Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

May has come and gone. I’ve been yo-yoing between voracious reading and a book slump, where everything I read is meh, which makes it hard to write reviews.

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 Book of the Month*

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A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas – 5 Stars

FINALLY! It came. It conquered. I’m now utterly ruined for any other type of literature for the foreseeable future.

*based on books reviewed this month

April Reviews (Total-7)

The Chosen by J.R. Ward – 3 Stars

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones – 2.5 Stars

Twist by Kylie Scott – 4 Stars

The Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins – 5 Stars

Honor by Jay Crownover – 3 Stars

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft – 5 Stars

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 43 out of 100 books. (Read 12 books this month.)

Currently Reading

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Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

I’m not really liking it so far…Hopefully it gets better.

Next on my TBR

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What I’m Watching

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It’s time!!!! I am a HUGE fan of The Bachelorette and proud member of #Bachelornation. My Monday nights consist of The Bachelorette, wine and yoga pants.

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I’ve also been watching the Amazon Original series Sneaky Pete. It’s wildly entertaining starring David Shore and Bryan Cranston. It’s great for fans of Breaking Bad.

What I’m writing

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I’m almost done with my current round of edits on my first work in progress. These last few chapters have been a huge hurdle because something isn’t right and I can’t figure out what it is. I just need to buckle down and figure it out.

 

 

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 Great Pursuit by Wendy Higgins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STARS: 5 out of 5

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STARS: 5 out of 5

 

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