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ARC Audio Review: Man Hands (#1) by Sarina Bowen & Tanya Eby

ARC Audio Review: I share my review of an audio release:

Man Hands Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Man Hands (from Goodreads):

He puts the “screw” in screwball comedy…

BRYNN

At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.

But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass.

Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer.

Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don’t expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM

All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life.

I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them.

But I will find her.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018 Audiobook
Series: Man Hands
Author: Sarina Bowen & Tanya Eby
# of Books: 2 (Man Hands, Man Card)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: I think
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2017 – January 2018
Source & Format: AudioBoom–Audiobook (via Audible)

thoughts

Please Note: This is just a review of Book #1, Man Hands!

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Of course the cover caught my attention but the synopsis had me going YES PLEASE! I’m all for humourous books and now that I’ve discovered my love of romance audiobooks, this seemed like a great one to try next!

The Plot:

I really wasn’t sure what the plot was going to be given the synopsis but this book surprised me in the best way. These two find themselves in some crazy situations and hilarity ensues. But it also has its touching moments as well where these two connect on that deeper level I love to see.

The Characters:

It helps that the leads are who they are; this story wouldn’t be the same without them. Brynn is a bit of an oddball but still utterly charming. I loved watching her rebuild her confidence after her divorce and discovering her own self-worth as the story progressed. And Tom is a great complement to her character as he too has to rebuild his confidence in the romance department.

The Romance:

Watching them fight (but never really succeeding) their fabulous connection made for an epic read. Seriously. I’ve never laughed so hard during a sex scene before while still finding the entire thing to be sexy. Their chemistry is palpable and their inner monologue about the other person had me swooning throughout. These two are just the cutest!

My Audiobook Experience:

Like I said before, I had so much fun listening to this book! The narrators totally made it this awesome experience because I honestly don’t think I would have enjoyed the humour as much otherwise. Erin Mallon as Brynn managed to capture this quirky character and bring her to life in a very humourous way. She made me love Brynn instantly as soon as her inner monologue started. And Luke Daniels as Tom is perfection! He sounds exactly like I’d expect a manly TV handy man to sound–like a sexy Ron Swanson (which is something I thought I’d never say) but it totally works for this book.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait for the next duo’s story! Their scenes together in Man Hands had me dying for more so I’m very excited to read their story!

Series Rating: 5/5

Man Hands 5/5 | Man Card TBA

overall

I had an absolute BLAST listening to this audiobook! This book was this wicked combination of sweet, sexy and absolutely hilarious. I honestly don’t think I have laughed so much while reading book in a long time.

Read if You Like: quirky humour, sexy reads, contemporary romance
Avoid if You: dislike slapstick comedy, dislike crude language

similarreads

  • Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (Cocktail Series #1)
  • Tangled by Emma Chase (Tangled Series #1)
  • You’ve Got Fail by Celia Ahren
  • The Score by Elle Kennedy (Off Campus Series #2)

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Fresh Fridays: He Wants It All (#1) by Marilena Barbagallo

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:

He Wants it All Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for He Wants It All (from Goodreads):

Krum Botev has never had anything in life apart from himself. He knows only what he has been taught. Hard, selfish, insensitive, but faithful to the Father, the one who raised and educated him according to the values of the secret society he is part of. No one has ever succeeded in knocking down his armor. No one can touch him outside or inside; no-one except her, who is part of that past Krum cannot forget.

Ambra Livori, a beautiful and wealthy heiress, has always had everything. But nightmares don’t give her a break. They go on showing her the man who ruined her life when she was only sixteen. The memory of him, over time, has become a perverse feeling she cannot tolerate. Just when Ambra decides to learn how to control her emotions, she receives a strange call. Her origins will be questioned and the past will become a terrible present from which she won’t be able to escape. Fighting for herself will be the only solution.

What links Ambra and Krum? But most of all, can two different souls be able to touch each other outside and inside? A secret organization, an uncontrollable passion, a man and a woman destined to clash.

breakdown

Series: He Wants it All; Lui vuole tutto (Italian)
Author: Marilena Barbagallo
# of Books: 2 (He Wants It All, She Wants It All)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be released in English
Genre: Adult, Dark, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: hot (Kink: mild | BDSM: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 8, 2017
Source & Format: Author–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good dark romance. I can’t get enough of the secrets, the sexual tension or the drama. They keep me on my toes and I love that.

After reading the synopsis for He Wants It All, I just had to give it a try. The whole notion of a secret organization had me curious to know more about the story and the link between our two leads.

What I Liked:

–The Flashbacks to the Past–

I had a hard time putting this book down! I was completely enthralled by the characters and the situation they find themselves in. We only gets bits and pieces of their shared past at a time and that pushed me to keep reading. It was great putting together all the hints we get along the way to see the bigger picture.

I also liked the character development it provided for our leads, specifically for Krum. It was nice to get the insight into his character and his motivations instead of having him be a complete enigma. Understanding his character helped me appreciate his struggles with Ambra and his back-and-forth nature when it might have otherwise annoyed me.

–The Sexual Tension–

Ambra is a great complement to his character and I loved all their scenes together. They have fantastic chemistry from the start. Their whole “I hate to love you” routine is electric throughout the novel.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Middle–

I will say that the middle of this book did get a little slower for me. Most of that time is spent between Ambra and Krum fighting their attraction–which is all fine and dandy. As I said above, I loved their scenes together.

But I do wish we would have had a little focus on Ambra and the society. Just some little inklings that remind you that there is a bigger story than these two fighting their attraction. We do get those pieces near the end which I appreciate but they could have been hinted at earlier I think.

Notes on the English Translation:

I do want to comment briefly on the English translation of this book. This book was originally written in Italian and the author decided to translate it into Italian. I read the English version.

Unfortunately, I do think a few things were lost in translation along the way and that did alter my reading experience. Some of the sentences were awkward or didn’t make complete sense based on the words they used in the translation. Technically, the sentence is correct but isn’t the way a native English speaker would say it so it makes sentences seem wordier or slighter alters the true point the character is trying to convey.

I had to reread a lot to get a solid grasp on what the characters were trying to say and that ruined the flow of the book for me. All this book needs is a thorough edit in English and it would knock readers socks off! Because everything else is on par with great dark romances!

Note: It looks like a new English Translation is in the works so be on the lookout for an updated version!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While some of my questions were answered, I had about 50 more by the time He Wants it All wrapped up. I can’t wait to see what is next!

My Rating: 4/5

He Wants it All 4/5 | She Wants it All TBP

overall

This was a great dark romance! I loved the secrets and the tension between the leads. It kept me hooked from the start

Read if You Like: dark romances, tragic character pasts, secrets
Avoid if You: dislike dark romance

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Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

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

booksynopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

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

Series Rating: 4/5

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

overall

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

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

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DNF Series Review: Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

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 Magonia (from Goodreads):
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?

breakdown

Series: Magonia
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley
# of Books: 2 (Magonia, Aerie)

There may be a novella that is released.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2015 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Magonia at 19% (Page 60 of 309; Start of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think it’s obvious the cover is what had me picking up this book. I mean, it’s gorgeous and in person you can easily see all the details on the feather and it’s beautiful.

The synopsis immediately brought the Worldwalker Trilogy to mind: a girl who is (physically) just scraping by in this world due to some immunological reaction to the air around her. But that seems to be the only similarity. Regardless, it’s an intriguing concept and I was curious to see what was really happening.

What I Liked:

–Aza is Pretty Jaded/Cynical–

You have to be in the right mood for a cynical/jaded character and I happened to be when I started this story. I enjoyed Aza’s attitude about life. Her humour is slightly on the darker side which I find funny but I know that is off-putting for other readers.

But I understood her stoic mood. She’s been having a rough go of things and it’s easy to see that her attitude is her coping mechanism. Not everyone would be happy if they have a medical condition that no one can seem to pin-point, so it works for this story.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Plot Development–

This is the main reason why I DNF’d it: I just felt like the story wasn’t going anywhere.

While I liked Aza’s narration style, it did wear on me a bit. I swear, the first 3 chapters were her just moaning on about her circumstances. And while that is necessary to establish her character and to see what sets her apart from the rest of earth, it just got monotonous to me. I felt like we were repeating the same notion over and over and not getting any further in the plot.

I could see the inklings of the plot emerging through when I stopped reading. We were starting to get some context for what the ship might be, but by that point I was over it.

In a book that is 300 pages, I want the plot to start before the 20% mark to make it worth my while.

Will I Finish It?

No. No matter how beautiful that cover is, I have no plans to finish this series. I even read the synopsis for Aerie (because I had taken it out from the library as well to binge the series) and it sounded even duller to me.

Series Rating: DNF

Magonia DNF | Aerie N/A

overall

If you like slower moving stories with unique worlds and characters, this is probably the series for you. Otherwise, there are better Sci Fi and Fantasy combo novels out there.

Read if You Like: slow stories
Avoid if You: dislike jaded heroines
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Fresh Fridays: The Songs in Our Hearts by Chantal Gadoury

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:

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Songs in Our Hearts (from Goodreads):

High school junior Charlie Blake has never seen anyone quite like Micah Jacobs in her small town of Grand Lakes. With his carefree spirit, rough-around-the-edges personality, and handsome grin, Charlie is transfixed.

But Charlie’s been burned before with her first crush, at the hands of an ex-friend and a cruel joke. Because of those scars, Charlie keeps her guard up when it comes to boys. But a class project – that may or may not involve kissing for the camera! – forces her to not only confront Micah, but her true feelings.

While prepping for the assignment, Charlie finds herself in Micah’s car accompanied by the music of Journey, Elvis, The Cars, and Peter Gabriel. Between slushies, burning rafts, pizza, and great music, Charlie and Micah bond as she learns the importance of letting go of the past and opening herself to new people.

When their project comes to an end, Charlie wonders if she should finally confess everything she’s been denying before she loses the chance. When words fail, will the songs in her heart be enough?

breakdown

Series: Songs
Author: Chantal Gadoury
# of Books: 2 (The Songs in Our Hearts, The Songs We Remember)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, The Songs We Remember is to be released
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Chantal Gadoury!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge music fan of the 70s and 80s so when I saw Journey and the Cars listed in the synopsis for this book, I was totally on board! I love when books incorporate something else and music especially. After all, most songs are a story of some sorts so they just seem to go hand and hand to me.

But I also love when school partners fall in love and the coming of age vibes in the synopsis had be curious to see what would happen between Charlie and Mica.

What I Liked:

–The Music Soundtrack–

What drew me to this book was the music. I loved the way that music was incorporated in the chapter headings to parallel what was happening within them. You could definitely make this a super interactive experience by listening to each song before the start of the chapter just to get that little bit more from it. (I recognized most of the songs by heart so I immediately got the connections which was awesome)

Truthfully, I thought the bond over them listening to music would play a bigger role than it does but that’s ok. They bond in other ways which works well for the story and strengthens their relationship. The music does play a substantial role though just know that it isn’t only about the music between these two.

–Charlie’s Family–

One of the biggest highlights for me was Charlie’s family. It was so nice to have such a positive, real family in a YA read. She has a super close relationship with her older brother that I found to be charming and realistic. I also liked that her parents were supportive but stern when they needed to be. It was just refreshing to me to see a family actually get along and support the lead.

–I Got The DUFF Vibes When Reading–

The relationship dynamic between Charlie and Micah reminded me of the relationship between Bianca and Wesley in The DUFF. It’s slightly antagonistic and full of banter at the start but evolves into something more as they get to know each other. They take their time getting to know the other on a deeper level just by listening or doing everyday things together and I loved that.

Charlie and Bianca have similar stories too in the sense that they are working on becoming confident in themselves and learning to not care what others think.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wanted More Development from Micah–

For me, I just wanted a little more character growth. This is a story about the characters since there isn’t too much going on in terms of the dramatic plot as it is a coming of age story. In particular I would have liked Micah’s character to develop a bit more than he does. I know the focus is on Charlie and her getting over her fears but I think it would have added some depth to their relationship if we learned a little more about Micah. We get little tidbits that maybe there is more to his character and I wish those were elaborated on a little more.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

What I’m really looking forward to is the character growth of these two moving forward. Navigating their feelings, friends and everyday with the change in their relationship has me intrigued to see what will happen next.

My Rating: 3/5

The Songs in Our Hearts 3/5 | The Songs We Remember TBP

overall

This is a charming and cute read that YA fans will enjoy. In particular, if you enjoy books that incorporate music or have a soundtrack to them, this is definitely the perfect read for you!

Read if You Like: music, YA contemporary, girls getting their confidence
Avoid if You: want soap-opera like drama

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DNF Series Review: Youngblood by Liz Reinhardt

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 Fall Guy (from Goodreads):

Evan Lennox is going nowhere fast. She’s living with her grandparents after her parents bailed on her, she got kicked out of her posh private school, her ex-boyfriend proved to be the biggest sleaze imaginable, her former best friend is a back-stabber, and her current best friend is stuck in backwoods NJ. To top it all off, one teeny, tiny fire she lit to burn some memories of her ex goes a little out of control and winds up igniting a good piece of a very powerful family’s pecan orchard.

Evan lands her pampered behind in court and gets sentenced to community service. Which she knows she deserves. But the hard labor and humiliation may be her undoing.

Until she meets Winchester Youngblood on the site.

Everything about him is tricky, confusing, not at all what it seems, and so sexy, Evan can’t resist pulling closer. But every step she takes to get to know him gives her more of a reason to back up and put him as far out of life as she possibly can. Because Winch is one hundred percent complicated, and Evan isn’t looking for that. At all. She needs to meet a nice, responsible guy, not share searing kisses with the charming hustler she met after they both got sentenced in court.

But Winch is so much more than what he seems, and Evan finds out that she’s falling hard for the guy everyone underestimates and writes off. And Winch realizes that Evan is the one person who’s ever challenged him to ask for more out of his life, and her courage inspires him to try to be the person she sees when she looks at him. With every single odd stacked against them, Evan and Winch need to find out whether they have what it takes to fall for each other.

breakdown

Series: Youngblood

This is a spinoff of the Brenna Blixen Series.

Author: Liz Reinhardt
# of Books: 2 (Fall Guy, Perfectly Unmatched)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot *Spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September – December 2012
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Fall Guy at 17% (Middle of Chapter 4). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how I came across this one years ago. I bought The Fall Guy in September 2013, around the time I became interested in the New Adult genre and was getting my hands on anything in the genre so I can assume that is the reason why.

What drew me to this title is the concept of these two meeting in community service after committing crimes. I like romances that start in different ways and I hadn’t come across something like this before.

What I Liked:

–Alternating POVs–

I like my romances to have alternating POVs because it provides better character development. It gives you insight into both characters and allows you to get a better understanding of who they are.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Set in High School–

I thought this was going to take place in college, not while Evan was still in high school. I kinda missed the “kicked out of her private school” part of the synopsis so it threw me for a loop when in the next chapter she talks about going to school. And while Evan is in high school, I think Winch is actually in his 20s. Which is fine but it rubbed me the wrong way because he acts like he is in high school sometimes. He just lacked that much needed maturity.

And you know when high schoolers start acting like they are privileged 30 year olds? Totally got those vibes here and it makes everything seem so over the top.

–I-want-you-I-don’t-want-you Tug of War–

I’m all for sexual tension but this was a little too much for me. They were constantly eyeballing each other’s body parts and getting ready for sexy times between tiny bouts of banter. Then, when they would try to progress further, one of them would pull away knowing that they shouldn’t let this relationship develop any further.

I read some other reviews while contemplating whether or not to continue and lots of people stated this was something that continues for the rest of the novel. I don’t mind back and forth for a small portion of the novel, but the entire thing, it’s just too repetitive for me.

Will I Finish It?

Never mind the fact that I can’t get the second novel through any eBook store in Canada, but this one just isn’t for me any more. So I will not be finishing it.

Series Rating: DNF

Fall Guy DNF | Perfectly Unmatched N/A

overall

If you like over the top YA/NA contemporaries, this is a good one for you!

Read if You Like: soap operas, lifestyles of rich
Avoid if You: want more depth to your romances
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Series Review: Dance Off by Alexis Daria

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

Dance Off Duology

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Take the Lead (from Goodreads):

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Contemporary 2017, To Watch Author
Series: Dance Off
Author: Alexis Daria
# of Books: 2 (Take the Lead, Dance With Me)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Celebrity
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 2017 – December 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eBook | Thank You St. Martin’s Press – Swerve!

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:

I was very excited to start this book. The biggest draw: the opposites attract storyline. I love when unlikely romances blossom between two people. But I also loved the reality TV aspect. I like books that explore what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling (or perhaps unknowingly rolling).

What I Liked:

–The Chemistry–

I felt the connection between these two immediately. I’m talking within seconds of them meeting for the first time. That’s quite an accomplishment for a writer when fresh new characters are introduced.

The tension between them is so, so good. They have this magnetism between them that I positively adore. It was so apparent to me why these two would be drawn to each other and how love could grow between them. They have that deeper connection to them and I couldn’t get enough of it in the book.

–The Characters–

After reading this book, I wish that Gina was a real person. Not only did I love her character and personality, I also respected her work ethic and self-awareness. It’s really inspiring to read about a heroine who doesn’t define herself by her romantic relationships but on her own hard work and cares about the image she is presenting to the young girls look up to her. This never felt forced in anyway either; Gina is a super genuine character and it comes across at every page.

And Stone is a great compliment to that. He has quite the journey too when it comes to deciding what he wants in life. I also liked that he was masculine without being overbearing. He’s just a nice guy who cares about his family and doing the right thing.

–Perfect Amount of Drama–

There was just enough drama in this book to keep things interesting. Nothing felt over the top or out of left field. It just worked well to highlight the various elements of character growth. Plus: everything is handled in a very mature (and logical) way that I completely respected as a reader.

What I Didn’t Like:

That it took me so long to read this? I blame my hectic life for letting this one sit as long as I did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

We got a juicy little hint about what’s to come for Dance With Me and I CANNOT WAIT to read it!

updates

–November 20, 2017– Book #2: Dance With Me

Once again, the character development here is great! I often find in romances that one of the characters is “stronger” (or more put together) than the other when it comes to their lives but in this novel, I liked that they each had their flaws and things to work on. I loved watching both of our leads grow as people and push each other to better things. They make great partners in all aspects which is what I loved watching in this book.

They also make a great romantic pair because they have fantastic chemistry. Sure, the somewhat forbidden element of their relationship adds to the tension but they are both super passionate people and it shows.

The main reason this rating isn’t a 5/5 is that I wanted a little more showing than telling with the romance. It’s always hard to write a romance where the characters have already fallen in love with each other without the readers seeing that because we love watching the initial sparks fly (or at least I do). These two have had a relationship for a long time (one that isn’t really touched on in the previous book either other than its brief mention) and those feelings for each other are already established. As I said above, these two have great chemistry and it shows but often times I felt like I was reading the sequel novel to their story without reading the first because I wanted more of those sparks.

However, I still really enjoyed this book! The character development is truly the highlight of this novel (it’s hard to find a solid character driven romance instead of just a focus on sexy times) and Alexis Daria has succeeded once again!

My Rating: 5/5

Take the Lead 5/5 | Dance With Me 4/5

overall

I think I found a new contemporary romance author to follow! It has everything I love in a solid contemporary romance: fantastic characters, just the right amount of drama and a completely swoon-worthy romance. This definitely takes the trophy!

Read if You Like: adult romance, reality TV, drama
Avoid if You: want more erotica based story
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Series Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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

Empress of a Thousand Skies Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Empress of a Thousand Skies (from Goodreads):

Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

breakdown

Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies
Author: Rhoda Belleza
# of Books: 2 (Empress of a Thousand Skies, Blood of a Thousand Stars)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating & Multiple
Publication Date: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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:

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. I marked it on my wishlist at my local library simply because I love the cover. The synopsis was intriguing enough but it seems like every plot in a science fiction novel lately has had a similar premise (I get why though: race and class divides are a part of the science fiction backbone so of course there are similarities) so I wasn’t overly eager to read this. Add to that the somewhat mixed reviews on Goodreads and I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Note on Empress of a Thousand Skies Synopsis:

What I’m about to say may be considered by some to be a spoiler but I actually think it is better labeled as a warning because it is important to know what you are getting into and what type of story to prepare yourself for. So read this section if you want a little guidance for the type of story you are picking up or avoid and continue down to the next section.

My Little Warning!

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding

When you read those lines from the synopsis, you think the plot will be Rhee and her accused killer meeting and proceeding to save the world together. The key word there being “together”, implying that they actually get introduced to each other. That is not the case.

The best way to describe this story is as two parallel stories that contribute to the overall plot of the world. Maybe there is some suspense in wondering if they will ever meet but for me, knowing that they weren’t going to meet helped me starve off some of the disappointment of discovering that they won’t…yet.

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What I Liked:

–The Plot is Always Moving–

I don’t like stagnant plot lines and this one never felt like it got stuck or dwelled too long on one thing or another. I think it helps that we get both Aly and Rhee’s POVs too since you get that back and forth plot development. New secrets and alliances are constantly being revealed so something is always grabbing your attention. It helps to build the story and subsequently the finale.

–Not Afraid to Take Risks–

Not that you need to kill off characters to keep a story going but I like the suspense that happens when you aren’t sure who is safe and who isn’t. The action scenes we get here–while sometimes few and far between–had me paying attention because who knows what could happen next!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Somewhat Predictable–

While there were definitely plot twists that surprised me, I think the one big twist in this novel was super obvious. So that dampened the reading experience a touch but I still found myself interested in what would happen next.

–Slightly Lackluster Ending–

Because of the obvious plot twist, the ending was definitely lackluster in my opinion. I really needed something big to happen to “wow” me to take my experience to the next level.

My Audiobook Experience:

For a third person POV narration, I had a very easy time following what was happening. The narrator kept my attention and she was really expressive which helps. I think I would have liked a male narrator to do Aly’s parts simply to remind me when I stopped mid-chapter who the POV was following. Otherwise, it was a solid narration.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I wasn’t wowed with this novel, I did enjoy it. I’m curious to see what will happen in the finale and how everything weaves together.

updates

–March 26, 2018– Book #2: Blood of a Thousand Stars

This was a great sequel and finale! I definitely enjoyed this more than the first one! I found it was more unpredictable than the first one so I liked the anticipation that brought. It also has great pacing. The story and characters are always moving and I loved the weaving of the various narratives together.

My Rating: 3/5

Empress of a Thousand Skies 3/5 | Blood of a Thousand Stars 4/5

overall

While not a standout novel in its genre, this series will definitely keep readers interest throughout with its great pacing and solid worldbuilding.

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

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DNF Series Review: Silent by N E Henderson

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 Silent No More (from Goodreads):
She thought silence was her best option…until the past threatened to ruin her future.

Shannon Taylor has it all: great friends, her dream career, a loving fiancé, and a best friend that’s like the sister she never had. Life couldn’t get any better—or so she thought.

Just when you think you have it all, add in a little betrayal and a few lies and you have the
perfect mixture for a storm, strong enough to send you spiraling into a life full of unknowns—or could that have been the point? When traveling down the wrong path sometimes we need to be blown into a different direction.

Now unsure of everything she had planned for herself, Shannon is on a mission to forget, but
what she isn’t expecting to run into is the arrogant, womanizing, control freak that clearly thinks he’s a gift to all women. That may be for most women, but not this one.

Meet Nicholas Lockhart.

He’s sexy, domineering, and has a temper that is easily triggered, but those things are a must when in the business environment that he is. To be successful means to be the best, the alpha, controlling all others. Meeting a woman who can turn his world upside down is not in the cards, not part of the plan. Why have one woman when there are so many appetizing ones to taste? A renowned eligible bachelor is the person he likes to be, that is until the defiant, redhead turns his head and puts him in his place.

Their quick and intense passion takes them both by surprise, eliciting a relationship neither expected. When her past collides with her present, Shannon is forced to confront it head on, tangling her in a web of lies and twisted truths that soon leave both bare and vulnerable.

Sometimes the only option is to be silent no more…

breakdown

Series: Silent Duet
Author: N E Henderson
# of Books: 2 (Silent No More, Silent Guilt)
Book Order: Chronological, Connected (Silent Death)
Complete?: Yes but there are other books that may be released
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Drama
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2013 – May 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Silent No More at 13% (Start of Chapter 4). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I bought this book nearly 3 years ago…and I don’t really remember why. I’m sure I came across it while I was looking for New Adult reads. Maybe Kobo suggested it?

Anywho, I knew what Shannon’s betrayal was going to be based on the synopsis. It’s a common trope but I was curious to see what they were going to so with it all. And Nicholas’ character intrigued me. I have a soft spot for the player turned monogamous man. It is fiction after all 😉

What I Liked:

I didn’t really find anything I liked…that’s why I DNF’d it so early…

What I Didn’t Like:

–Nothing I Haven’t Encountered Before–

Everything seemed pretty cliche to me: ie it wasn’t anything new to me as a frequent reader of the New Adult genre.

Like I said, I knew that Shannon was going to find her fiance cheating on her in the first chapter. The betrayal was pretty easy to pinpoint from the synopsis. And I could get past that; but even the prologue from Nicholas featured the typical rich boy cliches.

And there really is nothing wrong with those tropes/characteristics. I mean, they’re tried and true tropes for a reason. But I wasn’t in the mood for your everyday NA read. Especially with a title like “Silent No More”, I expect something epic to happen in the plot, not just go through the motions.

–Wish it was Alternating POVs–

I had a hard time connecting with Shannon who was the main POV for the first three chapters I read. I’m not sure if Nicholas POV comes into play later or if he was just featured in the prologue.

Regardless, Shannon was a little too angsty for me. Even if I understood the reason for her anger (the “betrayal”), she read like a broken record because that’s all she moaned about for those first 3 chapters. She just bored me.

So I think having Nicholas’ POV would have given me something else to focus on besides her drama and kept me interested in this story.

Will I Finish It?

Probably not. While I hate having unfinished titles on my eReaders, I just don’t want to commit myself to two books that I’m just not feeling.

Series Rating: DNF

Silent No More DNF | Silent Guilt N/A | Silent Death TBR | Silent Fall TBR

overall

If you like dramatic reads and are newer to the NA genre, this is probably a great book for you to read. But for fans who have read a lot NA books over the years, this might be a little too basic for you.

Read if You Like: drama, contemporary
Avoid if You: want a “fresh” NA read
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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, Smoke in the Sun)
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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