The Dread King (The Harbinger #3) by Candace Wondrak

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Reasons why being the Harbinger is hard, a list by Faith Blackwell. 
One: waging war against an enemy whose favorite pastime involves war is pretty much impossible when you have no idea what you’re doing. Two: there’s no manual, no easy how-to guide to show you how to save the realm of the Second and all its races. Three: when you’re fighting confusing feelings involving your supposed arch-nemesis, everything just feels so much harder. 

Faith Blackwell is the Harbinger of Humankind. The savior of the Second, fated to fight the Dread King Dracyrus. With her fellowship of men guarding both her heart and her body, it should be simple. But with the Elves suspecting her of murder and no army at her back, she has few options. 
The Well inside the Cave of Memories holds the answers to the riddle of why the Harbinger and the Dread King are fated to fight each other until the end of time. The only problem is no one has ever heard of the Cave of Memories, so finding it will be a challenge. 
Once Faith has the answers, once she knows the truth, everything will change. When the truth comes to light, her destiny is not what she thought it was. Maybe Dracyrus is not her enemy after all. 
Faith isn’t a hero. She won’t do whatever it takes to win, but she’ll do what’s right—even if it means giving up. Surrender has never tasted so sweet. 
The Dread King is a steamy reverse harem fantasy with hot scenes involving an irreverent heroine and her group of men.

I’ve been following this series since before the first book was officially released so I’m a bit biased when it comes to it. I can’t say it’s something phenomenal and I can’t really put my finger on what fascinates me about it so much. The fact remains – the moment I learned The Dread King was out I had to get my hands on it. 

I was warned that it ends on a cliffhanger so I dreaded the end but to be honest it wasn’t that awful. I quite expected something like that to happen at some point so the biggest surprise was that it wasn’t something truly nerve wrecking. Is it frustrating? Yes! Is it something worth whining and threatening the author with inventive forms of torture? Nope. So enjoy the book without fear of the future.

I debated how to rate this book and changed my rating several times before finally settling on a 3.5 (GR really needs a better rating system!). One of the main reasons why I wanted to rate it 3 stars instead was the lack of proofreading. There were a lot of grammatical and spelling mistakes which spoils the experience. It’s a jarring way to push a reader rudely out of a book. In ARCies I tolerate it as I assume the it was send to me prior to going to the editor or due to tight timelines the advance readers and the editor work simultaneously. In any case I assume that the finished product is mostly free from those issues. When I buy a book I expect a better quality. 

The two other things that made me consider the lower rating are plot related. The first thing is mostly my own mind misleading me and ultimately the reason why I went with 3.5 instead 3. The title of the book is The Dread King so I expected more time spend in his head or dealing with his history and why he hates humanity so much. While the later was explored it was a tiny part of the book and left my curiosity mostly unsatisfied. 

The second thing that annoyed me was Finn. Yes, it was obvious that he would end up part of Faith’s little group of boy toys from the get go but I was hoping that Ms. Wondrak will defy the established paths of the genre and the annoying jerk will remain the observer. Even in this book he acted like a spoiled child that ruins everything for the others just because he can’t have it. You don’t reward children for such behavior but for some reason we let grown men get away with it and even think it’s cute. It reinforces toxic behavior patterns and it really set my teeth on edge. Just talking about this makes me want to revise my rating once again.

Now to what I liked. Faith is slowly (excruciatingly so) starting to act less whinny and more maturely. Considering the time frame I can’t expect a drastic change in her way of thinking so I’m happy with what I get. As the years go by it’s getting harder to relate to younger heroines and as one of my friends pointed out even at 18 I acted way older so that’s not helping either. Anyway, Faith is showing signs of improvement. The revelations at the end of the book about her family’s history and meeting the Malus tribe were fascinating. It seems that Penelope will have some explaining to do if she ever shows up again. And I believe she will. Along with Christine. I would love to see the meeting between them and Faith’s group of guys.

Talking about family, boy Light’s mother is a menace. I feel bad for Light. No wonder he has trouble dealing with society and other people. His mother is a crazy hillbilly that thought that raising her kids away from others of their kind i a brilliant idea. I shudder just thinking about it. Thankfully Jag was a curious cub and found and befriended Light. I can’t imagine what kind of insufferable jerk he would have been otherwise. I do hope that Light has it out with his mom in the next book and that she doesn’t hurt Cam. Poor Cam, I so wish he will become a more integrated part of the group and let Faith in. He deserve some love and to stop seeing himself as a monster. 

Based on the ending of The Dread King I can expect a very interesting start to the next book and I can’t wait!

Love Potion: A Valentine’s Day Charity Anthology (ARC Review)

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I received this anthology from one of the authors in exchange of an honest review. But reading only one of the stories seemed like a waste and boy, am I glad I decided to read the rest! Most of them were pretty entertaining and some even got me to look up the series they belong to. So in the end this only added to my TBR pile. *sigh* I will never manage to clear that up. But hey, new worlds to explore are always a bonus! 

How to Capture a Demon’s Heart by Graceley Knox & D.D. Miers 
5 stars

This short story really caught my attention and set the bar pretty high for the rest of the stories I was unfamiliar with. I really wish this was part of a series or at least that it was set in an established world as the limited information we get made it seem so fascinating. The demons and angels and the alluded war between them has so much potential it’ll be a sin to be left unexplored! 

A Demon’s Plaything by Amelia Hutchins 
4 stars

Part of the The Elite Guards series, A Demon’s Plaything shows an original (from my POV) take on the Fae and their courts. I had some trouble accepting some of what happened in this as forced marriages always leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth but everything else was just down my alley. If the story was longer, I would probably have ended up giving it 5 stars as it would have had the time t actually develop the characters and the story. As it is it got me to add the first book of the series to my tbr list and to prioritize it to ‘read in the next couple of months’. So I guess that’s a win 😉

Deep Blue Sea by Pippa DaCosta 
5 stars

The Heartstone Thief is one of my favourite fantasy books so I jumped at the chance to read this story ahead of publication.

Deep Blue Sea takes place shortly after the end of The Heartstone Thiefbut it can be enjoyed as a standalone. Still I believe it will make a much bigger impact if you’re familiar with Curtis Vance and his story so far.

This was hauntingly beautiful story and I got teary-eyed close to the end. And I wasn’t sure for whom I felt more sad about – Vance or Blue. I’m still not over what happened with Shaianna so seeing the similar pattern with Blue made my heart ache. Vance has changed a lot in the course of just 1.5 books and I’m so very curious to hear the rest of his song 😉

The Hellhound’s Legion: A Kit Davenport Novella by Tate James

 3.5 stars (mostly because the story skipped the part I most anticipated *sigh* such disappointment)

Kit Davenport has popped up on my radar many times over the last few years and following this I will most definitely read it. Sure I’m spoiled for the way things end as this is like an epilogue for the series but from all that was said it seemed like it was one hell of a ride. And it’s a Reverse Harem series so I must at least give it a try!

The Heart Cantrip: a Family Spells Novella by C.M. Stunich 
4 stars

Another story that made me look up the series it belongs to. I think I loved Monster the Demon Prince most and now I can’t wait to find out more about him and what the heck is going on between the demons and witches of that world. The story itself was funny and had some incredibly hot scenes. But what really caught me was the humour *snickers* genitalia-shaped bath bombs *snort*

Eternal Hearts – A Forsaken Gods Series Novella by G. Bailey & Coralee June 
3 stars

This had sooooo much potential but about halfway in I started skimming. I don’t know why but I just didn’t feel the story. It was interesting enough to want to see how things will progress but between the weird feeling of disconnection and the fact that I figured out what will happen in the first 2-3 chapters… well let’s just say I was not impressed.

A Damsel and a Demigod (The Guild Codex: Spellbound) by Annette Marie 
5 stars

I love Greek mythology so I was sold two seconds after mentioning Perseus. Add a couple of fascinating glimpses of worldbuilding and two rather mysterious in their motivations main characters and it was insta-love. 

The Fox and the Wolf by Clara Hartley
2.5 stars

Usually I love shifters but this was a chore to read. The reason why I didn’t give up was that it was the last story of this otherwise amazing anthology and I kept hoping I will start liking it. Because you see there was nothing wrong with it. By all accounts I should have enjoyed it (for that alone it gets 0.5 stars) and I still can’t figure out why I was so bored. It kind of makes me feel guilty as I usually know why I don’t like something. But you can’t help the way you feel so I ended up skimming more than 70% of this story. 

Not a Hero (Sons of the Survivalist #1) by Cherise Sinclair

In the Alaska wilderness, four streetwise boys became men—and brothers.
Now the crazy ex-military survivalist who plucked Gabriel and three other boys from an abusive foster care home has died. But the sarge leaves them a final mission–to revive the dying town of Rescue. Gabe is done with being a hero.
Wounded in body and soul, the retired SEAL simply wants to remain holed up in his isolated cabin. He sure doesn’t want to be chief of police in some defunct town. But he has his orders.Audrey needs a place to hide.
After the Chicago librarian discovers a horrendous crime, she wakes to an assassin in her bedroom. Injured and terrified, she flees, covering her trail every inch of the way. New name, new ID. New home. As Audrey learns to survive in Rescue, she begins to fall for the town…and the intimidating chief of police who protects it. Can the shy introvert and the deadly police chief find a life together?
Despite the discord in town, Gabe is finding his own peace…with the quiet young woman who seems to have no past. She’s adorable and caring and so very lost. But how can he trust someone who lies to him with every breath she takes?

Cherise Sinclair is on my auto-buy list for a reason and she proved her rightful place on it with Not a Hero

When I learned that Ms. Sinclair is writing a non-BDSM novel I was a bit apprehensive. But then I remembered that while I initially started reading her books for the smutty scenes I stayed for the plots. After all just hot sex is not enough to keep my interest for over 25 books. Sure her initial books don’t have much beyond the smoking hot guys and sex to recommend them but as the Masters of the Shadowlands series progressed I could see how her style changed and became more sophisticated., her plots more complex and her characters became more three-dimensional. So when the pre-order link went live I didn’t hesitate for even a second.

For those familiar with Ms. Sinclair’s works it will be no surprise that Gabe was first introduced in aforementioned series, in the short story Defiance. I loved that story not only because it gave us another glimpse at Master Z and Jessica but also because it once again reminded me that both the Shadowlands and Dark Haven exist in the same world. And I adore every scene when characters of the two series meet and interact. And now we get to add a third set of characters to the mix!

I strongly suggest reading Defiance before starting Not a Heroas it gives some much needed info on both Gabe and his state of mind in the beginning of the novel but also on his adoptive father Mako. You can still read it without that prequel story but in my opinion it will enhance the experience. 

The town of Rescue is adorable and the narrative almost made me wish I lived in a small town. Okay not really but I would love to visit it for a couple of weeks. I like my big city conveniences a little bit too much for ever moving back into a smaller town. Anyway, Rescue (unfortunately a made up town somewhere in Alaska) seems to have a lot of stories to tell and while I’m sure that each novel will have enough details in it to be somewhat of a standalone it was obvious that there’s an over-reaching story to be told. Probably something to do with the misogynistic militarized zealots leaving just outside of the town. 

One of the things I love most about Ms. Sinclair’s writing is that her female leads are always so relatable. Audrey, much like Sally from the Shadowlands, was especially easy to identify with as she’s a nerdy librarian who spends most of her time trying to avoid real life interactions. Forced to run from a dangerous hitman she’s also forced to abandon her comfort zone of online interactions and have a more socially accepted social life. I greatly sympathized with her while she was learning the fine art of small talk from an aged Brit lady as I know how difficult it is to learn. I had to purposefully learn how to do this which seems to come so easily to most people but is a total nightmare for me. I learned and mostly make it seem effortless now but I still overthink everything I say, get stressed out and eventually (if I don’t find a suitable excuse to run away) I end up so stressed that I blurt out something totally inappropriate. Audrey is very much like me and I love these type of stories because it makes me hope that maybe one day I’ll also find someone who loves me the way I am. 

Audrey and Gabe have great chemistry and the instant attraction made for some great sexual tension scenes. However, there was no insta-love and the actual relationship took quite a while to develop. They both had to overcome some inner demons and start to trust each other before things could actually progress to something more than a one-night stand. It’s that part of romance books I love most – the development of feelings and trust, the banter when the two characters are still unsure if things will work out. It’s just fascinating. maybe because in real life I’m blind to this and as a result have never experienced it. Human interactions seem so simple and straightforward on the page of a book. *sigh* Oh well, back to the book. 

So to summarize, this is a great start for a new series, with well balanced plot and character development. Some of the twists were rather obvious if you pay close attention to the details, others were out of the blue so it wasn’t entirely predictable. It had some hilarious scenes that nicely balanced the more darker parts. Gabe is an alpha male but not the jerk type that seems to be the norm when authors try to write dominant men so I strongly recommend reading this if you’re tired of the toxic macho types. The books is also rather short so it’s an easy read to fit in between others when you look for something relaxing but still requiring brain power.

Deacon (Gideon’s Riders #2) by Kit Rocha

“Ana has trained most of her life to achieve one goal: to prove that anything men can do, she can do better. Now she’s Sector One’s first female Rider, and being the best is the only way to ensure she won’t be its last. Distractions aren’t allowed–especially not her painful attraction to the reserved but demanding leader whose stern, grumpy demeanor has already gotten into her head.
Deacon has spent the last twenty years trying to atone for his past, but the blood he spilled as a mercenary and assassin will never wash away entirely. If his riders knew the extent of his sins, he’d lose their trust and respect. It’s easier to keep them all at arm’s length, especially Ana. But his newest recruit’s stubbornness is starting to crack his defenses.
And their sparring matches are driving him wild.
The passion sparking between them can’t be denied, but neither can the vengeance barreling toward Deacon. When his old squad comes back to punish him for his betrayal, Ana and the Riders are squarely in the line of fire. The only way to save his people may be to make the ultimate sacrifice. 
But first, he has to convince Ana not to follow him straight into hell.”

When I first discovered the sectors I quickly fell in love with this world even if I wouldn’t want to live there, after all I’m well aware that I won’t survive even a day in Sector Four. So it was nice when Sector One was introduced and I saw a place that doesn’t require insane survival skills for its ordinary citizens. 

Ashwin was one of my most anticipated books of 2017 and now I feel a bit ashamed that I forgot about this series following that release. Thanks to Anne – Books of My Heartand post about Deacon a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of rediscovering Sector One and Gideon’s Riders. 

Deacon is a fascinating character and seeing the complexity hidden behind the tough exterior was pure pleasure. Unlike with the first few books of the previous series, the characters here are well developed and the book is driven by a well thought-out plot. It’s true that a lot of the book revolves around the relationship between the two main characters but the book also introduces a plot-line that will take at least 2-3 books to be fully explored. It also deals with some existential problems most of us can relate to which makes it even more enjoyable.

Despite being a rather clumsy nerd myself, I could see myself in Ana as she is a perfectionist weighted down by her perception of what other people, especially her dead father, expect from her. She’s deeply insecure in her own place in the world, regardless of how well she does her job, how well she fits in. For people like her nothing is ever good enough and they’re driven by fear of rejection. And it’s not necessary for this to be due to some internalized parental teachings (like with another character in this series). I would know cause while my parents never indicated that bringing anything other than an A from school is a bad thing it took me years to stop dreading their perceived disappointment. What helped was that eventually I grew bold enough to talk with them and their perplexed expressions are seared in my brain. Because all of it was just in my head and they never cared as much as I thought they did. I would like to say that from that moment on I never fell for that same trap but even years later I still make that same mistake. To the point that I drove myself into a depression instead of quitting a grad program that had become intensely toxic. I was so afraid of what other people will say and think that I closed myself into a narrow box that almost suffocated me. 

Ana goes through something very similar and while I was reading I couldn’t help but think how much this book could have helped me just a couple of years ago. Which only made me madder at myself for not picking it up when it was published. So now this series is firmly on my to-watch-out-for list. After all I might gleam some other life lesson well hidden in the rubble of the Sectors.

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress #5; Night Huntress Universe #7) by Jeaniene Frost

Danger waits on both sides of the grave.
Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they’ve triumphed over the latest battle, Cat’s new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance . . .
With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous “ally”—the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war . . . to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

This is the Cat and Bones I fell in love with. Not the weird, angsty, high-octane relationship drama BS of Destined for an Early Grave. However, I have to admit that it was probably necessary as I can see the progress those two made since then. In a way this reminds me of another favourite couple of mine – Kate Daniels and Curran. Cat and Bones weren’t used to problems coming from inside their relationship and were too used to ignoring the things that were bothering them in each other. But now it seems they’ve managed to work it out and make conscious effort to not repeat the same mistakes that led to all that drama.

There were some new developments and the shift in the series is keenly felt in this book. Cat’s new life is taking her into a new direction and you can feel the distance between her and her former team mates during the scenes in the compound. And I can’t help but remember how things were in the beginning and I feel proud seeing the progress Cat, Don and Justina made. It gives me hope that bigotry can be overcome even if it’s only in some individuals.

Talking about bigotry, the previous book introduced the arc that turned to be the main plot of This Side of the Grave – Apoleon’s quest for power disguised as a ghoul freedom movement. He’s chosen Cat as a focus for his hate rhetoric and rallying point for his campaign against the vampires. That proved to be the biggest mistake of his life but I’m more interested in why he had such a boner for getting rid of all vamps. It doesn’t make sense in universe as the ghouls are dependent for their procreation on the vampires and killing them all would have ultimately led to the extinction of both races. I have several theories about why Apoleon would overlook this obvious flaw in his plan with the one making most sense to me being that he planned to keep a few vampires captive as a means to control all ghoul reproduction and in that way ensuring he will rule unopposed. However, no explanation as given in-universe as far as I remember. I should look to see if Jeaniene ever answered that particular question in some Q&A.

As this is a re-read for me and I’ve read almost all books in this universe I know to pay special attention to some characters. As I mentioned in my review of Eternal Kiss of Darkness Veritas bears special interest and the same goes for Marie Laveau. Marie is a really devious one and at one time I like her and the next moment I can’t decide if she’s not going to betray our heroes. In a manner she reminds me of both Vlad and Mencheres, in that she’s absolutely ruthless in pursuing her interests. She’s also indirectly responsible for the most hilarious scene in this book. Though I’m not sure what it says about me that I found that scene funny instead of disturbing.

Overall I enjoyed this almost as much as I did the first time around. However, this time I just couldn’t ignore the plot hole surrounding Apoleon’s plans and it somewhat diminished my enjoyment. On the other hand I’m extremely happy to return to the relationship dynamics that was the reason why I fell in love with this series in the beginning.

Eternal Kiss of Darkness (Night Huntress World #2; Night Huntress Universe #6) by Jeaniene Frost

An immortal war has been brewing in the darkness . . . And now one woman has stumbled into the shadows. 
Chicago private investigator Kira Graceling should have just kept on walking. But her sense of duty refused to let her ignore the moans of pain coming from inside a warehouse just before dawn. Suddenly she finds herself in a world she’s only imagined in her worst nightmares.
At the center is Mencheres, a breathtaking Master vampire who thought he’d seen it all. Then Kira appears, this fearless, beautiful . . . human who braved death to rescue him. Though he burns for her, keeping Kira in his world means risking her life. Yet sending her away is unthinkable.
But with danger closing in, Mencheres must choose either the woman he craves, or embracing the darkest magic to defeat an enemy bent on his eternal destruction.

Up until this moment Mencheres was this aloof, mysterious puppet-master that was technically on Cat and Bones’ side. The thing is he was hardly a character you could root for. Sympathize a little with but never really identify with. Eternal Kiss of Darkness changes that.

We start this with a suicidal but determined to protect his line at all costs Mencheres and a human girl who gets involved in the preternatural because of her inability to ignore someone in trouble. I loved Kira from the get go because of that. It’s a rare thing in today’s society where a lot of people will see that you need help and just walk by. And on the next day when they watch the news and see that something terrible has happened they won’t even remember that they’ve been in a position to help. 

I loved that we got to learn more about Mencheres and what his life was like both as a pharaoh and then as one of the oldest vampires in existence. Seeing him struggling with life without his visions and the insecurity that it caused in this otherwise very confident character was eye-opening. and while it made my sympathize with him more I also felt like he deserved to be put in that situation to see how it feels to be the pawn instead of the puppet-master.

When I first read this book about 5 years ago I felt like the relationship between Kira and Mencheres was a bit rushed. Having the chance to re-read the events and with the help of a few more years of experience, I could see that this was not the case. Maybe the first time I was too focused on the plotline with Radjedef or maybe I just lacked the ability to see the little details back then, I will never know. But I’m glad I had the chance to re-experience things and think them over with better attention to the smaller things. It helped me appreciate both the book and the characters more.

Talking about character appreciation, I was struck by how much I have ignored one of the recurring side characters. I should have known better since Veritas shows up a lot over the course of the series and with the events of this book some of what happens in the future shouldn’t have come as such a surprise when it did. But of course I totally didn’t pay attention to all the foreshadowing and little tidbits thrown here and there in the series. The mare fact that she shows up so often should have clued me in that Ms. Frost has plans for her. So if you’re first time readers, I suggest you pay special attention to her and how she reacts to things. I promise it will be worth it.

The V Card by Lauren Blakely and Lili Valente

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When you think about how easy it is to lose keys, phones, sunglasses and your dignity on social media, you might figure it’d be a cinch for me to ditch my V Card. 
You’d be wrong.
At 25, I run a successful business, live in a fantastic apartment, and have fabulous friends to go out with any night of the week. And yet I’m still a card-carrying member of a club I don’t want to belong to anymore. Good thing I know just the man for the deflowering job—my brother’s business partner and best friend. 
Graham Campbell is charming, smart, and, I’m told, oh-so-skilled in the sack. As long as I keep my eyes on the prize, there’s no way this pluck-the-flower project could possibly complicate matters.
Work and pleasure. As the CEO of a fast-growing company, I’ve been enjoying both to the fullest. What do I do when the board throws me for an unexpected loop so I can keep my business in my hands? I enlist the help of my best friend’s little sister since she holds a big stake in the company. But then I learn there’s another big stake she wants. 
The one between my legs.
I can do this. Seven nights to teach her everything I know in the bedroom. There’s no way I’ll fall for her, even though she’s earning top grades in every single sinfully sexy lesson. And turns out I’m learning something too. The trouble is I don’t have the answer key to what to do when I fall hard for her.
And that throws a whole new hitch in my plans.

I have no idea why I bought this. It seemed like a good idea at the time (I think I saw it on a blog). You see, lately I deliberately choose books that won’t get me too involved, especially audiobooks as I like to listen while working but for it to work it needs to be something that doesn’t engage the full capacity of my brain. So romance (particularly contemporary and historical romance) and re-reading is great. It also works wonders for the rating of a book as because I’m splitting my attention I’m not so focused on plot holes, inconsistent characterization and even if a characters is a moron every once in a while I might miss it/pay little attention to it. 

All of this being said even that couldn’t save this book. It was so damn cheese I wanted to puke at times. My eyes hurt from all the eye-rolling. there’s predictable and then there’s this. The most original thing in this book is that the hero owns a lingerie business. Everything else was so formulaic that it felt more like a bad fanfic. I’ve watched porn with better plot and more originality. Being predictable isn’t a bad thing by itself. But to pull it off you have to get the readers involved with good writing and making the journey different enough to not feel like a waste of time. And ultimately despite the few funny and sexy scenes I felt like I’ve flushed 5.5 hours down the drain.

On the plus side the narrators (Andi Arndt and Sebastian York) did a pretty decent job bringing this train wreck to life. I admire their ability to read those lines without laughing their heads off. Though maybe they did have to try a few times before they manage that feat 😉 I really liked Sebastian York’s voice and I’m a bit disappointed that he mostly does romance books as I tend to prefer to read-read those vs listen-read. Same goes for Andi Arndt though she’s branched a little over to sci-fi. If I’m ever unsure if I should pick an audiobook up and see that one of them is the narrator I’ll definitely give it a chance.

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas

Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world … 
She has risked everything to save her people – but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unravelling with each passing day…
With Aelin imprisoned, Aedion and Lysandra are the last line of defence keeping Terrasen from utter destruction. But even the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save the kingdom. Scattered throughout the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian must forge their own paths to meet their destinies. And across the sea Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen – before she is lost to him.
Some bonds will deepen and others be severed forever, but as the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight if they are to find salvation – and a better world.

What an amazing ending! I had high expectations and Kingdom of Ash delivered big time.

At the end of Empire of Storms Aelin was imprisoned by Maeve and knowing what she is from the events of Tower of Dawn I was terrified for her. The parts where Cairn and Maeve tortured Aelin were among the roughest, most emotionally draining of the book and there were a lot of those moments in this book. And to be honest most of them weren’t even about the death of a character. Mostly those moments came about when the war took its strain on the characters and it made them show both the best and the worst in them. 

Aedion hit a particular low and I’m not sure I can forgive him for the way he treated Lysandra. Yes, I get that he was mad at both her and Aelin but his behavior was appalling. I know he felt hurt and betrayed but I just can’t excuse his casual cruelty. Had that not been the last book in the series I would have liked to see him grovel for a lot longer before Lysandra forgave him. On the other hand seeing as this is war and the survival of either of them is not a certainty I understand why Lysandra went so easy on him. That being said she wasn’t a doormat that forgave the moment he started acting like a decent male again. Even a few days after I read these events I’m still pissed at him. But I sympathize with his pain and fear, with his feeling of helplessness.

As in Empire of Storms I had a lot of issues with Lord Darrow and his high-handedness while reading the book. Because of the way we experience the events through the eyes of Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, etc we’re biased. We’re also all too aware of what the main characters are planning but in reality they keep their plans mostly to themselves, especially Aelin, and it would be extremely hard for an outsider like Darrow to simply trust that they will do what’s best for Terrasen and Erilea. So a few days to think things over I still wish Darrow acted differently but I see where he comes from and that the brash actions of the main characters probably terrified him. I’m glad that in the end he saw the light so to speak. 

Manon and Dorian’s arcs were pretty impressive. For a while their paths intersected and I enjoyed how they push each other. Similar to the relationship Dorian had with Celaena in the beginning Manon just brings out a side of him I adore. But mostly I loved how they compliment each other and force the other to want to be better. And this is particularly important when it comes to Manon who started off as sort of a villain and thought of herself as a heartless monster for most of her life. Theirs is a strange but nevertheless beautiful love. 

I expected more of Erawan to be honest. He was kind of gullible and not the villain he was build up to be. I loved the way he was ended. It was so damn fitting but at the same time I felt a bit bad for him. In a way he just wanted to see his family again. He was a monster and would have doomed Erilea in pursuit of that but it’s a motivation everyone can understand. Maeve proved to be the true antagonist of this story though I can also understand some of what drove her. And had it stayed at that – her wanting to escape her husband – I could have felt bad for her. If it wasn’t for her incredible greed and the unspeakable things she did in pursuit of power that is. I wanted her dead so much! Especially after watching what she did to Aelin, how she broke her just for fun. Erawan might have been the more immediate threat to Erilea but she was the most dangerous thing to happen to the world. 

Talking about worlds I will share my favorite scene of this book. It’s a minor spoiler and I’ll keep the details to a minimum so not to spoil the experience too much for any new readers. I believe this was included purely for the benefit of us fangirls. Here it comes – Rhys and Feyra from A Court of Thorns and Roses show up for just a few moments. I fangirled like a 13 year old seeing her celebrity crush for the first time. 

Reading Kingdom of Ash was a slow process. It often overwhelmed me and I had to take frequent breaks. At the end I felt like I’ve been through a meet grinder and am still trying to extricate from that world. It’s not really a book hangover because I have no problem reading other books but I feel a bit empty inside and keep thinking of ways things could have gone differently so more of the characters would have survived or would have been saved the suffering they went through. And that ultimately is why I think this book and the series was amazing despite the many flaws.

Pain (Curse of the Gods #5) by Jane Washington & Jaymin Eve

Willa Knight: The saviour of both worlds, or the destruction of everything? 
Sometimes history lies, and the tales of Minatsol and Topia are no different. Since the birth of Topia, Staviti has woven a web of deceit around the truth of Creation, striving only to maintain his power while destroying anything that gets in his way. Now, Willa and the Abcurses are determined to strip back the layers, to uncover the truth, and to understand the true nature of the two worlds before it’s too late. The only problem? Any wrong step in their quest to restore balance might have terrible repercussions. Every single being-living or dead-might have to pay the price. 

Initially I planned to wait for the audio book but found some time to squeeze in some actual reading in December. I was curious to see how Curse of the gods will be wrapped up and if everyone survives. I’m not really sure if I made the right decision but you know what they say about curiosity and the cat. In this case instead of a cat we have my limited time for reading-reading vs audio-reading.

Pain left me with conflicting emotions – I’m both sad and ridiculously happy that the series is over. I really like the series and I’ve come to love all the main characters but at the same time Willa is overwhelming and most of the time not in a good way. I’m actually glad I didn’t read it the moment it was released because with the burnout I had from the previous books I’d probably have ended up hating it. And it doesn’t deserve it.

To be honest what really annoyed me was the epilogue. Everything was more or less great prior to it. I disliked the way the final stand-off with Staviti was rushed, especially considering the build up of five books but I could live with that. After all I didn’t expect some masterpiece, just some more or less mindless entertainment. In fact I enjoyed the first 3 books a lot more despite Willa being a lot more annoying in them because they were more focused on the relationship she had with her five guys. This one was trying too hard to wrap up everything and it fell short. But I could live with that if Jane Washington and Jaymin Eve hadn’t decided to end things with the biggest cliches of them all. Maybe I’m so disappointed because I was hoping that considering how young Willa is and how irresponsible they would choose to end it on a different note and I ended up feeling meh. 

Plot wise it probably had a gazillion plot holes but thankfully I managed to sufficiently suspend the analytical part of my brain so I didn’t really notice them. But in the interest of not destroying my mostly good opinion I will never reread this. I might reread Trickery but will probably never go beyond that.

Audio Review: First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1) by Jeaniene Frost

The night is not safe for mortals.

Denise MacGregor knows all too well what lurks in the shadows – her best friend is half-vampire Cat Crawfield – and she has already lost more than the average human could bear. But her family’s dark past is wrapped in secrets and shrouded in darkness – and a demon shapeshifter has marked Denise as prey. Now her survival depends on an immortal who craves a taste of her.

He is Spade, a powerful, mysterious vampire who has walked the earth for centuries and is now duty-bound to protect this endangered, alluring human – even if it means destroying his own kind. Denise may arouse his deepest hungers, but Spade knows he must fight his urge to have her as they face the demon nightmare together…

Because once the first drop of crimson falls, they will both be lost.

First Drop of Crimson is a spin-off from the Night Huntress series and it can’t be read as a standalone. I mean, sure you could, but you’ll have a hard time figuring out what is going on. Also if you’re reading the main series you can’t simply skip this one as some of the events from this book impact the overall story. 

I loved the plot of this book! The introduction of demons to this world made it even more fascinating. So it was plenty fun. We got to explore a different part of the vampire world and to see both Spade and Ian in different light.

Spade is an interesting character and I liked him a lot since the beginning. He has a very tragic backstory. And I felt so bad for him. So I was very happy when he hooked up with Denise in this book. What I didn’t like was that there was more than a bit of relationship drama. I hate, hate, hate the Big Misunderstanding trope! But compared to Destined for an Early Grave it was drama-free! 

I loved Denise and how she was portrayed. What happened to her in the previous books was extreme. And I liked that she didn’t just shrugged it off! She was suffering from PTSD for most of the book and she had to fight with herself to be around Spade. She had a lot of baggage surrounding her actions around Randy’s death and seeing how much this whole mess with the demon made her change and realize her own strength was quite inspiring. Denise deserved a happy ending and the honor and duty oriented Spade was just the male for her.

Like the rest of the Night Huntress books First Drop of Crimson is narrated by Tavia Gilbert. I still have trouble with the way she narrates Bones but because he didn’t play a major role in this one I found myself enjoying the audio quite a lot.