years of my life. After escaping an abusive boyfriend to live in hostels and cheap hotels while I worked my way across Europe, I’ve come to two conclusions.

The first? Now that I’m back home, I’m going to squander my expensive culinary degree on a food truck that caters to the late night drunk crowd.

The second? I’m going to prove to the bastard across the plaza that my street food is better than his fussy five course monstrosities.

Killian Quinn might be Food and Wine’s Chef to Watch Out For. He might have a Michelin Star. He might have every food critic in the city wrapped around his too-large fingers. But he’s also pretentious and unbearably arrogant and the very opposite of me.

So he can keep his unsolicited advice and his late night visits and his cocky smiles. I want none of it. Or him.

I want the opposite.

The Opposite of You was an unexpected surprise. This is an enemies-to-lovers romance, and they hold out from admitting their feelings to each other for a very long time. However, there is plenty of anticipation-building, witty banter between Vera and the hot chef. The star of this book, however, is the food. There is so much emphasis on cooking, recipes and eating.  I was hungry the entire time I was reading.

VERDICT: Very enjoyable. It dragged out a little too long but I was ready to gobble this couple up once they were baked juuuust right.

Nine Minutes by Beth Flynn

23253863On May 15, 1975, fifteen-year-old Ginny Lemon is abducted from a convenience store in Fort Lauderdale by a member of one of the most notorious and brutal motorcycle gangs in South Florida.

From that moment on, her life is forever changed. She gets a new name, a new identity and a new life in the midst of the gang’s base on the edge of the Florida Everglades—a frightening, rough and violent world much like the swamps themselves, where everyone has an alias and loyalty is tantamount to survival.

And at the center of it all is the gang’s leader, Grizz: massive, ruggedly handsome, terrifying and somehow, when it comes to Ginny, tender. She becomes his obsession and the one true love of his life.

So begins a tale of emotional obsession and manipulation, of a young woman ripped from everything she knows and forced to lean on the one person who provides attention, affection and care: her captor. Precocious and intelligent, but still very much a teenager, Ginny struggles to adapt to her existence, initially fighting and then coming to terms with her captivity.

Will she be rescued? Will she escape? Will she get out alive—or get out at all? Part psychological thriller, part coming-of-age novel, filled with mystery, romance and unexpected turns, Nine Minutes takes readers into the world of one motorcycle gang and inside the heart of a young girl, whose abduction brought about its fall.

This book messed me up! It was like an intoxicating drug — super harmful but very addicting. I’m still reeling from all the feels. Look for a full review later on, but I both loved and hated this book. I’m pretty sure I should join a support group. Let me know if you know of one.

VERDICT: Read it, but beware of the major heart-wrenching side effects.

Badd Motherf*cker by Jasinda Wilder

32333456Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right? That’s what they say, at least. I went into that day hoping I’d get the happiest day of my life. What I got? The worst. I mean, you really can’t get any worse of a day without someone actually dying.

So…I may have gotten just a little drunk, and maybe just a tad impetuous…

And landed myself in a dive bar somewhere in Alaska, alone, still in my wedding dress, half-wasted and heart-broken.

***
Eight brothers, one bar.

Sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, yeah?

I kinda think so.

Wanna hear another joke? A girl walks into a bar, soaking wet and wearing a wedding dress.

I knew I shouldn’t have touched her. She was hammered, for one thing, and heartbroken for another. I’ve chased enough tail to know better. That kinda thing only leads to clinginess, and a clingy female is the last thing on this earth I need.

I got a bar needs running, and only me to run it—at least until my seven wayward brothers decide to show their asses up…

Then this chick walks in, fine as hell, wearing a soaked wedding dress that leaves little enough to the imagination—and I’ve got a hell of an imagination.

I knew I shouldn’t have touched her. Not so much as a finger, not even innocently.

But I did.

This book is exactly what you’d expect it to be based on the title and cover. It’s a hot and sexy romance with an alpha male and fiery heroine. I was thoroughly entertained but it was kinda cookie cutter, in my humble opinion. HOWEVER, this series follows a family of brothers, who are incredibly diverse on the hot spectrum — from brainy, boy-next-door to tatted and dangerous.

VERDICT: If you’re looking for an alpha male fix, try this. I’m looking forward to reading about the different brothers, and I’m hoping to see growth in the writing and originality of plot.

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

27237358Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Amy Harmon is going to be speaking at the conference, and I have a lot of her books but I’ve never read them. I started with Making Faces, but I have to be honest, I couldn’t finish it. I DNF’ed it at 40%. It was sooooo slow and boring. Her characters had depth but it was like watching a National Geographic documentary. It’s good to know but is it necessary to tell me every little detail? I’ve struggled with this because I’ve read so many good reviews. I WANT to like her and this book had so much promise from the premise. If you have any insight, let me know. Otherwise, I digress.

VERDICT: Didn’t finish it. Maybe she’s just not my cup of tea?

This is Falling by Ginger Scott

22756190First, I had to remember how to breathe. Then, I had to learn how to survive. Two years, three months and sixteen days had passed since I was the Rowe Stanton from before, since tragedy stole my youth and my heart went along with it.

When I left for college, I put a thousand miles between my future and my past. I’d made a choice—I was going to cross back to the other side, to live with the living. I just didn’t know how.

And then I met Nate Preeter.

An All-American baseball player, Nate wasn’t supposed to notice a ghost-of-a-girl like me. But he did. He shouldn’t want to know my name. But he did. And when he learned my secret and saw the scars it left behind, he was supposed to run. But he didn’t.

My heart was dead, and I was never supposed to belong to anyone. But Nate Preeter had me feeling, and he made me want to be his. He showed me everything I was missing.

And then he showed me how to fall.

Gah! I LOVE Ginger Scott! She’s becoming one of my auto-buy authors. She writes the best kind of sports romance with realistic characters that face hard life challenges and obstacles. This was such a sweet romance. It was endearing and made me laugh, but watching Rowe struggle was heart-breaking. It was so well done!

VERDICT: Read it! Read EVERYTHING by Ginger Scott. I know I will.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller is such a delight! I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down. It moved quickly, but it was also well-paced, slowly unraveling the secrets of the heroine and the complexities of the Pirate life.

33643994.jpgThere will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

I loved Alosa! She had some serious skill and snark. From the opening scene, when she gambled the lives of her crew for the lives of her crew, I was on board with her badassery. She came off a little overconfident, but once her secret was revealed, it all made sense. The reveal was such a surprise and it made this story that much better. Without that extra element, it may have fallen flat.

The entire time Alosa was on the Nightfarer, her interactions with Riden were so well done. There were times when I wanted more, but since this is the first book in a series, it was just enough of a taste to whet my appetite. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Alosa tore up Riden’s room. I can totally relate to Riden’s exasperation and I applaud Alosa’s balls. She always seemed one step ahead.

Near the end, I liked that we got to see the extent of what Alosa could do, and it acted as a catalyst for her and Riden to open up about their feelings for each other. Plus, the twist on the identity of a certain individual was a nice touch.

We only got to see the pirate king for a brief moment, but I can’t wait to see more. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was so much fun to read.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

May has come and gone. I’ve been yo-yoing between voracious reading and a book slump, where everything I read is meh, which makes it hard to write reviews.

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 Book of the Month*

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas – 5 Stars

FINALLY! It came. It conquered. I’m now utterly ruined for any other type of literature for the foreseeable future.

*based on books reviewed this month

April Reviews (Total-7)

The Chosen by J.R. Ward – 3 Stars

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones – 2.5 Stars

Twist by Kylie Scott – 4 Stars

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins – 5 Stars

Honor by Jay Crownover – 3 Stars

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft – 5 Stars

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 43 out of 100 books. (Read 12 books this month.)

Currently Reading

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Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

I’m not really liking it so far…Hopefully it gets better.

Next on my TBR

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What I’m Watching

bachelorette

It’s time!!!! I am a HUGE fan of The Bachelorette and proud member of #Bachelornation. My Monday nights consist of The Bachelorette, wine and yoga pants.

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I’ve also been watching the Amazon Original series Sneaky Pete. It’s wildly entertaining starring David Shore and Bryan Cranston. It’s great for fans of Breaking Bad.

What I’m writing

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I’m almost done with my current round of edits on my first work in progress. These last few chapters have been a huge hurdle because something isn’t right and I can’t figure out what it is. I just need to buckle down and figure it out.

 

 

The Chosen by J.R. Ward

The Chosen by J.R. Ward and the fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series left my heart black and blue – from both the heart-wrenching revelations and unexpected disappointment.

29863848.jpgA scorching forbidden love threatens to tear a rift through the Black Dagger Brotherhood in J. R. Ward’s newest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.

Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear—even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation, and death.

As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone.

I have been waiting for Xcor and Layla to happen for-ev-er, so it’s safe to say I was high on anticipation when I turned the first page. Unfortunately, Ward let me down. Their relationship lacked the heart and heat typically found in a BDB romance. It felt too mundane with the juggling of who’s watching the kids while Layla and Xcor were in their too-perfect-it’s-unbelievable love den. Layla felt flat and unrelatable. When Xcor and Layla finally got together, it was quite possibly the most boring love scene in BDB history. My favorite scenes were Xcor’s heartbreaking flashbacks to his tortuous childhood, and the mother-of-all-flashbacks that grotesque opening birth scene that was so effed up I couldn’t look away.

The Chosen had so much drama in it, and Qhuinn was at the heart of it. He basically goes postal, even more so than a Brother and bonded male typically does. I didn’t feel like it was true to his character and as the plot line unraveled, I found myself more and more frustrated. I didn’t feel sympathy when it caused issues with Blay and Layla. And to be perfectly honest, of the three of them, Blay is the only one I could stand by the end.

Now, the main characters of this particular installment aside, there was plenty going on in the periphery to keep me going. First, I was shocked when heartbroken and devastated Trez was given a surprising reprieve. Second, V’s chapters broke my heart with his relationship quietly unravelling. Third, I drank up references to Assail like drops of water in the desert. I WANT MORE! Finally, Lassiter’s new situation was surprisingly unsurprising and I loved the little pieces we got of him.

The one character that I could not stand was Throe as the soon-to-be evil bad guy. Granted, I’ve NEVER liked chapters of the omega and lessers.

The ending was by far the strangest, most surreal ending I’ve read by Ward. Even more surprising than how she ended The Shadows. Everything comes together for Layla/Xcor and Blay/Quhinn with a whiplash quality – too fast I couldn’t tell what happened and left a painful void from lack of understanding. There was a lot of heartbreaking stuff in those finally chapters but it wasn’t until the last line that I wanted to ugly cry. As much as I was excited about the potential of a future Lyric story, I felt like Ward broke the “fourth wall” if you will, and disrupted the tone and writing style of her novel. It was as if she reached up out of the book and smacked me in the face. I don’t know if I loved it or hated it. I only know I felt strongly about it.

Fortunately, the next book, The Thief, will be about Sola and Assail, so I’m hoping this next story will be redemptive for Ward and a bit of a reprieve from Brotherhood drama. I do want to see more of Trez and Assail’s twin guard/business partner/friend guys.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones was an unsatisfying read.

24763621Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

I want to start my review with what I loved about this story, which was the writing. It was beautiful, intentional and lovely. Jae-Jones painted pretty pictures and the musical theme throughout the story made for gorgeous metaphors. The writing really fit the ethereal, fairy-tale feel of the story. It was strange and mesmerizing.

As someone who loves music, I could relate to the language, and I loved the way she tied music with the passion between Liesl and the Goblin King.

I was wound tighter than a violin string, pitched too sharp, and I urged his rough, callused fingertips lower, loosening me, tuning me to the right key.

The story fell short because of the disappointing ending, and not just how the story ended, but the way the story was meant to be wrapped up. I understood what the author was trying to do with the themes of love, but it made for a really unsatisfying story. For example, a major plot twist related to the ability of one character to live by the love of another, but it’s never resolved in the end. I was left confused and I regret reading the story at all.

STARS: 2.5 out of 5