Mini-Reviews: Hidden Legacy Series, Trust, Cake and Breath of Fire

Hello world! I’m back after an unintentional hiatus.

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My sister got married. I got the flu. And, ya know, decided reading and watching TV was more fun than writing blog posts. But I’m back after a much needed pep talk.

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I’ve read so many books over the past month so I’ve decided to do some mini-reviews right out of the gate and do a little catching up. Here goes!

The Hidden Legacy Series by Ilona Andrews

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Woo! I’m still fanning myself after this scorcher of a romance. I devoured all three of these books back-to-back, and if you’re interested in reading them, I’d recommend you make time for all three because they are that addicting. I’m a huge fan of Ilona Andrews but I’d argue this series is her best yet. The magic. The mayhem. The hot as hell male lead Mad Rogan. Nevada is a kick ass heroine with a cool-as-hell family, including her badass grandmother. Just read it, people. If you like Urban Fantasy, you won’t regret it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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Trust by Kylie Scott

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Kylie Scott is an auto-buy author for me. I LOVE her work, so when Trust came out and it didn’t meet my expectations, I was beyond disappointed. It had so much promise. The premise was intriguing, her main character showed love to curvy girls everywhere, and the love interest was a complex bad boy. Unfortunately, the story was a bit far-fetched and I didn’t buy it. The plot built but the climax never came. The story fell flat for me. I am so disappointed I didn’t like it more.

STARS: 3 out of 5

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Cake by J. Bengtsson

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I took a chance on Cake after reading rave reviews and downloaded the audiobook, because let’s face it, I’d never knowingly read a story named “Cake.” Granted, I did end up loving the inspiration for the title. This story was such a surprise. It was the sweetest most engaging love story. I hung on every word. However, this novel had a kryptonite, and it was pacing. At times, the story was perfect and I was enthralled swooning and smiling, and then the story would drag and I’d have to force myself through. And with it being an audiobook, it’s hard to force yourself to listen through the slow, boring parts. It took me way longer than normal to listen to this entire novel. However, it had enough good parts to outweigh the bad. I’m hoping this author pays more attention to pacing in her future novels, because her writing and story-crafting show promise.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5

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Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

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The Kingmaker Chronicles is a fantasy romance that shouldn’t be missed. Where has Amanda Bouchet been all my life? I devoured this sequel and was left squalling for the third and final book that won’t be out til 2018. Cat and Griffin are #relationshipgoals, and the magic and setting had me daydreaming about this world long after the last page had been read. It was exciting adventure that left my blood pumping in more ways than one.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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My #Utopiacon2017 Experience

In June, I went to Utopiacon in Nashville, which is a conference for authors, writers, bloggers and readers. I had a blast geeking out over books with my best friend, meeting my favorite authors, and of course, getting my books signed.

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Here’s some of the highlights.

Utopiacon 2017_keynoteAmy Harmon, author of Making Faces and The Bird and the Sword, was the keynote speaker. She encouraged aspiring writers to “be a finisher,” and when it comes to writing, “what you don’t know you’ll figure out.” She also did a reading out of The Bird and the Sword, which was amazing because she has this awesome husky voice. I could have listened to her all day.

I got to meet Jennifer L. Armentrout. (Yes, that JLA, the woman who brought us Katy/Daemon from the Lux series, and my personal favorite Layla/Roth from The Dark Elements trilogy.) She’s one of my favorite authors and I did nothing but fangirl in her presence. (I tried to keep it together guys. I really did.)

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I also saw her speak on a panel regarding hybrid authors. JLA talked about how her best career move was taking a risk and publishing with a small press, and discouraged aspiring writers from saying yes to everything. She commented on how that’s why she’s been working non-stop and putting out so many books. (I’m happy she said yes. #sorrynotsorry). Other authors on the panel had great insight. Shannon Mayer, author of Priceless, encouraged writers to invest in their cover and brand, and Elise Kova, author of The Alchemists of the Loom, talked about changing marketing tactics for each series.

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I saw a lot of other great panels and sat through some readings, which are now my favorite thing. Even if you don’t know anything about an author or their books, sit through a reading. I found some great new books this way.

I got to meet C.J. Redwine, author of The Wish Granter. She was so sweet. During a panel on the pressures in publishing, she said, “If I wouldn’t cry at your funeral, I don’t have to care what you think about me.” I’m pretty sure that’s my new life motto.

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Over the weekend, I bought 12 books, which was quite the book haul!

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I got to meet a lot of authors.

Ginger Scott was so nice. I fangirled about The Hard Count and A Boy Like Me. We talked about the sports romance genre and how we both think that genre should include scenes where the sport is actually played.

Elise Kova seemed so business savvy. I went to her reading of The Alchemists of the Loom and I immediately wanted to read it.

Abbi Glines was quiet, but she signed my book and gave me Rush underwear so I was a happy camper!

Casey Bond was an author I’d never read before, but she spoke so eloquently during a panel, I had to see what she was about.

Amy Harmon was an absolute doll. So nice. I want to give her books a second chance. I think I’ll read The Bird and The Sword since it has some pretty cool magic.

Beth Flynn was such a surprise. I don’t know who was more surprised — me or her. She was shocked that I’d read her books, and I was shocked that this sweet older lady wrote a novel that tore my heart from my body. I joked about needing to join a support group after Nine Minutes, and she jokingly warned me that Out of Time might do me in. She’s pretty much a badass.

Shannon Mayer was another author I hadn’t read before, but I attended her reading and her new series has talking guns…and I was sold from the very first snarky remark. She was also very encouraging when I told her I was an aspiring writer. I kind of want to be her best friend and her Urban Fantasy Rylee Adamson series is next on my TBR.

I didn’t get a picture with Cambria Hebert, but she was fun to talk to, and I got to meet Jasinda Wilder.

The weekend ended with an awards ceremony and a Circus-themed Freakshow Ball. My best friend and I had a great time.

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Overall, Utopiacon 2017 was a success. Unfortunately, this is the final year of the conference, but they did mention a reunion Utopiacon in a few years.

 

 

 

 

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

June has been a whirlwind. I’ve been reading like there is no tomorrow and I got to go to Utopiacon 2017. I’m absolutely exhausted going into July.

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Book of the Month*

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The Queen of Traitors by Laura Thalassa – 5 stars!

It was hard to decide the book of the month this month, but I loved this series so much and I binge-read it. It deserves the top spot this month.

*based on books reviewed this month

June Reviews (Total-7)

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 48 out of 100 books. (Read 7 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’m a sucker for Shadowhunters on Freeform. It makes me want to go back and finish reading The Mortal Instruments series. I never read the last book. The show deviates from the books, but it’s most definitely a guilty pleasure.

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Younger is BACK!!!!! I freaking love this show. If you haven’t been watching it, binge-watch now. It’s addicting and I wish they were longer than 30 minute episodes.

What I’m writing

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This is me trying to find beta readers for my novel. If you’re interested in reading a YA Paranormal Romance, hit me up. I’d love the feedback.

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

Twist by Kylie Scott

I freakin’ love Kylie Scott, so I was ecstatic to get my paws on Twist, the second novel in her Dive Bar series.

28220678When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they’re emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets… apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

 

This story jumps right into the first meeting between Alex and the man she thinks she’s been talking to online for months. The scene where she meets the younger brother– the one in the pictures — was hilarious, but the confrontation with Joe, the man behind the emails, was super entertaining. And the entertainment didn’t stop throughout the story.  I loved getting to see pieces of their email correspondence with each chapter, giving the reader a glimpse of what came before. The book takes place over a short period of time, but it was well-paced.

I loved watching Alex get over her perception of the “perfect man” and fall for the bearded and rugged Joe, who is hot in a totally different way. They each had issues to overcome and it was beautiful to watch them break down each other’s barriers. Also, the steamy scenes were the best kind — HOT and moved the story forward. Each touch and caress loaded with meaning and plot development.

My favorite secondary character was Alex’s best friend and transwoman. I hope we get to see more of her in books to come. It was also great to see Nell and her story progress. However, I feel like A LOT happened and I wish I got to see it from her perspective. I’m wanting to hear Nell’s story STAT!

My biggest issue with the book was the ending. Joe is such a loyal, supportive guy, and his behavior at the end didn’t match the ethics of his character. Even though everything works out in the end, I thought his actions were unwarranted and unnecessary. Because of that, I couldn’t give this story 5 stars.

With that said, I still love Kylie Scott. I was totally enraptured with her writing and storytelling, and she’ll always be an auto-buy author for me.

STARS: 4 out of 5

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

*deep breath*

Guys, I have too many feels about this series.

22698569.jpgIn less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has grown from an awkward teenager into a powerful monarch and a visionary leader.

And as she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, she has transformed her realm. But in her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies – chief among them the evil and feared Red Queen, who ordered the armies of Mortmesne to march against the Tear and crush them.

To protect her people from such a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable – naming the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place, she surrendered herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign from her prison in Mortmesne.

So, the endgame has begun and the fate of Queen Kelsea – and the Tearling itself – will be revealed…

With The Fate of the Tearling, Erika Johansen draws her unforgettable story full of magic and adventure to a thrilling close.

When Queen of Tearling first came on the scene, I avoided it after reading reviews that pointed out it didn’t really have a romance, and I like stories with a romance somewhere in the narrative. Time passed, and when I heard that they’re making a movie, starring Emma Watson (who’s my homegirl), my interest piqued and I took the time to read it.

I LOVED Queen of Tearling. It was engaging and exciting, and had just enough Game of Thrones feel to raise my bloodlust. It was a heart-stopping and literal death-defying adventure for our young heroine.

Then book two happened. The Invasion of the Tearling was great, but it felt like the story suffered from split personality disorder. I loved reading about Kelsea and her world, with the historic feel as she fights for her Kingdom. I enjoyed Lily’s story as a woman living in a dystopian future. I did not like them together. Of course, the back and forth had a point and played a huge part in the story but I was in the mood for sword-fights and political maneuvering of kings and queens NOT survival in an oppressive society.

For book three, I had high hopes. The Fate of the Tearling was going to have all the answers, and it did. I was a little disappointed with who her father was, but I enjoyed the progression of some of the secondary characters like Father Tyler and Andalie’s daughter. However, there was ANOTHER type of split personality disorder, where Kelsea sees, yet again, into the past and it takes up half the novel. I was split between wanting to know what would befall the fate of Kelsea and her guards, and not caring AT ALL what happened in the past. Granted, the past and the future collided in the present with an epic ending, but I hated it so much that maybe there’s a sick part of me that actually loved it.

The ending left me bereft, adrift, and unsatisfied. I know the author was making a point and I understand it, but when it comes to entertainment value, I was left wanting. It made my heart hurt for the heroine. The ending was no ending at all but like being dropped open-ended into the abyss with no closure. And to top it all off, there really was zero romance in this series. There are pops of love interests but nothing ever comes to fruition in a satisfying way. Kelsea is as lonely in the beginning as she is in the end and it’s heartbreaking.

To be perfectly honest, there is a part of me that wishes I had never read this series because it makes me feel so bad. Granted, any book that can make me feel THIS MUCH certainly has an impact that most novels don’t have. I may grow to love it after much retrospection, but for now my opinion is solidly set in the disgruntled and dissatisfied reader territory. Read this series at your own risk.