Tag «love triangle»

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)

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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

similarreads

 

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Blog Tour: Cruel Money (Cruel #1) by K A Linde

Synopsis for Cruel Money (from Goodreads):

She was supposed to be a one night stand.

A way to sate my sexual appetite.

I let her glimpse the man I am. The face that I hide behind my carefully cultivated life. But she ripped open that divide—and there’s no going back.

Now, she’s here. In my city.

I don’t care that I’m Manhattan royalty and she’s the help.

Only that she’s living in my summer home. With me.

And I want more.

Other books in the series:
book3

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Cruel
Author: K A Linde
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a FREE prequel novella: #0.5 One Cruel Night

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Cruel Fortune, is to be released
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 22, 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Inkslinger PR–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I want a romance with a wicked twist along the way, K A Linde is my go to author. She never fails to surprise me when it comes to the drama of her romances. The romance is steamy and the drama is high–just what I like!

I was excited for this new series because it seemed like something I would love. Forbidden romance. NYC. Paris. I couldn’t wait to dive in!

What I Liked:

–Natalie–

I’ll be the first to say that I had to slowly warm up to Natalie a bit. I think her anger at the start made her seem abrupt and perhaps a little rude? But as the story progressed I really loved how she grew a backbone and become confident in herself. She doesn’t become this dependent heroine, rather she really does achieve independence so I was definitely on board with that!

–The Side Characters–

As I often am with these types of stories, I immediately got sucked into the lives of the side characters. I really hope we can elaborate more on their romances and shared histories in future novels.

Cruel Intentions meets Gossip Girl

Without a doubt, Cruel Intentions has one of my all time favourite romance tropes at the heart of it (playboy falls hard for his target) but I also adore (weird I know) the manipulation of the characters. Which is where the Gossip Girl comparisons come in. I associate the Upper East Side with high drama and backstabbing frenemies and a whole lot of angst. That’s all definitely here.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wish-Washy Penn–

Don’t get me wrong, I had a major crush on Penn. He’s charming and everything I like in my playboy heroes so I was a fan. But I had the hardest time getting a read on him. Just when I think I had him figured out, he’d do something that just seemed out of character for me. I suppose part of that is the point of the story (you don’t really know his true intentions) but it just made his character lack some stability as a character (if you get what I’m saying).

–It Seemed a Little Tame?–

I came in expecting a lot of drama and I don’t think I got as much as I wanted. Sure, the story is super angsty and there is lots of Upper East Side Drama like you expect. But everything just seemed a little more toned down than I’m used to. But I could definitely sense that things were building by the end of the novel so I’m thinking bigger things are to come!

When to Read #0.5 One Cruel Night:

I would highly recommend that you read the novella before you read #1 Cruel Money. I found that novella really highlighted Natalie and Penn’s relationship and gave me a foundation that was lacking at the start of the novel for me when it comes to the romance. It gives you their history but doesn’t give any of the big secrets away either. Plus, the novella is super great; I wish it was longer!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Things are ramping up and I can’t wait to see how all this will unfold!

My Rating: 3.5/5

[One Cruel Night 4/5] | Cruel Money 3.5/5 | Cruel Fortune TBP | Cruel Legacy TBP

overall
This is perfect for fans of Cruel Intentions and angsty romance reads!

Read if You Like: Cruel Intentions, the Upper East Side
Avoid if You: dislike angsty, billionaire romances

similarreads

  • Little Black Book by Tabatha Vargo (Little Black Book Series #1)
  • I Bet You by Isla Madden-Mills (The Hook-Up Series #2)
  • Fair Game by Monica Murphy (The Rules Series #1)

 


K A Linde

K.A. Linde is the USA Today bestselling author of the Avoiding Series, Wrights, and more than thirty other novels. She has a Masters degree in political science from the University of Georgia, was the head campaign worker for the 2012 presidential campaign at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served as the head coach of the Duke University dance team. She loves reading fantasy novels, binge-watching Supernatural, traveling, and dancing in her spare time.

She currently lives in Lubbock, Texas, with her husband and two super-adorable puppies.

Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter

 

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Novella Serial Reviews: Past Life Chronicles by C K Brooke

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

booksynopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

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

Series Rating: 4/5

overall

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

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

similarreads

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

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Fresh Fridays: Sweet Black Waves (#1) by Kristina Pérez

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:

Sweet Black Waves Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Sweet Black Waves (from Goodreads):

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA New Series 2018
Series: Sweet Black Waves Trilogy
Author: Kristina Perez
# of Books: 3 (Sweet Black Waves, Wild Savage Stars, Book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Wild Savage Stars, will be published in August 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Magic, Retelling
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: June 5, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Imprint Publishing!

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I managed to snag one of the few “read now” copies of this book on Netgalley and I couldn’t wait to dive in. I love forbidden romance stories and you don’t get much more famous than the legend of Tristan and Isolde (unless you are Romeo and Juliet perhaps). I’ve read a lot of Romeo and Juliet inspired stories but not very many of Tristan Isolde. Perhaps the adulterous nature of their story turns people away? Regardless, I was very intrigued to see how Pérez would used the tale to highlight a character who isn’t a part of the famous duo.

What I Liked:

–Rich World Building–

It’s always readily apparent to me how much work an author has put into a story and when I was only a few chapters in, I knew how much research and thought Kristina Pérez had put into crafting this world. Not only is the world intricately crafted with its lush setting of magic and politics, but the weaving of the various Tristan and Isolde legends is beautifully done.

I know the gist of the various legends but there was still an element of anticipation in this novel as I waited to see how everything would unfold and it takes a great talent to do that with a novel that has been inspired by such a well known tale.

–The Layered Characters–

It really was the characters that sold this story for me. Everyone has so many layers to them, not just Branwen (though she is a fascinating lead to follow). This truly is a character driven story as I found there isn’t much else to the plot besides Branwen navigating her role in court as various obstacles appear along the way. Nevertheless, it is entertaining and for someone who loves political intrigue in her novels, I was a huge fan!

–The Romance–

I can’t ignore the romance when it is based on one of the most famous romances of all time. I don’t want to give much away, but all I will say is SWOON! I was a big fan!

What I Didn’t Like:

–I Discovered the Glossary at the Very End of Reading–

Not that this was a hard story to follow when it comes to the terms and the language used. I’ve studied Latin and French so I was able to figure it out quickly. But I always hate when I discover the glossary once I’ve finished the book…it’s one of the biggest issues I have with reading ebooks but alas, it wasn’t a huge deal here.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! What an ending! I’m so invested in all these characters that I can’t wait to see what will happen next. I personally don’t see how this will be a trilogy given the plot of just the first book alone so I know some major stuff must be on the way in order to get to that third novel.

My Rating: 5/5

Sweet Black Waves 5/5 | Wild Savage Stars TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Despite the somewhat muted plot (when you compare it to other fantasy and high fantasy novels), there was never a dull moment in this book. Personally, it reminded me a lot of Blackhearts with its similar focus on the characters and romance while working within a well known legend. Only this one is a fantasy story and involves more politics.

Read if You Like: fantasy, inspired by well known legends
Avoid if You: want more action

similarreads

  • Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman (Blackhearts Series #1)
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore (Graceling Realm #1)

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Trope Thursday: Love Triangles [5]

Trope Thursdays: A monthly feature where I look at various reading tropes. Each month I will pick a trope and examine all aspects of it. I’ll discuss the classic features of the trope, what I love (or hate) about it and share some books that use the trope in their plots.


It’s Back!

I wasn’t able to get a Trope Thursday post up for May so the feature took a brief hiatus. While most of my posts are scheduled far in advance, certain features posts (like this one) are usually written a few days before I plan to publish them.

For the month of May I planned to tackle the one trope I can’t stand with a passion. Seriously, if I could abolish one trope from the world of writing, it would be this one.

June’s Trope: Love Triangle

Definition:

love triangle (also called a romantic love triangle or a romance triangle or an eternal triangle) is usually a romantic relationship involving three people. While it can refer to two people independently romantically linked with a third, it usually implies that each of the three people has some kind of relationship to the other two. The relationships can be friendshipsromantic, or familial.

~Wikipedia (“Love Triangle“)

Common Features:

  • Possibility for Forbidden Love
  • Torn between two friends/brothers/sisters
  • Unrequited love for a best friend
  • Rivals
  • Possibility for unfaithfulness

Quick Note Moving Forward:

I’m going to mostly be using the pronoun “she” as the Person of Interest when I write my opinions and assume that her potential suitors are “he”. This is really just to keep it simple and clear what I am trying to convey. I’m not saying that men don’t find themselves torn between two girls or whatever combination you want to imagine, it’s really just a matter of keeping things clear and consistent to emphasize my points 🙂

What I Love About The “Love Triangle” Trope:

In this case, love is a strong word. I don’t particularly care for the love triangle (and I’ll get to why below) but I can admit that there are certain aspects of the love triangle trope that can contribute to the story in a positive way…and not simply for filler.

One of the reasons I think we see so many love triangles in fiction is for their ability to emphasis the “torn” nature of the person of interest. What I mean to say is that in most novels, the Object of Affection (OOA) must choose between two suitors much like the idea that she has to choose the path for life she must follow. Does she stick with the path she has always known or does she embrace the new “her” and the future it could bring?

Take Twilight for example. Bella is torn between Jacob (a werewolf) and Edward (a vampire)–and don’t forget for a little while Mike (a human). Each suitor represents a different path for Bella. With Mike, it’s the acceptance of the human world and the casting aside of the paranormal one. With Jacob, she can remain human, be in love with a close friend while still acknowledging the paranormal world. And with Edward, it’s accepting his immortality and the question of whether or not he is worth her mortality.

(Now Twilight isn’t the greatest love triangle example [it’s included on my worst list below], but it’s one most readers are familiar with without spoiling other series).

Now, not all love triangles follow this ideal. But I think at the heart of most of them, they represent a choice for the characters that is deeper than simply who they want to kiss at night and, if done correctly, they can contribute positively to the character development.

What I Dislike About The “Love Triangle” Trope:

Where do I start?!

One of my biggest peeves about the love triangle trope is when it is throw in simply for the sake of some “drama”. Not every romance needs to be challenged by a rival. There are other obstacles that couples can overcome that don’t involve a third person and that can still provide depth to the characters and their relationship.

My other dislike about love triangles is the back and forth nature of them. Suddenly the “ugly duckling” is seen by two amazing boys and she simply can’t choose between them. Thus ensues chapter after chapter of flip flopping between her feelings. I find this usually distracts from the large plot (especially in middle books of trilogies) and can make for a dull read.

But perhaps my biggest issue with love triangles is their unrealistic nature. I’m not saying that love triangles can’t exist in real life. The reason I liked the definition Wikipedia provides is that it emphasizes that those relationships between those three people don’t have to necessarily be romantic in nature. Rather, what I find unrealistic about most love triangles is that suddenly, two suitors are simultaneously in love with the OOA seemingly out of nowhere. Now I get that there are certain circumstances that can bring this on (like the end of the world for example). But the whole transformation of “ugly duckling” to “most loveable person ever” is one I readily dislike.

Books that Use the “Love Triangle” Trope Well:

This goes back to my first argument where love triangles can be used to emphasize the torn nature of a heroine. What I like about the love triangle in this series–besides the fact that it never overshadows the rest of the plot–is how much it contributes to Ember’s character development. Throughout the series Ember is struggling with her dragon nature (thus her draw to Cobalt) as well as her human nature (thus her draw to Garret) and her attempts to reconcile her feelings for each guy also reflects her growth as a person and dragon as she tries to save the world.

>>Series Review: Talon

 

This is one of the only books I have ever read that has a “true love triangle” element to it (ie all three characters are in love with each other). The heart of this novel is Laney’s identity crisis and her relationships with both Armin and Blythe play crucial roles in that. The love triangle here provides an interesting dynamic to the story and one that keeps the reader on their toes as they watch Laney’s plan for revenge unfold.

>>Standalone Review: Black Iris

 

Others:  No One Needs to Know | Suitors and Sabotage | Shatter Me

Books that Didn’t Use the “Love Triangle” Trope Well:

There is actually a love square in this book but that’s besides the point. My main peeve with this one comes from my intense dislike of our lead heroine, Harper and the inexplicable reason why she has two boys chasing her down with only two sentences spoken between them. (Oh, and her token male BFF who has always loved her). Harper flops like a fish with her feelings and it does nothing to develop her as a character.

>>Series Review: Taking Chances

 

This one had the potential to be good. I mean Calla is torn between duty and her heart when it comes to her suitors…but it’s her actions and reactions that sink that ship pretty quickly. Calla’s relationships become a sole focus for the story and for her. She becomes this self-obsessed heroine who flits back and forth between guys (ie making out with each of them) and subsequently feeling guilty for doing so but does nothing to solve the problem. Frustration to the extreme.

>>Series Review: Nightshade

 

Others:  The Vincent Boys | A Beautiful Dark | Twilight


Do you enjoy books with the “love triangle” Trope?

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Trilogy Termination: He’s So/She’s So by Kieran Scott

trilogytermination

Spring 2017

Trilogy Termination Blitz: I finally finish some trilogies I started years ago by reading the final book! But don’t let my delay in finishing them deter you from picking them up…or should it?

Miss the Introduction Post? Read it here!

booksynopsis

Synopsis for She’s So Dead to Us (from Goodreads):

Ally Ryan would rather be in Maryland. She would rather be anywhere, in fact, than Orchard Hill, site of her downfall. Well, not hers exactly—but when your father’s hedge fund goes south and all your friends lose their trust funds, things don’t look so sunny for you. Her mother moved her to Maryland to flee the shame, but now they’re moving back. Back to the country-club, new-car-every-year, my-family-came-over-on-the-Mayflower lifestyle that Ally has outgrown. One bright spot, however, is gorgeous, intense Jake Graydon. But it won’t be easy for the two of them to be together—not if his friends (her former friends) have anything to say about it. Is Ally ready to get thrown back into the drama of the life she left behind?

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Series: He’s So/She’s So Trilogy
Author: Kieran Scott
# of Books: 3 (She’s So Dead to Us, He’s So not Worth It, This Is So Not Happening)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, High School, Drama
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2010 – May 2012
Source & Format: Public Library–Hardcover; eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t know how I learned about this series but I do know that I suggested that my local library buy it and that’s how I got my hands on this series! This was back in the day when my YA horizons weren’t broader than contemporaries and this one sounded like it had some juicy drama!

The Plot:

What I liked about these books was that the plot did have a few layers to it. You’ve got Ally struggling to fit back in with her friends and new family situation; Jake struggling with his feelings for Ally (and vice versa) and then some main plot for the book. And each book fits that formula and throws in some other love interests along the way.

Basically, it’s an extended teen soap opera episode.

So while I found each novel to be terribly predictable, I also found myself sucked into the lives of Ally and company.

The Characters:

Surprisingly, I liked Ally. I say surprisingly because I often find myself annoyed with teenaged heroines in high school dramas since they seem to have priorities and views I can’t stand. But Ally has a fabulous head on her shoulders and I really loved how she handled herself with all the craziness that is around her.

And it is a whole lot of crazy. Her friends are everything I despise in YA characters. They’re petty, selfish and love everything drama has to offer. I mean, it works for the story but it also makes them a little unlikable.

Jake is a great example of that. Talk about self-absorbed! Oye, his thought process slayed me sometimes. He definitely isn’t going to be on my list of book boyfriends anytime soon.

However, in the same breathe, it provides a great opportunity to see these characters grow up a little with all the stuff that gets thrown their way. (And for the most part, they seize that opportunity).

The Romance:

Seeing as I wasn’t a huge Jake fan, I didn’t always love the romance between him and Ally. And the constant love triangles they found themselves in were exhausting. But somehow, it worked for this story so I tolerated it.

Series Rating: 4/5

She’s So Dead to Us 4/5 | He’s So Not Worth It 4/5 | This Is So Not Happening 3.5/5

overall

If you love teen soaps but want one in a book, this is a series you should have on your radar!

Read if You Like: high school drama, teen soaps
Avoid if You: dislike drama

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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

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

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

The Plot:

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

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

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

The Characters:

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

The Romance:

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

My Rating: 4.5/5

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

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

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Cindy Anstey

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

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

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

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

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Single Sundays: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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 Tell Me Three Things (from Goodreads):

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

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Author: Julie Buxbaum
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Like most titles, I don’t know how this one crossed my radar but I know a lot of my friends on Goodreads have read (and enjoyed) it since its release.

I was really excited to read it though because it sounded a lot like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda–the idea of a secret pen-pal that helps the lead cope with the current situation. I had heard this book was funny and charming, so I was eager to dive into the audiobook.

The Concept:

I definitely think people can relate to this book–and Jessie–in some way or another. She’s going through a lot of changes in her life and she’s just doing the best she can to adapt. I related to her because I’ve totally been that new kid at school, trying to navigate life in a new place. But meeting her new step-family and grieving the loss of her mother are other aspects readers will gravitate towards as well.

The whole concept of Somebody Nobody (SN) reminded me a lot of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda where the characters interact and bond with someone online. But instead of Jessie dealing with her sexuality like Simon in a place he is familiar with, she’s dealing with grief and living in a whole new city. Both are charming leads that will have you laughing out loud and feeling their pain throughout their respective novels.

The Plot:

I liked that there was a lot going on in this book. You aren’t focused solely on Jessie and her grieving–which is important, don’t get me wrong. I just mean that there are other things happening that add to the overall experience and makes everything that little bit richer. It also gives the book a lighter tone in between those moments of grief.

Also, the mystery of SN was fantastic! It truly keeps you invested and has this addicting quality to it. I couldn’t tell if it was just wishful thinking on my part or if it was obvious who SN was. Either way, it was still an enjoyable aspect of the story.

The Characters:

Like I said before, Jessie is a very relateable character and hilarious. Some of her comments had me laughing out loud for quite a while. I loved her wit and sass–usually I only find that in contemporaries with male leads.

But I also loved her character development. Watching her get that self confidence back was fabulous.

Why this book doesn’t get 5 stars though is because she is also frustrating at times. Her assumptions about who SN was were maddening to listen to. I swear, she would purposely miss things to meet an end. As I noted at the 78% mark:

“Maybe he doesn’t act like he’s SN because he ISN’T SN! I swear, Jessie is a little dense sometimes -.-“

And again at the 97% mark:

“Girl, for the love of all, stop assuming things and just ask or wait for someone to tell you!”

I just wanted to give her a smack and say THINK ABOUT IT! Her biggest fault is her inability to communicate. However, thanks to her character’s story and development, I understood why that would be the case so I cut her some slack. Still didn’t make it easier to listen too at times.

The Romance:

This was super cute and I liked that it wasn’t a huge focus of the book either. I don’t want to give too much away but I think readers will be happy with this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook and I think that positively impacted my rating. As a reader, I have a better time understanding wit and sarcasm when it’s spoken instead of simply words on a page. But there is also something about listening to someone pour their heart out. You feel so connected to the character as they tell you their story and I definitely felt that with Jessie.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

This is a YA contemporary that hits all the right notes. It’s charming, funny and sweet–readers will love this! Plus, it has heart waffles on the cover! Waffles!

Read if You Like: realistic YA contemporary, witty heroines
Avoid if You: dislike realistic contemporary fiction

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Series Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

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

book4 book5 book6

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shatter Me (from Goodreads):

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

breakdown

Series: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order)

There are 2 novellas: #1.5 Destroy Me and #2.5 Fracture Me

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Restore Me will be published in March 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content later in series**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: November 2011 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve had Shatter Me for a ridiculous long time on my TBR. Every once in a while I would think to read it, but all the novels were checked out in the library. And it wasn’t until the next 3 novels were announce that I decided to make it a priority for 2017. Specifically, I used it as my “binge” series for my Summer TBR Wipeout Challenge.

The Concept / The World:

If you’ve read any dystopian fiction before, you know how it goes. You have a minority in power and the majority struggling/accepting that things are the way they are. Queue the secret rebel society and there starts your series. This one isn’t that different when it comes down to it.

What I will say about this series is that (so far) we don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on why things are why they are. What I mean is that you focus more on Juliette finding her way in the world instead of focusing on why she has this power or why the world collapsed into what it is now. So I guess the world building leaves a little to be desired but I also wasn’t reading it for that purpose either.

The Plot:

As I said above, this series is all about Juliette’s character growth and how she adapts to the situations she finds herself in. Perhaps that sounds a little dull, but I found myself captivated by her story. There are some great twists and events along the way so I never felt bored by the plot.

The Characters:

I LOVED Juliette! Her growth from Shatter Me to Ignite Me was exactly what I want to see in my heroines. And what’s really cool is that it shows in the narration style throughout the series. In Shatter Me, it’s a touch disjointed and uncertain; in Unravel Me, she gets a little surer of herself; and in Ignite Me, she’s confident and just goes for it. It was a awesome evolution.

The rest of the cast is fabulous. I loved how they added to the story when they needed to but never overshadowed Juliette.

And can I just say, I LOVE Warner! I love a bad boy and his character added so much to this story! He’s a great villain!

The Romance:

Oh, this is one of my favourite aspects because it does a fabulous job of enhancing the story. I don’t want to get into much since I don’t do spoilers but I really liked the romance…yes, even the love triangle we get. This is one of the few times I think a love triangle was used effectively and actually contributed to the overall plot.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

While I liked the ending in Ignite Me, I think it would have been a different story if I didn’t know about the next 3 books. I think I would have wanted more…so glad I’ll be getting it!

Series Rating: 4/5

Shatter Me 4/5 | Unravel Me 4/5 | Ignite Me 4/5

overall

If you want a dystopian read that focuses on the heroine’s personal journey and doesn’t get too caught up in the world or why it is the way it is, this is the one for you!

Read if You Like: dystopian, love triangles, heroine development
Avoid if You: want more world building
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Fresh Fridays: Royal Replicas (#1) by Michael Pierce

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:

Royal Replicas Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Royal Replicas (from Goodreads):

“Princess Amelia is dead… and one of you will replace her.”

Seventeen-year-old Victoria Sandalwood has served the Duke and Duchess all her life. Over the years, she’s learned to make due with what she has and endure her surrogate father’s awful punishments. She dreams of escape, but never expected it to come in the form of a message from the Queen of Westeria.

Victoria learns that she’s the Queen’s daughter, the younger sister to Princess Amelia, and it’s time to come home and claim her birthright. When she arrives, she discovers she’s not the only one who received the royal message.

Victoria must compete with six other girls to earn the affection of both the Queen and a princely suitor… and to replace the secretly deceased Princess Amelia. If she fails to win the crown, Victoria may just have to fight for her life…

breakdown

Series: Royal Replicas
Author: Michael Pierce
# of Books: 2 (Royal Replicas, Royal Captives)

There is a prequel novella (#0.5) called Royal Reset

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Royal Captives, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: July 11, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover drew me in, the synopsis had me wanting more. I love books with courtly intrigue or politics and throw in the idea that girls have to compete to be the next princess? I was so there!

I went in hoping for a book like The Selection but with a lead I could actually like and a story that actually went somewhere.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of the Competition–

Trying to figure out the Queen of Westeria’s motivations for the competition truly had me eager for me. It kept me hooked and had me coming up with all sorts of conspiracy theories. I love books that keep me guessing.

–The World–

Dystopian worlds all share the same basic foundations which can get monotonous over time. But this one still felt fresh to me. I think it’s because we don’t focus too much on its structure and keep our focus on Victoria’s journey. I’m hoping that we can expand this in the sequel(s).

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Choppy Romance–

While this wasn’t the main reason I picked up this story, I do like a solid romance in my reads. Unfortunately, this one was a little all over the place. I could forgive Victoria for her back and forth feelings given the situation(s) she finds herself in. I would be torn too. However, I really didn’t see the connection to either boy and her flip-flopping drove me NUTS because of it. The connections just seemed shallow and too quick for me to really “pick a team”.

–It Played Things Too Safe–

With some of the plot twists, I feel like they were revealed a little too abruptly. There were certain things that could have built or been taken to the next level to give this book the “wow” factor it easily could have.

The Novella, Royal Reset:

I read this after Royal Replicas and I feel like you could read it before or after. I found it didn’t give too much away in terms of a certain character (I actually had more questions than answers after I finished reading it–even though I had read the full novel). But, I do think it does a slightly better job of explaining Victoria’s home life and leads nicely into Royal Replicas.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I have so many unanswered questions that I’m curious to see what is going to happen next! I’m hoping now that the novelty of the romance is done, we can get back to the nitty gritty of the plot and trying to uncover what is at play.

My Rating: 3/5

[Royal Reset] 3/5 | Royal Replicas 3/5 | Royal Captives TBP

overall

This is a lighter dystopian read packed with an addictive and suspenseful plot that is layered in mystery.

Read if You Like: dystopian, courtly intrigue, mysterious plots
Avoid if You: hate love triangles
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