The Golden City (The Brighton Duology #2) by Liz Long

Down with the Blood King.
Reina Torres and Princess Helena just barely managed to escape the city of Brighton, thanks to the rebels. They now find themselves at the heart of the revolution, planning missions and infiltrating Brighton’s network. An enraged King Magnus doesn’t just want Reina and the rebels to pay, but to suffer; if it’s war they want, it’s war they’ll get.
With Helena by her side, Reina wants so much more than survival. But to live, she’ll have to go back inside the Tower, the last place she ever wanted to see again. No matter how far they run or how hard they fight, it seems their paths are destined to intertwine with the golden city … and the Blood King.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first picked up The Blood King, but by the time I was finished, I couldn’t wait for The Golden City to be released. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve gotta say, I had no idea how Liz Long was going to wrap up The Brighton Duology in just two books. Needless to say, there was little to no down time in The Golden City. Danger, action, surprising revelations, heartwarming reunions and yes, even heartbreak kept the pages turning. Let’s just say that Liz Long earned her #EvilAuthor title by the end of this book. *sigh* There were also a few important lessons to be learned that unfortunately, mirror reality a little too closely…

Although the series was brought to a satisfying end with The Golden City (minus the heartbreak) I was left wanting more. Only because I wanted to know how these amazing characters built their new future. I can’t wait to see what Liz Long has in store for readers next…

Advertisements

Ghost’s Dilemma (Witch’s Apprentice #2) by Morwen Navarre

Ghost is content to spend all his free time with Gerry. But scandal and hate surrounding Ghost’s appointment as the first male witch, along with a deadly epidemic, force Ghost to make choices that will separate him from his love.
Spurred on by a message from his mentor, Ghost embarks on a journey through mystical underground tunnels and lost civilizations to the frozen lands of his origin, seeking a way to neutralize the threat back home. While he struggles to find a balance between his duties as a witch and his calling as a seer, all Ghost really wants is to return to the haven he has found in Gerry’s arms.

I love finding new authors that have created worlds and characters that keep the pages turning. Ghost’s Dilemma was definitely one of those books. I did blunder a little though, because when I picked up this one, I didn’t realize that it was the 2nd book in Morwen Navarre’s Witch’s Apprentice series. I somehow missed Ghost’s Sight, but that’s okay. It really just added another book to my TBR pile 😉

I’ve admitted before that sometimes it takes a while for me to wrap my head around Dystopian worlds. For some reason, I didn’t really have that problem with Ghost’s Dilemma. I also didn’t feel lost, even though I’d inadvertently skipped the first book in the series. I do want to go back and read Ghost’s Sight though and see where Gerry and Ghost’s story began.

There was so much to love about Ghost’s Dilemma. I loved the relationship between Gerry and Ghost. I loved both Ghost and Gerry’s sense of right, wrong and equality between each other and members of their community. Not everyone around them had that same moral compass. No relationship is perfect though and even though Ghost and Gerry’s was stronger than most, they still had a few things to work out. Ghost also has some tough decisions to make and he doesn’t have time to waste because it really was a matter of life and death.

The world that Morwen Navarre has created for Witch’s Apprentice was interesting. I loved the mix of their present and our present. Confusing, I know, but within the story, it really worked well. There were some interesting twists and turns mixed with some mystery and sweet romance. I can’t wait to go back to Ghost’s Sight. I also wouldn’t mind seeing Ghost and Gerry’s story continue.

The Blood King (The Brighton Duology #1) by Liz Long

In the kingdom of Brighton, a President-turned-King offers poor teens the chance to join KEY, the King’s Education for Youth. Seventeen-year-old Reina Torres jumps at the chance to be of service to her country, wanting to learn more about Brighton’s history and future through the Media industry.
The King himself takes an interest in Reina, offering private interviews; he soon commands her to marry his cruel son. Reina, however, cannot ignore her growing feelings for Iris, a fellow KEY student, despite knowing the laws. Reina discovers refusal means punishment much worse than death, and why King Magnus hasn’t aged in decades, thanks to his KEY program.

I bet I’m not the only one who thought they knew where this book was going from the beginning… If that’s the case, I’m also not the only reader who was totally wrong. I love it when that happens. 😉

The Blood King started kind of slow for me, but it didn’t take long for things to pick up. (For the record – that’s kinda normal for me when it comes to anything dystopian.) Reina lived in a world that wasn’t kind to anyone who was… different. By different, I mean anything that wasn’t deemed “normal” by King Magnus. (Sound familiar? Just wait…) On the surface, King Magnus lived to serve the people of his self proclaimed kingdom and had been doing so for as long as most of his subjects could remember. It didn’t take Reina long to find out that not everything is as it seems within the walls of the kingdom of Brighton.

There’s more than one message hidden between the lines of The Blood King – and some of them are crystal clear. A few parallels were made to real life issues (and situations) that were too obvious to ignore. (Sometimes fiction isn’t stranger than real life.)

Once I got past my personal “dystopian block” the action, danger, mystery and even a touch of romance, kept the pages turning. I couldn’t wait to see how Reina and her friends (that included some very unexpected allies) fought back. The next book in this series promises to be just as suspenseful because not everyone escaped danger by the end of The Blood King. Needless to say, I can’t wait to get the next book in The Brighton Duology.

Beyond Control (Beyond #2) by Kit Rocha

beyondcontrolShe refuses to be owned.
Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude and survived danger on the streets to become one of the most trusted, influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. Lex has been at the top for years, and there’s almost nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang…and for its leader. Lie, steal, kill—but she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane.
He’ll settle for nothing less.
Dallas fought long and hard to carve a slice of order out of the chaos of the sectors. Dangers both large and small threaten his people, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. His liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire, something he wants almost as much as he wants her. And no one says no to the king of Sector Four.
Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.

I’ll admit, the Beyond series is not for everyone. It’s dark, gritty, erotic and at times, terrifying. It’s also a lot more than what’s obvious on the surface.

Readers were introduced to Alex and Dallas in Beyond Shame. Sector Four’s leaders were a force to be reckoned with, yet they ruled with fairness and compassion – as well as iron fists.

Alex had fought hard to get where she was and far away from where and who she had been. She cared about the gang and fought for them as hard as she fought for herself. Dallas was the same. He earned the respect he was given. He depended on Alex to keep him on an even keel. It was hard for both of them to admit any weakness at all.

There were parts of this story that were as beautiful as they were harsh. The was a edge to everything about these men and women who loved as hard as they fought. They didn’t hold back and lived their lives to the extreme. To say that this world created by Kit Rocha is intense would be an extreme understatement.

There were things about Beyond Control that I didn’t expect. Beyond all the sex, fighting and vying for control, emotions were running high. I kind of expected that, but I didn’t expect tears and I most definitely didn’t expect Dallas to come as close as he did to breaking my heart. He almost lost everything…

There are a couple of novellas thrown into the mix, but the next book in the series is Beyond Pain, featuring Six and Bren. It’s been almost 2 years since I read Beyond Shame, but now that I’ve pulled myself back into this world, I’m pretty sure it won’t be that long before I pick up Beyond Pain.

DragonFlyRating5

Triumph (Bellator Saga #6) by Cecilia London

triumphAll of your ideals, your hopes and dreams…they cease to matter if you abandon them in your darkest hour. We have to see this through to the end.”
Jack McIntyre and Caroline Gerard have never shied away from a challenge. As dual commanders of the American rebel forces, they now face the greatest adversity of their lives. Every decision has permanent consequences. Relationships are tested and restored. Hard truths come to light. When the reality of their situation finally hits them, there is one thing they know for certain.
No sacrifice is too great for love.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1

Just a small disclaimer before you read any further. If you haven’t read all the books written so far, don’t read any further. I promise not to spoil anything in this review for those of you who haven’t read Triumph. However, writing a spoiler free review for this book is going to be hard enough. Not referring to any of the previous books is going to be pretty much impossible. Consider yourself warned. 😀

It’s been 2 years since Dissident, the first book in the Bellator Saga, was released. 2 years since readers were introduced to Caroline and Jack. 2 years of suspense, romance, anger, anguish, torture, terror and heartbreak. The first 3 books, Dissident, Conscience and Sojourn were the first step in Caroline’s journey, history and survival. Phoenix, and Rhapsody continued her journey, but she was broken almost beyond recognition. Triumph was the final installment and it was just as emotional, suspenseful and powerful as all the other books in the Bellator Saga. It was also so much more than expected.

So… if you read Rhapsody you know that it ended in a jaw dropping revelation from an unexpected source. Readers will be happy to know that Triumph picked up where Rhapsody left off, pretty much mid conversation. I’m not gonna lie, I had hoped for this revelation for several books now. At least since Phoenix, but I’d given up hope and became resigned to the fact – the same as Jack and Caroline had to. The revelation wasn’t proof though and false hope can be dangerous.

For the record, I really and truly was hoping for resolutions without tears in Triumph. No. Such. Luck. I really should have known better. Ms. London isn’t known for holding back and she didn’t change that in Triumph. So yes, tears were shed. Tears of happiness, tears from being overwhelmed, tears of sadness… more tears than I expected. Which means of course, Ms. London’s #EvilAuthor status is still in good standing. No worries.

If you’re wondering how things finally turned out for Caroline and Jack, sorry. I promised, no spoilers. I will tell you that the title of this book was very fitting. There were moments that I cheered both Caroline and Jack on. There were moments that my heart broke for them as well as moments that I wanted to celebrate with them.

The only thing I have left to say is something I’ve said almost every time I’ve reviewed a book in this series. I don’t think I’ve read any books that have stuck with me the way that the books in the Bellator Saga have. I’ve recommended them to a few other readers who I know would like them. More importantly, I knew that they would touch them… the same way they touched me. One of those people said that she would love to read them, but not just yet. Seems after my quick synopsis of the Bellator Saga, she felt the author came a little too close to reality and maybe even current events. Who knew?

DragonFlyRating5

Phoenix (Bellator Saga #4) by Cecilia London

PhoenixOne epic love. Two wounded souls. Three impossible words.
Ripped away from each other by circumstances beyond their control. Reunited in a place they never expected. Separated but never quite apart.
“You’re still the only woman I see. The only woman I need. I know you’re in there somewhere, sweet Caroline. We’re going to find you and we’re going to help you, until you come home to me where you belong. Then we’re going to finish what we started. Together.”
Her confidence shattered, Caroline finally starts to deal with what happened at The Fed. Jack is determined to convince her that she’s more than she thinks she is. That she wasn’t destroyed by her experiences. That their relationship is worth the fight. But will he give up before it’s too late?
Phoenix is the fourth installment in The Bellator Saga. It should be read after the first three novels in the series.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1So yeah, I’m the queen of procrastination, especially when it comes to writing reviews on books I love. It gets worse when I finish a book that I not only loved, but also on books that completely break me… when that same book ends in a cliff hanger that seriously wants me to throw my kindle across the room? Let’s just say I need some serious recovery time. I suppose enough time has passed, so here goes nothing…

Phoenix is the 4th book in the Bellator Saga and the 1st book in the 2nd trilogy. Confused? Put simply, the Bellator Saga is divided into 6 books. The 1st 3  books are Dissident, Conscience and Sojourn. They deal with Caroline’s time with the Fed and her rescue – plus a LOT of background info. The next 3 books, Phoenix, Rhapsody and Triumph make up the 2nd part of the trilogy. Phoenix takes up where Sojourn left off. Now would probably be a good time to reiterate that if you haven’t read the previous books in the Bellator Saga, don’t start here… and don’t read any further. The rest of this review will contain spoilers so consider yourselves warned.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Just a heads up, if you read Sojourn and assume that because Caroline and Jack are finally reunited… yeah, don’t even go there. Both of them are totally broken. They’ve lived months knowing that the other didn’t survive and, well, the Caroline that Jack knew before the Fed just isn’t there anymore. That doesn’t stop him from trying to find her though.

I can honestly say that this is the first book in the saga that I’ve been truly mad at Caroline. She was borderline cruel to Jack. At first I understood, but the longer she pushed him away the more frustrated with her I became. Being in Jack’s head for a good portion of Phoenix helped with that. His love never wavered and he needed her, but she continually pushed him away.

On the flip side, being in Caroline’s head was painful. She knew what she was doing, she knew she was hurting  him and others around her, but she found ways to justify it. The thing is that it was hard to stay mad at her. Mostly because she wavered and when she did there was a spark of hope and then… yeah… this was not an easy book to read from an emotional standpoint.

Phoenix also kept up with the back story that the rest of the books have had. I really like that aspect, even more than I thought I would. Seeing into Caroline and Jack’s past helped clue readers into what they were both fighting for – both personally and on a much larger scale. Speaking of which, as political dramas go, the Bellator Saga is pretty scary. That’s mainly because truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction and as crazy as things are in this series it wouldn’t take much for some of it to happen and even some of it is not anything that I want to experience… ever. *shivers*

And did I mention that Phoenix ended in a cliff hanger? “Trust the Process” the #evilauthor says “You’ll forgive me in the end” she assumes. I’d hazard a guess that Rhapsody won’t fix everything, but I’m really hoping that Jack and Caroline get just a little bit closer to resolving some serious issues before the saga is over.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Sojourn (Bellator Saga #3) by Cecilia London

A pearl necklace on a black silk macroHaunted by her experience at The Fed, Caroline tries to create a new identity. A new present, a new future. She can’t escape the memories that dog her when she least expects it, leaving her mired in a depression that she finds difficult to escape. Caroline needs to regain her physical and mental strength if she intends on surviving the journey to find the elusive rebellion. But that’s easier said than done with the ghosts of the past constantly whispering in her ear.
The road is long and dangerous, and there are no guarantees. She and her companions have no idea what they will find when they arrive at their destination. And what they finally discover may change everything.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1When I first started the Bellator Saga journey with Dissident, I had no idea what I was in for. I was warned that it was Dystopian in nature and that the time frame switched from past to present, but beyond that, I had no idea what to expect. To be fair, I’m not sure that any further explanation would have prepared me for what this saga involves. So far these books have been like no other Dystopian I’ve ever read. In some ways it’s scarier than most. It’s a twist on how the ‘right’ kind of power in the wrong hands can change everything… and not for the better. It’s a totally different world that we currently live in, but it’s close enough that it’s honestly terrifying.

Dissident was an introduction to this morally warped world created by Cecilia London and Conscience revealed the horrific consequences of Caroline trying to buck the system, do the right thing and attempt to reveal what was really going on… Sojourn was a turning point. At the end of Conscience, Caroline is rescued, but her fate is still in question (yes, the author is a cliff hanger master). Sojourn begins with her life still in the balance and the introduction of the men who risked everything to get her away from the Fed, which is thankfully, behind her, but the memories aren’t going anywhere.

As much as memories of the past hurt Caroline, she can’t keep them from sneaking up on her. The memories that plague her in Sojourn delve even deeper into her past. Readers learn about her first husband, the birth of her children and her first memories of her staff and her relationship with her closest friends. As painful as those memories are, they are important to her character. Even though she doesn’t share them with her rescuers, they’re revelations that provide additional depth to who she was.

I love the dynamic between the characters in Sojourn. Each one of her rescuers is important to her in a totally different way. Even though she’s the victim, she’s also the mediator and she connects with each of them uniquely. Her strength and determination, even though she feels like she has nothing left, is a powerful draw and gains her respect. In essence, Caroline is turning into one of my favorite heroines.

As I’ve said before, I had no idea what to expect, but nothing prepared me for the final chapters in Sojourn. It wasn’t so much the expected cliff hanger ending, but the moments that led up to it… and I can’t… say… a … word. *sigh* I’m guessing that Cecilia London is wearing her #EvilAuthor crown with pride. Normally, I have no problem trusting an author to take me on a character’s journey and go along with the ‘ride’ quietly… but sometimes… Phoenix is next, and let’s just say… it can’t come soon enough.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Menagerie (Menagerie #1) by Rachel Vincent

MenagerieWhen Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.
But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.
Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Menagerie was scary and not in the way you might think. It’s not that the pages weren’t filled with monsters, there were plenty of those to go around. The horror came from the fact that the real monsters weren’t the mythical creatures kept captive.

To be honest, Menagerie wasn’t an easy book to read. It was intense, at times gruesome and even though it was total fiction, it held just enough truth to show what can happen if the wrong people are in charge when dealing with the unknown or misunderstood. This book held a powerful message about humanity. Sometimes those are the scariest to read, but the most important.

Beyond the message delivered, the imagery was amazing. Rachel Vincent brought this mythical creatures to life in vivid and unique ways. She made even the scariest among them beautiful in ways I never would have imagined. The alternate POVs added to the understanding of these creatures and a more intense hatred of the people who enslaved them. The fear that was created by a small group of creatures was warranted. What was wrong was labeling everyone that wasn’t ‘human’ as a threat. Can you tell that this book pushed some buttons with me? *sigh*

As intense as this book was, the only complaint that I have is that the ending was a little rushed. I was kind of surprised by the actions of some of the characters near the end and things were wrapped up just a little too ‘neatly.’ Even so, I have no doubt that since Menagerie is part of a trilogy, there is much more danger to come.

On a side note, I’m pretty sure that most readers were introduced to Rachel Vincent’s writing through her Soul Screamers series. This series promises to be just as amazing as that one, but it is definitely NOT another young adult series. It’s a dark fantasy.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Conscience (Bellator Saga #2) by Cecilia London

ConscienceAn escape plan foiled….
A determined woman….
One last tiny sliver of hope….
Jack will find me.
The Fed wants answers. And Caroline is determined not to provide them. They pull out all the stops, testing her sanity, testing her strength, testing her humanity.
Jack will find me.
Subject to cruel and merciless treatment at the hands of a government she once trusted, Caroline clings to her sole lifeline, her only chance at maintaining her tenuous hold on reality: her memories of her husband, Jack, her children, Marguerite and Sophie, and the friends who mean the world to her.
Jack will find me.
But what happens when hope starts to fade? How long until her interrogators cross over into the unspeakable sadism she fears? How long before she finally breaks apart?
Part Two of a Six Part Saga. Conscience (approximately 120,000 words) is not a standalone and must be read after the first book in the Bellator Saga, Dissident. All books in the series end in a cliffhanger. For readers 18+. This book contains adult situations including graphic violence, explicit (consensual) sex and light BDSM, psychological and physical trauma, and an oftentimes raw, dark, and gritty plot.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1After I finished the first book in the Bellator Saga, Dissident, I mentioned that I walked away with more questions than answers. In case your curious, Conscience answered a lot of them, but not totally. The second book in this saga gave readers a little bit more insight into what lead to the horrific future that is depicted, but not a full explanation. Since that’s pretty much the definition of ‘suspense’ I can’t get too upset. After all, there are 4 more books left for Cecilia London to play with our emotions. I’m pretty sure she’s up to the task.

Conscience picked up pretty much where Dissident left off. If readers didn’t figure out how ruthless the new government was before, it was pretty evident within the first couple of chapters. This book pretty much brought out every emotion imaginable, but the strongest were polar opposites… Love and Hate. Love – this was probably the strongest of all the emotions and it was felt between Caroline and her children, friends and especially Jack. Hate – there were so many people that brought out this emotion, I don’t even know where to start. Intermingled with both of these were terror, humor, fear, remorse and so much more. I’d be remiss though if I didn’t include lust in that list. As promised, the heat between Caroline and Jack was definitely turned up a notch or two. 😉

The unique formatting of Conscience is pretty much the same as Dissident. The chapters alternate between The Past and The Fed. I not only expected it in the second book, but it was a welcome diversion. The Fed chapters were so intense, violent and emotional that a break into Caroline’s memories into The Past was not only an escape for Caroline, but for the reader as well. As the end of the book grew closer, those glimpses were less of an escape. That’s okay though because by the time I got that far, I couldn’t put the book down.

As the author also promised, Conscience ends in a cliff hanger and more hangs in the balance this time than at the end of Dissident. Even more questions are raised and that makes me want the next book sooner rather than later. As I said before, for being a new author, Cecilia London definitely has this ‘evil author’ thing down pretty good.

DragonFlyRating5

 

Where There’s Smoke (Panopolis #1) by Cari Z

WhereTheresSmokePanopolis is a rough place to be an average Joe. I came here looking for adventure and excitement, but nobody cares about one more normal guy in a city filled with super-powered heroes. The closest I’ve come to glory is working in a bank that villains often rob.
But then I maybe accidentally-on-purpose helped a villain escape the hero who was trying to save the day. Imagine my shock when, a week later, that villain asked me out for coffee. One date turned into more, and now I’m head over heels in love with Raul.
Falling in love with the guy dubbed the Mad Bombardier isn’t without its downsides, though. I’ve had to deal with near-death encounters with other villains, awkwardly flirtatious heroes who won’t take no for an answer, and a lover I’m not sure I can trust. It’s getting to the point where I know I’ll have to make a choice: side with the heroes, or stand fast by my villain.
Either way, I think my days as a normal guy are over.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Oh… I really liked the world that Cari Z has created for her Panopolis series. It’s unique, just a little dark and it makes you think. I mean REALLY think… I love that in a book. 😉

As the description says, Edward was average. In contrast, Raul was anything but. He literally blew into Edward’s boring life and changed it forever.

There was a lot to love about this short book. Readers were given Edward’s POV and it was honest and kind of sweet. Panopolis was a world that ran on Heroes and Villains, but just like good and evil, there’s a fine line drawn. By the end of Where There’s Smoke, it’s pretty clear that people shouldn’t be judged by a label and not everything is exactly as it seems.

By the end of Where There’s Smoke things have changed drastically and it’s clear that not only are Edward’s days of being a ‘normal guy’ are over, nothing will ever be the same. Where There’s Fire is scheduled to release in July of this year, which is a good thing because I can’t wait to see what happens next.

DragonFlyRating4