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

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.

2017_WebLogo

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

Honor by Jay Crownover

So I’m left unsupervised in a bookstore, but it’s okay because I have a gift card. (Not that it would stop me from using the big guns [i.e. the credit card]) And I’m trying to find a book to buy, normally this isn’t a problem but I’m trying a new thing where I go into a bookstore and buy a book that I don’t already know about and that I haven’t read a review for. I’m trying to go in blind.

I stumbled upon Honor by Jay Crownover in the smaller than usual romance section (since when is romance only two aisles?!?) and I’m kind of cheating because I LOVED Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series, and once I cheated by picking a book by an author I knew, I continued the downward spiral by looking up reviews to verify my choice. The gushing and fangirling on Goodreads had me feeling pretty confident, and the combination of the reviews and the author’s note in the beginning had me excited for this super dark and gritty read.

26072600Don’t be fooled.

Don’t make excuses for me.

I am not a good man.

I’ve seen things no one should, done things no one should talk about. Honor and conscience have no place in my life. But I’ve fought and I’ve survived. I’ve had to.

The first time I saw her dancing on that seedy stage in that second rate club, I felt my heart pulse for the first time. Keelyn Foster was too young, too vibrant for this place, and I knew in an instant that I would make her mine. But first I had to climb my way to the top. I had to have something more to offer her.

I’m here now, money is no object and I have no equal. Except for her. She’s disappeared. But don’t worry, I will find her and claim her. She will be mine.

Like I said, don’t be fooled. I am not the devil in disguise… I’m the one front and center.

I finished this book in pretty much one day. I liked it but I think I went in with too high of expectations because it wasn’t nearly dark and gritty enough for me to consider it as dark as everyone thought it was. At no point while reading did I feel uncomfortable at the violence or the fact that the main character runs a sex club. Overall, I thought the book was pretty tame, and when the main character is literally described as the “devil,” I was expecting a damaged and dangerous dude.

Now, did I like the characters? Yes. BUT, they weren’t the kind of dark characters I expected. That disappointment bled into the rest of my reading experience and left me feeling pretty meh about the book. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was fantastic, but there were points the plot felt too forced, or the action felt too much like a plot device to get the story moving as opposed to naturally occurring plot progression.

I went in with high expectations and came out a little disappointed. However, that may speak to my reading past – the dark AF books I’ve apparently been reading to leave me jaded enough to think this is tame – and the fact that I think Jay Crownover writes good guys better than bad guys.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft

I freaking LOVED Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft. I devoured it in one sitting.

When Connie Phillips began keeping secrets from her adoptive parents, she was unaware of the darkness she would bring into her world. Discovering she is the daughter of a crime lord had consequences even she could never have predicted. Consequences that put her first real love—Rocks—and her adorable baby sister in mortal danger.

With many lives balanced in her hands, Connie must find a way to save Rocks’ life, while keeping his identity a secret. Navigating the antiquated ways of the Camazotz culture, while trying not to offend the colony’s leaders with her modern technology, is harder than Connie ever imagined.

When Rocks defies certain death using present-day medicine, the Camazotz are torn. If they consider modernizing, they risk discovery and subsequent extermination by the aeronaughts. But hiding away in their mountain roost has left them vulnerable to an unidentified enemy slowly picking them off one bat at a time.

I met this author at a writing conference a few years ago and I’m so glad I did, because I might not have known to pick up this wonderful story. I loved book one in the Camazotz Trilogy, Sanguine Mountain. I was ecstatic to read book two when it finally arrived because these characters have been in my head, and I want more of them.

Bottom line: I love me some Rocks! Rocks is the best kind of love interest. He’s bad boy on the outside, good guy on the inside. Since he’s been isolated from civilization, he’s slightly naive, and with Rocks’ supernatural background as a shape-shifting bat, it’s totally believable. I loved the scenes where Connie had to explain modern technology or common turns of phrase. Rocks and his band of friends were so sweet and endearing. I wanted to squeeze all of them in a big hug, bat-form or no.

Sanguine Moon is the sweetest form of YA lit. The romance between Connie and Rocks was so pure. I loved the slow development of their relationship. It had that sweet high school crush, blush when you see each other feel.

I loved how this book expanded on the bat way of life. The leader of the Camazotz is a bit of a hard ass and I loved peeking into their sacred customs and secret lairs. The danger and tension of protecting the bat colony combined with the forbidden aspect of Connie and Rocks’ relationship was so compelling and had me turning pages as quickly as possible.

I was thoroughly impressed with this book. The writing was excellent and held my interest the entire time. There were only a couple times that I felt the plot slowed a bit, but it always picked right back up until the very end. Just like book one left me reeling, book two left me wanting more — more Connie, more drama, and most definitely more Rocks!

Read this. You won’t regret it.

STARS: 5 out of 5