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: Dirty Souls (Sins Duet, #2), by Karina Halle

Dirty Souls (Sins Duet, #2)Dirty Souls by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Black Hearts’ left off with a rather ominous vibe that honestly, left me giddy. (I know, I know. I’m kind of messed up like that.) While Violet and Vicente were getting settled in and playing house, Javier was moving in on his son and his new lover. You just knew that whatever was going to happen wasn’t going to be good for the young lovers…and I couldn’t wait!

In case I haven’t said it enough, let me just be clear that Javier Bernal is one of my all-time favorite anti-heroes. He has owned a piece of my heart since the very beginning, despite his despicable ways. I guess that, like him, I’m still stuck in the past where Ellie and him are concerned. I always will be.

I totally understand why Ellie left him. In fact, I probably would’ve been pissed if she hadn’t. After all, I hate a doormat heroine. That being said, after some hardcore groveling I wanted Ellie and Javier to mend their relationship. I still refuse to see the writing on the wall, even as it is clear that Camden and Luisa are here to stay. A girl can dream, I guess.

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out into the open, I have to admit that I have never been more appalled by Javier’s behavior than I was in this book. He has done some pretty terrible things before, but never did he stoop to such a cruel and personal level as he did in this book. (Note: Some of the dead prostitutes from his last dark spell might disagree with me on this point.) The things that he did were beyond forgiveness and shocking, even to him.

While ‘Black Hearts’ was relatively mild and only hinted at the darkness to come, ‘Dirty Souls’ is incredibly dark and brutal. Just about every fear that I had for Violet and Vicente at the end of the first book was brought to life. On top of that, this book birthed new horrors that I hadn’t even thought of.

Given the history between Javier and Ellie, I couldn’t believe that he would go there with his daughter. It was like the last bits of humanity that remained within Javier were being snuffed out in front of my eyes. Yet, at the same time, there were glimpses of remorse that hinted at the remnants of a soul remaining within Javier. It was emotionally painful to watch as he actively worked at destroying what little love remained between him and Ellie through his intentional and callous actions.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I think anyone that is a fan of this series should read this. As I’m sure you’ve already figured out if you’ve read the first book in the series, Javier has taken Violet and Vicente. He intends to teach his son a lesson and he plans to use Violet to do that. She is also a means to get his long awaited revenge on her mother.

This book was an action-packed, suspenseful and emotional read. I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I absolutely devoured this book. That being said, even for a die-hard fan of Javier, like me, his depravity was hard to forgive. His hunger for power has changed him so much over the years, as he’s gained and lost everything that he’s ever wanted. It was brutal, it was heartbreaking….and I could not have loved it more!

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Review: Ravage (Scarred Souls, #3), by Tillie Cole

Ravage (Scarred Souls, #3)Ravage by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dark, Gritty And Captivating

I love this series! Despite the similarities between the books in this series, Tillie Cole continues to hold my attention with these rough around the edges, tortured heroes. The third book in the series, ‘Ravage’ introduces fans to, yet another, captive male and the woman that breaks through his intimidating veneer. I am 100% hooked on this series!

Valentin, aka “194”, was stolen as a young boy from an orphanage. Along with his younger sister, he was taken as a slave and subjected to unimaginable horrors. Trained to be a ruthless assassin, Valentin is forced to carry out the orders of his mistress, or his sister will pay the price. Although he hasn’t seen her, in person, in years, he still holds out hope that he’ll be able to rescue her from their hell one day.

Zoya has spent years in hiding, on the run from the criminal group that murdered her entire family, leaving her for dead as a child. She is overwhelmed with joy upon hearing that her beloved brother, Zaal, is alive and well. Nervous to see him after all these years, she lurks outside his home trying to get the nerve to go to the door and announce herself.

Before she gets the chance, she is taken. Valentin spots Zoya hanging around the outside of Zaal’s home and knows that she is important to his latest target. He plans to use Zoya to gain information about Zaal, by any means necessary. His sister’s fate is on the line.

Despite the brutality of his treatment of her, Zoya soon finds herself softening toward her scarred captor. It is apparent that he is not in control of himself, the mysterious collar around his neck somehow triggering his rages. In spite of her situation, she falls for Valentin.

In so many ways, this book is just like it’s predecessors. Drugged, enslaved male. Beautiful, “untouchable” female. Interconnected organized crime families. There are a lot of commonalities here…but it works. Who cares if the books are very similar, as long as they’re good, right?

I loved every minute of this story. I could not put it down and found myself thinking about it long after I’d read the last page. Thankfully, there will be more books to come in this series. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long to get my next fix.

There are some darker scenes. After all, Valentin did torture Zoya to try and get information about Zaal. This may be a problem if you’re strongly opposed to stories with dark content. Personally, this was exactly the type of story I love. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

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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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Review: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I finished ‘A Court Of Thorns And Roses’ I knew exactly what I wanted to see happen…or so I thought. In this follow-up book, I can honestly say that Ms. Maas gave me absolutely nothing that I expected, but everything that I didn’t know I needed. I loved the way things played out in this book!

In most cases, I don’t do well with my main characters changing love interests. However, even though I didn’t see it coming at the end of the first book, it worked for me. Why? Maybe because the characters had grown up some and grown apart in the process. Maybe because Tamlin morphed into an unrecognizable douche. Maybe because Rhysand was just impossible not to love. Regardless of the reasons, I was never so happy to embrace an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude.

With that being said, a part of my heart still holds a spot for the Tamlin I fell in love with in the first book. Lucius too, for that matter. With the exception of Feyre, all of my favorite characters seem to have lost themselves in this book. As a result, the story turned in an entirely new direction, with a new cast of supporting characters.

However, I loved the direction this story went. The new cast of characters were fantastic. Feyre really shined in this book, as she came into her own as a powerful immortal. Tamlin may have broken my heart, but Rhysand mended it.

Overall, I loved it! It does end with another twist, so I’ll be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next book. I’m sure Tamlin will try to redeem himself, so it’s bound to be interesting. I can’t wait!

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I loved this paranormal fantasy! Although this isn’t my usual genre, I find myself reading a fair amount of paranormal reads lately. Luckily, I saw some great reviews for this book on friends pages, or I might have missed this gem.

From a young age, Feyre has had to bear the responsibility of providing for her crippled father and two helpless sisters. On her deathbed, Feyre’s mother made her promise that she would keep them together and take care of them. When her father’s poor choices cost the family their wealth and status, Feyre is forced to take drastic measures to ensure her family’s survival.

One day, Feyre is hunting in the forest when she kills a large wolf. Unknowingly, she sets off a chain of events that will alter the course of history for the Fae and humankind. The wolf was no regular wolf, but rather a faerie in disguise.

When the faerie’s friend, Tamlin, comes to Feyre’s home to seek justice, she sacrifices herself. She agrees to live her life in the faerie’s territory, forsaking her family, or else she faces certain death. Knowing that she will be unable to fulfill her promise to her dead mother, Feyre leaves with a heavy heart.

From early childhood on, human children are told stories, warning them of the Fae’s cruel treatment of humans. Expecting to be tormented and live a life of unknown terrors, Feyre is surprised to find that her captor provides her with a life of opulence and plenty. No longer does she have to scrounge for food or wood for heat. In fact, she isn’t expected to work or do anything other than whatever she wants within Tamlin’s lands.

Soon, Feyre realizes that there is more going on in her new home than the innocuous activities that meet the eye. There is a darkness that is slowly seeping into Tamlin’s territory, slowly draining his powers and holding his subjects captive. Feyre is not the only one imprisoned in this strange land.

As Feyre spends more time with Tamlin, she finds herself growing fond of her captor. She can relate to the sacrifices that he’s made for the safety of his subjects. Begrudgingly, she comes to realize that her hatred for the Fae may have been entirely unfounded.

In time, Tamlin and Feyre act on their desires. However, just as they are beginning to explore a romantic relationship, the troubles in Tamlin’s lands come to a head. He chooses to send Feyre home, rather than see her become a victim of the same magic that has cursed his lands for years.

Back at home, Feyre realizes the danger that Tamlin is in and knows that she cannot leave him to face that fate alone. She would rather die with him than live without him again.

From the start, I loved every minute of this story. Even when I thought Feyre was acting like an ungrateful, petulant child, I understood why it was necessary for the storyline. The supporting characters, such as Tamlin’s best friend, Lucien, were also captivating and well-developed.

Overall, I loved this story! There was plenty of action and suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. There was a beautiful love story. Feyre and Tamlin were intriguing characters that had me rooting for them from start to finish. I wouldn’t change a thing!

Now, I’m dying to read the second book. Unfortunately, it isn’t due to be released until May of 2016. If it’s half as good as this one is, it’ll be well worth the wait.

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Review: An Exaltation of Larks, by Suanne Laqueur

An Exaltation of LarksAn Exaltation of Larks by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was absolutely spectacular! I am in awe of this author’s abilities. ‘An Exaltation of Larks’ was the first book I’ve read by Ms. Suanne Laqueur, but it certainly will not be the last. I’ll be adding all of her books to my TBR list ASAP!

From the opening lines, I knew that this was going to be a story that would stick with me…and it has. The writing is flawless and incredibly poetic. I could not pull myself away from this story, even falling asleep with my propped up on my chest at night. I was entirely consumed with the fascinating lives of these characters.

This story was so rich with history and emotion that I am still digesting everything I read days later. I loved the way that Ms. Laqueur was able to weave fact and fiction together so seamlessly. The end result was a superb story that ended up being enlightening and deeply touching, as well as highly entertaining.

At the onset of the book, I was sure that I knew what direction the story would head in. It had the ominous feel of danger, as a young Alejandro Penda hides in his parents closet in the days following the overthrow of Chile’s government by a military coup on September 11, 1973. The air was thick with the fear of Chile’s citizens, as many are rounded up and taken away, never to be seen again. His own parents had been taken, leaving a young Alejandro to fend for himself.

After days of being left alone, Alejandro’s father returns. He is able to get safe passage for Alejandro to the United States, to stay with an uncle. However, he cannot go with Alejandro. He decides to stay behind to search for his wife, who is pregnant with their second child. Alejandro watches his father walk away from the U. S. Embassy, never to see his parents again.

Although Alejandro can never completely move on, haunted by the unknown, he quickly assimilates himself into his new life. Going by the name of “Alex”, he is befriended by the children of his uncle’s friends, the Larks. Their son, Roger, becomes Alex’s best friend. One of their daughters, Valerie, becomes the object of his affections. They all grow up together in the peaceful community of Guelisten, NY, where the Lark family is practically a legend.

When Alex’s uncle dies several years later, the Lark family assumes guardianship of Alex. He is older, but still in school and too young to live independently. The dynamics of his relationship with Val change drastically, but the attraction is still there, just below the surface.

This book spans decades, from the time that Alex is a young child, well into his adult life. The story follows the characters through their childhoods, chronicles their struggles as college students and young adults, and later as adults with families of their own. This book sees the rise and collapse of governments as the political climate changes across the globe. In one word, this story is “epic”.

Along the way, we are introduced to Javier, a young man terribly abused and cast out by his own family. Forced as a teenager to make his own way on the streets of New York City, he is eventually introduced to work as an escort. Under the tutelage of his mentor, Gloria, he quickly rises through the ranks, becoming one of the most sought after male escorts in the city.

At first, I didn’t understand where Ms. Laqueur was going with Jav’s story. He seemed to be introduced out of nowhere, pulling me away from Alex and Val’s story. However, fate has plans for all of them. Soon all of their lives will intersect in life-changing ways.

I don’t want to give too much away, or spoil this story for anyone. It is a story that deserves to be read and savored individually. If you’re sitting on the fence with this one, read it.

This was a beautiful, multifaceted story. It is just the type of thought-provoking story that I needed to start my year off right. It was breathtaking and so much more than I had ever hoped it would be. I highly recommend this book. It is absolutely spectacular!

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