Review: Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince, #2), by C. S. Pacat

Prince's Gambit (Captive Prince, #2)Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the ‘Captive Prince’ series progresses, I find myself completely lost in the story of Damen and Laurent. Talk about a slow-burn, I have been dying for something to happen between these two. The anticipation was absolutely killing me.

While the first book primarily focused on the hedonistic indulgences and cruelty of Laurent’s court, this second book shows more of the inner workings. Many of the pieces are beginning to fall into place. There is far more to Laurent’s situation than meets the eye. In many ways, he is every bit the captive that Damen is.

The nearer Laurent gets to the day that he will claim his throne, the more underhanded his uncle becomes. It is evident that he has no intention of ever relinquishing the power of being King. He does everything within his power to discredit and undermine his nephew at every turn.

Unfortunately for Laurent’s uncle, his own manipulations end up being unexpectedly counterproductive. He coerces Laurent into serving near the border, anticipating that he and the substandard group of soldiers that he sent him with will end up being killed off. The assassins that he sends will surely finish off the job if the poor state of the group does not manage to die of their own accord.

Instead, Laurent and Damen form an unlikely alliance. Their tenuous relationship grows much stronger, even becoming the best of friends. Damen often finds himself in the position of a trusted confidante for Laurent. Before long, the two are practically inseparable.

At last, it is evident that there is far more going on between Laurent and Damen than meets the eye. Of course, there is a pervasive ominous feeling to this book. Damen’s identity is still a secret at this point. The looming threat of discovery lingers, tainting his interactions with Laurent. The more he grows to care for Laurent, the more Damen fears that his betrayal will come to light.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. I was taken in by the evolution of Damen and Laurent’s relationship from enemies to friends to lovers. I want things to work out for them so badly, even as I know that disaster is lurking around the corner. So many secrets. So many feelings. My heart is breaking for these two.

Needless to say, I thought that this was a wonderful book. I will dive into the third book immediately. I absolutely must know how things work out for Damen and Laurent. Despite the fact that M/M is not my usual preferred genre, I have absolutely fallen in love with this story. I want Damen and Laurent to get the HEA so badly.

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Review: Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1), by C. S. Pacat

Captive Prince: Volume One (Captive Prince, #1)Captive Prince: Volume One by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Captive Prince’ has been on my radar for a long time now. I have seen a plethora of glowing reviews from friends that have loved this series. As curious as I was, I kept putting off reading this series because M/M reads aren’t really my thing. However, my curiosity finally got the best of me and I downloaded the first audiobook in the series.

The rest is history! I blew through all three audiobooks in a couple of days, listening to them back to back until I had devoured the entire series. This series was fantastic!

Since I finished all three books in the series before sitting down to write my reviews, I’ll do my best not to give any big spoilers. The specifics of where one book ended and the next began are a little hazy for me. However, they were all worthwhile and highly entertaining books.

‘Captive Prince: Volume One’, introduces us to Damen and Laurent. The two are princes from rival kingdoms, only Damen’s true identity is a secret to everyone in Laurent’s court. If his true identity were known, he would surely be executed. Damen is surrounded by enemies, betrayed by his half-brother and sold into slavery.

Although the two are enemies, Damen and Laurent have many things in common. Both princes have fallen prey to family members who want to seize their crowns. Damen had his rule usurped by his illegitimate half-brother, Kastor, while Laurent is at the mercy of his uncle, who rules in his stead until Laurent is old enough to claim his crown.

That being said, it is hard to envision Laurent in the role of a victim. From the first introduction, his manipulative, and often cruel, nature is apparent. His treatment of Damen is deplorable as he strives to assert his power over his new, wild and unbroken pleasure slave. Laurent is clearly a character that enjoys head games.

On the other hand, Damen is a character that has instant appeal. He is put in an unspeakable situation and betrayed by the brother that he looked up to. My heart went out to Damen. I wanted to see him prevail.

Upon Damen’s arrival in the Vere, he is thrown into a life of debauchery. The Verethian court is filled with hedonistic and taboo sexual activities. The members of the courts indulge in every depraved act you can imagine. Nothing is off-limits, with the exception of enjoying pleasure slaves of the opposite gender in an effort to prevent the conception of illegitimate children that would sully the Verethian bloodlines. Rape and pedophilia are a way of life.

Accordingly, this will not be a book for many readers. It is full of dark, controversial and offensive content. This is not a lovey dovey type of story AT ALL. You will be appalled.

In fact, that is a large part of the appeal of this story. There aren’t too many graphic sex acts depicted, but the constant lingering threat of rape gives this book a very ominous feeling. I spent the entire time on the edge of my seat, waiting for the assault that I knew was inevitable. The anticipation, and resulting anxiety, was immense.

For most of this book, Laurent portrays a spoiled, bratty and cruel prince. He treats Damen harshly and is extremely abusive. However, there are brief glimpses of another side of him. I have no doubt that there is far more to Laurent than meets the eye.

This book definitely had my rapt attention. It wasn’t like most of the books that I read, but I was completely hooked. Without missing a beat, I dived right into the second book to continue Damen and Laurent’s story.

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Review: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, by Jean Sasson

Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi ArabiaPrincess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I try to read something that is “deeper” than my usual smutty romance selections. This was one of those books. I listened to the Audible version and I could not pull myself away from the plight of Princess Sultana Al Sa’ud and the other women from this story.

Her story offered a poignant look at what life is like for women in Saudi Arabia. Even the wealthiest and most “privileged” women are not spared the cruelty of the misogynistic and oppressive culture. Women are treated as property to be “owned” and managed by men. They are traded like cattle and punished for perceived infractions in cruel ways.

From birth, girls are treated as second-class citizens, a disappointment to their family and inferior to all males. This was highlighted by Princess Sultana’s accounts of growing up with a spoiled and sadistic younger brother. No matter what he did, she would always be wrong. Time and time again, she was forced to be subservient to him, no matter how egregious his behavior was.

Sexual abuse is also rampant in the world that Princess Sultana described. Young girls are forced to marry much older men, while older wives are forced to take a backseat while their husbands forsake them for their younger brides. Young or old, there is no bright side for the wives.

While the girls “virtue” is fiercely guarded — their body sacred until such time as their father or other male guardian decides to gift it to another — the boys and men engage in a variety of depraved sexual acts. One especially disturbing scene tells the story of a trip to Egypt where Sultana’s brother and other men commit acts of extreme sexual violence. It was absolutely heartbreaking and terrifying.

More than anything, I couldn’t get past the unfairness of the situation. These women had no power or control in their lives. It is so far removed from the life I’m luck enough to lead that it was unfathomable to me.

The indifference and cruelty of the men also took me aback. The often barbaric punishments they doled out seemed to be the norm. The life of the females was valued so little that they could be extinguished with scant more concern than one would have when swatting a fly. It was unimaginable to me.

Not surprisingly, this book was pretty depressing. The life lead by these women was grim, even as they tried to make the most of the little joy they could find in the absence of the men. Much of the content was upsetting and discouraging.

That being said, I still think that this is a book that everyone should read. It will anger and sadden you. However, turning a blind eye to atrocities like the ones that play out on the pages of this book does not make the reality go away. Raising awareness is important in order to facilitate change — and change is necessary. Yet again, I am reminded of how blessed I am for the life I was born into.

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Review: Royally Screwed (Royally, #1), by Emma Chase

Royally Screwed (Royally, #1)Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Royally Screwed’ is a book that has been on my radar for quite a long time. After finishing a couple of mediocre books and being in a bit of a reading rut, I thought that it might be the time to change it up with something sweet and “fluffy”. It ended up being exactly what I needed to lighten the mood.

Nicholas Pembrook is the Prince of Wessco. His sex appeal is only rivaled by his arrogance. He seems to have it all – money, admiration, power, looks.

However, Nicholas knows that beyond the glamour and glitz there are drawbacks to being a prince. For such a young man, he carries a heavy burden. He is expected to do what is demanded of a man in his position, regardless of his personal desires. Prince to a country in turmoil, he is expected to marry a woman “fitting of a prince”.

With only a few months of freedom left before he will have to choose a bride, Nicholas sets out for New York City to track down his rebellious younger brother. Stopping into a coffee shop to escape a downpour, he is immediately attracted to Olilvia. She is everything that he longs for, but is forbidden. The more she resists his advances, the more determined he is to have her.

Olivia Hammond has her own set of stressors to live with. Following the death of her mother, she has had to step up to keep her family’s business afloat. As her father tries to drown his sorrows, Olivia is forced to assume the role of the “responsible adult” in her household, a role that she feels like she is failing at.

There is no denying the attraction between these two. Their connection is strong, but social conventions and global expectations work to keep them apart. They know from the start that there can be no happily ever after in their future. What starts as a short-term fling, soon becomes more.

This serves to provide plenty of angst and conflict along the way. Knowing where this story was bound to lead, I still couldn’t help but fall in love with this couple. Nicholas had his fair share of jerky moments, but they were easily forgiven.

If you’re in the mood for a sweet, feel-good type of love story with a touch of angst, then ‘Royally Screwed’ is a great choice. Was it predictable? Yes. Did that negatively impact my reading experience? Absolutely not. ‘Royally Screwed’ was a fresh take on a familiar storyline.

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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: Betrayal (Infidelity, #1), by Aleatha Romig

Betrayal (Infidelity, #1)Betrayal by Aleatha Romig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What A Ride!

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this series! I don’t think I’ve ever one-click, pre-ordered so quickly! The suspense is going to kill me while I wait two more months for the next book to be released.

After graduating from Stanford, Alex decides to spend a week with her best friend at a resort, cutting loose before she moves to NYC to begin law school at Columbia. She vows to have a week of fun, the likes of which responsible Alex never allowed herself to have before. Assuming the name of “Charli”, her free-spirited, fun-loving alter-ego, she finds more than she’d bargained for when she falls for the enigmatic Nox.

One week of fun was all it was supposed to be. No last names. No personal details. It was what they agreed upon. Alex couldn’t have imagined that one week would change her life so drastically.

Shortly after her time with Nox, Alex finds her world being turned upside down again. Summoned to return home by her mother, Alex is plunged back into a world she thought she’d left behind.

In no uncertain terms, she’s informed that she’s expected to marry and continue her family name. Until she does as she’s told, she won’t have access to her trust fund, or the means to support her lifestyle or pay her tuition. She’s allowed to complete her first semester at Columbia, only because it was already paid for.

Arriving in New York City, Alex is desperate. Her situation leads her to make some decisions that she never would have considered before, even a month prior. Unexpectedly, her past soon collides with her present reality.

The book ends with a cliffhanger that will keep me guessing until the next book is released in January 2016. I loved this story, but am kicking myself for doing this to myself. I knew I’d have to wait for the next book to be released and that it would kill me. So, let the waiting begin!

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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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