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

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

If you flip to the back of Godsgrave, under the author bio, the very last line says:

He [the author, our dear Jay Kristoff] does not believe in happy endings.

In that moment, I wanted to go back in time and never pick up Nevernight, the first installment of the Nevernight Chronicle, which has led me through a dark and twisty tale of blood and murder and vengeance.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all about that bloodlust and death, but my heart is so invested in Mia Covere and her shadowfriends, and all the new gladiatii that we meet in the second novel that I NEED a happy ending. I want it so. bad.

23264671A ruthless young assassin continues her journey for revenge in this new epic fantasy from New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff.

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Set in the world of Nevernight, which Publishers Weekly called “absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness,” Godsgrave will continue to thrill and satisfy fantasy fans everywhere.

Godsgrave was bloody brilliant! Better than the first. There was more bloodshed, more pain, more twisty, turny politics and deeply embedded plot lines of betrayal and lies. The genius plotting in this book is poured out to us like a blood offering on the sands of the Godsgrave Coliseum.

My heart about jumped out of my chest a bajillion times while reading this dark masterpiece. The humor was bordering discomfort and disgust, and I was squirming in my seat as I endured Mia’s dangerous tale of revenge. The added challenge of not only murdering the untouchable men that took away Mia’s familia but fighting TO THE DEATH through gladiator-style battles to reach her ultimate goal was a mesmerizing sight to behold.

“The choice between looking plain and pretty isn’t really a choice at all. But any fool knows looking dangerous is preferable to both.”

There were twists I didn’t see coming and twists I wanted so bad I could have cried that didn’t come to fruition. However, by the end, all seemed somewhat surprisingly well considering the circumstances. I fell in love with these characters much to my own demise. I knew not to get too close, but I did. And it hurt. It still hurts! In one particular scene where Mia has to choose between her ultimate goal and a familia-like bond with her fellow gladiatii, I thought I was going to have a heart attack and went to bed that night sick to my stomach. This book was painful. There were times I had to set it aside as I clutched the remaining shreds of my tender heart.

“No matter how dark life became, shutting out the hurt was as easy as opening a cover.”

I know my talk of pain doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but this book was the best kind of pain. Godsgrave is a story that grabs you by the genitalia, both a violation and intimate, and drags you into the darkness. I both loved and hated every minute of it, and if the spectrum of emotions this story elicits isn’t enough to get you to read it, then I don’t know why you read in the first place.

I’m now going to settle in to the raging book hangover I know is coming and wait with bated breath for the dreaded yet anticipated ending to Mia’s tale.

STARS: 5 out of 5

When It’s Real by Erin Watt

When It’s Real by Erin Watt was the cutest, most addicting story!

30731416From #1 New York Times bestselling author duo Erin Watt comes the addictive contemporary tale of a teen rock star in need of an image makeover and the teen girl hired to be his fake girlfriend.

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

This is the first novel I’ve read by Erin Watt, and it surely won’t be the last. I loved it!

I love enemies-to-lovers stories and the fake girlfriend trope, and When It’s Real pulls it off! Vaughn and Oakley had me laughing and swooning in no time. Their chemistry gave me the shivers and I gobbled this story up in one sitting.

It was addicting. I couldn’t not keep reading. Somehow Watt nailed the tortured bad boy without being over the top and Vaughn was the perfect girl next door without being too cliche. I don’t know how Watt pulled it off, but it was amazingly wonderful.

As far-fetched as the fake girlfriend trope is, I thought the story line with Vaughn helping Oakley with his image was fantastic. The fake romance muddled the real feelings growing between them and watching them slowly fall for each other brought a smile to my face.

There’s really nothing else to say. It was so cute and addicting! I can’t wait to read more from this author.

STARS: 5 out of 5

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

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

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

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