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Series Review: Little Black Book by Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea

Series Review: Little Black Book by Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 1: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete since I have never finished the first novel in the series or have decided not to read the sequels. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Little Black Book (from Goodreads):

My name’s Sebastian Black, and I want to buy you. I could have any woman I want, but I choose you.
NO RELATIONSHIP, JUST SEX.

Here’s my offer…
I’ll put your name in my LITTLE BLACK BOOK, and when I want you, I’ll call you. When I call, you’re going to come, in more ways than one. It will be mutually pleasurable for both of us.

There are only two rules:
DON’T EVER DENY ME.
DON’T FALL IN LOVE.

If you do either, I’ll remove you from my book and payment stops.

Do we have an understanding?

breakdown

Series: Little Black Book
Author: Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Little Black Beginning

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2014 – March 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, Little Black Book, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t recall how this series crossed my radar. I think I was in my adult contemporary phase of reading back in 2014 and this was a bestseller that I saw on Amazon. I love when asshole heroes expectantly meet their perfect match and Sebastian seemed like he need to be taken down a peg or two.

Like many TBR items, I never got to this book immediately after I purchased it but I my high anticipation for the title kept it on my TBR list and that’s why I made it a 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 pick for the year 2014.

What I Liked:

–The Idea of a Little Black Book–

This is one of those concepts you always hear about but never see done in practice…at least in novels. Sure, you’ve got the booty-call and the endless contact list in the bad-boy hero’s phone but there is just something about Sebastian’s little book that made him refreshing.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Love At First Sight–

I was enjoying the first few chapters of this novel until this little diddy came into play. Ugh. I hate when there is the “unspoken” or “innate” connection between the two leads. Besides her appearance, what else called to him?

–What was Sebastian’s Ideal Jessica?–

So I could have looked past the love at first sight thing if I had any clue why Roz was Sebastian’s “Jessica” aka his dream girl. Nowhere does he describe what would make a girl be “the one”. And besides Roz’s hair colour (red like Jessica Rabbit’s), I had no idea why she caused such a stir in him.

–Everything was a Cliche–

The heroine who is a bombshell and doesn’t know it? Check. Who is also a virgin but is a sexual goddess her first time in bed? Check. Needs a rich man to solve all her problems? Check. The hero who is incapable of love but falls nonetheless? Check. A good plot twist at the end? Check.

Now, I will give props to that twist. It was good and the only thing I didn’t predict while reading.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. Considering I skimmed that last 50% of the first book, I have no desire to pick up the sequel.

My Rating: DNF

[Little Black Beginning N/A] | Little Black Book 2/5 | Little Black Break N/A

overall

If you’ve read any contemporary romance with a similar theme, you’ve probably already read this. I would pass.

Read if You Like: shorter romances, cliches
Avoid if You: want a deeper, darker romance

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Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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Series Review: Pretty Smart Girls by Shae Ross

Series Review: Pretty Smart Girls by Shae Ross

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 Lace Up (from Goodreads):

Team Ryan
Ryan Rose and her fellow Spartans are finalists in a high-profile entrepreneurial competition. They’re competing for life-changing money and for their futures. They have a solid plan to win. All they need to do is trounce the competition: rich frat boys from an archrival university. Easy, right?

Team Jett
Jett Trebuchet’s first mistake was not realizing that Ryan and her friends were the competition. His second was expressing his unabashed confidence in his team’s ability to win. After all, everyone knows the only thing MSU does better than U of M is produce beautiful, easy women…oh, and he almost forgot to say “dumb.” And boy, does his team pay for that one.

Game On
As each side tries to game the other, something else seems to be getting in the way—attraction. Now Ryan and Jett must keep their teams from getting distracted by the opposite sex…and each other. All is not fair in love and war when it comes to winning this game.

breakdown

Series: Pretty Smart Girls

There is a standalone spin-off: Rush

Author: Shae Ross
# of Books: 2 (Lace Up, Fearless)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes? I’m not sure if there will be a book 3
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Humour
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – August 2015
Source & Format: Author–eBook (Read It Review It); Own–Kobo (Fearless)

disclaimer
I only received a review copy of Book #1 Lace Up

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Shae Ross offered my New Adult Group on Goodreads the opportunity to read her debut novel Lace Up around Christmas time in 2015. Way after I finished the book, I remembered seeing its sequel Fearless on NetGalley…boy, do I regret not grabbing that one when I had the chance!

The Concept:

The premise of Lace Up is what really grabbed my attention. I loved the idea that these these two teams would be competing against each other and the sparks would be flying in more than one way. And it definitely lived up to that.

I thought their attempts to sabotage were a lot of fun and funny. It made the book light-hearted yet it didn’t shy away from the more serious aspects of the characters and their lives. It was a great balance and made the book very enjoyable to read.

Fearless has a completed different vibe to it (though the playful tension between the two groups is still there). It’s more of your typical New Adult romance read though it does bring up some new themes often shied away from.

The Plot:

I thought the plot balanced very well between the competition in Lace Up (#1), the romance and the character development. It was serious when it needed to be yet it had its fun moments. I liked that there were multiple things happening. Of course you have the competition but there are other dramatic elements at play. From past relationships to family drama to current relationships: there are a lot of things to keep you interested.

Fearless was very different. It’s more of your coming of age story with a romance between two people who have an undeniable connection but can’t seem to make it work because life gets in the way. I loved some of the challenges the couple faces but I feel like they weren’t as developed as I wanted them to be and they often got overshadowed by dramatic antics that dampened the realistic, genuine vibes the story was otherwise broadcasting.

The Characters:

Everyone has great development throughout the story but Ryan and Jett especially in Lace Up. I liked how Ryan presented herself and didn’t hold back. She didn’t need a man to complete her and while I suppose she was a little “man-hating” at the start, I think given the circumstances I can cut her some slack. Jett had even better character growth I think and I really enjoyed that. While Lace Up mostly focuses on Ryan and Jett, you get enough of the other characters to make you eager to read the sequel book.

All the characters are layered here and that’s even more true in the sequel.

The Romance:

The romance happens fast in Lace Up given that the competition takes place in a week. However, I thought Jett and Ryan were a great match. They complimented each other beautifully; as do the other characters. It makes the romance all the more sweeter.

Series Rating: 4/5

Lace Up 4/5 | Fearless 3.5/5

overall

If you enjoy high antics and perfect romantic matches, this is a great series! Also, who doesn’t love pretty smart girls? They rule the world!

Read if You Like: new adult romance, dramatics
Avoid if You: don’t like over dramatics, fast romances

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Series Review: The Jackson Boys by Jen Frederick

Series Review: The Jackson Boys by Jen Frederick

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 Charlotte Chronicles (from Goodreads):

Charlotte Randolph was only fifteen when she fell in love with her best friend’s gorgeous older brother—but she wasn’t foolish enough to hope he could ever love her back. Nate Jackson always viewed her as a pesky kid…until the day she got sick. The one bright spot during her illness? He realized she was all grown up. But just when she allows herself to believe that dreams can come true, Nate disappears from her life, taking her heart with him.

Nate knows he lost more than his best friend when he deserted Charlotte to enlist in the Navy. He thought he was doing the right thing, sparing the girl he loves from the shame and humiliation of his actions. Nine years later, it’s time to right his wrongs. He returns home determined to win back his first love…only to find that Charlotte’s moved on without him.

But if there’s one thing that being a Navy SEAL has taught Nate? Never give up, even when all hope seems lost. And Nate’s never going to give up on Charlotte. Ever.

breakdown

Series: The Jackson Boys

A Spin-off of the Woodlands Series

Author: Jen Frederick
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order)
Book Order: Companion
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2014 – October 2018
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a few Jen Frederick books on my TBR and on my eReaders thanks to freebies and great deals, but The Charlotte Chronicles was the novel I really wanted to read. So when I saw I could read it as a part of Kindle Unlimited, I jumped at the chance.

It sounded like a super cute story and I was really intrigued by premise. Character illness isn’t something I come across too often but I have really enjoyed them when I do find them.

The Concept:

Each novel actually started as a “weekly episode” type of story where Frederick would post an episode one week at a time on her website/newsletter. She then compiled it into one full novel.

The Plot:

At times, I think it shows that this series was written as one little bit at a time. The pacing was a little weird for me: it focused longer on some things and shorter on others.

For example, in The Charlotte Chronicles (#1), I didn’t expect to get so much of their past. I thought this would be more of a second chance novel were we would learn about their past through memories or just have a chapter or two at the start. Instead, we get solid percentage of the book dedicated to seeing these two in the early days of their relationship. Which is great because you really fall in love with these two and it brings major heartbreak when you know they break up sometime in the near future.

The first book made me super excited for Be Mine because of all the inklings we get along the way. This book was a solid 4/5 (I was flying through it!) but I didn’t particularly like how the drama came to the forefront near the end.

The Characters:

I really liked all our leads and the cast of characters we meet in these two stories. I love the power of friendship that gets exhibited in all of them. Yes, each story focuses on the romance but the friendships are equally as important.

The Romance:

In The Charlotte Chronicles, the thing that irked me the most was that I didn’t understand why they were separated for as long as they did. Like, I understood the foundation for the separation but it seemed like everything was blown out of proportions–especially when you see how they were as kids.

As for Be Mine, I liked the slow burn of their relationship and the tension it brought to the story. I’ll be honest and say that I wanted a little more substance to their romance. It seemed like some innate connection that wasn’t overly elaborated on. Like the two of them spend a lot of time together and I think a lot of their bonding happens side stage to the rest of the story.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Charlotte Chronicles 3/5 | Be Mine 3/5

overall

There’s a lot to like about these novels and the writing is addictive. But the pacing is slightly off and I wasn’t a fan of how some of the drama unfolded.

Read if You Like: contemporary reads, second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike drama

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Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

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 Tiny Pretty Things (from Goodreads):

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Audiobook Read 2018, Cover Love
Series: Tiny Pretty Things
Author: Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Drama, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2016 – July 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover captured my attention when it was first released, it was actually a review by Cristina @ Girl in the Pages that convinced me to read this. Like many items on my TBR, I didn’t get to it until two years later but that worked out in my favour because I could binge the entire series as an audio one 😉

The Concept / The World:

When I think about ballet, my mind immediately goes to the movie The Black Swan and to Fame (more so the movie than the show). Fame highlights some of the stresses performing artists highlight but keeps its tone pretty light and basic. The Black Swan shows the grittier side of ballet but more so the psychological side? I’m not sure since I only watched the movie shortly after its theatre release…

Thanks to Cristina’s review, I knew that this series is much darker and not as petty as the YA label would have you fear. Yes, some of their issues are petty (they are in high school after all) but some of the pranks and thought processes aren’t. These girls and guys take it to that darker, intense level I wanted. The sabotage and intrigue in this series had me hooked from the start! It was so addicting!

The Plot:

I really loved the delivery of this series. Part of it is character driven–I’ll explain more about the cast below–as we watch these ballerinas carve their way in the company. But there is also this aura of mystery as well because there are many acts of sabotage. Sometimes we know the culprit; sometimes we don’t find out for a long time. But I’ll just say I had many theories about what was happening and I was proven wrong quite a few times. I loved that suspense and the drive to find out exactly who and what was happening.

The Characters:

This cast of characters is quite diverse and not just because of race or ethnicity (though there is that). Each of our three leads also has their personal struggles–and some that we don’t often see in books. At a glance, I wondered if these characters had too much going on; if they were perhaps too layered given the drama of this novel. You know, the idea that less is sometimes more. But I think all their “issues” really highlighted the setting and tone of the novel. What happens when characters are pushed to their breaking points? What happens to characters who’ve been kept inside this one bubble their whole lives and the real world comes crashing in? It was fascinating to watch.

The Romance:

There is a little dash of romance thrown in but I’d classify it as a small factor that contributes to the overall story. You aren’t getting chapters dedicated to romance unless it relates back to the characters.

Series Rating: 5/5

Tiny Pretty Things 5/5 | Shiny Broken Pieces 5/5

overall

This series had me hooked from start to end! I loved the diverse cast; I loved the intrigue and I loved the setting! It was every dark, addicting thing I wanted it to be.

Read if You Like: ballet, diverse casts, suspense
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV, dislike darker YA
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Fresh Fridays: These Rebel Waves (Steam Raiders) by Sara Raasch

Fresh Fridays: These Rebel Waves (Steam Raiders) by Sara Raasch

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:

Steam Raiders Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Rebel Waves (from Goodreads):

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

breakdown

Series: Steam Raiders
Author: Sarah Raasch
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, These Divided Shores to be published August 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: August 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been looking forward to Sara Raasch’s next work ever since I finished the Snow Like Ashes Trilogy. And this new series sounded like something I would love. Pirates, magic, deception, a kickass heroine? Those were just many of the reasons why I added this series as a pick for my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge.

What I Liked:

–Lu and Vex’s Chemistry–

I loved the tension between these two from the moment they meet. Both deny any true feelings but there is something palpable whenever they are together. In a lot of ways, they reminded me of June and Day from the Legend Series where the odds against them to ever meet but when they do, something magical happens. Their banter was top-notch!

–Magic, Science and Religion–

I enjoyed the concept of this series a lot when it comes to the magic properties of plants. It’s a cool fantasy spin on real world concepts like the clashing of science and religion.

–The Politics–

I loved the political dilemma of this series and how all our leads are stuck in the middle of it all. It added a great air of tension.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lagged a Little in the Middle–

I was really invested for the first half of the story (though a lot of info is thrown at you) and then just past the middle, the excitement died for me a little. I’m not sure what it was that made it seem that way. Perhaps the physical action just simmered out a bit.

We do get some great twists at the end (though one I thought was super obvious) that have me eager to see how it’ll all wrap up.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audio version was very engaging considering it is told in third person. I often struggle with third person audio stories but not here. It was very well done!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Very excited to see how things will come together in the finale now that some major truths have been uncovered!

My Rating: 3/5

These Rebel Waves 3/5 | These Divided Shores TBP

overall

I’m waiting to see how things will wrap up because there are some great leads to build the sequel on!

Read if You Like: following multiple leads, fantasy with politics
Avoid if You: want lots of action, want more romance

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Series Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

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 Riders (from Goodreads):

Nothing but death can keep eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

While recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can’t remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen—Conquest, Famine, and Death—are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now—bound, bloodied, and drugged—Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for—not to mention all of humankind—he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Riders Duology
Author: Veronica Rossi
# of Books: 2 (Riders, Seeker)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single (Riders), Alternating (Seeker)
Publication Dates: February 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After finishing the Under the Never Sky Trilogy nearly three years ago, I’ve been missing a little Veronica Rossi in my life. She’s a fantastic storyteller and I was STOKED to see what she would do next with this series.

I knew Riders had some mixed reviews but I was optimistic. It took me awhile to get into Under the Never Sky but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it and the world Rossi weaved.

The Concept / The World:

I have a few Horsemen of the Apocalypse novels on my TBR but this is the first one I’ve read off of it–and it didn’t disappoint! It’s such a cool concept and Rossi does a great job developing it. The plot is straightforward but it does have those added layers that become more intricate as the story evolves. It captured my full attention from the start.

The Plot:

For me, Riders had an odd pacing. First, I loved the format of the novel. Having Gideon essentially describe past events in an interrogation room gives the novel a fantastic level of suspense. How does he get to that point? What happened to the others? I loved the anticipation of the big reveal! Learning how the horsemen were brought together captured my attention from the start.

But once the horsemen are assembled, the plot reaches a plateau. And it feels a little stale. I didn’t like waiting around for something to happen, especially when the first half of the novel had such a great pace to it. The good news is that it does pick up and the last few chapters were fabulous.

Yet Seeker–despite Riders ending on such a high point–takes its time to reach the same momentum. The romance gets a little more lot of airtime and it seems to be awhile before the action happens. Which is a little unfortunate because I think the romance is the weakest feature of this novel. There is no need to dedicate HALF THE BOOK to it when there are so many other plot points to wrap up. And when the focus does shift again to the actual plot, I wasn’t as into as I wanted to. If this had been the first book, I would have DNF’d it well before the 40% mark because it was so boring.

The Characters:

Gideon is the lead for Riders and he is the perfect choice. I loved his witty and sarcastic narration. He was a very entertaining narrator. But he is also a great leader for this essentially rag-tag team of horsemen.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the 4 guys. Sure, it starts a little rocky but it was cool seeing them evolve as a team and come together.

And I liked that the villains are villains. I always enjoy having someone to root against.

The Romance:

Honestly, this is why my rating for this series is lower than I wanted it to be. I was not feeling this romance in the slightest. It’s such a shame because I know Rossi can write such great romantic pairings as evident in Under the Never the Sky. Here, it just seemed rushed and perhaps a little forced? I think if you removed it from the story, it wouldn’t negatively affect the plot but would enhance it–especially in Seeker where it becomes too much of the focus.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really loved the audiobook and I’m glad I decided to read this series as an audio one. Like I said above, Gideon has a sarcastic tone to a lot of his narration and I’m not sure if I would have grasped all of it in the book copy. And with Riders being written like Gideon is describing the events to his interrogator, it just seemed natural to listen to it as an audiobook.

Having the narration shift to an alternating one in Seeker worked. I’m not sure how else you could tell this story without it and both voice actors do a great job delivering the content.

Series Rating: 3/5

Riders 3.5/5 | Seeker 2/5

overall

It breaks my heart a bit that I’m giving this series this review. Riders was a great base for a strong sequel but Seeker just couldn’t keep the momentum going. I won’t be recommending this one anytime soon.

Read if You Like: adventure, mythology, action
Avoid if You: dislike romance focused sequels
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Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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:

Rule Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rule (from Goodreads):

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

breakdown

Series: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlet
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Rise, to be released June 2019
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I won’t lie, it was the cover that drew me into this read. I was browsing my library’s new additions when I scrolled across this one. I actually checked out the hardcover from my library but never got around to it. But the premise was promising. I love the drama and secrets of Pretty Little Liars (well, the TV show at least; I never read the books) and Three Dark Crowns won me over with its sequel so I was optomistic I would enjoy this one.

What I Liked:

–Multiple POVs–

I love books that follow multiple characters. I find it gives the novel a 360-degree view of everything that is happening and keeps the story moving. Even if you don’t enjoy one POV, at least you have some others to look forward to.

–Diverse Cast–

When books mimic real life (especially by highlighting prejudices and the like) I’m always invested. This book has quite the group of characters. All the girls come from different family styles, races and castes (travelers, maids, etc). You’ve also got characters that are LGBTQ (in a very normalised, not token kind of way). So in that respect, I truly found this book to deliever on diversity without it feeling like it was simply checking all the marks off.

–The Magic–

I liked how straight-forward the tithe system seemed to be. Not only is everything magic-wise easily explained but it also has limitations. One of my biggest peeves about magic is the almost unlimited power it can have but the magic here makes sense.

–The Blackmail–

I think this is where the Pretty Little Liars comparisons come in because there is someone taunting these girls with their secrets. And the secrets are pretty juicy–and contribute to the plot in a rather strong way. These aren’t petty “I know about your secret relationship” type of secrets; they run much deeper (and more complex) than that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Seems Needlessly Drawn Out–

Perhaps starting this book the week I was working nights wasn’t the best idea–my concentration is pretty crappy. However, I found the chapters used a lot of words to deliver very little in the grand scheme of things. I would get lost in text at times. But I will say that each chapter ended in a way that had me eager for the next one so I was a fan of that.

–Blending of the Characters–

While I praised this book for its diversity earlier on, sometimes I couldn’t tell Zofi apart from Ren from Akeylah. The “problem” is the third person narration. It isn’t very personal as it lacks the depths a first person POV can provide (ie the inner character monologue). As a result, I often had to reread the synopsis just to remember that Zofi was from “A” and her secret was “B” so I wouldn’t get the girls mixed up.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really started to enjoy how the various plots were starting to weave together so I am very curious to see how everything with wrap up (or unravel) in the finale.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Rule 3.5/5 | Rise TBP

overall

While nothing immediately stands out about this fantasy novel, fans of the genre will enjoy this solid and diverse story.

Read if You Like: multiple POV, wordy stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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DNF Series Review: Contrite by Kathy Coopmans

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 Contrite (from Goodreads):

Clove Calloway knows within an hour of picking up her husband Turner from the airport that something is different, yet she can’t pinpoint what. Together since college, they know everything about each other… so why has she spent the last few days watching everything he does, hoping for a clue? What could have happened within the week he was gone?
One way or another, she’s going to find out.
When Clove enlists the help of her brother Zach, a police detective, she’s afraid her suspicions of infidelity will be confirmed. Terrified that such news will crush her heart, she sets about preparing for the worst, only to find it’s much more than she could have imagined- there is no other woman.
Clove’s life is about to descend into a web of deceit, lies, and betrayal.
Appearances can be deceiving…and only the Master Manipulator will be left standing. 

*Note* This book contains graphic scenes of physical and sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Read 2018
Series: Contrite Duet
Author: Kathy Coopmans
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2015 – June 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read Contrite (#1) and have opted not to pick up Reprisal (#2). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had never heard of this series but when I got an email alerting me to the fact that the duet boxset was on sale for $1, I decided to check it out. I enjoy a dark romance on occasion and I love the idea of a suspenseful romance as well (though they often don’t meet my expectations). The reviews for this were pretty positive and while I kinda knew what was “off” with her husband, I liked the idea that there was a bigger plot line at play.

For me, this is one of those cases where I go “why does it have so many 5 star reviews”?!?

What I Liked:

–Epilogue–

I could say something like “I was just glad it was over”; but I will admit that the twist we get with the epilogue was a good one. It’s a good mind-f**k for the reader and I always enjoy those.

What I Didn’t Like:

–All the Sex–

I’m all for a good erotica novel but this was just too much for me! When you are getting smut in place of actual plot development, I’m not a fan. I didn’t pick this book up for sexy times–I picked it up for suspense and we don’t really get that.

–Clove–

She is perhaps one of the most frustrating leads I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. She is just all over the place. As she says at one point during the book “my libido overruled my common sense” but I’m not sure the girl even had common sense at any point.

There are two scenes in particular that really had me shaking my head and I just have to share them in spoilers because I need to get it off my chest.

Why Clove is an Idiot:

Context: it turns out that the man Clove picks up from the airport is her husband’s identical twin brother that no one knew about. So I can forgive the girl for sleeping with him when she doesn’t know better. But when Clove does find out, she still sleeps with the twin because he makes her super horny and gives her the best sex of her life! She even lets him use the “backdoor” if you know what I mean! Why? She doesn’t want him to know that she knows he isn’t the real Turner. Then she laments on and on about how guilty she feels. But then later, after the evil twin assaults her, she worries that her husband will never forgive her because she was assaulted AND willingly slept with the brother. I don’t think he would care about the assault in that respect, but willingly sleeping with his brother? Yeah, I would question your commitment to him too.

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–Plot Holes–

I’ll give a specific example in my spoilers but there were just some things that didn’t add up for me when it came to the plot. The basics were there but how it develops is lacking.

Example of Plot Hole:

So Trent (evil twin brother) takes Clove with him to force her husband to sign something for the inheritance. But why can’t Trent just pretend to be the brother and sign the document for the money–isn’t that the whole point of stealing his brother’s identity and life in the first place? Why are we going through all this crap at all?

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Will I Finish It?

The only reason I finished Contrite was because it was like a bad movie you just can’t help watching. I just wanted to see how far everything would go (and the answer is pretty far). But I have no desire to continue on with the series. I’ve read a few spoilers from Reprisal (#2) and I have a general gist of what happens but my brain can’t take another dive back into this series.

My Rating: DNF

Contrite 1/5 | Reprisal N/A

overall

This is like a bad soap opera that you can’t help but watch even though you know it isn’t good for you.

Read if You Like: very dramatic reads
Avoid if You: want a well developed novel

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  • Retrieval by Aly Martinez (The Retrieval Duet #1)
  • Maybe Yes by Ella Miles (Maybe Series #1)

 

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Series Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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 Wolf by Wolf (from Goodreads):

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2017
Series: Wolf by Wolf Duology
Author: Ryan Graudin
# of Books: 2 (Wolf by Wolf, Blood for Blood)

There are two novellas: #1.5 Iron to Iron and #1.6 Storm After Storm

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Alternate History, Adventure, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: October 2015 – November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook & eBook (Iron to Iron)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first learned about this series on Twitter when promotions for the sequel were happening. I had never heard of it prior to that but my interest was piqued when I read the synopsis. Add to that the rave reviews everyone seemed to have for Wolf by Wolf and I was intrigued! I love stories about alternate history and this one featured a period of time I had actually studied in school so I was excited to see what would happen.

I’ve read one book by Graudin prior to this: All That Glows. It’s actually one of the first reviews I ever wrote for my blog. The book itself was entertaining but it was lacking for me in the grand scheme. So I was curious to see how an author would make the jump from faerie romance to an alternate history about WWII.

The Concept / The World:

Alternate history usually explores the possibility of “what if this didn’t happen?” and I like seeing the ideas that authors construct to tell their story. This series is a great example of what a well researched and thought-out alternate history novel is. The building of the world and the situations the characters find themselves in automatically deserves a 5/5 in my mind. It’s simply fabulous.

What I did struggle with was the fantasy element to this story. Truthfully, I didn’t know there was one when I picked the book up and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t realize it until well after the 50% mark on the audiobook. What I’m talking about is in the spoiler box below (and it really isn’t a spoiler but it’s not in the synopsis so I like to keep that hidden). But it is a fantasy twist that had me going, “why would you do that” until I read the Author’s Note in Wolf by Wolf and it made sense. I’m not sure if this book would be better or worse without that element, it’s hard to say. But I do appreciate how it adds to the overall themes of the novel and I completely understand why it is done this way.

Fantasy Element in Wolf by Wolf

It’s embarassing but I didn’t know Yael could literally transform into other people. I think I totally missed the sentence where this is described when I was listening to the audiobook or I just didn’t understand the subtext when I was listening (as opposed to reading the words).

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The Plot:

The whole idea of the race is an interesting plot device. I liked how it was used as a way to highlight Yael’s journey of self-discovery as she completes her mission. It emphasizes the high risk of what she is trying to do while simultaneously building this alternate world.

However, I also found that this dragged the plot a bit in Wolf by Wolf. I don’t enjoy adventure stories and this reads like one in Wolf by Wolf. And while lots of things happen along they way, I found myself wanting to be at the climax sooner because I wanted to see what the fallout would be and what would happen next.

In comparison, I was much more engaged in the plot for Blood For Blood. It just seemed like a more well-rounded novel. You get moments of character history & growth, a little dash of romance and the plot always seemed to be moving. I never found that it lulled and it had me eager (but dreading because I’d really grown to like these characters) the ending.

The Characters:

Yael is a great lead for this story. She’s a girl bent on revenge but she’s also a girl with a conscience and I loved how she often struggles with what she has been tasked to do. It makes her human and keeps her from becoming this detached heroine. Being a total kickass character doesn’t mean you can’t show emotions or empathy and I liked that Yael–while completely driven by her mission–has these moments of reflection and vulnerability.

Wolf by Wolf definitely focuses more on Yael which is why I enjoyed the moments we get in Blood for Blood more where we learn more about the other characters. Getting those backgrounds really helps you understand the motives of everyone involved. I truly grew attached to these characters by the time Blood for Blood wrapped up.

The Romance:

I’m glad that the romance never overshadows the bigger plot of this story. It compliments the story well and is used as a solid plot device when the time arises.

When to Read the Novellas:

Both novellas should be read after Wolf by Wolf but they aren’t necessary for the sequel either.

I only read Iron to Iron and I am SO glad that I did. Luka was one of those characters I didn’t entirely appreciate as a reader in Wolf by Wolf but I completely fell in love with him after reading the novella. It was great to get that context about what happened in the past and what motivates him to do what he does. I enjoyed Blood for Blood a lot more because I truly understood his character more after reading the novella.

My Audiobook Experience:

I listened to both novels as an audiobook and I’m really glad that I did. The narration was fabulous! The accents were great and everyone had a unique voice. I love audiobooks because they convey so much emotion and the wit often shines a little more and that was totally the case here.

Series Rating: 5/5

Wolf by Wolf  4.5/5| [Iron to Iron  5/5] | [Storm After Storm  N/A] | Blood for Blood  5/5

overall

I can see why this book series gets all the hype it does. Without a doubt, this is probably the best alternate history series I’ve encountered. It’s so layered and complex in its message and delivery that as a reader you can’t help but appreciate it. Highly recommend!

Read if You Like: alternate history, stories set around WWII
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike alternate history

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Series Review: Loop by Karen Akins

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 Loop (from Goodreads):

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

breakdown

Series: Loop
Author: Karen Akins
# of Books: 2 (Loop, Twist)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2014 – April 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: After finishing Book #1 Loop, I opted not to pick up its sequel Twist. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m always up for a good time travelling novel. And in 2014, that seemed to be the newest trend in the YA genre. After reading Ruby Red (and loving it), I was on the hunt for another time travelling novel and I came across Loop. Like most books I added around this time, I never got around to it which is why I made it one of my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for both 2017 and 2018.

What I Liked:

–Finn–

Finn truly captured my heart in this story. He was such a charming character from the moment we met him. I just loved his attitude and drive. He’s a bit of a hopeless romantic even when Bree spends most of the book keeping her distance so it provides for some really cute moments throughout.

–The Twists of a Conspiracy–

I love the idea of a good conspiracy theory and this novel has it. This book always surprised me in terms of the plot twists. I mean, the red herrings are obvious but the actual truth was something I didn’t put together right away which I always appreciate.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

The first few chapters were few engaging but I found the rest of the novel to be very dry. It picks up again in the last third or so, but by then my interest was waning.

There is just something about the pacing of this novel that is just off. The plot that is described in the synopsis doesn’t happen for quite awhile and as a result, you get some filler for the first half. And the problem with this filler is that doesn’t build up the main plot. You could have easily cut out 80 pages and the novel would have seemed fuller.

–Got a Little Lost in the Time Travel–

I like to think I’m a pretty smart cookie but the weaving of the time lines left me a little stumped. I got the gist of everything and understood everyone’s roles but not everything got connected in my brain. The big picture wasn’t fully revealed if you know what I mean.

Will I Finish It?

No. While I still have some unanswered questions at the end of Loop, I really struggled through the last 100 pages or so despite the plot finally happening. I pushed myself to finish it. And when I say that Twist was about the same length and the synopsis didn’t draw me in, I opted not to pick it up.

Series Rating: DNF

Loop 3/5 | Twist N/A

overall

I think readers who enjoy stories that take their time to reach the main plot will like this. It’s an entertaining read but I think a lot of readers will struggle with its pace.

Read if You Like: time travel, conspiracy theories
Avoid if You: dislike slower starts, time travel, want more romance

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