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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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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: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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 Anna and the French Kiss (from Goodreads):
Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss?

breakdown

Series: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2010 – August 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw Anna and the French Kiss years ago at my local library but I never got around to picking it up (I think it was the hint at a love triangle). I actually thought it was related to Lauren Henderson’s Flirting in Italian Series (which I put on my TBR YEARS ago!). I never gave this book a second thought until I started following more blogs and noticed everyone seemed to love this book. So call me intrigued…I put this book on hold and waited to dig in.

I’m not a huge fan of stories where the object of affection is in another relationship. In general, I don’t enjoy books with cheating or love triangles; and while I didn’t think Anna and the French Kiss was going to be a book dripping in cheating escapades, it didn’t appeal to me too much. (Nor did its sequel that had a similar situation). But who can refuse a literary trip to Paris?

The Plot:

These books are your typical contemporary Young Adult fare. When I was just a few chapters into Anna and the French Kiss I already had a good idea of what one major plot twist was going to be; however, there definitely was one I never saw coming. It wasn’t that way with the sequels though. I had the story figured out for the most part and so that dulled my enjoyment moving forward.

Also, perhaps it is just due to the age of the characters but somethings just seemed needless overdramatic. This was especially the case in Lola and the Boy Next Door. Maybe I’m just used to reading older contemporary romances now but I kept thinking “that’s all that drove you two apart?”–I guess I was anticipating a larger falling out considering how reactive Lola was to his return.

I ended up DNFing Isla and the Happily Ever After around the 21% mark because the pacing was just off. It also didn’t seem to have a plot either other than Isla obsessing after the object of her affection.

The Characters:

I was a little hit or miss with the characters here and I think that has to do with everyone’s quirkiness. Every one has their own larger than life personality (especially Lola) and that may clash you with you. I know that was the case in Book #2 (Lola) where I wasn’t a fan of Lola but I enjoyed Cricket’s character.

One thing I will say is that even if you don’t directly relate to the character, you likely have experienced a similar situation when it comes to relationships with family and friends. We’ve all had those strained times between others and I think that is especially true when you are a teenager and are trying to find yourself.

The Romance:

I’m really torn over the romance of the novels. In all of the novels, I really loved the pairings. I thought everyone was a great match and the whole “find someone who loves you for you” motto really rings true.

However, I don’t really enjoy love triangles–especially ones where someone is already in a relationship. Emotional cheating (having romantic feelings for someone else) isn’t something I like to read about. I don’t like the revelations that the “perfect” partner isn’t so perfect anymore because you can find flaws in anyone.

Why both Books #1 (Anna) and #2 (Lola) needed that angle is beyond me because I think both stories would have been great without that particular trope.

My Audiobook Experience (Lola and Isla):

I enjoyed the audio productions. Most of my dissatisfaction comes from the actual story and not the audiobook. Perhaps if I had read the novel (which would have taken me a fraction of the time the audiobook did) may have allowed me to enjoy the story itself but I’m not entirely sure that would have been the case.

My Rating: DNF

Anna and the French Kiss 4/5  |  Lola and the Boy Next Door 2/5 |  Isla and the Happily Ever After DNF

overall

Perfect for YA contemporary fans who enjoy quirky characters and don’t need an overly complicated plot.

Read if You Like: YA contemporaries; lighter stories
Avoid if You: dislike drama, dislike love triangles
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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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Series Review: Broke and Beautiful by Tessa Bailey

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 Chase Me (from Goodreads):

College drop-out, Roxy Cumberland, moved to New York with dreams of becoming an actress, but her dwindling bank account is quickly putting the kibosh on that fantasy. To make some quick cash, she signs up to perform singing telegrams. Her first customer is a gorgeous, cocky Manhattan trust-funder if she ever laid eyes on one. And what could be more humiliating than singing an ode to his junk, courtesy of his last one night stand? Maybe the fact that she’s dressed in a giant, pink bunny costume…

After a night out to celebrate winning his last case, lawyer Louis McNally II isn’t prepared for the pounding in his head or the rabbit serenading him from the front door. But the sassy wit and sexy voice of the girl behind the mask intrigues him, and one look at her stunning face—followed by a mind-blowing kiss against his doorjamb—leaves Louis wanting more.

Roxy doesn’t need a spoiled rich boy who’s had everything in life handed to him on a Tiffany platter. But there’s more to Louis than his sexy surface and he’s determined to make Roxy see it…even if it means chasing her all over NYC.

breakdown

Series: Broke and Beautiful
Author: Tessa Bailey
# of Books: 3 (Chase Me, Need Me, Make Me)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild in Need Me and Make Me)
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2015 – August 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had Chase Me marked on my library wishlist for a long time and when my library card was expiring, I decided that this was one of the “new” series I was going to binge read before I lost access. The premise seemed fun and I’m always up for a lighter New Adult read.

The Plot:

The plot in these books is all about the chase (pun intended?) and the obstacles these couples face as they try to make their seemingly impossible relationship(s) work. Sometimes these books get a little too caught up in the back-and-forth of it all (Make Me #3 for example) but I still enjoyed the story. They get into a lot of hi-jinks along the way thanks to their unique personalities and circumstances so I always found each book was a refreshing story to me.

The Characters:

I really liked all the characters. As I said above, they were each unique and not carbon copies of each other.

I will say that I didn’t like our hero in Make Me as much as I had anticipated. It’s not that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t expect one of his character traits and that threw me off a bit. I actually read Make Me (#3) before Need Me (#2) as was the order I got them from the library. Had I read Need Me first, I probably would have known what to expect a little more but I still really liked him as a hero when it’s all said and done.

The Romance:

While all these couples had great romantic tension and chemistry, I feel like we only scratched the surface of their relationship. The stories are kept light, fun and flirty so we don’t get more than your necessary amount of soul baring from each character. So while I could see the basis of their relationships forming, they fall quick and hard solely based on a few interactions and not much else.

Series Rating: 4/5

Chase Me 4/5 | Need Me 4/5 | Make Me 3.5/5

overall

This series is perfect for fans who want some lighter New Adult romances with plenty of laughs and steam!

Read if You Like: new adult romances, humours contemporary
Avoid if You: want deeper characters

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Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Queen of Someday (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–It’s Inspired by Catherine the Great–

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

–Video Bonuses at the End of Chapters–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

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

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

–The Romances–

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

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

–Peter–

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

Will I Finish It?

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

My Rating: DNF

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Cage (from Goodreads):

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

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

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

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

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

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

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

overall

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

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

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DNF Series Review: Contrite by Kathy Coopmans

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 Contrite (from Goodreads):

Clove Calloway knows within an hour of picking up her husband Turner from the airport that something is different, yet she can’t pinpoint what. Together since college, they know everything about each other… so why has she spent the last few days watching everything he does, hoping for a clue? What could have happened within the week he was gone?
One way or another, she’s going to find out.
When Clove enlists the help of her brother Zach, a police detective, she’s afraid her suspicions of infidelity will be confirmed. Terrified that such news will crush her heart, she sets about preparing for the worst, only to find it’s much more than she could have imagined- there is no other woman.
Clove’s life is about to descend into a web of deceit, lies, and betrayal.
Appearances can be deceiving…and only the Master Manipulator will be left standing. 

*Note* This book contains graphic scenes of physical and sexual violence. Reader discretion is advised.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Read 2018
Series: Contrite Duet
Author: Kathy Coopmans
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Dark, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2015 – June 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read Contrite (#1) and have opted not to pick up Reprisal (#2). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had never heard of this series but when I got an email alerting me to the fact that the duet boxset was on sale for $1, I decided to check it out. I enjoy a dark romance on occasion and I love the idea of a suspenseful romance as well (though they often don’t meet my expectations). The reviews for this were pretty positive and while I kinda knew what was “off” with her husband, I liked the idea that there was a bigger plot line at play.

For me, this is one of those cases where I go “why does it have so many 5 star reviews”?!?

What I Liked:

–Epilogue–

I could say something like “I was just glad it was over”; but I will admit that the twist we get with the epilogue was a good one. It’s a good mind-f**k for the reader and I always enjoy those.

What I Didn’t Like:

–All the Sex–

I’m all for a good erotica novel but this was just too much for me! When you are getting smut in place of actual plot development, I’m not a fan. I didn’t pick this book up for sexy times–I picked it up for suspense and we don’t really get that.

–Clove–

She is perhaps one of the most frustrating leads I have ever had the displeasure of reading about. She is just all over the place. As she says at one point during the book “my libido overruled my common sense” but I’m not sure the girl even had common sense at any point.

There are two scenes in particular that really had me shaking my head and I just have to share them in spoilers because I need to get it off my chest.

Why Clove is an Idiot:

Context: it turns out that the man Clove picks up from the airport is her husband’s identical twin brother that no one knew about. So I can forgive the girl for sleeping with him when she doesn’t know better. But when Clove does find out, she still sleeps with the twin because he makes her super horny and gives her the best sex of her life! She even lets him use the “backdoor” if you know what I mean! Why? She doesn’t want him to know that she knows he isn’t the real Turner. Then she laments on and on about how guilty she feels. But then later, after the evil twin assaults her, she worries that her husband will never forgive her because she was assaulted AND willingly slept with the brother. I don’t think he would care about the assault in that respect, but willingly sleeping with his brother? Yeah, I would question your commitment to him too.

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–Plot Holes–

I’ll give a specific example in my spoilers but there were just some things that didn’t add up for me when it came to the plot. The basics were there but how it develops is lacking.

Example of Plot Hole:

So Trent (evil twin brother) takes Clove with him to force her husband to sign something for the inheritance. But why can’t Trent just pretend to be the brother and sign the document for the money–isn’t that the whole point of stealing his brother’s identity and life in the first place? Why are we going through all this crap at all?

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Will I Finish It?

The only reason I finished Contrite was because it was like a bad movie you just can’t help watching. I just wanted to see how far everything would go (and the answer is pretty far). But I have no desire to continue on with the series. I’ve read a few spoilers from Reprisal (#2) and I have a general gist of what happens but my brain can’t take another dive back into this series.

My Rating: DNF

Contrite 1/5 | Reprisal N/A

overall

This is like a bad soap opera that you can’t help but watch even though you know it isn’t good for you.

Read if You Like: very dramatic reads
Avoid if You: want a well developed novel

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  • Retrieval by Aly Martinez (The Retrieval Duet #1)
  • Maybe Yes by Ella Miles (Maybe Series #1)

 

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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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