Wild Card by Rachel Vincent

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Vincent’s Shifter series so I’m loving her Wildcats spinoff, and Wild Card is the third book and its Kaci’s story!

Wild Card (Wildcats, #3)Kaci Dillon is a man-eater.

She’s grown up on the fringes of shifter society, hearing the whispers. One desperate act as a starving, terrified child has made her the first tabby in history with no romantic prospects. But whatever. Eighteen is too young to get married anyway. Still, when she stumbles upon an opportunity to get away for a few days, who could blame her for seizing it?

Justus Alexander is screwed.

Confined to the South-Central territory, awaiting trial for crimes he committed as a traumatized, newly infected stray, Justus has discovered that the tribunal already intends to vote for the death penalty. He has no choice but to run. Too young to touch the trust fund that could finance his escape, he’s betting on a big win at the poker tables—until Kaci, his secret crush, catches him sneaking out and demands that he take her with him to Las Vegas

After a wild night she can’t remember, Kaci wakes up with a ring on her finger, next to a young billionaire who can’t access his fortune until he turns twenty-five—or ties the knot. If she can keep her hands off her hot, charismatic new groom, she can have their unconsummated marriage annulled. But can she really abandon Justus to his death sentence, just to undo her own mistake?

It took me a minute to remind myself of who was who in the original shifter world, but once I was in, I was back in. It was so nice to see Faythe and Marc and others again. It was great to see Kaci all grown up and to meet Justus.

I loved being back in Vincent’s shifter world – the struggles of being a wildcat, the challenges of being a female, and all the shifter politics! I loved that Kaci had a mind for strategy and played a major role in council politics with this story. She’s beauty AND brains!

I’m a huge fan of the “waking up in Vegas married” trope and this has got to be one of the most unique with the added complexity of being shifters. This story was romantic with Kaci and Justus falling for each other but it was a little more PG-13 than her other Wildcat novels since the protagonist is only 18. It’s a bit of a YA shifter story. Wild Card was also action packed – death-defying escapes, car chases and fighting. I wish there was more fighting in cat form or spending more time in cat form in general.

If you’re a fan of Vincent’s Shifter series, this spinoff series is a must-read. I believe she self-publishes it so it doesn’t get out there as much as her other series, but it deserves all the recognition.

STARS: 4 out of 5

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Hunted by Meagan Spooner

Hunted By Meagan Spooner hit me like a cupid’s arrow straight to the heart. I tried to resist, but ultimately, I fell in love with this story and it left a permanent mark.

24485589 (1)Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

This is the third book I’ve ever read from Meagan Spooner. The first book, Skylark,hated. The second book was These Broken Stars, which I loved, but it was written with another author so I wan’t sure how much of it I liked was Spooner. So when uppercase box (monthly YA book subscription) sent me Hunted, I groaned and set it on my shelf to collect dust. Plus, Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses will be, forevermore, the best Beauty and the Beast retelling *cue inner Kanye* OF ALL TIME!

Now I may have spoken too soon, because unlike ACOTAR, Hunted is a closer retelling but with a unique, magical twist. And dare I say, I now love them both.

“Fire cannot hurt us. And yet, when we light her a lantern, there is a moment as we watch the wick flare in the darkness-a moment in which I want to touch the flame. Just to see if I can still be burned.”

Hunted was a beautiful story. The writing was excellent, the descriptions awe-inspiring and it was so heartbreakingly romantic. I loved the slow burn between Beauty and Beast. Typically I hate “verbatim” retellings, but I loved this one because the plot was very similar but the world building was outstanding. The magical forest, the believable secondary characters, and the coming of age confusion that makes YA so fun to read had me devouring this book quickly.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

The overall theme and message by the end caught me by surprise and made my heart soar. It was so beautiful and it truly struck me in the heart dead center. I think this book changed me somehow. Or at least changed my outlook. Gah! It’s just so freaking beautiful!

“There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.”

Hunted was romantic, magical and hauntingly mesmerizing. If you like YA fairytale retellings, this book is for you.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Devils Within by S.F. Henson

I didn’t know what to expect with Devils Within by S.F. Henson but it blew all my expectations out of the water.

31213050.jpgKilling isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is. It’s the after that’s hard to deal with. 

Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.

Enrolled in a new school under a false name, so no one from The Fort can find him, he struggles to forge a new life, trying to learn how to navigate a world where people of different races interact without enmity. But he can’t stop awful thoughts from popping into his head, or help the way he shivers with a desire to commit violence. He wants to be different—he just doesn’t know where to start.

Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.

Like a teen American History X, S.F. Henson’s Devils Within is gut-wrenching, thought-provoking, no-holds-barred look at the plague of white supremacy in contemporary American culture that may have you examining your own soul.

I fell in love with Nate from the very first page. I loved being in his head and reading about his inner thought process. It was both fascinating and bizarre, familiar and foreign. Nate had such a strong voice and perspective.

This story takes on a very hot topic right now — racism. And not just normal racism (although I could argue that the author calls that out as well), but radical racism. The kind of racism where people carry tiki torches and participate in lynchings. It’s sad to say, but this story is so relevant today. I felt like Henson executed this story in such a great way because her protagonist was so believable. I felt his pain. I felt his confusion about what was right and wrong. I felt the way he fought through the brainwashing of his childhood. The fear. The desire for approval from a horrible parent. The desire to be normal, have friends. Gah, this story was just so good!

I usually require some kind of love story in the books I read, and even though there was a hint at a potential romance, I didn’t miss that element of the story at all. The way the story unravels with his unlikely friendship with Brandon and his difficult relationship with his guardian left me turning pages faster and faster.

All I can say is read it. There’s a reason it’s been named Book of the Year, and I wholeheartedly agree.

STARS: 5 out of 5

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie Lu was everything I hoped it would be but it got a little confusing at the end. Luckily, this is just book one, so I have time to figure it out.

29385546For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

I’m not much of a gamer, but I know enough gamers and am aware of pop culture to truly enjoy Lu’s latest masterpiece. She created a colorful, dynamic world, where it felt like I was in a game. I’ve played some MarioKart in my day, and I even caught the “Leeeerooooy Jeeeenkiins!” shoutout.

Emika was the best kind of heroine. She was street smart and badass. I mean, she’s a bounty hunter for pete’s sake! I also loved that she was great with technology, hacking and all that awesome STEM stuff. Emika is the kind of heroine that will inspire young girls everywhere to pursue careers in technology.

This story faltered with Hideo. I loved him at first. He was the socially awkward billionaire creator of Warcross. I loved the push and pull of the relationship between him and Emika as they try to unravel the mystery of who’s messing with the Warcross games. Toward the end, Hideo as a character took a wrong turn and plunged into the abyss. I don’t understand how he went from point A to point B as a character. It was like whiplash for the reader. My difficulty understanding his motives made me dislike him and I don’t know if that was the author’s intent. I do know that it left a sour taste in my mouth and my overall enjoyment of the novel took a plunge by the end.

I did see the twist at the end coming, but I was still shocked and it left me with so many questions. Because of this, I’ll most likely read the next book to see what happens.

STARS: 3.5 out of 5 

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson is one of the best classic “fae” books I’ve ever read in a long time, where the fae are beautiful but dangerous, and humans are momentary and easily breakable.

30969741Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.

Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

This book surprised me. The story was enchanting; the writing was mesmerizing. I felt myself fall into the story and frolic between the pages until the very end, where I was rudely dropped back into the mortal world. The characters were intriguing and unique. I mean, the fact that Isobel has twin sisters that were originally baby goats until a fae turned them into humans is just so freaking different. I loved her bond with her aunt but I specifically loved that Isobel had such a strong disposition, where she didn’t waste her enchantments on frivolities but spent them on protection for her family and necessities like food. I respect the hell out of her.

My respect only grew as the story progressed because even though we know she’ll inevitably fall for the love interest, we don’t know when, and I was pleasantly surprised that she held out, kept her feelings to herself. She didn’t fall into Rook’s arms from the moment he showed her a bit of affection and declared her undying love. Their love was slow (although not really a slow burn, there was minimal burning but the heat was sweet and just enough to satisfy this reader) and she made logical decisions.

Isobel was such a self-aware narrator. I laughed out loud when she recognized that she was becoming one of those lovestruck girls but she had enough self-awareness about it to make her a lovable protagonist as opposed to just another dumb teen girl who loves too easily.

I’m having trouble putting into words what I loved about this book. It was entertaining. It had me on the edge of my seat, hoping against all odds their love would persevere the obstacles. The art was gorgeously depicted and I felt like I knew Isobel.

If you like tales of whimsy, magic and forbidden love, An Enchantment of Ravens is for you.

STARS: 4.5 out of 5

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

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