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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

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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

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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!

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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.

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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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Series Review: Existence by Abbi Glines

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 Existence (from Goodreads):

What happens when you’re stalked by Death? You fall in love with him, of course.

Pagan Moore doesn’t cheat Death, but instead, falls in love with him.

Seventeen year old Pagan Moore has seen souls her entire life. Once she realized the strangers she often saw walking through walls were not visible to anyone else, she started ignoring them. If she didn’t let them know she could see them, then they left her alone. Until she stepped out of her car the first day of school and saw an incredibly sexy guy lounging on a picnic table, watching her with an amused smirk on his face. Problem is, she knows he’s dead.

Not only does he not go away when she ignores him, but he does something none of the others have ever done. He speaks. Pagan is fascinated by the soul. What she doesn’t realize is that her appointed time to die is drawing near and the wickedly beautiful soul she is falling in love with is not a soul at all.

He is Death and he’s about to break all the rules.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author, Most Read Author
Series: Existence Trilogy
Author: Abbi Glines
# of Books: 3 (Existence, Predestined, Ceaseless)

There is a novella #2.5 called Leif

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single (Existence); Alternating (Predestined onwards)
Publication Dates: December 2011 – September 2012
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I never read Ceaseless (Book 3). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I bought this series within the first year of me getting my Kobo…and it took me 4 years to get around to. Oops!

In those 4 years though, Abbi Glines has become one of my most read authors on Goodreads. I’ve devoured her New Adult series in days and absolutely love her works. But I never got around to this series until I had to set some priority reads for my Rock my TBR 2016 Challenge.

It has been a long time since I read a YA paranormal series (I mostly read fantasies or dystopian novels) but the concept sounded unique and I love Glines’ ability to write addicting romances so I was excited to start this.

The Concept:

I feel like the synopsis does a bit of a disservice to the story because you really don’t know Death is “Death” until you are past the halfway mark. I think I would have liked not knowing what type of paranormal creature he was until later. Seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity but Glines does throw some other twists in there to give you some surprises.

The Plot:

I kinda forgot what it was like to read a YA paranormal romance until I picked this up. You know, little plot besides the heroine mooning after some mysterious hero who she inexplicably feels drawn to. It was very Twilight-y to say the least.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I did find myself easily drawn into Pagan’s world and there is a bit of a mystery to uncover which made it exciting to read. But as I found myself nearing the end of Existence (say the 80%) when the real plot started to unravel, I realized that nothing really happened for the first 80% of the book. Predestined had a lot more going on in it, but I just didn’t care enough…

The Characters:

Pagan is a bit on the dull side if you ask me. I also didn’t like her character progression once she meets death. She’s one of those heroines who loses who she is when she meets her love interest and that annoyed me.

I felt like more could have been done with these characters. They are pretty surface level in terms of their development.

The Romance:

This was a little lacking for me. Why does Death become obsessed fall in love with Pagan? Why does Pagan fall for Death? I didn’t get the connection at all. It’s a little too insta-love for my preferences.

Oh! Did I forget to mention the love triangle? To be fair, it wasn’t that bad and actually contributes positively to the plot at times.

When to Read the Novella, Leif:

Read this after book 2, Predestined. But it’s really just some deleted scenes from another character’s POV from the first two novels.

Will I Finish It?

I wasn’t very attached to these characters, so I’m happy with not continuing. I read enough reviews of Ceaseless to know what goes down.

Series Rating: DNF

Existence 3/5 | Predestined 2/5 | [Leif] N/A | Ceaseless N/A

overall

If I read this when I was a teenager when my preference was for YA paranormal, I would have LOVED this series. Glines has a solid plot for a series of this type but unfortunately, at this point in my reading life, I need that little bit more to keep me interested.

Read if You Like: YA paranormal, Twilight
Avoid if You: dislike dull heroines
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Blog Tour: Ninja Girl by Cookie O’Gorman

Synopsis for Ninja Girl (from Goodreads):
Seventeen-year-old Snow-Soon Lee kicks ass–literally. She teaches at her family-owned martial arts gym, The Academy, and cares more about training to be the next Bruce Lee than hooking up. In fact, Snow’s never even been kissed. But when Girls Night rolls around, Snow decides to prove to her friends (and herself) that she’s not just some boring tomboy. Impulsively, she kisses a hot stranger and even manages to escape his two security guards.

One stolen kiss…

Ash Stryker’s senior year sucks. His politician father pulled him out of Chariot High, separating him from his championship-winning soccer team. Now he’s stuck at a prissy private school with no friends, no team and no chance of being scouted. On top of that, thanks to the death threats his dad’s received, Ash has a security tail aka professional babysitters. When the mystery girl from the movies shows up at his school, rappelling from the rafters, Ash knows one thing: he won’t let her get away again.

One interesting job proposition…

After a seemingly random attack, Ash’s mother surprises everyone. She hires Snow to be Ash’s personal bodyguard until after the election. But can Snow’s kick-ass skills hold up against the rising threats to Ash’s family? More importantly, can Ash convince his ninja girl to screw ethics and kiss him again?

Opposites attract in this YA romance where a smooth talker meets his match in the tough girl who (literally) sweeps him off his feet. Moral of the story:

Sometimes even bad boys need a bodyguard.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave YA Contemporary Standalone 2017
Author: Cookie O Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 30, 2017
Source & Format: YA Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Cookie O’Gorman’s debut, Adorkable was just amazing! I loved every minute of that book and I was so excited to see what she would write next. I’ve been waiting nearly a year to see what she would do next and I was so stoked when I saw what Ninja Girl was all about. This book promised to be an entertaining, albeit touching, ride that I couldn’t wait to start!

The Concept:

I love the gender role reversal here! I love girls that can fend for themselves but the fact that Snow is hired to protect a boy just ups the ante for me. It defies stereotypes in that respect and I really appreciated that.

I feel like that is the whole point of this novel: to challenge stereotypes. The cast here is also very diverse ethnically speaking as well. Snow is Korean while Ash is from the Southern United States. Both have these ideas that they don’t have similar interests and personalities. But I think this book goes to show that you have to get to know a person for who they are and not just what you see on the outside.

The Plot:

This novel moves at a stellar pace. Honestly, there was never a dull moment! If you weren’t swooning over Ash and Snow together you were watching Snow kick some serious butt or having these great moments of individual character growth. I loved every page.

I also liked how the suspense of who was behind the attacks lurked throughout the pages. It just built itself up at a great pace and added to the big reveal.

The Characters:

Well, I obviously loved Snow. Her character growth was fantastic. While she is such a strong girl physically, her self-esteem is pretty low. It’s unfortunate that she is so susceptible to high school cattiness so early in the book because she is such a great girl. I’m glad that Ash brings out the stronger side in her.

Ash…swoon! He says all the right things but he is such a genuine guy as well. I would say his character growth takes a bit of a backseat to Snow’s but he really does evolve as well. Even though he is perceived as the “damsel in distress” at times, he doesn’t just sit around and let things happen to himself either.

The Romance:

These two are so adorable! I’ve added them to my favourite couples list ever. They just compliment each other so well. Not only do they make a great team but they also make each other stronger as individuals. Never did I feel like these two were losing who they were in order to appease the other–which can easily happen in this type of story where gender roles are more emphasized than usual. They just have fabulous chemistry together from the start.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I devoured this book in one sitting because I could not get enough of these two! Not only was this book a bucket of fun and completely swoon-worthy, it also teaches you to be yourself above all else. Whether that means you are a girl who can kick everyone’s bum or a guy who needs a girl to save him: never be ashamed of who you are! (cheesy but so true!)

Read if You Like:  diverse reads, kick butt heroines, “clean” YA
Avoid if You: dislike ya contemporary

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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 debut novel ADORKABLE is out now!

Author Links:

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Blog Tour: Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

Synopsis for Duels & Deception (from Goodreads):

Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Author: Cindy Anstey
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Regency
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

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

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s no secret that I absolutely adored Cindy Anstey’s debut, Love, Lies and Spies. It had everything I love in a novel: wit, fun and a swoon-worthy romance. As soon as I finished, I had to know what else she had written and that’s why I’ve spent the better part of the last year awaiting Duels & Deception.

The Plot:

Anstey has such a talent for writing entertaining stories. Should a kidnapping scene have you laughing out loud? Not likely but Anstey manages to do it. That whole event was super entertaining and it made me wish it lasted longer.

However, I did find the momentum of the novel slowed a bit after the kidnapping chapters. The mystery of who is after Lydia is enticing but unfortunately, I had a pretty good idea of the culprit before the big reveal. What I didn’t guess who how everything was going to be resolved so that had a few good twists for me to read.

The Characters:

Lydia was everything you like in a historical fiction leading lady. She’s as sharp as a whip, a compassionate daughter and definitely independent. If she was real, she would be my best friend.

And starring opposite her is Robert, pretty much the ideal hero. Again, he’s super smart but he is also adorably sweet and caring. He isn’t some over the top hero and I loved how grounded he was.

The rest of the cast is quirky and entertaining and adds to the story’s fun and lighter tone.

The Romance:

SWOON! Talk about two leads who are perfect for each other! Not only did they compliment each other in every way but they also had fantastic banter. I loved every scene with these two in it.

My favourite part was watching these two slowing coming to the realization that they were falling in love. The slow burn romance was so on point!

My Rating: 4/5

overall
This is a perfect read for fans of historical romance who love quirky, witty characters and a romance that has you swooning from the start!

Read if You Like: regency reads, witty leads, slow burn
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction
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Cindy Anstey

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

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

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

Author Links:

Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter

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Series Review: Capturing the Carlisles by Anna Harrington

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

Capturing the Carlisles Trilogy

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for If the Duke Demands (from Goodreads):

Miranda Hodgkins has only ever wanted one thing: to marry Robert Carlisle. And she simply can’t wait a moment longer. During the Carlisle family masquerade ball, Miranda boldly sneaks into his bedchamber with seduction on her mind. Soon she’s swept into rock-hard arms for the most breathtaking kiss of her life. But when the masks come off, she’s horrified to find herself face-to-face with Sebastian, the Duke of Trent—Robert’s formidable older brother.

Shocked to find Miranda in his bed, Sebastian quickly offers her a deal to avoid scandal: he’ll help her win his brother’s heart if she’ll find him the perfect wife. But what begins as a simple negotiation soon spirals out of control. For the longer this reformed rake tries to make a match for Miranda, the more he wants to keep her all to himself.

The first book in Anna Harrington’s new sexy Regency trilogy about the Carlisle brothers—three unrepentant rakes who become respectable gentlemen when family tragedy strikes.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Regency Romance 2017, New Must Read Author
Series: Capturing the Carlisles

This is a spinoff of the The Secret Life of Scoundrels Series.

Author: Anna Harrington
# of Books: 3 (If the Duke Demands, When the Scoundrel Sins, As the Devil Dares)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, As the Devil Dares, will be published January 2018
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Regency
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 28, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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:

It was the main concept of this novel that captured (pun not intended) my attention. I LOVE the romance trope where the two people work together to get the objects of their affections, only to fall in loved with each other. It promises to have a ton of sexual tension, swoon worthy moments and leads you can’t help but root for.

So I was really excited to dive into this series!

What I Liked:

–The Romance–

Honestly, I didn’t stop smiling when I was reading this book! It was just pure enjoyment from start to finish for me.

These two were PERFECT for each other and it was so much fun to watch them discover that. I literally got butterflies reading some of their scenes together because they were just so adorable. They had fantastic banter and the chemistry was just dripping off the pages.

But my favourite part was the emotional connection these two develop. It’s my favourite aspect of this trope. They just get each other. The fact that these two grew up together in some capacity provides a solid foundation to start this story off. I liked they they didn’t really like each other until they talked and got to know each other on that intellectual level. And from that, their romantic attraction to each other develops. It’s not just insta-love or physical lust that drives them together. Perfection.

–Miranda–

I find heroines in this genre can be a little over-bearing or rebellious just for the sake of being different. But Miranda is never like that. While she is independent, she’s intelligent about it. She’s willing to fight for things but never in a brash or irresponsible way and that made her extremely likable to me. I couldn’t help but root for her.

And I also liked that she grew as the story progressed. She isn’t this totally confident girl right away and as she learns to accept who she is, she really blossoms.

–The Brothers–

I just love this whole family (which readers are first introduced in Harrington’s How I Married a Marquess). They were just so much fun and quite the cast of characters. I’m really excited to learn more about the brother’s and see how they get “captured”!

What I Didn’t Like:

–It’s Over and I Have to Wait for the Next One–

I want the rest of this series NOW! Good thing Anna’s other series is out so I can get into that while I wait.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

With the little teaser we got of When the Scoundrel Sins, I wish that August was next week. It looks like it is going to be just as awesome as its predecessor and I’m so excited to read it!

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–August 3, 2017– Book #2: When the Scoundrel Sins

I was SO EXCITED to pick this novel up that I put it to the top of my TBR pile despite the mountain of other books–and I was not disappointed.

These two had fantastic chemistry right from the start. So it was hard to watch them keep their distance when you know that they would be PERFECT together. But then again, that’s the fun of this book! I had a blast watching them spare back and forth, fighting their budding feelings and denying the obvious. I love sexual tension and Harrington succeeds once again with these two.

The one disappointing aspect for me was that the plot wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I found it took a back seat to the the romance (which isn’t a bad thing) but it did make the wrapping up seem a little rushed just because you did forget about it a bit. I also found it to be terribly predictable which was disappointing. I suppose that aspect wasn’t as engaging as I wanted it to be.

But I thoroughly enjoyed this one and had a very, very hard time putting it down. Another solid installment!

My Rating: 4.5/5

If the Duke Demands 5/5 | When the Scoundrel Sins 4/5 | As the Devil Dares TBP

overall

If The Duke Demands reminded me why I love historical romances. Swoon-worthy heroes; strong-willed, intelligent heroines and brimming sexual tension from the start. I’m definitely going to be picking up Harrington’s previous works ASAP!

Read if You Like: historical fiction, emotional romances
Avoid if You: want more erotica based
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Single Sundays: Porn Star by Laurelin Paige & Sierra Simone

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 Porn Star (from Goodreads):
You know me.

Come on, you know you do.

Maybe you pretend you don’t. Maybe you clear your browser history religiously. Maybe you pretend to be aghast whenever someone even mentions the word porn in your presence.

But the truth is that you do know me.

Everybody knows Logan O’Toole, world famous porn star.

Except then Devi Dare pops into my world, and pretty soon I’m doing things that aren’t like me—like texting her with flirty banter and creating an entire web porn series just so I can get to star in her bed. Again. And again.

With Devi, my entire universe shifts, and the more time I spend with her, the more I realize that Logan O’Toole isn’t the guy I thought he was.

So maybe I’m not the guy you thought I was either.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author (Laurelin Paige)
Author: Laurelin Paige & Sierra Simone
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Smokin’
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

At this point, I read anything by Laurelin Paige. She writes some of my favourite contemporary romances. The drama is amazing, the characters are strong yet flawed and I simply get addicted to any story she writes.

So I was more than curious when I saw this title. A porn star falling in love? It’s something I would probably shy away from if it was anyone other than Paige writing it. I knew she would write a compelling, well thought out novel.

The Concept:

These ladies have done their research! They’ve managed to capture the modern porn industry in a way that is real and not fantasy or idealistic. They touch on a lot of the current issues that are plaguing actors in pornography like actor consent and piracy. It really grounds these characters and their stories, making the reader feel like this could actually happen in real life.

The Plot:

This is just as much a love story as it is a character building story. Basically, it is everything I love about New Adult. I want to see these characters battle their demons while falling in love. Is it an easy path? Hell no! And that’s what makes this journey so enjoyable as a reader.

The Characters:

I LOVED THESE TWO!

Logan was cocky yet heartwarming. He was so adorable, intelligent and passionate; I instantly fell in love with him. But he also shows great growth as a character. It was awesome to watch his journey unfold.

Devi–what a confident woman! I loved how comfortable she was with her body and how she presents herself to the world. Honestly, we need more leads like her in novels. Yes, she has her flaws but her confidence is inspiring.

The Romance:

This is a very sex-positive story (if you couldn’t have guessed from the title). Notably, I like the focus it gives on sex in a relationship. I think some stories add the heat as a “fan-service” as sorts; like an expected feature to show character chemistry. But here, it is an integral part of the story and heavily influences the romance. Are these two really in love with each other or are they in love with the personas they are on screen? It’s a fascinating question and one that is asked throughout the novel.

but

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I was really impressed with the overall approach of this novel. It delivers an awesome, entertaining romance while providing a deeper theme. However, if you don’t like books with lots of sexy times, this one will probably turn you off. But I encourage everyone to give it a try because it is a league of its own.

Read if You Like: sex-positive novels, romance, new adult
Avoid if You: are uncomfortable with the idea of porn

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Spin-off Saturdays: Kick, Push by Jay McLean

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 Kick, Push (from Goodreads):
There’s a single defining moment within every skater.
It lasts only a second. Two if you’re good.
Three if you’re really good.
It’s the moment you’re in the air, your board somewhere
beneath you, and nothing but wind surrounds you.
It’s the feeling of being airborne.

The sixteen-year-old version of me would’ve said it was the
greatest feeling in the world.
Then at seventeen, I had my son.
And every single second became a defining moment. Even the ones that consisted of heartbreak when his mother left us.

Seventeen. Single. Dad.
That’s what my life became.
Yet, every day, I managed to find that feeling of being
airborne.
Or at least I convinced myself I did.
But I lied—to myself and to everyone around me.
Until she showed up; Tanned skin, raven dark hair, and eyes the color of emeralds.

You know what sucks about being in the air?
Coming down from the high.
Sometimes you land on the board and nail the trick.
Then kick, push, and coast away.
Other times you fall.
You fall hard.
And those are the times when it’s not as easy to get back up, dust off your pads and try again.
Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Kick, Push — or Road

There is a prequel novel about two side characters called Where the Road Takes Me. Together, all 3 novels make up the Road Series.

Author: Jay McLean
# of Books: 2 (Kick, Push; Coast)

See above note regarding Where the Road Takes Me

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2015 – June 2016
Source & Format: Read It Review It–eARC (Kick, Push); Kindle Unlimited (Coast)

disclaimer

(Note: I only received a copy of Kick, Push for review. I read Coast via Kindle Unlimited)

Note: Where the Road Takes Me will be reviewed separately.

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I saw Kick, Push on the list of upcoming New Adult Club Read It Review It titles, I was excited! I’ve really enjoyed Jay McLean’s work in the past for its addicting quality. While reading the More Than Series, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I swooned–basically all the feels you can possibly feel while reading a book and I love that.

What really stood out to me about this book was the premise of a single dad. I don’t read a lot of single parent novels but when I do, they are mostly second chance stories where the mom has raised the baby without the dad knowing and they reunite–or something of that tone. But most of the time they are single moms; which is great but what about all the single dads out there? Plus, I’ve never really read a story about a skateboarder before.

The Concept:

While I don’t think any parent should abandon their child, I feel like women who do get a lot of flack compared to men who do. Maybe society is just more comfortable with the man leaving than the person who carried the child, I’m not sure. However, I don’t like this stigma that all women are expected to be instinctively maternal. So I was worried that this series would relay that stigma throughout its narrative. But I am happy to say that I never really felt like the book took that approach. While you will likely side with Josh once you know the whole story, I didn’t feel like it shamed or glorified the situation in any way and I truly appreciated that.

The Plot:

The story is just as much about Josh as it is Becca and I really enjoyed that. Both have so much growth and depths to their characters that I liked the balancing act between their stories as you read. The mashing of romance, character development and drama make this an addicting series to read.

And like Jay McLean’s other novels, there are just enough twists along the way to keep things interesting and exciting. I didn’t expect this story to go the way it did and I loved it!

The Characters:

Josh is an absolute sweetheart so it doesn’t take much for you to root for him. His heart is in the right place and I loved reading his story.

Becca, wow, what a story she has. It’s heartbreaking and she’s so sweet that it causes you to shed a few tears on her behalf.

Everyone else was great as well. I found the supporting characters did their job to a T and added a depth to the story that makes it so much more enjoyable.

The Romance:

When I first read the synopsis and started the book, I was confused about the line:

“Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.”

Everything starts so sweet and light that when the shit hits the fan, it becomes a huge mess. So the romance definitely leans to towards the darker side of love BUT, I love how it is elaborated on and becomes an integral part of the story. It isn’t there for shock value–it’s there because it is a part of their story and it adds to the depth of who these characters are as people.

Series Rating: 5/5

Kick, Push 5/5 | Coast 5/5

overall

If you want a book series that will make you feel every emotion, look no further my friends!

Read if You Like: New Adult romances, darker romance
Avoid if You: want a lighter, happier story, don’t want to cry

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