Tag «Heat: Cool»

Heat Rating – this is rating the sexual content of the book
Cold / Cool – maybe a chaste kiss; no descriptions
Warm – sexual references; a little description
Really Warm / Toastysexual references; described; no more than 3 scenes
Hot – a sexual scene is mentioned and described fully (4+)
Steamy/Smokin’ – sex scenes in all their glory and in numerous quantities
*Spicy YA* – the sexual content is more descriptive than your usual YA fare

Fresh Fridays: Furyborn (Empirium #1) by Claire Legrand

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:

Empirium Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Furyborn (from Goodreads):

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable—until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world—and of each other.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love
Series: Empirium
Author: Claire Legrand
# of Books: 3 (Furyborn, Book 2, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 to be published in 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 22, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks for granting my wish Sourcebooks Fire!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had requested a review copy on Netgalley but was declined. So imagine my surprise when a week later, I get an email saying my wish was granted to get an advance copy! YAY!

I was really eager to get my hands on this book for many reasons. One, I loved the concept of two girls centuries apart tied together by some prophecy. Two, I loved that these girls were kick-butt, fierce fighters. Three, I loved the cover. Four, I needed a new fantasy series in my life.

Unfortunately, it took me a long time to get my hands on this book even though I had a copy wayyy in advance. I’ve never let a book go that long on Netgalley in my life. But other early reviews had me scared to pick this up as they were rather polarizing and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I did pick it up.

What I Liked:

–Rielle’s Backstory–

The Rielle we meet in the prologue is nothing like the Rielle we meet in the first chapter of her POV. So how did she evolve to be that way? What happens during the trials to get to this point? That had me eager to find out more and pressed me to keep reading.

(Though read more below to find out why this also backfires as the same time)

–Sex Positive–

I know that sex in YA is a controversial topic to some degree but I really liked how sex positive this story was. You’ll see this book touted as having a bi-sexual lead but that wasn’t overly apparent to me (I think there is like one line that alludes to some flirting with another girl?). Nevertheless, any book that can weave that in seamlessly is a winner.

What I did like was that these characters have sex and talk about it and how to have it safely. You don’t see that a lot in YA. Yes, the sex scenes are more descriptive than your usual YA material but it alludes more to the act than actually describing it.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Lack of World-Building–

For the first 20% of this book, I contemplated DNFing it. I just felt so lost in everything that was happening. Like what where these powers Rielle had? How does this world even work? Are there actually angels? I just didn’t know how anything functioned in this world. I felt like I picked up Book 2 in a series where I am expected to already know the basics.

However, once the actual plot of the novel starts, I found myself forgetting about how the world worked and concentrating on the drama that was unfolding. Sure enough, things do start to get explained to you so I found myself getting more comfortable with what was happening.

–Lack of Suspense Thanks to the Prologue–

It’s the last line of the synopsis, “the shocking connections between them” that had me curious. I love that type of suspense where you know there is something bigger going on but it doesn’t reveal itself until later. But in this case, we know the big connection between the two by the end of the prologue…talk about a buzz kill! Perhaps it isn’t said outright but it doesn’t take much to put two and two together. So I found that dampened some of my excitement moving forward.

It’s the same situation with Rielle and her trials. Given the nature of this story (one told in the past and one in the future), you generally know how Rielle’s story goes (especially when you start with the Prologue) and so that anticipation of wondering what will happen in each trial becomes a bit of a mute point.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

When I finished this book, I decided I was going to be on the fence about picking up the sequel (meaning I was going to wait and read the synopsis for Book 2 before I decided). But as I was writing my review, I downgraded my rating from a 3, to a 2.5 and then to a 2 because I didn’t have too many positive things to say. And I also felt satisfied in terms closure with these characters. My major questions were answered and I have a good idea of where things are going and it just doesn’t interest me.

My Rating: DNF

Furyborn 2/5 | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

The lack of world-building at the start of the story followed by some very obvious clues early on can make this story duller than it should be at times. But, it very slowly lays down the foundation for some potentially intriguing sequels if things are done differently in the future.

Read if You Like: alternating POVs, good characters that go “bad”
Avoid if You: need strong world-building early on, want more suspense

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Series Review: A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

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 A Wicked Thing (from Goodreads):

Rhiannon Thomas’s dazzling debut novel is a spellbinding reimagining of Sleeping Beauty and what happens after happily ever after.

One hundred years after falling asleep, Princess Aurora wakes up to the kiss of a handsome prince and a broken kingdom that has been dreaming of her return. All the books say that she should be living happily ever after. But as Aurora understands all too well, the truth is nothing like the fairy tale.

Her family is long dead. Her “true love” is a kind stranger. And her whole life has been planned out by political foes while she slept.

As Aurora struggles to make sense of her new world, she begins to fear that the curse has left its mark on her, a fiery and dangerous thing that might be as wicked as the witch who once ensnared her. With her wedding day drawing near, Aurora must make the ultimate decision on how to save her kingdom: marry the prince or run.

Rhiannon Thomas weaves together vivid scenes of action, romance, and gorgeous gowns to reveal a richly imagined world … and Sleeping Beauty as she’s never been seen before.

breakdown

Series: A Wicked Thing
Author: Rhiannon Thomas
# of Books: 2 (A Wicked Thing, A Kingdom of Ashes)
Book Order: Chronologocal
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales Retellings
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2015 – 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As I’ve said many times before, my favourite fairy tale princess is Sleeping Beauty. Why? I’m not sure because her damsel in distress situation is one I don’t enjoy (I hate when the heroine has to wait for a hero to save her). I think it’s because I love the Disney movie and its beautiful animation.

But in the same breath, I love seeing what other authors will do with the story in various retellings. So I was curious to see what this one was all about; in particular, the focus on HEA.

The Concept / The World:

What I really enjoyed about this story was that it focused on what happens after Aurora wakes up. She finds herself in a world she doesn’t know and one where she is a pawn in schemes she doesn’t fully understand. Watching her navigate this new political world and coming to grips with the fact that everyone she has ever known is dead, was an interesting take. I don’t think it was used to its full advantage but it was an element at play.

And like I say with most retellings: forget the Disney version! You’ll always end up a little disappointed because the Disney version is just a retelling of the origin story and not the source material.

The Plot:

Have you ever read a book where everything seems to be happening around the lead and the lead just seems to sit there and take it? That’s how I felt for 90% of A Wicked Thing. Aurora did absolutely nothing and I get why. She is literally in a world where she knows no one and it’s not like anyone is telling her what is happening either. It’s hard to do anything when you don’t know what is going on yourself. But it was just frustrating as a reader because she’d get these little moments of courage and then they would fizzle out.

This story needed something else to keep it going. I feel like so much time is wasted in both novels rehashing everything we’ve previously encountered. With so many people wanting things from Aurora, it should be a more suspenseful read than it actually is. But it takes Aurora nearly the entire 2 novels to finally get the backbone to do something and by then it is far to late to keep me invested.

The Dialogue:

When I contemplated DNFing A Wicked Thing, I read a few reviews on Goodreads and quite a few mentioned the dialogue. I definitely see where they are coming from after reading this. One of the contributing factors is that they don’t use contractions in the narration. It’s just not the way we talk (I mean look at how many I’ve used in this review so far) so it comes across as stiff.

But Aurora isn’t saying anything inspiring or profound either. No one is. So everything comes across as flat and it does dampen the reading experience at times.

The Characters:

Aurora was extremely dull. Like I said, I get why she lacks the confidence–I would act the same way if I woke up 100 years in the future. But I wish she gained the confidence a hell of a lot earlier than the 90% in A Wicked Thing.

The rest of the cast is kinda “meh”. I didn’t gravitate towards anyone but I think that’s because we don’t get to delve deeper into anyone’s character.

The Romance:

Three love interests is wayyyyy too much for me. And when you have an uninspiring heroine like Aurora, it’s hard to get the appeal of her for the potential suitors. I guess you can say I never picked a “team” to cheer for.

However, I will say that I like that the romance wasn’t the sole focus of this series. Other things are at play and this series could have easily been about Aurora and her “true love” and not the world she lives in.

My Audiobook Experience:

I don’t have anything against the audiobook production because you can only do so much when your source material isn’t fabulous. However, I will say that I found the dialogue delivery to be super slow. See, I’m not one to speed up the audiobook but I had to with a Kingdom of Ashes because it had a glacial pace. I first bumped it up to 1.25X and then 1.5X and the crazy thing is that the dialogue sounded much more natural at this faster pace! It was so much easier to listen to and stopped the awkwardness of the narration.

Series Rating: 2/5

A Wicked Thing 2.5/5 | A Kingdom of Ashes  2/5

overall

I’m still in search of that great Sleeping Beauty retelling. This one was terribly dull and too basic for my tastes.

Read if You Like: sleeping beauty, slow stories
Avoid if You: want action, want more romance
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Single Sundays: Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

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 Hotel Ruby (from Goodreads):

Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

breakdown

Author: Suzanne Young
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this book on my TBR after seeing a “Waiting on Wednesday” post by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books  all the way back in September 2015! At that point, I had read Young’s first two novels in The Program Series and didn’t totally enjoy them. However, I loved the concept of the Hotel Ruby and quickly marked it on Goodreads.

Like many TBR books, I didn’t get to read it until years later and I saw my library had an audiobook copy. By this point, I had seen quite a few mixed reviews so I went in with somewhat lower expectations but an eagerness to uncover just what exactly is happening at the mysterious Hotel Ruby.

The Concept:

I always enjoy the idea of a “mysterious building”. (Like The Hollywood Tower of Terror anyone?). I really became enthralled by the Hotel Ruby and its mystery. I enjoyed the opulence of it all and the intriguing cast of characters. You definitely got the vibe that there was something creepy about this place.

The Plot:

I figured out the plot pretty early into the book–just before the 20% mark–though I wonder if that was its intention with the little eggs planted along the way? Regardless, there were a few links I was missing so I was interested in seeing how it all played out. I think I had bigger expectations than what I got in the end but I still really loved the whole concept of this novel even if the execution was lacking for me.

The Characters:

Audrey was a complete diva in my mind. Both her inner monologues and outer dialogues are very “ME ME ME” and it just irritated me. I mean, I get her frustration with the lack of an invitation but she was far too dramatic than I like my heroines to be.

The rest of the cast does their job well. The hotel staff and guests were particularly mysterious and that captured my attention throughout.

The Romance:

Elias is a pretty one dimensional character. He came across as such a cliché to me; simply saying all the right things at the right time. I get the allure of a mysterious rich boy but I did not get what was so swoon-worthy about him. I think the two talk a handful of times (I think they might dance more than they talk) before Audrey finds herself in love and wanting to change everything about her life–even while knowing (and saying) the whole thing is ridiculous. Ugh.

It’s a shame too that this becomes one of the main focuses of the novel and distracts from the larger story. I also think it stifles some of Audrey’s character development because she becomes to enamored with this romance and not much else.

My Audiobook Experience:

Well, I’ll just say I wasn’t overly impressed with the audiobook. I’m glad this wasn’t a book I started my audiobook experience with. I absolutely hated the way the narrator portrayed the male voices–in particular, Elias’ voice. I know it’s hard for a female to change their range to voice a male character and have multiple unique sounding ones for a single production. I totally get that. But it just threw off the entire tone of the novel for me and made me instantly dislike Elias’ character.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

For me this was a classic case of “great idea, not the best execution”. I struggled to connect to the main characters and their romance, while craving more from the plot but I enjoyed the overall vibe of this novel. I think Suzanne Young fans will like this well enough but I think others might want a little more from it.

Read if You Like: basic mysteries, more romance focused novels
Avoid if You: get annoyed by heroines easily
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Single Sundays: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

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 Velvet Undercover (from Goodreads):

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

breakdown

Author: Teri Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Thriller, Espionage, WWI
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good espionage story and I’ve read some great ones set in WWI. I’m not sure how this one crossed my radar (I’ve noted it was from another blog but this was before I noted the blogs–doh!) but I was excited to see how this would unfold.

The Concept / The World:

I loved how each chapter started by defining an espionage term. Quite a few I knew but others I hadn’t so that was a great way to get into the story. Sam isn’t just playing spy here. The stakes are high and it is a matter of life and death for her.
It doesn’t dwell too much on the history of the time, just enough to give you the importance of the situation and help you identify the point of time. However, I wasn’t reading this for the history necessarily. I was more interested in the spy elements so it wasn’t a major issue for me.

The Plot:

I enjoyed the suspense of Sam’s mission. There were so many unknowns that it kept me hooked. The story just gets more convoluted as you go. However, we never dwell too long on anything. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. It isn’t an overly complicated spy story but it also just scratches the surface of the potential story it could have. So while it kept my attention, I craved more.
I also thought that identity of her target was super predictable. I had guessed it pretty early on and while I did waver slightly as the story evolves, I was proven right. That being said, there were a few twists that I didn’t expect so that impressed me.

The Characters:

I liked Sam as a lead. She’s smart yet flawed and it was interesting to see how she evolved as a spy and character.
I also liked how everyone has their own mystery to them that only gets uncovered as you read more about them. It added a little suspense to the story because you weren’t sure who you could and couldn’t trust.

The Romance:

Definitely the weakest part of the story due to its superficial nature. Given the “forbidden” nature  of it, it could have had more tension. It isn’t a huge aspect to the story but it plays enough of a role to interfere with the plot at times.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

Despite some of its flaws, this story is definitely enjoyable! It’s fast and always evolving so readers will no doubt be entertained though they might crave a little more.

Read if You Like: espionage novels, women in WWI
Avoid if You: a true espionage thriller
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Series Review: The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer

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 Inventor’s Secret (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Charlotte and her fellow refugees have scraped out an existence on the edge of Britain’s industrial empire. Though they live by the skin of their teeth they have their health (at least when they can find enough food and avoid the Imperial Labor Gatherers) and each other. When a new exile with no memory of his escape from the coastal cities or even his own name seeks shelter in their camp he brings new dangers with him and secrets about the terrible future that awaits all those who have struggled has to live free of the bonds of the empire’s Machineworks.

The Inventor’s Secret is the first book of a YA steampunk series set in an alternate nineteenth-century North America where the Revolutionary War never took place and the British Empire has expanded into a global juggernaut propelled by marvelous and horrible machinery.

breakdown

Series: The Inventor’s Secret Trilogy
Author: Andrea Cremer
# of Books: 3 (The Inventor’s Secret, The Conjurer’s Riddle, The Turncoat’s Gambit)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Alternate History, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2014 – November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found out about this series when my library added the second book and my eye was immediately drawn to the cover. I noticed that it was by Andrea Cremer, who wrote the series Nightshade–a series that I didn’t totally love but still enjoyed. She’s a good writer–I just hated the heroine and love interest in that particular series. But this was a steampunk series which is the ultimate kryptonite for me and so I marked it on my wishlist.

I then forgot about this series until I was browsing audiobooks to read and decided this would make for a great audiobook adventure!

The Concept / The World:

I absolutely adored the alternate history aspect of this novel. A world where the American Revolution never succeeded? What a concept! It gives this world a rich background and a unique setting that captured my full attention.

The only downside of this world is that the Steampunk elements never really take off and shine. Honestly, if I didn’t read the “steampunk” tag on Goodreads, I wouldn’t have necessarily labeled The Inventor’s Secret as steampunk. There are some token elements but they play such a minor role that they could easily be written off as a product of the alternate history aspect rather than steampunk. The steampunk does become a little more apparent in the later books but not enough for someone looking for a true steampunk epic.

The Plot:

I will admit, I had no idea what the plot for this series would be. I thought it would be more of a steampunk adventure (I mean you have a group of exile teens living in the catacombs so obviously there is something bigger at play) but that isn’t the case. For one thing, there is a lot more talking than physical action and there is more of a focus on the romance than not (especially in The Inventor’s Secret). It gives this story a lighter feel that I still found to be entertaining just not overly grand.

I also found The Inventor’s Secret to be terribly predictable. None of the “big” twists surprised me because I could see them a mile away. Nonetheless, I was still interested in seeing how everything would play out. The final book, The Turncoat’s Gambit has a few unexpected twists so that was great.

I think the biggest problem with this series is that nothing ever gets elaborated on. Whether that is an attempt to create some mysticism or suspense, I don’t know but it doesn’t really accomplish anything. We get these inklings of bigger issues but it just seems like Charlotte and company just take everything in stride without necessarily delving deeper.

The Characters:

I really loved the cast of characters here! While Charlotte is a little forgettable/dull in The Inventor’s Secret, I could see the potential early on for her development/growth. So I was eager to see her become this respectable heroine and watch her journey. And she does grow up and get a little smarter as the series goes on which is nice to see.

The rest of the cast plays their roles well. I found myself drawn to the various side characters and their relationships. You just really connect with this somewhat ragtag team of teens as they try to navigate this dangerous and intriguing world.

The Romance:

This played a larger role than I anticipated in The Inventor’s Secret given the synopsis but once I started reading, I knew it would be a bigger focus. It’s a bit of a love triangle at the start but I like that it isn’t the sole focus as the series progresses. Other things are at play during the romantic moments of the first book and those take more of the center stage later. And you have all the subplot romances as well so there is always something brewing.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m so glad I picked this up as an audiobook! The narration is fabulous and it felt like you were listening to a TV show. It was super easy to visualize things and I always love it when a narrator gives each character a unique voice.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Inventor’s Secret 3.5/5 | The Conjurer’s Riddle 3/5 | The Turncoat’s Gambit 4/5

overall

The plot isn’t anything groundbreaking but it’s entertaining and always had my full attention. I enjoyed the adventure this group of people takes in this super cool world.

Read if You Like: like romance, alternate history setting
Avoid if You: want a steampunk adventure

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Novella Serial Reviews: Past Life Chronicles by C K Brooke

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Past-Life Chronicles: Volume 1 (from Goodreads):

My name is Willow Raven Solomon, and I hate cars. I suffer from a phobia no one’s been able to cure. Part of that is because we don’t know the origin. My only clue is a chronic nightmare that’s haunted me since I was a child, of an auto accident I was never in.

My Wiccan mom and her friends think it’s past-life related. While I may have been raised by a witch, I don’t know a lot about reincarnation. A cute hypnotherapist is helping me navigate it. But my stepbrother in med school is skeptical. Somehow, he’s part of the puzzle too – they both are.

As I dig deeper, I’m finding more questions I’d never thought to ask. What if my fear originated not with me, but with someone else? What if my nightmare isn’t just a dream?

What if it’s a memory, from another time, another place…another me?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Past Life Chronicles
Author: C K Brooke
# of Parts: 2
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Supernatural, Mystery, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: January – March 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you C K Brooke!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

C K Brooke always has the coolest story concepts. So while I was drawn in by that AMAZING cover, I love a good mystery! I couldn’t wait to uncover Willow’s past life and find out why she hates cars.

The Concept:

I’m always a little hesitant to read stories featuring witches. I rarely enjoy them (there’s just something about the magic that irritates me) so I was a little worried when it mentions that Willow’s mom is a Wiccan because I thought this might focus on witches. But I worried for nothing because it is not a huge aspect to this story in the slightest. This series is all about Willow rediscovering her past and putting the pieces together. 

I really enjoyed the overall message of the book and moving on from the past. It was nice to explore that idea of reincarnation and why souls might return to the earth. But more importantly, I liked that it focused on the “what happens after” they figure it out. I like a book that makes me think and after I finished reading, I wondered what I would do if I had been in Willow’s shoes.

The Plot:

I had a lot of fun trying to solve the mystery as the clues come in. I love stories that always keep my guessing and changing my theories as they get more evolved.

I will say that in the middle of Volume 1, I felt like things got a little mundane. In a shorter story like this, I don’t like dwelling on stuff that seems routine and common. However, once I finished Volume 1, I could see that there was a reason for that focus and it built the anticipation nicely for Volume 2.

Volume 2 kept the pace throughout and had my full attention. It was nice to see everything come together and get the answers we’d been looking for. While I had my own theories, there were certain aspects that surprised me and made me think.

The Characters:

Willow is a great lead for this series. She’s got a good heart and it shows throughout the volumes. You really want her to solve this problem and find peace. I also loved her commitment to her family and how she was open to accepting their beliefs even if they differed from hers.

Everyone else is well developed and unique. They all contribute positively to this story.

The Romance:

In some ways this fell a little flat for me. I didn’t mind the bit of a love triangle we get because I could see how it served a bigger purpose. I just found that the two options didn’t share as much chemistry with her as I wanted in the first volume. I’d say the romance in the second volume was much stronger. I started to see why she was drawn to each of them.

Unfortunately, another reviewer spoiled the love triangle reveal for me so that took away some of the anticipation. PSA to all reviewers: Mark spoilers in your reviews! And that’s a shame because that part of the series always had me guessing (but not in annoying way if you know what I’m trying to say).

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

If you want a refreshing YA read, check this series out! It had its fun moments as well as some serious ones as well. It made me think and I always love when a book can do that!

Read if You Like: shorter stories, mysteries, past-lives
Avoid if You: want more complex story and characters

similarreads

  • The Hollow by Jessica Verday (The Hollow Trilogy #1)
  • Swoon by Nina Malkin (Swoon Series #1)

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Single Sundays: Watching You by Shannon Greenland

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 Watching You (from Goodreads):

Viola’s always been that girl from that family, so a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Florida was supposed to be her ticket out of poverty and into a brand-new life. But Viola’s secrets have followed her. Her relationship with the intelligent and gorgeous Riel should have been the salvation she needed—he understands her troubled past better than anyone. But then weird things start to happen.

Frightening messages.

Missing personal items.

The unsettling feeling that she’s being watched.

Viola’s never been one to give her trust easily, but she’ll need to trust in Riel if she’s going to survive her stalker. Because she’s not fighting for a new life anymore—she’s fighting to stay alive.

breakdown

Author: Shannon Greenland
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2, 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been keeping an eye out for Shannon Greenland’s other works since I read (and loved) Shadow of a Girl last year. That story was so refreshing and I enjoyed her writing style. I’m always on the lookout for a solid suspense thriller so this seemed like a no brainer for me to try.

The Concept:

I think the synopsis is slightly misleading. It makes it sound as if Viola is actively trying to resolve her stalker issue (with the help of Riel) and that is far from the case. Instead, we go through the motions of Viola’s everyday life with the occasional interference from her stalker. So I would classify this as a contemporary romance with a minor suspense aspect to it.

The Plot:

I thought the stalker aspect was well done in terms of their mysterious identity. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing so I enjoyed that unpredictable aspect.

I also enjoyed the brief chapters we get from the stalker as well; it added to the atmosphere and raised the stakes.

The Characters:

I liked Viola’s drive to succeed. She goes for what she wants and I liked that. I also appreciated the fact that she grew as a character when her own secrets get the better of her. It gives this story the “coming-of-age” aspect which is always nice to see in a YA romance.

I also really liked Riel. He was an interesting character to learn more about and I really liked what we saw as the story progressed.

The Romance:

I think this was definitely the main focus of the book–which is totally OK because it was super cute! These two have a great slow burn romance to their relationship and I loved watching them get to know each other. My favourite romances are the ones that are unexpected for the characters. When they find themselves with someone they never anticipated and that’s what happens here a bit.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

This one resulted in some mixed reactions for me though thanks to the expectations I had going into it and not getting exactly what I anticipated. Those looking for a contemporary romance with a dash of suspense (a la Sara Shepard) will enjoy this but those who want an outright thriller will want to look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: YA romances, contemporary
Avoid if You: wanted a true thriller
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Series Review: Twisted Tales by Liz Braswell

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 A Whole New World (from Goodreads):

Welcome to a new YA series that reimagines classic Disney stories in surprising new ways. Each book asks the question: What if one key moment from a familiar Disney film was changed? This dark and daring version of Aladdin twists the original story with the question: What if Jafar was the first one to summon the Genie?

When Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, he uses his first two wishes to become sultan and the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Agrabah lives in fear, waiting for his third and final wish.To stop the power-mad ruler, Aladdin and the deposed Princess Jasmine must unite the people of Agrabah in rebellion. But soon their fight for freedom threatens to tear the kingdom apart in a costly civil war.

What happens next? A Street Rat becomes a leader. A princess becomes a revolutionary. And readers will never look at the story of Aladdin in the same way again.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Worst Read 2018
Series: Twisted Tales
Author: Liz Braswell (Books 1-3); Elizabeth Lim (Book 4)
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalones
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: September 2015 – March 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I have only read the first book (A Whole New World) in this series. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a Disney kid. I grew up watching all the movies; I’ve been to Disney World many, many times; and I’ve never lost a game of Disney Scene It in my life. So a series that reimagines the classic Disney movies? Hell yes.

Truthfully, I forgot about this series. I think I might have had it marked on my TBR but cleared it when I did a massive purge last year. Anyways, I found the audiobook for A Whole New World one day at my library as an “Available Now” title. The title captured my attention (immediately I thought of the song) and then I remembered this book and the series. I didn’t have it marked on Goodreads but that didn’t matter. I even berrated myself for not having an Aladdin retelling (my all-time favourite Disney movie) on my TBR. So I picked it up, started it on my way to work and promptly asked myself why.

This is one of those times I should have read the reviews to know what I was getting myself into.

Read Carefully: The Series Title is “Twisted” Tales

Retellings are a funny thing. You need to have enough new content to impress readers but pay enough homage to the source material as to not piss them off. It’s a delicate thing to do. Often times you get the basis of the original tale but a completely new story and setting (ex Lunar Chronicles). Other times, you expand the inaugural tale and fill in some of the gaps (ex Tiger Lily).

So you need to expect some changes with a retelling. This isn’t the story you’ve watched for years. It starts that way but it transforms (“twists” if you will) into something else that you may not recognize. That means characters aren’t going to be like you remember (or perhaps want) and events are going to change. I think that’s important to remember because it is so easy to compare these stories to their source material and end up disappointed.

What I Liked:

–Jasmine Gets More Time With the Genie–

I love the Genie for a lot of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is his ability to show us our humanity and the faults that lie within it. Wishing for things versus the reality of those things is something that he emphasizes throughout the movie. He does that a bit here too by sharing his backstory with Jasmine and how his role as a Genie isn’t what he thought it was going to be.

While I love all the scenes Aladdin and Genie share in the movie, it was nice to see Jasmine get that time with the Genie. Her character at the start of this novel wasn’t winning me over in the slightest. I found her conversations with the Genie provided her with a taste of character growth and development. He is the wise old sage that teaches her the ways of the world in a way that Jasmine doesn’t really get much in the movie. It was nice to see her get in touch with reality.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The First 25% is a Play-by-Play of the Movie–

I mean, it was nice to set the scene and all but I found it boring to reiterate scenes I’ve had ingrained in the membrane for years.

–Most of the “Twists”–

Yes yes, Lauren read the message you posted up top about changes being necessary in a retelling. My problem isn’t that they changed events or characters, my problem is how this affects the core of what Aladdin is as a story. The twists here just seemed so out of place to me and didn’t benefit the overall message of the story.

>>Read my Spoilers Post (June 27) for more information on that here!

–A Lot of Telling, Not so Much Showing–

I found my interest quickly waned in this book. It’s a lot of dialogue between the characters and a lot of assumptive-explanations. Why is Jafar acting like this? The answer is a speculation made by Jasmine and never from Jafar himself.

Time passes oddly in this book once the rebellion begins and I just found I didn’t care by the end.

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–Very Little Character Growth–

Retellings provide ample opportunity to flesh out the characters. Considering Jasmine and Aladdin are characters in a 1.5 hour movie, you could do so much with them in a full novel. The same can be said about Jafar. Instead, these characters are left with their basic shells in order to get the story across. I feel like there was a big missed opportunity with this story.

Will I Finish It?

This time, I looked at the reviews of the other novels and see that they feature many of the same issues as this one. So at this time, I’m going to leave this series as is.

Series Rating: DNF

A Whole New World 1.5/5

overall

Watch the movie. There are much better retellings for stories out there.

Read if You Like: different retellings
Avoid if You: want more substance
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Single Sundays: Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson

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 Tiger Lily (from Goodreads):

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair…

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

breakdown

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Teen, Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: July 3, 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I came across this book at my local library when I was getting into eReading in 2012. I’m really only familiar with the Disney version of Peter Pan but Tiger Lily is a character that we only see a flash of and it’s in a slightly negative light. So I was curious to see what her story was and learn a bit more about her.

Of course, I never got around to this story. I blame my focus on book series for this blog a bit since standalones get a lower priority. So that was why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2017.

The Concept / The World:

I wouldn’t say this is a retelling but more so an origin story. The introduction of Wendy really doesn’t happen until well after the 80% mark so you spend most of the time learning about Tiger Lily’s home life and how she met Peter. It’s like a prequel to the events of Peter Pan.

I truly struggled with forgetting the Disney Peter Pan story and remembering that a retelling will change things. You get inklings of common story themes (Hook, the crocodile, mermaids) but things change (like how people get to Neverland, etc)–that’s the point of a retelling. It manipulates what you know to show you a new perspective.

I also thought it was interesting that the novel is narrated by Tinkerbell. It provides some good insight for why Tink is often a pest to Wendy and others.

Also–maybe it’s just me–but this book felt “weird” to me. I mean, the whole premise of Neverland is an odd one (and I like that this one addressed why some people were older and some were forever young) but I really struggled with understanding what exactly was happening. Everything just seemed “odd” to me.

The Plot:

I definitely read the synopsis and interpreted it wrong. I thought the story would focus a bit more on Wendy’s arrival and how Tiger Lily deals with that. But like I said above, that only happens in the last quarter of the book.

For the most part, I felt like this book didn’t have much of a plot. The first 20% jumps all over the place talking about past stories and current situations. And then you get Tiger Lily living her life and struggling with her relationship with Peter and her family. I think I wanted more drama than the mundane everyday life moments. It just didn’t capture my attention like I wanted it to.

The Characters:

I find origin stories often focus on the mundane but what really makes them are the characters (Blackhearts is a great example of that, where the story is slower but you just fall in love with the characters).

Unfortunately here, the characters fell flat to me.

I went into this really wanting to like Tiger Lily. She’s such an enigma of a character to me and I wanted to see her in a new light. But I just felt indifferent to her. I couldn’t get a good read on her character (perhaps because we get everything through Tinkerbell who develops a bias?) and that stopped me from getting total invested.

Peter was annoying–I mean what type of maturity did I expect from a boy who never grows up?–and I felt like Tiger Lily could do better.

Understanding Tinkerbell was a highlight though–I almost wish this was called “Tinkerbell” instead.

The Romance:

Like I said, I wasn’t feeling the love between Tiger Lily and Peter. When I don’t like the two characters, I don’t like the romance between them. I also didn’t get the draw of Tiger Lily. Everyone seemed to be in love with her and I didn’t get why.

My Audiobook Experience:

This was a book I probably should have read as a physical book because I could have benefited from page breaks. The start jumps around a lot between past and present and I found myself getting lost. And having the third but first person POV with Tink made it hard to follow at times.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

This book was a huge let down. I feel like my expectations and what the story actual was were polar opposites. If you plan on reading it, know that Wendy Darling doesn’t play that big a role in the story despite what the synopsis implies.

Read if You Like: Peter Pan retellings, slower stories
Avoid if You: want action, want all consuming romance
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Series Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rebel Belle (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Series Rating: 4/5

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

overall

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

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

similarreads

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

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