Year archives: 2017

Year’s Reads in Review – Top Picks for 2017

For me, 2017 was all about reading what I wanted when I wanted to.

Two years of attempting to curb my TBR had allowed me to go into 2017 with a more carefree attitude than I was used to. I got more comfortable DNFing books and learning to say no to every book I meet. Audiobooks became an everyday avenue for reading, cutting down my TBR one listen at a time. I even got to a few Jane Austen novels! My challenges might not have gone entirely to plan but I read more books than I anticipated so I can’t really complain.

> > Check out which books I read this past year HERE!

As always, I’ve decided to compile a list of my top picks (and not so great) from the various categories that I read this past year. Most categories deal with books published only this past calendar year (2017) but there are some noted exceptions. Click on the cover to read my review of the book/series–if available! Lots of these won’t have reviews until early next year.

Without further ado:

(Books are in no particular order; click on cover for review if available)

– Novels that were first published in 2017 –

– Series that were first published in 2017 –

– Series that were first published in 2017 –

– Novels that were first published in 2017 –

– Series that ended in 2017 –

– A series sequel book published in 2017 –

– Movie Adaptions Released in 2017 –

– Novels I read in 2017 that were hyped by the community & met expectations –

– Best audiobooks I listened to in 2017 (not necessarily their publication year) –

– Favourite New Adult Series Read in 2017 –

– Best standalones I read in 2016 –

– Favourite YA Series I read in 2017 –

– Favourite Adult Standalones read in 2017 –

– Books published in 2017 that I DNF’d –

– Books I gave 2 Stars or Less to in 2017 –

– Books that I enjoyed more than I expected! –

Have a fabulous 2018!

Do we share any titles? Agree or Disagree?

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Monthly Inventory: December 2017

December 2017

Can you believe it’s the end of 2017 already?

I know I can’t! This was a year of big changes for me. I (finally) said goodbye to the student life and hello to my career in healthcare. Starting shift work has brought a lot of challenges my way but it has also been super rewarding.

One way it has been rewarding is in terms of my reading and blogging! I really didn’t think I’d get to read that much this year now that I wasn’t a student but I definitely proved myself wrong. While I might not always get the chance to read first thing in the morning (my favourite time to read), I still find plenty of time to sit down with a book or two and get some pages in. I even got into audiobooks which has helped immensely in terms of reading stats and keeping me entertained during my commute.

As for blogging, I was able to schedule posts well into April 2018 so that’s been a huge burden off my shoulders. There are some days I don’t get a chance to check in at my blog so it’s nice to not have that worry on a regular basis when work and life get in the way.

I don’t know what to expect for 2018. I have a few plans when it comes to reading (expect that post the first week of January) and I’m introducing at least one new monthly feature to my blog so I’m very excited.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for my annual recap of my favourite books from 2017!

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Total for December 2017 (as of Dec 31st): 21 Books Read + 3 Novellas Read

Last December: 22 Books Read + 0 Novellas Read

DNF’d: 1 Book

Standout Read (★★★★★)

Rebel Belle #1

I didn’t think I’d like this book as much as I did but I loved every minute of this! The premise was so much fun, I laughed a lot and I was just plain entertained! I highly recommend this as an audiobook!

Biggest Let Down (DNF’d)

The Unnaturalists #1

I’ve had my eye on reading this for nearly 5 years and it was a huge let down. I felt extremely lost in what was happening and the world and because of that, I just couldn’t get into it.

kobostats

I thought it would be fun to keep track of my reading progress on my Kobo every month (and compare it to last year’s numbers). While I do own a Kindle now, I mostly use my Kobo for everyday reading. As per my #ShelfLove Challenge, I really want to increase the Total % of Library Complete by the end of the year.

**NOTE: Due to a new update on my Kobo, it looks like my past library reads don’t count (hence the drop in nearly 300 books) as they don’t remain on my Kobo. Now only Kobo books I own are counted towards my Total % of Library Complete stats.**

As of:

December 29, 2017

December 31, 2016

Total % of Library Complete

22%

20%

Total # of Books Finished

264

523

Total # of Reading Hours

2511

2107

 

posted reviews

Most Viewed Post

Service Review: Kobo Super Points

 

Most Viewed Review

Blog Tour: Fragile Chaos

View this year’s archives for more posts and reviews!

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Previously posted series reviews that got updates:

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You can always get the full details on all my challenges on my dedicated page but here is a quick finalized summary (as of December 29th):

5 Year 5 Book Challenge: 2 titles this month |  10 of 25 Titles Read // 1 Year Complete!
Goodreads Challenge: Completed as of September 6  | 237/175 Books
#ShelfLove Challenge: 5 TBR Items added this month  | 51/50 Books
Judge By the Cover Challenge: None — what a fail of a challenge!
Classics Challenge: None |  3 books this year

View my Challenge Progress Here in detail!

Overall: This was perhaps the my worst year in terms of reading challenges. I usually blow them right out of the water and I didn’t really do that this year (with the exception of my Goodreads challenge). I really think the mood reader in me took over so I kinda just read what I wanted when I wanted–which truly was my goal for 2017. After years of reading according to deadlines it was nice to just pick up a book on a whim because the synopsis intrigued me (as opposed to adding it to my neverending TBR and getting to it years later). I’ve taken my experience this year to heart and have used it to craft my 2018 Reading Challenges which you can read more about below:

2018 Reading Challenges:

I’m keeping it simple this year and sticking with 3 (plus Goodreads of course) challenges for 2018. I like to do different reading challenges each year but this year, I couldn’t find any that met my specific goals for 2018. So I opted to create my own challenges based on my 2018 Reading Plan (look for that post in January!).

My Goodreads Goal this year is 190 Books.

5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 Edition!

I decided to bring this personal challenge back because it focuses on specific titles. I also like that it helps me get some of those backlisted titles off my TBR. This makes it easier to do a purge when I’ve read all the titles from that year that are still of interest to me. The goal is the same: read 25 selected books I’ve been “highly anticipating” from the last 5 years (5 for each year).

>> View the titles I’ve selected here!

52 Sequel Challenge 2018

After I couldn’t find a reading challenge to meet my sequel needs, I just created my own to hold me accountable. The idea of this one is to read at least one sequel novel from a previously started series a week for 2018. That means I hope to read a grand total of 52 sequels (minimum!) in 2018.

Tackling the TBR – The 2018 Challenge

I’d like to get a few titles I’ve had on my eReaders off my TBR list this year–as I do every year. For this challenge, any title I own prior to 2018 will count once I read it. The minimum goal is 24 titles in 2018. However, I’ve also combined this with my sequel challenge where 1 book each month is a sequel from my personal collection so in theory I should reach 36 books by the end of 2018.

 

In February, I brought back my Tackling the TBR feature and announced my plan to get my Goodreads TBR down to 500 books. And I’m happy to say that I got my results down to 511! It’s a little more than 500 but considering some of those are ARCs that will be finished in January, I call it a success!

So how’d I do it? If you followed my monthly inventories, you would have noticed my numbers had really fluctuated since February. Some months I was up; others had me down. In November I said I was going to do a purge and that was exactly what I did this month.

One day, I went through all my titles on Goodreads and brought my “Want to Read” (the shelf I use for inaugural books and standalones I would like to read) from 619 to 513. Here were some rules I used to remove books:

  • Date added — if it was in 2012 (and not a classic novel), I removed it
  • I marked it as “unsure expectations” and it had been there for 3+ years
  • I didn’t mark it with any anticipation tags — especially if it was a “freebie”
  • I didn’t have a source to read it and it had been there for 3+ years
  • I read the synopsis and wasn’t excited to read it

Without further ado, here are my current standings:

  • Current TBR Shelf: 511 books (YAY!)
  • TBR Shelf at end of November: 619 books
  • Initial Number in February: 1205 books
  • Total # of Books Removed: 694 (WOWZA!)

Note: When I say “remove”, I moved these books to my “Pass” shelf so I know if I had considered reading them at some point in case I ever revisit them.

For 2018, I’d love to get that number below 500 but who knows! My main goal for 2018 is reading sequels so my focus will be moved to my other “to read” shelf and bringing it closer to 200 titles (it currently sits at 300).

Here are some great posts that caught my eye around the blogosphere this month:

So what type of posts can you expect in 2018? Here’s a preview of what I have in store for the first quarter:

  • A new monthly feature looking at book tropes
  • New Tips posts for enjoying audiobooks and keeping track of sequels
  • New Discussion posts about reading slumps and hosting blog tours
  • The return of The Perfect Match!
  • A Trilogy Review Blitz!
  • Lots of great series reviews!

How would you sum up your 2017 reading/blogging year? Did you accomplish everything you wanted to?

What were your biggest reading or personal accomplishments of the past month?
Leave a comment below!

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SERIESous Discussion: Where Do my Books Come From?


SERIESous Discussions: Every once and awhile I will post my random ramblings about a bookish or blogging topic. Feel free to join in by making a comment below or linking back!


Do 80% of my books come from the library like I think? I investigate for the truth!

I was inspired to do this investigation after I read Lauren @ Bookmark Lit‘s post “Whose Books Am I Reading?”In it, she looks at where she gets her books that she reads on a daily basis. Are they purchased? Are they from the library? Review copies? Friends? And it got me curious about my own book acquiring habits.

See, I always say that 80-90% of my books come from the library. But I’m not sure that is entirely true; especially now that I read ARCs on a more regular basis and have a greater focus on reading books I already own.

So let’s break it down!

Book Sources for 2017

(Between January 1 to November 29, 2017)

Source:#%2016
Grand Total:221100233 (100%)
Purchased4520.379 (34%)
Library10647.985 (36%)
ARCs7031.669 (30%)

When I broke this all down, I was a little shocked. I really thought I got more of my books from the library. I was curious and looked at my breakdown for 2016. And again, I couldn’t believe it!

Lauren @ Bookmark Lit goes into further detail about release dates, borrowing sources, cost and more in her post but I’m going to leave it at this for me. However, I’m going to look at whether I’m reading sequels, standalone or inaugural series novels as it pertains more to my blog and its posts.

Types of Novels

(Between January 1 to November 29, 2017)

Type: #%
Grand Total221100
Standalone7433
Series14766.5
Book 1(53)(36)
Book 2(44)(30)
Book 3+(37)(25)
Novellas:(11)(7)

I was surprised when I got the totals back in two ways. One is that I really didn’t think I read that many standalone novels this year but in hindsight, when I first started listening to audiobooks I was mostly picking standalones so it makes sense.  (I mean, I did know that I had read more than I had post slots for and that’s why I stopped reading them after August but the number actually shocked me!)

The other surprise was the number of sequels I read. I really felt like I was lacking when it came to getting to the sequels this year. There were so many sequels releasing this year but I never got to them. In fact, when I was creating my 2018 reading plan, I focused almost entirely on sequels because I felt like I was failing at this…and I’m a blog that focuses on book series so it’s important!

Conclusion?

I think I sometimes fail to see the bigger picture. Doing my Monthly Inventory Recaps gives me an overview of the month but not necessarily the grand scheme. Perhaps in 2018 I’ll look more at the previous month as opposed to the previous year like I currently do. Because I’m really not doing as bad as I think I am when it comes to reading and I think it is a nice thing to remind myself of from time to time.

Ultimately, reading is a hobby that feeds my other hobby of blogging and I never want this to feel like a chore or like I have to meet a certain quota to be “successful” because “success” is very relative and personal when it comes to being a book blogger when it is all said and done.

Where do most of your books come from?

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Blog Tour: You’ve Got Fail by Celia Aaron

Synopsis for You’ve Got Fail (from Goodreads):

 A romantic comedy from Celia Aaron.

I single-handedly built the hottest website for dating and relationship advice. Got a question? Scarlet Rocket can answer it for you. I was your modern day agony aunt with the solutions to all your pesky personal problems. The only issue? I was actually a man named Willis Halloran, not the female Scarlet Rocket. I thought my secret was safe. But then a sexy con artist calling herself Scarlet Rocket began showing up at society events, pretending to be me. I couldn’t let it go, so I tracked her down and confronted her. It went well … except for the part where she stole my wallet. Oh, and the part where she conned my agent into having us work together. And after that? Let’s just say she wound up stealing something much more valuable than my wallet or my [fake] name.

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Author: Celia Aaron
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild — more discussion of than actual practice)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Source & Format: Enticing Journey Book Promotions–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

The title for this book is what first drew me in and then I read the synopsis and just had to investigate further. Finding entertaining and humourous romantic comedies has been hard for me in the past so I’m always willing to try one out. The whole premise of this one reminded me a lot of a rom-com movie so I was excited to meet some fun characters and enjoy all the silly hi-jinx that ensued when they finally meet.

The Plot:

I’ll admit that it took me a few chapters to get past the logic of the story. I mean, the whole premise is that Scarlet Rocket weasels her way into a gig with Willis’ agent much to his dismay. In the real world, Willis could get her to stop simply by suing her for essentially stealing his intellectual property and the book would be of a different story entirely. So once I let that legal logic go away, I had a blast reading this story.

This book is always moving. You’ve got Willis’ story about building up his business with his new book release and fighting his feelings for the redhead. You’ve said got said Redhead with her own secrets and feelings that slowly get revealed the more you read. Then you have the scenes together that are as equally sweet as they are heated and the drama of their publicized partnership. I never had a dull moment reading this.

The Characters:

All the characters we meet in this book have such infectious personalities. From our leads to their friends and family, I was immediately drawn in by their charm.

It’s their wit and humour that impressed me the most. I laughed a lot during this book thanks to the antics that ensue and the various character personalities. Some of the stuff is a little quirky but it’s not that “weird quirky” you know what I mean? It’s quirky in an entertaining way not in an eccentric way that is off-putting or has you confused.

The Romance:

While I loved Willis and Scarlet together, I wish their romance had a little more substance to it. They have this great attraction to each other right from the start that brings this delicious tension to all their scenes together. However, I feel like the emotional connection doesn’t get as deep as I wanted it to. Their relationship is definitely more than a physical attraction–it was always obvious to me why they would be a great pair since I knew who they were individually–but I just wanted a few more scenes of them talking and establishing that stronger connection rather than them just sleeping together and getting this unspoken bond.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
If you’re looking for a fun and steamy romantic comedy, I can’t recommend this book enough!

Read if You Like: rom-coms, quirky characters, humour
Avoid if You: want straight erotica

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Celia Aaron
Celia Aaron is a recovering attorney who loves romance and erotic fiction. Dark to light, angsty to funny, real to fantasy—if it’s hot and strikes her fancy, she writes it. Thanks for reading.

Author Links: TwitterFacebook  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon

Please visit Celia Aaron’s Facebook Page for the givewaway for a $100 Amazon Gift Card!

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

Book Tour Organised by:

Enticing Journey Book Promotions

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Fresh Fridays: The Client (Playing Dirty #1) by Pamela DuMond

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Playing Dirty Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Client (from Goodreads):

I was an underpaid assistant working at a matchmaking agency, surviving on Insta-Ramen and dreams. How was it possible that I made a love match that resulted in the society marriage of the year?

Christmas season was upon us and I planned on enjoying this gorgeous wedding by drinking too much Champagne, eating 5 star food, and relaxing for a change.

I didn’t plan on running into the smoking hot, tuxedo-clad brick wall of a man.

I didn’t plan on him stopping my fall by grabbing onto my boob and Not. Letting. Go.

I most definitely didn’t plan on this gorgeous man being my new CLIENT.

Joe was heir to the Delacroix Hotel fortune, whip smart, hilariously funny, and so yummy. I was tempted to… good God I wanted to… but sleeping with clients was a big, fat ‘No-No.’

It wasn’t fair that our chemistry was through the roof. Not possible that a guy from his side of the tracks wanted someone as broken as me. Practically a sin that we couldn’t be together.

Weren’t some rules meant to be broken?

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Series: Playing Dirty
Author: Pamela DuMond
# of Books: 2 (The Client, The Matchmaker)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, The Matchmaker is to be published in Februrary 2018
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Comedy
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Read It & Review It–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to the premise of The Client for two reasons. 1) I love when couples meet in bizarre ways and 2) forbidden romance. The tension is always thick, the banter is always on point and I just find myself thoroughly entertained by the whole thing!

What I Liked:

–The Banter–

I loved the banter between Charlotte and Joe. I’m always wary when a book says it’s a comedy because I usually find myself not laughing at the jokes. But I definitely had a few chuckles as I read this. If I wasn’t laughing at the witty back-and-forths between them as I was chuckling at the various situations they found themselves in. They had such explosive chemistry the instant they met and I loved every time they were together.

–Charlotte’s Job–

It wasn’t that Charlotte was necessarily a matchmaker that I loved; it was how she interacted with her clients by doing things that were out of her element or being an unexpected badass at whatever activity they were doing. I just found the whole thing to be entertaining.

–Background Stories–

I thought the character development was pretty solid. I’m glad we got to delve into their respective pasts a bit; it just rounds out their characters a little more.

What I Didn’t Like:

Slightly Misleading Synopsis–

I will say that I thought the synopsis was slightly misleading. When I read it, I thought that these two had one meeting and then the next day, she learns he is her newest client. And that’s not the case at all. There’s a little more build up to that “Oh No!” moment and I actually liked that a whole lot more because you get a little more familiar with the characters before the real magic happens.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m so excited to see what happens in The Matchmaker. I was immediately drawn to Violet’s character in this story and I can’t wait to see the hi-jinks that will ensue during this match!

My Rating: 4/5

The Client 4/5 | The Matchmaker TBP

overall

This is the perfect pick-me-up for contemporary romance fans who like a little fun to their romance reads!

Read if You Like: in love with client stories, comedic romances
Avoid if You: dislike lighter contemporaries

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Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book4 book5 book6

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shatter Me (from Goodreads):

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

breakdown

Series: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order)

There are 2 novellas: #1.5 Destroy Me and #2.5 Fracture Me

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Restore Me will be published in March 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content later in series**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: November 2011 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve had Shatter Me for a ridiculous long time on my TBR. Every once in a while I would think to read it, but all the novels were checked out in the library. And it wasn’t until the next 3 novels were announce that I decided to make it a priority for 2017. Specifically, I used it as my “binge” series for my Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge.

The Concept / The World:

If you’ve read any dystopian fiction before, you know how it goes. You have a minority in power and the majority struggling/accepting that things are the way they are. Queue the secret rebel society and there starts your series. This one isn’t that different when it comes down to it.

What I will say about this series is that (so far) we don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on why things are why they are. What I mean is that you focus more on Juliette finding her way in the world instead of focusing on why she has this power or why the world collapsed into what it is now. So I guess the world building leaves a little to be desired but I also wasn’t reading it for that purpose either.

The Plot:

As I said above, this series is all about Juliette’s character growth and how she adapts to the situations she finds herself in. Perhaps that sounds a little dull, but I found myself captivated by her story. There are some great twists and events along the way so I never felt bored by the plot.

The Characters:

I LOVED Juliette! Her growth from Shatter Me to Ignite Me was exactly what I want to see in my heroines. And what’s really cool is that it shows in the narration style throughout the series. In Shatter Me, it’s a touch disjointed and uncertain; in Unravel Me, she gets a little surer of herself; and in Ignite Me, she’s confident and just goes for it. It was a awesome evolution.

The rest of the cast is fabulous. I loved how they added to the story when they needed to but never overshadowed Juliette.

And can I just say, I LOVE Warner! I love a bad boy and his character added so much to this story! He’s a great villain!

The Romance:

Oh, this is one of my favourite aspects because it does a fabulous job of enhancing the story. I don’t want to get into much since I don’t do spoilers but I really liked the romance…yes, even the love triangle we get. This is one of the few times I think a love triangle was used effectively and actually contributed to the overall plot.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I liked the ending in Ignite Me, I think it would have been a different story if I didn’t know about the next 3 books. I think I would have wanted more…so glad I’ll be getting it!

Series Rating: 4/5

Shatter Me 4/5 | Unravel Me 4/5 | Ignite Me 4/5

overall

If you want a dystopian read that focuses on the heroine’s personal journey and doesn’t get too caught up in the world or why it is the way it is, this is the one for you!

Read if You Like: dystopian, love triangles, heroine development
Avoid if You: want more world building
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SERIESous Tips: Picking the Perfect Travel Reads

For me, deciding what books to bring on a trip is just as important as figuring out what clothes I’m going to pack.

While packing for my big international trip back in September (and with the holidays right around the corner), I thought it would be a great idea to share some of my strategies for selecting the titles I take with me on vacation.

Use an eReader!

Before I got my eReader, finding space for books in my suitcase was a massive undertaking. For an overpacker like myself, it was a delicate situation that required a lot of foresight and sacrifice.

I remember on one trip, I brought 3 books thinking that would be more than enough to keep me entertained. It wasn’t. We had more travel downtime than I anticipated and I found myself bored that I couldn’t read.

eReading has solved that problem for me in a big way. Not only is my eReader super easy to pack, but it lets me have 100s of books at my disposal. I never run out of books to read when I bring my eReader and that’s just fabulous!

>> Learn more about eReading!

Now my biggest dilemma is deciding whether to bring my Kobo or Kindle.

Ask Yourself: What Will Your Reading Time Look Like?

It’s a good idea to get a feel for when you might find yourself reading on your trip. Do you have a long flight or lengthy travel time? Are you doing more of a relaxing trip where you will be reading most of the day? Or do you have an action packed itinerary where reading time will be minimal? I always look at what my reading time will be in order to determine what type of books I want to read.

When I go on my more “relaxing” vacations, I tend to pick novels that I can get lost in for hours at a time. I’m talking about the books you want to read in one sitting or books that are better if you read in a shorter time frame thanks to their somewhat complicated plots. For me, these are my YA fantasies or science fiction reads. 

On the other hand, when I know that my reading time will be limited, I pick novels that I can easily pick up and carry on with when I get the chance. These are my Romance and Contemporary reads. I pick these stories because they usually have (in general) fewer characters to remember and a simpler plot line to follow. They’re easier to pick up and immerse myself into even if it has been a couple of days since I last picked it up.

Start a Book Before You Go

I actually learned this tip from my local library and it’s something I keep in mind every time I travel. While I usually have no problem starting a new book, I find sometimes on vacation that it can be hard to get myself to start that new novel. By getting myself invested in the story before I leave, I find myself compelled to finish the book while on my trip because I need to see what will happen next. Being familiar with something–especially when you might be in an unfamiliar place–can really help motivate you to pick up that novel.

Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself (If You Can)

When I go on vacation, I try not to read any request or review copies because I can never be sure what my reading time will be like. As I said above, if I know that I will have lots of reading time because of flights or days at the beach, I might pick up a review copy or two on my trip. But in most cases, I avoid anything that will cause me stress since my vacation is supposed to be relaxing and I don’t want that negatively impacting my reviews.

>> Tips: Ideas for organizing review copies and requests

>> Tips: How to Avoid the “Chore” of Reading


A Note on Keeping Up With My Blogging

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and so I try to limit all distractions, including my blog. That’s why I schedule everything on my blog so that I don’t have to worry about posting things while away. And it’s like I never left (well, besides the fact that I don’t respond to comments right away).

>> Check out my tips to help start you scheduling your blog posts!

But since I review 98% of the books I read, I do keep notes on the books I read while on vacation. Sometimes I do have my laptop and a WiFi connection so I write up a quick draft of a review and format it once I get home. Other times, I simply type out my review in an email or as a digital note on my phone and send it to myself later once I have an internet connection. That way, I don’t have to stress myself over what my initial thoughts were once I finished the book and it’s fresh in my mind.

How do you pick the books you read for vacations? Any tips?

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Series Review: Juniper Falls by Julie Cross

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Juniper Falls Series

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Off the Ice (from Goodreads):

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

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Series: Juniper Falls
Author: Julie Cross
# of Books: 3 (Off the Ice, Breaking the Ice, Book 3)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No,Book 3, to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Small Town
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Julie Cross is an author I’ve enjoyed in the past and really need to read more by. She just writes consistently great stories.

Having read her other YA sports romance, Whatever Life Throws at You, I knew what to expect with this series. I knew I would be getting a slow burn romance that would take a bit of a backseat to the character development…and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

What I Liked:

–It Focuses on Hockey–

It’s the Canadian in me who adores anything hockey. I’ve read a lot of adult and new adult series dealing with hockey players but not so many dealing with high schoolers. Which brings a different sort of pressure to the character’s lives as they are trying to reach that next plateau for the prospective careers.

We have a slightly different draft system here in Canada (not so much pressure on playing for a college team but more so in certain divisions) so I found that aspect to be interesting as well as this takes place in Minnesota, USA.

–Small Town Romance Vibes–

I’ve really gotten into adult small town romances in the last year or so and this one definitely gave me those vibes. I like the nature of small towns settings in stories. Everyone knows everyone and their business, but there are always these underlying secrets and feelings that always come to the surface. There are also certain expectations and almost stereotypes that people feel like they have to be boxed into. It provides a great stage for character growth to blossom on.

I also find that you get really invested in all the side characters as well. There are a few characters I would love to see full novels from going forward just from the little inklings we got here.

–The Character Growth–

Both Tate and Claire have very interesting character stories. They both have very complex situations to deal with and I liked that they each had their own things to work on. They are also such genuine characters that you really start to get behind them.

This story is more so a coming of age story than straight romance. It’s about these two finding that confidence in themselves, figuring out what they want in life and how they can break out of the molds the small town has put them in for all their lives.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Felt a Little Long in the Middle–

I knew going in that this book would take its time to reach the plot climax and that’s what happened.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy all the moments leading up. I did. The scenes between Tate and Claire were great and I like that you get all the background info about the town and all the characters.

I guess I just wanted them to work on the issues a little earlier than they did. I felt like we reiterated the same things again and again–which is fine as it did contribute positively to the romance and character growth. It just made this book seem longer than it was. The ending isn’t rushed by any means but I think I would have taken away some of that exposition to have them tease out the various issues a little more.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

As I said above, I have a few characters I would love to see more from. I’m very excited for the next book though!

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–December 31, 2017– Book #2: Breaking the Ice

Again, this book just has the right balance to it. I loved the slow burn romance between these two. They have this fantastic chemistry together that makes their scenes together amazing. I also loved Fletcher–new book boyfriend alert! The character development here is perfect. My only complaint is that it took a little while for the plot line to establish itself. Once it does, it makes for a great read but the first half is a little slower.

>> Read my full review of Breaking the Ice as a part of my Blog Tour for its release here.

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My Rating: 4/5

Off the Ice 4/5 | Breaking the Ice 4.5/5

overall

This is perfect for fans of small town romance and sport romance fans. It has fantastic characters with great character growth and a sweet romance to balance it all off. Just a well-rounded series.

Read if You Like: sports romances, slow burn romance, more character focused
Avoid if You: want more romance focused stories
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Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Prisoner of Night and Fog (from Goodreads):

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

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Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
# of Books: 2 (Prisoner of Night and Fog, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This series crossed my radar one day when I was blog-hopping. I’m not sure what blog specifically (this was before I started keeping notes) but I do think this series has been on quite a few over the years.

Anyways, the concept was really what drew me in and that’s why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge this year.

The Concept:

I’ve only read a few books set in WWII but what I really liked about this book was that it was set before the war started. When it comes to Hitler, I feel like we often focus on what he did during the war (and rightfully so) but not too much on how we got to that point. It’s a fascinating view point and provides quite a bit of insight on why WWII began. I will admit, I looked up a lot of things on Wikipedia to learn more and see how it this story was woven with history.

But that doesn’t mean this series is an easy read. Prisoner of Night and Fog opens with Gretchen’s brother beating a Jewish man simply for being a Jew and the narrator explains the ideology for his actions. And it’s hard to stomach as a reader–not only because it seems so “normal” but also because you know it is only going to get worse.

The Plot:

A Prisoner of Night and Fog started a little slowly as it established the setting and the circumstances Gretchen finds herself in. But once Gretchen starts her investigation, it really picks up. I love a good conspiracy theory and this one delivered. It gave this story a dangerous edge that kept the tensions high and me eager to see what would happen next.

And those tensions continue to be high in the aftermath of a Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. This one had a tone of suspense throughout that had me desparately wanting to know what would happen next. Trying to piece together how the current events of this novel lead to the start of WWII was such a refreshingly unique experience for me as a reader.

The Characters:

I thought Gretchen had tremendous growth as a character throughout this series. She transforms from a naive and gullible girl into a crafty and caring woman who can see the bigger picture of what is happening around her. I was definitely rooting for her and grew attached to her as a character.

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

I wasn’t going into this book expecting some epic romance and that definitely isn’t what we get. It does its job by keeping things simple and not distracting from the main plot of the story; rather, it enhances the various tensions in the book. It provides some context for the world Gretchen finds herself in but I never felt like this series was a romance set in dangerous times–it’s a story about dangerous times that features a romance.

My Audiobook Experience:

I loved the audiobook! Heather Wilds is the narrator and she is just fabulous. The accents were perfect, she didn’t sound ridiculous when she did the male voices (one of my biggest peeves) and she conveyed the right tone at all times. And while it was really hard to listen to some of the violence and ideology, I think that just made the book have a bigger impact on me as a reader.

I will say though that a certain character’s name was pronounced one way in the first book and then another in the second. It threw me for a bit but it doesn’t really matter. I just thought it was a little weird.

Series Rating: 4/5

Prisoner of Night and Fog 4/5 | Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke 4/5

overall

If you love historical novels that are lighter on the romance and seamlessly weaves history into its narrative, pick this one up!

Read if You Like: historical novels, WWII settings
Avoid if You: are uncomfortable with violence or discrimination

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Blog Tour: Fragile Chaos by Amber R Duell

Synopsis for Fragile Chaos (from Goodreads):

A god of war seeking restoration. An unwilling sacrificial bride. Betrayal that could destroy them both.

Every fiber of my being is woven from the rage of mortals.

Theodric, the young God of War, has a talent for inciting conflict and bloodshed. After being stripped of his powers by his older brother, King of Gods, he sets out to instigate a mortal war to prove himself worthy of being restored to power.

I loved Kisk once; it was my home… But that was before. This is now.

Sixteen-year-old Cassia, like many in the modern era, believes gods and goddesses to be just a myth. Enemy to her country and an orphan of the war, she has no time for fairy tales. That’s until religious zealots from Theo’s sect offer her up as a sacrifice.

Can Cassia and Theo end the mortal war and return balance to the earth and heavens? Or, will their game of fate lead down a path of destruction, betrayal, and romance neither of them saw coming?

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Author: Amber R Duell
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Mythology, Fantasy
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternate
Publication Date: July 10 2017
Source & Format: Audiobookworm Productions–Audiobook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Audible // Kobo

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love stories that involve mythology. Greek, Roman, Norse, or completely original, I love the whole idea of it! So when I read the synopsis for this (after seeing that gorgeous cover of course), I just had to listen to this audiobook!

The Concept / The World:

This is a completely new world in terms of mythology. That can be a little daunting since there’s a lot to keep straight (like who Theo’s siblings are and what they are the gods/goddesses of as well as the countries at war) however, I found it all pretty straight-forward, even as an audiobook where you have to listen (I’m a visual learner so I usually do better by seeing the words).

It’s an intricate world filled with everything you enjoy about mythology stories. You’ve got sacrifices; god/goddess siblings fighting and backstabbing; and battles. But what’s really cool is how it’s set in a modern world. It’s an interesting weaving of old and new and I was captivated by it.

>>Fun Fact: Amber R Duell has blog posts dedicated to the history of the world and more if you love immersing yourself in the world beyond the book.

The Plot:

I find it really hard to pinpoint the plot of this story–and I say that in a good way. I like when a lot of things are happening in a story and that is definitely the case here.

While I felt like the romance was a big focus, you still have the politics of the world and the gods/goddess at play. Everyone is playing a different game simultaneously and I found that to be super exciting as a reader. I just had to know what was going to happen next and what the reactions would be.

The Characters:

I really liked Cassia and Theo as leads. What I liked about Cassia is that she seems very genuine and real. Her reactions to things were exactly what I would feel if I was in her situation. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and she tries her best to see the bigger picture before making a decision. Her personality pairs nicely with Theo’s.

Theo by far has the best character growth in this novel…as he should. He has to come to grips with a lot of things and I liked watching him work everything out. As you would expect, being the God of War means he can have some hot-headed moments but he is still charming and sincere.

The rest of the cast is great too. I would love to explore the realm further and meet some of the other gods and goddesses and get there stories. (And it sounds like one character might be getting a novella so yay!)

The Romance:

This was definitely a highlight for me in the sense that these two had fantastic chemistry from the start. They had these great moments together where everything was building up and just waiting to explode. I loved their scenes together.

However, I wish they talked a little more to each other. I get that everything is amplified given the circumstances but I just wanted that emotional connection highlighted a little more for the romantic in me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I didn’t realize that I was listening to this book at 1.25x–oops! That explains why everyone seemed to be talking so fast…

Regardless, the audiobook production is great! Probably one of the best I’ve listened to lately. I think Bradley Pittman and Jamie Lee-Lewis captured the characters brilliantly. Although, I did find it slightly off-putting that some of the characters had different accents depending on the narrator. Jamie gave Goran an almost Australian accent while Bradley gave him a monotone voice and I found that a little bit confusing when we were switching POVs.

What I really enjoyed about the audiobook though was the sound effects they used in the background. I found they immersed me into the story and brought it to life in way that a straight reading wouldn’t be able to do.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This story reminded my why I love books with mythology! From the passionate romances to the always plotting characters, there’s a lot to like about Fragile Chaos and the world it presents.

Read if You Like: mythology, romance
Avoid if You: dislike mythology, dislike books with complex worlds

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Amber R Duell (Author)

Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s spent the last six years living in Germany and Maine as a military wife where the next step is always an adventure.

When Amber isn’t writing, she’s wrangling her two young sons. She is a lover of history, a fan of snowboarding, and a travel enthusiast. In her downtime, she can be found curling up with a good book and a cat or two.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Bradley Pittman (Narrator)

Bradley Pittman is a producer and freelance musician living and working in Atlanta. He received a bachelor’s degree in audio production from Georgia State University in 2016. Though he most commonly works on musical projects, he began self-producing audiobook chapters in 2015 as a way to unite his love of studio production with his love of literature.

 

Jamie-Lee Lewis (Narrator)

Jamie-Lee Lewis, aka Jaylew, hails from the island of Jamaica. Since a small child, she’s always had a hyper imagination. She enjoys writing and telling stories, singing and composing songs, entertaining and edifying, playing different characters as well as creating them through drawings, and finding the beauty and fun in everything she does. She is currently a professional and passionate Youtuber.

Fragile Chaos Giveaway: $5 Amazon Gift Card/eBook OR Headphones/Mug/Tea

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Audible // Kobo

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