Review: Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga, #2), by Kiersten White

Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga #2)Now I Rise by Kiersten White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I finished the first book in ‘The Conqueror’s Saga’, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book. I absolutely loved Mehmed, Lada and Radu. I was completely taken in by their unique personalities and the love that they had for one another. Despite the fact that their interests were often conflicting, they managed to remain the closest of friends, and sometimes more.

However, I am sad to say that I didn’t get the same pleasure from reading ‘Now I Rise’. It was like this book came along and burst my bubble. Any seeds of resentment and anger that were planted in ‘And I Darken’ came to life in this book. My view of these characters has been irreparably changed…and not for the better.

One of the things that really stood out to me about the first book was the loyalty that this trio seemed to have for one another. Even as their political and religious alliances were in opposition, they always found a way to support one another and place their personal relationships first. Yes, for Mehmed and Lada there were a few betrayals, but I never felt like they were more than superficial, based upon the expectations of their positions. Perhaps I just wanted to believe that, especially where Mehmed was concerned, even though the writing was on the wall.

In contrast to the first book, ‘Now I Rise’ is full of betrayal and underhanded manipulations. Every one of them turns their back on the people that care for them, some to a greater degree than others. However, none of them were innocent of treachery in this book.

Mehmed, in particular, was a character that I grew to despise. He claims to love Lada, but sells her out at every turn. Honestly, I began to dislike him in the last book as he repeatedly chose to sleep with other women while professing his love for Lada. What a pig! I wanted to make excuses for his behavior then, but I’ve got my head on straight now. This book helped me come to the realization that he is nothing more than a calculating, self-centered, power-hungry asshat! I hope that Lada kills him.

Although I like Lada more than Mehmed, she is equally obsessed with power and consumed by her blind ambition to reign. I think I probably cut her a little more slack because she is a big time underdog. It is rare to encounter such a strong, badass female lead character, so I really want to like her. Unfortunately, I found her pretty unappealing for much of this book also. She may not have betrayed Mehmed and Radu in the huge way that they both betrayed her, but she did plenty of horrible things in order to assert her power over those she hoped to rule. The brutal tactics she employed didn’t sit well with me either, regardless of the fact that I wanted her to achieve her end goal.

Sweet Radu also proved to be a big disappointment this time around. Turning his back on his sister, he willingly submits to Mehmed’s every self-serving demand. It was pathetic. He befriends and then betrays close friends in order to further Mehmed’s quest to conquer Constantinople. Even as he knows that what he is doing is wrong, he repeatedly chooses to sacrifice others that are innocent in the hopes that he will gain the affection of a man that he knows will never love him the way that he does. I wanted to pity him, but my anger toward his actions never let that emotion set in. In some ways he was every bit as bad as Mehmed, but his duplicity was hidden beneath a façade of presumed harmlessness.

After finishing this book, I feel hollowed out. There is a part of me that still wants to see how things will work out. I’d hate to miss it if Lada ends up killing Mehmed. However, a part of me is just disgusted with all of these characters that I once loved.

I’m not sure that I can bear to watch them destroy one another. It is clear that this isn’t going to be a HEA type of story. The damage is done and I suspect that their insatiable hunger for power and unobtainable love will just end up destroying them all. It is fitting, but not necessarily something that I feel like watching play out. I guess I’ll see how I’m feeling when the third book is released. For now, I’m going to lick my emotional wounds and give my disappointment plenty of time to sink in.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the books in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, ‘The Iron Queen’ is my favorite. This book is pivotal and takes the story in an entirely new direction. Not only is this book filled with action and adventure, but I finally got to see the romance between Meghan and Ash evolve.

Not only does the relationship between Meghan and Ash grow, but Meghan undergoes a great deal of self-discovery and growth as an individual. ‘The Iron Queen’ really is Meghan’s “coming of age” book. She grows stronger, both physically and spiritually. She is faced with many painful truths and twists along the way, but she rises to the challenge.

To say the least, I felt that this book had a strong “girl power” vibe going on. In earlier books, Meghan was always cast as the damsel in distress, waiting for Ash or Puck to come to her rescue. While she still has a plethora of male protectors to do her bidding, Meghan also rises as a leader in and of her own right. She is only beginning to learn about the power within her and I cannot wait to see what she will be able to do once she is able to access it fully.

Meanwhile, this book proved to be emotionally engaging and, at times, heartbreaking. Mostly, my heart went out to Puck. He made some mistakes along the way, but none more serious than anything that Ash ever did, in my opinion. He loved Meghan so much, but it was evident that he had been “friend-zoned” and had no chance at ever becoming anything more. As much as I loved Ash and Meghan as a couple, I couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Puck.

King Oberon and Queen Mab take on unexpected roles, as the false Iron King continues to gain power. In order to save faerieland, Meghan will have to rise to the challenge. She is faced with many difficult choices and adversity along the way.

More so than other books in the series, ‘The Iron Queen’ ended with a huge upset. I was left reeling. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Knowing that the story wasn’t over yet kept me pushing forward. I knew that things wouldn’t be left like that.

Like the other books in the series, the narration for this book was superb. I continue to be enthralled with this story and the magical world that Ms. Kagawa has created. After finishing this one it was on to the next on immediately. I had to know how things would work out for these characters.

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Review: Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1), by Kristen Ashley

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1)Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in awhile, I crave a story with an over-the-top Alpha and a sassy heroine. I know that I can always count on Kristen Ashley to deliver when I’m in a “caveman” sort of mood. Her heroes are always uber-masculine and about as far from metrosexual as you can get. Though what they lack in sensitivity, they make up for in pure, primal sex appeal.

True to form, ‘Wildest Dreams’ did not disappoint on any of those fronts. In fact, travelling to this alternate universe felt much like travelling back in time by a few hundred years and then throwing in a plethora of supernatural elements. This story takes us to a world where there are ancient royal families ruling over their lands; where travel is by horse and wagon; and where witches, elves and dragons exist. ‘Fantasyland’ is an apt name for this series and I am already hooked.

The first book in the series, ‘Wildest Dreams’ introduces us to this magical world. The descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I had been transported, right alongside Finnie. I listened to the Audible edition of this book and I thought that the narrator did a fabulous job. I am glad that I chose to listen vs. read this time around. If, like me, you enjoy a good audiobook from time to time, this is a great selection.

Kristen Ashley has built an alternate world, where everyone has a “twin”. Although they may have a physical twin in this alternate world, the personalities and other characteristics are certainly not identical. With the help of a witch and a large dose of magic, people in this world may communicate with people in this alternate world, or even travel between worlds. That is how this story begins.

Seoafin “Finnie” Wilde has plenty of money, but has lost the most meaningful people in her life – her parents. Ever since her parents died in a plane crash while on one of their adventures, Finnie has been heartbroken. She misses them more than anything and like them, Finnie is always up for an adventure.

When Finnie discovers the existence of an alternate world – a world where there are living versions of herself and her parents – she decides she is going to go there. Communicating with the “her” in this other world through a powerful witch, she comes to an agreement with her to trade places for one year. Despite the pleas of her best friend, Finnie pays a fortune to the witch and sets out on the biggest adventure of her life.

Only, when Finnie arrives in this new world she quickly discovers that the other “her” hasn’t been completely forthcoming about everything. Stepping into the shoes of Princess Sjofn, she is set to wed the fiercely intimidating and ultra- male, Frey Drakkar immediately upon her arrival in this new world. Finnie doesn’t even have time to read the note that Princess Sjofn left for her before she is marched down the aisle. She’s been duped.

To make matters more complicated, it is clear that Frey Drakkar does not care for Princess Sjofn. In fact, he seems to barely tolerate her presence. After whisking her away to a remote cabin far away from her parent’s castle, he promptly takes off, leaving her to fend for herself in this new land.

Determined to make the best of the situation, Finnie makes the most of her time while Frey is away. She befriends the inhabitants of the nearby small town and bides her time until his return. She cleans their cabin and makes it a cozy home.

When Frey returns, he is shocked to see that the pampered princess has morphed into a completely different person than the one he knew. She is kind and funny. She performs manual labor that the old Sjofn would have thought was beneath her. Perhaps most importantly, she denies that she prefers women lovers over men. He doesn’t know what game she’s playing at, but he intends to find out.

With the changes in their relationship, the two begin to grow closer. As you can imagine, Frey is initially interested only in bedding his beautiful bride. Finnie wants to take things a bit slower. Of course, there are plenty of misunderstandings and awkward moments along the way as the Finnie of this world tries to blend into the life of Princess Sjofn of that world.

Eventually, Frey discovers the truth. However, he and Finnie are already deeply in love by that point. In fact, he has realized that she is his prophesied soul mate and their union signifies the beginning of a new era where the dragons will awaken again. Did I mention that Frey commands dragons and talks to elves?

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I enjoyed every minute of this fantastical world that Kristen Ashley created. I fell in love with Frey and Finnie. I cannot wait to see where else this series will lead. I will be starting the second book immediately.

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Review: Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1), by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a spectacular world Laini Taylor has crafted in this book! Every once in awhile I enjoy a paranormal/fantasy type of story, but it definitely isn’t my go-to genre. Yet, Laini Taylor has managed to suck me in once again. The beauty of her words and the vivid imagery that she creates never ceases to amaze me.

This book centers on Lazlo Strange, aka “Strange the Dreamer”. An orphan, he has never really had a home or felt like he fit in. The closest he’s come to a sense of normalcy is during his time in the Great Library. He grows up to become a librarian, submersing himself in the stories that he loves so much.

More than anything else, he is captivated by tales of the “unseen city”. He remembers hearing the stories about the city and the travelers that used to return from having crossed over the city’s borders. Then one day, the city seemed to be forgotten. Unlike everyone else in his town, Lazlo remembers the feeling of having his memory of the name of the city pulled away from him. In it’s place is the name “Weep”.

When a mythical hero, the Godslayer, arrives in town, Lazlo is able to join the group on their quest for Weep. This is his biggest dream come to life. He finally has a chance to see the legendary city that he’s only fantasized about.

What awaits Lazlo is more than he had imagined. Mythical beings, age-old grudges and a history that melded the worlds of gods and men. As more of Weep’s past is unearthed, the brutality of the city’s past is brought to light. Lazlo is forced to look at the city and it’s inhabitants through a new lens.

Although Lazlo was the central focus for much of this story, Ms. Taylor provides a robust cast of characters. Each member of this large cast brings something special to the story. I don’t want to say too much for fear that I might spoil this story for others.

Sarai is such a character. Her relationship with Lazlo is essential to the progression of the plot. From his dreams to his reality, Lazlo could not have found a better match than Sarai. They made each other better for having known one another. Their relationship was sweet and innocent, but also intense and emotional. I loved watching their bond evolve and seeing how their actions changed how they viewed the “outside” world.

From start to finish, this was an entertaining and captivating story. Laini Taylor’s writing is poetic. You can’t help but notice the beauty of her prose.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and it was well-narrated. My only criticism is that it was a bit hard to follow at first. This author’s works are multifaceted and incredibly detailed. At first, this can be a bit difficult to follow when listening. I did have to rewind a few times in the beginning to keep my characters and events straight. However, I was able to get it all sorted out pretty soon and I wouldn’t trade the richness of the story for the small amount of time lost.

Overall, I thought that this was a wonderful story! I would definitely recommend it, whether you’re a die-hard fan of paranormal/fantasy or if you’re just an occasional dabbler, like me. Laini Taylor has created a fantastical and intriguing world. I am looking forward to seeing where this series will go.

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Review: The Unbroken Line of the Moon (Sagan om Valhalla, #4; The Valhalla Series, #4), by Johanne Hildebrandt

The Unbroken Line of the Moon (Sagan om Valhalla #4; The Valhalla Series - English Translation Order #1)The Unbroken Line of the Moon by Johanne Hildebrandt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I purchased this audiobook based upon the recommendation of a friend. I didn’t realize at the time that this book was actually the fourth book in a series. That being said, I enjoyed it quite a bit and felt that it was easily read as a standalone. Of course, I can’t really know what I might have missed in the earlier books that might have enhanced my reading experience.

‘The Unbroken Line of the Moon’ is set in the tenth century, when the Vikings and Christians were battling over the Nordic lands that comprise present-day Sweden, Norway, Denmark and England. As this is a period of history that I haven’t spent much time reading about, I can’t speak to whether or not it was an accurate portrayal of this time period. For me, it was an interesting and entertaining introduction to the religious mysticism of that time.

The story opens with the heroine, Sigrid, learning that she is to be wed to Erik, the Swedish king. She doesn’t want to leave her homeland, but understands that it is her duty as a princess to marry in order to secure a better position for her father and her people. Sigrid has been chosen to serve the goddess Freya and has visions of the future.

On the way to meet her future husband, Sigrid meets Sweyn. She is immediately taken aback by the illegitimate son of Harald Bluetooth, the ruler of Denmark. Despite her upcoming nuptials, she and Sweyn have a brief, but intense, love affair.

Sigrid goes on to marry Erik, carrying Sweyn’s child. As Sweyn goes on to achieve success driven by his love for Sigrid, she does whatever she must to secure the safety of their child. Guided by her visions, she manipulates events to ensure that Sweyn lives to fulfill his destiny and claim his crown, even if it means pushing him away from her.

This story was brutal at times, as the Viking battles played out in vivid detail. The gods and goddesses were cruel and harsh often times, demanding bloody sacrifices. Trustworthy friends were in small supply, as Sigrid learned the hard way.

Although this story didn’t have as much romance as I usually prefer, there was enough of a love story to hold my interest. I found myself getting lost in this tumultuous time of the Viking warriors. It was brutal, but intriguing.

All in all, this was a great story and something a little different from my usual reading choices. My only complaint is that Sigrid and Sweyn’s story is not wrapped up completely with this book. I wanted Sigrid to get her HEA after everything that she had been through, but I will have to read further into the series in order to see if that happens or not. I plan to do that sometime soon.

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Review: Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just love this series! Each book proves to be better than the last. This book was packed with action and adventure. There is never a dull moment while reading this story!

More so than the earlier books, this one focuses on Celaena’s story. She is forced to face the past that has haunted her for years and the magic within herself that she fears. There is no hiding from who she is any longer.

Along the way, she forms new friendships and comes to terms with her destiny. No longer content to hide from her true self, she prepares to take a stand. Finally, her people have their queen back.

I cannot wait to see what the next book in this series has in store for me! I am completely addicted to this saga. With each chapter, the story grows more complex, but I cannot get enough! Love it!

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Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2), by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like the first book, ‘Crown of Midnight’ proves to be an action-packed, addicting, thrill ride. Having won the king’s competition, our favorite femme fatale has begun her work as the king’s assassin. However, she’s got a trick or two up her sleeve.

As this story progresses, Celaena delves deeper into the forbidden histories of the people that the king has conquered. Knowledge is power and she intends to get to the bottom of the bizarre, magical happenings around the castle. She discovers timeless secrets and underground alliances working to win freedom for the thousands of oppressed people under the king’s rule.

Meanwhile, relationships are changed drastically. Distancing herself from Dorian, Celaena and Chaol grow closer. A series of betrayals rocks Celaena to her core and causes her to doubt everything and everyone.

More truths are revealed, as Caelena digs deeper into the mysteries around the palace. Supernatural forces come to light. Celaena and Dorian each have powers that are revealed. The truth about Celaena’s heritage is also shared at last, greatly changing the dynamics of this story.

Overall, I loved this story. It continues to hold my attention and keep me on the edge of my seat. I will definitely be continuing this series.

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Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the Audible version of this book and it was fantastic! I loved every minute! Take a badass femme fatale, add in a brutal competition, and you’ve got a gripping story. On top of that, our heroine has two powerful, sexy men enamored with her.

The first book in the series, ‘Throne of Glass’ definitely pulls you in and leaves you wanting more. So much remains a mystery, despite the revelations that were made. I am hoping that this series will show an end to the King’s tyrannical reign and further exploration of the paranormal elements.

I am definitely intrigued and have already started the second book in this series. Sarah J. Maas has gained another fan!

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Review: The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1 – 0.5), by Sarah J. Maas

The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-0.5)The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved these prequels to the ‘Throne of Glass’ series. Taking place during Celaena’s years as an elite assassin working for her master, Arobynn, this grouping of prequels sheds a lot of light on the events that molded Celaena into the woman we met in ‘Throne of Glass’. It is no wonder that she avoids relationships and entanglements. Her story was heartbreaking!

Celaena spends her time trying to run from a past that haunts her, while simultaneously trying to gain the love and approval she lost when her parents were brutally murdered. Yet, despite her desperate need to feel loved, she is uncompromising in her values and sense of morality. This is probably my favorite thing about Celaena. She stands up for what she believes is right.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that it is her steely resolve that brings about her downfall. When she goes against her master, refusing to participate in his slave trade dealings, she sets off a chain of events that will bring her to her knees. Her brave actions may have solidified her unlikely alliance with Sam, a fellow assassin, but those same actions sealed her fate. By the time this chapter of her story unfolds, she will have lost the man she loved and her freedom.

While I knew how this chapter of her story would end up, it was worth experiencing. Background information was shared that she’d new light on some of the events in the ‘Throne of Glass’ books. I read the first two books in the series before going back and reading these prequels. I’m glad that I did before I started the third book. I think this information will continue to be helpful to understand this complex, rapidly evolving series.

I loved every minute of ‘The Assassin’s Blade’. I highly recommend this set of prequels if you’re a fan of the ‘Throne of Glass’ series. I can’t get enough of this badass female assassin!

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