Tag «Heat: Cool»

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?

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

Image result for aladdin gifs

–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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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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Single Sundays: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

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 Daughter of Deep Silence(from Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

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Author: Carrie Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Contemporary, Revenge
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Did you read that synopsis? I love a good revenge story. I just love the suspense and the anticipation that comes from righting the wrongs of the past. I also love a good conspiracy theory and this sounded like it had the potential to be great.

Also, it really reminded me of the TV show Revenge which I loved in the first season…and not so much later on. But, again, I loved the whole idea so I couldn’t wait to listen!

The Plot:

Have you ever read a book where you build up the big reveal to be this big epic thing only to find out that the truth is much less enthralling? That’s exactly what happened here for me. I built this book up to be something else and in the end, I was left disappointed.

Image result for revenge gifs

Let’s start with the revenge plot. The positive is that I like how everything gets started. I found the introduction to be thrilling and captured my attention. Learning what has happened to Frances and how she plans to learn the truth was great.

The unfortunate thing is that this book takes far to long to get things into motion. At the 50% Frances has maybe done 2 things to get her plan in motion and–while original–weren’t all that exciting. And for all her efforts, she really hasn’t learnt anything either. We don’t get an inkling of what the actual conspiracy is until the 72% mark so I couldn’t put the pieces together myself until that moment (and it gets a little spewed out all at once anyways).

Instead, the book focuses on Frances’ internal struggle to keep up her charade and enact her revenge. And I get why, she’s dealing with some heavy stuff and frankly, if she wasn’t conflicted about it I would worry for her sanity (though I do enjoy a dark heroine with no remorse on occasion). But, I find her worries become monotonous after awhile and I grew bored listening to her lament on and on about it all.

The Characters:

None of these characters are overly impressive to me.

As I said above, I can appreciate Frances’ struggle with what she is doing. Her struggle to maintain her true identity through it all is endearing. Everything is building up yet crumbling around her and it’s an interesting situation for a heroine to find herself in.

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The Romance:

I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be a fan of this given the circumstances. It’s young puppy love that gets built up into something more grandiose than it is because of the situation. Thankfully, it’s not a huge focus of the book. Rather, it is used as a device to move the plot forward and it’s utilized well enough when all is said an done.

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My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook was a great choice I think. I love how emotions are conveyed through audio and it helped me bring the story to life. I will admit that as my interested waned in the actual story I did bump the speed up to 1.25X and eventually 1.5X just to get things to go a little faster.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This book has a lot of potential but I felt like the focus wasn’t on what I wanted it to be. Instead we get a story more about the struggle for identity and what it means to need revenge than the actual taking of revenge. It entertained me but I didn’t love it by any means.

Read if You Like: more character based stories
Avoid if You: want a more thrilling revenge seeking story

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Fresh Fridays: Cursed (The Hunter Inside #1) by Casey M Millette

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:

The Hunter Inside Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Cursed (from Goodreads):

A war rages between kings and clans for centuries, their nations split and their kingdoms fallen. Caught in the midst of poverty and bedlam, twenty-year-old Aldor faces a choice. Should he leave home and start his life anew, or stay and protect what little he has?

Aldor has only made one friend in his life and has never seen a legendary creature before. As soon as he steps beyond his door, he finds himself an outlaw, hunted by creatures of pure fantasy.

Forced into joining a team of misfits in a race to recover a sacred, lost stone, Aldor finds unexpected friendships and adventure. But just as things start to look promising, disaster strikes, wielding the unexpected and the terrifying!

Aldor’s life will never be the same as he struggles with true feelings of fear, loss, love, and suffering for the very first time.

breakdown

Series: The Hunter Inside
Author: Casey M Millette
# of Books: 1 (Cursed, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult / Teen, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: March 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Casey M Millette!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Casey asked me if I wanted to read her debut novel (at the age of 16–impressive!) I wanted to give it a shot. I have a hit or miss relationship with adventure stories but the premise of dragons and magic is a lure too hard to resist!

What I Liked:

–The Lord of the Rings Vibes–

I think nearly all fantasy novels get compared to LOTR–it’s the gold standard I think–but I really could see how that story influenced Casey’s work here. Cursed has it’s own unique characters and plot but it is definitely reminiscent of LOTR. While Cursed may lack the considerable depth of LOTR, has the same prototype of a group of seemingly strangers following an unlikely hero as he completes an impossible quest. And that’s a lot of fun to read about when it is all said and done.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lack of Character Development–

I felt like the characters weren’t as developed as I would have liked so I didn’t really form any bonds with them. I think that’s a result of only getting Aldor’s POV for the longest time and getting a singular viewpoint of the events. The crew also doesn’t interact too much inside themselves so I missed that banter and tension between them. I love watching a group of people become a team and I felt that was lacking a little.

–Linear Plotline–

One of the biggest reasons I tend to not enjoy adventure novels is the delivery of the plot. I tend to get bored as the characters just mosey along to the final destination. Aldor and crew do go through a lot of interesting obstacles so I wasn’t bored in that sense. However, I did feel like there was a suspense lacking in the plot itself. I like a lot of things happening in my stories and I felt like the plot here tackled Problem A before Problem B is ever introduced so I felt like we were just going through the motions.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’d really like to see this group of people become more of a team. I love banter between teammates and that was only starting to come to the surface near the end. It would also be great to learn more about the various characters as well.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Cursed 2.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This is a classic case of a “just-not-for-me”. I think fans of fantasy adventure novels, particularly in the YA genre, will enjoy this debut.

Read if You Like: adventure stories, fantasy, LOTR
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dorothy Must Die (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

What happened? Dorothy.

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

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

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

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

breakdown

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

There are 9 prequel novellas. Full List Here.

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

When to read the Novellas?:

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

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

Series Rating: 4/5

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

overall

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

Read if You Like: the Wizard of Oz, magic based stories
Avoid if You: want more action, want more romance
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Blog Tour: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage (from Goodreads):

Two young people must hide their true feelings for each other while figuring out who means them harm in this cheeky Regency romance from the author of Love, Lies and Spies and Duels & Deception.

Shy aspiring artist Imogene Chively has just had a successful Season in London, complete with a suitor of her father’s approval. Imogene is ambivalent about the young gentleman until he comes to visit her at the Chively estate with his younger brother in tow. When her interest is piqued, however, it is for the wrong brother.

Charming Ben Steeple has a secret: despite being an architectural apprentice, he has no drawing aptitude. When Imogene offers to teach him, Ben is soon smitten by the young lady he considers his brother’s intended.

But hiding their true feelings becomes the least of their problems when, after a series of “accidents,” it becomes apparent that someone means Ben harm. And as their affection for each other grows—despite their efforts to remain just friends—so does the danger. . .

In Suitors and Sabotage, author Cindy Anstey delivers another witty young adult historical fiction novel that is the perfect mix of sweetly romantic and action-packed.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Kobo / B&N / iBooks

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s become a bit of a tradition on my blog that every April I take part in the blog tour for Cindy Anstey’s latest novel. She quickly became a must read author of mine when I read her debut novel, Love, Lies and Spies, thanks to is sweet romance and witty dialogue. It doesn’t hurt that she is a fellow Canadian either 😉

I was really excited when I read the synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage! I love historical fiction and Anstey writes fabulous YA stories as her previous novels can attest to. This book sounded like it would be filled with some great character chemistry and no doubt be utterly charming. I couldn’t wait to sit down and devour this!

The Plot:

This book was a lot of fun–and that’s not something that you would immediately think when you read the plot synopsis. I mean, someone is possibly trying to kill Ben and Ben is in love with the girl his brother is pursuing. Things could definitely take a turn for the dark but they never do and I think that’s where Anstey’s talent for writing shines the best. She has this ability to keep things light and captivating all the same.

I’ll get to the characters later but they honestly make this book. It wouldn’t be half as charming if it wasn’t for the cast of people Anstey has assembled to tell this story!

I did find that this book did suffer from a little too much filler at times. Not that I minded too much since I adored the characters and any scene they were in but I did find it dulled the suspense of the sabotage. The sabotage is more subtle than I anticipated it would be though it did bring excitement to the plot.

The Characters:

Honestly, the cast in this story is fabulous! Imogene is sweet and evolves before your eyes (I loved her character growth!). Ben will definitely steal your heart with his longing glances and kind intentions. But their friends and family are just as entertaining and genuine. Everyone contributes to this story in a way that takes it to the next level. They truly make this story!

The Romance:

Despite there being a bit of a love triangle/square situation happening, I couldn’t get enough of the romance! Again, this has to do with the great cast because I seriously loved everyone and hated to see anyone hurt. But you can’t deny the chemistry that lies between certain characters more than others. I love longing glances between characters and when the inner monologue drifts off as the character becomes absolutely smitten with the other. The romance here was simply perfect.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall
Honestly, Cindy Anstey is the bar when it comes to writing fantastic, entertaining YA historical fiction. She always has a fabulous blend of romance, danger and wit that I’ve yet to come across in another book. This one is definitely another win!

Read if You Like: historical YA fiction, witty banter, subtle suspence
Avoid if You: want more “in your face” romance

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Cindy Anstey

Whenever she is not sitting at the computer, throwing a ball in the backyard, gardening or reading, Cindy can be found–actually, not found–adventuring around the world with her hubby.

She has lived on three continents, had a monkey in her yard and a scorpion under her sink, dwelt among castles and canals, enjoyed the jazz of Beale St and attempted to speak French.

Cindy loves history, mystery and… a chocolate Labrador called Chester. Love, Lies and Spies is her debut novel.

Author Links: Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Blog Tour: Rules of Rebellion by Amity Cross

Synopsis for Rules of Rebellion (from Goodreads):

1. Skinny dip (her idea)
2. Prank someone (his idea)
3. Stargaze (her idea)
4. Kiss someone (his idea)

Leo Zimmerman has had a crush on his curvy best friend Kylie Jenkins since forever, so When he discovers the girl with a flair for baking has a newfound plan to rebel against her overbearing parents, he’s determined to be the one to help her carry it out. Who better than a self-proclaimed rebel like himself to show her the ropes of letting loose?

Sure, taking her to her first high school party, helping her sneak out of the house, or watching a sunset together isn’t exactly a hardship, but much harder is masking his feelings the more time they spend together. And when he suggests adding “kiss a boy” to Kylie’s plan and she accepts…suddenly all his dreams seem to be coming true.

But Leo’s got a secret that could change everything between them, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes to the surface.

breakdown

Series?: This is a Spin-Off of The Rules of Persuasion
Author: Amity Cross
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date:  April 2, 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC  |  Thank you Entangled Publishing!

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Entangled Publishing

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

For a girl who used to be afraid of the YA contemporary genre, I’ve been hitting all the right notes lately! I couldn’t resist signing myself up for this book when I read the synopsis. I’m a sucker for “secretly in love with” scenario–especially in high school settings–and I loved the idea of Kylie and Leo completing a high school bucket list of sorts. So I couldn’t wait to read this!

The Plot:

I think the synopsis is a touch misleading because it implies that Kylie and Leo are already good friends–or at least that’s how I read it. It’s more like they are within the same friend group but don’t know that much about each other. Which honestly, just makes this story even sweeter because you get to see them form that deeper bond of friendship…and watch it bloom into something else.

The pacing for this novel was fabulous. It simply strikes the right balance between romance, character growth, the “to-do” list plot as well as the “big secret”. I’ll admit, I had totally guessed that secret wrong so I liked the twist that provided as well.

The Characters:

What I love about Kylie and Leo is that they are genuine people. They have big hearts, care about their families and are just nice people. You really want them to succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish in this story.

But they are also human and have their flaws. It was great watching them grow a little more confident in themselves as the story progressed thanks to their relationship. They both have some solid character development throughout the story and I always like to see that in my YA contemporaries.

The Romance:

Well, I found myself a new book boyfriend with Leo! Swoon! He was just adorable and immediately stole my heart by the end of his first POV chapter. He is so in love with Kylie and watching him try to win her over was as sweet as it was fun.

The romance here was positively charming and everything I wanted it to be when I picked this novel up.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This book will definitely melt your heart and put a smile on your face!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, swoon-worthy heroes
Avoid if You: want a darker story

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Amity Cross

Amity lives in beautiful northern Minnesota with her two sons, two cats and their Rottweiler.

She has a degree in elementary education and worked in that field for ten years before deciding to self-publish.

Her first self-published novel, Twisted, was listed by Amazon as a Top 100 Kids & Teens Kindle Book of 2012. It hit Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance Best Sellers List in several countries. Truths and Dares held the #1 position on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance eBooks in the UK.

If she’s not writing or spending time with her boys, she’s most likely reading.

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

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