Roar by Cora Carmack

Wow! Just Wow. Roar by Cora Cormack was everything I wanted from a YA fantasy and more!

29939048.jpgIn a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage.

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

I’ve read Cora’s New Adult work and loved it, but I feel like she’s hit it out of the park with Roar. As always, her characters are so well-developed and push the story forward, but the real star of this novel was the magic system…or should I say storm system. The idea of storm hunters and “taking” the heart of the storm as a form of magic hit every one of my little girl fantasies. (Full disclosure: I wanted to be a tornado chaser since I was in 1st grade and wrote my first report on tornadoes.) The storm chasing scenes were exciting and the tension between Roar and Locke only raised the stakes further as Roar attempts to learn how to “capture” magic from the storm.

I loved the relationship between Roar and Locke. It was so well-built and I rooted for them. What made the tension between them so delicious was the forbidden nature of their relationship and the secrets between them. Roar’s motivations were so pure and believable and Locke was such a good guy. Gah! I love those two! #Rocke4eva!

On the flip side, the drama going on back home in Pavan held my attention as the political plot of Aurora’s betrothed comes to light and her friend/servant holds the truth to Roar’s whereabouts. There was so much more to this novel than meets the eye. I even particularly liked the way the author switched point of view while in third person.

I can’t wait until book two because Cora has built a mesmerizing storm of a novel and I can’t wait for all hell to rain down after that ending. If you like YA fantasy, Roar is the book for you. It was exciting, romantic and completely enthralling.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Tower of Dawn by SJM Book Tour Event

Last Tuesday, I hoofed it up to Nashville on a weeknight to see my favorite author – Sarah J. Maas – for the release of Tower of Dawn, the sixth Throne of Glass novel and parallel narrative to Empire of Storms. As much as I was ready for another book from SJM, I was really there to get the deets on the ACOTAR spin-off, and luckily my question was one of the few answered at the event where hundreds of fangirls sat in a private school auditorium hanging on SJM’s every word.

SarahJM

After a standing ovation once SJM was introduced, I scribbled notes furiously so I could document all the goods as a special gift to you, dear readers. Here’s what I know:

Tower of Dawn

  • Tower of Dawn is one of SJM’s “top 3” books she’s ever written and it was an emotional journey (similar to writing Heir of Fire).
  • Yrene is one of her favorite characters to write and she’s been planning her reintroduction since the story The Assassin and the Healer for years.
  • She did a lot of research on those with a disability to make Chaol’s journey a realistic one.

ACOTAR Spin-Off

I practically squealed when I heard my non-question read (It literally said: I NEED details on the ACOTAR spin-off, pretty please.) and her answer did not disappoint.

  • In May, a novella told from Feyre and Rhysand’s perspective (**Fangirling**) will come out to bridge the gap from the original ACOTAR trilogy and the spin-off.
  • Here’s the synopsis:

Months after the explosive events in A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

  • The spin-off books will be about different pairings, and some of those characters may be ones we’ve already met (*cross-my-heart-hope-to-die for Azriel’s happy ever after*).
  • The first full-length spin-off book will come out in 2019.

Other revealing details.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence for writing strong, female characters that fall in and out of love, and reinforced that it’s “okay to grow out of a relationship.”
  • Someone asked a question about what a chapter narrated by the wyvern Abraxos would be like, and she basically described it as a chill chapter where nothing bad happens and Abraxos smells flowers and follows a bee around. LOL Sweet little Abraxos.
  • She described herself as an “indoor cat” and I feel her on a spiritual level.
  • Her best writing advice: When people tell you you can’t do it, use that anger to prove them wrong. Don’t listen to them. Getting published is a hard journey but it’s possible.
sjm event

My friend Brittney and I at the Tower of Dawn book event.

Overall, SJM is hilarious and I want to be her new bestie. She told some crazy stories from high school and how the haters fueled her drive to write. I also realized that I’ve been saying Manon wrong this. Whole. Time. It’s Ma-NAWN. I’ve been saying it like MAN-EN. *facepalm* I guess I’ll never pronounce any of this right.

I wasn’t one of the lucky few that got to “meet” SJM to get the book personalized and take a picture, but I was just glad to get my signed copy and hear her speak. Also, shout out to Parnassus Books in Nashville that puts on these awesome author events!

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

When I first heard that Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh was a Mulan retelling set in feudal Japan, I immediately put it on my TBR list. This story started off strong but left me wanting by the end.

23308087.jpgThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

I am a huge fan of the girl-dressed-as-a-boy trope. There’s something about a girl proving herself an equal amongst men without the baggage that comes with gender expectations. Mariko, as a boy, was my favorite part of the novel. She was a great heroine. She was brave, clever and had a mind for science, which led to the creation of deadly inventions. She wasn’t the typical badass fighter heroine. She knew physical strength was her weakness so she put her mind to work.

There was a significant amount of female empowerment in this novel, which I liked but it came on a little too strong at times.

“I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

“She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion.
She was not a half. She was wholly her own.”

I was feeling this novel until Mariko was revealed as a female. Each time someone new discovered her secret, I felt the reader was robbed of the character’s real reaction. They were too accepting, too quickly. I was also blind-sided with the main love interest. I was watching a certain someone and then BAM! She’s suddenly kissing another guy. It was the strangest kind of whiplash, where I had to take a moment to change my allegiances before continuing to read.

I wish this book was a standalone because I wanted the relief of a resolution sooner. The ending packed in too many unanswered questions and unresolved plot threads. Since it’s the first in a series, they’ll be more to come to resolve these things, but I would have been more satisfied with a neater ending.

Overall, I really liked this book. I was hanging on every word until the end. I’ll be reading the second book to see what happens next.

STARS: 4 out of 5

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet is an intoxicating fantasy adventure. I haven’t felt so enchanted by magic since Harry Potter.

27015399.jpgCatalia “Cat” Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

A Promise of Fire wildly surpassed my expectations. Long after I turned the last page, I couldn’t get over how amazing it was. It left me in a fog, my mouth hung open in shock as I repeated “wow” over and over again. It was that good people. Here’s why.

Cat was an amazing heroine. She checked all the boxes of a badass fighter with her wicked knife skills, witty comebacks and impressive magic abilities. However, she was so amazing because she had this vulnerability to her. She was afraid. Her story was so heartbreaking and the juxtaposition between her arrogant confidence and fearful vulnerability was a delicate balance that made Cat such a relatable character.

Beta Sinta is one of the best male heroes I’ve come across in a while. He, too, was a badass fighter who’s deadly with a sword and always has a trick up his sleeve. However, who he is inside was so endearing and swoon worthy. He was sweet, honorable, loyal. I wanted more and more of him. He was the kind of alpha male that’s realistic because he fought for those he loved not for himself.

I fell in love with the world Bouchet built. The kingdoms, the caste systems, the battle for power, the magical ties to the gods. It was all so perfectly lovely and entertaining. I particularly liked all the run-in’s Cat had with a certain Sea God. The magic was mesmerizing. With every turn of the page, there was something new, glorious and dangerous to discover, devour and kill. Both Cat and Beta Sinta fight with no remorse once their loved ones are threatened.

I fell in love with this story. I drank it in with impatient gulps, like a man dying of thirst in the desert. It was so good. The romance had me swooning. The action had my blood pumping and the secrets (most of which have yet to be revealed) kept me flipping the pages.

If you like Fantasy and Romance, this is the book for you. Excuse me while I go devour book two.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins is a wonderful conclusion to the Great Hunt Duology.

28370779.jpgLochlanach has traded the great beast for something far more terrible, a Lashed enemy veiled in beauty, deception, and a vengeance passed down through generations: Rozaria Rocato. And she’s offering the hunter Paxton Seabolt power and acceptance he could never receive in his homeland. Pax must decide how far he’s willing to go under her tutelage, knowing she is the opponent of Princess Aerity Lochson.

In a land where traditionalists dread change, the Lochlan throne must contend with mysterious foes and traitors, while attempting to keep revolt at bay. As dire circumstances strike the royal family, matters of the castle are left in Aerity’s hands. It’s time to put aside her fears and grasp the reign, taking actions that have the potential to save or destroy her people.

One hunt has ended, but the pursuit for love and justice continue. In this sequel to The Great Hunt from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Higgins, political intrigue and romance intensify in another thrilling fantasy. Princess Aerity embraces a quest for identity and passion before making the ultimate sacrifice for her kingdom.

I am a huge fan of The Great Hunt. As my first Higgins novel, I knew I wanted to read more of her stuff, so I was ecstatic when The Great Pursuit released.

Right away, I loved being back into the heart of this special story. The Great Pursuit is a great continuation of Aerity’s story. There is duty and passion, romance and danger. Even though the violence is tame, there is plenty of danger and real-world consequences for these characters. This is definitely YA fantasy.

Paxton and Aerity are such a mature couple for their age and this genre. I was yearning for them to be together the entire time. I also enjoyed the secondary romances sprinkled throughout, specifically Aerity’s cousin, Wyneth, and her sister, Vixie. I’m always down for more than one couple to get a happy ending. Other than Paxton, my next favorite character has to be the guard Harrison. He was the most intriguing of all the men. He is extremely loyal yet restrained. The lengths he would go for the sake of the kingdom was so endearing. I’m happy he got what he deserved. And I can’t help but mention Furball. I don’t want to give anything away, but the animal lover in me loved this aspect of the story.

I read this book like a demon – I couldn’t put it down. I thought I would miss the hunt aspect that was so prevalent in the first book, but the impending war and contention between the lashed and unlashed left me breathlessly turning the pages. Plus, my desperate hope for Aerity and Paxton to be together had me clinging to the storyline. If you like YA Fantasy, this is one of the best examples of it that I’ve read in a while. It left me swooning with a goofy grin in the end. I highly recommend it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I just finished A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, the final installment of Feyre’s story. I want to sing and dance and laugh and cry. But mostly, I am content. I want for nothing.

23766634Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

I abhor spoilers so I will try my best to review this magnificent story without telling you anything. I know this review will not do it justice because it is SJM’s very words and spellbinding storytelling that make this series my favorite series of all time. Just know that it is a fitting end, a story that is satisfying without being bittersweet even knowing it will be the last.

The manipulation and deception in the first part of ACOWAR was so well done. My favorite scene at the wall is when Feyre reveals her badass fighting skills to Lucien. So. Epic. In fact, all the battle scenes had my blood thundering in my veins, that primal bloodlust simmering to the surface. With the very lives of everyone Feyre loves — that we, the reader, love — on the line, I almost couldn’t bear it, putting the book down just to catch my breath. It was an absolute honor to witness Cassian and Azriel fight. From the moment Cassian bellowed “SHIELDS!” as he led his army into certain death, it made my heart race. I’m getting goosebumps again just thinking about it.

And the BONE CARVER! Guys, that twist was spectacular. It’s like a gift from SJM to her readers. And I, for one, am grateful.

The scenes between Rhysand and Feyre I will always hold close to my heart, from their eventual reunion to standing together at the last. Rhysand’s heart-breaking words to his mate echo still, ringing in the deepest depths of my heart.

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

I don’t know if I can say anything else. I cried, oh I cried, and I hoped, a painful kind of hope that fills you up too much, until desperation is pouring through your very skin. There is pain and terror and devastation, but there is also redemption, reconciliation, and for some characters, faint flickers of a fated future, one that may just come to pass.

My one request is I want MORE. There are so many unresolved relationships and new ones I didn’t even know about til now that I SHIP SO HARD! I hope to God that SJM will write more on these individuals.

ACOWAR is everything I wanted it to be and more. I’m in awe of SJM’s masterful writing and epic twists. However, it was the quieter twists in this book that stole my heart. How SJM finds quiet moments to capitalize on, where it isn’t the battle scenes and fights to the death that steal the spotlight, but the battles within ourselves, that are the hardest to fight but must be won before a blade can even be drawn.

I am sad that Feyre’s story is over, but I am content. It was well told, my heart bursting with a comfortable kind of satisfaction. However, knowing there will be a spin-off in 2018 makes the end easier to swallow.

READ this book. It may very well change your life. It did mine.

STARS: 5 out of 5