Tag «Heat: Warm»

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

Single Sundays: Valentine Charms by Anne McAllister

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 Valentine Charms (from Goodreads):

Twenty-three second graders were on a mission!

Her students were convinced Jane Kitto needed a man in her life. A ‘real man’ – not the Secret Admirer who had, every Valentine’s Day for years, sent her a tiny charm. Jane appreciated their enthusiasm, but not their choice. Football star Zack Stoner was the last man on earth she’d fall for. Handsome as sin, tough as nails, and more appealing than she wanted to admit, Zack made Jane want things she never imagined wanting–with him.

Zack Stoner had never forgotten Jane. When they were younger, he’d been confused, unnerved and fascinated by the sweet and generous Jane. It wasn’t all that different now, except he was a man, and knew he wanted her. But would Jane take a chance with someone like him?

Twenty-three cupids said yes.

breakdown

Author: Anne McAllister
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 1, 2018
Source & Format: LibraryThing Early Reviewers–eBook | Thank you so much Tule Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

How cute is that synopsis?! I thought it was pretty adorable which is why I put my name in for a copy over at LibraryThing for a review copy. I thought it was fun that the kids were so invested in their teacher’s love life. I also love the idea of a “loved you forever” type of second chance romance.

The Concept:

To be honest, I thought the kids were more involved with the matchmaking process. I’m not sure how they could pull that off (lock them in a classroom? write notes?), but I thought they’d have more of a hand in getting these two to finally realize their feelings. They really don’t which is a shame because the kids were definitely a highlight for me. They were so charming and they stole ever scene they were in.

The Plot:

While the story is pretty predictable I still enjoyed watching these two slowly come together. It was a sweet slow burn romance which is exactly what I wanted. Again, I would have liked more scenes with the kids but there’s enough going on to keep the story moving at all times.

The Characters:

I really liked these two! They both have some solid character development throughout the novel which is always a nice touch. We get to see some of their shared histories in the past so it was interesting to see how those particular moments influenced them going forward. I felt like they were very well rounded characters.

The Romance:

While these two shared some great chemistry, I needed a little more to convince me that they truly loved each other and not just the idea of each other. What foundations did they have to establish such an emotional connected based on a few interactions as children? We do get a few of those moments as the story progressed but I craved a little more.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This is a sweet romance that will capture your heart from start to finish!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, quicker reads
Avoid if You: want erotica

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Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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:

Rule Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rule (from Goodreads):

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

breakdown

Series: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlet
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Rise, to be released June 2019
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I won’t lie, it was the cover that drew me into this read. I was browsing my library’s new additions when I scrolled across this one. I actually checked out the hardcover from my library but never got around to it. But the premise was promising. I love the drama and secrets of Pretty Little Liars (well, the TV show at least; I never read the books) and Three Dark Crowns won me over with its sequel so I was optomistic I would enjoy this one.

What I Liked:

–Multiple POVs–

I love books that follow multiple characters. I find it gives the novel a 360-degree view of everything that is happening and keeps the story moving. Even if you don’t enjoy one POV, at least you have some others to look forward to.

–Diverse Cast–

When books mimic real life (especially by highlighting prejudices and the like) I’m always invested. This book has quite the group of characters. All the girls come from different family styles, races and castes (travelers, maids, etc). You’ve also got characters that are LGBTQ (in a very normalised, not token kind of way). So in that respect, I truly found this book to deliever on diversity without it feeling like it was simply checking all the marks off.

–The Magic–

I liked how straight-forward the tithe system seemed to be. Not only is everything magic-wise easily explained but it also has limitations. One of my biggest peeves about magic is the almost unlimited power it can have but the magic here makes sense.

–The Blackmail–

I think this is where the Pretty Little Liars comparisons come in because there is someone taunting these girls with their secrets. And the secrets are pretty juicy–and contribute to the plot in a rather strong way. These aren’t petty “I know about your secret relationship” type of secrets; they run much deeper (and more complex) than that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Seems Needlessly Drawn Out–

Perhaps starting this book the week I was working nights wasn’t the best idea–my concentration is pretty crappy. However, I found the chapters used a lot of words to deliver very little in the grand scheme of things. I would get lost in text at times. But I will say that each chapter ended in a way that had me eager for the next one so I was a fan of that.

–Blending of the Characters–

While I praised this book for its diversity earlier on, sometimes I couldn’t tell Zofi apart from Ren from Akeylah. The “problem” is the third person narration. It isn’t very personal as it lacks the depths a first person POV can provide (ie the inner character monologue). As a result, I often had to reread the synopsis just to remember that Zofi was from “A” and her secret was “B” so I wouldn’t get the girls mixed up.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really started to enjoy how the various plots were starting to weave together so I am very curious to see how everything with wrap up (or unravel) in the finale.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Rule 3.5/5 | Rise TBP

overall

While nothing immediately stands out about this fantasy novel, fans of the genre will enjoy this solid and diverse story.

Read if You Like: multiple POV, wordy stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

Series Review: Stolen Empire by Sherry D Ficklin

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Queen of Someday (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–It’s Inspired by Catherine the Great–

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

–Video Bonuses at the End of Chapters–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

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

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

–The Romances–

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

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

–Peter–

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

Will I Finish It?

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

My Rating: DNF

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: Outer Banks Tennis Academy by Jennifer Iacopelli

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

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Game. Set. Match. (from Goodreads):

Nestled along the North Carolina coast, the Outer Banks Tennis Academy is the world’s most elite training facility. In this pressure-cooker environment, futures are forged in blood and sweat, and dreams are shattered in an instant.

Penny Harrison, a rising female star, is determined to win the French Open and beat her archrival, Zina Lutrova. But when her coach imports British bad boy Alex Russell as her new training partner, will Penny be able to keep her laser-like focus?

Tennis is all Jasmine Randazzo has ever known. The daughter of two Grand Slam champions, she’s hell-bent on extending her family’s legacy and writing her own happily-ever-after…until her chosen Prince Charming gives her the just-friends speech, right before the biggest junior tournament of the year, the Outer Banks Classic.

With a powerful serve and killer forehand, newcomer Indiana Gaffney is turning heads. She’s thrilled by all of the attention, especially from Jack Harrison, Penny’s agent and hot older brother, except he keeps backing off every time things start heating up.

With so much at stake, dreams—and hearts—are bound to break.

breakdown

Series: Outer Banks Tennis Academy
Author: Jennifer Iacopelli
# of Books: 3 (Full Series Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2013 – ongoing
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was a tween, there was this Canadian TV drama called 15/Love that was set at a tennis academy and followed teenage tennis up-and-comers. It wasn’t the greatest show ever (in terms of acting) but I did get addicted to the drama of relationships and athletics.

I’m not entirely sure how this one crossed my radar but I liked the athletic approach. I also liked that it would be told by multiple leads because I find I enjoy contemporaries more when told that way.

The Concept / The World:

I’ll be the first to say that I’m not overly familiar with the tennis world. While I understand the game of tennis, I’m pretty clueless about how one becomes a professional tennis star. I was a little worried that I would get lost in that aspect of the story but that was never the case. Everything is kept to the basics or explained in a way that the reader will immediately understand so don’t let that deter you.

The Plot:

The synopsis gives the impression that this series is all about the romances but there is a strong focus on character development as well once you start reading. I thought there was a great balance in this respect and was pleasantly surprised that the character growth is so prevalent. More on that below.

Add to that some drama and some high stake situations and I was completely addicted to the story. It moves at a great pace and you can’t help but want to keep reading!

The Characters:

Usually I am a fan of multiple POVs because it pretty much guarantees that I will enjoy at least one character’s POV. (This does fail sometimes: City Love is a great example). HOWEVER, that wasn’t the case here at all!

That doesn’t mean I immediately loved all the leads though. This is where character development and growth truly enhanced the reading experience. As you learned more about the girls and their pasts, you are able to understand why they act the way they do. I don’t mind angsty characters so long as it is “justified” (meaning explained) to me while I read. Even better is that you get to see them change as a result and I really enjoyed that aspect. This is very much a character driven series.

The Romance:

Definitely a highlight for me! I really liked all the pairings for the girls and the resulting drama and character growth that comes from these relationships!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really hope the third book gets published. While things are wrapped up at the end of Losing Love, it didn’t feel complete to me at all. So I’m eager to get the closing chapters on these girls’ stories.

Series Rating: 4/5

Game. Set. Match. 4/5 | Losing at Love 4/5 | Book 3 TBA

overall

This is a great contemporary sports read for those who want a somewhat lighter tone to their read but still has solid character growth and swoon worthy romance.

Read if You Like: sport stories, tennis, contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POVs
similarreads

  • For Everly by Raine Thomas
  • Catching Jordan by Miranda Kinneally (Hundred Oaks Series #1)

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Series Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Cage (from Goodreads):

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

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

breakdown

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

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

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

When to Read the Novella, The Caretaker?

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

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

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

overall

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

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

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Series Review: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

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 Grave Mercy (from Goodreads):

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

breakdown

Series: His Fair Assassin

There is a spin-off duology in the works.

Author: Robin LaFevers
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected by Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2013 – November 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

There is nothing more I love in the world of reading than a heroine who can kick serious butt. So it seemed like I no brainer that I would pick up this series. I don’t remember how exactly I learned about Grave Mercy, but I read it years ago (just shortly after its release) and it left such a mark on me that I refused to remove the sequels from my TBR despite the fact that I could never find the time to read them.

The Concept / The World:

I love worlds that are a mix of actual history with a little dash of fantasy–which is what we get here. These stories are inspired by true events but the timelines and the external forces involved are often altered by artistic licence. The result? You get a world filled with twisting politics (yay!), villainous characters and strong heroines you can’t help but root for.

Each book follows a different daughter of St. Mortain (Death) but they all follow a continuous story arc. It’s a great way to keep things fresh and moving throughout the series. You get to see old characters weave in and out of the story and it just gives this series a 360-degree view I think.

The Plot:

As I said above, each book features a different assassin so you get a fresh start every time in a sense. So in that regard, I found it took me a couple of chapters to get into the new swing of things and orient myself in the world. (It also didn’t help that I read Books #1 and #2 nearly five years apart…). This was especially true for Book #3, Mortal Heart that seemed to take twice as long to establish itself.

But once you are a few chapters in, you’d better hold on! I found these stories were constantly evolving and twisting and it’s hard not to be addicted. You get sucked into the heroine’s pasts; the politics are fascinating and don’t forget that dash of romance along the way!

The Writing:

Usually I don’t comment on the writing style but I do want to mention the fact that sometimes I had a hard time figuring out what was actually happening. It’s weird because this isn’t told in the third person (which can be tricky to navigate). I think it’s just that some things are alluded to; some things are “magical”/”supernatural” and with its historical setting I think the style just takes some getting used to when reading and interpreting what is happening.

The Characters:

I love that this series focuses on a different heroine in each book. You get to spend time uncovering every aspect of their character within the novel. Nothing gets drawn out between sequels or intentionalLY hidden. You just get solid characters throughout.

And each of our leading ladies is unique. Whether it’s their pasts before their time at the convent or their abilities, they each bring something fresh to this world and I loved that.

The Romance:

This is perhaps, for me, the most underdeveloped aspect of the plot because we don’t spend copious amounts of time with it. Of course, we get this great underlying tension between the characters but in the grand scheme of things, I found that the feelings developed fast (again, understandable given the circumstances) and don’t get a ton of screen time.

My Expectations for the Spin-Off Series:

I didn’t end the series on a particular high note (Mortal Heart was my least favourite of the trilogy), but I do like the idea of continuing on with some characters but getting a new cast of characters at the same time.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 4/5

Grave Mercy 4/5| Dark Triumph 4/5 | Mortal Heart 3/5

overall

I’ve never read a series like this before and that only is noteworthy. But if you enjoy historical fiction that focuses on the grittier side of things, check this series out!

Read if You Like: assassins, historical fantasy
Avoid if You: dislike long books, dislike darker reads

similarreads

  • Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan (Maids of Honour Series #1)
  • Scarlet by A C Gaughan (Scarlet Trilogy #1)

 

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Series Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

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 Falling Kingdoms (from Goodreads):

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA Series 2018, Canadian Author
Series: Falling Kingdoms

There is a spin-off series titled Spirits and Thieves

Author: Morgan Rhodes
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: December 2012 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve seen this series floating around over the years but for some reason, I’ve never looked further into it. But when I saw that my library had the audiobooks, I decided to read the synopsis and see if it was something I would like (and possibly enjoy as an audio series)

Clearly it was! I mean it’s a high fantasy–one of my favourite YA genres–, rich with lots of politics and it features multiple character POVs. It’s almost like it was written for me! And that’s not even including the fact that the author is CANADIAN! So I couldn’t wait to dive in and get myself invested in a longer series once again.

The Concept / The World:

In a lot of ways the world here reminded me of Game of Thrones. You’ve got lots of main characters in various kingdoms all vying for dominance. Each kingdom is unique in its lifestyle, rule and religion so it just enriches the world in a way that sucks you in. It’s easy to follow despite the many attributes because it is so well thought out and Rhodes writing style reminds you in case you forget. It’s been a long time since I’ve read and enjoyed a world as much as I did with this!

The Plot:

I will be the first to say that I found the plot in Falling Kingdoms (Book #1) to be pretty weak–especially when you compare it to the sequels which are very strong. Weak in the sense that you don’t have a lot necessarily going on and there aren’t too many big twists. However, where this book succeeded was setting up the incredibly solid foundation for the rest of the series.

The rest of the series is just thrilling to read! Thanks to the multiple character POVs you are always getting a 360-degree view of the world and a plot that just keeps building and building. Twists and new plot developments come out of nowhere and you are stuck to the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. Honestly, these books never have a dull moment.

The Characters:

The development of the characters in this series is also super impressive. I think Cleo is the best example of a character that grows tremendously from book to book. She is by no means the same princess we started the series with by the middle of the series; she went from being a character POV I enjoyed to one I LOVED by book 3.

Magus though is the real star of this series for me. I just loved him and his journey right from the start. I would fangirl so hard anytime the new chapter POV was his. He’s got that bad-boy brooding thing going on and you constantly toy with the idea that he does have a heart and morals. He was just so endearing to me.

But all the characters are fabulous here. Of course, certain storylines appealed to me more than others but I found that always changed from book to book given the various twists. What I really enjoyed is the unpredictability of all the characters. They are constantly evolving and you never know who you can trust given the plot so it adds the suspense of it all.

The Romance:

I would never say this series is a romance at the core of it, but the romances do contribute to the story in a positive way. Like many things in this series, they are constantly evolving and changing so I liked that nothing was cut and dry. There were many “ships” I jumped aboard but I definitely had my favourites 😉 (ie anything involving Magnus <3)

My Audiobook Experience:

I will admit I was worried to take on a series of this length (and genre) as an audiobook but I’m so glad I did! Fred Berman is the narrator and he is absolutely fabulous! Every character has their own unique voice; different regions have their own accents. It’s just very well done. I felt like I was watching a TV show instead of just listening to the words. I highly recommend the audio version!

Series Rating: 5/5

Falling Kingdoms 4.5/5 | Rebel Springs | Gathering Darkness 5/5 | Frozen Tides 5/5 | Crystal Storm 4.5/5 | Immortal Reign 5/5

overall

This series is a must for YA fantasy fans (I also think it is perfect for Cassandra Clare fans as well!) or anyone looking for a rich, multiple POV series.

Read if You Like: multiple POVs, fantasy, Game of Thrones
Avoid if You: dislike long series, dislike fantasy, want more fantasy

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Single Sundays: Exmas by Winter Renshaw

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 Exmas (from Goodreads):

This Christmas, I’ll be getting a visit from a man in a suit, only it won’t be Santa.

Let me first say: Reed York was never my boyfriend. He was the pen. I was the company ink. Though if you want to get technical, we were more like colleagues-who-hated-each-other … with benefits.

Everything was fine until the charming jerk went behind my back, stole my promotion, and became my boss—literally overnight.

Refusing to work beneath him (professionally speaking and otherwise), I transferred 2,014 miles away to our Chicago division, and I’ve spent the past year trying to remember how much I hated his panty-melting smirk so I can forget how much I secretly loved the way his ocean eyes lit every time I walked into the room.

But he’s just announced a last-minute site visit the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and on top of that, he’s audaciously designated me as his ‘right hand gal’ during his visit. If he thinks he has a snowball’s chance in this hell at getting back in my good graces, he’s got another thing coming.

Reed York might be a man used to getting everything he’s ever wanted, but Joa Jolivet is a woman that never forgets.

He can put me on his Christmas list all he wants, but everyone knows naughty boys only get coal.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Reviews–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love Winter Renshaw’s work and she’s a must read author for me. I’m not usually one for “holiday” reads but I liked the premise of this second chance romance. I always enjoy books with a bit of a “mystery” to the break-up and I couldn’t wait to figure out why Reed stole Joa’s dream job.

The Concept:

Sometimes, flashbacks to the past can be distracting but here I think it truly cemented their relationship and shaped them as characters. Otherwise, I would have wanted more from the present day plot because they don’t interact that much romantically. The flashbacks sold me on the second chance romance aspect; through them I was able to see how these two worked as a couple and why they are still hung up on each other a year later.

It’s a little light on the Christmas aspect but that’s ok. You could read it any time of the year but if you are reading it around the holidays, it’ll bring out the best in the season through Joa’s family.

The Plot:

My reason for the lower rating is that I wanted a little more from the drama. While I liked the mystery behind why Reed got the job, it was kinda predictable so that blew some of the wind out of the anticipation. Getting his POV gives his motives away even if I understand the reason behind his actions. I think that’s why I enjoyed the flashback scenes so much; in a way, it gave me something to look forward to.

In a way, you kinda get two stories in one thanks to the flashbacks. Each “present day” chapter is followed by a snapshot of the past and I liked the anticipation that built up to the story because you are getting the pieces one at a time to the full picture.

The Characters:

I really liked these two as individuals. Reed was my favourite; I thought he had the best development. He was sweet and Joa slowly melts his heart and opens up his views on what he wants in life and love. Joa was great too–I just got frustrated with her anger towards Reed because it was a bit of a communication assumption for why he took the job and her stubbornness (avoiding talking to him) caused their issues. I also think her character growth wasn’t as strong.

The Romance:

I loved these two and their hate-to-love-you romance. They had such great chemistry together so it was a treat to watch their story unfold. Again, the flashbacks really sold me on the romance.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

It’s an addicting, quick read that fans of second chance romances will enjoy.

Read if You Like: second chances, workplace romances, flashbacks
Avoid if You: want a more suspenseful read

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  • Sweet Spot by Stella Rhys (Irresistible Series #1)
  • Charlotte Chronicles by Jen Frederick (Jackson Boys Series #1)

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ARC Review: Just Pretending (The Chicago Falcons #3) by Leah & Katie Rooper

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

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Just Pretending (from Goodreads):

It’s not easy being royal. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline wears her crown proudly, but between her duties and her overprotective big brother, the idea of romance is just a dream. But a chance encounter in Chicago changes all that….

Sure, seventeen-year-old Tyler Evans loves playing hockey, but he’s more concerned about providing for his dad and little sister. Then he meets Eva–and falls head-over-heels in love—and he has two more problems. One, she’s his best friend’s little sister. Two, she wears a crown.

But then Eva accidentally mistakes Tyler for a visiting prince, and for the first time, Tyler doesn’t feel like a nobody. He knows he has to tell her the truth…but not yet.

His plan? To keep up the royal charade as long as it takes to convince Eva he’s the guy for her. Even if he’s lying to everyone…including himself.

Disclaimer: May cause disillusionment. Those girls looking to find their Prince Charming might consider scouting out hockey rinks.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author(s)
Series: The Chicago Falcons
Author: Leah and Kate Rooper
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Hockey, Royalty
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2017 – November 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

**This is review of book #3, Just Pretending, only**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I sort-of knew this was part of a series when I requested it but it wasn’t clearly stated. But I just couldn’t resist that premise: a regular boy pretending to be a prince falls in love with the queen…adorable!

The Concept / The World:

I think the fact that I hadn’t read the previous books gave me a bit of a disadvantage. Yes, you can definitely read this as a standalone and not be completely lost. But in the same breath, I think I could have really benefited from reading the other novels in the series, especially book #2, Just One of the Royals because I think it really sets up Eva’s character background a little more. I had so many questions about how she became queen and why she wanted to be queen in the first place and I felt like this book just didn’t answer them; mainly because she is already queen and this novel showcases her struggle finding that independence as a result.

The Plot:

I thought the whole plot of this novel was fun yet heartfelt. The fun comes from Tyler impersonating the prince and how he just gets himself deeper and deeper into the scheme.

But the touching moments come from the interactions Tyler and Eva share when they let their true selves show when they’re together. These two have a great connection with plenty of shared interests to make you fall for them as a couple. I couldn’t get enough of their chemistry!

The Characters:

Tyler instantly won my heart the moment we met him. He’s just a sweet boy with a massive crush on a girl he thinks he can never be with. But he was also a layered character as well. His learning disability and the struggle he has with it was so genuine and real. I loved watching him grow as the story progressed.

Eva I had a harder time with on occasion. As I said above, I could have benefited from getting her backstory that I think is provided more in the previous novels. She seemed a little all over the place (understandable really when one is a monarch at the at of 16) but I think knowing her full story could have helped me reconcile her somewhat wish-washy convictions.

The Romance:

I thought these two were adorable together! I just loved how they meshed on so many different levels. The heart of this story is loving yourself and finding someone who can see the true you beyond titles and I think the romance helps exemplify that throughout.

Will I Pick Up the Previous Novels in the Series:

I plan on it! From what I saw of the other couples, this seems like a super cute series so I’m excited to see how it all began.

Rating: 3/5

Just One of the Boys TBA | Just One of the Royals TBA | Just Pretending 3/5

overall

If you love sweet YA contemporaries–especially ones with sports (hockey) and royals–this is right up your alley!

Read if You Like: sport romances, YA contemporaries
Avoid if You: want deeper plot-lines

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Single Sundays: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

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 Wink Poppy Midnight (from Goodreads):

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

breakdown

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book seemed to be on a ton of lists in 2016 because I remember seeing it a lot. I’ll be the first to admit: I was drawn to the cover mostly–I love it so much!

I’ll also admit that I totally forgot about this book until I was browsing audiobooks to listen to last year.  I’m always up for a good mind-bending novel. You know, the ones that have this underlying mystery that changes your entire reading experience once it is revealed? I was eager to see what this one had in store.

The Concept / The World:

I’m going to quote the little blurb that is a part of the synopsis for the audiobook to give my thoughts on the concept/world of this novel.

The intrigue of The Raven Boys and the “supernatural or not” question of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer coalesce in this young adult mystery, where nothing is quite as it seems, no one is quite who you think, and everything can change on a dime.

I definitely did see the parallels to The Raven Boys Cycle with the setting. Wink’s connection to tarot cards and mysticism is very similar to Blue’s in The Raven Boys. (Only Wink is a lot odder than Blue). Add the aspects of school and I felt like I had returned to Blue’s world.

I’ve never read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (it’s another TBR item) but you do find yourself questioning if what is happening is supernatural or something else at play. It makes the story suspenseful in an intriguing sort of way.

The “no one is quite who you think” — yeah, that’s not really the case. Maybe because I read this line I knew that there was more to these characters than meets the eye. When you read something like that you try to put the pieces together. So while I wouldn’t say this is predictable, it is perhaps a touch cliche in its character twists.

The Plot:

I really struggled with the plot for this novel because I really don’t think there was one. Or at least, there wasn’t one that is apparent from the start. The whole idea of this book is to figure out how these characters’ stories are intertwined by listening to them tell their side of events. Which is fine, I just wanted a little more focus.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this story seemed a little aimless in its delivery to me. It reminded me a lot of The Raven Boys where there is something happening in terms of plot but you kinda just go through the motions of everyday life for 80% of the novel. That just bores me.

The Characters:

I didn’t particularly like any of these characters. You aren’t really supposed to like Poppy so job well done there. Wink I had a hard time figuring out–literally and figuratively–so I didn’t particularly love her character. And I just felt so bad for Midnight because he is so easy to manipulate and he doesn’t seem to have a backbone.

And going back to what I said above: they all seemed a little cliche to me. That is part of the point though and its how they contribute to the story but I think I just wanted a little more substance to them.

The Romance:

I think you can assume that there is a love triangle of sorts between Wink, Poppy and Midnight just by reading the synopsis. It contributes to the story but because I didn’t love any of the characters, I wasn’t really feeling the romance.

Audiobook Experience:

One of the main reasons I picked the audiobook version of this novel was the narrators. When I picked this one up, I was fairly new to the world of fiction audiobooks. See, I was curious if I would be thrown off by a novel that had narrators I had already listened to. Kinda like the phenomenon where you see an actor from one role in another and you can only see them as that first role (no matter what they do after).

In this novel, Midnight’s voice is done by Michael Crouch who was Simon in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Poppy is Caitlin Davies who was Kristen in None of the Above. Both were novels I read a few weeks before this one.

The good news is that it only took me a few chapters to get accustomed to the narration here and associating the voices with the characters. The audiobook is fantastic; truthfully, it is one of the reasons why I gave this book a 3 instead of a 2. All the narrators do a great job bringing these characters to life.

And Michael Crouch has easily become one of my favourite voice actors to listen too. He does a fabulous job and I’ll be looking for more novels by him in the future.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

I spent 80% of this book trying to figure out what this novel was trying to achieve and I’m not sure the big “twist” was worth the time. The book is definitely unique in terms of its writing style and the audiobook is very well done but there isn’t enough here to really impress me.

Read if You Like: magical realism, intrigue
Avoid if You: want a stronger plot
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