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

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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!

 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I know what you’re thinking.

I’m late to the party. So late to the party, in fact, that the cleaning crew has already come and gone and I’ve shown up at the front door on a Tuesday with a cheap bottle of wine asking “Where’s the party at?”

I know, feel free to judge me. A few years ago, I tried to jump on the Outlander bandwagon but quickly jettisoned when I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I was unimpressed with the married protagonist and the boring genealogy history lesson. Little did I know that if I’d only read a little bit farther, I’d have hit the mother load.

10964.jpgThe year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

Outlander really begins when Claire falls back into 1700’s Scotland and she meets the highlander, Jaime. Typically, I dislike time travel novels (which probably affected my earlier decision to DNF), but there’s something about Gabaldon’s storytelling that kept me hanging on every word. As a book, Outlander is long and slow and so ungainly it’s hard to hold onto or accurately describe. But once I found myself stuck in the past with Claire, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to know what was going to happen. I didn’t care how many mundane scenes I needed to read before we got to the good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, most critics of this book will mention the “disturbing assault.” I went in fully prepared for it, expecting some kind of weird BDSM stuff, but it wasn’t that at all. And I was kind of disappointed because all the “assault” happens off the page and it’s clearly a construct of the age, not an abusive love interest. Now, it was enough to make any modern-day woman fume, but so did Claire. She fought back tooth and nail. So overall I’m okay with that part of the story because it’s a product of the time and the situation, not so much an unjust description of assault.

Anyway, my only issue with this book other than the slow-as-molasses pace is the confusing way Gabaldon presented some information. It was almost like foreshadowing but in the present — so present-shadowing? But the shadows were so thick, I didn’t fully get the author’s drift. I knew the author was trying to point something out, but I couldn’t see it. I didn’t know if it was because I just didn’t get it or if it was the writing. I muddled my way through, of course, but I wish it was clear one hundred percent of the time.

Overall, I was enchanted with the story. The relationship between Claire and Jaime is truly special, and the combination of Claire’s healing ability and Jaime’s badass highlander-ness, makes for an exciting story. I couldn’t stop thinking about it long after the final page had been turned and I quickly purchased the rest of the series.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but I can finally say that I get why so many women love this series.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover was an extreme disappointment.

33280872.jpgNot every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

I’ve been a fan of CoHo since I first read Slammed and fell in love with her insane ability to create real characters with tangible emotions. I was so looking forward to Without Merit. I read a sneak peek before it was released and almost passed out from anticipation and unreleased sexual tension. The excerpt was that good! But there’s nothing wrong with Hoover’s writing, it was the story itself that I had problems with. The plot was too…weird, strange, awkward? I don’t even know the right words to use.

This story was quirky but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I feel like the theme of this book got the better of Hoover. It overtook the characters, overshadowed the romance, and in general, pushed the storyline off track until it was a spiral of characters with hidden motives and random details (A dog. A Jesus Statue. A marquee? These strange items had way too much screen time.). I wish CoHo would get back to the basics of romance without the added pressure of an underlying serious theme that was a little too “spoon-feed the reader” for my taste.

I didn’t like the protagonist so it was hard to connect. And after finishing the story, I think I wasn’t supposed to like the protagonist at first because of the overall theme. The romance with Sagan was also odd. I can’t say too much without spoilers but there was some misleading information that stayed misleading for way too long.

To be honest, I almost DNF’d this book. I’ve NEVER DNF’d a favorite author before. However, the introduction of the quirky and odd character, Luck, kept me reading even though he gave me serious stranger danger vibes. Then as the story progressed, I was drowning in red flags, hopping about sporadically like an insane flag dancer at half-time, hoping and praying the protagonist would get with the program. Throughout this story, I just wanted to shake my head. In disgust. In confusion. In w-t-f-ness. I still don’t know what to think.

Without Merit was a well-written novel with a serious theme. I applaud Hoover for taking on such an endeavor, but it became more about the social change and less about the story. I can see where people who enjoy Literary Fiction may love this, but for a romance reader, it fell short.

STARS: 2.5 out of 5

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

I have a confession. I’ve avoided reading Shatter Me for one reason and one reason only — the cover. I hate it. It’s that cliche teen fiction cover with the girl in a dress that looks nothing like the main character.

HOWEVER, since I gave it a chance. I was impressed and pleased by Shatter Me.

10429045.jpgI have a curse
I have a gift

I am a monster
I’m more than human

My touch is lethal
My touch is power

I am their weapon
I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior

I gave this book a chance because it’s fandom is strong on Pinterest and I had a friend recently reach out and ask if I’ve read it. As a self-proclaimed YA lit connoisseur, it’s kind of ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet.

The writing popped off the page and smacked me with it’s beautiful, intriguing quality. I loved the way the author used the strikethrough technique, which surprised me because I thought it would be annoying.

Basically, this book didn’t meet any of my low expectations. It completely shattered them, revealing a beautifully written, exciting story that I couldn’t put down.

Juliette and Adam’s relationship was instantly steamy and intense but it surprisingly didn’t come off as lust or insta-love. It felt genuine and I was hanging on every scorching word. I loved the development of James and Kenji. They had the best personalities.

I honestly had no idea what to expect from the first page, but it wasn’t where it ended up. With every turn, I acclimated myself to the new situation thinking this would be the vibe for the rest of the novel but then something else would happen and Juliette would be thrust into a whole new reality. It made for a fast-paced read with unexpected turns.

The end of the novel took a turn that I didn’t see coming. I didn’t think it was going to be that kind of book. Had I known in the beginning it would turn into that kind of book, I may have avoided it, but now that I’ve fallen in love with Juliette and Adam and James and Kenji…I’m all in like flynn.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Brilliant. Beautiful. Unexpected.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and a parallel novel to Empire of Storms, meaning it’s happening simultaneously in the timeline, which also means that we don’t get the usual snarky badass of Aelin and her gang because it follows Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq. I seriously missed Aelin’s storyline but I fell in love with this novel.

31450852.jpgIn the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

I typically strongly dislike any kind of companion novel or prequel novella. In fact, despite being a serious SJM fangirl, it wasn’t until recently that I purchased Assassin’s Blade to read The Assassin and the Healer novella in prep for this novel, which I’d recommend for anyone about to read Tower of Dawn. If you’re like me and typically don’t like books outside of the main narrative, I’d strongly suggest you read Tower of Dawn because a lot is revealed about the overall plot that’s important to the finale. However, I’m sure SJM will slide in all those truths as a refresher in the next book.

Let me tell you why Tower of Dawn was an unexpected delight. It had all the makings of an epic SJM novel with high stakes, masterful storytelling, and love-conquers-all romance. Toward the beginning of this series, I was seriously #TeamChaol (until, ya know, Rowan showed up), so I was fine with an entire book devoted to him, where he battles his inner demons and finds love. However, imagine my surprise when, yet again, another male swoops in and steals my heart *cough* Sartaq *cough*. I’ll admit that I was never a fan of Nesryn, but throw in a little Sartaq and I’m ALL about that storyline. There’s a specific scene when they are fighting beasts in the mountains and all looks dire and words are spoken and I couldn’t contain my emotions. I was running around the house like a crazy person screeching “It’s so beautiful!” as I tried to calm my thundering heart. I’m officially obsessed with the Ruks, the eagle-like birds, and their riders. The excitement of Nesryn and Sartaq’s adventure into the mountains was probably my favorite part of this novel, which was very unexpected.

Chaol’s storyline was more subtle, focusing on character development as he heals both inside and out from his injury and accepts his new reality. He and Yrene search for answers in the Torre’s library as opposed to the heart-stopping, death-defying adventure of Nesryn and Sartaq. Chaol’s enemies-to-lovers relationship with Yrene was a slow burn, but it worked. I loved how they bonded over each other’s mutual pain. The plot twist of the significance of Yrene’s healing ability was a great surprise. I’m interested in seeing what happens next. Overall, both love stories were so well crafted. Gah! So good!

Like all the cities SJM creates, Antica was an awe-inspiring setting with the Torre and the palace and the city itself. It made me want to go there but it also explained so much about the royal family and how that made them who they are. The setting was a great place for this story to unfold and I hope to revisit it.

My favorite thing about the ending was the sneak peek chapter from Fireheart’s POV. It didn’t give us much but it was enough to leave me salivating for the final installment in this epic series.

STARS: 5 out of 5