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Series Review: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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 Crown’s Game Duology

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Synopsis for The Crown’s Game (from Goodreads):

Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?

For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip-smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.

And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love…or be killed himself.

As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear—the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

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Series: The Crown’s Game
Author: Evelyn Skye
# of Books: 2 (The Crown’s Game, The Crown’s Fate)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: May 2016 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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**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:

This book EVERYWHERE last year, and so the hype (and curiosity) was inevitable. But it was also on my radar because it is set in Imperial Russia–the kryptonite of book settings for me. I LOVE that setting and I try and read any book that uses this time period.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

Like I said, Imperial Russia is one of my favourite book settings and this one was pretty perfect. You could tell that Evelyn Skye had done her research before writing this book. She really brought this setting to life in nearly every aspect: clothing, royalty, perception of magic. It hit all the marks.

–Multiple POV–

I LOVE having multiple POVs in my novels. It just gives you a full-circle view of the world I think and adds dimension to the plot and world. This one succeeds in that. It kept the story moving, added suspense to the plot and just gave you more insight into the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Hard Time Picturing Magic Scenes–

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t in the best headspace to start reading this book. I was studying for my licensing exams and was a little pre-occupied in my brain. So maybe take the next two paragraphs with a grain of salt and read another review to get another perspective.

For a third person POV, this book flowed wonderfully. It’s easy to get lost in the 3rd person narration when pronouns are used liberally; but I never found that to be the case here.

What I did struggle with is the scenes where magic is described. I had a hard time visualizing it. I think I missed the part about the purpose of the Enchanter and how the Game works so I didn’t get why these two were doing what they were doing when it was their turn. Again, I think I just wasn’t in the right place to read this.

–The Romance–

While I don’t enjoy the aspect of a love triangle in any book, that isn’t my sole issue here. My issue: the insta-love. I can forgive Vika and Nikola’s insta-connection because of the magic. That makes sense. But love? Stretching it a little. And Pasha hardly interacts with Vika before he is swooning at her feet. I just wanted a stronger romance here or at the very least, pick a team to root for and I never did.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There was a rush of things that happened at the end and so I’m excited to see what will happen next. There’s so much potential moving forward.

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–June 25, 2017– Book #2: The Crown’s Fate

I think I might be in the minority but I fully believe that this book was better than the first one. I found the plot to be much more engaging and interesting than it was in The Crown’s Game. Despite some slight monotony in the middle of the book with one plot aspect, I found that this story always kept moving and developing in a way that was rather addicting to read. I was flying through the pages.

The character development was also great. When you have essentially 3 key players to keep tabs on, one or more will inevitable fall to the wayside in terms of growth. But I felt like everyone had a great story to tell and I’m glad we got to see them all.

This series is still missing that something to make me give it a 5/5 though.  And truthfully, I was leaning more towards a 3.5/5 rating for this particular book because I did find the middle of the novel to be a little stale. But I really liked how everything was brought together in the latter half of the novel and I did feel like this was a much stronger showing on Evelyn Skye’s part. I think she has a very bright future ahead of her in terms of her writing and I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next!

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Crown’s Game 3.5/5 | The Crown’s Fate 4/5

overall

I enjoyed myself while reading this novel, I just wasn’t blown away. (Maybe the hype monster killed this one for me?) It’s a solid series and definitely worth a read if you love alternate history with a dash of magic!

Read if You Like: fantasy, Imperial Russia, alternate history
Avoid if You: dislike magic, want more romance
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Series Review: Lover’s Dance by Deanna Roy

Synopsis for Forbidden Dance (from Goodreads):

She was hidden from the world. Then he arrived.
An emotional new novel from six-time USA Today bestselling author Deanna Roy

For four years, I’ve lived in almost total seclusion. Homeschooled, forbidden from social media, seeing no one other than the dancers at Dreamcatcher Academy, where I teach ballet to little girls in wheelchairs.

Then Blitz arrives.

He’s the disgraced host of Dance Blitz, a bawdy reality show where Blitz sleeps with as many dancers as possible while looking for his perfect partner.

At least he was. A few weeks ago, he got kicked off his own show.

He’s at my academy for a publicity stunt, and my wheelchair ballerinas are his ticket back into the public’s good graces.

I intend to hate him and stay as far away as possible. But when he looks at me, I can’t resist. Before I realize what’s happened, we’re sneaking into back rooms, dancing, kissing, planning dates away from the cameras and the wrath of my family.

But I’m afraid. I have a secret at the academy, a small, wonderful, terrible secret, and if I stay with Blitz, the world will find out.

Other books in the series:
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Series: Lover’s Dance
Author: Deanna Roy
# of Books: 5 (Full List Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Tender Dance, will be published May 2017
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Dancer
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: March 31, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

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**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:

I’ll admit that at first, I picked this one thinking that our lead, Livia, was in a wheelchair because she teaches ballet to girls who are. Turns out, that isn’t the case (The Feeling of Forever by Jamie Howard does have this though) but the concept was still intriguing. I love when regular people fall in love with celebrities! And a romantic player from a reality TV show? I’m there.

What I Liked:

–The Mystery of Livia’s Past–

Even though you learn Livia’s secret within the first few chapters, there was still so much suspense to it! I found her past to be really intriguing. Why is she so sheltered? Who are the key players involved? And what does it mean for the future? And when do we find out? This is a past that will be revealed over the next few installments.

–Livia’s Character Growth–

Unlike other heroines who exude innocence, I found it really easy to be sympathetic to her character. You know there is more to her nativity than just the trope of innocence meets a sexy player. Her past is complicated because of her upbringing and it shows.

Because Livia is so sheltered, it provides the perfect opportunity for character development. I really enjoyed watching her become her own person as she discovers she does have control over her own life and destiny if she chooses to.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Insta-Love–

If you’ve read any of my romance reviews in the past, insta-love is something that I am not a fan of. While this one seems to have a slow burn vibe to it, it’s definitely an insta-love kinda story. Don’t get me wrong, these two have great chemistry and it shows in their dancing and interactions, I just found that there wasn’t too much to their “getting to know you”. They dive head first based on their physical chemistry–which is fine–it’s just that I hope we can see the more emotional side of everything in the next installments.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I still have a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered, so I’m looking forward to Wounded Dance.

updates

–April 20, 2017– Book #2: Wounded Dance

I was super excited when I read the synopsis for Wounded Dance because I was finally going to be getting some answers about Livia’s past. And boy did we ever.

I had a lot of ideas about Livia’s past but I was definitely wrong–in a great way. The reasoning really did surprise me! It was nice to delve into her past and learn the reason behind her parent’s protectiveness. It also helped to establish her character and why she is the way she is during the start of Forbidden Dance.

However, I did find the ending to be a little rushed. I wanted it teased out a bit more; everything seemed to wrap up a little too nicely for my liking. Maybe some of those things will be at play in the next novel, Wicked Dance. It’s hard to say because these novels are pitched as ones you can read as standalones so I get why everything is wrapped up before the end. Either way, I’m curious to see what will happen next!

–May 13, 2017– Book #3: Wicked Dance

When I first read in the synopsis for Forbidden Dance that Blitz was a reality TV star, I was so excited to see that element in the narrative. Unfortunately, the reality TV portion takes a back seat in the first two novels but it comes out full swing here–and it is so much fun!

I’m a huge fan of the TV series unREAL and this felt like I was reading an episode of it instead of just a romance novel (not that is is your everyday type of romance anyways). I was thoroughly entertained by the antics the show was throwing at them–even if the whole idea was a little silly. BUT, I think it goes to show Deanna Roy’s talent that I truthfully had no idea how this novel was going to end. It was a very addicting read.

The only reason I held back from a 5 star review was simply because I felt the character development was a little stagnant here. While Livia does evolve in some way in each novel, I’m still waiting for her truly break that mold and find her independence. She’s so close and I think the next novel, Tender Dance, is going to give that to me from what I get from the synopsis. I also liked that we saw a bit of a different side to Blitz as well but I can’t help but want a little more from his character as well.

 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Forbidden Dance 3.5/5 | Wounded Dance 4/5 | Wicked Dance 4/5 | Tender Dance TBR | Final Dance TBR

overall
Intriguing characters and a passionate romance make this an great read for romance lovers who like overarching romance stories. As the series continues, you get more and more invested in Livia’s story.

Read if You Like: stories about dancers
Avoid if You: dislike insta-connections
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Deanna Roy

Deanna Roy is the six-time USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and women’s fiction.

She is a passionate advocate for women who have lost babies. She has several books on the subject, including her bestseller FOREVER INNOCENT, a romance about a couple whose baby is taken off life support at seven days old.

She has run the website PregnancyLoss.Info for fifteen years, including many large spin-off support groups both online and in person.

To learn about new releases, sign up for her subscriber list at http://deannaroy.com/news. She has regular giveaways in conjunction with major pregnancy loss events.

Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

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Single Sundays: Oblivion by Jessica Wood

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 Oblivion (from Goodreads):
I wake up to a life and a man that I can’t remember.

He says his name is Connor Brady—the tall, sexy CEO of Brady Global, Inc.

He says my name is Olivia Stuart, and that I was recently in an accident and lost my memory.

Also, he says I’m his fiancé.

Although I don’t remember Connor, or anything about my past, something about him seems familiar. He is kind, protective, and breathtakingly-gorgeous. But there is just one problem—he seems too perfect.

As I begin to rebuild my relationship with Connor and accept the idea that I may never remember my past, I unexpectedly meet Ethan James.

Ethan is the mysterious, rebellious stranger who pushes my boundaries to their limits and makes me feel alive. As our lives collide time and time again, the bits and pieces of my past start to unravel, unearthing the secrets that have been buried deep inside my subconscious. With every new memory I gain about my past, I become more torn between the man who is my fiancé and the stranger who is the key to my past. Is my life with Connor really as perfect as he leads me to believe?

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Author: Jessica Wood
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kindle)

*NOTE: this is listed as a part of a series on Goodreads but the “prequel” is just an extended sample of this novel that is for sale. Meaning this is simply a standalone story.

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ever since I read Unravel by Caila Reed years ago, I love a good amnesia/rebuilding the past story. The suspense of trying to figure out what the hell happened is something I can’t get enough of. So when I come across a story that has promise, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The Plot:

This story is pretty basic in its execution as it isn’t overly complicated, but that works to its advantage. It’s an easy story to follow and it continually builds as you read. Sure, it helps that it isn’t an overly long novel but you really get swept into the story and I couldn’t put it down. I easily could have read this in one sitting if life didn’t get in the way.

The great thing about this story was that I only had part of the story figured out. I feel like the one aspect of this story was super easy to figure out early on, but the main twist really surprised me. I liked that a lot. A book always gets bonus points if it can surprise me and this one definitely got a few extra points.

The Characters:

The characters here aren’t overly developed but they do their job here very well. I liked that this wasn’t overly complicated as well–that we weren’t bombarded with unnecessary people and only kept what was needed for a solid foundation.

The Romance:

This could have been a little stronger I think. The plot focused more on Liv trying to figure out the past than her getting hot and heavy with the two boys. Which, in hindsight, was the strength of this story and what made it so enjoyable. I just wish the romance had a little more flare to it because I’m a romance fan at heart.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

This was a super quick read that totally delivered in every way I expected. If you enjoy a solid amnesia story, this is the one to get!

Read if You Like: amnesia stories, romantic suspense
Avoid if You: want more romance

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Single Sundays: Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman

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 Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living (from Goodreads):
Parks and Recreation actor Nick Offerman shares his humorous fulminations on life, manliness, meat, and much more in his first book.

Growing a perfect moustache, grilling red meat, wooing a woman—who better to deliver this tutelage than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson? Combining his trademark comic voice and very real expertise in woodworking—he runs his own woodshop—Paddle Your Own Canoe features tales from Offerman’s childhood in small-town Minooka, Illinois—“I grew up literally in the middle of a cornfield”—to his theater days in Chicago, beginnings as a carpenter/actor and the hilarious and magnificent seduction of his now-wife Megan Mullally. It also offers hard-bitten battle strategies in the arenas of manliness, love, style, religion, woodworking, and outdoor recreation, among many other savory entrees.

A mix of amusing anecdotes, opinionated lessons and rants, sprinkled with offbeat gaiety, Paddle Your Own Canoe will not only tickle readers pink but may also rouse them to put down their smart phones, study a few sycamore leaves, and maybe even hand craft (and paddle) their own canoes.

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Author: Nick Offerman
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Humour, Celebrity
Heat Rating: N/A
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

My first exposure to Nick Offerman was as the enigma of Ron Swanson on the fanastic TV comedy Parks and Rec. So I am going to apologize in advance for the many gifs that I’ve added to this review.

Ron Swanson is one of my all time favourite TV characters and because of that, I love Nick Offerman. I don’t like to be that person who equates an actor to be the same person they play in a TV show but I have a feeling Nick and Ron share a lot of commonalities and view points. What those were exactly had me excited to listen to this audiobook. No way was I going to miss out on Nick Offerman’s verbal humour by reading the novel via paper!

The Concept:

Like most celebrity memoirs, this novel is a mix of life stories and life philosophies. It isn’t anything new or unexpected on that front.

The Writing / The Narration:

I love the way Nick Offerman delivers his sarcasm and wit. He’s a funny guy but also very intelligent. Like his character of Ron, he often delivers these unexpected nuggets of wisdom that just make you think.

However, I did find this novel excessively long. The audio version is close to 10 hours in length and I don’t want to listen to anyone for that long. 5 hours is my max for a memoir.

Did it Impact My Life?

I really liked how Nick reminds people to keep it simple in life. He’s blunt and straight-forward and I appreciated that a lot.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While this was wayyyy too long for me, I did enjoy it. It definitely had its funny moments and it was exactly what I thought it was going to be. But if you don’t know who Nick Offerman is or enjoy celebrity memoirs, this most definitely isn’t for you. As Ron says:

Read if You Like: Parks and Rec, celebrity memoirs
Avoid if You: dislike long memoirs

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Series Review: Hazed & Unfazed by Brittany Butler

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 Hazed (from Goodreads):
When addiction and obsession are confused with love, life becomes hazed.

After Taylor Thompson receives an acceptance letter to a university an hour away, she can taste freedom. Her life is controlled by a small town and a strict father. When Taylor finds a local bar that’s hiring a waitress she applies and gets the position. However, one bartender leaves her questioning the acceptance of her new job.

Hayze Clark, the bartender that keeps customers coming back. His dark eyes pierce through your soul, drawing you near. The tattoos bellowing down his arms and the scar lining his left eyebrow keep you at a safe distance; his carefree attitude lures Taylor in. At first she’s excited for the new, perfect distractions to pull herself from misery.

The closer she gets, the more secrets are revealed, lies are told, and tears are shed. Their relationship falters and Taylor is left unsure if she’s willing to pick up the pieces of this broken guy.

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Series: Hazed & Unfazed; or Hazed Series
Author: Brittany Butler
# of Books: 4 (Hazed, Unfazed, Ruined, Damaged)
Book Order: Chronological; Companion (Ruined); Connected (Damaged)
Complete?: No, Damaged is to be released.
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Single; Alternating (Unfazed)
Publication Dates: January 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC
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**This review is only on Hazed and Unfazed**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

What drew me to this series was the promise of a romance gone bad. While I love a happy ending as much as the next girl, I want to see more romances that explore the potentially unhealthy aspects of new romance. Especially in the New Adult genre where it always seems like the heroine can change the unchangeable hero just by “loving” him (or vice versa).

The Plot:

Hazed starts like any other NA romance but it quickly takes a darker turn; and I really liked that. It’s not darker in the sense that this romance is taboo but in the sense that it seems normal until you uncover the layers underneath. I liked how it focused on Taylor being insecure about the vitality of their relationship: was this really a good thing for her or was she just repeating the cycle she grew up up?

That made it hard to read because as the reader, you can see what it coming for Taylor a mile away but she justs succumbs to the unhealthiness of her romance again and again. It’s tough and I think if you didn’t know that that is the purpose of the story, you would scratch your head and walk away. But that is the point of the story, no matter how hard it is to read.

Unfortunately, Unfazed doesn’t carry on that momentum too much. Instead, it chooses to focus on how these two cope with dramatic events outside of their control. Which is totally fine and is entertaining to read; it just wasn’t the story I wanted to read.

The Characters:

It’s easy to feel for Taylor once you learn about her circumstances. She definitely hasn’t had it easy. She has some great development in Hazed. In Unfazed, I feel like her growth gets a little stagnant because the focus shifts more to Hayze.

Hayze is a bit of a mystery in Hazed because we only get Taylor’s POV. I know I didn’t have the most positive perception of him because I didn’t like how he acted or treated Taylor. That changes a little in Unfazed and we learn more about his past thanks to his POV being included.

The Romance:

I went into this series not expecting to like the romantic relationship we get and I kept that mentality throughout. But I liked that this story wasn’t padded with unnecessary sex scenes; that it focused on communication with each other; respect for the other person; and trying to see if they really could navigate a relationship with so many obstacles in the way.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I don’t really have an interest in reading Hayze’s story in Ruined (which is Hazed from his POV); I felt like I learned enough about his character and his motivations in Unfazed. BUT, I’m really curious to learn more about Lea’s story in Damaged. I have my own theories but I’m sure I’ll be surprised by what happens.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Hazed 4/5 | Unfazed 3/5 | Ruined N/A | Damaged N/A

overall

I think if you don’t like reading about relationships that are unhealthy, Hazed is a tough one for you to read. But if you like the idea that love has the potential to save someone, this is probably worth your time!

Read if You Like: new adult romance, stories focused solely on romance
Avoid if You: want more spice

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Single Sundays: Lord Bachelor by Tammy L Bailey

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 Lord Bachelor (from Goodreads):
Edmund Rushwood is a single English lord in possession of a great fortune who is in desperate need of a rich wife.

In accordance with his father’s will, Edmund has until he turns twenty-six to find a wealthy bride or lose his vast inheritance. To retain his selfish lifestyle, he agrees to join an American dating game show to find the woman who can save him. He doesn’t bargain on meeting Abby Forester, an impoverished, spirited American woman who is content to live out her father’s dreams in his vintage record shop.

With covert intervention from an unlikely source, Abby lands on the dating game show as one of Edmund’s potential brides. As their worlds entangle and love begins to bloom, Abby discovers Edmund cannot marry her and retain his wealth at the same time. Will love keep them together, or will greed triumph and tear them apart?

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Author: Tammy L Bailey
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: December 7, 2015
Source & Format: Read It, Review It (New Adult Book Club)–eARC

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I read the premise for this book, I was really interested. The TV series the Bachelor is an occasional guilty pleasure of mine and I LOVE the TV show UnREAL which I marathoned just before this book crossed my radar. I had also just finished The Crown from the Selection Series and wanted to see a different take on the Bachelor/ette concept.

The Concept:

I think it is fair to warn potential readers that this novel isn’t primarily focused on their interactions during the TV show. It starts a little before the show and continues for a little after but I think that works in its favour when it comes to romance and character development. Just don’t think you are going to be reading a season of the Bachelor–there’s a bit more to it than that 😉

The Plot:

I thought this plot was a lot of fun! Abby has an interesting life as does Edmund; even if both lives are slightly over the top. It’s a little soap-opera that way but I kind-of expected that going into the novel given the Bachelor premise.

I did like the parallels it drew to Abby’s literature assignment. I thought that was a lot of fun but maybe that was just the inner English student in me coming out 😛

There were a few things that I didn’t feel were entirely necessary that were added; but they really played such a minor role that it wasn’t a huge deal in the end. Probably more of personal preference than anything.

The Characters:

I’ll admit it too me a while to get into Abby and Edmund as characters. Both have the facades they present the world so it really wasn’t until they started to reveal their insecurities and their pasts that I began to really like them.

The cast is everything you expect to see on something like the Bachelor–slightly over the top and eccentric. But I have to say that once you learn more about Abby and Edmund, they become a lot more grounded and I liked that a lot.

The Romance:

Although I expected the story to start right as the TV show does, seeing these two interact before the show was great. It gave their relationship more substance and a better foundation than a two week reality TV show. You really start to root for these two because you see how they work together. Plus, I thought they had great chemistry and the sexual tension was awesome!

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

It took me longer than I thought to get into it but once I did, I thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s a cute and sweet romance that will put a smile on your face.

Read if You Like: sweet romances, contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike soap-opera-esque stories

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Series Review: Friends by Monica Murphy

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

Friends Series

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Just Friends (from Goodreads):

It’s the end of summer. Just before I start senior year with my two best friends in the whole world. Dustin and Emily are everything to me. We’ve been inseparable since middle school, and when we’re together, nothing can go wrong.

But things aren’t always what they seem. Em’s turned into a drunken mess who parties too much. Dustin and I have hooked up a few times—and now he’s ready to take our relationship to the next level. Yet I’m not sure I want things to change. I’m scared if I take it any further with Dustin, our friendship will be ruined forever. Then there’s Ryan. The new guy. He’s hot. He flirts way too much. And Em has totally set her sights on him.

So when my best friend betrays me in the worst possible way, guess who’s there to help me pick up the pieces of my broken heart? Ryan. But he’s so confusing. Annoying. Sweet. Sexy. I want to trust him, yet he makes it so hard. What I really want is for everything to go back to the way it was before.

Before I found out that best friends make the worst kind of enemies.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Friends
Author: Monica Murphy (aka Karen Erickson)
# of Books: 3 (Just Friends, More than FriendsForever)

There is a prequel novella called One Night.

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 2016 – April 2017
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC

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**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:

I don’t like YA contemporary stories and I don’t like love triangles. So why on earth did I decide to read this one?

The simple answer: Monica Murphy.

She wrote one of the first (and one of my all time favourite) New Adult romance series, One Week Girlfriend. I adore that series. From the amazing characters to the fantastic plot twists, she knows how to write an addicting romance story. And her adult romance work as Karen Erickson is just as great.

So if anyone could sell me on a YA love triangle story, it’s her.

What I Liked:

–The Side Characters–

I love intricate stories and trying to figure out how everyone is linked together is what stole my attention here. I’m one of those readers who often gets caught up in the stories of the side characters and this story is no different.

When we met Amanda, I was immediately drawn into her story. Even Em’s character intrigued me with the little hints we get to see of her life. There are a lot of stories to uncover and I can’t wait to do that more.

–All the Drama–

While this novel mostly focused on Olivia’s romantic and friendship drama, we do get some other dramatics further on in the story. And I liked that a lot because it kept me interested. Most of it comes from the other characters we meet, but there are also some other developments in terms of Olivia’s life as well. It makes me eager to see what happens next.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Objects of Affection–

You know that expression, “lesser of two evils”–that describes this love triangle to a T. I honestly don’t like either of Olivia’s prospects and that was apparent to me early on in the story. Which made it hard to watch Olivia fawn over these two at times because they were not catches at all.

However, I did start to lean more towards a certain someone as more secrets are revealed so I’m curious to see how it all ends.

–The Abrupt Ending–

I thought this story was going to focus on Olivia and the resolution of her love triangle–yeah, so not the case!

Which is totally fine, it just was unexpected and I wished I had prepared myself to be left on a bit of a cliffhanger.

Note on Olivia:

I was really worried that I was going to hate Olivia as a character but I was surprised that that wasn’t the case necessarily. While she won’t be getting any praise from me by being the best heroine ever, she grew on me a little as the story progressed.

But I know that lots of readers will probably not like her character. If you are like me and don’t enjoy angsty lead heroines who change their minds on a dime, you probably won’t empathize with Olivia at the start. She fits the mold perfectly of a teenage girl who finds herself thriving on attention but doesn’t know how to handle it.

However, I did find myself sympathizing with her once the secrets were initially revealed because I understood her hurt. And while I may not agree with how she handled herself after all the shit hits the fan, I didn’t mind her as much as I worried I would.

The Novella–One Night:

I read this after I finished Just Friends–mostly because I didn’t know it existed until I was halfway through.

I’m glad I did because I feel like it gives away some tiny spoilers about some side characters. I much preferred uncovering their secrets in Just Friends because it gave me something to focus on other than the love triangle.

In the same breath, I think I wouldn’t have liked Olivia as much if I read this first. I think I would have created a not so favourable impression of her and it would have taken me longer to warm up to her. However, I do know that it’s the opposite for other readers.

I think if you are hesitant about reading this series, reading the novella is a good taste of what to expect. And it really can be read before or after because it just gives you a better understanding of the characters you are going to meet.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

It looks like we will be getting some more character POVs in the sequel…or at least I sure hope so! All the foundations have been laid down for a great sequel filled with some awesome plot twists and drama.

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–December 22, 2016– Book #2: More Than Friends

**I was not provided a copy for this novel**

I’ve been dying to read the story of these two since I picked up Just Friends…and it was everything I wanted!

I’m a sucker for the story where the popular boy falls for the “nobody” girl and this is no exception!

Amanda is a character you can really root for (Olivia in Just Friends was hit or miss). She’s aware of everything going on around her and seems to know when her friends (Olivia) are acting like idiots. But she is also self-conscious and that humanizes her as well. Sure, she makes some mistakes but you gotta remember she’s just growing up.

And Jordan…swoon! He just stole my heart. It’s obvious to anyone how much he cares and respects Amanda. He says all the right things and acts the way you want a totally smitten boy to.

Can’t wait to see how their story will wrap up!

–March 18, 2017– Book #3: Forever

**I was provided a copy of this novel for an honest review**

This was easily one of my most anticipated sequels this year and I adored every moment of it!

These two are just the cutest; Tuttle especially. His crush/love just warms my heart. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love with a male hero in a story. Swoon!

I was really torn on what rating to give this book. While I loved this story and the characters, I was a little let down in the plot.

The whole reason we get this book is because these two have some unresolved issues that they need to work out. I went into this book excited to learn more about Tuttle’s character and see how he would open up to let Amanda in. Unfortunately, this aspect fell flat for me here in this book. We don’t get to uncover more about Tuttle than we already know and this story just goes through the motions of everyday life. Which is fine because I love anything with these two together but I just wanted that touch of depth to take that story to the next level. These two develop as characters in other ways but I wanted to see Tuttle grow that little bit more.

But fans will be more than satisfied with this installment! It has all the drama and teenage angst a fan could want!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Just Friends 3.5/5 | More than Friends 5/5 | Forever 4/5

overall

Normally, I avoid stories like this like the plague but I actually enjoyed this one! Every once and a while, a good angsty YA read is needed and this one meets that criteria without a doubt.

Read if You Like: teen angst, love triangles, YA contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Fresh Fridays: The Good Fight (#1) by Justin Robinson

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:

Other books in the series:
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Synopsis for The Good Fight (from Goodreads):
Toronto is a crowded place. Plenty of eyes and ears all around. Plenty of chances to be overheard. Be careful what you say…

In this spooky Canadian page turner, 16-year-old Terry Conner finds herself the target of an unspeakable evil, bent on enslaving all of humanity. Her crime? Nothing less than speaking her mind. Faced with the choice between silencing herself or fighting back, Terry chooses to fight.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: The Good Fight
Author: Justin Robinson
# of Books: 1+ (The Good Fight, book 2, book 3)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, more books to come!
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: June 2016
Source & Format: Author–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love supporting Canadian authors whenever I get the chance. So when Justin asked me if I would review his debut novel, I of course said yes! It wasn’t just because the novel was set in Toronto–a place I called home for 2 years–but because I was genuinely curious to read a novel that was part science fiction part thriller.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

You don’t have to be familiar with Toronto or even Canada to enjoy this novel. Sure, it’s nice to be familiar with the setting for once (like I’m sure it is for people who live in NYC and read books set there). But Toronto is a modern city and that’s what makes this setting so adaptable to readers anywhere.

–The Premise–

It was this line right here in Justin’s email that had me on board:

“a positive message for teen readers about the importance of individuality and integrity”

I love smart fiction; especially fiction that takes our everyday modern world and challenges it by forcing something in our everyday life to the extreme. And it doesn’t get much more extreme than the limiting of someone’s right for the freedom of speech. It’s what makes this book interesting for both teenagers, young adults and adults. The execution on this front is great and it really is something I haven’t come across in YA in recent years.

–Terry Is Kick-Ass, In an Intelligent Way–

I like heroines who cannot only kick butt physically but intellectually as well. I really liked Terry. It was refreshing not to have a lead who worried about popularity or one who was jaded from the past. She’s a smart girl who uses her brains more than anything to solve the problem at hand and I really liked that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Started a Little Slow–

This one took a while for me to get into. I’m all for establishing the setting and the characters, but I wanted a little more action or thrills earlier on in the story. Because the last half of the novel–where Terry actually starts to unveil the “evil” group–is a lot of fun to read and quite thrilling at times.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m not sure what will happen next! I am curious to see though what will.

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Good Fight 3/5 | Book 2 TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

This story reminded me a bit of a mash-up between 1984 and The Walking Dead. But unlike the zombies in The Walking Dead where they want to eat your flesh, you get a group of people who want to create a horde of like-minded individuals who believe the world should be as uniform as possible (ideal utopia of 1984). While slow at the start, I enjoyed this story very much.

Read if You Like: modern science fiction, books set in Canada
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Blog Tour: Furious Rush (#1) 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:

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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

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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.

Website| Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Single Sundays: Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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 Escape from Witchwood Hollow (from Goodreads):
Everyone in Arnn – a small farming town with more legends than residents – knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

After losing her parents in a horrific terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, fifteen-year-old Honoria and her older brother escape New York City to Arnn. In the lure of that perpetual darkness, Honoria finds hope, when she should be afraid.

Perhaps the witch can reunite her with her lost parents. Awakening the witch, however, brings more than salvation from mourning, for Honoria discovers a past of missing children and broken promises.

To save the citizens of Arnn from becoming the witch’s next victims, she must find the truth behind the woman’s madness.

How deep into Witchwood Hollow does Honoria dare venture?

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Author: Jordan Elizabeth
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Fantasy, Magic, Witches, Suspense
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 29, 2014
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Jordan Elizabeth!

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t usually enjoy witch-based stories, though there have been notable exceptions in the past. But what intrigued me about Escape from Witchwood Hollow was the mystery of Witchwood. Who is the witch? What is her hold on the town of Arnn? What happened in the past?

The Concept:

One of my favourite aspects of this story is the flashbacks to the past. I love layers to my story, and by alternating POVs that’s exactly what happens. It was fun trying to take everything in and put it all together to figure out what is happening in Arnn.

The Plot:

Despite the alternating POVs keeping the plot moving, I did find the book to be terribly slow at the start. Not a lot is happening besides Honoria trying to learn about her new school and town. Which is why I appreciated the other POVs because it gave me something to be interested in while building the story.

And once everything comes together and the mystery comes to light, this book is great. I love when I can’t really figure out the plot until the big reveal and that’s what happened in this book.

The Characters:

I feel like the characters take a bit of a backseat because the forest is really the focus of this story. While I felt like these characters are developed enough to contribute to the story, I didn’t become particularly attached to any of them.

Honoria was a bit of a dud but I warmed up to her as the story continued.

The Romance:

There really isn’t a romance in this story! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a YA novel where romance isn’t a main focus of the story so I enjoyed the break!

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My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I really liked how everything came together in this story. The slower pace of this novel isn’t my preferred style but this book was a refreshing Young Adult Fantasy nonetheless!

Read if You Like: slower paced stories; lack romance; mystery
Avoid if You: want romance, dislike slower stories

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