Tag «52sequels2018»

Series Review: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

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 Grave Mercy (from Goodreads):

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

breakdown

Series: His Fair Assassin

There is a spin-off duology in the works.

Author: Robin LaFevers
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected by Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2013 – November 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There is nothing more I love in the world of reading than a heroine who can kick serious butt. So it seemed like I no brainer that I would pick up this series. I don’t remember how exactly I learned about Grave Mercy, but I read it years ago (just shortly after its release) and it left such a mark on me that I refused to remove the sequels from my TBR despite the fact that I could never find the time to read them.

The Concept / The World:

I love worlds that are a mix of actual history with a little dash of fantasy–which is what we get here. These stories are inspired by true events but the timelines and the external forces involved are often altered by artistic licence. The result? You get a world filled with twisting politics (yay!), villainous characters and strong heroines you can’t help but root for.

Each book follows a different daughter of St. Mortain (Death) but they all follow a continuous story arc. It’s a great way to keep things fresh and moving throughout the series. You get to see old characters weave in and out of the story and it just gives this series a 360-degree view I think.

The Plot:

As I said above, each book features a different assassin so you get a fresh start every time in a sense. So in that regard, I found it took me a couple of chapters to get into the new swing of things and orient myself in the world. (It also didn’t help that I read Books #1 and #2 nearly five years apart…). This was especially true for Book #3, Mortal Heart that seemed to take twice as long to establish itself.

But once you are a few chapters in, you’d better hold on! I found these stories were constantly evolving and twisting and it’s hard not to be addicted. You get sucked into the heroine’s pasts; the politics are fascinating and don’t forget that dash of romance along the way!

The Writing:

Usually I don’t comment on the writing style but I do want to mention the fact that sometimes I had a hard time figuring out what was actually happening. It’s weird because this isn’t told in the third person (which can be tricky to navigate). I think it’s just that some things are alluded to; some things are “magical”/”supernatural” and with its historical setting I think the style just takes some getting used to when reading and interpreting what is happening.

The Characters:

I love that this series focuses on a different heroine in each book. You get to spend time uncovering every aspect of their character within the novel. Nothing gets drawn out between sequels or intentionalLY hidden. You just get solid characters throughout.

And each of our leading ladies is unique. Whether it’s their pasts before their time at the convent or their abilities, they each bring something fresh to this world and I loved that.

The Romance:

This is perhaps, for me, the most underdeveloped aspect of the plot because we don’t spend copious amounts of time with it. Of course, we get this great underlying tension between the characters but in the grand scheme of things, I found that the feelings developed fast (again, understandable given the circumstances) and don’t get a ton of screen time.

My Expectations for the Spin-Off Series:

I didn’t end the series on a particular high note (Mortal Heart was my least favourite of the trilogy), but I do like the idea of continuing on with some characters but getting a new cast of characters at the same time.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 4/5

Grave Mercy 4/5| Dark Triumph 4/5 | Mortal Heart 3/5

overall

I’ve never read a series like this before and that only is noteworthy. But if you enjoy historical fiction that focuses on the grittier side of things, check this series out!

Read if You Like: assassins, historical fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike long books, dislike darker reads

similarreads

  • Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (Maids of Honour Series #1)
  • Scarlet by A C Gaughan (Scarlet Trilogy #1)

 

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Serial Saturdays: Hitched by Kendall Ryan

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Hitched (from Goodreads):

Marry the girl I’ve had a crush on my whole life? Check.

Inherit a hundred-billion-dollar company? Check.

Produce an heir… Wait, what?

I have ninety days to knock up my brand-new fake wife. There’s only one problem—she hates my guts.

And in the fine print of the contract? The requirement that we produce an heir.

She can’t stand to be in the same room with me. Says she’ll never be in my bed.

But I’ve never backed down from a challenge and I’m not about to start now.

Mark my words—I’ll have her begging for me, and it won’t take ninety days.

breakdown

Series: Hitched

There is a standalone spin-off titled: The Fix-Up

Author: Kendall Ryan
# of Parts: 3
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Drama, Humour
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July – August 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adore fake relationship stories; I think it’s my favourite romance trope. And Kendall Ryan is an author I have a ton of titles marked as to-read. So I decided to make this the first of the novels I have of hers.

The Concept:

The first novella’s synopsis is slightly misleading. The whole “heir” situation is mentioned but it doesn’t become an issue until part 2. Rather the whole “should we enter a fake marriage to save the company” is the main plot line. And I mean, you can’t take the idea too seriously either because what would having a baby do to save a million-dollar company? Not much. But as I always say, let fiction be fiction and enjoy the somewhat soap-opera nature of the drama about to ensue.

The Plot:

As is usually the nature with a shorter series, things move at a quick pace and are never as elaborated on as you would like. I think it really helped that these two had a shared past of growing up together thanks to their super close families.  It just gives everything a little more credibility to the somewhat quicker timeline and makes the situation seem more likely.

That being said, this read like a soap-opera so I’m glad it was a quick read because the dramatics can be a touch too much at times.

The Characters:

I read parts 1 & 2 right after each other and part 3 many months later so I kinda forgot about how quirky these characters are. Especially Noah. I’ve never had a male character talk about his penis so much. It was a little off putting to say the least…That being said, I was really afraid Noah would be an over the top alpha male but he really has a sweet side to him that I found to be charming–penis mentions aside.

I liked Olivia a lot. She’s a very well rounded character and is definitely the right choice for this story.

The Romance:

Again, it helps that these two share a past. It’s obvious to everyone except these two that they are a perfect match and I enjoyed watching them discover that throughout the volumes (but especially Part 2). There are probably more sexy times than actual conversations between them but they do have a great chemistry together so I can see why that would be the case.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I think people who don’t like quirky characters and shorter stories will have a hard time getting into this. But if you like quick reads with a touch for the melodramatics, check this out!

Read if You Like: short series, fake relationships
Avoid if You: want more developed story and characters

similarreads

  • Caught Up in Us by Lauren Blakely (Caught Up In Love Series #1)
  • Lord Bachelor by Tammy L Bailey
  • Break by Vanessa Waltz (Billionaire Series #1)

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Series Review: Hearts by Claire Contreras

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 Kaleidoscope Hearts (from Goodreads):

He was my older brother’s best friend.
He was never supposed to be mine.
I thought we would get it out of our system and move on.

One of us did.
One of us left.

Now he’s back, looking at me like he wants to devour me. And all those feelings I’d turned into anger are brewing into something else, something that terrifies me.
He broke my heart last time.
This time he’ll obliterate it.

breakdown

Series: Hearts Trilogy
Author: Claire Contreras
# of Books: 3 (Kaleidoscope Hearts, Paper Hearts, Elastic Hearts)

There is a novella that is a prequel to Book #2 Paper Hearts called Torn Hearts

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Second Chances, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure how this series crossed my radar. I can only assume the cover of Kaleidoscope Hearts caught my eye on a Goodreads widget or perhaps Kobo recommended it to me.

Regardless, I tend to enjoy second chance romances and this series is all about them. I like the secrets and tension that happens and Kaleidoscope Hearts with its “in love with brother’s BFF” trope had me eager to start it.

The Plot:

I went through the same cycle with all these books. The start had my attention because there was so much tension and animosity between the leads. The mystery to their past relationship(s) had me eager to learn more. But by the midway point, my interest started to wane. I felt like we kept cycling the same drama back and forth. The push and pull of the romance just kept tugging and tugging but not making any positive progress. It got tiring to read because I got it you know? Of course their are obstacles in the way but we don’t need to rehash those every other chapter.

And it also drove me nuts that a lot of the unnecessary drama was the result of these characters purposefully being uncommunicative. We’d get their thought process in their inner monologue but they’d never tell their partner that. For example (I’m going to keep this pretty general to avoid spoilers), in Elastic Hearts, all Victor has to do is tell her that they can’t be seen together for a few weeks until everything blows over and the consequences are no longer at play. Instead, he essentially breaks up with her and tells her nothing about how his plan will secure a future for them so she assumes (rightfully so) the worst of him and that he doesn’t want to be with her.

SO FRUSTRATING!

The Characters:

I never fell in love with any of these characters. Part of the problem was their lack of maturity. For people well into their 20s, they acted like high schoolers at times. This was particularly apparent in Paper Hearts (which I actually DNF’d at 13%) where our heroine goes off on the littlest of things at our hero. I mean, I understand her hurt and anger towards him given their past, but she could turn a simple comment into something else completely with a snap of her fingers. Ugh. Everything was way more dramatic than it needed to be.

I also found that these characters were all over the place in terms of their personalities. They would act one way and then be something else entirely in the next chapter. So I could never get a good read on them or who they were. There is quite a bit of potential for development but we don’t really get any or enough to impress me.

The Romance:

I thought all the leads had good physical chemistry. You could feel the tension that flowed between them when they were in a room together. However, I felt like the emotional connections could have used some work.

It’s hard to craft a good second chance romance. You’ve got characters who have already established a relationship and usually the reader only sees them attempt to reestablish it after something has torn them apart. Which is the case here. I mean, you do get little flashbacks to the past so you know they had this great chemistry years ago but nothing showed me that the pairs were soulmates without a doubt, you know? It was almost like an unspoken connection that just convinced them that that person was the one and I would have enjoyed seeing more of the partnerships come to life.

When to Read #1.5 Torn Hearts:

This novella is included at the start of Book 2, Paper Hearts. It serves as a good introduction to the lead characters in Paper Hearts, giving a context for the situation they find themselves in. I don’t know if knowing why these two split before I started Paper Hearts “ruined” a bit of the mystery of the second chance story or not. I don’t think I would have enjoyed that story regardless.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Kaleidoscope Hearts 3/5 | [Torn Hearts 3/5] | Paper Hearts DNF | Elastic Hearts 2/5

overall

I’ve read better second chance series. While all the right ideas were there, the execution could have been better.

Read if You Like: second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike longer romance stories

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Series Review: The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Bet (from Goodreads):

“I have a proposition for you.” Kacey should have run the minute those words left Seattle millionaire Jake Titus’s mouth. It’s been years since Kacey’s seen her childhood friend Jake, but the minute Jake mentions his ill grandmother, Kacey is ready to do anything for the sweet old woman. And if that means pretending they’re engaged for her sake-so be it.

But Kacey wasn’t counting on Jake’s older brother Travis still being there. She calls him “Satan” for a reason: she’s never forgotten the way he teased and taunted her. Yet when they meet again, Travis’s gorgeous smile is a direct hit to her heart . . . and Kacey’s more confused than ever. As the days pass, only one thing starts to become alarmingly clear-she never should have accepted Jake’s deal . . .

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Bet
Author: Van Dyken
# of Books: 3 (The Bet, The Wager, The Dare)
Book Order: Connected (but chronological events)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple (The Bet); Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2013 – July 2014
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

NOTE: I only read The Bet (#1) and The Dare (#3). I DNF’d The Wager at 14%. Find out why below.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve really enjoyed Rachel Van Dyken’s previous series in the past and I’ve had this one marked on my TBR forever. I only had the first book on my eReader and that’s why it was selected for my #ShelfLove Challenge for 2017.

I didn’t know entirely what to expect going into The Bet. It gets a few polarizing reviews on Goodreads but I went in with an open mind and the need to be entertained.

The Plot:

As whole, this series is about a meddling Grandmother who wants her grandsons to get their heads out of their butts and get married to the “ones that got away”. Grandma Nadine is an over the top character as are her antics. Her meddling isn’t a huge focus in The Bet (#1) but it does become a huge part of the latter two novels.

This results in some mixed feelings for me in terms of the plot. I enjoyed The Bet as Nadine is more of the filter-less Grandmother who inserts a comment or two along the way. But her interference in the next two novels is very hit or miss. Most of the time I enjoyed the concept of the second chance romance but not the execution–mainly Nadine’s manipulation–of the plot. It takes everything to this over-dramatic level that I wasn’t a fan of.

The Characters:

I think these characters really make it or break it for the readers. They aren’t the most mature out there and I wouldn’t say that all of them are completely likable either. I think I was just in the right mood for tolerating some of these characters when I read the books.

Case and point: Kacey. I really struggled with her because she does some down-right awful things to Travis when they are kids. I’m talking full out bullying the boy to the point where I’m shocked he turned out as nice as he did. But she does have these moments where she comes across as a genuinely nice girl (now that she’s older) so it was hard to pinpoint my exact feelings on her.

I think if you don’t take them all so seriously and focus on the silly things that happen along the way, you can enjoy this novel without loving the characters. (But I understand that is a hard thing to do in a romance novel–case and point why I DNF’d Book #2 The Wager).

The Romance:

These are all second chance stories that happen quickly (usually within a week or two), reestablishing this connection from the past. We only get a few flashbacks to the past so it was hard to convince me that all these characters were a great match. The connections of the leads in The Wager and The Dare just seemed so superficial to me because their past was a shared night of lust.

Why I DNF’d The Wager (#2) at 14%:

I was actually pretty excited to start this one because I love a good “player redemption story”. But the immaturity of these characters irritated me to no ends. Their opening chapters just seemed so ridiculous to me and I couldn’t get into.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Bet 4.5/5 | The Wager DNF| The Dare 2.5/5

overall

I think if you enjoy stories that don’t take themselves too seriously and can get past somewhat mature characters, you will enjoy this series. However, Rachel Van Dyken writes much (much) better romance novels so perhaps try Ruin or The Matchmaker’s Playbook instead.

Read if You Like: over the top drama, quick second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike immature characters, struggle with humour in novels

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Series Review: Dirty by Ella Miles

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

Dirty Series

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dirty Obsession (from Goodreads):

Arlo Carini saved my life, only to destroy it.

When I first met him, he was the wealthy, powerful, sexy stranger giving me and a dozen other art history students a tour of his mansion. But he soon became my everything.

My savior. My lover. My obsession.

He tried to warn me. Every chance he could, he tried to get me to run far, far away. But it only made my obsession grow stronger. Until I made the worst mistake I could. And ended up trapped forever.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Dirty
Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 3 (Dirty Obsession, Dirty Addiction, Dirty Revenge)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Dirty Beginning included in Dirty Obsession

Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Romance, Contemporary, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Multiple (Obsession); Alternating (Revenge)
Publication Date: January 18, 2018 – July 5, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ella Miles never fails to disappoint me when it comes to her books. I always think I’m going to get one story but I end up with another–one that never fails to entertain and surprise me.

I love a good dark romance and after reading the novella, Dirty Beginning, I was curious to see what was in story next for these characters.

What I Liked:

–Dark and Twisted–

This is probably one of the darkest romances I’ve ever read. It’s deliciously dark and twisted which means it isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t enjoy dark erotic romances, don’t pick this up! But if you do, you are in for a treat!

This story did keep me on my toes. You always get the sense that there is more lurking underneath with all the characters involved and I loved the tension that brought to the story. I became a little obsessed (pun intended) trying to figure out what was happening and why. And the twists when everything is revealed (and how it ties back to the novella, Dirty Beginning): awesome.

–The Characters–

I really enjoyed the main characters we get to meet. You’ve got your very evil villain; the mysterious hero and a strong heroine. Nina is very likeable, more so in this book than in the novella I think. She has some solid character growth from start to end which I always appreciate!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wanted More Allusion to the “Game”–

I do wish the “game” was allude to more than it was throughout the novel. Just some little hints along the way would have been great. Even though the game is always afoot, I felt like we got a little too wrapped up in the sex scenes at times and I wanted a little more insight into the “why” of it all.

When to read the Prequel Novella: Dirty Beginning?

Definitely before you read Dirty Obsession! It gives you context for the first novel and introduces you to all the key players. You could get by without reading it but seeing as it is included in the Dirty Obsession, just read it!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very excited for the next set of leads. I have a particular soft spot for our hero so I can’t wait for him to meet his match!

updates

–May 30, 2018– Book #2: Dirty Addiction

I couldn’t wait to see how these two would fall in love and what the consequences of it would be. But it took me a lot longer than I thought it would to see them as a couple chemistry wise.

I found for the first third or so of the novel, they didn’t interact all that much and if they did, it wasn’t always a positive experience, so I didn’t totally see the draw between them. I suppose the somewhat “forced” circumstances they find themselves in is part of the draw to the “dark” romance but I like those little moments of vulnerability in my forbidden romances.

Things started to improve though once we pass the halfway mark. I found the drama of the plot line helped to bring the romance and the characters to life in a way that started to win me over. That’s when Matteo and Eden started to interact more and the chemistry between them became more apparent.

–July 16, 2018– Book #3: Dirty Revenge

This is by FAR the darkest book in the series…but perhaps the most addicting?

I’ll admit that parts of this were hard for me to read. Gia has a lot of awful things (like cringe-worthy) happen to her but I appreciated the character growth she received as a result. For me, this story was more about Gia finding herself and her independence more so than a straight romance and I liked that. Gia gets broken-down but she rebuilds herself into a much stronger woman as a result.

The plot line itself is engaging. You don’t know the good guys from the bad guys which always brings an air of anticipation and tension to the story. Like any Ella Miles book, you really don’t know what direction the plot will go and I enjoyed the journey to find out.

As for the romance, I thought these two were a good match. Conti was a little too much for me at the start with his alpha ways; however, I expected that given the nature of the book. But I appreciated the partnership that forms between these two thanks to mutual understanding and experiences so I could see why they would be drawn to each other.

My Rating: 4/5

[Dirty Beginning 3/5] | Dirty Obsession 4/5| Dirty Addiction 3/5 | Dirty Revenge 4/5

overall

Perfect for fans of truly dark romances and sexy times! But if you don’t enjoy erotica or more graphic scenes, don’t pick this up!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, dislike erotica, love triangles

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Series Review: Freedom by Bella d’Amour

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

Freedom Series

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Free to Play (from Goodreads):

He’s a player and she’s ready to play… but what happens when the fun gets serious?

“Brent, will you be my first?”

Joey is mortified to face Brent the next morning after letting the question slip in a weak moment. She’s shocked when Brent not only agrees but proposes a friends with benefits arrangement. How can she accept when it threatens what’s most important to her: her friendship with his sister, her new job with his football team, her self-respect when an ex-girlfriend is suddenly back in the picture – and her heart?

After years of working hard to fulfill his responsibilities, Brent is finally enjoying his life – with women who want nothing more than a good time. But when Joey asks him to be her first lover, he can’t resist finally getting his hands on her luscious body, one he’d been lusting after for years. Only problem is, once isn’t enough. He’s not ready to give up his hard-earned freedom nor is he ready for a woman to invade his life – or his heart. When demons from his past come back to haunt him, will he let them ruin what he’s found with Joey?

breakdown

Series: Freedom Series
Author: Bella d’Amour
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order Here)
Book Order: Companion (Free to Live); Connected
Complete?: No
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 27, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thanks so much Bella d’Amour!

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for the “in love with BFF’s brother trope”. I just love all the delicious tension it brings when two people inevitabley fall for each other (if they aren’t secretly in love with the other person already). I wasn’t sure what the case was going to be here, but I was excited to dive into Free to Play.

What I Liked:

–Fantastic Chemistry–

These two had great chemistry from the start! Their attraction to each other is palpable and I loved every moment shared between them. They make such a great pair and part of the reason is that:

–They Actually Talked to Each Other!–

Don’t worry, there are plenty of steamy moments between the two of them. However, they had these great moments of conversation where they discussed their hopes and fears among other topics. I like seeing that emotional connection be established in my romances and this one succeeds beautifully.

–Building Joey’s Self-Esteem–

I love stories where the heroine learns to be confident in herself. Sometimes that’s hard to do in a romance because all too often, the heroine only become more independent by becoming dependent on the hero/their relationship. (I know that’s confusing but I hope you get what I am saying). And while Brent does help Joey build her self-esteem when it comes to her body image, I would say he is a vehicle for her start to see herself in a different light, not the sole reason. He helps her to see herself outside the stereotypes she’s boxed herself into and once that seed is planted, she learns to grow on her own. I loved that.

This isn’t to say that Brent doesn’t have great character development. He too goes on a journey where he grows up and figures out what is truly important in his life and I liked that a lot.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Tad Too Dramatic Near the End–

I get why certain things happened at the end. They help enhance the lessons of the novel and that’s great. But this novel felt so grounded for so long that I didn’t entirely enjoy all the (slightly) over the top drama that occurs. Again, I know why everything happens as it does, I just wish it didn’t.

However, we have more than enough time to wrap everything up nicely so win!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m super excited for the sequel! I loved Brent’s family and I hope they become the focus of the sequel novels. I already have a hypothesis of who the next book involves so I can’t wait to see if I’m right!

updates

–April 15, 2018– Book #2: Free to Live

I had my suspicions about who the leads for book 2 would be and I was not disappointed!

Despite the quick initial spark with these two shared, I loved the slow burn of this romance. It gave the romance an edge of anticipation knowing that they had crossed the line but were holding back despite their every need not to. I loved watching these two get to know each other and breakdown those barriers that they had erected in the past to stop the pain of falling in love only to be hurt later.

In this story, I think it’s our hero who gets more time to shine but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He definitely had the more convoluted history and I enjoyed the mystery of uncovering that past so he could move forward. I would have liked to have seen a little more from the heroine in terms of development, but I think she was a great compliment to our hero’s story.

We get just a taste of what the future might hold in terms of possible sequels and I know that I’m definitely sticking around to see what will happen next!

–September 27, 2018– Book #3: Free to Risk

I was really excited for Stevie’s story and I’m a sucker for a solid second chance romance; so this was a great combination from the start!

Bella d’Amour has this incredible talent for bringing characters to life. Her romances always have great tension and chemistry between the leads, but I’m always blown away by her ability to develop genuine, relateable characters. I feel like these characters could be my friends and I get super invested in their lives and journeys. Both leads have fantastic growth from start to finish–probably because they actually share what they are feeling with each other and communicate! It’s so refreshing to see in a romance.

If you want a book that will tug on your heartstrings, pick this up!

My Rating: 4/5

Free to Play 4/5 | Free to Live 4/5 | Free to Risk 4/5

overall

If you love character-strong romances, pick this series up!

Read if You Like: sport romances, heroines building self-esteem
Avoid if You: dislike steamier reads, dislike contemporary romance

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Series Review: The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

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

Synopsis for The First Kiss Hypothesis (from Goodreads):

Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.
Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

breakdown

Series: The First Kiss Hypothesis
Author: Christina Mandelski
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes (?)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Thanks to the H.BSc that follows my name and the hopeless romantic in me makes it a requirement that I read any novel that uses a scientific term in its title. I’m a fan of the best friends to more trope, especially in YA, and the promise of a scientific theory to back up why that might not be the case for these two? I was excited to see how this experiment would play out.

The Plot:

This story definitely felt like it was more of a coming of age novel than straight romance–and I really liked that. Eli and Nora have a lot going on in their lives now that they are seniors in high school. They’re beginning to feel the pressures from family and friends when it comes to deciding what’s next. Throw in their long buried crushes on each other and the mutual agreed upon love of pies and you’ve got a bit of a sticky situation.

This book had me at the start. I loved Eli’s goal to make Nora see him as more than a friend and I liked how Nora was unknowingly trying to counteract that. It made from some sweet moments between them. However, it started to lose me in the middle when everything just seemed to repeat itself with nothing completely new to add to the story. It rounds itself out in the end with some solid character growth but my interest did start to wane.

The Characters:

I’m really glad that we got both Nora and Eli’s POV in this story because it does shed some light on why they act like they do. They have their moments of immaturity but I did find that they grew up as the story progressed. I wasn’t blown away by either of them but they worked well for this story.

I do have to give a shout-out to Eli’s autistic brother Ari. He was fabulous and a breath of fresh air in this story. He really grounds the story in a way that benefits everyone.

The Romance:

These two are super cute together, no denying that. I liked that they always had these feelings bubbling up at the surface–I love the type of tension that brings to a story. It’s a touch cliché but these two have enough quirks to keep it interesting.

updates

–September 17, 2018– Book #2: Love and Other Secrets

I had no idea that this book was the sequel of sorts to The First Kiss Hypothesis so it was a welcome surprise when I started reading and notice we were back at Edinburgh High.

This book started off strongly for me. I loved watching Alex moon over Bailey and fight his feelings for her while she explains her film making plan. That’s the sexual tension that keeps me hooked and wanting more. But I can’t help but feel that if I got to see these two interact a little more before the start of this book (ie the start of their friendship), I would have rooted for them a little more than I did. Yes, they are cute together and I can see why they are drawn to each other but I wanted that connection established a little more.

Unfortunately, the last half of the book is plagued by bad communication and assumptions on both characters parts and it’s a little frustrating to endure as it occurs in a slightly repetitive way. I get their fears of rejection but their defensive tactics always seemed premature to me–which in turn made the characters come across as immature.

Which brings me to the character development. I was very disappointed in Alex’s lack of growth as a character. To me, it was almost like he unravelled as the story progressed. I was a huge Alex fan at the start but his angst towards his parents (no matter how justified) never seemed to contribute positively to his coming of age story. I felt like that was a bit of a missed opportunity because the romance overshadows any character growth or resolution.

My Rating: 3/5

The First Kiss Hypothesis 3.5/5 | Love and Other Secrets 3/5

overall

If you enjoy cute coming of age stories where best friends fall in love, this perfect for you!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, best friends to more, coming of age, teenaged angst
Avoid if You: high school romances

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Series Review: Dance Off by Alexis Daria

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

Dance Off

 

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Take the Lead (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Contemporary 2017, To Watch Author
Series: Dance Off
Author: Alexis Daria
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #2.5 Dance All Night

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Celebrity
Heat Rating: toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eBook | Thank You St. Martin’s Press – Swerve!

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

What I Liked:

–The Chemistry–

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

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

–The Characters–

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

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

–Perfect Amount of Drama–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

updates

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

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

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

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

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

–December 3, 2018– Book #3: Dance All Night

I’m so happy that we got to spend more time in the world of Dance Off. I love this series for so many reasons and this novella highlighted them all!

Despite finishing this book in a little over an hour, this never felt like a novella because it is so well developed. You’ve got great, layered characters; an addicting, sweet romance and just the right amount of drama to give this novel a little flare. Oh–and CHRISTMAS! Everything just mixed together so well.

It was nice to have the roles reversed a bit. I always like reading novels where the male hero is more invested in the relationship and he has to win over the somewhat cynical heroine. Nik is such a genuine guy that he will have you swooning from the start. And Jess has some great character moments as a result of her growing feelings.

My only downside is the conflict the two face: it’s a bit of a communication-assumption thing and that always irks me. But I loved these two together so much that I’m willing to over look that little bit!

My Rating: 5/5

Take the Lead 5/5 | Dance With Me 4/5 | [Dance All Night 4/5] |

overall

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

Read if You Like: adult romance, reality TV, drama
Avoid if You: want more erotica based story
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Series Review: The Ladies Janies by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

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

book3

Synopsis for My Lady Jane (from Goodreads):
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

breakdown

Series: My Ladies Jane
Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (My Lady Jane, My Plain Jane, My Calamity Jane)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; Audiobook (Plain)

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was everywhere in 2016! And I’ll admit, I didn’t know much else about it other than it was a retelling of Lady Jane Grey who was somehow connected to the British throne and it was supposed to be funny. I’ve also read series by all three of these authors in the past and enjoyed them. Sounded like a winning combination to me!

So I went in without reading any other reviews in order to not raise my expectations too high. I was hoping for a fun and entertaining read–and if I learned something about the British Monarchy, bonus!

The Concept / The World:

Years ago, I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and really enjoyed it. So I am completely open to magic/supernatural changes to a classic story or history. But I really wasn’t expecting the animal shifter storyline we got here. It took me a long to time get comfortable with it.

I also think part of the problem was that I’m not entirely familiar with English History. It was a similar problem to when I picked up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer–I don’t know American history and so I couldn’t make the little connections between the parody and actual history and that diminished my reading experience.

I really didn’t know who Jane Grey was before I picked this up.  So I read Wikipedia a lot to find out who all the players were and what actually happened in history just so I knew what the authors were trying to do.

Once I made the connections between history and this fictitious story, I started to appreciate it a lot more. The writing here is smart. The conflict between shifters and nonshifters here and its parallel to the religious conflicts of Jane Grey’s time (for example) is fantastic. It’s those little things that make this story interesting to read overall.

The Plot:

I really found the first half of this book to be slow–so slow that I almost contemplated DNFing. Yes, I did love the humour but the animal shifting really threw me off and I wasn’t sure if I liked how the story was progressing. But once I got familiar with the history and got comfortable with the world, I started to enjoy it a lot more.

Plus, I really wanted to know how it was going to end!

And I have to say, that once I got to the halfway point, it really started to pick up. It got a hell of a lot more exciting and I started to get won over by the characters and the plot.

The Characters:

What I liked about this story was that it was told from Edward, Jane and Gifford’s POVs. Not only do you get to learn more about these characters through their POVs, but I find multiple POVs help keep the story moving even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

All of these characters have their little quirks which makes the narration a lot of fun to read. So even when the plot was slow to get somewhere, the characters kept me entertained.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge part of the story but it is pretty cute. The romantic in me was happy with the little spurts we got throughout the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m curious to see what will happen next and what these ladies have in store.

updates

–January 4, 2019– Book #2: My Plain Jane

So I can say with absolute certainty that this second novel was much, much better than the first–for me at least. I really enjoyed the plot and approach this story had. It was a fun satire of sorts on the classic gothic novel and the literature lover in me really enjoyed that. While I’ve never read Jane Eyre (shame on me I know), I know enough of the story to truly appreciate the parallels the authors have created here. I also think listening to this as an audiobook vastly improved my overall experience because the humour and sarcasm were much more apparent.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

My Lady Jane 3.5/5  |  My Plain Jane 4/5  |  My Calamity Jane TBR

overall

I’m in the minority with this series I think because I know a lot of people who LOVE this novel. If you go into it knowing that it doesn’t take itself seriously and has magical elements to it, you’ll enjoy this a lot more. I also highly recommend the audiobooks if you are someone who struggles with humour in novels.

Read if You Like: humour, historical novels, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike parodies, want a serious retelling

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Series Review: White Trash by Teresa Mummert

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 White Trash Beautiful (from Goodreads):
A word-of-mouth bestseller that’s captivating readers with its honesty, grit, and headstrong heroine, White Trash Beautiful is a story for anyone who has ever felt trapped in life, cheated by love—and longed for something more . . .

Cass Daniels isn’t waiting for her knight in shining armor. She knows that girls like her don’t get a happily ever after. Not if you live in a trailer with your mom, work at a greasy spoon diner, and get leered at by old men. Maybe that’s why she puts up with Jackson—her poor excuse for a boyfriend, who treats her like dirt. Cass has learned to accept her lot in life. That is, until he walks into her diner. . . .

His name is Tucker White, and he’s different from any man Cass has ever known. Tall, tattooed, and bad-ass gorgeous, he’s the lead singer of the rock band Damaged. From the moment they meet, Tucker sees something in Cass he just can’t shake. Something beautiful. Something haunted. Something special. And he’s determined to find out what it is—if only he can get her to open up and let him in. . . .

breakdown

Series: White Trash Trilogy
Author: Teresa Mummert
# of Books: 3 (White Trash Beautiful, White Trash Damaged, White Trash Love Song)
Book Order: Chronological; Connected (Love Song)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Rockstar, Music
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2013 – April 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Audiobook (Damaged & Song)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember how this series crossed my radar. It might have been because my library added the eBook version but I’m not sure. I read a lot of rockstar NA reads so I’m sure I saw it on a list somewhere.

Anyways, I love rockstar romances and I was really interested to see what would happen with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

What I Liked:

–Made me Believe in Soul Mates–

While their romance is a little “insta-love” connection, it was obvious to why these two were drawn to each other. They compliment each other so well even if that isn’t always elaborated on.

–Cass’ Character Development–

I find the romance takes a bit of a back seat here at times to focus on Cass and her growth.

Through her romance with Tucker, she is able to become independent. I hate when girls get caught up in their romantic interest and become dependent upon their man. It happens a lot in rock-star based romances because the girl gets caught up in the celebrity of it all. But here, I loved how Tucker lets Cass grow on her own. He is the catalyst for change but he doesn’t force her to be anything and she doesn’t rely on him to do that. She learns on her own that she is worth something on her own and not to let anyone else define her.

–Wasn’t too Focused on the “Rockstar”–

Like I said, Cass is really the star of this and I liked how the story kept her as the focus. It didn’t feel like every other rockstar romance novel out there.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lopsidedness to the Plot–

The exposition here was a little too long. While I appreciated the time taken to explore this relationship and the characters, it did need that touch of drama to give the story some oomph.

And we do get that oomph, just near the end of the story. That’s when all the dramatic twists come about; which makes the story feel rushed and underdeveloped. I would have liked to have seen those issues fleshed out a little more earlier on and watch the characters grow from that.

Will I Finish It?

Honestly, the only reason I didn’t pick up the sequels was because I’m too cheap to spend the money on them. If my library gets the sequels, I’ll pick them up!

updates

–October 19, 2018– Book #2 & #3: White Trash Damaged & White Trash Love Song

I randomly stumbled upon these sequels as audiobooks through one of the additional services my library provides so I was happy to finally give this series a proper closure.

And…maybe I should have just left this series at book one.

I had two chief complaints about both sequels. 1) They spend the vast majority of the first half rehashing the same sentiments again and again. Seriously, it was like it was on repeat. 2) Nothing worthwhile gets expanded upon. I have so many unanswered questions from some of the plot developments that were thrown out there but never mentioned again.

It’s a shame because the last 25% of these books were great. We get some solid character development (even with the various plot holes we simply glaze over) and if that was brought out a littler earlier, my ratings for both novels would be higher.

Series Rating: 2/5

White Trash Beautiful 4/5 | White Trash Damaged 2/5 | White Trash Love Song 2/5

overall

Despite a strong start, this sequels to this series lacked the strengths of the first novel and get caught up in the cliches and petty drama.

Read if You Like: rockstar romances, character development
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romances

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