Vengeful (Villains #2) by V. E. Schwab

The sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab’s first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.


Such an emotionally taxing read. I read read both the books in the duology back-to-back. And I regret nothing. NOTHING. There’s no fun in doing anything half-ass anyways. Heh.

After finishing Vicious, I didn’t think Schwab could possibly outdo herself with Vengeful. But she did. The intensity and rawness she delivers with her storytelling is simply incredible.

The stakes are higher this time with even more players in the game. We get introduced to a number of new characters in this book. All of them dangerous and unpredictable. And it is commendable that we get to see the depth of each of these characters. No wonder this was such a long read. But the length was worth it as Schwab explores the complex arcs of the diverse cast of characters.

We also see a lot of growth for our old cast of characters. Sydney, especially, is no longer the sweet and acquiescent girl we knew her as. But her bonding with Vic, Dom and Mitch is still as endearing. They’re a family that shares no blood but are loyal to the bones. A big shout-out to Mitch for having no super-power and yet having the strength to stand out.

Schwab humanizes Victor and Eli in Vengeful. They’re no longer as invincible as they were before. It was great to see Eli’s back-story. I could appreciate him a lot more now that I could see his origins. These two are one of the most complexly written characters I’ve read in contemporary fiction.

The standout of the book was still Victor for me. His tenacity and determination to never give up made me fall even more in love with him.

Victor Vale has carved his name as one of the best-written fictional characters I’ve read.

I have the feeling that more’s to come from this universe. And I’m equally nervous and excited for it.


My Rating: ★★★★★


Have any of you read the book yet? What did you think? Were you as mindblown by it as I was? Or was it underwhelming (I doubt it but still…)? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review : Vicious (Villains #1) by V. E. Schwab

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.


Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?


I finally did it! Vicious is no longer on my TBR list and it feels so much lighter already!

There’s a reason it took me this long to start Vicious, even before the sequel was announced, despite seeing all the raving reviews about the book. The reason was my experience with The Monsters of Verity duology. It was an amazing series, no doubt. And it made me discover what a brilliant writer Schwab is. But that ending? It had brought me over the fence about reading anything else by her. I didn’t doubt Schwab’s masterful storytelling but I was wary of its impact on me. But I’m glad I finally took the jump and finished Vicious!



Vicious
was a roller-coaster ride and I enjoyed every moment of it. At the beginning, I was almost scared to proceed with the book when I was reading the Before parts. I knew that it was the calm before the storm. But I kinda wanted these two friends to not change despite feeling the undercurrents of more beneath the seemingly normalcy of their lives.

Having constant flash-forwards and flash-backwards can be a tricky thing to execute. It doesn’t always make for an effective method of story-telling. But Schwab makes it work. I don’t think the story would have been as intriguing if it was told in a linear timeline. It’s the anticipation of the cause and aftermath that makes Vicious so gripping right from the start.

The first half of the book has a simmering feel to it. I was engrossed but at the same time, kept wanting more. It was not until the dive into Serena’s psyche that I felt utterly captivated. Serena, to me, was the most chilling character, even among an ensemble of a crazy bunch of characters.

Almost all the characters in this book are substantial in not only the power they wield, but also in the way they are fleshed out. It is easy for some characters to lose their significance when you have so many things happening at once. But Schwab fleshed out each and every character with an unique voice that ensures none of them are dwarfed by another.

Victor, despite his eerie line of thinking, was endearing. The way he collects his strays, and cares for them without showing it, is just adorable. Even at the beginning, he seems to be the one giving more value to his friendship with Eli than the latter. Their enmity also feels to hold more magnitude for Vic than Eli.

I think, at the end, what differentiates Victor and Eli is Vic’s self-awareness. His awareness of his own faults and the darkness inside him makes him a much more logical character than Eli who lets his delusions rule him.

I don’t know who I wanted to hug more throughout the story – Vic or Sydney. The best part of the book for me was their bonding. And let’s not forget Mitch. He was the perfect addition to the duo of candy and spice that’s Sydney and Vic. Heh…

Do I regret waiting this long to start Vicious? No. I get to devour the sequel immediately now. How lucky is that? But I kinda almost wish there was no sequel? After the experience with that first series by Schwab, I’m feeling very nervous about what direction the sequel will take.

Whatever it be, Vicious was a piece of masterful storytelling with beautiful character development that everyone needs to read!



My Rating: ★★★★★

 

ARC Review : The Murder Book (Cold Case Investigation #2) by Lissa Marie Redmond

*I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in return of an honest review.*


Cold case detective Lauren Riley wakes up in the hospital certain of two things: she was stabbed and left for dead…   and the person who did it was a cop.

After being brutally stabbed at her desk late one night, Lauren Riley works her way backwards through the haze to piece together who attacked her and why. A mysterious phone message forces her to enlist the help of a retired lieutenant to track down a witness who is desperate not to be found. As she digs into the Buffalo Police Department’s hidden past she uncovers a terrible secret, one a fellow officer would kill to protect.

Packed with suspense and featuring a detective who relentlessly—and with morbid humor—gets the job done, The Murder Book continues a series praised by Kirkus Reviews as “an excellent police procedural combined with a psychological thriller.”


It started out well enough. The beginning gripped me just as I’d hoped it would. But the charm wore off as the story progressed. I struggled to retain the same interest throughout the book that I felt at the beginning.

I think my biggest problem was the writing. There were many grammatical errors and some words felt misplaced. I hope the final version of the book gets the proper editing it deserves. Because it’s difficult to enjoy a book when you get distracted by such mistakes.

Lauren is a smart protagonist. Though, I felt that she was written as too impersonal, considering the past she’s had. Teen pregnancy, prostitution, domestic abuse, two divorces, stalkers – for someone with such terrible experiences, I was expecting a bit more emotional depth. It didn’t help that whenever we find out about each of these experiences, the mentions are written too casually. Also, having a protagonist with all of these happening to her has a cliché written all over it.

Maybe, if I’d read the predecessor to this book which I didn’t know existed until after I finished the book, I’d be less frustrated with the back-story of Lauren. There will be a third book too, going by how this one ends.

The main mystery was plotted out fine enough. There were no big shocking twists or unpredictability. It was the process through which the team gets to the results that mattered. I really liked Reese and Lauren’s equation. They were perfect partners for each other. It was also refreshing to have no romantic angle there. Charlie Daley was also a welcome addition to their team. Their team dynamic was the best part of the book for me. I also liked the realistic portrayal of the inner workings of the police department.

Ultimately, Murder Book disappointed me by not delivering the intensity and excitement I’d been expecting from this Mystery/Thriller.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆


Publication Date: 8th February, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon

ARC Review : 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

“I’d like to thank the Publisher for providing me with an ARC in return of an honest review.”


Crush: a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

… If Darcy Barrett hadn’t met her dream man when she was eight years old, the rest of the male population wouldn’t be such a let-down. No one measures up to Tom Valeska, aka the best man on Earth, not in looks, brain or heart. Even worse is the knowledge that her twin brother Jamie saw him first, and claimed him forever as his best friend.

Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. One percent of Tom has had to be enough for Darcy, and her adoration has been sustained by his shy kindness. And if she’s honest, his tight t-shirts.

Now Darcy’s got three months left to get her life together before her twin insists on selling the tumble-down cottage they inherited from their grandmother. By night, she’s working in a seedy bar, shooting down lame pickups from bikers. By day, she’s sewing underwear for her best friend and wasting her award-winning photography skills on website shots of pens and novelty mugs. She’s enjoying living the messy life, and a glass of wine or ten… until that one night, when she finds a six-foot-six perfect package on her porch.

Tom’s here, he’s bearing power tools—and he’s single for the first time in a decade.

As a house flipper extraordinaire, Tom has been dispatched by Jamie to give the cottage a drastic facelift that will result in a ton of cash. Darcy doesn’t appreciate Tom’s unsentimental approach to knocking down walls, and he really, really doesn’t approve of her current burnout boyfriend. They can’t be in the same room together without sparks flying- and it’s not the faulty wiring. One bedroom wall separates them at night, and even that’s looking flimsy.

Will Tom ever see Darcy as anything other than a little-sister obstacle to get around? And can she stand up to her most formidable opponent—her twin? This time around, she’s determined to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers, and he’s never managed to say no to her yet…


 

Sally Thorne did it, y’all! She lived up to the expectations. And dare I say, she even exceeded them? Because I really didn’t expect to enjoy 99 Percent Mine as much as The Hating Game. But I did!

I could say that my love for ‘unrequited crush’ and “having a thing for the brother’s best friend” trope was what made the book such a hit for me. But I just read a book with the same themes a couple of months ago and was left unimpressed. The same tropes at the hands of another writer made the world of a difference. Execution matters, okay? And Sally Thorne seems to have mastered it. It’s almost like she peeked into my heart and basically wrote a book based on my romance wish-list that even I wasn’t aware of.

I will not be going into any comparisons with The Hating Game. Because I think that would be unfair. These are two entirely different stories with different sets of characters. All I’ll say is that both of these books provided chicken soup to my soul when I needed it. And that’s that.

I love romances with slow-burn and a whole lot of unresolved tension. This book served all that on a platter for me. The chemistry between Darcy and Tom was off the charts. Thorne excels at capturing the initial uncertainty, insecurities and the push-pull play between a couple. She did it in her debut book and she does it here again. I felt the good kind of frustration to see these two navigate their feelings for each other.

Darcy was a self-destructive character. Her life is a mess. She’s got a lot of insecurity issues along with a sort fuse for a temper. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the twin-angle. Although, I went in for the romance, I was rooting for Darcy and her twin brother Jamie to pull through too. And Jamie? He was an asshole with a marshmallow for heart. The love-hate relationship between the two siblings was perfectly portrayed in the book. I might not be a twin but I have a brother with whom I kinda share a similar equation.

I could see why Darcy fell so hopelessly for Tom. He was too good to be true! Who wouldn’t fall for a sweet and considerate guy like him? He was the rock solid anchor that always balanced the two extremes of the two twins. It was obvious how important he was to both of them and to see him being always pulled between the two was adorable! He might not be the perfect guy that Darcy sees him as, but he’s pretty damn close.

You know what else I liked? How Darcy took the lead in many of their important moments. She was never passive and also knew when to back off too. So when both of them made any progress, it was done mutually.

There were both hilarious and heartfelt moments that made it a welcome addition to my favorites shelf. I foresee a lot of rereads in the future. And Sally Thorne has solidified her status as my favorite contemporary romance author with this book!

Can we have a book on Jamie now, please?


My Rating: ★★★★★


Publication Date: 29th January, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Edelweiss)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon

ARC Review : The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

“I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC in return of an honest review.”


From award-winning author G. Willow Wilson, The Bird King is an epic journey set during the reign of the last sultan in the Iberian peninsula at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.

G. Willow Wilson’s debut novel Alif the Unseen was an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and it established her as a vital American Muslim literary voice. Now she delivers The Bird King, a stunning new novel that tells the story of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last emirate of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker.

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.


I am at a loss of words.

This is the kind of writing that deserves all the awards in the world. There were so many lines and passages that made me stop and just soak the words in. I was awed by the details and nuances of the writing. The research that went into this must be applauded.

Before I go into the story, I’d like to take some time to commend the author for giving us a glimpse of what the Islamic empires were indeed like back in the day. There’s a lot of misconception about Islam in the present time. And a lot of that is owed to the fact that it’s linked with all things conservative and unprogressive, in many spheres. But back in the days, the Islamic empires were known for their richness in cultures and tolerance, be it in the Middle east, West or the Indian Sub-continent. I could go into details about how Muslims at large were far more progressive and accepting back then than they are now, but this is not the post for that. I’d just like to applaud Wilson for showcasing a culture the details of which have faded over time.

I was overcome with sadness as I read through the beginning. We start with an empire that is about to be lost. Thinking of the realness and the actuality of that part of the story made me melancholic as reading about history generally does. After all, there’s always someone that loses in history. Never a happy thing to read about.

“Let me tell you something important. The real struggle on this earth is not between those who want peace and those who want war. It’s between those who want peace and those who want justice. If justice is what you want, then you may often be right, but you will rarely be happy.”

I love that although this book is a high fantasy, the backdrop is a real historical event. It makes me appreciate the nuances even more. The author blends historical fiction with high magical fantasy in an effortless manner.

There is a wonderful cast of characters each of which had richly stood on its own. But it was Fatima and Hassan who were the heart of the book.

Fatima is a not a character made of goodness. She’s selfish and spoiled. There’s vanity in her. But what I loved about her were her vulnerabilities. Beneath it all, she is a character that just wanted to be loved. The concept of consent that played out in her mind was beautiful to see. The part where she says that she would have perhaps fallen in love with the Sultan if she could have the freedom to initiate her affection, spoke volumes.

“Yes, you were taught to waste your anger. It’s convenient for girls to be angry about nothing. Girls who are angry about something are dangerous. If you want to live, you must learn to use your anger for your own benefit, not the benefit of those who would turn it against you.”

Hassan is the palace mapmaker. From the very first scene, I felt so much affection and adoration for him. He had this naivete that was unexpected. His and Fatima’s friendship is EVERYTHING. And the author rightfully explores it compellingly.

Theirs is a love story without any romance. The love these two have for each other is complex and inexplicable. Fatima feels the closest to him because he is the only one who doesn’t desire her. He’s the sodomite between the two, but he’s also the one with more faith than Fatima. They have a complicated relationship because there is jealousy and bitterness along with affection and love with no happy resolution in sight. This book is the journey of these two to make a story for themselves, for once, that’s not made up.

“What if our stories are like my maps? What is a story but the map of an idea?”

This was a fantasy story but that was by no means the main focus of the book. Amidst all the actions and adventure, the themes that play out are characters’ search for love, happiness and freedom. The character growth and evolution that we witness is the real winner for me.

“Happiness, she decided, came only in pauses, neither regularly nor predictably.”

The writer excels in world-building and is outstanding in her prose. Because of that, the pace might feel uneven at places, but I didn’t mind it. The ending was bittersweet and I kinda ended up wanting more. But I guess this isn’t a book that can be tied neatly with a bow. The feelings it invoked in me deserve as many stars as I can give it.

Highly recommended!


 
My Rating: ★★★★★


Publication Date: 12th March, 2019.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon


 

ARC Review : Magnolia Inn by Carolyn Brown

*I’d like to thank the Publisher for supplying me with this ARC for an honest review.*

New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Brown brings together two wounded hearts in a Texas romance of second chances and twice-in-a-lifetime true love.

Inheriting the Magnolia Inn, a Victorian home nestled in the East Texas pines, is a fantasy come true for Jolene Broussard. After living with the guilt of failing to rescue her self-destructive mother, Jolene knows her aunt and uncle’s B&B is the perfect jump start for a new life and a comforting place to call home. There’s just one hitch: stubborn and moody carpenter Tucker Malone. He’s got a half interest in the Magnolia Inn, and he’s planting his dusty cowboy boots squarely in the middle of her dream.

Ever since his wife’s death, Tucker’s own guilt and demons have left him as guarded as Jolene. The last thing he expects is for his new partner to stir something inside him he thought was gone forever. And as wary as Jolene is, she may have found a kindred spirit—someone she can help, and someone she can hold on to.

Restoring the Magnolia Inn is the first step toward restoring their hearts. Will they be able to let go of the past and trust each other to do it together?


What a slow and frustrating read!

Jolene and Tucker are forced by circumstanced to partner up and work on remodeling the Inn left to her by her aunt and uncle.

Most of the conversations between the two throughout the book are about the restoring of the inn. I’m sorry but if I wanted to read about all that, I’d have opted for Home Remodeling for Dummies, instead.

We spend 80% of the book with Tucker having conversations with his dead wife and trying his best to not let go of her.

When I opted for this book, I was hoping for a healing romance. Maybe a broody hero and an emotionally stunted heroine. A couple of funny incidents while remodeling the home too, perhaps. Instead, I got a cardboard heroine and a – I can’t even think of an adjective for what that hero was.

I can’t think of any scene with Tucker where he was not having an inner conversation with Melanie – his ex-wife or was comparing Jolene to her.

Tucker’s wife died while going to buy something from the store when he could’ve gone himself. He was a cop who got fired for drunk-driving after her death. He spends every Saturday drinking himself to a stupor because Saturdays used to be date nights with his wife. He proudly claims that he’s only a weekend drinker.

Jolene, on the other hand, had an alcoholic mother. She also has had a tough life due to her mother and a father who left. Her only purpose of life right now is running the inn.

I couldn’t at all emotionally connect with Tucker and Jolene at any point. Tucker talks about his guilt and keeps telling his dead wife that he misses her. But I never felt any of his pain. And we read about Jolene’s past difficulties but I don’t think the writer touches down on the emotions and feelings of Jolene regarding those things.

The romance was unconvincing. It should be when you have a hero spending majority of the book thinking of his dead wife and ensuring that no “spark” with Jolene hinder his connection with his dead wife. Yes, there’s a ‘spark’ at times when they touch. That was the extent of their romance for a long time.

I was hoping for some pining or emotional conflict from Jolene for growing feelings for an emotionally unavailable man. But there wasn’t really much of that from Jolene. And I get that Tucker lost a wife and he’s grieving her. But in that process, his romance with Jolene fell flat.

There was aunts and family members with their own shenanigans. I wasn’t interested by any of it. I found myself waiting for parts with them to end. The pace sort of picked up at the last third of the book. But that was too late to redeem the book for me.

If I wasn’t clear before, this was a disappointing read.


  My Rating: ★★☆☆☆


Publication Date: 25th September, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via Netgalley)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Amazon


 

Book Review : Confess by A. Zavarelli

Lucian
A life free from sin.
For seventeen years, I have lived and breathed those words. But there is no balm to the war inside my soul.
Until her.
The mysterious beauty too lethal to taste. She’s a thief, a con, the essence of everything I loathe. Still, she lures me in with her lying eyes.
In the dark of night, she came to confess her sins, and in the light of morning, I plotted to steal her away.
She will be my ruination. My damnation. My biggest regret.
So help me, God.

**
Gypsy
A word of advice? Don’t show me your vulnerabilities because I will find a way to exploit them. I learned the hard way to take what I want from life with no regrets.
Until him.
He’s one of the most hated men in America. A soulless criminal attorney. A recluse. And as of five minutes ago, my new husband.
He wants to keep my secrets and collect my tears, but he should know that a wild animal can’t be domesticated.
I don’t know how to love men. I only know how to leave them.
With everything I want.


I’d been in a mood for contract/forced marriage for some reason. So I was glad to come across this book when I did. The synopsis was interesting too. I wasn’t expecting an extraordinary read. Just something of a time-pass. But I did end up enjoying this read, for the most part.

This was like an adult version of The Taming of The Shrew, among a lot of other things.

Gypsy and her younger sister have had a horrible childhood. So, she turned to conning rich men by exploiting the one advantage she has – her beauty. She excels at it too and is content with her life for now. Until Lucian, a lawyer infamous for representing the worst of the worst, decides that he wants her to marry him. He basically blackmails her into marrying her.

Things I liked :

We start off with Lucian being a closed book. There’s a mystery behind him and his motivations. I liked that suspense element.

The slow evolution between Lucian and Gypsy’s relationship. That’s what had made me want to start the book in the first place. So, in a sense, I did get what I set out to read this book for.

I liked the character developments too. Gypsy starts off being immature and spoiled while Lucian starts off being unemotional and closed off. All of that changes as the story progresses.

There was this sub-plot about an innocent 19 year old guy who was charged with murder. His story did touch my emotional chords.

Things I was dubious about:

I wasn’t really convinced by the reveal of the reason behind Lucian marrying Gypsy.

Honestly, the smut came a lot later than I’d expected and the scenes were not as many as I’d expected. I knew, going into the book, that there would be dark and erotic elements, so there’s nothing to complain about, really. But there were some themes about sadism that I wasn’t comfortable reading and skimmed through.

There were drama and angst galore in this book. Some of the twists, I liked. Others just weren’t to my taste.

Anyways, I started this book fully aware that there would be elements that might not be my cup of tea, so I can’t complain about the parts that I skimmed through.

In a nutshell, this was an interesting read that I liked for the most part. But chances are high that I might not pick up its sequel.


  My Rating: ★★★★☆


 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Another Tuesday is here. Another interesting prompt. For those who don’t know, Top Ten Tuesday is weekly blog meme created and hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s prompt is Book By My Favorite Authors That I still haven’t Read.

In most cases, a favorite author for me is someone all of whose books I loved. I think I tend to read all the books by my favorite authors. But there are some cases where that doesn’t happen or yet to happen. I’ll talk about those authors here. Time to revisit my guilt.


 

Lethal White Series | Rober Galbraith : I owe J. K. Rowling a lot. Harry Potter has a occupies a huge part in my life and heart. It’s the series that made me fall in love with books. So I still can’t figure out why I can’t make myself start this series.

 


The Cursed Child | J. K. Rowling : Well, it’s a more of a play than a book. It’s also not really written by Rowling but rather based on the story by her. So, technically this might not even count as a book by her.

Okay, here’s the thing, I was dubious about the whole thing since it was announced. And I’ve heard enough things about the book from my friends to never be interested in touching this book. I don’t want to let any flawed piece of work ruin my nostalgia for the books. I’m happy with where the books ended. I’ve also read enough Harry Potter fanfiction in my days to have curbed my thirst for any future stories in the Wizarding World. You know what I’d like, though? A book based on the Maruarders.

 

Saving Francesca | Melina Marchetta : I love Melina Marchetta. I have read every book by her except this one. I even read the second book ( The Piper’s So) set in the same universe as this. Saving Francesca has evaded me most probably because it was her second book. But I do plan to read it. I just need to dig down my TBR hole.

 


Looking For Alibrandi | Melina Marchetta : This was even before Saving Francesca so it’s even deeper down my TBR hole. To be honest, I’m not very confident about starting this book any time soon. But it all depends on my whims, really. And I DO tend to be very whimsical with my reading moods.

 

Infinity + One | Amy Harmon : Same case as above. I’ve read all books by Amy Harmon other than this. Except, I don’t think I’ll ever read this book. The theme of the book is that of Bonny & Clyde which is just not my thing.

 

   

Faeries of Dreamdark | Laini Taylor : Another series deep buried in my TBR list. I don’t know if and when I’ll ever get to start this series.

 

  

Innkeeper Chronicles | Ilona Andrews : What made me a fan of Ilona Andrews was the 10-book series of Kate Daniels. By the time I was done with that, she was about tor release Hidden Legacy which became another favorite. I already had 2 of her incomplete series I was in love with. I didn’t have the time or energy to start another incomplete series.

 

   

The Edge | Ilona Andrews : The same case as above. When I discover an author I like, I usually go from the most recent of her releases to her earlier ones. Now that Kate Daniels is over, I might get more motivation to start these 2 series now. You know what would motivate me more, though? Better covers.

 

          Holding You

Holding You Duet | Jewel E. Ann : Jewel E. Ann is a writer who is slowly climbing to the top of my contemporary authors. She gets better with each of her new releases. But her earlier and older releases are not as impressive. This was her earliest work and going by the trend of everything else I’ve read by her, this could be her least impressive work. And I’m not really tempted by the blurb or the reviews it’s gotten. Meh.

 

The Grisha Trilogy | Leigh Bardugo : She’s a recent favorite. I loved her Six of Crows so much that I don’t think I’m capable of not liking any of her books. I definitely will read the Grisha Trilogy soon. Sooner even than any of the other books on the list. It should be a crime not to read everything by Leigh Bardugo. And I don’t want to partake in this crime any longer. If only there weren’t additions to my TBR list every day.


So, I might not harbor guilt for not having read all of these books, a few of them maybe – but definitely not all of them. Hopefully this partial guilt trip down the lane will make me start the books (I DO feel guilty about) asap!

 

ARC Review: Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire #1) by Grace Draven

A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance.


Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire’s capital–her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one small village’s tithe has been the same woman. Gilene’s sacrifice protects all the other young women of her village, and her secret to staying alive lies with the magic only she possesses.

But this year is different.

Azarion, the Empire’s most famous gladiator, has somehow seen through her illusion–and is set on blackmailing Gilene into using her abilities to help him escape his life of slavery. And unknown to Gilene, he also wants to reclaim the birthright of his clan.

To protect her family and village, she will risk everything to return to the Empire–and burn once more.


It’s always a great relief when a book lives up to your expectations. Phew!

Gilene is used to burning alive for the sake of her village every year and suffering from the physical aftereffects along with the guilt of this huge burden. Her life of duty and sacrifice is thrown into jeopardy when the gladiator Azarion blackmails her to help him escape his life of imprisonment.

This book had a lot of things to like about it. It was a proper fantasy with elements of magic, faith and lots of action. But I’ll tell you what I loved most about it straight away – the main couple.

Gilene and Azarion were both strong and well-written characters. I’ve read fantasy books with forced alliances before but none had such an evenly matched pair.

Although Azarion basically abducts Gilene, and has to blackmail her at every turn to stay by his side, I never felt any apathy towards him. His motivations are clear. He’s not unnecessarily an asshole to Gilene and even harbors an underlying respect towards her.

Gilene might be forced to help Azarion, but she never at any point becomes helpless. I’ve read books where I would shake my head in frustration at heroines being too quick to surrender and not grab easy chances to escape. That wasn’t the case here. Gilene never surrendered too easily or became too bitchy. She knew when to accept defeat and when to rebel.

The relationship between Azarion and Gilene was developed beautifully. Their gradual friendship and love for each other was beautiful to read.

The author does not pull any punches in showing us the gruesome realities faced by Azarion and Gilene. There’s a rape scene right at the beginning. But there were no overtly disturbing descriptions that would turn me off. The author lets you know that the characters are facing atrocities but does not make you privy to every horrendous detail.

I also liked the elements of the supernatural powers, and how there’s this concurrent discussion about faith throughout the book. The action scenes were written really well too.

I was afraid that this book would end with a cliffhanger or not give resolution to the story. And that would be awful considering how long this book is. Almost 400 pages? But thankfully it wrapped up the story of Azarion and Gilene. Huzzah!

Here are the problems I had with the book –

There are too many new terms used for creatures, places and people that had no description provided for them. So, it was difficult for me to keep track of all of them.

We are teased with some side-stories and historical events of the world that I’d really like to know more of. Also, there’s barely any proper timeline for the events. For example, we don’t know how old Azarion and Gilene are and even how old the empire was.

Now, I’m hoping that some of these issues will be fixed in the final version and were just there in the ARC. Also, since there will be more books in the series, I’m looking forward to get a better idea about the world.

Another problem I had with the book was that the last part felt too rushed. I was hoping for more of an insight and explanations about the aftermath, after having built the whole book up towards it.

Anyways, these are all minor issues that barely took away from my enjoyment of the books. If you are a fan of fantasy and slow burn romance, then this is the book for you.



My Rating: ★★★★☆


Publication Date: 25th September, 2018.
Source: ARC from Publisher (via friend)
You can find this book on – Goodreads | Itunes

TAG : Sunshine Blogger Award

Time for another tag. Yay! I love these things. A huge thanks to Sara @ Bibliophagist for nominating me. Follow her for more of these awesome tags and amazing book reviews. I hope that I can be even half as good with my answers as she was with hers.


Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post/or on your blog.

11 questions from The Bibliophagist

 

1. What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?
This one is the toughest. I have read A LOT of books this year. I loved quite many of them. Besides, I’m confused between which book was my most favorite and which one the best. I also can’t seem to remember if I read Strange The Dreamer this January or last December. Because that’s a strong contender. But I think I’ll go with Sadie by Courtney Summers. Check my review on it if you’re interested.


2. What’s one of your favorite tropes?
Unrequited love/crush trope. I love it when one character falls in love first and pines over the other. I also love the ‘best friends to lovers’ trope. There’s something absolutely delightful about characters developing feelings slowly and being all conflicted and confused about them.

3. According to Goodreads, which book has been on your TBR the longest?
The Great Gatsby
. Guilty as charged

4. Do you have any pets? If so, feel free to share some pictures!
Sadly, no. I’ve always wanted a dog, though.

5. What’s your current favorite song?
Ogo Bideshini. An old and popular film song that I’ve listened to in passing before but it just very recently become my favorite after watching the movie. (Btw this movie Charulata might be one of the best-directed movies I’ve watched. Satyajit Ray is a genius.)

Imagine Dragons’ Believer is another recent favorite.

6. Are there any authors, tropes, or genres that you avoid?
Authors
: Kristen Ashley. I checked out a couple of her books and ended up regretting every moment. I also avoid Veronica Roth after the disaster that Allegiant was.

Tropes: Insta-love and cheating. Not my cup of tea. I also avoid books with innocent, inexperienced, virgin heroines needing to be saved.

Genre: I’m open-minded about most genres. But I generally steer clear of Horror.

7. What’s your favorite book-to-screen adaptation?
Gone with the Wind.

8. Which book do you wish would be adapted? (Assuming the adaptation would be done well.)
Kate Daniels series for small-screen adaptation. Lumatere Chronicles for big-screen adaptation.

9. If you could teleport anywhere, where would you go and what would you do?
I have so many countries and places I want to see that I would just travel the world if I could teleport.

10. What’s your favorite blog post that you’ve written?
We all have a weak spot for our firsts. And my review of Transcend was the first proper review that I’ve written. It was also one of my most heartfelt reviews.

11. What’s something that always cheers you up?
Chocolates. And watching FRIENDS.


11 questions from me:

  1. What’s a book you read that you would’ve been proud to have written?
  2. What’s one movie or TV show you think you’d have liked to have read as a book?
  3. Is there a book that you personally liked a lot but wouldn’t recommend to others?
  4. If you could read books by only one writer for the rest of your life, who would it be?
  5. Name a book character that you’d like to travel with.
  6. Who’s an author that you would like to invite over for dinner?
  7. What’s your favorite book couple?
  8. What’s the most recent book that you wanted to buy solely based on its cover?
  9. What’s the funniest book that you have read?
  10. Is there a book villain you’d like to be friends with?
  11. What’s the one place where you could never read a book?

I would like to nominate:

Mariam |Melanie |Meowread | Emily|Daisy


 
I’m too new at this blogging thing to tag 11 people here. So I went with 5. There’s no pressure if you don’t feel like doing it. It’s only for fun! If I didn’t tag you and you like being tagged and would like to answer these questions, let me know below. I had a lot of fun doing this. I hope everyone else does too!