Defiance by C.J. Redwine

I try to go into books with no expectations, that way I’m not disappointed when they don’t live up to what I wanted. I tried to do the same for Defiance, but for some reason, there was this voice in the back of my mind telling me it was going to be a good book.

It was.

The characters are real. They have flaws, but they work with them and find ways to work situations to their advantage. They grow as characters in real ways. They don’t suddenly come to life-altering conclusions that make your head spin. Every time they realize something, it fits. It makes sense.

There’s wasn’t insta-love like so many Young Adult books like to have. Yes, there was attraction right from the beginning. But it wasn’t disguised as love. It took a while to get to the love and when it happened, it was perfect.

The story itself is pretty unique, with plenty of twists to keep you guessing. There’s plenty of action to keep the pace moving, but when there is a moment to rest and relax, it’s not filled with dribble. Every word has a purpose and I loved that.

There was enough world-building to make it work, while still leaving enough questions to have me eagerly awaiting the next book. There was enough of a resolution to leave a content feeling, but enough of a cliffhanger to have me counting down the days until the next book is released.

Defiance is a fantastic novel, kicking off what is sure to be a huge series. It has enough of everything a great novel needs without being completely heavy. It’s definitely a book people need to pick up and read.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I’m not sure I have enough words to adequately express how much this book moved me. Usually, a book that feels slow to start and has slightly confusing chapters doesn’t affect me this much, but The Paris Wife slowly tore me to pieces with its heart and pain, and at the very end, I was reading through tears.

The Paris Wife tells the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, and the beginnings of his career. No one seems especially thrilled at the start of their relationship, but they were in love. It was easy to see, even through the very end. And I think that’s why it hurt so much at the end. It wasn’t hatred that I felt, reading those last chapters. It was Hadley’s love; so much love that she knew she had to let it go, or it would destroy them more than it had already.

It’s easy to see the Ernest Hadley fell in love with. But as he gained success, he began to lose himself to his work, and in turn, losing his wife and family. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to read, because as much as you want it to turn out, you know it doesn’t. Each little piece of love and adoration I read was like another tiny needle poking me; simply because I knew their happiness wouldn’t last forever.

The novel does start of a little slow, and some of the vacation chapters where lots of people are mentioned got a little confusing, but all of that pales in comparison to how fantastic the rest of the novel is. It will make you feel, it will hurt, and the ending breaks your heart, but it is such a fantastic, amazing, wonderful, splendid novel that you can’t help but keep reading. This has easily become a must read book, and one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

This isn’t an action-packed, paranormal, good guy-bad guy book. It doesn’t have good sides and bad sides or huge battles, but it still reaches in and touches your heart with all the emotions you feel.

Wren fell in love with Danny and Danny fell in love with her. He was taken too soon, and Wren wasn’t able to handle losing another person in her life. She had lost her father, her grandmother, her aunt, her mother was closed off…she wasn’t able to let go of anymore.

Cold Kiss deals with the consequences Wren faces after bringing Danny back from the dead. He’s not a whole person; he’s not what Wren remembers. Even in bringing his body back to life, she still wasn’t able to bring back what she had lost. It’s heartbreaking to see her deal with losing him, even though he’s still right in front of her.

Gabriel is a little too perfectly placed for me to completely love this book, but I still enjoyed his character. His abilities seem just a little too convenient, and his arrival too perfect, but he’s still a good guy. He just wants to help Wren with Danny, but realizes there are some things he just can’t do. I liked how he gave her just enough space, but was always there when she needed him.

Cold Kiss is a touching book about love and letting go. It’s about finding the power to continue even when you feel like you can’t. It’s a wonderful book and I’ll definitely be reading Glass Heart.

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Nothing makes me happier when reading a book than when that book is able to completely shock and stun me. Speechless is one of those books. I figured it would be a good read, maybe a little preachy, and ultimately get a message across. What I got instead was a book that was real and twisted my heart in one of the best ways possible.

After what she says nearly gets someone killed, Chelsea takes a vow of silence. In the beginning, her silence feels more like an attempt to make herself feel better about what happens. She realizes that words can have an impact, but it didn’t feel like she really understood that. By the end, though, she understands how her words can and should be used. She grows from a typical teen obsessed with social ranking and the latest clothing trend to someone comfortable being herself and understanding how important her words can be, in both using them and being silent.

Harrington’s ability to create real people out of book characters is fabulous. Aside from a few of the secondary characters, everyone feels like a real person. Kristen and some of the jock boys fall a little flat, but I didn’t mind that. This story wasn’t about them. I wasn’t expecting them to grow. It wouldn’t have been real if everyone had come to the same conclusion about the events in the book.

This isn’t a book that will blow your mind. It’s not a book you have to think deeply about in order to understand. But it’s a book with an impact that still leaves you with a little smile at the very end.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory

Here’s the thing. I love history. A lot. I love when Philippa Gregory novels. A lot. The fact that her books are historical novels makes me nearly giddy. I might love Gregory’s novels to the point I almost hate them just a little bit, too. The Kingmaker’s Daughter was no exception.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the story of Anne Neville and her road to becoming queen. It starts when she is 8 years old and ends when she is 28. She starts off as her father’s pawn, a way to move higher in importance by marrying her off to the best offer. Her father uses her to try and win back his power over the king after King Edward’s (of the York side) wife and her family steal his influence away. She is married to Prince Edward of the Lancaster side as a way to buy a tie to the kingship. After her husband dies and the Lancaster line is officially ended, she loses nearly all her potential power and influence.

It is at this moment she starts to make choices for herself. She knows there are very few options to gain independence for herself, so she takes the next best road and marries someone she cares a great deal for, and eventually loves. Richard. I never doubted for a second that they came to love each other. To begin with, it almost feels as though the marriage is one of purpose. She wants to leave the house of her sister and brother-in-law, and Richard wants access to the land, wealth, and power her name brings. But by the end of the novel, there was love there.

The princes in the tower are touched upon, and yet nothing is definitively said about their fate. I like that Gregory doesn’t try to take a side. She keeps that mystery going and I appreciate that.

In the past 3 novels, I had come to form an opinion of Anne Neville and it wasn’t the greatest. Even though I saw her as a product of those around her, I wasn’t overly fond of her character in the last three books. However, when it’s finally her turn to tell the story, I fell in love with her and started to despise characters I had loved previously.

This is what I love most about The Cousins’ War series. In one novel, a character is painted as horrible, but the next makes him or her lovable. There isn’t one “villain” you can root against. They are all good and bad. Gregory has taken the stories we read in history books and made them into people. I can’t get enough of it.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is yet another brilliant addition to The Cousins’ War series and I’m hopelessly upset I have to wait another year to hear Elizabeth of York’s story.

Covet by Melissa Darnell

I really liked Crave. I wasn’t sure Covet could top it. I was totally, completely, 100% wrong. As much as I liked Crave, Covet was so much better.

Savannah is trying to deal with her changing body, mind, and life. She had to promise the vampire counsel she’d break up with Tristan, and she has to start learning to deal with her emerging vampire self. On top of that, she has to deal with the Clann members’ prejudices and being a teen in high school. She doesn’t have it easy in this book. And yet, she faces it all with bravery and keeps her strength through the entire book.

One little thing I absolutely loved was that after Savannah and Tristan broke up, they weren’t together again two pages later. Savannah stuck to her decision, knowing that at the time, it was what was best in the long run for every single person involved. As much as she wanted to give in and be with Tristan, she knew too many people would be at risk, Tristan especially. Even though it broke her heart, she knew not being able to be with Tristan, but keeping him alive, was better than giving him and possibly draining him. Her strength when it came to this was amazing.

Savannah’s best friend Anne really steps it up, too, which I didn’t see coming. But I am so, so happy she did. It was one of those things I didn’t realize I wanted until I read it. She doesn’t sit back and play the quiet best friend. She makes herself powerful in her own right.

The Clann series is not about vampires and witches. Those are only the backdrop for a fantastic series filled with tension, growing up and making tough decisions, looking beyond yourself to see what needs to be done, and finding the strength inside yourself to be the person you need to be versus the person you want to be.

Covet was a fantastic follow up novel to Crave. I couldn’t put it down. It’s definitely a must read.

Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin

I liked parts of this novel, and others fell a little flat. I’m not sure this was the best book to introduce me to Martin’s writings.

The book starts off in the future, with Freya being carted off for evacuation. And then we’re suddenly in 1985. The thing I really loved about Martin’s writing was how she fit her writing style to what was happening in the book. When we first come upon Freya in 1985, the writing was stunted, had shorter sentences. It made everything feel just a little off, exactly how Freya was feeling. When Freya begins to understand, the writing becomes more free flowing and comfortable. This was able to get the feelings across, even if the words themselves had a bit of trouble doing the same.

There isn’t a lot of character development, but it didn’t bother me as much as it usually does. Neither main character goes through anything majorly transforming, but I feel like Yesterday is more about getting away from the people after them and less about gaining major personal insight. I think that’s why I was okay with the characters’ small growth.

The future described in the novel is something that could actually happen, in a way, and I liked that. Martin didn’t create a hugely exaggerated future in order to make her characters fit. She created an extremely realistic picture of the future and didn’t have to go through great and drastic lengths to make it work. It was easy to believe and I liked that.

Overall, Yesterday is a fine novel that isn’t exceptional, but isn’t horrible. It’s a good read if you’re in the mood for an action story with some love sprinkled in. It’s not a deep, character rich novel, but it is a good read.

The Mephisto Kiss by Trinity Faegen

The thing I like most about book series like The Mephisto Covenant is that one story does not entirely depend on the other. Unlike trilogies, where if you don’t read book 1, books 2 and 3 don’t make sense, it helps if you read book 1, but it is its own story. It’s part of a whole, but separate as well.

The Mephisto Covenant was a fantastic book. The Mephisto Kiss was even better. Kyron, Key gets his turn at finding redemption in the Anabo Jordan. However, as much as she can get past his being a son of Hell, there are certain other things that she doesn’t know if she can forgive and accept as a part of him. That’s the major influence of this book; finding that understanding and being able to love all of a person, including those parts that are the toughest.

I liked Jordan. She wasn’t princess like at all, even though she could have easily been taken that way. She wanted to fight for herself right away and refused to let anything hold her back. She was going to work to be what she needed to be, and she was even able to sacrifice part of herself to help people she just met.

Key is broken in a unique way. He keeps himself closed off from his brothers, being the leader instead of having a relationship with them like they have with one another. He doesn’t show emotion and keeps everything under the skin, away from where people can see it. Jordan can see right through him and makes him confront the parts of him he’d rather hide. Their relationship felt like a slow build, even though it didn’t take much time at all. It still felt completely right and wonderful.

The ending nearly broke my heart. I definitely wasn’t prepared for that, but after finishing it, there was no other way for this book to end. I can’t wait for the next book to come out and I get the chance to see who the next brother to be featured is. Faegen has created a world and a family I’m 100% invested in and I love her for it.

The Mephisto Kiss is definitely a book to read, even if The Mephisto Covenant wasn’t your favorite book. The Mephisto Kiss will grab your heart and not let go, but in the best way possible.

The Mephisto Covenant: The Redemption of Ajax by Trinity Faegen

I put off reading The Mephisto Covenant because I had read some not so good reviews and I wasn’t really in the mood to read a book that might let me down. And I kept putting it off until I finally decided I was being weird and just needed to read it for myself. My only regret is that I did not read it sooner.

This isn’t a huge thought-provoking read. It’s not going to turn you on your side and twist you around before leaving you a little dazed and confused. There’s a ton of clichĂ©s, some inconsistencies, a few too many convenient coincidences, and quite a bit of info dumping in the first few chapters. And yet, I really enjoyed it. Somehow, the new twist on the mythology was able to make up for everything else in the novel that would usually annoy me.

Sasha’s life is upended in the span of just a couple days. She escapes death at the hands of some of her classmates, her mother is sent to Russia, she moves in with an uncle she didn’t know she had with an aunt that hates her, and she learns she is an Anabo, a daughter of Aurora (the daughter of Adam and Eve). Despite all of this, she doesn’t give up on her life and makes the best of what she has been dealt. Yes, she is a bit of a damsel in distress at times, but she can also take care of herself.

Jax is the son of Mephistopheles, a son of Hell. He can only find redemption in the love of an Anabo. He comes across Sasha one evening while on a raid of Eryx’s Ravens, lost souls, and he knows that there is a reason he has found her.

These two don’t fall in love immediately, like so many young adult novels have their characters do. Instead, there’s lust at first sight, but both characters try to act the way they think they should, and don’t act upon that lust (much). Only after spending time with each other, which admittedly is still not much time, do they start to fall for one another.

There was enough action to keep me turning from page to page, not wanting to take a break. There was enough romance to make me smile and swoon. The story was unique and not the typical angel story. The Mephisto Covenant is a fantastic book that despite a shaky start, and having more of the typical Young Adult pitfalls than I can usually read, managed to pull me in and make me enjoy it. This is definitely a book for anyone who likes a bit of angel mythology wrapped up in the action and romance.

Blink Once by Cylin Busby

This book was both predictable and completely unpredictable. I knew what was coming before I even started reading, and yet I was completely shocked by how much I love this story anyway.

West wakes up, unable to talk, to move, to breathe on his own. He knows he’s in the hospital, but he doesn’t know why or how he got there. And then he meets Olivia.

Olivia understands what he’s thinking, and becomes West’s best friend. Eventually, they start to fall in love with each other. But then things get difficult between the two and where there hadn’t been a wall before, now they can’t get around it to see each other.

Blink Once follows the plot you think it will follow. But what you won’t realize when you start is how much it will pull you in and make you feel as you read it. Sure, I wasn’t flipping through pages anxiously, trying to figure out what the next plot twist was going to be, but that was okay. Not having to know what’s next left the door wide open for me to fall in love with this story, the characters, and their relationship.

If you are looking for a book that knows how to mix a complex enough plot, a love story, some mystery, and just a touch and heartache, then this is a book you need to read. It will grab you by the heart and not let go until the final word.