Tag «Historical Fiction»

Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

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 Duchess Deal (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Girl Meets Duke
Author: Tessa Dare
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Book 4 to be released in February 2021
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was in a historical romance phase, I discovered Tessa Dare and I’ve never looked back. Even though I don’t go out of my way to read much of the genre anymore (there are a few exceptions like Anna Harrington and Kelly Bowen), I make it a point to read anything Tessa Dare writes.

The Plot:

I’d read 14 other books by Tessa Dare by the time I started this series and you know what is shocking to me? That all her series and novels feel fresh and unique. Certainly, there are aspects to her novels that are her trademark–like the unconventional-to-society heroine or a scared hero or the way she can convey humour throughout–but I never truly feel like I’m reading a regurgitation of her previous novels or that they follow a set, formula.

I had a blast meeting all these new characters and watching all the hi-jinx they get into as they fall in love and challenge societal norms.

The Characters:

I immediately fell in love with ALL our leads in The Duchess Deal. When our heroine meets the future heroines in the series, I was so excited to see who was getting their story next that I definitely peeked at the synopsis for the rest of the series.

Everyone is just delightful. And I love how their individual struggles and growth are highlighted in their novels through the plot and romance.

The Romance:

The tension is so delicious in each novel! I couldn’t get enough of our couples–it made the books so addicting to read! But I really loved how the romances had a bit of a slow burn to them where they take their time to truly fall in love with the person and not just because they have insane physical chemistry.

My Audiobook Experience:

Humour doesn’t always come across in written novels for me–though that has never been a problem with Tessa’s novels–so audiobooks are a great way for me to get the humour because you hear the tone the author wants the dialogue to be delivered in. Now that I’ve started listening to her books in audio, I think that’s the only way I can enjoy them! They are just so easy and fun to listen to!

Series Rating: 5/5

The Duchess Deal 5/5 | The Governess Game 5/5 | The Wallflower Wager 4/5 | The Bride Bet TBD

overall

Honestly, this series reminded me why Tessa Dare has become an automatic must read author for me. She never fails to disappoint when it comes to characters, romance, plot and humour!

Read if You Like: historical fiction
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction romances

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Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dread Nation (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

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

–Girl Power–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

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

–Some of the Twists Felt Like An Afterthought–

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

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

Spoiler

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

[collapse]

My Audiobook Experience:

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

Will I Finish It?

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

Series Rating: DNF

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

overall

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

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

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DNF Series Review: Lady Helen by Alison Goodman

DNF Series Review: Lady Helen by Alison Goodman

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 6: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Dark Days Club (from Goodreads):

London, April 1812.

On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

breakdown

Series: Lady Helen
Author: Alison Goodman
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Supernatural
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Dates: December 2015 – November 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover

thoughts

**Disclaimer: I stopped reading The Dark Days Club at 32% (start of Chapter 11) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This was one of those series that always caught my eye when I was browsing my library’s collection. And when I read the synopsis, I was intrigued. I adore historical fiction and I don’t get to it often enough in the YA genre. Add to it the supernatural element and I was totally onboard to add it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for the year 2015.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I love historical novels with a supernatural twist. There’s just something about the bizarre as it meets the lush society that I find endlessly fascinating.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Way too Dry–

It just felt like this book was taking forever to get somewhere. I was pretty far in and nothing had really evolved besides Helen learning that maybe her mother wasn’t a traitor…which is so obvious it’s painful to anyone who has read a book before.

–Lack of Chemistry–

I was hoping the promise of romance might save this one but no such luck. I didn’t find the banter as engaging as I wanted.

–Helen is Rather Dull–

I get it: she’s lived a life constrained by boundaries outside her control but I wish she had more to her personality. She’s a bit of a “special snowflake” but one you’ve encountered numerous times before.

Will I Continue With the Series?:

No. I’ve read reviews for the sequels to see if this slower start is worth it but they weren’t overly positive so I am stopping here.

Series Rating: DNF

The Dark Days Club DNF | The Dark Days Pact N/A | The Dark Days Deceit N/A

overall

There was nothing to get me excited about this series despite the promising inklings.

Read if You Like: slower stories, historical fiction
Avoid if You: want something with lots of action

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DNF Series Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF Series Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 2: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Born of Illusion (from Goodreads):

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.

breakdown

Series: Born of Illusion
Author: Teri Brown
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #1.5 Born of Corruption

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2013 – June 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

**Disclaimer: I stopped reading Born of Illusion at 41% (start of Chapter 14) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I kinda forgot I had this series on my TBR to be honest. It wasn’t listed on my Goodreads one but I had marked it for my library Wishlist and when I needed another 2013 pick for my 2018 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge, this seemed like the perfect fit.

I’ve been dying for another great Flapper read since I read The Flappers. And add to this the idea of magic and Houdini? I’m so there!

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

There is just something so addicting to me about the 1920s era of history. You’ve got the clash of mystisicim and industry/science; the lavish lifestyles and the hidden ones. It’s just a rich setting that immediately draws me in.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Basic Approach–

There isn’t anything WOW about this book. Yes, Anna’s powers and situation with her mother are interesting but if you strip that away it isn’t anything new. I was 41% of the way in and we had repeated the same stuff over and over and it just frankly wasn’t interesting.

–Recycling the Same Sentiments–

And if we weren’t redoing the same plot, we were rehashing the same feelings.

This mostly has to do with the romance and the setup for a love triangle. While I understand why she might be drawn to the two boys, I didn’t need to be reminded of the same three things again and again.

The same thing goes with her relationship with her mother. I get that it’s a tough one (her mom is certainly no peach), but like move on? Or shift the focus slightly because I get the idea that things are rough between them already.

Will I Finish It?

Nope.

My Rating: DNF

Born of Illusion DNF | [Born of Corruption N/A] | Born of Deception N/A

overall

Even the Great Houdini couldn’t make me enjoy this one!

Read if You Like: 1920s setting, magic
Avoid if You: want a more complex plot

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Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

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 The Game of Love and Death (from Goodreads):

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

breakdown

Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (via Hoopla)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobook selections at my local library, the cover of this title immediately drew my attention in. I had never heard of the book before, but I liked the premise a lot when I read it. So, I added it to my TBR and actually added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2019 as a pick for the year 2015.

The Concept / The World:

I love the idea of fate or some greater beings controlling our everyday lives. It’s a cool premise to explore in a story and one that is done flawlessly here. Death and Love are compelling characters and their motives reflect that.

I love historical fiction set in this era; it’s so culturally rich and the issues people face are so basic and genuine. It adds this layer to the story that would be lost if it didn’t take place in this time-frame.

The Plot:

I think what I liked best about this story is that despite the larger premise (a game controlled by Love and Death), it’s a human story without all the over the top theatrics. It’s achingly real and heartfelt. The essence is a timeless story, though it is enhanced by the setting.

I’ll admit that the resolution of the game was a little lost on me. Well, one aspect was at least. The flashbacks (not that there are too many) also had me a little lost because I was listening to the audio and am not the best at remembering dates when they are said aloud.

The Characters:

I really enjoyed all the characters stories–Love, Death, Flora, Henry, Ethan–just intriguing characters and stories. They truly are the heart and soul of this story. I loved getting all the different POVs and I was never overwhelmed by them either.

The Romance:

You aren’t getting copious scenes of stolen moments or kisses but it’s a romance at its core. It’s like a slow burn romance with an edge of suspense with the “will they or won’t they” vibes the story entices.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production is beautiful. The choice to actually sing the songs just brings everything to life and perfectly captures the emotion of the songs.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

It’s not your everyday story or romance but there is something compelling about this story. I highly recommend the audiobook version!

Read if You Like: thought provoking novels, classic romances
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction, want a contemporary romance

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Blog Tour: The Hummingbird Dagger by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for The Hummingbird Dagger (from Goodreads):
1833. After young Lord James Ellerby witnesses a near-fatal carriage accident on the outskirts of his estate, he doesn’t think twice about bringing the young woman injured in the wreck to his family’s manor to recuperate. But then she finally regains consciousness only to find that she has no memory of who she is or where she belongs.

Beth, as she takes to calling herself, is an enigma even to herself. She has the rough hands of a servant, but the bearing and apparent education of a lady. Her only clue to her identity is a gruesome recurring nightmare about a hummingbird dripping blood from its steel beak.

With the help of James and his sister, Caroline, Beth slowly begins to unravel the mystery behind her identity and the sinister circumstances that brought her to their door. But the dangerous secrets they discover in doing so could have deadly ramifications reaching the highest tiers of London society.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, Canadian Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
Heat Rating: Cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 16, 2019
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge Cindy Anstey fan! I love her historical YA titles for their playfulness and charm. So a ride on the darker side with a murder mystery? I couldn’t wait to uncover it!

The Plot:

This story is very reminiscent of Victorian era murder mysteries. It’s a lot of dialogue at times but I enjoyed the banter between the characters and found it to be engaging. The story really starts with a bang and then you slowly rebuild everything to the climax. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and it had some layers to it because it made the reading experience richer.

The Characters:

While this story lacked the playfulness of Anstey’s other works, it didn’t lack the charm she brings to her characters. We have a full cast of them to follow her and I liked that we have the various POVs. It helped to develop the individual characters while giving a fullness to the plot.

That being said, there could have been a little more to the character development. But that can be hard to do in a mystery where the lead has amnesia. And I liked that the focus remained on uncovering the plot and Beth’s past.

The Romance:

This is really a minor aspect to the story so it isn’t super fleshed out. But that worked for me because it was exactly the type of romance I expected for this genre.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
If you enjoy a mystery story with a classic vibe to it and charming characters, check this out!

Read if You Like: historical fiction, mystery, amnesia storylines
Avoid if You: want a lighter read, want more romance

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Cindy Anstey

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

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

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

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

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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: 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

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

 

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Blog Tour: Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

Synopsis for Illusions (from Entangled Teen):

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

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Author: Madeline J Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT, Magic
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. The first is its historical setting–I love a good Victorian Era YA novel. The second is the gay romance between the leads–I haven’t read too many books set in this era with that romance. And the third is the premise itself–who doesn’t love some good magician sabotage?

The Plot:

This book took me awhile to get into probably because it is told through (primarily) journal entries and that delivers the story in a different way. You focus more on the characters, their feelings and daily events more so than the setting or interactions with other characters. In a sense, you are getting the story secondhand story because they are describing what has happened without you experiencing it first hand. But once I got into the groove of the POV format, the story was easy to read.

I, personally, would have enjoyed a more amped up rivalry between the two master magicians; with more sabotage. Instead, the focus remains on the two apprentices creating a very character driven story that is still very enjoyable to read because there is some great character growth (in addition to the very sweet romance).

The Characters:

It was amazing to watch these two transform before my eyes as the story progressed. The Thomas and Saverio we get at the start of the novel definitely aren’t the same boys we end the story with. I just loved the personal growth we see in these characters. I think the journal entries provided that touch of intimacy into these characters’ emotions and inner thoughts that really adds to the characters’ many layers.

The Romance:

These two were simply adorable together! I always enjoy romances that don’t start out with the nicest intentions, yet twist into something real and strong. When the plot isn’t focusing on them as individuals, I like how it concentrated on how they navigate their relationship given the various circumstances (their rivalry, the nature of their relationship in society, etc.). I also appreciated how it took the time to tackle them realistically; nothing ever felt rushed in that sense (and that isn’t always the case).

My Rating: 3/5

overall
Despite a slower start, this is a great read for fans of character driven historical YA reads!

Read if You Like: historical, stories told through journal entries
Avoid if You: want more than romance

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Madeline J Reynolds

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Blog Tour: Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Suitors and Sabotage (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

The Romance:

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

My Rating: 4.5/5

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

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

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Cindy Anstey

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

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

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

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

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