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Single Sundays: Only Between Us by Mila Ferrera

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Only Between Us (from Goodreads):

Last semester, Romy escaped from an abusive relationship with the guy she’d thought was the man of her dreams. This semester she’s putting herself back together, determined to reclaim her passion for art and for life. When she signs up for a painting class at the local art co-op, the possibility of passion becomes very real — in the form of her teacher, Caleb. Both mysterious and seriously hot, Caleb bares his soul on his canvases, and Romy’s fascinated by what she sees.

Caleb is just trying to keep his head above water. Caring for his traumatized, unstable sister is getting harder every day, and his paintings are so dark and bleak that no one is buying. Teaching classes at the co-op is no longer enough, and now he’s going to have to sell more than just his art to the wealthy, sex-starved women in his classes. But when Romy comes along, she makes everything more complicated. She sees the truth in his paintings — a truth no one else has realized, until now.

Romy and Caleb might have a real shot together — one that could heal them both. But when ghosts from their pasts re-emerge, determined to keep them apart, will they be strong enough to hold on to each other?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author

This novel has a spin-off: Everything Between Us

Author: Mila Ferrera
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Mental Health
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
Source & Format: Own–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I actually read the spin-off novel, Everything Between Us before I ever heard of this one. But after loving that novel and getting a quick glimpse at Romy and Caleb, I immediately bought this book so I could get the full story.

The Concept:

This is my third Mila Ferrera novel and I can say with total confidence that she is one of the best writers out there when it comes to mental health in contemporary romances. Not only does she seamlessly interweave that aspect into the story but she also manages to do so in a genuinely realistic way that captures my full attention. Yes, sometimes that means we go to the darker side of things but I never feel like she is doing is for simply the shock factor. Rather she is humanizing her characters by sharing their struggles, ups and downs and fighting that stigma we have surrounding mental health.

The Plot:

I hadn’t been having the greatest luck with novels when I picked this one up but this one reminded me what I love about the New Adult genre. We had strong, developed and complex characters; a solid plot line and a passionate romance to top everything off.

There’s enough drama and obstacles to keep the story fresh and moving while contributing in a strong way to the character development.

The Characters:

I loved both of these leads so much! The focus shifts from Romy to Caleb when it needs to and that keeps the story moving. But both of these characters have their flaws and their strengths and it just contributes in a great way to their stories.

The Romance:

In some ways, this story is a slow burn romance because they take their time to get to know each other. But the spark is there from the start and it heats up in a way that will suck you in.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

Mila Ferrera never fails to impress. I love the way she handles mental illness in her novels. It’s so raw, genuine and powerful.

Read if You Like: mental health, romance, darker stories
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike sensitive conversations, want a light read
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Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

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 Queen of Someday (from Goodreads):

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?

breakdown

Series: Stolen Empire Trilogy
Author: Sherry Ficklin (or Sherry D Ficklin)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2014 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle)

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Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up Books #2 and #3. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I LOVE stories set in Imperial Russia. I just adore the setting; the politics; the forbidden romances; the folklore–everything about it sucks me in as a reader. So I was super excited to read this series and managed to snag the boxset when it was on sale (though I had already grabbed Queen of Someday as a freebie prior).

It has been awhile since I read a book set in Imperial Russia so I made sure to add this series as a pick for my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a selection for the year 2014. I also added it to my 2018 #MakeMeRead It Readathon where it tied for 1st place for the greatest number of votes.

What I Liked:

–It’s Inspired by Catherine the Great–

I will admit that I missed that part when I actually started reading but once that became apparent to me, I was definitely intrigued. I even had to do some research on Catherine to see what her story was about. I love books that make me dig a little deeper.

–Video Bonuses at the End of Chapters–

You can tell that Sherry Ficklin has put a lot of research into this series in terms of history, characters and setting. So it was a neat treat to get video bonuses at the end of some chapters where she explains her inspiration or what she was attempting to do in that chapter.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Couldn’t Get a Read on Sophie’s Character–

I was definitely a Sophie fan in the first few chapters. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and that shows in the opening scene when her carriage is attacked. She came across as strong and independent and I liked that a lot.

But then something happened where it seemed like her character almost had two different personalities. I get it, she’s 15 years old and has the pressure of the Empress and her mother on her back so I don’t expect her to make flawless decisions at all times. Yet, I craved some consistency in her character. One moment she’s this docile thing falling into love within moments of talking to a man and in the next she’s this bold and cunning heroine laying down threats like she owns the place. It was just a weird disconnect for me and I almost felt like I was reading about two different characters in one body.

–The Romances–

Yes, that’s a plural and no, I’m not talking about different characters. I’m talking about the numerous romances Sophie finds herself entangled in. Thanks to my research, I know that Catherine the Great was a lady who liked her male company so that isn’t overly surprising that in her youth she’d be the same. What irked me was how fast Sophie fell for these guys. They share one conversation and she’s willing to risk anything to be with them.

Again, she’s 15 and I get how fickle the heart can be. But add to that my issues with her character and I quickly lost interest in her romantic relationships–which do take up the vast majority of the book.

–Peter–

You can’t label some as “sadistic” in the synopsis and then not show that side of him until the last quarter of the novel. I had to reread the synopsis multiple times to make sure that it was Peter who was supposed to be the cruel one because for the most part, he was just an immature royal who toyed with Sophie’s feelings like any 16 year old boy would.

Will I Finish It?

Nope! I read the real Catherine the Great’s biography and I have a good sense of how her story ended and what was to come in the future books so I’m good with leaving this series here.

My Rating: DNF

Queen of Someday 2/5 | Queen of Tomorrow N/A | Queen of Always N/A

overall

If you like teenaged historical fiction and don’t mind love at first sight triangles and drama, you’ll likely enjoy this.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, teen soap operas
Avoid if You: want a more mature story

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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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 Cage (from Goodreads):

When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures, all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer appears—a handsome young guard called Cassian—they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

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Series: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called The Caretaker

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – May 2017
Source & Format: ARC Paperback (The Cage); Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually got a paperback copy of the ARC of The Cage from Lola @ Hit Or Miss Books as a part of her giveaway three years ago. I loved the concept so I was very interested in reading it but never managed to actually get to it. Which is why I picked it as a 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 pick for the year 2015; especially since the series was now complete!

The Concept / The World:

I love stories where an unlikely group of people find themselves together in a dire situation. Will they band together or will they tear each other apart? Will their secrets be exposed? It just adds to the suspense of the novel and keeps you wondering what will happen next.

When it comes to The Cage (#1), this was one of those books where I loved the concept more than the actual execution. The overall idea of why these characters find themselves in this weirdly crafted world kept my attention but the stuff in between (like romance) caused it to wane. This definitely changed in the sequel novels where I found the attention stayed on the overall plot (ie why they have been captured by the alien species and what they are going to do about it).

As for the world itself, it’s easy to grasp and definitely intriguing in its own way.

The Plot:

The plot of The Cage was very slow for me. I found the mystery of why these 6 were being kept in a cage pushed me to keep reading. But at the same time, I thought some of the other elements were repetitive. Cora in particular seems to cycle through the same plot line (attempt escape, talk to the Caretaker, repeat) and she is the character we follow for a majority of the novel. The other characters get their own POVs which was a refreshing change; however, we know all the other characters secrets early on so their POVs weren’t overly enthralling. There are some good twists near the end though.

And I thought the sequels did a good job of building on that momentum at the end of the first book. The narrative of the novels shifts away from the romances and the petty stuff and instead hones in on the bigger plot of the story: saving humanity. I really enjoyed the pacing of The Hunt and the various twists we got along the way. The Gauntlet has the same great pacing; my only reason for a slightly lower rating is my dislike of some of the plot resolutions (or at least how they are resolved).

The Characters:

I really struggled to like the characters in The Cage (#1). They all seemed a little bland to me. I wasn’t a Cora fan in the slightest though I understood her desire to escape. But I never really got the logic behind the other characters’ motivations (except Rolf) and actions. We also don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them because Cora’s chapters outweigh them, so I never really grew attached.

So in the sequel novels I found them to be the right pieces to move the story forward but I never really “connected” to any of them.

The Romance:

I did NOT see the attraction between Cassian and Cora whatsoever. Well, I guess I get Cassian’s fascination in a way but not Cora’s. The love triangle that ensues is painful to watch. Thankfully it gets toned down in the sequel novels so it isn’t a huge part of the plot moving forward.

The rest of the romances served their purposes. There was one couple in particular I was rooting to see happen so I liked that.

My Audiobook Experience (The Hunt [#2] & The Gauntlet [#3]):

I LOVED the audio version–it almost makes me wish I read the first book as an audio. The narrator does a great job giving everyone a unique voice with unique tones and accents. It was just a blast to listen to!

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

I read it after I completed the series mostly because I forgot it existed 😛 You can read it for free here and I would definitely read it AFTER you’ve read The Cage because it definitely gives away some of the plot twists (plus, it’ll will give you more context if you already know the scenes).

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

The Cage 3/5| The Hunt 4/5 | The Gauntlet 3.5/5

overall

Despite a really rough start with The Cage, I truly to end up enjoying this series. Once we move away from the petty character moments, we do get an intriguing and unique fast-paced story about humanity’s survival in the later two sequels.

Read if You Like: dystopian science fiction, romance
Avoid if You: need fast paced plot ASAP

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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.

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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

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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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DNF Series Review: Prisoners of Peace by Erin Bow

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Scorpion Rules (from Goodreads):

The world is at peace, said the Utterances. And really, if the odd princess has a hard day, is that too much to ask?

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.

Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.

As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Cover Love
Series: Prisoners of Peace; The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
# of Books: 2 (The Scorpion Rules, The Swan Riders)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2015 – September 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Scorpion Rules at 18% (middle of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There was a lot that drew me to this series. It’s written by a Canadian. It has political intrigue. Its unique concept. The cover. I quick marked it as an anticipated read upon its release in 2015 but let it slip away after I read some mixed reviews.

Despite that though, I was eager to read it and that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2018.

What I Liked about The Scorpion Rules:

–The Concept–

The whole setting of this novel is really intriguing. Children of political leaders are used as pawns in the hopes that forfeiting their lives in order to go to war will prevent the battle from even taking place–because who would sacrifice their own child?

Like many political things, this one is convoluted and that does result in some info dumping moments. I found the whole idea straight forward though I will admit I struggled with the AI portions of the information.

What I Didn’t Like The Scorpion Rules:

–All the Characters Seem to do is Farm–

I’ve got nothing against farming (where I live is predominately farms) but I didn’t pick up this book to read about Greta and company milking goats or making cheese.

I wanted back stabbing and conspiracy theories. I wanted a little more action and drama.

Instead, I got polite teenagers doing chores. Yawn.

My Audiobook Experience with The Scorpion Rules:

I do think part of the reason I DNF’d this so quick was the audio version (though truthfully, I would have found it boring either way). While I appreciate that each of the Children of Peace had their own accents, I found everyone seemed to have a slow drawl that proved to be distracting. When we would get those info dumping moments (usually when the teens are answering something in class or talking to each other), I just couldn’t concentrate on their words or the importance of what they were saying. I also thought the that narrator sounded to old to be Greta’s age so that was off-putting as well.

Will I Finish The Series?

Nope. I read the synopsis for Book 2 and I don’t think much really happened to get to that point.

Series Rating: DNF

The Scorpion Rules DNF | The Swan Riders N/A

overall

If you like slower books that take their time or want a book that is completely unlike any other out there, check this out.

Read if You Like: LBGTQ characters, slow novels, lots of detail about the world
Avoid if You: want action, want conspiracy theories

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

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Single Sundays: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for When It’s Real (from Goodreads):

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read of 2018, Canadian Author
Author: Erin Watt (pen name of Elle Kennedy & Jen Frederick)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library (Hoopla)–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. Not only is it written by a duo of authors I adore but it also has some of my favourite romance tropes. Fake relationship; in love with a celebrity; hate to love you; in love with a musician. In fact, I was so scared that I would pick up this book and end up disappointed that I kept putting it off. Which is why I made it a selection for my 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge for 2018. I needed to read this book and I was going to read it sooner than later.

The Plot:

Have you ever wanted a book not to end? Seriously, I could have followed these two until they day they die. The story just flowed so effortlessly from start to finish and I found myself getting caught up in it all.

I think the best part of this novel is that nothing seems rushed. The romance has a slow burn vibe to it so that continues to build and rope you in. But in the meantime, you get to focus on Vaughn and Oakley growing as characters, tackling their everyday (and as a result of their arrangement) problems. Everything just had a great balance for me.

The Characters:

These two easily became new favourite characters! They are written extremely well; I never felt like they were wish-washy in their convictions or actions. And I think that is the result of some great character development. The characters we get at the start of the book are not who we end the book with–only they are because you have watched these two evolve before your eyes.

And the rest of the cast is superb! They truly support Oakley and Vaughn and add to this story in a great way.

The Romance:

SWOON! Seriously, it’s a wonder I didn’t hurt anyone while listening (and swooning) to this audiobook as I drove. Oakley stole my heart and I loved watching Vaughn unravel his character. Their banter at the start of the book immediately sold me on their relationship and I couldn’t get enough of them as the story progressed.

I do have one issue with the romance and I put it in the spoiler box (even though one aspect is something revealed in the first three chapters) but I don’t like to do spoilers without warning.

My Little Complaint

One thing that really bothered me in the middle of the book was Oakley’s attitude that “he could get any girl he wanted” and that Vaughn should be “honoured” that he was even thinking about her. This attitude really got on my nerves because I felt like Vaughn was trading her toxic relationship with W (who kept reminding her that should be grateful he wasn’t pressuring her for sex when he could get it from anyone) for another one with Oakley. Thankfully, I felt like Oakley matured out of this attitude within the next few chapters.

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My Audiobook Experience:

I am SO SO SO happy I (found and) listened to this as an audiobook! The narrators (Caitlin Kelly and Teddy Hamilton) were so amazing! I seriously found two new favourite narrators. They truly brought these characters to life for me. I felt every range of emotion in this book and I think it was amplified thanks to their stellar performance.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I don’t say this very often (especially with contemporary romances) but I definitely plan on rereading this book in the years to come. I just loved the characters, the romance and the story!

Read if You Like: fake relationships, swoon-worthy heroes, jaded celebrity hero
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary romances

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Series Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

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

Warcross Duology

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Warcross (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
# of Books: 2 (Warcross, Wildcard)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Action
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2017 – September 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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**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:

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

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

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

What I Liked:

–Emika–

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

–The Games in the Tournament–

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

–The Romance–

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

–Not Overly Predictable–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slower Start–

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

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

updates

–November 25, 2018– Book #2: Wildcard

Given that ending, I thought Wildcard would hit the ground running at a much faster pace than its predecessor; but that didn’t seem to be the case. I found the first 75% of this book was just dialogue upon dialogue–which is fine because it helps establish and explain the various aspects of the plot–I just found that I would lose interest along the way. I missed those moments of gameplay and the like where I was thrown into the thick of things. We do get these pockets of excitement along the way; I just found they were few and far between.

I will give some bonus points though for originality. This series went in a direction I never anticipated and I thought this sequel was much less predictable. I was really into the story for the last quarter because I had no idea what was going to happen and I liked that a lot.

My Rating: 4/5

Warcross  4/5| Wildcard 3.5/5

overall

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

Read if You Like: stories set in the future, video games, action
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Royally by Emma Chase

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 Royally Screwed (from Goodreads):

Nicholas Arthur Frederick Edward Pembrook, Crowned Prince of Wessco, aka His Royal Hotness, is wickedly charming, devastatingly handsome, and unabashedly arrogant; hard not to be when people are constantly bowing down to you.

Then, one snowy night in Manhattan, the prince meets a dark haired beauty who doesn’t bow down. Instead, she throws a pie in his face.

Nicholas wants to find out if she tastes as good as her pie, and this heir apparent is used to getting what he wants.

Dating a prince isn’t what waitress Olivia Hammond ever imagined it would be.

There’s a disapproving queen, a wildly inappropriate spare heir, relentless paparazzi, and brutal public scrutiny. While they’ve traded in horse drawn carriages for Rolls Royces, and haven’t chopped anyone’s head off lately, the royals are far from accepting of this commoner.

But to Olivia, Nicholas is worth it.

Nicholas grew up with the whole world watching, and now Marriage Watch is in full force. In the end, Nicholas has to decide who he is and, more importantly, who he wants to be: a King… or the man who gets to love Olivia forever.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Fav Couple, 2018 Fav
Series: Royally Trilogy; Royals Trilogy; Royally

There is a Spin-Off Series titled The Bodyguards!

Author: Emma Chase
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)

There is a free novella: #2.5 Royally Raised

Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events

Technically, Royally Yours (#4) is a prequel

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2016 – October 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Library–Audiobook (Royally Endowed); eARC (Royally Yours)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been eager to read another Emma Chase series since I finished Tangled years ago. She is one of those authors who never fails to make me laugh. She just has the total package when it comes to writing. The Legal Briefs didn’t interest me all that much (but I do have it on my TBR now because I just love her work) but when I saw she was writing a series about royals? Hell yes!

The Plot:

I really liked that all 3 books had a different plot style to them because each set of leads has a different flare to them. It’s hard to talk about them all without spoilers (particularly because the events in Royally Screwed heavily influence Royally Matched) but I’ll just say you’ll feel every emotion as you read. I laughed, I cried, I swooned.

For me, this whole series is just adult contemporary perfection. You’ve got great characters with great development. Heart-pounding romance and tension. A solid plot throughout. And you can’t forget the humour Emma Chase flawlessly infuses into her stories and her ability to make you cry just moments later. They’re just an absolute pleasure to read!

The Characters:

I loved all these characters. I loved how they were all uniquely complicated. I loved watching them grow as people. I loved their wit and humour. Basically, I loved them and they really made these novels awesome.

The Romance:

You know, all of these characters make my “Favourite Couples” list. They were everything I love in a romantic pair. Great communication, complementary personalities, a strong partnership. While they grow as people, so does the romance.

There’s plenty of heat and tension along the way as well. The chemistry between all the leads just leaps off the pages and it makes all the stories so addicting.

When to Read the Novella #2.5 Royally Raised?

I was a little worried that Royally Raised (which is a freebie novella at most eBook retailers) would have some spoilers for Royally Endowed (Book #3) but it doesn’t at all. It has spoilers for Books 1 & 2 but you really shouldn’t be reading a novella that’s set 20 years later before you read the actual stories of the characters it’s about. (Just sayin’)

Anyways, I read it after Royally Matched and I think that’s the perfect time to read it. It makes for an extended epilogue of sorts with the leads and it’s absolute perfection! Highly recommend!

My Audiobook Experience–Royally Endowed:

I did plan on reading Royally Matched as an audiobook as well but I already had a voice for Henry in my mind and the narrator for that audiobook didn’t sound like that. Thus, I opted for the eBook.

But I’m so, so glad I listened to the audiobook for Royally Endowed. It was absolutely fabulous! Shane East and Andi Arndt did an AMAZING job (they narrate the other novels as well and what I had listened to of Royally Matched was also great). The accent Shane did was the perfect blend of English and Scottish like the Wessco accent is described and it really helped me to get lost in the story. I highly recommend the audiobooks for this series!

updates

–November 1, 2018– Book #4: Royally Yours

I could have used 20 more chapters; I really didn’t want this one to end! I loved this prequel so much!

When should you read this prequel? I think you will enjoy it more if you’ve read all the other books in the series but you could easily read this before the other novels without any spoilers.

Read my Full Review here!

Series Rating: 5/5

Royally Screwed 5/5 | Royally Matched 5/5 | [Royally Raised 5/5] | Royally Endowed 5/5 | Royally Yours 5/5

overall

I see a lot of rereads with this series in the future. One of my all time favourite Adult Contemporary Romance Series EVER!

Read if You Like: romances involving royals, humour
Avoid if You: don’t enjoy romance novels

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