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Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Storyspinner (from Goodreads):

Drama and danger abound in this “intricately woven” (Shannon Messenger, author of the Sky Fall series) fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

breakdown

Series: The Storyspinner; The Keepers’ Chronicles
Author: Becky Wallace
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook (#1); Scribd–eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When The Storyspinner first came out, it seemed to be everywhere. It was gracing lists and seemed to be a staple review post around the blogosphere. I love a good fantasy novel; especially one where the lead heroine is strong in perhaps unconventional ways and there are political maneuvers abound. So I had some high expectations for this.

The Concept / The World:

Like its title suggests, this story weaves together many character stories into one. I loved the multiple POV because it kept the story moving when the plot is somewhat dry. But it also provides a full-circle view of the world and drives the world building.

It might have been me and my somewhat of a rush to finish this book before I had to return it, but I wasn’t totally clear on the roles of Keepers. I’m going with “it’s a me thing”. I often struggle with magic premises…despite the fact that I adore fantasy.

The Plot:

In the grand scheme, I felt like not much happens in the first book. It felt like there was a larger focus on character development or maybe it just felt that way because we got multiple POV. I did enjoy the mystery of who is after Johanna–it wasn’t predictable–even if most other things about Johanna are.

The sequel follows much of the same flow but perhaps at a little faster pace because everything has been building up to this. I read the books too far apart to appreciate the finer details but it was easy to get back into the swing of things.

The Characters:

As I often am, I was drawn to the side characters. I like Jo enough and I liked her drive and intelligence. But I found the paths the other characters went down to be more intriguing. I was surprised by some of the evolving and harder paths the characters follow. It allowed for some great growth throughout the series.

The Romance:

I wasn’t totally sold on Johanna’s romance. I think in the sequel it improves but I was often drawn to the side characters’ relationships. But if you love romance in your novels, no doubt something will appease you here.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Storyspinner 3.5/5 | The Skylighter 3/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fantasy who prefer more character driven stories with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: fantasy, not overly complicated plots
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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Series Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

Series Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

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 Contagion (from Goodreads):

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

breakdown

Series: Contagion
Author: Erin Bowman
# of Books: 2  (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: July 2018 – July 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I kinda stumbled upon this series by accident. I was browsing audiobooks at my library and noticed the author’s name so I decided to see if it was something I’d be into. I really enjoyed Vengeance Road by Bowman and I knew she could create a great world. I’ve been searching for that great SciFi thriller ever since I read Across the Universe and this one seemed like it had the potential to be that.

The Concept / The World:

There’s just something so suspenseful about an isolated space colony with an unknown enemy lurking in the shadows. I found that despite the slower plot, the setting really kept me interested in what was happening because I was invested in solving the mystery.

The scientist in me loved the science of this novel and how it contributed to the story. Sometimes I find the Science Fiction stories I read crossover into the fantasy elements but this one kept it pretty real and was pretty accurate with its scientific terms/explanations.

The Plot:

This story took a while to get its plot to take off. I think part of the problem is that I was a little overwhelmed with all the characters we are introduced to (more on that below). But the combination of the setting and the mystery kept me reading.

The mystery was good though I thought it was pretty basic. Nothing overly shocking or ground-breaking in either novels. I had a pretty good idea of what was happening for the most part fairly early on but I appreciated the science behind it all.

The Characters:

I’m someone who LOVES multiple POVs in a novel but even I was overwhelmed by the number of characters we are introduced to. I had a really hard time distinguishing all the characters from each other so it kept them at a bit of a distance throughout the first novel. I just never connected with any of them or their stories.

The Romance:

I love a little romance in a novel and though there was an inkling early on in Book #1 that was interesting, it fizzled out pretty quickly and nothing else ever sparked. It gets a little more of a focus in Immunity (#2) which was a refreshing element to the story.

My Audiobook Experience:

In hindsight, the audiobook might have been a not-so-great choice for me. Part of the reason I had such a hard time separating the characters from each other was that I didn’t always notice when we switched POVs. I listen to audiobooks at 1.5X the speed (and usually when I’m doing something else) so the page breaks aren’t always noticeable to me. And instead of having each chapter as a different character POV, we got multiple character POVs within the same chapter. So everything just blends together here and it made it hard to follow as a reader.

Series Rating: 3/5

Contagion 3/5 | Immunity 3/5

overall

If you want a science fiction novel that grounds itself more in the practical than the fantastical, this might be a great duet for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: science fiction, little romance
Avoid if You: want lots of action and drama

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Series Review: Anna by Kendare Blake

Series Review: Anna by Kendare Blake

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 Anna Dressed in Blood (from Goodreads):

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.

breakdown

Series: Anna, Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Supernatural, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2011 – August 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was in University when this book came out and I remember seeing some buzz for it on Goodreads (which I had just discovered) and put it on my list to read. I think it was one of the first eBooks my library had as well. Regardless, it was a popular read and even though it didn’t fit my usual genre, I wanted to give it a try.

Fast-foward nearly a decade later and I had moved the book from my TBR list to my Pass list a few times before finally opting to listen to the audiobook because I needed something new to read and I had been enjoying Blake’s Three Dark Crowns Series.

The Concept / The World:

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest ghost fan and around the time of this release, I had read a few other meh YA ghost reads and I think that contributed to my decision to not pick this up. But I thought the idea here was fresh take (reminded my of the Mediator Series by Meg Cabot a bit).

What I really loved is that the location! It’s not everyday I read a book set in Canada let alone Ontario so having this set in Thunder Bay was neat. Every town has their ghost stories and the setting here reminded me of my home town and the creepy house on the outskirts everyone swore was haunted.

The Plot:

It’s a fairly easy plot to follow in terms of the supernatural elements. Everything is explained well even with the various layers and aspects at play.

If you’re looking for straight-up horror, this isn’t it. It’s more about the backstories of Cas and Anna–why he hunts ghosts; why she is still a ghost. There are suspenseful moments and I enjoyed the mystery of their pasts.

I struggled to get into the second book though. One reason was the romance (explained below) the other was that I thought it jumped around a little too much and fell into even more cliches than the first novel did.

The Characters:

I liked Cas a lot actually. It isn’t often we get only male POVs in YA so that was rather refreshing. He’s blunt with his candour and I appreciated that. And he is rather complex.

The rest of the characters we meet though fall into cliches and stereotypes so I didn’t really form any great connections to them.

The Romance:

For the longest time I didn’t think there was a romance so it seemed rather sudden and random. It also felt like his feelings for her were of pity for her situation? I just didn’t see any chemistry between them and I think that really turned me off of the sequel.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think listening to the audiobook helped me to like Cas as our narrator. I think he would have come across as an asshole without listening to the tone of his delivery. It helped me appreciate his dry wit and candour. I also think it maybe turned me off of the idea of a romance with how the narrator does Anna’s voice.

Series Rating: 2/5

Anna Dressed in Blood 3/5 | Girl of Nightmares 2/5

overall

This one straddles that line between original yet cliche at the same time. There were aspects I liked but I really struggled to connect to any of the characters or story.

Read if You Like: ghost stories, duologies
Avoid if You: want less cliches, want a smoother story

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  • Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (Paranormalcy Series #1)
  • Hereafter by Tara Hudson (Hereafter Series #1)
  • The Hollow by Jessica Verday (The Hollow Series #1)

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Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

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 Black Rainbows (from Goodreads):

After an erotic one-week fling with a musician she meets in a bar, Thea Cunning never expects to see Levi Black again. Then Monday morning comes around, and she discovers that her former lover is not only her professor, but he’s also one of the top criminal lawyers in the state of Massachusetts.

With everyone in class vying to be one of the twelve disciples—a group of twelve students that Professor Black takes under his wing—tensions run high. Thea considers dropping his class, given their passionate week together and their undeniable chemistry. After all, there are other (less infuriatingly sexy) law professors on campus.

But to accomplish her goal and get her father out of prison, Thea knows she needs to learn under the best of the best—and that’s Levi Black.

But can she learn under the best, without being under the best?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: Rainbows
Author: J J Mcavoy
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2015 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was on a list of my “Recommended for You” reads by Kobo. I love New Adult romances and at the time I was buying a ton of them from Kobo because my library just didn’t have them. But I never did bring myself to buy the book. Eventually, my library did get a copy of it so I finally got around to reading it!

The Plot:

This series was refreshing in a lot of ways for me. The first few chapters alternate between the past (their one week together) and the present and that amplified their chemistry together. It just brought this tension to the chapters in the present because you could see how into each other they were.

I thought at times we got a little too sidetracked by the legal cases. I didn’t need as much detail as we got. To some degree I understand the idea that it helps develop the characters but I’m not one for legal procedures or lawyers so my interest waned sometimes.

Just a note that Rainbows Ever After is a novella epilogue. It’s a full novella (~90 pages) so it is quite extensive. Again, the legal focus was something I wasn’t into but it does highlight some of the insecurities Thea has.

The Characters:

I loved the diversity of the cast! Thea is black, Levi is white but that doesn’t stop them (as it shouldn’t) from falling in love. In some ways, I was glad that their difference in races wasn’t a focal point because it really shouldn’t matter or be an obstacle to their love. But in the same breath, there are prejudices that they may have to face so I would have liked it to be a little more prominent here. To be fair, it is highlighted a more in Rainbows Ever After so that rounded it out for me in the end.

The Romance:

This doesn’t follow the usual routine of your forbidden professor/student relationship and the consequence that could occur; rather, it focused on them trying to see if they could be in any relationship. That approach has positives and negatives for me because I love the tension the forbidden brings and I missed that a bit but you couldn’t deny their connection either.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Black Rainbow 4/5 | [Rainbows Ever After 3/5]

overall

If you are looking for a refreshing take on the “forbidden romance” this is a great one for you to grab!

Read if You Like: lawyers/legal procedures, forbidden romance
Avoid if You: want the “forbidden” aspect to be more angsty

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Series Review: Virtue by Mia Asher

Series Review: Virtue by Mia Asher

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 Easy Virtue (from Goodreads):

Love is selfish…

My name is Blaire.
I’m the bad girl.
The other woman.
The one who never gets the guy in the end.

I’m the gold digger.
The bitch.
The one no one roots for.
The one you love to hate.

I hate myself too…

Everyone has a story. Are you ready for mine?

breakdown

Series: Virtue
Author: Mia Asher
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
Heat Rating: Smokin’
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1); Alternating (#2)
Publication Dates: December 2014 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m pretty sure Kobo recommended Easy Virtue to me based on my purchases. And it worked because I ended up buying the first book after I read the synopsis.

I like books that focus on unorthodox leads. There’s something refreshing about a somewhat villainous lead and I’m always intrigued to get their stories.

The Concept:

If you don’t like a lot of sex scenes don’t read this. You start the first chapter in the middle of a sex scene and there are copious amounts of sexy times throughout the series.

Also, if you struggle with the idea of “using” someone and/or uber messy relationships, maybe look elsewhere.

The Plot:

This is a very character driven story. If you look past the sexy times, the heart of this story is a coming of age story. The Blair at the start of the series isn’t the Blair we end the series with and the journey to get there was one that always surprised me. I thought I had a good idea of what the twists were going to be but I was definitely wrong–which was nice.

The Characters:

I wasn’t a Blair fan in the sense that she isn’t someone I would be friends with in real life. (And if we were, I would smack some sense into her). But I think it shows the talent of a writer that instead of getting annoyed by Blair and her questionable decisions, I understood her reasoning and motivations. She’s a girl who lacks self-esteem and that’s what drives her need to seek security using her looks in the wrong places.

It was nice to get some more POVs in the second book. It helped to develop some of the key players and their motivations for some of their decisions as well.

The Romance:

There is plenty of steam and chemistry thanks to the sexy times we get. But I wasn’t entirely convinced that the stable foundation for an all consuming romance was there–especially after we get the additional POVs in the sequel. The relationships Blair have all seem toxic to me in one way or another. But in some ways, things improved in the last bit of the second novel which redeemed some stuff for me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’ll admit, it’s a little uncomfortable to listen to full blown erotica as an audiobook sometimes. So if you can’t get past that, go for it. It is a different narrator for Blair in Easy Virtue and Sweetest Venom but once I was a few chapters into Sweetest Venom, I didn’t really notice it so much.

Series Rating: 4/5

Easy Virtue 4/5 | Sweetest Venom 4/5

overall

I think if you are someone who doesn’t mind erotica and grasp the motivations for the characters, you will enjoy this unique story.

Read if You Like: “bad girl” leads
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike love triangles

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Sweet Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Sweet Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

TheDirty Sweet Duet is a spin-off of the Dirty Duet

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Games, Dirty Universe

This is a spinoff of the Dirty Duet Series.

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (#1) & Single (#2)
Publication Date: February 2019 – March 2019
Source & Format: Own–eBook

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

We get the tiniest taste of what could be between these two in Dirty Filthy Rich Love but it was enough to have me craving more. I love a good forbidden romance and Laurelin Paige is a master at the trope (see First Touch or Rivalry for examples) so I was excited to see what would happen next with these two!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

This is perhaps the lightest duet of the Dirty Universe. What I mean by that is the kink (which is so tame that I feel bad almost calling it a ‘kink’) is so minuscule and really doesn’t impact the story all that much. I look back at Dirty Filthy Rich Men and everything is so dark and twisted compared to the romance here.

This story is about Dylan learning to love again and willing to take a risk on something he thinks society won’t accept. And for Audrey, it’s about finding herself and asserting her wants and desires for life. They share an incredible passion together but is there anything more to the relationship? It was fun trying to watch them figure it out.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Their time together in Sweet Liar felt extremely rushed–probably because it literally takes place within a week or two. And because of that, I didn’t see these deeper connection besides incredible sex together. There were little inklings of it for sure but not enough to convince me that Dylan would be pining for her in the months to come.

That connection is fostered more in the sequel but some of it happens behind the scenes or is summed up with “she was at my place for the next two weeks, talking and watching tv, etc”. I just needed a little more.

Reading Order for the Dirty Universe:

There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

If you want to read the books though in chronological order of events though, I would almost suggest:

  1. Dirty Filthy Rich Boys
  2. Dirty Sexy Bastard
  3. Dirty Filthy Rich Men & Dirty Sexy Player nearly simultaneously
  4. Dirty Filthy Rich Love
  5. Sweet Liar (once Audrey is introduced in Rich Love, you could start this one)
  6. Dirty Sexy Games
  7. Sweet Fate

Series Rating: 4/5

Sweet Liar 4/5 | Sweet Fate 4/5

overall

Both a super quick reads if you enjoy solid writing and a romance that oozes sexual chemistry from the start!

Read if You Like: forbidden love, older guys/younger girls
Avoid if You: dislike lots of  sexy times

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Sweet Liar (from Goodreads):

British ad exec Dylan Locke isn’t looking for love. He isn’t looking for fate. He’s definitely not looking for Audrey Lind. She’s pretty, far too young, and overly romantic–in short, exhausting.

But when the girl, young enough to be his daughter, literally lands in his lap and asks for his expertise, he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t interested. In her body, in her innocence, in her philosophy.

In the kind of kismet that starts with kisses.

But Audrey isn’t looking for love either–she’s looking for lessons, and she’s certain Dylan knows everything she needs to learn.

If he agrees to play the teacher can he keep his heart?

Of course he can.

Then again, he might be lying.

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Games Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Games Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series that is a spin-off series. It is recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

Dirty Games Duet is a spin-off of the Dirty Duet

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Games, Dirty Universe

This is a spinoff of the Dirty Duet Series.

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here) (Dirty Universe Reading Order)

There is a free prequel novella called Dirty Sexy Bastard

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2018 – November 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

Ever since we were introduced to Weston and his arranged marriage predicament in Dirty Filthy Rich Men I was intrigued. All the little inklings about his relationship with Elizabeth had me super eager to get his story. So immediately after finishing that inaugural series, I dove into this one.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Dirty Filthy Rich Men is a unique read. It’s a very dark contemporary romance and one that some people will struggle to get into if that isn’t their tastes. The Dirty Games Duet is much lighter in that regard.

Yes, these two have their baggage and burdens but their relationship isn’t as…twisted…as the previous one was. It’s much lighter and follows more of your typical “fake marriage to acheive something but oops, we fall in love” story.

Though if you know anything about Laurelin Paige, her books are never just anything books. There are a lot of layers to these characters and I found the situations they endure together to be refreshing as a frequent reader of contemporary romances.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

That I read them too fast? Seriously.

Reading Order for the Dirty Universe:

There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

If you want to read the books though in chronological order of events though, I would almost suggest:

  1. Dirty Filthy Rich Boys
  2. Dirty Sexy Bastard
  3. Dirty Filthy Rich Men & Dirty Sexy Player nearly simultaneously
  4. Dirty Filthy Rich Love
  5. Dirty Sexy Games

Series Rating: 5/5

[Dirty Sexy Bastard 5/5 ] | Dirty Sexy Player 5/5 | Dirty Sexy Games 5/5

overall

Fantastic chemistry with a refreshing contemporary plotline for a “fake” relationship trope story!

Read if You Like: fake marriages, strong heroines
Avoid if You: want erotica
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Synopsis for TITLE (from Goodreads):

 

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Series Review: Dirty by Laurelin Paige

Series Review: Dirty by Laurelin Paige

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 Dirty Filthy Rich Men (from Goodreads):

When I met Donovan Kincaid, I knew he was rich. I didn’t know he was filthy. Truth be told, I was only trying to get his best friend to notice me.

I knew poor scholarship girls like me didn’t stand a chance against guys like Weston King and Donovan Kincaid, but I was in love with his world, their world, of parties and sex and power. I knew what I wanted—I knew who I wanted—until one night, their world tried to bite me back and Donovan saved me. He saved me, and then Weston finally noticed me, and I finally learned what it was to be in their world.

And then what it was like to lose it.

Ten years later, I’ve found my way back. Back to their world. Back to him.

This time, I’m ready. I’ve been down this road before, and I know all the dirty, filthy ways Donovan will try and wreck me.

But it’s hard to resist. Especially when I know how much I’ll like it.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Duet, Dirty Universe

There are a spin-off Series: Dirty Games Duet, Dirty Sweet Duet

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here) (Dirty Universe Reading Order)

There is a free prequel novella: #0.5 Dirty Filthy Rich Boys

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling, Dark
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2017 – September 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read anything by Laurelin Paige without much thought because I just love everything that she writes. But this series in particular was one of my more highly anticipated reads by her. I’ve been craving a new darker contemporary romance and this seemed like it would fit the bill.

The Concept:

I’m not at all familiar with the movie Sabrina (1954 version or the 1995) so the basis for this story was a little lost on me. (I read the synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia so I was able to draw the allusions after the fact). But if you are, I’m sure you’ll love this take on the story. And if you aren’t, there is this anticipation from not knowing that will hook you in!

The Plot:

This is a story that is driven by the relationship of the major characters and there was just something so freaking addicting about their lives that had me completely invested.

I found sometimes things seemed to be a little repetitive in the narrative. I really noticed it in Book #2 Dirty Filthy Rich Love where we seemed to watch Sabrina rehash the same sentiments again and again. But perhaps I was just being picky about it.

The Characters:

Sabrina was a great lead to follow; she has everything I like in a strong heroine for a romance novel like this. Her independence was great.

Donovan is such an enigma–and the mystery around his character was so addicting to read! In the same breath, I wanted more from him in Dirty Filthy Rich Men. I found we seemed to rehash the same stuff with him again and again when I wanted a new layer to add to his evolution. His character evolves in the sequel though.

The Romance:

I was worried that there would be a love triangle given the synopsis but you’ll find out early on that isn’t really the case (and if you read the novella you’ll already know that).

I really loved the chemistry and the tension between these two. It’s thick and twisted (and that will definitely turn people off and away from this story; especially if you are triggered by/references to sexual assault) but I couldn’t get enough of it! And they actually,y took time to communicate with each other which I always appreciate!

When to Read #0.5 Dirty Filthy Boys:

Definitely read it before you start Dirty Filthy Men! While it gives away the slight mystery about why Sabrina hasn’t seen these guys in 10 years, it provides a lot more context about the relationship (and Sabrina’s character) than I thought the first few chapters of the novel did.

The Dirty Universe:

This duet is the start of what Laurelin Paige refers to as her Dirty Universe. Basically, each duet follows one of the guys that work/own the company. You see little inklings of each of the spin-offs here and parts of the Dirty Games Duet take place during these novels. There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

Series Rating: 4/5

[Dirty Filthy Rich Boys 4/5]| Dirty Filthy Rich Men 4/5| Dirty Filthy Rich Love 3/5

overall

I think some people will struggle with the darker nature of the romance but for those who like darker romances, this is great!

Read if You Like: dark romances, loosely based on other stories
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, are triggered by rape/sexual assaults

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Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

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:

Shine Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shine (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

breakdown

Series: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Bright, to be published October 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Music
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 29, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not a regular listener of K-pop by any means but the entire world fascinates me. If you want to get a crash course on the world, I highly recommend the Netflix Series Explained and the 20 minute episode they do on the world of K-pop. If you think Disney manufactures stars, it really has nothing on the industry in South Korea!

I don’t really remember how I learned about the book but I Wishlisted it on Netgalley and was super excited when my wish to read an ARC of Shine was granted!

What I Liked:

–Cutthroat World of K-Pop–

The tagline that this book is like “Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han” is very accurate. You’ve got all the drama, cultural clashes and joys of first love that all those books explore here in many ways.

While I hope that some of the ordeals Rachel has to endure are embellished for theatrics, I’m not entirely convinced they are. If you’ve read any of the headlines about K-pop stars and their struggles with the pressure and their mental health, you know that some of the scenarios Rachel experiences were likely inspired by real events and tactics. The author, Jessica Jung is a former K-pop star herself so I feel like she puts in some of her own experiences into this book to give it that authentic look behind the scenes.

–Rachel’s Struggle With Her Identity–

Added to the drama is Rachel’s coming of age story as an individual person. While she is a trainee in the world of K-pop in Korea, her identity as an American Korean girl creates this barrier that stops her from being fully embraced by her peers despite how hard she tries. Her struggle helps to shape her character and her reactions to the various things thrown her way. It’s quite the character evolution and I really enjoyed that aspect to the story because it helped to ground the sometimes melodramatics of the K-pop world.

–Treatment of Women vs Men in the Industry–

While I thought the introduction of the idea of a double-standard in the music industry came out of nowhere, I really liked the themes it explored once it became a little more ingrained in the story. It’s crazy that I have to write this in 2020 but there is still a major difference in how men and women are treated in many environments but I think it’s even more of a concern in the entertainment industry. So I liked that we get to see that at play here.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Choppy Start with a Lag in the Middle–

I struggled at the start to keep Rachel’s worlds straight and everything that is happening in it. And I felt like the middle lagged just a touch. But I still really enjoyed reading it as a whole.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I loved how everything came together in the end and can’t wait to see what happens next!

My Rating: 4/5

Shine 4/5 | Bright TBP

overall

This was an entertaining read from start to finish. Perfect for K-pop fans or those who love stories about people trying to reach their dreams!

Read if You Like: K-pop, coming of age stories
Avoid if You: dislike YA, dislike books with drama

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Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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 Spindle Fire (from Goodreads):

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

breakdown

Series: Spindle Fire
Author: Lexa Hillyer
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: April 2017 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1), eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think I looked past Spindle Fire quite a few times at my library before I finally read the synopsis. Sleeping Beauty is a personal favourite of mine; especially when it comes to retellings. I don’t really know why. I mean the whole damsel in literally distress isn’t my cup of tea but, usually, the retellings don’t have that. And there are so many other elements to the story (magic, faeries, curses, etc) that you can spin (pun on a spindle, perhaps) into an intriguing retelling. So when I read the synopsis, I decided to give this a chance.

The Concept / The World:

This is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It really only has the bare bones of the classic fairy tale (curses, sleeping heroine) so that made it refreshing and unique to read. And if you look hard enough, I think you will see some other pieces of other classic tales as well.

And I really liked how we follow the two sisters as they try to save themselves and their kingdom. As I said above, one of my biggest peeves with Sleeping Beauty is the perception of a damsel in distress who can’t save herself. So watching these two girls fight to save each other and their world had me screaming “YOU GO GIRLS!”

The Plot:

In theory, I loved all the pieces that made up this story. But I really struggled with following what was happening, particularly in Spindle Fire (see my comment about listening to the audiobook below), and putting all the elements together. Truthfully, I didn’t even realize Aurora had activated the curse for a few chapters after it happened until I reread the synopsis again and realized that she had been transported to another world. And Isabelle’s story for a little while just seemed to go off on a tangent that I really didn’t understand. Just seemed like filler to me and perhaps redundant?

Which brings me to my reaction at the end of Winter Glass. For the most part, I was enjoying Winter Glass a lot more than Spindle Fire at the start. The pacing was much better and I seemed to be following what was happening more. Until the last 10 Chapters (the last third) of the novel. That’s when things went off the rails for me.

Have you ever read a book and went what was the point of all those chapters? That’s what happened to me here. Basically, everything Isabelle had done was pointless. Literally pointless. Why? The information she gathered on her unnecessary travels had already been discovered by other characters. Sure, she found out one piece of information about the purpose of the slipper but even then I don’t feel the information was relevant to the story.

>> Read my Spoiler Discussion on the Series here!

The Characters:

Aurora I wasn’t a fan of. She was as exciting as wet paper to me. I truly felt like these books were about Isabelle.

Which is why I was so upset by the decisions that she made at the end of the series. The idea that she hadn’t completed her “own story” to me was ludicrous. What did I spent the better part reading if not the various travelling and obstacles you went through in order to save your sister and the kingdom. You are telling me you didn’t learn anything about yourself during all of that?

The Romance:

Aurora’s romance felt forced. Perhaps I missed something in my listening to the first book but I didn’t see that connection at all. It almost felt like a ploy to get bonus points with readers but maybe that was just my perception since it felt so out of left field for me.

Isabelle had the more interesting romantic life in my opinion. Which is why I was so upset at the vague epilogue that tried to wrap it up with flowery words that only left me going …. what?

My Audiobook Experience:

I only read the first book as audiobook since that was all my library had. But after I finished it, I probably still would have chosen the eBook for the sequel. It’s nothing against the audio production itself (it was a great listen), but rather the way this story is told. We get a lot of POVs in this story and the faeries have names that sound so alike that I was having a hard time distinguishing everyone and their attributes. For the first few chapters, I had to continually go back to the synopsis to figure out which sister was blind and who couldn’t speak. The inability to go back and reread is something I struggle with when I listen to audiobooks and my experience here just emphasized that for me.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Spindle Fire 3/5 | Winter Glass  2/5

overall

This series reminded me (fittingly enough as I had just passed 7 years of blogging the day I finished the book) why I started writing book series reviews in the first place: to save people the grief of being uber disappointed.

Read if You Like: retellings, complex worlds, sisters
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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