The King by J.R. Ward

I’ve been a fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward since I can remember. When I heard that she was going back to the beginning with Wrath and Beth, I was so excited. It’s really interesting to see where Ward is taking this series.

Before I continue, if you haven’t read this series, you should. If you like badass vampire stories with a lot of action and a LOT of heat, Ward is your girl. Each book in the series is extremely satisfying following one of the brothers — who each get there own happy ever after.

 17703290J.R. Ward’s # 1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood continues as a royal bloodline is compromised by a grave threat to the throne.

Long live the King…

After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle–with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything–and everyone–at risk.

Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response–or the distance it creates between them.

The question is, will true love win out… or tortured legacy take over?

I really enjoyed The King. First, I got to revisit characters that I absolutely love. There wasn’t a lot of face time but they each got a moment or two. Second, it was like Wrath and Beth got another happy ever after. Beth’s desire for children and Wrath’s refusal to “service” her was a very interesting conflict that was explored in this book. With Beth being half-human, she stirs up a lot more drama than she could have ever anticipated.  Third, Ward sets up some really interesting secondary characters that will most likely take center stage in future books. I REALLY enjoyed hearing about Trez and Xcor. iAm even had some shining moments. I’m also VERY curious about a new character that’s introduced as a dangerous executioner in the Shadow world.

I have to give this book five stars. It had everything I’ve come to expect from Ward. The only thing I generally dislike about this series is the chapters on the Lesser society and there is none of that in here, only small clues to their activity. I found my heart clenching and soaring as the story progressed, and by the end, I was totally satisfied with how Ward wrapped up this twelfth installment of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

The next book in the series, The Shadows, will be out in April 2015. This installment will follow shadow brothers Trez and iAm. I am super excited to see how Trez gets out of the pledge to the Queen his parents made for him all those years ago.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

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Releases and Recommendations: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world. Today, I’m anticipating the release of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, which comes out Tuesday, April 28, 2015.

20560137Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

Keep your heart for yourself.

This book looks awesome! I love the idea of going undercover as a slave, and based on the blurb, it already looks like Laia and Elias are going to have some kickass chemistry. I’m intrigued by this debut and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

 

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski left me breathless. This masterpiece was amazing. impactful. lovely.

 16069030Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

This book is the story of two quiet heroes who exist in a complicated world and come together in a beautifully, complicated way. They both struggle with fixing the injustices of their world, while still staying loyal to their heritage. This story answers the question: What are you willing to sacrifice for the one you love? The answer: everything.

From the moment the main protagonist, Kestrel, locks eyes with the slave boy, Arin, at the auction. I was sold. Just as Kestrel bought Arin, Marie Rutkoski bought me as a reader, enslaving me to her majestic story. I can’t even begin to put into words how amazing this story is. It certainly lives up to all the hype.

The dynamic between Kestrel and Arin was a special kind of painful pleasure. I loved Arin’s vulnerability yet mysterious plotting. I loved Kestrel’s steel yet strategic thinking. There were special moments where the barriers were broken briefly, creating the most romantic crescendo of passion that was too quickly snuffed out. They are perfectly matched, making for a suspenseful journey to love.

One of my favorite scenes was the duel. I loved why Kestrel decided to do it but mostly loved how she won. She is such a strong, female heroine with a brilliant mind, and the author leaves the reader just enough in the dark to be left just as dumbfounded and breathless as the spectators looking on.

This story had beautiful world-building and explained music in such a way that the lyrical prose practically sang in my mind. The ending left me speechless and set up the next book so well that I can’t wait to see what happens next. The anticipation is killing me! The second book in this trilogy, The Winner’s Crime, comes out in March 2015.

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

 

 

Releases and Recommendations: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

It’s Tuesday! The wonderful day that books are released to the world! Today, I’m anticipating the release of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, which comes out Tuesday, March 26, 2015.

17878931Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.

I am thirsty for some fantasy, and Red Queen sounds like the perfect fix. I’m a sucker for rebellions, political intrigue and betrothals. This one looks really, really good. Plus, look at the cover! Doesn’t it just scream: READ ME?

18 Things by Jamie Ayres

I had the honor of meeting Jamie Ayres at the 2014 UtopYA conference in Nashville, and she was super sweet to give me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review.

17253972OlgaGay Worontzoff thinks her biggest problems are an awful name and not attending prom with Conner, her best friend and secret crush since kindergarten.

Then, Conner is killed in a freak boating accident and Olga feels responsible for his death.

When she downs an entire bottle of pills to deal with the emotional pain, her parents force her into counseling. There, her therapist writes a prescription in the form of a life list titled “18 Things”: eighteen quests to complete the year of her eighteenth birthday.

But there’s more to Olga’s quests than meets the eye and when her therapist reveals a terrifying secret, her world is shaken.

There’s only one thing she knows for certain: her choices won’t just affect her future, but all eternity.

I really enjoyed 18 Things in the beginning. The main character Olga (who has a horrendous name and knows it. Loved this aspect of the story.) deals with the death of a very close friend and crush, Connor. Even though I only knew Connor for a few pages and a handful of memories. I mourned for him. I felt his loss as deeply as Olga. (However, I’ve recently read The Fault in our Stars by John Green, so maybe I’ll always cry about pretty dead boys…) When the love interest, Nate, comes into the story, I was hesitant at first to accept him just as Olga was. I loved how their relationship developed slowly. However, Nate was a complete mystery the entire time, like he was never truly honest with her. For example, it’s never explained why Nate was so in love with Olga — in almost a prophetic way. I wanted to know the motives behind the characters’ actions.

Speaking of actions, the 18 things that Olga must accomplish to deal with her loss were entertaining. Some were silly. Some were dangerous. Some were wishful thinking. I liked the list but I wish there was an actual list somewhere in the story to help me keep track. Olga would refer to the third or seventh thing and I’d have no idea what she was talking about unless I re-read an entire chapter of dialogue between five different characters to remind myself. My favorite item on the list had to be when she broke a world record. It was incredibly sweet.

And then, the end happened. As a reader, I never like to be duped. As a writer, I’ve always been told not to dupe the reader, so I was shocked and a little hurt that the story took such a dramatic turn. It felt like everything I knew was a lie and all the feelings I felt were no longer justified. I wanted there to be healing and a happy ever after, but this seemingly contemporary romance turned into a fantasy/paranormal novel. I enjoyed the story up until the end, but the ending felt like a betrayal, leaving me unsatisfied. The second book in this series, 18 Truths, is already out.

STARS: 3 out of 5

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have mixed feelings about John Green. I tried to read Looking for Alaska and I couldn’t finish it. I didn’t like it at all. Since then, I’ve avoided everything John Green even though half the blogosphere reverently whispers his name as if he’s some YA god. When I heard that The Fault in Our Stars was being made into a movie, I had to give it a chance since I ALWAYS have to read the book before I see the movie. (Plus, as a YA book blogger it’s kind of embarrassing to have NOT read the book at this point.) I was pleasantly surprised.

11870085Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

The love story of Augustus and Hazel is a unique one. With both characters directly affected by cancer, and in Hazel’s case terminal, it makes sense because it’s a unique story. However, I would argue this book isn’t about cancer and isn’t about love: It’s about life — living it to the fullest and filling it with wonderful things such as laughter and love. This aspect of the story really touched me and had me bawling my eyes out the last 20 pages.

I found the conversations between Augustus and Hazel to be witty and charming, and their individual stories were so specific and detailed that by bringing them together in a never-really-defined relationship made for an intriguing adventure.

To be honest, I really liked this book, but I’m not totally sold into the John Green fan cult, particularly because I didn’t really buy Hazel’s personality. I get that she has a different perspective because of her battle with cancer. I really enjoyed her dry humor, especially the lines “sleeping fights cancer” and “cancer perks.” However, I thought her voice was too…what’s the word?..nerdy I guess? It boils down to the fact that it was written by a guy and I could tell. Maybe I was looking for a little more swooning or feminine complaints, and I guess that’s my personal issue not the fault of the writer. My issue with her voice really caused a disconnect for me with her story, leaving me watching from the sidelines instead of living the action with her.

I guess I don’t really know how I feel about this story. It was beautifully tragic and thought provoking. I’m glad I read it but it’s a sad read and that’s what caused me to steer clear in the first place; the world is already sad enough as it is. It’ll be interesting to see what the movie adaptation looks like. From the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like it’ll be pretty close to the book.

STARS: 4 out of 5