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Fresh Fridays: Warcross (#1) by Marie Lu

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:

Warcross Duology

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Warcross (from Goodreads):

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
# of Books: 2 (Warcross, Wildcard)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Wildcard, to be published September 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Action
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After reading (and positively adoring) the Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu, I always make an effort to read her books when they come out. While I enjoyed The Young Elites Trilogy, I found that I enjoyed the concept behind it more than the actual story.

So I was a little apprehensive when it came to Warcross. As someone who has played a few Massive Multiplayer Games, I was definitely curious to see what this world was all about. But the synopsis didn’t give much away in terms of the type of story it would be and reviews from other bloggers had me going in with slightly lowered expectations.

But if anyone can surprise me, it’s Marie Lu.

What I Liked:

–Emika–

What a great heroine she is! I just loved her tech savvy-ness and drive. She thinks outside the box and gives everything her all and how can you not love that in a heroine?

–The Games in the Tournament–

I LOVED the actions scenes where Emika is in the game with her team. Perhaps it was just the fact that I could hear the enthusiasm and expressions of the narrator as she read the scenes in the audiobook, but they were enthralling to say the least. It was reminiscent of those scenes in some of my favourite books like Red Rising and The Hunger Games.

–The Romance–

I don’t want to give much away but I thought it was super cute and definitely impacts the plot in a way that not every romance does.

–Not Overly Predictable–

While I had the identity of  Zero figured out, I was definitely wrong about what was actually happening which was a great twist!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slower Start–

I always find it hard to tell when I listen to audiobooks to determine if it’s actually the narrator’s style/delivery that impacts the pacing of the book or the actual writing itself. (Some narrator’s talk at a slower speed plus reading something out-loud takes longer than reading it with your eyes.  So most audiobooks take twice as long to listen to as they would to read). I do know that I sped up the delivery to 1.5X because I found her cadence to be on the slower side (my default is usually 1.25X).

But I did find it took us a while to get into the thick of things. Not that we spend too much time following Emika’s life before the tournament but the first half definitely lacks the suspense of the latter half.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t WAIT to see how all of this is going to play out! This series went in a direction I didn’t anticipate so I’m really curious about what Marie Lu has up her sleeve.

My Rating: 4/5

Warcross  4/5| Wildcard TBP

overall

You don’t have to be a fan of video games to get hooked into this page turner!

Read if You Like: stories set in the future, video games, action
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance
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Series Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Wicked Thing (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Dialogue:

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Series Rating: 2/5

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

overall

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

Read if You Like: sleeping beauty, slow stories
Avoid if You: want action, want more romance
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Novella Serial Reviews: Past Life Chronicles by C K Brooke

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

booksynopsis

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

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

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

similarreads

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

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Series Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenselle

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 Daughter of the Pirate King (from Goodreads):

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King Duology
Author: Tricia Levenseller
# of Books: 2 (Daughter of the Pirate King, Daughter of the Siren Queen)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Adventure, Pirates, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library & Own–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book a lot in 2017 and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I love a good pirate story; I’m usually not a fan of the adventure story but with pirates, something just works for me. So while the hype around this scared me a little, I was very excited to pick it up and dive right in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the ordered chaos of this world. The whole hierarchy of the pirate world here was fascinating and very straightforward to follow. It has all those elements you expect when it comes to pirate tales, including the sword fights and death. It’s not overly violent by any means but you do have some blood and life loss so I liked that it didn’t sugar coat those aspects.

The Plot:

I think I ended up liking Daughter of the Pirate King more than I thought I would because it wasn’t your typical pirate adventure. Instead, it felt like more of a battle of wits between Alosa and Riden as Alosa tries to complete her mission. It’s a pretty stationary setting (as opposed to sailing from destination to destination) and things happen quickly as a result so I was never bored. Even if the plot seemed a little slow, Alosa’s sass or scenes with Riden had me eager for more. I easily became addicted to the story.

But that wasn’t the case for the sequel and finale, The Daughter of the Siren Queen. I had the hardest time getting invested into this story. Honestly, if it wasn’t the sequel I would have likely DNF’d it. It isn’t because it’s bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I found things got off to a slow start and we kept rehashing the same sentiments again and again (mainly Alosa struggling with her true nature). Which is fine but I needed more to keep my full attention. The last quarter does pick up and there was some great romantic development but this definitely wasn’t the sequel I had anticipated.

The Characters:

I immediately loved Alosa because she is exactly the type of sassy pirate I want to read about. Her wit and kick-ass attitude had me from the start. She also had a surprising amount of character growth later on in the book (and series) and I liked that a lot (even if it did get a little dry in the sequel).

Riden is a great adversary for her as well. He’s her match in every way and I loved every scene that they had together. I love battles of wit and banter and these two don’t disappoint.

Everyone else is what you want them to be. You’ve got your villains and the shifty crew members and they all add to this fantastic atmosphere and story.

The Romance:

Clearly I was a fan. Like I said, these two had great chemistry from the start and I loved all their scenes together. I felt like the romance only got stronger in the sequel and it really became apparent to me why these two were such a great match.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a physical book. Actually hearing Alosa’s sass and witty remarks aloud had me laughing out loud throughout. But it also allowed her emotion and conflict to show too which made her a more complex character than I originally thought. Highly recommend the audiobook!

Series Rating: 4/5

Daughter of the Pirate King 5/5 | Daughter of the Siren Queen 2.5/5

overall

Despite my less than stellar experience with the sequel (I really think it was just a “me” thing), this is a great series for those who love pirate adventures. It’s got a strong heroine who does have her own flaws but learns along the way who she truly wants to be. It’s a great duology!

Read if You Like: pirates, kickass heroines, banter
Avoid if You: dislike adventure stories, want more romance

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2018 Take Control

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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: Playing Dirty by Pamela DuMond

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

Playing Dirty Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Client (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weren’t some rules meant to be broken?

breakdown

Series: Playing Dirty
Author: Pamela DuMond
# of Books: 2 (The Client, The Matchmaker)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Comedy
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Read It & Review It–eARC

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

What I Liked:

–The Banter–

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

–Charlotte’s Job–

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

–Background Stories–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

Slightly Misleading Synopsis–

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

updates

–May 31, 2018– Book #2: The Matchmaker

This novel just felt far too rushed–and often forced–to be completely enjoyable. I can forgive the craziness of the “whisked on a private jet out of the country” premise and I’ll admit I was on board with it until it was actually executed.

Lustful glances and inner monologues about having sex with the other lead does not a romance novel make. Sure, I got the fact that these two were insanely attracted to the other but there was very little interaction between them outside of those fantasies.

And that’s a shame because these two have incredible backstories. We get a lot of Aiden’s and it is fascinating but Violet never learns about it. And Violet’s need to assert her independence in her family gets cast aside before it can even be built up.

I think the worst part of this story is that just when it looked like some good progress (in terms of development in all fronts) is about to happen, the book wraps up quickly and neatly and in a way that left me completely unsatisfied. Overall, I was very disappointed in this sequel.

My Rating: 3/5

The Client 4/5 | The Matchmaker 2/5

overall

While The Client is the perfect pick-me-up for contemporary romance fans who like a little fun, The Matchmaker falls short in delivering the same experience despite the unique premise.

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

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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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