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Novella Serial Review: Once She Dreamed by Abbi Glines

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Once She Dreamed (from Goodreads):

Everyone in the small country town where Sammy Jo Knox had been born and raised, never left. They made their life there. Got married, had kids, lived in the same houses that were always there along the streets that never changed. The whole white picket fence and tree swing might look good on greeting cards but in real life it was boring, at least to Sammy Jo.

When Sammy Jo was a little girl she began dreaming of something bigger. Brighter. Something that wasn’t her town. She wanted to see the world and experience it all. Just how she was going to do that she had no idea. Because if her momma had her way, she’d marry one of the boys in town and be spitting out babies and going to church on Sunday with them all lined up in a row.

The day Hale Christopher Jude III walked into the bakery she worked at, she knew he was it. That part of life she was missing. He smelled of foreign places and exciting things. He represented all the bright lights she dreamed of and simply put, she hoped he was her way out of this place.

What Sammy Jo didn’t realize was things that appear perfect… aren’t. And chasing her dreams could lead to something very different.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Most Read Author
Series: Once She Dreamed
Author: Abbi Glines
# of Parts: 2
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2016 – December 2016
Source & Format: Own & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read anything by Abbi Glines–especially her New Adult stuff. So how this series slipped my radar is beyond me. Anyways, I found out that Part 1 was a freebie on Kobo and snapped it up!

At first glance, this serial has the typical Abbi Glines’ formula: rich boy falls for country-girl. But the last two sentences gave me hope that there was something more to this story so I was eager to discover it.

The Plot:

For me the plot was one of the things I struggled with the most in both installments. I found that Part 1 was terribly dull. The vast majority of that part is spent establishing the fact that Sammy Jo doesn’t want to be in Moulton. It just made the story seem so mundane and boring. We hardly get any time with Hale–or what his presence means for Sammy Jo.

Part 2 gets a little more into the drama but I still found it underwhelming. One of my favourite aspects about novella series is that things happen at a rapid pace and new things are constantly thrown your way to keep you intrigued. And I didn’t feel like that happened here.

I will say that there was one very good twist (even though I did suspect it earlier). I wish it was elaborated on more but I enjoyed it.

The Characters:

Sammy Jo is about as naive as they come. For the most part I cut her some slack because I understood why she didn’t seem to know any better. BUT, she is told by countless people what the obvious path is and she still chooses to ignore it. She never really learns from it and I found her character development was stifled.

As for the rest, I hate to say it but they were all pretty cliche.

The Romance:

I really thought this was going to be more of a romance but it is actually more of a coming of age story for Sammy Jo with a little dash of love thrown in along the way. Again, I wasn’t a huge fan thanks to the quickness of it all and the underdeveloped side characters.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

overall

This was a disappointing read for me. While I can see what was trying to be attempted, it just pales in comparison to Glines’ other work with its slow delivery and lacklustre characters.

Read if You Like: short novellas
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more to the plot

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Series Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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 Rebel Belle (from Goodreads):

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Audiobook 2017, Cover Love
Series: Rebel Belle Trilogy
Author: Rachel Hawkins
# of Books: 3 (Rebel Belle, Miss Mayhem, Lady Renegades)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I totally found this series by accident last year when I browsing potential audiobooks to borrow. I’d had Rachel Hawkins’ Hex Hall on my TBR for years but removed it during my Goodreads Purge sometime in the last year or two. This series caught my eye thanks to that awesome cover for Rebel Belle. After reading the synopsis, this seemed like it would be a fun series to listen to as an audio one and so I put it on hold.

The Concept / The World:

First, the concept for this series is just awesome. I had a great time learning about the various roles and what Harper was expected to do. It’s got a lot of layers and I enjoy that in my fantasy worlds.

The setting itself is equally fun. I don’t usually enjoy novels set in The South (they have a slower nature to them) but I seem to find exception in my YA fantasy/paranormal worlds like this one (or Beautiful Creatures for example). The prim and proper nature of Harper’s town and lifestyle provides a great backdrop for craziness to ensue. It’s this added factor to everything that happens and I think this series wouldn’t be the same without that Southern Charm.

The Plot:

Rebel Belle had a great blend and balance between the drama, the character moments, action and the romance. You get those moments dedicated to the world-building but you also get those moments where Harper learns more about herself as a teenaged girl and not just a Paladin.

Unfortunately, the other two books have a hard time living up the the high standards of Rebel Belle and come up a little short..

I found that the middle novel, Miss Mayhem, didn’t have the same charm as the first book. I think the synopsis for it is a little misleading too because you think you are going to get this action packed story. Instead, you get your typical Book 2 of a Trilogy novel that simply bridges the actions of Books 1 and 3 together.

The final novel, Lady Renegades, reminded me more of the first novel in terms of its delivery. It sees the return of the back and forth banter Harper is great at delivering. But I did find that my enthusiasm waned as the plot progressed.

That being said: I never got bored and I was always entertained even if I wasn’t entirely loving the plot’s direction.

The Characters:

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what to make of Harper when she first started narrating her story. I even thought to myself “what did I get myself into?” just a few paragraphs into the story. But by the 15% mark she had completely charmed me. She’s hilarious with her inner monologue. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. She’s witty and has a very unique perspective on life, so I had a blast listening to her. In addition to that, she’s also a very sweet girl who genuinely wants to improve everyone’s lives so I couldn’t help but love her.

My only peeve with Harper is her lack of character development throughout the series. I think in an effort to make this series “light” and “fun” we don’t dwell on certain things that we should, like Harper’s relationship with her older sister. It gets mentioned on occasion and in a way that implies to the influence the sister has on Harper’s actions and reactions to be perfect, but it’s never expanded on. Because the fact of the matter is this: you could remove her sister’s character entirely from this series and it wouldn’t alter this story in any way since it has that little of an impact. I just felt like why mention it if you aren’t going to do anything worthwhile with it?

Moving on: the rest of the cast is fun too. I think they perhaps fall a little into the cliched roles but they do a great job supporting Harper’s story.

The Romance:

All the tension in Rebel Belle was delicious! I really liked David and Harper’s interactions. The whole “hate-to-love-you” bit provides some great banter between them.

I liked that the romance was never the main focal point of this series. It focuses on the fantasy elements for the most part. The only exception would be in Book 2, Miss Mayhem, where the romances of all the characters become on of the main plot-points in an effort to move the story forward.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m very glad I read this as an audiobook. Honestly, I might have DNF’d this if I read the novel because I’m not sure if I would find Harper as charming as I did. With the Southern twang to her voice and the obvious sarcasm you get in the audioversion, it just made for an immersive and entertaining read for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

Rebel Belle 5/5| Miss Mayhem 3/5 | Lady Renegades 3.5/5

overall

While its sequels don’t live up to the charm of the first novel, this series is still very entertaining for fans of light and fun YA fantasy novels. I highly recommend the audiobooks!

Read if You Like: books set in the South, fun fantasy novels, lighter reads
Avoid if You: want only action in your fantasy novel, dislike magic

similarreads

  • Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep (Mythos Academy #1)
  • A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey (The Lovegrove Legacy #1)
  • Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs (Oh. My. Gods. Series #1)

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Series Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenselle

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 Daughter of the Pirate King (from Goodreads):

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King Duology
Author: Tricia Levenseller
# of Books: 2 (Daughter of the Pirate King, Daughter of the Siren Queen)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Adventure, Pirates, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library & Own–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book a lot in 2017 and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I love a good pirate story; I’m usually not a fan of the adventure story but with pirates, something just works for me. So while the hype around this scared me a little, I was very excited to pick it up and dive right in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the ordered chaos of this world. The whole hierarchy of the pirate world here was fascinating and very straightforward to follow. It has all those elements you expect when it comes to pirate tales, including the sword fights and death. It’s not overly violent by any means but you do have some blood and life loss so I liked that it didn’t sugar coat those aspects.

The Plot:

I think I ended up liking Daughter of the Pirate King more than I thought I would because it wasn’t your typical pirate adventure. Instead, it felt like more of a battle of wits between Alosa and Riden as Alosa tries to complete her mission. It’s a pretty stationary setting (as opposed to sailing from destination to destination) and things happen quickly as a result so I was never bored. Even if the plot seemed a little slow, Alosa’s sass or scenes with Riden had me eager for more. I easily became addicted to the story.

But that wasn’t the case for the sequel and finale, The Daughter of the Siren Queen. I had the hardest time getting invested into this story. Honestly, if it wasn’t the sequel I would have likely DNF’d it. It isn’t because it’s bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I found things got off to a slow start and we kept rehashing the same sentiments again and again (mainly Alosa struggling with her true nature). Which is fine but I needed more to keep my full attention. The last quarter does pick up and there was some great romantic development but this definitely wasn’t the sequel I had anticipated.

The Characters:

I immediately loved Alosa because she is exactly the type of sassy pirate I want to read about. Her wit and kick-ass attitude had me from the start. She also had a surprising amount of character growth later on in the book (and series) and I liked that a lot (even if it did get a little dry in the sequel).

Riden is a great adversary for her as well. He’s her match in every way and I loved every scene that they had together. I love battles of wit and banter and these two don’t disappoint.

Everyone else is what you want them to be. You’ve got your villains and the shifty crew members and they all add to this fantastic atmosphere and story.

The Romance:

Clearly I was a fan. Like I said, these two had great chemistry from the start and I loved all their scenes together. I felt like the romance only got stronger in the sequel and it really became apparent to me why these two were such a great match.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a physical book. Actually hearing Alosa’s sass and witty remarks aloud had me laughing out loud throughout. But it also allowed her emotion and conflict to show too which made her a more complex character than I originally thought. Highly recommend the audiobook!

Series Rating: 4/5

Daughter of the Pirate King 5/5 | Daughter of the Siren Queen 2.5/5

overall

Despite my less than stellar experience with the sequel (I really think it was just a “me” thing), this is a great series for those who love pirate adventures. It’s got a strong heroine who does have her own flaws but learns along the way who she truly wants to be. It’s a great duology!

Read if You Like: pirates, kickass heroines, banter
Avoid if You: dislike adventure stories, want more romance

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2018 Take Control

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Trilogy Termination: The Chemical Gardens by Lauren DeStefano

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Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Wither (from Goodreads):
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: Chemical Gardens Trilogy
Author: Lauren DeStefano
# of Books: 3 (Wither, Fever, Sever)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2011 – February 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook (Sever)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember how Wither crossed my radar all those years ago. I might have been browsing my library’s new catalogue items when the cover caught my attention. These covers are some of my all time favourites…well, not Sever so much but they are beautiful.

For Wither and Fever, I was the first one to read them at my library. I made sure my name was first on that holds list and I pretty much read them on their release date. But my not so great experience with Fever stopped that trend when it came time to read Sever the following year.

The Concept / The World:

As a scientist myself, the whole premise is what drew me to this story.

A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years.

Talk about intriguing!

It adds a layer of desperation to this series. There is nothing more thrilling in a novel than watching what happens when people are pushed to their extremes. It also creates the potential for a great villain (which we get here!).

And while this series doesn’t focus too much on the science of it all (not really until the last book), the premise itself creates a unique backdrop for this story.

The Plot:

Don’t go into this series thinking it is more science fiction than it is romance. While the romance isn’t the primary focus, it drives the plot more I find than the science of the world (which acts as a backdrop more than anything). It’s hard to pinpoint the main genre of this story.

And I think that might be this series problem: it’s hard to define.

I really enjoyed Wither for its unique premise: a girl thrust into a dire world she desperately wants to escape. Learning about Rhine’s world was probably my favourite aspect of that book.

But Fever has a completely different feel–it’s darker and lacks the romanticism underlying in Wither. But it also had a plot that seems to lack direction other than the passing of time. Sure, you get little bits and pieces of information but nothing is really done with it all. I found myself getting bored; especially when I was so absorbed in the world I had seen in Wither. It was a big disappointment for me.

Sever has that same slowness to it as well. I thought with the intense ending of Fever that it would continue that thrilling pace…but not so much. I would have DNF’d it if it wasn’t for it’s decent page count and my desire to see how this was all going to wrap up. Sure, it had its surprises but by that point I was past caring.

I think what this series needed was a more definable overarching plot-line. Perhaps it is just a result of me reading these books over the span of the course of years (thus missing the finer details), but I felt like each book was its own plot and world, only briefly linking to the one before it. There isn’t a complex plot to this series–or at least one that gets teased enough to keep you interested. I suppose the “cure” is the complex plot but it takes such a backseat for 80% of the series that it doesn’t contribute much to the notion.

The Characters:

Rhine doesn’t do much for me as a main character. It’s hard because you do learn a lot about her and her circumstances; I just wasn’t finding myself rooting for her throughout the series. She’s jaded and even though I understand why, she was just so “blah” to me as a character.

I think my biggest problem with Rhine is that she lets everything happen around her. And yes, she does have some pretty difficult situations and circumstances to navigate. Vaughn sure doesn’t make her life easy. But unless it was to save her own butt, she takes the meeker approach and that bored me. I just wanted some tenacity and not “meh”.

Truthfully, Linden was probably my favourite character. I’m not particularly sure why but I really felt for him as the series progressed.

The Romance:

This one didn’t do much for me. I’m sure my dislike of Rhine contributed to me not enjoying her romances. Not that she really had any. I suppose a better way to phrase the romance would be “love interests” that potentially could go somewhere.

But I wouldn’t suggest reading this series if all you wanted was a romance. There are much better science fiction romances out there if that is your main draw to this series.

Series Rating: 3/5

Wither 4/5 | Fever 3/5 | Sever 2/5

overall

This series is one of those missed opportunities for me. It has a cool premise but the execution just falls short for me. Perhaps, seek out a second opinion because I feel like I am in the minority. But if you want a science fiction novel that isn’t overly complicated, this is an interesting series to try.

Read if You Like: jaded heroines, light science fiction
Avoid if You: want more romance, want a more complicated plot

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Thanks for tuning in for this review blitz! I hope to have another one in the very near future!

Trilogy Termination: Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

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Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Angelfire (from Goodreads):

First there are nightmares.
Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.
When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie’s power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie’s memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.
Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

breakdown

Series: Angelfire Trilogy
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
# of Books: 3 (Angelfire, Wings of the Wicked, Shadows in the Silence)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 A Dance With Darkness

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Angels, Paranormal, Action
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2011 – January 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Angels were all the rage when I was a teen and I grabbed this book during the trend. This series is praised for its action scenes and I love books with a little physical confrontations along the way.

The Concept / The World:

This story is very rich in terms of its history and lexicon. There is a solid background and substance to create this world and is very unique compared to other angel YA reads. I wish I read the third one closer together because I did forget some of the history despite having notes on the first two novels.

The Plot:

Throughout this series, I struggled with its pacing. You have these pockets of mundane, everyday teenage problems pocketed with scenes of action and plot development. The problems with the everyday teenage stuff I’ll address below but the actions scenes are great. They are written in a way that is like watching a movie so it was super easy to visualize.

I also really enjoyed the overarching plot of this trilogy as a whole. While each book has its own main plot line, everything bridges together nicely. It just gives this series a consistency that keeps you invested in the story and characters.

The Characters:

I admit, I was hesitant to start Shadows in the Silence because I remember really not liking Ellie’s character. She started the series as a selfish and somewhat petty teenaged girl. But when I read Shadows in the Silence, I found she wasn’t as annoying as I remembered. She really does grow and I can appreciate that.

There are a lot of characters in this story and I think it provides a richer experience. Again, I probably should have read the finale closer to the previous installments just to keep everyone straight but it was easier to dive back in than I expected.

The Romance:

Once again, I picked the “wrong team” but I knew it was never going to work with my pick. I really wasn’t a fan of the romance here, it was a little cliche and I find Will is a little dull as a hero. Then again, I wasn’t reading this for the romance!

Series Rating: 4/5

Angelfire 4/5 | Wings of the Wicked 4/5 | Shadows in the Silence 3/5

overall

This series is pretty on par with the other paranormal YA reads of its time. However, this one excels in action and a rich world that will keep readers interested.

Read if You Like: angels, YA paranormal reads
Avoid if You: want more romance based

similarreads

  • Newsoul by Jodi Meadows (Newsoul Trilogy #1)
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush Saga #1)
  • A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford (A Touch Trilogy #1)
  • Angel by L A Weatherly (Angel Trilogy #1)

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Trilogy Termination: He’s So/She’s So by Kieran Scott

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Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for She’s So Dead to Us (from Goodreads):

Ally Ryan would rather be in Maryland. She would rather be anywhere, in fact, than Orchard Hill, site of her downfall. Well, not hers exactly—but when your father’s hedge fund goes south and all your friends lose their trust funds, things don’t look so sunny for you. Her mother moved her to Maryland to flee the shame, but now they’re moving back. Back to the country-club, new-car-every-year, my-family-came-over-on-the-Mayflower lifestyle that Ally has outgrown. One bright spot, however, is gorgeous, intense Jake Graydon. But it won’t be easy for the two of them to be together—not if his friends (her former friends) have anything to say about it. Is Ally ready to get thrown back into the drama of the life she left behind?

breakdown

Series: He’s So/She’s So Trilogy
Author: Kieran Scott
# of Books: 3 (She’s So Dead to Us, He’s So not Worth It, This Is So Not Happening)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, High School, Drama
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2010 – May 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t know how I learned about this series but I do know that I suggested that my local library buy it and that’s how I got my hands on this series! This was back in the day when my YA horizons weren’t broader than contemporaries and this one sounded like it had some juicy drama!

The Plot:

What I liked about these books was that the plot did have a few layers to it. You’ve got Ally struggling to fit back in with her friends and new family situation; Jake struggling with his feelings for Ally (and vice versa) and then some main plot for the book. And each book fits that formula and throws in some other love interests along the way.

Basically, it’s an extended teen soap opera episode.

So while I found each novel to be terribly predictable, I also found myself sucked into the lives of Ally and company.

The Characters:

Surprisingly, I liked Ally. I say surprisingly because I often find myself annoyed with teenaged heroines in high school dramas since they seem to have priorities and views I can’t stand. But Ally has a fabulous head on her shoulders and I really loved how she handled herself with all the craziness that is around her.

And it is a whole lot of crazy. Her friends are everything I despise in YA characters. They’re petty, selfish and love everything drama has to offer. I mean, it works for the story but it also makes them a little unlikable.

Jake is a great example of that. Talk about self-absorbed! Oye, his thought process slayed me sometimes. He definitely isn’t going to be on my list of book boyfriends anytime soon.

However, in the same breathe, it provides a great opportunity to see these characters grow up a little with all the stuff that gets thrown their way. (And for the most part, they seize that opportunity).

The Romance:

Seeing as I wasn’t a huge Jake fan, I didn’t always love the romance between him and Ally. And the constant love triangles they found themselves in were exhausting. But somehow, it worked for this story so I tolerated it.

Series Rating: 4/5

She’s So Dead to Us 4/5 | He’s So Not Worth It 4/5 | This Is So Not Happening 3.5/5

overall

If you love teen soaps but want one in a book, this is a series you should have on your radar!

Read if You Like: high school drama, teen soaps
Avoid if You: dislike drama

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Series Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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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Synopsis for Dorothy Must Die (from Goodreads):

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

breakdown

Series: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
# of Books: 4 (Dorothy Must Die, The Wicked Will Rise, Yellow Brick War, The End of Oz)

There are 9 prequel novellas. Full List Here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – March 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover (eBooks for novellas)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It was the title and cover that first grabbed my attention when I was browsing the new additions at my library. I’m always up for a good retelling and this one sounded fabulous. Afterwards, it was a series I saw everywhere.

I had it on my list for my 2016 365 Days of YA Challenge but wasn’t able to get around to it. So I decided to make it my Christmas Holiday binge series, opting for it to be the first of my personal 2017 5 Year 5 Book Challenge selection.

The Concept / The World:

In Dorothy Must Die, I loved the world we were introduced to. Those first few chapters in Oz were really cool. This is such an interesting spin on a classic! Not knowing who is truly “wicked” and who is truly “good” creates a tense atmosphere that the reader can enjoy throughout the series.

What I also like is that you don’t have to be a diehard Oz fan to get what’s going on. This takes place after the original novel(s)/movie/play so as long as you know the basics, you can survive. Plus, the prequel novellas build up the world as well.

But why are the Wizard of Oz retellings so weird? Wicked is one of the oddest stories I’ve ever read; and while this series isn’t as bizarre as that one, it does have its quirky moments.

The Plot:

My struggle with this series is the adventure aspect of the plot. I am not a fan of adventure stories; they are slow to me and often lack excitement because you are just moseying along to the big climax. It’s a lot of waiting around for things to happen. And that is the case in this series at times. Even though I get why, I did find some chapters of this story to be slower as Amy waits to make her move.

That being said, there are some great twists along the way that would rejuvenate my interest. This is a really cool story with a lot of interesting characters in an always changing setting.

The Characters:

The fact that you really don’t know who to trust gives this story an exciting edge. I’m always a fan of stories with truly “evil” characters and this one has them.

I also really liked Amy. Her character development from Dorothy Must Die to The End of Oz is fantastic. She grows so much. Plus: she’s very likeable. I have such a softspot for the underdog and Amy is the very definition of one.

The Romance:

This is such a minor aspect of the story. When it’s there, it’s cute and made me really happy. But there is so much else going on that it only gets these little moments. Which, I actually appreciate because it keeps the story on the World of Oz and not on Amy pining after some love interest on every page.

When to read the Novellas?:

They are all prequel novellas, taking place before the events of Dorothy Must Die. So it’s really up to you if you read them before or after. I, personally, enjoyed the revealing of the world as I read the novels by going in “blind”. It provided me with something that would spark my interest when the story ran a little on the dryer side of things at times. You really aren’t missing out on anything in the novels by not reading the novellas; they just give you that extra bit of detail.

Maybe too much detail? Truthfully, I couldn’t get through The Return to Oz. It bored me to tears–but I get the appeal of these novellas. If you absolutely adore this series and don’t mind lengthier novellas, give them a shot.

Series Rating: 4/5

Dorothy Must Die 3.5/5 | The Wicked Will Rise 3/5 | Yellow Brick War  4/5 | The End of Oz 4/5

overall

If you love a story with strong (albeit quirky) world-building and the ultimate underdog heroine, you’ll definitely enjoy this series! But others might find it slow and not enjoy the no-holds-barred magic element. And this is (likely) not the Oz you grew up with, so know that going in!

Read if You Like: the Wizard of Oz, magic based stories
Avoid if You: want more action, want more romance
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Series Review: Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch

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 Perfected (from Goodreads):

Perfection comes at a price.

As soon as the government passed legislation allowing humans to be genetically engineered and sold as pets, the rich and powerful rushed to own beautiful girls like Ella. Trained from birth to be graceful, demure, and above all, perfect, these “family companions” enter their masters’ homes prepared to live a life of idle luxury.

Ella is happy with her new role as playmate for a congressman’s bubbly young daughter, but she doesn’t expect Penn, the congressman’s handsome and rebellious son. He’s the only person who sees beyond the perfect exterior to the girl within. Falling for him goes against every rule she knows… and the freedom she finds with him is intoxicating.

But when Ella is kidnapped and thrust into the dark underworld lurking beneath her pampered life, she’s faced with an unthinkable choice. Because the only thing more dangerous than staying with Penn’s family is leaving… and if she’s unsuccessful, she’ll face a fate far worse than death.

For fans of Kiera Cass’ Selection series and Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden series, Perfected is a chilling look at what it means to be human, and a stunning celebration of the power of love to set us free, wrapped in a glamorous—and dangerous—bow.

breakdown

Series: Perfected Trilogy
Author: Kate Jarvik Birch
# of Books: 3 (Perfected, Tarnished, Unraveled)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Dystopian
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: July 2014 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (Perfected); Netgalley–eARC

Tarnished & Unraveled were provided via NetGalley

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I initially had this series as a pass after reading a few mixed reviews. But then I saw the audiobook at my library and decided to give it a second chance. I was intrigued by the concept and I seem to have great success listening to dystopian YA worlds (The Lone City Trilogy for example) so why not?

The Concept / The World:

The idea that girls are bred as pets for wealthy people is an interesting and unique dystopian spin. I’ve read books where girls are bred for surrogates (The Jewel) or girls are sent off to marry older men to repopulate the world (Wither) but nothing of this variety before.

What’s the purpose? Why has society come to this?

Unfortunately, we don’t really explore this too much, especially in Perfected (Book #1). I think we get one line in Perfected that gives us the history of why they started breeding girls (or at least where the idea originated from). So in that respect, I was a little disappointed because I wanted to learn more.

However, I find the sequels do a better job or highlighting the various issues of having “pets”. The focus shifts to questions about what makes someone human and allusions to owning humans (ie slavery). It gets more of a social conscience as the story progresses and that definitely appealed to me as a reader.

The Plot:

I’d have a hard time telling you the exact plot for Perfected  (Book 1) because there isn’t too much of one. The synopsis is a touch misleading because the kidnapping aspects seems like it would be the main plot-point but it isn’t. It’s a crucial moment in the novel but it isn’t the main story.

Perfected is mostly about Ella losing her naivety about the world. She’s been at her “kennel” for 16 years and told the world is a certain way. But as she lives in the real world, her ideology changes and she grows as a person. It isn’t terribly exciting but I did find myself entertained nonetheless. I love good character progression and Ella–though she makes some mistakes–is endearing in her efforts.

Compared to the first novel, the sequels (Tarnished and Unraveled) have much better pacing and are constantly introducing new elements into the plot. I didn’t find myself getting bored or lost in the mundane everyday life of a pet. Ella gets tested and she has some hard decisions to make and I loved watching that journey.

The Characters:

Like I said, Ella is naive but given the circumstances of her life up until the start of Perfected, it makes sense. I think people might forget that a little. She’s the very definition of sheltered and so she has a child-like approach to the world. I found as the story progressed, she evolved and the gears started turning for her a little more. She broke out of that shell and I liked that. Sure, she makes some silly mistakes but I find she is constantly learning and evolving as a character and you can’t ask for much more than that.

I also really liked some of the side characters as well, especially as the series progressed. There’s one character who completely captivated me with her story and I think she provides a nice complement to Ella with her someone jaded personality and approach.

The Romance:

Truthfully, I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Ella and Penn. It’s one of those situations where they connected over one thing (music) and the rest is developed “off-camera” away from the reader. It’s cute but it just seemed fluffy to me. But it is a good catalyst for driving the plot forward, especially in the sequels. It isn’t a huge focus moving forward so I appreciated that and I even appreciated the sweet moments later on.

My Audiobook Experience for Perfected (#1):

I was only able to read Perfected as an audiobook and I’m glad I did. I think getting Ella’s tone of voice as she narrated her story helped me understand her character a lot more. I could understand her struggles and developed sympathy for her character which allowed me to enjoy the story more. Having that voice in my head as I read the print versions of the sequels helped me establish her character as well.

Series Rating: 4/5

Perfected 3/5 | Tarnished 4/5 | Unraveled 4/5

overall

Despite a slower start in Book #1, I found this series grew exponentially as the sequels evolved. It’s an intriguing concept and world and I think if you take the time to establish everything in the first novel, you’ll appreciate the great sequels.

Read if You Like: light dystopian, romance
Avoid if You: want stronger world building, action

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Series Review: Damaged Hearts by Monica Murphy

Synopsis for Her Defiant Heart (from Goodreads):

Life can feel like a cruel joke. I grew up poor and motherless, with a father who never got over his wife’s abandonment. But now he’s gone too, and I’m dead set on finding the woman who so carelessly tossed me aside when I was a baby.

I want revenge. And I’m going to get back at my mother any way that I can.

I change my name. Start my new life in college, and just happen to cross paths with the gorgeous, ultra-rich Rhett Montgomery. He’s immediately interested in me, not that I’m surprised.

You see, I planned it that way. I meant for him to find me. He’s the one connection to my mother, and I’m using him, so I can destroy her. But I didn’t plan on Rhett being so charming. Sweet. Sexy.

And I definitely didn’t plan on falling for him either…

Other books in the series:
book3

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Defiant Heart Trilogy
Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 3 (Her Defiant Heart, His Wasted Heart, Damaged Hearts)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, His Wasted Heart, will be published April 26, 2018
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty -Hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 29, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC via iTunes

Add: Goodreads | Buy: iTunes *exclusive to iTunes*

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As I say anytime I review a Monica Murphy novel, she’s a favourite of mine in everything she writes, but especially her New Adult romances. And when I saw that she was going to be writing a revenge story? One of my all time favourite tropes to read—I nearly croaked in excitement!

What I Liked:

–The Revenge Plot–

The revenge plot in any book is one of my favourites because it provides so many opportunities for an addicting story. It provides this level of anticipation as you watch the pieces fall into place; it gives the romance a dash of danger; and you always get some great twists along the way. But one of my favourite aspects is the character’s realization that perhaps revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and the subsequent character growth we get as a result.

This book had all of that and that’s what made it so addicting to read. You’ve got the anticipation of learning Jen’s full plan for revenge and everything she’s done to get to that point. You’ve got her mixed feelings towards her target Rhett (who definitely packs on the charm). And along the way we get these little plot twists that you know are setting the foundation for something more to happen.

But the best part is:

–Our Heroine–

When we first get introduced to Jen, she’s a bit of a cold-hearted chick to say the least. She’s methodical in her plan for revenge and has her “eye on the prize” so to speak. But I was shocked how quickly my heart melted for her. Thanks to flashbacks we get to see what has driven Jen to this point and why she feels she needs to complete this path for vengeance. Add to that her inner monologue of struggles as she executes her plans and you really start to sympathize for the girl. She’s a complex lead in a sticky situation and I loved the character development that happens as a result.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I have to wait for the sequel–

Thank goodness it’s only a few weeks away! I was so hooked that I didn’t realize I was near the end and I need to know what happens next!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Like I said above, I can see that bigger things are to come — and knowing Monica Murphy they are going to be worth the wait! I’m also really excited to learn more about Rhett by getting the sequel, His Wasted Heart, from his POV. It’ll be nice to get some more depth to his character!

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–April 16, 2018– Book 2: His Wasted Heart

First: I loved the fact that this book was told entirely from Rhett’s POV. Having only had Jensen’s in the previous one, I was excited to get into the inner workings of this playboy-charmer. While I wanted a little more character growth from him, I loved the various secrets that were revealed by seeing Rhett’s family first hand. Jensen’s lack of a POV also gave this novel an air of suspense because you don’t know what Jensen’s plans for revenge are or is she honestly trying to foster the connection she and Rhett share.

These two do share an intense connection for sure. I found the first half of this book almost focused a little too much on the physical chemistry between these two. Their sexual chemistry was something we had already established in Her Defiant Heart so I wanted more character development from Rhett and some expanded upon plot development as well. That being said, Monica Murphy sure does know how to write some steamy scenes!

And I will say that this book gets it together by the end. We get some fabulous twists in the last few chapters that have me itching for the sequel ASAP!

–June 2, 2018– Book 3: Damaged Hearts

This was a great finale! The drama was juicy, the romance was sweet and the characters showed how much they have grown since the very first book. I loved the communication and mature approaches they had for their problems. It grounded the story despite its somewhat soap opera like drama. Definitely an entertaining series from start to finish!

My Rating: 4/5

Her Defiant Heart 4/5 | His Wasted Heart 3.5/5 | Damaged Hearts 4/5

overall
This series has everything I love about a Monica Murphy New Adult series. It’s got a jaded but likeable lead, a swoon-worthy love interest and just the right flare of drama to keep you hooked until the very end!

Read if You Like: revenge plots, quicker reads, New Adult
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike revenge

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Monica Murphy

Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

Add: Goodreads | Buy: iTunes *exclusive to iTunes*

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Series Review: Maybe by Ella Miles

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Maybe Yes (from Goodreads):

Her future is already set, all she has to do is marry a complete stranger.

Kinsley Felton has everything. Money, a loving family, and a modeling career. She graduates from Yale in just days, but unlike a typical college student she doesn’t have to spend hours looking for a job when she graduates. Kinsley will inherit the multi-billion dollar gaming and hospitality company her great-grandfather started. The only problem is she has to do everything her family asks for in order to get that money. That includes marrying a man of her family’s choosing. That’s not a problem since Kinsley has been following her family’s orders all her life. Until a phone call from her grandfather changes everything.

Will she marry the man her family chooses or will she decide her own future?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Dark Romance 2017
Series: Maybe

There is a spin-off series called Definitely.

Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 3 (Maybe Yes, Maybe Never, Maybe Always)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: getting hot (Kink: mild in Maybe Always)
Point of View: First Person, Single (Maybe Yes), Alternating (Maybe Never onwards)
Publication Dates: March – July 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Amazon freebie box set)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure where I found out about Maybe Yes but I marked it on my TBR around the time it was first published in March 2016. And then I really lucked out when the trilogy boxset was listed as a freebie read on Amazon in February 2017. It’s not often that a book I mark as a TBR gets a reduced price let alone the entire series is marked as free so I immediately grabbed a copy.

This was a romance right up my alley! I like to read about unorthodox relationships in my romances–I find they keep things interesting between the usually romantic fare. And the “arranged relationship” trope is one of my faves as well. So to find one that seemed to combine both was awesome! However, I was hesitant that I wouldn’t like Kinsley’s character (I don’t like indecisive heroines) but went in with an open mind and was really excited to start this series when I pulled it from my TBR jar for my #ShelfLove Challenge!

The Concept:

The disclaimer for this series actually supremely helpful in preparing the reader for what to expect. Because the story we get in Maybe Yes (book 1) is nothing like the story we get in Maybe Always (book 3).

Warning: Three book series. Contains hot sex, a female that finds her strength, and dark pasts that turn very dark as the series progresses. Only for those that love dirty romances, edge of your seat suspense, twists, and a little bit of darkness.

That first part about a “female that finds her strength” is key when it comes to meeting Kinsley for the first time. She’s a naive girl who has her whole life controlled by her family–and for some unknown reason–so it makes her seem like she isn’t the brightest girl on the planet. But that also provides the perfect opportunity for character growth. More on that below. My point is, thanks to that disclaimer, I was able to have some patience with her character in that first book. I was able to get some understanding for why the situation is what it is.

The same thing goes for the “dark pasts” aspect. This isn’t just a story about a girl deciding if her arranged marriage will work for her–there is so much more going on and this story goes in a direction I never expected. It’s not your everyday contemporary romance (despite how the synopsis for book 1 reads) and that’s what I loved about it.

The Plot:

Like I said, this book always had me guessing! The plot is never what it seems and the twists are fabulous! I was absolutely hooked on this story and easily could have read all three books in one sitting if life didn’t get in the way.

But like the disclaimer said, this series moves in a direction you probably aren’t expecting when you pick up Maybe Yes. It has an edge of danger to it that I think some readers might not enjoy if they prefer their lighter romances that focus on the sexy times and everyday dramatics. There’s nothing “everyday” about this series at all.

The Characters:

The Kinsley we have in book 1 is by no means the Kinsley we get in book 3. Her character progression was fabulous to read. She truly gains her independence and learns that she is more than the beauty her family has told her to bank on her entire life. And what I really loved is that she doesn’t become co-dependent on her romantic interest either. You could have easily removed his role and you would still get this strong heroine at the end.

This series is really about Kinsley becoming her own woman but you need a strong partner as well. I’m not going to name her romantic interest because I think it is a slight spoiler; but I will say that I really loved his character and the role he plays. He was a great partner for Kinsley’s journey because he has one he has to complete as well.

The Romance:

While this happens pretty fast and doesn’t seem like it has too much depth to it, I think it’s easy for the reader to see why these two would work together. Like I said above, they were a great partnership and had fantastic chemistry to boot!

Series Rating: 4/5

Maybe Yes 4/5 | Maybe Never 4/5 | Maybe Always 4/5

overall

Take the disclaimer to heart. If you don’t like suspense or darker romances (like the ones in my similar reads section below), avoid this! But if you want a story that is always twisting with a heroine that truly grows as the story progresses, check it out!

Read if You Like: dark romances, suspense, danger
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, want a lighter read

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