Tag «Historical»

Take place during a specific point in history

Single Sundays: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

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

Synopsis for Velvet Undercover (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept / The World:

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

The Plot:

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

The Characters:

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

The Romance:

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

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

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

Read if You Like: espionage novels, women in WWI
Avoid if You: a true espionage thriller
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Series Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenselle

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 Daughter of the Pirate King (from Goodreads):

There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.

Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.

More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King Duology
Author: Tricia Levenseller
# of Books: 2 (Daughter of the Pirate King, Daughter of the Siren Queen)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Adventure, Pirates, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2017 – February 2018
Source & Format: Public Library & Own–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book a lot in 2017 and it sounded like something I would enjoy. I love a good pirate story; I’m usually not a fan of the adventure story but with pirates, something just works for me. So while the hype around this scared me a little, I was very excited to pick it up and dive right in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the ordered chaos of this world. The whole hierarchy of the pirate world here was fascinating and very straightforward to follow. It has all those elements you expect when it comes to pirate tales, including the sword fights and death. It’s not overly violent by any means but you do have some blood and life loss so I liked that it didn’t sugar coat those aspects.

The Plot:

I think I ended up liking Daughter of the Pirate King more than I thought I would because it wasn’t your typical pirate adventure. Instead, it felt like more of a battle of wits between Alosa and Riden as Alosa tries to complete her mission. It’s a pretty stationary setting (as opposed to sailing from destination to destination) and things happen quickly as a result so I was never bored. Even if the plot seemed a little slow, Alosa’s sass or scenes with Riden had me eager for more. I easily became addicted to the story.

But that wasn’t the case for the sequel and finale, The Daughter of the Siren Queen. I had the hardest time getting invested into this story. Honestly, if it wasn’t the sequel I would have likely DNF’d it. It isn’t because it’s bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I found things got off to a slow start and we kept rehashing the same sentiments again and again (mainly Alosa struggling with her true nature). Which is fine but I needed more to keep my full attention. The last quarter does pick up and there was some great romantic development but this definitely wasn’t the sequel I had anticipated.

The Characters:

I immediately loved Alosa because she is exactly the type of sassy pirate I want to read about. Her wit and kick-ass attitude had me from the start. She also had a surprising amount of character growth later on in the book (and series) and I liked that a lot (even if it did get a little dry in the sequel).

Riden is a great adversary for her as well. He’s her match in every way and I loved every scene that they had together. I love battles of wit and banter and these two don’t disappoint.

Everyone else is what you want them to be. You’ve got your villains and the shifty crew members and they all add to this fantastic atmosphere and story.

The Romance:

Clearly I was a fan. Like I said, these two had great chemistry from the start and I loved all their scenes together. I felt like the romance only got stronger in the sequel and it really became apparent to me why these two were such a great match.

My Audiobook Experience:

I think I enjoyed this more as an audiobook than I would have as a physical book. Actually hearing Alosa’s sass and witty remarks aloud had me laughing out loud throughout. But it also allowed her emotion and conflict to show too which made her a more complex character than I originally thought. Highly recommend the audiobook!

Series Rating: 4/5

Daughter of the Pirate King 5/5 | Daughter of the Siren Queen 2.5/5

overall

Despite my less than stellar experience with the sequel (I really think it was just a “me” thing), this is a great series for those who love pirate adventures. It’s got a strong heroine who does have her own flaws but learns along the way who she truly wants to be. It’s a great duology!

Read if You Like: pirates, kickass heroines, banter
Avoid if You: dislike adventure stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Prisoner of Night and Fog (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Concept:

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

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

The Plot:

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

And those tensions continue to be high in the aftermath of a Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke. This one had a tone of suspense throughout that had me desparately wanting to know what would happen next. Trying to piece together how the current events of this novel lead to the start of WWII was such a refreshingly unique experience for me as a reader.

The Characters:

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

And the rest of the characters do their jobs flawlessly.

The Romance:

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

My Audiobook Experience:

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

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

Series Rating: 4/5

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

overall

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

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

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


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

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


Title: The Scot’s Bride

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

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

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

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // iBooks // Google Play // Kobo

Read an Exclusive Excerpt Here!

 

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 4/5

Paula Quinn

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

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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Trust, me this is another good one!

What about you? Do you enjoy Highlander romances?

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Blog Tour: West (History Interrupted #1) by Lizzy Ford

Synopsis for West (from Goodreads):

If you could change history, would you?

College graduate Josephine “Josie” Jackson answers ‘yes’ to the question on a survey while visiting an Old West tourist trap. The next morning, she wakes up in Indian Territory in the 1840s, where she’s given a mission to complete before she can return to her time: to reset history by finding and stopping the man responsible for a horrific massacre.

It seems easy enough, until she discovers that three other women have been sent back to the same time period. When Josie uncovers what happened to them, she realizes the chances of her getting out of the past alive are not good.

To survive, she’ll have to trust the very man she’s there to stop, someone who has every reason to distrust her and only one reason to help her – to prove he’s not the monster she claims he’ll become.

Other books in the series:
book3

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Series: History Interupted
Author: Lizzy Ford
# of Books: 3 (West, East, North)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?:  Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Time Travel, Romance, Adventure, Historical
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2014 – July 2017
Source & Format: Audiobookworm Productions–Audiobook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon | Audible

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This year, now that I commute nearly 2 hours (roundtrip) to work, I’ve fully jumped on the bandwagon for audiobooks. I love them! It’s great feeling like I’m accomplishing something during my drive besides getting to work. So I’m really excited to be doing my first audiobook blog tour!

I was drawn to West for a number of reasons but the main two were (1) time travel and (2) new adult genre! While I mostly read New Adult Contemporary Romances, I’m always looking out for other non-contemporary NA reads. And time travel?! One of my favourites to explore because I love the delicious tension that it brings.

What I Liked:

–The Suspense–

There are a lot of things at play in this story and I love how everything weaves together. You’ve got Josie’s mission to stop a massacre; the rivals trying to stop her; the mystery of the other time travelling girls; Josie navigating the life she has taken over and her learning why she was the one picked.

It may seems like a lot but this novel does a great job of balancing out everything, taking it one step at a time. The way it builds kept my full attention. I loved trying to decipher what was happening and why. And not knowing which characters I could trust and not trust adds this layer of suspense that had me wanting to delve deeper into the story.

–New Adult Based–

Nearly all the time travel novels I’ve read over the years have been YA based–and there is nothing wrong with that! –but it’s nice to read about a heroine closer to my own age. Josie is that touch more mature and not as malleable as a heroine you is a few years younger. 

What I Disliked:

–More Romance Focused than Anticipated–

This isn’t to say that I had a problem with the romance itself. It’s a touch more insta-connection than I like personally but that goes with the time travel territory (ie, I expected it). And I did get the allure of the main love interest and why Josie is drawn to him. So that isn’t what I’m talking about herr.

What I’m getting at is that a majority of the novel seemed to be geared more towards this budding relationship than the various issues at hand. The romance is weaved nicely throughout the other mysteries but I felt like I listened more to descriptions of the Sheriff’s abs than I anticipated when I picked this novel up.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’ll admit, this started a little rough me. I found the delivery to be a little slow and perhaps a little choppy in turn. It might have also been due to the setting of the novel (ie everyone has a slower drawl to their speech). But once I bumped up the speed to 1.25X, everything went a lot smoother. Everything just flowed that little bit better.

Lillian does a good job of making each character have a distinct voice and she does a great job in particular with the male voices–it was never awkward which I find can be when you have a lone female narrator. She gives all the characters from that time period the appropriate accent which helps set the tone and setting for the novel in a way I probably wouldn’t have had if I had just picked up the novel.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

WOW! A lot of stuff went down in the last few chapters and I have so many unanswered questions that I really need answers to!

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

West 3.5/5 | East TBA| North TBA

overall
If you love a time travelling novel that keeps you guessing until the end, this one’s for you!

Read if You Like: time travelling adventures, romance
Avoid if You: dislike romance, dislike new adult
similarreads

  • Once Every Never by Lesley Livingston (Never Trilogy #1)
  • A Million Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (Firebird Trilogy #1)


Lizzy Ford (Author)

I breathe stories. I dream them. If it were possible, I’d eat them, too. (I’m pretty sure they’d taste like cotton candy.) I can’t escape them – they’re everywhere! Which is why I write! I was born to bring the crazy worlds and people in my mind to life, and I love sharing them with as many people as I can.

I’m also the bestselling, award winning, internationally acclaimed author of over sixty titles and counting. I write speculative fiction in multiple subgenres of romance and fantasy, contemporary fiction, books for both teens and adults, and just about anything else I feel like writing. If I can imagine it, I can write it!

I live in the desert of southern Arizona with a pack of spoiled dogs and Tubbs, the Godfather cat who rules them all.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Lillian Yves (Narrator)

Lillian Yves grew up in Oklahoma, went to school in NYC and now lives in Southern California. She considers herself from the East, West and somewhere in the middle. She is a graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC for Musical Theater. She adores acting and performing so much that she teaches an after school program for the local school system. She got her start working in audio books when she narrated her own novel, Yonder- A Southern Haunting and shortly after the release of Yonder she was contacted by Warren Adler (The War of the Roses) to narrate two novels for him and after entering the world of narration, she has never looked back. She performs on most weekends and does play readings through out the Los Angeles area. Her main hobbies include her husband and her cats. She loves to hear from listeners.

Narrator Links: Facebook

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon | Audible

Book Tour Organised by:

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DNF Series Review: Bannon and Clare by Lilith Saintcrow

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 Iron Wyrm Affair (from Goodreads):

Emma Bannon, forensic sorceress in the service of the Empire, has a mission: to protect Archibald Clare, a failed, unregistered mentath. His skills of deduction are legendary, and her own sorcery is not inconsiderable. It doesn’t help much that they barely tolerate each other, or that Bannon’s Shield, Mikal, might just be a traitor himself. Or that the conspiracy killing registered mentaths and sorcerers alike will just as likely kill them as seduce them into treachery toward their Queen.

In an alternate London where illogical magic has turned the Industrial Revolution on its head, Bannon and Clare now face hostility, treason, cannon fire, black sorcery, and the problem of reliably finding hansom cabs.

The game is afoot…

breakdown

Series: Bannon and Clare
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
# of Books: 3 (The Iron Wyrm Affair, The Red Plague Affair, The Ripper Affair)

There is a novella #1.5 called The Damnation Affair

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Historical, Mystery
Heat Rating: Unsure
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating (?)
Publication Dates: August 2012 – August 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Iron Wyrm Affair at 13% (Start of Chapter 6). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not sure this one crossed my radar but I’ve had it earmarked to read for YEARS–ever since I bought my Kobo. I put off buying the first novel simply because I was cheap but when I saw that my library had it this past year, I thought it was the perfect pick for my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge.

I was looking forward to a fun and intriguing setting–a magical, almost steampunk based London–and a mystery homage to Sherlock Holmes. Let the games begin!

What I Liked:

I didn’t get that far into the novel to really find something I liked.

What I Didn’t Like:

–What the hell is a Mentath and Why do They Have to Register?–

The world building leaves something to be desired, unfortunately. I detest stories that assume I know everything already instead of telling me and this one didn’t give me the impression that I was going to learn anytime soon.

I have no idea what a mentath (what one of the leads) is or why they have to be registered. If it was mentioned in the first 2 chapters, I completely missed it both times I reread them. The only thing that made sense was the role of the Shield–and that was the only thing I learned.

–What is Even Happening?–

Unfortunately, I had a really hard time following what was happening here. Other reviews mention the difficulty reading it but I found everything flowed nicely–it just didn’t tell you anything important. You know when your eyes follow the words but nothing absorbed? That’s what was happening to me as I read it.

I even started over a second time in the middle of the day to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. It didn’t help at all.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. I read some reviews on Goodreads when trying to decide to continue or not and I am satisfied that I stopped myself from getting invested.

Series Rating: DNF

overall

If you have the patience for world-building and character development and like creative takes on history, this might be worth your time!

Read if You Like: alternate Londons, urban fantasies
Avoid if You: like worldbuilding
similarreads

  • The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks (The Iron Seas Series #1)

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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

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:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Cover Love, Must Read Author
Series: Flame in the Mist
Author: Renee Ahdieh
# of Books: 2 (Flame in the Mist, Smoke in the Sun)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you asked me what my top 3 Disney movies are, I would say without hesitation: Aladdin, Mulan and Hercules. I loved Mulan as a young girl because she is like every girl you will ever meet. She’s bound by family duty and love and pressured by society to be a certain way. What girl doesn’t feel that at some point or another? And her transformation to assert her independence is inspirational for any young girl who watches it.

So I think it goes without saying, I was very, very excited to pick this book up. Even if this story wasn’t based on Mulan, I was eagerly awaiting Ahdieh’s next series after I completely fell in love with her The Wrath and the Dawn Duology last year.

Best Advice: Forget Disney’s Mulan & Keep to the Basics!

I know I just touted Disney’s Mulan (and I could write a very long post praising the movie) for its awesomeness, but I think it important to go into this remembering that that movie is based on the Chinese legend Hua Mulan–as is this book.

So expect plot differences and new characters; don’t expect songs and a talking dragon.

What do they share? A heroine who has always struggled with her place in society and her family. A girl who is smart in ways people don’t expect; who has a knack for crafting military devices that save her friends. A young woman who begins a journey to learn that she is more powerful and independent than she ever thought.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love everything about Japan, particularly feudal Japan. I just find its history and culture to be fascinating. So having the novel set here immediately hooked me in. Ahdieh has a great power to weave worlds and it shows here. It’s rich and layered and even though it is influenced by another source, she makes it her own.

–The Politics–

I’m a sucker for political intrigue in my reads. It’s one of the reasons I adored The Wrath and The Dawn series so much. I love when you don’t know who you can trust; when there is more at play than you can ever imagine. This book has that thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You have this 360 degree view of the world and everything that is at play and I loved it.

–Mariko’s Character Development–

Mariko really blossoms before your eyes in terms of her growth. She’s shy and reserved at the start but slowly begins to break out of her shell. Her journey isn’t without fault, and she sure isn’t perfect but she continues to learn as she goes. Definitely a heroine you can root for.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

This was a huge disappointment for me. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place for it, but its appearance just seemed so sudden and abrupt that it took me a long time to realize what was happening. (It’s hard to elaborate without spoilers).

I genuinely grew to like the two of them together by the end but I just didn’t like how this was handled at the start. I guess I wanted a little more build-up.

–Slower Start–

I’m not sure what I was expecting at the start of the novel. I thought it was action but when I thought about it, I think I knew that there wasn’t going to be physical action immediately. Mariko’s character definitely isn’t at that point at the start and you know that thanks to the synopsis. So what was my problem?

Truthfully, I think it just takes the reader a few chapters to get acquainted with the world. Like I said above, this world is rich and layered and you don’t really get the full picture of what is happening until you are a few chapters in. It needs to build, and it definitely does as you go, just give it some time to get there.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! This start has so many great inklings to lead into the sequel. It’s building up to a fantastic climax that I can’t wait to see!

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This story kept my attention from start to finish; from the rich setting to the intriguing characters, there’s a lot to like about this retelling!

Read if You Like: feudal Japan, world-building, Mulan
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Spin-off Saturdays: Finishing School by Gail Carriger

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 Etiquette & Espionage (from Goodreads):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

breakdown

Series: Finishing School

This is a prequel spinoff of the Parasol Protectorate Series.

Author: Gail Carriger
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Steampunk, Paranormal
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: February 2013 – November 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I’ve opted not to pick up the second novel, Curtsies & Conspiracies. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a Steampunk story and Gail Carriger is a staple author when it comes to the YA world of Steampunk. The espionage aspect also caught my attention. I’ve been searching for a Gallagher Girl-esque series ever since I finished it. Her Parasol Protectorate Series has caught my eye a few times but I ended up picking this one because my library had the audiobooks (and I wanted to try listening to an entire series via audiobook).

What I Liked:

–Steampunk & Espionage–

Obviously this would be a highlight for me. But I really liked the blend of paranormal and the classical steampunk features. The world is really rich and it keeps things exciting.

I also enjoyed the espionage plot as well. The idea that these girls are getting trained in everything from dance to swindling is just so much fun!

–Smart Writing–

I was truly impressed with the wit story. It’s so subtle that you almost miss the humour of everything. And I think listening to the audiobook helped me grasp that humour quicker than if I had read it thanks to its delivery.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Felt Old Reading This!–

I’m a firm believer that just because a book is listed as “young adult” doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as an adult. I’m in my mid-20s and I still read more YA novels than adult.

However, sometimes there are stories that you would enjoy more if you were the target demographic and I think this is one of them.

While there is an overarching plot in Etiquette and Espionage, it also suffers from what I call an aimless plotline. You know, when the “new to the school” lead explores the boarding school. The plot takes a back seat and teenaged shenanigans begins. Which is fine and all but I just didn’t care to listen to that at this point in my life. I need the book to stimulate my mind and this just wasn’t doing it for me. I found myself zoning out more often than not and when the main plot line resurfaced, I just didn’t get as involved as I would have liked.

Will I Finish It?

Unfortunately no. This is a classic case where if I had read these books years ago I would have loved every minute of them. It’s just that my interests aren’t here anymore for the type of plot this series uses.

Audiobook Experience:

I have to point out that my waning interest while listening to this audiobook had nothing to do with the audiobook narration. I have to say that this is one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to when it comes to the narrator. Not only was the accent great but she did a fabulous job when delivering the dialogue of other people. Sometimes I struggle with female narrators doing male voices because they seem odd to me when they attempt to change their voice. But each character here had a distinct voice and that made listening to it super enjoyable.

Series Rating: DNF

Etiquette & Espionage 3/5 | Curtsies &
Conspiracies
  N/A  | Waistcoats & Weaponry  N/A | Manners & Mutiny  N/A

overall

This is perfect for fans of steampunk, espionage, girl power and fun historical stories. However, this book does feel like a younger YA read so be sure to keep that in mind before you pick this up.

Read if You Like: espionage, steampunk
Avoid if You: want a strong plot, want a more mature YA read

similarreads

  • I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter (Gallagher Girl Series#1)
  • Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
  • The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles #1)

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Fresh Fridays: Blood Rose Rebellion (#1) by Rosalyn Eves

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:

Blood Rose Rebellion Series

Other books in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blood Rose Rebellion (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romanies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

breakdown

Series: Blood Rose Rebellion Trilogy
Author: Rosalyn Eves
# of Books: 3 (Blood Rose Rebellion, Book 2, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 28, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Blood Rose Rebellion at 57%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to Blood Rose Rebellion thanks to the lush setting. I’m a sucker for historical novels and I just love the associated tropes with it. You’ve got the clash of the classes, forbidden romances and rebellious heroines who you can’t help but root for. So I was eager to start this book!

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

A lot of the historical romances I read take place in London or Imperial Russia, so I was really excited to read this one set in Hungary! There such a rich history in this country (one that Eves has definitely researched) and it shows in this book.

You’ve got all the social hierarchy of the English aristocrats but the intriguing cultural divide with the Romani population and that really sets the stage for Anna’s world. It’s something I haven’t experienced before and I found myself absorbed into it.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Slow Plot–

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nothing is happening in this book, it’s just that there isn’t a whole lot happening in this book at one time. I get why: it’s the series start, so you want to build up the world and characters. However, this happens at such a slow pace, dealing with one (literally) issue at a time instead of layering them. I like a little more complexity to my plots.

I felt like I was just going with the flow of everyday life for Anna and that wasn’t very exciting for me to read.

–Nothing New Here Either–

As someone who has read a few magic-based series, nothing about this seemed very new to me. Not that anything seemed like a copy of another work by any means, rather, I’ve seen these plot twists before and have followed the similar sequences of events many times. It just didn’t seem “fresh” to me.

–The Romance–

I know this is a big flaw for a lot of people since Anna has three potential love interests within the first quarter of the book but I can’t help but cut her some slack. She’s just a girl who wants to be loved (she’s basically an outcast in her family who seems to loath her) and she goes looking for it in all the wrong places. It happens and I can understand that flaw.

BUT, this forbidden romance with Gabor just lacked any substance to me. Like, what was the big draw for each of them? I just wasn’t feeling it.

Will I Finish It?

NOPE. I even skimmed the last chapter after all the “excitement” happens and couldn’t muster any interest. It also looked like I hadn’t missed too much.

My Rating: DNF

Blood Rose Rebellion DNF | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

If you like straight forward stories in a rich historical setting, I think this is a great one for you to pick up. But if you are well acquainted with magic based stories, you might not find anything new in this one.

Read if You Like: slower stories, historical settings
Avoid if You: dislike magic

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Series Review: Sins and Scandals by Lauren Smith

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

Sins and Scandals Trilogy

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for An Earl by Any Other Name (from Goodreads):

An earl in the streets, a rogue in the sheets . . .

Leopold Graham, Lord Hampton, was never a man to let propriety stand in the way of his pursuit of pleasure. Hedonism is his only desire in life—until his father’s death saddles him with debts that threaten to bankrupt the entire family. Now the only thing that stands between him and utter ruin is marriage to a proper, and preferably wealthy, young lady.

Ivy Leighton is no sweet English rose. Perhaps it’s her gypsy roots, but she would rather make a spectacle of her independent spirit than sit quietly on the sidelines. If that means that the only place she’ll ever have in society is firmly on the shelf, then so be it. But when Ivy runs into the handsome, rakish Leo who’s looking for a respectable, well-bred wife, she can’t stop thinking about the troubles they can get into. Now she just has to convince him that a life with her is really what he needs.

breakdown

Series: Sins and Scandals Trilogy
Author: Lauren Smith
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Historical, Romance
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August – December 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Forever Publishing!

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the last year, I’ve discovered that Lauren Smith writes great novella series. They have solid plots, swoon worthy romance and never feel like they are half the size of other works in the genre. So I was really excited to see what she would do with a historical romance novella as opposed to the contemporary works I usually read by her.

What I Liked:

–Felt Like I was Back in Downton Abbey!–

The cover made me think this was a regency era novel but it’s actually set in 1911, which is fabulous! It had a great Downton Abbey feel to it because this is precarious time in history. You’ve got a change in the hierarchy of England and women are searching for the right to vote and be independent.

I loved the setting and how it contributed to the antagonism between Leo and Ivy. Instead of your heroine rebelling for the sake of rebelling, she’s rebelling to contribute to the greater good of society (suffragette movement!).

–Fun Plot Line–

It’s not in the synopsis but I liked that there was substance to the reason why these two were brought together. It added a lighter flare to the story and added some fun to the circumstances.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Just Needed a Little Bit More–

While these two had great chemistry and I could see why they would be a fabulous match, I felt like things were wrapped up just a little too quickly at the end. Not that I wanted some unnecessarily drama but another chapter would have been great!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really enjoy this setting and how there are so many interesting factors contributing to the character’s motivations. We’ve met the next hero so I’m curious to see what his story has in store.

updates

–September 6, 2017– Book #2: A Gentleman Never Surrenders

I’ll be the first to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Owen as the hero in this novel. He didn’t leave the greatest impression on me once I finished An Earl by Any Other Name for obvious reasons. But if anyone could get me to fall in love with an unlikely hero, Lauren Smith is that author.

And she definitely succeeds!

I immediately fell in love with Milly and Owen’s story–and their romance. I adored Milly’s independent spirit and her drive to be something more than what society deems. Watching her get that confidence and grow as a character was such a treat. And learning more about Owen’s motives and seeing him evolve as a character helped erase my previous misconceptions about him and love his characters.

Those misconceptions I had about him were the same ones that Milly had as well at the start. She’s apprehensive about the situation she now finds herself in and that brings out these fantastic moments between them. You get these heart-warming moments where they discover there is something more to the other than they ever thought and they fall that little bit more in love. They have a fantastic chemistry and have these delicious moments of sexual tension that I just adored.

These two charmed me completely and I absolutely loved this story!

–November 23, 2017– Book #3: A Scottish Lord for Christmas

I’ve been looking forward to this book since we where introduced to these two earlier in the series and it was just as good as I had hoped.

This story is just heartwarming from start to finish. It’s a story about learning to love again and accepting that love can happen anytime and that it is worth the risks.

It’s a delicate balance for Quinn and as a result he has some great character growth. You watch him struggle with a range of emotions and thoughts when it comes to his feelings for Rowena. It just gives his character a genuine edge that I really enjoyed as a reader. This is very much Quinn’s story about embracing the past but moving forward to the future.

In comparison, Rowena is very confident in her feelings and so she doesn’t have as much character growth as I expected. Instead, she’s more of a solid foundation to build this story up. In a way it was nice to see the female character be the “stronger” one who doesn’t have to learn or become more comfortable with herself.

While the chemistry is there from the start with these two, I found the sexual tension took a little longer to build. I think it’s because their initial meeting is so rushed and Rowena’s feelings are almost insta-love that it took me awhile to feel the sparks between them even though I knew they worked well on paper. But the romance between them definitely heated up the more I read.

Overall, it’s a great read in time for the holidays and a solid installment in this great series!

My Rating: 4/5

An Earl by Any Other Name 3/5 | A Gentlemen Never Surrenders 5/5 | A Scottish Lord for Christmas 4/5

overall

This was a nice break from the regency historical novels we often see. If you want a Downton Abbey era novella series, this is the one!

Read if You Like: quick reads, Downton Abbey, historical romance
Avoid if You: want a full length novel
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