Tag «fantasy»

Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

Series Review: The Keeper’s Chronicles by Becky Wallace

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 Storyspinner (from Goodreads):

Drama and danger abound in this “intricately woven” (Shannon Messenger, author of the Sky Fall series) fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

breakdown

Series: The Storyspinner; The Keepers’ Chronicles
Author: Becky Wallace
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2015 – March 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook (#1); Scribd–eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When The Storyspinner first came out, it seemed to be everywhere. It was gracing lists and seemed to be a staple review post around the blogosphere. I love a good fantasy novel; especially one where the lead heroine is strong in perhaps unconventional ways and there are political maneuvers abound. So I had some high expectations for this.

The Concept / The World:

Like its title suggests, this story weaves together many character stories into one. I loved the multiple POV because it kept the story moving when the plot is somewhat dry. But it also provides a full-circle view of the world and drives the world building.

It might have been me and my somewhat of a rush to finish this book before I had to return it, but I wasn’t totally clear on the roles of Keepers. I’m going with “it’s a me thing”. I often struggle with magic premises…despite the fact that I adore fantasy.

The Plot:

In the grand scheme, I felt like not much happens in the first book. It felt like there was a larger focus on character development or maybe it just felt that way because we got multiple POV. I did enjoy the mystery of who is after Johanna–it wasn’t predictable–even if most other things about Johanna are.

The sequel follows much of the same flow but perhaps at a little faster pace because everything has been building up to this. I read the books too far apart to appreciate the finer details but it was easy to get back into the swing of things.

The Characters:

As I often am, I was drawn to the side characters. I like Jo enough and I liked her drive and intelligence. But I found the paths the other characters went down to be more intriguing. I was surprised by some of the evolving and harder paths the characters follow. It allowed for some great growth throughout the series.

The Romance:

I wasn’t totally sold on Johanna’s romance. I think in the sequel it improves but I was often drawn to the side characters’ relationships. But if you love romance in your novels, no doubt something will appease you here.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Storyspinner 3.5/5 | The Skylighter 3/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fantasy who prefer more character driven stories with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: fantasy, not overly complicated plots
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

Series Review: The Storymakers by Betsy Schow

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 Spelled (from Goodreads):

Somewhere over the rainbow, all spell is about to break loose…

Fairy Tale Survival Rule No. 32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the charming brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

breakdown

Series: The Storymakers
Author: Betsy Schow
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2015 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I actually think I first saw Spelled on Netgalley but even if I didn’t, it was those shoes on the cover that called to me. I have an obsession with shoes–it’s probably unhealthy. But besides that: I really enjoy fairy tale based stories and this own sounded like a lot of fun.

Of course, it sat on my library Wishlist for a long time, but when I saw that my library had all the audiobooks available, I decided it was time to give this series a shot!

The Concept / The World:

I’ve read a few retellings of the Wizard of Oz over the years as well as the classic Fairy Tales and Classic Myths, but it was cool to have everything weaved together into one story and world.

I loved all the little details Betsy Schow threw in along the way. The chapters all have a fun take on classic fairy tale elements and stories. Like quotes from fake autobiographies on classic fairy tale characters. Even the curse words were puns on fairy tales! I just had a blast getting to know this world and how everything fits together.

The Plot:

One thing I loved about the plots of the respective books is that they were always moving. There’s a lot of action in these books and I liked that. Things were always evolving and twisting as you progressed through all the obstacles. It made things less predictable as well which is always a treat.

I will admit though that I did get a little lost in what was happening from Book #2 Wanted onwards. There’s a lot of jumping around and that impacted the flow of the story for me. I really struggled to keep everything straight and my interest started to wane at times.

The Characters:

I would say that this story is more for the younger YA fans. Some of the dilemmas the characters face seem juvenile compared to some of the other YA characters out there. Though I’m not sure if they would be able to follow the way the plot jumps around…

But what I will say is this: although the leads we meet might not be the most likeable characters at the start of their stories, they are redeemable. It was great to see them grow a bit as they conquered the various obstacles and saw more of the world than just their own individual story.

The Romance:

It’s easy for fairy tale retellings to get caught up in the romance but that’s not the case here. It plays an important role for sure but it isn’t the main focus which is refreshing.

My Audiobook Experience:

All the books were great audio productions. No complaints here!

Series Rating: 3/5

Spelled 4/5 | Wanted 3/5 | Banished 3/5

overall

This is a super creative world and I loved the weaving of stories…even if I did get a lost sometimes. But out of the many fairy tale retellings I’ve read, this is one stands out as being super unique!

Read if You Like: fairy tale retellings, Shrek, Ella Enchanted
Avoid if You: want a darker read

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DNF Series Review: The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff

DNF Series Review: The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 1: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Nevernight (from Goodreads):

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic — the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

breakdown

Series: Nevernight Chronicles
Author: Jay Kristoff
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action, Dark
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: August 2016 – September 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Nevernight at 44% (middle of Chapter 16). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve read Jay Kristoff’s Immuniae Series and I follow him on twitter so I like his sense of humour. But I was curious to see what type of novels he writes on his own and this one seems to be a very popular choice amongst my Goodreads friends. My library only had the audiobooks and I needed a new audio series so I put myself on the holds list and waited for my turn.

What I Liked:

–The Narration Style–

I enjoyed the delivery of the narration. The style of narration is something I might not have fully appreciated if I didn’t listen to the audiobook. The sarcasm and dry, witty lines are great when heard audibly because that tone is easily conveyed.

I could see how that wouldn’t be for everyone though as it is a rather dark approach…but you are reading about a school of assassin teens so I think it comes with the territory.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Pacing–

The pacing here just didn’t work for me. I definitely forgot about the murder mystery part because there were so many other tangents happening. I just found myself getting bored and so my mind would wander away.

And the flipping between Mia’s past and present was just too hard to keep track of with the audio version.

My Audiobook Experience:

Perhaps the audiobook was a mistake. The shear length of it was daunting for me (books over 15 hours never work out for me) but I listen to audiobooks at 1.5X the speed so it wouldn’t take me the full amount of time.

However: I’m a very visual person so trying to remember people’s names in an audiobook can be a challenge. Once we finally got to the academy, I struggled to keep all the characters straight. I also couldn’t keep the timelines straight. The constant shuffle from the past to present had me missing things and I didn’t always catch the shifts.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. I couldn’t really bring myself to care about Mia (I think it is a casualty of the third person narration because she is talked about and not the one directly talking to the reader). And the shear length has turned me off. However, if this was a TV series I’d totally invest my time in watching it.

My Rating: DNF

Nevernight DNF | Godsgrave N/A | Darkdawn N/A

overall

I think if you are a reader who has the patience for longer novels, this is a great choice. It’s a cool concept but I don’t think its execution will work for everyone.

Read if You Like: dark YA, assassins, witty narration
Avoid if You: dislike super long books

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Series Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Series Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Belles (from Goodreads):

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control beauty, and beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite-the Belle chosen by the queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie-that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

breakdown

Series: The Belles
Author: Dhonielle Clayton
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 3 to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’ t think you could really escape The Belles when it first came out. It seemed to be everywhere in the blogosphere and I could understand why. The concept was really neat and the cover is gorgeous.

My library had the audiobook version and so I marked it on my “wishlist” but it wasn’t until I read Clayton’s other cowritten novel, Tiny Pretty Things (and absolutely LOVED it!) that my interest in picking up this series spiked.

The Concept / The World:

Have you ever wondered what life was like for the people living in The Capitol of The Hunger Games? I feel like this book attempts to answer that question by highlighting the vanity of humanity and what we would do if we could alter our appearance with a single touch. The concept is fascinating and, like you often do in dystopian novels, taken to an extreme to highlight the flaws within.

There was a lot to like about the world itself. I like how layered the Belle system is. From the history of their role to how they are trained, you know that some serious thought was put into the process. The world has a cool modern vibe (like paparazzi, etc) but felt old at the same time with the way the kingdom is set up.

The Plot:

When I was reading The Belles, I felt like much didn’t happen in the first half. It was a lot of setting up for the future and going through the motions. We do get little clues here and there but nothing overly exciting happens. The latter half, when everything falls into place is much stronger and I’m really curious to see what happens next.

The Everlasting Rose builds on that momentum though and introduces a few more twists. However, I thought the ways things came together in the end was a little messy and rushed. The ending seemed a little lacklustre to me.

The Characters:

Honestly, I could take or leave Camellia as a lead. She doesn’t really standout to me as a lead and I thought she made some terrible decisions. To give her some credit, she does evolve in The Everlasting Rose somewhat. It was nice to see her assert some independence.

The other belles are very hard to read. Perhaps that is the by-product of them being raised to act and do certain things in society. Amber is a good example of that where she can’t seem to rebel against the ideals instilled within her from birth—and I totally get why that would be the case. But it also makes her seem sporadic in her actions and in turn, you can’t get a good read on her as a character.

But I liked how the villain was a true villain.

The Romance:

The romance in the first book gave me some unease right from the start so I was immediately thrown off. As things progress in the series, I think the reasons why become clear and the romance itself evolves for the better (and I really hope it stays that way but I doubt it).

My Audiobook Experience:

So for a story that takes place in “Orleans” I just assumed everything would be french-influenced, including the narration. It was a slightly off-putting to have a British accent for the narrator for Camellia. Otherwise, the narration was really well done!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Honestly, I don’t really know what to expect for the third book. I have ideas of what I want it to be given the way things wrap up at the end of Book #2 but I’m not sure.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Belles 3/5 | Everlasting Rose 3.5/5 | Book 3 TBA

overall

Great for fans of the classic YA dystopian novels though it does leave a little to be desired at times.

Read if You Like: dystopian fiction, unique concepts
Avoid if You: dislike dystopian fiction

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Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

Series Review: Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer

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 Spindle Fire (from Goodreads):

A kingdom burns. A princess sleeps. This is no fairy tale.

It all started with the burning of the spindles.

No.

It all started with a curse…

Half sisters Isabelle and Aurora are polar opposites: Isabelle is the king’s headstrong illegitimate daughter, whose sight was tithed by faeries; Aurora, beautiful and sheltered, was tithed her sense of touch and her voice on the same day. Despite their differences, the sisters have always been extremely close.

And then everything changes, with a single drop of Aurora’s blood—and a sleep so deep it cannot be broken.

As the faerie queen and her army of Vultures prepare to march, Isabelle must race to find a prince who can awaken her sister with the kiss of true love and seal their two kingdoms in an alliance against the queen.

Isabelle crosses land and sea; unearthly, thorny vines rise up the palace walls; and whispers of revolt travel in the ashes on the wind. The kingdom falls to ruin under layers of snow. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a strange and enchanted world, where a mysterious hunter may be the secret to her escape…or the reason for her to stay.

breakdown

Series: Spindle Fire
Author: Lexa Hillyer
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: April 2017 – April 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1), eBook (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think I looked past Spindle Fire quite a few times at my library before I finally read the synopsis. Sleeping Beauty is a personal favourite of mine; especially when it comes to retellings. I don’t really know why. I mean the whole damsel in literally distress isn’t my cup of tea but, usually, the retellings don’t have that. And there are so many other elements to the story (magic, faeries, curses, etc) that you can spin (pun on a spindle, perhaps) into an intriguing retelling. So when I read the synopsis, I decided to give this a chance.

The Concept / The World:

This is a very loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It really only has the bare bones of the classic fairy tale (curses, sleeping heroine) so that made it refreshing and unique to read. And if you look hard enough, I think you will see some other pieces of other classic tales as well.

And I really liked how we follow the two sisters as they try to save themselves and their kingdom. As I said above, one of my biggest peeves with Sleeping Beauty is the perception of a damsel in distress who can’t save herself. So watching these two girls fight to save each other and their world had me screaming “YOU GO GIRLS!”

The Plot:

In theory, I loved all the pieces that made up this story. But I really struggled with following what was happening, particularly in Spindle Fire (see my comment about listening to the audiobook below), and putting all the elements together. Truthfully, I didn’t even realize Aurora had activated the curse for a few chapters after it happened until I reread the synopsis again and realized that she had been transported to another world. And Isabelle’s story for a little while just seemed to go off on a tangent that I really didn’t understand. Just seemed like filler to me and perhaps redundant?

Which brings me to my reaction at the end of Winter Glass. For the most part, I was enjoying Winter Glass a lot more than Spindle Fire at the start. The pacing was much better and I seemed to be following what was happening more. Until the last 10 Chapters (the last third) of the novel. That’s when things went off the rails for me.

Have you ever read a book and went what was the point of all those chapters? That’s what happened to me here. Basically, everything Isabelle had done was pointless. Literally pointless. Why? The information she gathered on her unnecessary travels had already been discovered by other characters. Sure, she found out one piece of information about the purpose of the slipper but even then I don’t feel the information was relevant to the story.

>> Read my Spoiler Discussion on the Series here!

The Characters:

Aurora I wasn’t a fan of. She was as exciting as wet paper to me. I truly felt like these books were about Isabelle.

Which is why I was so upset by the decisions that she made at the end of the series. The idea that she hadn’t completed her “own story” to me was ludicrous. What did I spent the better part reading if not the various travelling and obstacles you went through in order to save your sister and the kingdom. You are telling me you didn’t learn anything about yourself during all of that?

The Romance:

Aurora’s romance felt forced. Perhaps I missed something in my listening to the first book but I didn’t see that connection at all. It almost felt like a ploy to get bonus points with readers but maybe that was just my perception since it felt so out of left field for me.

Isabelle had the more interesting romantic life in my opinion. Which is why I was so upset at the vague epilogue that tried to wrap it up with flowery words that only left me going …. what?

My Audiobook Experience:

I only read the first book as audiobook since that was all my library had. But after I finished it, I probably still would have chosen the eBook for the sequel. It’s nothing against the audio production itself (it was a great listen), but rather the way this story is told. We get a lot of POVs in this story and the faeries have names that sound so alike that I was having a hard time distinguishing everyone and their attributes. For the first few chapters, I had to continually go back to the synopsis to figure out which sister was blind and who couldn’t speak. The inability to go back and reread is something I struggle with when I listen to audiobooks and my experience here just emphasized that for me.

Series Rating: 2.5/5

Spindle Fire 3/5 | Winter Glass  2/5

overall

This series reminded me (fittingly enough as I had just passed 7 years of blogging the day I finished the book) why I started writing book series reviews in the first place: to save people the grief of being uber disappointed.

Read if You Like: retellings, complex worlds, sisters
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV

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Fresh Fridays: Fable (#1) by Adrienne Young

Fresh Fridays: Fable (#1) by Adrienne Young

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

Fable Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Fable (from Goodreads):

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

breakdown

Series: Fable Duology
Author: Adrienne Young
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Namesake, will be published March 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Coming of Age, Pirates, Adventure
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 1, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Fable at 20% (start of Chapter 9) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was trolling Twitter one day and noticed a tweet by Wednesday Books that a vast majority of their Netgalley library was available as Read Now titles. Like any sane book reader, I immediately when to Netgalley and browsed for any titles that would grab my attention. Fable was one that was mentioned many times in the replies to the Tweet so I made sure to grab it. I love the idea of a female pirate ruling the sea so I was excited to dive in and check it out.

What I Liked:

–Pirates!–

I love the idea of a lady pirate novel. Pirate novels are great for a lot of reasons–action, adventure, scheming, curses–but when the lead is a lady, that presents a whole other set of challenges. Watching a lady take charge in a “man’s world” is what great books are made of.

What I Didn’t Like:

–World Building–

From the start, I found myself struggling to get invested in Fable’s story. Part of the reason is that I got lost in the lack of world building. It almost felt like I should already know who this cast of characters was and I was getting people mixed up constantly.

–Fable–

I also struggled with Fable herself. She is far too angsty for me. I think every chapter ended with some doom-and-gloom thought by her. I get why. Her character background is explained well enough to know that she has a massive chip on her shoulder. I just felt like she was trying to hard to be a badass?

Will I Finish It?

I think I wanted a badass, take no prisoner lead from the get-go but that isn’t Fable. This is her coming of age story as she literally navigates the messy waters of her life and reality. In time she will get there but that wasn’t the story I wanted to read and so I am ending my trip here.

My Rating: DNF

Fable DNF | Namesake N/A

overall

If you go by the other reviews on Goodreads, I’m in the majority for this one. If you don’t mind slower starts this would be worth your time.

Read if You Like: slower stories, coming of age, pirates
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories

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Series Review: Blood of Ra by M Sasinowski

Series Review: Blood of Ra by M Sasinowski

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 Heir of Ra (from Goodreads):

TEN THOUSAND YEARS BENEATH THE SAND. TWO MYTHS ON A COLLISION COURSE.

An excavation of the fabled Hall of Records beneath the Sphinx unleashes an ancient disease that leaves Alyssa’s father fighting for his life.

As Alyssa races to find a cure, she stumbles upon a haunting artifact–and trespasses into the mind of an Egyptian god.

ANCIENT HISTORY AND PRESENT TIME INTERTWINE.

A global epidemic looms. Alyssa relives memories of an advanced race and unravels clues hidden within the relic, as she evades ruthless adversaries set on exploiting the power of the ancient genes. Then she makes a staggering discovery…

The world is not quite what it seems.

WILL YOU QUESTION YOUR ORIGIN?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Best Series Reads of 2020
Series: Blood of Ra
Author: M Sasinowski
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: August 2018 – December 2019
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M Sasinowski!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was a kid I loved learning about the Ancient Egyptian world. From the curses to the culture, it’s a fascinating history to explore. I also adored the movie The Mummy. It just had a great blend of action, comedy and history that captivated you as you watched.

The Mummy Run GIF by PeacockTV

So when M Sasinowski asked me to read his debut novel, Heir of Ra, I couldn’t wait to dive in. I don’t get to read a lot of fantasy adventures laced with the curses of Ancient Egypt so it seemed like a no brainer.

The Concept / The World:

I love Egyptian history: the idea of curses, rituals and royalty makes a lush backdrop for a novel. Which is why I find it odd that we don’t often get to explore this world in fiction. The blend of science and mythology is great. You’ve got all the classic elements of Ancient Egypt mixed with advanced (yet easy to follow) modern day science and it’s simply great.

The best way to describe this series’s feel overall is if you mixed “The Mummy” with “National Treasure” together. Everything just continuously builds as you uncover the next plot point.

The Plot:

Each book literally hits the ground running and the plot keeps moving at a great pace. Honestly, there isn’t a dull moment here thanks to the multiple POVs you get; helping to build a 360-degree view of everything that is happening plotwise. Yet I was never overwhelmed by following multiple characters. It just helped built up the tension and suspense of what will happen when everything inevitably crashes together.

The Characters:

I liked Alyssa as our lead a lot. She reminds me a little of Indiana Jones and how she doesn’t let anything stop her when it comes to obstacles and getting what she wants. She’s this great blend of thoughtfulness yet reckless all at the same time. She’s what you want in a strong female lead.

The rest of the cast is just as solid. I found even as Alyssa’s story becomes the focus as the series moves forward, the supporting cast evolves just as much. Getting those extra POV along the way, in addition to Alyssa’s, helps to shape the story.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge focus of the series but there are little dashes along the way.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

Heir of Ra 5/5 | Daughter of Ra 4.5/5 | Legacy of Ra 4/5

overall

If you want a series you can sink your teeth into and binge read (honestly, I could read all of these books in one sitting, they were hard to put down!), this is it. A great blend of fantasy, science and myth unlike anything else I’ve read in a long time.

Read if You Like: Egyptian mythology, adventure
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike multiple POVs

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Series Review: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

Series Review: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

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 Seven Black Diamonds (from Goodreads):

Lilywhite Abernathy is a criminal. Her father’s “unconventional” business has meant a life of tightly held secrets, concealed weaponry, and a strict code. But Lily’s crime isn’t being the daughter of a powerful mob boss. Her guilt lies in the other half of her DNA—the part that can coax ancient rumors from stones and summon fire with a thought. Lily is part fae, which is a crime in her world.

From the time before she was born, a war has been raging between humanity and fae. The Queen of Blood and Rage, ruler of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts, wants to avenge the tragic death of her heir—a death that was the fault of reckless humans.

Lily’s father has shielded her from the repercussions of her ancestry…until she is sent to the prestigious St. Columba’s school, straight into the arms of the Black Diamonds.

Mysterious, glamorous, and bound together in their mission but constantly at odds, Zephyr, Creed, Will, Roan, Violet, and Alkamy are a Sleeper cell of fae, planted in the human world to help destroy it from within. With covers as rock stars and celebrity children, the Black Diamonds carry out the queen’s war against humanity. And unbeknownst to Lilywhite, she’s been chosen to join them.

Now more than ever, Lily’s heritage puts her in peril, and even the romantic attention of the fae singer Creed Morrison isn’t enough to keep Lily from wanting to run back to the safer world of organized crime.

Melissa Marr returns to faery in a dramatic story of the precarious space between two worlds and the people who must thrive there.

breakdown

Series: Seven Black Diamonds
Author: Melissa Marr
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Faeries, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2016 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Melissa Marr is the one I credit with introducing me to the wonderful world of Faeries. Wicked Lovely is a series that has stuck with me over the years and in some ways, it has become my gold standard for Faerie novels. I had marked this series on my library wishlist but never found the time to read it. So when I needed a new audiobook and this popped up, I figured this was the perfect time to dive in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the mix of dystopian and fantasy. This isn’t the world we know today and thanks to the interference of Fae, it’s quite the place. I loved the mixing of fantasy and reality.

One thing I love about Melissa Marr is her ability to create these layered worlds yet have them be totally accessible and understandable to the reader. She weaves quite the tale!

The Plot:

This plot moves very fast thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You get that 360 view of all these plots happening at once and the anticipation for how they will all cross over is addicting.

I think Seven Black Diamonds (#1) has a faster paced dramatic plot whereas One Blood Ruby (#2) is more character driven. Both have their strengths and weaknesses as a result. I think Book #2 feels a little rushed at the end because the drama is so concentrated in the last few chapters. And I also felt like some things were left too open-ended because there are so many characters to resolve with.

The Characters:

There are a lot of them but it was crazy how quickly I became invested in all their stories. Even if we only spent a few moments with them, I thought they were quite layered. Which is why I would have liked a fuller ending with more closure because we do meet so many great characters that you become attached to.

The Romance:

This is weaved so seamlessly throughout. I loved all the romantic interests.

My Audiobook Experience:

The narration is beautiful to listen to. Where I struggled was with the multiple POVs in third person. If I was listening for an extended period it was good because I would get the character name we were focusing on at the start of the chapter. But if I stopped in the middle of a chapter, it took me a while to reacquaint myself with who I was following at that moment. And there are a lot of characters to remember and not having the true ability to flip back and forth to doublecheck things provided a learning curve.

Series Rating: 4/5

Seven Black Diamonds 4/5  |  One Blood Ruby 4/5

overall

Perfect for readers who love multiple POV and fast paced stories!

Read if You Like: multiple POVs, Faeries
Avoid if You: dislike third person POVs

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Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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 Dread Nation (from Goodreads):

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

breakdown

Series: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Alternative History, Zombies, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2018 – February 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember if I learned about this series via other blogs or simply from browsing my library catelogue. I’m going to go with the latter because I didn’t mark it down as a blog find.

Anyways, I love horror/fantasy spins on historical events and this sounded like it would be a kick butt novel!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

Like I said, any twist on a historical event automatically gets bonus points in my eyes. I loved the idea of zombies in the Civil War era. But what I loved even more was how it was used to highlight racial tensions throughout the novel. It just emphasized even more the ideals that brought about the war and why it was so divisive to the United States.

–Girl Power–

I always love it when girls can fend for themselves and Jane is a strong heroine to get behind. She doesn’t need anyone to save her yet she isn’t afraid to get help along the way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

I think I wanted to jump right into the action and get to slaying the zombies sooner than later. I found the first third of the novel to be very slow. But once the plot went in a direction I wasn’t anticipating, my attention was piqued once again…until I felt like it mellowed out. There just didn’t seem to be a lot happening all the time and I could feel my attention waning.

–Some of the Twists Felt Like An Afterthought–

I don’t like when plot twists are purposely misleading. There are some great mysteries to uncover about Jane’s past and the like, and slowly we get to learn them. Until you get to the end and realize everything you’ve been told has been a flat out lie. I don’t like it when a narrator you believed to be reliable suddenly isn’t. I would have much preferred that Jane had played the oblivious card and just not have said anything about the situation in her inner monologue until it was the right time to spring the truth.

It just made certain twists seem like an afterthought. Like an editor reading the book went “hey, you know what would be great?” and instead of reworking the little bits earlier in the novel, it’s just thrown out there near the end and you just have to take it as a reader.

Spoiler

I’m talking about Jane killing her father. That whole twist just didn’t seem cohesive to me when she had told us earlier in the book one version of the story.

[collapse]

My Audiobook Experience:

I love Bahni Turpin as a narrator for any novel. Her narration of The Hate U Give is award worthy. But having only really listened to her for modern/contemporary novels, her narration of Jane almost seemed too modern for my tastes. To be fair: that could simply be the actual writing of the novel and not necessarily her performance. But if I didn’t necessarily know the setting, I’d think it was a contemporary novel.

Will I Finish It?

While I’m curious to know what happens next, I also just don’t care. I felt like things ended in a way that I’m ok with stopping here and never knowing how this series wraps up.

Series Rating: DNF

Dread Nation 3/5 | Deathless Divide N/A | Book 3

overall

I think different readers will find different things to like about this series. I know that the concept itself will draw people in but I wonder if it acts as a bit of a blinder in the sense that you get so into the idea of what this novel means that you don’t realize it isn’t the strongest when it comes to actual plot since not much truly happens.

Read if You Like: fantasy spins on historic events
Avoid if You: want more action

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DNF Series Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

DNF Series Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

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 Girls of Paper and Fire (from Goodreads):

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

breakdown

Series: Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: Natasha Ngan
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book #3 will be published in 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: November 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Girls of Paper and Fire (#1) at 41% (middle of Chapter 15) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It was definitely the cover that drew me to this book but the synopsis was intriguing. I was hesitant though because it is published by James Patterson’s publishing group and I’ve had both great success (Stalking Jack the Ripper) and great failure (Gunslinger Girl) with the YA titles in the past.

What I Liked:

–Reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha–

The story style here reminded me a lot of Memoirs of a Geisha. There isn’t a main drama driving the plot forward; rather we watch this young girl navigate this foreign world she never thought she’d be a part of.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Nothing Monumental Had Happened–

Honestly, I felt like we regurgitated the same things every other chapter. Lei learns something that she needs to do as a Paper Girl. She describes everything in sight in incredible detail. She gossips in her inner monologue about the other girls. Laments about her family/old life. Repeats it all again.

I wanted scenes with the King. I wanted petty pranks with the other girls. I wanted a forbidden angsty romance. I wanted court politics. I wanted Rebellion. I didn’t get that. And I know that those things take time, but even the promise of them seemed to be lacking despite how far into the novel I was.

I suppose you’d say this is more character driven but I was nearly halfway through the book and Lei was only starting to show signs of evolution.

–Romance Was Slow to Start–

I think the tag this book often gets for genres is a big giveaway about who Lei falls in love with. But if I hadn’t seen that tag, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you at all who this all consuming lover would be.

Here are some of the thoughts I wrote on Goodreads:

October 31, 2019 –

39.0% “I cheated and read some reviews about the forbidden romance because nothing seems to be happening (though my suspicion was right about who she will fall in love with).” (Audiobook Edition)

October 30, 2019 –

35.0% “I feel like I’ve dedicated too much time to this now give up…one more shot tomorrow” (Audiobook Edition)

October 29, 2019 –

27.0% “Something exciting better happen soon or else this might be the end of this book for me” (Audiobook Edition)

If you list a book with Forbidden Romance, you better drive that idea home for me. I wasn’t feeling it at all even if the idea in theory was something I loved.

Will I Finish It?

Not at all. I even read the synopsis for the sequel and I still couldn’t get excited for it.

My Audiobook Experience:

I have nothing critical to say about the audiobook. It was an easy listen.

Series Rating: DNF

Girls of Paper and Fire DNF | Girls of Storm and Shadow N/A | Book 3 N/A

overall

If you like fantasy novels that are more character driven and take the everyday approach, this is a great series for you.

Read if You Like: character driven fantasies
Avoid if You: want more action
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