Category «Series Reviews»

Fresh Fridays: Defy The Stars (#1) by Claudia Gray

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:

Defy the Stars Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Defy the Stars (from Goodreads):

She’s a soldier.

Noemi Vidal is a seventeen years old and sworn to protect her planet, Genesis. She’s willing to risk anything—including her own life. To their enemies on Earth, she’s a rebel.

He’s a machine.

Abandoned in space for years, utterly alone, Abel has advanced programming that’s begun to evolve. He wants only to protect his creator, and to be free. To the people of Genesis, he’s an abomination.

Noemi and Abel are enemies in an interstellar war, forced by chance to work together as they embark on a daring journey through the stars. Their efforts would end the fighting for good, but they’re not without sacrifice. The stakes are even higher than either of them first realized, and the more time they spend together, the more they’re forced to question everything they’d been taught was true.

breakdown

Series: Defy the Stars
Author: Claudia Gray
# of Books: 1+ (Defy the Stars, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be released
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 4 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: NetGalley–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was lucky enough to snag one of 500 Read Now copies of Defy the Stars thanks to Lilly @ Lair of Books back in February. I’ve read (and enjoyed) all of Claudia Gray’s YA series in the past so I was excited to see what she could do with her own Science Fiction series (I’ll admit I’ve never read her Star Wars novels).

What I Liked:

–Abel & Noemi–

Noemi is such a strong heroine that you can’t help but love her as she evolves to see the bigger picture of the universe and herself. Abel won me over from the start as well. His character development is probably my favourite part of this novel. Together they make a fabulous team that compliments each other supremely well.

–The World Building–

The universe this story is set in is fabulous; it’s complex and layered but easy to follow at the same time. I never found that aspect to be lacking the entire time I was reading. You don’t have to be overly familiar with technology or other science fiction works to understand the plot.

–Romance Wasn’t the Focus–

Far too often the romance becomes the sole focus of the story. And while I am a huge romance fan, I really liked that it didn’t play a huge role in the novel. It’s a very slow burn type of love and when it is there, it contributes to the story in a positive way instead of a distractor from the main plot-line.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It was so Slow!–

For me, the plot was far too slow. It reads more like an adventure book where you get little hiccups of excitement (often only a chapter or two long) along the way. A chapter would end on an awesome note and we would either switch POVs or it would resolve by the end of the next chapter. Then the story would continue at a slower pace until it happens again.

Eventually, you reach a climax at the end where all the threads weave together. The last 25% of the book was fantastic and I can’t help but wish the excitement happened earlier in the novel to keep me interested.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

This book felt like a very extended prologue laying down the foundations for more exciting sequels and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.

My Rating: 3/5

Defy the Stars 3/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This is perfect for fans of the adventure story. I actually think this is the perfect bridging book for those who want to break out of dystopian novels and try science fiction.

Read if You Like: science fiction, world-building, adventure stories
Avoid if You: want lots of action
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ARC Review: Feels Like the First Time (Destiny Bay #2) by Marina Adair

ARC Review: I share my review of a brand new release!

Destiny Bay Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Feels Like the First Time (from Forever Publishing):

There are a lot of things Ali Marshal doesn’t do: pink anything, a day without chocolate, and Hawk, her sister’s ex-husband. Sure, he’s a sexy former NHL star who can make her pulse pound with just a wink. But he belonged to Bridget first. And no matter how long she’s had a crush on him, how great he’s always been to her dad, or that her sister is engaged to someone else now and Ali needs a date to their engagement party, she can’t give in to temptation. Can she?

It’s been years since his disastrous marriage crashed and burned, and Bradley Hawk has finally moved on. So when Bridget blows back into town with her new fiancé, throwing the engagement party of the year, he could care less…until Ali tells one little lie that lands him smack dab in a fake relationship. After one promise to be Ali’s date and two of the hottest kisses he’s ever had, Hawk can’t deny how much he wants her. But what happens when this fauxmance starts to feel very, very real?

breakdown

Series: Destiny Bay
Author: Marina Adair
# of Books: 2 (Last Kiss of Summer, Feels Like the First Time)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 2016 – April 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

**This post is only a review of the second novel, Feels Like the First Time. It does not include a review of the first book of the series, Last Kiss of Summer.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for fake relationship romances. I find they usually have stronger romances because the two leads actually get to know each other instead of just physical passion all the time. So naturally, that’s what drew me to this novel even though I never read the first novel in the series.

But what really peaked my interest was the fact that the hero was married to the heroine’s sister (I love unconventional romances) and that said hero was a former hockey player (I’m Canadian ‘nough said).

What I Liked:

–The Character Growth–

In most fake relationship stories, I usually find that only one character has really great growth while the other (usually the person roped into the relationship) sits by the sidelines. But that wasn’t the case here.

While I would say Ali was the main focus on character development, Hawk had fabulous development. Both have to come to grips with the past in order to move forward. I felt like I had nice full characters to read about and I loved that.

–Small Town Vibe–

I love small town settings because it’s super easy to become integrated into the world. You don’t have a revolving door of characters to remember or get acquainted with. The same character appear throughout the series and become integral to the story. They also make you feel like you are a part of the “inside joke” because you are familiar with these character’s antics and know their stories.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Humour Didn’t Stay All the Way Through–

The first few chapters had scenes that made me chuckle out loud. Ali and Hawk had great chemistry in these scenes and I loved watching them navigate these fun scenes.

But the novel loses a bit of that light-heartedness as the story progresses. This isn’t a bad thing as this book does tackle a lot of issues about family and relationships that add in a positive way to the story. Those moments of seriousness were great in developing both the characters and the plot. I just enjoyed watching these two have fun.

My Rating: 4/5

Last Kiss of Summer N/A | Feels Like the First Time 4/5

overall

This is a great read for romance fans who adore small town settings and enjoy more character based stories. It’s light on the sexy times but there is plenty of tension and romance to be had!

Read if You Like: small town, sweet romance
Avoid if You: want more sexy times
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Fresh Fridays: The Crown’s Game (#1) by Evelyn Skye

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:

The Crown’s Game Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Crown’s Game (from Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

breakdown

Series: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
# of Books: 2 (The Crown’s Game, The Crown’s Fate)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, The Crown’s Fate, will be published May 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiousity) was inevitable. But it was also on my radar because it is set in Imperial Russia–the kryptonite of book settings for me. I LOVE that setting and I try and read any book that uses this time period.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Like I said, Imperial Russia is one of my favourite book settings and this one was pretty perfect. You could tell that Evelyn Skye had done her research before writing this book. She really brought this setting to life in nearly every aspect: clothing, royalty, perception of magic. It hit all the marks.

–Multiple POV–

I LOVE having multiple POVs in my novels. It just gives you a full-circle view of the world I think and adds dimension to the plot and world. This one succeeds in that. It kept the story moving, added suspense to the plot and just gave you more insight into the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Hard Time Picturing Magic Scenes–

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the best headspace to start reading this book. I was studying for my licensing exams and was a little pre-occupied in my brain. So maybe take the next two paragraphs with a grain of salt and read another review to get another perspective.

For a third person POV, this book flowed wonderfully. It’s easy to get lost in the 3rd person narration when pronouns are used liberally; but I never found that to be the case here.

What I did struggle with is the scenes where magic is described. I had a hard time visualizing it. I think I missed the part about the purpose of the Enchanter and how the Game works so I didn’t get why these two were doing what they were doing when it was their turn. Again, I think I just wasn’t in the right place to read this.

–The Romance–

While I don’t enjoy the aspect of a love triangle in any book, that isn’t my sole issue here. My issue: the insta-love. I can forgive Vika and Nikola’s insta-connection because of the magic. That makes sense. But love? Stretching it a little. And Pasha hardly interacts with Vika before he is swooning at her feet. I just wanted a stronger romance here or at the very least, pick a team to root for and I never did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There was a rush of things that happened at the end and so I’m excited to see what will happen next. There’s so much potential moving forward.

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. It sets a strong foundation though and I’m eager to see if The Crown’s Fate can continue the momentum.

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia
Avoid if You: dislike magic, want more romance
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DNF Series Review: Beautiful by Emily McKee

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 A Beautiful Idea (from Goodreads):
Isabelle Clark always had ideas, but that’s all they ever were . . . until now.

She grew up in a world filled with poverty and hatred from the person who gave birth to her and had decided she would finally make her ideas a reality.

After moving away to college as a junior she ran into the University of Maryland’s walking one-night stand. Literally.

Ryder Mitchell was every girl’s wet dream all in one muscled, tattooed, pierced, baseball playing package. He thought he had the life: going to school, tattooing people by day, and giving girls the best orgasms of their life by night.

When he found out that Financial Aid didn’t fully cover Isabelle’s room and board Ryder had an idea: Isabelle should move in with him.

On the outside everybody sees Isabelle as a quiet bookworm and Ryder as a player, both on and off the baseball diamond. They soon learn who the other truly is.

Either way, they’re about to realize this idea was a beautiful one.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top PicksWorst Reads 2016
Series: Beautiful
Author: Emily McKee
# of Books: 5 (View Titles Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: not sure…
Point of View: First Person, Single; Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2013 – March 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading A Beautiful Idea at 32% & A Beautiful Mess at 19%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I picked up A Beautiful Idea for free on Kobo some time ago and then the rest of the series when they were on sale in the time since. Roommate romances have to be some of my favourite to read, so I was eager to read this when I pulled it out for my Make Me Read It Challenge. I wasn’t able to read it for that challenge, but I was able to read it as a part of my Rock My TBR Challenge.

What I Liked:

–All My Favourite Tropes in One Series–

Unexpected roommates falling in love; in love with your BFF’s brother; a bad girl falling in love–some of my favourite plot devices to read in a new adult romance. It’s just a shame that the writing doesn’t use these devices to their full potential.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Is A Beautiful Idea a Rip-Off?–

If you read any of the Goodreads reviews for A Beautiful Idea, you’ll see that lots of people call it a rip-off of a Beautiful Disaster. It’s been years since I’ve read Beautiful Disaster but they do share a lot of similarities. However, the whole “roommate” trope is pretty cliche in and of itself if you ask me so of course you are going to get similarities to any novel that shares the same premise.

–Telling and not Showing–

I like to be shown things as I read. I don’t like when certain things are told in passing because they happened “behind the scenes”. Like the romance. I don’t like when things are implied and I felt like this book was just stating facts and not letting the reader experience the scenes.

–Boring–

Everything seemed to be a little “happy-go-lucky” to me and the drama I could see brewing (I really didn’t get that far despite being 20-30% into the novel) was melodramatic and unnecessary. It was also a little cliche. Which I can usually handle but everything seemed so superficial in these relationships that I wasn’t into it.

Will I Finish It?

When I DNF’d A Beautiful Idea, I was willing to give A Beautiful Mess a shot. I was intrigued by the other characters and wanted to see if their stories would be any better.

And so, I started to read A Beautiful Mess…and promptly stopped reading it at the end of Chapter 1. I just couldn’t handle the way Jason talked about wanting to be with Ashlynn in a physical way and his flare of the overdramatics. Things just happened too fast without any build-up.

So no, I don’t plan to finish this series despite the fact that I have Book 3 and 4 waiting on my Kobo to be read.

Series Rating: DNF

overall

This book just didn’t have a strong execution at all. The characters were superficial and the drama melodramatic. Just not what I like in a New Adult series.

Read if You Like: melodramatics, love at first sight
Avoid if You: deeper new adult stories

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Series Review: Lover’s Dance by Deanna Roy

Synopsis for Forbidden Dance (from Goodreads):

She was hidden from the world. Then he arrived.
An emotional new novel from six-time USA Today bestselling author Deanna Roy

For four years, I’ve lived in almost total seclusion. Homeschooled, forbidden from social media, seeing no one other than the dancers at Dreamcatcher Academy, where I teach ballet to little girls in wheelchairs.

Then Blitz arrives.

He’s the disgraced host of Dance Blitz, a bawdy reality show where Blitz sleeps with as many dancers as possible while looking for his perfect partner.

At least he was. A few weeks ago, he got kicked off his own show.

He’s at my academy for a publicity stunt, and my wheelchair ballerinas are his ticket back into the public’s good graces.

I intend to hate him and stay as far away as possible. But when he looks at me, I can’t resist. Before I realize what’s happened, we’re sneaking into back rooms, dancing, kissing, planning dates away from the cameras and the wrath of my family.

But I’m afraid. I have a secret at the academy, a small, wonderful, terrible secret, and if I stay with Blitz, the world will find out.

Other books in the series:
book3 book book

breakdown

Series: Lover’s Dance
Author: Deanna Roy
# of Books: 5 (Full List Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Wounded Dance, will be published April 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Dancer
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 31, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // B&N // Kobo // iBooks

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thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Blog Tour 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:

I’ll admit that at first, I picked this one thinking that our lead, Livia, was in a wheelchair because she teaches ballet to girls who are. Turns out, that isn’t the case (The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard does have this though) but the concept was still intriguing. I love when regular people fall in love with celebrities! And a romantic player from a reality TV show? I’m there.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of Livia’s Past–

Even though you learn Livia’s secret within the first few chapters, there was still so much suspense to it! I found her past to be really intriguing. Why is she so sheltered? Who are the key players involved? And what does it mean for the future? And when do we find out? This is a past that will be revealed over the next few installments.

–Livia’s Character Growth–

Unlike other heroines who exude innocence, I found it really easy to be sympathetic to her character. You know there is more to her nativity than just the trope of innocence meets a sexy player. Her past is complicated because of her upbringing and it shows.

Because Livia is so sheltered, it provides the perfect opportunity for character development. I really enjoyed watching her become her own person as she discovers she does have control over her own life and destiny if she chooses to.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Insta-Love–

If you’ve read any of my romance reviews in the past, insta-love is something that I am not a fan of. While this one seems to have a slow burn vibe to it, it’s definitely an insta-love kinda story. Don’t get me wrong, these two have great chemistry and it shows in their dancing and interactions, I just found that there wasn’t too much to their “getting to know you”. They dive head first based on their physical chemistry–which is fine–it’s just that I hope we can see the more emotional side of everything in the next installments.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I still have a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered, so I’m looking forward to Wounded Dance.

updates

–April 20, 2017– Book #2: Wounded Dance

I was super excited when I read the synopsis for Wounded Dance because I was finally going to be getting some answers about Livia’s past. And boy did we ever.

I had a lot of ideas about Livia’s past but I was definitely wrong–in a great way. The reasoning really did surprise me! It was nice to delve into her past and learn the reason behind her parent’s protectiveness. It also helped to establish her character and why she is the way she is during the start of Forbidden Dance.

However, I did find the ending to be a little rushed. I wanted it teased out a bit more; everything seemed to wrap up a little too nicely for my liking. Maybe some of those things will be at play in the next novel, Wicked Dance. It’s hard to say because these novels are pitched as ones you can read as standalones so I get why everything is wrapped up before the end. Either way, I’m curious to see what will happen next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Forbidden Dance 3.5/5 | Wounded Dance 4/5 | Wicked Dance TBR | Tender Dance TBR | Final Dance TBR

overall
Intriguing characters and a passionate romance make this an great read for romance lovers who like overarching romance stories.

Read if You Like: stories about dancers
Avoid if You: dislike insta-connections
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Deanna Roy

Deanna Roy is the six-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.

She is a passionate advocate for women who have lost babies. She has several books on the subject, including her bestseller FOREVER INNOCENT, a romance about a couple whose baby is taken off life support at seven days old.

She has run the website PregnancyLoss.Info for fifteen years, including many large spin-off support groups both online and in person.

To learn about new releases, sign up for her subscriber list at http://deannaroy.com/news. She has regular giveaways in conjunction with major pregnancy loss events.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // B&N // Kobo // iBooks

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Series Review: Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman

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 Death by Didgeridoo (from Goodreads):

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It’s up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it’s too late. It doesn’t help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn’t commit.

breakdown

Series: A Jamie Quinn Mystery
Author: Barbara Venkataraman
# of Books: 4 (Find all Titles Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Mystery
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: November 2013 – September 2015
Source & Format: ARC–eBook

thoughts

**Please Note my review is only on the first 3 books of the series**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While I mostly read New Adult and Young Adult novels, I do enjoy Adult Mysteries and Thrillers. So when I’m asked to try out a new mystery series, I jump on board!

What intrigued me about the Jamie Quinn Mysteries was their page length. The first 3 novels are more novella length, each just shy of 150 pages. They’re quick mystery reads and I was eager to see how they would develop in a shorter time span.

The Concept:

There is something awesome about an amateur detective blossoming in front of your eyes. While professional sleuths are entertaining, it’s always fun to see someone try solving a mystery for the first time. It’s a different type of suspense and one that works well here.

The Plot:

Compared to other mystery novels out there, this plot seems really simple. Don’t expect intricate plotlines or twist upon twist to happen. That simply can’t happen given the page length of the novels.

But this doesn’t mean you can solve the mystery by the end of the first chapter. There is still a mystery to solve here and you can’t solve it until Jamie uncovers it as the story progresses. And the solution is still a great twist–it’s just not overly complicated and I really enjoyed it.

The Characters:

It took me awhile to get comfortable with Jamie. She’s rather quirky and I definitely wasn’t expecting that. But once I got used to her unorthodox commentary, it was easy to follow her adventures. She also grows as the series progresses as well through various plot developments.

The rest of the cast are entertaining as well. I thought Duke was a fun character for Jamie to work with and he made me laugh in all of his scenes.

The Romance:

This has a very minor role in the first book but builds up in The Case of the Killer Divorce (Book 2) and into the third. I thought it was really cute and I like how it was integrated into the plot of the story. It works well to balance out the plot and character development.

 

Series Rating: 3/5

overall

If you want a great short story series to occupy your lunch breaks or for a day at the beach, this is a fun, quirky mystery series to read.

Read if You Like: short stories, mystery
Avoid if You: want a complicated mystery, want more romance
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Series Review: Find You in the Dark by A. Meredith Walters

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 Find You in the Dark (from Goodreads):
How do you keep going when you feel like your life is over?

Maggie never thought she’d see Clay again. So, she attempts to put her life back together after her heart has been shattered to pieces. Moving on and moving forward, just as Clay wanted her to.

Clay never stopped thinking of Maggie. Even after ripping their lives apart and leaving her behind to get the help he so desperately needed. He is healing…slowly. But his heart still belongs to the girl who tried to save him.

When a sudden tragedy brings Maggie and Clay face to face again, nothing is the same. Yet some things never change. Can the darkness that threatened to consume them be transformed into something else and finally give them what they always wanted? And can two people who fought so hard to be together, finally find their happiness? Or will their demons and fear drive them apart for good?

The thing about love, is even when it destroys you, it has a way of mending what is broken. And in the shadows, you can still see the light.

breakdown

Series: Find You in the Dark
Author: A Meredith Walters
# of Books: 2 (Find You in the Dark; Light in the Shadows)

There are two novellas: Cloud Walking (#1.5); Warmth in Ice (#2.5)

Book Order: Chronological

Cloud Walking (#1.5) is a connected story

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2012 – March 2013
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Light in the Shadows (Book 2) at 55%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t remember how I came across this series. I think Kobo recommended it to me and I had seen it on a few blogs.

What grabbed my attention was the focus on mental health. If you’ve read my blog before, you know I am a huge supporter of mental health initiatives and I love books that explore situations dealing with mental illness and the consequences of it going untreated.

So, I was looking forward to seeing how a high school romance would handle mental illness and I wanted it to be done in a thought provoking way.

The Plot:

I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember too much about the plot of Find You in the Dark (FYITD). I read it in November of 2013 and didn’t pick up the sequel, Light in the Shadows (LITS), until November 2016 for my Rock My TBR Challenge. I had tried to read LITS after finishing FYITD but just couldn’t get into it…

I do remember that I enjoyed the mental health aspect of the story in FYITD. It’s handled in a great way and in a way that is pretty realistic. It tugs on your heartstrings; making you empathetic to the situation at hand.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like the plot of LITS. It was a lot of mooning and just didn’t seem to be going anywhere to me. It was just so boring even if I could appreciate what was attempting to be done. So I had to DNF it at 55% and I haven’t regretted it once.

The Characters:

When I composed my draft to write this series review in November 2013, all I wrote about the characters was:

“hard to like Maggie at times”

While I could sympathize with Clay’s situation (Walters does a great job at that I think), I didn’t really like Maggie at all. Over time, I’ve developed less tolerance for high schooler actions and I think that is what happened here. She just made decisions and thought in a way that I didn’t like or agree with. So that made it hard to me to want to root for this couple at times.

The start of LITS seemed promising in term of Maggie’s character development, but I felt like nothing really happened with her. I would have liked her going to some therapy sessions as well–especially with everyhting that happens in  FYITD.

The Romance:

The romance in FYITD was one of those all-consuming teenaged romances. And it has to be for this story to work.

But overall in the series, it becomes one of those romances that asks the question: can love truly heal? And I liked how the book when about it in theory, and for the most part, in its execution. I think I’m just past the stage of enjoying high school romances that can be a little over dramatic and so it didn’t really work for me.

Novella–Cloud Walking:

This was really cute and probably something most readers of FYITD will enjoy. It isn’t necessary to read it but it does provide that little extra backstory to events that happen with some side characters in FYITD.

Series Rating: DNF

Find You in the Dark 4/5 | [Cloud Walking] 3/5 | Light in the Shadows DNF’d | [Warmth in Ice] N/A

overall

This is one of those “great concepts; poor execution books” for me. Walters hits the mark right on the head with the mental health aspect. Probably one of the best I’ve ever encountered. It really just was the characters that fell flat for me. They bored me and I found it hard to root for them.

Read if You Like: mental health focused stories; realistic contemporaries
Avoid if You: don’t enjoy high school aged characters

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Series Review: Playboys in Love by Gina L Maxwell

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shameless (from Goodreads):

People say I’m shameless. They’re right.

I like my sex dirty. It takes a hell of a lot to tilt my moral compass, and I always follow when it’s pointing at something I want. That goes double when it points straight at the one girl in all of Chicago who’s not dying for a piece of me.

She’s all I can think about, and that’s a problem, because she wants nothing to do with me. But I’ve seen her deepest secrets, her darkest fantasies, and they match mine to a fucking T.

I want her. Bad.

Now I need to show her how good it can feel…to be shameless.

breakdown

Series: Playboys in Love
Author: Gina L Maxwell
# of Books: 3 (Shameless, Ruthless, Merciless)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Merciless, will be published TBA
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild | BDSM: light)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Publisher–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had actually never heard of this series until I was asked if I wanted to review book 2, Ruthless. I’m not a huge erotica fan per say but I do like to read adult contemporary romances from time to time. This series sounded like it was the perfect in between, bordering on the New Adult spectrum but with an adult erotica spin.

The Concept:

It’s not mentioned in the synopsis, but this series follows a bunch of male strippers who strip for fun (aka they have other day jobs) and how they meet their match in some special girl. The concept is a lot of fun, it reminded me of the movie Magic Mike but focusing on individuals and not the whole troop. It also reminded me of the Walk of Shame Series that shares a similar idea but this series isn’t as overly dramatic though it shares the kink factor.

Which brings me to the kink factor. It isn’t as extreme as say, a Maya Banks series, but it is definitely present and provides for lots of sexy times. I think if someone is looking for a nice bridge into the erotica genre, this is a nice gateway. It’s well done.

The Plot:

I would say that this series is more focused on the romance and the sexy times than it is with high dramatic antics. Which I really appreciated because I hate when the drama is soap opera-esque. Of course you have some typical tropes thrown in there but otherwise, you get a pretty linear plot.

I will say that the plot had a much better balance in book 2, Ruthless. It actually had more substance to it than sexy times and worked on the character and romance development.

The Characters:

All these characters are very likeable. The females are strong and independent. I never found them losing themselves in their relationships or conforming to be something other than more self-confident.

I also liked the guys. Even though I’m not a huge alpha hero fan, I definitely liked these male leads. They (like the ladies) have great character development throughout the story.

The Romance:

I found the romance to be much stronger in Ruthless (#2) than in Shameless (#1). For me, the romance in Shameless was more insta-love because things move so fast and all seems rooted in instinct rather than emotional connection. I like my romances to spell things out for me when it comes to the romances and it just didn’t work in Shameless for me even though I could see, in theory, how they would work.

Which is why I enjoyed the romance in Ruthless so much more. Thanks to the balanced plot, we actually get to see these two interact in moments other than sex scenes. You see the emotional connection form and you can’t help but root for them.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I definitely know what characters I want to see get their own story next. We get just enough of a taste of each of the male leads to get you excited to see what their story is going to be!

Series Rating: 4/5

Shameless 3.5/5 | Ruthless 4/5 | Merciless TBR

overall

If you like books with plenty of sexy times and just a dash of kink, this is a great one for you to read! The perfect series to bridge the NA and Adult erotica gap.

Read if You Like: erotica, books with kink, quick reads
Avoid if You: dislike erotica

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Series Review: Wingmen Inc by Rachel Van Dyken

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 The Matchmaker’s Playbook (from Goodreads):

Wingman rule number one: don’t fall for a client.

After a career-ending accident, former NFL recruit Ian Hunter is back on campus—and he’s ready to get his new game on. As one of the masterminds behind Wingmen, Inc., a successful and secretive word-of-mouth dating service, he’s putting his extensive skills with women to work for the lovelorn. But when Blake Olson requests the services of Wingmen, Inc., Ian may have landed his most hopeless client yet.

From her frumpy athletic gear to her unfortunate choice of footwear, Blake is going to need a miracle if she wants to land her crush. At least with a professional matchmaker by her side she has a fighting chance. Ian knows that his advice and a makeover can turn Blake into another successful match. But as Blake begins the transformation from hot mess to smokin’ hot, Ian realizes he’s in danger of breaking his cardinal rule.…

breakdown

Series: Wingmen Inc
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
# of Books: 2 (The Matchmaker’s Playbook, The Matchmaker’s Replacement)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single (Playbook); Alternating (Replacement)
Publication Dates: April – August 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Van Dyken’s Ruin Trilogy. She writes some great New Adult series that don’t follow the typical plot-line pathways. Meaning, I’m always surprised at the stories we get in her books. They make you feel a little bit of everything; you laugh, you swoon, you may even shed a tear. She just writes consistently great stories and I have quite a few novels by her on my TBR.

When I accidentally resubscribed to Kindle Unlimited, I made sure to fit this series in. The concept of The Matchmaker’s Playbook sounded like a lot of fun. I love when people unexpectedly fall in love with someone they shouldn’t. The plot also reminded me of the 90s movie “She’s All That”, where the “it” boy falls for the frumpy girl he is to transform. It’s a premise you don’t often see and so I couldn’t wait to see what she did with it.

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The Concept:

I just want to briefly touch on the “dating service” Ian is running. I don’t want people to focus too much on the “makeover” aspect of the synopsis. It makes it sound like he makes these girls into a set mold that guys find attractive and in turn, the girl becomes someone she isn’t. Rather, Ian works on building her self-confidence by making her see her self-worth. He’s not telling them to only act a particular way all the time in order to land the guy. Of course, new clothes do come into play but I think what you wear influences your confidence so it goes hand in hand.

I hope that makes sense! I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea from the get-go!

The Plot:

I thought these books were a lot of fun but at the same time, very heart-warming. While you have these matchmaking schemes happening you get to watch these two guys come to terms with what they want out of a relationship. It’s a little cheesy, but it reminds the reader that you just need to find that one person who can change your perspective on things.

What I also liked is that these novels weren’t needless dramatic. All the drama worked for evolving the story and that made for an enjoyable read.

The Characters:

If you don’t enjoy stories with a jackass for the male lead, I think you will want to stay away from this series!

Not that I thought the guys were particularly crude, but they do make some somewhat rude comments on occasion. They are also players to the extreme so I know that can be a bit of a turn off. I myself have a particular soft-spot for jerk male leads who get shown their place so it was a highlight for me, but I know that some people will not see it that way.

As for the girls, I really liked them. Despite not having the alternating POV in Matchmaker’s Playbook, I thought Blake’s character development was solid from start to finish. The heroine in The Matchmaker’s Replacement was fantastic.

The Romance:

The sexual tension in this series was great! What I really liked is that sex isn’t the main focus because of the slow burn approach to the romance. Everything just builds and builds until that big reveal. It was just nice not to read a story littered with sex scene upon sex scene.

I did want a little more out of the romance in The Matchmaker’s Playbook. I just wanted their relationship to evolve a little more. It seemed a little to “insta-love” to me even though no one is spewing “I love you” super early. I just wanted their connection to be teased out a bit. The Matchmaker’s Replacement does a better job developing the romance I think thanks to the alternating POV and the flashbacks.

Movie!:

Apparently these books have been optioned for film! Which is great because they do remind me of those great 90s rom-coms that we don’t really get nowadays.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Matchmaker’s Playbook 4/5 | The Matchmaker’s Replacement 5/5

overall

If you can handle charming jackasses, this is the perfect series for you! It’s light on the sex but has a great dramatic story that will have you laughing and eagerly reading to see what happens next!

Read if You Like: jackass playboy heroes, 90s rom coms, sexual tension
Avoid if You: want more sexy times
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Fresh Fridays: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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:

Carve the Mark Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Carve the Mark (from Goodreads):

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

Fans of Star Wars and Divergent will revel in internationally bestselling author Veronica Roth’s stunning new science-fiction fantasy series.

breakdown

Series: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
# of Books: 1+ (Carve the Mark, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronolgical
Complete?: No, Book 2 will be released
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Date: January 17, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been waiting for Roth’s next series since the end of the Divergent Trilogy years ago. While the rest of the series paled in comparison to that first book, (something I only learned in hindsight), I was eager to see what she would come up with next.

Not only was the cover for this beautiful, but it sounded like something I would no doubt enjoy. Enemies become lovers? My ultimate trope.

The Concerns Surrounding this Book

I know that there is a lot of controversy out there about this book, especially on Twitter and Goodreads. One of the problems with Twitter is the 140 character limit, so I’ll admit, I didn’t fully know the issues people were bringing up before I started to read it. I only ever caught bits of it here and there; not enough for me to fully understand what the bigger problem(s) was(were).

But at the same time, I also didn’t want to read too much into the issues either. Not that I’m ignorant of the issues, just that I wanted to be able to form my own opinion and investigate further once I finished. I didn’t want any preconceived notions before I started to read (because it is easy to find things once they are pointed out to you). Plus, I like having a full understanding of the source material prior to reading the criticisms to understand the arguments.

What I Liked:

–The Galaxy Setting–

I really enjoy science fiction stories that take place in another galaxy. I love exploring new planets and their unique attributes. I especially like that there is no place called Earth. That this is a completely different entity in terms of its world. (Could have used a little more world-building but that’s an issue for down below).

–Cyra’s Development–

I’m sure people may disagree with me on this one, but I thought Cyra had a solid character evolution from start to finish. It isn’t the greatest development ever but you could tell by the end of the novel that she gained confidence in herself and that’s all I really want from my characters.

–Concept of Hiding in Plain Sight–

Ok, I got a few little Red Rising allusions here when Akos essentially conforms to the Shotet way of life in order to get revenge and get his brother back. It provides some anticipation for when the big betrayal is going to happen and kept my attention.

What I Didn’t Like:

–First and Third Person Narration–

There are times and genres for third person narration but for the most part, I prefer first person POV. It’s just a little easier to follow and I find it easier to connect with the characters.

In this novel, Cyra’s POV is first person and Akos’ is third person…and I’m not sure why it was that way. Obviously, I felt it easier to read Cyra’s chapters and connect more with her character. Akos just seemed so distant to me and I felt like I never knew his character the way I should have. His POV should have been first person in my opinion.

(An example of a series that does first and third person narration well is The Pledge Trilogy where our lead heroine is told in first person but multiple other characters gets POVs told in third person. The differing POVst help establish the narrative and the world as a whole I think).

–Easy to Get Lost in the Writing–

I’m not sure what it was about the writing, but I found myself missing tiny things in the narration which had big impacts on my understanding of the story.

Like a significant time change in the narration (that’s mentioned like once in the opening paragraph of a chapter); or understanding exactly WHAT the various currentgifts are. As I said above, the worldbuilding could have been stronger. Yes, we do get a glossary but it really only highlighted the “bigger” things and not the inner workings of the world.

–Very Slow Plot–

At the halfway point of the novel, I could count the number of important “events” that moved the story forward on one hand. It wasn’t a lot. You could have easily cut this books size in half and had a much stronger, fuller story.

Because we do get some exciting twists within the last few chapters of the novel that set up for the sequel beautifully. I just think a lot of people will lose interest wayyy before than.

My Final Thoughts on Issues Raised by Other Readers:

After reading the novel, I read arguments from “both sides” and I understand what both are saying.

I’m a firm believer that we should let fiction be fiction. Fiction is a medium used to explore things we can’t always explore in reality. But my favourite aspect about it is its ability to start a conversation; as this novel obviously has.

I know that for some people, the ideas present here are their reality; and I know that for others, they won’t see that reality because it doesn’t pertain to their life. Reading is such a personal experience that everyone reads (and interprets) something differently. And it’s ok that we do; so long as we can have healthy conversations and respect those differences of opinion in a civil way. Debate is healthy, it’s how change comes about. I’m glad this novel is bring conversations about diversity to the surface and I hope we can learn from it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see how the next novel will unfold. I think there were enough things introduced in the final chapters to keep my interest in picking up the sequel.

My Rating: 3/5

Carve the Mark | Book 2 TBP

overall

I was hoping for a Divergent type of read; instead, we got Allegiant. A lot of talking and not as much action. But I think that this series could really build upon its inaugural novel and have a solid sequel.

Read if You Like: slower stories, science fiction
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance-focus

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