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Series Review: Damaged Hearts by Monica Murphy

Synopsis for Her Defiant Heart (from Goodreads):

Life can feel like a cruel joke. I grew up poor and motherless, with a father who never got over his wife’s abandonment. But now he’s gone too, and I’m dead set on finding the woman who so carelessly tossed me aside when I was a baby.

I want revenge. And I’m going to get back at my mother any way that I can.

I change my name. Start my new life in college, and just happen to cross paths with the gorgeous, ultra-rich Rhett Montgomery. He’s immediately interested in me, not that I’m surprised.

You see, I planned it that way. I meant for him to find me. He’s the one connection to my mother, and I’m using him, so I can destroy her. But I didn’t plan on Rhett being so charming. Sweet. Sexy.

And I definitely didn’t plan on falling for him either…

Other books in the series:
book3

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Defiant Heart Trilogy
Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 3 (Her Defiant Heart, His Wasted Heart, Damaged Hearts)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, His Wasted Heart, will be published April 26, 2018
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty -Hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 29, 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Social Butterfly PR–eARC via iTunes

Add: Goodreads | Buy: iTunes *exclusive to iTunes*

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Blog Tour 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:

As I say anytime I review a Monica Murphy novel, she’s a favourite of mine in everything she writes, but especially her New Adult romances. And when I saw that she was going to be writing a revenge story? One of my all time favourite tropes to read—I nearly croaked in excitement!

What I Liked:

–The Revenge Plot–

The revenge plot in any book is one of my favourites because it provides so many opportunities for an addicting story. It provides this level of anticipation as you watch the pieces fall into place; it gives the romance a dash of danger; and you always get some great twists along the way. But one of my favourite aspects is the character’s realization that perhaps revenge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and the subsequent character growth we get as a result.

This book had all of that and that’s what made it so addicting to read. You’ve got the anticipation of learning Jen’s full plan for revenge and everything she’s done to get to that point. You’ve got her mixed feelings towards her target Rhett (who definitely packs on the charm). And along the way we get these little plot twists that you know are setting the foundation for something more to happen.

But the best part is:

–Our Heroine–

When we first get introduced to Jen, she’s a bit of a cold-hearted chick to say the least. She’s methodical in her plan for revenge and has her “eye on the prize” so to speak. But I was shocked how quickly my heart melted for her. Thanks to flashbacks we get to see what has driven Jen to this point and why she feels she needs to complete this path for vengeance. Add to that her inner monologue of struggles as she executes her plans and you really start to sympathize for the girl. She’s a complex lead in a sticky situation and I loved the character development that happens as a result.

What I Didn’t Like:

–I have to wait for the sequel–

Thank goodness it’s only a few weeks away! I was so hooked that I didn’t realize I was near the end and I need to know what happens next!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Like I said above, I can see that bigger things are to come — and knowing Monica Murphy they are going to be worth the wait! I’m also really excited to learn more about Rhett by getting the sequel, His Wasted Heart, from his POV. It’ll be nice to get some more depth to his character!

updates

–April 16, 2018– Book 2: His Wasted Heart

First: I loved the fact that this book was told entirely from Rhett’s POV. Having only had Jensen’s in the previous one, I was excited to get into the inner workings of this playboy-charmer. While I wanted a little more character growth from him, I loved the various secrets that were revealed by seeing Rhett’s family first hand. Jensen’s lack of a POV also gave this novel an air of suspense because you don’t know what Jensen’s plans for revenge are or is she honestly trying to foster the connection she and Rhett share.

These two do share an intense connection for sure. I found the first half of this book almost focused a little too much on the physical chemistry between these two. Their sexual chemistry was something we had already established in Her Defiant Heart so I wanted more character development from Rhett and some expanded upon plot development as well. That being said, Monica Murphy sure does know how to write some steamy scenes!

And I will say that this book gets it together by the end. We get some fabulous twists in the last few chapters that have me itching for the sequel ASAP!

My Rating: 4/5

Her Defiant Heart 4/5 | His Wasted Heart 3.5/5 | Damaged Hearts TBP

overall
This series has everything I love about a Monica Murphy New Adult series. It’s got a jaded but likeable lead, a swoon-worthy love interest and just the right flare of drama to keep you hooked until the very end!

Read if You Like: revenge plots, quicker reads, New Adult
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike revenge

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Monica Murphy

Monica Murphy is the New York Times, USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of the One Week Girlfriend series, the Billionaire Bachelors and The Rules series. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and has sold over one million copies worldwide. She is both self-published and published by Random House/Bantam and Harper Collins/Avon. She writes new adult, young adult and contemporary romance.

She is a wife and a mother of three who lives in central California on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere along with their one dog and too many cats. A self-confessed workaholic, when she’s not writing, she’s reading or hanging out with her husband and kids. She’s a firm believer in happy endings, though she will admit to putting her characters through angst-filled moments before they finally get that hard won HEA.

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Series Review: Nights by A M Salinger

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

book4 book5

booksynopsis

Synopsis for One Night (from Goodreads):

One night was all I asked for. For him to show me how good it can be. — Gabe
One night was all I promised. To give him the best time of his life. — Cam

Gabe Anderson wants nothing more than to overcome the scars of his past. Moving to a new city halfway across the world is one thing. Walking into the most exclusive gay bar in town to hook up with a perfect stranger is a whole new ball game.

Cam Sorvino doesn’t do relationships. Period. Having buried his dark childhood behind him, he lives life to the fullest and likes his sex hot, dirty, and for one night only. Though Cam’s instincts tell him that Gabe isn’t the one-night kind of guy, he can’t stop himself from approaching him. When Cam discovers the true extent of Gabe’s harrowing secrets, he makes him an offer he cannot refuse: one night of mindless pleasure to help him overcome his phobia of intimacy.

But when morning comes, will Cam be able to let go of the one man who is able to stir new feelings inside his cold, dead heart?

If you like sweet, sexy men with dark pasts and a whole lot of love to give to the ones brave enough to win their hearts, then you’ll love this first novella in the hot, contemporary romance series Nights by A.M. Salinger.

breakdown

Series: Nights Series
Author: A M Salinger
# of Books: 9 (View full series order here)
Book Order: Direct Sequel & Connected
Complete?: No, Sweet Obsession is to be Published in April 2018
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, MM Romance
Heat Rating: Hot – Smokin’
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARCs

thoughts

This is just a review of the first two novellas: #1 One Night and #2 The Escort

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m always on the lookout for a new MM romance series and when I saw that the Nights Series was a series of novellas, I just had to check it out!

The Concept / Reading Order:

First off, these are novellas but they are your lengthier ones (more than 50 pages). That means things move fast but as you’ll see in my review, that doesn’t mean things are left underdeveloped.

Some of the novellas are direct sequels to previously featured character while some are not. So you can read them out of order but its suggested to follow the numerical order of release to get the fullest experience. Basically it goes like this:

Couple #1: One Night (#1) + Toyko Heat (#3) + One Day (Book #9)| Couple #2: The Escort | Couple #3: Sweet Obsession (#4) + Sweet Possession (#5)

The Plot:

Book #1, One Night, has a different plot style than The Escort (Book #2). Because the characters in One Night get sequels (#3 Tokyo Heat & #9 One Day), their story focuses more on their initial meeting and the subsequent connection they form. I found there wasn’t much to the plot besides them bonding which totally works for their story.

The Escort is a standalone in the sense that it is in the only instalment featuring these leads. I found the plot here was much stronger and had more dramatics to it. But it still features complex characters and has as much sexual tension as the first novella.

The Characters:

Despite the novella length of these stories, the characters are very well developed. Part of that is thanks to the slight info-dumping we get in the first two chapters. Everything about these characters is laid out early on so you get a great sense of who they are and what their motives are.

The Romance:

All these leads have this great sexual chemistry. But more importantly, they also have this deeper connection as well. They understand each other and they support one another and you can’t ask for more in your romances.

Do note though that One Night has a slightly more erotica feel to it given the narrative/plot.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m a sucker for great sexual tension and these novellas have that! So I can’t wait to get the conclusion to Gabe and Cam’s story and meet the newest couple.

updates

–April 5, 2018– Book #3: Tokyo Heat

I’ll be honest and say that I wanted a little more conversation than we got between these two. Yes, they have this explosive chemistry between them and that means their sex scenes (which are very well done) are passionate and sexy. I know that they are compatible sexually but on a personal level, I needed a little more. I wanted to see more of them working on their everyday issues. We do get that near the end but I wanted those conflicts fleshed out a little more at the start of the novella to reaffirm the fact that these two work so well together.

As a series though, I really love the interweaving of past and future characters. It’s cool to get mini updates on past leads and get a taste of what might be happening later on in the series with the other leads. All these characters are so rich and intriguing that I always am eager to learn what will happen next when I finish the most recent instalment.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

One Night 3/5 | The Escort 4/5 | Tokyo Heat 3/5 | Sweet Obsession TBA | Sweet Possession TBA

overall

This series is absolutely perfect for those people looking to get into the MM romance world but don’t know where to start! The characters are well developed and the romances are heated but sweet.

Read if You Like: MM romance, novella series
Avoid if You: novellas

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ARC Audio Review: Man Hands (#1) by Sarina Bowen & Tanya Eby

ARC Audio Review: I share my review of an audio release:

Man Hands Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Man Hands (from Goodreads):

He puts the “screw” in screwball comedy…

BRYNN

At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.

But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass.

Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer.

Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don’t expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM

All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life.

I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them.

But I will find her.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav 2018 Audiobook
Series: Man Hands
Author: Sarina Bowen & Tanya Eby
# of Books: 2 (Man Hands, Man Card)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: I think
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Humour
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2017 – January 2018
Source & Format: AudioBoom–Audiobook (via Audible)

thoughts

Please Note: This is just a review of Book #1, Man Hands!

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Of course the cover caught my attention but the synopsis had me going YES PLEASE! I’m all for humourous books and now that I’ve discovered my love of romance audiobooks, this seemed like a great one to try next!

The Plot:

I really wasn’t sure what the plot was going to be given the synopsis but this book surprised me in the best way. These two find themselves in some crazy situations and hilarity ensues. But it also has its touching moments as well where these two connect on that deeper level I love to see.

The Characters:

It helps that the leads are who they are; this story wouldn’t be the same without them. Brynn is a bit of an oddball but still utterly charming. I loved watching her rebuild her confidence after her divorce and discovering her own self-worth as the story progressed. And Tom is a great complement to her character as he too has to rebuild his confidence in the romance department.

The Romance:

Watching them fight (but never really succeeding) their fabulous connection made for an epic read. Seriously. I’ve never laughed so hard during a sex scene before while still finding the entire thing to be sexy. Their chemistry is palpable and their inner monologue about the other person had me swooning throughout. These two are just the cutest!

My Audiobook Experience:

Like I said before, I had so much fun listening to this book! The narrators totally made it this awesome experience because I honestly don’t think I would have enjoyed the humour as much otherwise. Erin Mallon as Brynn managed to capture this quirky character and bring her to life in a very humourous way. She made me love Brynn instantly as soon as her inner monologue started. And Luke Daniels as Tom is perfection! He sounds exactly like I’d expect a manly TV handy man to sound–like a sexy Ron Swanson (which is something I thought I’d never say) but it totally works for this book.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can’t wait for the next duo’s story! Their scenes together in Man Hands had me dying for more so I’m very excited to read their story!

Series Rating: 5/5

Man Hands 5/5 | Man Card TBA

overall

I had an absolute BLAST listening to this audiobook! This book was this wicked combination of sweet, sexy and absolutely hilarious. I honestly don’t think I have laughed so much while reading book in a long time.

Read if You Like: quirky humour, sexy reads, contemporary romance
Avoid if You: dislike slapstick comedy, dislike crude language

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  • Wallbanger by Alice Clayton (Cocktail Series #1)
  • Tangled by Emma Chase (Tangled Series #1)
  • You’ve Got Fail by Celia Ahren
  • The Score by Elle Kennedy (Off Campus Series #2)

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Blog Tour: The Amber Elixir (Two Realms Novella #1) by Ariella Moon

Synopsis for The Amber Elixir (from Goodreads):
Viviane, the new Lady of the Lake and High Priestess of Avalon, accepts a challenge from Merlin unaware her bold actions will have tragic consequences. Two of her priestesses are turned to stone. A forbidden love deserts her. Now alone, she has six young handmaidens to train and protect.

When Morgan le Fay demands assistance with a spell that could change the balance of power in the Two Realms, Viviane refuses her. But what if Morgan’s secret knowledge could restore the stone priestesses? Will an alliance prompt Viviane’s love to return? Or will the gamble cost her all she holds dear?

Other books in the series:
book3

breakdown

Series: Two Realms Trilogy / Two Realms Novellas
Author: Ariella Moon
# of Books: 2 (The Beltane Escape, The Viking Mist, Book 3)

There is a novella, The Amber Elixir. (Recommended to read after Book 1)

Book Order: Unsure
Complete?: No, The Viking Mist, is to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magic, Arthurian Legend
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / Kobo / Barnes and Noble

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love Arthurian Legend! I even took a course about it for my English minor because I just love the whole idea of this epic story and world. When I saw that The Amber Elixir has a different take on the Arthurian world, I just had to see what was in store.

What I Liked:

–The World Building–

Ariella Moon has done a great job of weaving classic Arthurian elements and her own imaginings into this novella. It’s a really interesting blend of fantasy elements at play and I loved learning more as I read.

I think fans of classic fantasy novels will love the world we get here. It’s very complex and rich and completely captivates you.

–Weaving of Different Stories–

While the focus is mostly on Viviane and her role in the world, we get introduced to quite a few players and that just makes everything a little fuller and more complex. I like stories that have a lot going on; that have multiple storylines and characters involved and this one has it. I found this to be a very strong story and for its novella length, it reads more like a full novel.

–Viviane’s Forbidden Love–

While this isn’t a romance by any means, Vivane’s forbidden love does play a crucial role in Viviane’s development and actions. I’ll just say that I really liked why this was “forbidden” and how it upped the ante for this story.

What I Didn’t Like:

–That I Probably Should Have Read Book 1 First–

You can definitely read this novel without reading The Beltane Escape. It does a great job of tying the two together to get readers up to speed. It is noted on Ariella’s site she does recommend reading this novella after The Beltane Escape. My problem was that I didn’t know there was a Book 1 so I was a little confused during the prologue what was happening as I unaware we’ve been introduced to this world before.

But like I said, I quickly got up to speed and found myself immersed into this world as it does focus on other characters. And if anything, it made me curious to pick up The Beltane Escape 😉

 

My Rating: 3/5

The Beltane Escape N/A | [The Amber Elixir 3/5] | The Viking Mist TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall
Perfect for fans of stories involving Arthurian Legend and classic fantasy novels, this is a series you’ll want to read!

Read if You Like: Arthurian Legend, fantasy, magic
Avoid if You: dislike fantasy, want more romance

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Ariella Moon

Ariella Moon draws upon her experiences as a shaman to create magical Young Adult fiction. Her Two Realms Trilogy is a medieval fantasy adventure series. The Teen Wytche Saga is a series of sweet contemporary paranormal romances.

Ariella spent her childhood searching for a magical wardrobe that would transport her to Narnia. Extreme math anxiety and taller students that mistook her for a leaning post marred her youth. Despite these horrors, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at Davis. She lives a nearly normal life doting on her extraordinary daughter, two shamelessly spoiled dogs, and a media-shy dragon.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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Series Review: The Truth She Knew by J A Owenby

Synopsis for The Truth She Knew (from Goodreads):
Mama didn’t want me. In fact, she would’ve traded my soul back for someone different if God would’ve let her, but he didn’t, so she was stuck with me.
For eighteen-year-old Lacey, life at home is a rollercoaster. She doesn’t think she’ll ever be good enough to truly deserve Mama’s love.

But when Lacey enters college and meets Walker, everything starts to change. Suddenly, Lacey is face to face with the realization that maybe what she’s always seen as normal really isn’t. Her entire life—and everything she’s ever believed about herself and her family—is abruptly hanging in midair.

Lacey is left facing two paths, and she has to make a choice. The first means walking away from everything she’s ever known. The other means never really knowing the truth.

The Truth She Knew offers an honest and powerful glimpse into mental illness, the meaning of true love, and the psychological waltz that a daughter dances as she endures her mother’s unpredictable emotions, manipulation, and abuse.

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: The Truth
Author: J A Owenby
# of Books: 3 (The Truth She Knew, Echoes Beneath, Whispers of Hers)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Mental Health
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2016 – July 2017
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

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

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thoughts

This is just a review of the first novel, The Truth She Knew.

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a HUGE advocate for mental health. I think people often stay focused on the physical health of a person; I’m guilty of it at times as well because that’s what my job focuses on. But mental health is such a massive factor in a person’s overall health. I think we’ve come a long way in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health but we’ve still got a long way to go.

So when I saw that this book dealt with the impact a parent’s mental condition can have on their child, I desperately wanted to read this book! I’ve come across this premise in other books but rarely does the protagonist not know about the parent’s condition and so I was interested to see how it was dealt with here.

What I Liked:

–The DRAMA!!!–

I’m not one for unnecessary dramatics so when I find a novel that has the right amount of drama & it’s given in the right way, I feel like I’ve struck gold.

This story does that.

Everything just builds up as you read which makes this book pretty addicting. But what I liked was that the drama all stems from something. Whether’s it’s the result of Lacey’s actions or her mother–nothing ever felt like it was added simply for shock factor. It all serves a purpose and one that contributes to the grand scheme of things.

–That it is Set in the 1980’s–

I don’t read a lot of contemporary novels that don’t take place in the last 10 years. I loved how these characters had to call the home phone or use a payphone to contact each other then simply shooting off a text to their cellphone. It just brings a simplicity to the story that I like. Plus, it reminded me of my younger days (though I was born in the 1990’s–just sayin’).

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Insta-Love–

Maybe in the 1980s people fell in love really fast–I’m sure there are stats out there that can prove that–but I didn’t love how the romance progressed here. Mind you, I wasn’t reading this novel for the romance so it wasn’t a huge factor; I just thought it all happened really suddenly even though I enjoyed the dramatics it brought to the story.

–Everything Happens at the End!–

The shit literally hits the fan in the last few chapters of this novel and it just makes you wish the book didn’t end! It all just reaches its climax and you are left wondering: what is going to happen next?!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really want the next book to focus more on the mental illness aspect of this story. While it was present here, I want to see Lacey grow more from her experience still. And some resolution to the other dramatics would be great 🙂

My Rating: 3/5

The Truth She Knew 3/5  | Book 2  TBR

overall

This is a heartbreaking story that will definitely touch its readers. In particular, The Truth She Knew does a great job of building up this story for its sequel. While my rating is lower here, I know that great things are in store and I can’t wait to read them!

Read if You Like: books dealing with mental health
Avoid if You: want a straight romance novel

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J A Owenby

J. A. Owenby lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband and two cats.

She’s a published author of six short stories and is beginning her first full length novel. J.A. doesn’t mess around when it comes to working with a professional team in order to present her best writing.

She also runs her own business and helps people find jobs they love as a professional resume writer.

She is an avid reader of thrillers, romance, new adult and young adult novels. She loves music, movies, and pop tarts. Her downtime consists of a beautiful summer evening, snuggling with her hubby outside underneath the stars. If it’s winter, listening to the rain and watching NFL football.

You can follow the events of her upcoming novel on https://www.facebook.com/JAOwenby

Author Links: Website  |  Goodreads  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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Series Review: Furious Rush by S C Stephens

Synopsis for Furious Rush (from Goodreads):
The first in an emotion-fueled, New Adult series from the #1 bestselling author of the Thoughtless novels!

Too fast, too furious—and way too hot to handle…

Mackenzie Cox has a lot to prove. Daughter of a racing legend, she is eager to show the world that she has inherited her father’s talent in the male-dominated sport of professional motorcycle racing. The last thing Kenzie needs is to be antagonized by her rival team’s newest rider, Hayden Hayes. Plucked from the world of illegal street racing, Hayden immediately gets under Kenzie’s skin. His insinuations that Kenzie is a spoiled princess who was handed her career fuels her desire to win, and much to her surprise, Kenzie soon learns she performs better when she’s racing against Hayden.

As Kenzie and Hayden push each other on the track, the electric energy between them off the track shifts into an intense—and strictly forbidden—attraction. The only rule between their two ultra-competitive teams is zero contact. Kenzie always does her best to play by the rules, but when her team slips into a financial crisis, she has no choice but to turn to Hayden for help. The tension simmers during their secret, late-night rendezvous, but Kenzie has too much to lose to give in to her desires. Especially when she begins to doubt that Hayden has completely left his street life behind…

Other books in the series:

breakdown

Series: Furious Rush
Author: S C Stephens
# of Books: 1+ (Furious Rush, Book 2)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Book 2 is to be published
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Drama, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: August 23, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks Forever Publishing

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Google Play | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good forbidden romance and this one seemed to fit the bill perfectly when I read the synopsis. Rivals falling in love? It doesn’t get much better than this folks!

The world also grabbed my attention. Racing stories are few and far better–or they are for me–and the premise of a young women trying to break into a male-dominated world fascinated me. I dunno how many people remember the Disney Original Movie Motorcrossed, but it was a favourite of mine growing up.

The World:

I know nothing about professional racing but Stephens provides you enough to get easily understand the world. You aren’t bombarded with information nor are you left hanging wondering what the heck is happening.

It was great entering this world and a nice change in pace from the endless Football heroes…

The Plot:

This one started on the slower side for me. While the sexual tension was brimming from the get-go, I found the drama took awhile to reach its peak. In hindsight, it’s a great set-up for the rest of the series but I just felt like there were too many open-ended questions left.

The Characters:

Kenzie was a strong heroine. She sticks to her convictions even when the world is telling her not too. Her love and loyalty for her family is commendable and two of her best attributes. It made it easy for me to root for and empathize with her as the story progressed.

Hayden is the bad boy with a heart of gold that you can’t help to fall for. One of the nice things about not getting his POV is the mystery of who he is and why. I loved uncovering more about him as Kenzie did. I forget how nice only having a single POV can be in terms of suspense.

The Romance:

These two are perfect for each other and I love how obvious that is early on. If it is a forbidden romance, you need to convince me that these two belong together–and Stephens does that excellently! It was great watching these two fall in love, fighting every obstacle in their way!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Like I said, I felt a lot of things were left open-ended so I’m very curious to see what is going to happen next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Furious Rush 3.5/5 | Book 2 TBA

overall
It was super refreshing to have a sports novel set in a non-traditional sport like racing. The forbidden love aspect provides the perfect slow burn romance to keep you eager for more. Plus, the drama promises lots of fallout in the novels to come!

Read if You Like: sport-based novels, drama, forbidden romance
Avoid if You: dislike drama, dislike slow burn romance

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About S C Stephens:
S. C. Stephens is a #1 bestselling author who spends her every free moment creating stories that are packed with emotion and heavy on romance. In addition to writing, she enjoys spending lazy afternoons in the sun reading, listening to music, watching movies, and spending time with her friends and family. She and her two children reside in the Pacific Northwest.

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Series Review: Narrow Gate by Amyrn Cross

Synopsis for The Broken Crown (from Goodreads):
Princess Emilia Aurelius was only seven when she watched her mother die at the hands of her father—martyred for believing in the God of the Atlas Empire’s Insurgo rebels. At seventeen, exiled to a military outpost where no one knows her true identity, she’s vowed to leave her royalty behind and explore the truth of the Insurgo rebels her mother loved.

When the Emperor of Atlas summons the princesses from each of the provinces to the imperial city to choose a wife for the crown prince, Emilia must leave her military life behind to join a royal court rife with cunning and intrigue. Navigating the waters of court politics and budding love are treacherous on their own, but Emilia fears for her life should anyone learn of her Insurgo sympathies.

With an unlikely ally in the captain of the emperor’s guard, Emilia must uncover the truth of the Insurgos, start a revolution, and learn to become the princess she’s vowed never to be, all while protecting her heart from a prince who could sign her death warrant.

Other books in the series:

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave 2016, Fave Heroine
Author: Amryn Cross
# of Books: 2+ (The Broken Crown, The Desolate Reign)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, The Desolate Reign , will be published in 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Historical
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 23, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Well, I will admit that I was first drawn to this title thanks to its cover. The colours, the title itself and the artwork seemed to promise me great things. And then I read the synopsis and was immediately sold. This story seemed to be what I wanted The Selection to be: a romantic yet politically intriguing novel that kept me on the edge of my seat. Emilia seemed like she’d be a kick-ass heroine thanks to her military past and I couldn’t wait to see if she would be the next great heroine for me.

This book literally had everything I love about YA fantasy and I couldn’t wait to start it!

The World:

What I really loved about this world is the use of religion as the main political source for tension. Most High YA Fantasy novels use magic/powers or a caste system to entice conflict; but here, it all stems from religion. How realistic is that? Very if you ask me. I enjoyed reading about a world that wasn’t flowing with magic but instead looked at something we have in our own world and something everyone has had a brush with at one point or another.

Now, don’t let that scare you into thinking this book is all about religion. It doesn’t push some agenda other than the characters’ own motivations within the context of the story. I thought it was a great tool and really added depth to this story.

The Plot:


The balance between Emilia’s character development, romance and the political world was perfect. The plot moves at a fast, but constant pace throughout the story. I never got bored thanks to the various twists that happen and the way it shifted seamless from one plot aspect to the next. Amryn Cross has a great talent for writing and it shines in this novel.

The premise of Emilia competing amongst other princesses for the princes hand was very a la The Selection for me–but this was what I wanted the The Selection to be. Instead of a whinny girl who resists the opportunity to change the system, Emilia sees the opportunity for what it is and makes the best of it. Her trying to navigate this new world was such a thrill to watch. It made the story just as dangerous as it could be and that won major points with me.

The Characters:

I really enjoyed Emilia as a character. I loved that she learned from her mistakes and that she wasn’t this flawless princess nor was she so flawed that she was jaded and hard to like. She’s strong and independent but knows that she can’t do this alone and she doesn’t resist change. She’s a fighter and a thinker and she easily makes my list of favourite heroines ever. Emilia seemed so real to me and I just really loved that.

As for the rest of the characters, they are fabulous. Well crafted and well developed even if Emilia takes centre focus. Everyone complimented the story so well that I can’t wait to see what happens next!

The Romance:

While I feel like I predicted the romance situation pretty early on, I can’t say that I know how it is all going to end. I LOVED the romance here. I swooned, I sighed and I really got absorbed into it all. I liked that is shined when it needed to but took a step back to let the other parts of the story develop.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

GAH! I can’t wait! Honestly, I feel like everything is just getting started! There are so many promising story lines to work with in The Desolate Reign that I cannot wait to see what happens next!

My Rating: 5/5

overall
If you want a great fantasy novel that shies away from magic and instead focuses on the politics of a kingdom and how one princess tries to change it all, you NEED to read this book!

Read if You Like: stories dealing with politics, kingdoms, strong heroines
Avoid if You: want magic, more romance focused

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Amryn Cross
A tomboy with southern belle roots, Amryn Cross was born and raised in Tennessee where she learned the importance of God, family, Southern hospitality, and football. She’s loved the written word from the time she was a child, convinced the squiggly lines on top of the Hostess cupcake really spelled out a secret message.

Amryn is a proud momma to two adorable puppies–Argo and Luna–who provide lots of laughs and kisses. She is also an active member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and My Book Therapy (MBT) and answers writers’ forensic questions at Jordyn Redwood’s Medical Edge blog.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

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Series Review: Fairytale Galaxy Chronicles by Katie Hamstead

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

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Princess of Tyrone (from Goodreads):
Apolline is happy hunting magical creatures on her pirate infested outer-perimeter planet. She is a fantastic shot, and doesn’t flinch at the blood and guts of her kills. Never once did she consider she could be the missing Princess of Tyrone.

All her life, she has heard the story of the Princess, cursed to sleep for eternity, unless her betrothed, the Prince of Oran, gave her true love’s kiss. Although Apolline knows she is betrothed, she thinks her fairy guardians arranged it out of ignorance of human ways. The thought she could be a princess is inconceivable.

Then Allard appears. Handsome, charming—but he’s not hers to have. He’s betrothed, too. Her guardians warn her against her new found friendship, but she and Allard meet in secret anyway. Despite her rough exterior, he sees beyond her gun-slinging bravado, and their love blossoms.

But the deadline for the sleeping curse is approaching. If Apolline falls in love with the wrong person, she could end up sleeping forever.

A quirky, adventurous retelling of Sleeping Beauty, with a less than princess-ly princess!

breakdown

Series: Fairytale Galaxy Chronicles
Author: Katie Hamstead
# of Books: 2 (Princess of Tyrone, Myths of Mish, Dwarves of Calcus)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Dwarves of Calcus, will be published March 2018
Genre: New Adult/Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Science Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person & Third Person
Publication Date: March 31, 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adore Fairy Tale retellings and reading the Lunar Chronicles earlier this year really reminded me of that. It also reaffirmed my love for Science Fiction reads. So when I saw the Blog Tour sign-ups for Princess of Tyrone–a fairy tale retelling set in another galaxy–I just had to sign up!

The Concept / The World:

Not only is it a retelling of my favourite princess (Sleeping Beauty) but it takes place in space! I love stories told in other galaxies that mirror Earth but have way cooler technology.

This world really reminded me of the one we get in the TV show Once Upon a Time, where the various fairy tales are woven together via their characters. (ie The idea that fairy tales share the same characters) My favourite aspect of this story was learning about the history of the galaxy and how all the different fairy tales fit in with each other. I won’t spoil it, but I really enjoy the path it takes through this.

I’m picky about my magic in my stories but I found this one was straight forward and easy to follow. You have curses at play and fairy godmothers so it could be complicated but I had no problems whatsoever.

The Plot:

I will not lie, I really misread the first part of the synopsis just before I picked this up. I thought Apolline was a pirate not that she lived on a pirate filled planet–so I was expecting a story more like Starflight by Melissa Landers when that really wasn’t the case. Regardless, I figured out pretty quickly I got it wrong and enjoyed the story we got instead.

The plot is definitely more romance and character based for the first half of the book. Apolline and Allard are trying to balance out their new-found relationship and their obligations and it’s cute to watch. I thought they were super adorable together so I didn’t mind the slower pace though I craved a little more to the story.

What I craved makes an appearance in the later half of the book and that was when I couldn’t put the story down. When everything comes together and character pasts and identifies are revealed, it was so much fun to read! This book definitely built itself up and it was worth it!

The Characters:

It may surprise you to hear that Sleeping Beauty is one of my favourite princesses. I know it surprises me. Normally, I like my princesses with a little spunk and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Aurora, isn’t that spunky. She is also your classic damsel in distress, so she gives the appearance that she isn’t independent. However, I really like the romance of her story (true love’s kiss) AND I like that she has met and fallen in love with him before everything happens (at least in the Disney Version). I’m a romantic sucker like that.

(I also think the animation is beautiful in that movie)

So I really liked that Apolline could take care of herself. She has a great shot (literally) and doesn’t need someone to save her. Simply put, she kicks major bum. She’s everything you expect in a princess (kind and caring) but there is something so real and genuine that I think girls will like and connect with her.

Allard was a charming and genuine character as well. He was so easy to like as was the rest of the cast. I really grew to like all of these characters and I found myself very invested in their happily ever afters.

The Romance:

This is definitely a romance novel first and foremost with a little action thrown in near the end. I loved watching everything develop before my eyes. In particular, I liked seeing the romance build-up because it let me understand why these characters are draw to each other. I have no complaints here about how the romance worked out. It was everything I expected.

New Adult or Young Adult?

While the characters are definitely of the “New Adult” variety (ie 21), this story read more like a Young Adult novel. Meaning it isn’t some hot, passionate romance that you are watching unfold, rather a tame, emotional connection. I think this is a great novel for those looking to jump into the New Adult world from the YA one or for those who are tired of contemporary NA reads.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited to delve deeper into this world. Hamstead has created a truly fascinating world that has my full attention. I can’t wait to see what the next story (which features different characters) has in store!

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall
It took me a while to get into this story, but once I saw the bigger picture and more history and characters were revealed, I was totally on-board. This series has great potential and fans of quirky fairy tale retellings will enjoy this one!

Read if You Like: fairy tale re-tellings, science fiction, non-contemporary NA
Avoid if You: want more than a romance, dislike fairy tales

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Katie Hamstead
Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.
After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.
She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing.
When her debut novel, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, climbed into bestselling status, she believed she was onto something, and now has a slew of novels now available, and is published through Curiosity Quills Press, Soul Mate Publishing, and REUTS Publishing.
Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports, and be a good wife and mother. She now works as an Acquisitions Editor to help support her family. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Author Links:

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Series Review: House of Royals by Keary Taylor

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

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Synopsis for House of Royals (from Goodreads):

Every town has its history and skeletons, but Silent Bend, Mississippi’s are darker than most. Ruled from the shadows by the House—the immortal Born and their aging, enslaved Bitten—everyone knows not to go out after dark and that the police will never look into crimes involving blood.

Alivia Ryan didn’t know the man who claims to be her father through a will even existed until she inherits the Conrath plantation. Instead of the sleepy house she expects, she finds a mansion and a staff who look at her with fear in their eyes.

Ian Ward tried to kill Alivia the first time they met, and then insisted he train her to defend herself against the House, who he claims will try to manipulate and take her in for their own political reasons. And the growing attraction between them will threaten their lives—Ian is a sworn enemy of the House.

In Silent Bend, people disappear, the threat of a demented King and the legend of his resurrecting Queen hang over everyone’s heads, and proving loyalty means far more than blood. You’d better watch who you trust in this town…

breakdown

Series: House of Royals; Blood Descendants Universe

Spin-off Series: Crown of Death

Author: Keary Taylor
# of Books: 8 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological & Connected

Story Arcs: Books 1-5; Books 6-8

Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: June 2015 – July 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley & Own–eBook

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thoughts

**This post was originally posted as an ARC 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:

Last year, I tried my hand at a New Adult vampire novel, Queen of Blood and loved it. Despite the bad rep they get, I enjoy the action and excitement most vampire novels have. I also love the new adult genre as a whole and so combining those two things seem like a winning combination.

So when I saw House of Royals on Goodreads and saw that it had a political spin on it, I just had to have it in my hands.

The Concept / The World:

I found the vampire world very easy to understand. It’s pretty straightforward which makes for easy reading. I didn’t feel very confused or left behind in any respect.

I also like the darker aspect to it. Vampires that fight their inner nature are great and all, but I don’t mind a little blood shed and these books definitely had their share of action and death.

The Plot:

The plot for House of Royals is pretty straight-forward and that has its pros and cons. Not having a lot happening really allows the reader to get a grip on the world and the setting. By not focusing on too many issues at once, I was able to get attached to the characters and understand the world they found themselves in. In the same stroke, it made for a story that really only reached its climax within the last few chapters; which is definitely a good thing because it makes you want to pick up that sequel.

The Characters:

I liked Alivia a lot. I thought she had a good head on her shoulder (for the most part) and made the best of the situation she finds herself in. Obviously she makes some mistakes but I totally understand why she would given everything that happens.

The side characters keep things interesting as well. They are unpredictable and have intriguing backstories that kept me wanting more from them.

The Romance:

The romance was really sweet with this one. Forbidden love is my favourite romance trope and this one is pretty flawless. I really liked Ian and Alivia together. I thought they complimented each other well. I simply adored their scenes together and rooted for them the entire time I was reading even when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m super excited to see what is going to happen next for these characters! I feel like House of Royals built everything up at a great pace that the next few books are going to unleash all the pent up energy and tension between all the characters at play!

updates

–January 6, 2018– Book #2: House of Pawns      **copy not provided**

It’s been a long time since I read the first one but I found it so easy to get back into this world. I love all its politics and danger. We get to meet a lot more characters and the world is getting a little more complex so it sucked me in.

Alivia has an interesting character development path in this one. Her reaction to certain things (mostly of the romance variety) at the end frustrated me. But we get some interesting plot developments so I’m curious to see what happens next!

Series Rating: 4/5

House of Royals 4/5 | House of Pawns 4/5 | House of Kings TBP

overall

My experience with this book has just cemented vampire New Adult books to be my new favourite subgenre. While House of Royals doesn’t have a lot happening within its own book, I feel like it sets the stage for some great plot twists in its sequels!

Read if You Like: vampire novels, New Adult characters, simple plots
Avoid if You: dislike royal politics, vampires, forbidden love

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  • Queen of Blood by Jill Myles
  • Crave by Melissa Darnell (The Clann Series #1)
  • Bloodspell by Amalie Howard (The Cruentus Curse Series #1)
  • House of Night by PC and Kristen Cast (House of Night Series #1)

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Series Review: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

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

The Girl at Midnight Series

Synopsis for The Girl at Midnight (from Goodreads):
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

breakdown

Series: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
# of Books: 3 (The Girl at Midnight, The Shadow Hour, The Savage Hour)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult,  Urban Fantasy, Magic, Supernatural, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 2015 – July 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook; Audiobook (Shadow Hour)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was everywhere when it was first released. I loved the cover but everyone’s positive reviews really drew me to read the synopsis. It sounded like my type of book: a blend of action, urban fantasy and prophecy. Plus, it has been a really long time since I’ve read an Urban Fantasy and waiting for the next Mystic City novel is leaving me with a bit of an urban fantasy hangover.

What I Liked:

–The Mortal Instrument Vibes I got–

Don’t get scared off by this statement if you aren’t a Mortal Instruments fan and really wanted to read this book! They really don’t have that much in common besides some very basic urban fantasy tropes (like teleportation across the world, war against two different races, magic, etc), set in NYC and the fact that they are both narrated in the third person by multiple characters.

It was the narration that spoke to me the most. I got really attached to the side characters with The Girl at Midnight. Echo was a little on the dull side as a heroine for me so I liked having multiple characters tell the story instead of just Echo. (Who I grew to like more, for the record)

–It Surprised Me!–

There were some twists at the end that I wasn’t expecting. I probably should have but I just didn’t put two and two together. So I really liked that! It made the last 100 or so pages exciting to read.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Slow Start–

I’m all for gradual plot progression but this book just took too long for me. I felt like nothing really happened for the first 200 pages (its was ~295 eBook pages). Sure, some minor plot leads were there and they definitely added to the awesomeness that was the last 50 pages that knocked my socks off, but otherwise, this book was on the drier side.

I think I was expecting more action given the fact that Echo is labelled as a thief. Thief just equates to action/suspense to me but this book reads more like an adventure/journey. Which is fine, just not what I wanted. I find adventure novels can be dull until the end and this is definitely the case here.

–The Romance–

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like the romance, I’m just not sold on it quite yet when it comes to Echo. (I’m definitely on board with some other potential romances though!). The direction Echo’s romantic life is going in is completely different from what my intital impression was when I first started so I’m interested to see what is going to happen next. It’s just going to have to work a little harder to get me to ‘ship her romantic life.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really curious to see where this series is going to go next! There were a lot of neat spins that were added near the very end that make me want to read the sequel. I’m not dying to read it though.

updates

–April 8, 2018– Book #2: The Shadow Hour (Audiobook)

I enjoyed this middle novel enough. It did take me awhile to get into it because I have been away from this world for a very long time but I also think not a lot happens at the start either so it was a nice gradual approach. I still really like all the characters so I enjoyed the various spurts of growth they experience. However, this series is very singular in its plot despite having a cast of multiple characters to follow. They all approach the main problem with different angles but I often wished for something else to be happening in the background. We get a few good twists along the way but nothing really impressed me.

As for the audiobook–unfortunately it’s narrated by one of my least favourite narrators so that was a bummer. But it was a great way to read this book regardless.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

The Girl at Midnight 3/5 | The Shadow Hour 3/5 | The Savage Dawn TBA

overall

I wasn’t blown away by this series like I had hoped. It’s a little too one dimensional when it comes to the plot for my liking (ie not a lot of subplots). However, I really liked the cast of characters and how we move around from person to person. It keeps the narrative moving at a steady pace, even when much else isn’t happening.

Read if You Like: slower stories, urban fantasy, adventure stories, the Mortal Instruments
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, dislike adventure

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