Tag «Conclusion: worth a read»

Worth a Read: It may not be the greatest book ever but it certainly isn’t the worse! These are books/series I recommend to my readers!

Other Conclusions:
Downhill | Missed the Mark | New Favourite | Not for Everyone | Only Gets Better | Slow Start | Staying Tuned | Time will Tell

Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

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 Prisoner of Night and Fog (from Goodreads):

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

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Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
# of Books: 2 (Prisoner of Night and Fog, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This series crossed my radar one day when I was blog-hopping. I’m not sure what blog specifically (this was before I started keeping notes) but I do think this series has been on quite a few over the years.

Anyways, the concept was really what drew me in and that’s why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge this year.

The Concept:

I’ve only read a few books set in WWII but what I really liked about this book was that it was set before the war started. When it comes to Hitler, I feel like we often focus on what he did during the war (and rightfully so) but not too much on how we got to that point. It’s a fascinating view point and provides quite a bit of insight on why WWII began. I will admit, I looked up a lot of things on Wikipedia to learn more and see how it this story was woven with history.

But that doesn’t mean this series is an easy read. Prisoner of Night and Fog opens with Gretchen’s brother beating a Jewish man simply for being a Jew and the narrator explains the ideology for his actions. And it’s hard to stomach as a reader–not only because it seems so “normal” but also because you know it is only going to get worse.

The Plot:

A Prisoner of Night and Fog started a little slowly as it established the setting and the circumstances Gretchen finds herself in. But once Gretchen starts her investigation, it really picks up. I love a good conspiracy theory and this one delivered. It gave this story a dangerous edge that kept the tensions high and me eager to see what would happen next.

And those tensions continue to be high in the aftermath of a Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. This one had a tone of suspense throughout that had me eager to see what happens next. And trying to piece together how the current events of this novel lead to the start of WWII was such a refreshing experience for me as a reader.

The Characters:

I thought Gretchen had tremendous growth as a character throughout this series. She transforms from a naive and gullible girl into a crafty and caring woman who can see the bigger picture of what is happening around her. I was definitely rooting for her and grew attached to her as a character.

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

I wasn’t going into this book expecting some epic romance and that definitely isn’t what we get. It does its job by keeping things simple and not distracting from the main plot of the story; rather, it enhances the various tensions in the book. It provides some context for the world Gretchen finds herself in but I never felt like this series was a romance set in dangerous times–it’s a story about dangerous times that features a romance.

My Audiobook Experience:

I loved the audiobook! Heather Wilds is the narrator and she is just fabulous. The accents were perfect, she didn’t sound ridiculous when she did the male voices (one of my biggest peeves) and she conveyed the right tone at all times. And while it was really hard to listen to some of the violence and ideology, I think that just made the book have a bigger impact for me as a reader.

I will say though that a certain character’s name was pronounced one way in the first book and then another in the second. It threw me for a bit but it doesn’t really matter. I just thought it was a little weird.

Series Rating: 4/5

Prisoner of Night and Fog 4/5 | Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke 4/5

overall

If you love historical novels that are lighter on the romance and seamlessly weave history into its narrative, pick this one up!

Read if You Like: historical novels, WWII settings
Avoid if You: are uncomfortable with violence or discrimination

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Blog Tour: Fragile Chaos by Amber R Duell

Synopsis for Fragile Chaos (from Goodreads):

A god of war seeking restoration. An unwilling sacrificial bride. Betrayal that could destroy them both.

Every fiber of my being is woven from the rage of mortals.

Theodric, the young God of War, has a talent for inciting conflict and bloodshed. After being stripped of his powers by his older brother, King of Gods, he sets out to instigate a mortal war to prove himself worthy of being restored to power.

I loved Kisk once; it was my home… But that was before. This is now.

Sixteen-year-old Cassia, like many in the modern era, believes gods and goddesses to be just a myth. Enemy to her country and an orphan of the war, she has no time for fairy tales. That’s until religious zealots from Theo’s sect offer her up as a sacrifice.

Can Cassia and Theo end the mortal war and return balance to the earth and heavens? Or, will their game of fate lead down a path of destruction, betrayal, and romance neither of them saw coming?

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Author: Amber R Duell
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Mythology, Fantasy
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternate
Publication Date: July 10 2017
Source & Format: Audiobookworm Productions–Audiobook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Audible // Kobo

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love stories that involve mythology. Greek, Roman, Norse, or completely original, I love the whole idea of it! So when I read the synopsis for this (after seeing that gorgeous cover of course), I just had to listen to this audiobook!

The Concept / The World:

This is a completely new world in terms of mythology. That can be a little daunting since there’s a lot to keep straight (like who Theo’s siblings are and what they are the gods/goddesses of as well as the countries at war) however, I found it all pretty straight-forward, even as an audiobook where you have to listen (I’m a visual learner so I usually do better by seeing the words).

It’s an intricate world filled with everything you enjoy about mythology stories. You’ve got sacrifices; god/goddess siblings fighting and backstabbing; and battles. But what’s really cool is how it’s set in a modern world. It’s an interesting weaving of old and new and I was captivated by it.

>>Fun Fact: Amber R Duell has blog posts dedicated to the history of the world and more if you love immersing yourself in the world beyond the book.

The Plot:

I find it really hard to pinpoint the plot of this story–and I say that in a good way. I like when a lot of things are happening in a story and that is definitely the case here.

While I felt like the romance was a big focus, you still have the politics of the world and the gods/goddess at play. Everyone is playing a different game simultaneously and I found that to be super exciting as a reader. I just had to know what was going to happen next and what the reactions would be.

The Characters:

I really liked Cassia and Theo as leads. What I liked about Cassia is that she seems very genuine and real. Her reactions to things were exactly what I would feel if I was in her situation. She’s got a good head on her shoulders and she tries her best to see the bigger picture before making a decision. Her personality pairs nicely with Theo’s.

Theo by far has the best character growth in this novel…as he should. He has to come to grips with a lot of things and I liked watching him work everything out. As you would expect, being the God of War means he can have some hot-headed moments but he is still charming and sincere.

The rest of the cast is great too. I would love to explore the realm further and meet some of the other gods and goddesses and get there stories. (And it sounds like one character might be getting a novella so yay!)

The Romance:

This was definitely a highlight for me in the sense that these two had fantastic chemistry from the start. They had these great moments together where everything was building up and just waiting to explode. I loved their scenes together.

However, I wish they talked a little more to each other. I get that everything is amplified given the circumstances but I just wanted that emotional connection highlighted a little more for the romantic in me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I didn’t realize that I was listening to this book at 1.25x–oops! That explains why everyone seemed to be talking so fast…

Regardless, the audiobook production is great! Probably one of the best I’ve listened to lately. I think Bradley Pittman and Jamie Lee-Lewis captured the characters brilliantly. Although, I did find it slightly off-putting that some of the characters had different accents depending on the narrator. Jamie gave Goran an almost Australian accent while Bradley gave him a monotone voice and I found that a little bit confusing when we were switching POVs.

What I really enjoyed about the audiobook though was the sound effects they used in the background. I found they immersed me into the story and brought it to life in way that a straight reading wouldn’t be able to do.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This story reminded my why I love books with mythology! From the passionate romances to the always plotting characters, there’s a lot to like about Fragile Chaos and the world it presents.

Read if You Like: mythology, romance
Avoid if You: dislike mythology, dislike books with complex worlds

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Amber R Duell (Author)

Amber R. Duell was born and raised in a small town in Central New York. While it will always be home, she’s spent the last six years living in Germany and Maine as a military wife where the next step is always an adventure.

When Amber isn’t writing, she’s wrangling her two young sons. She is a lover of history, a fan of snowboarding, and a travel enthusiast. In her downtime, she can be found curling up with a good book and a cat or two.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Bradley Pittman (Narrator)

Bradley Pittman is a producer and freelance musician living and working in Atlanta. He received a bachelor’s degree in audio production from Georgia State University in 2016. Though he most commonly works on musical projects, he began self-producing audiobook chapters in 2015 as a way to unite his love of studio production with his love of literature.

 

Jamie-Lee Lewis (Narrator)

Jamie-Lee Lewis, aka Jaylew, hails from the island of Jamaica. Since a small child, she’s always had a hyper imagination. She enjoys writing and telling stories, singing and composing songs, entertaining and edifying, playing different characters as well as creating them through drawings, and finding the beauty and fun in everything she does. She is currently a professional and passionate Youtuber.

Fragile Chaos Giveaway: $5 Amazon Gift Card/eBook OR Headphones/Mug/Tea

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Blog Tour: Spider by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Synopsis for Spider (from Goodreads):

He’s a British rock star.
And my stepbrother.
What can go wrong?

He called himself Spider. I just knew him as the sinfully gorgeous guy with eyes of fire that fate sat next to me on the airplane. I didn’t know who he really was…rock star…my stepbrother.

He kissed me because he thought we’d never see each other again. We would.

Everyone warned me about him.
They said he was ruthless and cold and screwed up.
They said he’d leave me with a hole in my heart.

Maybe I should have listened.
Maybe I should have built up a fortress to keep him out.
But I crumbled instead.

Some have said there’s an unbreakable thread that connects those who are destined to meet. If that’s true, then the moment he sat next to me, we were bound together forever.

He just had to figure it out before it’s too late…

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 13, 2017
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was first introduced to Ilsa Madden-Mills when I read her English Series last year. She totally won me over with her great blend of character growth and romance and she’s an author I’ve been keeping an eye on ever since.

When I read the synopsis for Spider, I HAD to read it! I love anything dealing with rockstars and the promise of a forbidden romance? Yeah, I’m a sucker! And given my previous experience with her work, I knew I was in for a solidly swoon-worthy romance.

The Plot:

This is simply a well crafted novel. All too often these forbidden romances get lost in the sexiness of the forbidden. You know what I mean: just sexy time after sexy time. But where Ilsa Madden-Mills succeeds in her stories–and this one in particular–is the balance between romance and character development. She devotes enough time to each to give you well rounded stories that you find yourself completely addicted to.

I also enjoyed the allusions to Jane Eyre. It isn’t a huge part of the novel but anyone familiar with the classic will see parallels here and there. The English student in me loves that type of stuff and Madden-Mills just does it all so flawlessly.

The Characters:

I really liked these two. Both are such strong–albeit flawed–characters and I loved watching them grow as the story progressed. I’ve encountered similar characters before but Rose and Spider definitely had a uniqueness to them. They have those rich backgrounds that bring their characters to life in a way I love in my romances.

I also liked that their growth wasn’t totally reliant on their relationship. They each grow in an independent way that I appreciated.

The Romance:

While I loved the chemistry these two had, I thought the spark was a little too “insta” for me. I get that this book is exploring the idea that people can be linked through a simple connection but I don’t like when there’s just “something about them” that makes the person want to change everything to be with the other. And I felt that was the case for Spider when he meets Rose. One look and he’s a goner.

I definitely got the attraction and I from their first encounter I could see how they would bring out the best in each other. But I wanted to see more of that. There isn’t a whole lot of time between them meeting on the plane and deciding to completely upend their lives to be together. As the characters evolved, I began to appreciate the romance more but I wanted that early stage of their relationship to be a little more substantial.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This is a solid forbidden romance story that has a great focus on character growth instead of sexy times. (Though the sexual tension is brimming in this book!)

Read if You Like: forbidden romance, step-sibling relationships
Avoid if You: want more erotica based romance
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Ilsa Madden-Mills

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets and paints old furniture.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

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Single Sundays: The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski

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

Synopsis for The First Kiss Hypothesis (from Goodreads):

Nora Reid believes scientific laws control everything, even love. With her grandparents’ epic first kiss story cemented in her brain, Nora develops a hypothesis she’s determined to prove:for each person in the world, there is exactly one other person, and at first kiss, they’ll experience an immediate and intense reaction.

But after four years of zero-reaction kisses, she comes up with a new theory: maybe that pesky crush on her stunningly hot best friend Eli Costas is skewing her results.

She needs to get rid of him, and fast.

Eli Costas is an injury-prone lacrosse star with a problem—the one chance he had at winning over the girl next door resulted in the most epically sucktastic first kiss ever. And now she’s…trying to get rid of him? Hell no. It’s time to disprove her theory and show her exactly what she’s missing.
Game. On.

Disclaimer: This book contains a stunningly hot lacrosse player who isn’t above playing dirty to win over the stubborn girl-next-door of his dreams.

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Author: Christina Mandelski
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think the H.BSc that I can attach to my name and the hopeless romantic in me requires that I read any novel that uses a scientific term in its title. I’m a fan of the best friends to more trope, especially in YA, and the promise of a scientific theory to back up why that might not be the case for these two? I was excited to see how this experiment would play out.

The Plot:

This story definitely felt like it was more of a coming of age novel than straight romance–and I really liked that. Eli and Nora have a lot going on in their lives now that they are seniors in high school. They’re beginning to feel the pressures from family and friends when it comes to deciding what’s next. Throw in their long buried crushes on each other and the mutual agreed upon love of pies and you’ve got a bit of a sticky situation.

This book had me at the start. I loved Eli’s goal to make Nora see him as more than a friend and I liked how Nora was unknowingly trying to counteract that. It made from some sweet moments between them. However, it started to lose me in the middle when everything just seemed to repeat itself with nothing completely new to add to the story. It rounds itself out in the end with some solid character growth but my interest did start to wane.

The Characters:

I’m really glad that we got both Nora and Eli’s POV in this story because it does shed some light on why they act like they do. They have their moments of immaturity but I did find that they grew up as the story progressed. I wasn’t blown away by either of them but they worked well for this story.

I do have to give a shout-out to Eli’s autistic brother Ari. He was fabulous and a breath of fresh air in this story. He really grounds the story in a way that benefits everyone.

The Romance:

These two are super cute together, no denying that. I liked that they always had these feelings bubbling up at the surface–I love the type of tension that brings to a story. It’s a touch cliché but these two have enough quirks to keep it interesting.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you enjoy cute coming of age stories where best friends fall in love, this perfect for you!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, best friends to more, coming of age
Avoid if You: high school romances

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Blog Tour: Saving It by Monica Murphy

Synopsis for Saving It (from Goodreads):

Eden: Josh Evans and I have been best friends forever. He knows all my secrets, and I know all of his. So when he randomly asks me to help him lose his virginity, I sort of flip out. That’s a question that sends your mind to places you’ve seriously never considered before. Like, you know. Having sex. With your best friend. Except Josh doesn’t want to have sex with me—he wants me to help him find a girl. A nice girl who’s funny and smart and cute. Except he already knows a girl just like that…

Josh: Eden Sumner is my best friend. So of course she’d be the person to help me find my perfect match, so I can drop my V card before I head off to college. Except the more we search, the more I realize that maybe the right girl has been by my side all along. I don’t need Eden’s help in finding me a girl to love. I’m pretty sure I’m already in love with Eden. But now she thinks I’m only after one thing…with anyone but her.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book is what happens when American Pie meets Friends with Benefits. It contains two best friends, plenty of angst, and lots and lots of sex talk. Reading this might have you looking at your best friend in a different light!

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Author: Monica Murphy
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, High School
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR (Netgalley)–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Kobo // Google Play // iBooks // Nook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think it goes without saying: if Monica Murphy writes it, I’ll read it. I always enjoy her works and this one sounded like such a cute one that I couldn’t say no!

The Plot:

I found it to be super refreshing to have Josh be the one who is the one primarily focused on losing his virginity. Most of the time, books look at this from the female perspective so it was really cool for me to get the teenage boy viewpoint. I know I forget the pressures that are put on boys in regards to sex because I am a girl so I really enjoyed that aspect.

The situation Eden and Josh find themselves in could happen to anyone anywhere in the world. Their fears and hesitations are so true for anyone who has ever found themselves in the same situation of realizing you may like your best friend as more than a friend.

I kept waiting for something over dramatic to happen as it often does with this genre but we get nothing of the sort. I liked that the focused stayed on the main plot of these two working out their feelings.

The Characters:

Eden and Josh are a great match and their connection and friendship is apparent from the start. They are great, true friends to each other and I loved that about them. The fear of ruining a life-long friendship, the pressures from their tight-knit group of friends; everything they go through is extremely relateable.

The Romance:

While I totally supported these two as a couple, I did want to see a little more romantic chemistry between them. Part of the reason this is somewhat neglected that is that it takes these two a long time to come to terms with their potential feelings. But I wanted more than just a few comments here and there about how attractive the other looked in their clothes. For a couple that had such a strong emotional connection, I just wanted those “swoon” moments to happen a little more often than they did.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall
Fans of the BFF to more trope will truly enjoy this refreshing and genuine romance.

Read if You Like: BFF to more trope, high school romance
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary
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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.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Blitz + Review: The Scot’s Bride by Paula Quinn


I’m a little embarrassed that this is the first time I am talking about Paula Quinn on my blog. Because she is the standard for me when it comes to highlander romances. I fell in love with the MacGregor Duology and I devoured the Children of the Mist Series soon after. It’s so, so cool to follow generations of the same family and read about their unique adventures and swoon-worthy romances. I love returning to this world time and time again.

Below you will find a link to an exclusive excerpt, my review as well as a giveaway for a copy of the book courtesy of Forever. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post!


Title: The Scot’s Bride

Author: Paula Quinn
Series: The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #6
Pub. Date: October 31, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Find it: Goodreads | Kobo | Amazon

AN IRRESISTIBLE SCOUNDREL
Highlander Patrick MacGregor likes his life just the way it is. Fighting for his coin, enjoying a woman’s charms, and bearing no responsibility at all. Aye, that’s the life for him. That is, until Patrick sees her-a raven-haired beauty with eyes as dark as midnight. Patrick swore never to fall in love. Not even with a lass as wild as he…especially when she’s from a rival clan.

AN UNDENIABLE DESIRE
Charlotte Cunningham knows Patrick is trouble the moment she sets eyes on him. Her only goal is to escape the possibility of marriage. Any marriage. But as the summer days turn into sultry nights, enticing her beyond reason, Charlie is forced to choose between the freedom she craves and the reckless rogue she can’t forget.

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Read an Exclusive Excerpt Here!

 

Patrick’s parents are the leads from one of my favourite highlander romances EVER, Seduced by the Highlander. So I couldn’t wait to read about Patrick and the lady who would knock him off his feet!

My favourite aspect of this book is the slow burn romance. All too often in historical romances, the leads jump into their passionate affair and the rest gets left behind. So not the case here! Their attraction is palpable from the start but watching that connection grow into something more was fabulous. These two are a great pair who complement each other wonderfully and seeing them discover that was such a treat.

My only wish is that the ending didn’t feel as rushed. The vast majority of this book is Charlie and Patrick fighting their budding feelings and Patrick keeping his true identity a secret. But there are so many other things at play (like the clan rivalry and past events) and I feel like they don’t reach their peak until the last 20%. I think some of that could have been brought out earlier and played out a little more to enhance this story.

Nevertheless, highlander fans will love this one! This book reminded me why I love highlander romances and why I should be picking them up more often!

My Rating: 4/5

Paula Quinn

New York Times bestselling author Paula Quinn lives in New York with her three beautiful children, three over-protective chihuahuas, and a loud umbrella cockatoo. She loves to read romance and science fiction and has been writing since she was eleven. She loves all things medieval, but it is her love for Scotland that pulls at her heartstrings.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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Trust, me this is another good one!

What about you? Do you enjoy Highlander romances?

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Single Sundays: The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

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

Synopsis for The Symptoms of Being Human (from Goodreads):

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

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Author: Jeff Garvin
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, GLBT
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was one of the many must read contemporaries that seemed to be everywhere when it came out. I’m not a big YA contemporary fan but I like diverse stories I wouldn’t normally encounter in my usual reads.

The Concept:

I will be the first admit I don’t know much about what it means to be gender fluid. I’m not even sure if I knew what it was before I read the synopsis for this book. So I was looking forward to learning more and I definitely did. Not only does Riley explain what it means to identify as gender fluid but Riley also does a great job of showing what it means to actively live as a gender fluid teen.

It was quite the change for me to read about this particular story because Riley struggles with not being associated with a single gender whereas in None of the Above, the story I just finished the day before about an intersex teen, Kristin wants nothing more than to be seen as a girl. The contrasts and similarities between the two books would be the subject of a great essay but I’ll just say I had to leave one mindset and dive into another. Both books offer fascinating insights into the perception of gender in society.

The Plot:

I hate being one of those reviewers who constantly compares books to each other but I have to bring up None of the Above one more time. You can read my review of None of the Above here but one of my biggest criticisms of it was the lack of subplot besides the lead’s gender identity crisis. Thankfully, SOBH has a lot more going on than just Riley’s struggle to be “out”.

You have the political aspirations and influence of Riley’s dad’s career; you have Riley’s interest in a particular girl; Riley’s struggles at school; the blog and then the overall pressures of society to conform to a particular gender. Needless to say, this book is always moving forward with one plot aspect or another.

The Characters:

I liked Riley as a lead but I wouldn’t say I loved Riley as much as I have with other characters. I really did feel for Riley, no doubt about that. It’s easy to see why Riley would feel the pressure to hide who Riley really is and that broke my heart.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel is the fact that we don’t know whether or not Riley was born a male or a female. I think it further drives the point that society feels the need to confine people to a label because I will be the first to say I kept waiting to find out what gender Riley’s parents saw Riley as. But at the same time, what does it matter? At the end of the day Riley is a person and who cares if Riley wears a dress one day and a suit the next? It doesn’t change who Riley is as a person and I’m forever grateful that Riley reminded me of that in this book.

The Romance:

I almost wonder if I would have enjoyed this story more without the romance. It didn’t negatively impact the story but I’m not even sure if it added all that much to it either. Yes, it does add a layer to Riley’s development as a character but I think Riley would have reached that level without it.

The Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed this as an audiobook. I think I would have missed some of the humour without having it enunciated to me just because I can be dense like that when it comes to writing. But it really pulled a lot of the emotions out of me so bravo!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you like books that will make you laugh, cry and just make you re-evaluate how you view the world and others, this is a great one.

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

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Single Sundays: None of the Above by I W Gregorio

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

Synopsis for None of the Above (from Goodreads):

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex… and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

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Author: I W Gregorio
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: warm *suggestive content*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It seemed to me that 2015 was the year of “must-read” YA contemporaries. I marked off quite a few as TBR that year thanks to rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Not my usually genre but buzz can do that.

I was drawn to None of the Above for the intersex aspect. As someone who studied science–particularly health sciences–I know what it means to be intersex medically speaking but what does it mean as an everyday person? I was eager to explore that with this book.

The Plot:

As you might have expected, you follow Kristin’s journey from “normal” teenager to learning she is intersex and what that means for her going forward. It’s a heartbreaking journey at times because this girl really does go through a lot. (Truthfully, I lost a little hope in humanity with some of the things people say and do to her).

But there really isn’t much else to the plot. Which is fine because I like the focus on Kristin coming to terms with her diagnosis and becoming comfortable–I mean that’s why I picked up the book.

I do have one peeve with the plot that I have to get off my chest and it’s a spoiler so proceed with caution before opening it.

Spoiler

When Josh assaults Kristin at the club after he realizes she is intersex, I didn’t like that she doesn’t report the assault. I understand that she just got comfortable with other people knowing about her condition but her reasoning that “it being on file will stop him from doing it again” is such bullshit. He will do it again because he thinks he can get away with it. I really wish she would have reported it because it sets a precedence that it’s ok to defend yourself by filing charges but not following through. You aren’t being a hero by letting it slide.

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The Characters:

Truthfully, I wasn’t a big Kristin fan. I can appreciate her journey and how she does grow up from the situation but she was a little too…stereotypical? (Not sure if that is the right word. Maybe cliche?). She’s your classic teenage girl who focuses on popularity, keeping her hot boyfriend and college. And those aren’t bad things necessarily–I just feel like she didn’t evolve from that.

While Kristin learns to accept her condition, her character growth remains pretty stifled. I really wanted her to have this big epiphany that there is more to life than high school and a good-looking boyfriend and she doesn’t really have that.

The Romance:

I’m a little torn on this. On one hand, I like that it wasn’t a huge focus. On the other hand, I don’t like how it is used as a validation that Kristin is a girl because a boy likes her. (Maybe I’m reading too much into it?)

I get that Kristin worries she won’t have that relationship because she isn’t a “true” girl. The difference between gender and sexual orientation is something that is unfortunately linked together. It’s something she struggles with and it does add to her story in a positive way. I just feel like she didn’t think she was complete until she got that “love” from a boy despite the great support from Gwen and her dad.

The Audiobook Version:

This was really well done. One of the nice things about listening to contemporary audiobooks is the emotions they convey. It’s like listening to someone tell you their life story and it’s so easy to listen to.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

While the subject matter of None of the Above is superb, it does sometimes slip into the typical flow of YA contemporaries instead of keeping its focus elsewhere. However, it is an eyeopening read that I recommend to everyone.

Read if You Like: character driven stories, realistic fiction
Avoid if You: (honestly, this is a book everyone should read)
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Series Review: The Lone City by Amy Ewing

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 Jewel (from Goodreads):

The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

breakdown

Series: The Lone City Trilogy
Author: Amy Ewing
# of Books: 3 (The Jewel, The White Rose, The Black City)

There are some short stories. Full reading order here.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: September 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This is one of those series that would pop up on occasion for me. Mostly anytime when I reviewed any of the books from The Selection Series or browsed my library’s eBook collection. I’ll admit, I didn’t really know what the series was about until I decided to pick it up as an audiobook series and read the synopsis.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect but I have a few standards that I like all my dystopian novels to have: an intriguing world, a heroine I can tolerate and an actual plotline.

The Concept / The World:

Although the concept is very similar to other dystopian novels (especially The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood) I’ve encountered in the past, I definitely got sucked into the world. I just love high society books and all the scandals of the haves vs the have-nots. Ewing does a great job of establishing the society here and why everything is as it is. There are a ton of secrets so you don’t know who you can and can’t trust and it just makes the entire story addicting.

The Plot:

You aren’t going to find the action-packed plotlines of The Hunger Games here but you are going to get more of a dramatic plot than The Selection Series ever provides. Meaning there is more than just a forbidden romance at play here.

It helps that this world is so intricate in its structure. Like most caste system stories, it’s the haves vs the have nots and that creates a tense atmosphere of danger and intrigue. The risks are high and you never doubt that for a moment thanks to the antics of the upper classes.

However, I did find the pacing to be off at times. For example, The Jewel starts off with a bang because you are thrown into this super interesting world. Getting acquainted with it and watching Violet navigate this was exciting to read until it reached a lull. The introduction of the romance (just past the 50% mark) really slowed down the plot since the romance becomes the larger focus and the rest of the intrigue takes a backseat. Thankfully it picks up again at the end.

The same can be said about The White Rose which suffers from the typical Book 2 of a Trilogy Slump. It was terribly slow even though important developments do happen–especially near the end.

The Black City, book 3, keeps the pacing strong at the start but wanes a little again in the middle. I was a little disappointed by some of the big “twists” but it was a solid ending to the series as a whole.

The Characters:

I went through a bit of a rocky relationship with Violet. In The Jewel, I liked her as a heroine more so than others I’ve encountered in this type of dystopian story. She didn’t drive me insane though I did roll my eyes many a times at some of her comments. (Often during the romantic scenes because I really wasn’t feeling that aspects). I think I was able to forgive some of her naivety because she really is kept in the dark due to her position/role in society. Of course she is going to react impulsively and not really think things through all the time.

And that’s the case as the series progresses. She doesn’t make the wisest decisions–she fails to see the bigger picture at times and that drove me a little nuts.

But I did like a lot of the side characters and I liked that it was easy to hate the villains.

The Romance:

This was a huge disappointment truthfully. I’m all for forbidden romances but this one just bored me. Their connection just seemed very superficial to me and it definitely borders on insta-love. I just wanted a little more substance here. I can’t help but feel that Garnet (the son of the Duchess who bought Violet) would have been a more intriguing love interest for her rather than Ash (who is a little dull despite all the efforts to make him compelling).

The Novellas:

I read both Garnet’s Story (#1.2) and The House of Stone (1.5) right after I read The Jewel. Garnet’s Story in particular does a good job bridging The Jewel and The White Rose and since I loved him as a character, it was great to get that insight. Raven is also a strong character so it was nice to fill in some of the gaps about her story. I opted not to pick up the other short stories.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was the first series I had read exclusively through an audiobook and I think it was a great choice. As I’ve often said in my other audiobook reviews, audiobooks do a great job of conveying emotions I wouldn’t have necessarily felt while reading. I also think it helped me understand Violet a little more. It’s so easy when you read words to interpret them one way instead of another. And I think by having someone speak Violet’s words and convey the emotions she is feeling, it helped me get what Violet’s motivations were–cooling my irritation with her.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Jewel 3.5/5 | The White Rose 3/5 | The Black City 3/5

overall

I’m a particularly hard critic on my dystopian novels but this one was solid from start to end even if it didn’t feel like that at times. While some things were predictable, others wowed me and had me wanting to know more. It’s addicting albeit slow at times but I think readers who enjoy high society dystopian novels will enjoy this.

Read if You Like: high society, dystopian
Avoid if You: want physical action

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Series Review: The Rules by Monica Murphy

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 Fair Game (from Goodreads):

Bad enough Jade Frost’s boyfriend drags her to a boring poker game. Even worse that he actually threw her into the betting pot during an intense round…and lost. Talk about the perfect excuse for Jade to make him her ex-boyfriend.

Now she supposedly belongs to the ultra rich, extremely gorgeous Shep Prescott. He could have anything he wants yet he seems to be in hot pursuit of her. No matter how rude, how snarky, how impossible she acts, it doesn’t stop him. More like her horrible behavior seems to make him want her more.

When she finds herself starting to fall for him, Jade’s confused. There’s more to Shep than the carefree rich charmer he portrays. No way could he want a serious relationship with her…or could he?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: The Rules

Crosses over with the One Week Girlfriend Series in Safe Bet

Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 4 (Fair Game, In the Dark, Slow Play, Safe Bet)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2015 – January 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Monica Murphy is my go to author for fun but heartwarming New Adult romances. She just writes really good stories that I get into from start to finish. And every series by her is unique in its execution and motivation.

I’ll admit, I picked this series up a little bit earlier than I planned to just because I wanted to read the crossover with the One Week Girlfriend Series in the 4th novel, Safe Bet. And, I needed a lighter series after reading a heavier contemporary novel.

The Plot:

Monica admitted at the end of Book 2, In the Dark, that she isn’t trying to reinvent the New Adult romance genre with these books. They’re supposed to be lighter, fun reads for her readers. And they definitely succeed in that aspect! I just had a lot of fun reading these books! And they definitely brightened my mood 🙂

But what I also liked is that they are toned down in the drama department. You don’t get that petty, soap opera-esque scenarios (like overly jealous girls or “cheating” situations). Instead, the focus stays on the characters as they learn who they are and why they want to pursue their respective relationships. It just keeps the story focused on what matters and I loved that.

The Characters:

I’ll admit, it took me a while to warm up to a few of these characters. In particular, I struggled with Shep and Jade in Fair Game and Tristan in Slow Play. I did warm up to Shep and Jade as their story progressed though. It just took some time to see the deeper side of their characters. Tristan…he suffers a bit from his presentation in the first two books (where he is a total dog) and so he really had to work hard to get me on his side. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed his story.

But Gabe and Lucy’s story stole the show for me in In the Dark! They were perfect! I thought they had the best connection but also the best individual character development.

The Romance:

While the connections are a little insta-love, they do progress into genuine connections. It’s a little more “told” than “shown” when it comes to the writing, but it’s obvious why they all fall for their respective partners.

It’s not too spicy and it’s not too cheesy: it just hits that perfect mark.

Series Rating: 4/5

Fair Game 4/5 | In the Dark 5/5 | Slow Play 3/5 | Safe Bet  4/5

overall

Need a nice pick-me-up? This is a great contemporary romance series for those looking for a cute and addicting read that is light on the drama.

Read if You Like: straight forward romances, heartwarming reads
Avoid if You: dislike player heroes
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