Tag «must read author»

Blog Tour: I Dare You by Isla Madden-Mills

Synopsis for I Dare You (from Goodreads):
I DARE YOU!

Badass Athlete: I dare you to…
Delaney Shaw: Who is this?

The late night text is random, but “Badass Athlete” sure seems to know who she is…

Delaney Shaw.
Good girl.
Lover of fluffy kitties and Star Wars.
Curious.

His dare? Spend one night in his bed—a night he promises will be unforgettable—and she can solve the mystery of who he is.

She knows she shouldn’t, but what else is she going to do with her boring Valentine’s Day?

One sexy hook-up later, her mind is blown and the secret’s out.

Maverick Monroe.
Bad boy.
The most talented football player in the country.
Just ask him.

Too bad for him Delaney’s sworn off dating athletes forever after her last heartbreak.

But Maverick wants more than one night and refuses to give up on winning Delaney’s heart. She isn’t one to be fazed by a set of broad shoulders.

Will the bad boy land the nerd girl or will the secrets they keep from each other separate them forever?

Other books in the series:

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Hook-Up
Author: Isla Madden Mills
# of Books: 1+ (I Dare You, I Bet You)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, I Bet You, will be released July 2018
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 28, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the last two years, Isla Madden-Mills has become a must read author for me. I just love all the stories she writes thanks to her ability to write unique stories and characters. While she has a definite style to her writing, it never comes across as formulaic which I greatly appreciate as a reader.

I’ve been dying to read I Dare You ever since I read about it in her newsletter. The whole concept is one of my favourites to read and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when sports jock meets witty nerd.

The Plot:

The synopsis is slightly misleading in the fact that it makes it sound like Delaney only has one interaction with “Badass Athlete” before she jumps into his bed. But what actually happens is a series of interactions and flirty texts over a good amount of time before the prospect of sleeping together happens.

It’s these interactions that I loved reading about. These two have such great banter and watching them tests each other’s limits with the texts was a treat. It just brought so much tension to the story that I just couldn’t put it down.

But once the “big reveal” is done, I found some of the momentum was lost as they focused on the secrets. Perhaps if the reader didn’t know Maverick’s secret already thanks to his POV, that tension would still be there. But that isn’t the case. However, I really did like how they handle all the “secrets” and the like so it wasn’t a huge impact on my rating.

The Characters:

I loved Delaney and Maverick. They are just great people and the type of characters you really want to see succeed in whatever it is they do. Together, they just complement each other as leads and this story wouldn’t be half as entertaining as it is without them.

The Romance:

SWOON! I definitely found a new book boyfriend in Maverick. He just says all the right things–but is a totally sweet guy too so you know it’s sincere. I loved all their scenes together and couldn’t get enough of their amazing chemistry.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I know what characters I want to see more of and I can’t wait!

My Rating: 4/5

I Dare You 4/5 | I Bet You TBA

overall
With a swoon-worthy hero and entertaining characters to boot, this is a great start to what will no doubt be an addicting series to read!

Read if You Like: college romances, jock heroes, hot romance
Avoid if You: dislike sport romances

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Ilsa Madden-Mills

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets and paints old furniture.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

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Single Sundays: PS I Hate You by Winter Renshaw

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

Synopsis for PS I Hate You (from Goodreads):

Dear Isaiah,

Eight months ago, you were just a soldier about to be deployed and I was just a waitress, sneaking you free pancakes and hoping you wouldn’t notice that my gaze was lingering a little too long.

But you did notice.

We spent a “week of Saturdays” together before you left, and we said goodbye on day eight, exchanging addresses at the last minute.

I saved every letter you ever sent, your words quickly becoming my religion.

But you went radio silent on me months ago, and then you had the audacity to walk into my diner yesterday and act like you’d never seen me in your life.

To think … I almost loved you and your beautifully complicated soul.

Almost.

Whatever your reason is—I hope it’s a good one.

Maritza the Waitress

PS – I hate you, and this time … I mean it.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 28, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gems Books–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Over the last year, Winter Renshaw has become a must read author for me–and this book definitely reaffirmed that.

I’ve been looking forward to this one since I read its blurb a few months ago. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Isaiah and Maritza and uncover just what had happened between them. Of course I had my theories but you never know what to expect with a Renshaw book 😉

The Concept:

This story starts from the beginning of Isaiah and Maritza’s story–starting when they meet for the first time. It’s a little bittersweet watching their story unfold because you, thanks to the synopsis, that something terrible happens to draw them apart. But that just sucks you in more as you get invested in their story.

And I just want to say that despite the synopsis format, this novel isn’t only told through letters. Just a heads up.

The Plot:

I really enjoyed the fact that we start at the beginning of their relationship. That this isn’t a second chance romance right from the get-go. As I said above, the anticipation of knowing that things go awry (all the while hating that they do because you’ve come to love these two together) adds an addicting quality to this story.

I had my theories going in about what draws them apart, but Renshaw completely threw me for a loop with her twist and that made me love this book even more.

The Characters:

The main reason I loved this book so much was our two leads. They’re absolutely great and bring this story to life in a way that just makes it addicting to read.

Maritza is honest to a fault I think but I loved her candour and approach to life. I don’t know how else this story would work if she wasn’t the lead.

Isaiah is a hard nut to crack and I loved watching Maritza slowly ebb away his gruff exterior to see who he truly is. Because as the reader, you do get his inner monologue and know his struggles. It’s just fun watching his evolution thanks to Maritza.

The Romance:

At the start, they are a little like oil and vinegar–not completely mixing thanks to their candour and stubborn personalities. Of course that changes as they get to know each other but I loved the tension their early interactions invoked.

As they get to know each other through conversations and activities, you start to see how these two would work. That was one of the things I appreciated the most about their story was actually reading the conversations these two would share. Seeing them interact on a daily basis enhanced their relationship and made their situation more realistic than not.

My Rating: 5/5

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Simply put, this novel just strikes the right tone throughout. The drama is just right; never becoming melodramatic despite the twists along the way. The romance is sweet and charming; it isn’t just about their physical attraction but a friendship. And the characters are will no doubt have you falling in love right with them–even when you don’t expect it.

Read if You Like: sweet romance, army heroes, time limited romances
Avoid if You: want erotica

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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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Single Sundays: Savage Love by Ella Miles

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 Savage Love (from Goodreads):

I hate him.

He’s made my life a living hell every day since we were five years old. We’ve been enemies since the day he cut off my pigtails in first grade and I retaliated by drawing on his face with a sharpie.

Our hate of each other grew stronger as we got older. We grew more savage in the way we dealt with each other. We broke bones in fights, sabotaged each other’s dates, and ruined any chance each other had at happiness.

We went our separate ways after college. I never thought I’d have to deal with that asshole again.

But I’m out of a job, so when the opportunity to compete for one of the highest profile PR jobs presented itself, I jumped at the chance. Even if it means I’ll have to compete with Carter for the job. I’ll be more than happy to crush him on the way to my dream job. I’m willing to do anything, savage things, to ensure I win.

There’s just one problem. I forgot how much my body betrays me every time I see Carter. Because despite all the horrible things he’s done, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to do naughty, unthinkable things with him. Will my savage heart be enough to resist his charms?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ella Miles
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 26th, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of Ella Miles and her darker contemporary works. So I was really excited to see what she would do in a more contemporary, slightly lighter romance.

I’m a huge fan of the hate to love you trope and when it’s linked to the “in love with brother’s BFF” one? And you add in some pranks? I’m so there!

The Concept:

It definitely lives up to the “Savage” title with some of the ways these two try to out smart each other!

These two go to the extremes in their efforts to out match each other. Being a seasoned Ella Miles reader, I know that she will take things to that next level and that’s the case here. It makes the read entertaining though and keeps you hooked because you have to know what will happen between them.

The Plot:

I loved the back and forth nature of this story–it’s one of my favourite aspects of the hate to love you story. The characters would have these moments where they want to rip each other apart and then they want to rip each other’s clothes off. I love that type of drama and this book had it in spades.

My only complaint was with some of the dramatic elements that came as a result of the job they were competing for. They both are PR “fixers” but their solution to the situations just didn’t seem plausible to me. Plus, it resulted in some drama that I wasn’t a fan of.

The Characters:

I really liked these leads. I loved how driven Victoria was. How she wouldn’t stay down for long because she’d come back fighting.

It helped getting Carter’s POV as well because you start to understand his rational for his actions and thoughts. I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much if his POV was omitted because I really appreciated that insight into his mind. I did think he changed his tune a little too quickly but I enjoyed watching him trying to make things right.

The Romance:

For me, it was so easy to see why these two have been at ends with each other for years: they are too similar and so stubborn that they clash whenever they meet. I always love watching leads who are so perfect for each other fight the obvious and this was no exception. Their romance was definitely a highlight of the story and met my every expectation.

My only complaint was with some of the dramatic elements that came as a result of the job they were competing for. They both are PR “fixers” but their solution to the situations just didn’t seem plausible to me. Plus, it resulted in some drama that I wasn’t a fan of.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you love dramatic “hate-to-love-you” stories with plenty of steam, pick this up now!

Read if You Like: hate to love you, rivals, second chances
Avoid if You: dislike steamy scenes, dislike lots of drama

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Blog Tour: The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder by Cookie O’Gorman

Synopsis for The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder (from Goodreads):

In the south, everyone has a secret–and murder is served with sweet tea.

The word’s out: Ethan Wilder’s coming back to town, and the people of Bowie, Georgia are in a southern tizzy. Everyone knows the story. He shot and killed his sister four years ago, and people say his father, Jim Wilder, the biggest holy roller this side of the Mississippi, sent him packing for just that reason. Even if her death was unofficially ruled a suicide, Ethan’s return has everybody talking.

Seventeen-year-old Delilah Doherty can’t go anywhere without hearing his name. Born and raised in Bowie, Delilah knows firsthand about the gossipmongers and how they love a good scandal. The daughter of a wild child and niece of the local psychic, she’s also the only one who doubts Ethan’s guilt.

After Ethan saves her life, the two start a slow and steady burn neither can deny. But when Bowie’s spiritual leader is nearly murdered, it rocks the small southern town to its core. Delilah and Ethan are caught in the crossfire, their relationship threatened before it’s even begun. Someone has it out for Ethan’s family. With everyone convinced of Ethan’s guilt, it’s up to Delilah to unravel the mystery before someone else gets hurt or worse…dead.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 5, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been a fan of Cookie’s since her first novel, Adorkable and her second novel Ninja Girl made me add her to my “must read” author list soon after. So I was excited to see what she would write next.

I’ll say that a mystery wasn’t what I was totally expecting her to write next (though technically, she wrote this first) but the title and synopsis definitely had me curious. So I couldn’t wait to see what this ridiculous truth about Ethan Wilder really was.

The Plot:

This book has a slower start to it as it sets up the exposition and introduces all the characters. This is a trend I often see when I read books set in the South. We get swept up into the mundane everyday lives of the small towns and the small cast of characters. Cookie has a talent for writing intriguing characters so I didn’t mind as much as I usually would.

We get a bit of a double mystery here. You have the infamous Ethan who has just returned to town and seems to keep to himself–except for a those interactions with Delilah. And then you have the incidences involving his family –which don’t really start until the 30% mark. I thought this would start a little early and become the main focus of the story but it doesn’t really. It’s more of something that runs in the background while Delilah carries on with her everyday life in this small town.

However, the introduction of the mystery does add this tone of suspense to the novel and that suspense carries you through the rest of the novel. As for the mystery itself, I definitely didn’t figure it out so that always gets bonus points in my eye!

The Characters:

As I said before, Cookie has a great talent for creating characters. She has quite the eclectic cast here and they really do work for this story.

I liked Delilah as a lead. She’s got a great heart despite all the stuff people throw her way. Sure, she’s a little oblivious to boys liking her but that’s part of her charm in a way.

What I really liked is that Ethan is kept a total mystery to us. We don’t get his POV, just whatever interactions happen with Delilah or ones she hears secondhand. He’s got that bad boy appeal but also has his swoon-worthy moments as well so I liked whenever he was in a scene.

The Romance:

Well, Ethan became a book boyfriend for me so I think it goes without saying I thought this was totally cute. Again, I just love the romances Cookie creates! This one was really sweet and very subtle. So when you got those cute moments between them, it just made you smile.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall
This was a slow start for me so it took me a while to get truly invested. But once the pieces of the mystery start to reveal themselves, I found myself spinning various theories and eagerly awaiting the big reveal. Another great novel by Cookie O’Gorman.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, books set in the South, mystery
Avoid if You: dislike slow starts, need lots of action

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Cookie O’Gorman

Cookie O’Gorman writes YA romance to give readers a taste of happily-ever-after. Small towns, quirky characters, and the awkward yet beautiful moments in life make up her books. Cookie also has a soft spot for nerds and ninjas. Her novels ADORKABLE and NINJA GIRL are out now! Her third book, THE UNBELIEVABLE, INCONCEIVABLE, UNFORESEEABLE TRUTH ABOUT ETHAN WILDER, will be released April 5, 2018!

Author Links:

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Series Review: Dirty by Ella Miles

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

Dirty Series

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dirty Obsession (from Goodreads):

Arlo Carini saved my life, only to destroy it.

When I first met him, he was the wealthy, powerful, sexy stranger giving me and a dozen other art history students a tour of his mansion. But he soon became my everything.

My savior. My lover. My obsession.

He tried to warn me. Every chance he could, he tried to get me to run far, far away. But it only made my obsession grow stronger. Until I made the worst mistake I could. And ended up trapped forever.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Dirty
Author: Ella Miles
# of Books: 3 (Dirty Obsession, Dirty Addiction, Book 3)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Dirty Beginning included in Dirty Obsession

Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: No, Book 3 will be released April 2018
Genre: Adult, Dark, Romance, Contemporary, Erotica
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: January 18, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ella Miles never fails to disappoint me when it comes to her books. I always think I’m going to get one story but I end up with another–one that never fails to entertain and surprise me.

I love a good dark romance and after reading the novella, Dirty Beginning, I was curious to see what was in story next for these characters.

What I Liked:

–Dark and Twisted–

This is probably one of the darkest romances I’ve ever read. It’s deliciously dark and twisted which means it isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t enjoy dark erotic romances, don’t pick this up! But if you do, you are in for a treat!

This story did keep me on my toes. You always get the sense that there is more lurking underneath with all the characters involved and I loved the tension that brought to the story. I became a little obsessed (pun intended) trying to figure out what was happening and why. And the twists when everything is revealed (and how it ties back to the novella, Dirty Beginning): awesome.

–The Characters–

I really enjoyed the main characters we get to meet. You’ve got your very evil villain; the mysterious hero and a strong heroine. Nina is very likeable, more so in this book than in the novella I think. She has some solid character growth from start to end which I always appreciate!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wanted More Allusion to the “Game”–

I do wish the “game” was allude to more than it was throughout the novel. Just some little hints along the way would have been great. Even though the game is always afoot, I felt like we got a little too wrapped up in the sex scenes at times and I wanted a little more insight into the “why” of it all.

When to read the Prequel Novella: Dirty Beginning?

Definitely before you read Dirty Obsession! It gives you context for the first novel and introduces you to all the key players. You could get by without reading it but seeing as it is included in the Dirty Obsession, just read it!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m very excited for the next set of leads. I have a particular soft spot for our hero so I can’t wait for him to meet his match!

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–May 30, 2018– Book #2: Dirty Addiction

I couldn’t wait to see how these two would fall in love and what the consequences of it would be. But it took me a lot longer than I thought it would to see them as a couple chemistry wise.

I found for the first third or so of the novel, they didn’t interact all that much and if they did, it wasn’t always a positive experience, so I didn’t totally see the draw between them. I suppose the somewhat “forced” circumstances they find themselves in is part of the draw to the “dark” romance but I like those little moments of vulnerability in my forbidden romances.

Things started to improve though once we pass the halfway mark. I found the drama of the plot line helped to bring the romance and the characters to life in a way that started to win me over. That’s when Matteo and Eden started to interact more and the chemistry between them became more apparent.

My Rating: 4/5

[Dirty Beginning 3/5] | Dirty Obsession 4/5| Dirty Addiction 3/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

Perfect for fans of truly dark romances and sexy times! But if you don’t enjoy erotica or more graphic scenes, don’t pick this up!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, dislike erotica, love triangles

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Single Sundays: The Rebound by Winter Renshaw

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

Synopsis for The Rebound (from Goodreads):

The last time I saw Nevada Kane, I was seventeen and he was loading his things into the back of his truck, about to embark on a fourteen-hour drive to the only college that offered him a full ride to play basketball.

I told him I’d wait for him. He promised to do the same.

But life happened. I broke my promise long before he ever broke his. And not because I wanted to.

We never saw each other again …

Until ten years later when Nevada unexpectedly returned to our hometown after an abrupt retirement from his professional basketball career.

Suddenly he was everywhere, always staring through me with that brooding gaze, never returning my smiles or “hellos.”

Over the years, I’d heard that he’d changed. And that despite his multi-million dollar contracts and rampant success, life hadn’t been so kind to him.

He was a widower.

And a single father.

And rumor had it, he’d spent his last ten years trying to forget me, refusing to so much as breathe my name … hating me.

But just like a rebound, he’s back.

And I have to believe everything happens for a reason.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Second Chances
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 24, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Books–eARCs

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Winter Renshaw has quickly become a must read author for me. She writes consistently entertaining romances with their great premises and awesome characters. Her books always satisfy the romantic in me.

This one sounded great as soon as I read it. I loved the idea that there was this big secret that kept these two apart for 10 years and I couldn’t wait to find out what it was.

The Concept:

The first half or so of this novel is set in the past. You get to see how Yardley and Nevada fell in love as teenagers all the way up until the point where they break up. I relished this because I often find we don’t see that “first chance” in second chance stories. Seeing their past and how they loved each other had me falling in love with them while simultaneously shedding a tear because I knew it wasn’t going to last for some reason.

Then we jump ahead to the present and we see how the effects the past has had on them. As a result, it has a great flow and a “come-full-circle” feel to it that I sometimes find missing in second chance stories.

The Plot:

There isn’t much to the plot besides these two falling in love and growing as people. It’s a very character driven story in the sense that these two have to overcome the consequences of their earlier actions. They have to become stronger individuals to see their faults and learn how to move forward. And I really enjoyed that aspect.

The Characters:

I really loved these two. I loved that they had a grounded perspective on most things but still had the optimism that their love would last or that things would get better. They are both such nice people that it was hard to watch them suffer.

I will say that they are both stubborn–one of the character flaws that they each work on as the story progresses. It was really frustrating for me as a reader to see them have this conflict between them arise when it could have been easily solved by just listening to the other. Again, that is one of the things these two work on and it does serve as a good tool to show how far their characters have progressed over the years.

The Romance:

It honestly didn’t take much for me to fall in love with these two as a couple. It’s a bit more telling than showing at the start but that didn’t stop me from seeing the love they shared. I liked that the first half of the book focused on them talking and sharing moments instead of just sexy times. You see how strong their bond is and I loved that.

I could have used a little more romance in the second half. There was just something about the pacing of the romance that didn’t match the first half. Regardless, I still loved watching their story and the anticipation of seeing whether or not they would get their happy ending!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

I devoured this story from start to finish! Winter Renshaw just writes super addicting and sweet romances and I can’t get enough!

Read if You Like: second chance romances, past and present chapters
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance, want erotica

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Blog Tour: Spider by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Synopsis for Spider (from Goodreads):

He’s a British rock star.
And my stepbrother.
What can go wrong?

He called himself Spider. I just knew him as the sinfully gorgeous guy with eyes of fire that fate sat next to me on the airplane. I didn’t know who he really was…rock star…my stepbrother.

He kissed me because he thought we’d never see each other again. We would.

Everyone warned me about him.
They said he was ruthless and cold and screwed up.
They said he’d leave me with a hole in my heart.

Maybe I should have listened.
Maybe I should have built up a fortress to keep him out.
But I crumbled instead.

Some have said there’s an unbreakable thread that connects those who are destined to meet. If that’s true, then the moment he sat next to me, we were bound together forever.

He just had to figure it out before it’s too late…

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 13, 2017
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was first introduced to Ilsa Madden-Mills when I read her English Series last year. She totally won me over with her great blend of character growth and romance and she’s an author I’ve been keeping an eye on ever since.

When I read the synopsis for Spider, I HAD to read it! I love anything dealing with rockstars and the promise of a forbidden romance? Yeah, I’m a sucker! And given my previous experience with her work, I knew I was in for a solidly swoon-worthy romance.

The Plot:

This is simply a well crafted novel. All too often these forbidden romances get lost in the sexiness of the forbidden. You know what I mean: just sexy time after sexy time. But where Ilsa Madden-Mills succeeds in her stories–and this one in particular–is the balance between romance and character development. She devotes enough time to each to give you well rounded stories that you find yourself completely addicted to.

I also enjoyed the allusions to Jane Eyre. It isn’t a huge part of the novel but anyone familiar with the classic will see parallels here and there. The English student in me loves that type of stuff and Madden-Mills just does it all so flawlessly.

The Characters:

I really liked these two. Both are such strong–albeit flawed–characters and I loved watching them grow as the story progressed. I’ve encountered similar characters before but Rose and Spider definitely had a uniqueness to them. They have those rich backgrounds that bring their characters to life in a way I love in my romances.

I also liked that their growth wasn’t totally reliant on their relationship. They each grow in an independent way that I appreciated.

The Romance:

While I loved the chemistry these two had, I thought the spark was a little too “insta” for me. I get that this book is exploring the idea that people can be linked through a simple connection but I don’t like when there’s just “something about them” that makes the person want to change everything to be with the other. And I felt that was the case for Spider when he meets Rose. One look and he’s a goner.

I definitely got the attraction and I from their first encounter I could see how they would bring out the best in each other. But I wanted to see more of that. There isn’t a whole lot of time between them meeting on the plane and deciding to completely upend their lives to be together. As the characters evolved, I began to appreciate the romance more but I wanted that early stage of their relationship to be a little more substantial.

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This is a solid forbidden romance story that has a great focus on character growth instead of sexy times. (Though the sexual tension is brimming in this book!)

Read if You Like: forbidden romance, step-sibling relationships
Avoid if You: want more erotica based romance
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Ilsa Madden-Mills

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She’s addicted to dystopian books and all things fantasy, including unicorns and sword-wielding females. Other fascinations include frothy coffee beverages, dark chocolate, Instagram, Ian Somerhalder (seriously hot), astronomy (she’s a Gemini), and tattoos.

She has a degree in English and a Master’s in Education.

When she’s not pecking away on her computer, she shops for cool magnets and paints old furniture.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon

 

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Single Sundays: Me & Milo the Great by Michelle Schlicher

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 Me & Milo the Great (from Goodreads):

My name is Holiday Sanchez. I carry a heavy burden.

But I’m not the only one.

There are others who know what it feels like to remember. Maybe they are the answer. Maybe we can help each other. Maybe I’ll finally get past it.

Maybe it just takes time—and a little bit of magic.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: New Must Read Author
Author: Michelle Schlicher
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Heat Rating: Cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 14, 2017
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Michelle Schlicher!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Earlier this year, I picked up Michelle’s other novel Come This Way and loved it! It was so insightful and touching and it was one of those books that had me going “wow” when I finished it (in a totally good way!).

So when Michelle asked if I wanted to read her latest novel, I immediately said yes! The synopsis had that allure intrigue (what’s Holiday’s burden? and how are the others involved? magic?!) and I just had to uncover it!

The Concept:

I don’t want to give too much away because the reveal of Holiday’s “burden” was a big “wow” moment for me. So I’ll just say it was a story that I’ve never read about and it captured my full attention.

The great thing about this story is that the chapters alternate between the “now” and “then” so you really get Holiday’s full story. You see how she has dealt with her past and how it affects the present, enhancing her character development. I really loved watching it all come together.

The Plot:

Like I said above, I enjoyed the back and forth nature of this book. I love stories that build and reveal parts at a time. It keeps you invested in the story and curious to see how everything links together. They always have the most satisfying ending when you see the bigger picture.

The Characters:

I really felt for Holiday as a character. She’s just doing the best she can with what she has and you can’t help but to empathize with her. Her growth from start to finish is just amazing and I loved watching her grow before my eyes.

Milo is great too! I thought he would play a bigger role/be the focus for the novel but he has just the right touch for bringing this story to life. He doesn’t distract from Holiday’s story but complements it in a way that enhances the entire novel.

The Romance:

Again, not a huge focus but it complements the story in a great way.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

This is a beautifully crafted story about how the past can alter our future but learning that it shouldn’t govern your life. Holiday’s specific circumstances won’t apply to everyone but her discovery of moving on from the past will resonate with many readers.

Read if You Like: character driven stories, past and present chapters
Avoid if You: want a romance driven story
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Fresh Fridays: Flame in the Mist (#1) by Renee Ahdieh

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Flame in the Mist Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Flame in the Mist (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

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

–The Politics–

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

–Mariko’s Character Development–

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

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Romance–

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

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

–Slower Start–

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

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

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

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

My Rating: 4/5

Flame in the Mist 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

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

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

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