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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

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:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Must Read Author
Series: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (Flame in the Mist, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you asked me what my top 3 Disney movies are, I would say without hesitation: Aladdin, Mulan and Hercules. I loved Mulan as a young girl because she is like every girl you will ever meet. She’s bound by family duty and love and pressured by society to be a certain way. What girl doesn’t feel that at some point or another? And her transformation to assert her independence is inspirational for any young girl who watches it.

So I think it goes without saying, I was very, very excited to pick this book up. Even if this story wasn’t based on Mulan, I was eagerly awaiting Ahdieh’s next series after I completely fell in love with her The Wrath and the Dawn Duology last year.

Best Advice: Forget Disney’s Mulan & Keep to the Basics!

I know I just touted Disney’s Mulan (and I could write a very long post praising the movie) for its awesomeness, but I think it important to go into this remembering that that movie is based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan–as is this book.

So expect plot differences and new characters; don’t expect songs and a talking dragon.

What do they share? A heroine who has always struggled with her place in society and her family. A girl who is smart in ways people don’t expect; who has a knack for crafting military devices that save her friends. A young woman who begins a journey to learn that she is more powerful and independent than she ever thought.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love everything about Japan, particularly feudal Japan. I just find its history and culture to be fascinating. So having the novel set here immediately hooked me in. Ahdieh has a great power to weave worlds and it shows here. It’s rich and layered and even though it is influenced by another source, she makes it her own.

–The Politics–

I’m a sucker for political intrigue in my reads. It’s one of the reasons I adored The Wrath and The Dawn series so much. I love when you don’t know who you can trust; when there is more at play than you can ever imagine. This book has that thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You have this 360 degree view of the world and everything that is at play and I loved it.

–Mariko’s Character Development–

Mariko really blossoms before your eyes in terms of her growth. She’s shy and reserved at the start but slowly begins to break out of her shell. Her journey isn’t without fault, and she sure isn’t perfect but she continues to learn as she goes. Definitely a heroine you can root for.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

This was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for it, but its appearance just seemed so sudden and abrupt that it took me a long time to realize what was happening. (It’s hard to elaborate without spoilers).

I genuinely grew to like the two of them together by the end but I just didn’t like how this was handled at the start. I guess I wanted a little more build-up.

–Slower Start–

I’m not sure what I was expecting at the start of the novel. I thought it was action but when I thought about it, I think I knew that there wasn’t going to be physical action immediately. Mariko’s character definitely isn’t at that point at the start and you know that thanks to the synopsis. So what was my problem?

Truthfully, I think it just takes the reader a few chapters to get acquainted with the world. Like I said above, this world is rich and layered and you don’t really get the full picture of what is happening until you are a few chapters in. It needs to build, and it definitely does as you go, just give it some time to get there.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! This start has so many great inklings to lead into the sequel. It’s building up to a fantastic climax that I can’t wait to see!

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This story kept my attention from start to finish; from the rich setting to the intriguing characters, there’s a lot to like about this retelling!

Read if You Like: feudal Japan, world-building, Mulan
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Fresh Fridays: Red by Isabelle Ronin

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:

Red Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Chasing Red (from Goodreads):

HER HEART MIGHT BE THE ONE THING HE CAN’T WIN…
When cynical straight-A college student Veronica “Red” Strafford gets kicked out of her apartment, notorious basketball player Caleb Lockhart offers her a place to stay. Intensely drawn to her, Caleb wants something for the first time in his life. But Veronica’s painful past makes trusting difficult, and her heart might just be the one thing Caleb can’t win.

They said she was going to be my ruin…then let her ruin me.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2017 New Adult Fave, Canadian Author
Series: Red
Author: Isabelle Ronin
# of Books: 2 (Chasing Red, Always Red)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Always Red, will be published in November 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 5 ,2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Sourcebooks Casablanca!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing upcoming releases, Chasing Red immediately caught my eye for a few reasons. One: is that cover–it’s just so colourful! Two: is the fact that Isabelle Ronin wrote this story on Wattpad–I’ve had great successes with stories that were first published there. Three: I love when the “popular guy” meets his match in a girl he never expected. (And I later learned that this book is set in Canada and is written by a Canadian Author! Bonus!!!)

I couldn’t wait to dive into this novel!

What I Liked:

–Veronica–

Red/Veronica is such an endearing heroine. She’s strong yet flawed and such a hard worker. You really get a great grasp on who she is and why so I never got annoyed with her actions. I fully understood everything she did because I knew her that well.

–Caleb–

Swoon! New Book Boyfriend Alert!

He knows all the right things to say but he is also so genuine about it as well. What a fantastic complement his character is to Veronica.

–Their Friends–

I also loved all of their friends and I truly hope we learn more about them in the sequel to this novel OR they each get their own story because I would love to read it.

–The Perfect Slow Burn Romance–

I had butterflies the entire time I was reading this–in like a totally awesome way. They have fantastic chemistry together, right from the start.

This romance had this amazing ability to feel like a slow burn romance but give you all the passion you expect in an already established romance. I loved watching these two explore their connection and building a relationship together. Besides physical attraction, they had that deeper bond. It was such a joy to watch them fall for each other.

What I Didn’t Like:

I really thought everything worked really well for this story. At first, I wasn’t sure about a particular plot line but I realized (as I was writing this review) that what I thought was a little unnecessary was necessary. I guess my biggest disappointment is waiting for the sequel!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait to see how Red and Caleb’s story concludes! And maybe some more insight on their friends as well?

My Rating: 5/5

Chasing Red 5/5 | Always Red TBP

overall

This story had everything I love in a great New Adult romance: genuine characters, great chemistry and a solid plot line. Completely addicting from start to end.

Read if You Like: slow burn romance, new adult, books set in canada
Avoid if You: dislike slow burn
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Series Review: A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston

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 Thousand Nights (from Goodreads):

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: A Thousand Nights
Author: E K Johnston
# of Books: 2 (A Thousand Nights, Spindle)

There is a FREE short story, #1.5 called The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes — I think
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2015 – December 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most people, the cover is what drew me to this series. They are gorgeous!

But A Thousand Nights was everywhere the year it came out, gracing a ton of lists for one reason or another. It is also a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights–a story I’m still not acquainted with despite reading The Wrath and The Dawn last year and noting that I probably should read it because it is a popular base tale for retellings.

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard not to compare two similar things and I’m going to do my best to stop comparing A Thousand Nights to The Wrath and The Dawn before I even begin this review.

This series is a world layered with a darker power. Whether that power actually exists or not: I’ll discuss that in The Writing Style section below. You have a king murdering women for some unknown reason and people are suffering because of it. There is this air of mysticism to the story and it makes the circumstances so much grittier as a result. You truly get transported to this other world within the first chapter and that was definitely a highlight for me

The Writing Style:

I think you will either love or hate E K Johnston’s writing style. It has an old fashioned feel to it often seen in your classic stories; the words flowing like you are reading an epic.

It took me awhile to get comfortable with her style because books just aren’t written like this nowadays (or at least what I usually read isn’t). Personally, it’s a touch wordier than I like, though I found it had a great flow.

But I think my biggest issue was the fact that I couldn’t tell what was real vs what was just allusion. What I’m trying to say is that I had a hard time deciding whether the magic of it all was actually happening or it if was just the result of the narration. As a result, I often had a hard time understanding the progression of events and that in turn caused me to lose interest at times.

The Plot:

I was really disappointed in the plot for A Thousand Nights. I truly felt like nothing was happening until the last 50 pages or so. It seemed to be more stories about the Heroine’s life back home and I just didn’t care–that wasn’t the story I wanted to read. I wanted to see how she was going to save the king. Instead, you spend most of your time reading about stories within the story and that just has no appeal to me. I needed a little more stimulation and the book just seemed to drag.

Spindle started off a little more promising but it lost that momentum around the 45% mark. I’m not a huge fan of adventure stories and this one felt like that at times. Again, my interest waned and I found myself skimming the last half of the book. It just couldn’t keep my attention.

The Characters:

I think this is one of those rare cases where the worldbuilding overshadows any character development. Johnston spends so much time weaving tales of this land that she fails to really build up her characters. Yes, you get their histories thanks to the various stories but because you spend so much time in the past, their growth in the present is lackluster.

I also think because of the writing, I felt distant from the characters. You weren’t getting a lot of inner monologues because not a lot was happening in the present.

The Romance:

As a romance fan I like it in my stories and it really isn’t present here. That isn’t a bad thing but when you don’t have much going on, it would have served as a nice distraction.

The Novella–A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers:

This is supposed to be a bridging novel of sorts between the two stories and it does serve that purpose. I really found it to be more of an extended epilogue of A Thousand Nights so I like that it brought me some closure in that respect.

It is a free eBook so if you like this series I do recommend you pick it up before you read Spindle.

Series Rating: 3/5

A Thousand Nights 2.5/5 | [A Garden of Three Hundred Flowers 3/5] | Spindle 2/5

overall

If you are a fan of worlds filled with stories and love the weaving of tales, you’ll enjoy this series. But if you like action, romance and adventure in your retellings, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: story telling, retellings
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action
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Series Review: Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

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 Thousand Dollar Tan Line (from Goodreads):

From Rob Thomas, the creator of groundbreaking television series and movie Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling new mystery series.

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Mystery Read 2017
Series: Veronica Mars
Author: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
# of Books: 2 (The Thousand Dollar Tan Line; Mr. Kiss and Tell)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2014 – January 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While I didn’t watch Veronica Mars during its initial airing (long story but I missed the premiere and this was before the days of easy internet streaming) but I marathoned the entire series just before the movie came out and LOVED IT!

The wit, the intelligent writing and the amazing characters: there’s a lot to love about this series! So I was really excited to see that the creator of the show was writing series novels because who better to write a spin-off series than the visionary himself?

When I started my new job, I wanted to start listening to audiobooks during my commute and I thought what better than a novel set in a world I am already familiar with? It also didn’t hurt that mystery/thrillers were my current obsession at the time and so I decided to give The Thousand Dollar Tan Line a shot.

The Concept / Time Line:

These books take place a couple months after the movie (and the movie takes place 10 years after the TV series ends).  Which is great because it ties up some of those lingering questions you likely had at the end of the movie. I felt like I got a lot more closure reading these two novels than I did by just watching the movie.

And these books read like you are watching the TV show. Maybe that was just because I was listening to the audiobooks (one is narrated by Kristen Bell herself) but I felt like I was watching the TV show.

The Plot:

In true Veronica Mars fashion, the mystery introduced is rarely cut and dry. There are twists on twists and it’s fabulous. You don’t want to know how many times I freaked out in my car when some plot twists (curious? more than 10 for sure).

The plot is always moving! I thought there was a great balance between the mystery, the character drama and Veronica’s character growth. There’s always something to pique your interest and everything just blends so well together.

The Characters:

Ok, I had so many great fangirl moments reading this series. There are so many returning characters that I freaked out many times. I adore all of these characters, but Veronica especially. She’s such a strong and independent female lead. I love her wit but I also love how she doesn’t take shit from anyone.

Image result for veronica mars gifs

The Romance:

I don’t want to spoil this but this was one of the many reasons for my fangirling 😉

Audiobook Experience:

OK, this series made me fall in love with fiction audiobooks!

I love that Kristen Bell (Veronica) narrates the first novel. It made me feel like I was watching the TV show and immediately got me comfortable with the story. She also does an AMAZING job when she narrates the other characters. She manages to capture their personalities in her delivery and it’s perfect!

Unfortunately, the second book wasn’t narrated by Kristen Bell (I think she was pregnant at the time) so I missed the true Veronica sass but the narrator did a great job of bringing the characters to life.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line 5/5 | Mr Kiss and Tell 4/5

overall

I will say, I think it helps if you are familiar with the series in some complicity but the mystery is great regardless and I think if you aren’t a fan before you start this, you will be when you finish!

Read if You Like: Veronica Mars, thrillers, strong heroines
Avoid if You: dislike modern mysteries, crime
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Series Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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

The Crown’s Game Duology

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?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiosity) 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.

updates

–June 25, 2017– Book #2: The Crown’s Fate

I think I might be in the minority but I fully believe that this book was better than the first one. I found the plot to be much more engaging and interesting than it was in The Crown’s Game. Despite some slight monotony in the middle of the book with one plot aspect, I found that this story always kept moving and developing in a way that was rather addicting to read. I was flying through the pages.

The character development was also great. When you have essentially 3 key players to keep tabs on, one or more will inevitable fall to the wayside in terms of growth. But I felt like everyone had a great story to tell and I’m glad we got to see them all.

This series is still missing that something to make me give it a 5/5 though.  And truthfully, I was leaning more towards a 3.5/5 rating for this particular book because I did find the middle of the novel to be a little stale. But I really liked how everything was brought together in the latter half of the novel and I did feel like this was a much stronger showing on Evelyn Skye’s part. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her in terms of her writing and I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate 4/5

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. (Maybe the hype monster killed this one for me?) It’s a solid series and definitely worth a read if you love alternate history with a dash of magic!

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia, alternate history
Avoid if You: dislike magic, 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: 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.

Image result for she's all that gif

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: The Thousandth Floor (#1) by Katharine McGee

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 Thousandth Floor Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Thousandth Floor (from Goodreads):

NEW YORK CITY AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE.A thousand-story tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future where anything is possible—if you want it enough.

WELCOME TO MANHATTAN, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. Everyone there wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

LEDA COLE’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

ERIS DODD-RADSON’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

RYLIN MYERS’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will this new life cost Rylin her old one?

WATT BAKRADI is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy for an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is AVERY FULLER, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Amid breathtaking advancement and high-tech luxury, five teenagers struggle to find their place at the top of the world. But when you’re this high up, there’s nowhere to go but down….

breakdown

Series: The Thousandth Floor
Author: Katharine McGee
# of Books: 1+ (The Thousandth Floor, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 will be published in August 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: warm *more implied*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: August 30, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

The Thousandth Floor first crossed my radar when I was voting for Stephanie @ In Wonderland Book Blog‘s Make Me Read It Readathon in the summer of 2016. I’ll admit, it was the cover that captured my attention (and vote) but the synopsis sounded great as well.

I like stories where there are lots of things going on and multiple character POVs is one way to do that. When I read the synopsis, the first thing that crossed my mind was: SCANDALS! I was hoping for a story rich with plot twists and characters whose lives somehow intertwine together. I couldn’t wait to uncover the dirt.

What I Liked:

–A Futuristic Gossip Girl

I adored the first few Gossip Girl books because I’m a sucker for delicious drama and gossip. Seeing how all these character’s lives interweave–sometimes in ways they don’t even know–is just so addicting! 

It’s the “haves” meets the “have nots” and when they meet dramatic chaos ensues. It was very reminiscent of the early Gossip Girl days–not the latter ones where things just got weird.

–Multiple POVs–

I like stories that have a lot going on; especially in my contemporaries because I don’t always enjoy the leads. So having multiple POVs allows me to attach to at least one character’s story that drives me to see what happens next.

What surprised me was that I was intrigued by all of these characters at some point or another. I really enjoyed their stories–and their secrets. There were definitely some characters I enjoyed more than the others.

–The Secrets–

This was what kept me reading! I just loved figuring out what everyone was hiding and how it all weaved together. Plus, the mystery of who fell from the roof had me spewing all sorts of theories!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Surface-Deep Characters–

Perhaps this is one disadvantage of the multiple POVs but you don’t get to see these characters on a deep level. I feel like each character briefly has a moment when we get to see more than the surface; but we change to another character so quickly that it never gets elaborated on. So I never felt like I knew more about these characters than what was necessary to drive the plot forward.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait to see what happens to everyone next! So many secrets, lies and unresolved feelings; I don’t know how these characters are going to react to it all!

My Rating: 4.5/5

The Thousandth Floor 4.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

I was definitely in the right mind frame when I picked this novel up. It’s the perfect drama filled read for those who are looking to be entertained and not have to think so much. But if you don’t enjoy books with multiple POVs, this might not be the one for you.

Read if You Like: Gossip Girl, drama, scandals
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POVs, want more romance

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DNF Series Review: V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram

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 V is for Virgin (from Goodreads):
When Val Jensen gets dumped for her decision to stay a virgin until marriage, the nasty breakup goes viral on YouTube, making her the latest internet sensation.

After days of ridicule from her peers, Val starts a school-wide campaign to rally support for her cause. She meant to make a statement, but she never dreamed the entire nation would get caught up in the controversy.

As if becoming nationally recognized as “Virgin Val” isn’t enough, Val’s already hectic life starts to spin wildly out of control when bad boy Kyle Hamilton, lead singer for the hit rock band Tralse, decides to take her abstinence as a personal challenge.

How can a girl stay true to herself when this year’s Sexiest Man Alive is doing everything in his power to win her over?

breakdown

Series: V is for Virgin
Author: Kelly Oram
# of Books: 2 (V is for Virgin, A is for Abstinence)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Rock Star
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2012 – May 2014
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading V is for Virgin at 41% (start of Chapter 13). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Hello! The title! I was definitely intrigued by the title but it truly was the synopsis that had me on board.

There has been a big push for a long time to have sex (or at least talk about it) in Young Adult literature because it is something that happens in real life. And while I do support that movement, I’ve always wondered why abstinence isn’t talked about more. It’s a choice for a lot of young people and one that gets made fun of for some reason or another. So I was excited to explore this avenue of abstinence in YA literature.

What I Liked:

–It isn’t Preachy–

I think there is a preconception that people who choose to remain abstinent (and the people who write about it) can be a little preachy about sex and waiting. And while there are definitely cases that reaffirm that believe, it definitely isn’t fair to lump all those people together.

This book does a great job of presenting both sides. It doesn’t tell people to not have sex nor does it say that all people should refrain from having sex. Instead, it opens the conversation about why people might not want to have sex. And it isn’t just for a religious reason either. I loved the conversation it started about starting a sexual relationship and why there is so much pressure to have sex.

It tries to erase the shame people feel when it comes to talking about your sex life. You should never feel like less of a person because you have or have not had sex and that is the main message of this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Maturity–

While I love that this book is set in high school focuses on sex in that setting, the whole setting really cramped my style. Because–it is inevitable–that a book set in high school is going to feature all the high school drama. Like popularity and rivals and all that cliched nonsense. That really just doesn’t interest me any more and it truly dampened the sexuality part of the story for me.

It also made me dislike Val. I wouldn’t say that I loved her at the start–though I did respect her ability to stand-up for herself–but as the story progressed I just got annoyed with her teenage thought process. And it sucks because it totally isn’t fair to dislike her for that. It is the whole premise of the story and part of her development but I just found myself getting annoyed and bored by her actions as it progressed.

–Kyle–

I’m a sucker for a rockstar and so I was really looking forward to this aspect. But he was a dud for me.

I get it though–he is supposed to be the villain in all of this. The guy who is trying to get the girl to give up her ideals and sleep with him just to say he could. And so in that respect, it’s easy to hate him. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like he is supposed to be charming; that as a reader you are supposed to like him. I mean, isn’t Val supposed to be contemplating going out/sleeping with him?

He honestly just annoyed the crap out of me.

Will I Finish It?

I’m really upset that I didn’t finish this book. I do think part of my motivation for DNFing this book was simply my mindset. Because all the reasons I didn’t like this book are truly all the reasons why I should have finished reading it. (If that makes any sense). It’s a refreshing book in that respect because it does challenge those everyday notions. So I might give it a shot sometime down the road; but I honestly wish I could go back 2-3 years ago and read it then because I probably would have really appreciated it then.

Series Rating: DNF

V is for Virgin 2/5 | A is for Abstinence N/A

overall

I think if you can get passed the high school drama, you will really enjoy this one! The concept and execution of it is really refreshing; I just couldn’t handle the maturity of high schoolers.

Read if You Like: high school contemporaries, books dealing with sex
Avoid if You: dislike the idea of sexually active teenagers

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Series Review: The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

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 Wrath and the Dawn (from Goodreads):

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: 2016 Fav
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (The Wrath and the Dawn, The Rose and The Dagger)

There is also 3 novella short stories. Full Reading Order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling
Heat Rating: warm *more implied than anything*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s a bit of a weird story. I always thought that I had The Wrath and The Dawn on my TBR (ie Goodreads) because it was around quite a bit on the blogosphere when it was first released and it sounded like a story I would enjoy. When I saw it again at the bookstore, it’s cover (the one I added below) caught my attention and I thought it was a new book. But as soon as I read the synopsis, I realized that I already had marked this book as TBR. So imagine my surprise when I checked on Goodreads to see that I hadn’t even added it! I think I just added it to my library wishlist and left it at that.

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

The revenge trope is one of my favourites; especially when there is an assassination involved. Perhaps that is a little morbid, but I find stories with that “I must kill my enemy” element are grittier and have that (obvious) element of danger to them. The stakes are higher and that makes every subsequent action even riskier and more thrilling. Forbidden love is so much sweeter when you fall for your target.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to admit, I know nothing about A Thousand and One Nights nor The Arabian Nights. I’m sure I would get more out of the retelling if I was more familiar with these works but it really isn’t necessary.

The world here is beautiful! I loved how Ahdieh was able to create this magical world that was so easy to see and emerge myself in without copious amounts of detail. The pages weren’t littered with unnecessary descriptions and so I never felt lost or bored while reading.

Oh! Also, there is a glossary! There were a few terms that I had to Google because I couldn’t find the glossary when I first looked for one. But don’t let that scare you! It’s not like there are a ton of terms you have to learn to enjoy this.

The Plot:

What I really loved about this series is that it wasn’t unnecessarily complicated. It struck that perfect balance between world building, character development and dramatic plot.

The Wrath and The Dawn has a great suspense to it. Why is Khalid killing his wives? Will Shazi really fulfill her need for revenge? I loved watching all that unfold before me. It really hooked me into the story–in a way I hadn’t felt in a long time. I really just wanted to sit all day and read this compelling work.

The Rose and The Dagger also had a suspenseful plot but more for the political aspects–which I absolutely adored. It just had that hint of danger to it that had me glued to the pages. And the twists were fabulous!

The Characters:

I think Shazi can be a hard character to like initially. She’s hurt and jaded and she gives off this aura of selfishness that makes it hard to root for her. But she really grows throughout the series and I really appreciated that. And it wasn’t long before I was on her side, wanting her to succeed.

As for Khalid, I really liked him. As much as he is the catalyst for the story we get, the story really is about Shazi and how she deals with everything. And because of that, his development takes a bit of a backseat. But he really is a fascinating character to uncover as the series progresses. I always love a good, mysterious male counterpart.

But one of the highlights of this series is the strong secondary characters. I really fell for the rest of the cast as the story progressed.

The Romance:

This was lacking a bit for me in The Wrath and The Dawn. Despite the fact that it was easy to see why these two would fit together as a reader looking in, I just wanted their sparks elaborated on more. The romance was more implied than I would have liked; more show and tell than watching it unfold. But I still enjoyed it and liked these two together.

And I think that’s why I enjoyed The Rose and The Dagger more. Everything there was just emphasized that little bit more and the romance was definitely amplified there. Here, it was obvious why these two felt the way they did and it was a joy to watch as a reader.

The Novellas:

Well, to call The Crown & The Arrow and The Mirror & The Maze novellas is being generous. They are merely deleted chapters totalling 9 pages and are free on eBook sites. However, I do recommend reading The Crown & The Arrow before The Wrath and the Dawn for some context. Same with The Mirror & The Maze before The Rose & The Dagger. Nevertheless, you could get by without ever reading them as well.

The Moth & The Flame is an actual novella that is probably best read after The Wrath & The Dawn because it is a little spoilery about some side characters.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Wrath and The Dawn 4/5 | The Rose and The Dagger 5/5

overall

The entire series is crafted beautifully. From the characters to the drama to the romance; it’s everything you want in a solid YA series.

Read if You Like: retellings, forbidden love, duologies
Avoid if You: want more action, dislike more romance-based stories

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