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Book Review: Between the Blade and the Heart (Valkyrie #1) by Amanda Hocking

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

Plot:

When the fate of the world is at stake
Loyalties will be tested

Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin’s Valkyries, Malin’s greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin must decide where her loyalties lie and if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Opinion:

A slaying female heroine, naughty immortals hell-bent (haha, pun) on staying alive, and long walks into the underworld. Suh-Woon.

Kind of.

A Valkyrie has the sole duty of returning immortals to the afterlife once their lives are up. As one of the feared and sometimes hated Valkyrie, Malin dedicates her life to her job. When given a target, Malin knows not to ask questions and to complete her task as quick and efficiently as possible; when your time is up, your time is up. As Malin trains alongside her mother and learns her ways, she proves that she is almost ready to go out on her own. But when a boy named Asher attacks Malin in her apartment, she learns that her mother may have let one of her targets go in the past…and the repercussions involve the death of an innocent and the fate of their existence.

Sounds like a killer fantasy tale of badass female fighters and demons, right? Well, it is. It’s packed with action, has an INCREDIBLY strong female lead, a little romance, a little betrayal, and the ever-loving descent into the underworld. Though the author, Amanda Hocking, has laced this book with everything I love in a story, I still wasn’t completely blown away. I was intrigued with the direction that it took, and it successfully pulled me in. I just didn’t feel like I HAD to keep reading it. It didn’t seem to flow as easily and naturally as the other works from Amanda, and it left me a little disappointed.

Do not let that discourage you, because I am still giving this book a semi-positive review. I can honestly report that I did find enjoyment out of Between the Blade and the Heart, and I am still impressed with the idea and plot. I think my main concern was that I felt a lack of connection to the story and the characters. Malin is a fierce and insanely awesome main character, but I don’t feel like I know her as well as I would have liked. For me, the character and world development didn’t translate properly into something relatable. Obviously, it’s hard to do that in a Fantasy story about creatures that don’t exist. But making the reader feel like they could fall into this world with just a touch to the page is what makes a Fantasy story relatable, and I just wasn’t feeling it with this one.

I think my final opinion on Between the Blade and the Heart is “Eh okay, good…but not my favorite”. Since this is a series, I probably won’t go on to read book 2. BUT, there have been many a series to turn my opinions around in the second installment, so I will have to wait and see. Honestly guys, Amanda Hocking is one of my favorite authors, so I am a bit bummed out to be writing a not so stellar review for one of her works. I know this story really worked for a lot of other readers, but it just wasn’t all the way there for me.

2-5-stars

 

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Book Review: Sowing (The Purification Era Book 1) by Angie Grigaliunas

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Amazon.com – Sowing (The Purification Era) (Volume 1) by Angie Grigaliunas


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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Angie Grigaliunas, for an honest review.

Genre: YA/Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Plot: For Ariliah, life under the militarized Hulcondans is one of order and safety. Despite the soldiers’ ruthless policies, she trusts their judgment. Beyond the city wall, enemies lurk – a vicious race bent on devouring humanity. And if anything ever happened to the protectors, nothing would keep them out.

For her older sister, Rabreah, every glance from a Hulcondan is a threat. When even a whisper against them is treason and treason is death, Rabreah can’t risk one seeing through her as she sees through them. Joining an underground resistance to end their corruption seems like her only hope – until she meets the group’s enigmatic leader and realizes she doesn’t know the people she’s aligned herself with at all.

But when rebellious posters appear throughout the city and people start dying, their world begins to crumble.

And as the line between friend and enemy blurs, both girls must face the truth: everything is about to change.

Opinion:

The nerd in me is losing its s**t right now.

I don’t think you guys understand the painstaking dilemma that is like a raging tsunami building up inside me right now. How am I supposed to go on after this?! There is supposed to be EIGHT books in this series, and I don’t even know if I can wait for book TWO! I’M GOING TO LOSE IT!

I don’t think I can go on…*sigh*.

The Itzalin are a race of creatures hell-bent on destroying humans, but for years they have been kept at bay by the Hulcondans. Though Rabreah knows that her city would be destroyed with the Hulcondans, she finds disgust in watching the soldiers do whatever they please. She has witnessed them spread lies about women in order to ruin their name, and has herself been the victim of it. To Rabreah, the Hulcondans are a corrupt group that need to be taken down. But disobeying or speaking ill of them can lead to one’s death, so Rabreah must be careful. Not only does Rabreah seek freedom for herself and the young girls that are forced to marry these soldiers, but for her younger sister, Ariliah, who suffers daily abuse from their mother. But in Ariliah’s eyes, the Hulcondans keep them safe and deserve respect for what they do. As rebel posters begin being posted around the city and terrorists are brought forward, neither girl knows if they are safe anymore.

I started out 2017 with the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, which I know, was probably the stupidest idea ever. I mean the series is UH-mazing. Everything else just…only slightly had the ability to trickle awe and intrigue down my throat and into my pit of happiness and sheer excitement which I assume is somewhere…in my…body? I don’t know. Anyways. What I’m trying to spew out of my mumbling fingers onto this keyboard is this: We’re on some next level stuff right here ladies and gents.

Angie Grigaliunas has just ruined my life. Did I sleep last night? No. Can I think about anything else besides Sorek, Ariliah, Rabreah, and Lord Masrekah? Um…no. I’m at work right now guys, I’M NOT EVEN WORKING! I think I need rehab. Or maybe an insane asylum, since my life is now revolving around a fictional world and people that aren’t there. Sowing was SO GREAT! Incredible, amazing, and actually different! I read through this book like my life depended on it, and I need to read MORE. I can’t find ONE bad thing to say about this story, not one. The writing is detailed and even-paced, the characters are wonderfully developed and all possess a different quirk, and the plot is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This author has done a wonderful job of tearing my opinion into two different directions. This story flips back and forth between Rabreah and Ariliah, who prove to be VERY different people. Rabreah has SERIOUS trust issues around the Hulcondans, or even men for that matter. If you look at this girl wrong, she’s like a wild shark on land that just got a whiff of blood. Needless to say, the girl has NO problem taking care of herself. Ariliah starts out being very different. She obeys her superiors, keeps her head down, and doesn’t speak very much to anyone except her sister. She views the Hulcondans as her saviors and people she can trust, and is fascinated with the idea of one day marrying one. As Rabreah makes her way into joining the rebel group, it is unknown to Ariliah. I am really starting to wonder how Ariliah will take that news…and which side she will choose. Especially since a certain Hulcondan soldier is showing interest in her. I am torn between the opinion that both of these characters have. Some of the Hulcondan are seriously messed up people, but some seem to be genuine and actually care.

We have to talk about Sorek. Ladies…you can let go of those fictional boyfriends of yours from other books now. They do NOT compare to the arrogance and complete pain in the ass that is Sorek. I mean, this guy has it all. He’s a complete badass when it comes to being a warrior, and he puts the sarcasm level through the roof. Even I was thinking to myself “Geez man, tone it down”. Sorek becomes a big part in this story, and I don’t want to give his role away and spoil it for you guys. There is OBVIOUSLY going to be a hot little romance between Sorek and Rabreah, once Rabreah stops thinking every man wants to abuse her. Our little Ariliah also begins to find herself in the flirting midst with a Hulcondan, and I am praying that his ends well for her. I am SO glad that Angie Grigaliunas didn’t do that typical author thing when it comes to romances. Oh you know what I mean guys. Waiting until book 2 or 3 to let the reader see even smidge of love in the air. Ugh…how I loathe that.

Of course the reader is left with an amazingly RUTHLESS cliffhanger at the end of book one, and why not? I mean this author already stabbed my soul with bliss, why not drag the knife in a little deeper? Right? Right. But you know what is really interesting about this story? The author has decided to focus more on the plot and characters, and less on the overall setting. I know that sounds a little insane considering this falls into the Fantasy genre, but somehow…this author has made it WORK.  I honestly don’t think I can tell you much about the city and the exact point in time we are looking at here, but it is all a little guess work. I like the fact that she doesn’t start explaining simple things like this until WAY later in the story, which is something I have never come across before.

Basically guys, you need to get this book. Seriously. GO BUY THIS RIGHT NOW. If you loved Throne of Glass, then this is EXACTLY the next series that you need to get addicted to. Though I don’t know how I will, I will somehow find a way to patiently wait until the next books are released. This series is going to be EPIC, and I am so happy to have found it so early on. Mark my words guys, The Purification Era books are going to BLOW UP. You better be on the train when it does.

5-stars

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Book Review: Unborn (The Birthright Theft Series Book 1) by Daniel Gage

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Amazon.com – Unborn (The Birthright Theft Series Book 1) by Daniel Gage

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Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author, Daniel Gage, for an honest review.

Genre: Science-Fiction/Mystery/Suspense/Adult/YA

Plot:

“It’s nothing personal. You’re just part of the transaction.”

Cameron Briggs always wondered what the strange birthmark on his shoulder meant. For his entire life, it seemed he was never meant to be anything special, that is, until the day it happened. Something dormant inside of him awoke.

In the near future, birthright theft is on the rise, a vast network of dealers offering desperate buyers the chance to steal a more desirable next life. Their power and influence is absolute, with little standing in their way. However, unexpected anomalies in the process endow unique abilities to their victims who, once identified, are offered one chance – to save our world or destroy it, one Unborn child at a time.

With the truth shrouded in conspiracy, Emma Jennings, a troubled but strong-minded young agent with a defiant reputation, is determined to prove these crimes exist. But in order to accomplish her goal, she’ll need to find the one victim who can turn the tide of her war.

Opinion: OoOoOo yeah Sci-fi/Mystery lovers, I got a good one for you today! I have been waiting for a good book to get me out of my slump of multiple bad reviews, and here we are. This book has a “repo-man” feel to it, which was probably what got me so hooked on it. Imagine the chance to be able to switch your life for a better one; to start all over again, with the knowledge and experiences you have still being intact. Welcome to The Birthright Theft Series.

Birthright theft, the chance to turn your life of struggling and misery into something more. A chance to be born again to the child of a wealthy family, or perhaps even royalty, with every though and memory intact. The price? Just a small favor for the Dealers.

Emma Jennings has been working herself to the bone trying to catch Dealer X and his gang of birthright theft dealers, while also trying to prove that stealing one’s birthright is actually real. Countless showdowns and close calls in capturing Dealer X proves not enough, and Emma finds herself at risk of having her investigation shut down.  But then Emma finds herself a convict by the name of Cameron Briggs, who is also happens to be an unborn: a victim of birthright theft. Not only is Emma able to enlist the help of Cameron, but he proves to have an extraordinary ability that puts him on the same playing field as the dealers. Together Emma and Cameron work to take down Dealer X, all the while trying to save the birthright of a prominent royal family.

The idea for this story was ABSOLUTELY KILLER. I mean come on, being able to steal someone’s birthright with the memories of your other life still there? It’s like Repo-Man had a child with reincarnation, and out popped an epic series. As if that isn’t amazing enough, author Daniel Gage takes it farther by detailing what happens to the victims of having their birthright stolen. I assumed they would just be dead, right?. But NO! The victim, which they call an Unborn, is born an alternate life where literally EVERYTHING goes wrong for them. The two lives stay connected throughout their lifetimes, and as the Unborn experiences unfortunate events, the thief experiences wealth and riches. Honestly, the entire concept is extremely interesting. Though this might sound like a complicated concept for a story, the author is fantastic at making it easy for the reader to understand. I had no trouble keeping up, and the fluidity that this author has in their writing keeps the reader addicted and interested.

Let’s touch on characters Emma and Cameron. Emma is a tough, savvy, and career-oriented woman. She has a fierceness about her that I love, and her character never backs down from a fight. Emma’s life has been centering on catching Dealer X and his crew for some time now, and she keeps reaching dead ends. I liked that her character faced a TON of setbacks throughout this book, but she always pushed herself through it in order to complete what she started. Cameron has quite the opposite past, in comparison to Emma. He is a convict and is no stranger to setbacks and struggling in life. Cameron is also an Unborn, the victim of birthright theft. Though Cameron doesn’t know this until much later in the book, he begins to notice some changes in himself that he can’t explain. I really liked the character of Cameron, mostly because he had a good heart but was still a tough and rugged person. I think these characters work great together and show off two very different sets of people, and their chemistry is perfection.

For those of you who are looking for a hot little romance to go along with this creative story, you’re s**t out of luck. I kept thinking a steamy connection would be happening between our main characters, but NOPE. Honestly, it isn’t even needed. I have a hunch that these two will get together later in the series, but I am actually relieved that it didn’t happen in book 1. A romance would have just taken away from the main idea of this story, and that would have been a serious bummer. This book is amazing just how it is, so I wouldn’t change that for anything. One thing that I am on the fence about is how straightforward the writing is. What I mean is that the author gets straight to the point with everything, there isn’t an excess of fluff in sentences in paragraphs…which is great. But on the other hand, this would also be a great series to really pack the detail in. I think little bit more description and detail into some of the events would have only strengthened this story.

Though sci-fi based books have never been my main genre, I am loving that I am able to find some truly great ones. I just can’t get over how mind-blowing the idea for this story was, I’m addicted to it! I think the target audience for this series is probably adults, but I think a lot of young adult readers could really get into it. FINALLY a book I can write positively about! Great job Daniel Gage, you have gotten me out of my reading depression.

4-stars

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Book Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen Book 3)

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Genre: YA/Adult/Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Opinion: We’ve made it to Book 3 guys, and s**t just got real…kind of. This installment of the Red Queen series has action, misfortune, and a little bit of that romance. King’s Cage is upping the ruthlessness and deceit, and fans of Maven are finally going to get another taste of who he is and what he can do. Books 1 and 2 are just kindling compared to the real war that comes about in book 3. For those who are loving the battles that consume this story, this one is for you.

Assuming that you guys have been reading along, let’s start where book 2 has left off…shall we? For those of you who haven’t read the series yet, I will do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum. Except for this paragraph, sorry. So, Mare is imprisoned and her hopes of escaping are pretty slim wouldn’t you say? Finally her character makes a little sacrifice for others instead of thinking about herself! I think we can all agree that we saw this coming, because this seems to happen in every YA/Fantasy story doesn’t it? Self-sacrificing one’s self has become QUITE the fad! I think what was really unclear when Mare gave herself up to Maven, was what Maven was going to do with her. This guys is the EPITOME of unpredictable, and I still don’t feel like I have a grasp on his character. Whether this is intentional or accidental by the author, I don’t care. I love it.

As the first half of this book is dedicated to Mare’s imprisonment, we get a fairly suitable glimpse into her time under Mavens watch. She is locked away in a surprisingly comfortable room, fed some very un-prison-like food, and obviously but confusingly…kept alive. Though we have witnessed Mavens unusual obsession with Mare, it still seems so stupid of him to keep her alive as she is such a powerful weapon. Though in true Maven fashion, it all ends up being for a bigger purpose: to use Mare as a pawn for Maven to begin to collect newborns. Not only must mare cope with her abilities being blocked by her guards and constantly trying to find a way to escape, but now she is being forced to tell the public that she is against the scarlet guard and everything they stand for.

I have to tell you guys, I am loving how the author has introduced so many different levels on mind games into this story. From book 1 the main character is lied to and manipulated by everyone around her, and still it continues. The fact that this series can become quite dark and really question your faith in humanity, is brilliant. Though the constant pattern of characters throwing each other under the bus is apparent, in book 3 we finally get to see some characters switching sides and supporting the cause. For one character in particular, I did NOT see that coming.

For the romance seekers who have been waiting patiently for the face-impaling and heart-lurching whirlwind that is Mare and Cal, you are finally rewarded. Ahhh yes…those many months have ignited the fire in these two young characters, and has finally blown up like a box of dynamite on Fourth of July! Picture it guys: an intense eye-lock from across the way, the release of doves, a slow-motion gallop to each other’s arms, a passionate kiss…blahhh blahhh blahhh. I mean, it was okay. For being pretty disappointed in this relationship from the start of this series, I’m not really surprised that their reunion fell flat for me. Once again, I just didn’t buy it. The story between these two feels like one that I was told in a 3 minute summary, and I’m still pretty uninterested. Oh well.

So apart from the reunion of Mare and Cal and Mare’s imprisonment, the rest of this book focuses on the battle of the ages. Just like before, and probably much more, I was skipping over the fighting. Like I said in my previous reviews for this series, I love a great action/battle scene in a Fantasy story. They get me amped up and hooked to the point where I can’t put the book down. However, I keep losing interest when it comes to the action scenes in the Red Queen series. There is too much fluff in it, and not enough of the author getting straight to the point. I feel like there should be more detail, not more of saying the same thing in three different sentences. I skimmed through the last part of the book, and stopped at the very end to see how everything got wrapped up.

In regards to the ending, saw that one coming didn’t we? It is obviously another cliff-hanger for what is to come, but it ends on a pretty emotional note. Or…what is supposed to be an emotional note. Again, I am left feeling nothing from it. I just CANNOT connect with Mare or really any of these characters. It’s driving me crazy! I am honestly not even sure if I will continue on with this series at this point, and I don’t think I will even miss out on much. With that said, I saw some improvements in the story and writing but it just isn’t enough for me. When I see a positive and get excited about one small aspect of the story, two things are thrown at me that I can’t stand. Unfortunately, I think this is where I end the Red Queen series. Good luck readers.

3-stars

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Book Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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Bookoutlet.com – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Amazon.com – Glass Sword (Red Queen) by Victoria Aveyard

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Bookdepository.com – Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Genre: YA/Adult/Fiction/Fantasy

Plot: The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

Opinion: As I sit in my desk chair at work, obviously not working, I can’t help but wonder why I don’t stop to write a review before moving onto the next book in a series. Once again I have read book 2 and then immediately rushed to book 3 without even a second’s hesitation. Now I am sitting here with the misfortune of having to decipher WTF happened in books 2 and 3, because they have COMPLETELY blended together now. Obviously my need to know what happens next overshadows my responsibility to share my thoughts with you guys, but you are just going to have to suffer due to my selfishness. Book obsessions are a fickle mistress my darlings ❤

If you read my review for book 1 in this series, Red Queen, then you know that I was having some deep deeeeeeep issues with the fact that I couldn’t connect with the characters. Reading that a character is sad/guilty/happy/blah blah blah is COMPLETELY different than feeling what the characters feels. I don’t want to be TOLD that Mare is disappointed in herself for getting more people killed, I want to know it and feel it. As I was hoping would happen, the author has only improved in this while she has continued to write. After reading Glass Sword I was finally starting to feel the things that Mare, Cal, Kilorn, Farley and various other characters were feeling. As the story started building into a darker and more cutthroat story, the personalities and actions of the characters grew as well. Though I still feel as if Mares emotions aren’t translating as well as they could, I definitely am noticing an improvement and growth in the writing.

For me, halfway into this story is where it really starts excelling. Mare and her “team” have begun the search to recruit/rescue newbloods, and the abilities that these new characters show are KILLER! Their skills range from manipulating sound, teleporting, playing with gravity, changing ones physical appearance to match another, or being able to kill someone or something with only touch. Here is where the reader is introduced to some amazing new characters, and where I think the story actually comes into its own. As they start training the newcomers to fight and control their abilities, it starts to become clear that we are in for some epic battles in the next few books.

I am all for action scenes and cutthroat battles happening in a Fantasy story, but I am really starting to tune out of these sequences in this series. I keep finding myself skipping over a lot of these scenes, and I mean just flipping pages and not even looking back. I think there is a way to detail a battle without using so much wording, because this is what keeps losing my interest. In the Throne of Glass series there is a TON of fighting and killing happening, but I never lost interest once. I think this is because Sarah J. Maas really knows how to describe a moment in detail, but in a way that you are hanging onto her every word and not feeling as if you are being thrown too much information. In the Red Queen series this just wasn’t happening, and I couldn’t help but skip past these parts.

Glass Sword is where we also have a heart attack moment in which the author hints at a love triangle. But then again, there’s already a weird love triangle happening between Maven, Cal and Mare isn’t there? Well for those of you who love a nice romantic drama full of heart ache and emotional woes between three people…sorry. That’s not really happening here. In saying the least amount possible: some emotions are expressed, some emotions are respectfully shot down, and some other emotions are…emotional. J But fear not my romantic readers!  Book 2 is where the heat begins between Cal and Mare, and by heat I mean a very VERY dim flicker of flame on a tealight candle. Yes, it’s kind of a letdown. Though now I think we are all starting to realize that Victoria Aveyard has decided to focus more on the story, less on the romance. Which I can full on respect. You go girl!

With that said, I think this is a nice step towards what is to come in this series. I always see book 2 as the stepping stone for everything else that is building up in a story, and I feel like that with this one as well. I was glad to see that some of my concerns from Red Queen had improved in Glass Sword, and I can’t wait to see if things only get better. Though this series still hasn’t hit the WOW factor for me and has left me a little disappointed, I still find it an enjoyable read. If an author is keeping at least part of me interested and I am speeding through the series, then they have to be doing something right. I have already finished King’s Cage and hope to have a review up soon, so keep a look out guys!

3-5-stars

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