Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EVERY LAST BREATH by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: A-
Some loves will last ’til your dying breath

Every choice has consequences—but seventeen-year-old Layla faces tougher choices than most. Light or darkness. Wickedly sexy demon prince Roth, or Zayne, the gorgeous, protective Warden she never thought could be hers. Hardest of all, Layla has to decide which side of herself to trust.

Layla has a new problem, too. A Lilin—the deadliest of demons—has been unleashed, wreaking havoc on those around her…including her best friend. To keep Sam from a fate much, much worse than death, Layla must strike a deal with the enemy while saving her city—and her race—from destruction.

Torn between two worlds and two different boys, Layla has no certainties, least of all survival, especially when an old bargain comes back to haunt them all. But sometimes, when secrets are everywhere and the truth seems unknowable, you have to listen to your heart, pick a side—and then fight like hell…

My thoughts on the book:
Clearly I'm in a JLA mood lately, since this is the second book of hers that I read in a row. Every Last Breath did not disappoint. On the surface, this novel is a YA paranormal romance, but it has so much more going on than that. There is a lot of mythology, philosophy, and ethics thrown in there. It really makes you think. Also, JLA's writing is flawless. She made me both laugh and cry with this novel, and I needed both forms of catharsis very badly. The romance in this book is more cute than steamy, since it's a YA novel, but it's by no means G rated. The characters are wonderful, as usual, and the plot is engaging. My only problem with this book is the love triangle. I hate love triangles.

Layla grew up a lot in this book, and I appreciated that. She handled most things like an adult, and she really made some tough decisions. My heart broke for her several times because of all of the stuff she was going through, but she emerged from each battle stronger. That's always inspiring to me when characters do that. It gives me hope that I, too, can overcome my obstacles and emerge stronger than before. Roth was Roth, and I loved him as always. The familiars were fantastic, and I really felt like I got to see another side of Cayman in this novel. Zayne was Zayne, and I didn't like him that much still. He was a good guy, but not for me. 

The romance was adorable and sweet and somewhat steamy... It was pretty damn steamy for a YA novel. The writing was wonderful, and there was actually one quote that made me laugh until I cried: "He’s as old as time and has the temperament of someone who shit the bed and has been rolling around in it all day.” Cayman said that, and I laughed for at least 15-20 minutes before I could collect myself. My cats thought I'd lost my mind. There were also some heartbreaking moments that had me in tears because I was so sad for the characters. I love novels that can make me feel what the characters are feeling, and this one definitely did that. 

The action was nonstop, and this was a fast-paced book. Every time I thought the characters would get a break, something else was thrown at them. I mean I thought my life was a shit show, but Layla had me beat by a long shot in this novel... and at least my problems are mine and don't affect the entire world. 

Overall, I'd recommend this book and series to anyone who loves mythology, loves books that make you think, and loves books that make you feel. Armentrout did not disappoint with this trilogy's ending. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

MOONLIGHT SEDUCTION by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Rating: A+
Release date: June 26, 2018
The de Vincent brothers are back—and so is the intrigue that surrounds them—in New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s sizzling new novel...

Nicolette Bresson never thought she’d return to the de Vincents’ bayou compound. It’s where her parents work, where Nikki grew up... and where she got her heart broken by Gabriel de Vincent himself. Yet here she is, filling in for her sick mother. Avoiding Gabe should be easy, especially when so much of Nikki’s time is spent trying not to be stabbed in the back by the malicious hangers-on who frequent the mansion. But escaping memories of Gabe, much less his smoking-hot presence, is harder than expected—especially since he seems determined to be in Nikki’s space as much as possible.

Gabriel spent years beating himself up over his last encounter with Nikki. He’d wanted her then, but for reasons that were bad for both of them. Things have now changed. Gabe sees more than a girl he’s known forever; he sees a smart, talented, and heartbreakingly beautiful woman... one who’s being stalked from the shadows. Now, Gabe will do anything to keep Nikki safe—and to stop the de Vincent curse from striking again.

My thoughts on the book:
I absolutely LOVE Jennifer L. Armentrout. Words cannot express how much I love JLA and her writing. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing her at BEA 2016, and she is a lovely person and a phenomenal author. No one can write romance like she can. Her characters are always realistic, and her pacing and plotting are just amazing. Moonlight Seduction is a beautiful, touching, and steamy romance. If you want a book that you can't put down with a strong female lead and a swoon-worthy bad boy, then this novel is for you. 

Nikki is one of my favorite female characters of all time. I'm a "helper," and an animal lover, and a bleeding heart, more or less, and it is so hard not to be a doormat. Then I feel bad because I refuse to be a doormat, but I just let myself feel guilty because it's better than being walked on. ANYWAY, because of this, I absolutely loved her character. She is a person who cares about the world around her, and she grows into someone who will protect herself, no matter what, and I had an immense amount of respect for her. I wish she was real so we could be friends. I'd also like my own Gabe, please. Yes, he's dark and somewhat broody and makes stupid mistakes, but he's good deep down, and he really does a lot for those he cares about. Seeing things from his perspective and Nikki's perspective really made me feel a connection to both of them. I also wish he was real, and would clone himself. I wouldn't steal him from Nikki because they are just beautiful together, so cloning it is. 

The plot made me not want to put this book down. Watching the characters grow and interact while also wondering who the worst of the bad guys were (let's face it, there are a lot of bad guys in these novels haha) made this book hard to put down. The pacing is spot on, and nothing feels rushed or too slow. Everything unraveled at the perfect time. There was one thing I didn't see coming, though I had the "bad guys" figured out, and it shocked me. The romance was super hot and steamy. There was nothing PG13 about this book, that's for sure. The writing was fantastic, of course. 

Overall, this is a fantastic, and hot, summer read. Give this book (and series) a try, if you haven't already. You won't be sorry. 

Friday, May 18, 2018

LIFEBLOOD by Gena Showalter

Rating: C
My Firstlife is over, but my Everlife is only now beginning.

With her last living breath, Tenley "Ten" Lockwood made her choice and picked her realm in the Everlife. Now, as the war between Troika and Myriad rages, she must face the consequences. 

Because Ten possesses a rare supernatural ability to absorb and share light, the Powers That Be have the highest expectations for her future—and the enemy wants her neutralized. Fighting to save her Secondlife, she must learn about her realm from the ground up while launching her first mission: convincing a select group of humans to join her side before they die. No pressure, right? 

But Ten's competition is Killian, the boy she can't forget—the one who gave up everything for her happiness. He has only one shot at redemption: beating Ten at a game she's never even played. As their throw-downs heat up, so do their undeniable feelings, and soon, Ten will have to make another choice. Love…or victory.

My thoughts on the book:
Lifeblood fell a little short for me. I usually love Gena Showalter's novels, and while this was a good story, it just dragged on a bit, in my opinion. The characters weren't as engaging and the world-building wasn't descriptive enough. The plot itself was fine, and that's the only thing that kept me reading. 

Ten's incessant counting got on my nerves. I felt like I had ADD or something because SHE couldn't focus on anything. It distracted from the story and made me skim a lot. The other characters didn't really stand out much. I mean Killian did, but the "ye's" and things like that got on my nerves. Irish accents can be talked about and don't have to be demonstrated. Authors trying to imitate accents when they're writing is a pet peeve of mine. I can't help it. Additionally, I just think the book would have been a lot shorter and more engaging if Ten hadn't counted at least 5 times in every paragraph. 

Another issue I had was that the world-building wasn't done as well as it could have been. I found the whole concept to be confusing. Some of this could be because I started skimming every time Ten started counting, but I just really don't understand how things work still. I had a better understanding by the end of the book, but I still wasn't comfortable with my knowledge of the two realms. Aside from my complaints, the story was well plotted, and I did enjoy the story itself. I am looking forward to reading the last book in the series, just to see what happens next. Also, I like the philosophical bent that these novels have; it makes the reader think, which is always a good thing. 

Overall, I'd recommend this novel to people who like quirky characters and books that pose philosophical questions. If you get annoyed easily by quirks, you may not enjoy this series as much as Showalter's other books, so I'd recommend checking it out from the library first. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE QUEEN'S RISING by Rebecca Ross

Rating: A
Grave Mercy meets Red Queen in this epic debut fantasy, inspired by Renaissance France, about an outcast who finds herself bound to a disgraced lord and entangled in his plot to overthrow the current king. 
Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron. Growing up in Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her. While some are born with a talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she chose knowledge. However, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—she is left without a patron. 
Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, she reluctantly accepts. But there is much more to his story, for there is a dangerous plot to overthrow the king of Maevana—the rival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.
And now, with war brewing, Brienna must choose which side she will remain loyal to: passion or blood.
My thoughts on the book:
I absolutely adored this book. The writing was superb, the character were fully-developed, and the world-building was beautiful. It's hard for me to believe that Ross is a debut author because this novel is out of this world. She didn't fall back on any "cheap tricks" in her book, everything was authentic and real and lovely. There were no love triangles or broody men to add tension; the plot had enough tension on its own. Every part of this novel stood on its own and was woven together into a beautiful story of love, loss, and bravery. I'm counting the days until book 2 in this series comes out. 
Brienna is our leading lady, and she's the type of narrator that you trust from the beginning. Her story is a sad one, but she makes the best of her life and the opportunity she received to attend Magnalia House. What I loved most about her character is she developed deep friendships. She may have never felt like she had a family, but she created her own with her arden sisters, and that is admirable. I hate when novels have girls pitted against girls. There is enough of that in real life, and we need better examples in our stories, I think. Brienna isn't perfect; she wasn't a natural passion, and it took her awhile to find her way, but she forged her own path and was brave, selfless, and loyal, and I really respected her. The people in her life were also very interesting. I loved Cartier. He was fantastic, in my opinion. A bit old for her, but this was the 1500s, so I'm trying not to judge. Meri also stood out as a really admirable character, as did Sean. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in this novel. 
The plot was predictable at some points - I knew what the big reveals would be before they were revealed, but that didn't take away from the sense of urgency. I read enough books that it's hard to surprise me, but just because I knew what the surprises were supposed to be didn't mean that I knew how characters were going to react to them. This is where the good writing comes in: the characters were unpredictable in many ways, just like people are, and because of that, the few predictable plot points still kept me on the edge of my seat. Ross did an excellent job of not revealing what Brienna decided to do too quickly, which also kept me guessing. The world-building was extremely well done. I could picture everything clearly, and I felt that I had a good understanding of the world Brienna lived in and the rules she had to live by. The ending tied up the first story well and left room for a second novel, which I'm looking forward to. 
Overall, I'd recommend this novel to anyone who loves good high fantasy and strong female characters. It's a beautiful coming of age story, and it's inspirational. It shows that where you come from doesn't matter half as much as where you are going, and that's always a wonderful message. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

EVERLESS by Sara Holland

Rating: A
In the land of Sempera, time is extracted from blood and used as payment. Jules Ember and her father were once servants at Everless, the wealthy Gerling family’s estate, but were cast out after of a fateful accident a decade ago. Now, Jules’s father is reaching his last hour, and she will do anything to save him. Desperate to earn time, she arrives at the palace as it prepares for a royal wedding, ready to begin her search into childhood secrets that she once believed to be no more than myths. As she uncovers lost truths, Jules spirals deeper into a past she hardly recognizes, and faces an ancient and dangerous foe who threatens her future and the future of time itself.

My thoughts on the book:
I'm going to be honest here... I put off reading this book for a long time because my dad as sick for 5 months (in the hospital the entire time) and died on January 9, 2018. I just didn't know how I would handle a book about a dying dad. Therefore, it took me longer to read and review this novel than it normally would have. My grief is still there, of course, but it's more under control now, so I felt brave enough to attempt reading this book, and I'm so glad I did. There isn't a ton of focus on the dad's condition, so it didn't crush my soul, and this is one of the best novels I've read in a long time. I couldn't put it down. I was up until 3am reading, and I haven't done that in forever. I couldn't stop reading until I found out Jules' secrets, though. 

The characters in this novel are heartbreakingly wonderful. They are richly painted and easy to relate to. While some are more privileged than others, none has a perfect life. Jules, our main character, has had a rough time, and things just seem to keep getting worse for her. For the most part, Jules is a fantastic leading heroine. She is strong, resilient, determined, focused, and cares about the people around her. Her faults (and let's face it, we all have them) are that she's stubborn and doesn't always listen to people who know more about a situation than she does. In her defense, she really had no idea what was going on for the majority of the novel, and the big reveal shocked me (that doesn't happen often). In her position, I can't say that I would have done things very differently. My main problem with her is her wishy washy feelings about one character. It made her seem like she lacked depth, and I would have liked to have seen her reactions go a bit differently. My favorite male character is Liam, and I can't wait to find out more about him. 

The writing is beautifully done, and I could picture the world that Holland created perfectly in my head. The world-building is top notch; this is a complicated universe, and I felt like I had a good understanding of it after reading this first novel. I know it has more mysteries, but I didn't feel lost like I do in some fantasy novels. The plot is intricately woven and unravels at the perfect pace. I was kept on the edge of my seat about something throughout the whole book. I don't understand why a couple of things had to happen at the end of the first book, but I'm interested to see how that sets up book number two in the series. For now, I'm trusting that Holland knows best and there is a reason behind everything that happened in those last few chapters. 

Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking for a unique fantasy novel. I have never read a book quite like it. The world is one-of-a-kind, and the characters are relatable. Like I said when I started this review, I read this novel in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. Give Everless a try. You won't be sorry. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

MY PLAIN JANE by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

Rating: A-
Release Date: 6/26/18
You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

My thoughts on the book:
I really adore the Lady Janies' books. Their novels are always fun, hilarious takes on classical novels, and My Plain Jane was no exception. This book, like its predecessor, is one of those light-hearted stories that makes your world feel a little bit brighter, just by reading it. I enjoyed Hand, Meadows, and Ashton's take on Jane Eyre, and agreed with most of their quips about the novel. I wasn't a huge Jane Eyre fan due to my dislike of Rochester, but I have immense respect for both of the Brontë sisters. This book does Brontë's novel justice and pokes fun at some of the ridiculousness in the original story, too. I'd recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fun, unique read. 

The characters in this book were amazing. Charlotte, Jane, and Alexander each told the story from their own perspectives, and each character was fully developed and so "human," that I couldn't help but relate to all of them in some way. The secondary characters were equally engaging, and Bran was a particular favorite of mine, as was Helen. I love how they painted Charlotte as a clever, creative, and mischievous teenager. In all of the portraits of the Brontës, they always looked so stern... I prefer to think of Charlotte as these authors created her - an adventurous spirit who appreciated everything in the world around her. I also enjoyed the idea that Charlotte and Jane were friends and that's how Jane Eyre came to be. 

The writing was brilliant, of course. These authors are professionals, and it shows in every novel they create. They tempered humor with seriousness, and at times, sadness. I felt a range of emotions while reading this novel and found myself rooting for all of the characters who weren't "nefarious villains." This is a longer novel (when it comes to YA lit, over 450 pages), but I flew through it. The pacing is spot on and nothing feels rushed. The plot has a few holes that may be corrected before the final copy goes to print, but it's also clear (as it was in the last novel) that this is supposed to be a lighthearted story and some of the outlandish plot points are supposed to be accepted for the sake of the story. 

Overall, I say give this book (and series) a try. If you're a fan of classical literature, or you just like people named Jane, then you'll love this book. Each novel can be read as a standalone book, too, though there was a cameo from Jane and G from the first book that I enjoyed. This novel is the perfect light summer read. I can't wait to see what these authors come up with next. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

RESTORE ME by Tahereh Mafi

Rating: A+

Juliette Ferrars thought she'd won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she's still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she's got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

My thoughts on the book:
I have to admit, I loved the ending of the Shatter Me (what I thought to be) trilogy so much that I was hesitant to revisit this world. I didn't know what was going to happen to my beloved characters, and I didn't want to see the lives they'd worked so hard for be upended again. However, I was intrigued. Most authors leave a happily ever after alone and don't revisit to let the readers know what happens after the "end of the story." That always irked me a bit because no one's story ends until their life ends, and sometimes it doesn't even end then, so how could a character's story just end at this really convenient spot? The nice, neat endings do offer a reader some comfort, a sense of closure, if you will. Clearly Mafi didn't want us to have closure with Juliette's story, though, because Juliette's story continues AFTER the happily ever after, and we find out that things aren't so happy... and that we don't know half as much about any of these characters as we thought we did. 

Juliette got on my nerves a few times in this book, and I used to love her so much. I felt like she was a bit bratty at times, but I could understand her frustration at everyone underestimating her. I think she also underestimated herself, though, and needed to take advice instead of running off to prove she was a grown up. Warner disappointed me some in this book. He just, ugh, he is just so bad at peopling. He grew a lot in this installment, and I enjoyed that, but he broke my heart at times, too. Kenji was hilarious as usual, and I love some of the new characters. I was glad that I didn't have to see much of Adam in this novel, since he's not my favorite.

The writing was glorious, which is typical of Mafi. It felt different, though. It also showed how much Juliette had grown. No longer did she have disjointed sentences in her thinking. Her thoughts were more coherent, less desperate, and less broken. Some of the passages still blew me away, though. I think my favorite quote in the entire book was, "For years my goal was to minimize myself--to fold and refold myself into a polygon of nothingness, to be too insignificant to be remembered. I wanted to appear innocent; I was worried always about how my very existence was terrifying to others and I did everything in my power to diminish myself, my light, my soul. I wanted to desperately to placate the ignorant. I wanted so badly to appease the assholes who judged me without knowing me that I lost myself in the process. But now? Now, I laugh. Out loud. Now, I don't give a shit." By this point in the book, Juliette is turning into someone we can all be proud of. She's a strong woman and a force to be reckoned with.

The pacing was spot-on, and the big reveals kept me guessing. The ending was a cliffhanger, which I hate, so I am counting the days until the next book in the series comes out.

If I haven't said it before, I'll say it now: You need to read this series. These books change lives. They have given me strength when nothing else could. You need the Shatter Me series in your life.