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Series Review: Descendants by Melissa de la Cruz

Series Review: Descendants by Melissa de la Cruz

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Isle of the Lost (from Goodreads):

Twenty years ago, all the evil villains were banished from the kingdom of Auradon and made to live in virtual imprisonment on the Isle of the Lost. The island is surrounded by a magical force field that keeps the villains and their descendants safely locked up and away from the mainland. Life on the island is dark and dreary. It is a dirty, decrepit place that’s been left to rot and forgotten by the world.

But hidden in the mysterious Forbidden Fortress is a dragon’s eye: the key to true darkness and the villains’ only hope of escape. Only the cleverest, evilest, nastiest little villain can find it…who will it be?

Maleficent, Mistress of the Dark: As the self-proclaimed ruler of the isle, Maleficent has no tolerance for anything less than pure evil. She has little time for her subjects, who have still not mastered life without magic. Her only concern is getting off the Isle of the Lost.

Mal: At sixteen, Maleficent’s daughter is the most talented student at Dragon Hall, best known for her evil schemes. And when she hears about the dragon’s eye, Mal thinks this could be her chance to prove herself as the cruelest of them all.

Evie: Having been castle-schooled for years, Evil Queen’s daughter, Evie, doesn’t know the ins and outs of Dragon Hall. But she’s a quick study, especially after she falls for one too many of Mal’s little tricks.

Jay: As the son of Jafar, Jay is a boy of many talents: stealing and lying to name a few. Jay and Mal have been frenemies forever and he’s not about to miss out on the hunt for the dragon’s eye.

Carlos: Cruella de Vil’s son may not be bravest, but he’s certainly clever. Carlos’s inventions may be the missing piece in locating the dragon’s eye and ending the banishment for good.

Mal soon learns from her mother that the dragon’s eye is cursed and whoever retrieves it will be knocked into a deep sleep for a thousand years. But Mal has a plan to capture it. She’ll just need a little help from her “friends.” In their quest for the dragon’s eye, these kids begin to realize that just because you come from an evil family tree, being good ain’t so bad.

breakdown

Series: The Descendants
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 4 to be Released
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Magic, Disney
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love anything to do with Disney so I was super excited by the premise of this series. The offspring of classic Disney characters all together in one place? Very cool. I’ve read (and enjoyed) Melissa de la Cruz’s works in the past so I couldn’t wait to see how she would weave this unique world.

What I Liked:

–The World–

Without a doubt, the coolest part of this story was the world it was set in. I loved watching the next generation of classic fairy tale characters come to life. All the kids have some of the characteristics of their famous parents but also had their own unique spin which was a treat.

Everything felt original and fresh. I couldn’t get enough of the creativity; it was superb!

What I Didn’t Like:

–That It was Middle Grade–

I’m not one of those people who thinks people should read books for their marketed demographic (ie adults can’t read YA, etc) but I’ve never had great luck with MG titles as an adult. I think I like my stories to be grittier and less predictable and you don’t necessarily get that with an MG title like this one.

–The Plot–

This ties in with the MG genre because most of the “drama” we get is junior high in nature. While it was creative (they are villains after all), I just felt like the plot was a little aimless at times. We do get the overarching plot towards the end of the novel but by then it was too late for me to feel invested in this series.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. I really do love the idea of this series but I’m not sure I would be able to be invested in future instalments. I might check out the movie though!

My Rating: DNF

The Isle of the Lost  3/5| Return to the Isle of the Lost N/A| Rise of the Isle of the Lost  N/A| Book 4 TBP

overall

Readers who enjoy middle grade or absolutely LOVE anything Disney will love this!

Read if You Like: Disney, retellings, fairy tales
Avoid if You: dislike middle grade, want darker/grittier plots

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  • Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross (Beau Rivage Series #1)
  • Beastly by Alex Flinn (Beastly Chronicles #1)

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Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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 The Forbidden Wish (from Goodreads):

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

breakdown

Author: Jessica Khoury

There is a prequel novella on Wattpad: #0.5 The Jinni

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

My all time favourite Disney movie is Aladdin. The music is great, the animation is superb, the Genie is one of a kind, Jasmine is kickass and Aladdin is a street rat who grows up along the way. So I was very excited for a retellling where things were a little different than that.

The Concept / The World:

So before I start any retelling of a story that has been done by Disney I try my best to clear all my preconceived notions. It’s easy to forget that the Disney version isn’t always the “true” version because it usually the most well known. Disney has taken some artistic licence to great a story to appeal to its audience and that’s what authors do too.

I liked this world we get here a lot. It’s rich in politics and turmoil. You’ve got some villains and magic so that gives a bit of a darker edge to the story. Jessica Khoury’s writing prose is lush and has a great flow (honestly, if you like Renee Ahdied’s writing you’ll love hers!) so it’s a pleasure to read (or in my case, listen to).

I really enjoyed the rich history of the Jinni and the everyday people. And Zahra’s backstory was also great.

The Plot:

I’ll admit I probably wasn’t in the best headspace when I started this book so I might have just missed some key sentences while listening to the audiobook. BUT, some of the logic for the dramatic events escaped me so I had a hard time fully understanding what was happening and why.

I will say that all of the events that I thought would be “big deals” didn’t have as large of an impact as I expected but perhaps my focus was on the wrong devices.

The Characters:

While I enjoyed Zahra’s lush history as a Jinni, I found her to be kinda bland as a character. I know why–she’s been trapped in her lamp for centuries, lamenting over past mistakes–but I still wanted a larger than life character.

Aladdin was about as thrilling as a wet blanket and had the personality of one too. I found him to be super underdeveloped and shallow. Not the charming clever street rat I wanted him to be.

Caspida really stole the show for me. I could have easily read a whole book about her, she was fascinating!

The Romance:

People (other readers) rave about this but I was seriously underwhelmed. Besides a physical attraction and being within a certain radius of each other (seriously, while Aladdin had her lamp, Zahra couldn’t be a specific distance away from him) I didn’t get the love between these two at all! Not even the forbidden nature of a jinni and a human could get me interested.

When to Read The Novella?

I didn’t read the novella but it is noted that there are some minor spoilers in it if you do decide to read it first. So perhaps, read it second.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

Leave your ideas at the door and go in with a fresh mind.

Read if You Like: retellings, magic
Avoid if You: want a stronger romance
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DNF Series Review: The Hundredth Queen by Emily R King

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 Hundredth Queen (from Goodreads):

He wanted a warrior queen. He got a revolutionary.

As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Cover Love
Series: The Hundredth Queen
Author: Emily R King
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: Unsure
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 1, 2017 – August 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Paperback

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Hundredth Queen (#1) at 20% (start of Chapter 8). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

On the surface, this series checked a lot of my boxes. Canadian Author. Fantasy. Kick-butt Girls. That’s why it was one of my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 Selections for the year 2017. I couldn’t wait to dive into a new fantasy world that seemed like it would have a lot of layers and surprises!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

While it is only briefly explained, I did love the idea of this book and the women competing to be the rajah’s bride. It’s a unique concept to be sure.

What I Didn’t Like:

–World Building Was Lacking–

As I said above, I thought the world building left something to be desired. Things are only briefly explained and then it’s assumed you remember or know. I could have used a little more or at least not all in one big info-dump session.

–Insta-Love–

I swear, Deven is the first guy she sees and she falls immediately into love with him. I wasn’t ‘shipping this relationship at all. I didn’t think they had very good chemistry (their banter was “meh”)  together so I found myself bored by the forbidden romance. I think it would have been stronger if it had happened a little later in the novel.

–Stiff Narration–

I thought Kalinda talked almost robotically when delivering her narration. It was choppy at times and I know that sometimes that is the style used to convey the dire circumstances but it just didn’t flow nicely for me.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. I just couldn’t get myself into this story at all. It helps too that my library doesn’t have the sequels so I don’t feel obligated to keep reading.

My Rating: DNF

The Hundredth Queen DNF | The Fire Queen N/A | The Rogue Queen N/A | The Warrior Queen N/A

overall

I think those looking for a shorter fantasy novel that isn’t overly heavy on the world building will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: fantasy, action
Avoid if You: dislike insta-love

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Series Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Series Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Stalking Jack the Ripper (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

breakdown

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
# of Books: 4 (Full List Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 4 will be released September 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2016 – September 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first saw Stalking Jack the Ripper a few months before its release while visiting Stephanie @ In Wonderland’s Make Me Read It Readathon voting page. I loved the cover and so I checked out the synopsis and immediately added it to my TBR.

I love murder mystery crime shows though it’s a genre I don’t often explore in my books. I also have this somewhat inexplicable, never-ending interest in the Jack the Ripper case; so I was curious to see how it would be woven into a fictional story. But the biggest expectation I had was Audrey herself. As a scientist myself, I couldn’t wait to read about a heroine who seems to shatter every expectation society has for her by pursuing her scientific passions.

The Concept:

All these novels feature famous crime and/or folklore stories in one way or another. And it’s very obvious when you read them that Kerri Maniscalco has done her research. Everything is rich and seamlessly woven together; it makes it a pure joy to explore as a reader.

In particular, the use of scientific and forensic methods really impressed me. It’s very accurate to the time-frame and it makes you appreciate how far we have come in terms of scientific advancements when it comes to solving crimes. It reminded me a lot of the use of forensic sciences in Sherlock Holmes stories.

The Plot:

It’s hard to write a good mystery story but these ones are super well done. You get enough clues (and red herrings) along the way to keep you interested and engaged in the story. But there is also a good percentage of time dedicated to character development–which is always really important in a series that follows the same characters.

I will say though that I thought the mystery for Stalking Jack the Ripper was very obvious so that impacted my reading experience. However, the mystery of Hunting Prince Dracula was much stronger and had a solution I hadn’t guessed at right away. And the same could be said for Escaping From Houdini.

The Characters:

I really loved Audrey and Thomas in all the books. Audrey is a strong lead heroine. Not only is she very intelligent but she also has this passionate drive that keeps her pushing through even when times get tough. But she also has her flaws and I loved how she took those one and constantly challenged herself to be better.

Thomas–oh boy do I love Thomas! He is everything I love in a charming jerk of a genius. He’s got that Sherlock Holmes’ “I’m better than everyone” attitude that is so hard to resist.

But together, these two are unstoppable. They have this great banter–like every good partnership should have–and they really bring each other to the next level. All their scenes together truly amplifies this series.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge aspect of the story but you get just enough to keep you wanting more but not overly disappointed that you aren’t getting more because the plotline is so engaging. But I mean, I wouldn’t have been disappointed to get a few more scenes 😛

My Audiobook Experience:

I really went back and forth on whether of not to read the audiobook or the eBook but I’m really glad I opted for the audiobook in the end. I loved the posh accents–it really reminded me that we were in London or wherever else the adventure takes us. But, like I say with all audiobooks, I get a much better read on the emotions of it all and I love that. It truly brought the characters to life in a way that I might have missed out on if I read a printed version.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait for the next adventure and to see how this series will wrap up!

updates

–October 14, 2019– Book #4: Capturing the Devil

Without a doubt: this was the best way to wrap up this series! I loved how the focus was on Audrey’s relationship for most of the book (though that is also why it’s a 4.5/5 because we almost spent too much time on that–though I hate to complain about that because I love those two together so much). Regardless, I love how this tied all the previous novels together and wrapped up every lose end you could imagine while being engaging.

Series Rating: 4/5

Stalking Jack the Ripper 3.5/5 | Hunting Prince Dracula 4/5 | Escaping from Houdini 4.5/5 | Capturing the Devil 5/5

overall

With a rich setting and utterly charming characters, this murder mystery series will hook you in!

Read if You Like: historical, mysteries, partnerships
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike murder mysteries

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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

thoughts

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)

thoughts

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.

breakdown

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

thoughts

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.

breakdown

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

What I Liked:

–Finn–

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

–The Twists of a Conspiracy–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

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

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

–Got a Little Lost in the Time Travel–

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

Will I Finish It?

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

Series Rating: DNF

Loop 3/5 | Twist N/A

overall

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

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

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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.

breakdown

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

thoughts

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?

breakdown

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

thoughts

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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