Category «Series Reviews»

Series Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

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 Wicked Thing (from Goodreads):

Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

breakdown

Series: A Wicked Thing
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
# of Books: 2 (A Wicked Thing, A Kingdom of Ashes)
Book Order: Chronologocal
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales Retellings
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2015 – 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As I’ve said many times before, my favourite fairy tale princess is Sleeping Beauty. Why? I’m not sure because her damsel in distress situation is one I don’t enjoy (I hate when the heroine has to wait for a hero to save her). I think it’s because I love the Disney movie and its beautiful animation.

But in the same breath, I love seeing what other authors will do with the story in various retellings. So I was curious to see what this one was all about; in particular, the focus on HEA.

The Concept / The World:

What I really enjoyed about this story was that it focused on what happens after Aurora wakes up. She finds herself in a world she doesn’t know and one where she is a pawn in schemes she doesn’t fully understand. Watching her navigate this new political world and coming to grips with the fact that everyone she has ever known is dead, was an interesting take. I don’t think it was used to its full advantage but it was an element at play.

And like I say with most retellings: forget the Disney version! You’ll always end up a little disappointed because the Disney version is just a retelling of the origin story and not the source material.

The Plot:

Have you ever read a book where everything seems to be happening around the lead and the lead just seems to sit there and take it? That’s how I felt for 90% of A Wicked Thing. Aurora did absolutely nothing and I get why. She is literally in a world where she knows no one and it’s not like anyone is telling her what is happening either. It’s hard to do anything when you don’t know what is going on yourself. But it was just frustrating as a reader because she’d get these little moments of courage and then they would fizzle out.

This story needed something else to keep it going. I feel like so much time is wasted in both novels rehashing everything we’ve previously encountered. With so many people wanting things from Aurora, it should be a more suspenseful read than it actually is. But it takes Aurora nearly the entire 2 novels to finally get the backbone to do something and by then it is far to late to keep me invested.

The Dialogue:

When I contemplated DNFing A Wicked Thing, I read a few reviews on Goodreads and quite a few mentioned the dialogue. I definitely see where they are coming from after reading this. One of the contributing factors is that they don’t use contractions in the narration. It’s just not the way we talk (I mean look at how many I’ve used in this review so far) so it comes across as stiff.

But Aurora isn’t saying anything inspiring or profound either. No one is. So everything comes across as flat and it does dampen the reading experience at times.

The Characters:

Aurora was extremely dull. Like I said, I get why she lacks the confidence–I would act the same way if I woke up 100 years in the future. But I wish she gained the confidence a hell of a lot earlier than the 90% in A Wicked Thing.

The rest of the cast is kinda “meh”. I didn’t gravitate towards anyone but I think that’s because we don’t get to delve deeper into anyone’s character.

The Romance:

Three love interests is wayyyyy too much for me. And when you have an uninspiring heroine like Aurora, it’s hard to get the appeal of her for the potential suitors. I guess you can say I never picked a “team” to cheer for.

However, I will say that I like that the romance wasn’t the sole focus of this series. Other things are at play and this series could have easily been about Aurora and her “true love” and not the world she lives in.

My Audiobook Experience:

I don’t have anything against the audiobook production because you can only do so much when your source material isn’t fabulous. However, I will say that I found the dialogue delivery to be super slow. See, I’m not one to speed up the audiobook but I had to with a Kingdom of Ashes because it had a glacial pace. I first bumped it up to 1.25X and then 1.5X and the crazy thing is that the dialogue sounded much more natural at this faster pace! It was so much easier to listen to and stopped the awkwardness of the narration.

Series Rating: 2/5

A Wicked Thing 2.5/5 | A Kingdom of Ashes  2/5

overall

I’m still in search of that great Sleeping Beauty retelling. This one was terribly dull and too basic for my tastes.

Read if You Like: sleeping beauty, slow stories
Avoid if You: want action, want more romance
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Fresh Fridays: Stripped Bare (Vegas Billionaire #1) by Heidi McLaughlin

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:

Vegas Billionaire Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Stripped Bare (from Goodreads):

They don’t call it the Strip for nothing. . . .

In this sinfully sexy Las Vegas romance from bestselling author Heidi McLaughlin, a man who has it all reunites with a woman who takes it all off.

Living in Sin City, Finn McCormick is no stranger to one-night stands, but the last person he expects to find losing big on the casino floor is a former high school fling. Even though Macey Webster’s clearly down on her luck, she’s still a knockout, and she’s dressed like a stripper—because she is one. Drunk off an unfamiliar cocktail of lust, pity, and compassion, Finn offers to pay Macey’s debts if she cuddles up to him around town . . . and does whatever he wants between the sheets.

Macey came to Vegas for one reason only: money. She’s got a young daughter to support, and the tips really are bigger in Vegas. But when she blows her earnings on blackjack, her guardian angel is the rich boy who once stole her heart and never called her back. Although Macey would love to turn the tables on Finn, she can’t afford to refuse his proposition—and soon she’s enjoying herself much more than she cares to admit. Macey’s used to baring her flesh, but baring her soul will take far more courage.

breakdown

Series: Vegas Billionaire
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
# of Books: 1+ (Stripped Bare, Book 2)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Book 2 to be announced
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across Stripped Bare on Netgalley but I never had a chance to request it. But when I saw it was at my library, I decided to check it out. I love unorthodox love stories and the idea of a single mom stripper reuniting with a one-night stand in Vegas? I couldn’t wait to see what was in store!

What I Liked:

–The Plot–

As expected, given the circumstances of how these two meet, this story has some drama. But what I really liked is that it never goes over the top. It’s dramatic enough to give this story some drive but not enough that had me rolling my eyes or being frustrated by the unnecessary flare. I thought everything had an adequate amount of time to fester and resolve so I was very fulfilled in that respect.

–Easy Read–

I really got into this story. The pages just turn so easily and I found myself entertained start to finish.

–That Their Past Wasn’t Glorified–

While these two have a shared past, I liked that it wasn’t glorified into being this ultimate love story. It’s pitched as a bit of a missed moment for both so I it was a nice approach to the “second chance” romance.

What I Didn’t Like:

–More Physical Chemistry than Emotional–

These two have a great chemistry but its more physical than emotional. I really felt like these two didn’t talk to each other besides vocal sexy times. So the relationship fell a little flat for me. Having the duel POV helped a lot because we do get to see the inner thoughts of our leads but I still needed more from them to totally convince me these two were falling in love with each other and not just the sex.

–Super Obvious Plot Twist–

I had the one twist figured out before I even started this book. It just seemed very obvious to me. I will admit, I did second guess myself for a chapter or two but I still knew in my gut I was right. Perhaps the twist is supposed to be that noticeable–if it is, it gives this story a different tone. But I found it to be underwhelming overall as nothing else really surprised me in this novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have no idea who the next novel(s) will be about. I know I have a few characters in mind that I would like to know more about but I guess we have to play the waiting game!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Stripped Bare 3.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

While this one had its cliche and obvious moments, I was still entertained by the premise and enjoyed the drama that played out.

Read if You Like: contemporary romance, sexy chemistry
Avoid if You: want more emotional connection, want more surpises

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Series Review: The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

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 Inventor’s Secret (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape from the coastal cities or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery.

breakdown

Series: The Inventor’s Secret Trilogy
Author: Andrea Cremer
# of Books: 3 (The Inventor’s Secret, The Conjurer’s Riddle, The Turncoat’s Gambit)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Alternate History, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found out about this series when my library added the second book and my eye was immediately drawn to the cover. I noticed that it was by Andrea Cremer, who wrote the series Nightshade–a series that I didn’t totally love but still enjoyed. She’s a good writer–I just hated the heroine and love interest in that particular series. But this was a steampunk series which is the ultimate kryptonite for me and so I marked it on my wishlist.

I then forgot about this series until I was browsing audiobooks to read and decided this would make for a great audiobook adventure!

The Concept / The World:

I absolutely adored the alternate history aspect of this novel. A world where the American Revolution never succeeded? What a concept! It gives this world a rich background and a unique setting that captured my full attention.

The only downside of this world is that the Steampunk elements never really take off and shine. Honestly, if I didn’t read the “steampunk” tag on Goodreads, I wouldn’t have necessarily labeled The Inventor’s Secret as steampunk. There are some token elements but they play such a minor role that they could easily be written off as a product of the alternate history aspect rather than steampunk. The steampunk does become a little more apparent in the later books but not enough for someone looking for a true steampunk epic.

The Plot:

I will admit, I had no idea what the plot for this series would be. I thought it would be more of a steampunk adventure (I mean you have a group of exile teens living in the catacombs so obviously there is something bigger at play) but that isn’t the case. For one thing, there is a lot more talking than physical action and there is more of a focus on the romance than not (especially in The Inventor’s Secret). It gives this story a lighter feel that I still found to be entertaining just not overly grand.

I also found The Inventor’s Secret to be terribly predictable. None of the “big” twists surprised me because I could see them a mile away. Nonetheless, I was still interested in seeing how everything would play out. The final book, The Turncoat’s Gambit has a few unexpected twists so that was great.

I think the biggest problem with this series is that nothing ever gets elaborated on. Whether that is an attempt to create some mysticism or suspense, I don’t know but it doesn’t really accomplish anything. We get these inklings of bigger issues but it just seems like Charlotte and company just take everything in stride without necessarily delving deeper.

The Characters:

I really loved the cast of characters here! While Charlotte is a little forgettable/dull in The Inventor’s Secret, I could see the potential early on for her development/growth. So I was eager to see her become this respectable heroine and watch her journey. And she does grow up and get a little smarter as the series goes on which is nice to see.

The rest of the cast plays their roles well. I found myself drawn to the various side characters and their relationships. You just really connect with this somewhat ragtag team of teens as they try to navigate this dangerous and intriguing world.

The Romance:

This played a larger role than I anticipated in The Inventor’s Secret given the synopsis but once I started reading, I knew it would be a bigger focus. It’s a bit of a love triangle at the start but I like that it isn’t the sole focus as the series progresses. Other things are at play during the romantic moments of the first book and those take more of the center stage later. And you have all the subplot romances as well so there is always something brewing.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m so glad I picked this up as an audiobook! The narration is fabulous and it felt like you were listening to a TV show. It was super easy to visualize things and I always love it when a narrator gives each character a unique voice.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Inventor’s Secret 3.5/5 | The Conjurer’s Riddle 3/5 | The Turncoat’s Gambit 4/5

overall

The plot isn’t anything groundbreaking but it’s entertaining and always had my full attention. I enjoyed the adventure this group of people takes in this super cool world.

Read if You Like: like romance, alternate history setting
Avoid if You: want a steampunk adventure

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Novella Serial Reviews: Past Life Chronicles by C K Brooke

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Past-Life Chronicles: Volume 1 (from Goodreads):

My name is Willow Raven Solomon, and I hate cars. I suffer from a phobia no one’s been able to cure. Part of that is because we don’t know the origin. My only clue is a chronic nightmare that’s haunted me since I was a child, of an auto accident I was never in.

My Wiccan mom and her friends think it’s past-life related. While I may have been raised by a witch, I don’t know a lot about reincarnation. A cute hypnotherapist is helping me navigate it. But my stepbrother in med school is skeptical. Somehow, he’s part of the puzzle too – they both are.

As I dig deeper, I’m finding more questions I’d never thought to ask. What if my fear originated not with me, but with someone else? What if my nightmare isn’t just a dream?

What if it’s a memory, from another time, another place…another me?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Past Life Chronicles
Author: C K Brooke
# of Parts: 2
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Supernatural, Mystery, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: January – March 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you C K Brooke!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

C K Brooke always has the coolest story concepts. So while I was drawn in by that AMAZING cover, I love a good mystery! I couldn’t wait to uncover Willow’s past life and find out why she hates cars.

The Concept:

I’m always a little hesitant to read stories featuring witches. I rarely enjoy them (there’s just something about the magic that irritates me) so I was a little worried when it mentions that Willow’s mom is a Wiccan because I thought this might focus on witches. But I worried for nothing because it is not a huge aspect to this story in the slightest. This series is all about Willow rediscovering her past and putting the pieces together. 

I really enjoyed the overall message of the book and moving on from the past. It was nice to explore that idea of reincarnation and why souls might return to the earth. But more importantly, I liked that it focused on the “what happens after” they figure it out. I like a book that makes me think and after I finished reading, I wondered what I would do if I had been in Willow’s shoes.

The Plot:

I had a lot of fun trying to solve the mystery as the clues come in. I love stories that always keep my guessing and changing my theories as they get more evolved.

I will say that in the middle of Volume 1, I felt like things got a little mundane. In a shorter story like this, I don’t like dwelling on stuff that seems routine and common. However, once I finished Volume 1, I could see that there was a reason for that focus and it built the anticipation nicely for Volume 2.

Volume 2 kept the pace throughout and had my full attention. It was nice to see everything come together and get the answers we’d been looking for. While I had my own theories, there were certain aspects that surprised me and made me think.

The Characters:

Willow is a great lead for this series. She’s got a good heart and it shows throughout the volumes. You really want her to solve this problem and find peace. I also loved her commitment to her family and how she was open to accepting their beliefs even if they differed from hers.

Everyone else is well developed and unique. They all contribute positively to this story.

The Romance:

In some ways this fell a little flat for me. I didn’t mind the bit of a love triangle we get because I could see how it served a bigger purpose. I just found that the two options didn’t share as much chemistry with her as I wanted in the first volume. I’d say the romance in the second volume was much stronger. I started to see why she was drawn to each of them.

Unfortunately, another reviewer spoiled the love triangle reveal for me so that took away some of the anticipation. PSA to all reviewers: Mark spoilers in your reviews! And that’s a shame because that part of the series always had me guessing (but not in annoying way if you know what I’m trying to say).

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

If you want a refreshing YA read, check this series out! It had its fun moments as well as some serious ones as well. It made me think and I always love when a book can do that!

Read if You Like: shorter stories, mysteries, past-lives
Avoid if You: want more complex story and characters

similarreads

  • The Hollow by Jessica Verday (The Hollow Trilogy #1)
  • Swoon by Nina Malkin (Swoon Series #1)

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Series Review: Royally by Emma Chase

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 Royally Screwed (from Goodreads):

Nicholas Arthur Frederick Edward Pembrook, Crowned Prince of Wessco, aka His Royal Hotness, is wickedly charming, devastatingly handsome, and unabashedly arrogant; hard not to be when people are constantly bowing down to you.

Then, one snowy night in Manhattan, the prince meets a dark haired beauty who doesn’t bow down. Instead, she throws a pie in his face.

Nicholas wants to find out if she tastes as good as her pie, and this heir apparent is used to getting what he wants.

Dating a prince isn’t what waitress Olivia Hammond ever imagined it would be.

There’s a disapproving queen, a wildly inappropriate spare heir, relentless paparazzi, and brutal public scrutiny. While they’ve traded in horse drawn carriages for Rolls Royces, and haven’t chopped anyone’s head off lately, the royals are far from accepting of this commoner.

But to Olivia, Nicholas is worth it.

Nicholas grew up with the whole world watching, and now Marriage Watch is in full force. In the end, Nicholas has to decide who he is and, more importantly, who he wants to be: a King… or the man who gets to love Olivia forever.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Fav Couple, 2018 Fav
Series: Royally Trilogy; Royals Trilogy

There is a Spin-Off Series titled The Bodyguards!

Author: Emma Chase
# of Books: 3 (Royally Screwed, Royally Matched, Royally Endowed)

There is a free novella: #2.5 Royally Raised

Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2016 – August 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Library–Audiobook (Royally Endowed)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been eager to read another Emma Chase series since I finished Tangled years ago. She is one of those authors who never fails to make me laugh. She just has the total package when it comes to writing. The Legal Briefs didn’t interest me all that much (but I do have it on my TBR now because I just love her work) but when I saw she was writing a series about royals? Hell yes!

The Plot:

I really liked that all 3 books had a different plot style to them because each set of leads has a different flare to them. It’s hard to talk about them all without spoilers (particularly because the events in Royally Screwed heavily influence Royally Matched) but I’ll just say you’ll feel every emotion as you read. I laughed, I cried, I swooned.

For me, this whole series is just adult contemporary perfection. You’ve got great characters with great development. Heart-pounding romance and tension. A solid plot throughout. And you can’t forget the humour Emma Chase flawlessly infuses into her stories and her ability to make you cry just moments later. They’re just an absolute pleasure to read!

The Characters:

I loved all these characters. I loved how they were all uniquely complicated. I loved watching them grow as people. I loved their wit and humour. Basically, I loved them and they really made these novels awesome.

The Romance:

You know, all of these characters make my “Favourite Couples” list. They were everything I love in a romantic pair. Great communication, complementary personalities, a strong partnership. While they grow as people, so does the romance.

There’s plenty of heat and tension along the way as well. The chemistry between all the leads just leaps off the pages and it makes all the stories so addicting.

When to Read the Novella #2.5 Royally Raised?

I was a little worried that Royally Raised (which is a freebie novella at most eBook retailers) would have some spoilers for Royally Endowed (Book #3) but it doesn’t at all. It has spoilers for Books 1 & 2 but you really shouldn’t be reading a novella that’s set 20 years later before you read the actual stories of the characters it’s about. (Just sayin’)

Anyways, I read it after Royally Matched and I think that’s the perfect time to read it. It makes for an extended epilogue of sorts with the leads and it’s absolute perfection! Highly recommend!

My Audiobook Experience–Royally Endowed:

I did plan on reading Royally Matched as an audiobook as well but I already had a voice for Henry in my mind and the narrator for that audiobook didn’t sound like that. Thus, I opted for the eBook.

But I’m so, so glad I listened to the audiobook for Royally Endowed. It was absolutely fabulous! Shane East and Andi Arndt did an AMAZING job (they narrate the other novels as well and what I had listened to of Royally Matched was also great). The accent Shane did was the perfect blend of English and Scottish like the Wessco accent is described and it really helped me to get lost in the story. I highly recommend the audiobooks for this series!

Series Rating: 5/5

Royally Screwed 5/5 | Royally Matched 5/5 | [Royally Raised 5/5] | Royally Endowed 5/5

overall

I see a lot of rereads with this series in the future. One of my all time favourite Adult Contemporary Romance Series EVER!

Read if You Like: romances involving royals, humour
Avoid if You: don’t enjoy romance novels

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Fresh Fridays: Secret Heir (Dynasty #1) by M J Prince

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:

Dynasty Trilogy

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Secret Heir (from Goodreads):

Since the beginning of time, tales have been told about Eden. But all the stories are wrong.

Running parallel alongside Earth, but never touching, there exists not just a garden, but an entire world of vivid colours and breathtaking beauty where the Seraph reside.

Jazmine has lived in ten different foster homes, in ten different towns and all her life she has felt like she doesn’t belong – not in the trailer park which happens to be foster home number ten, not anywhere on Earth.

After a universe shattering revelation, she discovers why. Far from being the nothing and no one, with no past and no future, that Jazmine had always believed herself to be, she discovers that she is in fact an heir to one of the seven remaining Seraph Dynasties.

She is Jazmine Evenstar, the last heir to the sovereign Evenstar Dynasty.

Thrust into the world of wealth and privilege in which the impossibly beautiful and equally cruel Dynasty heirs reside, Jazmine is forced to manoeuvre the tangled web that holds the Dynasties together.

Against the backdrop of breathtaking star filled nights, sweeping coastlines, grand marble halls and decadent palaces, Jazmine tries to find her place in this beautiful new world whilst fighting not to lose herself in the process.

But the fairy tale quickly unravels.

Half human and the illegitimate daughter of the late suicide King of Eden, the other Dynasty heirs make it clear that Jazmine does not belong in their world.

Raphael St. Tristan, heir to the rival sovereign St. Tristan Dynasty and next in line to the throne of Eden, the guy with the face of an angel but who is as wicked as the devil himself, promises to break her.

Jazmine quickly learns that the beauty of Eden is nothing but a deception as she uncovers the secrets festering at the heart of it. But can she disentangle herself from the web of deception and intrigue that the Dynasty heirs have spun? Can she stop herself from falling into Raphael St. Tristan’s trap before he can fulfil his promise to shatter her completely? Or are those stories about Eden true after all and will she be foolish enough to taste the forbidden fruit that is Eden itself?

breakdown

Series: Dynasty
Author: M J Prince
# of Books: 3 (Secret Heir, Shattered Heir, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: New Adult / Young Adult, Fantasy, Non-Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 27, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Read It & Review It–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw this book over at Darque Dreamer Reads when she did a review of it in January 2018. I’m always on the lookout for more non-contemporary New Adult reads and with the parallel universe of this one, I was curious. So I marked this book as one to keep my eye out for when it was released in February.

When the opportunity to review it came up with my New Adult Group on Goodreads, I jumped at the chance! I couldn’t wait to dive into all the drama and watch this “hate-to-love” you romance unfold!

What I Liked:

–The Premise–

That synopsis is long! Usually that deters me but it had me hooked with all its various tropes and features. Forbidden love–check. Family Feuds–check. An Alternate Universe–check. So many great elements are present and I couldn’t wait to see how they would all weave together.

I’ll admit that it takes a while for all these aspects to come into play. But we slowly get them a little bit at a time and this book starts to build at an addicting pace. I always wanted to read more and get more from the story and the characters. It’s like a really great TV drama that you can’t help but binge watch.

–Jaz and Raph’s Relationship–

I ADORE the enemies to lovers trope and this one is a great example of that.  Their dynasties are rivals in nearly all aspects of Eden and so the tension between them is important. They have a pretty tumultuous relationship at the start but once it reaches its turning point, I was hooked!

I loved watching their scenes together. They have such a strong tension between them that it jumps off the page at you. Once the story began to focus on those two learning more about each other, that’s when it really started to shine.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Repetitive Start–

As I mentioned above, this book started a little slow for me. Part of the reason is that the first few chapters seemed a touch repetitive. I felt like Jaz kept reiterating the same sentiments again and again so it made for a duller read than I anticipated. But once she learns about her destiny and goes to Eden, things pickup and never stop.

–Overdramatic Antics–

It’s easy to forget that the main setting for this novel is Jaz’s new high school in Eden. In the world of Eden, the dynasty heirs we see for a majority of the novel seem to be much older given their lifestyle. And especially later on in the novel when things become romantically heated.

I found some of the earlier antics between Jaz and Raph were very over the top. Things get escalated very quickly and it just takes things to the next level. Once I reminded myself that Eden isn’t Earth–that things are a little different thanks to the powers and such–it became easier to reconcile the character actions. And I found that things tapered off as the novel progressed. Yes, we get some of that petty drama but I feel like that comes with the territory of feuding family dramas so I didn’t mind so much.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

That finale was GREAT! I can’t wait to see what unfolds in Book 2! I have my own theories and suspicions but it looks like we are in for a wild ride regardless!

My Rating: 4/5

Secret Heir 4/5 | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

If you like dramatic TV shows but in a non-contemporary setting, this will be a great juicy read for you!

Read if You Like: parallel universes, family feuds, hate to love you
Avoid if You: dislike New Adult/Young Adult drama, want more action

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Series Review: Twisted Tales by Liz Braswell

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 Whole New World (from Goodreads):

Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Read 2018
Series: Twisted Tales
Author: Liz Braswell (Books 1-3); Elizabeth Lim (Book 4)
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalones
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2015 – March 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I have only read the first book (A Whole New World) in this series. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a Disney kid. I grew up watching all the movies; I’ve been to Disney World many, many times; and I’ve never lost a game of Disney Scene It in my life. So a series that reimagines the classic Disney movies? Hell yes.

Truthfully, I forgot about this series. I think I might have had it marked on my TBR but cleared it when I did a massive purge last year. Anyways, I found the audiobook for A Whole New World one day at my library as an “Available Now” title. The title captured my attention (immediately I thought of the song) and then I remembered this book and the series. I didn’t have it marked on Goodreads but that didn’t matter. I even berrated myself for not having an Aladdin retelling (my all-time favourite Disney movie) on my TBR. So I picked it up, started it on my way to work and promptly asked myself why.

This is one of those times I should have read the reviews to know what I was getting myself into.

Read Carefully: The Series Title is “Twisted” Tales

Retellings are a funny thing. You need to have enough new content to impress readers but pay enough homage to the source material as to not piss them off. It’s a delicate thing to do. Often times you get the basis of the original tale but a completely new story and setting (ex Lunar Chronicles). Other times, you expand the inaugural tale and fill in some of the gaps (ex Tiger Lily).

So you need to expect some changes with a retelling. This isn’t the story you’ve watched for years. It starts that way but it transforms (“twists” if you will) into something else that you may not recognize. That means characters aren’t going to be like you remember (or perhaps want) and events are going to change. I think that’s important to remember because it is so easy to compare these stories to their source material and end up disappointed.

What I Liked:

–Jasmine Gets More Time With the Genie–

I love the Genie for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is his ability to show us our humanity and the faults that lie within it. Wishing for things versus the reality of those things is something that he emphasizes throughout the movie. He does that a bit here too by sharing his backstory with Jasmine and how his role as a Genie isn’t what he thought it was going to be.

While I love all the scenes Aladdin and Genie share in the movie, it was nice to see Jasmine get that time with the Genie. Her character at the start of this novel wasn’t winning me over in the slightest. I found her conversations with the Genie provided her with a taste of character growth and development. He is the wise old sage that teaches her the ways of the world in a way that Jasmine doesn’t really get much in the movie. It was nice to see her get in touch with reality.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The First 25% is a Play-by-Play of the Movie–

I mean, it was nice to set the scene and all but I found it boring to reiterate scenes I’ve had ingrained in the membrane for years.

–Most of the “Twists”–

Yes yes, Lauren read the message you posted up top about changes being necessary in a retelling. My problem isn’t that they changed events or characters, my problem is how this affects the core of what Aladdin is as a story. The twists here just seemed so out of place to me and didn’t benefit the overall message of the story.

>>Read my Spoilers Post (June 27) for more information on that here!

–A Lot of Telling, Not so Much Showing–

I found my interest quickly waned in this book. It’s a lot of dialogue between the characters and a lot of assumptive-explanations. Why is Jafar acting like this? The answer is a speculation made by Jasmine and never from Jafar himself.

Time passes oddly in this book once the rebellion begins and I just found I didn’t care by the end.

Image result for aladdin gifs

–Very Little Character Growth–

Retellings provide ample opportunity to flesh out the characters. Considering Jasmine and Aladdin are characters in a 1.5 hour movie, you could do so much with them in a full novel. The same can be said about Jafar. Instead, these characters are left with their basic shells in order to get the story across. I feel like there was a big missed opportunity with this story.

Will I Finish It?

This time, I looked at the reviews of the other novels and see that they feature many of the same issues as this one. So at this time, I’m going to leave this series as is.

Series Rating: DNF

A Whole New World 1.5/5

overall

Watch the movie. There are much better retellings for stories out there.

Read if You Like: different retellings
Avoid if You: want more substance
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DNF Series Review: Kindle Worlds Veronica Mars by Merrick Green

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 Scarlet Liter (from Goodreads):

It’s Halloween in Neptune, CA, someone has played a nasty trick on one of Veronica Mars’ friends, and she doesn’t have a lot of friends to spare. Unfairly wrought as the most hated person in the history of Neptune High, and perhaps smarting a bit from a recent breakup, now it’s up to the teen sleuth to take the case – the corrupt and lazy Sheriff’s Department refuses to look into the attackers. Veronica needs to find who did it, and get back what they stole, before time runs out. She may also make a few wise cracks and wreak vengeance upon some deserving parties along the way. The clock is ticking.

This cross-genre novella is intended for anyone who enjoys a witty modern neo-noir. Both newcomers to the Veronica Mars universe and devout marshmallows can appreciate this.

This novella takes place during season 1 between Episodes 1.05 You Think You Know Somebody and 1.06 Return of the Kane, around late October 2004.

breakdown

Series: Veronica Mars – The TV Series (Kindle Worlds)
Author: Merrick Green
# of Books: 3 (Full titles here)
Book Order: Connected via Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Fan Fiction, Mystery
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates:  April 2018 – May 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Merrick Green!

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Scarlet Liter (Book #1) at 48% (Start of Chapter 8). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve never read true fan fiction before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I love Veronica Mars so this seemed like a good one to start with in the world of Kindle Worlds. I loved the TV series and constantly rewatch the movie so I’m a big marshmellow fan. The two novels written by the series creator are an absolute treat and so I was eager to see what Merrick Green could do with these mini stories set between episodes of the classic TV show.

What I Liked:

–The Weaving of the Veronica Mars World–

Merrick Green has done a great job bringing the Veronica Mars atmosphere to life in this instalment. The seamless integration of characters and references to the original series is impressive. It’s been a long time since I watched the episodes the first story (The Scarlet Liter) takes place between but the references to various key events brought me back in no time.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Off Dialogue–

I think some of the dialogue was a little off at times (especially when I can compare it to the full Veronica Mars novels written by the series creator himself) but it had the same spirit and was improving as the story progressed so it was something I eventually warmed up too.

Will I Finish It?

I truly only stopped reading this book because fan fiction just isn’t for me. While the mystery here is definitely plausible in the marshmallow universe, for me as a fan, I’ve moved on from that era of Veronica’s life and story. I just wasn’t as invested in the outcome as I wanted to be and so I stopped reading.

Series Rating: DNF

overall

I know that fans of Veronica Mars, who can’t get enough of her, will love these mini stories set between episodes of the television series.

Read if You Like: fan fiction, Veronica Mars, mini mystery stories
Avoid if You: dislike fan fiction

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Fresh Fridays: Sweet Black Waves (#1) by Kristina Pérez

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:

Sweet Black Waves Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Sweet Black Waves (from Goodreads):

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA New Series 2018
Series: Sweet Black Waves Trilogy
Author: Kristina Perez
# of Books: 3 (Sweet Black Waves, Wild Savage Stars, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Wild Savage Stars, will be published in 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: June 5, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Imprint Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I managed to snag one of the few “read now” copies of this book on Netgalley and I couldn’t wait to dive in. I love forbidden romance stories and you don’t get much more famous than the legend of Tristan and Isolde (unless you are Romeo and Juliet perhaps). I’ve read a lot of Romeo and Juliet inspired stories but not very many of Tristan Isolde. Perhaps the adulterous nature of their story turns people away? Regardless, I was very intrigued to see how Pérez would used the tale to highlight a character who isn’t a part of the famous duo.

What I Liked:

–Rich World Building–

It’s always readily apparent to me how much work an author has put into a story and when I was only a few chapters in, I knew how much research and thought Kristina Pérez had put into crafting this world. Not only is the world intricately crafted with its lush setting of magic and politics, but the weaving of the various Tristan and Isolde legends is beautifully done.

I know the gist of the various legends but there was still an element of anticipation in this novel as I waited to see how everything would unfold and it takes a great talent to do that with a novel that has been inspired by such a well known tale.

–The Layered Characters–

It really was the characters that sold this story for me. Everyone has so many layers to them, not just Branwen (though she is a fascinating lead to follow). This truly is a character driven story as I found there isn’t much else to the plot besides Branwen navigating her role in court as various obstacles appear along the way. Nevertheless, it is entertaining and for someone who loves political intrigue in her novels, I was a huge fan!

–The Romance–

I can’t ignore the romance when it is based on one of the most famous romances of all time. I don’t want to give much away, but all I will say is SWOON! I was a big fan!

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Discovered the Glossary at the Very End of Reading–

Not that this was a hard story to follow when it comes to the terms and the language used. I’ve studied Latin and French so I was able to figure it out quickly. But I always hate when I discover the glossary once I’ve finished the book…it’s one of the biggest issues I have with reading ebooks but alas, it wasn’t a huge deal here.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! What an ending! I’m so invested in all these characters that I can’t wait to see what will happen next. I personally don’t see how this will be a trilogy given the plot of just the first book alone so I know some major stuff must be on the way in order to get to that third novel.

My Rating: 5/5

Sweet Black Waves 5/5 | Wild Savage Stars TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Despite the somewhat muted plot (when you compare it to other fantasy and high fantasy novels), there was never a dull moment in this book. Personally, it reminded me a lot of Blackhearts with its similar focus on the characters and romance while working within a well known legend. Only this one is a fantasy story and involves more politics.

Read if You Like: fantasy, inspired by well known legends
Avoid if You: want more action

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  • Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts Series #1)
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #1)

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Novella Serial Review: Once She Dreamed by Abbi Glines

Serial Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I review a serialized series (a series that is released in parts that would normally make up a whole novel) to see if the series is worth keeping up with or worth buying all its parts. Here is this week’s offering:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Once She Dreamed (from Goodreads):

Everyone in the small country town where Sammy Jo Knox had been born and raised, never left. They made their life there. Got married, had kids, lived in the same houses that were always there along the streets that never changed. The whole white picket fence and tree swing might look good on greeting cards but in real life it was boring, at least to Sammy Jo.

When Sammy Jo was a little girl she began dreaming of something bigger. Brighter. Something that wasn’t her town. She wanted to see the world and experience it all. Just how she was going to do that she had no idea. Because if her momma had her way, she’d marry one of the boys in town and be spitting out babies and going to church on Sunday with them all lined up in a row.

The day Hale Christopher Jude III walked into the bakery she worked at, she knew he was it. That part of life she was missing. He smelled of foreign places and exciting things. He represented all the bright lights she dreamed of and simply put, she hoped he was her way out of this place.

What Sammy Jo didn’t realize was things that appear perfect… aren’t. And chasing her dreams could lead to something very different.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Most Read Author
Series: Once She Dreamed
Author: Abbi Glines
# of Parts: 2
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2016 – December 2016
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read anything by Abbi Glines–especially her New Adult stuff. So how this series slipped my radar is beyond me. Anyways, I found out that Part 1 was a freebie on Kobo and snapped it up!

At first glance, this serial has the typical Abbi Glines’ formula: rich boy falls for country-girl. But the last two sentences gave me hope that there was something more to this story so I was eager to discover it.

The Plot:

For me the plot was one of the things I struggled with the most in both installments. I found that Part 1 was terribly dull. The vast majority of that part is spent establishing the fact that Sammy Jo doesn’t want to be in Moulton. It just made the story seem so mundane and boring. We hardly get any time with Hale–or what his presence means for Sammy Jo.

Part 2 gets a little more into the drama but I still found it underwhelming. One of my favourite aspects about novella series is that things happen at a rapid pace and new things are constantly thrown your way to keep you intrigued. And I didn’t feel like that happened here.

I will say that there was one very good twist (even though I did suspect it earlier). I wish it was elaborated on more but I enjoyed it.

The Characters:

Sammy Jo is about as naive as they come. For the most part I cut her some slack because I understood why she didn’t seem to know any better. BUT, she is told by countless people what the obvious path is and she still chooses to ignore it. She never really learns from it and I found her character development was stifled.

As for the rest, I hate to say it but they were all pretty cliche.

The Romance:

I really thought this was going to be more of a romance but it is actually more of a coming of age story for Sammy Jo with a little dash of love thrown in along the way. Again, I wasn’t a huge fan thanks to the quickness of it all and the underdeveloped side characters.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

overall

This was a disappointing read for me. While I can see what was trying to be attempted, it just pales in comparison to Glines’ other work with its slow delivery and lacklustre characters.

Read if You Like: short novellas
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more to the plot

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