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 Shack, by William Paul Young

The ShackThe Shack by William Paul Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While most of my friends seem to have a love or hate relationship with this book, I can’t say that I do. I am the rare reader that didn’t have a strong opinion about this book, one way or the other. I found it to be good and entertaining enough, but I didn’t find it to be life-changing or especially inspirational for me. It was certainly a change from my usual type of story, so that was refreshing in a sense. However, in the end it was in the “good but not great” category for me.

‘The Shack’ tells the story of Mackenzie, aka “Mack”, whose youngest daughter was abducted and murdered. Mack is expectedly devastated and distraught. He is also exceptionally angry at God, feeling that a worthy god wouldn’t have allowed such a heinous crime to occur to such an innocent young girl as his daughter, Missy.

Understandably, Mack is never the same man after the loss of Missy. His relationships are forever changed as he drowns in his own guilt and misery. He has lost faith and turns his back on God.

When Mack receives a note in his mailbox from God, luring him back to the cabin where his daughter was murdered, he doesn’t know what to think. Could somebody be so cruel as to play this type of a sick joke on him? Is the murderer still watching and toying with him? Could the murderer want to kill him as well? Is it possible that Missy could still be alive?

Mack doesn’t know what to think. However, he knows that he won’t be able to rest until he gets to the bottom of it. Borrowing a Jeep from a friend, he sets out for the cabin – the site of his worst nightmares.

During his time at the cabin, Mack has if forced to confront his loss of faith. Over the course of the book, he gets the closure that he needed and leaves a changed man. It was about as rosy as it could get for a book that centered on the murder of a child.

Personally, I didn’t feel any great sense of peace or satisfaction while reading this story. While I can see why some people felt that this book restored their faith and gifted them with a greater sense of empathy, it just didn’t work that way for me. I saw where author was going, I just wasn’t jumping on board that train.

In fact, I think I was more upset with Missy’s killer by the end of the book than Mack was. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted vengeance and justice for her young life. I wasn’t going to be satisfied unless the child murderer was found and put to death. That’s just me though, I’m bloodthirsty like that.

I’m also not what I would consider to be a very religious person. I don’t offend easily and I respect the views of others. I was raised as a Methodist, but I’m not a devout follower by any means.

That being said, nothing ever amazes me like the lack of tolerance that many self-professed “Christians” have for anyone with views that differ from their own. (Not that this is a phenomenon exclusive to Christians either. There seems to always be some in every group/religion.) We all know them, they’re the “my way or the highway” and “what I believe is right and your beliefs are wrong” people. A quick glance at the reviews for this book revealed that it has garnered lots of that type of attention–no big surprise there.

On the one hand, I can see that the author attempted to bridge the gap and present a book that might cross religions. However, since the book was so heavily based on Christian principles and beliefs, this attempt fell flat. It was clear that the god presented was based on Christian teachings.

Yet, even amongst Christians there are many differences in theology. This author focused largely upon one of those areas where different denominations have varying beliefs — free will vs. predestined fate. The author was clearly in the “free will” camp. Not surprisingly, readers who fall in the “predestined fate” camp will take issue with one of the major premises of the story.

If you are able to appreciate a story that has strong religious themes that may or may not align with your beliefs, then you might enjoy this one. I found it to be a good story, but I would have liked to feel more of a sense of justice. Things at the end were too nice, tidy and convenient for me.

If I were a more religious person, I might have enjoyed it more, or I might have despised it…who knows? It might be a great choice if you’re looking for somebody’s response to the age-old question, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” For me it was good, just not great.

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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: Wild and Free (The Three, #3), by Kristen Ashley

Wild and Free (The Three, #3)Wild and Free by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At last, “The Three” have arrived. ‘Wild and Free’ is the third, and final, book in Kristen Ashley’s paranormal romance series featuring vampires, werewolves, hybrids and a smorgasbord of other supernatural beings. It took a while to get here, but the final prophesied couple has been discovered and the final showdown between team good and team evil takes place.

If you’ve read the first two books in this series, you know that the final couple consists of a vampire/werewolf hybrid and his mate. That hybrid is Abel Jin and Delilah Johnson is his mate. He’s never understood his abilities and feared his very nature. She has her own peculiarities, but has embraced them.

Although Abel shares many characteristics with the other Alpha-male heroes in this series, he certainly didn’t waste any time in claiming his mate. In fact, this occurs in the opening scene. Bam! Abel arrives on scene and is like, “you’re mine now” and carries her off with him. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly like that…but pretty close.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the speed with which Abel arrived on scene and spelled it out for Delilah, because the first two heroes took right up until the end to get down to business. It worked though. If Abel had wasted much time, I don’t think that things would’ve been squared away in time for the battles to come.

Despite being powerful and dangerous, Abel had a vulnerability about him. He grew up without a “mentor” of his kind to show him the way. Raised by generations of the same human family, he lived a life of constant and unavoidable loss. He was the type of character that made your heart go out to him.

Delilah had some bumps along the way, but grew up with the love and adoration of her biker dad. She never doubted that she could count on him. In contrast to Abel, she was incredibly comfortable in her own skin. She did a lot to help him come to terms with accepting himself, which was critical.

Like the other heroines, Delilah has special powers. She also has vivid dreams. Although I never fully understood exactly what her special ability was, it became apparent that she was the toughest of them all. In fact, whatever Delilah could do made everybody else’s powers look puny in comparison.

Overall, this was a great book. Admittedly, it was my least favorite of the three books in the series. This is probably because this book seems to focus less on the romance and more on the action and battles between good and evil. However, it was still fantastic. If you’re a fan of the series, this book brings everything full circle.

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Review: The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1), by Joe Hart

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1)The Last Girl by Joe Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘The Last Girl’ is not my usual type of book, but I’ve been branching out a little more lately and trying different genres. I’ve been lucky enough to find some gems recently as I’ve explored other genres. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Girl’ is not one that was a big hit with me. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be “underwhelming”.

A dystopian-themed book, ‘The Last Girl’ centers on Zoey, a girl that has been held captive by a militarized, government “research” group. There has been a “plague” that has caused only male babies to be born. The few females remaining are hunted, to be used as guinea pigs…or far worse. Zoey is one of those girls. She has been raised in a research facility as a test subject, in the search for a cure.

Zoey and the other girls at the center have been lied to for all of their years of captivity. They’ve heard rumors about the horrible things that await them on their twenty-first birthdays, but most choose to believe the fairytales that they are fed. Zoey doesn’t believe the lies. She knows that something is amiss and begins to plan her escape.

Eventually, Zoey succeeds and manages to break free of her captors. She joins forces with a group of rebels that want to free the remaining girls at the center. Against all odds, they plan their attack.

While there was plenty of action and suspense in this book, I never really connected with Zoey or the other characters. The story just lacked that special something that pulls you in and holds your attention. I can’t think of any one particular thing to point to, but it just didn’t work for me as a whole. It was okay, but failed to elicit any real emotion from me.

Overall, this was a mediocre read for me. This wasn’t at all my usual type of story, which may have something to do with it. I need a lot more romance and emotion in my stories. This just wasn’t that type of story…at all.

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Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With every one of these books, I’ve been amazed with the evolution of the characters and storyline. ‘Queen of Shadows’ has upped the ante for this already incredible series. While the third book in the ‘Throne of Glass’ series might have had Celaena tentatively exploring her royal heritage, this fourth book has her finally embracing her queenly role. She doesn’t do anything small, and the same can be said for her transformation from assassin to long-lost Queen Aelin.

However, Celaena isn’t the only character that undergoes a drastic transformation. Chaol morphs into a completely different person, becoming mostly despicable for the greater part of this story. Dorian is also fighting against the demon within him, becoming a bystander to his body’s own actions. Celaena’s childhood rival, Lysaendra, also proves to be an unexpected ally. It seems that everyone is changing.

This book shows major shifts in power and foretells of the great war to come. Supernatural beings return to the forefront. A great king’s dynasty falls. Past wrongs are avenged.

With everything going on, Aelin still has time to find a new love interest. As much as I love this story, I have to admit that this is my biggest gripe. She changes her men out more often than she changes her underwear! After a while, it becomes hard to believe that any of her romantic entanglements are sincere. There’s already been Sam, Dorian, Chaol and now Rowan…and the series isn’t finished yet!

Despite her rapidly changing love interests, I still am completely enthralled with this story. It is far heavier on the action/adventure side than my usual reads, but I’m enjoying the change of pace. I am completely hooked on this series and cannot wait to see where the next installment will take me.

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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: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1), by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I continue to work my way through the audiobooks sitting on my Audible shelf. ‘City of Bones’ had been sitting there for quite some time. I thought a paranormal story would be a nice change of pace, so I dived in.

Unlike many of my friends on Goodreads, I haven’t seen the movie and I didn’t read any of the fan-fiction. In fact, I was surprised to find out that there was a fair amount of controversy surrounding this book. Apparently, a lot of people feel pretty strongly about this book/series.

Since I was blissfully unaware of the controversy, I can say that it didn’t impact my listening experience. That being said, I don’t read a large amount of paranormal/fantasy books. Readers that are partial to this genre will undoubtedly pick up on things that I didn’t.

For me, this magical world of Shadowhunters, vampires, werewolves and fae was intriguing. I thoroughly enjoyed Clary and the other characters. Although there were some predictable parts, there was enough mystery and suspense to keep my attention.

I tend to listen to my audiobooks while I’m doing other things around the house or driving to work, etc. For that reason, I try to pick books that are straightforward and easy to follow. At times, this book became too complex to multitask and I had to “rewind” a few times to reorient myself.

Overall, I thought this was a great story. I enjoyed the world the author created and the characters that were introduced. I look forward to reading more of this series in the near future.

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