The Rose & the Dagger (The Wrath & the Dawn, #2)

the-rose-and-the-dagger-the-wrath-and-the-dawn-2-renee-ahdiehFirst Lines: The girl was eleven and three-quarters.  Three very important quarters.  They’d been of consequence when her father had left her in charge this morning, with an important task to accomplish.

I grabbed this at the library some time ago, meaning to finish off this duology and cross another series off my list.  Only it languished on my shelf for most of the summer.  I hate having to renew books, so when this came up for renewal again, I decided I needed to read it and be done.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

There once was a time Shahrzad thought that the Caliph of Khorasan was a monster and a killer.  But now, ripped from her husband’s arms after a brutal storm and a curse that threatens to keep them separated, Shahrzad can’t help but miss the man she now knows Khalid to be.  Reunited with her family, Shazi is far from safe.  Deep in the desert lie enemies, waiting for the right moment to strike the battered Caliph where it hurts the most.  Shazi finds herself trapped between loyalty to her family and friends from before she married and her husband.  Using the magic inside of her, Shazi sets off the break the curse…but she have to dodge enemies of her own making along the way.

I’m just going to come right out and say that my review of this book is tainted by the fact that I really don’t remember much of the first book, apparently.  As I started reading this book, I realized how little I remembered of the plot and characters.  It made it dreadfully hard for me to sink into the story and enjoy it.  So read my review with a grain of salt.

Things that I loved: the strength of the female cast.  And we’re not just talking about Shazi here, though she’s definitely a fiery one.  All of the females, even the quiet ones, had a moment to show either their physical, mental, or emotional strength in one form or another.  I adored that.  I’m all for giving girls awesome role models like this.  What was super awesome was that even the girls who consider themselves “mousy” in this story still found ways to stand up for themselves.  And I truly think that girls need to see that as a strength.  The older I get, the more I find that quiet strength inside of me.

This story is totally a tangled web of intricacies, which was fun to try to untangle.  Loyalties are constantly being called into question, relationships aren’t as clear as you think, and events constantly overlap unexpectedly.  It was fun to read because there was always something to pay attention to.

I did think the plot was interesting, but I found myself also getting bored at times because I couldn’t remember the first book very well.  Like, I enjoyed what Shazi was trying to do.  But then the narrator would shift to a minor character, like Irsa who I didn’t remember in the slightest and then I just couldn’t get into the story as much.  It wasn’t until closer to the end when the action picked up that I finally started getting back into the action.  And, of course by then I knew who the characters were again.

I guess I was expecting a lot out of this book too, given how good I remember the first book being.  Not that this one was bad, but I wanted it to be this epic romantic saga and it…wasn’t.  Parts are pretty awesome, maybe close to being epic, but it was never able to sustain that power.  And I didn’t feel like the romance was really there either, except for a few cute moments in the story.  Again, far from the romantic story I was expecting.

I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I just couldn’t get into this book.  It had many redeeming qualities, so it wasn’t a waste of time, but I wasn’t thrilled by it either.

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Lady Renegades (Rebel Belle, #3)

lady-renegadesFirst Lines: His head hurt.  It always hurt these days and had for a long time now, long enough that David couldn’t tell whether it was getting worse or whether he’d just been hurting for so long that it was starting to become unbearable.

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Hawkins’s writing style since I found Hex Hall years ago.  Besides, another series to finish?  Sign me up.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Finally, Harper’s been getting used to her new super powers as Paladin.  But of course, as soon as the world starts making sense, it has to change again.  Overwhelmed by his powers, David ran away from Pine Grove…only he’s been leaving a trail of teenage girls-turned-Paladins in his wake.  Worse news?  They all seem to think Harper is the enemy David needs protection from.  Sure, normally they wouldn’t be any problem for Harper to tackle.  But with David being away for so long, her powers are dwindling…and if she doesn’t find David soon, they might disappear altogether.  Is this a problem too big for Pres to handle?

Alright.  So as I mentioned, I’m a fan of Rachel Hawkins’s writing style.  She’s hilarious.  Multiple times throughout the novel, Harper described the South as being “hotter than Satan’s armpit” which is just kind of apt, you know?  And the sarcasm is thick.

But this book had a few issues for me.  First was character development.  Seriously, Harper and Blythe are the only characters that get any screen time (figuratively speaking).  Geez, even David, who should be a main character, only popped up a few times.  It just didn’t seem to be adding anything new to the characters I liked, like Bee and Ryan and Aunt Jewel.

On top of that, the story drags on.  It’s the Curse of the Road Trip.  Bouncing from city to city, the only excitement in each town quickly becomes cliche and expected.  Look, there are very few books that can successfully pull off a road trip.  This was not one of them. I got bored.

But I will say that there were a number of pretty good fights scenes. I mean, if there’s one thing Harper’s good at, it’s defending herself (whether physically or sarcastically).  So that was at least entertaining.

Overall, it was just kind of meh.  Nothing about it really stood out.  For a finale to a series, the ending was incredibly anti-climactic.  A fast read, for sure, but not terribly exciting.

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

crown-of-midnightFirst Lines: The shutters swinging in the storm winds were the only sign of her entry.  No one had noticed her scaling the garden wall of the darkened manor house, and with the thunder and the gusting wind off the nearby sea, no one heard her as she shimmied up the drainpipe, swung onto the windowsill, and slithered into the second-floor hallway.

It’s been a little while since I’ve read a high fantasy, right?  It was time for this.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

The King of Adarlan rules with an iron fist, and Celaena made a pact with the devil when she won his tournament and became his personal assassin.  But Celaena is far from loyal to the crown.  She only needs to keep it a secret for as long as possible.  That pretense becomes more difficult as Celaena realizes that there are others also fighting for justice.  And because of her position to the King, no one is above questioning her motives and loyalty.  Not Prince Dorian, not Captain Chaol Westfall, not even Princess Nehemia.  But when tragedy strikes, Celaena will have to give up what is most precious to her and decide once and for all who and what is worth fighting for.

I actually really adored this.  I’m a fan of books that are complex and contain multiple plot lines like this one did.  It wasn’t just about Celaena killing for the King.  It was also about Dorian’s secrets and Chaol’s secrets and Nehemia’s secrets and the others who are fighting for justice.  There were so many people we were following and it was just lovely to have so much going on.  Sure, it means there’s more to keep track of, but it also feels more realistic.

Celaena’s a great heroine.  I like that she’s so strong and fierce when she needs to be but she’s also soft and caring when she’s around her friends.  And Celaena has real moments of vulnerability in this book, which was nice to see.  It definitely made her more relatable, to see how she dealt with tragedy.

The plot of this book is, as I alluded to early, quite complex.  It’s nearly impossible to always know who is good and who is bad.  It’s hard to always see someone’s motives, even when you think you’ve got them pinned down.  People that Celaena knows and cares about are sometimes the ones with the worst intentions.  I loved the foreshadowing that was dropped along the way because it kept things interesting.

Lovely world-building.  Lovely characters and tons of action.  It was a load of fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what else is in store for Celaena and the crew.

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2)

splitsecondFirst Lines: My car sat on the far side of the parking lot, and I couldn’t get to it fast enough.

I’ve had this from the library for something like, oh, a month and a half.  I just never felt in the mood for it, you know?  I’m really struggling with getting into the mood for certain books lately.  I can’t tell if I’m reading too many of a certain genre or if my tastes are changing slightly.  Anyway, I decided to get this read.

*Potential Series Spoilers*

With all of the horrible things that have happened lately, Addie can’t believe that she chose this future when she looked ahead.  Why would she want to be betrayed by her best friend, used by her boyfriend, and devastated by her parents’ divorce?  And that’s not even the worst of it when her ability begins to change.  She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice, but now she can slow down time…but not without pain.  When Addie’s dad invites her to Dallas for winter break, Addie jumps at the chance to get away.  It’s in Dallas that she meets the handsome and familiar Trevor.  When Trevor begins to notice strange things about Addie, his interest in her turns to suspicion, much to Addie’s dismay.  Meanwhile, Addie’s BFF Laila has the power to restore Addie’s memory…if only she learns how.  The only person who can help is the infuriating Connor, a bad boy who seems immune to her charms.  Both of them need to hurry because if they don’t, the future could be an awfully different place…

I can sum this book up in five words: a swing and a miss.

Look, I adore Kasie West’s contemporary romances.  They are charming and funny and heartfelt.  But this?  I just cannot get into it.  It has very little of the humor I’ve come to expect from West and–this book especially–lacks the heartfelt romance that I was hoping would be here.  What romance was present felt forced and fake.  Contrived.  Too much tell, not enough show.

The characters themselves aren’t bad.  I generally like Addie and Trevor and Laila.  (I say generally because there are times when they do start to bother me a bit.)  Connor’s actually probably the most interesting character, maybe because I didn’t meet him in the last book.

I think part of the problem might be the narration.  It bounces back and forth between Laila and Addie.  I had this problem with the last book too, when it just bounced between Addie’s two futures.  Something about it just feels disjointed, like I’m not getting the full story.

And the action felt like it was all loaded into the end of the story.  There wasn’t much at the beginning that really kept my attention.  There were some times I really felt like I didn’t know what was going on, so that’s never good.

I never felt like Laila’s plot was fully wrapped up.  I felt like I was missing so much about her life because, even though she tells half the story, it all still really focuses on Addie.  And all the stuff with Connor just felt lacking.  I wish there’d been more to it because that had been promising.

I think from now on, I’ll stick strictly to West’s contemporary romances.

Hemlock (Hemlock, #1)

First Lines: Blood ran down my hands in thin rivers.  I yanked on the chain-link fence, ignoring the pain, desperate to widen a gap at the bottom where someone had cut the wire.

This book languished on my to-read shelf for 4 long years.  (That’s a fun word…languished.)  Anyway, in my off-beat way of picking out books, I decided that I needed a shifter book to make its way into my hands.  I mean, why not?  Werewolves can be really awesome. And this had a high rating on Goodreads.

For Mackenzie “Mac” Dobson, life changed the moment her best friend Amy was murdered by a werewolf.  Lupine syndrome–otherwise known as the werewolf virus–is turning into an epidemic in the US and it’s not easy for wolves to control their bloodlust.  But it soon becomes clear that not everything–or everyone–in Hemlock is what it seems.  Secrets practically pave the town and Mac is determined to discover who killed Amy…but these answers will come with a price.

*cracks knuckles* Alright.  Let’s get started.

Ok, so concept-wise, I thought this story was pretty cool.  Mac’s friend was murdered, which gives it an instant intrigue factor.  Also, there’s this hugely political side of the story when it comes to werewolves.  Are werewolves people?  Do they deserve the rights of normal people or are they fleabags that need to be contained for the safety of everyone?  That was a side to the story I wasn’t expecting but really enjoyed.  (Even if real politics make me either bored stiff or radioactive in anger.)

But otherwise, I found the story kind of eh.  The plot played out fine (especially since I already liked where the story was going), but there were some strange things.  Like how Mac has dreams every night of Amy…and in these dreams, Amy seems almost prophetic, which should be pretty well impossible if they are actually dreams.  (And the story gives no indication otherwise.)  It seemed…odd.  A little out of place, even.

Oh, and there’s a love triangle. […]  Can these just find an endless abyss already?  It was predictable and slightly irritating.  And I can already tell it’s going to get worse in later books.

It was the characters, though, that really made the story stand still for me.  They all felt so stereotypical.  Mac is kind of a bumbling heroine who is completely clueless about the fact that her two best guy friends are utterly and sickeningly smitten with her.  Jason, one of the two guys, is your typical rich kid who has no concept of budgeting money.  Kyle, the other guy, is the troubled, wounded soul who always believes the worst about himself.  And, to round things out, Tess, Mac’s 26 year old guardian, is clearly a 26 year old who probably shouldn’t be someone’s guardian.

None of the characters surprised me.  I wasn’t even really surprised by the “bad guy” in the story for stooping to normal bad guy levels.  Everyone seemed to stay firmly in the mold they were made in, with only a couple of characters breaking out of that to becoming interesting.

While it was an interesting story, I wish the characters had more depth.

Ignite (Defy, #2)

First Lines: The heat in the hallway was stifling, even though it was well past midnight.  Thick humidity lingered from a storm that had passed earlier in the evening, coating my skin with moisture.

I’m still on this giddy high from celebrating my blog’s 4th birthday, but I’ll try to calm myself marginally for this.  Ok.  So when I took Defy back to the library, this was actually on the shelf.  That practically never happens.  Naturally, I had to pick it up, even if I was just a bit undecided about whether or not I should read this.  (I’ll explain soon.)

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

With Alexa’s biggest secret revealed to the people of Antion, one would have thought her life would’ve been easier, right?  Wrong.  Just a month into King Damian’s rule, the kingdom is under threat.  Blame is cast on the kingdom of Blevon, Antion’s best ally. Alexa realizes that things aren’t quite what they seem.  Can she protect King Damian and Antion from the real threat?  …And can Alexa continue to keep her other secret, that she’s desperately in love with King Damian?

Alright.  So in some respects, I feel like this series is something of a guilty pleasure series.  While I haven’t read many reviews of Defy, I read enough to know that the “best” reviewers (or at least the ones with a large following) seemed to think it was entirely fluff and not worth reading.  But I had quite enjoyed Defy.  I felt a little guilty wanting to read this one, like I was trying to eat chocolate at a dieter’s convention and hoping no one asks to see what I have.

But woah.  This book was so intense.  With all the different plot lines in the story and all the action in it, there never seemed to be a good stopping place to do things like eat and sleep.  Like a runaway freight train, this book just never stopped.

I liked the characters more in this book.  Now that Alexa’s secret is out, she was able to be herself more. She’s so fierce and strong, yet self-conscious when others begin to treat her differently now that they know she’s a girl.  I thought there was something very real about that.  When the other fighters thought she was a boy named Alex, she was revered.  As Alexa, some of them almost try to coddle her.  I think a lot of girls out there understand what Alexa’s going through and how frustrating that is.

On the flip side, Alexa does tend to play the martyr more in this book.  Part of her strength is that she is fiercely loyal to those she loves, but it does mean she tends to try to sacrifice herself to save them.  She didn’t seem to see that side of her personality, but others certainly did.  I can’t fully decide what I think of that.

Now we come to my favorite part: the court intrigue.  Oh the backstabbing, murderous nightmare of it all! (For whatever reason, I get all excited reading about backstabbing in a royal court; set in a high school, not so much.)  I loved how many different mysteries there were in the story and how many different ways Alexa was being pulled for her job.  There were so many layers to this that it was easy to get pulled into the story.

Like I mentioned above, the action in this one is practically nonstop.  So for the people who said the last book was more romance than fantasy/action, this is the opposite.  Definitely more action than romance.  Still, there is a romantic side to things, but it plays second fiddle to all the action.  Alexa has to save the kingdom, after all.

Overall, I thought this was an energetic and fun read that was always throwing a new punch at readers to surprise them and catch them off guard.

Reached (Matched, #3)

First Lines: Every morning, the sun comes up and turns the earth red, and I think: This could be the day when everything changes.  Maybe today the Society will fall.  Then night comes again and we’re all still waiting.

This was another incident of “Hey, I really need to finish this series.  It may have been years since I read the others, but I’ll finish it now.”  Because I have a love-hate relationship with these numbers, it’s been 3.5 years since I read Matched.  I’m just lucky I still remember the basic plot of Crossed.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

It’s time for the Rising to make their move, or so Cassia, Ky, and Xander think.  All three are currently working for the Rising in three different cities in the Society.  They haven’t seen each other in months, and their hope of the Rising ever doing anything is dwindling.  Until finally, the Rising makes a move.  Can the three stay alive and find each other in the chaos?

So obviously, with it being so long since I read the earlier books in the series, I was a bit lost during the story.  I forgot who some characters were that I was supposed to know, like Indie.  I just barely remembered her name, let alone who she was.  And I know this blame falls on me, so I can’t punish the book for it.

However, I was really lost in the story as well because of the narration style.  I mean, it’s told from 3 different POVs that are constantly switching.  As soon as I got used to hearing from Cassia, it would switch to Ky.  It was a battle to stay on top of that.  Not to mention that there is so much going on with each of them, and I needed to keep all of that straight between characters.

I will say that I liked that this book started to shift from a dystopian tone to more of a sci-fi tone.  I enjoyed that, surprisingly.  (I normally prefer dystopias over sci-fi, but it all depends on the book.)

But again, that was nearly ruined because there was just so much going on in the story.  This monstrosity is just over 500 pages.  It’s just a lot to take in anyway.  And it really didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling emotionally invested in the story because it had been so long since I met Cassia and Ky and Xander.

I’m glad I’ve finished their story.  I’m glad I know what happened to them.  But this was just too much to handle at times.