SERIES REVIEW: Morgan Rhodes “Falling Kingdoms”

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Series Name: Falling Kingdoms

Titles in Series: Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring, Gathering Darkness, Frozen Tides, Crystal Storm, Immortal Reign

Author: Morgan Rhodes

Genre: Fantasy

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

Caution: This review will contain mild spoilers for the entire series.

I realized too late that I should have reviewed these books as I read them instead of as a whole like this, but by that time I was already three books in and there was no turning back. And sadly, the whole thing was a blur. That means this series review is probably going to be incohesive and jumbled, but I’ll hopefully be able to get my feelings and thoughts about this series out and sorted through.

I binged the Falling Kingdoms series starting at the beginning of this year because I’ve owned the first book for way too long. I was slowly growing my Falling Kingdoms collection without having read any of the books and I thought it was time that I finally change that. So here I am, having read the entire series in the span of 4 months, and I still don’t know what to think.

Maybe I would have liked these more if I had had to wait between books like people who have been reading and loving this series from the beginning. Maybe binging these books led to me having negative feelings toward them. Whatever the case, whatever the cause, in the end I closed the last book feeling like I had wasted a lot of time.

Falling Kingdoms is marketed as Game of Thrones for young adults; I haven’t seen or read Game of Thrones so I can’t say if this is true or not, but it seems to definitely put off a vibe from what I know. This series follows several characters throughout the course of the story, but the main ones would be Cleo, Jonas, Magnus and Lucia. It’s set in the land of Mytica which is divided into 3 kingdoms: Auranos, Limeros and Paelsia.

Cleo is the princess of Auranos, the southernmost kingdom and by far the most plentiful of the three. She finds herself caught in the midst of a scandal when she is seen with Lord Aron Lagaris when he slays a young Paelsian in cold blood. She’s of course devastated by the events that took place and feels guilt-ridden for not doing more to prevent it.

However, the older brother of the murdered Paelsian, Jonas, seeks vengeance for his death and ends up sparking a revolution as Paelsia and Limeros seek to rise up against Auranos.

Magnus and Lucia are brother and sister, and the children of the Limerian King of Blood. Magnus struggles between wanting to do right and wanting to please his cruel, violent father, while Lucia discovers secret and powerful abilities within herself.

The political intrigue and the promise of magic really kept me engaged and interested in this series. For the first several books, I was hooked, even though I didn’t care for many of the characters, including the main ones. I didn’t think they were fleshed out enough and the few traits that they did carry, I did not like.

For instance, Magnus is in love with Lucia, his sister. No matter how much he tries to fight his feelings and his urges, it still creeps me out and it honestly caused me to hate him for at least the first three books. We end up finding out that they’re not actually related, so it doesn’t become a matter of incest anymore; however, I still find the idea pervy and it leaves me with a gross feeling in my gut. It took me a long time to warm up to Magnus’s character after this.

Cleo was probably my favorite character, and she remained strong and decent throughout the entire reading experience. She had her issues as most characters do, but in the end I respected and admired her strength and dedication to her kingdom.

Jonas was attracted to and wanted to make out with every woman he met, it was honestly ridiculous. Throughout the course of this entire series, he “falls in love” with at least 3 women… desperate much? Keep it in your pants, fight your stupid rebellion and just chill.

And Lucia was by far my least favorite main character. She had absolutely no substance to her, no personality, until all of a sudden she’s angry and mean and cruel and horrible out of nowhere. So Lucia starts out sweet and dull, then becomes evil and dull, and by the last book she’s mean and dull. Basically, she was dull, and as a magic user, she should have been one of the more interesting characters. Not the case.

This series also suffered from a bad case of insta-love, on all accounts. There was one slow-burn romance which I very much appreciated, but everyone else was like, “Wow, this person and I had a conversation and we connected, I’m in love,” and then they’re absolutely devastated, destroyed and wrecked when that person dies (because oh yeah, a lot of people die). I’m just here rolling my eyes and thinking, pull yourself together. You knew this person for like a day. Everyone was so dramatic and emotional and it was just so annoying.

Now let’s go back to the “a lot of people die” thing. Yes, this series is full of death and dying and many of the secondary characters bite the dust and you literally won’t care at all. There’s nothing to make you like or become invested in any of these characters, so their deaths are meaningless to you. And of course, everyone who matters is miraculously alive by the end, isn’t that great? Rejoice!

Like I mentioned before, by the time I finally turned the last page of Immortal Reign, I felt like I had wasted all the time I invested into this series. Maybe just stick with Game of Thrones?

 

Morgan Rhodes: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Katie Cotugno “How To Love”

9780062216366_p0_v1_s1200x630Title: How To Love

Author: Katie Cotugno

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

My Rating: 1/5 stars

 

Reena Montero is a bit of  a loner; isn’t really interested in having a big group of friends or going to raging parties like her best friend. What Reena is truly interested in is traveling, seeing the world, and living life.

Then enters Sawyer, who she’s known forever but could never imagine herself with. Sawyer LeGrande seems to notice her out of the blue, all of a sudden. And they connect, they fall in love, etc., etc.

Then leaves Sawyer, and leaves behind Reena who is destroyed, confused, and pregnant.

My thoughts: 

How to Love alternates between being told from two different times: before Sawyer disappears and after he comes back. So basically, we get to see two versions of Reena and Sawyer being totally stupid… It’s been a while since I’ve written a rant review, so here goes.

This is probably one of the worst books I’ve ever read in my life. Actually, I should clarify: one of the worst books I’ve ever tried to read in my life, since I couldn’t actually force myself to finish. Yes, this was a DNF and yes, it’s frowned upon to review a DNF. For How to Love, I don’t care.

For one, this could have been written by a 5th grader. Just so poorly put together and written, plus the author used the word “snottily” on two different occasions. Snottily. The words and sentences did not flow, the dialogue was choppy and unrealistic.

Sawyer’s one of those guys that’s super chill and relaxed and carefree all the time. Even when he’s seeing his ex girlfriend and baby mama for the first time in 3 years. And that just drives me up the wall. What, no remorse? No regret? Nothing to say other than, “Hey, nice to see you, you look good, can’t wait to meet that kid of yours”? You know, like he still doesn’t know that it’s his baby?

This is when the internal screaming began.

Also, in the time since Sawyer left and she’s given birth to her daughter, Reena has found a new boyfriend who’s this really nice guy, right? He’s good to her and patient and understanding when it comes to mom-duties. Not at all intimidated by this. Yet here she is, her mind filled with thoughts of Sawyer.

So okay, maybe I can’t blame her for that. He’s the father of her child after all and the feelings that she had for him and the hurt that he caused still runs deep. But she begins entertaining thoughts of being with him again. She starts lying to her boyfriend about seeing Sawyer and talking to him. She starts to make excuses and justifications for this.

This is when the external screaming began.

Then Sawyer has to outright ask whether the baby is actually his. I may have thrown my book into a wall for this. He decides he wants to be a part of the baby’s life. Understandable. Acceptable. I can work with this. Yes, be responsible and step up. Please.

But then she kisses him.

This is when I lose it.

I just have no sympathy for characters who put themselves in stupid, preventable situations. I have no sympathy for characters who do things they know are wrong but “just can’t help it”. Yes you can. You freaking can help it.

Bullcrap on “they’re meant for each other”. No. The moment he left with no way to contact him, for whatever reason, that should have been the end of it. People like that, who can just up and leave the people they supposedly care about, are not people that you want to keep in your life. These are not the people that you want to keep running back to and letting in. Just no.

Do not fall into this trap. Do not believe that lie that he’s changed or he’s promised to never do it again. Once was too many times, girl.

This may be a work of fiction. In this scenario and in this story, maybe Sawyer did indeed learn how to love. How to stay and own up and be there. But in most cases, ladies, they don’t learn. And in the small percentage of cases where they may have learned their lesson, don’t just welcome them back with open arms. Make them work for it and prove their devotion and dedication, because nobody deserves anything less than this.

Books like this give women false hope that their messed up, lazy, absent boyfriends are going to somehow shape up and step up. Instead, we should be teaching young girls to expect better.

For the love of God, don’t read this book. Don’t feed this to our younger generation to teach young girls that Sawyer’s actions are okay. This is not the example we want set for our sisters, daughters, friends. Don’t.

BOOK REVIEW: Sarah J Maas “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

36156268Title: A Court of Frost and Starlight

Author: Sarah J Maas

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 2/5 stars

 

Sarah J Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, deemed it necessary to bridge the gap between the first trilogy of the ACOTAR books with the spin-off books she will be releasing later. The first three books in the world of ACOTAR follow Feyre Acheron and the way her life changes when she’s brought against her will into the world of the fae. Apparently, the next books set in this world are going to follow a different character, but I imagine will feature many of the same. We’ll most likely see lots of Feyre and Rhysand and the rest of the inner circle in the future.

A Court of Frost and Starlight is supposed to be the transition between Feyre’s world into someone else’s point of view. It’s too bad that I found this so very pointless.

I’ll admit that I think the Throne of Glass books are superior to the ACOTAR series in basically every way. Still, I’ve read and have found something to enjoy about every ACOTAR book that’s come out; I still love Maas’s style and characters, even if I’m not as fond of the world and story. Sadly, I couldn’t bring myself to care about anything that happened in ACOFAS because literally, nothing, happened.

If I’m being brutally honest, this novella feels like a money grab. Maas could have easily clued us in on what may have or may not have occurred in the gap between these two installments, yet she filled a 200 page book with mindless nothingness for fans of the series to buy.

For die-hard fans of the books, they will probably find enjoyment in seeing their beloved characters in a more relaxed setting. In this book, they’re all celebrating the Solstice, which is basically their equivalent of Christmas. And that’s all they do. For 200 pages.

I’ve never been so disappointed in a Mass book before and I hoped that day would never come. Oh well.

 

Sarah J Maas: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Christina Lauren “Roomies”

34466910Title: Roomies

Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary/ Romance

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

In this adorable read, Holland Bakker is the niece of one of Broadway’s biggest musical directors. While she doesn’t have a talent for music, she works alongside her uncle at his theater doing odd jobs and taking photos, and over the years has developed a love and ear for beautiful music.

Cue Calvin, the gorgeous Irish subway performer who Holland has been crushing on from a distance for the past 6 months. She knows that her uncle has been searching for a replacement musician for his show, and after a chance meet-up with the handsome busker, Holland decides it’s to bring it up with him. Only one problem: Calvin is an illegal immigrant.

So on a well-intentioned but spontaneous whim, Holland proposes an arrangement with Calvin. No, literally, she proposes to him. This way, Calvin can stay in America and her uncle gets a new star.

Soon though, the line is blurred between Calvin and Holland about what is friendship and what is arrangement, and soon it’s obvious that this has become more than just a marriage of convenience.

My thoughts:

There was a lot to love about this sweet, huggable little book. Before starting this, I worried that Roomies would be boring and flat since the “married first, fall in love later” trope is so worn out. However I will say that the authors have managed to keep it fresh and unique and oh so adorable.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Christina Lauren (Christina and Lauren, respectively), and I was very impressed by the readability and the easiness of the writing. I flew through Roomies and never did it feel like a chore to read. Holland, our narrator, was funny, sweet and most importantly, relatable. At first you question the unrealistic nature of the plot and the motives of a woman who would willingly marry a stranger, yet these authors made me believe in it. Before you know it, you’re thinking, of course Holland would offer to marry Calvin.

I loved the relationship between Holland and Calvin, of course, but I also really enjoyed the non-romantic relationships in this book, both positive and negative. The relationship that Holland had with her uncles and her brother was very sweet and authentic. I also especially liked the representation of Holland’s toxic friendship with her “best friend”. It shows the very realistic truth that not all friendships are meant to last and sometimes you outgrow people, and that’s okay.

Holland is a college graduate who has no idea what she wants to do with her life. Obviously, she’d love to write her great American novel but so far feels stuck and uninspired. I relate to this as well, even though I’m not a college graduate exactly but I can definitely feel the pain of being so unsure and aimless in this adult life.

Altogether, as mentioned before, Holland was an all-around extremely sympathetic and engaging character to read.

Warning: this book does contain some mature content. This is basically one of the only reasons I knocked a star. I realize that this isn’t an issue for many people, but I rate my books based on enjoyment and I personally am not a fan of that sort of content. Otherwise, the story is very entertaining and the characters very lovable. Very excited to read more from these authors!

 

Christina Lauren: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Devri Walls “Magic Unleashed: Venators”

36192231Title: Magic Unleashed: Venators

Author: Devri Walls

Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

Six years ago, Grey Malteer was attacked by creatures he thought couldn’t possibly exist. They repeated a word, calling him a name he’d never heard before…Venator. Since then, his life has been a hellhole of secrecy—hiding old pain alongside strange new abilities.

Rune Jenkins has an itch, as she calls it, but it’s more than that. It’s an anger that builds up like the inside of a boiler whenever she’s around anything remotely supernatural. The pressure is growing steadily worse and she can’t understand why. All she knows is—her control is slipping.

By order of an unknown council Grey and Rune are pulled through a portal in the St. Louis arch, landing them in an alternate dimension where creatures of myth and legend exist. A realm that calls them, Venators.

Made up of centuries old fae, vampires, werewolves, elves and succubi the council’s corrupt nature becomes obvious as they seek to wield the newly returned Venators as weapons. Wedged in an impossible position, Grey and Rune must decide their fate—do they go against the council’s wishes and help the innocents of this unforgiving land, or face the possibility of execution by the council.

This book was given to me by Brown Books Publishing and author Devri Walls in exchange for an honest review; thank you!

Venators was such a fun ride, especially since I have very much been on a paranormal kick lately; I’ve been binge-watching The Vampire Diaries for the last two weeks. This book, however, weaves so many different kinds of folklore and creatures and mythological races, all coming together to make this awesome fantasy mash-up. We’ve got vampires, werewolves, wizards, faeries and even some creatures of Devri Walls‘ own creation.

Walls has done some serious world-building here in Venators and it’s definitely something to take note. While our main characters are originally from our world, they’re taken through a gate into another dimension filled with new and interesting creatures and places.

I enjoyed Grey’s character quite a bit: self-proclaimed loner who has dedicated his life to studying folklore after his run-in with goblins when he was 13. Now he’s sucked into this world that he could only dream of and it’s confirmed for him: that everything he’s been studying for the last 6 years was real.

I liked Rune’s character a bit less. She was stubborn and temperamental and sometimes bordered on annoying. I was also confused by the contradictions in her emotions: the new world they were in supposedly made her calmer because of her Venator nature, yet she still felt fear and panic and frustration, which are all emotions far from calm.

All in all, if you’re interested in paranormal or fantasy, featuring alternate dimensions and interesting world-building, definitely give The Venators Series a try!

 

Devri Walls: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Charles Martin “Send Down the Rain”

35554138Title: Send Down the Rain

Author: Charles Martin

Genre: Fiction

My Rating: 4/5 stars

 

Allie’s second husband is killed tragically when his 18-wheeler crashes into the rocks near their home in Cape San Blas–the tanker was full of fuel and the explosion could be seen on overhead satellites. She’d already lost the beloved waterfront restaurant her parents started and now losing her husband, no matter how unfulfilling their marriage was, might just push her over the edge.

Joseph’s time in Vietnam left him with scars that never seemed to heal. No matter how he’s tried to love or what he’s tried to do since then, he can’t pull himself out of the wreckage of his former life. His trust and security shaken, he isolates himself in a cabin. But every morning, he faithfully pours two cups of coffee, drinking his while he sits with the second, and then pouring out the full cup.

It’s no small coincidence that Joseph found a mother and her two young children lost in the woods near his cabin. Or that when he helps them return to family in Florida, he’s near enough to see that explosion. Near enough to know it’s close to home. Near enough to know that his childhood sweetheart needs him.

The years have built so much distance between them, but it’s the secrets that may be their final undoing. Send Down the Rain reminds us of the beauty of truth . . . and the power of love to wash away the past.

My thoughts:

This book took me on a dang roller coaster ride and I loved it.

I had no idea what to expect from this since this is my first time reading anything by Charles Martin; also, I can tell you now that the synopsis does not provide nearly enough information to prepare you for the flurry of emotions that you’re going to end up feeling. There are so many layers and different story-arcs in this book that no one would be able to fit the essence if this in a short summary.

Send Down the Rain follows Joseph, a veteran in his 60’s who daily fights demons and the memories of his time at war. In no particular order, Jo-jo’s past begins to unfold for the reader in surprising twists and heartwarming turns, and you grow to truly love his kind, giving, broken soul.

Each of the secondary characters have either been directly or indirectly affected by the selfless acts of Joseph: Catalina and her two children, who he rescues from Juan Pedro and 5+ years of captivity; Allie, Joseph’s high school sweet heart who he saves both physically and emotionally on numerable occasions; Bobby, his brother whose status is all thanks to him; Suzy, a radio host at a station that Joseph calls into frequently to relay war stories. Ultimately, he manages to touch the lives of thousands of people by the end of this book through his testimony and heroic actions.

This book snuck up on me in a way I never expected. Of course, you never open a book thinking you’re not going to love it, but I had no expectations going into Send Down the Rain. Yet by the time I was finished, I had shamelessly added every book Charles Martin has ever written to my reading list.

Some of the subject matter is a little heavy but it never feels overwhelming. The writing is lovely and easy and smooth, and by the halfway mark there was no stopping me: I was hooked. All of the characters were believable and likable, and truly there was little to hinder my enjoyment of this.

Later in the book, Joseph recounts to Allie how he had returned to their hometown on several occasions to check and see how she was doing. He never actually revealed himself to Allie any of these times; always watching and observing from a distance. Even though Jo-jo’s nearness ended up saving Allie’s life a few times, I can’t help but think that his behavior is a little creepy and stalker-ish.

Also, without revealing any spoilers: there’s a part towards the end of the book where some distasteful information comes out about Joseph, and his friends all feel rightly betrayed. However, I feel they were unnecessarily cruel to him in the events that followed this reveal, especially considering all the kindness and generosity he had showed them throughout this entire book.

Overall, this was such a sweet, heartfelt story, and I truly hope to read more by this author soon. Thank you to Smith Publicity for sending me a copy for review!

 

Charles Martin: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

BOOK REVIEW: Seanan McGuire “Down Among the Sticks and Bones”

51MKK7uzyVL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Fantasy

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

 

For those who read the first book in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, this book follows the twins and the world that they found and spent 5 years living in.

For those who didn’t read the first book I would say that it’s probably not imperative that you do, especially since this book is actually set before. However, the first book does give some important information about the different doorways that children enter and the toll that it takes on them, which is why these children stay at Eleanor West’s. It’s a type of “home for troubled teens”, but it’s for the kids who come back and find themselves now lost.

In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, we get to see the way the twins, Jacqueline and Jillian (or Jack and Jill), were raised and the sort of upbringing they have. Their parents never actually wanted kids and thought they were altogether too messy, yet ended up decided they wanted children after seeing the way that some of their peers and coworkers received attention and recognition for their kids. They wanted a child that they could mold into whatever they wanted them to be.

Unfortunately, they didn’t allow their daughters to develop personalities of their own and instead forced Jacqueline to wear frilly dresses and be cooed and coddled, and Jillian to be athletic and boyish to replace the son they wish they’d had. Their parents didn’t seem to understand the complexities of their children and forced them into boxes, when Jacqueline would have loved to be more active and Jillian longed to be pretty and adored like her sister.

So when the sisters find themselves in The Moors, they’re given the choice to start anew, even if the new life they’re to lead is terrifying and full of strange and terrible things. They’re given the choice between the luxuries of the castle they are taken into or the hard work of an apprenticeship outside the city walls; Jack chooses to live under a harsh apprenticeship while Jill longs to be loved by the dark stranger who rules over the castle.

To see these characters grow, particularly Jack, was so interesting and satisfying. I was so happy to see Jack break out of the mold that her parents had forced her into and flourish. She had a thirst for knowledge and longed to learn everything she could from the man she worked under, who was a sort of doctor.

Jillian on the other hand, while having her wish to be beautiful and adored granted, had gotten a little more than she bargained for from her strange, terrifying new guardian.

Still, both sisters found happiness and belonging and acceptance in this new world and I think that is such a beautiful thing. This story was heartbreaking and creepy and beautiful and I enjoyed it so much more than Every Heart a Doorway.

Sadly, these books are so short that it’s hard to say much about them without revealing important, spoiler-y things, but this book left me feeling so sad and broken and torn up. I definitely prefer my happily ever afters so this book was a huge bummer for me, but I could still appreciate the way this was written. Seanan McGuire is a majorly talented writer, and I’d be so interested to read more of her work after this series is through.

 

Seanan McGuire: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads