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

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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

The Keeper of Crows by Casey Bond

I had the pleasure of meeting Casey Bond at Utopiacon. She spoke on a panel, and I was so impressed I wanted to read her books. The Keeper of the Crows was a unique, imaginative story. I enjoyed it, but there was something missing for me.

34644925.jpgCarmen Kennedy is a spoiled brat from Beverly Hills with a chip on her shoulder and a cocaine addiction to match. Using drugs to suppress reality, her life is more than she can stomach most days. All she wants is to disappear, and on one fateful night, her wish is granted.

There is a world that exists just beyond the fabric of our own. When Carmen is dragged there against her will, her hopelessness seems to disappear, replaced by a determination to survive. The Keeper of Crows is charged with guarding Carmen, but is safety a possibility in a world so desolate? Can love blossom when danger lies in wait? Together, they fight like hell, seeming to lose more ground than they gain with each battle against the dark enemy threatening to tear them apart. Can love keep her safe? Can it give her the strength she needs?

When the lines between life and death, reality and dream become blurred, who will save the souls trapped in the spaces between Heaven and Hell? Who will save Carmen’s only love, The Keeper of Crows?

I was drawn in with the very first line. From the moment Carmen calls her father the Antichrist for sending her to rehab, I was sold. She was a take-no-sh#t, abrasive protagonist. She was bad news and she knew it. Her character arc throughout the novel is what kept me reading. I liked her snarky attitude and I enjoyed watching her change and mature as she worked to overcome obstacles. She was a take charge kind of gal.

The story line and world-building was different from anything I had read before. It reminded me a bit of Angelfall by Susan Ee. I enjoyed the mind-reading banter and the crows. The biblical history with the veil was a nice touch. It was historical without being preachy. I enjoyed the author’s interpretation of heaven, hell and purgatory.

The one piece that was missing for me was the slow burn. The romantic relationship between Carmen and the Keeper moved a bit too quickly for my taste. I could tell the author was attempting to slowly build their relationship – the enemies-to-lovers feel – but it felt too much like insta-love. I’m not sure what it was but it felt rushed. Maybe it was the pacing? If the pacing didn’t feel so forced, I feel like the sacrifices they made for each other would have meant more. In addition, I didn’t really feel anything. I was a detached, third-party observer. I felt more for Gabriel than the keeper.

The story ends with an ominous feel and I want to see what happens next, but I’m not burning to get my hands on book two. Overall, I liked it but I would have liked to have seen more depth in the character development and relationships.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Tower of Dawn by SJM Book Tour Event

Last Tuesday, I hoofed it up to Nashville on a weeknight to see my favorite author – Sarah J. Maas – for the release of Tower of Dawn, the sixth Throne of Glass novel and parallel narrative to Empire of Storms. As much as I was ready for another book from SJM, I was really there to get the deets on the ACOTAR spin-off, and luckily my question was one of the few answered at the event where hundreds of fangirls sat in a private school auditorium hanging on SJM’s every word.

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After a standing ovation once SJM was introduced, I scribbled notes furiously so I could document all the goods as a special gift to you, dear readers. Here’s what I know:

Tower of Dawn

  • Tower of Dawn is one of SJM’s “top 3” books she’s ever written and it was an emotional journey (similar to writing Heir of Fire).
  • Yrene is one of her favorite characters to write and she’s been planning her reintroduction since the story The Assassin and the Healer for years.
  • She did a lot of research on those with a disability to make Chaol’s journey a realistic one.

ACOTAR Spin-Off

I practically squealed when I heard my non-question read (It literally said: I NEED details on the ACOTAR spin-off, pretty please.) and her answer did not disappoint.

  • In May, a novella told from Feyre and Rhysand’s perspective (**Fangirling**) will come out to bridge the gap from the original ACOTAR trilogy and the spin-off.
  • Here’s the synopsis:

Months after the explosive events in A Court of Wings and Ruin, Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

  • The spin-off books will be about different pairings, and some of those characters may be ones we’ve already met (*cross-my-heart-hope-to-die for Azriel’s happy ever after*).
  • The first full-length spin-off book will come out in 2019.

Other revealing details.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer was an influence for writing strong, female characters that fall in and out of love, and reinforced that it’s “okay to grow out of a relationship.”
  • Someone asked a question about what a chapter narrated by the wyvern Abraxos would be like, and she basically described it as a chill chapter where nothing bad happens and Abraxos smells flowers and follows a bee around. LOL Sweet little Abraxos.
  • She described herself as an “indoor cat” and I feel her on a spiritual level.
  • Her best writing advice: When people tell you you can’t do it, use that anger to prove them wrong. Don’t listen to them. Getting published is a hard journey but it’s possible.
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My friend Brittney and I at the Tower of Dawn book event.

Overall, SJM is hilarious and I want to be her new bestie. She told some crazy stories from high school and how the haters fueled her drive to write. I also realized that I’ve been saying Manon wrong this. Whole. Time. It’s Ma-NAWN. I’ve been saying it like MAN-EN. *facepalm* I guess I’ll never pronounce any of this right.

I wasn’t one of the lucky few that got to “meet” SJM to get the book personalized and take a picture, but I was just glad to get my signed copy and hear her speak. Also, shout out to Parnassus Books in Nashville that puts on these awesome author events!

 

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

Monthly Recap and Book of the Month

As I’ve stated recently, I went on a bit of an unintended hiatus last month, but I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. I missed last month’s recap, so this will be a recap for July and August.

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Book of the Month*

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The Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews – 5 stars

I’m still thinking about this series so I’m picking this series as my book of the month.

*based on books reviewed this month

July/August Reviews (Total-9)

 2017 Reading Challenge Progress

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 I have read 76 out of 100 books. (Read 22 books the past two months.)

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 proud member of #Bachelornation, so I was pumped for Bachelor in Paradise. But I’m not going to lie, this season is a bit of a let down so far.

What I’m writing

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I recently participated in #cpmatch on Twitter to try and match up with fellow writers in an effort to find a critique partner. It was hella nerve-wracking to put myself out there, but I’ve met some really cool people and I’m optimistic about how I can improve my writing while helping someone else.

What else…

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In September, I’m going to the Tower of Dawn book tour in Nashville to meet Sarah J. Maas! (*cue hyperventilating*) She’s my all-time favorite author so I’m sure there will be plenty of fangirling and trying not to bow in her presence while falling to emotional pieces at her feet.

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Also, in the next week, my home library will have custom shelves installed. This is a HUGE deal for me. I’ve been waiting to have the library of my dreams since I can remember and it’s finally here! Keep an eye out for a before and after library post in the near future.