Tag «audiobook»

Series Review: Burying Water by K A Tucker

Series Review: Burying Water by K A Tucker

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 Burying Water (from Goodreads):

The top-selling, beloved indie author of Ten Tiny Breaths returns with a new romance about a young woman who loses her memory—and the man who knows that the only way to protect her is to stay away.

Left for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him?

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.

The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: Burying Water
Author: K A Tucker
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2014 – October 2015
Source & Format: Owned & Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I came across this series in a really weird way. I actually won Chasing River (#3) from a Twitter giveaway from the publisher and then I bought the other novels to complete the collection on my bookshelf without ever reading that book. But I knew I would enjoy them. K A Tucker simply writes great contemporary romances that have this edge to them that is right up my alley. So needless to say, I was very excited to see what she had in store for this series!

The Plot:

I’m a fan of dual POVs in my novels and I think this series is a perfect example of when it enhances the story. You would think in a series that is rooted in suspense like this one is that having that additional POV would ruin some of the anticipation but that isn’t (always) the case. In some ways, you lose the mystery of what the other person is thinking and/or what their motives are. But because you are kept in the dark about the actual drama there is still enough drive to keep you reading.

The Characters:

I really liked all the leads and side characters we meet along the way. Because we get the dual POV I found that all the leads had great development and dimensions to them. You learn nearly everything you can about them and I enjoyed watching them grow throughout the stories.

The Romance:

Fantastic chemistry between leads can go a long way and I think it shows here. The romance is just as addicting as the drama. I thought the connections weren’t as strong in the last two novels of the series as the first two were. However, because we get such strong character development, I totally saw why these pairings would work based on what I knew about the individuals.

My Audiobook Experience:

Despite owning the actual paperback copies of these novels, I decided to listen to the audiobooks from my local library (simply for the convenience!). But I’m so glad that I did! I loved the audio productions so much. The narrators were great and I think hearing their stories aloud helped get me even more invested in their stories and dilemmas because the emotions are much rawer.

Series Rating: 4/5

Burying Water 4/5 | Becoming Rain 4/5 | Chasing River 3/5 | Surviving Ice 4/5

overall

If you want a romantic suspense story that strikes the perfect balance between the romance and the thrills, this is a fantastic series for you!

Read if You Like: romantic suspense, dual POVs
Avoid if You: erotica, dislike violence

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

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

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Steam Raiders Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Rebel Waves (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

What I Liked:

–Lu and Vex’s Chemistry–

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

–Magic, Science and Religion–

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

–The Politics–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lagged a Little in the Middle–

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

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 3/5

These Rebel Waves 3/5 | These Divided Shores TBP

overall

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

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

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Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

Series Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

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 Red Winter (from Goodreads):

Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope… and hope is all she has left.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Canadian Author
Series: Red Winter Trilogy
Author: Annette Marie
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Urban Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: October 2016 – April 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I finished Book 1: Red Winter but have opted not to pick up the sequels at this time. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobooks at my library, the covers for this series immediately grabbed my attention. They are positively gorgeous! And then I read the synopsis and knew I had to read this series!

I was obsessed with anime when I was in high school and that in turn lead to an interest in Japanese culture and mythology. Red Winter looked like it would have a great world and I hoped for lots of action and so I was excited to get started!

What I Liked:

–The World–

The world building here is great! Everything described in this story came to mind so easily for me. I felt like I was watching an anime. I loved the various creatures and the hierarchy of the deities. It’s a very thought out, rich world for the setting.

–Emi’s Character Growth–

Emi is very naive when the novel starts and understandably so. She’s been told her destiny for so long that she has accepted that as her fate. So she seems a little dull at the start, but when she starts to question everything she knows, she begins to evolve as a character. The Emi we end with in Red Winter is not the one we started with and I love to see that evolution in my books.

–Shiro–

When I think of a kitsune (fox) shapeshifter, Shiro is exactly what I picture. His confidence and swagger was a lot of fun to read about. His interactions with the sheltered Emi at the start were funny and charming. He always brought a smile to my face when he was in a scene.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slow Start–

I found the first 25% of this book to be pretty dry. It’s mostly Emi reflecting on her new life at the shrine and how a past event still affects her. I started to contemplate DNFing it at around this time but a review I read on Goodreads mentioned that the first quarter is slower. So I pressed on hoping for the best.

It does pick up around the 35% mark when some new info comes to light and Emi gets a bit of motivation to learn more about her destiny. But then my issue was:

–Simple Plot–

I like a lot happening in my fantasy novels. I like plots happening in the background while characters fight the main issue. I like lots of physical action or political intrigue to keep me interested.

For the most part, this book had a pretty linear progression. It would tackle one issue at a time. As we got closer to the end, the little tidbits of future plotlines started to be laid out and I got a better idea of where the sequels were going to go. So the last quarter of the book was great! But up until that point, my interest had waned.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think my mistake with this novel was picking up the audiobook version. Now, that isn’t to say that the audiobook is bad. Far from it! The narration is wonderful. All the characters had distinct voices and there was so much emotion and expression in the delivery. I did struggle with the “whispering”/quieter characters. The main narrator had such a strong voice but then would drop the volume for a quieter character and I constantly had to adjust the volume back and forth.

My mistake was choosing that as the format to read this story. I’m a visual learner and I do better seeing various terms than hearing them. To me, they all sound the same after awhile. I found myself getting lost in the various creatures/roles of people because I couldn’t remember what they all were. I know the physical versions of these novels have a glossary (something that obviously is lacking in the audiobook) and I would have benefited greatly from that I think.

Will I Finish It?

I’ve been going back and forth on this one. I really love the idea of this story and I adore the world. I know that I don’t want to listen to the audiobooks for the sequels but I noticed the Kindle editions are on Kindle Unlimited so when I do my KU binge, I might throw these novels in to see how this series wraps up! But for now:

Series Rating: DNF

Red Winter 3/5 | Dark Tempest N/A | Immortal Fire N/A

overall

This series gets a lot of glowing reviews on Goodreads so be sure to read some of them if this sounds like something you would enjoy. For me, I think this would have been more enjoyable if I had read the physical book (though the audio production is fantastic!) and made use of the glossary for terms. I also just needed a little more from the plot even though I loved the world and enjoyed its characters.

Read if You Like: urban fantasy, Japanese mythology/culture
Avoid if You: are impatient for action, don’t like slower starts

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Series Review: Riders by Veronica Rossi

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Riders (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

They fail.

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

But will anyone believe him?

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept / The World:

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

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

The Romance:

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

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

Series Rating: 3/5

Riders 3.5/5 | Seeker 2/5

overall

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

Read if You Like: adventure, mythology, action
Avoid if You: dislike romance focused sequels
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Single Sundays: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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 From Twinkle, With Love (from Goodreads):

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Standalone 2018
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had an absolute blast listening to the audio version of When Dimple Met Rishi so I knew that for Menon’s next book, I wanted to listen to the audiobook instead of picking up the regular book.

The Concept:

This story is told through journal entries Twinkle writes to her favourite female film makers which is really neat. In a time where female representation in the entertainment industry is a huge focus, this book seemed timely in that regard. But it’s a great way to tell this story because you get to see the vulnerable side of Twinkle she only feels comfortable to write about in a secret diary.

The Plot:

It’s hard not to compare this story to When Dimple Met Rishi (WDMR) but they do share a lot of common elements. Cue the cute romance, fantastic character development and entertaining plot. To me, WDMR seemed to integrate the Indian culture more into its narrative than FTWL does. The cultural expectations Twinkle feels are definitely present but not to the extent that it was in WDMR.

I also thought the pacing was much better in this novel than in WDMR. I never felt like the plot was lagging or repetitive. It just moved at a solid pace and I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.

The Characters:

One thing that really impressed me about this story though was the realism. I thought Twinkle’s journey and coming of age was realistic and humbling. Yes, she makes some frustrating mistakes along the way but you always knew it was part of her development. She’s an easy heroine to root for because I think we’ve all felt like her at one point in our lives.

The Romance:

I absolutely, positively adored Sahil. Gah, he won me over very quickly. He’s just adorable and the perfect match for Twinkle in every way. I loved watching them fall for each other.

My Audiobook Experience:

You might think that this would be weird to listen to as an audiobook since it is told through letters/journal entries but there were no issues here. Actually, it was a really cool way to listen to the audiobook because you feel (in a weird way) that you are the journal Twinkle is writing to. But the audiobook is fabulous and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

The perfect feel-good coming of age story that will keep you entertained from start to finish!

Read if You Like: coming of age, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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Single Sundays: Girl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

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 Girl Walks into a Bar . . .: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle (from Goodreads):

In this side-splitting memoir, the former Saturday Night Live star recounts the hilarious adventures and unexpected joy of dating and becoming a mother when she least expected it-at the age of forty-four. Anyone who saw an episode of Saturday Night Live between 1999 and 2006 knows Rachel Dratch. She was hilarious! So what happened to her? After a misbegotten part as Jenna on the pilot of 30 Rock, Dratch was only getting offered roles as “Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians.”

Her career at a low point, Dratch suddenly had time for yoga, dog- sitting, learning Spanish-and dating. After all, what did a forty- something single woman living in New York have to lose? Resigned to childlessness but still hoping for romance, Dratch was out for drinks with a friend when she met John.

Handsome and funny, after only six months of dating long-distance, he became the inadvertent father of her wholly unplanned, undreamed-of child, and moved to New York to be a dad. With riotous humor, Dratch recounts breaking the news to her bewildered parents, the awe of her single friends, and the awkwardness of a baby-care class where the instructor kept tossing out the f-word.

breakdown

Author: Rachel Dratch
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Celebrity, Humour
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 29, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll readily admit that I knew nothing about this audiobook when I picked it up. It was never on a TBR list nor had I heard of it before I saw it on my library’s eCatalogue. See, I was going away on vacation and wanted to get an audiobook for the plane so my options were limited to whatever was “now available”.

I recognized Rachel Dratch though. While I didn’t watch SNL on a regular basis until the last year or so, I watched it enough in the past to know the major cast members of the past few years. Plus I watched a few seasons of 30 Rock before life got in the way and they share a few cast members. Recently, Rachel was a part of John Oliver’s segment on TV evangelists (which is definitely worth a watch if you have the time) so I immediately recognized her when I saw the book title.

I figured, she’s funny why not try her audiobook?

The Concept:

I didn’t really read the rest of the synopsis before I started the book so I didn’t realize that a majority of it would be about her unexpected pregnancy in her 40s. I thought it would be about her SNL days and her dating life (and it is in the first few chapters) so I was pleasantly surprised by the main focus of her book which is her pregnancy.

Rachel has a refreshing approach to the whole situation so I didn’t mind listening to her tell her story. Which surprised me because I expected a laugh out loud comedic story not a sentimental (albeit funny) retelling of her pregnancy.

At the same time, I found it a little odd to be listening to her describe her unexpected pregnancy. It seemed like a weird thing to publish because it is nonfiction and someday her partner and probably her son will read it–and it’s not like she says anything negative or rude, etc, more like it’s a very private moment that is shared with everyone. I have nothing against it, it was just different from what I am use to.

The Writing/Narration:

I was also surprised by how easy it was to listen to Rachel talk. When I think of her sketches on SNL, I think of her as this almost neurotic, over the top character that I forget to see her as a regular person. (For proof, watch the earlier video link I posted). It was nice to see and listen to the person behind the character personas I am use to.

The book had a nice, easy flow to it as you progressed through the story. I liked the audiobook because it made it easier to catch those sarcastic and often quick quips that I probably would have missed looking at physical copy of the book.

Did it Impact My Life?

Not particularly but her story reminds me that life often works in mysterious ways.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

overall

While this book wasn’t as funny as I wanted, I did enjoy it for what it was.

Read if You Like: celebrity memoirs, female comedians
Avoid if You: want a hilarious book

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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).

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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: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wolf by Wolf (from Goodreads):

Her story begins on a train.

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

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

Fantasy Element in Wolf by Wolf

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

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The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

When to Read the Novellas:

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

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Series Rating: 5/5

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: Amato Brothers by Winter Renshaw

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 Heartless (from Goodreads):

My obsession was born of innocence and good intentions, and it began the day I spotted a handwritten journal lying in the bushes outside a townhouse on Lexington Avenue. It was raining sideways that morning, and my intention was to return it the next day; safe and dry.

Only I kept it.

I kept it, and I read it.

A week later, overwhelmed with curiosity and feeling guilty for harboring secrets that didn’t belong to me, I tried to return it.

Only I wasn’t expecting to meet him.

Unapologetically heartless and enigmatically sexy, he claims he knows nothing about the journal I found outside his place, but the reticent glint in his blue-green gaze tells me otherwise.

There’s something different about him; something damaged yet magical, and I’m drawn to him; pulled into his orbit.

There’s just one problem.

The more I get to know him, the more I’m positive the journal belonged to him . . .

. . . and the more I find myself hoping, selfishly, that I’m wrong.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Amato Brothers

This does crossover with the Rixton Falls Series in Book #3, Priceless

Author: Winter Renshaw
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August – November 2016
Source: Public Library (Hoopla)–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Winter Renshaw fan. I try to read whatever I can by her and she’s always a good author to default to when I’m looking for a solid romance novel. Which is how I picked up this series. I always had plans to read #3, Priceless because it crosses over with the Rixton Falls Series but I wanted to start at the beginning of this series to make the crossover that much more epic.

The Plot:

I love contemporary romances that have a little more to them, like a mystery or hidden secrets. So I really enjoyed Heartless because it has both. Who does the journal belong to? What happened in Ace’s past? Are the two things connected? It just adds this air of anticipation to the story that makes you keep reading. And while I guessed the one answer correctly (though not overly early in the book), there were still truths I wasn’t able to entirely weed out so I liked that a lot!

Even though Reckless and Priceless didn’t have an obvious mystery element like Heartless, they still had more than enough twists and turns along the way to keep you hooked into the drama. Each book has its own vibe but I found each one to be addicting when it came to the plot and trying to figure out how everything would resolve.

The Characters:

Renshaw just has this amazing ability to create characters you can’t help but like. They all have so many layers to them but I never feel like I’m reading about the same character from book to book. Everyone is unique which is hard for some authors to do.

The Romance:

I’m all about a good slow burn romance and Heartless nails it. These two have a great chemistry (whether they know it at first or not) and I loved watching that grow.

For me, Reckless had the weakest romance in the sense that I wanted them to talk a little more than they did. But on the other hand, I enjoyed watching them navigate the various situations that seemed to be thrown their way.

Priceless was the complete opposite from Reckless in that regard. I loved watching these two talk and get to know each other but that was part of their main plot so it makes sense.

My Audiobook Experience:

I honestly don’t think I could have gone wrong with the audio or print versions. I really enjoyed the audio productions. I sometimes find that romances simply get read back to you and they lack that depth to the emotion but that wasn’t the case here at all. We get a different narrator set for each novel which is always a bonus but everyone did a great job bringing these characters to life.

Series Rating: 4/5

Heartless 4/5 | Reckless 4/5 | Priceless 5/5

overall

If you enjoy contemporary romances that have great plot twists, this is a great series for you to pick up!

Read if You Like: Colleen Hoover books, romances, complex characters
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romances

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Spin-off Saturdays: The Fix Up by Kendall Ryan

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

The Fix Up is a spin-off of the Hitched Series

breakdown

Series: N/A

This is a spinoff of the Hitched Series. Can be read as a Standalone.

Author: Kendall Ryan
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (I also own an eBook)

thoughts

My Expectations?

I really liked Sterling’s character in Hitched. He was charming and funny; a nice compliment to Noah’s character. So I really hoped he would get a book of his own in the future. We get a little inkling of what’s to come with Sterling and Camryn at the end of Hitched so I was curious to know what their story would be.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

I found Hitched had a quirkiness to it that was slightly off-putting at times. It’s also melodramatic at times with its soap-opera-esque plotline (and that’s to be expected seeing as it was published as a 3 part serialized series).

But I found The Fix Up to be slightly more grounded in its approach. The focus is more on the characters fighting their feelings for each other than external obstacles in their way (though there are those as well). It has this slow burn vibe to it that I found Hitched was lacking given the premise and subsequent execution.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

It has your classic “communication-assumption” moment that irked me because it was so obvious what was happening but other than that, I really enjoyed this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audio version. The male narrator for Sterling had a British accent like Sterling is supposed to have which is always great. His voice was perhaps deeper or more serious in tone than I anticipated but I warmed up to it as I listened.

 

Rating: 4/5

overall

A cute and quick read about fighting the undeniable connection between a matchmaker and their client.

Read if You Like: quick reads, contemporary romance, slow burn
Avoid if You: want erotica
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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Fix Up (from Goodreads):

My tempting, and very alpha friend Sterling Quinn is someone I consider off-limits.

It’s not just that we’re friends, he’s also a cocky, confident, and British, which means he’s a walking aphrodisiac.

But lately he’s been giving me the look. You know the one. When he thinks I’m not paying attention, and his gaze lingers for too long.

And then we start working together, and that’s when the sexual tension between us gets so thick, I want to hack through it with a machete. I want to make all these deep feelings I’ve harbored for him disappear, because there’s no way this can end well.

The lines between business and pleasure become irrevocably blurred, and I’m stuck between a rock, and Sterling’s very, very hard place.

Rather than keep a level head about our growing attraction, Sterling wants to go all in, showing me just how explosive we can be together.

But I’ve been around long enough to know that this British bad boy is more than my heart can handle. I’m not about to be cast aside like yesterday’s underwear when he’s done having fun.

Sterling’s never been told no, and he’s not about to put his ego aside and play by my rules. But I never thought he’d fight so dirty.

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