Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lover Reborn, Lover At Last & The King - J.R. Ward

Unfortunately, I didn't succeed in reading these three novels in time for the Black Dagger Brotherhood Party (and one wasn't even out!). But even so, I'm embracing the same format! I'm bringing you my reviews of the books in the series. Unlike my traditional reviews, these are a little bit shorter than usual. The books will be reviewed in groups of three and I will endeavor to stay as spoiler-free as I can possibly manage. I will also be reviewing the trio of books in an overall capacity.

General Thoughts

This latest trio of books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood are among my favorites in this series! I just totally fell completely head over heels in love with this series all over again, which is definitely something considering there are currently 12 books that are out. A big part of the reason I loved these three so much is because the characters each one focuses on are so gosh darn amazing, and I loved being a part of each of their journeys. But also, the way the story is paced, and the twists and turns along the way just really appealed to me. I was so engaged, and I'm so thrilled I've finally caught up! (Seriously, two books - Lover Reborn and The King are now among my top 5 of the series.)

Lover Reborn - J.R. Ward
Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #10
Publisher: Signet Publishing
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Ever since the death of his shellan, Tohrment has been a heartbroken shadow of the vampire leader he once was. Brought back to the Brotherhood by a self-serving fallen angel, he fights again with ruthless vengeance, unprepared for a new tragedy. Seeing his beloved in dreams—trapped in a cold, isolated netherworld—Tohr turns to the angel Lassiter to save his former mate. The only way to rescue her is for Tohr to love another. As war with the lessers rages, and a new clan of vampires vie for the Blind King’s throne, Tohr struggles between an unforgettable past and a hot, passion-filled future. But can his heart let go and set all of them free? (from Goodreads)

I seriously don't even know where to begin with Lover Reborn. I genuinely did not go into it with any expectations whatsoever, and I was completely blown away. If I'm being perfectly honest, this is probably my favorite book of the entire Black Dagger Brotherhood series! The combination of action, romance and intrigue just completely satisfied me and reminded me exactly what I'd fallen in love with about these books from the start. All of the brothers, their shellans and their friends appear, and I love the camaraderie that exists. But this novel is about Tohrment, and his story is incredibly moving and heartbreaking (though he also managed to make me mad too!). It's also about No'One, who was an unexpected player in Tohrment's story. Seriously, this novel had me in its grip from start to end, and I absolutely loved it.

Lover at Last - J.R. Ward
Lover at Last by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #11
Publisher: Signet Publishing
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

Qhuinn, son of no one, is used to being on his own. Disavowed from his bloodline, shunned by the aristocracy, he has finally found an identity as one of the most brutal fighters in the war against the Lessening Society. But his life is not complete. Even as the prospect of having a family of his own seems to be within reach, he is empty on the inside, his heart given to another....

Blay, after years of unrequited love, has moved on from his feelings for Qhuinn. And it’s about time: The male has found his perfect match in a Chosen female, and they are going to have a young—just as Qhuinn has always wanted for himself. It’s hard to see the new couple together, but building your life around a pipe dream is just a heartbreak waiting to happen. As he’s learned firsthand.

Fate seems to have taken these vampire soldiers in different directions... but as the battle over the race’s throne intensifies, and new players on the scene in Caldwell create mortal danger for the Brotherhood, Qhuinn finally learns the true definition of courage, and two hearts who are meant to be together... finally become one. (from Goodreads)

I can honestly say I went into Lover at Last without any idea how much it would pull at my heartstrings. I've adored both Qhuinn and Blay since they first made an appearance, as they're both amazing characters. The novel was full of drama, which isn't a surprise considering how complicated Qhuinn's life has been and how much tension exists between these two headstrong males. I really loved their story, even with all these crazy frustrating moments when I wanted to shake them {hard}, and I'm so glad it was resolved so well! Plus, the other arcs in this story were seriously well done and had me completely invested.

The King JR Ward book cover
The King by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #12
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Source/Format: Bought || Kindle e-book

After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle--with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything--and everyone--at risk.

Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response--or the distance it creates between them.

The question is, will true love win out... or tortured legacy take over? (from Goodreads)

Oh goodness, you guys, there are no words for how much I adored The King! Wrath is my favorite of the males in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. So, to be able to read another novel that focused heavily on him, his shellan Beth and his life as King was really going to be a hit with me no matter what. And seriously, in spite of its length (it's 544 pages long), I really enjoyed it all. Getting to read about Wrath's struggles with his kingship and fatherhood felt all too real, and even though I wanted to smack him a couple of times, it just read so naturally. And Beth's side, too, was equally compelling! And then, there's the other things going on - the bid for people to take the kingship from Wrath, other members of the household (particularly the Shadows) being involved in things, and more - all of it was just incredibly told. I love that it feels like there's still quite a lot to explore in this series, whether characters or plots, and Ward has successfully managed to keep my passion for this series burning brightly. I loved it, okay, and Kelly was testament to how much of a roller coaster ride this one was for me. (And yes Kel, I'm kicking myself in the butt for waiting months before reading this, okay?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nantucket Red - Leila Howland

[This is the follow-up to Nantucket Blue, so you might want to check out that review first!]

Nantucket Red book cover
Nantucket Red by Leila Howland
Series: Nantucket #2
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source/Format: BEA 2014 (YA Party) || ARC

Cricket Thompson's lifetime of overachieving has paid off: she's headed to Brown University in the fall, with a spot on the lacrosse team and a scholarship that covers almost everything. Who knew living in the dorm cost money? An Ivy League education seems to mean living at home for the next four years.

When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn't anticipated. It's hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy.

But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart. (from Goodreads)

Nantucket Red is an incredibly awesome follow-up to last year's Nantucket Blue, and I dare to say that I enjoyed this even more than the latter. Howland perfectly captures during the summer after high school graduation and before college orientation, complete with all the good and bad feelings and surprising situations. Grounded in the familiar faces that pop up, it was a pleasant surprise to read Nantucket Red.

It was such a pleasure to revisit Nantucket, and post-novel, I want to go and visit in person one day. The setting is perfect for a book set in summer, and I felt like I had been transported with all the details Howland included. It was also great to see so many familiar faces in this novel, including Cricket herself, and I found myself pleased with how well-developed everyone was. It was a great reunion all around, and I happily immersed myself in this story without a backward glance!

Cricket is the central character, but she's facing different circumstances this summer. I loved that many things - friendship, romance, summer, college - were on her mind as she spends another summer in Nantucket, and Howland does an excellent job juggling them all. Contending with everything that's going on in her mind is no easy feat, particular considering all the emotions (good and bad) she feels. In spite of her doubts and her fears, Cricket finds her way, and that is the main reason I cried reading Nantucket Red.

Everything about Nantucket Red works - the characters, the setting, the story. It flows so easily and organically that it's almost as if Howland is just recounting the story of someone she actually knows in real life. Even though it's no longer summer, I'd still say that Nantucket Red (and Nantucket Blue) are totally worth the read!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Name of the Blade - Zoe Marriott

The Name of the Blade Zoe Marriott book cover
The Name of the Blade by Zoe Marriott
Series: The Name of the Blade #1
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: November 11, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received a copy of this book for review. This in no way affects the opinions expressed in this review.]

When Mio sneaks the family's katana -- a priceless ancestral sword -- from her parents' attic, she just wants to spice up a costume. But the katana is much more than a dusty antique. Awakening the power within the sword unleashes a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London. But it also releases Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, from the depths of time. He helps to protect Mio -- and steals her heart. With creatures straight out of Japanese myths stalking her and her friends, Mio realizes that if she cannot keep the sword safe and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life . . . but the love of a lifetime.

Japanese mythology + London + a powerful katana + battle between good and evil… All these elements make The Name of the Blade sound like a really great fantasy novel. While it was fun, and certainly had a few characters that left quite the impression, this story just isn't my particular cup of tea. This strikes me as particularly unfortunate, considering how much I adored Shadows on the Moon. While this partly has to do with feeling detached towards main character Mio, it is also because of the story’s pacing and a few plot threads that just didn’t fit right. It was a decent diversion for my long commute one day, but really, that’s all there is to it. 

While Mio is a decent main character, it is the secondary characters that really shine in The Name of the Blade: Mio’s best friend Jacqueline (who is an absolute firecracker), Shinobu (who just sounds like a hot Japanese warrior), and Hikaru (who is a feisty, frisky kitsune). With the promise of encountering these three on the pages, it was no hardship to continue reading! In terms of plot though, everything was simply okay – the conflict, the romance (though it really, really, really feels like instant love here), the explanation of the lore. The Name of the Blade was pretty average, and as a reader, I wasn’t swept away – which was a real disappointment.


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